We switch gears and talk to John Tate, CEO of Snap Streak, to talk about IT security and how it is imperative that you plan for some of the threats out there.
Please excuse any typos in this hasty transcript.
Matt Register: Welcome back to the show, Texas Business Radio. Texasbusinessradio.com is the Web site. We’re talking security today. And there are things you can do that will ensure that with your I.T. infrastructure that you’re secure. And there’s things that you can wait till something happens, going to cost you a whole bunch of money and you can get secure for the next time. So we have some folks in here that are going to tell you what the risk is and what it is you can do to save your company a lot of time and money and organizational energy getting it fixed. I’m your host Matt Register. Jay Curry is over there giggling in the co-host chair. What do you think man?
Jay Curry: Yeah, this is serious stuff. I’m telling you, this is not if, this is when. It’s going to get you, you’ve got to get prepared for it. You’ve got to take it serious. You know I coach about 40 CEOs, I’ve already had about eight of them hit. I mean it’s, this is, this is important stuff, so people need to listen up.
Matt Register: Yep, no doubt. John Tate, President of Snap Streak. Which is a Houston I.T. services company. John welcome to the show sir.
John Tate: Well thank you Matt.
Matt Register: Tell me about Snap Streak. What do you do? Who do you do it to?
John Tate: Well, we’re primarily a business to business I.T. support company. So, basically what happens is; you own a business, you have computers and I.T., everybody does, and you need help with it. So we, basically what happens is; you’re a business owner, you have I.T., you need support. You don’t have someone in house or maybe you have an employee who should be doing another job.
Matt Register: Sure.
John Tate: And we just come in, sort of wrap our arms around your whole technology, whatever it happens to be; computers, voice, internet, you name it.
Matt Register: Well, we are big fans here on the show of, you take everything not core to your business and you outsource it. Because you don’t need, as a business owner, don’t need to be spending time. Nor do you have the ability to be as good as people that do this, you know, full time for a living. We’re specifically talking about malware, ransomware, viruses, nasty things that come onto your system through e-mails or otherwise find their way onto your system, causes problems. Right?
John Tate: That’s right. Everybody’s familiar with viruses but I think what’s on top of most people’s mind these days is ransomware.
Matt Register: Sure.
John Tate: Because that’s the most damaging and probably the most expensive.
Matt Register: Well give me the short version, what is ransomware?
John Tate: Well ransomware is just a name that’s been given to a type of attack. Where the hacker has managed to get into your network, placed a piece of software on one of your computers and that software is now starting to encrypt every file on your network, every file on every PC, on your network server. Even on your backup, if the backup is not done right. Once encrypted, you got really no choice. You either restore from a good backup or you pay the ransom.
Matt Register: And if you don’t have a good backup, you start from zero. Right? Or pay the ransom.
John Tate: You start from zero or you pay for ransom. And the ransoms… all I’ve seen in the last couple of years, they’ve just ratcheted it up. What used to be five hundred dollars went to $700. The last, most significant one I dealt with recently was $10,000. And those people had to pay the ransom.
Matt Register: Wow! Well, that’s not good. And it takes an incredible amount of time and energy and effort. And ignoring the cost of it, right, just the rest of it is very problematic. How does a company get ransomware on their system?
John Tate: The most predominant method, you’re not going want to hear it. It’s typically something an employee’s done. It’s almost always via e-mail. It’s one of those emails you get and the employee opens it, they click on the PDF, they shouldn’t have done it. It’s either they think it’s from somebody they know or they think it’s from a business they know or a customer they know. They click it and open it and within a matter of seconds the process is launched.
Matt Register: Well, besides employee training because you do your best to train your employees. I know I get 50 of those a day. Right? I mean… somebody at some point, one of your employees is going to click on one of them. Because they’re getting better and better and better at disguising what they really are. Right?
John Tate: That’s right. They look pretty real. I mean if you get, you get these emails, you probably, I’m sure you’ve seen them. They’re from FedEx or U.P.S. or they might even be from Chase, your bank. The ones that really get them are the package, you have a package at FedEx.
Matt Register: Sure.
John Tate: This is just an example, I’m not picking on FedEx. And, because everybody’s expecting packages. And they go “Oh, you have a package”, they click on that link, they open it up and it only takes a second.
Matt Register: And then the, the, the program is now on your system, it slowly starts encrypting everything. When do you normally get the call? Do you normally get the call beforehand saying “Hey, I want to protect our, insulate our company against this”. Or do you get the call saying “Help. I don’t have access to any of our data”.
John Tate: Well, Matt that’s a complicated question because it really depends. If, when I get a call from somebody I’ve never done business with it’s usually, “I can’t access any of my files. They’re all giving me this funny message and there’s this file that says I’ve been hacked and I have ransomware”.
Matt Register: Sure.
John Tate: At that point, they’re dead in the water. Every files been encrypted, there is nothing they can do. Now, if they’re a client of ours and they’ve already been rolled under one of our managed care programs, then oftentimes, if in fact something like that does get through the defenses, because it can. Then we typically know because we’re scanning and watching for the type of activity that is a signature for that type of infection. And we would know almost within 10, 15, 20 minutes that somebody has clicked on something and it’s causing a problem.
Matt Register: So walk me through real fast, you know I have a company, I have 25 employees, I want to be protected. I hire you to come in and do it. What is it you guys are doing to protect us against this type of attack?
John Tate: Well the number one protection is a really good backup. There is no virus software, there is no firewall software that is 100 percent, protect you against us. These, these hackers are constantly coming up with new ways to get around those.
Matt Register: Yeah, it’s a moving target.
John Tate: Oh, absolutely.
Matt Register: At the moment it’s released, it’s 100 percent or near 100 percent but it’s constantly being developed and constantly finding ways around it. Right?
John Tate: Within days. The minute someone gets a solution to protect you, they advertise to the world. And immediate, what did the hackers do? They get that product, figure out how to get around it.
Matt Register: Yeah. Got it.
John Tate: Happens everyday.
Jay Curry: Now John, a lot of people, a lot of CEO’s, a lot of business owners think it’s not a big deal, “I’ve got antivirus on my machine”. But the reality is, this is just a regular computer program. The virus isn’t going to catch it. Is that right?
John Tate: There are very few virus software that can catch this. And the other issue with virus software is, it only catches it after the infection has started. There’s, there’s hardly any that will stop it once it started. There are some that will recognize that has happened. Right? But once it’s launched, once it’s started, the virus software really can’t stop it. And that’s mainly because the process that the encryption uses is built into Windows. It was designed to be there for us to use. Then what happens is, the computer doesn’t know. It says “Oh, that’s just a regular piece of software that’s designed to run on my computer”. It doesn’t know how to stop it. And once it’s launched, it just keeps running.
Jay Curry: So the issue for a business owner is, how long can you go back and be successful? Can you have a backup every week and lose a whole week of business and be okay? Or do you need to be doing backups instantaneously. That’s the big issue. Right?
John Tate: Man. Exactly. That is the question. And so that, when I go and I meet with a client or I meet with a prospect. I actually have a form that takes us through that exact thought process. How long can you be down? Because if you need to, if you tell me “John, I need to go back 10 minutes ago”. Well that’s an expensive process
Jay Curry: Right.
John Tate: If you say “John, I just need to go back a week”. There’s a completely different process necessary to get you 10 minutes ago to a week ago. And so this, this questionnaire I run through actually takes you through that thought process as a business owner to identify where your pain threshold is. Can you be down for a day? Can you be down for a week? Can you only be down for five minutes?
Jay Curry: Right.
John Tate: And when we get to the end of that form and we’ve gone through that Q and A. We will know exactly what kind of backup system will work for you.
Jay Curry: And what is going to cost.
John Tate: And what it’s going to cost.
Matt Register: Well and it, but at the end of the day, you’re the guys that come in and handle all the I.T.. From everything from identifying hardware and software and you’re the guys that just take that off the plate of the business owner. Correct?
John Tate: Yeah. Yes, exactly. So backups not the only part of this. This is just a very serious and integrated part of the whole I.T. care process.
Matt Register: Sure.
John Tate: There’s, I mean it’s, taking care of a network is not just about backup. It’s about a whole systemic process of the things you must do to keep a network running.
Matt Register: No, makes a whole lot of sense. John Tate, President of Snap Streak. What’s the easiest way for somebody to get in touch with you, should they want to?
John Tate: They could go to my Web site, SnapStreak.com or they can call my office at 281-377-0981.
Matt Register: All right, SnapStreak.com. We’re going to have it linked right there from Texasbusinessradio.com. Scary stuff man. You know if you are working very hard and building your business. And all of a sudden you have somebody out of the Ukraine or somebody that comes in and takes that ability away from you, it’s not cool.
Jay Curry: Yeah. Say you lose all your invoices or you lose all your, your employed data. I mean just think about it. Instantly, it’s all gone.
Matt Register: Yeah and, and it’s avoidable. I know guys that choose to do this on their own. And I just, I highly recommend against it. There are guys that do this for a living. They’re very, very good at it. Including the guys over at Snap Streak. So, don’t do it yourself. This is something you definitely have to pay attention to as a business owner. We do have to go pay some bills of our own. We will be back right after this, talking security on Texas Business Radio.
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In addition to hosting "Texas Business Radio," Matt is an investment banker and serial entrepreneur from Montgomery, Texas. He is the owner of RREA Media and Register Real Estate Advisors and a Managing Director and Principal at Corporate Finance Associates. He has a BS from the United States Military Academy at West Point and an MBA from Rice University in Houston. You can read more about Matt HERE.