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CTN Solutions has been serving the greater Philadelphia area since 1997, providing IT Support such as technical helpdesk support, computer support, and consulting to small and medium-sized businesses.

What is Encryption, and Why Do We Need It?

What is Encryption, and Why Do We Need It?

When encryption is discussed, one of its high points that business professionals try to hammer home is that it’s more secure. But what does encryption really mean for businesses? Does it adequately protect data and devices? We’ll walk you through a brief rundown of how encryption works and the role it plays in keeping your business secure.

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Cloud-Based Security Is Concerning for Small Businesses

Cloud-Based Security Is Concerning for Small Businesses

The cloud is such an important part of today’s business environment that most organizations use it to some extent, even if it’s just for basic storage needs. However, the cloud needs to be properly maintained, starting with the way you secure your cloud services. Take a moment to ask yourself if your cloud--whether it’s hosted on-site or by a provider--is safe and secure.

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Tech Term: Encryption

Tech Term: Encryption

Your business data is often quite sensitive, which is why the professional world employs cryptology to keep it secure while it’s in transit. In terms of computing systems, this is called encryption. It’s the ideal way to secure important assets when you send or store information.


Tales from the Crypt-ography
Even ancient rulers and civilizations knew of the importance of protecting sensitive information. Cryptography is a practice that came about during the times of the pharaohs of Ancient Egypt and has lingered ever since in some form or another. Modern cryptography and encryption is still used to keep intercepted messages and data secure, and older forms of this were no exception. The general idea behind cryptography is that there is a cipher and a key to decode the cipher.

The earliest known cipher was used during the time of Julius Caesar. This method substituted letters in the normal alphabet with others a few spaces away. Caesar did this in all of his official communications, allowing only those privileged few who were literate and understood the replacement key, the ability to know what the messages truly meant. Cryptography would continue to evolve over the next 1,300 years, evolving drastically from the cipher Caesar utilized.

Historians have discovered that cryptography developed dramatically over the past 700 years, and it’s all thanks to the invention of polyalphabetic ciphers. Encryption underwent a sort-of “renaissance” of its own in the Venetian city-states of what is now modern-day Italy. In particular, Leon Battista Alberti is remembered as the “Father of Western Cryptography” for the use of his Alberti cipher, a polyalphabetic cipher that used the decoder ring that is most commonly associated with the holiday staple, A Christmas Story. Be sure to drink your Ovaltine.

Encryption in the modern world has since exploded. From the Playfair cipher to the German Enigma machine, these coded messages were a necessity to preserve the integrity of messages during transit. Encryption today is no exception to this rule.

Modern Encryption
Encryption is more important than ever. Computing has evolved considerably over the past 60 years, and encryption has had a lot to do with it. Encryption is a mainstay in some of the most popular technology solutions out there. It’s used every time you make a purchase with a credit card, or make a call or text with your smartphone. Encryption basically still works in the same way by using a cipher and a key, but it’s much more complicated than the more simplistic versions used in the past. We’ll walk you through how two of the more popular encryption algorithms work: symmetric and asymmetric.

Symmetric Key Algorithms
In the case of symmetric key algorithms, the encryption keys are the same for both the process of encryption and decryption. Think of it as the same key working for both the front door and the back door of your house. A better example is that a user can unlock a box with a key, but only if it is the same version of that key configuration, meaning that as long as it’s a copy of that exact same key, the box can be opened.

Asymmetric Key Algorithms
Asymmetric key algorithms work with two different sets of keys: a public key and a private key. Each person who can see the message has access with a public key, but to open the message itself, they need to have a private key exclusive to them. This added layer of security can help to improve privacy. Granted, this is only a very basic explanation of what these complex encryption protocol accomplishes.

Popular Types of Encryption
Here are some of the most popular forms of modern encryption:

  • AES: Advanced Encryption Standard is a symmetric encryption algorithm that uses a block cipher to encrypt data one block at a time. There are three different types of this encryption: AES-128, AES-192, and AES-256.
  • 3DES: Triple Data Encryption Standard is a symmetric encryption protocol that takes advantage of three separate 56-bit keys. It encrypts it three times for a total of 168-bit.
  • Twofish: Twofish is a symmetric block cipher based on Blowfish. It provides up to 256-bit encryption and can be used without restriction.

Where Encryption Sees Use
Chances are that if you’re using the Internet, you’re using some type of encryption. There are a lot of websites that utilize Secure Socket Layer, or SSL, to keep the transfer of data secure and private. This is used to keep personally identifiable information safe, like passwords and credit card numbers, just in the event that the browser you’re using isn’t secured. If the website you’re visiting doesn’t use SSL, chances are that the browser will inform you. Other services also take advantage of encryption, such as email, file transfer, or remote access to your network.

Do you better understand encryption now? To learn more, call us today at (610) 828-5500.

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Tip of the Week: 3 Crucial Pieces of HIPAA Compliance

Tip of the Week: 3 Crucial Pieces of HIPAA Compliance

If your work requires you to store medical data, you should be aware of how important your data security is, as a problem could potentially put your business at risk of closing up shop permanently. Security has to be a priority with so many regulations setting compliance standards that must be followed. How can you balance the effectiveness of your business without undermining its security?


Regulations like the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) cause your business to have to work to remain compliant. However, this work becomes easier if you formulate your storage of sensitive materials--including medical records--to meet these regulations. For this week’s tip, we’ll go over some steps you can take to optimize your basic business security.

Encrypt Your Data
Surprisingly, HIPAA doesn’t dictate that your business data be encrypted. However, this doesn’t mean that you should neglect to implement encryption, as it may just save your bacon if you are the target of an attempted data breach. When data is encrypted, it is scrambled so that it can only be properly viewed with an encryption key. A solid, military-grade encryption should be enough to discourage the average hacker.

Protect Your Data with Comprehensive Security Measures
Would you rather stop an attack before it affects you, or wait until your infrastructure has been compromised? If you’re like most people, you’d select the first option, which means that you want to make sure that you have a Unified Threat Management solution in place. This solution leverages a firewall, content filter, antivirus and spam protection to protect your company and its assets. While this doesn’t render your company impervious to threats, they greatly reduce the number of them that you have to worry about.

Restrict User Access Based on Roles
It stands to reason that the more people who have access to something, the likelier it is for threats to get in, too. However, limiting a user’s access to the resources they need to complete their work helps to cut down on your potential exposure. This is especially important in an industry that is as data-heavy as healthcare, with extensive medical records.

If your business handles sensitive information like medical records, you may not be compliant to industry regulations, and become subject to fines. CTN Solutions is here to help by ensuring that your data is secure and all compliances are met. Give us a call at (610) 828-5500 to learn more.

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Why ROBOT is a Risk After Nearly 20 Years

Why ROBOT is a Risk After Nearly 20 Years

The Internet is rife with potential threats. Some are situational, but most are deliberate actions made by malicious entities who are trying to obtain any semblance of value from you or your company. Some of these exploits have been around longer than you’d imagine possible. This has been made evident by huge Internet-based companies such as PayPal and Facebook testing positive for a 19-year-old vulnerability that once allowed hackers to decrypt encrypted data.


Back in 1998, researcher Daniel Bleichenbacher found what is being called the ROBOT exploit in the secure sockets layer (SSL) encryptions that protect web-based platforms. There is a flaw in an algorithm that is responsible for the RSA encryption key--through specially constructed queries, its error messages divulge enough information that, after a short time, they were able to decrypt ciphertext without the dedicated key for that encryption. In response, SSL architects created workarounds to limit error messages rather than eliminating the faulty RSA algorithm.

Referred to as an “Oracle” by researchers, the crypto-vulnerability provides only decisive yes and no answers, which allows people that form their queries a certain way to eventually retrieve detailed information about the contents of encrypted data. This is called an “adaptive chosen-ciphertext attack.”

Recently, researchers have found that over a quarter of the 200 most-visited websites essentially have this vulnerability, and about 2.8 percent of the top million. Facebook, the most visited website in the world for 2017, is one; while the money transfer platform PayPal is another. The explanation researchers gave was that, with so much time focusing on the newest and baddest malware and exploits, this tried and true vulnerability has just been neglected. In a blog post they said as much:

“The surprising fact is that our research was very straightforward. We used minor variations of the original attack and were successful. This issue was hiding in plain sight. This means neither the vendors of the affected products nor security researchers have investigated this before, although it's a very classic and well-known attack.”

The vulnerability, now called ROBOT, an acronym for “Return of Bleichenbacher's Oracle Threat” was tested, with the findings being sent to the vulnerable sites to ensure they could get a patch created before the researchers went public with it.

Understanding the threats that are being used against businesses can go a long way toward helping you keep yours secure. For more information about the ROBOT vulnerability or what we can do to keep your company’s network secure, contact CTN at (610) 828-5500.

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Here’s Our Rundown on Blockchain Technology

Here’s Our Rundown on Blockchain Technology

As we discuss business technology, we occasionally broach unfamiliar topics. Despite the recent media coverage that has been afforded to it, Bitcoin and blockchain technology may be a good example of one such topic. To resolve this, we’ve put together the following primer on this technology and how it will impact data security in the future.


To Begin, An Introduction To Bitcoin
Bitcoin is a digital currency that exists exclusively in code form, without any physical coinage or paper monies representing it. All it takes to get Bitcoin is some higher-end computer hardware (even commercially-available hardware will work) that can then be used to “mine” the cryptocurrency, effectively inventing the money. However, Bitcoin is in finite supply, and requires intensive computing resources to work for a considerable amount of time to generate even the smallest amount. Many online stores have begun to accept Bitcoin as tender.

At the time of this writing, Bitcoin has risen in value to be worth thousands of dollars apiece, up from as low as $.08 in 2009.

An Introduction to Blockchain
True to its name, a blockchain is a chain of ‘blocks’ containing information, connected in sequence to allow secure and reliable accounting for the information it contains. Blockchain was first used in 1991 to enhance the security of timestamped documents, as it prevented them from being altered. More recently, blockchain has been dubbed “The Internet of Value” considering how it functions in a similar way to a database. However, a traditional database and a blockchain are different in quite a few ways.

The blockchain gives a user a digital ledger of the activity of the data it contains. The encrypted data is confirmed, distributed through a number of linked transactions and replicated for each user that accesses it. The itemized and uneditable nature of the blockchain makes it an excellent candidate for relaying certain varieties of information, including currency and cryptocurrency, shareholder information, and medical records.

How Blockchain Is Put to Use
Despite most users having not yet heard of it, many industry professionals have deemed blockchain as the “new Internet.” Indeed, many of the technologies that currently leverage centralized hosting could see some significant benefits by shifting to a blockchain-based distributed hosting strategy. For example:

  • Security: As history has proved for many companies, it is safer to keep multiple copies of data in disparate locations. Data’s decentralization through blockchain makes that easier.
  • Data Management: Blockchain makes the verification data more robust through its complete transformation.
  • Logistics: Companies and consumers alike can enjoy more transparency, as individual goods are traceable back to their point of origin.
  • Investing: Investments, including crowd-based funding, are given improved security and reliability through the use of blockchain.
  • Internet of Things: Blockchain can be used to accomplish a few purposes that concern the IoT, including to serve as a platform for remote systems automation, and reducing the privacy issues associated with IoT endpoints.

How Blockchain Relates to Bitcoin
You might have seen Bitcoin appearing in the news more and more often during recent weeks. This trend, as well as the creation of more new cryptocurrencies, has been boosted by the spreading use of blockchain technology. Bitcoin has a cap of 21 million, which protects it from inflation.

However, today’s miners use Application Specific Integrated Circuit (ASIC) systems to do their dirty work, but as in the gold rush, a multitude of new miners have appeared as the value of Bitcoin has ballooned. This has forced Bitcoin miners to come up with new strategies so that they have a chance of hitting pay dirt, technologically speaking. Now, instead of seeking out full Bitcoins, miners seek out small pieces of the cryptocurrency in pools of data.

Bitcoin is a currency that has a value completely dependent on the market for it. Since it leverages blockchain technology, if there’s Bitcoin up for grabs, it is for real.

Speculation puts the value of Bitcoin at $250,000 each by 2024, when about 95% of all Bitcoin will have been released. The demand for Bitcoin has spilled over to investments, as financial institutions have begun to push investors toward Bitcoin futures. This only goes to show how much confidence there is in Bitcoin and, by extension, blockchain technology.

It won’t be long before the blockchain is common knowledge, but until that time, we are happy to have shed some light on the tech that will spur the Internet of Things and the future of currency onward and upward.

So, do you have any cryptocurrency to your name, Bitcoin or otherwise? Do you see digital currency shaping the future of our finances? Share your thoughts in the comments section!

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Protecting Your Data Is Easier With A VPN

Protecting Your Data Is Easier With A VPN

Does your business focus enough on security? One of the best solutions that you can consider is a virtual private network, or VPN. By implementing a VPN solution, you can improve the security and privacy on your devices, even while out of the office, on business trips or at conferences. What can a VPN do for your business?


Essentially, a VPN can mask your traffic so you can access your company data securely while out of the office. It does this through powerful, military-grade encryption protocol that scrambles your data while it’s in transit. The data is then decrypted when it has reached its destination, keeping hackers from taking advantage of any data that they could steal. It’s an important asset that lets your organization and its employees remotely access data while on the road, on mobile devices.

The VPN’s primary use is to access important information on your business’s network without worrying about the data being swiped by hackers. This lets your workers continue to be productive even when they aren’t in the safety of your in-house network. VPNs allow your business to keep a virtual desktop running, which can let your workers access their in-house desktop without being in the office.

Of course, priority #1 should always be security, especially considering that cybersecurity is such a threat to businesses of all sizes. Criminals take full advantage of advances in technology just like security professionals do, so leaps and bounds in security developments also present new challenges for hackers to overcome.

Now, what if you’re on a business trip and you need to access your data? While your hotel or coffee shop might have a Wi-Fi password, there’s no way that you can guarantee its security (since you’re not the one managing it). If you access sensitive data over this connection, there’s a chance that hackers could be lurking in the shadows, watching and waiting to make their move. They don’t even have to be in the same room as you. They could be down the hall with the shades pulled over the window, watching your every move on the network.

The point we’re trying to make is that public Wi-Fi is unpredictable and dangerous, if you aren’t protected. A lot can be said about the person whose data is being stolen, and hackers can use that data to their advantage. A VPN can protect your business’s assets, even when you’re out of the office.

We’ve seen other uses for VPNs, as well. They can ensure privacy of residents or secure access to websites that are protected by geographic restrictions. For example, China has outlawed the use of VPNs since they are often used to get around the Great Firewall, giving citizens access to information that they otherwise would not be able to view. Other countries continue to follow suit, including Russia, Iran, Iraq, Turkey, and Venezuela. While this makes it more difficult for businesses in these countries to secure themselves, just think about the implication that this presents. VPNs are so secure that countries known for censorship and cyber espionage are banning them because they conflict with their agendas. It’s impossible to regulate traffic that’s encrypted like this, so they flat out ban the technology.

If your business wants to ensure protection while on the go, a VPN is a good start. To get started, reach out to CTN at (610) 828-5500.

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Is Your Company’s Data Encrypted? It Should Be

Is Your Company’s Data Encrypted? It Should Be

Data might be the most important aspect of your organization, but how well do you protect it throughout your network? Every organization has data like personally identifiable information and financial credentials stashed away somewhere on the network, so security isn’t something that you can ignore. One of the best ways you can safeguard your data is through the use of encryption.

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Why You Should Encrypt ALL of Your Data, Not Just Your Customers’

b2ap3_thumbnail_managing_risk_400.jpgBusinesses today are responsible for keeping the data in their care safe from hackers. There are two kinds of data that a business must protect: the information of their customers, and their own data (eg. company policies and employee information). Which of the two do you think the average business does a better job of protecting?

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1 Million Websites Not Using the Latest Security Protocol Soon to Be at Risk

b2ap3_thumbnail_encryption_sha1_400.jpgIt’s natural to replace older technologies with better, more recent models. However, the future isn’t looking too bright for the world’s most common website encryption method, SHA1, which will soon be replaced by a more secure protocol. Pretty soon, browsers and devices may have some difficulty reading the latest security certificates, which could cause quite a problem if it’s not remedied.

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