BOARDMAN, Ohio – Peak I.T. says it’s taking cybersecurity to new heights by providing its clients with cutting-edge technology solutions.
The Boardman-based information technology provider put a focus on cybersecurity years before it landed on the radar of other companies, according to sales manager Kevin Graham. The threat of cyberattacks can sometimes be a difficult topic to talk about, he says, which has delayed critical conversations about cybersecurity within organizations.
“It’s very difficult, especially in the realm of IT and cybersecurity, to expose your own vulnerabilities to what you do and do not know,” Graham says. He adds that business owners outside of the IT sector don’t want to worry about cybersecurity – they want to do their jobs, go home to their kids, and let someone else handle it.
“If I’m a manufacturer, I don’t spend my time reading about cybersecurity,” Graham says.
“I would like to be able to rely on someone else to do that, and we strive to provide that here in the area.”
Peak I.T. is an operating unit within Valley Office Solutions. To better serve customers, Valley Office, founded in 1983, separated the office and technology solutions it delivers into divisions and rebranded in 2015 by establishing the Peak I.T. division.
Peak I.T. offers a full range of services from tech support to network and cybersecurity. In addition to its endpoint detection and response solution software, Peak I.T. started offering a dark web monitoring platform that looks for credentials stolen from its clients, Graham says, as well as a phishing simulation email campaign paired with training for the end users.
The company has a team of dedicated IT and equipment technicians who offer remote and onsite support when needed. Valley Office offers copiers, printers, phones, servers, PCs and other services that can be billed monthly per user.
Keeping confidential information safe is a priority for the Columbiana Housing Authority, which is why it chose Valley Office and Peak I.T. to handle all its technology and cybersecurity needs, Deputy Director Melissa Beadle says.
The city agency operates under strict standards set by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, which can be tedious to implement. Beadle, who does not claim to be tech savvy, says it’s a relief to have experts handling compliance.
“When you don’t have a background in IT, it can be difficult to know what the trends are and to keep the organization up to date. So we look to their expertise to keep track. They give great feedback on how to update the system based on our needs,” Beadle says.
Valley Office and Peak I.T. handle everything from cybersecurity to office equipment for the agency, Beadle says. She commends the company on its great customer service and availability.
“We don’t have an IT staff person; we instead fund that position through their team. So, instead of having one individual IT person in house, we have access to a team of individuals at Valley Office that bring a high level of expertise to support us,” Beadle says.
Chris Wheatley, director of IT services at Valley Office Solutions, describes the company as “a full-service IT shop. Anything from help desk-style support to network design and engineering, we provide a wide range of solutions. Anything that a small- to medium-sized business could need within the realm of IT, we can provide in one way or another,” he says.
“A lot of times, you don’t see cybersecurity programs in small businesses because of the expense and the time involved to get that sort of thing set up,” Wheatley continues. “We try to offer things a little sooner than before they become commonplace for small businesses.”
Large corporations have the resources, both in money and people, to pursue elaborate and expensive cybersecurity solutions, Wheatley says. Some small- to mid-sized business owners believe they aren’t at risk of an attack, but Graham and Wheatley say that isn’t the case.
“Typically, small to mid-sized businesses are underprotected,” Graham says. “There’s a common misunderstanding that their information isn’t valuable or that they’re too small.”
Third-party suppliers and smaller companies can often be a conduit for an attack on a larger company. Graham and Wheatley cite the example of the 2013 Target breach.
The Target data breach was one of the biggest security breaches in history. Target was required to pay an $18.5 million settlement after hackers stole 40 million credit and debit records.
Target had provided a portal through which third-party vendors could access data. A compromise to this third-party solution made it possible to jump into Target’s own network. It’s estimated the company lost over $200 million.
“So many of those big breaches are like that. It’s not the main corporation – it’s the third-party suppliers,” Wheatley says.
A common mistake small businesses make is using repeat passwords or sharing passwords across the company. Wheatley says using unique passwords is a simple fix that can save companies a lot of grief.
“It’s something that is easy to correct. We like to say that if you have to call us a few times for a password reset or for some help like that, we greatly prefer that than to help you recover from having your email account taken over or whatever it may be,” Wheatley says.
Protecting data is more important than ever as cyberattacks are on the rise. The FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center reported 2,084 ransomware complaints from January to July 31, 2021. This represents a 62% year-over-year increase.
As the prevalence of cyberattacks increases, cybercriminals, also known as threat actors, become smarter. Phishing attacks in particular are becoming more convincing as the number of attacks rises annually, Graham and Wheatley say.
“Both on the business side of things as well as personal side of things, the amount of phishing calls and texts and emails are going up drastically,” Wheatley says.
A high-profile event such as the COVID-19 pandemic or Russia-Ukraine war can be the catalyst for a cyberattack surge, according to Wheatley.
Threat actors spoofed emails from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention when changes in guidelines and mandates were rolling out daily, and even solicited “support” for Ukraine through fraudulent donation links.
Peak I.T. monitors current trends and events in order to stay ahead of attacks and to better train its clients – the most important tool a company can have, Graham says. If the company notices an increase in spoofed emails about COVID-19, it will send clients a notice of what to watch out for.
Opening the conversation around cybersecurity and educating employees on the basics makes all the difference, Graham says.
“You need [to be] trained because the majority of cyberattacks or breaches are due to human error. It doesn’t cost a lot of money to have internal conversations or conversations with external service providers like us,” he says.
Only 14% of companies feel covered when it comes to cybersecurity, Graham says, which means most companies do not.
“Not everybody likes to talk about cybersecurity – we understand that,” Graham says. “But everybody can carve out a couple hours a month. Everybody could free up a few dollars a day in a budget to start to incorporate a cybersecurity strategy. And everyone – I can’t emphasize that enough – needs to start talking about it within their organization.”
Education and accepting the need to protect your company is the first step, Wheatley says, and while the threat of cyberattacks is scary, it’s better to have the conversation before rather than after.
“There’s a lot of scary stuff out there. But there’s also a lot of things that we can do to avoid it or mitigate the effects. Just the belief that it’s appropriate to be taking measures to protect yourself from the various cybersecurity threats is a big first step,” he says.
Pictured at top: Kevin Graham is the Peak I.T. sales manager. Chris Wheatley is director of IT services at Valley Office Solutions.