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Monthly Archives: March 2021

Can Hackers fool AI?

Hackers – the word alone can send fear down the spine of anyone who owns an internet enabled device. And for good reasons, too! Yet many people assume that hackers are only an issue for their business computers, desktops, laptops, and portable tablets. This isn’t entirely the truth. In fact, hackers can actually pose a major threat for your or your AI devices, too. As AI devices become core commonplace, this can represent a major security concern for many people. 

As a result of this, it is absolutely essential that you’re are of how hackers can target your artificial intelligence systems. It’s vital that you also know how you can protect yourself against these threats. Fortunately, as your managed service provider, we are on hand to give you the support you need to keep yourself, your business, or your family, safe from the dangers that hackers can pose. 

Can Hackers Access Artificial Intelligence IT Services? 

To start with, we’ll ask the question, “Can hackers really get access to your AI systems?” The answer is, yes. This is becoming increasingly more common. As a result, it’s vital that anyone implementing artificial intelligence systems for their business or home is aware of the protective measures that make breaking in more difficult for hackers. 

How Much of a Threat do AI Hackers Pose for your Desktops, Laptops, and Tablets? 

At first glance, it might not be clear how much of a threat professional hackers can pose for your personal or business computers, desktops, laptops, and tablets. However, it is important that you never underestimate these threats because hackers gaining hold of your personal data can be a major threat for your personal security and safety. Not to mention your bank account. 

Some of the ways in which hackers threaten us include: 

  • Loss of personal data – one thing hackers want is your personal data. Names, addresses, telephone numbers, and emails can allow hackers to expose you to Phishing Scams. These contact details can also be easily sold to less than legitimate buyers. Even worse is if your financial details are taken by a hacker. If that happens, the hacker, could easily transfer money from your account without your authorization. They could also use your personal financial information to make purchases. 
  • Business risks – if you run a small business then you store data for your customers. A hacker getting access to this data is a massive concern. Loss of personal data could result in your business getting fined substantial amounts. No company is safe in this regard. Even giants such as Adobe, Canva, eBay, LinkedIn, MySpace, Yahoo, and Marriott have suffered recent data breaches. A staggering 3.5 billion people have already seen their personal data compromised since the year 2000. That’s almost half the world’s population. 

How Hackers Hack AI Systems 

We’ve clarified that hackers can gain access to your personal or business computers, but how do they do this? There are numerous methods that hackers can use to breach systems. These vary depending on the type of AI being used. 

There are two main ways in which hackers may be able to access data through AI: First, by monitoring your activities. This is similar to how personalized cookies work when you login to a website. The second way is by gaining access to your system through weak passwords. In devices like Alexa and Suri, this will allow the hacker to listen in through your AI devices. Hackers can even access cameras if they are attached to your devices, such as Ring doorbells. The implications are, frankly, terrifying. Depending on how many “Smart”, or AI devices you have in your home, there may be no room that is safe from hackers. 

How to Protect Yourself 

We’ve clarified that hackers can represent a serious problem for your business or personal life. Luckily, there are a few different ways that can help you avoid getting targeted by hackers. Some of these tips include: 

  • Never share your personal information. This is one of the most important tips we can give to keep you safe from hackers. It’s important that you keep this in mind during all of your online activities. Never give out passwords, no matter who you think you’re talking to. And never leave it written down anywhere! 
  • Choose a complex password. This is a good first-step to stay safe from hackers. Ideally, you should choose – and then memorize – an automatically generated password that has no reference to your life. We know it’s not easy, but it is your safest choice. 
  • Keep Bluetooth turned off when not in use. If you’re not using your Bluetooth or the internet, we recommend turning them off to prevent hackers from using these connections to get access to your devices. 

Final Thoughts 

Hackers are a big problem in our modern society, but you can defeat them by taking preventative measures. With AI and Smart Devices becoming more common each day, hackers are finding more ways to break into your Personal life. Take every precaution to secure your accounts at every opportunity! For more advice on how your personal or business computers can make use of IT solutions to protect your data, contact us today. 

Microsoft Exchange Server Vulnerabilities

As business owners, we are all keenly aware of how integral technology is in every industry these days. We have heard countless times how technology helps drive innovation and growth, improves communication in the organization, and increases your advantage over the competition. As a warning, new technology still has vulnerabilities. Recently, new security flaws were discovered on Microsoft Exchange Servers. That’s why we are running this blog: as a warning to anyone running Microsoft Exchange Servers. 

Your Microsoft Exchange Server may be Vulnerable to Attack 

We’re acutely aware of how many small businesses rely on these servers to augment their IT departments. And this means many small businesses are at risk. More than 60,000 companies and organizations have been compromised. This is a world-wide threat. Chinese hackers are confirmed at attacking and exploiting vulnerabilities in on-premise servers. Something to pay attention to is, if you’re running Microsoft Exchange ’13, ’16, or ’19 on-site, these were the servers that were vulnerable to attack. 

Attacks and Hacks 

In January, Microsoft was made aware of what were labeled ‘zero-day’ bugs. These bugs are flaws that we are aware of, but have not yet been addressed. As these weak spots are uncovered, there is a high probability of attacks and breaches. This means they’re highly dangerous for organizations and businesses that hold sensitive data. On March 2nd, Microsoft released updates to repair the zero-day bugs and said that there had only been a limited number of targeted attacks. Despite these fixes and patches, there is still a huge potential for attacks on individual Exchange Servers. This threat is due to the awareness and speed of the patch installation. This means the number of victims grows as more and more hackers continue to target un-patched systems. 

Who is behind these Hacks? 

Microsoft initially reported that their zero-day vulnerabilities were exploited by Hafnium, a Chinese APT group that is state-sponsored. The group achieved the hacks by using zero-day vulnerabilities to gain access to Exchange servers. As a result, hackers can access email accounts and install malware. These attacks create long-term access for future breaches. 

Hafnium has a reputation for targeting US entities in different sectors. Some of these attacks included NGOs, policy think tanks, defense contractors, higher education institutions, law firms, and infectious disease research facilities. Previously, the group compromised victims through the exploitation of internet-facing server vulnerabilities. Hafnium has used open-source frameworks such as Covenant, a legitimate piece of software, for control of the servers. After gaining access to the victim’s network, the group usually uploads the stolen data to a file-sharing site. 

Currently, Hafnium is often unsuccessful in its attempts to compromise customers’ accounts. Unfortunately, this doesn’t make the problem any less serious. You have to be aware that they are trying new attacks every day. Usually, if hackers want to find a way in, they will. 

Other Group Threats  

Since the initial hacking by Hafnium, other groups have exploited the flaws in MS Exchange Servers. A report was published declaring at least 10 groups that are hunting down un-patched servers. 

When Will we be Safe? 

According to DIVD (the Dutch Institute for Vulnerability Disclosure), there are thought to be at least 46,000 un-patched servers still running that are at risk of being heavily exploited. Current estimates are that up to 40% of Exchange servers in the Netherlands are still open to attack. 

Protect Your Business! 

Check to see if your business uses Microsoft Exchange Servers. If you do, or if you’re not sure, keep reading. If you know you haven’t updated your Exchange Server recently, there are some things you should do immediately. First of all, passwords that are sitting in memory could be vulnerable. You should immediately reset all passwords. Next, run the latest patch for your system. As a safety measure, you might want to change your passwords after you run the patch. What this means is, when breaches like this occur, you can’t be too safe. 

Steps to Secure Your Server 

There are several things you can do to enhance your protection: 

  1. Patch your system with Microsoft updates. 
  2. Reset all passwords and change all credentials. 
  3. Double-check your backup device. Is the repository ok? Have you tested it? 
  4. Verify your router. You should also check your security with your vendor. Ask them when they last updated their signatures. 
  5. Scan for and investigate any malicious activities on your Exchange servers. 
  6. And finally, if you are unsure about your network’s safety, restore your Exchange server to a time before the compromises occurred. 

If you are not sure what kind of servers you are using, or you need help running the update patch, that’s what we’re here for. We are happy to help you figure out if you’re at risk from this threat. To help you ease your mind, contact us today! 

The Hidden Heart of Artificial Intelligence Technology

The futuristic views of artificial intelligence (AI) as synthetic consciousness has been spread in Hollywood and science-fiction novels for generations. However, fantasy-aside, artificial intelligence is simply a process or system that performs tasks that ordinarily need the intelligence of humans. Examples of such tasks are problem-solving, diagnosing medical problems, and recognizing human emotions. 

AI is already everywhere 

The ‘hidden heart of technology’ that constitutes AI, currently has an important place in society and many of us don’t even realize it’s there. Think about your daily living. Do you browse the internet? Are you buying things online? Do you watch Netflix, HULU or Amazon Prime? Then you’re already interacting with AI.  

Netflix and AI 

The AI solutions that Netflix provides are particularly unique and have a significant impact on the user and the business.  

Perhaps the most obvious to the end-user is the personalization of recommendations. For example, a user who watches Film X is likely to enjoy Film Y. What Netflix does is track user history to make their recommendations based on what other users have gone on to watch too. This is beneficial to users as they get recommendations that they enjoy. It also benefits Netflix too as it keeps its viewers interested and engaged, thus keeping their monthly subscriptions. 

Another use of AI in Netflix is the auto-generation of artwork and thumbnails. Believe it or not, but the thumbnails you see for different shows are personalized to you. Netflix uses thousands of video stills from a particular movie to generate thumbnails. Each one is annotated and ranked according to how likely it is to result in a click. The technology is strengthened when users begin watching the show or movie. Netflix can see which thumbnails are the most popular. For example, if a user likes a certain actor, they are more likely to interact with a thumbnail showing that actor. The website Becoming Human has lots of images of different users’ thumbnails to compare, it makes for very interesting reading! 

Advertising

Artificial Intelligence in advertising isn’t just about creating adverts; it’s about transforming every level of advertising right from creating the ad to targeting the audience and buying ads. As the Marketing AI Institute states, there are so many uses of AI in advertising that already exist. Brands are using AI to identify audiences, build creative ads, improve ad performance, and optimize customer spending. This happens automatically at scale and in real-time.  

The beauty of advertising (specifically online advertising) is that it provides huge amounts of data. This includes things like impressions, bid levels, click-through rates and demographics. Of course, as humans, we’re perfectly capable of producing good advertising and measuring its impact but digital advertising is a whole new ball game. Digital advertising can generate so much more data across content, social media and searches. 

With all of the necessary data, ad tools powered by AI can find patterns in ad data and use them to predict campaign changes to improve ad performance. This all takes place in a matter of seconds. For a person to do this it would take between hours and weeks to analyse the data, let alone create improved ads from it. 

Cookies – manipulating behavior 

If you’re familiar with internet cookies, you’ll know how useful they can be in helping you to remember details and passwords. There’s another side to cookies, however, in that sites use them to track your online behavior and tailor ads to show you. The BBC referred to behavioral advertising as ‘the latest buzz phrase’ back in 2012, but the truth is, this is something still at the forefront almost a decade later. For marketers, cookie profiling is a big advantage. Cookie profiling empowers marketers. They can see the bigger picture of the person they are targeting. 

The hidden heart of technology 

We’ve seen some examples of how AI is the hidden heart of technology in this blog. The truth is, AI use isn’t always overt at all. Forget I, Robot and The Bicentennial Man. This AI is more like Bruce Willis’s character in The Sixth Sense – hidden in plain sight if you can see it. Artificial intelligence is a rapidly developing area of information technology. As a Managed Service Provider of IT support, we can help you understand how to implement these tools for your business, ensuring your data remains secure. Contact us for any questions you might have. 

AI – What It Is and Isn’t

AI has been rapidly evolving in recent years with the IT industry placing demand on this innovative technology solution. It began life with humble origins compared to the immense potential that modern AI software can offer for business networks. This blog will be looking at what AI is, how it originated and developed, and how your business can take advantage of this tool. 

A Brief Look at AI for Business Networks – What It Is (And Isn’t) 

It’s important that we know what AI actually is. Indeed, many businesses don’t entirely understand how AI can be beneficial for their tech problems and solutions.  

Let’s define what AI is and what it isn’t. When someone mentions the term “Artificial Intelligence,” you probably think of  automatic computers or machines, like robots. This belief was widely popularized by Alan Turing’s statement claiming that “one will be able to speak of machines thinking without expecting to be contradicted.” However, artificial intelligence IT solutions are actually a bit more complicated than this; the modern realm of AI certainly isn’t capable of self-awareness just yet, but it is still capable of offering a huge amount of potential for businesses. 

So, AI isn’t just an android; rather, it’s a program that is capable of completing tasks to a similar standard as a human or better.  AI systems can be categorized as: Narrow, General, or Super-Intelligent.  Narrow and general AI systems are already available for business networks to implement as an IT solution. These systems serve to do a small number of specialized tasks. Super intelligent AI is still in development though, and will likely not exist for a long period of time. 

The History 

AI hasn’t always been at its current standard. In fact, it’s taken a long time for AI to evolve to it’s current stage! Of course, the earliest origins of artificial intelligence could be Alan Turing’s original Turning Machine – the first ever variant of a computer, although certainly nothing like the modern computers we rely on for business nowadays. 

Many don’t know that AI has actually had a notable prominence in our society and culture for easily a century. The first machine capable of automatically playing chess without human intervention was Leonardo Torres y Quevedo’s creation in 1914. Following this creation, in 1929, Japan’s Makoto Nishimura developed  the first-ever “robot”.  The model was able to use air mechanisms to move its hand and head and control its expression! It wasn’t until 1955, that “artificial intelligence” became a term. 

Despite a somewhat early start to life, tales surrounding artificial intelligence were commonplace. They spoke of IT solutions that would serve to better the world and provide an alternative to normal tech solutions, of science fiction stories and seemingly unbelievable feats of business computer systems. The first artificial intelligence programs in the 1990s, Jabberwack and Cleverbot chatbots designed to “simulate natural human chat in an interesting, entertaining, and humorous manner.”

A new line of AI also came around the turn of the century. The Furby toy was created and went on to be the first “pet” robot for children, and in 1999, Sony released AIBO, a robotic dog that could recognize over one hundred voice commands and even communicate directly with its owner. This would prove a big step forward in terms of the development of artificial intelligence software and programs. 

Modern AI Programs 

Modern artificial intelligence has developed rapidly. As a business owner, you must know how these IT solutions could be applicable for your organization. Some AI programs used in businesses include voice commands and applications like Apple’s Siri and Amazon’s Alexa. These programs respond to user inquiries with natural language.

So, how can modern businesses use AI programs for the best business network boost? Well, artificial intelligence can be applicable in many different ways for your business, from helping to reduce the incidence rate of human error (which is invariable with any business) through to automating production processes and supply chains based on demand and availability. Artificial intelligence can also have a big impact on your business’ hiring practices, helping your business to streamline the recruitment process and lower the costs of hiring new talent for your firm! 

Indeed, the potential that artificial intelligence can offer even today is massive – and as time passes likely, artificial intelligence systems will only get more and more complex and refined. 

Learn More About AI for Businesses 

For more information on how AI could benefit your business networks, contact us. Our team provides quality IT services so that you can get back to doing what you do best – managing your business. Don’t compromise – let us help you find the perfect AI and IT solutions today! 

AI

Meet AI: Your Newest Co-Worker

When it comes to hiring new staff, it’s important that you choose the right person for the job. But what if the right person for the job isn’t a person at all, but instead, an IT solution? Artificial intelligence offers many benefits for businesses, now, and into the future. Just one of these benefits is bypassing the hiring process. Before purchasing your AI solution, it’s important that all businesses consider the benefits and drawbacks of artificial intelligence. When looking to optimize your IT management, a quick Google search for the best “automated small business solutions” will lead you in the right direction. Then you can focus the search to your specific industry.

Let’s take a look at what Artificial Intelligence is and how it might benefit us.

Artificial Intelligence: A Brief History

Artificial intelligence is a recent development with only the first two stages widely rolled out for business support: narrow and general AI, which provide a highly specialized and broader range of support respectively. The final stage of artificial intelligence is super-intelligence, which is characterized by AI programs developed to be capable of self-thought. This level of AI is still a long way off, though, and modern AI systems are a little simpler. With that being said, the simpler nature of modern AI is a benefit in and of itself. It means that small and large businesses alike may be able to implement AI into their existing business networks easily and efficiently. And that means that better control of your budget, and profit growth should be the end result.

How did AI originate? During the 1990s, toy manufacturers were one the first industries to use AI. Popular AI toys were early versions of robots, with the Furby being arguably the most well-known. Sony also created their own artificial intelligence robotic dog that was capable of memorizing up to one hundred commands. These creations would pave the way for future AI developments in the decades to follow.

How AI Can be Used by Businesses

There are many ways in which businesses can make use of the benefits of artificial intelligence solutions. Research AI developments in your field. It’s important that your business knows how to make use of AI to the best effect.

During the Hiring Process

Artificial intelligence can be a huge benefit for small businesses wanting to make the process of hiring new staff easier. During the hiring cycle, Artificial Intelligence can be used in many different ways to streamline the task because of its ability to learn your company’s processes.

AI is an effective tool to enhance the application process for new employees. Particularly in terms of automatic chats that can provide applicants with immediate help and support.

It can also help with screening applicants. AI can categorize applicants based on their skills, experience, qualifications, and whatever parameters you set. Automatically screening applicants is beneficial for small businesses who are overwhelmed with applications for a specific job posting. Then, the business can quickly find applicants who are a good fit for the job. That translates into saving a great deal of time, and money.

It’s worth noting that artificial intelligence can be useful even after candidates have been selected. You can use AI to contact applicants and arrange interview times with them. It also provides them with answers that they may have to questions about your company. Some advanced AI software can even analyze facial expressions, tone of voice, and the like for participants which can help to provide a clear view of the applicant’s suitability for the job role.

To Support Your Employees

Artificial intelligence is a highly diverse and useful IT solution for businesses to consider investing in. More and more people are looking for business IT support companies near them to help with installing AI. Employees can utilize this new technology to support their day-to-day activities.  Additionally, employees can use AI to streamline automated processes to improve work productivity and affordability.

For Your Customers

Finally, artificial intelligence can provide an affordable option for your small business in terms of supporting customers. This is particularly the case for chatbox. You can use Artificial Intelligence to engage your clients and provide them with instant responses to their queries, without the huge expense of hiring a 24/7 in-house team. This can represent massive savings for your business and help boost customer satisfaction.

Don’t Rely Solely on AI!

Artificial intelligence options are some of the fastest evolving IT solutions for business networks, however, they are not perfect and need a team of human workers behind them to keep them working effectively. Always make sure that you check your AI is providing the results that you want; in doing so, you’ll be able to balance the cost-saving nature of artificial intelligence with the personal touch that human staff can provide.

In turn, your customers will be able to enjoy an incomparable service overall, making AI solutions potentially a great investment for your small business. To learn more, contact us to see if AI could be right for you.