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Author Archives: Admin

Password Theft – How Protected Is Your Business?

Security has been a concern with the internet since its inception. Anyone who remembers the early days of the internet will remember how easy it was to cause fairly significant trouble. Employees left passwords in plain sight. There wasn’t anything in the way of certificates, computer identification, or anything else to ensure password safety. With these vulnerabilities, it inevitably results in password theft.

Back then, there was no such thing as a secure connection. Even the banking systems were incredibly vulnerable. Luckily, these cracks in the system didn’t result in many newsworthy meltdowns because there weren’t enough tech-savvy criminals to take advantage of them. Modern-day hackers could have done a lot of damage back then.

Since then, we’ve seen some significant cases of password and identity theft. The PSN fiasco with Sony is a recent example. Thousands upon thousands of users had their credit card numbers, passwords, and personal information stolen and sold off by Chinese hackers. Yet this could have been entirely avoidable. Had Sony prioritized two-step authentication (2FA), and better security protocols it wouldn’t have happened.

That was an attack on servers, which is hard to pull off when the servers are set-up properly. It usually involves either a brute force attack into the servers or finding an unknown exploit in the back door. In other words, it requires either bashing the front door open or finding an unlocked window. Smart businesses make sure their front doors are strong and their windows are locked!

Most password and identity theft won’t happen through this sort of invasion. Like a large city, the internet has its safer and more questionable neighborhoods. There are also neighborhoods nobody in their right mind should be going anywhere near. Let’s take a walk around these neighborhoods and point out some of the risks.

How Hackers Steal Passwords and Personal Information

To steal passwords and other valuable information, Phishing is one of the most common types of cyberattacks. Hackers will send out emails containing malicious links to as many users as possible. That link takes users to a bogus, or spoofed site, and tricks them into giving out their private information.

Once hackers acquire this information, they will attempt to break into as many business and personal accounts as possible. And if they gain access to those accounts, it’s only a matter of time before data is stolen or access to those accounts is lost.

SSL and HTTPS are security measures that provide certificate management to ensure foreign devices are not connecting to your account. They provide strong ciphers that prevent intercepted packets from being dismantled. It’s the equivalent of only allowing certain phones to dial into yours, and scrambling the voice on both ends so wiretaps can’t understand the conversation.

Unfortunately, people have the bad habit of accessing sensitive information over public Wi-Fi. Even with SSL enabled, public Wi-Fi can be very dangerous. Shady people can access your Wi-Fi transmissions without you knowing it. With enough hard work, they can collect your passwords, your personal information and even gain access to your devices. Once they’re in, you are in a lot of trouble.

Another culprit is a lack of strong security on your computer or laptop. Without Windows defender or a third-party equivalent running in strict mode, you may allow sneaky executables to run in the background. These can log keystrokes, spy on your browser, go through your cache, and much more.

Knowing the Neighborhood is Important

Your first line of defense as a user against password and identity theft is to ensure that you only enter passwords and personal information into websites with the proper security in place. 2FA logins are currently the safest way to log in. And second, never enter private information over public Wi-Fi. This warning goes for your phone too.

When using a business device, you should avoid lesser-known sites, such as aggregate sites, fan-based websites, and other nonprofessional web sites. If you want to purchase something on noncommercial websites, make sure the exchange is through a safe, insured, and secure environment.

Finally, while at work, stay off the dark web entirely.

What If I am Compromised?

If you are compromised, report it to your IT department or Managed Service Provider immediately. If possible, back-up your hard drives. Report your credit cards as stolen, and talk to your bank. Later on, if you see fraudulent transactions on your account, debit, or credit cards, contest them immediately,

Once you have your system backed up and running, go through all of your old accounts and change every password. You may also want to change your mobile phone number. Hackers can sell that information too.

In the end, identity theft and password theft are usually the user’s error in judgment. Most employees don’t learn proper security measures, and they’re too trusting. It is important to teach everyone in your office proper password hygiene and basic security protocol. They need to know the rules of safety on the internet, and not be trusting of unknown people they come in contact with.

Sadly, because of these threats, we do have to worry about security and privacy. Like any other innovation, the internet was a dangerous place upon arrival. It’s a game between hackers and our security forces. If you’re smart, however, you can avoid these traps. Contact us today to ensure your data, passwords, and privacy are protected.

Biggest Hacks in 2020

Worldwide losses from cybercrime skyrocketed to nearly $1 trillion in 2020. That’s more than the net worth of most countries.
Run a quick search and you’ll be surprised at how many hacks occur every week. Modern security is the best it has ever been. Unfortunately, hackers are motivated to be one step ahead of all of us. Breaches resulting in credit card information hacked by the millions are quite common. Even the pandemic hasn’t slowed them down.

According to zdnet.com, the switch to businesses using remote employees has changed the hacking landscape. In 2020, up to 20% of all cybersecurity attacks were aimed at the new remote workforce. With employees and companies learning how to shift into going remote, hackers knew this weak-link was ripe for the picking.

Cyberwarfare is the battlefield of the 21st century and beyond. There are three common types of entities that create most hacks. Let’s discuss these entities, their motivations, a few of the biggest ones that happened this year, and what we can learn from the nature of those hacks.

The Forces of Evil

Simplifying things, there are basically three types of hacking profiles that are likely to engage in these nasty hacks. What most people think of first are criminals and ne’er-do-wells looking to profit from this inexcusable behavior. Money motivates them to steal credit card information or sensitive personal information. Then they sell it to sketchy third parties. On a global scale, foreign powers can, will, and have engaged in destructive hacks to disrupt economies. Often politically motivated, these crooks hope to instill unrest and frighten civilians.

Finally, some hackers just think they’re smarter than everyone else. They breach security systems because they enjoy causing chaos. Some of these hackers insist they’re working for a good cause. They focus on blowing the whistle on government projects they feel are wrong. But all too often these hacking attempts are completely random. Sometimes years of data and research is wiped out or stolen. They don’t seem like Robin Hood then!

Some of the biggest hacks in 2020

By studying past events we can learn a lot about protecting ourselves both in the corporate and private worlds. The most common attacks are usually through malware. Short for “malicious software,” malware is invasive software that finds a way into PCs and corrupts or destroys files and programs.

One victim of a malicious malware attack last year was Travelex. In January 2020, they lost an undisclosed amount of money. And an undisclosed number of private records were compromised due to the presence of malware. Everyone who has given them personal information, like credit card numbers, are now at risk.

Estee Lauder had over 440 million internal records exposed due to Middleware, and other security failures. Middleware, while not the same as malware, does add extra complications to systems. Middleware gets its name by hiding between the operating system and the applications on a PC. Hackers can then use middleware to delete, copy, or encrypt anything that passes through it.

Phishing, another hacking method, lead to damaging incidents with Virgin Media, Whisper, and Marriott throughout January, February and March. Using phishing tactics to learn password and login information, hackers gained access to countless records. Again, millions of innocent people are now at risk of credit card fraud, drained bank accounts, or identity theft.

What can we learn from this?

These are far from the only hacks. As you can see, no matter how secure we think we are, hackers can usually find a way in. Poor training and the lack of conscientiousness in user security are the biggest ways hackers gain access to information.

This results in things like ransomware attacks, data loss, and stolen files. These breaches can do serious damage to businesses and private citizens alike. Presently, despite great security measures, we still need stronger security in place on the corporate side. Better training is a necessity for employees. Middleware, which is often found by using Antivirus programs, needs to be eliminated whenever possible. Better walled gardens can be built and utilized by businesses that hold private records and data.

These attacks are unfortunate, but rather than being rueful to the victimized companies, we should demand that they learn from these mistakes. Hackers are not going to go away. You can count on them to find more and more ways to steal your data.

These major companies can afford the best cybersecurity defenses available. Yet, they are still vulnerable. If you don’t feel your cybersecurity is as strong and safe as it should be, please contact us anytime. As your Managed Service Provider, it is our job to make sure your precious data is as safe as possible.

artificial intelligence

Artificial Intelligence: Better Living (and Working) through Automation

Artificial intelligence, also referred to by the simpler term AI, has long been the holy grail of futurists, science fiction authors, and fantasists alike. Even before we established the concept of computer science, the notion of mechanized entities capable of learning, thinking, and acting on their own was a popular subject for science fiction. This is especially true of cautionary tales. 

While AI stories predate this work of art, the earliest popular demonstration in the common zeitgeist is the silent film Metropolis. Released in 1927, this movie is almost 100 years old. It deeply explores the idea of intelligent technology and its impact on our society. It also explores the ethics involved in creating machinery that is capable of awareness. 

We’re not here to discuss science fiction robots that can think and feel just like people. We’re not even going to discuss the menacing software displayed in the Terminator or Matrix franchises. Although, these are very interesting concepts. A discussion about the repercussions of AI does merit a conversation, but we’re not there yet. Not by any stretch of the imagination. That’s called the singularity, and it’s going to happen someday soon. What we’re here to discuss today is AI as we currently know it. 

Demystifying Contemporary AI 

You’re not aware of it, but you experience AI every day. Talking to your phone, Siri, and Alexa, or searching on Google or other search engines, AI tracks you. AI directs your searches based on your past search history, as well as what you’re inputting. It compiles data from users and learns their interests and habits. It then uses this info for marketing and other purposes. 

AI also exists in the business and consumer sectors. But AI in the sense of what people think of in science fiction movies certainly does not yet exist. So, what exactly is it that we have that we’re calling AI? 

 AI, or Machine Learning, is any form of software or hardware technology that is capable of learning from input and results. It then uses the ability to make intuitive predictions based on what it has learned. This includes abstractly solving problems based on past tasks. It will then adjust its approach to tasks and become more efficient and effective at making decisions. It is clever, but not conscious. 

AI can be powerful. You might be wondering exactly how this business automation like this can help you. Keep reading to find out! 

Tireless Workers 

With AI capable of basic accounting functions, administration, and CRM, you can eliminate a lot of redundant tasks. Over time you’ll have less unnecessary staff and less overhead.  

Arguably, AI isn’t quite smart enough yet to handle dealing with an angry customer on the phone or in a chat, as anyone who’s tried to talk to these so-called bots will attest. But they are very well-suited for simpler tasks. 

AI can learn customer habits, allowing it to be a handy assistant to CRM, PR, and customer service employees. AI can recall information about customers, and instantly suggest go-to solutions that make sense. Efficiency is the name of the game. 

Redundant tasks, such as appointment setting, cold calling, or pesky reoccurring jobs, can also be handled by AI. This frees up skilled employees to deal with people directly as they are trained to do. 

Artificial Intelligence can be useful for business planning and logistics management. It learns from markets, business climates, and current events. It is capable of making accurate predictions and connecting relationships that analysts may not be able to notice. This makes AI programs excellent tools for business analysts, traders, and marketing experts as well. 

AI Versus Outsourcing 

Outsourced work is often of subpar quality, as reflected in the reduced price associated with it. AI responds instantaneously to notifications from customers and provides personal replies. It prioritizes deadlines with no emotional opposition nor fatigue associated with it. AI works 24/7 and doesn’t need breaks or time off. It learns from operating and repetition. While a little bit of patience may be necessary when AI is put into place, it learns remarkably faster than people. This is not because it’s smarter than people, but because its “brain” is designed specifically for the tasks at hand. 

AI doesn’t need holidays, vacation pay, or anything of the sort. It never stops. It never gets bored, and it provides a far better, less emotionally charged customer experience.  

This Has Potential, Where Do I Start? 

If the prospect of a tireless, intuitive business automation tool like this sounds intriguing, your next step is to figure out what your business needs are. Do a little research. Read up on how Artificial Intelligence works, and compare platforms you’re interested in. Get a feel for what this technology is and where its prime applications lie. Look into where it’s used now, and notice the day-to-day things that are powered by AI. You’ll be surprised by how prolific it is. 

Or, if the whole thing is confusing for you, drop us a line. We specialize in business technology and are avid proponents of business automation. We can even provide you with advice on how to integrate Artificial Intelligence with your current staff. After all, we want to help you grow your business, not find ways to lose valuable employees. Contact us today to find out more. 

touchless business

Touchless Business: A New Era

The COVID-19 pandemic has affected individuals and businesses across the globe in a manner that rings with permanence. Many businesses that were previously successful are now left baffled as to how they should adjust their business models. To work effectively in this new age of touchless business, we need to adopt to new systems and organizational methods. 

How do I even begin to mobilize my business in light of current restrictions? 

The top priority for businesses that haven’t done so already is to establish an online presence. And they should get online fast! Establishing an efficient online storefront is the first step to attracting customers who shifted to shopping online during this pandemic. If a website is already part of your business model, then some tech solutions may be needed to handle more sales. Make your website functional enough to be a solidified option for those at home. IT solutions, such as adding a shopping cart or transitioning a POS terminal, can help adjust your online presence. 

For businesses who deem their online presence to be adequate but struggle with restricted capacity, touchless payment options may be the answer to your problems. What businesses have found to be convenient and successful is the installment of computer tablets as hubs for touchless payments. The prevalence of consumer tech solutions such as ApplePay, Samsung Pay, and Google Wallet have established a safe and easy way for customers to take advantage of digital tablets in physical business locations. 

 

How do I maintain effortless communication between coworkers and employees? 

Another struggle many businesses face in this period of touchless business is, how to effectively communicate with employees and coworkers. Scheduling business meetings in person is not exactly COVID safe. Luckily there are alternatives for maintaining a solid and reliable communication link. Platforms such as MS Teams, Zoom, Skype, Google Hangouts, Adobe Connect, and many more have streamlined the ability to connect individuals virtually. Business meetings have, in a sense, never been easier to achieve. By cutting out the commute time for many employees, you can provide more time for scheduling important business meetings.  

An additional way to streamline communication efforts is to construct a working online business network. You can do so through new platforms, like Slack, Microsoft Teams/Office, and Google Hangouts. Making sure remote employees have a designated business computer to utilize during work hours is essential. It assures the success of online performance, as programs are only as good as the diligence of the employee checking them.  

 

Now that I have a working website, how do I continue to make sales and service my clients? 

Maintaining a business during a pandemic is one thing; soliciting new business and sales are a whole other feat. Establishing a working website is not enough to ensure the success of any business or private firm. It is merely the first step in the process of creating an engaging and attractive online presence. Not all customers you want to attract are as tech-savvy as you probably are. Being prepared to help them transition to an online client is something you can do to make this process easy for them. Older clientele may want to do business with you but aren’t sure how to use Zoom. Being able to assist them, or hiring someone who can, is a reliable way to bridge this gap and continue growing your business. 

Making sales during such a confusing and evolving business era can be intimidating and uncertain. Small to medium businesses are currently struggling more than ever to keep their doors open. For many, it is tough making sufficient sales to sustain the company and its employees. With every business transitioning to online services, how do you make your business stand apart? The next step for facilitating sales is to engage with your customers and their concerns. You should have a dedicated customer service person with reliable tech solutions for answering emails, fulfilling online orders, and facilitating responses to customer questions promptly. Being responsive to this kind of online interaction is essential to keeping and attracting customers. If you aren’t making the online process easy for the customer, the competition will. 

A Summary of How to Mobilize 

The touchless era is a difficult time in which to mobilize your business. But it is not impossible. Creating an easily accessible and efficient online platform for customers to enjoy and engage with, and maintaining a strong online presence is essential to moving your business into a successful space. Finding different IT tech solutions–like installing online video chat programs to continue communication–will help affirm employee accountability as well as customer satisfaction. Finally, bringing all these aspects together to create a comprehensive and well-oiled touchless business model will assure your business has the best chance of survival and success possible. 

If you have questions about setting up online services or getting your employees to work remotely, please contact us at any time. 

are-apps-dangerous

Are Your Apps Dangerous?

Apps make the modern technology world go ‘round. If it weren’t for apps, smartphones and other mobile devices wouldn’t be nearly as useful. Of course, there are many factors to consider before using an app. You should ask yourself, could this be a potentially dangerous app? This is especially true if you’re using a device for business purposes.

Earlier this month, we asked and concluded that allowing cookies is safe in most circumstances. In this week’s blog, we will be delving into using apps for business purposes and whether or not they pose a risk to your safety.

Apps for the Business Place 

There is literally an app (or 50) for just about anything you can think of. However, even helpful apps can be a breeding ground for people who want to steal your information.

Generally speaking, most app makers are honest and ethical. However, because it is so easy to make an app, you may find less than trustworthy creators offering new apps. Securitymagazine.com stated that  “71% of healthcare and medical apps have at least one serious vulnerability that could lead to a breach of medical data.” Of course, other general business apps often have similar vulnerabilities.

Additionally, some people create apps specifically so they can steal your personal data. When you download and install an app, it will typically ask for various permissions. It may ask for the ability to use your microphone or have access to your contacts. Some apps ask for just about every piece of information you have available. You may find yourself simply handing over all of your personal data without even realizing it. This is where apps can become very dangerous. Even if you come to this realization and delete the app, your device could already be infected with spyware.

Personal Apps Can Be Dangerous

On the other hand, even if you only use trusted apps for business or no apps at all, you need to be careful of the apps you download for personal reasons. Just like with business apps, you may find that people have created an app for a particular reason — and that reason may be to gain access to the data on thousands or millions of mobile devices.

Be honest with yourself: how many times have you downloaded an app that you’ve never heard of just because someone told you it was the greatest app ever? Later, when you feel uncomfortable with how the app works you immediately delete it. We’ve all been there at some point. The scariest part is that the damage is already done once the app is successfully installed. Any information you use for your business (such as emails and customer information) is now freely available to the app developer.

Data Breaches

Another potential threat is using a legitimate app from a valid organization that becomes hacked and breached. As an example, this past year, the Walgreens app was victim to a major data breach. The hack allowed access to private conversations containing personal information. This breach was exposed through various apps that were designed to track COVID-19 cases. This happened to a major corporation using high-security apps. Many people wouldn’t think a pharmacy app from a well-known company could be dangerous. Nonetheless, hackers breached highly sensitive information victimizing paying customers. On that note, it’s important to be aware that anyone can fall victim to a data breach if security measures aren’t closely examined.

Hackers have targeted major apps like Instagram, Tinder, Tik Tok, and Snapchat recently. How many of you have at least one of these apps installed on your phone or other mobile devices? While most of us know not to use Tinder on a work phone, you may have some of these apps on your devices. Even if you only use these apps on your personal time, they can lead to major consequences with your private business data. What is fun for you may compromise the security of your customers.

Create A Solution That Works 

Let’s say you personally avoid all these pitfalls and have never had any issues with apps on your phone or other mobile devices. If you have an organization with multiple people, there’s a very good chance that somebody is going to download an app that may have damaging security implications in the future. While these people may have good intentions and never mean to do any harm, we all know that life can change in an instant in this modern world.

By creating and implementing a plan among your employees, you can help control security breaches. Increase your security measures by not allowing devices to download random, potentially dangerous apps. It’s important to have security policies and other measures in place. Maintain mobile device management, effective policy, and as many security protocols available.

If you want to make sure your organization is as safe as possible from unexpected risks, contact us today. We’ll set up your organization’s devices to keep them safe while still allowing your employees to do their job effectively.