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Author Archives: Admin

Surf Securely while Staying at Home

As this COVID-19 crisis drags on, we’ve noticed a few new habits amongst our clients. Some have taken this opportunity to get their business in order and prepare for a resurgence. Some are just gritting their teeth and holding on. Nearly all of them have increased their time on social media. In addition to typical surfing, we’re seeing dramatic increases in people filling out those pesky Facebook quizzes about their first loves, childhood homes, mother’s maiden names, and other little-known facts.

These quizzes seem innocent enough at first; however, they are a hacker’s dream. In fact, most of these quizzes are planted by hackers in hopes that people fill them out, innocently reveal their security question answers, and create an easy target to breach. Here are a few tips to keep safe.

  1. Just say no. We know we sound like a Debbie-Downer here, but it’s safest to just avoid Facebook quizzes altogether. Let’s paint the picture. Recently, there was a push to post your graduation photo and year “in support of 2020 graduates.” This sounds like a cute idea, but there’s a dark side. Hackers now have three pieces of information that are common security questions: where you went to high school, what year you graduated, and your high school mascot (they can easily look this up based on the information provided). Your support of graduates just opened you up to hacking. Sure, this doesn’t give up your username and password, but hackers might already have this information based on some previous phishing attempt or breach of a major database (think Target, medical records, or social media profile leaks). Now, they have the secondary layer of protection to your personal data. Alternatively, they use this information to create fake Facebook profiles that appear believable. Then, they send a bunch of friend requests to your existing friends and use it to harvest their personal data when they accept.
  2. Pretend everything you post is public. Regardless of your privacy settings, pretend that Facebook is a wall in the grungiest bathroom on your last road trip. Is this information that you would like posted on that wall? When you excitedly shared about your daughter’s first car, you revealed her security question information. You nostalgically told a story about your childhood neighborhood, there was another security question. It doesn’t matter if your profile is private or not. Hackers will find away.
  3. Give Fake Security Question information. If you just cannot refrain from taking these Facebook quizzes or posting, give fake information for your security challenge questions. For example, if the security question asks where you met your significant other, put something completely incorrect. Make sure it’s something that you will remember, but it shouldn’t be something that hackers could find published online.

Social media opens up privacy concerns that we’ve never had to consider before. We recognize that there is no turning back and becoming a recluse isn’t an option. Through this crisis and beyond, take every precaution you can to protect yourself, protect your business, and protect your identity.

9 Things To Do Before Business Picks Back Up

Unfortunately, due to COVID-19, most businesses have slowed down. A recent Goldman Sach’s survey found that more than 50% of 1,500 small business owners said they couldn’t continue for more than 3 months at current rates. Rather than wallow and wait, though, take the opportunity to do those things that you never have time to do. Here are nine things that you should do now so that you’re ready to excel when this crisis is over.

1. Maximize your security protocols.

New security threats pop up every day. Even amidst COVID-19, hackers developed phishing attempts to prey on peoples’ thirst for news surrounding the virus. What happens when a hacker gains personal information from one of these attempts? Often, the value isn’t in the initial data theft or financial potential therein. Hackers really don’t care what your password to one particular site is. Instead, they sell the information on the Dark Web. Take the opportunity to lock down your security protocols, now. Start with determining if your information is on the Dark Web, then set up ongoing monitoring to maintain awareness. Beyond the Dark Web, make sure you have a security plan in place that includes your firewall, antivirus, and protecting remote connections.

2. Write your compliance plan.

There are new privacy laws popping up all over the world, including data privacy laws across the US. How are you going to be compliant with customer, prospect, and website visitor data? In addition to website compliance, take a look at PCI, NIST, and HIPAA (if applicable) compliance. We can help you review your current compliance and create a plan to overcome challenges.

3. Update your hardware.

While you cannot use any PPP loan funds to cover hardware upgrades, if you received a PPP loan, you may have some cash available to upgrade your hardware to be prepared as business picks back up. Even if you weren’t lucky enough to secure funding in the first round of loans, still look at upgrading your computers systems. While you likely want to avoid the hefty expenses of a project, consider Hardware as a Service as an option to pay monthly for your hardware, lowering initial outlay and turning your hardware expenditure into an operating expense rather than a capital expense.

4. Refresh your website.

Creating your company website was probably a major undertaking. From writing the content to agreeing on design, it’s one of those projects that probably does not bring fond memories. The challenge is your website should be completed renovated every three to five years, while content updates every quarter. Dig back in and address your website, making sure you’re highlighting your most recent offerings and addressing SEO effectively.

5. Clean up your leads list.

Databases get old and sloppy really quickly, especially if you don’t undergo regular upkeep. Who has time for regular upkeep? Now is the time to get everything straightened out. Audit your prospect and client lists. Remove duplicates, re-classify types, as necessary, and create a plan for ongoing upkeep so that you don’t have to undergo a major cleaning project again.

6. Create a strategic plan/ Determine Your Next Offering

If this crisis hasn’t shown you that you need to be agile, nimble and always have a plan for what’s next, I’m not sure what will. Brainstorm your next product offering, or your next marketing moving. Create a plan for the next 12-18 months. Strategic planning often hits the back burner but is critical for ongoing success. You’ve just been given a great gift – time to plan.

7. Collect testimonials and case studies.

If you’re doing your jobs well, customers are likely sending you emails of appreciation, anecdotes of quality customer service, and sharing accolades about your team. Unfortunately, when you’ve got a lot on your plate, these tend to be fleeting messages in your inbox with a mere “thank you” response to the sender. Dig those out and position them as testimonials, case studies, and customer shout-outs for your website.

8. Educate yourself and team.

One of the biggest reasons business owners avoid training their teams is that it involves taking time away from the business. Immerse yourself and your teams in training so that they’re armed with best practices when business begins to rebound.

9. Update your standard operating procedures.

Documentation gets behind when you’re in the thick of day-to-day business resulting in standard operating procedures that are several years old and woefully out of date. Have your team take a look at your current standard operating procedures. Work through them one-by-one ensuring that you have the latest version on file and that you’ve removed any superfluous processes. Work toward a complete business manual to help any new hires and to ensure standardization across your team.

We have every hope that the country will begin to safely open up very soon. In the meantime, though, make the most of this business downturn by prepping your business for resurgence.

Surviving the New Workplace

With the ongoing situation in the world, there are many people who are either furloughed or have been outright laid off from their jobs. Those of us who can work from home are very fortunate to be able to keep working through all of this, even as business slows down.

Although some companies have been hesitant to let their employees work remotely, there is a slew of benefits that might keep employees working from home even after the COVID-19 crisis settles. There are some unique challenges that come alongside remote work, though. Here are some new issues that may arise and what can be done to lessen the blow.

Keep in Touch

When you work in an office with your employees, you may take that proximity for granted. Even if you don’t have daily meetings, how often do you stop by for a minute just to see how things are doing or for a quick update on a project? This creates a relationship beyond just instructions from a faceless email.

Make sure to take the time to check in daily with your team, perhaps even a couple of times a day, and make these connections on video. There’s no shortage of free or low-cost programs (such as Skype, Teams, Zoom, GoToMeeting) that can help you stay in touch without wasting too much time. The more often you do these meetings, the more efficient the process will be for everyone. We recommend a 15-minute huddle in the morning, as well as something to close out the day.

Stay Positive

Working from home sounds great, but it can be an adjustment, especially if you’ve been forced into it like many are today. People may find themselves getting claustrophobic and uneasy since they no longer have a routine of getting ready for work, traveling, and just getting out of the house. For many, this can be a source of anxiety and stress.

Keep meetings informative, but uplifting. Don’t just talk about work — have everyone talk about a positive thing that happened. It could even be something as simple as finding a new series that they like or their children making breakfast for the family etc.

Make it Personal

In addition to group meetings, make it point to meet with employees one-on-one at least once a week, more if you have ongoing projects that need attention. When you’re home alone or with the family, it gets really easy to be sidetracked compared to working in the office.

Remember that, for some people, the office is their main source of socializing, so this connection could be a lifeline to them as they’re isolated at home. Younger employees also appreciate more frequent feedback from their superiors. Without this, they can get easily distracted or disheartened.

Be the Fun Boss

Don’t fool yourself into thinking that your employees are going to work 8 solid hours a day at home. As long as they are getting their work done at a high level of quality, it’s best just to leave that be. In fact, encourage downtime and even create games or challenges for your team. With everything going on, if you don’t give them the occasional distraction, they’ll find something on their own that could end up keeping them off tasks for longer.

Keep Their Heads in the Cloud

Since they are no longer in a physical location that you have control over, make sure that your team’s data is backed up properly is crucial. While most companies are using a cloud storage solution on some level, others rely mostly or entirely on server storage. Find a way to make sure that all your employees’ work is backed up safely and efficiently. This type of data solution will also allow employees to work on a project simultaneously even if they’re physically separated.

Hardware and Software Checks

The last thing you want is for your employees to have nothing to do because the don’t have the proper tools! Whether you provide them with their equipment or they’re using their own, make sure that your team always has everything they need to do their work. To avoid progress interruptions, keep all software licenses for programs such as Microsoft Office or any other industry-specific apps up to date.

Lastly, don’t forget security considerations. This is especially important if they’re using their own equipment since what works at home computer may not cut it for your business needs.

We were all forced into a new work environment very quickly, but we think this shift is just a picture of times to come. In fact, some predict that 20% of the workforce will be fully remote within the next two years. That’s why an MSP might be your best option to help in these trying times. We have the tools, resources and experience needed to take care of all these considerations without ever having to step foot in your office. Contact us today and we can show you how we can start to implement your perfect solution for your business.

The Most Important Thing You Need to Do When Video Conferencing During COVID-19

Just as people were starting to get in front of stay-at-home recommendations with robust video conferencing and online learning options, “zoombombing” was born, proving yet again that evil knows no bounds.

Zoombombing occurs when hackers break into Zoom meetings and wreak havoc by sharing inappropriate video or drawings, screaming obscenities, or posting hate speech. They attack open meetings, those that have no password, have posted the password online or that allow everyone to share their screen.

Hackers have worked swiftly to develop programs that can scrape hundreds of Zoom Meeting IDs every minute. Then, they go hunting for the most vulnerable meetings. Schools, church meetings, and even a student defending his doctoral thesis have been affected. The FBI has issued a warning about these challenges and Zoom has publicly apologized for their lapses in security.

What can you do about it? Businesses rely on successful video conferencing today to keep their teams connected, conduct meetings, and to continue to move the sales process forward as much as possible when the world is at a stand-still. Locking down your meetings with proper security protocols is the most important thing you need to do when video conferencing during COVID-19 and beyond. Here are a few steps you can take.

Use Alternate Platforms

Zoom is likely the biggest target because it is a free platform with an easy to use interface. It also has a few admitted security holes, placing it high on the list of easy to hack software. We recommend choosing an alternative, if possible. An upgraded version of Zoom with built-in, protected meeting rooms could be the answer. Teams, GoTo Meeting, or WebEx are your best alternatives. While more costly, these are more secure and protected programs.

Lockdown Your Zoom Meetings

If you choose to utilize Zoom, make sure that you’re following a few important security protocols.

  1. Do not publish the meeting ID online. People do this to try to get a lot of audience participation in things like study groups or discussion platforms. This is just inviting a Zoombomber into your meeting. Instead, publish contact information to get the Meeting ID and login. Then, only provide the login to people that you know and trust.
  2. Secure meetings with a password. While it’s a little bit more challenging for people to enter, this extra step ensures that a nefarious player can’t gain access.
  3. Only allow one host. Some Zoombombers are getting in because the meeting is set to allow multiple hosts. That means they can actually start the meeting for you. Restrict your meetings to only one host.
  4. Lock down screen sharing. Only allow the host to screen share. You can pass this control as needed, but you shouldn’t just allow everyone to take control.
  5. Utilize the waiting room feature. This allows you to confirm people before they enter the meeting. Only allow those you know in.
  6. Use mute diligently. As the host, you have the ability to mute all participants. Know where that button is and prepare to use it should anything go awry.

Copious video conferences are going to be in our daily lives for the foreseeable future. Make sure you’re doing everything you can to stay safe.

3 Ways Technology Will Help Pull Us Through the COVID-19 Pandemic

Many businesses and people are struggling as the COVID-19 Pandemic. Closures of restaurants and bars, canceled events, and other restrictions force our society to practice social-distancing. In this time of need, we, as a group, are more prepared than most other industries to help our clients maintain their businesses through this crisis. As an MSP, we brand ourselves as partners to our clients, and now is the time for us to step up and help you, our partners.

These are scary times. Many businesses are closing their doors to help fight the spread of the COVID-19 virus. Unfortunately, businesses like restaurants, bars, bowling alleys and movie theaters cannot operate remotely because they count on patrons walking into their facilities. But certain sections of other businesses, like accounting, law, and even parts of the medical and dental fields can utilize the efforts of remote employees.

Much like the disaster recovery plans, we offer for technology, we can also help with the back-up solution of setting up people to work from home. We deal with remote employees daily, so it is something we’re used to figuring out and operating smoothly.

We also regularly use the internet to communicate with each other using platforms like GoToMeeting, Skype, and Facetime. Around this office we have daily meetings with remote employees, so we’re used to setting up access for meetings and special events.

The technology on our side allows us to maintain productivity and ensure life will continue at a somewhat normal clip. With that being said, we believe there are three key reasons why technology will pull us all through the COVID-19 Pandemic.

  1. Remote Work Capabilities: You may have never dreamed you’d be writing up your next big report with your child sitting next to you playing their online educational game, but here we are. Many employers have sent their employees to work from home in an effort to quell the spread of COVID-19. With strong remote access or VPN, work continues without a great deal of interruption.
  2. Virtual Events/Streaming: Events organizers across the country are canceling, postponing, or moving events online. Technology allows these events to continue without major hiccups. Artists taking to Facebook Live to perform, speakers moving to platforms like Zoom or YouTube, and church services across the world streaming, only reveals the tip of the iceberg when it comes to streaming technology.
  3. Communication: Video chat, online messaging, email, and phone communication will keep the world connected through this difficult time. We’ll quickly see how important it is to connect with our fellow man for work, pleasure, and sanity.

During these trying times, it is our job, as IT professionals, to help those who are in need. Whatever we can do to help our local businesses keep their heads above water will only make our community stronger. People helping people, and professionals helping businesses stay open.

It is unknown how long drastic measures stemming from COVID-19 will last, but with technology on our side, thankfully the world will continue to progress.