Troubleshoot your WiFi with ease

By EDITOR 

You’ve invested in WiFi routers so you can access emails, collaborate in real-time, browse Facebook, and watch YouTube videos at blistering speeds. But when your WiFi refuses to work the way it should, the frustration sets in and you begin to contemplate smashing your router into pieces. Avoid the temptation with these easy ways to troubleshoot five common WiFi problems.

Range constraints

WiFi works via radio waves which are broadcast to all possible areas from a central hub, usually a piece of hardware known as a router. In order to avoid a weak signal in your office, make sure:

  • Your router is placed in a centralized location and not tucked away in the farthest corner of your facility.
  • Your WiFi antennae are either in a fully horizontal or vertical position for optimal signal distribution.

Note that WiFi range constraints can also occur from interference, so if your office is situated in a highly populated area, try changing your router’s channel.

Slow speed

Despite having high-speed or fiber optic internet, slow load times can still occur for a number of reasons. To eliminate this, try the following:

  • Make sure your router is located in the same room as your endpoints.
  • Have more routers to better accommodate a high number of connected devices.
  • Close bandwidth-intensive applications such as Skype, Dropbox, YouTube, and Facebook.
  • Disable your router’s power-saving mode.
  • Create a new router channel to avoid network bottlenecks.

Connection issues

We understand how frustrating it can be when the WiFi network shows up on your device but you just can’t seem to get it to connect. Before you give up, these solutions might help:

  • Determine whether your WiFi connection is the problem or if your internet is down by plugging in your laptop directly into the router via an Ethernet cable. If you get a connection, then your WiFi is the culprit.
  • Reset your router with a paperclip or a pen and hold down that tiny button for about 30 seconds.
  • Try rebooting your device.

Unstable connection

Random drops in WiFi connection can happen from time to time. If this has become a constant nuisance in your office, try the following quick fixes:

  • Move your router to a different spot or even a different room.
  • Avoid having multiple routers in the same location as they can confuse your device.

Network not found

Glitches in the router can result in your WiFi network not appearing at all. Two solutions that can resolve the problem are:

  • Disconnecting the router from the power source and waiting at least 30 seconds before reconnecting it.
  • Checking to see how old your router is; if it’s over three years old, you’re probably due for a replacement.

When you  experience WiFi issues, these tips will help you avoid serious downtime.  But if you’d rather have a dedicated technology provider take care of your hardware needs, give us a call and we’ll be happy to help.

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Useful features on the new Outlook.com

By EDITOR 

Along with a new, clean look, Outlook.com introduces improvements that will make you and your staff’s lives easier. A more convenient mail sorting system, easy-to-implement social media integration, and enhanced security features are some of the advantages users should be excited about.

Easy elimination of unwanted emails

Employees spend an excessive amount of time poring through both important and junk emails. In the redesigned Outlook.com, it takes only three clicks to block unwanted emails, helping you to organize your mailbox better and faster. Simply click on the Sweep function to configure inbox preferences like blocking incoming emails from specific senders or automatically deleting 10-day-old messages.

In case you accidentally delete important messages, you can use the “undelete” function to retrieve them without the assistance of IT staff.

New security features

When you log in to your Outlook account on a public device or on your laptop using public WiFi, Microsoft will send you a one-time password via SMS. Once you’ve logged out of your account, further attempts by intruders to log in to your account in the same public place will be foiled by this additional safety procedure.

Another security feature is the stealth email address features, which allows you to create a temporary email address. This is particularly useful in situations where you have to provide your email to sign up for a service, e.g., eCommerce or file sharing websites, and you’re not sure whether or not these sites are secure. Using your temporary email address, you can filter incoming emails from suspicious senders or delete them if you suspect that they’re spam.

Social media contacts integration

For users whose business connections extend to their social media contacts, this feature lets you easily sync and consolidate Outlook contacts with contacts from Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Google Plus. Note that you can choose to sync just one platform, e.g., LinkedIn, to ensure that only professional contacts get synced to your Outlook account.

Minimal advertising

If you spend an inordinate amount of time in your email, a busy interface can be distracting. The new Outlook.com reduces the number of intrusive ads on your screen, unlike in Gmail where ads appear right on top of your most recent email. Although there are ads, they are not prominently placed within your mailbox, and you have some control over the ads that do get shown.

Other enhancements

Other minor but useful enhancements include a bigger reply window, HTML and CSS formatting functionality, folders and category labeling features, increased storage capacity via SkyDrive integration, an improved photo gallery viewer, and more. These are just some of the more useful enhancements on Outlook.com, and Microsoft is expected to add even more in the future.

If you need more productivity-enhancing email features, or if you want to make the most of your existing email functions, call us today for tips and recommendations.

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New phishing scam targets Office 365 users

By EDITOR 

With more than 100 million monthly active subscribers, Office 365 has attracted the attention of hackers who’ve revamped an age-old trick. This time, they come up with a highly targeted, well-crafted spear-phishing scam that’s even more difficult to identify. Here’s everything you need to know.

What makes it different from other scams?

The new threat comes in the form of spear phishing, an old familiar method in which hackers send emails that purport to be from trusted sources and dupe you into disclosing sensitive information. In this particular attack, the email messages are admirably well-crafted, making them even harder to spot.

The emails are also rid of the usual telltale signs such as misspelled words, suspicious attachments, and dubious requests. You might have to recalibrate what you know about phishing scams, because this new threat ticks all the boxes that make it look legitimate.

How does it work?

The hackers behind the attack craft personalized messages, pretending to be from trusted sources, such as your colleagues or Microsoft itself, and send them to your inbox. The messages could contain a link or a PDF file that leads to a legitimate-looking landing page. Upon clicking the link, the user will be prompted to enter his or her credentials, which the hacker will use to launch attacks within the organization.

Once they gain control of your account, they might set up new forwarding rules to monitor your communication patterns, which will be useful for their future attacks. They might even use your account to send further phishing emails to your co-workers to collect more sensitive information.

As for the phishing emails with PDF attachments, there will be instructions to fill in username and password to view the document. And once you do, your account is no longer yours.

Another way they can get your credentials is by sending an invoice that requires you to log on to a web portal to view the file. Attackers can also use this technique to trick you into performing a certain action, such as forwarding sensitive information or paying an invoice.

What can you do to stay protected?

Your first line of defense is multi-factor authentication, whereby you use a password and another authentication method — like an SMS code — to secure your account. This function is already included in Office 365, you can contact us to activate it.

The second line of defense is training yourself and your employees to spot common phishing techniques. In particular, verify the accuracy of the wording and the sensibility of the requests in the messages.

For good measure, your organization can also install an email-validation system which is designed to detect and prevent email spoofing, such as the Domain-based Message Authentication, Reporting and Conformance (DMARC).

Identifying phishing emails and planning and implementing a robust defense system are ways to protect you and your organization against the new Office 365 threat. For tips on how to spot this type of scam and how to plan thorough security practices, contact our experts today.

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5 types of clutter that slow down Windows

By EDITOR 

If you’ve noticed that your Windows 10 operating system has been running slow, yet no virus has been found and everything seems to be running okay otherwise, your PC might have too much clutter. Clutter can impede its performance and eat away its memory. To help your computer perform at its peak once again, you need to know five types of clutter and how to remove them.

5 types of clutter you need to know

  1. Pre-installed software: This unwanted OEM software, referred to as “bloatware,” poses security risks and takes up tons of CPU, RAM, and disk space. To get rid of it, Refresh Windows.
  2. Windows Updates: All too often, Microsoft launches updates that fail to download correctly, leaving you with corrupted and unusable files. Some of them will be deleted by Windows, while some will hang around forever. To remove them, Reset Windows.
  3. Registry Bloat: Every action performed in Windows gets recorded in your computer’s registry, including files and applications you’ve deleted. And gradually, Windows becomes bogged down by thousands of redundant entries. The solution? Reset Windows.
  4. Error files: Whenever software in your system encounters errors in processing or crashes altogether, Windows will keep a log file of it. And, as with Registry Bloat, these log files accumulate. To remove all these space-eating files, Reset Windows.
  5. User Bloat: This means a large number of your own files, especially if it’s unorganized. Solution: Refresh Windows.

How to declutter Windows

To rid your computer of all this clutter, you have two choices: Reset or Refresh. When you Reset, a brand new copy of Windows 10 is installed and “resets” your system to its original state. When you Refresh, your PC reinstalls Windows 10 free of any bloatware.

Both tools will delete Windows 10 apps and your customized settings, and will give you choices of keeping your old files or deleting them.

To get started, go to Start > Setting > Update and Recovery > Recovery

If you want to Reset Windows, choose Reset This PC > Get Started and then follow the on-screen instructions.

If you want to Refresh Windows, you need to know whether your Windows update version is Windows 10 1607 or Windows 10 1703 since the processes are a bit different.

  • For Windows 10 1607, choose More Recovery Options > Learn How to Start Afresh With a Clean Copy of Windows 10, at which point you’ll see a new screen in your browser. Click Download Tool Now at the bottom of the page, and when the download is finished, follow the on-screen instructions.
  • For Windows 10 1703, click Settings > Update & Recovery > Recovery > More recovery options > Start Afresh to launch Windows Defender. Then click Get Started to start the Refresh process. Alternatively, you can press the Windows key + R, enter systemreset -cleanpc and click Enter. When you see the Fresh Start menu, click next to start the process.

There are innumerable ways to make your computer perform faster and more efficiently, and our Windows experts are equipped with all the tricks of the trade. Give us a call today.

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Google Drive app is shutting down

By EDITOR 

Yes, you read it right, Google Drive app is officially shutting down. But what does this mean for users worldwide? Is your business data still safe on Google Drive? Here’s everything you need to know.

Google made an official announcement on its blog that support for Google Drive app will end come December 11th, 2017, and the app will shut down completely on March 12th, 2018. In fact, you’ll start seeing notifications from the app’s user interface come October.

But you don’t need to search for an alternative solution just yet; the Google Drive service isn’t going anywhere. Despite the desktop app’s departure, you can still access Google Drive’s applications from your web browser and your mobile devices. Even better, Google has rolled out two more ways to access Drive applications and files on your desktop and keep them in sync on all your devices.

Backup and Sync

This consumer app replaces the standalone Google Drive and Google Photos Uploader apps. The way it works and the functionality it offers is pretty much the same as Drive, except all your Drive content will be stored on your computer hard drive rather than in the cloud.

You’ll be able to access files in My Drive, sync selected folders in My Drive, use native applications like MS Word and Photoshop, and sync other folders such as Documents or Desktop.

You won’t, however, be able to access files in Team Drives, stream files on demand, or sync individual files in My Drive. For those, you’ll have to go with the second option called Drive File Stream.

Computer operating systems requirements for Backup and Sync:

  • Windows 7 and up
  • Mac Lion 10.7 and up
  • Linux via drive.google.com

Drive File Stream

Drive File Stream is designed to save businesses and enterprises space on their local drive by providing on demand, cloud access to all Google Drive files from their computer. Features include access to files in My Drive and Team Drives, folders sync in My Drive, individual file sync in My Drive, and use of native applications like MS Word and Photoshop.

You can also make files available for offline access, and since cached files are synced back to the cloud when you’re online, you’ll always have the latest file versions on all your devices.

Computer operating systems requirements for Drive File Stream:

  • Windows 7 and up, no support for Windows Server editions
  • Mac El Capitan 10.11 and up

Drive File Stream allows you to do more with Google Drive, but if you’re sure you’re not going to be using all of its listed features, Backup and Sync is a simpler solution. Stay tuned for more news and updates about Google and its solutions. If you have any questions, just give us a call.

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Equifax’s Leak: lessons learned

By EDITOR 

No business owner wants their customers’ data leaked, but no matter how well your prevention plan is, the unexpected can happen. And when it does, what will determine the fate of your business is how well you respond to it. So before you start planning an incident response, read the following story and recite this: Don’t walk in the footsteps of Equifax.

What happened to Equifax?

Equifax, the huge American credit agency announced in September 2017 that its database was hacked, resulting in a leak of tons of consumers’ private data, including personally identifiable information of around 143 million US citizens. It included names, social security numbers, addresses, birthdates, and credit card and driver’s license numbers.

Equifax responded by setting up a new site, www.equifaxsecurity2017.com, to help its customers determine whether they had been affected and to provide more information about the incident.

Soon after, Equifax’s official Twitter account tweeted a link that directed customers to www.securityequifax2017.com, which is actually a fake site.

Fortunately for Equifax’s customers, the fake phishing site was set up by a software engineer who wanted to use it for educational purposes and to expose flaws in Equifax’s incident response practice. So, no further harm was done to the already-damaged customers, and Equifax is left with even more embarrassment.

So what did Equifax do wrong?

One of the huge mistakes Equifax made in responding to its data breach was setting up a new website to give updated information to its consumers outside of its main domain, equifax.com.

Why? You first need to know that since the invention of phishing scams, phishers have been creating fake versions of big companies’ websites. That’s why so many major corporations buy domains that are the common misspellings of their real domains.

You should also know that phishers can’t create a web page on the company’s main domain, so if Equifax’s new site was hosted there, it’d be easy for customers to tell whether the new page was legitimate and not be fooled by a fake domain name.

What’s obvious from this embarrassing misstep is that Equifax had never planned for a data leak. And this is an unforgivable oversight by a company that handles the information of over 800 million consumers and more than 88 million businesses worldwide.

Don’t repeat Equifax’s mistake

Whether your business is a small startup or as big as Equifax, it needs to prepare for a data breach. Besides having a comprehensive network defense plan, you also need to have the right incident response plan in place.

So what you should do after you’ve discovered the leak is, first of all, be upfront with your customers and notify them as soon as possible.

You also need to establish a message that includes the following information:

  • How the leak occurred
  • How the leak could affect your customers
  • How you will prevent future attacks
  • What your company will do to support affected customers

You should also create a web page to keep your customers up to date. But remember, the new web page should be under your company’s primary domain name.

As we’ve seen from Equifax, an incident response plan that’s robust is a must. Feel free to talk to our experts about how you can come up with an acute one — so you won’t have to repeat Equifax’s apologetic statement, since it doesn’t help the company redeemged reputation at all.

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Useful business features in Windows 10

The Windows Fall Creators Update released in April introduced many useful and interesting features, including a decluttered Start menu, more control over Windows updates, and an enhanced Microsoft Edge browser. Five months later, Microsoft follows up on all those enhancements with a new set of features. Here’s everything business users should get excited about.

Files on-demand in OneDrive

‘OneDrive Files On-Demand’ solves syncing problems often encountered by those who don’t want all their files synced to all their devices. This feature will give users the option to choose the folders that will be downloaded to the device they’re using, which helps save storage space and bandwidth, and gives users more flexibility.

Greater protection from ransomware

Microsoft beefs up Windows 10 security by introducing ‘Controlled folder access,’ a welcome feature in an era of rampant ransomware outbreaks such as WannaCry and Petya. This security enhancement enables users to assign a ‘switch’ to applications. When the switch is turned on, users are alerted any time unauthorized applications attempt to access or modify files in protected Desktop, My Documents, My Music, My Pictures, and My Videos folders.

Enterprise-level threat prevention

The Fall Creators update will also feature ‘Windows Defender Exploit Guard,’ a threat prevention system that, in Microsoft’s own words, ‘helps make vulnerabilities dramatically more difficult to exploit.’ The platform is primarily intended to recognize and safeguard against brand new malware that has not been cataloged or analyzed by security professionals.

Microsoft will also introduce ‘Windows Defender Application Guard,’ a program that protects Windows 10 users by isolating and containing threats and malware within the Edge browser. For now, it will be available only to Windows 10 Enterprise Edition and Hyper-V users.

Both ‘guards’ will complement firewalls and antivirus software to provide comprehensive protection to data, programs, devices, and networks.

Easier to reach contacts

Windows 10 subscribers will also benefit from the ‘My People’ feature, which will enhance collaboration. This new feature will let users pin contacts from their contact list to the Start Bar for quick access to email, instant messaging, or video calling. To activate, launch the People program and click on the icon found in the taskbar’s notifications area. Contacts can be pinned only if they have the Windows 10 App open in their system.

Other essential enhancements

The Fall Creators Update will also introduce small yet essential enhancements that will prove highly advantageous to businesses, one of which is a bandwidth limiting capability. Using this feature, network administrators can limit the amount of bandwidth allocated for Windows updates, allowing them to manage the updates for all devices across an entire network.

To do this:

  • Go to Deliver Optimization > Advanced options
  • Tick any of the three sliders
  • Adjust download and upload settings: limiting bandwidth for downloading updates; uploading updates to other PCS on the internet; and adjusting monthly upload limit

A battery-saving function will also be introduced to the new Windows 10 via ‘Power Throttling,’ which determines the activities that the system should prioritize based on a user’s activity. For example, if a user has multiple apps open but is actively using only a photo-editing tool, the system will allot greater power resources to the most actively used app and minimal resources to inactive ones.

Are you maximizing your Windows-powered computers’ features and capabilities? Get in touch with our experts to explore what Microsoft products can do for your business.

 

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How to use OneNote like a pro

Can you list all the apps in the Microsoft Office suite? Did you forget OneNote? It’s often overlooked, but Microsoft’s note-taking app is incredibly useful for everything from brainstorming sessions to learning courses. Let’s go over what it takes to get started with OneNote.

OneNote is a digital notebook

Despite the visual similarities, the thing that sets OneNote apart from Word is the way it stores and displays saved information. In OneNote, one window displays all your Notebooks, which can contain several pages and separate documents.

To create a Notebook, click File and then New. From there, you’ll be given the option to create a new Notebook, which can be saved locally to OneDrive or to SharePoint.

A Notebook will help you organize several types of information in one space, so let’s imagine we’ve named a SharePoint Notebook “New Product Ideas” and clicked Create New.

Next, you’ll be looking at a blank screen with “New Product Ideas” in the upper left-hand corner. To get the most out of OneNote, we need to start organizing our Notebook.

Separate your Notebook into Sections

Every Notebook is organized into Sections, similar to what dividers do in a physical notebook. For example, our New Product Ideas Notebook might be divided into Sections based on things like design, price and materials.

Sections are shown as color-coded tabs along the top of the screen, next to the name of your Notebook. You simply click the ‘+’ button to create a new section.

Start filling your Sections with useful Pages

Up until this point, OneNote seems like little more than a Word document with improved organization. But Pages in OneNote are built so that different types of media can be dropped into your pages with the click of a button.

So let’s say you’ve bookmarked a number of websites with reference images you want to add to your Design Section. Open up Design and select Add New Page on the right-hand side of the screen. Right-click it and name the page, and in our example this could be Ideas from online.

One way to insert the images from your bookmarked webpages is to save them to your computer and then drag each icon onto your OneNote Page where the image will automatically appear.

However, with Microsoft’s OneNote Web Clipper this can be done much more easily. After installing the browser extension, open it and select what you want to save from the web page with your cursor. The Web Clipper will ask which OneNote Page you want to save the selection to and it will automatically be added.

Start experimenting!

Now that you understand how to organize your information, you can experiment with linking Pages from different notebooks, adding category tags to Pages, and inserting online videos into your notes.

If you’re worried about a Notebook becoming overly complicated, don’t worry. Above the Pages pane is a search bar that you can use to find keywords from Notebook titles, Section titles and Pages content.

You could spend an entire year learning the ins and outs of every Microsoft Office application, but a faster way would be to let us help you cut through the clutter with practical recommendations and assistance. Call us today!

 

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How to keep your mobile devices safe

By EDITOR 

Increased productivity and constant collaboration are two of the main reasons why businesses have integrated a mobile policy into their business. This means an increased use of mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets in daily operations. But as the number of mobile users continues to grow, so does the number of cyber crime. Reduce your IT staff’s headaches by following these steps in protecting your mobile devices.

Ensure mobile OS is up-to-date

Apple and Android’s operating system updates improve overall user experience, but their most important function is to fix security vulnerabilities. You can reduce your business’s exposure to threats by installing updates for ALL devices as soon as they become available. Some people wait for a few weeks or months to update their device’s OS. This gives hackers ample time to exploit vulnerabilities on devices that run on outdated operating systems.

Install business applications only

Downloading apps seems harmless, but lenient mobile devices policies on what should and shouldn’t be downloaded on company devices could lead to staff downloading and installing non-business-related apps from third-party stores, most of which are notorious for malicious advertising codes and other threats.

Be careful with public Wi-Fi networks

Emergency situations might compel you to use password-free Wi-Fi networks in hotels, airport, cafes, or any public place. Connecting to an open network could expose your confidential information and sensitive company data to hackers connected to the same network.

You can avoid this by providing a practical internet data plan, preferably one that includes roaming services, for remote workers. And if you really have to connect to an open Wi-Fi, don’t use the connection for transferring sensitive data.

Enable phone tracking tools

Losing a company-issued mobile device is a scenario many would rather not contemplate, but it happens. Devices can be misplaced or stolen, and enabling a useful app such as ‘Find my iPhone’ for iOS devices, ‘GPS Phone Tracker’ for Android, or any other device-tracking app in Apple’s App or Android’s Google Play stores helps users locate lost phones, or otherwise delete data in stolen devices. Downloading and setting up the app takes just a few minutes, and it will give you peace of mind knowing that even if your phone is lost or stolen, its contents will not be compromised.

Screen SMS carefully

SMS messaging may not be as effective as email phishing, but SMS phishing can also be used to trick users into clicking malicious links. Hackers send messages purporting to be from someone you know or a legitimate source that asks you to urgently send confidential data. You can either delete these messages, block unknown senders, or alert your IT department in case you encounter a possible scammer.

Mobile devices are becoming more critical to operations. And with more devices open to attack, businesses must bolster their cybersecurity efforts. Hackers will exploit every possible vulnerability, and that includes those in unsecured smartphones and tablets. Get in touch with us if you need comprehensive security solutions for your business.

 

 

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Stop using Google’s SMS sign-in

By EDITOR 

To ensure optimal security, two-step authentication is used. This requires a password as well as a unique six-digit code that is typically sent via SMS. The National Institute of Standards and Technology has voiced its concerns about this method and Google quickly responded by having users try an alternative method.

Security was the main concern. According to Google, “This is being done because SMS text-message verifications are one-time codes that are more susceptible to phishing attempts.” Hackers can dupe network operators into redirecting the message to their phone. Even worse, there are numerous Android apps that can be used to capture SMS codes sent from banks to customers.

To defend against these threats, Google introduced 2-Step Verification in user accounts. If a user tries to log in to an account, Google will send a phone alert prompting that person to confirm his or her identity. Prompts-based 2-Step Verification (2-SV) sign-in is safer because the entire process occurs over an encrypted connection. In February 2017, Google improved the existing 2-SV prompts with additional information on the device, location and time of attempted sign-ins.

Google hasn’t confirmed ending support for SMS authentication but has already sent invitations urging 2-SV-SMS to switch to the prompts-based version. Users will be given the option of whether they want to retain the prompt-based sign-in. However, users who refuse to switch will receive follow-up notifications after six months.

Android users will enjoy a seamless transition because they will receive prompts without having to download an additional app. However, iOS users who rely on SMS for 2-Step Verification are required to install the Google Search app on their phone.

For any questions, get in touch with us. We’ll help you stay on top of the latest IT management and technology news.

 

 

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