New ransomware demands sacrifice

2016December28_Security_B

By EDITOR

It’s scary to think you can be simply browsing the Internet when WHAM! a screen pops up out of nowhere claiming that you have been hijacked and will need to pay a bitcoin to free your computer. Unfortunately, ransomware like this is not uncommon. But now there’s a new, more devastating virus that asks victims to pick other victims to replace them in order to get their computer information back safely. Read on to find out how Popcorn Time is turning the ransom game on its head — and how you can protect yourself from it.

Ransomware is nothing new. Cybersecurity miscreants have been taking advantage of online users for years by requiring payment to “unlock” a victim’s computer. What Popcorn Time does differently is give users the option to spread the virus to two other victims in the hopes that they will pay the ransom — a tactic that promises to double their money at the expense of your sense of morality (and at the expense of your friendships as well).

The Cost of Popcorn

When you inadvertently download this ransomware, you will be met with a screen that explains that your files have been hijacked/encrypted, and that to get them back you will need to pay one Bitcoin for a decryption key that they keep stored remotely. The Bitcoin fee is usually more than $700, a hefty price to pay during any season but particularly difficult for those infected during the holiday season.

Spread the “Holiday Cheer” and Hope they Bite

What makes Popcorn Time unique is the option victims have to take their cost away by allowing the ransomware to affect two of their friends for a chance to get a free decryption code. Of course, it works only if both friends pay the ransom, which leaves you looking (and feeling) like the Grinch.

Avoiding Popcorn Time this Season

The easiest way to avoid downloading ransomware is to stay off of sites that might contain questionable files. However, this is nearly impossible for modern users, and many hackers are getting good at making their files look legitimate. Limit your exposure to potential ransomware by keeping your software up-to-date and your computer protected with a security program from a reputable company (for example Norton or Symantec). If you need to learn more about how to avoid running into ransomware while you’re online, give our professional cybersecurity consultants a call. We’ll keep you away from the popcorn this season.

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Google App Maker offers business solutions

2016December19_Google_C

By EDITOR

Google recently announced the launch of a new service called App Maker, a software solution for app creation. This new product aims to make the process of creating apps as easy as possible. If you could benefit from in-house app design, we’ve got all the information you need, right here.

Google released App Maker as a full-service solution for businesses that need apps but do not want to hire a developer to fill the role. Business owners can use the drag-and-drop features of the service to bring in data, information, and files from other G Suite apps like Gmail, Google Calendar and the like. This makes it easy to integrate new apps into the existing business infrastructure.

Once the app is finalized and launched using Google’s App Maker, it can be managed just like any other existing G Suite app or program. App Maker was designed to create apps that serve a specific purpose in business, such as time-tracking and order-processing.

Although this service is quick and easy for users without programming experience, App Maker also offers more in-depth programming options for those who want to be a bit more creative with a built-in scripting editor option.

Many businesses are looking to go serverless in many of their business endeavors, and with App Maker, Google takes note of that concept and embraces it. Google App Maker is a cloud-based tool, fully integrated with the G Suite of Google product offerings, making it an easy and versatile tool for businesses to use and share with managers, employees, and more.

If you think that App Maker is the right solution for your business app creation needs, contact us for guidance in the process of generating your first app for your business using Google’s App Maker.

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New year, new cyber-threats

HackersCybersecurity-170px-03

By EDITOR

Have you had to deal with security issues in the past year? Brace yourself, as there are more to come. For this reason, security experts have become indispensable members of society, who guard tech-dependent individuals and businesses against malicious attacks that pose threats to their privacy and livelihood. As you ring in the new year, make sure you’re well armed against the following predicted cyber-crimes.

Increased threats on cloud technology

Cloud service has numerous benefits to businesses. They make data storage, collaboration, and processing more efficient; they enable employees to work faster; and they help operations flow smoother. Cloud technology’s popularity is expected to rise well into the next few years, but as demand increases, so does the dangers presented by cyber attackers.

Ransomware will be more complex

Ransomware incapacitates computer systems by locking down files and preventing access for ransom. In its 2016 Threat Predictions report, security software company McAfee predicts a peak in ransomware attacks next year. Although they also predict it to recede by mid-year, damages to vulnerable cloud-dependent infrastructures can be great and costly. Most alarming in the prediction, however, is that in the coming year ransomware attacks will be more complex due to new elements.

Ransomworms, which use advanced victimization techniques to mine further data within an already compromised network, are expected to put an even crueler spin to an already formidable malware. Doxing, on the other hand, affects avenues such as social media and any place where sensitive, easily identifiable information can be extracted to serve the ultimate purpose of extorting money. Yet another wicked ransomware to watch out for is Backup Deletion, which destroys the very mechanism that can otherwise help you recover from a compromised system or files: your backup data.

More threats to IoT (Internet of Things)-enabled devices

It is also predicted that 2017 will see attacks made on IoT-powered devices, which will make life harder for those who depend on technology that makes life easier. It targets medical devices and Electronic Medical Records, “connected cars”, basic domestic tools, and tech-driven wearables, such as smartwatches and fitness trackers. The danger posed by this intrusion is fully capable of corrupting information stored in your devices.

Advanced cyber espionage

Cyber espionage is by no means a novelty. In 2017, it’s expected to hold sway in cyber-threat prevention measures as it becomes even more complex. It encompasses all sectors of society, including individuals, private organizations, government institutions, and entire countries. Perpetrators will have the means to bypass networks by attacking firewalls and wreak havoc in their victims’ network. Fret not, for there will be measures in place to detect this threat also in the coming year.

Hackers are one of the most cunning criminals to have ever existed. While the cyber-police and the defenses they put up are no slouches, threats to security systems can still make technology-dependent individuals and businesses quiver. Although damaged networks can be repaired, compromised privacy restored, and stolen data returned, the amount of damage that hackers can cause might be irreparable and/or result in a significant dent in your IT infrastructure and budget. The value of a network security system makes itself known when you least expect it, which is why security should be a top priority.

Are your systems protected from these predicted remarkable feats of hacking? Call us if you want to discuss security services that are best for you.

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Young workers are more gullible to tech scams

2016November10_Security_A

By EDITOR

The old cold-call scam is still a popular way for fraudsters to dupe people out of their money. But now they’re taking their tactics to the computer generation, and it can be surprising just who is falling for the new tech-related fraud. Read on to find out how scam artists are targeting the younger generation — and succeeding.

Results Conclude Youth is more Gullible

Microsoft recently conducted a survey of 1000 computer users of all ages and from many of the largest countries in the world to find out how many of them had been scammed by phony “technicians” claiming to be employees of Microsoft or other major computer conglomerates. The results were startling when studied demographically. Researchers discovered that seniors, who were traditionally viewed as the major victims of such fraudulent schemes, were not the most likely group to fall for the scam.

Research indicated that although seniors were most likely to buy into a telephone scam, they still did not fall for the act as much as younger age groups. The study found, in fact, that between the ages of 18 and 24, people were 2.5 times more likely to fall for the scam than seniors. Those between the ages of 25 and 34 were three times more likely than seniors to be tricked.

The scam that the Microsoft company recently studied involved the following scenario: Either a person calls claiming to be a technical support technician, or an email or pop-up alerts you that your computer is locked or otherwise compromised. In order to fix the problem, you need to call someone and pay for a program or provide access to your computer so some purported technician can solve the problem “remotely.”

If you fall for this scam, you are giving them funds for a false program or access to your computer — which also allows them access to your personal data and the ability to install malware onto your system. The study revealed that two-thirds of those surveyed (around 660 people) had experienced the scam first-hand. One in five had listened long enough to hear the story, and 1 in 10 actually gave the scammer money.

Why the Younger Demographic Became Easy Victims

While older adults often respond more to phone calls, younger people have learned to ignore phone calls, saving them from being phone victims. However, because younger adults spend the majority of their time online and often remain acutely aware of the status of their computer and online presence, they are more prone to react to a pop-up or email claiming that their computer is in danger. Nearly 60% of the adults aged 18-24 in the study say they were exposed to the scam through pop-up ads or online correspondence.

The takeaway here is simple: Cybersecurity is about more than just firewalls and antivirus software. You need to shore up the human side of your protection protocols. The best way to start is by doing some quick research on social engineering in our previous blogs, but ultimately you’ll need something a little more thorough. Contact us today for more tips and to ask about scheduling a cybersecurity training for your employees.

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New features keep Office 365 users safe

2016November17_Office_B

By EDITOR

The new features recently unveiled by Office 365 promise to bring business owners to a more secure and knowledgeable position in which to make important decisions regarding the future of their corporation. Microsoft expanded the popular program’s basic scope to include data protection and productivity tools, including the replacement of Delve Analytics with the MyAnalytics add-on. Let’s take a look at the three features Microsoft added to Office 365 and the implications of these new additions.

Azure Information Protection
Using Office 365 protection technology, also known as Azure RMS, this feature allows business leaders to mark sensitive documents and control who has access to information in various documents. The protection travels with the data, whether it is online or provided through another device. Business owners can mark a document as internal and keep it from being sent outside the company. Drop-down menus also allow users to apply trackable data protection in order to identify potential leaks and gain insight into how a business is structured.

Enterprise Mobility + Security Suite
Re-branded from the Enterprise Mobility Suite, this feature adds more security potential to sensitive data while allowing business owners to manage apps on any device from one location. Users have more control over identity-driven access and also encrypts data to allow secure collaboration among employees.

Productivity Insight
This feature, an addition to Delve Analytics, tracks an employee’s time management at the office. MyAnalytics for Outlook allows business owners or managers to see who has read, replied, and forwarded their email while also providing them with information on the the email sender. The feature also acts as a storage receptacle for shared files and contact information so they can be accessed quickly.

As Office 365 expands its services to include security and productivity features, companies using cloud-based servers have an advantage over old-school computer users. Not only do they have access to the technology to keep their data safe and accessible to employees, but they also have the management software to see where their efforts are paying off by way of productivity programs. If you need to know more about the new features of Office 365, give our professionals a call. We can answer your questions and help you get the most out of the new Security and Productivity Insight additions.

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Easy tips for preventing a costly data breach

2016November25_Security_C

By EDITOR

Business technology has become one of the most important components for successful companies big and small. In an overwhelmingly digital landscape, businesses depend on IT for marketing, data storage, and financial transactions. And with that comes the need to secure every bit of private information cyber criminals might want to feast their eyes on. And while an outsourced security professional is a must, there are a few simple steps you can do yourself to get started. Check out five of our favorites here.

Limitation of lateral data transfers

Employees not being educated on data sharing and security is one of the biggest reasons for internal data breaches. It’s a good idea to limit access to important data and information by restricting access privileges to only a small number of individuals. Also, you can decide to use network segmentation to cut unnecessary communication from your own network to others.

Keeping your machines and devices updated

Internal breaches might also occur when employees work with unguarded or unprotected machines. They might unknowingly download malware, which normally wouldn’t be a problem if machines were properly managed. Updating your operating systems, antivirus software, business software, and firewalls as often as possible will go a long way toward solidifying your defense systems.

Use monitoring and machine learning to sniff out abnormalities

It’s not all on your employees, however. Network administrators should employ monitoring software to prevent breaches by analyzing what is “normal” behavior and comparing that to what appears to be suspicious behavior. Cyber criminals often hide in networks to exploit them over a long period of time. Even if you miss them the first time, you should monitor suspicious activity so you can recognize impropriety and amend security policies before it goes any further.

Creating strong security passwords and credentials

No matter how often we say it, there’s always room for improvement when it comes to your passwords and login procedures. In addition to text-based credentials, you should require other methods whenever possible. Great for fortifying your network, fingerprints and smart cards, for example, are much harder for cyber criminals to fake. Regardless of which factors are used, they must be frequently updated to prevent breaches, accidental or otherwise.

Security Insurance

In the end, no system is perfect. Zero-day attacks exploit unknown gaps in security, and human error, accidental or otherwise, can never be totally prevented. And for this reason, small businesses need to start embracing cyber insurance policies. These policies help cover the damages that might occur even under a top-of-the-line security infrastructure. Considerations for selecting a policy include legal fees, first and third-party coverage, and coverage for reputation rehabilitation.

The field of cyber security is overwhelming — even for seasoned IT professionals. But not for us. We spend our days researching and experimenting to craft the best security solutions on the market. If you’re interested in one of our cutting-edge cyber-security plans, call us today.

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Office 365 surprises Insiders with Hub app

2016November30_Office_C

By EDITOR

There is a new weapon available to business owners who subscribe to Office 365. It’s called Office 365 Hub, and it was recently released under the guise of the Get Office App in Windows 10. Learn more about the Hub program and how it promises to increase your company’s efficiency and visibility.

What does Office Hub Do?
Office 365 Hub is a dashboard management program that makes it easier for you to integrate all your Office 365 apps in one location and manage the different programs without the need to get on a browser.

Users can:

  • Manage their payment and subscription information
  • Optimize Office apps for mobile devices
  • Access files, programs and apps on the cloud drive from any device
  • Switch between a personal and business account

Office Hub, like other dashboard management programs, allows you to access multiple apps and programs in one place. Clicking on the Home tab displays a summary of recent documents accessed as well as your commonly used Office apps like Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and Outlook.

For the business owner, this ease of access increases efficiency company-wide. Business owners can install new apps on the desktop without visiting an online browser, while administrators will have no problem moving between the different office applications.

What’s more, Office 365 Hub provides a Help and Training tab with links to online resources, tutorials and support forums to help new Office 365 users to quickly acclimate to the cloud. All in all, Office 365 Hub promises a stress-free and easily manageable cloud experience.

Reaching the Office 365 Hub App
Unfortunately, the Office 365 Hub is not yet visible to everyone who signs on to the Get Office App on Windows 10. It is only open to those who are Office 365 subscribers and members of their Insider program. They also have to be set as Fast Ring subscribers, members who receive builds before they have been completely debugged and updated. Otherwise, you can expect the general release of Office 365 Hub and its benefits in the first half of 2017.

If you want the latest updates on Office 365 Hub or any new Microsoft features, contact us today.

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Highlights of new vSphere 6.5 features

2016December_Virtualization_C

By EDITOR

VMware is one of the flagship virtualization companies, offering business owners the virtual storage and workspace they need to grow. vSphere 6.5 is the latest update to VMware’s core product, offering businesses a number of helpful features to increase efficiency and usability. Here are three of the main features you’ll find in vSphere 6.5.

More simplified experience
A program that is easier for the non-technical business owner to use is a definite plus. Developers changed the user interface to highlight options in a more logical way. Workspaces are wider and allow instant feedback options for teams working on important projects. It is also easier to install and run programs, since the majority of vSphere 6.5 versions use HTML5 instead of the cumbersome Flash-run interface.

Built-in security
Security is a high-ticket concern for any virtual collaboration, and vSphere 6.5 offers a number of safety-conscious features to keep your business safe. First is the Secure Boot, which allows you to keep unauthorized programs from being loaded into your virtual space. It is particularly helpful because it keeps guest users from loading harmful programs that could affect your business. In addition to the secure booting capabilities, the vSphere 6.5 also ensures that virtual machines are encrypted at rest and as data travels between systems.

Universal app platform
The new vSphere 6.5 features a universality that many older versions just couldn’t handle. Not only can you use this program with the major operating systems (Linux, Mac, Windows), you can back up and update your system on the same server instead of moving it to a third-party server that may or may not be trustworthy. You can also create a workload and deploy it across one platform so it is easy to access and modify if necessary.

The new features contained within vSphere 6.5 will change the way you see the virtualization experience all around. As long as the program continues to be updated for easier use by “common” employees and business owners, vSphere’s popularity and that of other hypervisor programs will continue to climb. Call us to learn more about how you can use vSphere 6.5 within your business.

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Beware of this iPhone-crashing video

2016December2_Apple_C

By EDITOR

iPhone users should be careful about opening suspicious videos circulating in the web. Recently, a bug in the form of a five-second MP4 clip has been passed around in online forums and video sharing websites. The brief video seems harmless at first, but when iPhone users unwittingly click on the video link, their phones begin to slow down and ultimately crash. Reports have stated that many have already fallen prey to this trap, and if you want to avoid doing the same, here are some details you should know about this prolific iPhone bug.

What is the video?
As mentioned, the MP4 video initially seems innocuous enough. It portrays a man standing by a bed with the word “honey” across the screen. After one or two minutes of viewing the video, the affected iPhone becomes sluggish. It then freezes and becomes unresponsive, ultimately requiring a reset.

It appears that the bug takes advantage of a flaw within iOS memory management. The corrupted video generates a loop that causes the affected Apple device to use more memory, leading to a temporary crash.

Reports have shown that the MP4 is hosted on a video-sharing site, Miaopai. Since then, the video has been distributed in other social media platforms, online forums, and, more commonly, as a link via iMessage.

Tests have also found that the video effects the latest iOS version (iOS 10.1 and 10.2) all the way to iOS 5. So far, the bug doesn’t seem to affect other non iOS products. But regardless, all users should be careful of the video.

Although this video’s effects may seem worrying, there is a fix to the problems caused by the corrupt clip.

How to perform a hard restart
The only way to recover from the crash is to do perform a hard restart. To do this, you simply have to hold down the power button and home button for a few seconds.

As for the iPhone 7, all you need to do is hold the power button and volume decrease buttons simultaneously to force a reset. In both cases, just hold the buttons until the Apple logo appears, and your device should restart normally.

Always be careful
Even though it’s easy enough to fix, it’s probably best to avoid the crash bug altogether. Soon, Apple will introduce a new security patch for this vulnerability, but until the update is released, you should avoid clicking on suspicious MP4 video links no matter what platform you use.

And this is the same for other videos, URLs, photos, emails, and websites you encounter on the web. When it comes to traversing online worlds, it’s imperative to develop a critical mindset for everything you see in the internet. While this particular bug only slows down your Apple device, you might not be so lucky the next time you unwittingly click on an unknown iMessage link or email attachment.

If there’s any lesson we can learn here, it’s that you can’t be complacent no matter how secure Apple platforms may be. Want to protect your Apple device from future security incidents like these? Contact us today, and we’ll provide you with sound advice and security solutions to nip these problems in the bud.

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How Outlook’s update Improves User Experience

2016October31_Office_C

By EDITOR

When it comes to the communications tools you use in your business, there may be many opportunities to improve the process that you have not yet explored. Microsoft Outlook has made improving your use of communications technology even easier with its latest changes and updates. If you want to make the most of the new user experience offerings from Outlook, continue reading to learn more about how Outlook has changed user experience for the better.

Improved Contact Cards
One of the most welcome changes with the Outlook update is that the concept of the Contact Card has been greatly improved upon. In previous manifestations of Outlook, the information about contacts that was quickly available was limited to basic information such as name, phone number, and email address. With the new Outlook, Contact Cards can contain a person’s job title, their relationship to you, and what your most recent communications were so that you can better remember who you are talking to and what you were talking about.

Smarter Search Features
Searching contacts, emails, and other features of Outlook is easier with the latest update. Search features are now smarter in that they can go off of the first letter you type and retrieve your most frequent search requests starting with that letter. This speeds up searching and helps retrieve relevant information in seconds, not minutes.

People Section Enhancements
Outlook has also made some major improvements and enhancements to the ‘main people’ section of Outlook. You can now create smart lists of people based on common features. This will include your most frequently contacted people, groups based on job titles or departments, favorites, and those who need follow-up. These lists makes sending group emails to relevant contacts much simpler because you don’t have to scour all your contacts to find the right people.

Now that you know some of the ways that Outlook has changed the user experience with its latest updates, you can begin to put these to use in your business. Contact us to help you navigate those changes and put the benefits to use in your business and personal communications.

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