No more extended support for Windows 7

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By EDITOR

When you grow accustomed to something — like a morning routine, a particular type of coffee, or in this case, an operating system — attempts at change aren’t always successful. Case in point, the struggle between Windows 7 and Windows 10. Users have until 2020 to make up their minds, and unless you don’t mind other businesses leaving you in the dust, it’s time to make a move.

Windows 7 was given extended support in 2015. And with that, Microsoft warned its users that this outdated version would drive up operating costs due to remediating software attacks that Windows 10 systems could otherwise avoid. The three-year countdown toward Windows 7’s twilight officially kicks off with a warning to enterprises that they could face hefty fines for sticking with the platform’s outdated security.

According to Markus Nitschke, head of Windows at Microsoft Germany: Windows 7 does not meet the requirements of modern technology, nor the high security requirements of IT departments. How would this make current Windows 7 users feel? Why are users choosing to remain faithful to the platform’s outdated security? Users can delay upgrades until January 13, 2020, after which extended support for the 2009 OS will end and it will no longer receive patches — unless the customer is paying for a pricey Microsoft Custom Support Agreement.

Markus also added that “As early as in Windows XP, we saw that companies should take early steps to avoid future risks or costs.” The message came as Microsoft published studies that showed Windows 10 Anniversary Update’s built-in security managed to neutralize zero-day exploits, even without patches needed to protect earlier versions of Windows.

Failing to upgrade to Windows 10 means that you and your networks will miss out on noteworthy security features such as the Windows Hello biometric login, the AppContainer sandboxing technology, and Windows Defender Advanced Threat Protection, which will gain new features after upcoming Creators Update.

On top of missing out on all the security features that Windows 10 has to offer, enterprise organizations on Windows 7 soon won’t have the additional zero-day protection that EMET, or the Enhanced Mitigation Experience Toolkit, offered since 2009. Last November, EMET’s expiration date was extended from January 2017 to July 31, 2018.

With the help of newer tools, migrating from Windows 7 to Windows 10 is considerably easier when compared with migrations from XP. Microsoft is still urging corporate users to make the shift before Microsoft permanently terminates support for Windows 7, stating that their business could be looking at real trouble if they fail to comply.

Business owners always do their best to ensure the future of their organization. That includes knowing which tech resources to rely on and which ones to avoid. If you still have questions about Windows 7, feel free to give us a call.

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Microsoft ending support for Office 2013

2016September29_Office_C

By EDITOR

To make sure enterprises get the most out of their Office 365 package, Microsoft announced it will no longer support Office 2013 by the end of February. Instead, the tech giant will push enterprises to upgrade to Office 2016. If your business is still using the 2013 version, here are some things you need to know right away.

Effective February 28, Office 2013 client applications and language packs will no longer be available from the Office 365 self-service portal and Admin Center. On top of that, Microsoft will no longer release feature updates for Office 2013 and will focus solely on upgrading the recent 2016 version. And because Office 2016 doesn’t support Microsoft Exchange Servers 2007 or earlier, you’ll need to upgrade your mail server as well.

The end-of-support changes apply to Office 365 Pro Plus, Small Business Premium, Business, Project Pro, and Visio Pro subscriptions. Although critical security updates for 2013 products extend to April 10, 2018, businesses should really consider making the move to Office 2016 to take advantage of the latest productivity features.

With Office 2016 versions of Word, Excel, and PowerPoint, users can look up web information right from the document interface. What’s more, employees have access to advanced, collaborative features like Skype integrations, Office 365 Planner, and Delve.

If your business plans to migrate to Office 2016, don’t forget to consider the minimum system requirements:

  • 1 GHz processor
  • 2GB RAM
  • 3 GB of available disk space
  • 1280 x 800 screen resolution
  • Windows 7 OS, or above

To make the transition process smoother, Microsoft is offering FastTrack migration, a service providing organizations with the tools to help them make the move from one Office version to another.

However, if you need more advice on moving to Office 2016, contact us today. We’ll make sure your Office 365 is always up-to-date.

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Choosing the best small business computer

2018December8_Hardware_A

By EDITOR

Your employees are some of your business’s best assets. With that in mind, it is imperative that they work with high-performance computers that will unlock their full potential and contribute to your business’s profitability. If only it were that simple. Selecting a computer often involves several factors such as mobility, quality, and price – there are simply too many things to consider. Choosing the right computer requires careful thought, and this is what we’re here to discuss.

Laptop or desktop?

Laptops are highly portable, efficient, and inexpensive. If these are the most important qualities your business requires in a computer, then by all means, choose them. Clearly, desktops aren’t built for mobility, but what they lack in portability, they more than make up for in storage, processing capacity, and security. Although laptops make perfect sense for small businesses with great need for portability, they are much more prone to security threats and are not as easy to upgrade and maintain, unlike desktops.

Processor

The Central Processing Unit (CPU), or simply processor, determines the speed at which you can access your data and perform business-critical tasks. Speed is measured in Gigahertz (GHz), and a processor that runs from 2 to 4 GHz should be plenty for small enterprises. Arguably the most important item on the list of a computer’s specifications, the processor plays a crucial role in your computer’s speed and efficiency.

Storage

As critical hardware components, hard drives indicate how much information you can store and use. Storage capacity typically ranges from 128 gigabytes on “light computers”, all the way up to 2+ terabytes on more critical machines. If your business doesn’t need to store large files such as videos and images and will be used mostly for email and a few applications, 250- or 500-GB storage should do the job. If processor speed is number one on your list of computer requirements, it’s followed closely by hard drive storage.

Operating System

Operating system (OS) decisions often boil down to choosing between Windows or Mac. It might help in your decision-making to know that Windows remains the most widely used OS mainly due to its high compatibility with business software, not to mention, its relatively cheaper price. Macs can perform just as brilliantly as Windows-operated systems can. And although Macs are usually more expensive, they’re well known for their own outstanding features, such as being less prone to crashes.

Other Components

Not to be confused with storage drives, a computer’s Random Access Memory (RAM) is only used to run open applications. It is responsible for keeping your computer performing at optimum speeds, especially when you’re working with several applications or programs at once. For small businesses, a 1200-2600-MHz RAM should suffice. The higher the MHz of your RAM, the higher its performance will be. To keep your basic programs running, 6-8 gigabytes of RAM is often satisfactory.

Ready to Buy a New Computer?

Deciding which computer to buy is an important business decision. While there are a handful of factors to consider, what you aim to accomplish in your business’s day-to-day operations should be your main consideration when choosing a computer. Businesses that require plenty of remote and mobile work should definitely go for laptops. Those that require regular transfers of large datasets could benefit from the increased storage capacity associated with desktops.

Do you need expert advice in choosing the best computers for your small business? We’re happy to guide you in every step of your purchase decision. Give us a call today.

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Adobe Flash Blocked by Microsoft Edge

2016December29_Windows_A

By EDITOR

Recently, Microsoft has made new upgrades to their web browser platform. Despite numerous changes, one making the biggest waves for users of all kinds is the lack of instant and easy compatibility with Adobe Flash. Adobe Flash is a web platform and add-on that many business websites have put to extensive use. However, now that Microsoft has made these changes, it can mean big things for business owners and web designers alike. Get to know more about why Microsoft has blocked Adobe Flash and the possible ramifications for those changes.

The primary purpose behind the recent changes made to Microsoft Edge is to make it more competitive with the popular Google Chrome web browser. Among efforts to do just that is the change to how Adobe Flash works on the Edge browser. Now, instead of Adobe Flash plugins playing and loading immediately when a person navigates a website, the application will be blocked.

An alert will come up near the address bar, letting users know that Adobe Flash has been blocked and will give the option to run the add-on or continue blocking it. For businesses that use Adobe Flash throughout their websites, this can be a frustrating change as visitors will need to take an extra step to access the full website.

However, there are numerous legitimate reasons for these changes to the Microsoft Edge browser. The most important of these issues is the fact that Adobe Flash is a security risk and is easily hackable, making it more likely for information and control to be lost to web users. Another issue is the fact that Adobe Flash is a big drain on battery life for computers and other devices.

The theory is that Adobe Flash is on its way out, and that newer, better systems are on their way in. As of now, Windows Insider users are the only ones with access to these updates, but soon the updates will go global and be made available to all users. In fact, Microsoft plans to eventually automatically load HTML5 web information first without loading Adobe Flash content at all.

Because so many sites use Adobe Flash, this can mean major renovations to existing web content. If you worry about the impact this will have on your business, contact us for immediate help and assistance in maximizing your website usability before these changes go live for all Microsoft Edge users.

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Gooligan malware haunts Android devices

2016December15_Android_C

By EDITOR

It is the largest single theft of Google accounts ever reported. And if you own an Android 4 or 5 phone, it has likely already affected you. The Gooligan virus, running rampant in third-party app stores, promises to keep wreaking havoc until developers find a way to shut it down. To help your business avoid malware catastrophe, read on to learn what we know about Gooligan so far.

It is estimated that since Gooligan’s August 2016 appearance, the malware has infected more than 1.3 million Google accounts — one of the largest single thefts in recent history.

With the range of personal data available in Google accounts, it is interesting to note that Gooligan’s purpose isn’t to steal the valuable information; instead, it’s to distribute advertising fraud. With as much as $320,000 a month going into the pockets of Gooligan developers, it is obvious that the ploy is working.

How Gooligan is Moving Through the Internet
Consumers are falling prey to the virus when they attempt to download a fake app from a third-party app store. Instead of getting the program that they were promised, they inadvertently allow the Gooligan malware to root into their Android OS and take control of it. Once in control, the virus downloads apps using your Google information. These apps are infused with ads that belong to Gooligan developers, bringing them a never-ending stream of income.

Where Gooligan Came from and Where it’s Going
Gooligan appears to be a variation of the 2015 Ghost Push malware, which was also wildly successful at infecting Android users. Google is currently working with Android engineers and Internet security firms to quelch the malware; they believe that through cooperative efforts, it will disappear from public attention. As it is, those who have updated Android versions of 6.0 or greater are not affected by the malware.

You can lower your chances of contracting the Gooligan malware by downloading apps only from Google Play and checking your system through the security firm Check Point to ensure your Android hasn’t already been infected. For more information on Gooligan and how you can protect your company, contact us.

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New Office 365 updates for collaboration

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By EDITOR

Every now and then we all need a little help, especially in today’s digital era. To keep up with the competition, companies are gearing up, especially in the IT department. With the help of cloud computing technology, Office 365 is a productivity and collaboration-enhancing software that is changing the way small- and medium-sized businesses operate. Here are four of the latest features added to Office 365:

Real-time collaboration in PowerPoint

Users will now be able to share a PowerPoint deck and update documents with others in real time. This means you’ll be able to see edits as your colleagues make them. Microsoft was committed to expanding real-time co-authoring of a company’s native applications, with Microsoft Word already rolling out this feature beforehand. Currently, real-time collaboration is available for PowerPoint on Windows desktops for Office 365 subscribers in the Office Insider program and for PowerPoint Mobile on Windows tablets.

Move attachments to the cloud and share with colleagues in Outlook

According to Kirk Koenigsbauer, corporate vice president for the Office team, this feature allows users to transform a traditional document into a shared cloud document within Outlook. Previously, Outlook users could only attach cloud-based documents to an email, but this new feature makes it easier to send large files and to collaborate on those files with ease.

Users can upload files into their own OneDrive or a document library as part of an Office 365 group and then designate sharing permissions for the email recipients. The new feature is currently available in Outlook on the web as well as Outlook on Windows desktops for Office 365 subscribers.

Mobile notifications for changes to shared documents

With this new update, users will be notified when any cloud documents in Word, Excel and PowerPoint are being shared or edited. These notifications let you know when changes are being made, even if you are away from a particular document, so you’re always connected and know when you have to act. This feature can be integrated with the activity feed on Windows desktops, and help businesses improve user collaboration. Koenigsbauer says that Microsoft will continue working on the notification feature “to provide more detail and transparency around shared document activity in the future.” Sharing and editing notifications are available for Word, Excel, and PowerPoint users on Android and Windows Mobile for Office Insiders. This feature will be available for commercial users in all Office mobile applications in the coming months.

Find, open, and save documents in a Shared with Me and Recent Folders tab

Microsoft’s “Shared with Me” tab in Word, Excel, and PowerPoint makes it easier for enterprise users to find and open shared documents without having to leave the app you’re working in. At the moment, the Shared with Me tab is available on Windows desktops and Macs for all Office 365 subscribers, iOS and Android devices included. And soon, it will be available on Windows Mobile. And the “Recent Folders” tab — used to help quickly locate files as well — is now available in Word, Excel and PowerPoint on Windows desktops for Office 365 subscribers in the Office Insider program.

Technology has become an integral part of modern businesses, and investing in the right IT resources is needed in order to achieve success. With the latest additions to Microsoft Office 365, small- and medium-sized businesses will enjoy enhanced staff collaboration, increased corporate productivity, and an overall competitive advantage.

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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

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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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