New Security Threat: USB Sticks

One of the major setbacks to the exciting evolution of technology is that exciting developments mean there are always security issues cropping up. It can be a seemingly uphill battle to keep your systems secure. One of the best ways to ensure that your systems are not breached is to keep yourself educated about security threats, as well as adopt specialist help from a trusted IT source.

Did you know that there is a new threat that capitalizes on USB ports that could be infecting your system?

While USB threats aren’t anything new – USB thumb drives are well known to be used by some employees to copy and take important files with them when they leave the office – this latest threat is a little different. Hackers have developed a USB stick that can bypass Windows Autorun features and infect your system.

How do these drives work? As you may have noticed, when you connect a device like an external hard drive to your computer via the USB port, Windows will not run or open the drive. Instead, you will get a window with a number of options, including: Open folder to view files, Download pictures, Play files, etc. The reason for this is because hackers figured out a number of years ago how to put a virus on a USB stick, which when plugged into the computer, would be auto run (started up) by Windows and infect the system.

Hackers have recently figured out how to trick this feature. What they have done is create a flash drive that looks like a USB memory stick only, when you plug it into a computer, Windows thinks it’s a plug-and-play peripheral like a keyboard and will allow it to run. There is memory on the stick where hackers can write and store a virus or infection, which will then run, infecting the system.

There are four things to be aware of with these drives:

  1. They are cheap (ish) – These drives can be found on the Internet for less than USD$65, with some being as cheap as USD$40.
  2. They are fast – Some of these devices are able to run a script and infect a system in 50 seconds, and if they are re-mounted in the same system, could run a script within 30 seconds.
  3. They are multi system compatible – A few of these devices are advertised as being able to infect almost any system – Windows, Mac and Linux.
  4. They aren’t easy to find – yet. While there are websites online advertising these drives, most users won’t be able to find them. Experienced hackers on the other hand can do. Of course, anyone with enough patience can probably find them.

What does this mean for my company? Because these devices are nearly indistinguishable from real memory drives, it is nearly impossible to spot and therefore stop them from infecting systems. Because these drives are currently hard to find and infection rates are generally low, many companies probably don’t have to worry too much. However, you can bet that these drives will probably become more popular in the near future.

This doesn’t mean that you don’t have to be aware of this risk and understand that these drives exist. Some companies have started to take action by disabling USB drives, monitoring what employees plug into their drives and even providing employees with tamper-proof USB drives.

One thing you might have to concern yourself with is if you allow employees to bring in their own drives. In general, if you take steps to ensure that the drives being used are legitimate and approved by the company, this shouldn’t be much of a problem. Of course, keeping your security systems and anti-virus scanners up to date and functioning is always a good idea.

If you would like to learn more about this security threat and what you can do to stop it, we encourage you to attend our upcoming webinar, “Viruses, Malware, and Phishing, Oh My!” where we will be going over the most popular threats out there and more importantly, how to protect yourself. Sign up here!

Keyboard Shortcuts for Presentations

Dread or love them, presentations are a part of almost every position in business. The most common tool used to create and show these presentations is Microsoft’s PowerPoint, and in fact, many simply call a digital presentation a PowerPoint. Microsoft has implemented a few keyboard shortcuts that may help if you have a tough time giving presentations.

Here are 12 useful shortcuts you can use while presenting with PowerPoint 2010 and 2013.

  • F5 – Pressing this key will start the presentation. By default, it should start from the first slide. If you want to start from the slide you are currently looking at, hit Shift+F5. In PowerPoint 2013, you should also be able to hit S to start a presentation, as long as you aren’t editing a slide.
  • N – Will flip to the next slide, foregoing all animations.
  • Right arrow/Down arrow/spacebar – Tapping any of these keys will trigger the next animation. If there are no animations, it will switch to the next slide.
  • P – Pressing this will flip to the previous slide.
  • Left arrow/Up arrow/backspace – Hitting any of these keys will replay the last animation or switch back to the previous slide if there are no animations.
  • Number + Enter – If you enter a number, and hit Enter, you will be taken to that slide. Be sure to hit the numbers in quick succession, or it may not work/move you to the unintended slide.
  • B – If you need to display a blank black screen, hit this. Clicking the mouse or tapping the key again should move back to the slide you were previously looking at.
  • W – If you prefer to show a blank white screen, hit this key.
  • Ctrl + P – Changes the cursor from an arrow to a dot, that you can annotate or draw on slides with. Pressing E will erase any marks made.
  • Ctrl + A – Changes the cursor to an arrow.
  • Ctrl + H – Will hide the cursor
  • Esc – Tapping this will end the presentation.

These keyboard shortcuts should help make the next presentation you have to give go a bit better and may even help you if you forget your slide or move forward too quickly. If you are looking to learn more about PowerPoint or any other applications, let us know! We have a full training department available for any additional training you or your staff may need.

The End Is Near…

If you are still using Windows XP or Office 2003, you must make a plan to get off of these ASAP!

The end of a long overdue era is here. Microsoft has announced that all support for these products is ending on April 8, 2014. We know that sounds far away, but it’s not when you think about the time involved to research, plan and execute a strategy to move you off of XP/Office 2003 before the deadline.

“What will happen if I don’t move off of Windows XP or Office 2003 before the deadline?” 

A lot of people are asking us what will actually happen if they don’t get off before April 8, 2014. You can expect:

  • There will be no more new patches or critical security updates released for the XP (Microsoft has publicly stated this), which will leave your network open to hackers and malware. Undoubtedly, malware writers and hackers will take advantage of all remaining XP users after this date.
  • Microsoft will no longer offer any technical support for Windows XP, and the industry will follow. New applications and software will not be tested to work on XP, nor will they support it.
  • Say “goodbye” to driver releases for XP for new hardware! Trying to connect things like printers or video cards will be next to impossible
  • You will not be able to use any new hardware or software since you will run into many compatibility problems
  • The bottom line? Continuing to use XP after April 2014 is a scary “at your own risk” scenario!

How do I make the move off of XP and Office 2003?

It can be an intimidating task to come up with a solid strategy to move your company off of the twelve-year-old system, and there is so much to consider. That’s where WAMS can help – we’ve helped many people formulate and put into action a plan to move them off of XP.

  • The different applications that you use and what versions of Windows they are compatible with.
  • The current hardware and software you have: what can be re-used, what needs to be replaced, what’s compatible, and what’s not.
  • Your business goals for not just the next few months, but the next few years, and how technology can help you get there.
  • The training plan for your employees on the new systems they’ll be using.
  • The step-by-step plan for getting your company onto newer technology.
  • Of course, your budget for the upgrade and different ways to get the results you want and need.

Let us come in and help you get off of XP/Office 2003. Contact us or fill out the form to the right today for a free consult to begin building your strategy!