An Intern’s Week at WAMS

WAMS had the pleasure of partaking in an internship and career exploration program called “Living the Map.” A student from Colorado College was interested in spending a week with a marketing executive. Daniel Seddiqui of “Living the Map” reached out to me about this opportunity and sent me Alan Fox, an ambitious college student who had just completed his first year and chose this career exploration program to help him decide on his major. His reflection below describes his experience, and we are so grateful to have had an impact on such a promising young man. This was a wonderful opportunity for the both of us, and it was a pleasure to teach Alan about what I do. As a company, we are so proud to have left this impression on him.

“Ashli Lopp, a marketing executive at the IT consulting company known as WAMS, expressed a primary goal of my five week internship project bluntly when she stated, “It takes doing what you don’t want to do to help you realize the importance of doing what you want to do.”

As I first entered the WAMS office located just outside of the Los Angeles area in Brea, CA, I was nervous about what the week had in store for me. Would my presence be a distraction to others working? Does the individual that I’m shadowing have the time or desire to work with me for an entire week? To put it plainly, I didn’t want to be a problem at all for this company. Within five minutes of entering the office, it became clear that this fear was unwarranted and would not be the case. Ashli, the marketing executive I shadowed for the week, and Kevin, the general manager of WAMS, immediately made me feel welcome. After introducing myself to Kevin and discussing his recent travels in Colorado, Ashli introduced me to the rest of the company and had the patience to teach me about her job as well as a brief overview of the company.

The first thing I noticed in the office was that the employees exuded an unusual level of positivity and joyfulness. They seemed to genuinely enjoy spending time working there and they weren’t simply watching the clock, eagerly awaiting their time to clock out like many of my fellow auto shop  co-workers in the  past would. Throughout my week at WAMS, I tried to pinpoint the source of their workplace jubilance. Was management responsible? Was it the composition of employees? While I do think that WAMS has done an excellent job of hiring exuberant employees that are passionate about their jobs as well as their interactions with each other, I think the company’s upbeat culture has more to do with management incentivizing their employees with freedom and encouragement, rather than fear. Later in the week, account manager Matt Morris addressed this assumption, stating that, “Kevin doesn’t rule with an iron fist. . . He’s made this a place where you don’t dread coming to work.” This claim is supported by the fact that throughout my week with WAMS, I never observed a time when Ashli was motivated to complete a task by fear. On the contrary, Ashli went about her daily obligations with freedom and a sense of pride that she would complete them individually to the best of her abilities—not because a manager was breathing down her neck.

Other than observing the encouraging role of management within the company, I also thoroughly enjoyed learning about the different ways Ashli attracts clients. First off, she explained the three basic client profiles that she is aiming to attract and how she is able to craft a marketing approach to suit the audience. For example, for firm administrators who are typically more interested in the final result WAMS has to offer and less in the technology, Ashli would appeal to them through means that invoke emotion and focus on possible positive results rather than nitty-gritty tech details of how the system works. In addition, I was interested in the different ways Ashli went about striking fear in the hearts of her potential clients, communicating the dangers of ransomware and how customers needed WAMS to save their firm from potential closure.

While I was fascinated by the way Ashli went about attracting clients, I was also intrigued by the ways she went about keeping clients and making them feel appreciated. Whether it was sending clients cookies embroidered with the WAMS logo, “anniversary” Starbucks gift cards, or shock-and-awe packages containing promotional gear, Ashli was adamant about ensuring that a customer’s business was appreciated and not taken for granted.

Besides focusing on improving and maintaining her client base, Ashli also focused on educating and developing herself as a marketer. Each day Ashli read the news in order to keep up to date and inform her clients about the latest development in her field, whether that’s a development in cyberware or technology. Moreover, her eagerness to improve and develop further ways of marketing was clearly illustrated by her weekly discussion with different marketing employees in different fields across America.

All in all, exposure to both a close-knit, enthusiastic work place and to a marketing professional that was eager to teach me ways of creating and maintaining fruitful client relations made this week an especially beneficial and educational experience.”

Nyetya Ransomware: What You Need to Know

Nyetya, a variant of the Petya ransomware, is spreading across businesses all over the world. Although it shares the same qualities as WannaCry — a ransomware deemed ‘one of the worst in history’ — many cyber security experts are calling it a more virulent strain of malware that could cause greater damage to both small and large organizations. Here’s everything we know about it so far.

Worse than WannaCry

Nyetya is deemed worse than WannaCry mainly because it spreads laterally, meaning it targets computers within networks and affects even systems that have been patched. Because it also spreads internally, it needs to infect only one device to affect several others within a single network.

Cyber researchers trace its origins to a tax accounting software called MEDoc, which infected 12,500 systems in Ukraine. Since the initial infections in June, it has spread to thousands of networks in 64 countries. And although it hasn’t spread as fast as WannaCry, it might have a wider reach soon because it uses three attack pathways to infect a system. It hasn’t made as much money as WannaCry, which is why cyber researchers are concluding that the attacks are not economically motivated.

Don’t Pay the Ransom

Cyber security firms and researchers strongly recommend affected businesses to avoid paying the ransom. According to them, paying the ransom would be a waste since the infected user won’t be able to receive a decryption key to unlock their files or systems. This is because the email provider has blocked the email address on the ransomware message.

Although it operates like a ransomware — locking hard drives and files and demands a $300 ransom in Bitcoin — it functions more as a wiperware that aims to permanently wipe out data and/or destroy systems. So far, it has affected big-name multinationals in various industries, including Merck, Mondelez International, and AP Moller-Maersk, among others.

Perform backups and update outdated security patches

The only way businesses can be protected is by performing backups and staying on top of patch updates.

It’s safe to say that in case of a Nyetya attack, there’s no chance of getting back your data. In such a scenario, you would have only your backup files — whether on an external storage or in the cloud — to fall back on. But backing up is not enough; you should also ensure that your backups are working, which you can do by testing them regularly. Given the nature of Nyetya, you should also make sure that your backups are stored off-site and disconnected from your network.

Like its predecessor, Nyetya exploited vulnerabilities in unpatched Microsoft-run computers. As a business owner, make it a part of your cyber security routine to update your systems with the latest security patches, or risk having your files or systems permanently corrupted.

As a business owner whose operations’ lifeline depends on critical files, your backups are your insurance. If your systems’ network security needs another layer of protection, get in touch with us today at 800-421-7151.

Get Ready for Chrome’s Ad Blocker

For the longest time, we’ve been visiting countless websites only to be greeted with annoying ads that never piqued our interest. Luckily, Chrome users won’t have to put up with them for much longer. Google will release an ad blocker early next year. To that end, here’s everything you need to know.

What is it?

Ad blocker from Chrome actually works like an ad filter, meaning it won’t block all ads from the website, only ones that are determined to be too intrusive, like video autoplay with sound as well as interstitials that take up the entire screen.

A group called the Coalition for Better Ads, which consists of Google, Facebook, News Corp, The Washington Post, and other members will decide whether or not the ads are to be blocked. According to Sridhar Ramaswamy, the executive in charge of Google’s ads, even ads owned or served by Google will be blocked if they don’t meet the new guidelines.

How will it work?

From a consumer’s end, you won’t have to do anything except for updating your Chrome browser. For publishers, Google will provide a tool that you can run to find out if your site’s ads are violating the guidelines. The blocker will apply to both desktop and mobile experiences.

What are the benefits of Chrome ad blocker?

Bad ads slow down the web, make it annoying to browse, and drive consumers to install ad blockers that remove all advertisements. If that continues, publishers will face major obstacles since nearly all websites rely on ads to stay alive.

With Chrome’s ad blocker, wholesale ad blocking can be controlled to please both consumers and publishers. Users get a better web browsing experience and publishers can continue to make profits through online ad sales.

But isn’t Google already using third-party ad-blocking extensions?

Yes, but this means they have to pay third-party ad blockers — like Adblock Plus — a certain amount of fee to whitelist ads for the privilege of working around their filters. With their own ad blocker, this can be eliminated once and for all.

Are there potential drawbacks?

It’s undeniable that Chrome’s ad blocker gives Google lots of power to determine ad standards for everyone. It comes to no surprise that there are skeptics who don’t trust one company to act in everyone’s interest.

And while Google assures that even its own ads will be removed if they violate the rules, the fact that Google itself is an ad company with nearly 89 percent of its revenues coming from online ads doesn’t boost its credibility to industry peers.

Publishers will have fewer options to monetize their sites once Chrome’s ad blocker is implemented. To help, Google will include an option for visitors to pay websites that they’re blocking ads on called Funding Choices. However, a similar feature called Google Contributor has been tested a couple years ago with no signs of catching on so we doubt that Funding Choices will differ.

Despite expected criticism, Chrome’s ad blocker will likely result in a better web browsing experience. And as always, if you have any questions about the web, or IT in general, just give us a call at 800-421-7151 and we’ll be happy to help.

Cybercrime Insurance Loopholes: Protect Yourself

As hacking hit the headlines in the last few years — most recently the global hack in May that targeted companies both large and small — insurance policies to protect businesses against damage and lawsuits have become a very lucrative business indeed. Your company may already have cyber insurance, and that’s a good thing. But that doesn’t mean that you don’t have a job to do — or that the insurance will cover you no matter what.

When you buy a car, you get the warranty. But in order to keep that warranty valid, you have to perform regular maintenance at regularly scheduled times. If you neglect the car, and something fails, the warranty won’t cover it. You didn’t do your job, and the warranty only covers cars that have been taken care of.


Cyber insurance works the same way. If your company’s IT team isn’t keeping systems patched and up to date, taking active measures to prevent ransomware and other cybercrime attacks, and backing everything up in duplicate, it’s a lot like neglecting to maintain that car. And when something bad happens, like a cyber attack, the cyber insurance policy won’t be able to help you, just as a warranty policy won’t cover a neglected car.

Check out this real life policy exclusion we recently uncovered, which doesn’t cover damages “arising out of or resulting from the failure to, within a reasonable period of time, install customary software product updates and releases, or apply customary security-related software patches, to computers and other components of computer systems.” If your cyber insurance policy has a clause like that — and we guarantee that it does — then you’re only going to be able to collect if you take reasonable steps to prevent the crime in the first place.

That doesn’t just mean you will have to pay a ransom out of pocket, by the way. If your security breach leaves client and partner data vulnerable, you could be sued for failing to protect that data. When your cyber insurance policy is voided because of IT security negligence, you won’t be covered against legal damages, either. This is not the kind of position you want to be in.


All of this is not to say that you shouldn’t have cyber insurance, or that it’s not going to pay out in the case of an unfortunate cyber event. It’s just a reminder that your job doesn’t end when you sign that insurance policy. You still have to make a reasonable effort to keep your systems secure — an effort you should be making anyway.

Does the CIA Have Access to Your Router?

There are an exhausting number of cyber security threats to watch out for, and unfortunately you need to add another to the list. A recent leak from the CIA proves that routers are one of the weakest links in network security.

The Wikileaks CIA Documents

For several months, the notorious website famous for leaking government data has been rolling out information it obtained from the Central Intelligence Agency. The documents detail top-secret surveillance projects from 2013 to 2016 and mainly cover cyber espionage.

In the most recent release, documents describe government-sponsored methods and programs used to exploit home, office, and public wireless routers for both tracking internet browsing habits and remotely accessing files stored on devices that connect to compromised networks.

Is My Router One of Them?

According to the documents, 25 models of wireless routers from 10 different manufacturers were being exploited by the CIA. They weren’t off-brand budget devices either; the list includes devices from some of the biggest names in wireless networking:

  • Netgear
  • Linksys
  • Belkin
  • D-Link
  • Asus

Those brands account for over a third of wireless routers on the market, which means there’s a good chance you’re at risk.

After WannaCry used a previous CIA leak to fuel its global spread, you need to worry about more than just being a target of government espionage too. Over the past few years, almost all of these leaks have quickly made their way into criminal hands.

Patching Vulnerabilities

Fixing security gaps in hardware is tricky business, especially when they’re mainly used to monitor rather than corrupt. In most cases, there will be no visual cues or performance problems to indicate your hardware has been infected. As such, you should plan on regularly updating the software on your hardware devices whenever possible.

Accessing your router’s software interface isn’t a user-friendly experience for non-IT folks. Usually, to access it, you need to visit the manufacturer’s website and log in with the administrator username and password. If these are still set to the default “admin” and “password” make sure to change them.

Once logged in, navigate through the settings menus until you find the Firmware Update page. Follow the instructions and confirm that the firmware has been properly installed.

The CIA’s router leaks were vague, so we’re not even sure how recent they are. We are fairly certain, however, that all of the manufacturers have since patched the vulnerabilities. Regardless, updating your router’s firmware will protect from a number of cyber security risks. If you’re unable to finish the task on your own, one of our technicians can fix it, as well as any other firmware vulnerabilities, in a matter hours. All you need to do is call! 800-421-7151.

Changes to Office 365

Whether it’s for the sake of aligning with Windows 10, or not, Office 365 Pro Plus will be upgraded twice a year, in March and September. But what does this mean to business owners like yourself? Will the new update schedule affect how Microsoft plans to deliver and support ProPlus in the future? We’ll answer all that and more.

Why the New Schedule?

Feedback has almost always been Microsoft’s impetus to make changes of any kind, and this is no exception. The software giant wanted to simplify the update process and improve coordination between Office 365 and Windows, and the new schedule should handle both of those aims.

This is particularly helpful for those using Secure Productive Enterprise (SPE). SPE was bundled with Windows 10 and Office 365 ProPlus, meaning subscribers had to deal with two separate upgrades prior to the new schedule. Moving forward, things will be simplified as a single update twice a year will suffice.

What Else Changed?

Microsoft is extending support for ProPlus from 12 months per update to 18 months. This means you can technically update once or twice a year, which we’ll discuss in more detail below.

They’ve also changed the following terminology used in their updates:

  • Current Channel → Monthly Channel
  • First Release for Deferred Channel → Semi-annual Channel (Pilot)
  • Deferred Channel → Semi-annual Channel (Broad)

The Semi-annual Channel (Pilot) and Semi-annual Channel (Broad) describe the twice-a-year feature updates and how they will be deployed: the former to be used as deployment testing and the latter for actual deployment to an organization’s users.

When Will the First ProPlus Upgrade be Released Under the New Schedule?

The first Pilot channel will be available on September 12, 2017, the same day as that month’s Patch Tuesday. The first Broad channel will be available four months later on January 9, 2018, also on a Patch Tuesday.

The second release will bring a new Pilot on March 13, 2018 and a new Broad on July 10, 2018.

Can you Skip a ProPlus Features Upgrade?

While you can in fact choose only to upgrade once a year, you will eventually have to conduct a second upgrade to get the most up-to-date support. Microsoft is giving you two months of overlap in the next update to do this.

So, say your firm deploys the Broad channel in January 2018, but skips the July 2018 upgrade, you would have to upgrade within the two-month span between January 2019 and March 2019 to be eligible for the latest support.

What Happened to the ProPlus Upgrade for June 2017?

Microsoft released new Deferred Channel and First Release for Deferred Channel upgrades on June 13, 2017. You will have three months to conduct enterprise pilots and validate applications with this upgrade before the final Deferred Channel release on September 12, 2017. The last Deferred Channel will be supported until July 10, 2018.

Changes to the support life cycle of Office 365 ProPlus will ultimately save you time and reduce the hassles of conducting upgrades. That said, it might take some time getting used to the new schedule and nomenclature, so if you have any questions about Office 365 or the new schedule, just give us a call at 800-421-7151.

Quick Review: Why You Need Virtualization

With virtualization, you can make software see several separate computers where there is only one, or make several computers look like one supercomputer. That may sound simple, but it’s far from it. Of course the benefits are well worth it; here are just a few.

More Technology Uptime

Virtualization vendors use lots of fancy names for the features of their technology, but behind all the technobabble are a number of revolutionary concepts. Take “fault tolerance” for example. When you use virtualization to pool multiple servers in such a way that they can be used as a single supercomputer, you can drastically increase uptime. If one of those servers goes down, the others continue working uninterrupted.

Another example of this is “live migrations,” which is just a fancy way of saying that employee computers can be worked on by technicians while users are still using them. Say you’ve built a bare-bones workstation (as a virtual machine on the server), but you need to upgrade its storage capacity. Virtualization solutions of today can do that without the need to disconnect the user and restart their computer.

Better Disaster Recovery

Data backups are much simpler in a virtualized environment. In a traditional system, you could create an “image” backup of your server — complete with operating system, applications and system settings. But it could be restored to a computer only with the exact same hardware specifications.

With virtualization, images of your servers and workstations are much more uniform and can be restored to a wider array of computer hardware setups. This is far more convenient and much faster to restore compared to more traditional backups.

More Secure Applications

In an effort to increase security, IT technicians usually advocate isolating software and applications from each other. If malware is able to find a way into your system through a software security gap, you want to do everything in your power to keep it from spreading.

Virtualization can put your applications into quarantined spaces that are allowed to use only minimum system resources and storage, reducing the opportunities they have to wreak havoc on other components of the system.

Longer Technology Lifespans

The same features that quarantine applications can also create customized virtual spaces for old software. If your business needs a piece of software that won’t work on modern operating systems, virtualization allows you to build a small-scale machine with everything the program needs to run. In that virtual space, the application will be more secure, use fewer resources, and remain quarantined from new programs.

In addition to software, virtualization also encourages longer life spans of old hardware components. With virtualization, the hardware an employee uses is little more than a window to the powerful virtual machine on the server. Employee computers need only the hardware required to run the virtualization window, and the majority of the processing takes place on the server. Hardware requirements are much lower for employees and equipment can be used for several years.

Easier Cloud Migrations

There are several ways virtualization and cloud technology overlap. Both help users separate processing power from local hardware and software, delivering computing power over a local network or the internet. Because of these similarities, migrating to the cloud from a virtualized environment is a much simpler task.

There is no debate about the benefits of this technology. The only thing standing between your business and more affordable, efficient computing is an IT provider that can manage it for you. For unlimited technology support, virtualization or otherwise, on a flat monthly fee. Call us today at 800-421-7151.