Cloud: 4 Common Myths Debunked

Overhyped reports of cloud hacks and server failures can lead some small business owners to be wary of a service that has so much to offer. So what are these common misconceptions about cloud computing? Here are a few myths people believe about the cloud.

#1. Cloud infrastructures are unsecure

Information security is a necessity for every business. And the most prevalent misconception about the cloud is the idea that cloud services lack appropriate security measures to keep data safe from intruders. Most users also think that the data stored in the cloud can be easily accessed by anyone, from anywhere, and at any time.

But the truth is it’s actually more secure for small businesses to use cloud services. Small companies usually can’t afford to hire an IT department let alone train them to deal with online security threats. Cloud providers, on the other hand, offer services such as multi-layered security systems and antivirus protection that not only specialize in keeping infrastructures safe from hackers but are available at a price that is much lower than you would pay for in-house IT staff.

Additionally, large cloud-based services such as G Suite and Office 365 are supported by an infrastructure that constantly installs updates and patches, which helps manage security breaches. This frees you from the burden of installing the updates yourself and managing the overall security of your system.

Users should understand that no company is completely safe from security threats regardless of their IT infrastructure. But data is likely to be more secure in the hands of cloud providers as they are the most prepared and qualified to protect your digital property.

#2. The cloud lacks proper encryption

Most people misunderstand how encryption is implemented to keep your data safe. For example, encryption is generally used for data in transition, where data is protected from anyone seeing it as it travels from one internet address to another. But encryption can also be applied to data at rest, where data is encrypted on a storage drive.

With this in mind, you should understand what types of encryption your business and its data require. When it comes to choosing the right cloud service, it is best to inform yourself about the security measures that a cloud infrastructure implements and look at how it can protect your company’s digital property.

#3. With the cloud you are no longer responsible for data security

While cloud security is important, protecting data ultimately rests on the users who have access to it. Misplacing unlocked mobile devices can leave your data vulnerable and compromise your entire cloud infrastructure. This is why we recommend strong verification mechanisms in place for devices that are used to access the cloud.

#4. The cloud is never faulty

Like many IT services, cloud-based services are not immune to technical difficulties. For example, some cloud businesses have suffered outages and server failures which corrupted files and may have lost data in the process.

Hacking is another reason why some cloud services fail. Using a less than optimal cloud service that is vulnerable to attacks can lead to stolen or deleted data, which would be near impossible to recover if you did not have any offline backups.

Before signing up for any type of cloud service, clarify with its provider what is guaranteed. Most cloud providers make promises about a service’s uptime or its safety from provider-related breaches.

Security is truly one of the biggest barriers to the adoption of cloud computing in a small business. But as cloud services expand and encryption technologies advance, cloud adoption is increasingly becoming the most cost-effective solution to meet the small business owner’s IT demands. Contact us today to learn how your business can take advantage of all the cloud has to offer.

5 Tips for Buying a New Computer

There are so many different types of computers out there, each with varying specifications and capabilities – how do you find the best one for your needs? Whether you’re purchasing a computer for yourself or for your family, here are a few things to keep in mind that will help you make the right decision.

Desktop or Laptop?

This depends on your working style and environment. The rule is quite simple: if you rarely work out of the office, get a desktop PC. If you need to work at home, on the go, or at client meetings, then go for a laptop. It’s worth noting that desktops are generally cheaper than laptops at similar specifications, have a longer usage life, and make for easier changing or upgrading of components. Laptops, on the other hand, are very portable due to their compact size, they consume less energy, and they offer a more flexible user experience.

Processor

If you want a computer that loads programs in a flash, completes tasks almost instantly, and runs smoothly at all times, then we recommend you invest in the strongest processors available. The performance of a processor is determined by its number of cores and speed, so the bigger the number, the better. These days, most users go for the latest octa-core processors, specifically if your tasks involve rendering high-definition images, animations, graphics, and analysis. For optimum results, get a processor with the higher number of cores.

RAM

Random Access Memory (RAM) allows your computer to perform multiple tasks at once without a hitch. Just like processors, the amount of RAM your computer has will determine how fast it will run when you work on several programs simultaneously. Nowadays, standard computers come with at least of 4GB of RAM, with 8GB being ideal for most users — to navigate smoothly between tasks such as email browsing, Internet surfing, and working on word processing documents and spreadsheets.

Hard Drive

The bigger the hard drive, the more space you have to store files. If you plan on using your computer with no peripherals, you’ll want to choose a computer that offers the biggest hard drive. But remember that you can always purchase an external hard drive to transfer or store files if your current hard drive is running out of space. Due to recent price changes making them more affordable, it is also a better option to use an SSD (Solid State Drive) as your main form of storage.

Operating Systems

Picking an operating system is a big decision when it comes to choosing a new computer. You’ll probably want to stick with an operating system you’re already familiar with, since it can take some time to adapt yourself to a new OS. Here are some of the popular options available on the market:

  • Windows 10
  • Mac OS X
  • Linux

Most people will just go for either Windows or Mac OS, because the complexity of Linux mean it is not popular among everyday users and we do not recommend them.

Want more hardware tips and tricks? Get in touch with our technology experts today at info@wamsinc.com.

IT Security Policies your Office Needs

When it comes to Internet security, most small businesses don’t have security policies in place. And considering that employee error is one of the most common causes of a security breach, it makes sense to implement rules your staff needs to follow. Here are four things your IT policies should cover.

Internet

In today’s business world, employees spend a lot of time on the internet. To ensure they’re not putting your business at risk, you need a clear set of web policies. This must limit internet use for business purposes only, prohibit unauthorized downloads, and restrict access to personal emails on company devices. You can also include recommended browsing practices and policies for using business devices on public wifi.

Email

Just like the Internet policy mentioned above, company email accounts should only be utilized for business use. That means your employees should never use it to send personal files, forward links, or perform any type of business-related activities outside their specific job role. Additionally, consider implementing a standard email signature for all employees. This not only creates brand cohesion on all outgoing emails, but also makes it easy to identify messages from other employees, thus preventing spear phishing.

Passwords

We’ve all heard the importance of a strong password time and time again. And this same principle should also apply to your employees. The reason is rather simple. Many employees will create the easiest to crack passwords for their business accounts. After all, if your organization gets hacked, it’s not their money or business at stake. So to encourage employees to create strong passwords, your policy should instruct them to include special characters, uppercase and lowercase letters, and numbers in their passwords.

Data

Whether or not you allow your employees to conduct work on their own devices, such as a smartphone or tablet, it is important to have a bring your own device (BYOD) policy. If your employees aren’t aware of your stance on BYOD, some are sure to assume they can conduct work-related tasks on their personal laptop or tablet. So have a BYOD policy and put it in the employee handbook. In addition to this, make sure to explain that data on any workstation is business property. This means employees aren’t allowed to remove or copy it without your authorization.

We hope these four policies shed some light on the industry’s best security practices. If you’d like more tips or are interested in a security audit of your business, give us a call at 800-421-7151.

Regularly Evaluate Your Cybersecurity

Experts estimate that the global market for cybersecurity products this year will exceed that of last year. At first glance, an increase in spending seems necessary and shows that businesses are becoming more aware of cybersecurity issues. But a closer look may prove otherwise. Learn why your company could be investing in cybersecurity products the wrong way.

Uncover threats and vulnerabilities

Every business should evaluate the current state of its cybersecurity by running a risk assessment. Doing so is one of the easiest ways to identify, correct, and prevent security threats. After discovering potential issues, you should rate them based on probability of occurrence and potential impacts to your business.

Keep in mind that risk assessments are specific to every business and there is no one-size-fits-all approach for small business technology. It all depends on your line of business and operating environment. For instance, manufacturing companies and insurance groups have totally different applications to secure.

After tagging and ranking potential threats, you should identify which vulnerabilities need immediate attention and which ones can be addressed further down the line. For example, a web server running an unpatched operating system is probably a higher priority than a front desk computer that’s running a little slower than normal.

Tailor controls to risks

Instead of spending time and money evenly on all systems, it’s best that you focus on areas with high risk. You should address these issues immediately after an assessment, but also put plans in place to evaluate their risk profiles more often.

Assess existing products

Chances are, your organization has already spent a great deal of money on security products and their maintenance and support. By conducting risk assessments more often, you can improve the strategies you already have in place and uncover wasteful spending. You may discover that one outdated system merely needs to be upgraded and another needs to be ditched. Remember, your existing products were purchased to meet specific needs that may have changed immensely or disappeared altogether.

It’s much harder to overcome cybersecurity obstacles if you’re not regularly evaluating your IT infrastructure. Contact our experts at 800-421-7151 for help conducting a comprehensive assessment today!

The Benefits of Virtualization in 2018

The relationship between computer hardware and software can be frustrating. Both require the other to function properly, but both also require individual attention. Virtualization makes this relationship more flexible, and we’ve got a rundown on a few of the best examples.

More technology uptime
Virtualization vendors use fancy names for the features of their technology, but behind all the technobabble are some revolutionary concepts. Take “fault tolerance” for example. When you use virtualization to pool multiple servers in 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. Let’s 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 disconnecting the user and restarting 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 — get in touch with us today at 800-421-7151!

How to Reduce Your PC Power Consumption

Every home or office has a computer. In one year, a typical desktop that’s on 24/7 releases carbon dioxide that’s equal to driving 820 miles in an average car. To save energy, you don’t need drastic changes; you can start with making small adjustments that will ultimately accumulate to significant savings.

1. Disconnect your external devices

Devices that connect to your PC like printers, sound systems, and webcams consume power, too. That’s why you should disconnect or remove these devices from your PC as soon as you’re done using them.

2. Use a smart strip, especially for computers you cannot turn off

A smart strip is a series of several electrical outlets in one strip, with circuits to monitor and maximize your gadgets’ power consumption. By connecting your PC and its peripherals (printer, speakers, scanners, etc.) to the smart strip, you don’t need to unplug your equipment when you’re not using them.

3. Adjust your computer’s energy settings

You can also consume less energy by adjusting your PC’s power settings. For example, you can make sure your hard drive and monitor go into “sleep” mode when they’re left idle for a few minutes. Lowering the screen brightness will also help you save electricity.

4. Shutdown and unplug your computer when not in use

If you are not yet using a smart strip, then it’s best to shut down the computer when you’re not using it. Also, make sure to unplug it, as leaving it plugged consumes standby power.

5. Use a charger only when charging your laptop

When we charge our laptops, it’s easy to just leave them there and forget about them. This results in the eventual degrading of the battery. Leaving the charger plugged on the wall also consumes standby power. So either use a wall outlet with a timer, or plug your charger on a smart strip instead.

6. And should you be in the market for a new PC, choose one that’s Energy Star compliant

Energy Star is the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)’s symbol for energy efficiency. Every product that earns the Energy Star symbol is guaranteed to deliver quality performance and energy savings. Studies have shown that a single Energy Star compliant computer and monitor can save from $7 to $52 per year in electricity bills.

Saving energy is a combination of smart choices in hardware plus developing good energy-conservation habits. These tips should help you achieve that. If you need assistance in choosing the best hardware for your needs, call us and we’ll be glad to help you out.

Malware Strain Infects 200k More Devices

Yet another global malware infection has been making headlines and the story just took a turn for the worse. When the news of VPNFilter broke, experts warned that 500,000 devices were already infected, but now they believe that number is much higher. Thankfully, it’s not too late to protect yourself.

VPNFilter recap

A team of security researchers from Cisco released a report that a strain of malware had been discovered on hundreds of thousands of routers and network devices. Originally, researchers believed it affected only Linksys, MikroTik, Netgear, and TP-Link devices.

Like many malware strains, VPNFilter infects devices that use default login credentials. But it’s worse than the average cyberattack because it can destroy router hardware and cannot be removed by resetting infected devices.

As if destroying 500,000 routers wasn’t bad enough, VPNFilter lets its creators spy on networks and intercept passwords, usernames, and financial information.

What’s new

Just two weeks after VPNFilter was discovered, security experts announced that it targets 200,000 additional routers manufactured by ASUS, D-Link, Huawei, Ubiquiti, UPVEL, and ZTE. Worse yet, VPNFilter can alter data passing through infected routers. That means when you enter a username and password into a banking website, hackers could steal that information and show you an incorrect account balance to hide fraudulent deductions.

How to stop VPNFilter

Rebooting a router won’t remove the malware, you need to factory-reset the device. Usually, all this requires is holding down the Reset button on the back of the device for 10-30 seconds. If your router has no reset button or you’re unsure whether pressing it did the trick, contact a local IT provider immediately.

Cybersecurity threats have become so prevalent that even large enterprises struggle to keep their digital assets safe. Outsourcing IT support to a managed services provider like us will give you enough capacity to deal with issues like VPNFilter as soon as they arise. Call us today at 800-421-7151 to learn more.

Industries that Need Virtual Desktops

Apart from the cloud, one of today’s biggest IT trends is virtualization. And why not, it has helped countless businesses in more ways than one. An emerging model of virtualization is virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI), which involves hosting a desktop operating system and making it available on almost any device. It is most effective in the following use cases:

Legal

The legal industry is relying more and more on virtual desktops due to the mobility that they provide. Attorneys work long hours on cases and often have a home office, occasionally work from other offices, or need to access important information at a moment’s notice. With the right virtual desktop, attorneys can access the information that they need safely and under compliance. Virtual desktops are changing the way law firms are able to operate.

Healthcare

In an industry where every file is sensitive, the importance of confidentiality can’t be overstated. With VDI, rules and permissions can be customized based on the individual virtual desktop. As such, every medical professional can only view patient records relevant to them. It also allows them to log into their virtualized desktop while working across a variety of locations and devices.

Academic institutions

By leveraging VDI, a school’s IT team can create a virtual desktop — with the necessary restrictions implemented — for each student. If each classroom has a set of workstations, students’ desktop experiences will be consistent throughout their day. Even though they’ll be using different hardware every hour or two, they’ll always see the same desktop.

Companies with shift workers

In most cases, shift employees don’t really need one designated computer to fulfill their task because one computer is shared by multiple users. VDI makes it easy for companies to manage several desktop accounts on fewer devices. Workers can log into any devices, access their own virtual desktop, work as they do every day, and log off at the end of their shift.

Users with multiple computers

Depending on the nature of work, some positions require working with several computers on a regular basis. With VDI, they can integrate desktops and maintain it across two or more devices.

Field or remote staff

Employees that work remotely or in the field need access to tools and applications when on the job. A secure and reliable way to do it is through VDI. A complete VDI solution makes access to a consistent desktop experience possible anytime, anywhere, and using any device. It allows your remote or field workforce to operate effectively, no matter the circumstances.

Of course, these are just a few situations where VDI is helpful. Any business can enjoy security and productivity enhancements with a team of virtualization experts on call. Contact us today at 800-421-7151 to find out how we can help.

Tips to Reduce Risks After a Security Breach

No company is completely safe from data breaches. For proof, look no further than companies like Yahoo, AOL, and Home Depot, which compromised millions of personal customer information. That said, no business is completely helpless, either. The following steps can minimize the risks to your business in the event of a large-scale data breach.

Determine what was breached

Whether its names, addresses, email addresses, or social security numbers, it’s critical to know exactly what type of information was stolen before determining what steps to take. For example, if your email address were compromised, you’d take every precaution to strengthen your email security, which includes updating all your login credentials.

Change affected passwords immediately

Speaking of passwords, change yours immediately after any breach, even for seemingly safe accounts. Create a strong password comprised of alphanumeric and special characters, and make sure you never reuse passwords from your other accounts.

Once you’ve changed all your passwords, use a password manager to help you keep track of all your online account credentials.

If the website that breached your information offers two-factor authentication (2FA), enable it right away. 2FA requires two steps to verify security: usually a password and a verification code sent to a user’s registered mobile number.

Contact financial institutions

In cases where financial information was leaked, call your bank and credit card issuers to change your details, cancel your card, and notify them of a possible fraud risk. That way, banks can prevent fraud and monitor your account for suspicious activity.

Note that there are different rules for fraudulent transactions on debit cards and credit cards. Credit card transactions are a bit easier to dispute because they have longer grace periods. Debit card fraud, on the other hand, is more difficult to dispute, especially if the fraudulent transactions happened after you’ve notified the bank.

Place a fraud alert on your name

Hackers who have your personal information can easily commit identity fraud. To avoid becoming a victim, contact credit reporting bureaus like EquifaxExperian, or Innovis and request that a fraud alert (also called credit alert) be added to your name. This will block any attempt to open a credit account under your name and prevent unauthorized third parties from running a credit report on you.

Putting a credit freeze on your name might result in minor inconveniences, especially if you have an ongoing loan or credit card application. Still, doing so will greatly reduce your risks of getting defrauded.

These steps will ensure you don’t fall victim to identity theft in the event of a large-scale data breach. If you want to take a more proactive approach to protect your sensitive information against breaches, contact our cybersecurity experts today.

HTTPS Matters More for Chrome

HTTPS usage on the web has taken off as Chrome has evolved its security indicators. HTTPS has now become a requirement for many new browser features, and Chrome is dedicated to making it as easy as possible to set up HTTPS. Let’s take a look at how.

For several years, Google has moved toward a more secure web by strongly advocating that sites adopt the Secure HyperText Transfer Protocol (HTTPS) encryption. And last year, Google began marking some HyperText Transfer Protocol (HTTP) pages as “not secure” to help users comprehend risks of unencrypted websites. Beginning in July 2018 with the release of a Chrome update, Google’s browser will mark all HTTP sites as “not secure.”

Chrome’s move was mostly brought on by increased HTTPS adoption. Eighty-one of the top 100 sites on the web default to HTTPS, and the majority of Chrome traffic is already encrypted.

Here’s how the transition to security has progressed, so far:

  • Over 68% of Chrome traffic on both Android and Windows is now protected
  • Over 78% of Chrome traffic on both Chrome OS and Mac is now protected
  • 81 of the top 100 sites on the web use HTTPS by default

HTTPS: The benefits and difference

What’s the difference between HTTP and HTTPS? With HTTP, information you type into a website is transmitted to the site’s owner with almost zero protection along the journey. Essentially, HTTP can establish basic web connections, but not much else.

When security is a must, HTTPS sends and receives encrypted internet data. This means that it uses a mathematical algorithm to make data unreadable to unauthorized parties.

#1 HTTPS protects a site’s integrity

HTTPS encryption protects the channel between your browser and the website you’re visiting, ensuring no one can tamper with the traffic or spy on what you’re doing.

Without encryption, someone with access to your router or internet service provider (ISP) could intercept (or hack) information sent to websites or inject malware into otherwise legitimate pages.

#2 HTTPS protects the privacy of your users

HTTPS prevents intruders from eavesdropping on communications between websites and their visitors. One common misconception about HTTPS is that only websites that handle sensitive communications need it. In reality, every unprotected HTTP request can reveal information about the behaviors and identities of users.

#3 HTTPS is the future of the web

HTTPS has become much easier to implement thanks to services that automate the conversion process, such as Let’s Encrypt and Google’s Lighthouse program. These tools make it easier for website owners to adopt HTTPS.

Chrome’s new notifications will help users understand that HTTP sites are less secure, and move the web toward a secure HTTPS web by default. HTTPS is easier to adopt than ever before, and it unlocks both performance improvements and powerful new features that aren’t possible with HTTP.

How can small-business owners implement and take advantage of this new interface? Call WAMS today at 800-421-7151 for a quick chat with one of our experts to get started.

Should you Worry About the New IoT Malware?

A malware infection is one of the worst things that could happen to your Internet of Things (IoT) devices. But some users don’t even know there are IoT-targeted attacks that threaten computers, networks, and data. Rebooting an IoT device is a simple way to remove malware, but for those already infected with the latest strain, it’s not that simple.

What is the Hide And Seek malware?

The Hide and Seek (HNS) malware has created a “botnet” by quietly infecting thousands of devices using advanced communication methods. Without getting too technical, a botnet adds or “recruits” computers to their network to carry out malicious acts, such as overloading a network by telling every infected device in the botnet to try and connect at the same time.

The new HNS can’t be removed by resetting the infected device, which is the solution for most IoT malware strains. The new strain can also exploit a greater variety of devices and in less time than its predecessors. Experts believe it has already compromised more than 90,000 IPTC cameras and other devices.

IoT devices are easily hacked if they connect to the internet, which is home to opportunistic cybercriminals. And because businesses and consumers are expected to acquire and use more IoT devices (the market is expected to reach $1.7 trillion by 2020), it’s imperative to take cybersecurity precautions.

How can I protect my IoT devices?

Luckily, there are steps you can take to keep your devices — and ultimately your network and data — safe from HNS and other forms of malware.

  • Turn off your IoT devices when not in use to reduce their exposure to fast-spreading malware.
  • Take simple precautions to keep your WiFi networks safe, like changing your network’s default settings (including your network’s name), and using complex passwords that are changed from time to time.
  • For those who use a large number and variety of devices, install a threat management system that will block intruders and secure common threat entry points.
  • Be sure that your IoT devices are updated with the latest firmware. If the device is old and not supported, or new firmware is not being release, these devices should be replace with more reliable devices.

With HNS and other malware strains expected to increase in number and complexity, it’s more important than ever to take a multi-layered approach to security. Call us today at 800-421-7151 to learn more about which cybersecurity solutions are right for your business.

Debunking the Top 4 Virtualization Myths

Unless you work in IT, you don’t need to understand the intricacies of most business technology. Complicated explanations usually just lead to misunderstandings, which is especially true for virtualization. Many of the things you’ve heard about it are false.

Myth #1 – Virtualization is too expensive for SMBs

Many people assume that the more advanced an IT solution is, the more expensive it is to install and maintain. That’s not the case for virtualization, which is a strategy to boost hardware efficiency and cut costs.

Sure, a virtual server requires more support than a traditional one, but the capacity boost means you won’t need to purchase a second server for a long time – resulting in a net reduction of hardware and IT support expenses. Furthermore, managed virtualization services usually follow a pay-as-you-go model that costs just a few bucks per hour. It is important to also note the savings regarding power and cooling requirements; the lest physical servers you have, the less you are affected by these costs.

Myth #2 – Virtualization adds workplace complexity

Most people feel comfortable with the traditional computing model – one set of hardware equals one computer – but that doesn’t mean a new model has to be more complicated. With virtualization, one “traditional” computer can run as two or more virtual computers. The technical aspects of how that’s accomplished may be confusing, but the good thing is business owners don’t need to bother with those details.

Virtualization actually reduces complexity because it allows business owners to expand their IT systems whenever necessary without having to worry about hardware limitations.

Myth #3 – Support is hard to come by or inconvenient

You may be more familiar with The Cloud than with virtualization, but that doesn’t mean the latter is a niche technology. The value of the virtualization market in 2016 was $5.6 billion and supported by IT providers all over the country. It’s also a technology that works well with remote support, which means technicians can install upgrades or resolve issues without having to travel to your office.

When you choose to invest in the cloud, everything is virtualized. Amazon, Microsoft Azure, and Citrix are the most common vendors; any cloud service provider should steer you toward one of these.

Myth #4 – Software licensing is more difficult

There’s a misconception that if your server is running three virtual Windows 10 computers, you’ll have to jump through extra licensing hoops. In reality, virtualization follows the same licensing rules as traditional computing: one desktop, one license, which means you won’t need to rethink your software budget.

It’s natural for new technologies to cause confusion, and virtualization does require a new way of thinking about IT hardware. But as long as you have certified technicians like ours on hand, everything will run smoothly. Give us a call today at 800-421-7151 to find out how we can lower your hardware costs and simplify your IT support.

AI-Powered Advances in Customer Support

High-quality products and services can make a business successful, but exceptional customer service is what makes customers come back. This is why companies constantly try to innovate their customer service strategy — and some do it by adding artificial intelligence (AI) into the mix.

How AI capabilities enhance customer service

AI has two capabilities that enhance customer service: machine learning and natural language processing.

Machine learning studies historical customer data in your systems and equips your customer service staff with all the information they need to address concerns much faster and provide personalized product suggestions, discounts, and offers. It’s the same mechanism that enables Facebook to suggest friends and brands to add or follow, and allows Amazon to personalize product recommendations.

On the other hand, AI’s natural language processing capabilities make it possible for businesses to deploy computerized customer service systems that don’t require human support staff. AI-enabled systems can ‘talk’ to customers via software similar to that of Apple’s Siri, Google’s Alexa, and Windows’ Cortana.

Automated, accurate, and agile responses

Although well-trained employees can multitask and solve customer problems, humans make mistakes. Automated systems like chatbots provide accurate and quick responses because they can be programmed to respond rapidly and accurately, handle large volumes of queries, and be available 24/7.

For example, a restaurant chain that often receives queries about a branch’s opening hours can use a chatbot to handle questions about store hours, reservations, and other simple concerns. A retail store chatbot can also make online ordering seamless by answering questions about product sizes and/or availability.

Overall, AI-enabled chatbots can reduce or eliminate pain points commonly encountered with human customer service representatives, such as long wait times, inefficient escalation of complex concerns, and negative human emotions from irate customers, all of which affect customer satisfaction levels.

Cost-efficient support

Businesses spend thousands of dollars to hire and train customer service representatives. But based on studies, the high attrition rates in the call center industry cost them a lot of money. Some companies even let operations staff handle customer support, which then affects productivity and reduces profitability.

AI-powered platforms reduce the time and money spent on customer service because you don’t need to hire more support staff in case of business expansion. Instead, you can reprogram customer service software so that queries about new products or new business locations can be easily addressed.

Many customers still prefer to have their problems solved by humans. And for banks, hotels, hospitals, and businesses where complicated concerns require human customer service agents, an AI-powered support system can facilitate seamless issue resolutions.

Fortunately, there are plenty of technology options to make customer service and other functions more efficient. Call us today for innovative business technology solutions.

New Malware Infects SOHO Routers Worldwide

Talos recently warned that at least half a million routers have been endangered by a new form of malware called VPNFilter. After an earlier version targeted devices in Ukraine, VPNFilter has spread rapidly in around 54 countries, affecting home and small business routers.

How VPNFilter Works

Talos cited the vulnerable devices as Linksys, MikroTik, Netgear, and TP-Link networking equipment, as well as network-attached storage (NAS). Upon infecting a small office home office (SOHO) router, VPNFilter deploys in three stages.

In stage 1, the malware imposes its presence by using multiple command-and-control (C2) infrastructure to capture the IP address of the existing stage 2 deployment server. This makes VPNFilter so robust that it can deal with any unpredictable changes in C2. This stage of the malware persists through a reboot, which makes preventing reinfection tough in stage 2.

Stage 2 involves deploying modules capable of command execution, and data collection and exfiltration. According to the United States Department of Justice (DOJ), this can be used for intelligence gathering, information theft, and destructive or disruptive attacks. Moreover, stage 2 malware has a “self-destruct” feature that once activated by the hackers will overwrite a critical area of the device’s firmware so it stops functioning. This can happen on almost every infected device.

In Stage 3, a module with packet-sniffing capabilities is added to enable monitoring of internet traffic and theft of website credentials. And yet another module is installed to deploy communication support for the Tor network, which can make communicating with the C2 infrastructure harder.

Taking Action

According to Talos, the likelihood of the attack being state-sponsored is high, something the DOJ later backed up. The DOJ attributed it to a group of actors called Sofacy (also known as APT28 and Fancy Bear), the Kremlin-linked threat group believed to be responsible for hacking the Democratic National Committee computer network two years ago.

On the night of May 23, the FBI announced that they have seized a domain which is part of VPNFilter’s C2 infrastructure used to escalate the malware’s effects. This forces attackers to utilize more labor-intensive ways of reinfecting devices following a reboot. With the seizure, the government has taken a crucial step in mitigating VPNFilter’s impact.

Stopping the Malware

Researchers agree that VPNfilter is hard to prevent. While vulnerability has been established, patching routers isn’t easy, something average users might not be able to do on their own. But as with any malware, the impact of VPNFilter can be mitigated, which is done by terminating the C2 infrastructure used.

To minimize exposure, the FBI recommends all SOHO routers be rebooted, which, according to a statement from the DOJ, will help the government remediate the infection worldwide. The justice department, along with the FBI and other agencies vowed to intensify efforts in disrupting the threat and expose the perpetrators.

For their part, Talos offers the following recommendations:

  • Users of SOHO routers and/or NAS devices must reset them to factory defaults and reboot them in order to remove the potentially destructive, non-persistent stage 2 and stage 3 malware.
  • Internet service providers that provide SOHO routers to their users should reboot the routers on their customers’ behalf.
  • If you have any of the devices known or suspected to be affected by this threat, it is extremely important that you work with the manufacturer to ensure that your device is up to date with the latest patch versions. If not, you should apply the updated patches immediately.
  • ISPs will work aggressively with their customers to ensure their devices are patched to the most recent firmware/software versions.

Combat the VPNFilter malware by rebooting affected devices. For more tips, contact our team.

What to Tweak when Setting Up Windows 10

There are steps that need to be taken after unboxing a new laptop. After installing Microsoft’s Windows 10, you need to unlock its full potential by tweaking some important settings. The best thing to do is get help from a technician, but there are a few things you can do without assistance.

#1 Check for updates

Your new laptop should check for updates automatically, but you can also check manually. Just click the gear icon above the Start button to go to the Settings, choose Update & Security > Windows Update and then click the Check for updates button. (Or, just type “updates” into the search box and click Check for updates.)

#2 System restore

If something goes wrong with your laptop, you can save a lot of time and hassle if you have a “restore point,” which is like a backup of your entire operating system.To set up a restore point, search for “restore” from the taskbar and click Create a restore point. You’ll be taken to the System Protection tab of the System Properties window.

From there you can choose what you want to be included in the back and then click the Configure button. Select the radio dial to Turn on system protection if it’s not already on. And then you can choose how much disk space to reserve, usually no more than 2 or 3 percent.

#3 Power plan

If you want to prolong your laptop’s battery life, one of the best things you can do is switch the Power Saver, High Performance, and Balanced power plans based on your needs. To choose a plan, right click the battery icon in the lower-right corner of your screen and click Power settings. Next, click Additional power settings to select a power plan.

#4 App installation tolerance level

To restrict which apps can be installed on your laptop, you can disallow anything that isn’t in the Windows Store. Go to Settings Apps Apps & features and you can choose whether to permit installations from only the Windows Store, any app installations (with a warning), or unrestricted app installations.

#5 Remove bloatware

Vendors package new laptops with lots of trial apps, which are mostly unnecessary and unwanted software called bloatware.

Windows 10 offers an easy way to see which apps are installed on your new laptop and a quick way to uninstall those you don’t want. Head to Settings Apps Apps & features and peruse the list. If you don’t want an app and are 100% certain your computer doesn’t need it, click the Uninstall button.

#6 Anti-ransomware

Ransomware is a form of malicious software (or malware) that makes all your data inaccessible until you pay a fee to hackers.

To combat it, type ‘Windows Defender Security Center’ into the search bar at the bottom of your screen, click it and go to Virus & threat protection > Virus & threat protection settings. Here, you’ll be able to enable a new option called Controlled folder access, which protects you against ransomware attacks. By default, the Desktop, Documents, Music, Pictures, and Videos folders are protected, but you can add others too.

Do you know what settings to change and update to optimize your laptop? This article barely scratches the surface of Window 10’s security and efficiency settings. Call us today at 800-421-7151 for a quick chat with one of our Microsoft experts about taking yours to the next level.

Protect your Facebook and Twitter from Hackers

In the wake of Facebook’s worldwide privacy scandal, it’s time to revisit some social media best practices. Your information is incredibly valuable, and you can’t rely on social media platforms to keep it safe from hackers. Heed these tips to make sure your Facebook and Twitter accounts are well secured.

Lockscreens Exist for a Reason

Make sure all your computing devices lock the moment you stop using them. This way, you are safe from the simplest hack of all: someone opening a browser on your computer that has your social media login saved. As long as your password isn’t your birthday or anniversary, you’ll be forcing hackers to work for access to your account.

Strong Passwords are Never Out of Fashion

Unlocking your phone may be limited to a six-digit passcode, but you’ll need something much more complicated for your account password. The first thing you’ll need to do is create a password that isn’t used for any other account. Because data breaches have become such a regular occurrence, hackers probably have a long list of your favorite passwords from other websites and platforms.

In this case, it is best to use a password manager like an app or online service that allows you to generate and retrieve complex passwords.

Another measure that you can take is to enable two-factor authentication, which requires you to type in a secondary code sent to your phone. Even if hackers have your password, they won’t be able to log in without your phone.

Make Use of Social Media Features

Facebook offers functions that help you keep tabs on who’s accessing your account and from where. To use this feature, click the down arrow in the upper right corner of your Newsfeed and select Settings. Then click Security and Login to get more information. If you sense an imposter, click the right-hand icon to give you the option of logging out remotely or reporting the person.

From there, turn on Get alerts about unrecognized logins to be notified via Facebook, Messenger, or email if someone is logged into your account from an unrecognized browser. Unfortunately, Twitter doesn’t have the same option (that makes the two-factor authentication extremely necessary).

While it may be difficult for a hacker to barge into your Facebook or Twitter account through a third-party service that you have given access to your profile, it’s still advisable that you check what you have approved.

  • Facebook: Go to Settings > Apps and Websites to view and manage outside service with access to your account
  • Twitter: Go to Settings and Privacy > Apps to check and edit the list

Last, be sure to check the permissions mobile apps like Facebook and Twitter have on your smartphone or tablet.

  • Android: Go to Settings > Apps > tap the icon in the upper right and then tap App permissions
  • iOS: Go to Settings > Privacy to manage which service can access which parts of your phone

Less Personal Info, Fewer Problems

These steps are just the beginning of the security that you should take advantage of. Next, you should consider limiting the personal data you input into your social media accounts. If you have to put a ton of information, then be sure you read this blog from the top… and then read it again.

With a little practical knowledge, you can prevent Facebook and Twitter hackers from doing what they do. Cybersecurity is a sprawling issue and social media privacy is such a small sliver of your online life that you need to stay on top of. For 24/7 support, call our team of experts today at 800-421-7151.

Overheating Laptop? Here’s How to Prevent It

If you own a laptop, chances are you’ve noticed how hot it can get. You might not know it, but your laptop may already be overheating, which will lead to decreased efficiency and a shorter lifespan. Here’s how to protect your laptop from further damage due to overheating.

Causes of overheating

Laptops create heat during their normal operation. That’s why they’re designed with internal fans that blow out hot air and suck in cooler air. When your laptop keeps shutting down or suffers serious slowdowns, chances are it’s overheating.

One of the most common causes of overheating is when the fan doesn’t operate normally. This may be due to dust and grime clogging up the fan, preventing it from rotating properly. It’s also possible that the air vents are being blocked, preventing air from flowing into the laptop.

Another thing to consider is the age of your laptop’s battery, which relies on lithium to store electricity. This chemical naturally decays over time, no matter how carefully you use it. The older the battery, the less efficient it is and the more heat it generates.

Software use can also contribute to overheating. Too many apps and programs running in the background can overwork your laptop.

What to do if it’s overheating

The first thing you should do is check your hardware. Turn your laptop off and inspect the vents and your fan for any dirt, grime, or other possible causes of blockage. Also check whether the fan itself is not physically dented, which can slow down its rotation.

Sometimes overheating is simply caused by bad habits. Do you use your laptops in bed or on the carpet? Do you use pillows as padding? Uneven or soft surfaces often block the air vents, leading to overheating. Always place your laptop on a hard, even surface.

Aside from the hardware, check your software. Are there a lot of apps and programs that start automatically when you switch on your laptop? If yes, then you may need to limit them.

Keeping it cool

To prevent your laptop from overheating, always make sure that there’s adequate airflow for your laptop. Better yet, invest in a cooling pad. These pads lift your laptop and add more fans to facilitate better airflow.

Limit the number of programs that run when you start your laptop. Change your settings to “power save.” And shut down your laptop whenever you’re not using it.

It’s easy to take laptops for granted because they’re billed as plug-and-play devices. However, with a little extra care and attention, your devices will last much longer. If you have any questions about your hardware, call us today at 800-421-7151.

Be Smart and Back Up Your Valuable Data

Storing copies of your business data in the cloud will help you avoid the risks associated with broken hard drives, lost or stolen devices, and human error. That’s because entrusting your data to an expert service provider means you’ll have trained professionals handling the backup of your business assets online.

How should you go about choosing a cloud backup provider? Let’s take a look:

Learn more about their storage capacity

Before partnering with a cloud backup provider, ask them where they store their data. Many providers use cloud servers over which they have little control, which could be hazardous as it makes it harder to monitor activity and respond to anomalies. To avoid this fate, choose a backup service that operates their own cloud-based servers.

Next, you will have to determine whether your business assets can be backed up, since some cloud storage providers do not have the capacity to save bigger files like videos or other multimedia files. By asking these questions, you can find a cloud backup service that fits your business needs, and more importantly, can take care of all your files.

Get details on their security

It will be important for the cloud backup provider to explain in no uncertain terms how they will store your files. They should be encrypted and stored on multiple servers because redundant storage ensures your data has multiple copies saved online and can be retrieved at will. Even if an uncontrollable disaster befalls your company or the backup provider’s system, you’ll still be safe.

Compare your budget and backup costs

Before considering any cloud backup provider, you need to know how much the service is worth to you. How much money would you lose if your server crashed and all the data it stored was irretrievable? Compare that amount with the cost of a provider’s service, which could be charged by storage tiers, per gigabyte, or on a flat-fee unlimited plan.

When asking about the price of cloud backups, make sure to clarify any service limitations or restrictions. For example, how quickly can your storage capacity be upgraded? Is it possible to run out of storage? These are not things you want to discover in the middle of hurricane season.

Clarify data recovery timelines

Although storage availability is important, how quickly backups can be created and restored is also an essential factor. Ask providers how often backups will be created (e.g., hourly, daily, weekly), and how long it will take to restore them (e.g., hours, days, etc.). If those timelines are too long, it may be time to look for a better provider.

The most important thing is to know your needs before meeting with a potential provider. Let them know your business needs, budget, and recovery timelines. Our solutions and pricing are flexible and customized to your needs so you’re not stuck in a cookie-cutter plan.

Give us a call at 800-421-7151 to find out more about backup services and other dynamic ways to protect your data.

5 Steps to Enabling Virtualization on a Local Computer

Keep in mind that virtualization is one of the most effective ways to significantly reduce IT expenses, while simultaneously increasing efficiency and flexibility. But are issues hindering you from enjoying virtualization on your PC? Here are detailed answers for you to fix these problems.

#1 Enable Virtualization in Your BIOS

In most cases, virtualization won’t work because it’s disabled in your computer’s Basic Input/Output System (BIOS). Though most modern computers support the feature, it’s often disabled by default. Thus, you should take a look to make sure it is enabled on your computer.

#2 If You Don’t See It – Update Your BIOS

If you don’t see an option for virtualization in your BIOS, there’s a chance the manufacturer has provided an update that includes it. This may not be the case for all machines, but it doesn’t hurt to check.

To find a BIOS update, you can use the manufacturer app included with your PC or manually search the internet for it.

#3 Disable Hyper-V

Professional editions of Windows include a Microsoft program called Hyper-V. This is Microsoft’s own virtualization software, like Oracle’s VirtualBox or Dell’s VMware. Unfortunately, Hyper-V can hijack your computer’s virtualization privileges, blocking you from using other virtualization apps.

You don’t need Hyper-V unless you really want to use it, so removing it from your computer will let your virtualization app of choice work properly.

#4 Confirm Your PC Supports Virtualization

If you’ve tried all the above steps and virtualization still won’t work, chances are your machine doesn’t support it. It’s worth confirming this before you give up, though.

If you have an Intel CPU, download the Intel Processor Identification Utility. It’s a handy tool that helps you know features, package, intended frequencies and actual operating frequencies of your Intel processor. Those with AMD processors should download the equivalent AMD tool instead.

#5 I’ve Enabled Virtualization, but…

Maybe you’ve gotten virtualization to work after following the advice above, but still have issues with performance or getting a virtual machine (VM) started. Here are some other things to try:

  1. Make sure you download the right version of the operating system you want to run in a VM to avoid compatibility issues.
  2. Make sure you have enough free disk space, or your host computer could run low on space. This can cause performance problems.
  3. Ensure you have enough RAM to dedicate to the VM.

At WAMS, we offer server virtualization much more to our clients due to the benefits that this strategy offers. These benefits include:

  1. Reduced Hardware Costs
  2. Faster Server Provisioning and Deployment
  3. Greatly Improved Disaster Recovery
  4. Significant Energy Cost Savings
  5. Increased Productivity

Virtualization is important, easy-to-implement technology that companies of any size can take advantage of. And if you feel overwhelmed with anything related to this topic, just call us today at 800-421-7151 for a quick chat with one of our certified virtualization technicians who might help you out.

Browser-Based Biometrics Boosts Security

Earlier this month, the World Wide Web Consortium, announced plans to begin allowing users to log into online accounts with fingerprints, facial scans, and voice recognition. This will not only boost security, but also make account management much simpler.

Authenticate Your Profile on Your Mobile Device

Chrome OS, Windows, and MacOS, Linux, and Android are all adding features to help users safely log in using biometric identification via USB, Bluetooth, and NFC devices connected to smartphones and tablets. With such convenience, users can verify their accounts on the go.

Preventing Cyber Attacks with Browser-based Biometrics

Passwords are notoriously bad at protecting users’ accounts and the information they store. Facial scans, fingerprints and voice recognition would make it exponentially harder for hackers to commit identity theft. That means you’re also less likely to be duped by an email from a hacker pretending to be your boss asking for the company credit card.

Enjoy More Secured Online Transactions

Biometric verification will also retire the need for logging in your information when shopping online, streaming video, using cloud applications, and other internet-based transactions. Windows 10 has already adopted features that offer limited account management with fingerprints and facial scans. But none of the big-name technology vendors have offered solutions to achieve this on mobile devices as of yet.

Browser-based biometrics could revolutionize and streamline the steps of verifying an online account. It promises to add more security and ease in logging in and transacting on the internet. To ensure that you are operating as securely as possible, give us a call at 800-421-7151 now.

Should You Worry About Facebook’s Security Breach?

Facebook is the most popular platform for developing brand awareness because it allows businesses to target users based on what they have posted in the past. But after the recent data breach scandal, is your data still safe? Read on to find out if you need to worry about your privacy.

Last month, news broke that a firm known as Cambridge Analytica collected private data from over 50 million Facebook users. The British company supposedly used this information in 2016 to influence voter behavior during the US presidential election and UK’s Brexit campaign.

How did they harvest the data?
In 2015, a Facebook personality quiz app called “This is Your Digital Life” was created by Cambridge psychology professor Aleksandr Kogan. Around 270,000 Facebook users signed up and gave information about themselves in exchange for humorous results.

What users didn’t know was that Kogan’s firm, Global Science Research, struck a deal with Cambridge Analytica to share the information that was gathered. Aside from collecting information about the Facebook users, the app also mined some data about the users’ friends.

Information collected was based on:

  • Data from other platforms that are also owned by Facebook, including Instagram and WhatsApp
  • Advertisers and other third-party partners
  • Apps and websites which use Facebook services
  • Your location
  • The devices you use for Facebook access
  • Payments handled by Facebook
  • Your Facebook connections and networks
  • Messages, photos and other content that other users send to you
  • The information you disclose to Facebook
  • Your activities on Facebook

What happened to the sourced information?
Cambridge Analytica analyzed the collected data to create psychological profiles and invent better political drives to influence whom people would vote for. Although there is still a huge debate about how effective this plans were, there’s no doubt that tens of thousands of users were manipulated into signing away their data without knowing it.

What can I do to keep my information safe?
Remove third-party apps that use your Facebook account. Visit your “Settings” menu and go to “Apps”. You should see the list of all the services that are using information about your Facebook profile. Check on each app, and if you don’t need it or use it anymore, delete it to revoke its access.

If you need more information on how to keep your data secure, feel free to give us a call today at 800-421-7151!

Safety Tips for Watering Hole Attacks

Bad news, internet users: Cybercriminals have developed more advanced tricks to compromise your systems. While you may be familiar with attacks involving suspicious emails, the new kid on the block known as watering hole attacks are far more nefarious and effective. Fortunately, there are a few things you can do to keep yourself safe.

What are watering hole attacks?
Much like phishing, a watering hole attack is used to distribute malware onto victims’ computers. Cybercriminals infect popular websites with malware. If anyone visits the site, their computers will automatically be loaded with malware.

The malware used in these attacks usually collects the target’s personal information and sends it back to the hacker’s server. Sometimes the malware can even give hackers full access to their victims’ computers.

But how does a hacker choose which websites to hack? With internet tracking tools, hackers find out which websites companies and individual users visit the most. They then attempt to find vulnerabilities in those websites and embed them with malicious software.

Any website can fall victim to a watering hole attack. In fact, even high-profile websites like Twitter, Microsoft, Facebook, and Apple were compromised in 2013.

You can protect yourself by following these tips.

Update your software
Watering hole attacks often exploit bugs and vulnerabilities to infiltrate your computer, so by updating your software and browsers regularly, you can significantly reduce the risk of an attack. Make it a habit to check the software developer’s website for any security patches. Or better yet, you should have a managed IT services provider to keep your system up to date.

Watch your network closely
To detect watering hole attacks, you must use network security tools. For example, intrusion prevention systems allow you to detect suspicious and malicious network activities. Meanwhile, bandwidth management software will enable you to observe user behavior and detect abnormalities that could indicate an attack, such as large transfers of information or a high number of downloads.

Hide your online activities
Cybercriminals can create more effective watering hole attacks if they compromise websites only you and your employees frequent. As such, you should hide your online activities with a VPN and your browser’s private browsing feature.

At the end of the day, the best protection is staying informed. As cyberthreats continue to evolve, you must always be vigilant and aware of the newest threats. Tune in to our blog to find out about the latest developments in security and to get more tips on how to keep your business safe.

New Security Features on Office 365

To bolster users’ safety, Microsoft recently added security features to Office 365. These enhancements give home and business users peace of mind whenever they send an email, share a link, or forward an attachment. There’s no such thing as being too secure, so we recommend staying abreast of them now.

Files Restore in OneDrive

Previously available only to Office 365 business users, Files Restore allows users to conveniently recover files in OneDrive within the last 30 days. Home and personal users can now easily retrieve and restore all their files at a specific point in time, which is useful in instances where files are accidentally deleted, corrupted, or compromised by ransomware or other malware. It is certainly not a replacement for a backup, but it isn’t a bad supplement to have on your side.

Ransomware detection notification for Office 365

You receive notifications and alerts for a variety of things on your PC or mobile devices, but rarely for something as immensely important as a ransomware attack. Office 365’s ransomware detection and recovery feature sends desktop notifications, email alerts, and mobile alerts in case of any possible ransomware attack on your system so you can act fast.

Aside from being notified about a detected ransomware, you’ll also be guided on how to recover your files before they were infected, based on the timestamp recorded by Files Restore. This is also not as strong as a firewall, but a smart supplement being implemented by Microsoft.

Password-protected link sharing in OneDrive

Whenever you share a link — whether to a file or folder — in OneDrive, there’s no guarantee that it won’t be shared to unauthorized users. A password-protected feature solves this dilemma by giving you an option to set and require a password for every file or folder you share.

Email encryption in Outlook

Intercepting email has become many cybercriminals’ preferred method of stealing critical information, so it’s more crucial than ever to ensure email safety. With Outlook’s end-to-end encryption, users can rest easy knowing that the email they send won’t be easily intercepted after all. This is not the same as email security, but a strong secondary form of protection.

Email encryption works by requiring non-Outlook email recipients to choose between receiving a single-use passcode or re-authentication to open an email from an Outlook email sender. On the other hand, an Outlook-to-Outlook email exchange — whether Outlook on desktop, mobile (iOS and Android), or Windows Mail app — doesn’t require any further action for the email to be opened.

Prevent Forwarding

This function restricts email recipients (both Outlook and non-Outlook users) from forwarding or copying email. It also provides an option to prevent certain recipients from opening an attachment from a forwarded email, which will come in handy when a person needs to send an email to more than one recipient, but wants to restrict access to an attachment to just a few recipients.

These new capabilities greatly reduce the effort to secure your files and communications, and Microsoft is sure to roll out a few more soon. If you want to optimize these Office 365 security features or explore other security methods that your business will benefit from, call us today at 800-421-7151.

5 Tips on Keeping Mobile Workers Connected

Due to increasing connectivity and technological advances, mobile workers are increasingly becoming the norm in almost every industry. Business owners need to ensure these workers stay connected, so we’ve got some helpful tips on how to effectively apply mobile performance management.

The ability to manage the workforce out in the field requires a modern support infrastructure called mobile performance management. It includes the top five tips to keep field workers connected: optimizing traffic, applying control, measuring performance analytics, simplifying data security, and identifying the root cause of connectivity issues.

Optimize

Although the latest apps on the market can maximize productivity for the mobile workforce, these apps come with a certain risk: stability issues that could lead to the apps crashing while out in the field. If you are your company’s IT decision-maker, be cautious of untested apps, and consider blocking heavy bandwidth apps to streamline data flow when signal strength is weak. Your IT company will also advise you on which applications should and shouldn’t be trusted.

Control

Another thing you can do with mobile performance management solutions is blocking personal apps and unsafe WiFi networks. Both of these create serious security risks that could lead to costly data theft or loss.

Analyzing performance

Field workers mostly rely on GPS location data for more efficient scheduling, route-planning, and effective control of fuel consumption. This is possible only if there are reporting tools that confirm that the GPS capability is working. Performance analytics show you what mobile workers are experiencing, gaining access to robust data, network and app usage reports, inventory analysis, coverage maps and device maps as needed.

Simplify security

IT should tightly restrict access without making security complicated for mobile workers. IT administrators need to create a highly flexible and programmable secure mobile strategy. You must be able to restrict which apps can access company data and remotely wipe data from the device if it is lost or stolen.

Identifying the root cause of connection issues

Organizations need to be fully prepared for connectivity issues involving their mobile devices. Organizations of all sizes should be able to afford remote diagnostics to gather complete troubleshooting information to allow IT to identify the root cause of the problem quickly, without relying on workers, who have no idea about how to run tests and answer questions regarding these issues.

For any organization with workers in the field, the ability to implement performance management structures and policies is a must. For other tips on how to keep your employees connected, engaged, and efficient, give us a call at 800-421-7151 and we’ll be happy to advise.

Phishing Hits Businesses at Tax Time

Phishing schemes abound every season, and tax season is no exception. It’s an important time of year in the corporate world and cybercriminals are looking to take advantage of it, which is why your business must ensure that your confidential data is kept under lock and key.

Phishing baits to watch out for

Phishing attacks often consist of fabricated or compromised emails sent to finance/payroll or human resources employees that are made to look like they’re from an executive in your company. The message might contain a request to forward employee records, including their W-2 forms, but that’s not all…

Another common scheme, which doesn’t only happen during tax season, involves getting a call from a person declaring to be an IRS employee. And no, caller IDs won’t save you because they can forge that, too. The phisher will inform you that you owe them cash from back taxes and they will threaten legal action if you don’t pay via credit card at that instant.

Always remember, the IRS will never contact you on the phone to let you know that you owe them money. And they certainly won’t threaten you or demand payment over the phone. If they really need to notify you of such matters, they’ll use the postal service and will give you a chance to discuss payment terms.

Standard protection protocols

Don’t worry, the usual security measures against these phishing scams are pretty easy to integrate into your business. Begin by developing a policy that bans the request of private details through email. If an employee ever requires such info, they should get in touch with the person directly, follow your established protocols for the transfer of sensitive information, and minimize the number of people involved in the transaction.

Taking security a step further

Data loss prevention (DLP) systems are also valuable weapons against these types of phishing attacks. They evaluate traffic going in and out of your company, such as web usage, emails and instant messages, and virtually anything sent on your network. DLP systems can filter out private details, including Social Security numbers, and stop them from being sent out.

But beware, DLP systems come with a minor drawback, as they can also block legitimate traffic, like when your accounting department sends tax info to your CPA. Fortunately, an MSP like us can properly segregate the good and the bad traffic to avoid confusing and/or frustrating your employees.

Phishing schemes may be a normal occurrence during tax season, but that doesn’t mean you can’t do anything about it. Don’t let the vulnerabilities in your business, particularly the human element, fall prey to cybercriminals. Call us at 800-421-7151 right away and we’ll conduct an assessment of the security of your business, as well as design a risk management plan to help counter future complications.

3 Tips to Maintain a Secure Facebook Account

In March 2018, disturbing reports circulated on the web that revealed a company named Cambridge Analytica harvested confidential details of 50 million Facebook accounts. If you’re concerned that your private details are being passed around by private companies, consider the following 3 tips to maintain a confidential Facebook profile.

Download your Facebook data

The thought of a complete stranger going through your account is pretty disturbing. Yet, you’re probably curious about the amount of information you uploaded to your social media sites over the years. Fortunately, Facebook allows you to download a copy of all your data. You simply have to log in to its web version and…

  • On the site’s main navigation, click on the down button right next to the Quick Help icon
  • A menu will pop up and you’ll find Settings right above the Log Out option
  • Click on Settings and you’ll automatically be redirected to General
  • Within the General page, press Download a copy of your Facebook Data
  • It will redirect you to a different page where you’ll need to press Start My Archive button to proceed with the download process

Once that’s done, you’ll be able to see an archive of all your Facebook activity, such as the statuses you’ve posted, messages you’ve sent, and ads you’ve clicked on.

Change your privacy settings

After going through all your data, you might realize that everything you shared is harmless. But, that doesn’t mean it won’t end up in the hands of cybercriminals who can use it against you.

We suggest going back to the Settings page and clicking on Privacy. That’s where you can modify whether you want your posts to be seen by the public or only by your friends. You can even control who’s allowed to send you friend requests, view your friends list, and most importantly, decide whether search engines are allowed to link to your profile.

Check or delete apps

You know those personality quizzes that you and your friends always had a ball answering? Apparently, Cambridge Analytica gathered all the responses from one of those app developers. Luckily, you can stop them from further accessing your profile. In Settings, click on Apps to see all the apps linked to your profile. Beside each one, you can choose Edit Settings to review its authorizations or click Remove to completely get rid of it.

Your recent love-hate relationship with Facebook has you second-guessing. If you want to take data security up a notch, we can always provide more tips and tools, and even assess your current level of security. Just give us a call at 800-421-7151 and we’ll take care of your privacy so you don’t wind up breaking up with your favorite social media site.

Keeping Cloud Costs Under Control

One of the most well known benefits of the cloud is it boosts cost efficiency. By moving to the cloud, small- and medium-sized businesses no longer have to worry about purchasing high-end equipment or maintaining full-scale data centers. However, there are quite a few costs associated with the cloud, so it’s important you know how to keep them under control.

Don’t go for standalone services
Standalone services are the biggest price trap in the cloud. Spending on a standalone cloud software may seem harmless now, but if you decide to purchase similar services, the costs can quickly pile up. Then, there’s the issue of integrating these systems together, which costs even more time and money.

The best way around this is to find a service provider that offers a suite of products that work seamlessly together. Platforms like Office 365 or G Suite are great examples, and offer you differently priced packages based on the size and requirements of your business.

Team up with integration experts
If you do need to subscribe to a standalone service, you’ll want to integrate it with the rest of your cloud platform. But if you have limited experience with integrations, mistakes are likely to happen and cause downtime, which will inevitably cost you time and money.

The more economical option is to partner with a cloud integration expert, as they can quickly configure and deploy your systems with zero mistakes.

Understand cloud backup costs
While cloud backups are great for keeping your data secure, you must know how much you’re paying for them. If you plan on storing your data for a long time, you may be charged more. At the same time, if you store more versions of your data, it will cost you more.

One way you can keep costs down is to ask yourself whether certain files even need to be stored in the cloud. Mission-critical files like customer information, legal document, and business plans should be stored in the cloud so you can retrieve them right away after a disaster, but routine documents like timesheets can probably be stored in less expensive data centers.

Remove unnecessary accounts
Most cloud service providers charge you based on the number of users per month, so if you’re not diligent about removing accounts when employees have left your company, you could be throwing your money down the drain.

To avoid this, you need to have deprovisioning procedures in place for when an employee’s contract is terminated. Create a spreadsheet of each employee in your payroll and note down their cloud subscriptions. When an employee leaves your company, you must delete all their business accounts and give the relevant manager access to all their documents.

It’s also a good idea to schedule regular audits to make sure you’re not paying for people who’ve already left your company.

Work with a trustworthy provider
Last but not least, you’ll want to partner with a cloud services provider that not only gives you the best deals on cloud solutions, but also proactively monitors your account and warns you about any issues regarding the computing resources and storage space you’re using.

If you’re looking to keep cloud costs under control, talk to us today at 800-421-7151. We’re certified and experienced with all aspects of cloud technology, and we can show you how you can truly benefit from it.

Don’t Ever Let Your IT Company Do This To Your Computer Network

Today, when companies need to be lean, nimble and brutally efficient to survive in a competitive marketplace,cutting unnecessary costs is paramount. Unfortunately, it can be easy when you’re on a tight budget to accidentally strip away components of your business that may seem gratuitous but are actually essential to your success.

One of the first things that often ends up on the chopping block in the frenzy to save money is IT. Instead of continually investing in managed IT services, where professionals carefully maintain, protect and update your network month to month, some businesses decide that the best way to keep their technology running smoothly is to simply leave it alone, calling up a professional only when something breaks down.

Of course, this approach forgoes monthly costs and shaves off a fair few dollars from your technology budget in the short run. But while this approach may seem cost-effective, it opens up your business to a huge variety of technological crises, from expensive network outages to cyberattacks that may cripple the very future of your company.

The Problem With A ‘Break-Fix’ Strategy

It can be hard to imagine the huge list of problems that might arise within your network. So, it’s an understandable strategy to wait to do something until an issue becomes a serious problem. At that point, they bring in a professional who – charging by the hour – attempts to suss out and repair whatever may be broken.

It seems like a logical approach, but unfortunately, it’s littered with huge hidden costs. If you’re calling an IT expert only when something in your network is broken, only your most urgent technological needs are

addressed. When your technician is being paid an hourly wage to fix a specific issue, there’s no incentive to be proactive with your system. They won’t recommend important, money-saving upgrades or updates, and they will rarely be able to detect a crisis before it happens.

What’s more, the approach “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” very likely leaves huge holes in your security and drastically magnifies the costs of an IT meltdown. If they’re only arriving in the midst of crisis, there’s hardly ever an opportunity for the break-fix technician to strengthen the barriers between you and the hordes of hackers clamoring for your data. They’re on the clock, being closely monitored to fix the problem and then go away. Meanwhile, the security landscape is constantly changing, with criminals and security experts in a back-and-forth arms race to stay abreast of the latest developments.

Without someone managing your system on a regular basis, your protective measures are sure to become woefully out of date and essentially useless against attack.

Why Managed IT Services Are The Answer

When you turn your IT needs to a managed services provider (MSP), you’re entrusting the care of your network to a team of experts who have a real interest in your success. MSP engineers regularly monitor the health of your system, proactively preventing disaster before it enters into the equation and hurts your bottom line.

Beyond this preventative care, MSPs do everything they possibly can to maximize the power and efficiency of your equipment, implementing only the best practices and the latest software and updates.

When you invest in an MSP, you may have to invest more funds initially, but likely you’ll save tens of thousands of dollars in the long run by avoiding cyber-attacks, downtime and hourly rates wasted on a technician who doesn’t really care about the future of your business. When you choose an MSP, you’re not just choosing a superior and healthier network – you’re choosing peace of mind. Call us today at 800-421-7151 to learn more about our Managed Services. 

Does Private Browsing Secure Your Data?

If you’re getting targeted with surprisingly relevant ads, there’s a chance your internet activity is being tracked and analyzed by market researchers. While this doesn’t bother most people, private browsing mode can offer you some protection against online marketers and would-be data thieves.

What is private browsing?
Your web browser – whether it be Chrome, Edge, Firefox, Safari, or Opera – remembers the URLs of the sites you visit, cookies that track your activity, passwords you’ve used, and temporary files you’ve downloaded.

This can be convenient if you frequently visit certain pages, can’t remember your login details, or if you’re trying to recall a website you visited a few days ago. But if someone else uses or gains access to your computer, your most private (and embarrassing) internet activities are exposed for anyone to see.

With private browsing – also called Incognito Mode in Chrome and InPrivate Browsing in Edge – all the information listed above does not get recorded. In fact, all the websites and information you accessed in the private browsing session is immediately discarded without a trace as soon as you close the browser. This can come in handy when you’re using a public computer because you’re instantly logged out of all the accounts after closing the window.

Your cookies also won’t be tracked. In a normal browsing session, sites like Facebook will inundate you with highly targeted ads based on the sites and pages you’ve visited. But in private browsing mode, your internet activity won’t be used against you by marketing companies.

Another benefit of private browsing is you can use it to log in to several accounts on the same site, which is useful if you need to log into two different Google accounts at the same time.

Limitations of private browsing
Although private browsing does prevent your web browser from storing your data, it doesn’t stop anyone from snooping on your current activities. If your computer is connected to the company network, system administrators can still keep track of what you’re browsing even if you’re in Incognito Mode.

Also, if spyware or keylogger malware is installed on your computer, hackers will still be able to see what you’re doing online. Even though private browsing has quite a few benefits, you shouldn’t solely depend on it for online privacy.

Your computers must be equipped with Virtual Private Networks that encrypt your internet connection and prevent anyone from intercepting your data. And don’t forget to scan your computer for viruses with a strong anti-malware program to keep spyware and other malicious web monitoring software at bay.

If you want to know where you can get these solutions or learn more about web browser security, call us today at 800-421-7151. We have the tools and expert advice you need to prevent anyone from snooping on your internet browsing.

Prep for IT Incidents with External Support

Regardless of your best office IT strategies, it’s nearly impossible to thwart every type of cyberattack. And when they do happen, most businesses depend primarily on their internal resources and personnel. On the other hand, some organizations have realized the risks and complexities involved and have sought external support from leading industry specialists. Here are reasons why you should, too.

Access to new technologies and industry experts
Managed Services Providers (MSPs) are equipped with resources most small businesses can’t afford. They employ teams of experts in fields ranging from cybersecurity to data management to networking – all available for you on an outsourced basis. For example, an MSP provides advanced security software and applications that can help your business avoid the risks of cyberthreats.

They also work with industry tech leaders who provide insights into upcoming hardware and software products in the market. This ensures you receive updated recommendations on the latest technologies so you can use them in your business, and they often come with deals that you wouldn’t normally have access to.

Knowledge from past breaches
External IT support providers have been helping businesses recover from all kinds of tech disasters since the dawn of hackers. They now have enough knowledge to prepare Data Backup and Disaster Recovery plans for you. This way, you and your team would still be up and running after suffering from an IT emergency without disrupting much of your business operations.

External support providers’ experience with data protection will ensure your systems are monitored around the clock so your security systems are always functioning properly to keep cybercriminals at bay.

Run your business with ease
You don’t specialize in technology, so you don’t have the skill or the experience in dealing with digital felons. You also know how vulnerable your business is online and won’t dare do anything to jeopardize it. That’s why external support is such a great asset – you’ll be able to manage your business without any worries because your external IT provider will keep it protected. Give us a call at 800-421-7151 to see how we can keep your mind at ease.

Best Uses of Alexa in a Business Setting

Individual users find plenty to like about Amazon’s AI technology Alexa. It’s a great way to control smart home devices and perform small tasks like make shopping lists and answer phone calls. But Alexa also gets things done for business users, and here we’ll list some of the most useful.

Create and manage to-do and shopping lists
You have meetings to attend and deadlines to meet. Alexa has a straightforward To-do List feature that helps you stay on top of all your tasks. It’s ideal for busy professionals who prefer a no-frills checklist that allows them to simply view completed items, or to edit or delete items on the list.

You can also seamlessly sync third-party applications like Any.do and Todoist, which offer more features for organizing tasks, adding subtasks and folders, creating reminders, setting due dates, attaching files, and prioritizing items.

To connect to a third-party app:

Go to alexa.amazon.com or access the Alexa app
Go to Settings > List, click Get Skill
Click Enable
Log in to authorize the app
Alexa also has a default Shopping List that works exactly like the To-do List. It lets you add or delete items that can be browsed in the Amazon store and searched for in Bing.

Reorder office supplies
Ordering supplies on an Amazon smart home device is especially convenient because you would have already set up an Amazon account. When voice shopping with Alexa, you can either add items to your Amazon cart (“Alexa, add toner to my cart”) or directly order a single item (“Alexa, reorder toner”) without having to lift a finger.

When you place an order, Alexa checks product availability, walks you through Amazon search results, and asks you to confirm or cancel the order. Voice shopping is enabled by default, but it can be disabled in Settings > Voice Purchasing in the Alexa app.

Sync your calendars
One of the best ways to maximize Alexa in the office is to sync it up with your calendars. You can view scheduled appointments, set meetings, or have Alexa read the day’s entries with simple commands like “Alexa, what time is my next meeting?” or “Alexa, when is the company barbecue?”.

To add a calendar:

Go to alexa.amazon.com or access the Alexa app
Click Settings > Calendar
Select a calendar from the available platforms: Google (Gmail and G Suite), Apple (iCloud), or Microsoft (Office 365 or Outlook)
Log in to your account
Set a timer
A Pomodoro timer is a productivity enhancement tool that works by prescribing ideal work intervals and breaks. For example, you can set a timer that reminds you to take a 15-minute break for every hour worked, and setting this up in Alexa is easy.

To set a single timer:

Say “Alexa, set a work timer for 60 minutes.”
After the work timer finishes, say “Alexa, set a break time for 15 minutes.”
To set several timers at once, say:

“Alexa, create a work timer for 60 minutes.”
“Alexa, create a break timer for 15 minutes.”

But of course, due to the listening technology of Alexa, users should not expect 100% privacy. Here are a few ways that you can protect yourself from Alexa hearing and recording anything you don’t want her to hear:

Always Mute your Echo when Not in Use – The mute/unmute button can be located at the top of the device. Unmute and Alexa is no longer listening.
Don’t connect sensitive accounts to your Echo – This has proven to be a problem for users on multiple occasions.
Erase old recordings – If your Echo is connected to your Amazon account, as it should be to get the most out of it, you can manage recordings. This can be done by logging into Amazon’s website and navigating to “Manage my device.” You can delete both individual queries and/or the entire search history.

The commands we’ve included here work for simple instructions, but you can modify them and use tons of other Alexa commands to suit your purpose. If you need recommendations on how you can work smarter with AI and other productivity tools, get in touch with us today at 800-421-7151.

Outlook Tips to Increase Productivity

Microsoft is constantly updating and improving its Outlook email program, and some users struggle to keep up with all the new and exciting features. Look no further if you wish to catch up on the latest productivity-enhancing tricks.

Clean Up your inbox
No matter inbox how meticulously organized your Outlook inbox is, there’s always room for improvement. For a little computer-assisted help, try the ‘Clean Up’ feature.

From your Inbox, click the Home tab and choose from Outlook’s three Clean Up options:
Clean Up Conversation – Reviews an email thread or a conversation and deletes redundant messages.
Clean Up Folder – Reviews conversations in a selected folder and deletes redundant messages.
Clean Up Folder & Subfolders – Reviews all messages in a selected folder and its subfolder, and deletes redundant messages in all of them.

Ignore (unnecessary) conversations
An overstuffed inbox is often caused by group conversations that aren’t relevant to you. The Ignore button helps you organize your inbox and focus on relevant emails.

Select a message, then click Home > Ignore > Ignore Conversation. You can also do this by opening a message in a new window and clicking Ignore under the Delete function. To recover an ignored message, go to the Deleted Items folder, and click Ignore > Stop Ignoring Conversation.

Send links instead of a file copy
Help your colleagues save storage by sending a link to a cloud version of a file instead of the file itself. This is particularly useful when sending massive files. You can also set permissions to allow recipients to edit and collaborate on linked files in real time.

Upload the file you wish to send on OneDrive and send it to your recipients. From the message box, click Attach File > Browse web locations > OneDrive.

Improve meetings with Skype and OneNote
Outlook allows you to combine Skype’s HD video and screen-sharing features with OneNote’s organizational and project planning functions. It’s easy:

Go to the Meeting tab in Outlook, then click Skype meeting and send the link to participants. After the meeting has started, select Meeting Notes (under the Meeting tab) and choose whether you want to Take notes on your own or Share notes with the meeting.

Tag contacts
To get the attention of a specific person in a group email message, use the @Mention function. This works particularly well for mails to multiple recipients or for if you simply want to convey the urgency of your message.

In the email body or meeting request, type the ‘@’ symbol followed by the first and last name of the person you wish to tag (e.g., @firstnamelastname).
To search for emails you’re tagged in, select Filter Email from the Home tab and choose Mentioned, then choose Mentioned.

These are just a few strategies for getting more out of Microsoft’s email platform. To unlock Outlook’s true potential, you need the support of certified IT professionals. Give us a call today at 800-421-7151.

HTTPS is Something to Care About

For all the time we spend discussing the complexity of internet security, there are a few simple things you can do. Avoiding websites that aren’t secured with the HTTPS protocol is one of them. It’s a habit that can be developed with a better understanding of what the padlock icon in your web browser’s address bar represents.

HTTPS Encryption
Older web protocols lack data encryption. When you visit a website that doesn’t use HTTPS, everything you type or click on that website is sent across the network in plain text. So, if your bank’s website doesn’t use the latest protocols, your login information can be intercepted by anyone with the right tools.

HTTPS Certificates
The second thing outdated web browsing lacks is publisher certificates. When you enter a web address into your browser, your computer uses an online directory to translate that text into numerical addresses (e.g., www.google.com = 8.8.8.8) then saves that information on your computer so it doesn’t need to check the online directory every time you visit a known website.

The problem is, if your computer is hacked it could be tricked into directing www.google.com to 8.8.8.255, even if that’s a malicious website. Oftentimes, this strategy is implemented to send users to sites that look exactly like what they expected, but are actually false-front sites designed to trick you into providing your credentials.

HTTPS created a new ecosystem of certificates that are issued by the online directories mentioned earlier. These certificates make it impossible for you to be redirected to a false-front website.

What this means for daily browsing
Most people hop from site to site too quickly to check each one for padlocks and certificates. Unfortunately, HTTPS is way too important to ignore. Here are a few things to consider when browsing:

If your browser marks a website as “unsafe” do not click “proceed anyway” unless you are absolutely certain nothing private will be transmitted.
There are web browser extensions that create encrypted connections to unencrypted websites (HTTPS Everywhere is great for Chrome and Firefox).
HTTPS certificates don’t mean anything if you don’t recognize the company’s name. For example, goog1e.com (with the ‘l’ replaced with a one) could have a certificate, but that doesn’t mean it’s a trustworthy site.

Avoiding sites that don’t use the HTTPS protocol is just one of many things you need to do to stay safe when browsing the internet. When you’re ready for IT support that handles the finer points of cybersecurity like safe web browsing, give our office a call at 800-421-7151.

New Scam Freezes Browser to Panic Users

New Scam Freezes Browsers to Panic Users

Con artists have created a new method of deceiving users by freezing their browsers and displaying a security notification with bogus tech-support contact details. This adware scam has been found to affect users in both Windows and macOS. Their ultimate goal is to scare potential victims and trick them into dialing the fake hotline number on the screen.

The End Game
The scam works by displaying an error message indicating a bogus security breach incident that renders a browser unusable. It appears to be an important security message. These scammers capitalize on the fact that a serious crash can’t be solved by simply closing the site, thereby sending the users into a panic. This encourages them to dial the number listed on the warning message.

On the other end of the line, the scammers would pose as Microsoft or Apple representatives to convince users into surrendering their credit card details to repair a non-existing security issue. Whatever you do, please do not call the phone number for support because it is not Microsoft’s but rather a group of scammers waiting to rob you of hundreds of dollars under false pretenses. The scams are generally carried out through legitimate sites or malicious ads that have been hacked.

The Ingenious Process
This new scam operates against your browser by corrupting the window.navigator.msSaveOrOpenBlob programming interface, which basically uses it as a form of distraction. The hackers manipulate the browser and forces it to save a random document on a disk repeatedly at super fast intervals that are impossible to notice. After five to 10 seconds, your browser will be completely unresponsive.

The Easy Fix
To recover, Windows users simply have to open Windows Task Manager (press ctrl + shift + esc keys) and stop the process there. On the other hand, macOS users just need to wait until a system message prompts them to close the unresponsive Chrome tab. Typically, the latter is a more appealing option since users would have the freedom to close only the corrupted page. Manually closing the whole browser means possibly losing unsaved files in any open Windows.

When faced with IT-related issues, you need to determine how you can approach them calmly. The threats in the digital world may be terrifying and intimidating, but causing a panic in your workplace isn’t the answer. Call us at 800-421-7151 as soon as any problems arise, and we’ll help you as soon as we can. We can even hook you up with other security measures to beef up your network security.

Top Tips for First-Time Virtualization Users

Unlike most solutions, virtualization technology is not plug and play. It requires you to understand your IT environment and know which aspects could and should be virtualized. This is not something we expect first-time virtualization users to grasp right away, so if you’re planning to implement it, follow these tips.

Conduct an assessment
Evaluating your IT environment is an important step in the implementation process. After all, you can’t just go around virtualizing everything without a plan. An IT assessment performed by an impartial managed services provider (MSP) like us helps you understand what type of virtualization solution you need.

For example, if the report found that computers don’t have enough processing power to run certain apps, desktop virtualization — which consolidates operating systems and apps into a single powerful server — is an ideal solution.

From there, you should be able to estimate costs and set realistic timelines for the implementation.

Don’t forget about hardware
Just because virtualization frees up space in your server room, does not mean hardware is no longer an issue. No matter what type of solution you opt for, the servers you use must be strong enough to support the entire company’s computing demands.

This means you must take stock of your apps and their hardware requirements and make sure your server has all the processing power, RAM, network capacity, and storage necessary to run them.

Underutilized servers are excellent candidates for virtualization, but purchasing new equipment may pay dividends in the long run. If you choose the latter option, ask your provider for recommendations. Chances are they’re partnered with virtualization-optimized hardware vendors that offer top-of-the-line servers.

Prevent VM sprawl
Virtualization allows you to deliver computing resources to workstations in your network via virtual machines (VMs), which can be created on a server in just a few minutes. While this lets you scale and provision resources quickly, there are risks if you don’t have someone regularly reviewing which VMs are worthwhile and which are outdated. You could be losing out on cost savings and efficiency benefits.

When too many VMs are created, they can quickly consume all server resources and complicate licensing and asset management.

To prevent sprawl, you must establish policies and restrictions for VM creation. For instance, users must have a good justification for creating a VM (e.g., testing software or provisioning apps for new users).

Prioritize business continuity
You must also protect the hardware running your virtual servers. Make sure to lock up server rooms and have secondary servers available in case the first one breaks down. While you’re at it, take advantage of automated backup solutions that make copies of your VMs and their files regularly.

Work with experts
Building and maintaining a virtual infrastructure is no simple task. That’s why you’ll want to work with a virtualization specialist who can guarantee a seamless implementation and provide ongoing management services.

For more tips on virtualization, call our experts today!

Cryptojacking: How to Protect Yourself

Over time, your computer will work slower as software requirements become more demanding. But if you have a relatively new computer, and are experiencing performance problems after clicking a link or visiting a website, you might be the victim of a new cyberattack scheme known as cryptojacking.

Hijacked hardware
Cryptojacking secretly uses your computer to calculate complex mathematical problems to generate cryptocurrency. They get inside by using phishing emails to lure victims into clicking on a link, which then runs malicious cryptomining programs on the computer. Any cryptocurrency produced then gets delivered to the hacker’s private server.

But hackers have developed an even more insidious tactic. By infecting websites with ads and plugins that run cryptojacking code, any visitor who loads the web page instantly gets infected with the malware, sending their computer’s processor into overdrive trying to generate cryptocurrency.

Unlike most malware, cryptojacking software won’t compromise your data. But it will hijack your hardware’s processing power, decreasing performance while increasing your power and cooling bills. So instead of paying for the computing power themselves, hackers can simply use thousands of compromised computers.

Surge in cryptojacking
It’s difficult to tell how much hackers are making with cryptojacking, but there’s a good chance that this type of attack will be as popular as ransomware was in 2017. In fact, for as little as $30, anyone can purchase a cryptojacking kit from the dark web to force other computers to generate Bitcoin or Monero for them.

According to several reports, even sites like The Pirate Bay, Openload, and OnlineVideoConverter are allegedly using cryptojacking exploits to diversify their revenue streams.

The biggest reason why this is becoming so popular is because it’s a low-risk, high-reward scheme. Instead of extorting money directly from the victim, hackers can secretly generate digital currencies without the victim knowing.

If it is detected, it’s also very hard to track down who initiated the attack. And since nothing was actually “stolen” (other than a portion of computing power), victims have little incentive to apprehend the culprit.

Prevention and response
To avoid cryptojacking, you need to incorporate it into your monthly security training sessions. Teach your employees to practice extra caution with unsolicited emails and suspicious links. Using ad-blocker or anti-cryptomining extensions on web browsers is also a great way to stay protected.

Beyond prevention, use network monitoring solutions to detect any unusual behavior with your computers. For example, if you notice a significant number of PCs running slower than usual, you should assume that cryptojacking is taking place.

If you’ve confirmed that it is, advise your staff to close browser tabs and update browser extensions as soon as possible.

Cryptojacking may seem less threatening than some malware we’ve discussed in the past, but it can incur real power, cooling, and performance costs to your business when several systems are compromised. To make sure you don’t end up enriching any hackers, call us today at 800-421-7151. We offer hardware solutions and cybersecurity tips to keep your business safe and sound.

5 Ways Your Employees Will Invite Hackers Into Your Network

Whether they’re criminals or heroes, hackers in the movies are always portrayed as a glamorous group. When it comes down to the wire, these are the individuals who crack into the ominous megacorporation or hostile foreign government database, hitting the right key just in the nick of time. They either save the day or bring down regimes, empty the digital vault of the Federal Reserve or disable all the power plants in the country. It’s always a genius up against an impenetrable fortress of digital security, but no matter what, they always come out on top.

In real life, it’s rarely that difficult. Sure, if you look at the news, you might believe hackers are close to their Hollywood counterparts, stealing data from the NSA and nabbing millions of customer records from Equifax. But the majority of hacks aren’t against the big dogs; they’re against small to mid-sized businesses. And usually,this doesn’t involve actually hacking into anything. A lot of the time – approximately 60% according to the Harvard Business Review – an unwitting employee accidentally leaves the digital front door open.

The biggest threats to your company aren’t teams of roaming hackers; they’re your employees. Here’s why.

1 They’ll slip up because they don’t know any better.

With the proliferation of technology has come an exponential rise in digital threats of such variety and complexity that it’d be impossible for the average person to keep track of it all. Each of your employees’ lives are a labyrinth of passwords, interconnected online accounts and precious data. If their vigilance slacks at any point, it not only leaves them vulnerable, but it leaves your company vulnerable as well. For this reason, most cyber-attacks come down to a lack of cyber security education.

2 They’ll let you get hacked on purpose.

It’s a sad fact that a huge portion of digital attacks are the result of company insiders exposing data to malicious groups. Whether it’s info vital for your competitive advantage, passwords they can sell to hacker networks to make a quick buck or sensitive data they can make public simply to spite your organization, it’s difficult to protect against a double agent.

3 They’ll trust the wrong person.

For many hacks, little code is needed whatsoever. Instead, hackers are notorious for posing as a trusted member of your own team. And if you believe that you’d be able to spot an impostor from a mile away, you may want to think again. Not only is it easier than ever to crack individual users’ e-mail passwords and login credentials, personal info is now littered throughout social media. A simple visit to Facebook can give a hacker all they need to know to “social hack” their way into the heart of your business.

4 They’ll miss red flags while surfing the web.

Clickbait is more than a nuisance plaguing your social media feeds. It can be a powerful tool for hackers trolling for easy prey. If an employee doesn’t understand what exactly makes a site or link look dubious, they may open themselves – and your company – to browser exploits or other types of attacks.

5 They’re terrible at passwords.

According to Entreprenuer.com, “3 out of 4 consumers use duplicate passwords, many of which have not been changed in five years or more.” Even more of those passwords are simply weak, inviting easy access for unsavory elements. Many people brush off the importance of strong passwords, but the risks posed by the password “123456” or “password” cannot be overstated.

When it comes to defending your precious assets against digital threats, it can seem impossible to protect yourself at every turn. But there is one way you can make a concrete change that will tighten up your
security more than you realize: educating your people. Through a comprehensive security training program, including specific examples of methods hackers use – particularly phishing – you can drastically
minimize the risk of an employee accidentally opening up a malicious e-mail or posting sensitive info. When you make a concerted effort to make the entire organization vigilant against cyber-attacks, you’re much less likely to be targeted. Email us at info@wamsinc.com to learn more!

How to Enjoy Your New Laptop

Did you just get the newest laptop? New tech toys are always very exciting, but before you start showing off your new purchase, there are five steps you should take to make your laptop experience even more enjoyable and long-lasting.

1. Update your laptop’s operating system
One of the first things you should do before using your laptop is upgrade its operating system. Assuming you did not purchase the laptop right when it was released, your laptop will still be running an older operating system. With important patches and fixes released in each new update, it is recommended that you install the latest one to ensure your laptop is free of any vulnerabilities.

2. Remove bloatware
Opening your laptop for the first time, you might notice that there are already several preloaded software in the system — some of which you will probably never use. These are known as bloatware.

These apps take up a lot of your valuable drive space, so consider getting rid of them. The easiest way to do this is by downloading a bulk uninstaller, which allows you to check all the bloatware apps you don’t want and remove them in one fell swoop.

3. Install protection software
It’s no secret that the world we live in is unsafe. And with so much confidential information nowadays becoming digitalized, it is necessary to protect yourself against losing important data from your computer. The solution to this is very simple. By installing antivirus software that can automatically — or manually — scan your computer at a scheduled time, potential attacks can be thwarted before they become more serious.

Not only is your laptop’s data vulnerable to cyberattacks, there is always a chance your laptop can get lost or stolen. While there are preventive steps you can take — such as being mindful while using your laptop in public places — another solution would be to install anti-theft software. Security features such as “Find My Device” for Windows 10 and “Prey” for other operating systems can help you locate your device if it’s ever stolen or misplaced.

4. Optimize your power settings
One of the most frequent problems that laptop users have is that their batteries run out of juice too fast. However, you can actually extend the battery life by making a few tweaks to your power settings.

Reduce your display brightness, but not so much that it causes eye and mental fatigue
Use the Sleep or Hibernate mode for your operating system

5. Set up a backup plan
Imagine spending months working on an important project and suddenly finding it nonexistent the next day just because your laptop crashed. Deadlines will be missed. Profit margins will decrease. Customers will leave unhappy. And if worse comes to worst, you’ll be out of business.

Why add more unnecessary stress if you can prevent it from happening in the first place? By setting up an automatic backup system, you can regularly save all your important files; that way, you’d still have access to the data anytime were anything to happen to the original file.

Getting a new laptop can be fun, but the joy might be short-lived if you don’t set up any preventive measures from the start. Call us at 800-421-7151 for information on how we can help you secure your company’s laptop today.

Distributed Spam Hides Illegal Activities

Cybercriminals are fairly experienced at avoiding detection. By the time you notice they’ve infected your computer with malware or hijacked your account, serious damage has most likely already been done. To make matters worse, they have another way to hide their illegal activities, and it involves sending thousands of spam emails.

Understanding DSD
Distributed Spam Distraction (DSD) is designed to inundate your inbox with thousands of nonsense emails. There are no dangerous links, ads, or attachments involved, just random excerpts of text stolen from books and websites. What’s more, the email and IP addresses used are all different so victims can’t simply block a specific sender.

These attacks last anywhere from 12 to 24 hours and can flood inboxes with as many as 60,000 messages. While they may seem like harmless annoyances, the true purpose of DSD is to draw victims’ attention away from what hackers are doing behind the scenes.

And what they’re doing is exploiting your personally identifiable information (PII) to make unauthorized purchases or pilfer cash directly from your accounts. The DSD acts as a sort of smokescreen to hide payment confirmation messages behind a deluge of spam messages.

New tactics
Over the years, hackers have developed new tactics involving DSD. Several reports have shown that, instead of nonsensical emails, hackers are using automated software to have their targets sign up for thousands of free accounts and newsletters to distract them with authentic messages. This allows DSD blasts to slip past spam filters that have been designed to weed out malicious code and gibberish text used by traditional DSD attacks.

What’s even more worrying is that any ill-intentioned individual can go to the dark web and pay for DSD services. They just have to provide a hacker with their target’s name, email address, and credit card numbers — all of which can also be purchased in the dark web — and pay as little as $40 to send 20,000 spam messages.

How to stop it
DSD is a clear sign that one of your accounts has been hijacked, so whenever you receive dozens of emails in quick succession, contact your financial institutions to cancel any unfamiliar transactions and change your login credentials as soon as possible. It’s also important to update your anti-spam software (or get one if you don’t have one already) to protect your inbox from future DSD attacks.

Hackers only initiate DSD attacks after they’ve obtained their target’s email address and personal information, so make sure your accounts and identity are well protected. This means you should regularly change your passwords and pins, enable multi-factor authentication, set up text alerts for whenever online purchases are made in your name, and be careful about sharing personal information.

For more tips on how to deal with DSDs or other cyberattacks, call us today at 800-421-7151. We offer powerful tools and expert advice that will ensure your business’s safety.

WARNING: Your Business Is More Likely To Be The Victim Of Cybercrime NOW Than Ever Before…Take These Steps Today So You Don’t Get Hacked!

Though we’re in the midst of an unprecedented rise in high-profile cybercrime incidents, it’s easy to assume that our own much smaller businesses are safe. Sure, we think, hacking into the data stores of J.P. Morgan, the U.S. Government, or Virgin America can net hackers millions and millions of dollars.  Why would they bother with a small business?
But unfortunately for all of us, hackers actually do bother with small businesses across the country — these attacks just don’t make the news. By some estimates, including one reported in Media Planet, more than half of small businesses have had their data compromised. According to StaySafeOnline.org, these attacks, targeting small to midsize companies, now comprise over 70% of all data breaches. What’s worse, this digital onslaught shows no sign of slowing. In fact, ransomware attacks alone have increased 250% since 2016, accompanied by higher rates of malware, phishing, and other forms of cybercrime.
Once you see these numbers, it’s easy to understand why hackers seek the little guy. These days, massive corporations like Google or Citigroup employ incredibly sophisticated digital measures. Their digital vaults, though containing ludicrously attractive sums of potential money to grab, are located at the end of a virtual labyrinth covered in traps, with a final, inches-thick steel door protecting their assets for good measure. In contrast, the digital assets of small businesses are often hidden behind nothing more than a single, often weak,
password. With thousands of business owners going about their day-to-day, utterly oblivious to their paper-thin security, the question turns from “Why would hackers bother with my small business?” to “Why wouldn’t they?”
Though cybercriminals may come away with less than they might have had they targeted a Fortune 500 company, it certainly isn’t going to seem cheap to you. According to one TechRepublic analysis, an average
cyber-attack on a small business can cost as much as $256,000. Is that a sudden cost your company can weather?
Luckily, there is hope. Though small business owners often assume that effective cyber security solutions lie far outside their budget range, robust digital security is now more affordable than ever. By investing in comprehensive protection, small businesses can deflect even the most persistent hackers.
Today, a cyber-attack on your business is almost statistically inevitable. And when that attack comes, you’ll definitely want to be prepared. If you haven’t needed a doctor for the past two years, does that mean you’re
going to abandon your health insurance coverage? Of course not. What about car insurance? Does it become unnecessary in the absence of a crash? No, because even if you’re the best driver in the world, sometimes a collision is out of your control. What’s more, both your body and your car require regular upkeep and maintenance to remain in peak condition. It’s no different with your network security. As technology hurtles forward at an ever-increasing speed, the ways that hackers can infiltrate your network multiply. The best digital security platforms constantly update, enabling them to anticipate these shifts and prevent them from becoming liabilities. This way, you can be proactive prior to a digital crisis, ensuring that no matter what comes, your network is protected.
Even as digital crime climbs at a staggering rate, and hundreds of small businesses are forced to close their doors for good, thousands of owners fail to notice, assuming they’ll somehow be spared from an attack. Don’t be one of them. Invest in regularly maintained, powerful cyber security, and ensure the future of your company. Call us at 800-421-7151 to take the first step.

The “Not Me!” Problem…And Why This Is Almost Guaranteed TO Happen To You

Security this, password that – now they want a password with 14 characters with two symbols? And I have to change it every three months? As difficult as it is to remember 24 different passwords, four PIN numbers and a slew of new cyber security processes, we still manage to instantly recall most of the tangible things in our lives. The code for the company door and alarm system, the passcode to our phones, the garage code, the other garage code – you get the idea.

But these numbers are based upon a time when the most “real” threat seemed to be someone busting in our door and threatening our families in the middle of the night. In 2018, those kinds of physical threats are far less

statistically prevalent than cybercrime. In fact, data breaches and identity theft are occurring at three times the rate that home burglaries occur in the U.S. according to a 2016 study by the University of Kentucky.

Don’t succumb to the “Not me!” approach to the shift in crime. Understand that it can happen to you, and approach all aspects of physical and electronic security with the attention they deserve. Have any questions about your security? Call our experts at 800-421-7151 today!

Fortify Your Data, Physically

Truly optimized security settings and software are beyond the capacity of most business owners. You just don’t have time to tinker with your office IT. Instead, try these quick and easy tips before calling us.

Cover Up Your Webcam

There must be some credibility to doing this if Facebook founder, Mark Zuckerberg, former FBI director, James Comey, and NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden all believe their webcams could be compromised. This is not just another paranoid celebrity reaction to ruthless paparazzi, there’s a genuine reason behind it. Kindly take a moment to consider the following scenario: hackers using your webcam to spy on you.

Though it might sound unrealistic, this actually happened on several occasions. Sometimes for purely voyeuristic reasons and sometimes what appeared to be espionage. This is a very real threat with disturbing repercussions. Hackers aim to gain personal information based on your surroundings, deduce your location, as well as spy on the people you’re with, ultimately using this information to hold you ransom, threatening to broadcast your most intimate and vulnerable moments if you don’t pay up.

Fortunately, guarding yourself against such danger is really easy and some painter’s tape over your webcam should do the trick. If you’re not confident about regular tape, you can purchase a cheap webcam cover online or at any hardware store.

Purchase a Privacy Shield

Think of privacy guards as those iPhone scratch protectors, but with an anti-snooping feature. These are thin covers you put on your computer, laptop or smartphone screen to limit viewing angles. Once installed, anyone trying to look at your screen from anywhere – except straight-on – sees nothing. Privacy filters are commonly used to protect work devices, particularly which display or contain critical files with sensitive data or confidential information. However, less sensitive, personal devices are still vulnerable to ‘shoulder surfing’ – the act of peeking at someone else’s screen, with or without ill intent, which is why we recommend using these protectors on all your devices.

Use a Physical Authentication Key

Requiring more than one set of credentials to access sensitive resources is common sense, and has become standard practice for established online services. With something called two-factor authentication in place, you gain access to your account only after you’ve entered the authentication code, which the website sends to your smartphone once you’ve entered your account credentials. Until recently, two-factor authentication relied mostly on text messages that were sent to mobile phones. But professionals have now realised that phones can be hijackedto redirect text messages.

Moreover, authentication codes can be stolen, or users can be tricked into entering these codes via a convincing phishing website. If you’re looking for authentication services that cannot be hijacked, stolen or lost, your best bet is a USB or Bluetooth key you can carry on your keychain. This means nobody — not even you — will be able to access your account without the physical key. Ultimate security at your fingertips.

If you need help setting up two-factor authentication, or any IT security services, contact our experts at 800-421-7151 and experience true peace of mind as we fortify your data to no end.

The Risks of Auto-Complete Passwords

If you’re disturbed by advertisements and “helpful” suggestions that are based on your internet browsing habits, recent research has found yet another source of online tracking. It’s a sneaky tactic that also comes with serious security concerns. Let’s take a look at what you can do to stop it from targeting you.

Why auto-fill passwords are so dangerous

In 2015, the average internet user had 90 online accounts, a number that has undoubtedly grown since then. This has forced users to create dozens of passwords, sometimes because they want to practice healthy security habits and other times because the platforms they’re using have different password requirements.

Web browsers and password manager applications addressed this account overload by allowing usernames and passwords to be automatically entered into a web form, eliminating the need for users to hunt down the right credentials before logging in.

The process of tricking a browser or password manager into giving up this saved information is incredibly simple. All it takes is an invisible form placed on a compromised webpage to collect users’ login information without them knowing.

Using auto-fill to track users

Stealing passwords with this strategy has been a tug-of-war between hackers and security professionals for over a decade. However, it has recently come to light that digital marketers are also using this tactic to track users.

Two groups, AdThink and OnAudience, have been placing these invisible login forms on websites as a way to track which sites users visit. These marketers made no attempts to steal passwords, but security professionals said it wouldn’t have been hard to accomplish. AdThink and OnAudience simply tracked people based on the usernames in hidden auto-fill forms and sold that information to advertisers.

One simple security tip for today

Turn off auto-fill in your web browser. It’s quick, easy, and will go to great lengths to improve your account security.

  • If you use Chrome – Open the Settings window, click Advanced, and select the appropriate settings under Manage Passwords
  • If you use Firefox – Open the Options window, click Privacy, and under the History heading select “Firefox will: Use custom settings for history.” In the new window, disable “Remember search and form history.”
  • If you use Safari – Open the Preferences window, select the Auto-fill tab, and turn off all the features related to usernames and passwords.

This is just one small thing you can do to keep your accounts and the information they contain safe. For managed, 24×7 cybersecurity assistance that goes far beyond protecting your privacy, call us today at 800-421-7151.

2018: The Year of Social Media

Big-name social media platforms such as Instagram, Facebook and Snapchat are more interactive and responsive than ever. However, these platforms now have a plan to move another step forward in 2018. Here are the top 5 trends you should watch out for this year.

  1. The boom of Augmented Reality
    The launch of the new iPhones – both 8 and X – last September brought with it an under-the-radar change to the devices. The incorporation of a new chip provides iPhone users with extraordinary augmented reality (AR) experiences. While most conversations about AR focus on the mobile gaming experience, social media platforms will likely find a way to integrate the new technology as well.
  2. Influencer marketing
    Influencer marketing has proven to be the best way forward for companies to connect with younger audiences. Titanic companies such as The North Face, HubSpot and Rolex are great examples of companies which have profited heavily from social media-based influencer marketing. By contrast, companies that opted for traditional strategies struggled to connect to social media users, indicating that influencer marketing is here to stay and blossom in 2018.
  3. All eyes on Gen Z
    The oldest Gen Z-er is 22 years old and is only just heading into the labor market, meaning they’re going to start spending more money for sometime to come. Brands recognize this, and are aiming to shift their social media strategies to appease the newest customers on the market. Investment in platforms like Snapchat and Instagram is expected to grow exponentially this year.
  4. The growing importance of messaging platforms
    A recent study pointed out that over 2.5 billion people use messaging platforms like WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger and Kik to connect with companies. Rather than simply publishing marketing content to profiles and feeds, companies should focus on making it easier for customers to start one-on-one conversations. Therefore, it is more than likely that artificial intelligence, voice assistants and chatbots will all be integrated into messaging platforms for a more personalized user experience.
  5. Digital hangouts go mainstream
    In 2017, video content – including live broadcasts and chats platforms – was more prominent than ever, and live videos were definitely a successful part of it. This means digitally hanging out with friends and colleagues will become a social norm, as evidenced by the video hangout platform known as Houseparty, which boasts of over one million daily users.

With Gen Z-ers becoming a larger part of the buying marketing, companies will utilize social media platforms to their fullest by incorporating a wide variety of targeted methods to capture their attention. These methods involve technologies that were unimaginable only a few years ago, such as virtual reality and augmented reality. Moreover, investments in optimizing messaging platforms and influencer marketing also signals the start of a newer, more interconnected era between businesses and customers.

Small Business IT Hardware Checklist

It’s frustrating to return to the office after a long holiday only to be greeted by a disorganized workstation. If having clean, hassle-free technology is one of your company’s New Year’s resolutions, this technology hardware checklist can help.

✓ Clean up your computer components
Wipe your monitor with a clean, static-free fabric; remove excess dirt from your mouse’s exterior; and tidy up your keyboard with compressed air. Don’t forget your computer tower! Dust build-up can block your computer’s air vent and affect its performance. Ensure that your workstation is getting adequate ventilation and isn’t directly exposed to sunlight and other heat sources.

✓ Manage your cables
If you’re not giving your computers’ cables the attention they deserve, now’s a good time to do so. Other than wiping the thick coat of dust on computers’ cables, consider using cable management solutions that declutter and untangle messy wires. These don’t just organize and secure your cables, they also help ensure your PCs run quieter and are less prone to overheating as a result of blocked air vents.

Planning to relocate or upgrade in the near future? Organizing your computers’ cables now makes future relocation and upgrading processes much easier.

✓ Review and update your inventory
Keeping an inventory of all your hardware helps you manage hardware lifecycles and purchases, identify items that are near their end of life, and ensure you avoid duplicate purchases of items already in-stock.

Your inventory list should include all owned and leased devices: PCs and laptops, printers and scanners, tablets and smartphones, and modems and other network hardware. Update all your assets’ serial numbers and keep track of their respective users and location.

✓ Printer maintenance
Clean the interiors and exteriors of your printers, including paper trays, which are sure to have accumulated dirt from years of use. You should also repair and/or replace parts and accessories such as printheads and cartridges that are no longer in good condition. Should you decide to do a complete printer maintenance, check for the latest software updates for your printers and install them immediately.

✓ Implement a hardware policy
This is also a good time to create a technology guideline that your employees can follow to ensure they work efficiently. These guidelines reduce the need to spend on unnecessary repairs, keeping the succeeding year’s checklist shorter. With clear instructions on the proper use, replacement, and storage of your hardware and devices, you’ll be better able to manage your hardware for years to come.

With a more organized IT hardware inventory, you have one less thing to worry about. Want to get more in-depth hardware management recommendations? Call our experts today at 800-421-7151.

What are Virtual Containers?

Virtual containers have recently gained prominence with the open-source container platform, Docker. It promises to change the way IT operations are carried out, just like virtualization technology did a few years ago. Read on to know more about this revolutionary breakthrough and how it can help your business.

What are containers and why are they so popular?

Virtual containers are similar to shipping containers, which have made the transport of bulky goods much easier.

Prior to the introduction of containers, virtual workstations and servers granted users access to software and computing power across a local network or the internet. This is what has become known as “cloud computing,” as it created entire desktop experiences over the internet.

However, there was room for improvement, as virtual machines are known to take up a lot of system resources.This is because they run a virtual copy of an operating system alongside a virtual copy of all the hardware that the operating system needs to run. Such heavy load on one machine quickly takes up a lot of RAM and CPU cycles, slowing processes down.

Containers improve on the inefficiencies of cloud computing by promising developers that their software will run smoothly, regardless of the type of computer their end users are running.

How do they improve on virtual desktops?

Virtual desktops deliver thousands of applications to meet the needs of your business. These applications also use different languages, databases, and tools. To deploy, configure, manage and deliver these complex machines takes a lot of time and money.

Containers are essentially a better way to package these applications and their components. This technology helps organizations become more consistent and agile by extracting the host’s underlying operating system, meaning applications can be packaged with all their dependencies. This in turn, allows developers to choose the right environments and tools that best suit their projects.

As of now, only a few types of software create and deliver containers, with the most popular being Docker. Container technology had been around for a while before the introduction of Docker, but it was complex to implement and manage. With the popularity of virtualization services, software vendors gained resources to develop and offer simple, user-friendly container solutions.

Although containers have improved enterprise computing as a whole, virtual machines have not been made obsolete, and can still be used under certain circumstances. Regardless, both solutions — containers and virtual machines — can repurpose old hardware to utilize software hosted in the cloud. All you need to get started is an internet connection and an experienced IT professional by your side.

Want to maximize your business potential through virtualization and containers but don’t have an IT professional to consult? Call us today.

It’s Not Too Late to Cash In on 2017’s IT Trends

“Fad” is a dirty word for many small-business owners. Whether it’s what they’re selling or what they’re investing in, business owners need long-term and reliable investments to secure their future. With 2017 in the rearview mirror, we finally know what was a fad and what was a smart investment. See for yourself!

Small Businesses Love the Cloud

According to research from IDC, more than 70% of businesses with 10-99 employees took advantage of cloud technology in 2017, and that number is expected to rise this year. This is largely due to IT providers demonstrating that the cloud is just as, if not more, secure than on-premises solutions. The list of possibilities for what can be hosted in the cloud on a small-business budget is getting longer every day — if you’re not devoting resources to this technology, it’s time to jump onboard.

Mobile Payments Earn Users’ Trust

Like the cloud, making credit card purchases using a mobile device suffered from a trust deficit in its early stages. For good reasons, consumers have been conditioned to treat IT security with caution, and storing financial information on a smartphone that could wirelessly transmit that information to cashiers sounded dangerous.

However, after two years of availability without any major incidents, the number of users who have used smartphone-based wallets like Apple Pay has doubled. Accepting these payments is relatively simple for small businesses and opens up new business opportunities.

Cybersecurity Becomes More Affordable

Ransomware had yet another year of explosive growth, and small firms and medium sized and businesses were a primary target. Thankfully, managed IT services providers met the increased demand for cybersecurity services with intelligent data backup and network protection solutions tailored for SMB budgets. There will be even more ransomware attacks in 2018, which means you should be investing in more cybersecurity services than you did last year.

The Internet of Things Gains Popularity

Just a couple years ago, Internet of Things (IoT) devices were novelty gadgets for people with money to burn. Everything was being connected to WiFi networks: egg trays, pet-activated video chats, belts, you name it. But due to more useful applications in 2017, nearly a third of US businesses are now taking advantage of IoT gadgets. Connected thermostats, door locks, and AI assistants make it easy to save money, increase security, and boost productivity.

“Artificial Intelligence” is Widely Adopted

Although we’re still far from building computers that can truly think for themselves, 2017 was the year that computers got much better at creatively organizing and interpreting data for us. From digital assistants that answer your phones to customer relationship management platforms that intelligently uncover sales opportunities, IT solutions for business are getting significantly cheaper and smarter. Experts predict that more than 30% of businesses will use AI by next year and we recommend you join their ranks.

Technology investments are no different from any other investment. There will always be risks and you should always consult with an industry expert first. When you’re ready to get more value out of your IT, give us a call at 800-421-7151 and we’ll get started on your 2018 plan!

Do You Really Want The Cheapest Working On Your Company’s Network?

These days, firms and small businesses are more dependent on IT systems than at any other time in history. Because of this, even the slightest technological hiccups in our cyberspace-centered workflow can have expensive, lasting consequences. Perhaps the most dramatic illustration of this occurred back in 2013, when Amazon went dark for half an hour. Sure, it was a paltry 30 minutes, no big deal, until you consider the megagiant was theoretically hemorrhaging $66,240 every 60 seconds, based on their quarterly revenue.

Of course, your company probably isn’t a staple of international commerce like Jeff Bezos’s beloved brainchild. Because of this, many small business owners think that a downed server or small security breach here and there won’t matter too much for their bottom line. For these unlucky few, IT takes a back seat to more “pressing” issues, and they go the cheap route with their provider. This cost-cutting solution seems like the idea of the year, and will undoubtedly work great for the business – until it doesn’t.

Maybe your long-time technicians fail to notice a piece of outdated equipment, and your server gives up the ghost during peak business hours. Virtually all work grinds to a halt, and your employees are forced to wile away the two hours shooting three-pointers into the trash bins. Add up the two hours of wasted wages for your entire team, the financial cost of missed business, and the much more intangible loss of customer goodwill as they struggle with diminished service on a workday, and you’ll come up with a sum that disabuses any business owner of their illusions about “cheap” IT.

And that’s not even close to the worst-case scenario. Imagine, for a minute, that your technicians assure you, despite the lack of regular monitoring and maintenance, your network is secure. These words of comfort sound nice until the day a team of expert hackers actually attempt to access your systems, and find outdated, ramshackle security solutions in place — basically, a front door left wide open. At that moment, your business becomes a criminal’s playground. They’re free to access financial information and personal data of your customers and employees, hijack your business to send out floods of malicious software and spam, hold nearly every aspect of the company ransom for thousands of dollars, and cause chaos to their heart’s content.

The fact is, fixing problems is a lot more expensive than preventing them. When you cut corners and utilize subpar IT professionals (if any at all), you’re paying for an array of shoddy, Band-Aid solutions that will be applied piecemeal, and usually too late, like a finger plugging a hole in a dam. But when you make a substantial investment in your IT support, you’re investing in the most basic aspects of the future of your company.

Robust network security, dependable computers and servers, consistent Internet access, and other fundamental components of your company network are far from luxury items. These days, technology forms the scaffolding upon which businesses run. If any piece of the operation fails, the whole system suffers, usually accompanied by a fat financial penalty.

There is an ever-growing, endless list of potential technological pitfalls that can have permanent consequences for your business: teams of hackers zeroing in on vulnerable small businesses, rogue employees with a grudge, lost laptops, aging and unreliable hardware, fire, natural disasters, and IT “professionals” that have no idea what they’re doing, to name just a few. As technology progresses, and companies depend increasingly on it to stay competitive, it simply doesn’t make sense to relegate IT to the neglected corners of your budget.

When it comes to business, there’s a lot to worry about these days. A total collapse of your company’s technological infrastructure doesn’t need to be one of them. Invest in a robust, managed IT package from tried-and tested professionals, and leave the worrying to the experts. You can rest assured that our IT team of experts truly has you covered. Call us today at 800-421-7151.

New add-ons for Gmail!

Google is giving people an early Christmas present this year with the launch of several third-party add-ons for Gmail. This might not be the most exciting news from the technology giant, but as with the majority of its new feature launches, you can expect them to make life much easier.

Google’s focus is on productivity services that are already connected to email systems one way or another. This is why they have partnered with Asana, Dialpad, DocuSign (coming soon), Hire (by Google), Intuit QuickBooks, ProsperWorks, RingCentral, Smartsheet, Streak, Trello, and Wrike for their first set of native extensions.

What are some features can you expect?

While each add-on’s capabilities are slightly different, what they have in common is functionality that allows you to track various tasks right from the Gmail interface.

For instance, Gmail users will be able to view tasks and track their progress right from their inboxes when they receive emails from other Asana users. The Trello add-on allows you to turn emails into actionable tasks where you’ll be able to comment and move cards without having to switch to Trello itself. And the RingCentral add-on will let you make outbound calls and view and send SMS messages right from your inbox.

What’s more, these integrations work in the mobile Gmail app on Android, too. Google is currently working with Apple to bring these add-ons to iOS and they should be available soon.

How to install these add-ons

Just head over to G Suite Marketplace and download any extension you want. Then, those add-ons will be visible on the right sidepane of your Gmail interface. Unfortunately, they aren’t available in Inbox by Gmail (Google’s other email client) just yet.

However, Google has made it easy for developers to create customized add-ons for their company with guidelines you can find here.

With the introduction of Gmail add-ons, it’s exciting to see what other integrations are in store for businesses in 2018. But until then, if you have any questions about how you can use the web and cloud technology to your business’s advantage, just give us a call at 800-421-7151.

Understanding Virtualization Strategies

If the phrase “virtualization technology” either stresses you out or puts you to sleep, this article is for you. We’re going to explain once and for all how this emerging trend works and how small businesses can take advantage of it.

What is the core concept of virtualization?

By virtualizing any of the items below, you can trick software into recognizing hardware when none actually exists. The easiest way to explain this is with examples from the most common type of this technology: hardware virtualization.

  • If you had one high-powered computer processor, virtualization would allow you to split it up and run four separate operating systems (Windows, Apple OS, etc.), each seemingly running on a standalone, low-powered processor.
  • Conversely, virtualization could also be used to connect four high-powered processors to create what your operating system would recognize as one ultra-fast piece of hardware.

This technology can be applied in a number of ways to create opportunities for more efficient resource utilization and cost savings.

Desktop virtualization

Sometimes referred to as cloud desktops, this form of virtualization grants you access to a fully functioning computer that you access via a local network or the internet. Somewhere, a server has allocated a portion of its hardware resources for your virtual desktop. With a keyboard, monitor, mouse, and extremely low-end computer, you can connect to this virtual desktop and utilize all the processing power and storage the server has set aside for it.

Application virtualization

By installing a program on a server hard drive, your employee workstations can use their computing resources to run the program, but restrict data from being stored on their hard drives. The program and the documents it creates will never leave the server hard drive, making it much harder for hackers to compromise them.

With more advanced virtualization solutions, your server can also allocate the computing resources necessary to run the program, meaning your workstations are merely a window to your server.

Storage virtualization

Similar to hardware virtualization, this strategy makes it easy to organize how your data is stored. In addition to combining hard drives across several computers into a massive virtual drive, storage virtualization also stores data based on how important it is. Frequently used documents are saved to your fastest drives and can be automatically backed up to the cloud.

Network virtualization

If your office has more than 10 workstations, it makes sense to consider network virtualization, which allows you to separate vulnerable devices. For example, if you had one server that handles a lot of web traffic and another that stored sensitive documents, you might want to connect them to different networks to avoid a cross contamination. Network virtualization would allow you to do that without buying any new hardware!

Even with our simplified explanations, virtualization is still a complicated subject. Rather than try to figure it out in a few hundred words, give us a call at 800-421-7151 and we’ll show you in person!

Do More with Microsoft Office!

Have you been putting off learning about all the features in Microsoft Word, Excel, or PowerPoint? We don’t blame you. But mastering them can be extremely beneficial. That said, here are some free training videos that will help you get more out of Microsoft Office.

Office Basics is a series of free Office training videos from Microsoft which cover different features and functionality.

Intro to Office Basics

This training video will help you use templates to create professional documents, learn the ins and outs of SmartArt and Charts to express complex data and ideas, and collaborate in shared documents whether you’re working online, offline, or simultaneously with others.

What is Office 365?

Discover the features and upgrades within Office 365 that aren’t available anywhere else, and learn how cloud versions of applications like Word, Excel, and Outlook differ from their desktop counterparts.

Word Training

These training videos will show you how to create and edit documents as well as create and format tables in just a few clicks. They also cover document makeovers, how to organize documents, creating mailing lists, and how to translate text instantly.

Excel Training

Creating, organizing, and analyzing data from charts and tables can be quite complicated, which is why these training videos are perfect for anyone looking to design workbooks, add text and data, format and analyze charts, and create pivot tables and formulas. Other tips include how to slice data and locate them using VLOOKUP.

PowerPoint Training

There’s more to PowerPoint than adding text to slides. These training videos will show you how to create presentations, add and format text, design presentations, add audio, video, and animations, and format images. You’ll also learn about nifty features such as how to match slide colors using the Eyedropper and how to export slides to videos.

Outlook Training

Organize your Outlook inbox with ease and learn how to add and format text and images, manage contacts, calendars, meetings, and to-do lists, as well as other tips such as how to spice up your email signature, keep your inbox clean, and hold meetings using Skype and OneNote.

Microsoft’s new training videos might not be jaw-dropping, but they will surely help users do more with Office. If you’d like to learn more about the benefits of Microsoft Office for small businesses, just give us a call at 800-421-7151 and we’ll be happy to help!

What you need to know about VPNs for Personal Use

With stories of large-scale data breaches and internet service providers tracking internet habits, online privacy is becoming a rare commodity. Incognito mode and private browsing features may be able to cover up your browsing history, but they don’t completely protect your online activities. You need a Virtual Private Network (VPN).

What is VPN?

Simply put, a VPN is a group of servers you connect to via the internet. Once you’ve established a connection, your computer acts as if it’s on the same local connection as the VPN, making it seem like you moved to a different location.

When you surf the web through a VPN, all the data transmitted and received is also encrypted, preventing anyone — from hackers to government agencies — from monitoring your online activities.

Why should you have one?

Of course, security and privacy are major reasons why you would want a VPN. For example, if you’re connected to a public WiFi network — like the ones you typically see in local cafes and airports — using a VPN encrypts the information you’re sending or accessing online. This means things like credit card details, login credentials, private conversations, or other sensitive documents can’t be intercepted by a third party.

VPNs are also useful for accessing geo-restricted websites. If you’re traveling abroad and certain US websites are blocked in that region, you can simply connect to a VPN located in the US to access the sites you need.

Which VPN should you choose?

Given the increasing demand for secure online privacy, VPNs are surging in popularity. The following considerations can help you find the right one.

1. Cost
While free VPNs are available, we strongly suggest you avoid them. These keep logs of your internet activity, and in some cases sell them to the highest bidder. Maintaining a VPN service is also expensive, which means the free ones will likely plaster ads on your browser to make a quick buck.

Paid VPNs like SurfEasy and StrongVPN often come with more robust features and configurations that keep you secure. What’s more, they don’t keep a record of the sites you visit and hound you with pop-ups that lead to dangerous websites.

2. Location
The physical location of VPN servers is important if you want to access region-blocked websites. So if you’re planning on accessing your VPN service while traveling, your VPN provider must at least have servers installed or accessible in the locations you will be in.

3. Capacity
Read through a VPN provider’s terms of service to determine how much data you’re allowed to use. If possible, find out how many servers a VPN provider has. If they have plenty of servers online, you can rest assured that they have the capacity to support your internet browsing.

4. Device compatibility
Another important factor to consider is whether the VPN can be used across multiple devices. Nowadays, employees work on laptops, tablets, and smartphones, so you’ll want a VPN that’s compatible with all these.

5. IP leaking
Finally, a great way to evaluate a VPN service is to sign up for their free trial service and visit https://ipleak.net/, which will allow you to check whether your real IP address is actually being leaked. If it manages to track your physical location, you need to opt for a more reliable VPN service.

The VPN services described in this article are for personal and private usage for home computers and personal laptops. These services may or may not integrate or work with corporate VPN’s that your firm or enterprise may currently be using.

VPNs are now a vital component of cybersecurity, and if you need help selecting the right VPN for your business or personal usage, consult with our security experts today by calling 800-421-7151 or emailing info@wamsinc.com. We also offer comprehensive cybersecurity services so no hacker or third party can get their hands on your data.

What’s New with the Chrome Cleanup Tool?

Even if you’re sure that the websites you visit are safe, harmful software can still slip through, especially when you download and install free programs and applications. As the world’s most popular browser, Chrome is especially prone to infection. Fortunately, Google has improved Chrome’s Cleanup tool for Windows by integrating the following security features.

Detect Hijacked Settings

Many users prefer to enhance their browsing experience by installing extensions or plug-ins, some of which could be malicious. When these extensions are installed, they could inject harmful ads into web pages or allow access to third-party servers without the user’s consent.

Google’s new hijacked settings detection function prevents this from happening. Once it detects an attempt by a third party to change your browser’s settings, it will automatically revert to Chrome’s default settings. And in case you suspect any unauthorized change in your browser, you can manually reset settings in Chrome.

Simplify Cleanup

You probably don’t remember downloading many of the files in your Downloads folder, but these are actually software and other attachments that were bundled with the software that you do use.

Chrome Cleanup’s newly simplified feature makes it easier for you to determine harmful files, easing the pain of sorting through and deleting tons of downloaded files. Whenever it detects a malicious software, users will get a pop-up message that offers them an easy way to remove the potential threat, get more details about it, or disregard it in case of false detection.

Maximize Removal of Nonessential Software

Aside from the simplified interface, Google also made some much-needed improvements in Chrome Cleanup’s performance, so it’s now capable of eliminating more junkware.

Tricking users into installing a program without their consent is one of the many characteristics of unwanted software that Google lists under its Unwanted Software Policy. To help fight against this and other browser security risks, the company has partnered with an IT security team to strengthen Chrome’s ability to detect and remove unwelcome add-ons.

It’s important to note that these upgrades don’t affect Chrome’s performance and speed because they work in the background. In addition, these changes are now available in Windows devices but will soon roll out to other platforms. In the meantime, if you want to find out more about browser and application security, contact our security specialists today at 800-421-7151!

Tips and Tricks to Prolong Laptop Battery Life

A laptop would just be a cold piece of aluminum with a flat battery if you don’t have a power socket at hand. It’s hard to get any work done when you’re peppered with pop-ups and warning messages when the battery power gets low. So here are some tips you can use to prolong the life of your precious laptop battery.

Some truths about your laptop battery

Batteries in many devices nowadays are lithium-based — either lithium-ion or lithium-polymer — so users must take note of the following guidelines for their proper maintenance:

  • They can’t be overcharged, even though you leave your battery plugged in for a long period of time. When the battery hits 100%, it’ll stop charging.
  • Leaving your battery completely drained will damage it.
  • Batteries have limited lifespans. So no matter what you do, yours will age from the very first time you charge it. This is because as time passes, the ions will no longer be able to flow efficiently from the anode to the cathode, thereby reducing its capacity.

What else can degrade your battery

Besides its being naturally prone to deterioration, your battery can degrade due to higher-than-normal voltages, which happens when you keep your battery fully charged at all times. Even though a modern laptop battery cannot be overcharged, doing so will add a stress factor that’ll harm your battery.

Both extremely high temperatures (above 70°F) and low temperatures (between 32-41°F) can also reduce battery capacity and damage its components. The same goes for storing a battery for long periods of time, which can lead to the state of extreme discharge. Another factor is physical damage. Remember that batteries are made up of sensitive materials, and physical collision can damage them.

How to prolong your battery life

Now that you know some facts about your laptop battery, it’s time to learn how to delay its demise:

  • Never leave your battery completely drained.
  • Don’t expose your battery to extremely high or low temperatures.
  • If possible, charge your battery at a lower voltage.
  • If you need to use your laptop for a long period of time while plugged into a power source, it’s better to remove the battery. This is because a plugged-in laptop generates more heat which will damage your battery.
  • When you need to store your battery for a few weeks, you should recharge your battery to 40% and remove it from your laptop for storage.

These are just a few tips on extending the life of your hardware. There are many more ways you can maximize your hardware efficiency and extend its longevity. Call our experts today to find out more at 800-421-7151!

Cybercriminals Confess

 The Top 5 Tricks, Sneaky Schemes And Gimmicks They Use To Hack Your Computer Network

The contemporary world is rife with digital thieves. They’re penetrating the complicated data structures of huge credit-monitoring companies like Equifax, scooping up the personal information of millions of people. They’re releasing sensitive customer data to the public from discreet businesses like Ashley Madison. They’re watching webcam feeds of our celebrities without them knowing; they’re locking down the systems of public utilities like the German railway system; they’re even managing to steal thousands of gigabytes of information directly from high-profile government entities like the CIA.

They’re also targeting small businesses exactly like your own and extorting them for thousands and thousands of dollars. When running a company, it’s vital to have a dedicated security team, equipped with the most up-to-the-minute security technology, on your side to protect you from these malicious cyberthreats. But it’s not enough to leave it to somebody else. You also need to be informed. Here are five of the most common ways hackers infiltrate your network:

1 Phishing Scams

You receive an e-mail in your work inbox coming directly from a high-ranking employee with whom you’ve been

working on a project. Inside is a link he needs you to click to access some “vital information,” but when you click it, it rapidly installs a host of malware on the computer, spreads through the network and locks out everyone in the company.

Phishing scams are the oldest trick in a hacker’s book – ever received one of those “Nigerian Prince” scams? – but they’re still wildly successful. Not only that, but they’re becoming increasingly more sophisticated. As Thomas Peters writes for “Newsweek,” “The best messages look like they’re trying to protect the company. One well-meaning system administrator even offered to post a PDF that could deliver malware on an internal server because it was called, ‘How to avoid a phishing attack.’” How’s that for irony?

2 Social Engineering

Social engineering is a type of “hacking” that uses real, well-intentioned people to carry out its schemes, rather than intricate lines of code. This is especially effective for gathering sensitive information that can later be used

in another type of attack – e-mail passwords used for phishing scams, for example. Maybe your IT guy receives a call from the “secretary” of one of your clients, pretending that they’re experiencing problems with your

service due to some firewall, a problem that your IT professional is more than happy to help out with. Before you know it, the caller knows the ins and outs of your entire security system, or lack thereof. Social engineers have been known to use phone company customer service departments, Facebook and other services to gather Social Security or credit card numbers, prepare for digital robbery and even change the passwords to your central data network security.

3 Password Hacking

You may think that your passwords are clever and complicated, filled with exclamation points and random numbers, but it’s rarely enough. With information gathered carefully from social engineering or a simple check on your employees’ social media accounts, hackers can easily use brute-force to figure out that your password

is the name of the family dog, followed by your anniversary (for example). That’s if they didn’t already manage to steal your password through one of the techniques listed above.

4 Fault Injection

Sophisticated hackers can scan your business’s network or software source code for weak points. Once they’re

located, they can surgically attempt to crash the system through snippets of code they splice in expressly for that purpose. Different commands can do different things, whether they want to deliver a devastating virus,

redirect links on your website to malicious malware or steal and erase vast swathes of information.

5 USB-based Malware

At the last conference you attended, someone probably handed out free branded USB sticks to keep their business top-of-mind. Hackers will sometimes covertly slip a bunch of infected USB sticks into a company’s stash. The instant somebody tries to use one, their computer is taken over by ransomware.

So What Can I Do About It?

It’s a scary world out there, with virtually everyone left vulnerable to digital attack. Knowing the strategies hackers deploy is half the battle. But, frankly, these techniques are constantly changing; it’s impossible to keep up by yourself.

That’s why it’s so important to utilize only the most up-to-date security solutions when protecting your business. Hackers move fast. You and your security technology need to stay one step ahead, and WAMS will help you to do just that. Give us a call at 800-421-7151 to find out how.

Benefits of Serverless Computing

“Serverless computing” sounds like a dream come true. It conjures images of a world where business owners don’t need to worry about purchasing expensive hardware or configuring complex software. But serverless computing isn’t just a dream, it’s the next big thing in cloud computing.

What is it?

Outsourcing workloads to the cloud — like websites and apps — requires just as much hardware as if the computations were performed in an on-site server. The only difference is the location of the server.

Office 365 or Google Docs are great examples of this model. Thousands of servers are set up to run these apps so there is always enough capacity to handle the millions of people who use these apps at any given moment. Microsoft and Google need to manage and maintain these servers 24/7 to keep up with demand so they’re always on and always ready to handle more workloads, even during off-peak hours.

Serverless computing changes everything by allowing developers to create apps and websites that use cloud resources only when they’re needed. So, if you were to create a web app, you wouldn’t need to pay for a dedicated cloud server. The cloud provider would host your app’s programming code and run it only when a user requested it. The cloud provider would take care of allocating the appropriate resources and charge by the second for what you use.

Who can benefit from it?

Serverless computing is for users who use cloud resources for processing power. If you’re using the cloud only to store files, serverless services aren’t going to help you. However, if you use the cloud to process information and turn it into something more useful, serverless computing will help you immensely.

An everyday example of this is Amazon’s Alexa. Every command the AI assistant responds to is nothing more than an app that sits dormant until a user tells Alexa to run it. Small businesses are creating apps in Amazon’s cloud that can be processed by the voice assistant without the burden of setting up a dedicated server.

Serverless computing isn’t about getting rid of servers; it’s about using their raw computing power without being forced to fine tune them first. It falls under the umbrella of virtualization technology and is another step in the right direction for small businesses working with limited budgets.

For more information about how virtualization can help you lower costs and increase efficiencies, give us a call today at 800-421-7151.

Google Weighs in on Account Hijacking

According to experts, passwords shouldn’t be the only way you defend your accounts. After all, hackers have plenty of tricks and tools to steal them. So to help businesses fully understand the risks involved, Google conducted a study on the causes of account hijacking.

The results
From March 2016 to March 2017, Google and UC Berkeley researchers examined three main ways hackers hijack accounts:

Keylogging software – a malicious program that records computer users’ keystrokes
Phishing emails – to lead people into dangerous websites
Stolen passwords – available to the highest bidder
In just one year, Google found 788,000 successful keylogging attacks, 12.4 million victims of phishing attacks, and 1.9 billion accounts exposed via login credentials sold on the black market.

Researchers suggest the reason so many accounts are hacked is because people tend to reuse their passwords, which means if one set of login credentials is exposed, other accounts could be compromised.

Phishing is also a big threat because it targets users — the weakest links in your cybersecurity. The strongest password or security system won’t mean anything if your employees constantly fall for online scams.

Protecting your accounts

There are several things you can do thwart account hijacking. For starters, you should set strong and unique passwords for each account to minimize data breaches.

While the general rule in the past was to set a complex password — a mix of letters, numbers, and symbols — recent studies suggest that longer, 20-character “passphrases” are much tougher to crack. If you find it difficult to remember several passwords, consider using a password manager, which not only stores all your passwords, but can generate strong passwords, too.

To deal with phishing attacks, you should activate multi-factor authentication on your accounts. This adds an extra layer of identity verification to your password (e.g., a fingerprint scan or a temporary security key sent to your phone), making your login details ‘unphishable.’

Security training is also crucial. This includes teaching your employees about what phishing attacks look like and instructing them on password protection best practices so they never fall victim to account hijacking.

The bottom line is not only that strong password security requires strong defense mechanisms; you and your employees must be vigilant, too.

Need more advice on keeping your business safe? Call us today at 800-421-7151! We provide critical security updates and comprehensive support services to help you stay well ahead of cybercriminals.

Beware of Sneaky Microsoft Office Malware

Cybersecurity systems are getting better at identifying and preventing attacks coming from all directions. At the same time, hackers are coming up with new ways to bypass these systems. While online scams are the most common ways to do this, cybercriminals have discovered a new attack method using Microsoft Office.

What’s the new Office threat?
The Office exploit takes advantage of Microsoft’s Dynamic Data Exchange (DDE), a protocol that sends messages and data between applications. For example, DDE can be used to automatically update a table in a Word document with data collected in an Excel spreadsheet.

The problem with this is hackers can create DDE-enabled documents that link to malicious sources rather than to other Office apps. Theoretically, this allows hackers to launch scripts that download Trojan viruses from the internet and execute it before the user is even aware of the attack.

And unlike most malware-embedded Office files, which are usually blocked by security protocols from Microsoft, DDE exploits are instant. Once a compromised Word file is opened, it automatically executes the hack.

Outlook at risk
What’s even more alarming are the DDE vulnerabilities in Outlook. Recent reports found that hackers can embed malicious code in the body of an email or calendar invite, allowing them to perform phishing scams without a file attachment.

Fortunately, Outlook DDE attacks are not as automated as Word or Excel DDE attacks. Two dialog boxes will usually appear when you open the email asking if you want to update a document with data from linked files and start a specific application. Simply clicking ‘No’ on either of these boxes will stop the attack from executing.

Defending against DDE attacks

Beyond saying no, you can protect yourself by following these security best practices:

-Evaluate the authenticity of unsolicited emails before interacting with them and don’t open attachments from unfamiliar contacts.
-View emails in plain text format to completely stop DDE attacks embedded directly in emails from running. Note that this will also disable all original formatting, colors, images, and buttons.
-Use a strong email security system that prevents phishing emails, spam, and other unwanted messages from reaching your inbox.

Get in the habit of checking for Microsoft updates, as they’re usually quick to release patches after vulnerabilities have been discovered.
Last but not least, consider working with our team. We’re Microsoft Office experts who can keep you safe from the latest threats. Call us today to get started at 800-421-7151!

How The Cloud Could Have Averted Disaster For Hundreds Of Companies Affected By These Catastrophes

Two months after hurricanes Harvey and Irma wreaked havoc on coastal cities, large swaths of the United States are still reeling from their impact. In their wake, the nation has been moved as we witness numerous communities unite to rebuild, finding their bearings among the millions of dollars of flooding damage and rampant destruction. Though the wonderful people of these cities will persevere, these wounds will leave indelible scars on the affected areas.

Even with the concerted efforts of thousands of volunteers and community members alike, Russel Honore — the former Joint Task Force Katrina commander — told the FOX Business Network that an estimated “40% of small businesses don’t survive” widespread natural disasters like hurricanes. Part of this is due to raw damage, lack of proper insurance or business infrastructure simply being washed away in the flood. Other businesses can’t afford to hemorrhage money as they wait for the electricity grid to come back online, and are forced to shutter operations for good.

However, what is even more commonly fatal to companies both big and small is the loss of vital data. Many businesses can handle cleaning up flood damage, and they regain their footing quickly after a naturaldisaster. Still, if on-site servers, computers or network infrastructure soaks up the bruntof the water, then it’s going to be difficult, if not impossible, to get the company back to a pre-disaster point. If a company’s main server fails, it can mean thousands of hours of hard work down the drain, the loss of most clientele and hundreds of hours of downtime spent desperately trying to recover key data, which usually remains lost
forever.

But if, prior to catastrophe, a business has migrated their precious data to the cloud, they’re going to have a much easier time getting back on their feet and going straight to work. Even if an entire business is leveled, with cloud computing, employees can easily access the data central to the company’s operation and keep it afloat in
the interim.

Most cloud services back up your data with several levels of redundancy, making it almost impossible to lose it all, regardless of what may come. Whether it’s earthquakes, hurricanes or solar flares, you can rest easy knowing that your data is safe and sound and ready for you to access it. It’s a much safer, more secure way to go than having a server lurking in your back office, where it’s far more exposed than you might think.

This principle applies not only to environmental disasters, but to numerous other ways companies lose data each and every day. Whether it’s a disgruntled employee damaging or stealing precious data, or a hacker snaking their way deep into your systems and holding them for ransom, it’s all too easy to lose localized data. Some business owners feel uncomfortable holding their data off-site, citing security concerns, but it’s quite the opposite: the cloud sidesteps these concerns almost entirely, guarding your data behind highly secure cloud-based computing solutions and providing you with numerous backup options. Not to mention, according to a 2012 Alert Logic report, “on-premises environment users actually suffer more incidents” than those that use the cloud, and also suffer “significantly more brute force attacks compared to their counterparts.”

While it’s true that not every business is right for the cloud, it’s certainly something business owners should look into if they want to ensure the longevity of their company. If you’re interested, sign up to get our free cloud computing report.

Watch Out for the Huge KRACK in WiFi Security!

A fundamental flaw with WiFi networks has recently been discovered by two security researchers. According to their reports, the KRACK vulnerability renders advanced encryption protocols useless and affects nearly every wireless device. Read on to find out more about KRACK hacks and how you can defend against them.

What is KRACK?
Simply put, KRACK, short for ‘key reinstallation attack,’ allows hackers to bypass WPA2 — a security protocol used by routers and devices to encrypt activity — and intercepts sensitive data passing between the mobile device and the wireless router, including login details, credit card numbers, private emails, and photos.

In extreme cases, KRACKed devices can be remotely controlled. For example, hackers can log in to your surveillance systems and shut them down.

What’s worse, Internet of Things devices — like smart thermostats and IP cameras — rarely receive security fixes, and even if some are available, applying patches are difficult, as these devices tend to have complex user interfaces.

The good news, however, is you can do several things to mitigate the risks.

Download patches immediately
According to recent reports, security patches have already been released for major platforms, including iOS, Windows, and Android. Router manufacturers such as Ubiquiti, Mikrotik, Meraki, and FortiNet have also issued firmware updates, so make sure to install them as soon as possible.

Although IoT patches are rare, consider getting your smart devices from reputable vendors that push out updates regularly. It’s also a good idea to contact a managed services provider to install the updates for you.

Use Ethernet connections
Some wireless routers don’t yet have a security patch, so while you’re waiting, use an Ethernet cable and disable your router’s wireless setting. Turn off the WiFi on your devices as well to make sure you’re not connecting to networks susceptible to KRACK.

Stay off public networks
Free public WiFi networks — even ones that are password-protected — in your local cafe should also be avoided because they usually don’t have holistic security measures in place, making them easy targets for cybercriminals.

Connect to HTTPS websites
If you do need to connect to a public WiFi hotspot, visit websites that start with “HTTPS,” and stay away from ones that are prefaced with “HTTP.” This is because HTTPS websites encrypt all traffic between your browser and the website, regardless of whether the connection is vulnerable to KRACK

Hop on a Virtual Private Network (VPN)
You can also use a VPN service to hide all network activity. Simply put, VPNs encrypt your internet connection so that all the data you’re transmitting is safe from prying eyes.

Although the potential impact of a KRACK hack is devastating, security awareness and top-notch support are the best ways to stay safe online. Want more security tips? Contact us today by emailing info@wamsinc.com.

How to Set Up Secure Guest Wi-Fi

Today, Wi-Fi isn’t only crucial for your employees to get work done, it’s also a necessary amenity for your office guests. But there’s a right and a wrong way to set up guest Wi-Fi and the latter can result in a frustrating experience for users. So, how do you set up guest Wi-Fi properly?

Never give guests access to your primary Wi-Fi

While giving guests password to your company’s main Wi-Fi might be the easiest way to get them connected, you should avoid this at all costs.

Anyone with a little technical know-how can potentially access everything on your company network, including confidential data. Not to mention, guests’ devices connected to your business network increase the risk of a malware infection or cyber attack since you can never be sure that they’re safe and secure.

Ways to create secondary Wi-Fi for guests

If you router has built-in guest Wi-Fi support (you can check this feature through a quick web search) you could use it to create a separate “virtual” network. This means guests will have access to the internet without connecting to your main company network.

If your router doesn’t support multiple Wi-Fi networks, you can implement a separate wireless access point that bypasses the rest of your network and connects directly to your Internet service provider (ISP) connection.

Both options will keep your guests’ connectivity separate from your company network so you’ll never have to worry about unauthorized persons accessing your company data.

Keep in mind that guest Wi-Fi still uses your ISP connection so you should limit bandwidth usage on your guest network. The last thing you want is a guest streaming videos that slow down the Internet for your employees. With that in mind, you can even have your employees use guest Wi-Fi for their personal devices too. This minimizes the chance of employees hogging company bandwidth for personal use.

Your guest Wi-Fi should only provide outsiders with internet access, nothing more. While proper setup isn’t rocket science, it can be a tedious process. Having said that, if you need a team of experts to take care of it all for you, or simply have questions about how else to leverage your hardware for better efficiency and security, just give us a call at 800-421-7151.

Secure Your Passwords Now

For years, we’ve been told that strong passwords include three things: upper and lower-case letters, numbers, and symbols. And why wouldn’t we when the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) told us they were the minimum for robust passwords? Here’s why and how it involves you.

The Problem
The issue isn’t necessarily that NIST advised people to create passwords that are easy to crack, but it did steer people into creating lazy passwords, using capitalization, special characters, and numbers that are easy to predict, like “P@ssW0rd1.”

This may seem secure, but in reality, these strings of characters and numbers could easily be compromised by hackers using common algorithms.

To make matters worse, NIST also recommended that people change their passwords regularly, but did not define what it actually means to “change” them. Since people thought their passwords were already secure with special characters, most only added one number or symbol.

NIST essentially forced everyone, including you and your colleagues, to use passwords that are hard for humans to remember but easy for computers to guess.

The Solution

One cartoonist pointed out just how ridiculous NIST’s best practices were when he revealed that a password like “Tr0ub4dor&3” could be cracked in only three days while a password like “correcthorsebatterystaple” would take about 550 years.

Simply put, passwords should be longer and include nonsensical phrases and English words that make it almost impossible for an automated system to make sense of.

Even better, you should enforce the following security solutions within your company:

Multi-factor Authentication – which only grants access after you have successfully presented several pieces of evidence
Single Sign-On – which allows users to securely access multiple accounts with one set of credentials
Account Monitoring Tools – which recognize suspicious activity and lock out hackers

When it comes to security, ignorance is the biggest threat. If you’d like to learn about what else you can do to fortify security, just give us a call at 800-421-7151.

New Version of Microsoft Office Announced

Do you use Microsoft Word, PowerPoint or Excel on a daily basis? You’re not alone. The Office suite has more than one billion users, and with a new version coming out next year that number could go up. Whether your organization currently uses Office or not, you need to be prepared for the next version.

Microsoft Office 2019: release and features

For the past ten years, Microsoft has updated its suite of productivity software every three years. The current version is Office 2016, and in sticking with the schedule Office 2019 will be available for purchase at the end of next year. However, previews of the next version will become available several months before the final release.

According to Microsoft, the newest version of Office will include:

-The usual Office applications (Word, Excel, PowerPoint, etc.)
-Office server programs (Exchange, SharePoint and Skype for Business)
-Security and IT management enhancements
-Improved “inking” features for touchscreen usability
-Streamlined data analysis features in Excel
-New PowerPoint presentation features like Morph and Zoom
-Office 2019 vs. Office 365

The biggest difference between Office 2019 and Office 365 will be price. For the former, users pay a one-time fee to acquire a software license. Once users have a license, they own that version of Office forever (although Microsoft will stop providing support 10 years after the product is released).

With Office 365, users pay a monthly subscription fee and can use applications as long as they don’t fall behind on the bill. Programs included in the Office suite can be accessed online or installed locally (as long as you connect to the internet at least once per month).

Thanks to cloud technology, Office 365 can be updated much more easily than other versions of Office. O365 users will probably have access to Office 2019 features around the same time as its release, possibly sooner.

The only drawback of Office 365 is its IT management requirements. Unlike its licensed counterparts, O365 requires one or more servers to be set up, domains to be maintained, and files to be migrated to the cloud.

Much like an O365 subscription, our managed IT services are charged based on a flat monthly rate. We can help your small- or medium-sized business enjoy all the benefits of the cloud. Just give us a call today at 800-421-7151.

The Best Computer Productivity Hacks

We’re all obsessed with finding new ways to become more productive. Business gurus often emphasize the importance of time management and taking breaks to avoid burnout. But aside from motivating yourself to work more efficiently, there are plenty of tools that increase your daily output. If you use a computer all day, check out these productivity hacks.

Monitor Productivity Levels
Start by tracking how much work you complete on an average day. Google Chrome Extensions like RescueTime record your most frequently visited sites, and track how much time you spend away from your computer. Running the app will provide you with a productivity rating and a detailed log of how you spend an average day.

If you find out you’re wasting a huge portion of your time on social networking, you’re more likely to make conscious adjustments on how you manage your time.

Get Rid of Clutter
Another way to increase output is by deleting old files, uninstalling unused programs, and organizing documents into appropriately labeled folders. This makes your work easier to find and improves your computer’s performance.

As for the clutter in your email inbox, Gmail and Outlook both have features that filter out unimportant messages. Simply enable Priority Inbox on Gmail or Clutter on Outlook to get a clean, spam-free inbox.

Block Time-Wasting Sites
Visiting non-work-related websites is a surefire way to hinder productivity. A quick, five-minute break to check your Facebook feed or watch a YouTube clip may not seem like much, but a few of those per day add up to a lot of time.

If you and your employees have trouble staying away from sites like Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, it’s a good idea to block access to them using URL filters.

Of course, if you want your employees to take occasional breaks during the day, you could use apps like StayFocusd or Strict Workflow. These allow you to set a limit on how long and how many times users can visit non-work-related sites.

Stay On Track with To-Do Lists
To-do lists help you break down large projects into manageable, bite-sized tasks. And perhaps the most satisfying aspect is crossing things off the list, giving you and your employees a sense of accomplishment and total visibility of your progress.

There are wide variety of digital to-do lists available today like Google Tasks or Trello. These platforms allow you to set deadlines for small tasks and write clear instructions for each item on the list. What’s more, they’re incredibly easy to use and are great for keeping track of your workflow.

Use Keyboard Shortcuts
Last but not least, mastering keyboard shortcuts will make it easier to perform simple functions than if you’re stuck looking for them in the toolbar. There are more than a hundred useful shortcuts, but some that you should always keep in mind are:

Ctrl + C, Ctrl + V, Ctrl + X – to copy, paste, and cut selected items
Ctrl + Z – to undo changes
Ctrl + T – to open a new tab on your web browser
Alt + Tab – to switch between open windows
Alt + F4 – to close the program
For many more like these, take a look at Windows’ list of advanced shortcuts.

These are just some of the tips every user should know to stay productive. If you need more ideas on how to get more out of your technology, call us today. We provide enterprise-level tools and advice that will make your life a lot easier.

Office 365 Web App Launcher Improvements

Do you sometimes wish you could get to your Office 365 applications faster? Microsoft has tweaked the Office 365 web app launcher so you not only get to your apps faster, but you also get to view your most relevant programs, files, contacts, and activities more conveniently. Here’s how it can make you more productive.

Key changes to the Office 365 main page

The newly added “Recommended” section displays activities — comments, edits, and @ mentions — on recently opened files. This gives users an overview of changes to recent documents.

Underneath the “Recommended” section is the “Recent” document column, which shows the most recent activities, while “Places” displays the SharePoint sites you frequently visit and the OneDrive folders you’ve recently accessed.

Being able to see the edits, shares, and comments on your documents makes collaboration more transparent among users within an organization, and these new upgrades make that possible.

What’s more, you can now search among online documents, web apps, SharePoint sites, and contacts within Office.com without having to open individual apps. For example, when searching for a document whose file name you don’t know, you can type in the name of the author and the results will show you the author’s profile and other relevant files and activities.

Web app launcher enhancements

One of the biggest improvements to Office.com, however, is how apps are displayed in the app launcher.

The main window of the new web app launcher has been redesigned to highlight the most frequently used apps. It will still show all the apps within your Office 365 subscription, but you can pin your most used apps or display all items in the main bar, which makes opening and switching between apps a lot easier.

You can also return to the main page with a single click of the Office 365 button from the App Launcher — no need to minimize or close each app.

Office 365 Gallery

Users aren’t always aware of every application included in their subscription, which is what the Office 365 Gallery is for. Its main function is to provide users with personalized suggestions of applications — and their descriptions — which may be useful to their active tasks. These suggestions include links to mobile and desktop-based versions of the applications they recommend, and resources for learning more about them. To access the Gallery, click “Explore your applications” from the Office.com main page.

Each of the changes in the new and improved Office 365 are aimed at simplifying and personalizing business users’ experiences, and we recommend exploring the tools available to you. Call us at 800-421-7151 to know more about Office 365’s productivity-enhancing applications and features.

What Are the Advantages of SaaS?

Almost every business relies on software to operate, and for most SMBs and firms, the costs of software — including license and maintenance — are painfully expensive. So is there a solution that allows you to leverage the power of software without a high price tag? One candidate is the software delivery service called SaaS. Read on to learn more about it.

What is SaaS and what makes it appealing?

Software as a Service (SaaS) is a software delivery model that allows you, as a user, to access software from any device via the internet. This gives you more flexibility since you won’t have to come to the office to use the software, but will be able to work from anywhere that has an internet connection.

As opposed to a traditional on-premises setup where software is stored locally, SaaS software is hosted in the cloud, eliminating the need to buy new hardware or spend money on its maintenance. Besides, by transferring software hosting to a third party, you’re also outsourcing all the responsibilities that come with maintenance such as upgrades and troubleshooting.

Another aspect that sets SaaS apart from using on-premises software is licensing. With on-premises, you purchase a license and pay yearly support fees; while with SaaS, you pay a monthly or annual subscription fee that covers licenses, support, and other fees. This is advantageous since it allows you to spread out costs over time, instead of purchasing licenses outright.

Will my data be safe?

One of the issues that makes companies reluctant to switch to SaaS is data security. Who will own my data? Will my data be safe? What if the vendor goes out of business?

First of all, when you’re outsourcing your software to a SaaS vendor, you have to sign a service level agreement (SLA). Make sure that the SLA specifies that you own the data and that the vendor is obliged to provide access to your data even if they go bankrupt.

Secondly, it’s likely that data hosted by your SaaS vendor will be more secure than when it’s stored on your average SMB’s or firm’s network. That’s because SaaS vendors have to undergo strict security audits, forcing them to invest more in security, backup technology, and maintenance than a typical SMB has to.

Should I switch to SaaS or stick to on-premises?

SaaS is an ideal solution for firms and SMBs with straightforward business models that are looking for a way to reduce upfront costs. But if your business is large or has complex business processes, a traditional on-premises solution might be a better choice since it offers more functionality and allows for full customization.

Still unsure about whether SaaS is the right answer for your organization? Want to know more about SaaS before making the transition? Call us today at 800-421-7151. Our experts are ready to answer any questions you may have about SaaS!

Equifax’s Leak: Lessons Learned

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 call WAMS at 800-421-7151 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.

Office 365 Threat Comes with New Techniques

If you’re using Office 365, you wouldn’t want to miss this news: Online scammers are carrying out a highly customized spear-phishing campaign to steal Office 365 users’ credentials and attack organizations internally. Get yourself informed and read on.

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 and here’s a step-by-step guide on how 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 at 800-421-7151.

SMBs Survive Disasters With Virtualization

Hurricanes Harvey and Irma caused millions of dollars in damages. Some of that damage was unavoidable, but hundreds of businesses managed to stay open thanks to innovative virtualization solutions. If you’re not already taking advantage of this technology, it’s time to find out what you’re missing.

Virtual desktops

In most offices, employees are still dependent on desktop computers. Their workstations grant them access to everything from customer relationship software to company databases and when these computers go down, there’s no way to get work done. Virtualized desktops allow users to access their files and even computing power from across the internet.

Instead of logging on to an operating system stored on a hard drive just a few inches away from their keyboard, employees can take advantage of server hardware to store their files across a network. With barebones computers, employees can log in to these virtual desktops either in the office or from home. Floods, fires and other disasters won’t prevent your team from working because they can continue remotely.

Virtual applications

Devoting a portion of your server’s hardware and software resources to virtual desktops requires a fair amount of computing power. If the majority of your employees’ time is spent working with just one or two pieces of software, you can virtualize just those applications.

If a hurricane destroyed your office and the hardware inside it, virtualized applications can be restored in minutes. They don’t need to be installed on the machines that use them, and as long as you have backups these applications can be streamed to employee computers just like a cloud-based application.

Virtual servers

If you use virtual desktops or applications, it makes perfect sense to use virtual servers as well. With a little help from a managed services provider, your servers can be configured to automatically create virtual backups. Beyond preventing data loss, these backups also make it possible to restore server functionality with off site restorations.

Virtualized servers are incredibly useful when clients need access to a website or database that you maintain in the office. For example, if you provide background checks on tenants to rental property owners through your website, an unexpected power outage won’t cause an interruption of service. Your virtualization solution will boot up a backup server away from the power outage and your customers will be none the wiser.

The benefits of virtualization extend far beyond disaster recovery planning. Your business can also reduce IT costs and increase hardware capacity — all it takes is some help from trained experts. Call us today at 800-421-7151 to learn more about what we can do for you.

DR Tips for Floods and Hurricanes

The trail of devastation left by Hurricanes Harvey and Irma has reminded us once again that coastlines and even entire regions of the country can be demolished by natural disasters. While catastrophes cannot be prevented, planning around them with a well-crafted disaster recovery (DR) strategy can help minimize the damages and keep your business alive.

Pay attention to location
First and foremost, your backup site should be in a hurricane-free zone. Ideally, your offsite facility should be located at least 100 miles away from your main location. If this isn’t possible, make sure it is built to withstand wind speeds of 160 mph (as fast as Category 5 storms), and is supported by backup generators and uninterruptible power supplies.

You should also request an upper floor installation or, at the very least, keep critical IT equipment 18 inches off the ground to prevent water damage.

Determine recovery hierarchy
Certain parts of your IT are more mission-critical than others. Ask yourself which systems or data must be recovered in minutes, hours, or days to get your business back to running efficiently.

For example, you may find that recovering sensitive customer information and e-commerce systems take priority over recovering your email server. Whatever the case may be, prioritizing your systems ensures that the right ones are recovered quickly after a disaster.

Use image-based backups
Unlike fragile tape backups, image-based backups take “snapshots” of your systems, creating a copy of the OS, software, and data stored in it. From here, you can easily boot the virtual image on any device, allowing you to back up and restore critical business systems in seconds.

Take advantage of the cloud
The cloud allows you to host applications and store data in high-availability, geo-redundant servers. This means your backups can be accessed via the internet, allowing authorized users to access critical files from any device. Expert technicians will also watch over and secure your backups, allowing you to enjoy the benefits of enterprise-level backup facilities and IT support.

Back up your data frequently
Back up your data often, especially during disaster season. If your latest backups were created on the 15th of September and the next storm, Hurricane Jose, makes landfall on the 28th, you could lose nearly two weeks of data.

Get in the habit of replicating your files at the end of each day, which should be easy if you’ve opted for image-based backups.

Test your DR plan
After setting up your backups, check whether they are restoring your files accurately and on time. Your employees should be drilled on the recovery procedures and their responsibilities during and after disaster strikes. Your DR team should also be trained on how to failover to the backup site before the storm hits. Finally, providers, contractors, and customers need to be notified about how the hurricane will affect your operations.

As cell towers and internet connections may be affected during this time, make sure your company forums are online and have your employees register with the Red Cross Safe and Well website so you can check their statuses.

It’s nearly impossible to experience little-to-no disruptions during disasters like Harvey or Irma, but with the right support, you can minimize downtime. If you’re concerned about any natural disasters putting you out of business, call us today at800-421-7151. We offer comprehensive business continuity services that every company must have.

What Will You Do When This Disaster Hits Your Business?

In today’s world of rampant cybercrime, every savvy business owner knows the necessity of locking down their data. However, we find that the cyber security technologies used by the vast majority of businesses are woefully out of date. Sure, your current solution may have worked great, but digital threats to the safety of your company are constantly evolving. Criminals will eventually attempt to breach your data — and your barriers are not as secure as you might think.

Before World War II, the Germans developed a technology that would prove to be a key player in the conflict: its family of infamous Enigma machines. These devices, about the size of a small microwave, were composed primarily of a typewriter and a series of three or four rotors. By using a set of rules
contained in a corresponding codebook, German soldiers would use the machine to encode vital messages to be sent covertly over the airwaves. The number of potential permutations — and thus solutions — for the code was in the tens of millions. The Germans were confident that the code could never be broken and used it for a vast array of top-secret communications.

The code’s impenetrability didn’t last. Via photographs of stolen Enigma operating manuals, the Polish Cipher Bureau reconstructed one of the stubborn Enigma machines, internal wiring and all, enabling them to decrypt the Wehrmacht’s messages from 1933 to 1938. Facing an impending German invasion, Poland decided to share these secrets with the British. But, at the outbreak of the war, the Germans increased the security of the Enigma initiative by changing the cipher system daily. In response, a British code-breaking team, led by genius English computer scientist Alan Turing, constructed primitive computers, known as “bombes,” that allowed them to decrypt the incredibly complicated ciphers faster than ever before. But it wasn’t until the capture of the U-110 warship and the seizure of its Enigma machine and codebooks that the British were able to decrypt the most complicated cipher of the war, the Kriegsmarine Enigma.

The information gleaned from these decrypts are believed to have shortened the war by more than two years, saving over 14 million lives.

Just like you, the Germans believed the systems they had put in place to defend their secrets were impenetrable. And it’s true: the system had few cryptographic weaknesses. However, there were flaws in German procedure, mistakes made by Enigma operators, and failures to introduce changes into the Enigma formula — along with the Allied capture of key equipment and intelligence — that ultimately allowed the Allies to crack the code once and for all.

Take this as a cautionary tale: the most advanced, complex cryptography system in the world became obsolete within 10 years. The same goes for your potentially outdated cyber security measures.

Though they may not be led by Alan Turing and his crack team, you can bet criminals are constantly chipping away at the defenses of even the most powerful firewalls. The arms race between cyber security companies and cybercriminals rages on behind the scenes, and you can bet that they’ve already cracked your business’s “Enigma.” Just look at the massive European cyber-attack this past June, which infected computers from over 27 companies across the continent, including those of the largest oil company in Russia, with ransomware. The unimaginable cost of that attack is something you certainly don’t want your business to shoulder.

As technology evolves, so does crime. New threats arise each and every day. While solutions are available (and needed), they are notably absent in older software developed at a time before these constantly morphing attacks even existed.

Once the enemy has found a way to pick your lock, you need a new lock. Luckily, you have your trusty IT provider, constantly on the lookout for cutting-edge solutions that protect our clients from even the nastiest malware.

Don’t be like the Germans. Constantly look at options to upgrade to more robust, better cyber security to defend yourself from the bleeding-edge hackers, and sleep safe knowing your business is secure.

Reduce Your Printing Costs with These 5 Tips

Outdated printers, the lack of a printing workflow, and an over-reliance on hard copies may be contributing to your ballooning printing expenditures. With some creative problem-solving and fresh ideas, you could drastically reduce your printing budget. Start by following these five tips.

Replace Outdated Printers

Outdated and cheap printers may be functional, but they are putting a huge dent in your IT budget.

Any piece of equipment that is seven years old (or older) requires frequent repairs and causes more trouble than it’s worth. Because old printers are no longer under warranty, fixing them is more costly and challenging. It’s also difficult to replace parts for old printers because manufacturers have stopped carrying them for models that have been phased out.

When you replace outdated equipment with newer, multi-functional printers, you’re investing in hardware that will pay for itself with increases in productivity and efficiency.

Avoid Purchasing Unnecessary Supplies

A poorly managed printer environment could result in a stockpile of cartridges, toners, and reams of paper. This happens when, for example, an employee uses a printer that’s about to run out of ink and makes an unnecessary request for a new ink or toner. This is more common than you may think, and definitely more expensive.

In the absence of a dedicated printer manager, you can avoid this situation by automating supply replacement. Assign a point person to proactively place orders when supplies are about to run out, so your company can avoid needless purchases.

Impose Strict Process Workflows

Submitting expense reports, filing reimbursements, and other administrative tasks require a proper document workflow. Without a guideline, employees and administrative staff tend to print an unnecessary amount of documents.

Automate your company’s document-driven processes to reduce or prevent redundant print jobs that result in stacks of abandoned documents. Not only is it wasteful, it’s also a security and privacy concern.

Go Paperless

Designing a document management solution that reduces paper consumption is the best way to save money. It may not be possible in every department, but those who can do their jobs without printing should be encouraged to do so by management. Printing lengthy email chains that can be discussed in a meeting is just one example of a wasteful practice that should be avoided.

Reduce IT Support Calls for Printing Issues

Calling your company’s IT guys to assist with problems like paper jams, printer Wi-Fi issues, and other concerns reduces employee frustration. You and your IT personnel could avoid dealing with these productivity killers by identifying the problem areas of your print environment. Then, you can work on solutions specific to your office, such as drafting a printing workflow, or getting help from document management experts who can recommend time- and budget-saving solutions.

Having a group of experts manage your IT workflow can make your day-to-day operations more efficient and help you save on printing costs. Our experts will gladly recommend best practices and tips on document management. Call us today at 800-421-7151.

Social Engineering Exploits Facebook

You’ve received a message from one of your Facebook friends. You click on the link not knowing what you’ve gotten yourself into. This describes one of the latest social media adware schemes, which has wreaked havoc on Facebook users worldwide.

What is it?

Little is known about the adware itself or those behind it, but it was uncovered by David Jacoby, senior security researcher at Kaspersky Lab, when he received a Facebook message from one of his friends, only to find out that wasn’t the case.

Basically, the adware uses Facebook Messenger to track your browser activity and pushes you to click on malicious ads or give out personal information.

How does it work?

By clickjacking and hijacking credentials of Facebook users, the adware is able to send messages to people in the victim’s contact list. If you’re one of those people, you’ll receive a phony message from your friend’s compromised Facebook account.

The message includes your friend’s name followed by the word “Video,” a shocked face emoji, and a shortened URL. Once clicked, the URL will redirect you to a Google Doc with a blurred photo taken from your friend’s Facebook page, disguised as a video. If you click on the “video”, you’ll be redirected to one of a number of targeted websites based on your browser, operating system, and location.

For instance, if you use Google Chrome, you’ll be sent to a website that looks exactly like YouTube, complete with the official logo. The hoax website will show you a fake error message to trick you into downloading a malicious Chrome extension.

If you’re on Firefox, you’ll be sent to a site with a false Flash Player update notice and a Windows adware executable; the same goes with OS X except the adware is hidden in a .dmg file.

The goal here is to move your browser through a set of websites so tracking cookies can monitor your activity and display malicious ads or you can be “social engineered” to give up confidential information.

How do you avoid falling victim?

Facebook has rolled out a number of automated systems to stop harmful links and files. What’s more, they will provide you with a free antivirus scan if they suspect that your account has been compromised by adware.

Still, you should be very skeptical about any shortened URL links sent to you by your Facebook friends, no matter how long you’ve been friends.

Due to their low key nature as potential security endpoints, cyber criminals are turning to social media platforms as their new medium of choice. To keep your business safe, you need to stay up-to-date and educate your employees. If you have any other questions about social media and how it can impact your business, just give us a call at 800-421-7151.

Move over IE, Hello Microsoft Edge!

Not all Windows users are fans of Internet Explorer, and not all Mac users are crazy about Safari. But there’s good news for Windows users: Windows 10 replaces IE with a brand new browser, Microsoft Edge. Here is a list of the key features you shouldn’t miss out on:

Import favorites
You can easily import the list of websites you’ve marked as favorites from any web browser to Microsoft Edge. You can do this by going to the More actions tab (located right next to the address bar), then Settings, and clicking on the Favorites settings tab. From there, choose the pages you want to add to your favorites list and click Import.

Change font size in reading view
Even with your reading glasses on, a website’s font can be too small to read. Microsoft Edge allows you to adjust the reading view by going to Other actions and selecting the Settings tab. From there, scroll down and click on the Reading section that will allow you to adjust the font size and even brightness to your liking.

Make notes on the website
Ever wished you could write on, circle, or highlight specific parts of a website and share them with your friends? Microsoft Edge lets you do just that with its new note feature. Select Make a web note and use tools such as the ballpoint pen or highlighter, or add a typed note on the page you’re browsing. When you’re done, click Save or Share to complete the process.

Reading list
This feature allows you to save articles, e-books, or any other content you wish to peruse later. By signing in with a Microsoft account, your reading list will appear on all your Windows 10 devices. Select Add to favorites or reading list, and then Reading list > Add. You can also add a link to your reading list by right-clicking on any link without having to visit the page.

Ask Cortana
Microsoft Edge users can easily access Cortana, Windows’ voice-activated personal assistant since it is built into the web browser. Cortana can make dinner reservations, offer additional discounts on certain shopping websites, and download applications that you may find useful. Simply highlight a word, phrase, or image, press and right-click it, and then select Ask Cortana to get more information or find related images.

View and delete browser history
As you browse the web, Microsoft Edge remembers and stores the information you’ve entered into forms, passwords, and sites you’ve visited. Most of it will be stored on your PC; but if you use Cortana, some of the data will be stored in the cloud which will be used to better assist you.

If you need to delete cache history, you can do so by following either of these two methods:

View your browsing history at Hub > History, then select Clear all history. If you want to retain certain data, you can choose what to remove, then select Clear.
Since Cortana’s browsing history is stored in the cloud, select Change what Microsoft Edge knows about me in the cloud, then select Clear browsing history.
Switching from one web browser to another isn’t always as smooth as it is made out to be. In order for users to make the most out of their time online, they require a period of adjustment. If you still have questions about making Microsoft Edge your default browser, get in touch with our experts today at 800-421-7151.

Beware of a New Ransomware Similar to Locky

Disguising itself as an invoice proved to be an effective approach for the original Locky ransomware, which infected millions of users in 2016. Although it was mostly defeated, hackers are currently using a similar approach to spreading a new type of malware. In 2017, a new Locky ransomware is poised to duplicate the success of its predecessor.

Quick facts

According to a threat intelligence report, the email-based ransomware attacks started on August 9 and were detected through 62,000 phishing emails in 133 countries in just three days. It also revealed that 11,625 IP addresses were used to carry out the attacks, with the IP range owners consisting mostly of internet service providers and telecom companies.

How it works

The malicious email contains an attachment named “E 2017-08-09 (580).vbs” and just one line of text. Like the original Locky authors, attackers responsible for the new variant deploy social engineering tactics to scam recipients into opening the attached .doc, zip, pdf, .jpg or tiff file, which installs the ransomware into their systems.

When an unsuspecting user downloads the file, the macros run a file that provides the encryption Trojan with an entry point into the system. The Trojan then encrypts the infected computer’s files.

Once encryption is completed, the user receives instructions to download the Tor browser so they can access the “dark web” for details on how to pay the ransom. To retrieve their encrypted files, users will be asked to pay from 0.5-1 Bitcoin.

What you need to do

This ransomware variant builds on the strengths of previous Trojans. In fact, the original Locky strain made it easy for cyber criminals to develop a formidable ransomware that could evade existing cyber security solutions. This is why adopting a “deny all” security stance, whereby all files are considered unsafe until proven otherwise, is the best way to avoid infection.

Here are other tips to avoid infection:

Don’t open unsolicited attachments in suspicious emails. Alert your IT staff, and most importantly disallow macros in Microsoft Office unless they’ve been verified by your IT team.
Performing regular backups guarantees you never have to pay cyber criminals a ransom. If all other security measures fail, you can always rely on your backups, which protect your business not just from cyber crime-related disasters, but also from natural and other unforeseen system failures.
Train your staff to identify online scams like phishing. This and other similar ransomware strains take advantage of users’ lack of cyber security training.
Update your operating systems as soon as updates become available to reduce, or eliminate, the chances of your system’s vulnerabilities being exploited.
Even with a trained staff and the latest protections installed, your IT infrastructure may still have unidentified security holes. Cyber security experts can better evaluate your entire infrastructure and recommend the necessary patches for your business’s specific threats. To secure your systems, get in touch with our experts now at 800-421-7151.

Amazon CEO’s Secret To Avoiding Email Overwhelm

Do you look at your inbox and want to cry? If so, you’re not alone. According to widely cited Radicati Group research, the average person gets 120 business emails every day. If you don’t manage your emails, you could end up in another statistical majority. People spend at least 14 percent of their workday on email alone. Is it any wonder that a recent Harris Poll found that only 45 percent of our workdays are spent on actual work? If you’re looking for the solution to your email woes, start with some of Silicon Valley greats.

BEZOS DELEGATES If you want to watch a corporate team start to sweat, see what happens when they get a “?” email from Jeff Bezos. Business Insider reports that the notoriously easy-to-contact Amazon CEO will forward customer complaints to his people and add only a question mark to the original query. Getting that dreaded mark is a little like getting the black spot from Blind Pew the pirate. You know that a day of reckoning is at hand. Follow Bezos’ lead. Instead of answering all emails yourself, ask, “Can this be better handled by someone else?” Forward it to your team and save yourself the time.

USE AUTO REPLIES You can also use auto-reply tools to manage the flood. Tommy John CEO Tom Patterson did just that after his emails skyrocketed from 150 to 400 a day. He tells Inc.com that “there weren’t enough minutes in a day to answer all of them.” So he didn’t; he set up an auto-reply to tell people that he only checked email before 9 and after 5 — and to please call or text if it was urgent. The result? “It forced me to delegate and empower others to respond,” he says. Suddenly the flow slowed to a trickle.

DO YOU GET MORE EMAILS THAN BILL GATES? And it really should only be a trickle; Bill Gates reports that he only gets 40–50 emails a day. Ask yourself, “Should I really be getting more emails than Bill Gates?” One possible cause for email inundation, according to LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner, is other employees sending too much email of their own. He writes, “Two of the people I worked most closely with ended up leaving the organization within the span of several weeks. After they left I realized my inbox traffic had been reduced by roughly 20–30 percent.” If you have over-communicators in your ranks, ask them to tone back the digital flood.

SET BOUNDARIES Creating a hard buffer between your email and your life is another CEO tactic. Arianna Huffington doesn’t check her email for a half hour after waking or before going to bed, and she never touches it around her kids. That space to breathe is essential to maintaining a work-life balance. And if it gets bad enough? Etsy’s Chad Dickerson has a solution: email bankruptcy! He tells Fast Company that every few years, he just deletes everything and starts fresh!

Not all Silicon Valley gurus have it figured out, however. Apple CEO Tim Cook doesn’t get 120 business emails a day. No, according to an ABC interview, he gets closer to 700. He just gets up at the crack of dawn every morning and starts reading. Hint Water CEO Kara Goldin does the same thing, preparing for a 12-hour workday with a marathon email session. But as you can tell from the other people we’ve discussed, this is an exception, not the rule. Emulate Jeff Bezos or Arianna Huffington instead and watch your email stress melt away.

Are all Hackers Out to Do Harm?

Newspaper headlines and Hollywood movies have influenced our understanding of computer hackers, but in the real world it’s not so simple. Some hackers are making tremendous contributions to the field of cyber security, it just depends on which hat they’re wearing that day. Take a few minutes to learn about white, black and gray hat hackers.

A complicated history

Since all the way back in the 1950s, the term hacker has been vaguely defined. As computers and the people who worked with them became more accessible, the word was used to describe someone who explored the details and limits of technology by testing them from a variety of angles.

But by the 1980s, hackers became associated with teenagers who were being caught breaking into government computer systems. Partially because that is what they called themselves, and partially because the word hacker has an inherently aggressive ring to it.

Today, several of those pioneering hackers run multimillion-dollar cyber security consulting businesses. So what should you call someone who uses their knowledge for good?

“White hat” hackers

Sometimes referred to as ethical hackers, or plain old network security specialists, these are the good guys. Whether it’s selling what they find to hardware and software vendors in “bug bounty” programs or working as full-time technicians, white hat hackers are just interested in making an honest buck.

Linus Torvalds is a great example of a white hat hacker. After years of experimenting with the operating system on his computer, he finally released Linux, a secure open-source operating system.

“Black hat” hackers

Closer to the definition that most people outside the IT world know and use, black hat hackers create programs and campaigns solely for causing damage. This may be anything from financial harm in the form of ransomware to digital vandalism.

Albert Gonzalez is one of the many poster children for black hat hacking. In 2005, he organized a group of individuals to compromise poorly secured wireless networks and steal information. He is most famous for stealing over 90 million credit and debit card numbers from TJ Maxx over the course of two years.

“Gray hat” hackers

Whether someone is a security specialist or a cyber criminal, the majority of their work is usually conducted over the internet. This anonymity affords them opportunities to try their hand at both white hat and black hat hacking.

Today, there are quite a few headlines making the rounds describing Marcus Hutchins as a gray hat hacker. Hutchins became an overnight superstar earlier this year when he poked and prodded the WannaCry ransomware until he found a way to stop it.

During the day, Hutchins works for the Kryptos Logic cybersecurity firm, but the US government believes he spent his free time creating the Kronos banking malware. He has been arrested and branded a “gray hat” hacker.

The world of cyber security is far more complicated than the stylized hacking in Hollywood movies. Internet-based warfare is not as simple as good guys vs. bad guys, and it certainly doesn’t give small businesses a pass. If you need a team of experienced professionals to help you tackle the complexities of modern cyber security, call us today at 800-421-7151.

6 CRM Best Practices You Need to Know

Most companies have customer relationship management (CRM) software to help them keep track of contact information and purchase history. But having a large database is worthless if you’re not using it to build long-lasting relationships. To keep existing clients coming back and bring new ones in, follow these CRM best practices.

Always update customer information
A CRM system is only effective when the data it provides is current. If the customer’s address, company name, or preferred method of contact has changed, your staff should be recording this information immediately so your sales and marketing teams are always equipped with the right information.

Use purchasing history for upselling opportunities
It’s easier to sell to existing customers than acquiring new ones. Boost your sales performance by analyzing your existing clients’ purchasing history and designing promotions or events designed just for them. For example, if they recently purchased a razor from your online store, you can program your CRM to recommend related products like shaving cream or aftershave. Not only does this widen your profit margins, it also makes customers’ lives a lot easier and promotes repeat business.

Automate processes
Take advantage of the workflow automation features in CRM apps to eliminate time-consuming and repetitive tasks. For instance, when a new lead is added to your CRM (via newsletter subscriptions or website visits), the CRM can be programmed to send follow-up emails, offer promotions, and other interactions to keep your business at the forefront of their attention. This saves you from writing the same canned responses while also making sure that you’re engaging your clients throughout the entire sales process.

Learn from analytics
CRM also makes it possible to analyze customer trends and behavior. If you noticed a spike in demand for certain products and services during the holidays, be more aggressive in pushing them out next year. If certain email campaigns were more successful than others (e.g., higher open rates, click-through-rates, and potential customers), understand what elements were responsible for that success and try to replicate them the next time you send a newsletter.

Customer data should also be used to shape sales and marketing tactics. A salesperson that already knows the client’s name, locations, and preferences can deliver more personal sales pitches and has a better chance of closing a deal. The point is this: If you’re not learning from your data, your business growth will be limited.

Integrate CRM with other business software
Tying CRM software to other programs makes it even more powerful. Integration with accounting software combines customer and financial data, eliminating redundant manual data entry and providing more insightful reports. When used alongside a VoIP system, your staff will get relevant customer information from multiple databases displayed on one screen when they’re about to make a call.

Get some CRM support
Last but not least, work with a CRM provider that offers 24/7 support. Ideally, they should be keeping your data safe, updating your software regularly, and advising you on how to use complex CRM features.

This may seem like a lot, but the important thing to remember is that just like every technology investment, CRM requires active participation from executives, managers, and frontline staff. If you need more advice on keeping customers happy or want to know what technologies can add value to your business, call us today at 800-421-7151.

Ways to Protect your Company Mobile Devices

Mobile devices can’t accomplish everything that desktops and laptops can, but that doesn’t mean they’re not important to businesses. More and more employees are using smartphones and tablets to increase productivity and enhance collaboration. But before you adopt a mobile device policy, you must keep them safe from cyber criminals. Cyber criminals now have more entry points to steal your data, but there are simple ways to keep your company’s mobile devices safe.

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 by calling 800-421-7151.

Know These Types of Malware to Stay Protected

Computer threats have been around for decades. In fact, one of the first computer viruses was detected in the early 70s. Technology has come a long way since then, but so have online threats: Spyware, ransomware, virus, trojans, and all types of malware designed to wreak havoc. Here’s how different types of malware work and how you can avoid falling victim.

Viruses

Once created to annoy users by making small changes to their computers, like altering wallpapers, this type of malware has evolved into a malicious tool used to breach confidential data. Most of the time, viruses work by attaching themselves to .exe files in order to infect computers once the file has been opened. This can result in various issues with your computer’s operating system, at their worst, rendering your computer unusable.

To avoid these unfortunate circumstances, you should scan executable files before running them. There are plenty of antivirus software options, but we recommend choosing one that scans in real-time rather than manually.

Spyware

Unlike viruses, spyware doesn’t harm your computer, but instead, targets you. Spyware attaches itself to executable files and once opened or downloaded, will install itself, often times completely unnoticed. Once running on your computer, it can track everything you type, including passwords and other confidential information. Hackers can then use this information to access your files, emails, bank accounts, or anything else you do on your computer.

But don’t panic just yet, you can protect yourself by installing anti-spyware software, sometimes included in all-purpose “anti-malware” software. Note that most reputable antivirus software also come bundled with anti-spyware solutions.

Adware

Are you redirected to a particular page every time you start your browser? Do you get pop ups when surfing the internet? If either situation sounds familiar, you’re likely dealing with adware. Also known as Potential Unwanted Programs (PUP), adware isn’t designed to steal your data, but to get you to click on fraudulent ads. Whether you click on the ad or not, adware can significantly slow down your computer since they take up valuable bandwidth. Worse still, they’re often attached with other types of malware.

Some adware programs come packaged with legitimate software and trick you into accepting their terms of use, which make them especially difficult to remove. To eradicate adware, you’ll need a solution with specialized adware removal protocols.

Scareware

This type of malware works like adware except that it doesn’t make money by tricking you into clicking on ads, but by scaring you into buying a software you don’t need. An example is a pop up ad that tells you your computer is infected with a virus and you need to buy a certain software to eliminate it. If you fall for one of these tactics and click on the ad, you’ll be redirected to a website where you can buy the fake antivirus software.

Scareware acts more like a diversion from the other malware that often comes with it. A good antivirus solution will help scan for scareware too, but you should patch your operating systems regularly just to be safe.

Ransomware

Ransomware has become increasingly common and hostile. It encrypts your computer files and holds them hostage until you’ve paid a fee for the decryption code. Because ransomware comes with sophisticated encryption, there aren’t many options unless you have backups of your data.

There are some tools that can protect against ransomware but we recommend that you backup your data and practice safe web browsing habits.

Worms

Similar to viruses, worms replicate themselves to widen the scope of their damage. However, worms don’t require human intervention to replicate themselves as they use security flaws to transmit from one computer to the next, making them far more dangerous than your typical virus. They often spread via email, sending emails to everyone in an infected user’s contact list, which was exactly the case with the ILOVEYOU worm that cost businesses approximately $5.5 billion worth of damage.

The easiest ways to protect your network from worms is to use a firewall to block external access to your computer network, and to be careful when clicking on unknown links in your email or unknown messages on social media.

Trojans

Usually downloaded from rogue websites, Trojans create digital backdoors that allow hackers to take control of your computer without your knowledge. They can steal your personal information, your files, or cause your computer to stop working. Sometimes hackers will use your computer as a proxy to conceal their identity or to send out spam.

To avoid trojan attacks, you should never open emails or download attachments from unknown senders. If you’re skeptical, use your antivirus software to scan every file first.

In order to keep malware at bay, you need to invest in security solutions with real-time protection and apply security best practices within your office. If you have any questions or concerns, or simply need advice on how to strengthen your business’s security, just give us a call and we’ll be happy to help.

Tell Office 2016 and Office 365 apart

Microsoft delivers some of the best productivity tools for businesses worldwide. Office 2016 and Office 365 are the most popular software in the market today. And while both offer Word, Excel, and PowerPoint, there are some significant differences between each product. Read on to find out.

How they’re paid for
Office 2016 is a stand-alone suite, and regardless of the quantity purchased, is described by Microsoft as a “one-time purchase.” You pay a single, upfront cost, meaning the entire purchase price must be paid before receiving the license to legally run the software for life.

By contrast, Office 365 is a subscription service requiring monthly or annual payments. Office 365 allows users to run applications only if payments are made. If you stop, you will have 30 days to continue operating after the previous payment’s due date before the license expires.

How they’re serviced
Another aspect to consider is the service and support offerings. Microsoft provides monthly security updates for Office 2016 applications, and these updates fix non-security bugs. However, you don’t get upgrades for improved features and functionality. If you wish to run the latest edition, you’ll have to pay another upfront fee.

Office 365 users, on the other hand, get the same security patches as Office 2016 and also additional feature and functionality upgrades twice a year.

How they sync with the cloud
Microsoft announced a major change this April: As of October 13, 2020, Office 2016 applications acquired through an upfront purchase are required to be in the “Mainstream” support period (the first five years of the decade-long commitment) to obtain cloud connectivity. Office 365 subscriptions won’t experience this problem.

In order to achieve measurable results and enjoy business growth, it’s imperative that your business is working with the right Office solution. Give us a call at 800-421-7151 and let our team of experts assess your needs and determine the better option.

Tips and Tricks for Avoiding IoT Threats

Internet of Things (IoT) devices have become more popular with businesses in recent years. This is largely because they can keep track of large amounts of information, analyze data patterns, and streamline business processes. But as you introduce more internet-connected devices into the office space, you may be exposing your business to attacks.

Set passwords
Many often forget they can set passwords for IoT devices. When this happens, they tend to leave their gadgets with default passwords, essentially leaving the door open for hackers. Make sure to set new and strong passwords — preferably with a combination of upper and lower case letters, numbers, and symbols — for each device connected to your network. Then, use a password manager to securely keep track of all your passwords.

Disable Universal Plug and Play (UPnP)
UPnP is designed to help IoT gadgets discover other network devices. However, hackers can also exploit this feature to find and connect to your IoT devices. To prevent them from getting to your network, it’s best to disable this feature completely.

Create a separate network
When you’re dealing with IoT devices, it’s wise to quarantine them in a separate network unconnected to your main office network. By doing this, user gadgets will still have access to the internet but won’t be able to access mission-critical files.

You should also consider investing in device access management tools. These allow you to control which devices can access what data, and prevent unauthorized access.

Update your firmware
If you want to keep your devices secure against the latest attacks, then you need to keep your IoT software up to date. Security researchers are always releasing security patches for the most recent vulnerabilities, so make it a habit to regularly check for and install IoT firmware updates. If you have several gadgets to secure, use patch management software to automate patch distribution and set a schedule to check for updates monthly.

Unplug it
Disconnecting your IoT devices from the internet (or turning them off completely) whenever you don’t need them significantly reduces how vulnerable you are to an attack. Think about it, if there’s nothing to target, hackers won’t be able to make their move. Turning your IoT devices on and off again may not seem like the most convenient strategy, but it does deny unauthorized access to your router.

Unfortunately, as IoT devices become more commonplace in homes and offices, more hackers will develop more cunning ways to exploit them. Getting into the above mentioned security habits can protect you from a wide variety of IoT attacks, but if you really need to beef up your security, then contact us today. We have robust security solutions that keep your hardware safe.

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.”