• Public Wi-Fi can Pose Security Threats to Your System

    These days, be it for personal or business reasons, people must be online as much as possible. Unfortunately, hackers also realize this, and an emerging trend is to exploit public networks to gain access to the personal and sensitive information of the people connected to it. But as long as you have the proper protocols in place, you can connect without fear of hacking or intrusion into your system. These days, Wi-Fi is everywhere. Airports, coffee shops, train and bus stations, malls – almost every public place you can think offers Wi-Fi connectivity. Being connected to the internet has evolved from luxury to necessity, and whether it’s for personal or business reasons people are online as much as possible. This is all well and good, except when you consider that hackers have started to extend their playing field to public Wi-Fi networks. With the volume of sensitive information such as passwords and financial transactions, it’s inevitable that crooks and fraudsters move to public networks where there is more potential to illegally farm large chunks of information. Two things are important about this emerging trend. First, it’s the very nature of public networks that makes them vulnerable to attack. Second, hacking has become much easier these days, with very simple hacking programs such as Firesheep easily downloadable from the web. However, the solution is simple as well: have the proper security protocols on your smartphone or laptop. It’s unfortunate that many people neglect to recognize the importance of such policies, and only have minimal security (if any at all) to guard against attacks. But as long as you have the proper protocols in place, you can stay connected – even through public Wi-Fi – without fear of hacking or any sort of intrusion into your system. If you want to know more about keeping your portable devices safe from attacks, please feel free to contact us. We’ll be glad to explain the issue in more detail and draw up a solution customized to fit your needs.

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  • Backing Up Your Data in the Cloud? Here are Some Things You Should Know

    So your data is stored in the cloud. That’s a good thing, right? Absolutely – if you’ve done your due diligence and fully understand the service of your provider. Asking the right questions and taking a few precautions will go a long way in ensuring that you can recover your critical data quickly should data loss occur. A few weeks ago, Amazon suffered several days of outage in its EC2 and RDS service, bringing down dozens if not hundreds of services along with it — including such high-profile sites as Reddit, Heroku, Foursquare, Quora, and many others. Although the cause of that outage has been analyzed extensively in many forums, the discussion is interesting and relevant because it brings attention to the lesson that wherever or whomever you entrust your data to—be it in the “cloud” or to a big company like Amazon — it pays to be smart about how you manage your data, especially if it’s critical to your business. Understand your options. When someone else is managing your data, it’s easy to leave the details to them. However, making sure that you at least have some understanding of what your options are in what different service providers can offer you will pay dividends later if something goes wrong, since you’ll be better equipped to make an informed decision on the spot. Things you should look at include: Who is the service provider? What is their history? Who is behind them? What is their track record? Where do they store your data? Do they own the servers where your data is stored or do they rely on someone else? Is your data stored within the local area (i.e., a drive away) or is it distributed all over the map? Do they provide a mirror of your data within your own server, or is everything in their data centers? What measures do they employ to make sure your data is safe? What methods do they employ to ensure you can get to your data when you need it? Do they provide service level assurances or guarantees to back up their claims? These are just some of the basic questions you should be asking of your service provider. Do a test drive. Often you will not know exactly how a service works until the rubber hits the road, so to speak. Ask your service provider for a demo or a trial period. Test how fast it is to back up your data, but more importantly how fast you can bring it back when you need it. This is especially important if you’re talking about gigabytes of data. Understand that doing backups in the cloud can be hampered by your bandwidth and many other components of your system and theirs. Don’t put all your eggs in one basket. Some service providers give users the option of storing data in multiple sites, to ensure that your data is safe if one site goes down. But why rely on just one service provider when you can get the services of multiple providers instead? Or perhaps better yet, why not manage some of your data on your own? While it may be complex and costly to reproduce what many service providers can provide today, it is relatively easy to set up a simple system to keep at least some of your really, really important data locally by using an unused computer or a relatively cheap, network-attached storage device or secondary/removable drive that you can buy at your local store. Create a plan and write it down . Unforeseen occurrences can and will happen — not only from your side but from your service provider’s as well. When they do happen, you will need to have a contingency plan ready, often referred to as a Business Continuity Plan. Make sure to document your plan in writing, and communicate it to everyone in your organization so they will know what to do in case disaster strikes. With its promise of unprecedented efficiency, reliability, scalability, and cost savings, cloud computing and storing your data in the cloud is the topic du jour these days. However, it’s sometimes easy to overlook the basic due diligence that’s necessary regardless of how or where your data is stored. Ultimately, it is your business on the line—and being prudent and proactive about how your data is stored, managed, and (most importantly) recovered in times of need will save you much grief when you actually need it.

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  • Using/Disabling the Window Snap Feature in Windows 7

    When Windows 7 was released, it introduced a new feature called Snap — which allows users to easily resize windows when they are dragged to the edges of the screen. Depending on where the window is dragged, it expands vertically, takes up the entire screen, or arranges itself side-by-side with another open window. If you find this feature more annoying than helpful, you can disable it in the “Ease of Access Center” in the Windows Control Panel. Click on the “Change how your mouse works” link, scroll down to the “Make it easier to manage windows” section, then check the box labeled “Prevent windows from being automatically arranged when moved to the edge of the screen.”

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  • $63,000 Lost in Online Banking Attack

    Many SMBs are unaware that hackers are finding online banking transactions to be profitable and easy targets for cyber-attacks because of several weaknesses in the security systems not only of both organizations, but also in the authentication protocols between them. In a recent attack, cyber-thieves managed to get away with $63,000 after they exploited vulnerabilities in the online payroll system of a small business with its bank. First, the crooks managed to infiltrate the company’s system through a piece of malware called the Zeus Trojan. This gave them access to the company’s data, including the password and username used in transacting with the company’s bank. The thieves then created several new ghost employees and created payroll accounts for them, which they sent to the bank and authenticated using the company controller’s username and password. And to cover their tracks, the hackers erased the confirmation emails regarding the transaction. This incident highlights the need for better security systems in both the business and their bank – as security experts cite online banking transactions as one of the favorite targets of cyber-criminals. Cyber-attacks such as this one exploit weaknesses in many existing systems that rely on very simple and automated authentication procedures to confirm transactions. A direct threat to your business finances is not something to be taken lightly. You not only need to review your current online banking system, but also the current security protocols you have installed, since hackers and cyber-criminals are constantly updating Trojans and other malware to adapt to changing IT protection systems. We encourage you to have us take a look at the systems you have in place to determine if you are at risk for attacks like these. Please do not hesitate to contact us and we will be happy to draw up custom security solutions that address your specific needs. References: Sold a Lemon in Internet Banking Cybercrooks Drive Away With $63,000 from Car Dealership

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  • Adding Value with IT

    IT can change the way you do business, much in the same way that the Internet allowed Apple to invent iTunes to sell music online. But to make IT a business tool, it needs to add value. To learn how it can do so for your business, you’ll want to look at all the activities your business performs that earn profits. Differentiate your company and increase your profits — with IT It’s easy to think of IT as a tool that comes with a cost — but doing so is a big mistake. That’s because IT, when used properly, can be a strategic asset. It can make your information more accurate, improve your employees’ response time, and even differentiate your company in the marketplace. To make IT a strategic asset as opposed to a tool, it needs to add value. To determine where to make improvement, you’ll want to look at your value chain, which includes all the activities your business performs, and ask which ones earn profits. For example, if you’re a manufacturer, better IT could result in more efficient supply purchasing. If you’re a retailer, better IT could result in fewer units needing after-sales service and repair. Focus on improving IT in those areas and you’ll likely improve profits. An added benefit of this exercise: The use of IT in a new way may create even more opportunities for your company. For example, the Internet allowed Apple to invent iTunes, and now mp3 downloads have overtaken CD sales. Even small businesses can experience this. Case in point: The invention of iTunes has given many startup software companies a distribution channel for apps that otherwise may not have been invented. But the idea doesn’t have to be visionary in this way: YourLittleFilm.com, a small business that creates custom short films, used customer relationship management (CRM) software to help follow up on business leads , and got a 10 percent response rate. How and where you add value with IT developments will depend on your business model. There is little point, for example, in automating production if your customers cherish hand-made products. However, you might find that investing in a CRM system might give you a more efficient way to track your customers’ preferences and provide them with a more personalized service. Using your IT as a strategic asset gives you tools to manage clients worldwide, increases your visibility, and lets you compete with much larger players. Contact us to find out how you can use technology to gain an edge.

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  • Handy Google Chrome Commands

    Google’s Chrome browser has special commands that can show you basic browser settings and info from within the browser’s main window. This can be helpful since it presents browser information in one neat page that can easily be searched. For example, to view bookmarks, type “chrome://bookmarks” in the search or URL box. To view downloads, type “chrome://downloads”, and to view your history, type “chrome://history”.

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  • Launching Multiple Instances of the Same Software in Windows 7

    There are times when you might want to open multiple instances of the same software program quickly, such as when you need to work on multiple documents in Word or Excel, or when you want to launch multiple windows of your browser. In Windows 7, you can do this easily. Just press and hold down the SHIFT key while left-clicking on the first instance of the program in the Windows taskbar, and a new instance of the same program is opened.

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  • Use Shortcuts Instead of File Duplicates

    Instead of copying files to multiple locations in your hard drive to make sure you can find it easily, consider using shortcuts instead. Shortcuts are simply links to the original file, folder, or programs from which it was created. You can distinguish a shortcut by the arrow in the lower-left corner of the icon. To create a shortcut, right-click the file and then click Create Shortcut . Create as many as you want, and drag them to the appropriate locations within your hard drive.

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  • “About” Commands in Firefox

    Did you know that typing “about:” plus another word in Firefox will allow you to view special configuration information of the browser—some of which you can actually tweak and customize? To try it, type “about:” to show general and version information. Try “about:cache” to view the browser cache, or “about:plugins” to show plugin information. If you are feeling adventurous, try “about:config” to show the browser configuration settings (but be careful when changing settings here). And for some extra fun, type “about:Mozilla” to see a special things provided by the developers.

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  • Restrict Users of Your Computer from Accessing Folder Options in Windows

    If you share your computer with other users or manage the computers in your home or office, there are times when you may want to restrict users from changing folder options, such as making Windows system files visible which are invisible by default or showing file extensions. To do this, go to the Windows Start Menu and click on Run . Type “regedit” to launch the windows system registry tool. Next, go to: HKEY_CURRENT_USER / Software / Microsoft / Windows / Curre ntVersion / Policies / Explorer. It may be a good idea to backup your registry at this point . After creating a back-up, double-click on NoFolderOptions and set its value to 1 . After doing so, users will no longer be able to edit Folder Options.   To reverse, set the value back to 0 .

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