Disk Encryption Protects Your Personal Computers

Disk Encryption Protects Your Personal Computers

Disk Encryption Protects Your Personal Computers

Always wanted to feel like a secret agent? Well, here’s your chance! Did you know you can encrypt your hard drive to protect the data on your computer? This is a good way to secure your information, whether at home or on the move with a laptop.

Setting up encryption scrambles your data so that only authorized parties can understand the information. Without the encryption key, anyone trying to read your information would see gibberish.

You’re already using encryption when you visit any “https” website. The lock symbol beside the URL shows that encryption is protecting your connection with the site. You’ll see it when shopping or banking online, and it’s protecting the data in transit.

You can also encrypt the data on your computers.

Password Protection Is Not Enough

Many people at this point have a password for their user account on a home computer or laptop. Some of these passwords are even complicated, although the number-one password people use continues to be “123456” – seriously – followed by “123456789” and “qwerty.”

Regardless of its strength, the logon password doesn’t stop anyone with physical access. You might have your browser remembering usernames and passwords (it’s not a shared computer, right?), and anyone with access can use those pre-populated credentials to access your accounts.

If someone really wants to get to password-protected files on a physical device, they can do so. The attacker might bypass your password by booting your computer up to a new operating system. Or the bad guy might even remove your hard drive and put it into a new computer. All they need is a second computer and a screwdriver!

Full disk encryption protects those files, even if the attacker has physical access and even if your laptop is lost or stolen, your home is burglarized, someone seizes your computers.

Encryption Is Not a Silver Bullet

Of course, we need to be clear. Encrypting your hard disk doesn’t make your computer invincible to cyberattackers, although does force them to work a lot harder.

Attackers can also still exploit services running on your computer, such as network file sharing. Plus, encryption doesn’t stop a nefarious agency from spying on your online activity in transit.

Nevertheless, it does beef up your physical security. You can encrypt an external hard drive or your system’s entire hard drive. Then, when you turn the computer on, you’ll need to unlock the disk to boot up your operating system. The computer won’t work until the user supplies the encryption key or passphrase. You can also create multiple unlocking keys if you have several user accounts for that device.

Again, you’re going to want to come up with a strong password. If your key phrase is “password,” (the fourth most common choice in 2019), there’s little point in encryption.

You also don’t want to walk away from your laptop, leaving it open and accessible. You’ll want to set your encryption program to lock again after a certain amount of idle time. Otherwise, you’ll find encryption doesn’t impact your computer’s performance.

Make sure your computers and laptops are always physically secure. With disk encryption, only people you trust can access your data and files.

Ready to set up disk encryption on your devices? We can help. Contact us today at 323-7111!

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Recovery Test Your Data Backups

Recovery Test Your Data Backups

Recovery Test Your Data Backups

Most businesses are aware of the need for data backup. Without it they risk losing important files in the event of a hard drive failure or cyberattack. Yet having a backup in place isn’t enough: it’s important also to test that backup. Ensure that you are able to restore that essential data when you need it.

The many reasons to establish data backups include:

  • protecting against natural or man-made disasters (including hacker or insider attack);
  • ensuring compliance with tax, financial, and other industry standards;
  • preserving relationships with clients;
  • reducing downtime;
  • improving productivity;
  • establishing credibility with customers, investors, and employees.

We recommend backing up in three places. You might have one on a local, on-site computer. You’d also have a backup on a remote device and another in the cloud. The cloud option gives you the most flexibility. It can be accessed from anywhere, regardless of conditions in your particular environment.

Yet while many people know they need backups, too few do recovery tests. The worst time to find out there’s a problem with your backup solution is when you need it the most.

Testing Data Backups

Regular data backups can offer peace of mind, but you’ll really know you are ready to go if you regularly test your ability to recover your system from a backup.

Testing your backup lets you verify the necessary data is available for recovery. Plus, testing helps you learn how to actually implement recovery following a data loss. If a backup test fails, you can take the steps needed to ensure you don’t actually lose valuable information. Otherwise, you’re throwing money at storage space and backup services that are no help, and you’ll find out too late.

Regular monitoring helps you keep track of any software or hardware changes that may have an impact on data backups. Via testing, you might also learn some staff members are storing data somewhere that isn’t being backed up, and you can now intervene with those employees or extend your backup protocols to prevent that data getting lost.

Scheduling data backup tests can also help you to identify a misconfiguration in the backup software or ways in which you’re not adequately addressing your backup needs. For instance, you might not have set up a complete backup in the first place. This might mean you’re backing up the data but not the settings. Most backup software will send error messages if there was an issue backing up. Still, they’re easy for an overworked IT team to miss.

Actively testing backups allows the business to confirm fallback data accuracy and effectiveness. Additionally, you’ll be able to gauge:

  • how long it takes to perform the backup;
  • any issues that arise during recovery;
  • what steps need to be taken to address those problems.

All of this is something you want to consider proactively. Some people say they work best under pressure, but most of us think more clearly and perform better if not in the midst of a data catastrophe.

A managed service provider can help your business with data backup and recovery testing. Our IT experts can monitor for failures and make any changes needed to get the backup running properly again. You’ll be glad you did recovery testing in advance when things run smoother and quicker in the midst of your disaster recovery.

Give us a call at 323-7111 to correct your backups, make sure they are working the way you want to, and set up regular backup restore tests.

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Steer Clear of Coronavirus Scams

Steer Clear of Coronavirus Scams

Steer Clear of Coronavirus Scams

With the world grappling with a health pandemic, scams are shocking. Regrettably, bad actors are everywhere, always looking for opportunities, and they’re seeing one in the coronavirus. This article outlines what you need to watch out for and how to stay cyber safe.

The last thing you want to read right now is that there’s another threat out there – sorry, but it’s true. Cybercriminals take advantage of fear. They take timely concerns and use them to target victims. Using the anxiety and upheaval around coronavirus is their mission.

So far, several coronavirus-related attempts to cyberscam people have been reported. There are examples of:

  • emails that appear to come from government health departments;
  • offering a tax refund to get people to click on malicious links;
  • memos to staff that appear to come from large employers;
  • COVID-19 test offerings from private companies;
  • fake websites promising to sell face masks or hand sanitizer;
  • soliciting donations to help fund a vaccine.

What to Watch Out For

Another concern is the number of bogus websites registered with names relating to COVID-19. The site can look legit but is set up to steal information or infect the victim’s computer with malware.

You may get an email promising the attached information offers coronavirus safety measures, or information shared by the World Health Organization (WHO) if you click on the link, or a similar email pretending to be from a reputable news source, such as the Wall Street Journal (WSJ).

In another example, an email impersonating a healthcare company’s IT team asked people to register for a seminar “about this deadly virus.” Anyone who didn’t question why IT was organizing the meeting clicked to register. By filling out the form, they gave their details to hackers.

What to Do

Be cautious. It’s understandable that you’re anxious, but don’t let that stop you from taking cyber precautions. You should still:

  • be wary of anything that tries to play on your emotions and urges immediate action;
  • question where emails are coming from – remain vigilant even if the communication appears to come from a reliable source;
  • hover over links before clicking them to see where they will take you – for example, in the WSJ example, the Web address was for the “worldstreetjournal”;
  • avoid downloading anything you didn’t ask for;
  • doubt any deals that sound too good to be true (“a mask that stops the virus 99.7% of the time!”);
  • ignore any communications requesting your personal information;
  • don’t be suckered by fraudulent pleas for charity.

Global health organizations generally do not send out emails with advice. Instead, navigate directly to that reputable health institution for real news.

If you’re still not sure about the validity of the communication, check it out. Do so by calling or using another medium to get in touch with the “source” of the received message.

While there is not yet a vaccine for COVID-19, you can put anti-virus protection on your computer. Also, make sure that you’ve applied all available security updates to keep your software safe.

We hope you’ll take care and stay healthy both physically and online in these tough times.

Need help installing security software and keeping your technology safe? Our cybersecurity experts can give your home a tech immunization. Contact us today at 323-7111!

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How to Stay Focused Working from Home

How to Stay Focused Working from Home

How to Stay Focused Working from Home

​COVID-19 is forcing many businesses to embrace remote work. The technology needed to enable people to work from home has existed for years, but working from home may be new for you and your employees. Here are some essentials you need to address to empower your remote workers.

What technology do you have or need? Your people may have business laptops and phones, or perhaps you already allowed employees to bring their own devices (BYOD) to work. So, remote work isn’t going to be as much of a change. Your people already have the tools they need.

However, a business that wasn’t doing any of this before might need new hardware. You can’t expect your employees to lug heavy desktop computers home.

You may need to ask employees to use their own personal computers and phones. That’s going to require some ground rules. For one, no Windows 7: that operating system is out of date and no longer supported by Microsoft, which means employees could be putting corporate data at risk of cyberattack.

You can also take the following precautions to secure off-site online activity:

  • Establish strict policies for securing devices accessing business networks.
  • Communicate reporting procedures for the loss/theft of a device.
  • Enable mobile monitoring management of all devices that give IT access.
  • Encourage regular backup of mobile devices.
  • Educate employees to regularly update firewall and anti-virus software.
  • Prohibit third-party apps.
  • Set devices to make users aware that they may be connecting to unsafe networks.

Challenges of the Remote Work Environment

In the office environment, there is business technology consistency. Now, you’re supporting various hardware and networking solutions of different quality. This can be a headache to get up and running, yet you need to support your remote employees. What kind of IT desk help will you offer? People are now working wherever they are, whenever they want.

The “wherever they are” part can raise some issues. Employees could log in from public parks, coffee shops (if any are open), or while at home with the kids. This means fresh threats. Laptops can get stolen. People out in the world could look over your employee’s shoulder and read what’s on the screen. Kids can spill juice in a split second! Install remote management software to enable a complete wipe of lost or stolen laptops. Also, implement encryption, data backup, and screen-locking features to help keep data secure.

Saying people can work “whenever they want” also has its challenges. With everyone stuck at home, a 9–5 schedule for office productivity may be impossible. Toddlers don’t really understand that “Mommy’s working,” do they?

It’s a good idea to establish clear expectations from the outset:

  • How will progress be demonstrated?
  • How can employees check-in with managers?
  • What are the expectations for team collaboration?
  • What software will be used for group chat, video, or conference calling?
  • What is acceptable business-hour flexibility?
  • If you’re going to allow people to set their own hours, IT support needs to be flexible, too.

Supporting Remote Work

The good news is that remote work can be productive, too. In fact, a Stanford University study found remote employees did an extra day’s work per person per week.

We can help you set up your technology to support your remote staff. We’ll make sure your hardware is up to scratch, secure those mobile devices, and be your remote IT help desk at odd hours. Contact us today at 323-7111!

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Is Your Business’s IT Ready for the Coronavirus?

Is Your Business’s IT Ready for the Coronavirus?

Is Your Business’s IT Ready for the Coronavirus?

Is Your Business’s IT Ready for the Coronavirus?

The Coronavirus is spreading as fast as feared. Business must be ready for the worst. One priority? Protecting the health of employees. Preparing the way for remote working is one top recommendation.

News of the virus, which the WHO is now calling COVID-19, has prompted urgent interest in remote work. Business collaboration software, virtual desktops, and private networks can all help. This tech helps business continue as usual, even with quarantined employees.

It’s difficult to imagine you aren’t aware of the looming health pandemic. Trying to limit the contagion, we’ve already seen big business take major measures. These include:

  • Nike temporarily closed its European headquarters when an employee was diagnosed with the virus. After the first death in Washington state in the U.S., the company also closed its world headquarters for a deep clean of its campus.
  • Twitter told its roughly 4,900 employees to stay home to work.

Other businesses are weighing up the options. Furloughs? Changes to sick leave? Or encouraging work from home. The last option appeals, but how do employees work remotely? How can they continue collaborating with people they used to sit beside, meet in the office, or travel to see? Technological solutions.

The Right Technology for Remote Work

Remote workers want a centralized platform with a simplified (yet secure) login process. Business collaboration software is a great enabler of mobile, flexible work. Replace in-person meetings with voice or video conferencing. Streamline chat, voice, and video in one software platform. Tools such as Microsoft Teams, Google’s G-suite, or Slack, allow business to create team channels.

Business collaboration tools also simplify access to email, calendars, documents, and file sharing. Employees can use a single sign-on to access business tools and data. This supports improved efficiency and increased transparency.

Providing a virtual desktop can provide access to important business applications, as well. Virtual desktops in the cloud allow users to work separately from their personal computers. The software virtualizes the user’s unique desktop environment at any workstation. All the data and applications are stored on a central server. Users access apps, folders, and toolbars from anywhere, with a consistent, secure experience.

Using a cloud-based solution also provides peace of mind. While remote workers access the corporate network, the sensitive data isn’t stored locally. So, the business needn’t worry about the loss or theft of sensitive data. Plus, cloud-based virtual desktops are easy to rapidly install outside a quarantined area.

Worried about securing those remote connections? Another option is a virtual private network (VPN). A VPN connects computers, smartphones, or tablets to a shared or public network as if connecting to a private network. These encrypted connections to the internet secure data and protect employees’ mobile activities.

Mobile Work Helps Every Day

You can hope that your employees stay healthy and your business remains unaffected, but why take that risk? Empowering remote work benefits business, even without the threat of a fatal flu.

Remote teams enjoy greater work-life balance. The workers spend less time commuting and are more productive. Empowered, they also feel trusted and more engaged.

Meanwhile, business can save money on physical space and hardware investments. Additionally, the hiring pool of qualified personnel expands with remote work, and the business can offer its services more globally and flexibly. All that’s true whether the coronavirus becomes an issue for your business or not.

Enabling a remote workforce takes technology. Need help installing and connecting your employees? We can help. Contact us today at 323-7111.

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You’re Never Too Small to Outsource

You’re Never Too Small to Outsource

You’re Never Too Small to Outsource

​Small business owners are proud of getting everything done with few people. Every team member wears many hats. They are part of a family, devoted to the firm’s success. But that doesn’t make them qualified to handle IT. Really, you’re never too small to outsource your technology needs.

A small business may only have a few computers for its handful of employees. Having an in-house person dedicated to IT support would be overkill. But just because the technology is working fine today doesn’t mean your IT is performing at its best. That’s why it can be beneficial to outsource IT.

Having someone who knows technology working for your team can pay huge dividends. Your outsourcing partner will add value by:

  • helping you avoid bad tech purchases or buying software you don’t need;
  • identifying where you can be more efficient with tools you already have, which can save money;
  • providing knowledgeable support and IT help;
  • learning business needs and making recommendations about the best IT for your goals;
  • protecting your business technology and ensuring computers are up to date with security patches.

Small Business Breaches

Cybercriminals don’t care about business size. In fact, according to Accenture, 43% of cyberattacks were aimed at small businesses, and only 14% of the SMBs were prepared for defending their networks and sensitive data.

In fact, a small business can be a particularly appealing target. Hackers will exploit a small business as part of a campaign to attack a larger business. They know the SMB is less likely to have the same level of security as the bigger target in their sights.

Accenture’s 2019 study found that more than half of all small businesses had suffered a breach in the last year. These attacks can be crippling for SMBs. According to insurance carrier Hiscox, the average cyberattack costs a business $200,000. That figure can be a killer blow for a small business. Some 60% of SMBs hacked go out of business within six months of the attack. Even if they can survive the financial hit, damage to brand reputation and customer goodwill is devastating.

Advantages of Outsourcing

You may not have a clear picture of your cybersecurity status right now, but by working with a managed services provider (MSP) you’ll get one. Your partner will conduct an informal audit of your current technology and learn your short- and long-term goals.

Your small business, for instance, may not have a data protection procedure. You might be thinking you don’t have a lot to backup and store. But the quantity may not be the primary concern. Can you recover if your business loses an email chain it was keeping for legal or compliance reasons? What would happen if the computer holding your accounting database died? An MSP can identify where tech changes can better ensure business continuity.

When you outsource, your partner will also inventory all your tech assets. They’ll need to know everything about your infrastructure and your business’s technology capabilities. Your current team may recognize the importance of securing the business’s intellectual property, but are they also protecting customer data and employee records? Your business needs to be intentional about confidentiality, availability, and safety. An MSP can help.

The cost of outsourcing is often a stumbling block for the budget-conscious SMB. Managed IT services can often lower costs for clients by streamlining processes, managing vendor relationships, and ensuring that the business technology is best suited to current needs. And you’ll pay a fixed regular fee for a technology team member who will help you avoid big, costly tech surprises.

No business is too small to outsource IT. Having access to a full-time IT professional via a managed service provider can improve your operations, enhance productivity, and lower cybersecurity risk.

Find out more about what we can do for you! Call us at 323-7111

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