Skip to main content
Laptop, Mouse, Stethoscope, Notebook, Keyboard

What Are the Best Ways to Give an Older PC New Life?

By IT Management, Productivity No Comments

Purchasing a new computer is a big investment. Many small businesses and home PC owners end up struggling with older systems because they want to get as many years out of them as possible.

Have you found yourself banging on your keyboard in frustration? Have you tried every tip and trick you found online, only to still struggle with a slow PC? 

There are some promising upgrades you can do that will cost much less than the price of a new computer, while making your PC feel like new again. 

Here are some of the options you can try to improve the performance of an older computer.

Upgrade to a Solid-State Drive (SSD)

Prices for solid-state drives have come down quite a bit in the past few years, making them an affordable upgrade that can breathe life back into an older PC that might be slowing down.

Unlike hard disk drives (HDDs), SSDs do not have any moving parts and use a flash memory that allows for a quicker response time. You can improve your time to boot and your experience when searching files, opening applications, and other activities. 

Some of the advantages of upgrading your computer’s hard drive to SSD include:

  • SSD read/write speeds up to 2500 MB/second compared to HDD at up to 200 MB/second
  • SSD access time of 0.1ms as compared to HDD at 5.5-8.0ms
  • SSDs use between 2-5 watts of energy compared to HDD at 6-15 watts

Increase the RAM (Memory)

One upgrade that is very low-cost and can mean a significant increase in performance is a memory upgrade. If your PC was one of the cheaper ones that only had 4GB of RAM when you bought it, you likely have trouble opening too many tabs in your browser or using any graphics-heavy program.

Upgrading your RAM, if your PC has available memory slots, to 8GB or 12GB can make it seem like you have an entirely new computer due to the big increase in speed.

Upgrade the Graphics Card

If you play computer games or work in any type of video, imaging, or 3D software, an outdated graphics card can ruin your experience. 

Instead of replacing your entire computer, just upgrading the graphics card to a more robust model can improve your PC’s performance and give you several more useful years from it.

Replace Your PC Cooling System

Heat is an enemy of your computer’s internal parts. If your cooling system is getting worn out and not working the way it should be, then excess heat can be building up inside your device.

When this happens things can get strange, with programs crashing or your system rebooting on its own.

If you suspect excess heat may be an issue, have your computer’s fan and cooling system checked out to see if it needs replacing.

Connect an External Monitor to a Laptop

If you’re working on a laptop and having a hard time multi-tasking due to limited screen real estate, consider getting an external monitor rather than replacing your entire PC.

Monitors are just a fraction of the cost of computers, and having a screen twice the size of the one on your laptop can make all the difference in the world and improve productivity due to the additional screen space.

Replace Your Keyboard

Older keywords can stick, lose keys, and have the writing rubbed off the keys, making it more difficult to tell a “prt screen” from a “delete” button. If the performance of your PC is hampered by a frustrating keyboard, an upgrade can be a very inexpensive way to improve your equipment.

Get an External Hard Drive

Computers can slow down and be more difficult to use when the hard drive fills up with data. Over the years, files build up, and many users never take the time to go through and delete those that are unnecessary.

Buying an external hard drive can allow you to offload files that may be slowing you down, while still keeping them easily accessible.

Another benefit of an external hard drive is that it’s portable and can easily be carried between home and work and used in both places.

Get a Professional Computer Tune-Up

Those free PC cleaner tools you find online aren’t going to give you the type of tune-up that a professional IT provider can give. We will go through things like the Windows Registry, duplicate system files, internal errors, and more to clean up your system and remove all the “junk” that has built up over the years.

We can also do a maintenance check for things like failing parts, and provide expert guidance on your most impactful upgrade options. 

Get Help Improving Your Computer’s Performance Today!

Don’t struggle with an older PC! We can help you with cost-effective upgrade options that will fit your system and budget perfectly.


Featured Image Credit

This Article has been Republished with Permission from The Technology Press.

iphone screen with icons on screen

Microsoft Teams Plan Comparison: Free vs M365 Business vs Teams Essentials

By Microsoft No Comments

The shift to remote work over the last two years has caused companies to realign their digital tools. Now, many meetings default to being via video conference rather than in person, and working from home has become commonplace.

Seventy-seven percent of remote workers say they’re more productive working from home (a big reason is fewer distractions). Plus 85% of surveyed managers expect that having teams with remote workers will be the new normal.

But for remote working to work without employees feeling disconnected and customers feeling you’re hard to reach, you need to use cloud communication tools. One of the most popular, which has skyrocketed in popularity, is Microsoft Teams.

Between April 2020 and April 2021, the Microsoft Teams daily active users count rose from 75 million to 145 million

Teams is an all-in-one communication platform, providing more than just video conferencing or chat. It combines several capabilities into an online work hub for collaboration and communication. 

Some of the key features of MS Teams include:

  • Video and audio calls
  • Webinar registration & attendance reporting
  • Channeled team chat
  • File storage and sharing
  • In-app collaboration in Word, Excel, PPT, and more
  • In-app collaboration in 3rd party applications
  • Tabs that allow teams to link apps and websites inside a channel
  • Status notification and alerts
  • Use on all devices

MS Teams Evolution

Originally, Microsoft Teams was available only through a Microsoft 365 Business subscription. Then, to improve the popularity of Teams and compete with video conferencing platforms like Zoom, Microsoft brought out a free version with fewer features in 2018.

This helped the service increase its user base, however, there was a wide gap between the capabilities of the paid version with a Microsoft 365 subscription and the free version. Such as much less support, fewer features, etc.

Microsoft noted that it was missing a vital audience, the small business. Small business owners had a more difficult time fitting into either the free model, with very limited group meeting timing, or the paid model, which required a full M365 subscription.

So, in December of 2021, it brought out the third plan for MS Teams that it is hoping is “just right” for smaller companies that need the same collaboration and communication tools as everyone else. This plan is called Teams Essentials, and you don’t need to sign up for Microsoft 365 to get it.

Comparison of Teams Essentials vs Teams Free vs Teams with an M365 Business Plan

Next, we’ll go through the differences between these three MS Teams plans so you can identify the one that may make the most sense for your company.

Microsoft Teams Free Version

The free version of MS Teams was really brought out to reach the residential and home user crowd. An audience that had been completely missing from the Teams userbase up to that point.

This plan has the following capabilities:

  • Unlimited group meetings for up to 60 minutes
  • Up to 100 participants per meeting
  • 5GB of cloud storage per user
  • Unlimited chat
  • File sharing, tasks, and polling
  • Data encryption for calls, files, meetings, chats
  • Co-authoring capabilities
  • Ability to add tabs inside group channels

The biggest drawback of using the free version for your business is the 60-minute limit on group video meetings. The 5GB cloud storage also can be limiting for business use of Teams.

Microsoft Teams Essentials

Teams Essentials is $4/user/month and was designed specifically for small businesses that may not want to subscribe to M365, but still need a good cloud collaboration tool to keep their team connected and productive.

This plan has the following capabilities:

  • Everything in the free version, plus:
  • Unlimited group meetings for up to 30 hours
  • Up to 300 participants per meeting
  • 10GB of cloud storage per user
  • Anytime phone and web support

The additional group meeting time (up to 30 hours) is more than enough to fill any type of meeting need, even those that go on all day. Additionally, users get double the cloud storage space, and the phone and web support ensure your staff has help using the app when needed.

Teams with Microsoft 365

The version of Teams with Microsoft 365 is available with any business plan. The lowest cost plan is $6.00/user/month ($2 more than Essentials). However, the Basic package does not come with downloadable Office apps (Word, Excel, etc.), only the web versions.

The next step up would be M365 Business Standard at $12.50/user/month, which is quite a bit more than the price for Teams Essentials. This one does include the downloadable Office apps.

These plans have the following capabilities:

  • Everything in the Essentials version, plus:
  • Office applications (either web or web & downloadable)
  • All the many M365 cloud apps (OneDrive, Forms, SharePoint, OneNote, and many others)
  • 1TB of cloud storage per user
  • Webinar hosting
  • Customer appointment management
  • Premium security features

If you are planning to use Microsoft Office software and other applications, then it makes sense to get Teams along with an M365 subscription. However, if your business already owns the offline version of the Office suite or does not need it, then Teams Essentials offers a lot of capabilities with a lower price tag.

Need Help Getting MS Teams or Other Cloud Tools Set Up?

Today’s hybrid offices and remote teams need robust collaboration tools to compete. Contact us if you need help getting started with MS Teams or another cloud tool. We’ll be happy to facilitate a custom setup to ensure your staff can hit the ground running.


Featured Image Credit

This Article has been Republished with Permission from The Technology Press.

Cyber Security, Technology, Network, Internet

How to Protect Your Online Accounts from Being Breached

By Cybersecurity No Comments

Stolen login credentials are a hot commodity on the Dark Web. There’s a price for every type of account from online banking to social media. For example, hacked social media accounts will go for between $30 to $80 each.

The rise in reliance on cloud services has caused a big increase in breached cloud accounts. Compromised login credentials are now the #1 cause of data breaches globally, according to IBM Security’s latest Cost of a Data Breach Report.

Having either a personal or business cloud account compromised can be very costly. It can lead to a ransomware infection, compliance breach, identity theft, and more.

To make matters more challenging, users are still adopting bad password habits that make it all too easy for criminals. For example:

  • 34% of people admit to sharing passwords with colleagues
  • 44% of people reuse passwords across work and personal accounts
  • 49% of people store passwords in unprotected plain text documents

Cloud accounts are more at risk of a breach than ever, but there are several things you can do to reduce the chance of having your online accounts compromised.

Use Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA)

Multi-factor authentication (MFA) is the best method there is to protect cloud accounts. While not a failsafe, it is proven to prevent approximately 99.9% of fraudulent sign-in attempts, according to a study cited by Microsoft.

When you add the second requirement to a login, which is generally to input a code that is sent to your phone, you significantly increase account security. In most cases, a hacker is not going to have access to your phone or another device that receives the MFA code, thus they won’t be able to get past this step.

The brief inconvenience of using that additional step when you log into your accounts is more than worth it for the bump in security.

Use a Password Manager for Secure Storage

One way that criminals get their hands on user passwords easily is when users store them in unsecured ways. Such as in an unprotected Word or Excel document or the contact application on their PC or phone.

Using a password manager provides you with a convenient place to store all your passwords that is also encrypted and secured. Plus, you only need to remember one strong master password to access all the others. 

Password managers can also autofill all your passwords in many different types of browsers, making it a convenient way to access your passwords securely across devices.

Review/Adjust Privacy & Security Settings

Have you taken the time to look at the security settings in your cloud tools? One of the common causes of cloud account breaches is misconfiguration. This is when security settings are not properly set to protect an account.

You don’t want to just leave SaaS security settings at defaults, as these may not be protective enough. Review and adjust cloud application security settings to ensure your account is properly safeguarded.

Use Leaked Password Alerts in Your Browser

You can have impeccable password security on your end, yet still have your passwords compromised. This can happen when a retailer or cloud service you use has their master database of usernames and passwords exposed and the data stolen.

When this happens, those leaked passwords can quickly end up for sale on the Dark Web without you even knowing it.

Due to this being such a prevalent problem, browsers like Chrome and Edge have had leaked password alert capabilities added. Any passwords that you save in the browser will be monitored, and if found to be leaked, you’ll see an alert when you use it.

Look for this in the password area of your browser, as you may have to enable it. This can help you know as soon as possible about a leaked password, so you can change it.

Don’t Enter Passwords When on a Public Wi-Fi

Whenever you’re on public Wi-Fi, you should assume that your traffic is being monitored. Hackers like to hang out on public hot spots in airports, restaurants, coffee shops, and other places so they can gather sensitive data, such as login passwords.

You should never enter a password, credit card number, or other sensitive information when you are connected to public Wi-Fi. You should either switch off Wi-Fi and use your phone’s wireless carrier connection or use a virtual private network (VPN) app, which encrypts the connection.

Use Good Device Security

If an attacker manages to breach your device using malware, they can often breach your accounts without a password needed. Just think about how many apps on your devices you can open and already be logged in to. 

To prevent an online account breach that happens through one of your devices, make sure you have strong device security. Best practices include:

  • Antivirus/anti-malware
  • Up-to-date software and OS
  • Phishing protection (like email filtering and DNS filtering)

Looking for Password & Cloud Account Security Solutions?

Don’t leave your online accounts at risk. We can help you review your current cloud account security and provide helpful recommendations.


Featured Image Credit

This Article has been Republished with Permission from The Technology Press.

Phishing, Credentials, Data, Login, Password, Internet

6 Ways to Combat Social Phishing Attacks

By Cybersecurity No Comments

Phishing is the number one method of attack delivery for everything from ransomware to credential theft. We are very aware of it coming by email, but other types of phishing have been growing rapidly.

In recent years, phishing over social media has skyrocketed by 500%. There has also been a 100% increase in fraudulent social media accounts.

Phishing over social media often tricks the victims because people tend to let their guard down when on social platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn. They’re socializing and not looking for phishing scams.

However, phishing scammers are out there looking for you and will reach out via friend requests and direct messages. Learn several ways you can secure your social media use to avoid these types of covert attacks.

Make Your Profile Private on Social Platforms

Phishing scammers love public profiles on social media because not only can they gather intel on you to strike up a conversation, but they can also clone your profile and put up a fake page for phishing your connections.

Criminals do this in order to try to connect with those on your friends or connections list to send social phishing links that those targets will be more likely to click because they believe it’s from someone they know.

You can limit your risk by going into your profile and making it private to your connections only. This means that only someone that you’ve connected with can see your posts and images, not the general public.

For sites like LinkedIn where many people network for business, you might still want to keep your profile public, but you can follow the other tips below to reduce your risk.

Hide Your Contacts/Friends List

You can keep social phishing scammers from trying to use your social media profile to get to your connections by hiding your friends or connections list. Platforms like LinkedIn and Facebook both give you this privacy option. 

Just be aware that this does not keep scammers from seeing you as a friend or connection on someone else’s profile unless they too have hidden their friends list.

Be Wary of Links Sent via Direct Message & in Posts

Links are the preferred way to deliver phishing attacks, especially over social media. Links in social posts are often shortened, making it difficult for someone to know where they are being directed until they get there. This makes it even more dangerous to click links you see on a social media platform.

A scammer might chat you up on LinkedIn to inquire about your business offerings and give you a link that they say is to their website. Unless you know the source to be legitimate, do not click links sent via direct message or in social media posts. They could be leading to a phishing site that does a drive-by download of malware onto your device.

Even if one of your connections shares a link, be sure to research where it is coming from. People often share posts in their own feeds because they like a meme or picture on the post, but they never take the time to check whether the source can be trusted.

Don’t Participate in Social Media Surveys or Quizzes

While it may be fun to know what Marvel superhero or Disney princess you are, stay away from quizzes on social media. They’re often designed as a ploy to gather data on you. Data that could be used for targeted phishing attacks or identity theft.

The Cambridge Analytica scandal that impacted the personal data of millions of Facebook users did not happen all that long ago. It was found that the company was using surveys and quizzes to collect information on users without their consent.

While this case was high-profile, they’re by no means the only ones that play loose and fast with user data and take advantage of social media to gather as much as they can.

It’s best to avoid any types of surveys or quizzes on any social media platform because once your personal data is out there, there is no getting it back.

Avoid Purchasing Directly from Ads on Facebook or Instagram

Many companies advertise on social media legitimately, but unfortunately, many scammers use the platforms as well for credit card fraud and identity theft.

If you see something that catches your eye in a Facebook or Instagram ad, go to the advertiser’s website directly to check it out, do not click through the social ad.

Research Before You Accept a Friend Request

It can be exciting to get a connection request on a social media platform. It could mean a new business connection or connecting with someone from your Alma mater. But this is another way that phishing scammers will look to take advantage of you. They’ll try to connect to you which can be a first step before reaching out direct via DM.

Do not connect with friend requests without first checking out the person on the site and online using a search engine. If you see that their timeline only has pictures of themself and no posts, that’s a big red flag that you should decline the request.

Can Your Devices Handle a Phishing Link or File?

It’s important to safeguard your devices with things like DNS filtering, managed antivirus, email filtering, and more. This will help protect you if you happen to click on a phishing link.

Find out how we can help!


Featured Image Credit

This Article has been Republished with Permission from The Technology Press.

Upload, Online, Internet, Files, Cloud, Technology

4 Interesting Cloud Storage Trends to Watch for in 2022

By Business Continuity, Cloud No Comments

One area of cloud computing that is used widely, but often isn’t as flashy as the software side is cloud storage. Storing files in the cloud to make them easily accessible and shareable from anywhere was one of the very first uses of the cloud that was adopted widely by many users.

As advances like automation and AI come to other types of cloud services, like team communications and business apps, cloud storage is not being left behind. The industry also continues to evolve to make storing data in the cloudless complex, more reliable, and better secured.

It’s estimated that in 2021, 50% of all company data was stored in the cloud. This is an increase of 15% from just five years earlier. With today’s hybrid teams that may be working from home and be hundreds or thousands of miles away from co-workers, it’s important to centrally locate files in cloud systems that can be accessed by everyone.

What can you expect to see in the cloud storage market this year? Here are some of the most interesting trends to keep an eye on.

1. Built-in Ransomware Defenses

Ransomware can impact data no matter where it is stored. Whether on a computer, server or in a cloud storage platform, this malware can encrypt the information and make it unreadable to the business that owns it.

In 2021, the average ransomware payment increased by 82% and ransomware incidents rose 64% during the first half of the year. A survey of CISOs found that over the last 18 months, 98% of organizations suffered a cloud data breach.

To combat ransomware, you’ll begin seeing cloud storage services offering ransomware recovery protection. This involves sophisticated systems that can help prevent files from being encrypted by code as well as those that take a copy of files and store it securely away, so files can be restored at the click of a button.

With ransomware showing no sign of stopping, this is a welcome addition in the cloud storage arena.

2. “The Edge” Becomes More Key in Cloud Storage

One of the new buzzwords of the last few years has been “Edge” or “Edge computing.” This means bringing data applications and storage resources geographically closer to the user that needs to connect to them.

As reliance on cloud storage and other cloud applications has increased, so has the need to improve response times from user to server. When data must travel across large distances, it becomes more difficult to quickly and economically deliver the best user experience. Thus, cloud service providers have been moving to an Edge computing model.

What this means for you is better reliability and faster response when accessing or searching on files because your provider is going to work to provide your service from one of the company’s cloud servers that is geographically closer to your location.

For companies with offices spread out around a country or throughout the world, this means that you’ll want to keep service location in mind when signing up for cloud storage and have a discussion with the provider about distance and how Edge computing factors in.

3. Expect More Help from AI and Machine Learning

AI and machine learning are making just about every area of technology smarter. Microsoft Word and text message apps now predict what you might type to help you fill in the blanks and type faster. Programs like Photoshop can crop around a person in an image in seconds using AI.

AI is also going to become more prevalent in cloud storage this year. You can expect help with automatic organization of your files based on your cloud storage patterns. 

Look for features designed to eliminate manual or repetitive tasks to free up more time. This includes AI helping to automate things like provisioning, obtaining, and importing data (known as “ingesting”), managing data retention, and more.

4. Legacy Vendors Begin Offering More Cloud Options

2022 is going to bring more cloud storage options coming from legacy technology providers. For example, Hewlett-Packard Enterprise recently introduced a new Data Services Cloud Console, and Dell Technologies just announced a new APEX multi-cloud design that it is working on to improve the cloud ecosystem.

More cloud storage options mean you may need more help deciding which model will work best for you, as pricing will vary widely. You don’t want to end up with more storage than you need or be paying a lot for a smaller amount of space.

It pays to keep on top of new offerings and understand that every new cloud storage option might not be a fit for your organization’s specific data storage needs.

Get Help Optimizing Your Cloud Storage & Backup Environment

Your business data is what runs your company, and it needs to be stored securely and in a way that’s accessible. Find out how we can help you optimize your cloud storage to improve cost efficiency.


Featured Image Credit

This Article has been Republished with Permission from The Technology Press.

person using laptop

5 Things You Should Never Do on a Work Computer

By Cybersecurity No Comments

Whether you work remotely or in an office, the line between personal and work tasks can become blurred when working on your company computer. If you’re in front of a computer for most of your time during work, then it’s not unusual to get attached to your desktop PC.

Over time, this can lead to doing personal things on a work computer. At first, it might just be checking personal email while on a lunch break. But as the line continues to get crossed, it can end up with someone using their work computer just as much for personal reasons as work tasks.

In a survey of over 900 employees, it was found that only 30% said they never used their work PC for personal activities. The other 70% admitted to using their work computer for various personal reasons.

Some of the non-work-related things that people do on a work computer include:

  • Reading and sending personal email
  • Scanning news headlines
  • Shopping online
  • Online banking
  • Checking social media
  • Streaming music
  • Streaming videos/movies

It’s a bad idea to mix work and personal, no matter how much more convenient it is to use your work PC for a personal task during the day. You can end up getting reprimanded, causing a data breach at your company, or possibly losing your job.

Here are several things you should never do on your work PC.

1. Save Your Personal Passwords in the Browser

Many people manage their passwords by allowing their browser to save and then auto-fill them. This can be convenient, but it’s not very secure should you lose access to that PC.

When the computer you use isn’t yours, it can be taken away at any time for a number of reasons, such as an upgrade, repair, or during an unexpected termination.

If someone else accesses that device and you never signed out of the browser, that means they can leverage your passwords to access your cloud accounts.

Not all older PCs are stored in a storeroom somewhere or destroyed. Some companies will donate them to worthy causes, which could leave your passwords in the hands of a stranger if the PC hasn’t been wiped properly.

2. Store Personal Data

It’s easy to get in the habit of storing personal data on your work computer, especially if your home PC doesn’t have a lot of storage space. But this is a bad habit and leaves you wide open to a couple of major problems:

  • Loss of your files: If you lose access to the PC for any reason, your files can be lost forever
  • Your personal files being company-accessible: Many companies have backups of employee devices to protect against data loss. So, those beach photos stored on your work PC that you’d rather not have anyone else see could be accessible company-wide because they’re captured in a backup process.

3. Visit Sketchy Websites

You should assume that any activity you are doing on a work device is being monitored and is accessible by your boss. Companies often have cybersecurity measures in place like DNS filtering that is designed to protect against phishing websites.

This same type of software can also send an alert should an employee be frequenting a sketchy website deemed dangerous to security (which many sketchy websites are).

You should never visit any website on your work computer that you wouldn’t be comfortable visiting with your boss looking over your shoulder.

4. Allow Friends or Family to Use It

When you work remotely and your work computer is a permanent fixture in your home, it can be tempting to allow a friend or family member to use it if asked. Often, work PCs are more powerful than a typical home computer and may even have company-supplied software that someone wouldn’t purchase on their own.

But allowing anyone else to use your work computer could constitute a compliance breach of data protection regulations that your company needs to adhere to.

Just the fact that the personal data of your customers or other employees could be accessed by someone not authorized to do so, can mean a stiff penalty.

Additionally, a child or friend not well-versed in cybersecurity could end up visiting a phishing site and infecting your work device, which in turn infects your company cloud storage, leaving you responsible for a breach.

At least 20% of companies have experienced a data breach during the pandemic due to a remote worker.

5. Turn off Company-Installed Apps like Backups and Antivirus

If you’re trying to get work done and a backup kicks in and slows your PC down to a crawl, it can be tempting to turn off the backup process. But this can leave the data on your computer unprotected and unrecoverable in the case of a hard drive crash or ransomware infection.

Company-installed apps are there for a reason and it’s usually for cybersecurity and business continuity. These should not be turned off unless given express permission by your supervisor or company’s IT team

How Secure Is the Device You Use to Work from Home?

Whether you’re working remotely and worried about causing a data breach or are a business owner with multiple remote team members to secure, device protection is important. Schedule a device security checkup today.


Featured Image Credit

This Article has been Republished with Permission from The Technology Press.

Hacking, Data Theft, Online Fraud, Cyber Crime, Hacker

Alarming Phishing Attack Trends to Beware of in 2022

By Cybersecurity No Comments

In 2020, 75% of companies around the world experienced a phishing attack. Phishing remains one of the biggest dangers to your business’s health and wellbeing because it’s the main delivery method for all types of cyberattacks.

One phishing email can be responsible for a company succumbing to ransomware and having to face costly downtime. It can also lead a user to unknowingly hand over the credentials to a company email account that the hacker then uses to send targeted attacks to customers.

Phishing takes advantage of human error, and some phishing emails use sophisticated tactics to fool the recipient into divulging information or infecting a network with malware.

Mobile phishing threats skyrocketed by 161% in 2021.

Your best safeguards against the continuous onslaught of phishing include:

  • Email filtering
  • DNS filtering
  • Next-gen antivirus/anti-malware
  • Ongoing employee cybersecurity awareness training

To properly train your employees and ensure your IT security is being upgraded to meet the newest threats you need to know what new phishing dangers are headed your way.

Here are some of the latest phishing trends that you need to watch out for in 2022.

Phishing Is Increasingly Being Sent via Text Message

Fewer people are suspicious of text messages than they are of unexpected email messages. Most phishing training is usually focused on the email form of phishing because it’s always been the most prevalent.

But cybercrime entities are now taking advantage of the easy availability of mobile phone numbers and using text messaging to deploy phishing attacks. This type of phishing (called “smishing”) is growing in volume.

People are receiving more text messages now than they did in the past, due in large part to retailers and service businesses pushing their text updates for sales and delivery notices.

This makes it even easier for phishing via SMS to fake being a shipment notice and get a user to click on a shortened URL.

Business Email Compromise Is on the Rise

Ransomware has been a growing threat over the last few years largely because it’s been a big money-maker for the criminal groups that launch cyberattacks. A new up-and-coming form of attack is beginning to be quite lucrative and thus is also growing.

Business email compromise (BEC) is on the rise and being exploited by attackers to make money off things like gift card scams and fake wire transfer requests.

What makes BEC so dangerous (and lucrative) is that when a criminal gains access to a business email account, they can send very convincing phishing messages to employees, customers, and vendors of that company. The recipients will immediately trust the familiar email address, making these emails potent weapons for cybercriminals.

Small Businesses Are Being Targeted More Frequently With Spear Phishing

There is no such thing as being too small to be attacked by a hacker. Small businesses are targeted frequently in cyberattacks because they tend to have less IT security than larger companies.

43% of all data breaches target small and mid-sized companies, and 40% of small businesses that become victims of an attack experience at least eight hours of downtime as a result.

Spear phishing is a more dangerous form of phishing because it’s targeted and not generic. It’s the type deployed in an attack using BEC.

It used to be that spear-phishing was used for larger companies because it takes more time to set up a targeted and tailored attack. However, as large criminal groups and state-sponsored hackers make their attacks more efficient, they’re able to more easily target anyone.

A result is small businesses receiving more tailored phishing attacks that are harder for their users to identify as a scam.

The Use of Initial Access Brokers to Make Attacks More Effective

We just discussed the fact that large criminal groups are continually optimizing their attacks to make them more effective. They treat cyberattacks like a business and work to make them more profitable all the time.

One way they are doing this is by using outside specialists called Initial Access Brokers. This is a specific type of hacker that only focuses on getting the initial breach into a network or company account.

The increasing use of these experts in their field makes phishing attacks even more dangerous and difficult for users to detect.

Business Impersonation Is Being Used More Often

As users have gotten savvier about being careful of emails from unknown senders, phishing attackers have increasingly used business impersonation. This is where a phishing email will come in looking like a legitimate email from a company that the user may know or even do business with.

Amazon is a common target of business impersonation, but it also happens with smaller companies as well. For example, there have been instances where website hosting companies have had client lists breached and those companies sent emails impersonating the hosting company and asking the users to log in to an account to fix an urgent problem.

More business impersonation being used in phishing attacks mean users have to be suspicious of all emails, not just those from unknown senders.

Is Your Company Adequately Protected from Phishing Attacks?

It’s important to use a multi-layered strategy when it comes to defending against one of the biggest dangers to your business’s wellbeing. Get started with a cybersecurity audit to review your current security posture and identify ways to improve.


Featured Image Credit

This Article has been Republished with Permission from The Technology Press.

From above view of faceless person holding mobile phone with white screen and green recycle logo above marble surface

Important Steps to Take Before You Recycle a Mobile Phone Number 

By Cybersecurity No Comments

It’s not unusual to change a mobile number from time to time. For example, when you move, you may want a number that is local to the area you just moved to. Companies also may end up recycling mobile numbers throughout their staff as people come and go.

If you don’t properly detach your mobile phone number from all the accounts it’s used with, you can leave yourself open to identity theft, credit card fraud, and other crimes.

In a 2021 Princeton University study, it was found that 66% of mobile numbers listed as available by major mobile service providers were still connected to accounts on popular sites (Amazon, PayPal, etc.). 

So, after the former owners had turned in the number, it was available for someone else to use when signing up for mobile service. And that number was still being used on the former owner’s cloud accounts, allowing those accounts to easily be breached.

Because our mobile numbers are connected to much of our online and offline life, it’s important to take certain steps to ensure that you don’t leave yourself at risk when recycling your phone number.

Change Your Phone Number for Online Accounts

We all generally have more online accounts than we immediately remember. The average person must juggle 100 passwords, and most of those passwords will be to a website or cloud app service of some kind.

The first thing you want to do is begin visiting your online accounts and cloud applications to update your mobile phone number. Many of these apps now use a text message to your number as a form of verification if you’ve lost your password.

You want to ensure any password reset messages go to you and not someone that has requested your old number for the express purpose of identity theft or account compromise.

Change Your Number for Social Media Accounts

Technically, a social media account is also an online account, but many people think of them as a separate entity. When a Facebook or LinkedIn account is compromised, the hacker often will send social phishing messages out to your friend connections to try to gain access to sensitive data or scam them out of money.

Make sure to change the phone number listed in your social media accounts. If you are using WhatsApp, which is tied directly to your mobile number, make sure to follow their instructions on changing your number so your communications will remain secure.

Change Your Phone Number for Service Providers That Send You Texts

Text messaging is beginning to replace email for many types of communications. This includes things like shipping notices, confirmations of payments from utility companies, appointment reminders, and sale notices from retailers.

This puts you more at risk if you change your mobile number because the texts you receive from various service providers can be used for identity theft.

Make sure to connect with any services you use that contact you by calling or texting your mobile number to update your information. These offline services could be a:

  • Plumbing or HVAC company
  • Dentist or doctor’s office
  • Pharmacy
  • Local retailer
  • Utility company

Double Check All Your Multi-Factor Authentication Prompts

One of the big dangers of having a stranger able to receive your text messages is that they could have access to your codes for multi-factor authentication (MFA).

MFA is designed as a safeguard to help prevent an account breach, even if the perpetrator has your username and password. But if the criminal gets the MFA codes sent to your old number, they can easily get in and change your password, locking you out of your own account.

As you go through the process to update your mobile number in your online accounts, double-check the MFA prompt for any that use this form of authentication security. You want to make sure it’s been properly changed to send a message to your new number.

Review Your Text Message History for Anything You’ve Missed

Inevitably, there will be online accounts or service providers that you’ve missed. For example, that place you always order flowers for on a loved one’s birthday every year but never visit at other times.

Scroll through your text message history to find any other accounts that you may have forgotten to update.

Text Friends, Family & Colleagues from the New Number

Once your online security is taken care of, you want to stop friends, family, and colleagues from accidentally texting your old number. This can happen in both one-on-one and group SMS chats.

Send a text message from your new number asking them to immediately update your contact with that number when they receive it. Then go the additional step by asking them to delete any messages that used your old phone number. This can help prevent them from accidentally grabbing that message instead of your new one when texting you in the future.

How Secure Is Your Mobile Device?

Mobile devices are increasingly being attacked by malware and phishing. Is your device properly secured? Don’t leave yourself at risk, request a mobile security check to protect your personal data and identity.


Featured Image Credit

This Article has been Republished with Permission from The Technology Press.

person using black laptop computer

These Google Search Tips Will Save You Tons of Time!

By Productivity No Comments

Over 2.4 million searches happen every minute on Google. It’s often the first stop people make when they go online.

We search daily for both personal and work needs, and often searching out the right information can take a lot of time if you have to sift through several irrelevant results.

One study by consulting firm, McKinsey, found that employees spend an average of 1.8 hours daily, or 9.3 hours each week, searching and gathering information. This can be a productivity sinkhole as more web results keep getting added to the internet every day.

One way you can save time on your personal and work-related searches is to learn some “secret” Google search tips. These help you narrow down your search results and improve productivity by helping you find the information you need faster.

Search a Specific Website Using “site:”

Sometimes you need to find information on a specific website. For example, you might need to locate a government statistic that you know is out there but can’t seem to bring up on a general search.

You can use Google to search keywords on a specific website by using the “site” function.

In the search bar use the following:  site:(site url) (keyword)

This will bring up search results only for that one specific URL.

Find Flight Information Without Leaving Google

When you need to access flight information, you’re often on the go. Either getting ready to head to the airport or waiting for someone to arrive. Having to load multiple site pages in your browser can take valuable time. Instead, get your flight results directly from Google.

Just type in the flight number and the name of the airlines, and you’ll get a listing of flight information without having to click to another page. You can even tab to choose flight info for that same flight on different days.

Look for Document Types Using “filetype:”

If you’ve just been tasked with coming up with a presentation on sustainable energy, it can be helpful to see what other people have done on the same subject.

Searching websites can give you a lot of details to sift through but searching for another PowerPoint presentation can provide you with even more insight into how others have distilled that information down into a presentation.

Google has a search function that allows you to search on a file type, so instead of webpages showing up in your results, files of the file type you searched will appear.

To use this function, type in the following: filetype:(type) (keyword)

In the case of wanting to find a PowerPoint on sustainable energy, you could use the following in the search bar: filetype:ppt sustainable energy.

All the results will be PPT presentations.

You can also use this function for other file types, such as:

  • DOC
  • PDF
  • XLS or XLSX
  • SVG
  • and more

Narrow Down Timeframe Using the “Tools” Link

One frustration is when you’re looking up something like a population or cybersecurity statistic and you end up with results that are too old to be relevant. You can spend valuable time paging through the search results, or you can tell Google what time frame you’d like to search.

To narrow your search results by a specific timeframe, do the following:

  • Enter your keyword and click to search.
  • Under the search bar, click the “Tools” link.
  • Click the “Any time” link.
  • Choose your timeframe.

You can choose from preset timeframes, like past hour or past year, or you can set a custom date range for your results.

Locate Similar Sites Using “related:”

When you’re researching a topic online, it’s often helpful to find similar websites to the one you are viewing. Seeing related sites can also be used if you’re trying to find a specific product or service online and want to do some comparison shopping.

Google can provide you with a list of related websites when you use the “related” function.

In your search bar, type the following: related:https://website.com

One more way that you can leverage this search tip is to look for competitors by entering your own website URL in the search.

Get Rid of Results You Don’t Want Using “-(keyword)”

Non-relevant results are one of the main timewasters of online searching. You have to page through results that have nothing to do with what you really want to find, just because they use a related keyword.

For example, say you were searching the Ruby Slipper Cafe in New Orleans. But in your search results, you keep getting pages related to the movie the Wizard of Oz. You could eliminate those irrelevant results by using the negative keyword function.

Just type: (keyword) -(keyword)

Basically, you are just putting a minus sign in front of a keyword that you want to exclude from your search. In the example above, you would type: ruby slippers -oz.

Looking for More Ways to Boost Productivity & Save Time?

IT consultants aren’t just for large projects, we can also help you boost productivity in your everyday workflow to make your life easier.


Featured Image Credit

This Article has been Republished with Permission from The Technology Press.

Computer, Circuit Board, Cpu, Security, Digital

Top 5 Cybersecurity Mistakes That Leave Your Data at Risk

By Cybersecurity No Comments

The global damage of cybercrime has risen to an average of $11 million USD per minute, which is a cost of $190,000 each second.

60% of small and mid-sized companies that have a data breach end up closing their doors within six months because they can’t afford the costs. The costs of falling victim to a cyberattack can include loss of business, downtime/productivity losses, reparation costs for customers that have had data stolen, and more.

You may think that this means investing more in cybersecurity, and it is true that you need to have appropriate IT security safeguards in place (anti-malware, firewall, etc.). However, many of the most damaging breaches are due to common cybersecurity mistakes that companies and their employees make.

The 2021 Sophos Threat Report, which looked at thousands of global data breaches, found that what it termed “everyday threats” were some of the most dangerous. The report stated, “A lack of attention to one or more aspects of basic security hygiene has been found to be at the root cause of many of the most damaging attacks we’ve investigated.”

Is your company making a dangerous cybersecurity mistake that is leaving you at high risk for a data breach, cloud account takeover, or ransomware infection?

Here are several of the most common missteps when it comes to basic IT security best practices.

Not Implementing Muti-Factor Authentication (MFA)

Credential theft has become the top cause of data breaches around the world, according to IBM Security. With most company processes and data now being cloud-based, login credentials hold the key to multiple types of attacks on company networks.

Not protecting your user logins with multi-factor authentication is a common mistake and one that leaves companies at a much higher risk of falling victim to a breach.

MFA reduces fraudulent sign-in attempts by a staggering 99.9%.

Ignoring the Use of Shadow IT

Shadow IT is the use of cloud applications by employees for business data that haven’t been approved and may not even be known about by a company.

Shadow IT use leaves companies at risk for several reasons:

  • Data may be used in a non-secure application
  • Data isn’t included in company backup strategies
  • If the employee leaves, the data could be lost
  • The app being used might not meet company compliance requirements

Employees often begin using apps on their own because they’re trying to fill a gap in their workflow and are unaware of the risks involved with using an app that hasn’t been vetted by their company’s IT team.

It’s important to have cloud use policies in place that spell out for employees the applications that can and cannot be used for work.

Thinking You’re Fine With Only an Antivirus Application

No matter how small your business is, a simple antivirus application is not enough to keep you protected. In fact, many of today’s threats don’t use a malicious file at all.

Phishing emails will contain commands sent to legitimate PC systems that aren’t flagged as a virus or malware. Phishing also overwhelmingly uses links these days rather than file attachments to send users to malicious sites. Those links won’t get caught by simple antivirus solutions.

You need to have a multi-layered strategy in place that includes things like:

  • Next-gen anti-malware (uses AI and machine learning)
  • Next-gen firewall
  • Email filtering
  • DNS filtering
  • Automated application and cloud security policies
  • Cloud access monitoring

Not Having Device Management In Place

A majority of companies around the world have had employees working remotely from home since the pandemic, and they’re planning to keep it that way. However, device management for those remote employee devices as well as smartphones used for business hasn’t always been put in place.

If you’re not managing security or data access for all the endpoints (company and employee-owned) in your business, you’re at a higher risk of a data breach.

If you don’t have one already, it’s time to put a device management application in place, like Intune in Microsoft 365.

Not Providing Adequate Training to Employees

An astonishing 95% of cybersecurity breaches are caused by human error. Too many companies don’t take the time to continually train their employees, and thus users haven’t developed the skills needed for a culture of good cybersecurity.

Employee IT security awareness training should be done throughout the year, not just annually or during an onboarding process. The more you keep IT security front and center, the better equipped your team will be to identify phishing attacks and follow proper data handling procedures.

Some ways to infuse cybersecurity training into your company culture include:

  • Short training videos
  • IT security posters
  • Webinars
  • Team training sessions
  • Cybersecurity tips in company newsletters

When Did You Last Have a Cybersecurity Checkup?

Don’t stay in the dark about your IT security vulnerabilities. Schedule a cybersecurity audit to uncover vulnerabilities so they can be fortified to reduce your risk.


Featured Image Credit

This Article has been Republished with Permission from The Technology Press.