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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.


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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.

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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.


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

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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.

person using Windows 11 computer on lap

What Are the Most Helpful Features of Windows 11?

By Microsoft No Comments

Windows 11 has been out for a few months now, beginning rollout in October of 2021. It has been largely well-received and seen as stable with very few bugs noted.

One of the reasons that Windows 11 has been welcomed with open arms for both home and business computer upgrades is that it isn’t a dramatic experience difference from Windows 10. This upgrade is mainly focused on helping users do tasks faster and find things more easily.

If you’ve been on the fence about whether or not to upgrade to Windows 11, we’ll go through several of the most helpful features below that might make you want to upgrade sooner rather than later.

And if you have already upgraded your machine to Windows 11 or purchased a new PC with the OS installed, you’ll want to look over these features to make sure you haven’t been missing out on some productivity enhancers.

Snap Layouts

One challenge that tends to be universal across multiple users is the struggle with trying to work in more than one window at a time on your PC screen. You can end up spending time resizing the windows just right, then need to open a window to full size to reach a scroll bar and end up back at square one.

Many users will app-switch, meaning they switch between one app window that is fully open and another that isn’t. This is also time-consuming.

In a study of user productivity, it was found that 56% of app users said that switching between apps makes it difficult to get essential work done and costs them at least 30 minutes per day.

Enter… snap layouts in Windows 11.

This feature is designed to solve this problem by providing the user with several options for window arrangements that snap windows into place. The view is designed so you can reach all scroll bars and menu items in a particular app window.

This is one of the most time-saving features of the new operating system and it’s very intuitive and easy to use.

Texting & Video Calls from Teams on the Desktop

If you’re one of those people that hates typing out texts on a tiny smartphone screen only to have it altered by a rogue auto-correction, then the new Teams integration in Windows 11 is going to be a welcome change.

Teams is now natively integrated on the taskbar, there is no application you need to install. Setup only takes a few minutes and involves you putting in your name and a mobile phone number.

Using the Microsoft Teams icon from the desktop, you can instantly begin connecting to people via SMS or video/audio chat. You can even share a screen during your meetings.

The To Do Widget

One of the new features in Windows 11 that doesn’t look fully finished is the widgets panel. This feed has a few basic applications in it at the moment, and more are expected to come, which will make it even more useful.

You get to this panel through an icon on the taskbar, and the widget feed can be tailored with local weather, traffic, news, and more.

One of the helpful features you can use right now is the To Do widget. It allows you to quickly create a task list and check off those tasks without having to open another application.

The widget can be added in seconds to your panel and can be quite a time-saver because of the easy access right from your desktop.

Streamlined Start/Search Menu

If you’re still using your file explorer to search for documents, you can save a lot of time by using the Start/Search menu instead. Click the Windows icon on the taskbar (which has now been moved to the middle instead of far left) and type your search keyword at the top.

This is a master search that will bring up documents, settings, applications, and even web pages. Searching using the Start Menu is faster than trying to find a file in the Explorer.

The newly streamlined interface also reduces the clutter of the old Windows Start Menu making it easier to get where you need to go.

Task View

Task view is the virtual desktop feature that had been introduced in Windows 10. This remains a very handy feature for separating the different areas of your work to stay focused.

You can use the task view icon on the taskbar to create a different virtual desktop with different open applications and documents. For example, you could keep your email open on one virtual desktop and then use another when you’re in a video call and sharing screen.

Get Help with a Smooth Upgrade to Windows 11

An upgrade of an entire company to a new OS can be time-consuming. Save time and skip any downtime by working with an IT professional to roll out a smooth upgrade and get users trained on the new features.


Featured Image Credit

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

Communication, Digital, Computer, Technology, Internet

Lead Your Business More Effectively by Implementing Unified Communications

By Business No Comments

Unified communications are a go-to solution for business owners looking to streamline their businesses and increase employee productivity in the long term. See how it benefits your business.

Providing high-quality communication channels is crucial for any company. After all, it promotes cross-department collaboration and faster exchange of ideas. 

Since phones often don’t suffice for this, many business owners turn to unified communications. 

But what exactly is unified communication?

This article explains just that. Read on to discover the main concepts of this approach and how you can use it to help your business achieve success. 

What Is Unified Communications?

Unified communications is an all-in-one platform that unifies phone, video, screen sharing, chat, and file management into a single space. It’s a ready-to-use system that allows for seamless communication in numerous ways. 

The system operates as a cloud, making it easily accessible to all team members with access to the internet. 

But why should anyone consider switching to unified communications?

There are several reasons, but this is the most crucial: 

Business leaders who adopt it would be able to impact their business every day and make it seamless for employees to interact with each other. 

That said, we’ll list 5 of the key features of this concept to help you better understand how it can help you scale your business. 

The 5 Features

Feature #1. Mobility

When connected to unified communications, all employees can stay connected at all times and from all locations. It doesn’t matter whether they’re working from home, vacationing on a remote island, or sitting in the office. They’ll still be able to chat, receive calls, and more.

Feature #2. Unified Messaging

This allows employees to handle different message types using a single tool. They can easily switch communication modes, depending on their needs. 

Feature #3. Conferencing 

Whenever you need conferencing tools, you’ll have them in the palm of your hand. You can allow a group of teammates or customers from outside your organization to connect and speak via video or audio from different locations. 

Feature #4. Fax Support

Faxes received through unified communications appear as email attachments. This way, users can also receive faxes on their desktops and smartphones. 

Feature #5. Presence

This feature lets other users know each other’s status. That means you’ll be able to see when someone is online (Active), busy (Do Not Disturb), or away (Out of the Office). 

How Unified Communications Help Business Leaders

So, what are the benefits of using unified communications in your business? 

Let’s explore 6 of them below. 

Benefit #1. Higher Team Productivity

It’s important for a business owner to boost their team’s workflow and eliminate bottlenecks. Because once they get to do so, productivity will drastically improve. 

This can be done thanks to unified communications. 

This type of communication makes it easier for team members to save time on various tasks, including:

  • Faster file sharing that gets rid of email threads for teamwork
  • Ability to receive calls from any location
  • Ability to receive voicemails and faxes directly in the email
  • Single-click video meetings for emergencies

Teams with access to such technologies can be more effective and get more tasks done in a single day. It also helps get rid of communication challenges. 

Benefit #2. Lower Communication Costs

Legacy phones and on-site communication tools often cost more than your IT budget should allow.

On the other hand, unified communication relies on the internet for all its activities. This means your phone system turns to Voice Over Internet Protocol (VoIP) and integrates with the rest of the tools. This approach eliminates the need for server and hardware infrastructure creation. 

Unified communications also make it super easy to add new users. You can simply do so via an easy-to-use dashboard without having to make service calls. 

Finally, the cost of unified communications is the same every month. There won’t be any surprises to your budget. 

Benefit #3. Enhanced Customer Service

Whether or not a company is successful greatly depends on the quality of its customer service. 

With unified communications, your employees can provide great customer service easier. After all, they can respond to client queries regardless of their location. It’s because all chats, incoming calls, and emails are visible from any device. 

You can also integrate all your CRM software on the platform for added benefits. 

For example, when a person contacts your business, the person in charge can see all the necessary information and notes related to that client. In the end, they can help them solve issues faster.

Benefit #4. Empowering a Remote Workforce

Thousands of companies have switched to remote work over the past few years. There are plenty of benefits to this approach after all. 

However, a constant concern here is ensuring that remote workers have all the tools they need for work. 

Thanks to unified communications, all communication aspects are included in a single platform. This means that all your remote worker needs is a stable internet connection to get access to your network and all the features, just like the rest of the team. 

Benefit #5. Increasing Organizational Agility

When you increase your team’s productivity, the same follows for the entire organization. The organizational agility reflects the strategic value of unified communications. And the results you achieve impact your business as a whole. 

So, to see how this approach benefits your work, you must view unified communications from the management side as well. 

Sure, communication has a utilitarian role for management. But when that communication drives productivity, streamlines workflow, and leads to enhanced business outcomes, it’s where you really get to see its value.

Benefit #6. Enhanced Security

The security aspect is crucial for every business. And unified communications enhance the security of a business by integrating all applications into a single platform. 

As a result, it becomes straightforward for the IT team to apply specific security policies across all apps. It’s also easier for them to manage security patches and compliance updates since all applications share the same protocols. 

Realizing the Power of Unified Communications 

Streamlining the processes inside an organization is extremely important in improving the overall performance of its employees. And unified communications allow you to do just that. 

With it, you can boost your customer experience and make your team more efficient by integrating your whole communications system into a single platform. 

Unified communications will let you and your team make calls, host conferences, send emails, receive faxes, and chat from a single, unified space to make your job (and life) easier. 

If you’d like to learn more about implementing unified communications in your business, we’d be happy to help. Reach out to us and we can have a 10-15-minute chat to discuss this topic further. 


Featured Image Credit

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

man in gray crew neck long sleeve shirt holding black smartphone

Making Your VoIP Network Bulletproof (Six Tips to Protect Your VoIP from Cyberattacks)

By Cybersecurity No Comments

Hardly any phone call system in a business beats VoIP when it comes to efficiency and flexibility. However, it’s not immune to cyberattacks. Discover how you can secure your VoIP ASAP.

What kind of communication system are you using for your business?

I asked because many modern-day businesses have now switched to the Voice Over Internet Protocol (VoIP). This technology allows employees to perform voice calls using only their internet connection. 

It’s often a wise choice considering that using VoIP comes with several benefits to a business.

Among its benefits include lower operating costs, greater convenience than traditional services, increased accessibility, higher scalability, and the ability to multitask. VoIP also comes with advanced features for teams of all sizes, is completely portable, and offers superior voice quality. 

However, VoIP systems also have limitations, with cyberattacks being their number one downside. 

The good news is that it’s possible to protect a business’s VoIP system from hackers. And if you already implemented this in your business, it’s not too late to secure it.

Read on to discover the most common threats to your network and tips on preventing them.

The Need for VoIP Protection

All VoIP systems require a stable internet connection to function properly. Unfortunately, their reliability on the internet makes them vulnerable to various security issues.

Some of the most frequent ones include:

Security Issue #1. Denial of Service

Denial of Service (DoS) is a common threat to VoIP systems comprising attacks designed to shut down a machine or network and make it inaccessible for use. 

When this happens, legitimate users of VoIP technology may not be able to access their information systems and devices. And call centers can be affected by lower call quality, uptime, and latency. 

Security Issue #2. War Dialling

War dialing is an attack that controls the company’s private branch exchange (PBX) and scans for other phone networks. This means hackers can dial numbers and connect to modems and other extensions.

Security Issue #3. Toll Fraud

Toll fraud is a threat that consists of making calls to outside lines from a company’s existing system. 

For example, hackers will dial costly international numbers intending to rack up toll charges to your business. 

Security Issue #4. Phishing

This is a common threat wherein attackers send fraudulent messages designed to trick victims into revealing sensitive information. Often, the unsuspecting victims would divulge information about passwords, internal IP networks, and similar data. 

Security Issue #5. Malware

It’s a threat where attackers install malicious software via email or phone. A file or code gets delivered over a network and has the goal of infecting, stealing, or exploring the information contained within a system. 

After infecting the system with malware, VoIP hackers can enter your network and access critical business information. 

Security Issue #6. Call Interception

The call interception attacker uses unsecured networks to intercept the Session Initiation Protocol (SIP) traffic that serves to initiate, maintain, and terminate real-time voice and video sessions. 

A victim of a call interception attack can be redirected to another line hosted by the hacker, for example.

6 Tips for Boosting VoIP Security

Given the variety of threats imposed by attackers on VoIP systems, it’s necessary to optimize your VoIP security ASAP. 

Here are 6 valuable tips to get you started.

Tip #1. Set Up a Firewall 

Secure firewalls are necessary for all VoIP systems. It’s important to make your VoIP software and hardware firewalls scan information that goes in and out of the system and ensure it’s secure. 

If spam or a threat comes your way, the firewall will identify and gain control over it, shielding your system shielded from the attack.

Also, a good firewall will allow the data packets you send to travel unhindered. 

Tip #2. Use Strong Passwords 

Your VoIP system is no different from any other software or platform you use for handling sensitive information. For this reason, it needs to be protected with strong and regularly updated passwords. 

Aim for combinations of at least 12 characters, including numbers, upper- and lower-case letters, and special symbols. And for ultimate protection, go for passwords consisting of a random character series. 

It’s crucial to set a password as soon as you configure your VoIP system. Otherwise, you’re likely to forget about it later. 

Also, remember that some VoIP phones come with pre-set passwords, often available publicly. That’s why you should change yours as soon as you get a chance. 

Ideally, try to change your passwords every three months.

Tip #3. Restrict Calling

Many VoIP attacks happen due to toll fraud. So, if your business runs locally, there’s no need to have the international call option enabled. This allows you to be on the safe side and avoid paying expensive bills you weren’t even responsible for making. 

You can let your VoIP service block 1-900 numbers to avoid toll fraud. 

Tip #4. Encourage Your Team to Report Suspicious Behaviour 

Many of the VoIP attacks arrive due to irresponsible behavior. To prevent this from happening, educate your team on how they can best do their job without affecting the system’s security. 

For starters, they should know how to spot unusual network activity, handle passwords, and report suspicious behavior. They should also report ghost calls and missing voicemails whenever received. Staff also shouldn’t store voicemail for too long. 

The reality is that sometimes, cybersecurity training during onboarding often isn’t enough. That’s why you should do periodical training to keep your VoIP safe at all times. 

Tip #5. Deactivate Web Interface Use 

Ideally, you should deactivate the web interface used for your VoIP system. 

Why?

Using phones on a desktop computer opens an area of weakness to attackers. It’s enough for a single phone user falling prey to leave the whole system exposed to an external party. All your data can be stolen in text format as a result. 

So, unless it’s absolutely necessary for you to use the web interface, be sure to secure it very strictly.

Tip #6. Use a VPN for Remote Workers

Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) are great software that encrypts traffic regardless of your employee’s location. 

You can set up such a network for your remote staff to prevent data leaks and breaches. The good news is that using this service won’t degrade the call quality. 

(Re)Gaining Control Over Your VoIP Security

VoIP systems are a fantastic alternative to landlines. After all, they offer many more features and flexibility at a fraction of the cost. However, their reliability on the internet also makes them susceptible to cyberattacks. 

If you have just set up a VoIP system for your company or are thinking of starting one, securing it should be your number one priority. Don’t risk falling prey to toll fraud, malware, phishing, and other attacks. Take some time to secure your business by following the tips from this article. 

And if you need more help to implement these changes or would like to further discuss securing your business’s VoIP system, reach out to us and we can set up a 10-15-minute chat. 


Featured Image Credit

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

Matrix movie still

The Critical Importance of Virtualized Infrastructure Security (And 4 Ways to Enhance It)

By Business Continuity No Comments

A torn-down virtual infrastructure creates risks for any business. And it can have a significant impact on how quickly you can retrieve your data and resume operations following an attack.

These days, many businesses use virtualized infrastructure for more straightforward data storage. It’s because this approach is superior to physical solutions due to enhanced flexibility, straightforward provisioning, and affordable pricing. 

However, this model also requires a comprehensive approach to security. 

There’s a much greater risk of data loss, as many tools and practices for physical data protection are nearly useless in the virtual setting. Virtual threats are different, that’s why you need to think beyond traditional perimeter protection. 

So, if you’re using a virtualized infrastructure for data storage, keep reading. 

This article discusses the risks of improper virtualized infrastructure security and talks about ways you can improve it. 

Don’t Leave Your Virtualized Infrastructure to Chance

Virtualization security is crucial for every business’s security strategy. After all, we now live in a world of virtualized environments and need to apply security to all its layers. 

Let’s explore three of the most common virtualization security issues. 

Issue #1. External Attacks

These are a real threat to virtualized infrastructure. 

If hackers enter your host-level or server management software, they can easily access other crucial parts of your system. They can create a new user, assign admin rights, and then use that power to extract or destroy your company’s sensitive data. 

Issue #2. File Sharing and Copy-Pasting

Host and virtual machine (VM) sharing is normally disabled. The same goes for copy-pasting elements between the remote management console and the VM. You can tweak the default settings by tweaking the ESXi host system, but this action isn’t recommended. 

Why?

Because if a hacker gains access to your management console, they’d be able to copy data outside your virtual environment or install malware into your virtual machine. 

Issue #3. Viruses

Virtual machines, or VM, are prone to many attacks, with ransomware being among the most popular ones. For this reason, it’s crucial to keep regular backups of your website data and store them off-site at a place where they can’t be encrypted by hackers. 

If you fail to perform backups, you may find yourself in a situation where hackers could ask you for money to decipher your data. 

Restoring a VM is quite tricky even if you perform regular backups. Therefore, you need to educate your team members on alleviating the risk of getting ransomware and other viruses. 

Optimizing Your Virtualized Infrastructure Security

Now that you’re aware of the 3 common issues a business can face if they have an unprotected virtual infrastructure, here are 4 tips on bolstering its security.

Tip #1. Managing Virtual Sprawl 

Virtual sprawls are often associated with growing virtual environments. The concept simply means that the more you expand, the bigger the need to keep your VMs secure. However, the number of machines can outgrow your ability to do so. 

To manage your virtual sprawl, consider doing the following:

  • Create an inventory of all your machines at all times
  • Set up lookouts featuring multi-location monitoring
  • Monitor IP addresses that have access to your VMs
  • Look for table locks
  • Don’t use database grant statements to give privileges to other users
  • Keep both on- and off-site backups
  • Assess your virtual environment regularly and determine which machines you need and which ones aren’t necessary
  • Have a central log of your systems and log all hardware actions
  • Create a patch maintenance schedule for all machines to keep them up to date

Tip #2. Focusing on Virtual Configuration Setup

If you use virtual servers, you risk major configuration defects. 

That’s why it’s essential to make sure initial setups are free from security risks. This includes unnecessary ports, useless services, and similar vulnerabilities. Otherwise, all your virtual machines will inherit the same problems. 

The truth is that many businesses have poor virtual network configurations. You can avoid being one of those by ensuring all virtual applications that call the host (and vice versa) have proper segmentation. This includes databases and all web services. 

It’s also worth mentioning that most virtualization platforms only offer three switch security settings: forged transmits, MAC address changes, and promiscuous mode. There’s no protection for virtual systems that connect to other network areas. 

So, make sure to investigate each virtualization platform that allows this kind of communication, including all memory leaks, copy-paste functions, and device drivers. You can also tweak the system monitoring assets to look out for these pathways. 

Tip #3. Securing All Parts of the Infrastructure

It’s imperative that you properly secure all of your infrastructure’s parts. This includes its physical components (switches, hosts, physical storage, routers) and virtual and guest systems. Don’t forget about all your cloud systems as well. 

When it comes to protecting different infrastructure parts, here are some things you can do:

  • Install the latest firmware for your hosts. Virtualized infrastructure needs to have the latest security patches. So, keep all your VMware tools updated. 
  • Your active network elements such as routers, switches, and load balancers should use the latest firmware.
  • Patch all operating systems with automatic updates. Schedule patch installations outside of your work hours and include automatic reboots. 
  • All virtualized environments should have reliable anti-malware and antivirus software installed (and regularly updated). 

Tip #4. Having a Robust Backup Plan

Proper disaster recovery (DR) and backup plans are crucial in ensuring your business can continue operating after an attack. It’s because both your physical and virtual components can equally suffer from damage done by hacker attacks, hurricanes, etc. 

Ideally, you want to have a DR site located at a faraway data center or in the cloud. This way, you’ll alleviate the risk of being shut for a long time if your vital data gets compromised. 

Also, make sure to back up your VMs and your physical servers. Fortunately, you can back up your physical systems that operate on Windows or Linux, as well as your VMs that run on any OS. 

Additionally, you want to make at least three copies of your data and store two of them in different virtual places. And make sure to keep one backup off-site. 

If you want to take things to another level, you can replicate your VMs to a different data center for emergencies. 

Prioritize the Security of Your Virtual Infrastructure

If you never gave much importance to virtualized infrastructure security, doing so should be your priority now. Given the number of possible threats, protecting your VMs from unauthorized data sharing, viruses, and other types of attacks is crucial. 

All aspects of your physical and virtual components need to be protected to avoid issues. If this topic is all Greek to you, you’re not alone. The reality is that many business owners have struggled with the same problem. 

However, you can reach out to us for a 10-15-minute chat where we can discuss how you can bring the security of your virtualized infrastructure to the next level. 


Featured Image Credit

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

Microsoft OneNote

How OneNote Can Streamline Team Collaboration (And Four Tips to Make the Most of This Program)

By Microsoft, Productivity No Comments

OneNote is a digital note-taking tool that comes with plenty of benefits for users. But what you may not have realized yet is how powerful this app can be for enhancing team collaboration.  

Note-taking.

This is an essential part of day-to-day operations for many business owners, managers, and teams. After all, people can’t rely on their memory alone to recall everything that gets talked about each day. Especially when it concerns important matters. 

When it comes to note-taking, traditional methods such as pen and paper are effective but take too long. But modern-day businesses need something that allows them to work faster. That’s why they opt for digital solutions like OneNote.

OneNote is a productivity tool that leverages cloud and Microsoft technologies to make information capturing, storage, and sharing a breeze. 

Think of OneNote as a hub for all notes that allows you to organize them in many ways. It even allows pinning multimedia documents next to simple text. 

So, if you’re looking for a robust digital note-taking tool, OneNote may be the solution for you. 

Keep reading to discover the numerous ways in which this tool can be helpful for you and your business. 

Why Should You Rely on OneNote?

OneNote is not just a powerful tool for note-taking. It’s also a useful tool that allows you to perform various functions for easy information processing. 

Some of its main benefits include:

Benefit #1. Promoting Real-Time Collaboration

OneNote is part of Microsoft’s fully-cloud based Office 365 suite. This means OneNote users can share files with other team members or clients in real-time. Multiple people can view and edit their notes simultaneously, allowing for a seamless collaboration anytime. 

A great thing about real-time editing is that you can track all changes to the file. You can even restore the previous version of a document in case of accidents.

Businesses that run in multiple locations can benefit from this feature as well. It’s because people located across the country can work on the same project without affecting team collaboration. 

Simply put, there’s no need to trade emails and waste time waiting for responses – managers can have an easy time collaborating with their team instantly without ever leaving the office. 

Benefit #2. Securing Sensitive Information

Doing business online and sharing sensitive data comes with security risks. This is especially true for notebook software. Fortunately, OneNote comes with a set of security features that protect your data from being exposed to third parties. 

For example, you can lock specific sections with passwords while having all your information secured with 3DES encryption at all times. And if your password-protected documents remain inactive for a long time, the software will automatically lock them to prevent data leaks. 

Benefit #3. Integration With Other Software

Like other Office 365 suite apps, OneNote has great integration abilities. You can sync your OneNote with Outlook to send email information directly to the app and vice versa. 

What’s more, you can integrate this software with non-Microsoft apps as well. Some notable plugins include Zapier, Slack, Trello, Evernote, Dropbox, Salesforce, and many others. And all your essential apps will be synchronized, allowing your team to be more productive each day. 

Benefit #4. Project Management

OneNote has dozens of uses for general business. However, it’s especially suitable for project management. 

Project managers often deal with issues such as team member misunderstandings, communication delays, or project bottlenecks. But thanks to Microsoft’s note-taking tool, many of these issues are quickly alleviated. 

Project management can become more straightforward. It’s because OneNote makes it easy for the manager to track each team member’s achievements. They can update timelines, check off completed tasks, or assign new ones with ease. 

Take OneNote to the Next Level 

If you have never used OneNote before, you may be interested to learn about some tips to help you get the most out of the software.

Tip #1. Creating Quick Notes

Quick Note is a great feature that lets you write down a thought when you’re out having lunch or away from the office. 

Imagine being in the store and remembering you haven’t responded to an important email. You can take your phone, open the One Note app, and create a Quick Note reminding you of this task. 

The next time you open OneNote on your computer, you’ll see the message there. 

This feature is similar to Sticky Notes, as it lets you jot down any idea or thought in a matter of seconds. All your notes will be saved in the “Unfiled Notes” section of your “Quick Notes” notebook, a place where all your notes are saved by default. 

Tip #2. Searching Across All Notes

Searching for notes becomes more challenging as time passes. If you’re an active user, you can find yourself storing hundreds of notes in a matter of months. But don’t worry, as there are tons of options to organize your notes as well as search for it. 

OneNote has a built-in search option to make note finding easier. 

All you need to do is click on the magnifying glass or hit “Ctrl” (or “Command” for Mac) + “F” on your keyboard and look for a phrase or word. The software will go over all your typed, handwritten, and even picture notes. 

You can further narrow the search by selecting the drop-down arrow and choosing the desired option. You’ll see all matching results highlighted in your notes. 

As you find the note you needed, you can close the search by pressing “X” on the right-hand corner. 

Tip #3. Using Pre-Made Templates

OneNote is designed to have a blank canvas for each new note. And it’s what gives users a whole lot of flexibility. However, you can find this approach to be too basic sometimes. So, why not add some style, structure, and color to the app?

Thankfully, there are tons of pre-made templates to choose from. You can download a template with decorative backgrounds, to-do lists, planners, and more. 

Note that you can use the templates only on new OneNote files. The ones that already contain text won’t work since most designs require content to appear in a specific place on the page. 

If you need to add a template to your existing note, simply create a new one, then copy the existing text over. 

Tip #4. Scanning Documents from Your Smartphone

Do you need to take notes from a scanned document? That’s not an issue for OneNote. You can use the Microsoft Lens: PDF Scanner App (available for Android and iOS) to take high-quality scans of multiple documents using your phone and upload them to OneNote. 

Become the Master of Note-Taking

Digital note-taking tools have helped thousands of workers and managers become more productive. OneNote is one such software that seems to have it all – abundant features, flexibility, and ease of use. 

Whether you’re a business owner who wants to boost your team’s performance or a project manager that needs better tracking of the project timeline, OneNote has something in store for everyone. 

If you’d like to learn more about how this powerful tool can help you make your business better, feel free to reach out to us. We can have a 10-15-minute chat about this topic. 


Featured Image Credit

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