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April 25th, 2017

In case you’re wondering what Creators Update is and how it differs from a regular update, it’s Microsoft’s name for Windows 10’s latest features. Microsoft no longer offers Windows 10 upgrades for free, but these latest updates are. Aside from notable design enhancements and user experience, Windows 10 users can anticipate the Creators Update for its system update improvements and new security features.

Controlled updates

If you’ve been using Windows 10, you’re familiar with this scenario: While you’re on your computer, the system automatically reboots for automatic updates, interrupting your workflow. Although automatically having your system updated on time has advantages, it can also be a burden and a nuisance because it leaves you with no option to decline or delay an update -- which you might want to do especially when you’re in the middle of a critical task.

With the Creators Update, you can choose to pause updates for a week. It also lets you set Active Hours, an 18-hour window when Windows won’t install updates. It’s a minor enhancement that should be a welcome feature to users who like having better control over their system updates.

Improved privacy controls

When Windows 10 was launched, privacy was a big concern among users, mainly because of the amount and nature of data being collected. Users and certain regulatory bodies were alarmed that Microsoft, through Windows 10, didn’t have enough control over how it processes and collects data. Microsoft initially responded by announcing that setting up privacy protocols will be easier when it launches its new updates.

And now, Microsoft has taken steps to address these privacy issues. Creators Update introduces a Privacy Dashboard, which offers a more seamless and user-friendly way to control privacy settings, specifically in terms of location, speech recognition, diagnostics, tailored diagnostics data, and relevant ads.

Another privacy enhancement is in Windows Defender, which now features improved scanning options and better reporting of your PC’s performance and health.

Other small changes

Other interface enhancements and updates to the Windows 10 ecosystem also add a nice touch to the overall user experience. These updates include more vivid themes, a bluetooth-enabled lock function called Dynamic Lock, new display settings, videos and maps writing capabilities, and more.

Among the other new features, users might not immediately notice the upgraded storage settings. If you’re worried about all these new applications and programs taking up space in your PC, don’t fret. The new update also comes with a storage setting that auto-deletes unnecessary files when your storage space is about to run out.

All in all, businesses that use Windows 10 can expect better privacy, controlled updates, improved security, and a smoother user experience with the Creators Update. Microsoft is expected to introduce even more updates later this year, and if you want to know how you can make the most of these and other Microsoft features, we’re here to help.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic windows
April 24th, 2017

So much of cybersecurity depends on adequate awareness from users. Phishing for example, preys on people’s fears and desires to convince them to click on hyperlink images and text before checking where they actually lead to. However, with the latest trend in phishing, even the most cautious users can get swept up. Read on to educate yourself on how to avoid this dangerous scam.

What are homographs?

There are a lot of ways to disguise a hyperlink, but one strategy has survived for decades -- and it’s enjoying a spike in popularity. Referred to as “homographs” by cybersecurity professionals, this phishing strategy revolves around how browsers interpret URLs written in other languages.

Take Russian for example, even though several Cyrillic letters look identical to English characters, computers see them as totally different. Browsers use basic translation tools to account for this so users can type in non-English URLs and arrive at legitimate websites. In practice, that means anyone can enter a 10-letter Cyrillic web address into their browser and the translation tools will convert that address into a series of English letters and numbers.

How does this lead to phishing attacks?

Malicious homographs utilize letters that look identical to their English counterparts to trick users into clicking on them. It’s an old trick, and most browsers have built-in fail-safes to prevent the issue. However, a security professional recently proved that the fail-safes in Chrome, Firefox, Opera and a few other less popular browsers can be easily tricked.

Without protection from your browser, there’s basically no way to know that you’re clicking on a Cyrillic URL. It looks like English, and no matter how skeptical you are, there’s no way to “ask” your browser what language it is. So you may think you’re clicking on apple.com, but you’re actually clicking on the Russian spelling of apple.com -- which gets redirected to xn—80ak6aa92e.com. If that translated URL contains malware, you’re in trouble the second you click the link.

The solution

Avoiding any kind of cybersecurity attack begins with awareness, and when it comes to phishing, that means treating every link you want to click with skepticism. If you receive an email from someone you don’t know, or a suspicious message from someone you do, always check where it leads. Sometimes that’s as simple as hovering your mouse over hyperlink text to see what the address is, but when it comes to homographs that’s not enough.

In the case of homographs, the solution is unbelievably simple: Manually type in the web address. If you get an email from someone you haven’t heard from in 20 years that says “Have you checked out youtube.com??”, until your browser announces a fix, typing that URL into your browser’s address bar is the only way to be totally sure you’re safe.

For most, this trend feels like yet another development that justifies giving up on cybersecurity altogether. But for small- and medium-sized businesses that have outsourced their technology support and management to a competent and trustworthy IT provider, it’s just another reason to be thankful they decided against going it alone. If you’re ready to make the same decision, call us today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Security
April 21st, 2017

For years, Apple users have been holding on to nothing but online rumors concerning the release date of the new Mac Pro. Thankfully, Apple just confirmed a radical revamp of its high-end workstation. Although official information on the different models’ specs and features have not been confirmed, hints have been made about what could be in store for Mac Pro users.

Processor

The new Mac Pro is rumored to feature the next-generation Intel Xeon E5 processor. While the current models are configurable up to 3.5GHz for the six-core option, 3.0GHz for the eight-core option, and 2.7GHz for the 12-core option, the 2018 model could offer up to 14 or 18 cores per processor. What’s more, each model will likely come equipped with the Iris Pro Graphics P580, a highly powerful graphics processing unit (GPU) that will make heavy file renders a breeze.

However, there’s a small chance that Apple might abandon Intel chips altogether and move to AMD’s RYZEN 7 CPUs, which just set a new standard for high performing CPU processors.

RAM and storage

The new Intel Xeon chips are rumored to have DDR4 memory controllers, and if that’s true, you can expect uber fast memory and low latency without having to worry about issues with overheating. Currently, the 15-inch MacBook Pro comes with 16GB RAM, so it’s likely that you could expect the same RAM with the updated entry-level model of the Mac Pro. And because Apple knows that users usually work with very large files, an option for 2TB flash storage could be possible.

Ports

Claims that the new Mac Pro might offer more Thunderbolt ports in the form of USB-3 are also up in the air. This makes sense as it brings Thunderbolt to USB-C at 40Gbps which ensures faster data transfer speed.

While a number of users wish Apple would offer PCI slots so they could add faster SSDs and more powerful video cards, looking back at the company’s previous releases, we don’t think you should get your hopes up just yet.

Design

According to Apple, the triangular design of the Mac Pro’s thermal core was what limited them from offering updates to the machine. Because of that, we’ll probably see a completely new design in the 2018 model.

Prices

Apple just rolled out some minor updates to the current Mac Pro, including enhanced specs at lower price points. For the $2,999, you now get a 6-core Intel Xeon processor, dual AMD FirePro D500 GPUs and 16GB of memory. And for $3,999, you now get an 8-core processor and dual D700 GPUs.

Having said that, you can expect slightly higher prices for the new Mac Pro than the current models, like with most new Apple releases.

Release date

The timeframe is 2018, but keep in mind that the present Mac Pro was unveiled at WWDC in 2013 and supply was so restrained that people didn’t get theirs until the following spring. Therefore it’s highly possible that the new model will be launched at WWDC 2018 during summer and won’t probably ship until the end of the year.

Stay tuned for more updates on the new Mac Pro. And if you’d like to know more about other Apple products, or learn how they can streamline your operations, give us a call and we’ll be happy to help.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Apple
April 20th, 2017

2017April20Business_BMobile phones’ sizes and styles went through massive changes in the last few years. And as their looks and dimensions changed, so did their functions. With better capacity and bigger storage, mobile phones turned into veritable mini-computers that businesses were quick to adopt as a vital office tool. Naturally, hackers got the memo. With new schemes targeted specifically towards mobile devices, you’d be well served backing up the files in your mobile device, now.

Malware on mobile

More than 50% of the world’s adult population use a mobile phone with internet connection, so dangers in these handy devices are to be expected. Scarier than the thought of being offline is being online and exposed to malware.

If you use your mobile devices as an extension of your work computers, backing up is a must. Mobile phones have become as vulnerable to malware as laptops and desktops have, especially if you consider the fact that many professionals and business owners use them for emailing confidential documents and storing business-critical files.

Device disasters

Other than malware, other types of disasters can happen on your device. Because you carry it wherever your go, your device can easily be stolen, misplaced, or damaged. They may be easily replaceable, but the data contained in them may not. Having completely backed up data on your devices helps prevent a minor inconvenience from turning into a disastrous situation.

Backup options

Performing backups in iPhone and Android devices is a seamless process. Their operating systems require only minimal effort from users, and backing up entails nothing more than logging into their Apple or Google account. However, other users have different devices with different operating systems, slightly complicating the process.

Mobile devices’ safety is essential to business continuity plans. So whether your office users are tied to a single operating system or prefer different devices, there are options to back up all your organization’s mobile devices. There are cloud backup services that enable syncing of all devices and that back up files, contacts, photos, videos, and other critical files in one neat backup system. These mobile backup tools are offered on monthly or lifetime subscription schemes, which provides small businesses with enough flexibility to ensure protection.

Mobile phones have become so ubiquitous to how people function that many feel the need to have two or more phones, mostly to have one for personal use and another for business. With all these options on hand, there’s no excuse for not backing up data on your mobile devices.

Our experts can provide practical advice on security for your business’s computers and mobile devices. Call us for mobile backup and other security solutions today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic business
April 19th, 2017

170px_shutterstock_350982164Many would initially blame hackers for an extremely slow website or being delisted from search engines, but that’s not always the case. When it comes to managing your website, how sure are you that all your bases are covered? If you are unsure, you might want to give this WordPress maintenance checklist a try.

Make backups It’s crucial that you perform a daily offsite backup of your WordPress files and database. This ensures data security in the event of a network breach or natural disaster and facilitates the resumption of your business's regular operations. Although plugins like BackUpWordPress and hosting servers like SiteGround automate the backup process, you should still perform manual backups.

Verify backups Not only should you be making backups, you should also be verifying them. By doing so, you are making sure that the backed up files are going where they are supposed to, and backups are being restored. The last thing you need is a failed backup strategy on the day you need it most!

Daily security reports If you ask any cybersecurity expert, “Is it crucial to maintain a daily network security report?” the answer will be a resounding YES. While you might not have enough time to carry out thorough inspections and create these reports yourself, you can rely on security monitoring services like Securi. Not only does it carry out the inspections, it sends an SMS notification of any suspicious activity and even emails you a daily status report.

Malware scans Cybercriminals are growing in both number and sophistication. With every passing day, new strains of malware are developed and released onto small- or medium-sized businesses. Unless you are a bonafide hacker yourself, detecting malware might be a little tricky. WordPress plugins like Wordfence keeps your website safe using the latest firewall rules, malware signatures, and malicious IP addresses.

Speed audits Slow and steady might be qualities valued by some, but not so much for your website. Plugins like Google PageSpeed Insights test how fast your site loads. Because if it takes more than five seconds, you should consider implementing caching and other measures to speed up your site. Slow sites put off visitors and lower search rankings.

Review your site For this step, sit down with an impartial friend and let them explore your website. A fresh pair of eyes might highlight issues you might have overlooked, such as forgetting to update the copyright date in your footer.

Forbes, National Geographic, and The New York Times are all powered by WordPress, which means you are in good company. By sticking to the checklist, you too can harness the power of this online, open-source website creation tool. Or, instead of signing up for half a dozen services that need daily check-ins, why not have us take care of all of it for you? If you have further questions, don’t hesitate to send us an email or give us a call!

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Web & Cloud
April 18th, 2017

2017April18Hardware_BMost IT consultants constantly remind clients of how important it is to update and patch their software, but neglect the importance of updating hardware. We don’t mean replacing it with new hardware; we mean updating the applications and settings coded into the physical IT powering every modern office.

What is firmware?

Firmware is a very basic type of software that is embedded into every piece of hardware. It cannot be uninstalled or removed, and is only compatible with the make and model of the hardware it is installed on. Think of it like a translator between your stiff and unchanging hardware and your fluid and evolving software.

For example, Windows can be installed on almost any computer, and it helps users surf the internet and watch YouTube videos. But how does Windows know how to communicate and connect with your hardware router to do all that? Firmware on your router allows you to update and modify settings so other, more high-level, pieces of software can interact with it.

Why is firmware security so important?

Firmware installed on a router is a great example of why addressing this issue is so critical. When you buy a router and plug it in, it should be able to connect devices to your wireless network with almost zero input from you. However, leaving default settings such as the username and password for web browser access will leave you woefully exposed.

And the username and password example is just one of a hundred. More experienced hackers can exploit holes that even experienced users have no way of fixing. The only way to secure these hardware security gaps is with firmware updates from the device’s manufacturer.

How do I protect myself?

Firmware exploits are not rare occurrences. Not too long ago, a cyber security professional discovered that sending a 33-character text message to a router generated an SMS response that included the administrator username and password.

Unfortunately, every manufacturer has different procedures for checking and updating firmware. The best place to start is Googling “[manufacturer name] router firmware update.” For instance, if you have a DLink of Netgear router, typing “192.168.0.1” into a web browser will allow you to access its firmware and update process, assuming you have the username and password.

Remember that routers are just one example of how firmware affects your cyber security posture. Hard drives, motherboards, even mouses and keyboards need to be checked. Routinely checking all your devices for firmware updates should be combined with the same process you use to check for software updates.

It can be a tedious process, and we highly recommend hiring an IT provider to take care of it for you. If you’re curious about what else we can do to help, give us a call today!

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Hardware
April 14th, 2017

2017April14Android_BGetting a new Android phone is an exciting affair. There are new hardware specs, feature upgrades, and fresh apps, but if you can’t migrate the data from your old phone, it’s all for naught. Thankfully, Google’s operating system makes it incredibly simple. There are three ways to go about it and we cover each in detail here.

Backing up to Google

Google’s free services are so tightly integrated with the Android operating system that it would be crazy not to sign up for a Google account. If you do have one, it’s usually the easiest way to migrate your contacts between phones.
  1. Open the Settings application on your phone.
  2. Scroll down and select Accounts (depending on the phone manufacturer it may be labeled something slightly different).
  3. Tap Google.
  4. Select your preferred Gmail address.
  5. Enable Sync Contacts and select Sync Now at the bottom of the screen.
  6. Visit google.com/contacts and confirm that everyone is there.
Good, from this moment on contacts from that phone will automatically be synced to your preferred Google account. Then all you need to do is add that account to your new phone.
  1. Return to the Account window in your settings app (step #2 above).
  2. Scroll to the bottom and select Add account.
  3. Choose Google and enter your account login information.
  4. Open the settings window for that account (step #4 above).
  5. Select Sync Contacts.
That’s it! The first set of instructions exports contacts from your old phone to Google.com, and the second set downloads them to your new phone.

Backing up to your SIM card

SIM cards are how your cellular provider keeps track of your phone number and who you are. If you’re lucky, you can just pop your existing SIM into your new phone and the majority your data will move with it. Double-check that’ll happen with these steps:
  1. Open your Contacts application (sometimes named People).
  2. Tap the More option (sometimes this is three dots stacked vertically).
  3. Select Import/Export.
  4. Choose Export to SIM and pick which information you want to store on the SIM card.
Once that’s finished, everything should be downloaded to the new phone as soon as you plug in the SIM card!

Using a third-party app

Verified apps, downloaded from the Google Play store, further simplify this process if you’re willing to go through the hassle of choosing one of the dozens of options. If you pick this approach, most apps are no more complicated than a checklist of which contacts you want to transfer with a Send button at the bottom. As long as you’ve installed the app on your new phone as well, and linked the two with a password, that’s all it takes.

Contact migration sounds easy enough, but it’s no simple task if you’ve got an entire fleet of company phones to migrate. Our fully-managed solutions cover all your Android needs, and if you’d rather we take care of some menial task, we can do it in no time. Just drop us a line to find out more!

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic android
April 13th, 2017

2017April13Virtualization_BEven if virtualization has been explained to you before, it's entirely possible that the definition didn’t stick. There are so many variations of this technology that we take it upon ourselves to periodically review its most basic functions. And because these variations aren't concrete enough to easily understand them, this time we’re including a virtualized desktop for you to play with!

What is virtualization?

The simplest definition is this: It’s the act of creating a virtual (rather than physical) version of something, including hardware platforms, storage devices, and computer network resources. But that doesn’t do much for those outside of the IT industry.

We could paint a colorful analogy to try to better explain it, or we could let you paint with your very own virtualized demo. Follow these steps so you can see how virtualization works:

  1. Visit this website.
  2. Wait while your virtualized 1991 Macintosh boots up.
  3. Double-click the ‘Kid Pix’ desktop icon.
  4. Write “This is virtualization” on the blank canvas.
  5. Click (and hold) File, and select Save As.
  6. Click the Save button in the new window.
  7. Quit ‘Kid Pix’.
Voilà! Your picture was saved to that old-school Mac's virtual hard drive. That’s because everything -- from the operating system to the processor -- is running on a server located somewhere else on the internet. And it’s not just some remote desktop viewing trick, this ’90s-era Mac and its hardware have been created by software installed on a server that is concurrently processing a million other tasks.

It’s a fun demonstration, but modern-day virtualization can accomplish much more.

Divide up hardware resources

The dated nature of that machine actually helps us better illustrate the biggest benefit of virtualization. The software that lets us create virtual machines also allows us to define exactly how much hardware each workstation gets.

For example, this Mac has only 3.8 MB of hard drive space, but if your virtualization server has 10,000 GB of space, you can create 100 virtual desktops with 100 GB of storage space. It’s a bit of an oversimplification, but that’s essentially how it works with storage hardware, CPUs, RAM, and other hardware.

Reduce on-site costs

The bulk of your workstation and server hardware is usually hosted off-site, which means lower utility bills, computer equipment requirements, and maintenance overhead. Instead of patching and upgrading each workstation’s software and hardware individually, virtualization allows you to apply changes to all your machines at once.

Disaster recovery

If your virtualization server is hosted off-site, what happens when natural disasters, power outages, theft, or vandalism strikes your office? Or, as a simpler example, where did you store your Kid Pix masterpiece? Certainly not on the machine you’re reading this blog from.

Virtualization allows you to keep mission-critical data stored safely away from the office so your team can get back to work as soon as your IT provider gets them access to the server again. And with a single point of management (i.e., your off-site server), that can take place in virtually no time at all.

Ending your dependence on individual machines and their hardware is just one of the many ways to utilize the power of virtualization. You can define network hardware and configurations with software, run applications on any operating system, and so much more. To find out which solution is best for your business, call us today!

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

April 12th, 2017

2017April12VoIP_BHackers have used Skype to conduct various phone scams; but this month, they have found a new way to exploit the popular video calling app. Ransomware, which has predominantly been distributed via email attachments and URL links, is now being delivered through fake Skype ads. The details below will help you avoid business-crippling ransomware.

Initial reports found that the fake Skype ad was disguised as a critical Flash update. Clicking on the ad triggers a download of a seemingly innocuous HTML application named “FlashPlayer.hta”. If opened, the app would download malicious code that encrypts the victim’s files and holds them hostage until a ransom is paid.

According to security experts, hackers were obfuscating malicious code in the fake ads, which helped the ransomware evade detection from common antivirus tools. Many other users in the past have encountered similar Skype ads, but this is one of the first few scams that delivers ransomware.

To protect yourself against this ransomware you need to do the following:

  • Be critical - you must be careful of opening suspicious ads and links from Skype -- or any content off the internet for that matter. Before you click on a link, hover over it to see where it leads. Unsolicited emails with links and downloadable files should also be avoided unless you’re certain it’s coming from a credible source.
  • Download only from trusted sources - just like the tip mentioned above, make sure the software you download are from trustworthy app stores. In this case, Adobe Flash plugins should be downloaded directly from the official site, not from random ads.
  • Install security software - strong antivirus, intrusion prevention systems, and other cybersecurity solutions can detect and block ransomware before it makes your entire system unusable.
  • Invest in backups - storing your data in multiple cloud-hosted data centers will help you recover critical files should ransomware manage to infect your local computers.
When it comes to ransomware, hackers don't always return your files and we never recommend giving in to their demands. Staying informed and being prepared is the best solution to any malware.

Skype is the last place you’d expect a hacker to turn up, but if you don’t account for all possible vulnerabilities -- including security flaws in your VoIP solution -- your business has a bleak future. Contact us to protect your VoIP, your cloud, and your business today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic VoIP
April 11th, 2017

2017April11Office_BIt was recently revealed that docs.com, Microsoft’s free document-sharing platform, was posting private documents to the public. Although there are Office 365 users who are perfectly aware of how the program works and have no qualms about publicly sharing their documents, hundreds of other users are not. Since docs.com is essentially a document-sharing website, can Microsoft be held liable?

What’s the damage?

Usernames and passwords for various devices and applications; personal information such as home and email addresses, bank account details, social security numbers, and phone numbers; and medical info comprising patient treatment data and health insurance numbers -- all these were some of the supposedly leaked documents, which were clearly meant to be private. But, a security researcher discovered that these sensitive files were accessible using docs.com’s search function.

After being alerted to the ‘leak,’ Microsoft responded by removing the search bar. However, most of the documents were already indexed by search engines, Google and Bing, which is how these docs remained available to the public despite disabling the search function.

Recent updates

To alleviate the damage, Microsoft launched an update that limited what users can do to uploaded files, such as restricting files to a read-only status. Although buttons to ‘like,’ download, add to collections, and share in social media are enabled, only users who enter an email address, phone number, or sign in using their Office or Microsoft account can perform any of these functions. Since anyone can easily create a Microsoft account, docs.com users may not feel at ease.

Microsoft’s final word

Docs.com is easy-to-use and is valuable to those eager to publish their documents. The site’s user-friendliness also makes it a popular choice for Office 365 users who wish to ‘spread their work to the world.’ Office 365 users can easily upload from their own computer, OneDrive, or Sway account, and share away. Being a free service also adds a lot of incentive for users to upload their Word, Excel, or any other file onto the site.

In an effort to solve glaring privacy issues, Microsoft has issued some key updates, such as a warning message reminding users that the document to be uploaded will be publicly available on the web. While it may seem like Microsoft committed a blunder, a stricter privacy setting and a few stronger, more visible warnings to users can help make docs.com a useful productivity tool rather than a hacker’s hunting ground.

Discerning Office 365 users can make the most out of docs.com, but they should use the service with caution. If you’ve uploaded documents with sensitive information on docs.com, now is the best time to remove them from the site, or review your privacy settings here and in other document-sharing services.

If you’re not sure how to proceed, or want to learn more about this and other Microsoft products and services, call us now for advice.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Office