Blog

March 23rd, 2017

2017March23Windows_BMicrosoft has quietly begun doing the unthinkable: inserting advertisements into your File Explorer. The last place anyone ever expected to see a OneDrive promotion is right alongside their ‘My Documents’ folder, and we expect the first thing they’ll think is, “How do I turn that off?” Read on to find out how.

Who is getting these ads?

Right now, we’re still unsure of how widespread Microsoft’s new advertising strategy goes. Not every Windows workstation has started displaying File Explorer banners, and based on some overwhelmingly negative reactions online, the campaign might get shut down before it even reaches your desktop.

However, even if you have yet to be targeted, you can quickly and easily disable these ads right now.

How do I turn them off?

At the moment, these pushy promotions show up only in Windows’ File Explorer window, so that’s where we’ll begin. After you’ve opened a new window, there are only five steps to boot them off your screen:
  1. Select View from the ribbon along the top of any File Explorer window.
  2. Click Options on the far righthand side.
  3. In the new window select the View tab.
  4. In the Advanced Settings window pane, scroll down and deselect ‘Show sync provider notifications’.
  5. Click Apply and close the Folder Options window.
That’s all it takes! Keep in mind that we highly recommend the services Microsoft chose to advertise with this move. Office 365, OneDrive, and others are all great cloud platforms for safely working and collaborating from any device in any location -- we just don’t want to see advertisements for them when we’re hunting down sales records.

When you’re in the market for the Windows tips and tricks, this is the best blog on the web. If you’re looking for something a little more robust however, our managed services are second to none. Get in touch with us today to learn more!

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic windows
March 22nd, 2017

2017March22Security_BWe’ve gotten so caught up discussing ransomware prevention with our clients that we’ve neglected to mention that several strains have already been defeated. In fact, there’s a decent chance you can actually decrypt all your data for free. Always make sure to check these lists before responding to a cyber attacker’s demands.

The state of ransomware in 2017

It’s been almost 30 years since malware was first created that could encrypt locally-stored data and demand money in exchange for its safe return. Known as ransomware, this type of malware has gone through multiple periods of popularity. 2006 and 2013 saw brief spikes in infections, but they’ve never been as bad as they are now.

In 2015, the FBI estimated that ransomware attacks cost victims $24 million, but in the first three months of 2016 it had already racked up more than $209 million. At the beginning of 2017, more than 10% of all malware infections were some version of ransomware.

Zombie ransomware is easy to defeat

Not every type of infection is targeted to individual organizations. Some infections may happen as a result of self-propagating ransomware strains, while others might come from cyber attackers who are hoping targets are so scared that they pay up before doing any research on how dated the strain is.

No matter what the circumstances of your infection are, always check the following lists to see whether free decryption tools have been released to save you a world of hurt:

Prevention

But even when you can get your data back for free, getting hit with malware is no walk in the park. There are essentially three basic approaches to preventing ransomware. First, train your employees about what they should and shouldn’t be opening when browsing the web and checking email.

Second, back up your data as often as possible to quarantined storage. As long as access to your backed-up data is extremely limited and not directly connected to your network, you should be able to restore everything in case of an infection.

Finally, regularly update all your software solutions (operating systems, productivity software, and antivirus). Most big-name vendors are quick to patch vulnerabilities, and you’ll prevent a large portion of infections just by staying up to date.

Whether it’s dealing with an infection or preventing one, the best option is to always seek professional advice from seasoned IT technicians. It’s possible that you could decrypt your data with the tools listed above, but most ransomware strains destroy your data after a set time limit, and you may not be able to beat the clock. If you do, you probably won’t have the expertise to discern where your security was penetrated.

Don’t waste time fighting against a never-ending stream of cyber attacks -- hand it over to us and be done with it. Call today to find out more.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Security
March 21st, 2017

2017March21Apple_BCybersecurity experts stumbled into a ransomware variant late last month, but this one doesn’t target Windows devices. The malware, known as OSX/Filecoder.E, encrypts Mac data like any cryptolocker strain many businesses have seen in the past. However, unlike normal ransomware that release files after the Bitcoin ransom is paid, this new strain makes no such promises. Read on to find out what you can do about this ransomware.

According to ESET security researchers, even though the Filecoder ransomware was written in Apple’s programming language, the malicious code is not as potent or as skillful as other viruses. In fact, it’s so poorly written that hackers never developed a method to retrieve the encryption key once the ransom has been paid.

In any case, whether you’re dealing with Filecoder or some other ransomware, we advise against ever giving in to the hacker’s demands.

Avoid Filecoder So far, Filecoder isn’t given out via phishing emails like most ransomware; instead, it’s distributed on Torrent sites and goes by the name “Patcher.” Therefore, it’s best to stay away from these highly unregulated (and mostly illegal) websites and stick to trusted app stores like Mac, Microsoft, and Google.

Even if the ransomware is not sent out via phishing campaigns, you should still be careful of any unsolicited emails with strange file attachments in case the malware authors decide to branch out.

Install preventive measures Like with any other malware, being proactive with your cybersecurity solutions is the best way to defend against Filecoder. Install reliable antivirus software, intrusion prevention systems, firewalls, and update systems whenever possible.

You must also maintain backups and have a disaster recovery plan to keep your business running in the off chance that ransomware or any other cyberattack successfully infiltrated your systems.

Defeat the ransomware Given the ransomware’s shoddy code, security researchers have found a way to decrypt files without paying. Free cracking tools like PKCRACK can recover Filecoder-encrypted data if you have one original version of the affected files. The recovery process, however, does require some programming knowledge, so contact an IT expert or a managed services provider to unlock the ransomware for you.

Filecoder may not be the strongest malware around, but this could just be the start of Mac-based attacks. To protect your business from the onslaught of cyberattacks, you need security experts. Contact us today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Apple
March 17th, 2017

2017March17Business_BIf business value is all about the long-term health and well-being of your company, there are few things more important than getting your product into customers’ hands swiftly and efficiently. Thankfully, modern technology has revolutionized these tasks and how you add value to your business. Let’s take a look at one of the most recent examples.

First off, we need to clarify that inventory management systems (IMSs) are not the same as order management systems (OMSs). The former is a solution for analyzing your sales history as a means to forecast demand for your product and the materials you will need in the future, while the latter is all about the here and now.

What does an OMS do for you?

One of the toughest things about managing an eCommerce store is juggling a growing number of sales, each at totally different steps in your shipping process. An OMS service is all about organizing your orders into a coherent and manageable workflow. Here are just some of the difficulties it helps you wrangle:
  • Your eCommerce store can be connected to your inventory. If something is out of stock, it can be reflected on your site so customers aren’t misled about the availability of your product.
  • Payment authorizations can be automated and integrated with your shipping services.
  • You can provide reports to your customers about their order's shipping status. From intra-warehouse movements to on-the-truck updates, one page will have all the information they need.
  • Products and materials can be automatically restocked once they dip below a certain threshold.
  • Refund and returns can be automatically processed by your OMS.
And like any industry, there are dozens of OMS platforms with niche functionalities that may be better for your specific business model. The most important thing is that you find a solution that decreases the most tedious organizational tasks for tracking your store’s orders.

The cloud-based OMS

Orders are streaming in at all hours of the day, and you can’t guarantee that you’ll always be in the office when you need to check the status of an order. A cloud-based OMS stores all your information in a centralized location so you can access your information from home, the warehouse floor, or even while waiting for takeoff.

The cloud is generally one of the most reliable ways to add value to your business. There are dozens of platforms, just like OMSs, that require virtually no hardware and allow you to pay for exactly what you use. For advice on which solutions are best for your business, and how to deploy them, call us today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic business
March 16th, 2017

2017March16Web & Cloud_BCloudflare, an internet security services company, found a major bug in its software that leaked sensitive data like cookies and passwords from client websites. Although investigation into the security flaw, also known as Cloudbleed, is still underway, early reports found that malicious hackers have not exploited this vulnerability. Even still, you should know what you’re up against.

What is Cloudbleed? Although it’s technically similar to Heartbleed, a bug that compromised millions of websites and accounts, Cloudbleed is less severe. Google security researcher Tavis Ormandy discovered that several Cloudflare-hosted websites, including Fitbit, Uber, and OkCupid, were inadvertently leaking customer information and saving them within the source code.

For example, when a person visits a bugged Uber page, the website code could contain data and login credentials from another user who recently visited the page. The data may be hidden between several lines of code, but a skilled hacker can easily find it.

Exploiting it, however, is more difficult. The Cloudbleed bug collects random bits of data, which may or may not contain any sensitive information, making it a less attractive point of attack for cybercriminals. Over time, a cybercriminal may be able to compile enough information to exploit, but it doesn’t seem to be a viable option for targeted attacks.

The response According to Cloudflare, Cloudbleed was triggered 1,240,00 times and found in 6,400 websites between September 22 and February 18. After the bug was discovered, the internet security company quickly alerted affected websites, fixed the code, removed cached pages from search engines, and monitored client websites for any strange website activity.

Cloudflare-hosted websites also checked what data was leaked and reassured customers that there was minimal impact to their private information.

What can you do? While Cloudflare and other companies are telling everyone that the possibility of Cloudbleed attacks and password leaks is low, you should still ensure your account is safe.

Start by setting stronger passwords with a combination of letters, numbers, and symbols. Make sure to set unique passwords for every online service, especially for any of your accounts that use Cloudflare. Whenever possible, use two-factor verification to keep your account secure even if someone gets a hold of your password.

And, last but not least, contact us for any cybersecurity, cloud, and website issues. We aim to make your internet and cloud experience as safe as possible.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Web & Cloud
March 15th, 2017

2017March15Hardware_BSoftware solutions are almost always more user-friendly than hardware solutions. There’s no need to worry about cabling, firmware, and power consumption. But when it comes to firewalls, a software solution just can’t measure up to its hardware counterpart. Make sure you have all the facts before deciding which is right for you.

Software firewalls

Calling a piece of software a “firewall” is a bit of an exaggeration. Installing it on a local hard drive is more like locks on a door than impenetrable walls. When data is scanned for threats by a software firewall, the information it contains has already been passed through your router, network switch, and finally your local hard drive.

Once the whole cycle has finished, software firewalls can prohibit risky activities based on blacklisted IP addresses, known malware definitions, and suspicious application requests.

Although these solutions do have value, they can’t guarantee that malware won’t spread to other systems before each packet of data can be scanned, unless they’re standing guard at your business’s gateway to the internet. And whenever the computer with the firewall is powered off, everything it protects is left unguarded.

Hardware firewalls

Because the drawbacks of a software-based firewall are centered around their inefficient network position, a hardware solution is the safer option. Hardware firewalls sit directly behind your router, so every single packet of data coming from the internet must pass through your gatekeeper before landing on any of your internal drives.

Most of these solutions include far more sophisticated controls than just web filtering and basic data scanning. Like most developments in the IT industry, newer hardware firewalls focus on “intelligent” functions that analyze huge datasets to recognize malware and cyberattacks based on irregular activities instead of relying solely on cataloged viruses and attack vectors.

Another benefit of hardware firewalls is that they’re always on. There’s no need to worry about whether the workstation hosting your solution will crash because these devices are built for 24/7 protection. The only downside to this type of solution is the level of monitoring and maintenance it requires. Hardware firewalls are extremely complex and managing them is no easy task.

“Cloud” firewalls

The most recent, and undoubtedly best, solution to network perimeter security are “cloud” firewalls. These are on-site pieces of hardware with software interfaces that can be managed remotely by certified security professionals.

This service model means that experts will monitor your network performance and security for anomalies while your team goes about its business as usual. No need for onsite tweaks and updates -- all of it can be done remotely.

You may hear a lot of experts telling you that the age of on-site hardware has passed and everything can be done in the cloud. Remote administration may be the next wave in network services, but the need for hardware will never go away. If you need someone to manage your physical devices, contact us today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Hardware
March 14th, 2017

2017March14Android_BDesktop and laptop users install security software updates and do everything they can to safeguard against cyber attacks. The same cannot be said of smartphone users. This is understandable because cyber threats on mobile phones are less visible... but that doesn’t mean they don’t happen. When you factor in smartphone users’ growing dependency on mobile computing, neglecting security for smaller devices is just plain irresponsible.

Mobile malware MO

Malware and other threats pose risks that are as harmful as those that infect desktops and laptops. Some of the threats include messing up your phone bill, ruining your mobile phone’s data, remotely locking and unlocking devices, intercepting messages, prompting fraudulent log-in commands, and sending fake notifications, among others.

Most malware comes from applications downloaded from third-party app stores. Once a phone is compromised, the hacker will have access to passwords, user accounts, and other sensitive personal data. Since some Android devices are linked, there is also more than a passing chance that bugs on one device find their way to linked devices.

Who is responsible?

The burden doesn’t fall solely on smartphone users; app stores such as Google Play Store are responsible, too. Some of the infected banking and weather forecast apps that were widely reported were downloaded from the Google Play Store. Aside from taking swift action against the apps, infected companies were urged to provide as much information and updates as possible regarding the malicious applications so they could be removed from the store to protect users.

Of course, Android users are responsible for their own safety, and there are several measures they can take to avoid becoming victims.

How to avoid being victimized by malware

Yes, the Google Play Store isn’t 100% secure, but downloading from the Google store and other more established app stores -- and not from little-known and less secure third-party stores -- reduces the probability of downloading malicious apps. In case an infected app makes its way to the store and gets thousands of downloads, Google is usually quick to remove the threatening app from their environment and block other malicious entities.

It also pays to read the user reviews. Despite app stores’ best efforts, the proliferation of apps in today’s marketplace makes it nearly impossible to prevent mobile malware from getting through to the store and, afterwards, users’ device.

If an app poses significant risks, someone is bound to post a review or a warning. Regularly updating your mobile device’s software also helps prevent attacks, as the latest software version often comes with stronger security patches or quick fixes.

Malware doesn’t discriminate. Regardless of your computing or communication device of choice, it will find a way to infect and destroy. Ascertain your business devices’ safety by consulting our security experts today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic android
March 13th, 2017

170px_shutterstock_440831806The 21st century is the age of social media, with a plethora of outlets available, users are spoilt for choice. Business owners are faced with the same dilemma, between Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and about thirty more - which one should they invest in? It’s important that the platform is simple, interactive, and touches base with numerous users with every post. And that's what Snapchat is.

Over 71 percent of Snapchat users are under 34 years old; as of 2015, the social network boasted over 100 million active users. It’s an ideal marketing option for businesses targeting a millennial audience. If you’re still unsure about Snapchat for your small business, consider these statistics:

    • 58 percent of college students are likely to purchase a product from coupons sent over Snapchat
    • 65 percent of Snapchat users contribute content on a daily basis
    • Only 1 percent of marketers are taking advantage of Snapchat, which means you can be an early adopter and gain a competitive advantage
Snapchat is a social media application that allows users to send pictures and videos - called “Snaps” - to others. The media sent can only be viewed for 10 seconds or less (you can specify the length), after which it disappears for good. You can add a Snap or multiple Snaps to create your own “story” which can be viewed by others for 24 hours.

The reason Snapchat is getting the attention of marketers is that it allows users to personally interact with brands. Instead of regular content, you audience gets a candid, behind-the-scenes look at your business. Also, by using Snapchat regularly, you’ll be able to keep your brand in the forefront of your audience’s mind. Then, when they’re making a purchasing decision between you and your competitors, they’ll choose you because of the relationship you’ve established with them. Now that you know what Snapchat is, the next step is to gain followers.

How to grow a following on Snapchat Unlike other social networks like Twitter and Instagram, hashtags don’t suffice when you want to get your audience’s attention. They have to find and add you - not the other way around. Even if you want to add other users so they could add you back, you can’t base the search on vague terms -- you have to know their Snapchat username to add them. Basically, Snapchat has no native discovery features.

In order to gain followers on Snapchat, you’ll need to use your online presence as well as other social media sites to create awareness and entice others to follow you. Here are some easy methods to get the ball rolling:

    • The “Add Me URL” feature - share a custom URL on other social media platforms that allow other users to quickly add you as their Snapchat connections. To do so, replace “yourusername” in the following URL: https://www.snapchat.com/add/yourusername
    • Promote your username in your social media profiles - promote your Snapchat username by posting it in other profiles to encourage people to add you. You can also share your username in email signatures, blog posts, and even your company website.
    • Share relevant content - plan an interesting series of Snaps to share with your followers and post all the details on other social media accounts along with your username and/or QR code image, this gives followers an incentive to connect with your brand.
    • Snapcode image as your profile picture on other social networks - take a screenshot and crop your Snapchat QR code image (Snapcode) and set that as a profile picture on your other social media accounts. Anyone who points their Snapchat camera at the code will automatically add you to their friends list.
Snapchat is one of the newest social media outlets to date. If you start building your brand on it now, you’ll be taking a huge step ahead of your competitors - especially now that Snapchat is catching up to Facebook and other social media giants. If you would like to know more about what Snapchat can do for your small- and medium-sized business, feel free to give us a call!
Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Social Media
March 10th, 2017

2017March10Virtualization_BNobody’s perfect, even IT technicians. We’ve seen plenty of people interpret software-defined networking and network virtualization as the same exact service, but it’s time we clear up the difference. It’s small, but it could be the difference between major cost savings and a small increase in functionality.

Software-defined networking (SDN)

Managing storage, infrastructures, and networks with high-level software is something IT technicians have been doing for a long time. It’s a subset of virtualization and it is one of the oldest strategies for optimizing and securing your IT hardware.

Despite its popularity, SDN does have one major drawback -- it needs hardware to do its job. SDN allows you to control network switches, routers, and other peripherals from a centralized software platform, but you can’t create virtual segments of your network without the hardware that would normally be required outside of an SDN environment.

Network virtualization

Evolving beyond SDN was inevitable. Whenever a technology can’t do it all, you can bet someone is working hard to fix that. Network virtualization uses advanced software solutions to allow administrators to manage physical hardware and to create virtual replicas of hardware that are indistinguishable to servers and workstations.

Network virtualization simplifies the field of network design. You can reduce spending on expensive hardware, reconfigure network segments on the fly, and connect physically separate networks as if they were in the same room.

A virtualized network may sound like an exciting technology that doesn’t have much use at small- or medium-sized business, but that’s exactly the beauty of hiring a managed services provider! We provide enterprise technology and advice as part of your monthly service fee. Call today to find out more.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

March 9th, 2017

2017March9VoIP_BAlthough some critics are labeling the newest tool in the internet-based telecommunications field a “VoIP killer,” nothing could be further from the truth. The reality of the situation is that this new technology, WebRTC, is here to make it even easier for customers to contact your business using the internet. Let’s find out if it’s right for your business.

What is WebRTC?

At its most basic, WebRTC is a way to make phone calls, video calls, instant messaging, and file transfers with nothing but a web browser.

And in addition to being immensely convenient for end users, WebRTC is relatively easy to configure for administrators and developers. You can create a link on your homepage that will allow customers to initiate a video call without the need to dial a number from their phone, or even open up Skype on their desktop.

The benefits to your customers

This creates a much more connected customer service experience. With WebRTC calls, you’ll never have to ask “Ok, are you looking at our site?” They had to navigate to your site to even make the call, so a certain amount of knowledge can be assumed the moment you pick up the line. This allows customer service representatives to assist customers calling through this medium in a more specific, nuanced way than calls they receive from cellphones and landlines.

What are the drawbacks?

Compatibility is one of the main reasons to avoid jumping on the bandwagon too early. Most notably, Apple has been on the topic of working with this new technology. Developers have noticed nods to WebRTC availability in Apple’s callkit, but no official announcement has been made yet.

It could hurt user experience if an Apple user sees a “Start a video call now!” button but gets an incompatibility message when they click it. If you are still interested in giving it a shot, make sure to work with experienced professionals to test it in the wild before committing wholeheartedly.

The WebRTC critics

Some industry professionals are crying foul. They believe this new technology will diminish the relevance of VoIP and throw internet-based telephony into uncertain territory. In reality, WebRTC is a far cry from a VoIP killer because people who are willing to make calls from their desktop computer are still a small minority.

With a Unified Communications infrastructure, your staff utilize VoIP solutions to make and receive calls from traditional phone numbers in the same place they receive WebRTC calls. At the end of the day, this new technology isn’t about disrupting VoIP, it’s just about partnering together to give your customers new ways to get in touch with you.

The main reason to partner with a managed services provider is to ensure you’re always getting the best technology available. Although WebRTC might not be for everyone, it’s important for you to know what your options are. If you’re interested in becoming an early adopter of this technology, don’t wait another minute to call us.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic VoIP