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Skimp On Data Protection And Pay The Price

Today’s cybercriminals are using more advanced technology than ever. And those malicious tools are becoming even more sophisticated at a breakneck pace. To top it all off, new software developments are enabling these criminals to cast wider and wider nets, targeting businesses that, before, would have flown under their radar. Companies small and large, of every type, are being infiltrated by vicious cyber-attacks across the world every day.

Even knowing this, business owners are tempted to cut costs and corners. When you’ve never had a breach, data security can seem like a distant concern, especially for a limited budget. But regardless of which digital barriers you put in place to protect your business, you can bet on one thing: One day, your security will be tested by an attack. Whether the hackers punch through could mean the difference between your company shutting down for good — as 60% of small businesses do in the six months following a cyber-attack, according to the Denver Post — and remaining solvent and secure in your position.

When you’re struggling to stay afloat or simply wanting to be a savvy spender, you may think the best way to lock down your data is to put one of your staff on the task or to do it yourself.

And sure, your team can conduct hours of research searching for inexpensive security. And you’ll almost certainly find something cheap with good reviews and a decent track record. You’ll figure out how to install the software across your system, complete with firewalls, server protection, antivirus and maybe a bell and a whistle or two. Perhaps you’ll even hold a meeting to educate your staff on the do’s and don’ts of cyber security. “Use intricately constructed passwords,” you’ll tell them. “Don’t click suspicious links in your email.”

Then, after a few days of fiddling with settings and ensuring the security software is properly in place, you’ll forget about it altogether. After all, it’s already installed, and you’ve checked to make sure there aren’t any gaps in the system. It’s not something you need to constantly monitor.

Then, one Monday morning, you log into your computer. For a second, everything seems to be normal, until an innocent-looking pop-up fills your screen. “Attention!” an eerie robotic voice barks from your speakers, “Your documents, photos, databases and other important files have been encrypted!”

Thinking it’s a hoax, you click into your server drive. To your dismay, you really are locked out of everything. So, palms sweating, you read the rest of the pop-up. It provides instructions to install the deep web browser Tor as well as an address for you to visit. When you go there, you learn that in order to recover all your data, including the credit card information of your customers, you’ll need to dish out $50,000 in bitcoin.

A year ago, you couldn’t afford adequate cyber security. Can you afford $50,000 in cash today?

Identical situations are unfolding every day, with people exactly like you. Back in April, CNBC reported that across the previous 12 months, half of all small businesses had been infiltrated by malicious hackers. “Cyber security is clearly a concern that the entire business community shares, but it represents an especially pernicious threat to smaller businesses,” wrote the Securities and Exchange Commission. “The reason is simple: small and midsize businesses are not just targets of cybercrime; they are its principal target.” Cheapo security solutions might be fine for a lone browser surfing the web at home, but they are shockingly inadequate resources on which to base the entire success of your company, your livelihood and the livelihood of your employees.

Frankly, it’s irresponsible to lock your data behind a flimsy $5 firewall. Invest in robust cyber security solutions and secure the future of your company.  We believe in a Layers of Security method for small businesses, that includes human monitoring factor, and doesn’t simply rely on set-it-and-forget-it software.   You and your client’s data is important.  Small business security doesn’t have to be costly, but it does have to be maintained and monitored.

The ONE Thing You Must Do to Keep Your Data Safe in the Cloud. Is Your IT Guy Doing This?

How secure is your data? Cloud data storage is becoming a massive industry in this country, and many businesses and other institutions are putting their data into the cloud. Some of this data is pretty harmless. Other stuff — like hospital records, banking information, or company payrolls — are prime targets for bad actors. Is the cloud storage trade off worth it?

The short answer is yes, but only if your IT guy is encrypting your sensitive data. Every cloud storage company you talk to will claim to take top-of-the-line security measures on behalf of your data. But that, in a nutshell, highlights the problem with cloud storage. Your data is entrusted to a third party for safekeeping. It’s possible that they’d do everything in their power to safeguard your information. But bad things, like ransomware, phishing, or just plain going out of business, do happen. And when they happen, it’s not the cloud storage company whose data is on the line; it’s yours.

Even if that doesn’t occur, let’s be honest. Most of the major cloud storage companies are based in the United States, the U.K., or France, where they could be subject to NSA snooping (or questionably legal surveillance from any other government entity). Despite the best efforts of many storage companies to prevent government intrusion, your data could still be at risk, even when it’s locked up tight.

Most cloud storage companies protect your data with their own encryption, but you’ll have to find out if they are able to access the data (since they may have the keys), or not. Further, your IT provider should be instituting some additional means of encryption whenever feasible. Laptops, for example, should always be encrypted if they are used by employees. An encrypted laptop protects your data, even if the laptop is stolen.

Additionally, your IT Provider (even with Cloud-based products) should still discuss redundancy and backups with you. Most Cloud storage companies, including Microsoft and Google, do have a regular backup of your data in place. However, we also recommend that you implement an additional layer of security and use a third-party backup product as well. Not only does this give you additional control, multiple protections against failure and outages, but it also allows you to access your data if the initial storage location has a service outage or failure.

Many people have a misconception that these criminals will just use a magic program to crack your encrypted files. Decryption does exist, but it requires a lot of time and processing power. It’s far more likely that hackers will target your email or other aspects of your system and try to find out the encryption codes that way. And never forget that people are the weakest part of your IT security. Educate employees so they aren’t vulnerable to phishing scams, downloading questionable software, and visiting the wrong websites.

How to Copy or Move Appointments to a Different Outlook Calendar

If you have more than one calendar, you can easily move, or copy, appointments between them.   Click and hold the appointment you want to move and drag it over to a different calendar in the list on the left.  To copy it, do the same thing but hold down the CTRL key while you are dragging it.  You will see a “+” indicating that it will copy instead of moving the appointment.

Cyber Security for the Super Small Business, Like Yours

How many of the 6 layers of security does your small business have in place?   Are you 100% certain that your employees aren’t compromising your business, and clients’ personal information by falling prey to the ever-increasingly sophisticated identity theft scammers?  Are you positive that a piece of Ransomware could never infect your business, encrypting your files and holding your company hostage?

Small businesses, just like yours, are considered easy targets and low hanging fruit to the cyber criminals.   They know that most of you don’t have the knowledge or resources to properly protect yourself from their attacks.  These criminals use automated systems and software to cast huge nets, hoping to snag a few unprepared organizations and profit from their lack of protection.  This is part of the reason Spam continues.  Spammers send out millions of emails, because it’s cheap and easy.  If they have even a fraction of a percent of success, it makes their endeavor profitable.

Unfortunately, when we are called in to perform one of our Business and Technology Assessments for a new client, we find huge, gaping holes in their network’s security.  The horrible part about this is that these holes can be quickly plugged with the help of an IT company.

Let me give you a quick example from something we see repeatedly.  We regularly find that whoever installed the router (the box that connects you to the Internet, and controls traffic in (and out) of your network, has never been properly configured.  In most cases we find that the manufacturer’s default administrative username and password has never been changed, leaving the business completely open and exposed to any hacker (using automated tools to find you) with even a tiny bit of expertise.  Just to drive this point home, these usernames and passwords are readily available on the Internet simply by doing a quick search.  In 2 minutes, I can have access to your servers, company data, and more, with minimal effort.

Small business security doesn’t have to be costly, nor complex.  But it does take someone that knows what they are doing to come in and implement it.

The Computer Center uses a Layers of Security approach to protecting your business.  We’ve identified 6 core layers that every small business should have in place.   You can find out more about protecting your small business in this free report.

Resize Columns and Rows in Excel 2016

To accommodate your data, you can change the size of your columns and rows! If you go to the Home tab, hit Format (in the Cells group), and then click Row Height to adjust the rows and Column Width to adjust the columns. You can then enter the exact measurement! You can also use your mouse to adjust cells by clicking and dragging the divider line to expand.  Also, if you double-click the divider between two rows or columns Excel will resize the row to fit the contents.

Choosing the Right Operating System -One of the most important business decisions you can make!

What’s good for home use isn’t for business.

Microsoft gives you a variety of choices when it comes to an Operating System for your computer.  Unfortunately, you frequently only hear about one or two. The home-based ones.

Operating Systems like Windows 10 Home and Windows 7 Home are all Operating Systems specifically designed for casual, home use. These operating systems are less expensive than their business-grade counterparts and dominate the computer world.

Unfortunately, for a reliable and stable business system you shouldn’t consider anything except one of the business-grade Operating Systems such as Windows 10 Professional.

Windows 10 Professional offers huge performance jumps over its home counterpart. Additionally, it is more resilient. If you’re sick and tired of the “Blue Screen of Death”, Illegal Operations, and lock ups and crashes, then the Professional version of Windows will be a welcome relief.

The business versions of Microsoft Windows crash infrequently, use memory more efficiently (making many tasks noticeably faster) and handle networking better than the home versions. Also, if a program does crash, there’s seldom a need to reboot the computer. Just restart the program and away you go.

More important than reliability is security. Windows Home versions provide significantly worse security than Windows Professional. Since the home versions cannot take advantage of centralized security features, such as those from your company’s server, or Microsoft’s cloud-based Active Directory, most people rely solely on a log in and password.  Even if your computer is currently prompting you for a password when you turn it on, it is a trivial task to get around it. Even a slightly experienced computer user can still get to your sensitive data!

The business versions of the operating system however, provide true security, when configured properly.  When connected to, and managed by, a Windows Server, whether in your office or in the Cloud, business computers can be locked down,  encrypted, remotely wiped (in case of loss or theft), and take advantage of other security and maintenance features that simply are not available in the home version of Windows.

The downfalls of these operating systems? First off, they cost more. Secondly, they require more experienced users to configure them (but not to use them). But the trade-offs are well worth the extra expense and effort.

The bottom line is, if you value your data and want computers that run smoothly, then you’ll need Windows Professional and a properly configured server in your office, or the Cloud.  Whether your business has 1 or 100 employees, resist the temptation to purchase the Black Friday, Back-to-school, or department-store deals.  These systems rarely include Windows Professional, placing your company and its sensitive data, at risk in this age full of ransomware, identity thieves, and cybercriminals.



Christmas Malware – Not a HO HO wHOle lot of fun!

As the holiday’s approach we spend time reflecting on the past year. Today I want to share two articles about Christmas-related malware (viruses). First, an interesting look at Christmas Past: https://nakedsecurity.sophos.com/2010/12/15/christmas-malware-short-history/

Next a look at the malware of Christmas (relatively) Present:

So, what does the malware of Christmas Future hold? Here are a couple of suggestions to protect yourself.

Make sure that your computer patches are up-to-date! This is the first line of defense against malware and hackers that take advantage of security holes in Windows and other software such as Adobe Acrobat, Office, and web browsers.

Is your antivirus truly on and functioning? The first thing malware attempts is to disable your antivirus software. If you’re not checking and monitoring it (or having someone like us do it for you), you may be exposed without even knowing it.

Beware your inbox! So many scams, especially this time of year, focus on getting you to give up your personal infomration. Emails with attachments claiming to be invoices, billing statements, or shipping labels should be regarded as suspicious.

If you’re unsure about your network’s security, we can perform an in-depth analysis for you. Contact our offices for more details about our Business and Technology Assessments.

Why Your Current Antivirus, Backup, And Firewall Have Been Rendered Completely USELESS (And What You Need To Do About It)

Most business owners believe their current, potentially outdated, cyber security measures will keep their data safe. But, in the contemporary age where digital information is as precious as gold, cybercriminals are working around the clock to penetrate even the most robust security solutions. You can bet they’ve already created a workaround for your current antivirus. What was good enough before may not be good enough today. After all, it’s simply impossible that a security solution from even two years back could be equipped to defend your precious data from a cutting-edge hacking technology that didn’t even exist when it was created.

Cybercriminals use automated systems, called botnets, to do their work for them.  This allows them to infect millions of organizations each year.   Recently, a study by cybersecurity company Check Point Software, stated that this tactic could supersede the effects of previous attacks which took down major websites and a part of the Internet’s backbone.  Qihoo 360, another cybersecurity firm, stated that one botnet is infecting 10,000 devices a day.

With this kind of effort, it’s not only a challenge to keep your network protected, but it’s laughable to think that your company may never fall victim to identity theft, viruses, or some other cyber-attack.

Today, companies that fail to stay abreast of the latest cyber security trends — clinging foolishly to their own “set it and forget it” hardware and software — are certain to pay the price down the line. Once the lock is picked, you need a new lock, and criminals are cracking new locks each and every day.

Luckily, as your IT provider, we’re cyber security experts, and we constantly seek the latest and most robust security solutions. Don’t leave your company’s security up to a false sense of confidence. Always be looking at options to upgrade your digital security and make it a sure thing.  For example, when we learned about the KRACK vulnerability, we sprang into action contacting our clients, and installing patches and replacing hardware when needed.

I’ve recently finished a new report titled “The 7 Most Critical IT Security Protections Every Business Must Have In Place Now To Protect Themselves From Cybercrime, Data Breaches and Hacker Attacks” which I invite you to take a moment to read.  You can get a copy by clicking here.