Tips for keeping your mobile devices safe

August 10th, 2017

Businesses are using mobile devices more than ever to increase productivity and profitability. However, like desktops and laptops, smartphones and tablets are highly vulnerable to hacking, and some employees expose them to threats in ways they may not even be aware of. To protect your company from these threats, follow these tips on keeping mobile devices safe.

Ensure mobile OS is up-to-date

Apple and Android’s operating system updates improve overall user experience, but their most important function is to fix security vulnerabilities. You can reduce your business’s exposure to threats by installing updates for ALL devices as soon as they become available. Some people wait for a few weeks or months to update their device’s OS. This gives hackers ample time to exploit vulnerabilities on devices that run on outdated operating systems.

Install business applications only

Downloading apps seems harmless, but lenient mobile devices policies on what should and shouldn’t be downloaded on company devices could lead to staff downloading and installing non-business-related apps from third-party stores, most of which are notorious for malicious advertising codes and other threats.

Be careful with public Wi-Fi networks

Emergency situations might compel you to use password-free Wi-Fi networks in hotels, airport, cafes, or any public place. Connecting to an open network could expose your confidential information and sensitive company data to hackers connected to the same network.

You can avoid this by providing a practical internet data plan, preferably one that includes roaming services, for remote workers. And if you really have to connect to an open Wi-Fi, don’t use the connection for transferring sensitive data.

Enable phone tracking tools

Losing a company-issued mobile device is a scenario many would rather not contemplate, but it happens. Devices can be misplaced or stolen, and enabling a useful app such as ‘Find my iPhone’ for iOS devices, ‘GPS Phone Tracker’ for Android, or any other device-tracking app in Apple’s App or Android’s Google Play stores helps users locate lost phones, or otherwise delete data in stolen devices. Downloading and setting up the app takes just a few minutes, and it will give you peace of mind knowing that even if your phone is lost or stolen, its contents will not be compromised.

Screen SMS carefully

SMS messaging may not be as effective as email phishing, but SMS phishing can also be used to trick users into clicking malicious links. Hackers send messages purporting to be from someone you know or a legitimate source that asks you to urgently send confidential data. You can either delete these messages, block unknown senders, or alert your IT department in case you encounter a possible scammer.

Mobile devices are becoming more critical to operations. And with more devices open to attack, businesses must bolster their cybersecurity efforts. Hackers will exploit every possible vulnerability, and that includes those in unsecured smartphones and tablets. Get in touch with us if you need comprehensive security solutions for your business.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Hardware
July 25th, 2017

More firms are using the Internet of Things (IoT) to create new business opportunities. For instance, companies that install smart sensors can automate data entry and monitor their inventory. However, if left unsecured, IoT devices also give hackers an opportunity to breach your network. In order to keep attackers at bay, we advise you take the following precautions with your IoT devices.

Set passwords Many often forget they can set passwords for IoT devices. When this happens, they tend to leave their gadgets with default passwords, essentially leaving the door open for hackers. Make sure to set new and strong passwords -- preferably with a combination of upper and lower case letters, numbers, and symbols -- for each device connected to your network. Then, use a password manager to securely keep track of all your passwords.

Disable Universal Plug and Play (UPnP) UPnP is designed to help IoT gadgets discover other network devices. However, hackers can also exploit this feature to find and connect to your IoT devices. To prevent them from getting to your network, it’s best to disable this feature completely.

Create a separate network When you’re dealing with IoT devices, it’s wise to quarantine them in a separate network unconnected to your main office network. By doing this, user gadgets will still have access to the internet but won’t be able to access mission-critical files.

You should also consider investing in device access management tools. These allow you to control which devices can access what data, and prevent unauthorized access.

Update your firmware If you want to keep your devices secure against the latest attacks, then you need to keep your IoT software up to date. Security researchers are always releasing security patches for the most recent vulnerabilities, so make it a habit to regularly check for and install IoT firmware updates. If you have several gadgets to secure, use patch management software to automate patch distribution and set a schedule to check for updates monthly.

Unplug it Disconnecting your IoT devices from the internet (or turning them off completely) whenever you don’t need them significantly reduces how vulnerable you are to an attack. Think about it, if there’s nothing to target, hackers won’t be able to make their move. Turning your IoT devices on and off again may not seem like the most convenient strategy, but it does deny unauthorized access to your router.

Unfortunately, as IoT devices become more commonplace in homes and offices, more hackers will develop more cunning ways to exploit them. Getting into the above mentioned security habits can protect you from a wide variety of IoT attacks, but if you really need to beef up your security, then contact us today. We have robust security solutions that keep your hardware safe.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Hardware
July 7th, 2017

Businesses are always looking for ways to cut costs without sacrificing growth. For the longest time, many believed that they had to purchase workstations with its own processing power, RAM, and hard drive. But thanks to virtualization, companies can save money and get the computing processes they need with thin and zero clients.

What are thin and zero clients? Thin clients are stripped-down computers with minimum processing power and memory. They rely on a basic operating system and a network connection to access a more powerful system where almost all computing processes take place.

Zero clients work the same way. The only difference is that there’s no local storage or operating system installed on the device; all the software, storage, and processing power sits on a server until you need it. This setup makes it ideal for cutting costs, and here’s why.

Reduced hardware costs When it comes to upfront costs, thin and zero clients are the obvious choice. Conventional desktops start at $300 per user, while thin clients can go for as low as $90 per user. And since they have no hard drive or other moving parts, lean devices tend to be more durable and have a longer lifespan than their traditional counterparts.

Simplified IT management Another benefit of thin clients is that they can be managed from a server. Suppose a new software update was released. Instead of manually downloading the patch on each computer, you can simply install the update on your server and roll it out to all thin clients. Apart from upgrades, you can make backups, security configurations, and application deployments in the data center. This quickens setup, reduces downtime, and increases employee productivity.

Minimized security risks Thin clients also help you avoid costly malware attacks and data breach incidents. Your employees and poorly managed endpoints are the biggest vulnerabilities with traditional desktops. Thin and zero clients reduce these problems by limiting direct access to the operating system. This prevents employees from copying sensitive data to removable media and installing software, malicious or otherwise.

If your thin client is damaged or corrupted, you don’t have to worry about your data, as it’s originally stored in an impenetrable server.

Decreased energy consumption Because processing is done locally, traditional desktops generate a lot of heat and require more power, which results in huge power and cooling bills at the end of the month. By contrast, thin and zero clients consume only 4-6.5 watts of power, almost 1/50th of thick client requirements. What’s more, they require little to no cooling, allowing you to enjoy significant cost savings.

When looking for cost-cutting solutions, thin and zero clients should never be overlooked. The reduced hardware costs, power bills, and security risks are just too good to pass up. But if you’re still unsure about this technology, give us a call. We’ll assess your tech needs and determine whether or not thin or zero clients can help you succeed.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Hardware
June 22nd, 2017

Power outages caused by utility failure, accidents, and natural disasters such as storms, flooding, or earthquakes are inevitable. There’s very little you can do to prevent any of these from happening, but you can avoid the consequences to your business by using an Uninterruptible Power Supply (UPS).

What is an uninterruptible power supply?

An uninterruptible power supply is an essential piece of hardware that protects both your computer and your data. It provides a backup power source in case of main power failures caused by electrical current problems such as blackouts, brownouts, and power spikes.

Smaller UPS units can protect individual computers while larger models can power multiple devices or an entire office. Small businesses can opt for individual UPS units, which should be enough to back up critical computers and other devices that are key to business continuity.

Benefits of having UPS

It’s a known fact that power outages can damage or completely destroy electronic equipment, especially computers. Unexpected computer shutdown can cause great damage to your computer hardware and make you lose unsaved data. A UPS ensures you never experience such a scenario.

Here are other ways that a UPS benefits your systems:

  • Uninterrupted power flow during power surges

When you have UPS, the voltage that passes from the main electrical lines to your devices is consistently stabilized. This protects your computers from power surges, which happen when the voltage in other equipment suddenly rises.
  • Refined and filtered power supply

It normalizes power levels so that your computers are protected against dips and spikes caused by lightning or an abnormal power supply that usually comes from restored power after a blackout.
  • Instant power during brownouts

An uninterruptible power supply guarantees your operations’ continuity. In the event of short-term interruptions, it gives you enough time to switch to a larger, more stable power supply such as a generator. But unlike a generator, it provides instant power to your equipment at the exact moment the power goes out.

Does your business need a UPS?

If you’re purchasing new computers for your small business, a UPS is an invaluable add-on. Businesses that require constant power to function such as hospitals, banks, academic institutions, manufacturing companies, and any business for which storing and processing data are critical tasks can benefit from uninterrupted power.

Determining the type of UPS for your business as well as installing and maintaining it may require the expertise of professionals. We have experts who could provide you with information on properly operating a UPS, replacing its battery, identifying devices that should never be connected to it, and other safety tips. Call us today for advice.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Hardware
June 3rd, 2017

Bluetooth technology helps simplify our daily lives -- it allows for hands free communication, a quick and easy way to share content with friends, family, colleagues, and more. In fact, 45 percent of Americans have Bluetooth enabled across multiple devices. This raises the question: Does using Bluetooth leave our doors opened to hacker attacks?

Google paid a settlement fee of $7million for unauthorized data collection from unsecured wireless networks in 2013. While their intention likely wasn’t theft, many disagreed and called them out for Bluesnarfing, a method most hackers are familiar with.

What is it?

Bluesnarfing is the use of Bluetooth connection to steal information from a wireless device, particularly common in smartphones and laptops. Using programming languages that allow them to find Bluetooth devices left continuously on and in “discovery” mode, cybercriminals can attack devices as far as 300 feet away without leaving any trace.

Once a device is compromised, hackers have access to everything on it: contact, emails, passwords, photos, and any other information. To make matters worse, they can also leave victims with costly phone bills by using their phone to tap long distance and 900-number calls.

What preventive measures can you take?

The best way is to disable Bluetooth on your device when you’re not using it, especially in crowded public spaces, a hacker’s sweet spot. Other ways to steer clear of Bluesnarfing include:
  • Switching your Bluetooth to “non-discovery” mode
  • Using at least eight characters in your PIN as every digit adds approximately 10,000 more combinations required to crack it
  • Never accept pairing requests from unknown users
  • Require user approval for connection requests (configurable in your smartphone’s security features)
  • Avoid pairing devices for the first time in public areas
Bluesnarfing isn’t by any means the newest trick in a cybercriminal’s book, but that doesn’t mean it’s any less vicious. If you’d like to know more about how to keep your IT and your devices safe, give us a call and we’ll be happy to advise.
Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Hardware
May 20th, 2017

With so much technology moving to the cloud, onsite servers aren’t getting as much attention as they used to. Optimizing this critical piece of business technology is no small task, but there are a few simple things you can do to ensure the success of your in-house servers.

Mount your servers properly

Small businesses are usually forced to prioritize the here and now over long-term planning. Not for lack of caring, it’s just a fact of working on tight budgets and with small teams. This is especially evident when it comes to server planning. When your business first sets up shop, it’s tempting to plug in a server right next to your workstations -- but doing so puts your hardware in harm’s way.

Mounting servers in a rack protects them from the accidents commonly associated with highly trafficked areas: spills, crumbs and tripping hazards. Server racks keep your most essential hardware safe by organizing everything in a space that is more accessible for cleaning and management but less exposed to the day-to-day wear and tear of your office.

Server planning is all about leaving room for the future. When choosing your rack mount, make sure to leave room for the hardware you will need to expand in the future. Unless office space is a serious concern, it’s better to have a half-empty server rack than to be forced to tear the whole thing down and redesign it the moment you need to expand.

Keep servers separate from the main area

Depending on what type of servers you are running, they can create quite a bit of noise. This coupled with the fact that they are comprised of valuable hardware means that you should do everything in your power to keep your servers physically separate from your working space. If you don’t have room for a server room, consider investing a little extra in a secure rack mount with built-in sound reduction.

Never skimp on cooling

Even when your business first opens its doors, server cooling is a crucial consideration. These computers are designed to work at peak capacity and need optimal conditions to do so efficiently. Even if your equipment seems to be performing just fine, too much heat can drastically reduce its lifespan.

Make sure that your cooling solution operates outside the confines of your building’s infrastructure. If the central air gets shut off at night, or if your office experiences power outages, you need a cooling solution that switches over to backup power with your servers.

Keep wiring neatly arranged

For anyone without hands-on experience with server hardware, the number of wires going into and out of your setup is shocking. Getting the whole mess organized isn’t just about cleanliness, it also affects the performance of your current setup and the viability of installing future upgrades. Any time you are installing, removing, or rearranging your server cables, check that everything is neatly labeled and safely grouped together.

Managing any type of hardware comes with dozens of important considerations, and that goes doubly so for servers. The best way to guarantee your IT investments are getting the care they require is by partnering with a managed IT services provider. To learn more about our services, give us a call today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Hardware
May 4th, 2017

Whether you prefer a quick fix or a long-term solution, extending your laptop’s battery life should be among your priorities if you’re a heavy laptop user. Replacing an old battery with a new one or purchasing a new laptop shouldn’t be your only options, especially if you operate a business with limited resources. Here are some more economical ways to extend your laptop’s battery life.

Manage your laptop’s power settings

Computer manufacturers are aware that battery life is an important consideration for most users, which is why many Windows and Apple computers have settings that help reduce battery consumption. Windows laptops have a Power Plan setting that lets you choose either a standard setting or a customized power plan; Energy Saver under MacOS’ ‘System Preferences’ offers a setting that allows you to adjust display and sleep controls.

Adjust display and system settings

You can also make adjustments to your laptop’s display and system settings to reduce brightness, turn off screensaver, disable Bluetooth and Wi-Fi (when they’re not used), and trigger the system to hibernate instead of sleep. A “sleeping” laptop consumes a little energy, but a “hibernating” laptop consumes absolutely none.

Use a battery monitor and other maintenance tools

If you think your laptop battery drains unusually fast, access your system’s battery maintenance tool to check its status. If your laptop doesn’t have one, you can download an application that creates a battery health report. That report will include charge cycle count, which determines the number of charge cycles your laptop has; and battery life estimate, which states how much longer the battery will provide power based on its current settings.

Keep your laptop operating efficiently

One way to accomplish this is by managing your web browser usage. Having many tabs opened on your browser drains your battery’s power and reduces your productivity. If you really must have a handful of tabs opened, consider switching to power-saving browsers such as Windows Edge or Opera. When multitasking, close unused apps and programs -- especially those that download files or play media, as they consume the most power. This not only helps reduce battery consumption, but also helps the user stay focused on the task at hand.

Handle your laptop with care

Laptops are delicate and require safe handling and a cool temperature. With the exception of a few models (e.g., Apple’s MacBook Air), many devices are designed with a cooling system that keeps its CPU, graphics processor, and other components from overheating; and not to mention, its battery from depleting fast.

For that reason, handling your laptop with great care ensures longer battery life and better overall performance. When using your laptop on-the-go, make sure you don’t block its vents from circulating air, which means you should never put it on a surface such as a bed or similar soft surface that could prevent its cooling fans from working. And while it may seem harmless -- and appropriate -- putting your laptop on your lap is actually unsafe.

For businesses with remote workers and/or bring your own device (BYOD) policies, a laptop that lasts all day allows employees to be more productive and saves your company from having to spend on new laptops or replace batteries as a result of neglect. For cost-effective strategies on business technology, call us today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Hardware
April 19th, 2017

2017April18Hardware_AFor decades, one of the most foundational principles of cyber security has remained the same: Always update and patch your software. But for most people, hardware is exempt from this process. They think of hardware as nothing more than a vessel for software to occupy -- and that’s totally incorrect. Read on to learn more about this oft-neglected aspect of IT security.

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
March 31st, 2017

2017March30Hardware_AThis month, Intel unveiled a revolutionary new type of hard drive that can work as either a storage or RAM unit, while offering faster performance than most hard drives in the market. Its performance and technical capabilities make it appealing for a wide range of applications, but is it worth the investment? Read on to find out.

Optane SSD Intel’s new standalone drive maximizes storage performance and can also serve as extra RAM for your servers. The Optane SSD DV P4800X has 375 GB of space, a data read latency of 10 microseconds, and data transfer rates (or throughput) of 2GB per second. With these specs, Intel claims users will experience faster boot times, quicker application load times, and 30% faster system performance.

All of this makes the Optane SSD perfect for hosting machine learning and analytics. Also, if your company is involved in high-performance computing, Intel’s new RAM/storage drive should be high on your company’s wish list.

Optane SSD, however, may not be the best for everyone. First of all, the latest storage drive is meant for servers. Another downside is that the 375-GB SSD is a hefty $1,520 -- almost as much as deploying your own in-house server would cost! In this case, you would probably get more value out of a conventional SSD.

SSD Consumer-level SSDs still provide fast software boot times, but will probably offer less storage space and throughput rates than the Optane SSD. This really isn’t much of a sacrifice, considering that plenty of users can afford and work with 128 GB of ‘normal’ SSD storage. In fact, a 128-GB SSD can go for as low as $50.

HDD Your other choice would be the standard hard disk drive (HDD). Though these storage devices are far more common and much less expensive than the previous two, HDDs are slow to boot, noisy, and susceptible to hardware damage and data loss. The only thing going for the traditional hard drive is its storage capacity. For $50 dollars, users can buy a 1-TB hard disk drive.

Although HDD may not be ideal in terms of speed, it’s a good choice for any business on a tight budget. Most people actually pair SSD with their standard HDD to get the best of both worlds. Operating systems and critical applications can be stored in SSD for faster boot times, while regular files can be stored in HDD.

Even with this crash course on hard drives and SSDs, you will still probably need a storage professional to help you pick the best device for your business. For all your storage drive queries, installment requirements, and IT maintenance needs, contact our IT consultants today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Hardware
March 16th, 2017

2017March15Hardware_AMost people have a vague idea of what a network firewall does. But some business owners are easily fooled by promises of quick and easy solutions that can be installed and managed right from your desktop. In the software vs. hardware debate, there’s a clear winner when it comes to your security. Let’s take a look at what the differences are and why they matter.

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