Archive Monthly Archives: August 2018

August 2018 Ransomware Update

August 2018 Ransomware Update

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The Newest Forms Of Ransomware & How To Protect Your Business From Them

The Situation

Ransomware is now one of the top security concerns for businesses and organizations of all sizes. The City of Atlanta was hit with a ransomware attack called SamSam in March, crippling some important departments like their court system, sewer infrastructure requests, and water billing department.

The attackers who deploy SamSam are known for clever, high-yield approaches. This, combined with the City’s lack of preparedness, explains why the infection was so debilitating.

Experts are telling us that SamSam will strike again. Unlike many forms of ransomware that spread via phishing attacks where individuals inadvertently invite the attack, SamSam exploits IT system vulnerabilities and cracks weak passwords. These ransomware attackers have made $1 million in less than six months.

Keeping all your systems patched, storing data in enterprise-based cloud backups, and having a ransomware preparedness plan can offer real protections against SamSam and other ransomware infections.

Unfortunately, ransomware attacks are on the rise, and as hackers use more sophisticated encryption technology, the threat is constantly evolving. According to malware security firm Barkly, a company is hit with a ransomware attack every 40 seconds. They also identified ransomware as the most prevalent form of malware, with “4.3x new ransomware variants in Q1 2017 than in Q1 2016.” 

This eBook details how dangerous ransomware is, how it could harm your business, and what you should do to protect your data.

Part 1 

What is Ransomware? 

Ransomware is a type of malicious software (malware) that blocks access to a computer that infects, locks or takes control of a system and demands a ransom to unlock it. It’s also referred to as a crypto-virus, crypto-Trojan or crypto-worm. It then threatens that your data will be gone forever if you don’t pay using a form of anonymous online currency such as Bitcoin. 

Most forms of ransomware are spread via spam using unsolicited phishing email or an attachment. Phishing attacks use emails disguised to look like they’re from someone you know and are more likely to trust.

Some ransomware-based applications disguise themselves as police or a government agency, claiming that your system is being locked down for security reasons and that a fine or fee is required to reactivate it. Then it typically asks you to click on a link or attachment to perform a routine task such as updating records or account details. If you do this, a worm or malware is downloaded, infects your system and locks it by encrypting your files. 

Ransomware, like SamSam, can also infect your IT system using vulnerabilities in your computer’s browser. It does this when you click on a malicious code hidden in online ads or free software.

Ransomware targets small to medium-sized businesses because they are particularly vulnerable due to limited IT resources. They are also more likely to pay the ransom in the hopes that they’ll get access to their data, although the FBI warns that this isn’t necessarily so. 

Paying a ransom doesn’t guarantee an organization that it will get its data back—we’ve seen cases where organizations never got a decryption key after having paid the ransom. Paying a ransom not only emboldens current cybercriminals to target more organizations, but it also offers an incentive for other criminals to get involved in this type of illegal activity. And finally, by paying a ransom, an organization might inadvertently be funding other illicit activity associated with criminals.” 

Paying the ransom only guarantees that the malicious actors receive your money, and possibly even banking information. Also, decrypting files does not mean the malware infection itself has been removed. 

No one is immune.

  • Temporary or permanent loss of sensitive or proprietary information,
  • Disruption to regular operations, 
  • Financial losses to restore systems and files, and 
  •  Potential harm to your organization’s reputation.

The lack of awareness and cybersecurity training is a leading cause of ransomware.

Part 2

Ransomware Comes in Many Forms.

Ransomware comes in many different forms, but essentially, it’s a type of malware that denies access to your computer devices unless you pay a ransom. The ransomware malware encrypts your data. Once it does this, it can travel throughout your network and encrypt other mapped and unmapped network drives. Because of this, it can bring your organization to a halt.

The ever-evolving nature of these threats makes ransomware very difficult to keep track of. Ransomware-as-a-Service (RaaS) makes it easy for cybercriminals to set up a lucrative hacking scheme. It is provided as a vendor platform on the Dark Web. Unlawful vendors offer hackers and criminals a tool to use to lock down computer files, information or systems and hold them hostage.

Ransom32 is a type of “Ransomware-as-a-Service” that provides any cybercriminal, even those without technical knowledge, the ability to create their own form of ransomware. What makes Ransom32 so dangerous is that it uses JavaScript, and can be used on computers that run Windows, Mac OS X, and Linux.

Over 2,900 types of ransomware have been reported, and they’re growing. Here are just a few:

Bad Rabbit

Bad Rabbit has infected organizations in Russia and Eastern Europe and is spreading throughout the world. It does this via a fake Adobe Flash update on compromised websites. When the ransomware infects a machine, users are directed to a payment page demanding .05 bitcoin (about $285).

Cerber 

This ransomware encrypts your files using AES encryption and demands a ransom of 1.24 bitcoins (worth $500). It communicates via a text-to-speech voice message, a recording, a web page, or a plain text document. There’s no way to decrypt files that are encrypted by Cerber unless you pay the ransom. 

Cryptolocker 

CryptoLocker infects computers that run Microsoft Windows. Like other forms of ransomware, you must pay the hackers to decrypt and recover your files. CryptoLocker spreads via fake emails (phishing) designed to mimic legitimate businesses. CryptoWall This form of ransomware has been around since 2014, but new variants are still circulating, including CryptoBit, CryptoDefense, CryptoWall 2.0, and CryptoWall 3.0. Like CryptoLocker, CryptoWall is distributed by spam or exploit kits. 

CryptXXX 

CryptXXX used additional capabilities including network-share encryption. This means that even if you can decrypt your files, it can still cause significant downtime by encrypting files on your network shares. 

FakeBsod 

FakeBsod uses a malicious piece of JavaScript code to lock your web browser. It displays a fake warning message and tells you to go to a particular webpage (that contains the ransomware). The message says to “contact Microsoft technicians” about an “Error 333 Registry Failure of the operating system – Host: Blue screen Error 0x0000000CE.” When you call the phone number, you’ll be asked to pay a fee to fix the problem. 

Lockscreen 

This form of ransomware isn’t new and has been in use for quite a while. It attacks Android devices. However, now there’s a new version that is more powerful and much more resilient. It used to lock your screen using a hardcoded passcode, but with the right code, you could unlock your device. Today the new version is impossible to reverse-engineer the passcode since it uses pseudorandom passcodes. Because of this, you can’t unlock your device and must pay the ransom. 

Locky 

If your computers are infected by Locky, it will rename all of your important files and prevent you from opening them. It does this through encryption and using the file extension–locky. Now, only the cybercriminals have the decryption key, and you must purchase it from them to retrieve your files. To do this, you have to go to the Dark Web and pay $400+ in Bitcoin. 

NotPetya

This is a strain of Petya and was first seen in 2016. Today, experts believe NotPetya’s sole purpose is to destroy data instead of obtaining a ransom.

If you’re worried about the cost, don’t be. The cost of outsourcing IT service and support will pay for itself because your tech issues will be addressed quickly and correctly so you can continue to focus on meeting your customers’ needs and growing your business.

Plus, you can get all your IT support and management for a fixed monthly price. A fully managed program is the best solution for small businesses, and provides the most reliability, security and quality of service. You’ll have 24×7 access to IT assistance from technicians who will provide both remote and on-site support with guaranteed response times to prevent downtime and ensure your business stays up and running.

All aspects of your network will be monitored and maintained: security, data protection applications and hardware. This optimizes your network’s performance, so it will work at peak efficiency to meet the demands of your business.

Petya

Petya is especially dangerous because it encrypts entire computer systems, and overwrites the master boot record, so you can’t reboot your operating system. Spider Spreads via spam emails. It’s hidden in Microsoft Word documents and installs the ransomware on a computer when it’s downloaded. The Word document (typically disguised as a debt-collection notice) executes macros that encrypt your data.

TeslaCrypta

This uses an AES algorithm to encrypt files and is specifically designed to attack Adobe software vulnerabilities. TeslaCrypta installs itself in the Microsoft temp folder.

TorrentLocker

TorrentLocker spreads via spam email campaigns and targets specific geographic regions. It also uses the AES algorithm to encrypt files. It collects email addresses from your address book to spread malware to your business contacts, friends and family members.

WannaCry

WannaCry has hit over 125,000 organizations in over 150 countries. It currently affects Windows machines through a Microsoft exploit known as EternalBlue.

WannaCrypt

This computer attack began locking down data on May 12, 2017. It affects Microsoft Windows Operating systems. WannaCrypt encrypts all the data in on your computer and holds it hostage.

ZCryptor 

This form of ransomware uses a worm-like tactic to self-propagate and encrypt files and external drives so that it can attack other computers.

Part 3 

How Ransomware Infects Your Computers 

Ransomware attacks are increasing, and so are the ransoms to recover your data. 

You’ll know when ransomware infects your computer because the hackers display a message telling you how much to pay to unlock your files. These ransoms typically run in the $300-$500 range. But, some businesses are having to pay upwards of $1,000 per computer. If you have 25 computers that are infected, that’s $25,000. 

Hackers primarily use the following attack vectors to infect computers: 

Phishing Emails 

This is the most common scenario. A realistic-looking email is sent to you with a link or attachment that contains the ransomware. Hackers will often send a number of these links or attachments to hide the one with the malware. Once it’s clicked the malicious software loads itself and the ransomware infection spreads throughout your files, locking them until you pay the ransom. 

Drive-by-Downloads 

If you unknowingly visit a realistic-looking website containing ransomware, it can load itself onto your computer. If you use an old browser, out-of-date software, or third-party applications, you’ll be most vulnerable. A hacker can detect a vulnerability and exploit it. When a software vendor discovers this, they’ll release a patch to repair the issue, but by this time the criminal has already done their dirty work. Examples include unpatched versions of Adobe Flash, a bug in Java or an old web browser, or an unpatched operating system. 

Free Software 

A lot of us download free versions of software. Some are legitimate, but others contain ransomware. They are especially prominent in broken versions of expensive games, free games, porn content, screensavers or bogus software. By convincing the user that they should download the software, they can get past firewalls and email filters. You might not even know that you’ve done this until the ransomware activates weeks later. 

Unpatched Software 

According to the U.S. Computer Readiness Team (CERT) using unpatched and unsupported software may increase the risk of proliferation of cybersecurity threats, such as ransomware. Microsoft provides a guide to help you keep your software up to date. They recommend that you use feed update functionality to stay informed about new ransomware variants and what you should do to protect your data.

Part 4 

What to Do If Your Files Get Encrypted. 

Tell your employees to let you know if they experience the following:

  • They can’t open their files, or they get error messages saying a file is corrupted or contains the wrong extension.
  • A window pops up with a ransomware program that they can’t close. This window may contain a message about paying a ransom to unlock files.
  • A message says that a countdown has started for a ransom to decrypt files and that it will increase over time.
  • They see files in all directories with names like “How to decrypt files.txt or decreypt_instructions.html.”

Ransomware isn’t easy to find while it’s at work encrypting your files. So, you might not know that it’s happening until the hacker sends you a message. By this time, the infection has completed its job. The best thing you can do at this point is to contain the virus from spreading throughout your network.

Unplug the infected computer from your network. You may also need to turn off all network access for all your computers until you know the virus is contained. Set your Basic Input Output System (BIOS) time back if the ransomware has started a countdown. This will hopefully give you more time to recover your critical files and try to eliminate the malware. You can access your BIOS time through the BIOS Setup Utility on the computer.

Restore your files from your last backup. This is why it’s important to regularly backup your files to a safe, offsite cloud location. Just make sure your most recent backup wasn’t infected as well. If you use a Disaster Recovery as a Service (DRaaS) solution, you should be able to do this and quickly “spin up” the DR image on your computer. By spinning up the image in a self-contained virtual machine (VM), you can inspect the DR image without exposing it to your entire network.

Alert the FBI. Don’t pay the ransom. This is a mistake because you still may not get your files back and the criminal will continue to extort you for money. 

Unfortunately, recovery from ransomware can be difficult as cybercriminals fine-tune their tactics and become more sophisticated.

Part 5 

How to Protect Your Data From Ransomware 

Good news is that there are best practices you can adopt to protect your business. The Small Business Administration has these 14 recommendations. Your Technology Solutions Provider can help you with these. 

  1. Implement an awareness and training program. Because end users are targets, employees should be aware of the threat of ransomware and how it is delivered. 
  2. Enable strong spam filters to prevent phishing emails (an attempt to obtain sensitive information electronically) from reaching employees and authenticate inbound email using technologies like Sender Policy Framework (SPF), Domain Message Authentication Reporting and Conformance (DMARC), and DomainKeys Identified Mail (DKIM) to prevent email spoofing.
  3. Scan all incoming and outgoing emails to detect threats and filter executable files (used to perform computer functions) from reaching employees.
  4. Configure firewalls to block access to known malicious IP addresses.
  5. Patch operating systems, software, and firmware on devices. Consider using a centralized patch management system.
  6. Set anti-virus and anti-malware programs to conduct regular scans automatically.
  7. Manage the use of privileged accounts based on the principle of least privilege: no employees should be assigned administrative access unless absolutely needed and those with a need for administrator accounts should only use them when necessary.
  8. Configure access controls—including file, directory, and network share permissions— with least privilege in mind. If an employee only needs to read specific files, the employee should not have write access to those files, directories, or shares.
  9. Disable macro scripts (toolbar buttons and keyboard shortcut) from office files transmitted via email. Consider using Office Viewer software to open Microsoft Office files transmitted via email instead of full office suite applications.
  10. Implement Software Restriction Policies (SRP)s or other controls to prevent programs from executing from common ransomware locations, such as temporary folders supporting popular Internet browsers or compression/decompression programs including the AppData/LocalAppData folder.
  11. Consider disabling Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP) if it is not being used.
  12. Use application whitelisting, which only allows systems to execute programs known and permitted by security policies.
  13. Execute operating system environments or specific programs in a virtualized environment.
  14. Categorize data based on organizational value and implement physical and logical separation of networks and data for different organizational units.

In Conclusion

The increased incidence and rapid evolution of ransomware have raised concerns and stakes for both small and large businesses. Of everything we’ve discussed here, the two most important things to do to protect your business is to use a solid enterprise-grade cloud backup solution and to provide professional Cybersecurity Awareness Training for your employees. In both cases, your Technology Solutions Provider is your best friend. They’ll help you fight and prevent ransomware and cybercrime of all kinds. Don’t wait. Contact them today.

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What The Sunset Of Windows 7 Means To Its Users

What The Sunset Of Windows 7 Means To Its Users

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Windows 7 is being “put out to pasture” by Microsoft at the beginning of 2020. Not all Windows 7 users are aware of precisely what this means and how it can affect their day-to-day business. Because of impending issues, such as steadily degrading usability and increasing security vulnerabilities, Windows 7 users need to know what to expect and what their options are.

Quick Background On Windows 7 

Windows 7 was released in October of 2009. Its purpose was to serve as an incremental upgrade to the not-so-well-received Windows Vista operating system. Windows 7 included some much-needed improvements to Windows Aero, the new user interface that Microsoft introduced with Vista, and with improved performance. Users responded far more positively to Windows 7 than they did Vista, primarily because it addressed so many of Vista’s deficiencies. The Windows 7 Service Pack 1 came out in 2011, and a platform update was released a few years later in 2013. 

By 2014, however, Microsoft began preparations for the retirement of Windows 7 as they began stopping its retail sales. Next, mainstream support for the operating system came to a halt. In 2016, PCs were no longer shipped with Windows 7 pre-installed. Microsoft then announced that on January 14, 2020, extended support for Windows 7 would end. That was the official sunset announcement.

What Sunset Means 

Sunset begins with Microsoft no longer offering extended support for Windows 7. It also means no more security updates, bug fixes, or service packs. That, in turn, means the usability, security, and performance of Windows 7 will begin to degrade with time. On the surface, applications and the operating system will generally perform all right, but there will always be exceptions. Over time, however, there will be a definite trend toward more issues, steadily poorer performance, and serious security vulnerabilities. 

Why This Important to Windows 7 Users Here is what a Windows 7 user can expect to see after sunset begins:

  • Software, utilities, and features may become incompatible
  • Applications no longer receive updates that apply to Windows 7
  • New devices (g., printers or webcams) may not be able to connect with Windows 7
  • Antivirus will not be updated, and third-party virus protection software will eventually stop supporting Windows 7
  • Software bug fixes are no longer patched, leaving the system open to exploitation
  • Online banking transaction systems may expire if their authentication and encryption methods cannot be supported by Windows 7

Also, incompatibility can quickly become a problem for companies whose customers or partners need them to use or interface with software that simply will not run correctly on Windows 7. Running a sunset operating system can also cause problems when attempts are made to add devices or install new software.

The most serious issues with sunsetting are those involving security. Hackers will know that Windows 7 has become vulnerable and will seek out ways to exploit those weaknesses. This leaves a system susceptible to malware, ransomware, and viruses. The probability of suffering from an attack that renders your computers unusable will continue to increase with time.

ptions Available to Windows 7 

Users If you are running Windows 7, then now is the time to start migrating to a new operating system. The most straightforward upgrade path would be Windows 10, which still has some of the look and feel of Windows 7 with a plethora of new features and even better usability. 

The other option for most businesses is switching to Mac OS. This means an entirely new work environment for traditional Microsoft users. This option can involve a steep learning curve. While some Microsoft packages, such as Office, are available for Mac OS, they work a bit differently and it will take some time for new users to become proficient. Macs can also be more expensive than a Windows-based computer system, but have a reputation for being more reliable.

Unless a business is heavily involved in video production or graphic design, Windows 10 is probably the best option.

Getting Ready to Migrate 

Before migrating, perform an inventory of software and group each application into one of three groups: unwanted, optional, or required. Some software may require an upgrade to run on a newer operating system. Next, prepare a similar inventory of hardware. As with the software, some hardware may need to be updated or replaced to remain compatible with the new operating system. Also, check the requirements of the replacement operating system, paying special attention to available hard drive space, physical memory, and processor or CPU needs. 

Please note that if a machine is already getting a bit outdated (e.g., 7 or more years old), it might make sense to purchase a new machine with Windows 10 pre-installed. The Trump tariffs will cause an increase in the price of computers, scanners, printers, servers and even their components. So now is definitely the best time to buy! 

Conclusion 

With the sunset of Windows 7 impending, now is the time to start the process of migrating to a new operating system, whether it be Windows 10 or Mac OS. Failure to upgrade will not only lead to issues with compatibility and performance, but will involve serious security risks.

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Work from Anywhere Using Microsoft Office 365 Apps

Work from Anywhere Using Microsoft Office 365 Apps

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Have you ever been in a position where you are supposed to work on an assignment or important document but you forgot your laptop or cannot access your desktop? That can be frustrating, but thanks to Microsoft, as long as you can access the internet on your phone or even tablet, you can easily resume working on your assignment. Microsoft 365 is an excellent business tool that provides you with lots of options when trying to access a saved document on another device.

A closer look at Microsoft Office 365

Office 365 is Microsoft’s global offering designed to provide users with access to the company’s top-of-the-line cloud-based tools for collaboration and productivity. The service is complete with web conferencing and high definition (HD) video, calendars, business-class email, online Microsoft office suite, as well as file storage and sharing.

When you stay connected to the Microsoft Cloud, you can be sure that all programs are up-to-date and available for users on a 24/7 basis. Below is a simple outline of just a few of the Microsoft 365 apps that enable us to work from any location or device.

Using Outlook App on your phone to work on the go 

When you open your Outlook Application, you will see a calendar function, a file function, and a mail function. When you tap on the calendar function, you can see how similar it is to the one that is on the desktop, which means it will be easy for you to use. The files function will help you view all recently accessed documents on OneDrive and even some of the recently shared files—very convenient!

When accessing the mail function, this is where you are able to see all files, documents, and links shared with you. You can also share a file via OneDrive.

Accessing information shared via a link 

Simply click on the link and it will open into SharePoint, which will allow you to view the file. If you need to edit the file, open it in the word App and as soon as you start editing, anyone who has access to the file will see your edits right away. Such an incredible feature! This is great because, after editing, you don’t have to keep sending final copies of the same document to everyone on your team. Documents are updated in real time, which is a real time saver!

Accessing the same information on different devices 

It’s frustrating to lose devices such as phones, tablets, and even your laptop. If you travel a lot, you may even damage your laptop or phone. Though this can be expensive, it’s also devastating to lose important documents. Retrieving data from a damaged phone or computer usually requires an IT expert. Data retrieval used to be such an expensive ordeal and sometimes unsuccessful. The good news is that on Microsoft 365 you don’t have to worry if you find yourself in any of the above predicaments. Here is a simple outline of how you can access your information from any device.

 Open any browser and type the words office.com, then log in. A page will come up with various Microsoft 365 Applications such as Word, Excel, Outlook, and services such as OneDrive. Click on the OneDrive service, which will immediately take you to all files located on OneDrive.

You will then be able to access all files that have been saved to OneDrive. These files are all live so this means that any changes made, such as editing by anyone on your team, will be there. You can view, share, or edit these files. Let’s say you wish to edit a file that you recently shared with someone. Just open that file and you will see an editing option on the top right. You can do all your editing in the browser. This works with all files including Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and other Microsoft applications. All updates will immediately show up on any shared documents.

There are so many other noteworthy features in Microsoft 365 that can help make your work easier. If you want to learn more about these helpful features, just visit this page: www.Microsoft.ca/GetItDone

Wrap Up 

Losing or damaging your phone or laptop is always stressful, but you don’t have to lose any of your important documents when you work with Microsoft 365. You may be home sick for a few days, but you don’t necessarily have to get behind on your projects. It’s possible to work from anywhere using any device with Microsoft’s helpful range of products.

Remember that you can work from home and even share updates in real-time with your colleagues. As long as documents are stored to Microsoft’s OneDrive, they’ll always be right at your fingertips. That’s the epitome of convenience!

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Internet Security a Top Priority, Experts Claim

Internet Security a Top Priority, Experts Claim

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Experts in the tech world are giving their input on what is planned by state and local Chief Information Officers (CIOs) in terms of security for all of today’s technology. For so long, technology has existed and yet the public has taken its security for granted. But, sometime last year, giants of industry like Cisco Systems, have revealed that plans are underway to bring new and better levels of security to the cyber world. According to Britt Norwood, the head of Cisco Systems’ state, local and education sales for the western U.S., it’s time that technology had some real-life applications.[1]

According to Mr. Norwood, the state and local government of the future will rely heavily on technology for its management. From Smart Cities to cloud computing, innovative breakthroughs will change life as we know it. Life will become easier while access to public services will become cheaper and more readily available.

A great example is the Internet of Things. All of our medical devices and appliances are now connected via the IoT. However, these devices are extremely easy to hack and that puts consumers at risk. This reveals our ongoing need to implement stronger cybersecurity measures to protect ourselves. The government, along with the private sector now understands the importance of keeping hackers out of our systems, networks, and databases.

To address these issues, a host of new and radical changes will take place over the next few years. These include four major areas as cited below.

Adoption of the Internet of Things at Community Level 

There is no doubt that IoT has had the attention of the public sector for a few years now. Informal discussions on the implementation of IoT applications by the government in delivering services to citizens have been underway. Imagine a situation where parking meters are connected and pricing on parking are determined by the time of day. Or even an application that is able to track buses in real time to give accurate information on wait-times to patrons at bus stops. This would most definitely improve the quality of services delivered to the public. 

Each town and city has its own set of unique problems with delivering affordable, reliable city services. Each jurisdiction may adopt its own unique applications according to what suits them best. These applications will definitely make a positive change in the way cities and states are run. But they must include the best security to protect consumers.

Cyber Security Still a Top Priority for Governments 

With technological advancement comes increased risk and vulnerability in terms of security. It is very important that the government stays on top of it. It would be of no use to continue investing in digitalization and increasing connectivity without having in place measures to address the issue of data breaches. 

That is why for the last four years the National Association of State Chief Information Officers (NASCIO) in their ‘State CIO Ten Priorities for 2017’ report, ranked security and risk concern as a top priority.

According to Yejin Cooke, who is the director of government affairs for NASCIO, security and risk management are not going to lose their importance any time soon. In fact, the public is only now becoming aware of all the threats across the globe that can endanger everything from air flights to ground transportation or satellites. A society cannot operate without knowing for sure that hackers will not have access to our most important sectors.

It is vital to have well-organized and comprehensive cybersecurity plans in order to counter major attacks. Some states like California and Michigan have made milestones in terms of well-laid security plans. They are setting the pace for other states.

Uploading data to Cloud Priority 

According to Chip George, NetApp’s senior director of state and local government and education for the U.S. public sector, moving data to the cloud has proven to be a way in which governments are able to deal with financial constraints and legacy technologies. A recent survey by MeriTalk found that 76% of state and local agencies are planning to increase spending on Cloud computing.[2] 

State and local governments must also consider their environment so as to adopt a model that best suits them. The Cloud has three models: public, private, and hybrid. Data management can complicate issues if governments resort to relying on multiple cloud management providers.

In addition, George pointed out that, “Agencies must adopt a data fabric, so that data across all cloud environments is seamlessly integrated and managed with the same set of tools, no matter the cloud provider.” 

In the future, when governments are trying to evaluate which model suits their needs, they will have to consider these and many other factors dealing with the proper implementation.

Collaboration Tools 

Another mechanism that has become highly prioritized across governments is collaboration tools where centralized resources are optimized. By optimizing and centralizing technology, costs are lowered and a more streamlined cyber security platform is installed. Good collaboration tools make sense. They reduce costs. They put everyone on the same page.

Conclusion 

Technology is here to stay, but it evolves at a rapid rate. Though this is good on some levels, when it comes to cyber security, the experts have not been able to keep up with the hackers. Cyber thieves must be stopped in order for businesses and governments to improve efficiency in service delivery, cut their costs, and protect consumers from cyber criminals. 

[1] https://statetechmagazine.com/article/2017/02/5-priorities-state-and-local-government-technology-year-ahead

[2] https://www.meritalk.com/study/destinationcloud/

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FBI Issues Warning


As you may be aware, the FBI issued a warning last week about a malware botnet called VPNFilter. This malware originated in Russia and attacks “consumer-grade” routers typically purchased from retailers such as Best Buy andor installed in homes by Internet Service Providers such as Spectrum, Time Warner, and Charter.

The malware has not been found to infect commercial grade routers typically installed in your business, such as those from Cisco, Fortinet, SonicWALL or others. If you or any of your staff has one of the following routers installed at home, we recommend the Internet Service Provider be contacted for guidance.

At a minimum, the router should be rebooted – and the router password should be changed to one with a fair amount of complexity. (ISP technicians have a reputation for often not changing the simple “factory default” password when they install a router.) In some cases, a router firmware upgrade may be required.

The affected routers identified so far are:

  • Linksys (Models E1200, E2500 & WRVS4400N)
  • Mikrotik Cloud Core Routers (versions 1016, 1036 & 1072)
  • Netgear (Models DGN2200, R6400, R7000, R8000, WNR1000 & WNR2000)
  • QNAP (Models TS251 & TS439 Pro)
  • QNAP NAS devices running QTS software
  • TP-Link R600VPN

While we are unable to manage the consumer-grade routers targeted in this attack, We can offer you a powerful network security appliance (router/firewall/wireless access point) that can provide commercial-grade protection at your home or office.

If you have teleworkers or executives who access your network by working from home, you should be concerned about business risks created by consumer-grade routers. A relatively inexpensive corporate or business-grade firewall is likely an appropriate solution. Please let us know if you would like more information.

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What’s Up with Windows 10 S Computers?

What’s Up with Windows 10 S
Computers?

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Where Did They Go?

In 2017, Microsoft planned to release a lightweight version of Windows 10. This was their effort to provide a Windows solution that delivered a predictable performance by using only Microsoft-verified applications via the Microsoft Store.

Microsoft also wanted to compete with the Google Chromebook and promote Windows 10 S for use in the K-12 education market. Windows 10 S was initially offered as part of the Surface Laptop which is a premium, and quite expensive product. So, this addition to the education market was quite a leap.

Windows 10 S was going to be offered at a reduced price with the option to pay more to “unlock” the full Windows 10 Operating System. But Microsoft changed their minds. They realized that we don’t want to pay extra for something that should have been included, to begin with.

On March 7, 2018, they said:

Based on customer feedback we are simplifying the experience for our customers. Starting with the next update to Windows 10, coming soon, customers can choose to buy a new Windows 10 Home or Windows 10 Pro PC with S mode enabled, and commercial customers will be able to deploy Windows 10 Enterprise with S mode enabled. 

What this means is that the Windows 10 S computer has been retired. Instead, Microsoft has decided to incorporate Windows 10 S as a “mode” for all Windows 10 Operating Systems.

Microsoft hopes this new approach will make it possible for their customers to start using the S mode. They say that it provides a streamlined computing experience that enhances security and performance across all editions.

So, for the foreseeable future, Windows 10 S is now a configuration in the Windows 10 Pro and Windows Home computers. The S Mode will lock down Windows 10, so it can only run applications from the Microsoft Store–essentially, exactly what the dedicated Windows 10 S operating system was intended to do.

Microsoft is letting Windows 10 Home users disable the S Mode free of charge. However, Windows 10 Pro customers with S Mode enabled on their device will have to pay $49 to get access to the full version of Windows 10 Pro.

Should You Consider Using the S Mode? The “S” in Windows 10 S was supposed to stand for “simplicity.” Its intent was to provide a productive and secure Windows experience. Microsoft says that it’s designed for superior performance. Starting up, streaming HD video and switching across applications is much faster than with Windows 10.

Windows 10 S only uses apps from the Microsoft Store and provides a safer browsing capability via Microsoft Edge. Because the applications for Windows 10 S only come from the Microsoft Store, the folks at Microsoft say that it ensures security and integrity. And they say that Microsoft Edge is more secure than using Chrome or Firefox browsers. The Windows Defender Antivirus and other security features in Windows are also included in Windows 10 S.

Windows 10 S comes with built-in apps and new features like Cortana, Windows Ink and Windows Hello so you can sign on without a password. It integrates with OneDrive, so you can easily save your files to the cloud and sync them across your other devices. If you decide you want to run applications that aren’t in the Microsoft Store, you can easily switch to Windows 10 Pro (except you’ll have to pay $49 to do so).

What Do Others Think About Windows 10 S? 

Microsoft says that 60% of their users stay with Windows 10 S when using third-party devices. And those who do switch, do so within 24 hours of setting up their device. Those who keep using Windows 10 S for a week or so, end up keeping their device in S mode (83 %). These statistics are for low-end PCs as the only high-end computer running Windows 10 S is the Surface Laptop. These users weren’t included in their survey. 

It looks like the Windows S Mode is here to stay. But some experts predict that it poses problems for Microsoft down the line. They believe that it’s going to confuse people. While the Home versions offer a free switch path, the charge for the Pro versions could bother users who want more premium devices.

Here is another issue with this change— Microsoft says that AV/Security apps will come in the Windows 10 S mode. But what about the AV software from third-party providers? Will these applications run in the S mode? If so, this defeats the purpose of what the S mode is supposed to do. Does this mean that using these apps will hamper the promised performance in Windows 10 S? We’ll have to wait to see how Microsoft deals with this. But for now, it seems like a contradiction.

Windows 10 S devices span a price range from $189 to $2,199 (for the top Surface Laptop). It’s not impossible to provide solutions for both low-end and high-end device users, but some feel this will be difficult for people to get their minds around.

Windows 10 Spring Creators Update will probably be released with a different name: Windows 10 April Update. However, it’s been delayed while Microsoft rushes to fix a newly-discovered bug. Between the changes with Windows 10 S and now the next Windows 10 update, it seems there’s a lot of “plate-spinning” going on at Microsoft right now.

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Important Tips For Law Firms Choosing Outsourced IT Providers

Important Tips For Law Firms Choosing Outsourced IT Providers

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Businesses today are faced with fierce competition. Keeping your small business afloat, much less making a profit, takes your full attention. This, coupled with an increased reliance on complex technology can put un-do pressure on you and your employees. 

Whether you want to compose a sales presentation or proposal, keep track of inventory, or communicate with your employees and clients, you can’t do this efficiently without working computers, a properly functioning network and a reliable connection to the Internet.

And technology it isn’t always dependable. With network outages, Hard drives that crash, and computers, routers, switches, servers, printers that eventually fail, your business productivity can come to a halt.

Doesn’t it always seem like technology fails you when you need it most? When this happens it’s imperative that you resolve these problems and resume normal business operations as soon as possible—Time is money. It can be precarious to be so dependent on technology, but without it you just can’t compete today.

Few small businesses have either the required skills or the time to maintain and repair computers, networking equipment, or other technology. And, they can’t afford to hire dedicated, full-time employees to deal with IT maintenance. Even if they could, there isn’t enough need for a full-time expert.

So, what do they do? They try to “fix” things themselves. They find the most tech-savvy employee to double up on their duties and deal with hardware procurement, software licensing, and day-to-day IT troubles.

Trying to resolve and keep up with inevitable technology failures is no longer a simple matter. And as your business has grown, you’re probably using computers and network equipment from a variety of dealers. So, getting the support you need is more difficult.

Plus, you have to manage warranties, support contracts, and deal with finger-pointing between vendors when problems occur. Doing this on your own can be like a volcano waiting to explode. Below the surface are IT issues and vulnerabilities that can cause big problems down the road.

Do you rely on your non-IT employees to deal with technology problems? If so, it’s best to let them stay focused on their duties, and enlist the aid of expert IT support. The time and resources dedicated to managing technology problems can negatively impact employees, their stress levels, and ultimately, your customers.

The smart thing to do is to outsource your IT support to a company that makes sure all your technology stays up and running. They should be experienced in maintaining and troubleshooting desktops, laptops, servers, and network hardware. And they should have the knowledge and skills to keep things running smoothly and securely.

Large enterprises address this problem by hiring the right people for the job. They rely on experts for what they need: marketing, accounting, legal services and more. They know to leave the technical responsibilities to the experts.

If you’re worried about the cost, don’t be. The cost of outsourcing IT service and support will pay for itself because your tech issues will be addressed quickly and correctly so you can continue to focus on meeting your customers’ needs and growing your business.

Plus, you can get all your IT support and management for a fixed monthly price. A fully managed program is the best solution for small businesses, and provides the most reliability, security and quality of service. You’ll have 24×7 access to IT assistance from technicians who will provide both remote and on-site support with guaranteed response times to prevent downtime and ensure your business stays up and running.

All aspects of your network will be monitored and maintained: security, data protection applications and hardware. This optimizes your network’s performance, so it will work at peak efficiency to meet the demands of your business.

Your IT expert can also act as your CIO and IT Advisor, and help you with: 

  • Technology Planning, 
  • Solutions that align with your budget and increase your operational efficiencies,
  • Business Continuity and Disaster Planning,
  •  Expert Security Planning, 
  • Cloud Solutions that save you money, eliminate storage issues, and can be scaled to meet your specific requirements,
  •  Spam and Email Protection,
  • And more.

Your time is important. You have more important issues to deal with than IT problems. Outsourcing your IT support and service allows you and your employees to focus on your duties, and grow your business.

Parkway Tech 

Our Fully Managed IT Service is the ideal solution for small businesses like yours in Winston-Salem, High Point, & Greensboro. We know how hard you work to afford your technologies, and we’ll ensure you get the most from them. We’ll offer the value you need, and protect your technology investments.

Just ask our clients: We provide the utmost in network reliability, security and quality service. For a free, no-obligation assessment of your IT needs, call us at 336-310-9888 or email us at: sales@parkwaytech.com

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Which Practice Management Software Is Right For Your Law Firm In The Carolinas?

Which Practice Management Software
Is Right For Your Law Firm In The Carolinas?

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Attorneys in North and South Carolina who want to compete in today’s technology-driven environment need up-to-date software solutions. This includes Practice Management Software. But, it’s often perplexing trying to decide which one to choose. This is when you need an IT Consultant who can help you ask the right questions and find answers for them – One who will assist with finding the practice management software that best fits your needs.

So … What Questions Should You Ask When Looking At Legal Practice Management Solutions? 

Here are a few that we suggest. 

Will Importing Your Current Data Be Easy To Do?

You know that you’ll need to import your existing data into any new practice management software. Ask your IT provider how easy it will be to migrate your firm’s data into the new software and what the resulting formats will be? 

Will The Solution Integrate Well With Your Accounting Software?

Will it automatically sync with your accounting and billing software? If you have to track billable hours, this is another thing to look at. And if you manage both trust and operating accounts, will your new solution handle these tasks as well? You need both accounting and billing elements that will save you time. Will your accounting software automatically reconcile the accounts in your practice management software? You want them to integrate seamlessly so you aren’t duplicating tasks and wasting time.

How About Eliminating The Paper In Your Work Life?

Will the practice management software you’re considering provide unlimited online data storage for your documents? Can you use it to eliminate the use of paper invoices? What about the need to mail letters to your clients? Will it provide secure online communication so you can send letters electronically? All of this will save paper and time printing and mailing. Online storage will allow you to access your documents from anywhere you have a secure internet connection, increasing productivity and flexibility for you and your employees. 

Will The Practice Management Software Let You Process Credit Card Payments Securely?

Will you be able to email invoices to your clients using the new software? Does it come with invoice reminders? Can your clients securely pay you online? When your practice management software includes online financial services, this not only offers convenience for you, but for your clients. It also streamlines your operations. 

Who Is The Software Provider?

Is the software provider located in the U.S.? Are they reputable? How long have they been in business? Will they be around when you need them? How about customer service? Do they have a 24/7 hotline? If you’re working off hours and run into a problem, you need to know that you’ll have support. Do they back their software and provide easy returns if it doesn’t work for you? 

How Secure Is The Software?

Can the provider guarantee that your data will be secure? Will you be able to easily restrict users’ access to specific files, documents, and cases? Ask all the hard questions about permissions, settings, client access, and more to ensure your data is 100% secure. 

Is It Easy To Use?

Is it set up to be intuitive and easy to navigate? Will you quickly be able to search for the information and documents you need? How about training? Will you have to pay extra for training when you hire new employees? 

Speaking Of Paying – How Much Will It Cost Compared To Other Solutions And What Will You Get For Your Money?

Is the pricing structure easy to understand and transparent? Make sure you know what you’re getting for the price you pay. How about the ROI? Will it provide the value you’re looking for? Calculate your Total Cost of Ownership and Return on Investment. How long will it take you to realize savings from using this solution? 

It might not be easy to find all the answers to your questions. This can make it more difficult to decide which Practice Management Software to choose. You need a Legal IT Consultant to help you ask the right questions and find answers for them. It will make your search a lot easier. 

In the meantime, here are some solutions you can look into.

Regardless whether you’re in the market for new software or not, it’s always good to stay up-to-date on what’s happening in the world of IT. We specialize in IT for law firms and have some interesting articles in our Law Blog that you may enjoy reading. Here’s a sample. 

Winston-Salem Attorneys Are Frustrated

Insights From A Law Firm Technology Support Specialist

Parkway Techs Chris Michalec To Be Chairperson Of The NC Bar Association Small-Firm Technology Committee

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Unified Endpoint Management (UEM): Can This Help Streamline Cloud Security?

Unified Endpoint Management (UEM):
Can This Help Streamline Cloud
Security?

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What Is UEM and Cloud Security? 

As technological devices continue to diversify, there is increased demand for streamlining control systems for security. According to Techopedia, Unified Endpoint Management (UEM) is a new digital system that integrates the range of devices that are available for use now, combining this wide range of software within a single organized program for increased efficiency and effectiveness.

The system can, therefore, be used to improve control over computer systems used in workplaces, smartphones integrated with business systems and other “Internet of Things” (IoT) or online devices that may be used for some aspect of business or system operations. Combining all of these controls into a single system makes it more convenient for administrators to use and oversee, thereby making them safer.

With concepts such as “bring your own device” (BYOD) now in existence for increased employee convenience analogous to the introduction of “plug and play” technology in the past, there is a greater potential for attacks and thus, an increased demand for better security.

UEM systems have increased capacity to control endpoints in comparison to previous system designs and can work to have more proactive strategies in place to accomplish this. UEM practices now include security embedded within request processes, cross-functional strategies, cross-platform designs, and increased capacity to streamline cloud security. UEM can, therefore, be highly useful in helping to simplify a diverse range of security needs in the cloud.

The Origin of Cloud Computing 

Cloud computing has been around for some time, and its security demands continue to diversify. According to Pianese’s 2010 study, cloud computing, as the practice of using remote rather than local servers in a network hosted online to manage information, has demanded programs emphasizing control. It requires policies that provide improved information integration. 

In the past, there was no system capable of integrating the range of cloud resources in existence. Therefore, system administrators were unable to experience the extent of flexibility and efficiency available with streamlined systems. The author of the study reported on his research team’s efforts in assessing the significance of establishing and improving virtual distributed operating systems for cloud computing. UEM can now address these through meeting the demands for elasticity, fault tolerance, and autonomous decentralized management.

Can UEM Better Address Modern Cloud Security Demands? 

As both cloud security demands and technological diversity increase, UEM can help to streamline cloud security and its growing needs. According to SecurityIntelligence, cloud computing, the diversity of technological devices, and the IoT continue to expand in both hardware and software types. This has increasingly given hackers new opportunities for exploitation. There is an ever-growing need for better security all around. 

With this, it has become more difficult for business leaders and IT specialists to maintain tight security over the extent of otherwise effective new programs and efficient integrations of hardware that can be networked through a cloud. In addition to the software security demands, the technological improvements challenge the development and maintenance of relevant policies that are developed for these purposes.

Businesses generally require policies to address technological aspects before software is installed that address specific security needs. It can be challenging for businesses to keep up with the extent of new devices that are available for networking, especially when projects or outsourcing changes frequently.

UEM has been increasingly sought to address all of these demands, because it was designed to streamline old and new software and hardware capacities within an IT network, combining the entirety of endpoints. The system, therefore, allows organizations to integrate desktop systems, networked laptops, smartphones, tablet devices, and the range of users and apps (including relevant content) that potentially operate within a network into a single security system for network administrators or others supervising and securing the company technology.

Improved Productivity and Efficiency 

With UEM, in addition to the increased efficiency in streamlining cloud security, organizations can experience improved productivity or output. Infrastructures previously considered complex through wide distribution can be more efficiently managed through the centralization, thereby freeing company resources to focus on output. Through this, end-user productivity can be increased as IT management costs are reduced. This approach is regarded as superior to other strategies or models focusing on disparate point solutions, as the latter involves greater demands for costs and resources amid lower levels of efficiency. 

Beyond these fundamental advantages, UEM:

  • Uses containment technology that can better protect device information while reducing the potential for it to leak
  • Can better facilitate software currency though patching and updating capacities
  • Increases the user-friendliness of apps
  • Help organizations track flaws in data
  • Limit app and resource access
  • Implement streamlined organizational needs for logic, auditing, and reporting

Conclusion 

According to SecurityIntelligence, over 80 percent of organizations are expected to use a form of cognitive computing or AI for these endpoint demands in the next two years. Just over half are expected to have the current UEM model as their model for centralized management. 

Cheuvront explained other potentially beneficial UEM capacities include:

  • Containerization
  • Identity and access management (IAM)
  •  Increased balance of critical functions of user productivity and corporate security 
  • Easier enrollment

If your business needs include any of the above, then you may benefit from increased examination or integration of UEM as research and development in the area continues.

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Do You Know How to Add Email Signatures?

Do You Know How to Add Email Signatures?

Step-by-Step Instructions on How to Add your Email Signature in Outlook, Outlook.com, and Gmail

Creating a signature that will leave a lasting impression at the end of an email is essential in today’s business world. However, users often struggle to know which font to use, how to make it stand out, but not make it too flashy, and so on.

If your company doesn’t specify a detailed way to create a signature, you may end up searching for professional email signature examples every time you change jobs, get a promotion, or feel the need to improve your current signature.

Let’s take a look at how to add a signature to the two most popular email platforms used today: Outlook and Gmail. We will also identify shortcuts and tips to make your experience using these email platforms easier and more effective.

Outlook

Frequently Used Keyboard Shortcuts

Knowing keyboard shortcuts can speed up the process of sending emails, formatting documents, and searching through the toolbar. Let’s look at some great shortcuts for Outlook.

Go to Home tab: Alt+H

New message: Ctrl+Shift+M

Send: Alt+S

Insert file: Alt+N, A, F

New task: Ctrl+Shift+K

Search: Ctrl+E Alt+H, R, P

Reply: Alt+H, R, P

Forward: Alt+H, F, W

Reply All: Alt+H, R, A

Copy: Ctrl+C or Ctrl+Insert

Send/Receive: Alt+S, S

Go to the calendar: Ctrl+2

Create appointment: Ctrl+Shift+A

Move to folder: Alt+H, M, V, select folder from list

Attachment SaveAs: Alt+JA, A, S

Navigating Through Outlook Using Shortcuts

Outlook has great shortcuts that can quickly allow you to hop around from email to calendar, and so on. Let’s look at these shortcuts.

Switch to Mail view: Ctrl+1

Switch to Calendar view: Ctrl+2

Switch to Contacts view: Ctrl+3

Switch to Tasks view: Ctrl+4

Switch to Notes: Ctrl+5

Switch to Folder list in the Folder pane: Ctrl+6

Switch to Shortcuts: Ctrl+7

Adding an Email Signature to the Desktop Version of Outlook

Step One: To begin, open up your Outlook email client and click on File.

email attaching signature

Step Two: In the file window, click on Options.

Step Two: In the file window, click on Options.

Step Three: When the Options window pops up, click on Mail.

Step Three: When the Options window pops up, click on Mail.

Step Four: In the Mail section, scroll down to Signatures.

Step Four: In the Mail section, scroll down to Signatures.

Step Five: When the Signature window opens, Click on New.

Step Five: When the Signature window opens, Click on New.

Step Six: In the Signature window, type in your signature and add a company logo if you desire.

Step Six: In the Signature window, type in your signature and add a company logo if you desire.

Once you have completed this process, you can select New Email to see the signature you’ve created.

Adding an Email Signature to Outlook.com

If you are using Outlook.com instead of the desktop version of Outlook, adding a signature is a little different. Let’s look at how to add a signature to Outlook.com.

Step One: In your Outlook.com email, click the gear symbol in the top right corner.

Step One: In your Outlook.com email, click the gear symbol in the top right corner.

Step Two: In the dropdown, scroll down to options, and click on it.

Step Two: In the dropdown, scroll down to options, and click on it.

Step Three: In the Options window, scroll down to mail, and click on Signatures.

Step Three: In the Options window, scroll down to mail, and click on Signatures.

Step Four: When the Signature window appears, add your customized signature.

Step Four: When the Signature window appears, add your customized signature.

Step Five: After adding your signature, click the Save button.

Step Five: After adding your signature, click the Save button.

Once you have completed this process, you can select New Email to see the signature you created.

Gmail

Frequently Used Keyboard Shortcuts

As with Outlook, knowing keyboard shortcuts in Gmail can quicken your tasks of sending emails. However, with Gmail, you first need to turn the keyboard shortcuts on.

Turning on Keyboard Shortcuts in Gmail

First: In your Gmail window, click the gear symbol in the top right corner.

Second: Click on Settings

Third: Scroll down to the “Keyboard Shortcuts” section

Fourth: Select Keyboard Shortcuts On.

Last: At the bottom of the page, click Save Changes.

Gmail Shortcuts

Once you have your keyboard shortcuts turned on, here are some great shortcuts in Gmail:

Open keyboard shortcut help: Shift + ?

Select a series of messages: Shift


Select all unread messages: Shift + 8 + u


Archive selected messages: e


Mark selected messages as important: =

Compose Email: c


Undo last action: z


Search for messages: /

Go to tasks: g + k

Add a conversation to tasks: Shift + t

Reply: r

Reply all: a

Forward: f

Mark current messages unread: Shift + u

Mark selected message as important: =

Archive selected message: e

Jump to newer email: k

Jump to previous email: j

Jump to next message in email thread: n

Jump to the previous message in email thread: p

Jump back to inbox view: u

Insert link: Command + k

Insert numbered list: Command + Shift + 7

Insert bullet points: Command + Shift + 8

Bold/Italicize/Underline: Command + b/Command + l/Command + u

Remove formatting: Command + Control +

Send Email: Command + Enter

Adding an Email Signature to Gmail

Step One: After you have signed in to your Gmail account, click the gear symbol in the top right corner.

Step One: After you have signed in to your Gmail account, click the gear symbol in the top right corner.

Step Two: In the drop down, click on Settings.

Step Two: In the drop down, click on Settings.

Step Three: In Settings, scroll down to the Signature window, and add your Signature.

Step Three: In Settings, scroll down to the Signature window, and add your Signature.
Step Four: At the bottom of the page, click Save Changes.

Wrap Up

There you have it! Easy ways to add a custom signature to today’s most popular email platforms. Plus, as a bonus, all the shortcut keys you need to make sure you’re saving time and being productive each day.

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