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Microsoft 365 Winston Salem

Why Winston-Salem Businesses Should Move to Microsoft 365

More and more businesses are becoming increasingly comfortable with the idea of using cloud-based platforms to enhance productivity at a calculable, flexible cost.

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Switching Winston-Salem IT Companies?

Thinking Of Switching Winston-Salem IT Companies?

Is your current IT service provider practicing what they preach in terms of cybersecurity? Do they fully cater to your unique needs? If they aren’t, it might be time to switch. You shouldn’t put up with an IT service provider that doesn’t suit your business.

You may need to hold that thought a little and allow Parkway Tech to give you some perspective.

A day cannot pass before we receive queries on switching IT companies from prospects:

  • Isn’t a transition process long and drawn-out? How hard is it?
  • Which risks will I face when transitioning, and how can I bypass them?
  • What’s the probability of a successful worry-free switch?
  • How do I safely change service providers?

Primarily, most of the questions revolve around these four pillars. And so, they are going to form the basis of our engagement today.

It may surprise you, but a majority of transitions are always trouble-free. The probability of having a successful or messy switch is wholly dependent on your new IT company.

Switching IT Companies in Winston-Salem

Why Do You Need To Be Careful When Seeking A Replacement Of Your IT Supplier?

At the very least, you must have learned from your mistakes when selecting your current service provider. You should exercise due diligence to avoid ending up with another incompetent support company — and repeat the same vicious circle of unsatisfactory services.

The service provider will guide most of the processes during the transition. So, is it critical that they have expertise and experience in handling switches? Yes.

Without the requisite expertise, your vulnerability to accompanying threats increases twofold.

Which Risks Are You Facing As You Switch IT Companies?

  1. You may experience unplanned network downtime: Without proper planning, you will likely experience inadvertent protracted network downtime. In most cases, you will be switching because your users are already complaining about your networks’ functionality. In such circumstances, the last thing they want to hear is your systems being down — the reason notwithstanding. Given the complexity and magnitude of transitions, only an experienced IT company can save you from unplanned downtime.
  2. You also risk losing your data during the transition: This could be from accidental deletions or misconfigurations. Data loss and downtime go hand-in-hand. You might have to waste another three days or a whole week doing nothing constructive but trying to retrace your files.
  3. Also, be on the lookout for crude service providers: If possible, always ensure that you are in good terms with your former IT company throughout the transition process. They still have unabated access to your systems. If they feel aggrieved, you can never tell what harm they would do to your files. Not once or twice have organizations been held to ransom by previous service providers in the middle of transitions.

Once you have identified these threats and planned for their mitigation, all you need is an experienced IT company to guide you through the transition process.

How Do You Evade These Risks And Secure A Successful Transition?

At any stage of the switch, your primary concerns should be your files’ safety and sustaining uptime in your sites.

Before The Transition: You must have gathered by now that the switching of IT companies is only as successful as the planning phase.

  • Before anything else, you must first find a dependable IT company to replace your current supplier. Do not make the common mistake of canceling your contract before a replacement is in place. However much you feel aggrieved by the service provider, it’s not worth risking your networks’ security by leaving them unmanaged.
  • Ensure you have full administrative access to all of your files and every part of your network. Remember the threat of a crude service provider? Having admin logins to your systems gives you the discretion to lock them out whenever they attempt any malice. Besides, you are in a vantage position to monitor your network as you transition.
  • You should also back up all your files. In case of any deletions or displacement, you can continue with normal operations using the duplicate files. This also comes in handy in case your former supplier decides to withhold your data. Have at least a couple of offline copies for your most essential files.
  • Your new IT support firm should review your network’s security, infrastructure, management, and performance. Any identified backdoors or weak-points must be rectified immediately.

During The Transition: Always keep other employees and departments in the loop. Don’t leave them questioning what is happening, or how the change will affect their operations. Tell them upfront that you intend to switch and seek their opinions on the new IT company. Also, make it clear to them how you would like them to assist in the process.

  • With all precautions in place, notify your current service provider that you intend to switch. Some SLAs demand that you make the notifications in advance.
  • If the break fee is not clearly stipulated in the break clause, discuss and agree with the current IT company upfront.
  • Proceed with the transition as planned.

After The Transition: You have managed to transition successfully — congratulations. Now, all you have to do is to change your logins. Anything is possible; your former support company might still access and interfere with your files using old logins.

Are You Experiencing Any Of The Following IT Issues?

  • The same network problems year in year out.
  • Support tickets are taking too long to be resolved.
  • You no longer trust your IT company to support your network competently.
  • A service provided that is detached from your business?
  • Continuous unexplained hikes in your service bills.

These are signs that you are working with the wrong IT company. Let Parkway Tech help you transition and pick up the slack.

Our team will:

  • Deploy a transition agent to survey your network and fetch all the relevant information needed for the switch.
  • Corporate with your former supplier to guarantee a smooth transition.
  • Replace any necessary hardware that was supplied by your previous service provider.
  • Involve you and your staff in every stage and decision regarding the switch.

If you are thinking of switching IT companies but aren’t sure where to start, contact us now.

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Thinking Of Switching Winston-Salem IT Companies?

Is Poor Organization Resulting in Lost Ideas and Missed Opportunities?

Is your current IT service provider practicing what they preach in terms of cybersecurity? Do they fully cater to your unique needs? If they aren’t, it might be time to switch. You shouldn’t put up with an IT service provider that doesn’t suit your business.

You may need to hold that thought a little and allow Parkway Tech to give you some perspective.

A day cannot pass before we receive queries on switching IT companies from prospects:

  • Isn’t a transition process long and drawn-out? How hard is it?
  • Which risks will I face when transitioning, and how can I bypass them?
  • What’s the probability of a successful worry-free switch?
  • How do I safely change service providers?

Primarily, most of the questions revolve around these four pillars. And so, they are going to form the basis of our engagement today.

It may surprise you, but a majority of transitions are always trouble-free. The probability of having a successful or messy switch is wholly dependent on your new IT company.

Switching IT Companies in Winston-Salem

Why Do You Need To Be Careful When Seeking A Replacement Of Your IT Supplier?

At the very least, you must have learned from your mistakes when selecting your current service provider. You should exercise due diligence to avoid ending up with another incompetent support company — and repeat the same vicious circle of unsatisfactory services.

The service provider will guide most of the processes during the transition. So, is it critical that they have expertise and experience in handling switches? Yes.

Without the requisite expertise, your vulnerability to accompanying threats increases twofold.

Which Risks Are You Facing As You Switch IT Companies?

  1. You may experience unplanned network downtime: Without proper planning, you will likely experience inadvertent protracted network downtime. In most cases, you will be switching because your users are already complaining about your networks’ functionality. In such circumstances, the last thing they want to hear is your systems being down — the reason notwithstanding. Given the complexity and magnitude of transitions, only an experienced IT company can save you from unplanned downtime.
  2. You also risk losing your data during the transition: This could be from accidental deletions or misconfigurations. Data loss and downtime go hand-in-hand. You might have to waste another three days or a whole week doing nothing constructive but trying to retrace your files.
  3. Also, be on the lookout for crude service providers: If possible, always ensure that you are in good terms with your former IT company throughout the transition process. They still have unabated access to your systems. If they feel aggrieved, you can never tell what harm they would do to your files. Not once or twice have organizations been held to ransom by previous service providers in the middle of transitions.

Once you have identified these threats and planned for their mitigation, all you need is an experienced IT company to guide you through the transition process.

How Do You Evade These Risks And Secure A Successful Transition?

At any stage of the switch, your primary concerns should be your files’ safety and sustaining uptime in your sites.

Before The Transition: You must have gathered by now that the switching of IT companies is only as successful as the planning phase.

  • Before anything else, you must first find a dependable IT company to replace your current supplier. Do not make the common mistake of canceling your contract before a replacement is in place. However much you feel aggrieved by the service provider, it’s not worth risking your networks’ security by leaving them unmanaged.
  • Ensure you have full administrative access to all of your files and every part of your network. Remember the threat of a crude service provider? Having admin logins to your systems gives you the discretion to lock them out whenever they attempt any malice. Besides, you are in a vantage position to monitor your network as you transition.
  • You should also back up all your files. In case of any deletions or displacement, you can continue with normal operations using the duplicate files. This also comes in handy in case your former supplier decides to withhold your data. Have at least a couple of offline copies for your most essential files.
  • Your new IT support firm should review your network’s security, infrastructure, management, and performance. Any identified backdoors or weak-points must be rectified immediately.

During The Transition: Always keep other employees and departments in the loop. Don’t leave them questioning what is happening, or how the change will affect their operations. Tell them upfront that you intend to switch and seek their opinions on the new IT company. Also, make it clear to them how you would like them to assist in the process.

  • With all precautions in place, notify your current service provider that you intend to switch. Some SLAs demand that you make the notifications in advance.
  • If the break fee is not clearly stipulated in the break clause, discuss and agree with the current IT company upfront.
  • Proceed with the transition as planned.

After The Transition: You have managed to transition successfully — congratulations. Now, all you have to do is to change your logins. Anything is possible; your former support company might still access and interfere with your files using old logins.

Are You Experiencing Any Of The Following IT Issues?

  • The same network problems year in year out.
  • Support tickets are taking too long to be resolved.
  • You no longer trust your IT company to support your network competently.
  • A service provided that is detached from your business?
  • Continuous unexplained hikes in your service bills.

These are signs that you are working with the wrong IT company. Let Parkway Tech help you transition and pick up the slack.

Our team will:

  • The same network problems year in year out.
  • Support tickets are taking too long to be resolved.
  • You no longer trust your IT company to support your network competently.
  • A service provided that is detached from your business?
  • Continuous unexplained hikes in your service bills.

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How to create a strong password (and remember it!)

How to create (and remember) a strong password

​There can be significant consequences to having a weak password on an important account. Compromise of IT assets, loss of confidentiality and integrity and potential firm shut down are all possible if a hacker can access your firm’s core system. Let’s look at what makes a password hackable and then I’ll show you how to create a long and strong password that you’ll actually remember.

What makes a password hackable? Here are the top 5 hacker go-to’s when trying to hack your password:

  • Same as your login info (admin:admin)
  • Keyboard patterns (asdfgjhkl)
  • Common passwords: Season+Year, Month+Year, “Password1”
  • Default passwords (guest:guest, or the one that came with your device)
  • Password reuse

Creating a long and strong password doesn’t mean you need to use a password that looks like this: W##$huyj&lAQ12^azy. The best password is one that is easy for you to remember and really hard for someone else to guess. You can create a strong password by:

  • Use a modified phrase:  the following examples show you how you can use a phrase that means something to you or is something you associate with a type of website.
    • You-Can’tH@ndle-THE-Tr^th (You can’t handle the truth. A few good Men Reference)
    • 4Score&7yrsAgo (Four score and seven years ago - from the Gettysburg Address)
    • JusticeDel@yedIsJusticeDen!ed (quote by William E Gladson)
    • John8:32Kn0wYeTr^th (Scripture reference) 
  • Use passwords with common elements but customized for different sites
    • Going-2Uz_AMZN$  (going to use Amazon)
    • G0ing-2Uz_:)book (going to use Facebook – we used 🙂 for Face in this case) 

By implementing these simple skills, you can easily create a strong and memorable passwords with minimal effort. Plus, creating them can actually be fun - and your payoff in increased safety is huge. Feel free to share these tips, just don’t share your passwords. 

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Windows 7: Under One Year Until Support Ends

Use Windows 7? Do you love your Windows 7? Will your need or desire to continue to use Windows 7 surpass this year? If so, you should be aware that in just under one year — January 14, 2020, specifically — Windows 7 Extended Support ends for most users. As such, there are things you need to know and decisions you may have to make. This is your guide to understanding what the expiration of Windows 7 Support may mean for you in one year.

  • A straightforward interface that is well-designed and laid out;
  • A start menu that combines the old with the new;
  • A clutter-free and clean look that is familiar to you;
  • Thumbnail previews that allow you to automatically open an item;
  • Jump lists that allow you to quickly access files or documents you frequently use;
  • Performance that allows the system to boot up comparatively quickly;
  • A new calculator to convert units, figure out fuel economy, etc.;
  • A new WordPad that offers more formatting features;
  • and — among many other features — Upgraded and improved media player and center.

These are just a few of the reasons that so many PC users love their Windows 7 and do not want to particularly give it up, especially when they found Windows 8 a disappointment. In fact, StatCounter suggests that 41.86% of PC users — who according to Statista makes up nearly 84% of the market share for desktop PCs — use Windows 7 still while another 42.78% use Windows 10 and a sad 8.72% use Windows 8. Those statistics say a lot about Windows 7 and suggest that a lot of people are going to need to figure out what they are going to do before January 2020, if they want their systems to be secure and updated.

Why is Microsoft ending support for Windows 7?

There is no specific reason why Microsoft is ending support for Windows 7 come January 14, 2020, except that this date is the date provided in Window 7’s lifecycle.

Windows 7 Lifecycle

Date of general availability for:

  • Windows 7 Professional
  • Home Basic
  • Home Premium
  • Ultimate

October 22, 2009

Retail software end of sales for:

  • Windows 7 Professional
  • Home Basic
  • Home Premium
  • Ultimate

October 31, 2013

Retail software end of sales for:

  • Windows 7 Professional
  • Home Basic
  • Home Premium
  • Ultimate

October 31, 2014

October 31, 2016 – End of sales for PCs with Windows 7 Professional preinstalled

January 13, 2015 – End of mainstream support for Windows

7 January 14, 2020 – End of extended support for Windows 7

As indicated in the above table, if you did not extend support for Windows 7, then the problem of extended support expiring on January 14, 2020, does not apply to you. If you had purchased that extended support, then you need to pay attention and determine what you want to do because a year will be over before you know it.

What will happen after extended support for Windows 7 expires on January 14, 2020?

Come January 14, 2020, if you are still using Windows 7, rest assured your desktop will still work; Windows 7 will continue to work beyond 2020. The issue here is your extended support.

Come January 14, 2020, extended support expires and with that expiration ends any updates to your PC. That means your system is vulnerable because the latest, most advanced security updates will not be available to you.

Who will be affected by Microsoft’s decision to end support for Windows 7?

It is important to be clear that not all Windows 7 users will be affected by the January 14, 2020 extended support expiration date. In fact, in September 2018, Microsoft announced that some business users can pay for an additional three years of security updates. Unfortunately, this does not extend to home versions.

In other words, if your windows license type is an original equipment manufacturer or a full package product, there will be no extended security updates for you, and this includes all home versions. However, if you purchased a volume license (i.e., Enterprise or Open Value) for Windows 7 Pro or Enterprise, then you can purchase the additional three years of security updates — so primarily only business users can receive the updates at a cost.

What are your options after Microsoft Windows 7 support expires? If you absolutely must keep Microsoft Windows 7, then you have options, though they may not be optimal options. These options include:

  • Playing with the idea of purchasing an upgrade to Windows 10 and then downgrading your rights to Window 7;
  • Continuing to run Windows 7 without security updates, but this is not a good option because as computer desktops and software advance, so do the hackers capabilities (home users if careful, can consider it, but it is probably not an option for business users due to legal and liability risks);
  • Disconnecting any Windows 7 PC from the internet, but this means disconnecting you to the very thing that keeps you connected to the world, so it may not be your best option either.
  • Migrating from Windows 7 to another operating system, e.g. Windows 8 or preferably Windows 10.

What does Windows 10 offer you?

Some PC users are hesitant to switch to Windows 10 because it does have its drawbacks. Some specific Windows 10 drawbacks include:

  • The increased sense that Microsoft is invading our privacy with its default settings. Most of these setting can be changed but you must go in and manually make these changes.
  • The ability to control your updates is limited when compared to Windows 7. Plus, these updates are made without user knowledge — which only entrenches the sense that PC users are being spied on when something happens to their system without their knowledge, even if it is for their own security.
  • The interface is less customizable (e.g., can’t change colors) — and this is unfortunate in an age where we celebrate our differences, including how we set up our interface system.
  • Older programs do not run well on Windows 10, so if you have older programs, you may be in need of identifying additional and newer products or software.

That said, it is good to be reminded that even though you love your Windows 7 whether it’s because you simply love it or love it because it’s what you are familiar with, Windows 7 has its own drawbacks, too. Windows 7 drawbacks include:

  • Windows 7 was released in 2009. This was a time when iPad was a rumor and mobile phones were not as advanced. Today you want software that works across all your platforms. Windows 7 can’t do this most likely, but Windows 10 can.
  • If you ever needed to use a virtual desktop then you know this feature is not available in Windows 7 unless you use Desktops v2.0 software. Virtual desktops allow you to organize your space better and have become an essential tool for modern-day users. Windows 7 does not offer this capability easily but Windows 10 does.
  • We all know Apple’s Siri and Google Now. These are convenient built-in assistants to help us do anything from scheduling tasks or appointments, dictating notes, playing music, adding reminders, and much more. Windows 7 does not have a built-in assistant but Windows 10 does: Cortana.
  • Ever been in your Windows 7 and want to search the web from your desktop and then realize you can’t. To search the web, you have to navigate to the right tab and then look something up. Windows 7 does not offer a convenient search feature for the internet, but Windows 10 does: the search bar allows you to search anything from your folders, apps, files, Windows store, and the Internet.
  • Gaming is another thing so many of us like to do today aside from work. Windows 7 has always been a trusted gaming platform — so this is not a drawback except for the fact that Windows 10 has built on Windows 7 gaming capabilities to make it even better. So, if you like gaming, whether it’s DirectX 12, PC Game DVR, or Xbox one game streaming, among others that you like to use for gaming purposes, then Windows 10 offers the best performance for you.

How to determine what you should do about your Windows 7 come January 14, 2020?

If you are one of those PC users to be affected by the end of extended support for Windows 7 in January 2020, then you have to determine what you will do. The last section implicitly directs you in which way you may consider, but if you are not yet confident in Windows 10, ask yourself the below two sets of questions:

  1. Do you use your computer to access the internet? If so, do you keep private information online or conduct private matters online, i.e., financial information, tax information, banking, consumer purchasing via Amazon or other outlets, etc.?
  2. Do you like Microsoft’s operating system Windows? Do you want to stay with Windows (but not Windows 8)? If so, would you like something similar to Windows 7 but operates better?/li>

If you answer yes to these questions, then it is safe to say you should consider Windows 10. A free upgrade to Windows 10 expired in 2016, but the price you pay today can save you in the long run.

So, now you have it. There’s a lot to consider if you use Windows 7 and like using it. If you are an owner of a volume license for business users, then you do have a viable and reasonable solution to the deadline: you can purchase another three years of security updates. This option provides you ample time to consider other options and train personnel on new desktop operating systems.

But if you are not a volume license holder, then you really need to consider what you intend to do. Security is highly important today in our virtual worlds and without it, you risk impacting your so-called “real” world. A hacker can destroy what you have built up over the years, from finances to projects to just about anything that is maintained or kept on your computer, in the cloud, or online. The issue of the January 14, 2020 expiration for Windows 7 extended support is indeed a serious one.

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What Are the 3 Big Changes at Microsoft in 2019?

What Are the 3 Big Changes at Microsoft in 2019?

Network of business concept

Ever since Microsoft incorporated as a company in April 1975, it has led the way in releasing innovative computing products for home and business users. From the release of its first operating system to the computer mouse to Microsoft Office, the company has always been one step ahead of the competition in changing the way people in the United States, Canada, Australia, and England manage their home lives. This year will be no exception. With 2019 being just days old, Microsoft has already indicated it will make three significant changes to the personal computing landscape.

Microsoft Edge to Become Chrome Engine

For as successful as Microsoft has been with its software programs and operating systems, the same cannot be said for each of the browsers it has released. It seems that every browser from Explorer 1.0 for Windows 95 to Microsoft Edge has struggled with spotty performance and security issues that did not win the confidence of users.

The introduction of Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox gave consumers more options and caused a steep decline in the number of people who still used Microsoft Explorer, Edge, or other Microsoft browsers. To counteract its lost market share and inspire consumer confidence, Microsoft is rebuilding Edge using open-source software. It is the same software that currently allows Google Chrome to operate. Microsoft even plans to make the upgraded browser available to Mac users.

People who currently use Microsoft Edge will not have it disappear on them. Instead, they will notice greater consistency in website displays and overall improved performance. Current Chrome users will have a better experience while surfing the web on a Windows operating system. The goal is to improve the Internet for all who use it, not just those who choose to use a Microsoft product.

Skype for Business Changed to Microsoft Teams

Skype, the application that allows users to see and talk to one another through a video application, has long been a staple of the business world in developed nations around the globe. It has allowed companies to forgo expenses associated with sending people out of state or to another country to attend meetings and hold them remotely instead.

However, Microsoft recognized that the application required some tweaking to be more user-friendly for teams with people working remotely all across the world. This led to the creation of Microsoft Teams along with the announcement that Skype for Business would no longer be part of the Microsoft Office bundle for customers with fewer than 500 seats.

In development for several years, 2019 is the year that Microsoft Teams officially launches. Its designers considered the corporate and remote user and included several features that would make file sharing and team collaboration much easier.

The new communication system is a single platform that draws largely from cloud computing. This includes a chat application, inclusion of the popular cloud collaboration program Slack, and all features that users currently enjoy with Microsoft Office 365. Perhaps the biggest benefit of Microsoft Teams over Skype for Business is that it includes all features on a single platform.

The Introduction of Microsoft Office 2019

In the three decades since its 1989 launch, Microsoft Office has consistently been the productivity tool of choice for businesses and private users alike. People use programs such as Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, Publisher, Visio, and Project every day to create, manage, and communicate on the job and at home.

Its current version, Office 365, connects people to the cloud to make it easier than ever for collaborative teams to get their work done without sharing the same office space. Coupled with the increased ability to store files on the go, Office 365 shares much of the credit for making it possible for growing numbers of people to log in and work from anywhere.

The release of Microsoft Office 2019 is one of the three major changes the company will make this year. The new program shares many features with Office 365, including the availability of each of the seven productivity applications. It also has several key differences, including the following:

  • Developers planned Microsoft Office 2019 as a one-time release, which means it will not receive any future updates
  • More mobile application features that enable users to create a higher volume of content in less time
  • Zoom features on PowerPoint for an enhanced viewing experience
  • New Excel spreadsheet features that make it easier to create charts and analyze data
  • Outlook email program automatically sorts emails and pushes the most important ones to the top

The major decision facing Microsoft Office business users is whether to remain with the subscription-based 365 program or upgrade to the one-time 2019 release.

What Next?

It is too early in the year to determine how these changes will affect users and whether Microsoft will ultimately profit from them. The only thing any computer user or an IT department can say for sure is that change is constant. The most successful people accept that nothing stays the same in the world of personal computers. They welcome the opportunity to change and to reap the benefits of someone else’s innovation.

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FBI Warns Businesses Of Cyber Attack From China

FBI Warns Businesses Of Cyber Attack From China

Chinese hacker in front of digital datastream flag

Who Has Been Impacted by Chinese Cyber Attacks?

At the beginning of the year, the FBI warned businesses to protect themselves from cyber attacks by foreign entities, saying activity has spiked in the past 18 months.

Hewlett Packard and IBM are among the businesses most recently targeted. There’s a National Counter-Intelligence and Security Center that manages intelligence efforts for the U.S. government. It recently launched a campaign to address continuing threats. The center warns that many companies need to be more to protect against cyber theft.

Foreign governments accused of cyber attacks against the U.S. include Russia, China, Iran and North Korea, with China receiving the most scrutiny in recent reports.

How Do Hackers Breach Company and Government Security?

According to Entrepreneur magazine, hackers create fake social media accounts to get people to reveal work and personal information. One of the ways to guard against bad actors is to carefully scrutinize social media requests from people that aren’t personal connections and to research apps before using or downloading them, as well as keeping antivirus software up-to-date.

The FBI warning including a brochure entitled, “Know the Risk, Raise Your Shield” that targets federal employees. The recent warnings follow a string of cases against individuals and organizations accused of stealing proprietary information from U.S. government and businesses.

Nine cases filed since July 2018 include two hackers investigators say are linked to the main Chinese spy agency. Knicknamed APT 10, they allegedly stole corporate and government information via cyber attacks on employees.

Has There Been an Uptick in Recent Activity?

The breach of private businesses by Chinese hackers first hit news headlines in 2014, when Sony Pictures was hacked. This prompted an agreement in 2015 between Chinese President Xi Jinping and then President Barrack Obama that curbed cyber attack for a while.

At FireEye, a cybersecurity firm, analysts track hackers working on behalf of the Chinese government. The firm’s representative says attacks are on the uptick recently. These hacking groups are referred to as Red Leaves, cloudhopper, and APT10.

Managed Service providers are among the groups targeted. MSPs supply technology, telecommunications and other services to business clients.

If they can break the security systems of such companies, Chinese hackers gain access to the sensitive data of the MSP’s clients. APT10 has routed malware via an MSP network to its business targets. However, there are many steps businesses can take to protect their employees and data from prying eyes in cyberspace.

What Should Business Do to Raise Their Shields?

U.S. businesses should take proactive measures to safeguard against cyber attacks from Chinese hackers via email, social media and other points of entry.

This includes ensuring that advanced detection tools are utilized on network and email servers to safeguard access to company data. Regular threat assessments and employee training can help. This provides a diagnosis of the state of a firm’s cyber defenses regarding advanced persistent threats that attempt to find breaches in the company’s firewall. Precautions taken against the intrusion of foreign governments include:

  • Fortify access controls. Evaluate the plans, policies, and procedures that govern corporate technology to keep proprietary data safe. This could include that installation of multi-factor authentication (MFA), data encryption and solidifying a layered defense system on all possible points of cyber attacks.
  • Training. Make cybersecurity education and training a top priority. Everyone from the Board of Directors and C-Suite to individual employees needs to understand how to avoid cyber attacks by avoiding fake emails, malware and weak password strategies, among other efforts.
  • Incident response plan. Organization leadership and key technical personnel must develop a protocol for dealing with threats. This should include representatives from business administration, information technology and operations.
  • Crisis communications plan.Align the protection policy to risk management methodologies and the business needs of employees.
  • Adopt a monitoring, detection and response plan.Quickly detect intrusions and breaches via rapid-respond plans to effectively eradicate the malware or other methods of entry.

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Will Cybercriminals Shutter Your Business In 2019?

Will Cybercriminals Shutter Your Business In 2019?

In the System Monitoring

If the frightening headlines about massive data breaches were not warning enough, upwards of 60 percent of all small and mid-sized businesses, reportedly shutter within six months of a systems hack.

The leading causes of nefarious systems incursions are reportedly caused by about 25 percent of valued employees repeating the same username and password across multiple platforms. But what remains even worse is that fact that as many as 95 percent of all small businesses lack adequate protocols to safeguard important company or customer information.

In the coming months and years, cyber threats are expected to continue to pose a grave danger to the health and well-being of small and mid-sized organizations. The question business leaders may want to ask themselves is . . . will you join the 60 percent of companies that did not recover from a data breach?

Strengthen Your Business Defenses

Many of the toppled 60 percent may wish they knew then what many know now. That is, the key to cybersecurity does not solely depend on having the best software protections. According to the National Cybersecurity and Communications Integration Center, and Department of Homeland Security, nefarious email remains a primary trap used by cybercriminals and DHS recommends the following safety procedures.

“Never click on links in emails. If you do think the email is legitimate, whether from a third party retailer or primary retailer, go to the site and log on directly. Whatever notification or service offering was referenced in the email, if valid, will be available via regular log on.”

“Never open the attachments. Typically, retailers will not send emails with attachments. If there is any doubt, contact the retailer directly and ask whether the email with the attachment was sent from them.”

“Do not give out personal information over the phone or in an email unless completely sure. Social engineering is a process of deceiving individuals into providing personal information to seemingly trusted agents who turn out to be malicious actors. If contacted over the phone by someone claiming to be a retailer or collection agency, do not give out your personal information. Ask them to provide you with their name and a call-back number. Just because they may have some of your information does not mean they are legitimate.”

As you can surmise, these cyber safety measures do not necessarily rely on the latest antivirus software or systems protections. Hackers continue to take advantage of human oversight and error to infiltrate organizations and pirate valuable personal data and intellectual property. Homeland Security also recommends that business leaders implement the following employee training and protocols to protect against data breaches via email.

  • Maintain Secure Passwords:Change passwords regularly and never share them or provide co-workers with access.
  • Verify Sources: Make certain that emails originate from people and companies within your network by contacting them directly for verification.
  • Nix Auto-Download:Never use automatic download options for email attachments.
  • Never Click On Links:Embedded links are a primary method used by hackers to trip up team members through ransomware and malicious viruses.

Strengthening a company’s defenses begins with employee training and awareness that data breaches are not reserved for significant organizations and Fortune 500 corporations. Hackers continue to troll for low hanging fruit and unsuspecting employees who make innocent mistakes.

Employee Cyber Security Training is Job One

Although ransomware attacks reportedly declined from 638 million in 2016 to 184 million in 2017, according to Statista, this method has been used to target a tremendous number of small and mid-sized outfits.

The common attitude among cybercriminals is that decision-makers will ultimately weigh the cost of paying the ransom against potential profit losses and do the math. Hackers understand that poorly defended organizations are likely to negotiate and pay up. That’s why valued employees must remain vigilant and be a sort of human firewall if you will.

Proactive industry leaders are tasked with training employees and also determining which team members could be considered at risk. An IT support team can utilize training videos, create a cybersecurity policy and implement it by working with groups and individuals. But once the hands-on work has been completed, it’s imperative that companies conduct ongoing cybersecurity evaluations. These are logical methods to consider.

  • Identify team members who could be best targeted by hackers.
  • Deploy unscheduled mock cyber attacks.
  • Create and release convincing but harmless mock ransomware links via email.
  • Require employees to complete cybersecurity training modules.
  • Require advanced training for those who are tripped up by mock cyber attack drills.

We may be living in a golden age of technology, but our everyday fallibility remains the threshold that cybercriminals use to break into our business systems and rob our valued customers and us of critical data. One of the primary ways to avoid joining the 60 percent who are out of business is to make team members aware of cyber dangers and provide them with the skills to combat cybercriminals.

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Top 8 Cybersecurity Concerns For Local Businesses

Top 8 Cybersecurity Concerns For Local Businesses

Top-8-Cybersecurity

As businesses add more layers of cybersecurity to their arsenals, cybercriminals are finding new ways to attack system, networks and devices. There is a constant stream of emerging threats that can mean trouble for companies of any size.

Why Is Data Security a Major Challenge Going Forward?

Businesses today are realizing the vast opportunities that come from leveraging, monetizing and collaborating on their collected data. That means companies need to protect their data not only from privacy breaches but also from data misuse, data manipulation and loss of intellectual privacy.
Data validity, for example, is one particular area of cyberattack emerging. Data need not be stolen to hurt the business reputation. Instead, hackers could alter data such that it becomes invalid or inaccurate in such ways to delegitimize business outcomes and partnerships.
Industries need to identify and deploy new technologies that protect data while it’s at rest and in transit. Privacy risks related to data in use are hindering the full realization of data collaboration, limiting the opportunities available to companies.
Here are 8 other cybersecurity challenges that businesses need to combat now or shortly.

1. Chatbots at Risk

Artificially intelligent chatbots have become commonplace, helping to answer questions and guide web visitors to required information and action. Hijacked chatbots, however, could mimic existing tools to drive victims to click on links, download malicious files or share private information.

Web application flaws could also be exploited to insert malicious chatbots into sites that don’t have one.

While these intrusions will likely be text-based bots for now, shortly, speech-enabled bots could lead to further victimization over the phone or other voice-enabled technologies.

2. Artificial Intelligence Mean Powerful Malware

The rise of AI, the Internet of Things and machine learning means more opportunities for business transformation. They also invite more smart attacks using intelligent malware. Cybersecurity providers need to develop new means of detecting these threats and training personnel to recognize and prevent them. Many of these preventative measures need to be automated to provide continuous detection and prevention.

Part of the challenge is the sophisticated tools hackers are using. Updated exploit kits, artificial intelligence and natural-language algorithms have allowed hackers to automate convincing emails. Simple processes allow for the generation of emails to millions of stolen addresses with compelling phishing attempts.

3. Data Exposure

AI-enabled applications rely on data pools to power advanced functionality, both for smaller companies and giants like Amazon and Facebook. The increasing use of data pools means more potential for developers to expose information, often customer data. These data aren’t necessarily subject to hack, but instead are vulnerable and accessible to anyone who can find the vulnerabilities.

4. Cyberwarfare

Bad actors are no longer content on ransomware and phishing attempts. Technology advancements provide new opportunities for targeted and individualized attacks.

These attacks may leverage artificial intelligence to target individuals or corporations. Data integrity attacks, for example, could force organizations to completely replace computer hardware. Physical assaults could use drones and other tools for physical assaults.

5. Infrastructure at Risk

Nation-states will continue to wage cyber attacks on enemies with state-sponsored attacks on infrastructure. Attacks on national security, emergency communications, public health and financial systems could cripple governments and create spiraling consequences for the private sector.

Smaller conflicts could also be used as testing grounds for nation-states to assess new tactics, procedures and technologies that could be used in more significant geopolitical conflicts.

6. Data and Privacy Regulation

In 2018, the launch of GDPR, covering privacy issues for European Union citizens, forced companies to reevaluate their privacy and disclosure procedures. Similar privacy laws were approved in Canada and California. These new regulatory mandates are likely the first wave of protections that will force companies to spend more on cybersecurity, data transparency and reporting. As control of data begins to shift from institutions to individuals, companies are going to need better ways to monitor and report on compliance from multiple jurisdictions.

7. Connected Devices in the Crosshairs

With connected refrigerators, stoves, thermostats, doorbells and washing machines becoming the mainstay in many homes, the possibility of exploits is grave. Hackers will begin to identify and exploit vulnerabilities in these smart devices. Manufacturers will need to build in additional safeguards and architecture to meet growing consumer demand while keeping bad actors away.

8. Industrial Control System Risks

While there are more automated systems to allow for greater control of buildings, utilities and factories, there are inherent risks of exposure. Many of the players providing the technology in this space are new, making high-value targets all the more enticing to hackers.

Each year brings with it new technical innovations sure to drive better business outcomes. At the same time, hackers will find more sophisticated means to create more effective intrusions.

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SCAM ALERT: Google Play Gift Cards

SCAM ALERT: Google Play Gift Cards

If there’s a will there’s a way when it comes to scammers, especially with gift cards. Everyone loves gift cards. Consumers love how easy it is to purchase gift cards, use gift cards and even give gift cards. It’s as simple as buying a card at a brick and mortar store or clicking a few buttons and almost instantly having the funds needed to play. Scammers love gift cards too. Gift cards can immediately be activated and spent by these scammers even before the owner of the card knows what happened. Google Play gift cards are targets right now. Scammers love how easy they are to steal so consumers need to stay one step ahead of these online crooks. Here’s one of the latest Google Play Gift Card Scam that is scouring the internet.

Scam Alert:

Google-Play-Gift-Cards

Currently there is an email scam occurring where thieves, posing as someone the recipient knows and are phishing for personal, financial, and other private information. This includes requests for Google Play Gift Cards. For example, the message will read, “I need you to pick up a couple of gift cards. Can you make this happen? The type of gift card I need is Google Play gift cards. I need 4 cards in $500 denominations…scratch the back of the card to reveal the card codes and email me the gift card codes.”

Take away: Never provide any personal information including gift card codes like Google Play in an email. What seems like the information is going to a trusted source, it could be a scam.

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