With the world grappling with a health pandemic, scams are shocking. Regrettably, bad actors are everywhere, always looking for opportunities, and they’re seeing one in the coronavirus. This article outlines what you need to watch out for and how to stay cyber safe.
There’s a sequel no one has any interest in seeing predicted to open this Autumn – COVID: The Second Wave. Despite the lack of audience interest, we could face another coronavirus pandemic. For business, this means revisiting continuity plans.
While we are all been asked to work at home to prevent the spread of COVID19, backing up your computer is now more important than ever. Should anything happen would you or your business be able to keep working?
For many of us, 2021 can’t come soon enough, and we're hoping next year will be a better one. One way to get the best start in the new year? Take the time now to review business technology. There are several areas that you might improve to support 2021 success.
First, look at your website. In this digital age, your business website is your calling card to the world. It is where your prospects and customers will go to learn more and buy your product or service. Yet many business websites are at least a few years old. That won’t do these days. Whether you’re a B2B or B2C, your buyers are making a decision about your brand based on your website. If your website looks a decade old, they’re going to doubt you’re on top of your game.
When reviewing your website, priorities should be:
ease of site navigation – people have a low tolerance searching for information online;
mobile responsiveness – depending on industry, more than 60% of website visits are from mobile devices;
call to action – you’re making it clear what you want people to do on your site;
visual appeal – if it doesn’t look good, your credibility will be damaged;
search engine optimization – are you doing all you can to get people to your site?
security – customers care more and more about data security and privacy.
Updates in the Office Environment
Of course, there are still people who will pick up a phone and call a business. Traditional phone systems are the reliable business workhorse. But settling for a plain old phone system could mean you’re missing out on a lot. Modern digital phone systems offer you access to a wide range of useful features. With a voice over Internet protocol (VoIP) phone system, businesses of any size can get enterprise-level features. These include:
interactive voice response (IVR) systems (e.g. "Press 1 to speak to sales, 2 to speak to tech support … etc.”;
call queuing that helps distribute incoming calls to the right party;
call recording that helps you track compliance, and provides training and sales script intel;
local phone numbers, free in-network calling, and consistent international-rate plans.
Also in the office, there may still be employees signing in to desktop workstations running Windows 7. This operating system reached “end of life” on January 14, 2020. That means Microsoft is no longer updating the software. Hackers know that, too, so sticking with the old system could make you vulnerable to cyberattack.
Computers break at challenging times. Always. And there’s no worse time than the holiday season. Your employees want to spend time with family and friends, relaxing and reminiscing. They do not want to wait around for a fix or to find a replacement. That’s one reason a managed service provider (MSP) is a good choice year-round.
Many businesses have more work at the end of the year. An employee saddled with a laptop that won’t load necessary business applications is not productive. A wider system problem is even more costly. According to Gartner, “the average cost of network downtime is around £5,600 per minute.” Do you want to lose about £300,000 an hour during your busy season?
Even businesses that close the office for the holiday season have employees trying to get work done before the vacation. A broken computer is not going to help them meet their deadlines.
Relying on the break-fix model of computer care isn’t going to serve you well during the holiday season. Even those companies with a dedicated IT person could struggle when something goes wrong if that individual is already away for the holidays.
At many times of year, you’re patient: you can wait for someone to come in and fix that desktop or deal with the printer that’s acting up. But, if you’re calling a company in sporadically, they have no obligation to be available when you need help. If they’re backed up, you’ll need to try the next option for computer repair that came up in your Google search.
Cybersecurity attacks on big-name brands or governments are familiar headlines these days. Millions of access credentials are breached, and millions of dollars are lost to ransomware attack. You may think you’re protected, but a single undetected misconfiguration could mean trouble.
If you’ve been paying attention, you know no one is immune from cyberattack. Your business has been proactive by:
putting firewalls and antivirus protection in place;
establishing a bring-your-own-device policy;
educating employees about password strength, social engineering, and cyber hygiene;
updating software promptly;
upgrading end-of-life hardware and software.
The threat landscape is evolving rapidly, the number of devices connected to a business network is exploding, more employees work on their own devices, and a greater number of people are working remotely. Plus, connected devices are all different types. If your wireless is unsecured, you could end up with devices you don’t know at all connected to your network. Yet it’s difficult to manually monitor every single configuration for security.
Push notifications advising us to update software come in fast and furious, but we’re busy. We have other things on our mind, we don’t get around to it right away, or, having clicked “never show again” on that popup, we forget the notification altogether. No action is taken.
At least no action on the business side. Out in cyberspace, bad actors actively seek out unattended or unpatched vulnerabilities.
"If it ain't broke, don't fix it" is a common and useful rule for many business owners. It serves to protect your business against unnecessary costs and unneeded downtime. While protecting your business against many types of danger, it poses an outright threat when it comes to IT security.
Security threats to your firm move so fast that your IT should be working twice as hard as your company just to keep up. Every day, hundreds of thousands of new malware threats are released. Falling even hours behind means any one of these attacks can threaten your business.
The single most dangerous thing IT security can do is stand still. Keeping up with the latest advice, technology, and updates the security industry offers is vital to keep your business safe. This makes up much of the unseen job of IT professionals. Hackers never stop looking for new ways into your system, which means your security can't stop looking for ways to keep them out.
Modern Systems for Modern Business
One of the most common security threats a business opens itself to is using an outdated operating system or software package. Many firms are scared to upgrade, update, or renew their IT over fears of breaking legacy systems. Many rely heavily on old software and are afraid to make a large change themselves. Some businesses today still run machines on Windows XP, an operating system first released back in 2001.
Old operating systems stop receiving security updates and patches that protect against newly released attacks. These systems become very vulnerable, presenting a large target for knowledgeable hackers. This happens many years after newer versions have been released, giving knowing IT firms a chance to migrate safely.
There are millions of Microsoft 365 users globally. Businesses rely on the software to power email, drive productivity, and connect to colleagues. Forms is another great tool for users of Microsoft 365.
In April 2020, Office 365 became Microsoft 365. The value of the software suite to communication and collaboration remains intact. A Microsoft 365 subscription provides Word, Excel, Outlook, PowerPoint, and other useful applications. Those are the familiar options.
But Microsoft is always evolving its cloud-based services. Microsoft Teams is a chat-based workspace integrating people, content, and tools. There's also a To-Do application, Flow for managing notifications, and Power Bi Pro analytics. That's to name just a few.
Another good one to get comfortable with? Microsoft Forms.
Microsoft 365 Forms Makes Data Collection Easier
Microsoft Forms allows your business to create surveys, generate quizzes, conduct polls, and capture data.
The use of mobile devices is becoming standard in business. Smartphones and tablets have taken their place as tools your employees want to use. Whether for communication or collaboration, expect people to have mobile devices at hand. To make this work, your business needs mobile device management, that’s where Microsoft Intune can help.
More work is getting done in the cloud, especially with more people working remotely. Employees want to be able to access the same applications and data they’d get on a desktop or laptop, right there on the device in their hands, wherever they may be.
This presents a security challenge. When all devices connecting to a work environment are on-site, it’s easier to control the connections. The business could put “Bring Your Own Device” (BYOD) policies in place to control:
what devices employees use to connect;
how much access they have when connecting;
what applications they can use on devices connected to the business network.
Still, mobile device management software can benefit your business. You’ll be able to reduce IT workload, improve experience, enable greater efficiency, and reduce risk.
Cloud-based Mobile Device Management with Intune
Microsoft Intune offers cloud-based mobile device management (MDM). This enterprise security offering combines MDM and mobile application management (MAM).
The public cloud service market is growing. Software, infrastructure, desktop, and other service numbers are all on the rise. Yet some businesses are still holding back from migrating to the cloud. This article addresses common resistance to this highly scalable and cost-effective solution.
#1 Fear of Losing Control
“I want full responsibility for my IT.” Moving to the public cloud means partnering with a vendor. Some of your existing technology can move as is, whereas other tools your people rely on may need replacement or redesign.
One solution is to migrate to a private cloud. This allows you to continue to control the data environment but will be a more costly solution than a public alternative. When partnering with a public cloud service provider, establish clear responsibilities. Ensure you’re both on the same page about who is accountable for what.
#2 Fear of Change
“If it ain’t broke, why fix it,” especially when it comes to business computing, right? Transitioning from one datacenter to another requires preparation and effort.
Yet the resulting greater flexibility makes the work worthwhile. Cloud migration is appealing because the technology offers, among other things:
Maybe you used to be able to troubleshoot your own technology, or had a tech-savvy family member or friend who could help out in a pinch. But now that home computing has become more essential, you may be feeling overwhelmed.
If you’re working from home, and others are doing virtual learning too, you can't wait for your IT geek buddy to visit. You need your desktop to do your job, and you can’t risk missing a deadline or losing hours of work. Your kids might welcome the excuse to miss a few assignments, but you don’t want them falling behind at school.
With all the technology you’re using today in a regular basis, your home is basically a small business. You want to be able to access the internet from any room and print from anywhere in the house, or to have a cloud backup of all your photos and videos.
So, partner with a managed service provider (MSP) for your residential computers. Many businesses use MSPs for IT help, 24/7 monitoring, improved security, and reporting. Home users can benefit, too.
Advantages of Residential Managed Services
A managed service provider helps organize and protect your technology. These IT experts can:
The days of doing all our work in the office are gone for most businesses. There are clients to meet, conferences to attend, and roadshows to run. Employees are often on the move, and they want to work fully, wherever they are. Windows Virtual Desktops can help.
Windows Virtual Desktop allows staffers to work off-site with continued access to office workstations. All the business data and programs are accessible through the cloud. Plus, the individual can use a laptop, tablet, or other mobile device. They'll log in to a virtual desktop that looks the same as the one at work. Let’s consider the many benefits Windows Virtual Desktops offer.
Allowing users to access desktops from wherever they are makes it easy to keep working. They can do whatever needs to be done, whenever they have the time to do so. Since virtual desktops mirror the office workstation, users are more efficient. They aren’t having to relearn a task when working remotely or off-site. That file they’re looking for is in the same place it would be if they were sitting at their office desk.
#2 Lower costs
Your business could use software that needs more power than users have on mobile devices. Virtual desktops tap into a powerful cloud-based network, which means your business doesn’t need to invest in the infrastructure to support those apps.
You don’t need to upgrade to multiple computers. The virtual desktop in the cloud will do the necessary work, and it’s easily scalable. This also saves time, as your business doesn’t have the long upgrade time of new infrastructure.
Always wanted to feel like a secret agent? Well, here’s your chance! Did you know you can encrypt your hard drive to protect the data on your computer? This is a good way to secure your information, whether at home or on the move with a laptop.
Setting up encryption scrambles your data so that only authorized parties can understand the information. Without the encryption key, anyone trying to read your information would see gibberish.
You’re already using encryption when you visit any "https" website. The lock symbol beside the URL shows that encryption is protecting your connection with the site. You’ll see it when shopping or banking online, and it’s protecting the data in transit.
You can also encrypt the data on your computers.
Password Protection Is Not Enough
Many people at this point have a password for their user account on a home computer or laptop. Some of these passwords are even complicated, although the number-one password people use continues to be “123456” – seriously – followed by “123456789” and “qwerty.”
Christmas shopping will have a new look this year. Many retailers are closing their brick-and-mortar doors for Black Friday, and the big "doorbuster" sales are moving online. With the busiest shopping period of the year going virtual, there’s going to be greater load on the business IT.
If your business wants to be part of Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales, prepare for a sudden surge in traffic volume. If your technology can’t handle the traffic, you’re going to lose revenue. A crashed system could be catastrophic for your bottom line, plus, it'll hurt brand reputation and customer satisfaction long term.
Consider these strategies to get ready for the online crush of shoppers.
#1 Migrate to the Cloud
Your current server may do the job on a regular given day, but is it going to be able to handle 100 times the activity in a single day? You need the ability to quickly scale up as needed. That’s one of the great advantages of cloud services.
It’s difficult to predict your growth rates and seasonal demand shifts; however, using cloud services helps with increased demand for applications, storage capacity, or bandwidth. Your business doesn’t want to waste money on technology infrastructure it doesn’t need. Instead, partner with a cloud provider to add the resources required on a temporary basis. Scaling up in the cloud can take only minutes!
Most of us can differentiate between hardware and software. But how many know what firmware refers to? More importantly, is your business securing its firmware against security vulnerabilities?
Your business knows it needs to keep its operating systems (OSs) up to date. Installing patches as they are released helps protect your OS and software applications from attack.
Yet firmware can be easily overlooked when setting up cyber protection. You’re opening up Explorer every day, and your business relies on its Excel spreadsheets, but you don’t think about the basic software that runs the hardware as intended – that’s the firmware.
Without firmware, your computer wouldn’t know how to detect its hard drive, and the gears on the business printer wouldn’t spin to pull the paper through the device. There's firmware in network and sound cards, routers, range extenders, keyboards, and more. Firmware also makes your webcam or surveillance camera work correctly.
The Need to Update Firmware
Cybercriminals aren’t known for their lazy reliance on just one tactic. Instead, they are constantly finding new ways to exploit business devices and systems, and this includes attacking firmware. Without securing your firmware, you run the risk of bad actors:
News of a big brand suffering a data breach is all too common today. But if you don’t get an email from such a company, you could mistakenly be thinking it doesn’t affect you.
The thing is, large breaches are happening all the time. Cybercriminals then put access credentials online, and other bad actors buy and exploit those email addresses, usernames, passwords, etc.
Why do the bad guys care to buy these member details? Presumably, the victims of the breach quickly change their passwords to prevent security vulnerabilities. So, what good does that info do?
Take a moment to think about how many unique passwords you actually have. Many of us have dozens of different online accounts but only a handful of distinct passwords. That means a hacker can take that stolen data from, say, LinkedIn and try the same password on your banking site.
Cybercriminals have the capacity to keep on trying. They will take one stolen password and use that data to try and hit other accounts in a massive, brute-force effort.
Fifteen years ago smart technology in our homes meant we had a computer and maybe a smartphone. Now, we have speakers that talk to us, lights that anticipate our arrival, and doorbells that display video of our visitors, as well as the computers, tablets, phones, earphones, video game consoles, and more. It’s all cool, but it’s also complicated.
In 2020 many of us have even added more technology at home. Whole home office setups with wireless routers and connected printers, and projector systems for home movie nights, as we can’t go to theaters. This simply means there are more users trying to get online at once.
Plus, every room in the house has now gone digital. Lights connect to phones, waterproof Bluetooth speakers give you something to sing about in the shower, refrigerators track what should be on your shopping list with barcode scanning.
But smart technology does not come cheap. When investing in a smart home, make sure you set it up correctly. When new devices aren't connected, you miss opportunities to add convenience at home.
Setting Up Your Smart Home
Accumulating digital technology for the home is one thing, but using it effectively is another. First, you need to be sure you are connecting your new tech correctly. Home automation is more difficult than the marketers would have you to believe.
Are you still using Office 2010? It may have served you well over the past decade, but this software reached its end of life in 2020. It’s time to upgrade. Here’s why and what to consider.
Software has a typical life span, after which the manufacturer turns its resources to supporting a more recent release. Support for Office 2010 ended on October 13, 2020. Microsoft no longer provides tech support, or bug or security fixes. That means there’s no protection from harmful viruses, spyware, or other malicious software. The software won’t be updated, and there’s no more phone or chat support if you run into trouble.
Cybercriminals know that Office 2010 users are on their own. They’re on the lookout for businesses relying on this legacy software. Without updates, you risk opening a document designed to leverage an unpatched exploit.
What can you do?
Move your business computers to one of the more modern Microsoft software offerings. You can choose to upgrade to the latest version of Office as a one-time purchase, or buy a Microsoft 365 subscription to the latest features, security updates, and other improvements.
The currently available version of Office, Office 2019, is available for PC or Mac. You can install Office only on one device, and you’ll get support and fixes during its lifecycle period only. New features aren’t offered.
If someone asked you to take a wild guess at the world’s biggest crime, what do you think? Burglary maybe? Common assault? Or perhaps you might take a more humorous approach and suggest man buns or women with ridiculous eyebrows?
Well, you might be surprised (and a little concerned) to find out that the most commonly reported crime right now is actually online fraud, AKA cybercrime.
With one in ten people now falling prey to internet fraudsters and over 5 million cases reported every year, cyber criminals are very real predators that can have a devastating effect on lives and businesses.
And these figures are just the tip of the iceberg. Many more cybercrimes are believed to go unreported because victims feel too embarrassed to let on that they’ve been duped by a stranger sitting behind a keyboard.
The digital age comes with lots of well-documented pros and cons. We can now work from anywhere in the world and stay constantly connected, but that has a knock-on effect on our personal lives, and stress levels.