Putting camera pics on Instagram

August 27th, 2014

socialmedia_Aug26_BMany businesses rely on visuals to sell their products. From bakeries to hotels, an attractive product will bring in the customers and ultimately profits. This is why social media services like Instagram have become so popular. Business owners are increasingly wanting to find out how they too can create high quality images on the mobile platform.

The truth behind some of Instagram's best images

Those awesome Instagram photos we see aren't always taken using mobile phones. Instead, many users use digital cameras which offer much better image quality. You can capture some amazing shots with a higher end DSLR cameras with multiple lenses.

If you have one of these cameras and are looking to create high-quality images for Instagram, or any other social media site, you may be slightly confused as to how to get the images onto the platform - especially since many of us use this via the mobile app. To make uploading a little easier, here is a brief guide detailing how to get images from your digital camera onto Instagram.

1. Transfer and process images

Once you have taken photos with your camera, you will need to get them off of your camera's memory and onto your computer's hard drive. Most camera's have apps that allow you to do this, so be sure to follow the instructions in the app that came with it.

When your images have been transferred to your computer, you are likely going to want to process them a little bit. This is especially true if you have a DSLR or other high-end point-and-shoot which takes RAW images. These can be quite large and are not compatible with Instagram.

Most images taken with a camera are quite large in size, so you are going to need to use an image editing program like Adobe Photoshop, or free tools like Pixlr to process them. What you are looking to do is to crop your images so that they are square.

If you are used to the advanced photo editing features, then do your edits before cropping. When you crop your images you should crop or resize them so that they are 640X640 pixels. This is the size of all images taken using Instagram's camera app.

Also, be sure to save the images as JPEGs, as this is the image format used by most smartphone cameras.

2. Save processed images in their own folder

It helps to create a folder somewhere on your hard drive (we recommend in the same folder where you save all of your other folders) that is specifically for images you want to post on Instagram.

When you have processed and edited the images to your liking, save the images here. Try using an easy to use file name like the date and a letter or note so you can easily tell which images are which, so you know which to use.

3. Move the images to your device

You can move images using the cloud or by manually transferring the images to your phone. If you decide to manually transfer your files, you will need to plug your device into your computer.

For users with iPhones, you can open iTunes and click on your device followed by Photos. Then select the box beside Sync photos from. Select the file you created in the step above and then Sync to transfer the images over.

For users with Android devices, plug your phone into the computer and drag the folder you created in the step above into the Photos folder of your Android device.

For Windows Phone users, plug your device into your computer and open My Computer on your desktop. You should see your device listed in the window that opens. Open the file system for your device and drag the image files you created above into the Photos folder of your phone.

If you choose to use the cloud to transfer your files, use the operating system's cloud (e.g., iCloud, Google Drive, or OneDrive) to upload the files. Just be sure to use the same account as the one on your phone.

4. Add images to Instagram

Once the photos are either on your device, or in the cloud, you can now upload them to Instagram. This can be done by:
  1. Opening the app and tapping on the camera icon.
  2. Tapping on the button in the bottom left of the screen.
  3. Selecting where the image is located on your device. E.g., the Gallery app if you placed the photos in your phone's hard drive, or the cloud service you used.
  4. Editing them as you see fit.
Once this is complete, you should be able to post your images as you usually do with any other Instagram image on your phone. Take the time to add filters, and hashtags as well as a good description before you post.

If you would like to learn more about using Instagram to share your images then get in touch and we will show you the advantages of the bigger picture.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Social Media
August 26th, 2014

VoIP_Aug18_BVoice over Internet Protocol, or VoIP, has become one of the most popular communication methods used by businesses of all sizes. While there are many benefits VoIP can offer, including decreased costs, increased functions, and more, some businesses considering switching to VoIP should be aware of some potential problems that may run into.

1. Faxing can be tough with VoIP

Fax machines were designed on an analog system and therefore may have trouble working with a digital system like VoIP. This is especially true for businesses who are using older fax machines. We aren't saying faxing is impossible, but you likely will not be able to simply plug your fax machine into a VoIP line and start sending/receiving faxes.

What you will most likely need is to install a few extra components such as an adapter that supports T38 protocols. The T38 protocol was developed specifically to change analog fax signals into a digital that can then be sent via VoIP.

Therefore, if you use fax machines in your office, you should be sure to ask potential providers if their systems support faxing, and if your machines will be supported, or if there are any extra components needed.

2. Credit and debit terminals may not be compatible

Many business owners who look to move to VoIP systems often forget to also look at how their payment systems work. If you are using older credit or debit terminals on a landline they may actually be dial-up based, which means they will not work with VoIP. While most businesses already use newer models that support ethernet connections, and therefore VoIP, some are still using older systems. If this is the case, then you will need to contact your terminal provider for an upgrade, or new IP-terminals.

3. Older alarm systems may not work

Businesses with physical storefronts likely have alarm systems in place. The problem with this is that many older systems rely on traditional phone lines in order to signal emergency services should the alarm go off. If you are planning to upgrade to VoIP, you should make sure that the alarm system you have is compatible, or can be connected to VoIP.

If this is not the case, you may need to upgrade to a more modern alarm system. We strongly recommend checking with both the alarm provider and your VoIP provider if your alarm systems will still work.

4. VoIP requires broadband connections

We have seen cases before where businesses have invested in a VoIP system only to find out they don't have a broadband connection that is strong enough to support VoIP effectively. In order for VoIP systems to function, you need to have a broadband connection with a fairly strong amount of bandwidth. This is especially important for businesses in rural areas where broadband speeds can be limited based on distance.

It can be tough to figure out if your broadband connection will support VoIP, but you can test the connection before you agree to purchase it. Asking a potential provider for help testing your line would be a good idea. Should your connection prove to be too slow, then you will need to contact your Internet Service Provider in order to upgrade your speed.

5. VoIP needs to be managed

Like every other tech system, you will need to manage your VoIP solution. This includes adding new lines, upgrading equipment, ensuring systems are compatible, etc. For many business owners this will require extra time they don't necessarily have. One of the best solutions we can recommend is a managed VoIP solution.

We offer VoIP solutions, so if you are looking to learn more about VoIP in your business, and would like to avoid the common mistakes made by others, contact us today to learn more about how our expertise can help.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic VoIP General
August 25th, 2014

Security_Aug18_BThe idea of Internet security is almost always being called into question. It seems like nearly every month there is a security breach where important information like usernames and passwords are stolen. The trend appears to be increasing, with an ever expanding number of accounts being hacked. In early August, news broke of possibly the biggest breach to date.

The latest big-scale breach

In early August, it emerged that a Russian hacker ring had amassed what is believed to be the biggest known collection of stolen account credentials. The numbers include around 1.2 billion username and password combinations, and over 500 million email addresses.

According to Hold Security, the company that uncovered these records, the information comes from around 420,000 sites. What is particularly interesting about this particular attack is that such a wide variety of sites were targeted when compared this with other attacks which tend to either attack large brand names or smaller related sites.

How did this happen?

Despite what many believe, this was not a one-time mass attack; all sites that were compromised were not attacked at the same time. Instead, the hacker ring - called the Cyber Vor - was likely working on amassing this data over months or longer. How they were able to amass this much information is through what's called a botnet.

Botnets are a group of computers infected by hackers. When the hackers establish a botnet, they attack computers with weak network security and try to infect them with malware that allows the hacker to control the computer. If successful, users won't even know their computer has been hacked and is being used by hackers.

Once this botnet is established, the hackers essentially tell the computers to try to contact websites to test the security. In this recent case, the computers were looking to see if the websites were vulnerable to a SQL injection. This is where hackers tell the computers in the botnet to look for fillable sections on sites like comment boxes, search boxes, etc. and input a certain code asking the website's database to list the stored information related to that box.

If the Web developer has restricted the characters allowed in the fillable text boxes, then the code likely would not have worked. The botnet would notice this, and then move onto the next site. However, if the code works, the botnet notes this and essentially alerts the hacker who can then go to work collecting the data.

So, is this serious and what can I do?

In short, this could be a fairly serious problem. While 420,000 sites may seem like a large number, keep in mind that the Internet is made up of billions of websites. This means that the chances of your website's data being breached by this ring are small. That being said, there is probably a good chance that one of the sites related to your website may have been breached.

So, it is a cause for concern. However, you can limit the chance of hackers gaining access to your information and a website's information.

1. Change all of your passwords

It seems like we say this about once a month, but this time you really should heed this warning. With 1.2 billion username and password combinations out there, there is a chance your user name for at least one account or site has been breached.

To be safe, change all of your passwords. This also includes passwords on your computer, mobile devices, and any online accounts - don't forget your website's back end, or hosting service. It is a pain to do, but this is essential if you want to ensure your data and your website is secure from this attack.

2. Make each password different

We can't stress this enough, so, while you are resetting your password you should aim to ensure that you use a different one for each account, site, and device. It will be tough to remember all of these passwords, so a manager like LastPass could help. Or, you could develop your own algorithm or saying that can be easily changed for each site. For example, the first letter of each word of a favorite saying, plus the first and last letter of the site/account, plus a number sequence could work.

3. Test your website for SQL injection

If you have a website, you are going to want to test all text boxes to see if they are secure against SQL injection. This can be tough to do by yourself, so it's best to contact a security expert like us who can help you execute these tests and then plug any holes should they be found.

4. Audit all of your online information

Finally, look at the information you have stored with your accounts. This includes names, addresses, postal/zip codes, credit card information, etc. You should only have the essential information stored and nothing else. Take for example websites like Amazon. While they are secure, many people have their credit card and billing information stored for easy shopping. If your account is hacked, there is a good chance hackers will be able to get hold of your card number.

5. Contact us for help

Finally, if you are unsure about the security of your accounts, business systems, and website, contact us today to see how our security experts can help ensure your vital data is safe and sound.
Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Security
August 22nd, 2014

Productivity_Aug18_BA common problem many business owners and employees run across with the Internet and smartphones is that the apps and programs are often too disparate, and not connected enough. This can be a drag for productivity, especially if you have to keep repeating the same tasks. One tool that may help automate these is If This Then That (IFTTT).

What is If This Then That?

IFTTT is a Web and mobile app that was developed to connect different Web apps like Google Apps, DropBox, Facebook, Instagram, etc, together into one general system. In general, the service runs on conditional statements - or recipes - that fit the IFTTT statement.

The service is set up on a number of different conditional statements that make up what the developers of the app call a recipe. Each recipe is broken down into two different sections:

  • This - Also referred to as a trigger. Each trigger in a recipe is kind of like a requirement in that the set trigger has to happen for the recipe to start working.
  • That - That refers to an action that happens when a 'this' condition is triggered.
Once you have set up a number of recipes, the app runs in the background to check for triggers and then will automatically execute the action when it notices a trigger.

Examples of IFTTT recipes

There are a wide variety of recipes out there that you can create. For example, some of the more useful IFTTT recipes for businesses include:
  • If a photo is posted on the business Instagram account, then it is shared with Twitter and Facebook.
  • If a Square payment is processed, then this creates a line in a specific spreadsheet.
  • If a contact is added to a phone's address book, then this information is placed on Evernote.
  • If an article is posted on a specific blog, then the post is shared on Twitter, Facebook, and Google+.
  • If an email is starred on Gmail, then a reminder is set on my phone to review starred emails.
  • If I enter the office, then my phone is muted.
  • If a client emails an attachment, then a copy is saved to DropBox.
  • If my device is in the office, then my office lights are turned on (if you have Phillips Hue bulbs).
There are a wide variety of supported apps that allow you to create recipes for nearly anything you can think of. The developers are constantly adding support for new channels (apps), including many from the Internet of Things.

How to sign up for this

Because you can access IFTTT from the Web and via an app on your mobile device, we recommend first thinking about how you are going to use it. If you are going to be using recipes for your mobile device, then we recommend downloading the app onto your device. Regardless of how you are going to use it, you can create an account by:
  1. Going to the IFTTT website (https://ifttt.com/)
  2. Clicking Join IFTTT.
  3. Setting a username and password and clicking Create account.
From there, you will be able to log in and start creating rules. If you do want to use your mobile device, you should then download the free app for your device - Windows Phone, Android, iPhone - and then log in using the account information you just created. When you first log in you should see a number of channels (apps) related to your system have been activated. This means you can now start creating recipes.

Creating recipes from your browser

  1. Go to the IFTTT website (https://ifttt.com/) and press Sign in.
  2. Press Create.
  3. Press This and select your trigger - try picking your app first, then click on it to get a list of actions.
  4. Press Create Trigger.
  5. Click That and select an action channel.
  6. Select Create Recipe.
You can also click Browse from the menu bar at the top to find and activate already created recipes.

Creating recipes from your mobile device

  1. Open the app.
  2. Press the mortar and pestle icon at the top-right.
  3. Press the + followed by the + besides If on the next screen.
  4. Select the app from the icons at the top of the screen, and select the related trigger.
  5. Tap the + beside Then and select an action or app.
  6. Press Finish to activate the new recipe.
If you are looking for a cool way to connect different apps, and even save yourself time, then this could be something worth looking into. And, if you are looking to learn more about how you can increase your productivity, contact us today to see how our systems can help.
Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Productivity
August 21st, 2014

BValue_Aug18_BMany countries around the world require businesses to implement systems and tools, which often includes technology, that meets the needs of all employees. This includes employees who have disabilities or special requirements. Because of this, it has become nearly essential for companies to develop an accessible technology plan for when certain technology needs arise.

What is accessible technology?

Accessible technology, also commonly referred to as assistive technology, is the idea of creating or implementing technology and systems that cater to employees with disabilities. While not every company will have or require accessible technology, it is required by many countries that businesses meet the needs of disabled employees.

To that end, it is a good idea to develop a plan on how to implement accessible technology. To help, here are five steps you could take:

1. Defining your strategy

The accessible technology strategy should be the first thing you develop as it will be the foundation of the overall plan. When looking at your strategy you should define how accessible technology fits into your overall organization plan and how it will fit with your existing strategies.

What you are looking to do is to figure out how this form of technology will fit with existing systems and increase overall operating effectiveness. From here, you can define the overall objectives, budget, and vision for the plan.

2. Identifying requirements

In this step, you should look closely at existing technology in the organization and the needs of your employees. Because each company is different and the needs of employees are different you should be careful to also identify the technology needs of your employees.

When looking at both the needs and existing systems you can work to come up with an overall set of requirements, along with a general priority. For example, will you need to modify existing computers or purchase new ones?

The key idea here is that you need to figure out exactly what you need.

3. Picking the new technology

Once you have identified what changes you need to implement, what new technology you will need, and your budget, you can then begin looking for the best solutions. The most effective way to do this is to work with it experts like us who can help you find and integrate the best technology and changes that will meet your adaptive technology needs.

4. Implementing and training

Once you have defined the changes, and new technology to integrate, you need to implement it. This may include altering physical devices and machines where necessary, and then testing the systems to make sure they are working properly.

It is also be a good idea to train your employees who will be using the systems, and the team who will be managing the systems.

5. Maintaining

As with all tech systems, it is important to realize that the solution you implement will not work forever, and will eventually require maintenance, updating, or even replacing. You should take steps to audit systems on a regular basis to ensure they are still meet the needs of your company and employees.

This can be a time consuming and potentially costly step, especially if you neglect it. We strongly recommend working with a company like ours, who can help manage your solution and ensure that updates and any necessary changes are implemented when they are needed, and that should needs change, systems are subsequently updated to meet the new requirements.

If you are looking to implement accessible technology in your business, contact us today to see how we can help.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

August 19th, 2014

Facebook_Aug18_BMost of our News Feeds on Facebook are a constantly changing mesh of links, posts, shares, and likes. If you see something interesting on your News Feed, for example a link to an article, you likely need to click on it right away or you won't be able to find it again with the influx of posts and information. In an effort to remedy this problem, Facebook has introduced the Save feature.

About the Save feature

The idea behind the Save feature is that it allows users to save longer-form content like articles posted on a News Feed. So, if someone has posted a link to an article on your favorite blog and you would like to read it later, you can now save it.

While this feature is similar to various apps like Pocket and Readability, which allow users to save content on the Web to read later, Facebook's version goes a little deeper. In a blog article announcing the feature, the company noted that the Save feature allows users to, "Save items like links, places, movies, TV and music."

Let's say you are at work, and during your break you quickly check Facebook. You come across a post where your friends have shared a link to a restaurant's Facebook Page. If you don't have time to visit the page right at that moment you can save it to view later.

While this feature will prove useful for many users, it is worth noting that when you save content, e.g., an article, you will need to have an Internet connection to access it in the future. Knowing Facebook however, they may integrate a feature like this in the future.

How to save content for later

Facebook has integrated this feature into all versions of Facebook, including the mobile app and browser-based versions. You can save content and links by:
  1. Scrolling through your News Feed until you find an article, link, Place, etc. that you would like to save for later.
  2. Clicking on the downward facing grey arrow at the top-right of the post.
  3. Selecting Save 'content name'. Note: The name will be based on the name of the link in the post.

Accessing your saved content

If you are looking at Facebook in your browser, then you should see a tab called Saved show up in the upper part (the area just below your profile image) of the left-hand vertical bar of the page. For users who access Facebook via the mobile app, press the three horizontal bars at the top-right of the app (located just below the magnifying glass) and you should see a section called Saved under Favorites.

When you click on Saved you should see a new screen open with the content you have saved. It will be divided into different types including:

  • All
  • Links
  • Places
  • Music
  • Books
You can interact with each item by either:
  • Tapping on it - This will open the page, link, or content.
  • Sliding it to the left - This will allow you to archive the content or press More to review, share or Like the content.
If you are looking to learn more about the Save feature, or Facebook in general and how it can be used effectively in your business, contact us today.
Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

August 15th, 2014

Virtualization_Aug11_BWhile there are numerous tech systems available to small and medium size businesses, one of the most useful has proven to be virtualization. This movement of physical systems to a virtual counterpart offers many benefits when implemented correctly. Administered poorly however and you could see systems fail. To help avoid this, it is worthwhile being aware of five common ways virtualization fails.

1. Migration is forced before it is ready

One of the biggest reasons virtualization fails is that it is pushed before the company is ready for it. For example, it could be that the IT team is forced to fast-track virtualization, resulting in staff being forced to drop all other tasks and focus on migration.

If you rush, the chances of failure and mistakes always rise. And when it comes to changing systems from physical to virtual, mistakes can be compounded, thus increasing overall migration time and costs.

To avoid this you should take the time to conduct research on solutions available, workloads, applications to the move, and your specific business needs. Once you are across this, you should also take the time to get to know your systems and test them before migration.

2. Trying to implement a management plan after virtualizing systems

Some companies decide to virtualize first, and then try to figure out how to manage systems after migration is complete. This will almost always result in inefficiencies and frustration as the pressure is on not just to learn how to manage but also how to use this solution.

In order to see a more successful virtualization, you should have a management plan in place before you migrate your systems. You should look at how virtual machines will be managed, who will be doing what, as well as what systems you are going to use, and more. One of the best times to develop an overall management plan is when you are in the testing phase, well before actual migration. This will give you an idea of how systems will work in reality and how you can manage them.

3. Virtualization without employee buy-in, or involving employees

We have seen companies implement a virtualization solution without having full buy-in from the employees who will be using and managing the system. What this results in is confusion, resentment, lost efficiency, and, in some extreme situations, sabotage.

In order to successfully introduce a virtualized solution, you should ensure that all employees who will be using the system are not only aware of it but are trained on how to use it and have been given a fair chance to air their opinions. If you can achieve employee buy-in, there is a better chance that the systems will be used more effectively, and employees will be more open to other solutions being implemented.

4. Assuming one solution that works for others will work for you

An easy mistake to make is to only consider solutions successfully implemented by other businesses. The fact is, every business is different, and you should be looking for a solution that meets your specific needs.

If you go with a ready-made solution, or one-size-fits-all solution, it will likely work to some extent. However, there is a good chance that it will not completely meet your needs. This will likely result in either lost efficiency or increased investment in order to get what you need.

We recommend looking for a provider who can meet your virtualization needs with tailor made solutions. This way you will get what you need straightaway and likely not need to invest more in the future.

5. Not managing your virtual solution after implementation

Unlike some tech solutions, virtualization is not really a 'set it and forget it' type of solution. You will need to manage it from the start if you want to be able to get the most out of your systems. This includes ensuring resources are being allocated properly; machines are created and shut down properly; apps and systems are updated; and more.

While virtualized solutions do require less management than their physical counterparts, they still require some management and you will need people to help you do that. One of the best solutions is to work with an IT partner like us who can help manage your systems and ensure that they are working efficiently.

In fact, we offer a wide variety of virtualization solutions. By working with us, we can help take some of the virtualization load off and allow you to focus on running your business. If you would like to learn more, contact us today to see how we can help.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

August 14th, 2014

iPad_Aug11_BThe iPad has become one of the most favorite devices of business owners and managers the world over. While the usability and mobility of these devices is almost unparalleled, there are some common issues that crop up. One of the biggest, is that it can be somewhat confusing to keep track of all the apps you've installed. If you have come across this issue, here are three ways you can find your apps.

1. Finding installed apps via Settings

While there is no set section of the iPad's Settings that allows you to view installed apps, you can actually view installed apps by looking at the Usage section. This section tells users how much storage space installed apps are using, therefore giving you a list of installed apps.

You can access the Usage section of Settings by:

  1. Opening the Settings panel on your iPad.
  2. Tapping on General.
  3. Selecting Usage.
This will list the apps you have installed, organized by how much hard drive space they are using. What's great about this method is that you can not only see the apps you have installed but also see if there are apps you aren't using, or apps that are taking up valuable space. You can also select apps to learn more about how much memory they are using and even uninstall an app should you not need it anymore.

2. Finding installed apps via Spotlight

If you have iOS 7 on your iPad you can view all installed apps via the Spotlight feature. Spotlight allows you to search your iPad for files, folders, apps, and more, and can be accessed by swiping down from the top of the screen when looking at the Home screen.

You can see what apps you have installed using Spotlight by:

  1. Opening Spotlight by sliding down from the top of your iPad's screen.
  2. Tapping on the blank spot beside the magnifying glass.
  3. Typing "." (period/full stop) without the quotations.
You should see a list of your installed apps come up, though there is no apparent way they are organized. If you tap on an app name, it will open.

3. Finding installed apps via iTunes

The other way you can find out the apps you have installed is via iTunes. You can do this by:
  1. Plugging your iPad into your computer via the cord that came with the device.
  2. Opening iTunes, if it doesn't open automatically when you connect it.
  3. Clicking on the device's name under Devices.
  4. Selecting Apps.
You will be able to search for apps, or you should see a full list of installed apps. The great thing about this feature is that if you search for apps, you should see where they are on your device's screen. From there you can move the apps around, or even delete them.

If you are looking to learn more about using the iPad, please contact us today to see how we can help.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic iPad
August 13th, 2014

Offie_Aug11_BIt’s undeniable that Microsoft Excel is one of the most popular spreadsheet applications used by businesses today. Not only does it simplify the process of creating spreadsheets with complex built-in formulas and colorful, descriptive charts, but it also allows you to add headers and footers. Let’s take a look at what headers and footers are and how you can make use of them in Excel.

What are headers and footers?

As with Word, Headers and footers are lines of text that print at the top (header) and bottom (footer) of each page in an Excel spreadsheet. They often contain descriptive text such as titles, dates, or page numbers displayed in page layout views and on printed pages.

Headers and footers are useful in providing quick information about your document or data in a predictable format and also help set out different parts of a document. Simply put, they make calculations, graphs, and pivot tables much easier to read and follow.

How to add and remove headers and footers:

  1. Select the spreadsheet for which you want to add headers or footers.
  2. On the Insert tab in the Text group, click Header & Footer; this displays the spreadsheet in page layout view.
  3. To add a header or footer, click on the left, right or center of the Header or Footer text box at the top or bottom of the spreadsheet page.
  4. You can now add a preset header or footer to your document, or create a custom header and footer.
  5. To start a new line in a header or footer text box, press ENTER; to include a single ampersand (&) in the text of a header or footer, use two ampersands. When you are done, click anywhere in the spreadsheet to close Header or Footer.
  6. Return to Normal page view by clicking on the View tab and Normal button.
  7. To remove the header or footer from a spreadsheet, select the View tab and click on Page Layout. Delete the information you want to remove.
The next time you need to repeat text on a page to make information more organized and easier to digest, you can simply do so with Excel's header and footer feature. Looking to learn more about Microsoft Office and its features? Contact us today and see how we can help.
Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

August 7th, 2014

Security_Aug05_BWhen it comes to business security, many small to medium business owners and managers often struggle to ensure that their systems and computers are secure from the various attacks and malware out there. While there are a million and one things you can do to secure systems, one of the most useful approaches is to be aware of common security threats. To help, here are five common ways your systems can be breached.

1. You are tricked into installing malicious software

One of the most common ways a system's security is breached is through malware being downloaded by the user. In almost every case where malware is installed the reason is because the user was tricked into downloading it.

A common trick used by hackers is to plant malware in software and then place this software on a website. When a user visits the site, they are informed that they need to download the software in order for the site to load properly. Once downloaded, the malware infects the system. Other hackers send emails out with a file attached, where only the file contains malware.

There are a nearly limitless number of ways you can be tricked into downloading and installing malware. Luckily, there are steps you can take to avoid this:

  • Never download files from an untrusted location - If you are looking at a website that is asking you to download something, make sure it's from a company you know about and trust. If you are unsure, it's best to avoid downloading and installing the software.
  • Always look at the name of the file before downloading - Many pieces of malware are often disguised with file names that are similar to other files, with only a slight spelling mistake or some weird wording. If you are unsure about the file then don't download it. Instead, contact us as we may be able to help verify the authenticity or provide a similar app.
  • Stay away from torrents, sites with adult content, and movie streaming sites - These sites often contain malware, so it is best to avoid them altogether.
  • Always scan a file before installing it - If you do download files, be sure to get your virus scanner to scan these before you open the apps. Most scanners are equipped do this, normally by right-clicking on the file and selecting Scan with….

2. Hackers are able to alter the operating system settings

Many users are logged into their computers as admins. Being an administrator allows you to change any and all settings, install programs, and manage other accounts.

If a hacker manages to access your computer and you are set up as the admin, they will have full access to your computer. This means they could install other malicious software, change settings or even completely hijack the machine. The biggest worry about this however, is if a hacker gets access to a computer that is used to manage the overall network. Should this happen, they could gain control over all the systems on the network and do what they please on it.

In order to avoid this, you should ensure that if a user doesn't need to install files or change settings on the computer, they do not have administrator access. Beyond this, installing security software like anti-virus scanners and keeping them up to date, as well as conducting regular scans, will help reduce the chances of being infected, or seeing infections spread.

3. Someone physically accesses your computer

It really feels like almost every security threat these days is digital or is trying to infect your systems and network from the outside. However, there are many times when malware is introduced into systems, or data is stolen, because someone has physically had access to your systems.

For example, you leave your computer on when you go for lunch and someone walks up to it, plugs in a USB drive with malware on it and physically infects your system. Or, it could be they access your system and manually reset the password, thereby locking you out and giving them access.

What we are trying to say here is that not all infections or breaches arrive via the Internet. What we recommend is to ensure that you password protect your computer - you need to enter a password in order to access it. You should also be sure that when you are away from your computer it is either turned off, or you are logged off.

Beyond that, it is a good idea to disable drives like CD/DVD and connections like USB if you don't use them. This will limit the chances that someone will be able to use a CD or USB drive to infect your computer.

4. It's someone from within the company

We have seen a number of infections and security breaches that were carried out by a disgruntled employee. It could be that they delete essential data, or remove it from the system completely. Some have even gone so far as to introduce highly destructive malware.

While it would be great to say that every business has the best employees, there is always a chance a breach can be carried out by an employee. The most effective way to prevent this, aside from ensuring your employees are happy, is to limit access to systems.

Take a look at what your employees have access to. For example, you may find that people in marketing have access to finance files or even admin panels. The truth is, your employees don't need access to everything, so take steps to limit access to necessary systems. Combine this with the suggestions above - limiting admin access and installing scanners - and you can likely limit or even prevent employee initiated breaches.

5. Your password is compromised

Your password is the main way you can verify and access your accounts and systems. The issue is, many people have weak passwords. There has been a steady increase in the number of services that have been breached with user account data being stolen. If a hacker was to get a hold of say your username, and you have a weak password, it could only be a matter of time before they have access to your account.

If this happens, your account is compromised. Combine this with the fact that many people use the same password for multiple accounts, and you could see a massive breach leading to data being stolen, or worse - your identity.

It is therefore a good idea to use a separate password for each account you have. Also, make sure that the passwords used are strong and as different as possible from each other. One tool that could help ensure this is a password manager which generates a different password for each account.

If you are looking to learn more about ensuring your systems are secure, contact us today to learn about how our services can help.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Security