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The Ransomware That Makes You Sell Your Soul

Published by on April 17, 2017 in

RansomwareRansomware has become a fast-track for making money for hackers. But instead of just demanding a small payment for the decryption code that will unlock their computers, some hackers are demanding that victims sacrifice two other friends to ensure they receive the code they need. Read more to find out what makes “Popcorn Time” such a devious program and how you can avoid becoming one of its victims.

Ransomware is nothing new. Cybersecurity miscreants have been taking advantage of online users for years by requiring payment to “unlock” a victim’s computer. What Popcorn Time does differently is give users the option to spread the virus to two other victims in the hopes that they will pay the ransom — a tactic that promises to double their money at the expense of your sense of morality (and at the expense of your friendships as well).

The Cost of Popcorn

When you inadvertently download this ransomware, you will be met with a screen that explains that your files have been hijacked/encrypted, and that to get them back you will need to pay one Bitcoin for a decryption key that they keep stored remotely. The Bitcoin fee is usually more than $700, a hefty price to pay.

Spread the “Cheer” and Hope they Bite

What makes Popcorn Time unique is the option victims have to take their cost away by allowing the ransomware to affect two of their friends for a chance to get a free decryption code. Of course, it works only if both friends pay the ransom, which leaves you looking (and feeling) like the Grinch.

Avoiding Popcorn Time this Season

The easiest way to avoid downloading ransomware is to stay off of sites that might contain questionable files. However, this is nearly impossible for modern users, and many hackers are getting good at making their files look legitimate. Limit your exposure to potential ransomware by keeping your software up-to-date and your computer protected with a security program from a reputable company (for example Symantec). If you need to learn more about how to avoid running into ransomware while you’re online, give our professional cybersecurity consultants a call.



Five Helpful Hi-Tech Healthcare Integrations

Published by on April 3, 2017 in

5_Security_MeasuresCan you think of an industry that hasn’t improved because of advanced technology? It’s hard to come up with one; much easier to think about where technology has made our lives better. A good example would be the medical world, where everything from robotic surgeries to electronic health records (EHR) — plus these five integrated healthcare technologies — are leading to more patient-friendly futures.

Putting the words “healthcare technology integration” together opens things up pretty broadly, so what do we mean by it exactly? In this instance, we’re not talking so much about complex surgical procedures or hi-tech medical devices; the focus here is more on IT, or “information technology,” in the healthcare realm.

It may not sound as impressive as some of the sci-fi-seeming technological advances like anesthesiologists’ iPads that use “perioperative information management systems” to track the patient’s well-being during surgery; or the “Argus II” bionic eye, which takes a video signal from a pair of sunglasses and transmits it to retinal implants. But the improvements technology integrations are making to the patient experience are no less significant.

Timely Reminders

In the past, healthcare providers had but one “convenient” way of reminding patients of upcoming appointments. Phone calls are fine, but even with the advent of robo-calls, connections can be missed and messages can fall through the cracks. Today, your doctor’s office can reach you via more expeditious “e-methods” like email, chat, and text message. They also afford patients an interactive option where they can confirm dates and times with a click of their mouse or a tap of their screen.

Informed Decisions

Integrating technology into your healthcare routine will never replace the advantages of meeting your physician face-to-face, but it certainly makes it easier for you to manage your wellness. For example, there are apps that give you on-demand access to your medical records and patient history, with features like real-time chatting with your doctor, therapist, or nurses — allowing for better, faster decision making when it comes to your health, all without an actual appointment.

Painless Prescriptions

Here’s one area of patient care where new apps are truly simplifying things, making communications between you and your doctors and pharmacists completely hassle-free. In many cases, the process for getting the right medication at the right time can be totally automated; gone are the days of calling in scripts or dropping them off and waiting. Welcome to the new age of software programs that manage your meds, automatically refill them, and keep you on-track to better health.

Personalized Care

Everyone has a different approach to staying fit or recovering from illness, and in the world-wide-web era, search engines are a part of most people’s repertoire. But the data you find online won’t be tailored to your precise situation, and certainly won’t be 100% trustable. Thankfully, a slew of sophisticated health-tech apps are integrated with wearable devices to give you accurate, up-to-the-minute info on how you’re doing with your stress management, heart health, or temperature regulation.

Convenient Claims

The historically labor-intensive, often irritating undertaking of filing medical claims has been seriously improved upon by technology in recent years. Thanks to cloud computing, your doctors and insurance carrier can collaborate on your behalf using secure, encrypted apps that result in faster processing and far less paperwork. You’re even able to enter your insurance info ahead of time, and stay up-to-date throughout the process with automated status updates.

Technology integration in healthcare is improving the ways we prevent diseases, perform surgeries, and deliver treatments. But the innovations with the most significant day-to-day influence are the ones that provide patients with access to reliable, real-time information. That’s where patient outcomes have been advanced the most — right before our eyes.



Easy Tips for Preventing a Costly Data Breach

Published by on March 20, 2017 in

Data BreachBusiness technology has become one of the most important components for successful companies big and small. In an overwhelmingly digital landscape, businesses depend on IT for marketing, data storage, and financial transactions. And with that comes the need to secure every bit of private information cyber criminals might want to feast their eyes on. And while an outsourced security professional is a must, there are a few simple steps you can do yourself to get started. Check out five of our favorites here.

Limitation of lateral data transfers

Employees not being educated on data sharing and security is one of the biggest reasons for internal data breaches. It’s a good idea to limit access to important data and information by restricting access privileges to only a small number of individuals. Also, you can decide to use network segmentation to cut unnecessary communication from your own network to others.

Keeping your machines and devices updated

Internal breaches might also occur when employees work with unguarded or unprotected machines. They might unknowingly download malware, which normally wouldn’t be a problem if machines were properly managed. Updating your operating systems, antivirus software, business software, and firewalls as often as possible will go a long way toward solidifying your defense systems.

Use monitoring and machine learning to sniff out abnormalities

It’s not all on your employees, however. Network administrators should employ monitoring software to prevent breaches by analyzing what is “normal” behavior and comparing that to what appears to be suspicious behavior. Cyber criminals often hide in networks to exploit them over a long period of time. Even if you miss them the first time, you should monitor suspicious activity so you can recognize impropriety and amend security policies before it goes any further.

Creating strong security passwords and credentials

No matter how often we say it, there’s always room for improvement when it comes to your passwords and login procedures. In addition to text-based credentials, you should require other methods whenever possible. Fingerprints and smart cards, for example, are much harder for cyber criminals to fake. Regardless of which factors are used, they must be frequently updated to prevent breaches – accidental or otherwise.

Security Insurance

In the end, no system is perfect. Zero-day attacks exploit unknown gaps in security, and human error, accidental or otherwise, can never be totally prevented. And for this reason, small businesses need to start embracing cyber insurance policies. These policies help cover the damages that might occur even under a top-of-the-line security infrastructure. Considerations for selecting a policy include legal fees, first and third-party coverage, and coverage for reputation rehabilitation.

The field of cyber security is overwhelming — even for seasoned IT professionals. But not for us. We spend our days researching and experimenting to craft the best security solutions on the market. If you’re interested in one of our cutting-edge cyber-security plans, call us today.



2017 IT Essential #1: A Disaster Recovery Plan

Published by on February 20, 2017 in

5_Security_MeasuresWhen disaster strikes, organizations need to put their business continuity plans into action and recover their IT systems as quickly as possible. Failing to do so can mean serious financial and reputational repercussions. Despite this, investments in disaster recovery are set aside each year for high-tech IT investments, and every year companies and employees continue to suffer for it. Here are some reasons why disaster recovery is well worth your time, effort, and resources in 2017.

DR isn’t a huge investment
A common misconception about disaster recovery is that it’s a large, bank-breaking investment. Expensive data centers, networks, and server maintenance usually come into mind when a business owner is confronted with the idea of business continuity. And while that may have been true in the past, establishing a strong disaster recovery plan today is as simple as having a secure, compliant cloud-based disaster recovery provider like TECHLINQ. Agreement pricing models are actually comparatively low, meaning you can have minimal downtime while still having enough to invest in new technology.

Onsite backups alone just won’t cut it
Although you might feel secure with a manual backup server down the hall, it is still susceptible to local disasters and, ultimately, does very little in minimizing company downtime. When disaster recovery solutions are hosted both locally and in the cloud, restoring critical data and applications is a much less time-consuming process.

Business disasters can be man-made, too
Even if your workplace is nowhere near frequent disaster zones, cyber attacks and negligent employees can leave the same impact on your business as any natural disaster can. Setting a weak password, clicking on a suspicious link, or connecting to unsecured channels is enough to shut down a 5-, 10-, or even 50-year-old business in mere minutes.

Sure, installing adequate network security is a critical strategy against malicious actors, but last year’s barrage of data breaches suggests that having a Plan B is a must. A suitable disaster recovery plan ensures that your data’s integrity is intact and your business can keep going, no matter the malware, worm, or denial-of-service attack.

Downtime will cost you
A business without a DR plan might come out unscathed after a brief power outage, but why risk the potential damages? Either way, extended downtime will cost your business. First, there’s the general loss of productivity. Every time your employees lose the ability to access network resources, money goes down the drain. Then there’s the cost of corrupted company data, damaged hardware, and the inevitable customer backlash. Add all those variables together, and you end up with a business-crippling cost.

So, if you want 2017 to be the best year for your business, make the smart choice and proactively take part in creating your company’s business continuity plan. Your business will be in a better position financially with it than without it.

Keep your business safe, recover from any disaster, and contact us today to set up a TECHLINQ Backup agreement.



4 Predictions for Web Services in 2017

Published by on February 6, 2017 in

5_Security_MeasuresThe crystal ball certainly won’t be making an appearance anytime soon, so it’s time to start preparing for the far more realistic technology trends of the coming year. Investing in the right technology could be the thing that sets you apart from your competitors in the coming year, and all it takes is a little research and education. Until someone invents a crystal ball, you’re stuck with our professional projections on the state of web services in 2017.

#1 On-premises servers will survive another year

Cloud adoption will most likely continue its stellar rise, but that doesn’t mean it will be hard to find affordable service for your in-house server or data center. Based on a recent survey of companies that utilize cloud services, nearly half will continue operating some sort of on-site data management in response to perceptions of security or compliance concerns. We may not believe those worries are well-founded, but that does mean hybrid clouds will continue to be a popular option.

#2 Voice commands will get better

Although better voice command technology may not mean much for running a business, big vendors like Amazon releasing development kits and application program interfaces does mean you have the opportunity to make your products and services more accessible via popular consumer technology such as Alexa.

#3 The Internet of Things (IoT) hasn’t peaked yet

Marketing experts are just as certain that consumers are feeling oversaturated with references to machine learning as they are that IoT hasn’t yet reached its full buzzword potential. If prices of connected devices come down, and their functionality improves, you can bet “IoT” will be one of the most profitable keywords of the year. If this technology doesn’t integrate with your products or services, there’s significant potential for its rise to stardom to make in-house business automation a whole lot better.

#4 Containers won’t just be a fad

As a subset of virtualized computing, containers unshackle applications from the constraints of single operating system compatibility. And with several vendors jumping into the market in late 2016 (such as Amazon Web Services), it’s a trend that we’re fairly confident will grow next year.

The market for web services may seem too fickle to gamble on, but as a small business owner, you don’t have much of a choice. Technology is essential to reaching new customers, operating efficiently, and remaining competitive with your business rivals. If you’re ready to start the new year with a new outlook on these technologies, call us today.



Predicting Cyber-Threats in 2017

Published by on January 23, 2017 in

Cyber-ThreatsAs 2017 rolls in, the threat of more formidable cyber attacks looms large. Hackers and the cyber police will spend a lot of time outsmarting each other, while consumers of technology, individuals and businesses alike, anticipate the best security plan that can guarantee they sleep soundly at night. When it comes to defending against cyber-attacks, forewarned is forearmed. Here are some of the threats we predict in the coming year.

Increased threats on cloud technology

Cloud service has numerous benefits to businesses. They make data storage, collaboration, and processing more efficient; they enable employees to work faster; and they help operations flow smoother. Cloud technology’s popularity is expected to rise well into the next few years, but as demand increases, so does the dangers presented by cyber attackers.

Ransomware will be more complex

Ransomware incapacitates computer systems by locking down files and preventing access for ransom. In its 2016 Threat Predictions report, security software company McAfee predicts a peak in ransomware attacks next year. Although they also predict it to recede by mid-year, damages to vulnerable cloud-dependent infrastructures can be great and costly. Most alarming in the prediction, however, is that in the coming year ransomware attacks will be more complex due to new elements.

Ransomworms, which use advanced victimization techniques to mine further data within an already compromised network, are expected to put an even crueler spin to an already formidable malware. Doxing, on the other hand, affects avenues such as social media and any place where sensitive, easily identifiable information can be extracted to serve the ultimate purpose of extorting money.

More threats to IoT (Internet of Things)-enabled devices

It is also predicted that 2017 will see attacks made on IoT-powered devices, which will make life harder for those who depend on technology that makes life easier. It targets medical devices and Electronic Medical Records, “connected cars”, basic domestic tools, and tech-driven wearables, such as smartwatches and fitness trackers. The danger posed by this intrusion is fully capable of corrupting information stored in your devices.

Advanced cyber espionage

Cyber espionage is by no means a novelty. In 2017, it’s expected to hold sway in cyber-threat prevention measures as it becomes even more complex. It encompasses all sectors of society, including individuals, private organizations, government institutions, and entire countries. Perpetrators will have the means to bypass networks by attacking firewalls and wreak havoc in their victims’ network. Fret not, for there will be measures in place to detect this threat also in the coming year.

Hackers are one of the most cunning criminals to have ever existed. While the cyber-police and the defenses they put up are no slouches, threats to security systems can still make technology-dependent individuals and businesses quiver. Although damaged networks can be repaired, compromised privacy restored, and stolen data returned, the amount of damage that hackers can cause might be irreparable and/or result in a significant dent in your IT infrastructure and budget. The value of a network security system makes itself known when you least expect it, which is why security should be a top priority.

Are your systems protected from these predicted remarkable feats of hacking? Call us if you want to discuss security services that are best for you.



Choosing the Best Small Business Computer

Published by on January 4, 2017 in

5_Security_MeasuresYour employees are some of your business’s best assets. With that in mind, it is imperative that they work with high-performance computers that will unlock their full potential and contribute to your business’s profitability. If only it were that simple. Selecting a computer often involves several factors such as mobility, quality, and price – there are simply too many things to consider. Choosing the right computer requires careful thought, and this is what we’re here to discuss.

Laptop or desktop?

Laptops are highly portable, efficient, and inexpensive. If these are the most important qualities your business requires in a computer, then by all means, choose them. Clearly, desktops aren’t built for mobility, but what they lack in portability, they more than make up for in storage, processing capacity, and security. Although laptops make perfect sense for small businesses with great need for portability, they are much more prone to security threats and are not as easy to upgrade and maintain, unlike desktops.

Processor

The Central Processing Unit (CPU), determines the speed at which you can access your data and perform business-critical tasks. Speed is measured in Gigahertz (GHz), and a processor that runs from 2 to 4 GHz should be plenty for small enterprises. Arguably the most important item on the list of a computer’s specifications, the processor plays a crucial role in your computer’s speed and efficiency.

Storage

As critical hardware components, hard drives indicate how much information you can store and use. Storage capacity typically ranges from 128 gigabytes on “light computers”, all the way up to 2+ terabytes on more critical machines. If your business doesn’t need to store large files such as videos and images, and will be used mostly for email and a few applications, 250- or 500-GB storage should do the job. (If processor speed is number one on your list of computer requirements, it’s followed closely by hard drive storage.)

Operating System

Operating system (OS) decisions often boil down to choosing between Windows or Mac. It might help in your decision-making to know that Windows remains the most widely used OS mainly due to its high compatibility with business software, not to mention, its relatively cheaper price. Macs can perform just as brilliantly as Windows-operated systems can. And although Macs are usually more expensive, they’re well known for their own outstanding features, such as being less prone to crashes.

Other Components

Not to be confused with storage drives, a computer’s Random Access Memory (RAM) is only used to run open applications. It is responsible for keeping your computer performing at optimum speeds, especially when you’re working with several applications or programs at once. For small businesses, a 1200-2600-MHz RAM should suffice. The higher the MHz of your RAM, the higher its performance will be. To keep your basic programs running, 4-8 gigabytes of RAM is often satisfactory.

Ready to Buy a New Computer?

Deciding which computer to buy is an important business decision. While there are a handful of factors to consider, what you aim to accomplish in your business’s day-to-day operations should be your main consideration when choosing a computer. Businesses that require plenty of remote and mobile work should consider laptops. Those that require regular transfers of large datasets could benefit from the increased storage capacity associated with desktops.

Do you need expert advice in choosing the best computers for your small business? We’re happy to guide you in every step of your purchase decision. Give us a call today.



Old Malware Still Poses a Serious Risk to EMRs

Published by on December 12, 2016 in

5_Security_MeasuresComputer technology firm Symantec is warning consumers that an infamous trojan virus still targets healthcare data across the United States and around the world. This infamous piece of malware hides among image files downloaded with pirated software. Read on to learn more about the Stegoloader infection, how it might target your business, and what you can do to keep it at bay.

What is Stegoloader?

The trojan known as Stegoloader infects machines through product key generators packaged with downloads of pirated software. Small companies have been targeted by the malware, particularly those in the healthcare industry — and to a lesser extent, the insurance and technology sector.

Steganography is a cyber-attacker term for hiding malware inside an image file. Once the image is opened on a vulnerable machine, the program gathers information and crawls through the network looking for weaknesses. Although Stegoloader doesn’t appear to be a particularly sophisticated program, it can devastate your business by stealing electronic medical records as well as installing a secondary piece of malware to pilfer banking information.

Anthem and Premera Blue Cross are two big-name victims of the widespread malware. Symantec believes that Stegoloader’s creators plan to sell healthcare data because they’re more lucrative than other information types. Symantec also believes the cyber attackers are opportunistic, taking advantage of companies that download pirated versions of popular software.

How to Avoid becoming infected by Stegloader

Because the Stegoloader trojan often lurks in illegal product key generators and illegitimate software, the best way to avoid infection is to stay away from sites that offer pirated software. Other than that, we recommend educating your employees on safe practices, avoiding unknown image files and quarantined backups, and updating operating system and antivirus software as often as possible.

When business owners download pirated software, they’re trying to cut corners to save money on business applications and technology consultants. But not only are they getting themselves in trouble with cyber attackers, they’re also breaking the law. If you’re looking for a better way to protect your company and keep your information safe, contact us today.



5 Security Measures Made Easy

Published by on December 5, 2016 in

5_Security_MeasuresLet’s face it, keeping yourself free from online threats can be a pain: using different passwords for every site, changing them every three months, using advanced encryption, the list goes on and on. You either end up paranoid of being online or giving up altogether. We’ve organized 5 simple cybersecurity measures that we promise anyone can implement.

1. Two-Factor Authentication

Did an attacker get your password? With two-factor authentication they’ll still need your mobile device to do any damage. Here’s how it works: every time you log into a service that requires a password, the service will send a code to your mobile device for another layer of authentication. Nowadays, most internet services have this option: Google, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Skype, Slack, etc. Check a full list here to see if you could be using two-factor authentication on any of your online accounts.

2. Password Manager

Say goodbye to the bygone era of memorizing a long list of different passwords for the various websites and services you use. Password manager software may have been around for a long time, but it’s still a viable solution for improving your login integrity. After installing it, all you need to do is create one secure master password and let the software do the rest. It will store and encrypt all of your passwords in one place for future reference and help generate random, more secure passwords for any new logins.

3. Keep All Software Up to Date

Update all of your software and your operating system as often as possible — it’s that simple. New versions come with better protection and fix any newly discovered loopholes. If you are too busy or can’t find the time to do it, check for an automatic update option. Any excuse for postponing updates will feel a lot less valid when it means a security breach or system crash.

4. Disable Flash Player

Adobe Flash Player may be what allows you to play Candy Crush during your work breaks, but it has boasted such a poor security record that most experts recommend that users block the plugin entirely. Most internet browsers have the option to block Flash by default, while allowing you to enable blocked content you deem acceptable by simply right-clicking and selecting Run this Plugin.

5. HTTPS Everywhere

When dealing with technology, long acronyms tend to scare off novice users before they even make it to step two. But don’t panic, there’s only one step to this trick. ‘HTTPS Everywhere’ is a browser extension that forces your browser to automatically navigate to sites using a secured encryption, if the site allows it. The thing is, a significant percentage of websites offer HTTPS connections but don’t present them as the default. When that’s the case, ‘HTTPS Everywhere’ gives your browser a gentle nudge in the right direction.

While in-depth security measures need to be implemented and managed by experts, little steps like the ones listed here can be just as important. Check back often for more helpful cybersecurity tips, but if you have more urgent security needs for yourself and your business, our experts are ready and waiting to offer a helping hand.



VoIP Redefines Business Calling

Published by on November 7, 2016 in

VoIP_CallingTraditional mobile calling plans may not be heading the way of the dodo bird quite yet, but there is a viable threat to their existence. The challenge comes from VoIP, and while it’s only in its nascent stages, it is foreshadowing a dark future for Telecoms’ costly monthly plans, spotty call quality, confusing invoices, and questionable customer service.

In technical terms, VoIP is a broadband phone service that uses the internet instead of a public switched telephone network (PSTN). In simpler terms, VoIP stands for “Voice over IP” which is another way of saying “making phone calls over the internet instead of over traditional telephone lines.”

 

 

Here are some statistics on internet-based communications that really show where the trend is heading:

  • Telecom companies are losing an average of 700,000 landline customers per month
  • Skype’s 300 million users spend an average of 3 billion minutes per day on calls
  • During its annual stockholders meeting, Apple CEO Tim Cook stated that there are 15 to 20 million FaceTime calls every day — and this was back in 2014

Why the big numbers?

Surely you’ve noticed that you incur no charges when using an application like FaceTime for that quick face-to-face with your associate who’s away on business, or for the video conference with your clients who are stuck at LAX after a cancelled flight. But phone calls for free aren’t the only advantage of VoIP. Many of us utilize it because it has features and benefits that make it a more attractive alternative to the phone company’s usual mobile calling plans.

Take the VoIP functionality in Apple’s latest version of its iOS operating system (iOS 10). Apps like Skype and Facebook Messenger are so well incorporated that they work just like the iPhone’s own phone application. Incoming/outgoing calls interface just like your regular phone, your contacts are fully integrated…You can hardly tell the difference.

So as consumers and businesses continue to recognize the benefits of VoIP and default to applications like FaceTime, Skype, Facebook, Line, or Viber for their calling needs, will conventional providers like AT&T, Verizon, Rogers, Bell Canada, etc. get squeezed out?

Can you ditch your legacy voice plans altogether?

It’s food for thought, and even if you don’t abandon them entirely, there are plenty of reasons to make broadband internet phone service a part of your day-to-day operations. And not only on your smartphones and other mobile devices.

Did you know that small businesses that change over to a VoIP network can save up to 40% on their local calls and up to 90% on their international calls? Or that a recent piece in PC World indicated that a business with 30 users on its calling plan saves nearly $1,200 per month when switching to VoIP?

Add in features like call recording, call-routing, conference call bridges, auto attendants, and virtual faxing and it’s easy to see why roughly 31% of all businesses now employ some type of internet-based VoIP telephone system.

So if you have a good-quality internet connection and you’re intrigued by the prospects of moving your business away from your local phone company’s services, we’re here to help. Call us today and together we’ll develop a robust VoIP solution that delivers cost savings, provides state-of-the-art functionality, and presents a professional image to the world.



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