Published on: December 9, 2019 in
If you think you haven’t maximized all that Windows 10 has to offer, you’re probably right. Windows 10’s recent updates include a few small but useful enhancements that’ll make your life easier. Aside from the Start Menu’s return or the Cortana display enhancements, there’s more to Microsoft’s snazzy operating system that you probably haven’t used.
There are two kinds of computer users: those who value battery longevity and those who prefer optimized system performance. The Performance/Power slider in Windows 10 lets you easily toggle between the ‘Best battery life’ (when you’re trying to save battery) and the ‘Best performance’ (when you need your system to perform optimally), or set a balanced battery and system performance setting.
Just click the battery icon in the taskbar and adjust the slider based on your preference.
Those who use computers late at night can turn on Night Light to reduce the amount of blue light emitted from the screen. This feature substitutes the blue light with warmer colors, which reduces eye strain and helps you sleep easily.
Night Light is disabled by default, so you need to enable it by following these steps:
- Click the Start Menu
- Click the Settings app (or press WIN + I to quickly open Settings)
- Click the System icon>Display
- Set Night light to ‘On’ or ‘Off’
It takes only a few seconds to open a browser and type a website’s address or click Bookmarks and choose from a list of websites you frequently visit. But Windows 10 offers an even quicker way to access your go-to sites by allowing you to pin websites on the Windows 10 taskbar.
Simply click “Pin this page to the taskbar” on the Microsoft Edge menu, and the site’s icon will appear on the taskbar for easy perusal.
Drag to pin windows
Need to organize your screen but can’t help having many open windows? Reduce screen clutter by dragging any window to a corner so it can take a quarter of the screen. For multiple screens, drag a window to any border and wait for the prompt that tells you to put the window in the selected corner.
Notifications can be distracting, but Windows 10’s Focus Assist feature can manage the notifications you receive from contacts and applications. This function also lets you customize the list of notifications you wish to prioritize.
To enable Focus Assist, go to:
- Focus Assist
- Adjust the notifications settings based on your preference
If you wish to disable it and receive all notifications, click ‘Off.’
The features we’ve included here are just some of the many Windows 10 functions that save time and add value to business-users’ lives. For more software and productivity recommendations, give our IT consultants a call today.
Published on: November 11, 2019 in
More businesses are now allowing their employees to use mobile devices to increase productivity and profitability. But smartphones and tablets are just as vulnerable to hacking as desktops and laptops. Worse, employees may be exposing their mobile devices unwittingly to cybercriminals. Here are some helpful tips to keep your devices safe.
Ensure mobile OS is up-to-date
The updates on Apple and Android operating systems (OSs) improve overall user experience, but their most important function is to fix security vulnerabilities. Reduce your business’s exposure to threats by installing updates for all devices as soon as they become available. Don’t wait for a few weeks or months to update, as this give hackers ample time to exploit vulnerabilities on devices that run on an outdated OS.
Install business applications only
Downloading apps seems harmless. But lenient policies on what should and shouldn’t be downloaded on company mobile devices could lead to staff downloading and installing non-business-related apps from third-party stores, most of which are notorious for malicious advertising codes and other threats.
Be careful when connecting to public Wi-Fi networks
Emergency situations may compel you to use password-free Wi-Fi networks in hotels, airports, cafes, and other public places. Connecting to an open network can expose your confidential information and sensitive company data to hackers connected to the same network.
You can avoid this by providing a practical internet data plan, preferably one that includes roaming services, for remote workers. And if you really have to connect to an open Wi-Fi, don’t use the connection for transferring sensitive data.
Enable phone tracking tools
It’s sad but inevitable — losing a company-issued mobile device happens. Devices can be misplaced or stolen, and enabling Find My iPhone for iOS devices, GPS Phone Tracker for Android, or any device-tracking app helps users locate lost phones. Some also have the option to delete data in stolen devices. Downloading and setting up such an app only takes a few minutes, and it will give you peace of mind knowing that even if your phone is lost or stolen, its contents will not be compromised.
Screen SMS carefully
SMS phishing can be used to trick you into clicking malicious links. Hackers send messages purporting to be from someone you know, asking you to urgently send confidential data. Should you encounter such an SMS, you can either delete it or alert your IT department. You can also block unknown senders without even opening their message.
Mobile devices are becoming more critical to operations. And with more devices open to attack, businesses must bolster their cybersecurity efforts. Hackers will exploit every possible vulnerability, and that includes those in unsecured smartphones and tablets. Get in touch with us if you need comprehensive security solutions for your business.
Published on: October 28, 2019 in
If most of your company’s computers are obsolete, they double or even triple your chances of experiencing a data breach. This emphasizes how dangerous it is to have outdated applications, operating systems, and even web browsers. Failing to update your firmware could expose your business to major security threats.
What is firmware?
Firmware is a basic type of software that is embedded into every piece of hardware. It cannot be uninstalled or removed, and is only compatible with the make and model of the hardware it is installed on. Think of it like a translator between your stuff and unchanging hardware and your fluid and evolving software.
For example, Windows can be installed on almost any computer, and it helps users surf the internet and watch YouTube videos. But how does Windows know how to communicate and connect with your hardware router to do all that? Firmware on your router allows you to update and modify settings so other, higher-level pieces of software can interact with it.
Why is firmware security important?
Firmware installed on a router is a great example of why addressing this issue is so critical. When you buy a router and plug it in, it should be able to connect devices to your wireless network with almost zero input from you. However, leaving default settings such as the username and password for web browser access will leave you woefully exposed.
And the username and password example is just one of hundreds. More experienced hackers can exploit holes that even experienced users have no way of fixing. The only way to secure these hardware security gaps is with firmware updates from the device’s manufacturer.
How do I protect myself?
Firmware exploits are not rare occurrences. Not too long ago, a cybersecurity professional discovered that sending a 33-character text message to a router generated an SMS response that included the administrator username and password.
Unfortunately, every manufacturer has different procedures for checking and updating firmware. The best place to start is Googling “[manufacturer name] router firmware update.” For instance, if you have a DLink of Netgear router, typing “192.168.0.1” into a web browser will allow you to access its firmware and update process, assuming you have the username and password.
Remember that routers are just one example of how firmware affects your cybersecurity posture. Hard drives, motherboards, and even mice and keyboards need to be checked. Routinely checking all your devices for firmware updates should be combined with the same process you use to check for software updates.
It can be a tedious process, and we highly recommend hiring an IT provider to take care of it for you. If you’re curious about what else we can do to help, give us a call today!
Published on: October 14, 2019 in
The volume of malicious cyber attacks is increasing every year. Although many companies use the latest network security systems, they aren’t immune to the hackers’ favorite strategy — social engineering. Unlike malware, social engineering tricks people into volunteering sensitive data. Here’s what you should know to protect your business.
This is the most frequently used social engineering attack, especially against small businesses. Check out these frightening statistics:
How is phishing carried out? Criminals make use of emails, phone calls, or text messages to steal money. Victims are directed to phony websites or hotlines and are tricked into giving away sensitive information like names, addresses, login information, social security, and credit card numbers.
To protect yourself, be wary of emails from people you don’t know that offer you a prize, come with attachments you didn’t request, direct you to suspicious sites, or urge you to act quickly. Phishing emails usually appear to come from reliable sources, but they are wolves in sheep’s clothing.
One of the most infamous and widespread examples of phishing was during the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio, where victims received fraudulent emails for fake ticketing services that stole their personal and financial information.
What’s the fastest and easiest way for criminals to enter a secure office? Through the front door, of course! Tailgating happens when an employee holds the door open for strangers and unauthorized visitors, allowing them to infiltrate an organization. This simple act of kindness enables fraudsters to enter restricted areas, access computers when no one is looking, or leave behind devices for snooping.
Quid pro quo
Here, scam artists offer a free service or a prize in exchange for information. They may lure their victims with a gift, concert tickets, a T-shirt, or early access to a popular game in exchange for login credentials, account details, passwords, and other important information. Or hackers may volunteer to fix their victims’ IT problems to get what they want. In most cases, the gift is a cheap trinket or the tickets are fake, but damages from stolen information are all too real.
Fraudsters pretend to be someone else to steal information. They may pose as a telemarketer, tech support representative, co-worker, or police officer to fish out credit card information, bank account details, usernames, and passwords. The con artist may even convince the unsuspecting victim to apply for a loan over the phone to get more details from the victim. By gaining the person’s trust, the scammer can fool anyone into divulging company secrets.
In spite of the many security measures available today, fraudsters and their social engineering schemes continue to haunt and harm many businesses. Thus, it’s best to prepare for the worst. To protect sensitive information, educate yourself and be careful. Remember: If anything is too good to be true, it probably is!
To shield your business from social engineering attacks, don’t take chances! Get in touch with us today.
Published on: September 30, 2019 in
It’s difficult to get any work done with your laptop notifying you that it’s running out of juice. And if you are not close to a power outlet, your laptop will soon be nothing more than a cold slab of metal and plastic. Here are some helpful tips to prolong your laptop battery’s life.
Some truths about your laptop battery
Batteries in many modern devices are lithium-based — either lithium-ion or lithium-polymer — and users must take note of the following guidelines for proper battery maintenance:
- Leaving your battery completely drained will damage it.
- Batteries have limited lifespans. So no matter what you do, yours will age from the very first time you charge it. This is because as time passes, the ions will no longer be able to flow efficiently from the anode to the cathode, thereby reducing the battery’s capacity.
What else can degrade your battery
Besides being naturally prone to deterioration, your battery can degrade due to higher-than-normal voltages, which happens when you keep your battery fully charged at all times. Even though a modern laptop battery cannot be overcharged, doing so will stress and harm your battery.
Both extremely high temperatures (above 70°F) and low temperatures (32–41°F) can also reduce battery capacity and damage its components. The same goes for storing a battery for long periods of time, which can lead to the state of extreme discharge. Another factor is physical damage. Remember that batteries are made up of sensitive materials, and sustaining a shock from a fall or similar can damage them.
How to prolong your battery life
Now that you know some facts about your laptop battery, it’s time to learn how to delay its demise:
- Never leave your battery completely drained.
- Don’t expose your battery to extremely high or low temperatures.
- If possible, charge your battery at a lower voltage.
- If you need to use your laptop for a long period of time while plugged into a power source, it’s better to remove the battery. This is because a plugged-in laptop generates more heat that will damage your battery.
- When you need to store your battery for a few weeks, you should recharge your battery to 40% and remove it from your laptop for storage.
These are just a few tips on extending the life of your hardware. There are many more ways you can maximize your hardware efficiency and extend its longevity. Call our experts today to find out more!
Published on: September 16, 2019 in
Cybersecurity is everyone’s responsibility. But you don’t need to be an IT expert to know how to protect yourself from a cyberattack. To help you get started, here are helpful terms you need to know so you’re not left in the dark, whether you’re teaching yourself how to update your anti-malware, updating your systems, or consulting your tech support.
For a long time, the phrase “computer virus” was misappropriated as a term to define every type of attack that intended to harm or hurt your computers and networks. A virus is actually a specific type of attack, or malware. Whereas a virus is designed to replicate itself, any software created for the purpose of destroying or unfairly accessing networks and data should be referred to as malware.
Don’t let all the other words ending in “ware” confuse you; they are all just subcategories of malware. Currently, one of the most popular of these is “ransomware,” which is malware that encrypts valuable data until a ransom is paid for its return.
Intrusion protection system(IPS)
There are several ways to safeguard your network from malware, but IPSs are quickly becoming one of the non-negotiables. IPSs sit inside of your company’s firewall and look for suspicious and malicious activity that can be halted before it can exploit or take advantage of a known vulnerability.
Not all types of malware rely solely on fancy computer programming. Experts agree that the majority of attacks require some form of what is called “social engineering” to be successful. Social engineering is the act of tricking people, rather than computers, into revealing sensitive or guarded information. Complicated software is totally unnecessary if you can just convince potential victims that you’re a security professional who needs their password to secure their account.
Despite often relying on face-to-face interactions, social engineering does occasionally employ more technical methods. Phishing is the act of creating an application or website that impersonates a trustworthy and often well-known business in an attempt to elicit confidential information. Just because you received an email that says it’s from the IRS doesn’t mean it should be taken at face value — always verify the source of any service requesting your sensitive data.
Antivirus software is often misunderstood as a way to comprehensively secure your computers and workstations. These applications are just one piece of the cybersecurity puzzle and can only scan the drives on which they are installed for signs of well-known malware variants.
Malware is most dangerous when it has been released but not yet discovered by cybersecurity experts. When a vulnerability is found within a piece of software, vendors will release an update to amend the gap in security. However, if cyberattackers release a piece of malware that has never been seen before, and if that malware exploits one of these holes before the vulnerability is addressed, it is called a zero-day attack.
When software developers discover a security vulnerability in their programming, they usually release a small file to update and “patch” this gap. Patches are essential to keeping your network secure from the vultures lurking on the internet. By checking for and installing patches as often as possible, you keep your software protected from the latest malware.
When antivirus software, patches, and intrusion detection fail to keep your information secure, there’s only one thing that will: quarantined off-site storage. Duplicating your data offline and storing it somewhere other than your business’s workspace ensures that if there is a malware infection, you’re equipped with backups.
We aren’t just creating a glossary of cybersecurity terms; every day, we’re writing a new chapter to the history of this ever-evolving industry. And no matter what you might think, we are available to impart that knowledge on anyone who comes knocking. Get in touch with us today and find out just how we can help you with your IT woes.
Published on: September 2, 2019 in
You’ve received a message from one of your Facebook friends. You click on the link not knowing what you’ve gotten yourself into. This describes one of the latest social media adware schemes, which has wreaked havoc on Facebook users worldwide.
What is it?
Little is known about the adware itself or those behind it, but it was uncovered by David Jacoby, senior security researcher at Kaspersky Lab, when he received a Facebook message from one of his friends, only to find out that wasn’t the case.
Basically, the adware uses Facebook Messenger to track your browser activity and pushes you to click on malicious ads or give out personal information.
How does it work?
By clickjacking and hijacking credentials of Facebook users, the adware is able to send messages to people in the victim’s contact list. If you’re one of those people, you’ll receive a phony message from your friend’s compromised Facebook account.
The message includes your friend’s name followed by the word “Video,” a shocked face emoji, and a shortened URL. Once clicked, the URL will redirect you to a Google Doc with a blurred photo taken from your friend’s Facebook page, disguised as a video. If you click on the “video”, you’ll be redirected to one of a number of targeted websites based on your browser, operating system, and location.
For instance, if you use Google Chrome, you’ll be sent to a website that looks exactly like YouTube, complete with the official logo. The hoax website will show you a fake error message to trick you into downloading a malicious Chrome extension.
If you’re on Firefox, you’ll be sent to a site with a false Flash Player update notice and a Windows adware executable; the same goes with OS X except the adware is hidden in a .dmg file.
The goal here is to move your browser through a set of websites so tracking cookies can monitor your activity and display malicious ads or you can be “social engineered” to give up confidential information.
How do you avoid falling victim?
Facebook has rolled out a number of automated systems to stop harmful links and files. What’s more, they will provide you with a free antivirus scan if they suspect that your account has been compromised by adware.
Still, you should be very skeptical about any shortened URL links sent to you by your Facebook friends, no matter how long you’ve been friends.
Due to their low key nature as potential security endpoints, cyber criminals are turning to social media platforms as their new medium of choice. To keep your business safe, you need to stay up-to-date and educate your employees. If you have any other questions about social media and how it can impact your business, just give us a call.
Published on: February 19, 2019 in
Windows 7 Extended Support Ends 1-13-2020
As the saying goes: Out with the old, in with the new. That’s exactly what Microsoft is encouraging Windows 7 users to do as soon as possible. It’s been reported that Windows 7 is so outdated that patches are unable to secure it anymore. Maybe it’s the nostalgic qualities that make it hard for users to take the leap. But sentiments aside, Windows 10 is the way to go.
Windows 7 was given extended support in 2015. And with that, Microsoft warned its users that this outdated version would drive up operating costs due to remediating software attacks that Windows 10 systems could otherwise avoid. The one-year countdown to Windows 7’s twilight officially began with a warning to enterprises that they could face hefty fines for sticking with the platform’s outdated security.
According to Markus Nitschke, head of Windows at Microsoft Germany: Windows 7 does not meet the requirements of modern technology, nor the high security requirements of IT departments. How would this make current Windows 7 users feel? Why are users choosing to remain faithful to the platform’s outdated security? Users can delay upgrades until January 13, 2020, after which extended support for the 2009 OS will end and it will no longer receive patches — unless the customer is paying for a pricey Microsoft Custom Support Agreement.
Markus also added that “As early as in Windows XP, we saw that companies should take early steps to avoid future risks or costs.” The message came as Microsoft published studies that showed Windows 10 Anniversary Update’s built-in security managed to neutralize many zero-day exploits, even without patches needed to protect earlier versions of Windows.
Failing to upgrade to Windows 10 means that you and your networks will miss out on noteworthy security features such as the Windows Hello biometric login, the AppContainer sandboxing technology, and Windows Defender Advanced Threat Protection, which will gain new features after upcoming Creators Update.
With the help of newer tools, migrating from Windows 7 to Windows 10 is considerably easier when compared with migrations from XP. Microsoft is still urging corporate users to make the shift before Microsoft permanently terminates support for Windows 7, stating that their business could be looking at real trouble if they fail to comply.
Business owners always do their best to ensure the future of their organization. That includes knowing which tech resources to rely on and which ones to avoid. If you still have questions about Windows 7, feel free to give us a call.
Published on: January 4, 2017 in
Your 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.
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.
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 (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.
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.
Published on: September 1, 2015 in
Following the let-down that was Windows 8 and 8.1, Microsoft is keen to impress – so much so that it’s skipped number 9 and jumped right to Windows 10. Now the new operating system’s release has been confirmed for July 29, and Windows-based small businesses are clamoring to try out its impressive new features. Here is the rundown of the things you need to know before you spend your fall upping the ante with Windows 10.
You can get it for free
They say the best things in life are free, and that might just be the case with Windows 10. Microsoft has kept its word about making its newest operating system free to access – at least if you’re currently running an authentic version of Windows 7 or 8.1, its two most recent releases. You’ll enjoy a free lifetime upgrade to Windows 10 provided you make the move within the next year and, better still, it’s an automatic upgrade directly from your existing Windows 7 or 8.1 interface. If you’re running an older version of Windows, you’ll need to make a fresh install and you’ll also need to pay – the various available versions of Windows 10 are expected to retail starting at $119.
It’s being launched in phases
Although the official release date was July 29, in reality Microsoft pushed out Windows 10 in a phased launch. This explains why you might not have been prompted for the Windows 10 on July 29 itself – instead, Microsoft has made the new operating system available to desktop and laptop users first, and only later to mobile and other devices. What’s more, the firm already has its next move in the pipeline. Upgrade and update plans for Windows 10 are anticipated to be on the way in two phases, in June and October 2016. But we are expecting these changes, codenamed Redstone, to come in the form of more minor tweaks to the Windows 10 infrastructure rather than a full overhaul.
It’s the last you’ll see of Windows
Microsoft has made no secret of the fact that it sees Windows 10 as the operating system’s final release. But that’s not quite as ultimate as it sounds – this is not really the end of Windows. Instead, what we’re seeing is the transition of Windows from a product to a service. Microsoft envisions a future where, instead of major new versions of Windows emerging every few years, there are regular improvements and updates – far beyond the Windows Updates that we know at the moment.
It’s likely that version numbers will come to play far less of a role in system updates in the future – in much the same way as mobile apps operate, we’ll instead settle into enjoying a frequently updated service that incorporates the latest features Microsoft has developed. And while some have expressed fears that this could lead to home and business users being tied into a subscription model in order to stay up to date, Microsoft appears committed to ensuring that ongoing upgrades are free.
Ready to make the leap to Windows 10? Want to find out how best to make the transition with minimal disruption to your business? Give us a call and let us walk you through it.