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January 29th, 2015

Security_Jan28_AAs far as viruses, worms and other security infections go, there are probably none quite as frustrating as Poweliks. While most threats can wreak havoc on your computer system and cause untold damage to your business as day-to-day processes are interrupted by unstable IT, information leaks and data losses, the majority at least leave a trace of their work that enables them to be detected and ultimately removed. Not so with Poweliks - this nightmare of a malware completely hides away in your system and is pretty much invisible. Here’s what you need to be aware of and how you can protect yourself against Poweliks.

What is Poweliks?

Security firm Symantec describes Poweliks as a trojan horse that performs malicious activities on the compromised computer. But it’s no ordinary trojan - unlike the majority, which infect your computer with malicious files, Poweliks is a silent and invisible threat that hides away in the memory registry of your system. It’s not entirely new for a virus to seek to cover its tracks by making itself "file-less" but, in contrast with Poweliks, most are wiped when you restart your computer and its memory is cleared. Worse still, Poweliks hijacks the legitimate processes and applications running on your network, inserting its code into them where it can largely evade detection.

First discovered back in August 2014, Poweliks has therefore created something of a headache for firms behind conventional security solutions like anti-virus software. Symantec and others have admittedly managed a number of updates to their protection in response to the threat posed by Poweliks. But although very minor records of the presence of the trojan are left behind by way, for instance, of registry logs, the signs of its destructive presence are much lower key than the computer world is used to, meaning Poweliks is unlikely to show up on most system scans.

Poweliks has links to Kazakhstan, the home of two servers the malware connects to once it is up and running from within your computer. The servers in Kazakhstan then send commands to the bug to tell it what to do next. In theory, this then makes way for the tool to be used to download other undesirable programs that could infect your system without your knowledge. It could equally be used to steal and disseminate data from your network.

How can I best protect myself?

As well as the anti-virus updates that have gradually been released - but which are still likely to have only a limited impact on threats of this type compared with those of the past - a number of Poweliks removal guides are now available online. Nevertheless, prevention as ever, remains better than cure. One method reported to have been employed in the distribution of the Poweliks infection is embedding it in a Microsoft Word document, which is then sent as an attachment to spam emails, and which the attackers hope your curiosity will lead you to open. Among the senders that these spam messages have masqueraded as being from are the United States Postal Service and Canada Post. Of course the best advice remains to be suspicious of any and every email attachment you open, particularly if you weren’t expecting mail or it's from someone you don’t know.

Should I be concerned?

In fact, revisiting your everyday security precautions is probably pretty good advice all round, since experts predict that this type of threat is likely to become ever more common as attackers seek to exploit the techniques of Poweliks in order for their infiltration to remain unnoticed for as long as possible. Sure enough, a number of copycat threats have already been detected by security specialists as of the start of 2015.

General awareness around web sites you choose to visit is also recommendable in particular, since others have also reported the bug making its way onto their systems thanks to so-called ‘drive-by download attacks’ - whereby simply visiting a malicious web site is enough to trigger the infection, and actively downloading a file isn’t even necessary. As a result, organizations may wish to consider more comprehensive filtering of internet access, or at the very least reactive blocking of known malicious sites, in order to prevent employees from inadvertently infecting a company network.

To find out more about IT security solutions and protecting your technology from attack, contact us today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Security
January 28th, 2015

july-calendarMicrosoft is ending support for the Windows Server 2003 operating system on July 14, 2015. After this date, this product will no longer receive:

* Security patches that help protect PCs from harmful viruses, spyware, and other malicious software
* Assisted technical support from Microsoft
* Software and content updates

All software products have a lifecycle. End of support refers to the date when Microsoft will no longer provide automatic fixes, updates, or online technical assistance. As of July 2014, there were 12 million physical servers worldwide still running Windows Server 2003.

Computer systems running unsupported software are exposed to an elevated risk to cybersecurity dangers, such as malicious attacks or electronic data loss.

Users may also encounter problems with software and hardware compatibility since new software applications and hardware devices may not be built for Windows Server 2003.

Organizations that are governed by regulatory obligations may find they are no longer able to satisfy compliance requirements while running Windows Server 2003.

Computers running the Windows Server 2003 operating system will continue to work after support ends. However, using unsupported software may increase the risks of viruses and other security threats.

Negative consequences could include loss of confidentiality, integrity, and or availability of data, system resources and business assets.

The Microsoft “Microsoft Support Lifecycle Policy FAQ” page offers additional details.

Users have the option to upgrade to a currently supported operating system or other cloud-based services. Systems Solutions offers assistance in migrating from Windows Server 2003 to a currently supported operating system.

Topic General
January 27th, 2015

iPhone_Jan27_AIs finding time in your busy schedule to visit a doctor getting more and more difficult? Do you wish it could be easier and quicker to stay on top of your and your child’s healthcare? If so, the Apple iPhone’s new health apps and accessories may just be the answer you’re looking for. From diagnosing ear infections to virtual doctor appointments, the iPhone is revolutionizing the way patients will be treated in the future. Read on for 3 new ways the iPhone may forever change the way you receive health care.

At-home ear infection diagnosis

If you have a young child, you’ll already know that ear infections are a common nuisance. By the age of 3, roughly 80% of all children have suffered from this affliction. And this problem alone costs the medical industry roughly 3.5 billion dollars annually.

In today’s world, full of long work hours and overloaded schedules, it can be difficult to find the time to visit a doctor. And if you live in a remote area, the challenge is even greater. But when little Johnny’s ear infection means you’re waking up at night to deal with a screaming toddler, you know that something needs to be done. The iPhone’s new Oto Home device could be your solution.

For $79 you can bring the technology of an otoscope (the device your doctor uses to look into your ear at a checkup) directly into your home. Not the whole thing of course. Instead, the Oto Home is just the small black cone-like part at the tip of the otoscope that the doctor inserts into your ear. Now you can attach this tool to your iPhone’s camera, and use it to take a video of the inside of your child’s ear, which can then be sent to your doctor via email. For a $49 fee, your doctor can diagnose and provide a prescription almost instantly.

At this time, the device is only available in California, but will likely be approved for use in more states soon.

Medical history for quicker doctor appointments

Whether you need to keep a close eye on a sick relative’s temperature or want to have a record of your own medical history, iPhone’s new Swaive app can help. Like the Oto Home device, the Swaive also involves your ear. But instead of diagnosing ear infections, the Swaive acts as an in-ear thermometer.

In combination with Apple’s Health app, the Swaive can keep track of your temperature over weeks, months or years. With this app, you can also record any kind of recurring physical symptom or medication you’re taking. This information can then be sent to your physician.

Even better, the next time you pop in for an in-person doctor visit, this info can speed up the process as it acts as a recent medical history.

Virtual doctor appointments from anywhere

But if you’d rather not visit the doctor at all, now you can make a virtual appointment through an app called Amwell. This allows you to Facetime with your physician at anytime, with no appointment necessary.

The way Amwell works is simple. A patient can open the app and scroll through the physicians who are part of the Amwell network. Just like other online health databases, you’ll be able to see the doctor’s years in practice, education and patient rating. Once you’ve made your choice, you can sign up for a $49 virtual visit where a doctor can provide instant feedback, diagnosis and treatment. Best of all, Amwell visits are covered by some insurance providers. So once you get your printable receipt, you can still get reimbursed.

Looking for more tips on how your iPhone can make life easier? Contact us today and learn how we can help.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic iPhone
January 22nd, 2015

socialmedia_Jan20_ASocial media has been increasing in popularity amongst business owners more than ever before. From LinkedIn to Twitter and Facebook, social media has enhanced ways in which businesses communicate with one another, leading to quicker connections and even stronger relationships. Is it time you took a look at different ways social media can help drive your business development?

In most cases, a business development manager already has an idea of the kind of company with which to partner. Their next step is to contact that company via a phone call or email. However, this can be an unreliable way to reach out, especially when your potential partner has never heard of you. Social media speeds up this process by identifying the best person to contact, as well as determining if you have any mutual connections.

Simply put, social media lets you understand the background of different companies and gives you an idea of the different players involved, before you even engage in a dialogue. With this in mind, let’s take a look at four ways you can utilize information available on social media to enhance your business development success.

  1. Social media is an extra pair of eyes Social media allows you to see first-hand what potential partners, competitors, and customers are doing, which is a major asset when it comes to your business development and performance. This can also reveal business-relationship possibilities or even warn where it is best to stay away. It’s crucial to position yourself and your company as industry experts by sharing mind-blowing content as well as highlighting recent successes.
  2. There’s no universal message in social media The way people behave and connect across different social media platforms varies, therefore it is important to adjust accordingly. For instance, you might use Twitter to promote ongoing marketing campaigns, share content, and direct customer service requests. You may use Facebook for larger marketing initiatives, such as showcasing a company’s culture and resources. It’s important to remember that there’s no universal rule to utilizing social media and that it is beneficial to be flexible. Think about what your individual goals are and work out which social media platform is the best avenue to explore.
  3. Leverage employee relationships If you’re looking to connect with an individual in a specific company, make it a habit to check and see if anyone in your company has a pre-existing relationship with that person. Social media channels like Facebook and LinkedIn make it fairly easy to spot mutual connections, so it is a good idea to get into the habit of checking. Whether you ask your colleague to help make an introduction or to arrange a meeting, a mutual connection gives you the competitive edge in effective business development.
  4. Use social media as a touchpoint Social media is not only essential to business development, but also complements other more traditional practices, such as when you’ve sent an email or voicemail to a business prospect that has gone unanswered. It’s understandable that people get so busy they can delay, forget or pass over an inquiry, but instead of passively waiting for a reply, why not make it standard practice to follow up separately via LinkedIn or other social media platforms? This way you can build additional opportunities with potential partners, increase the likelihood of a response, and even forge a future business relationship.
The fundamentals of business development are strong relationships with a partner or companies with a good reputation, who will have a positive impact on your business, such as marketing an initiative collaboratively. Social media can get this whole process started, so the next time you’re looking to contact a business prospect or potential partner, start by visiting their social media channels to get the heads up to help you in your quest.

Looking to learn more about the benefits of social media in business? Contact us today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Social Media
January 14th, 2015

Security_Jan12_CThe scale of the recent security breaches at Sony, which led to the cancellation of The Interview’s theatrical release, can make the company’s problems seem beyond the realm of the average small business. But the security mishaps that created the circumstances for the hack are as applicable to modest local and regional companies as they are to multimillion dollar corporations. These three tips will take you back to security basics and help avert your own big-screen drama.

Don’t let basic security habits slip

Our modern-day instinct tells us that the answer to potential security breaches is to install new layers of antivirus software, firewalls and further encryption systems. While these are all worthy additions to your company’s armor of security shields, they will do little to help if good old-fashioned protective habits are allowed to slide.

Instill a disciplined, security-conscious mentality in your organization, and keep the messages simple so that staff remember and follow them. Focus on regularly changing passwords and keeping them secret, being vigilant about avoiding unexpected links in email messages, and limiting network access for the likes of external contractors to that which is absolutely necessary.

One of the ways hackers made their way into the Sony network was by tricking administrators into thinking they had a legitimate need for access: teach your staff to be careful, and praise cautiousness even if it turns out access is warranted. Encourage staff to flag up potential security lapses, and make sure they know that reports will be followed up and loopholes closed.

Take a flexible and agile approach to IT

IT changes, and so do the ways best suited to keeping it safe. This means it is vitally important to keep your IT systems up to date, and where necessary to do away with outdated practices that could leave your business technology exposed. This involves more than just ensuring that your network is running updated antivirus software to catch the latest bugs and worms - it means staying abreast of emerging methods to mitigate potential threats from hackers worldwide.

All of this uses staff and resources that your small business might not have - which is where outsourced managed services come in. Using a managed service provider as an add-on to your own IT team can give you extra flexibility and the ability to keep abreast of industry security developments, even when you lack the time to do so yourself.

Equally, know when it is time to ditch data - think of emerging social networks like Snapchat, which set messages to self-destruct after a set time, as your cue to make your data retention policy less permanent, particularly in relation to email. If you no longer have a business need or a regulatory requirement to retain information, then delete it - in the process you can limit the possible damage even if the worst should occur and you fall victim to an external attack.

Backup, backup, backup

The last thing you want in the event of a security breach is for it to hit your day-to-day operations - the potential damage caused by the hack itself is likely to give you enough to worry about. But that is exactly the situation Sony found itself in after its latest hack, with its email system down and staff forced to return to the days of pen, paper and even the fax machine.

As well as ensuring alternative means of communication remain open to your business in the aftermath of a possible attack, it is also vital to make sure that you retain access to the information most critical to your work. Regular, secured backups help ensure that, whatever happens, the show is able to go on and your firm’s productivity and revenue are not unduly hit. Engaging professionals to undertake your backups on a managed service basis also means this can happen routinely and without fail, while you stay focused on running your business.

Want to learn more about how to reduce your IT network’s vulnerability to attack? Get in touch with us today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Security
January 13th, 2015

iPad_Jan12_AEver since the first iPad came out, many people have wanted to use it as their second computer monitor to help boost efficiency and productivity. The only problem was that most software that makes the transfer possible uses Wi-Fi which comes paralleled with a lagging screen and inconsistency. However, a new application that will seamlessly turn your iPad into your second Mac screen is now available.

Duet Display, developed by a former Apple engineer, Rahul Dewan, will turn your iPad into an external screen for your Mac, and does so using a cable that you already use to charge and sync your iPad. To be precise, it’s actually two apps — one for your iOS device and a companion app for your Mac that lets it recognize an iPad or iPhone as a second screen.

How does Duet Display work?

  1. Download Duet Display from the Apple Store for $14.99
  2. Install Duet Display for OS X
  3. Duet Display will add a little settings icon to the right side of your menu bar and requires a password when you’re installing it on your Mac. This is because the app needs to install display drivers.
  4. Open the Duet Display app on your iPad and plug it into your Mac with a lightning cable (or a 30-pin cable if you’ve got an older iPad that’s still supported).
  5. Now you can enjoy working with two screens!
Because your iPad is plugged in, you won’t have to worry about your iPad’s battery. And while you’re using Duet Display on the iPad, you’ll still get your regular iOS notifications. You can also set your computer to use all the pixels on your iPad’s Retina display (2,048x1,536 pixel resolution), or you can set your iPad to regular resolution too. Duet Display works with all Macs running on OS X Yosemite and any iPads or iPhones running iOS 5.1.1 or above, meaning it will work with your old iPad. The only downside is you can only connect a single iOS device for now.

The growing number of applications in the App Store means there are often new ways to make use of your iPad being introduced. Looking to learn more about the iPad and its capabilities? Contact us and see how we can help.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic iPad
January 1st, 2015

hardware_Dec25_AIf you want to keep your business data and systems secure it is essential that you have an antivirus or antimalware scanner installed on every system. While the install rates of these programs in businesses is nearly 100%, there is an increasing trend where some companies are letting their subscriptions expire. So, if your antivirus subscription expires is this really a big deal?

What happens when an antivirus subscription expires?

While each program will treat an expired subscription slightly different, generally speaking, most will still function in some way. You will normally be able to run a scan, but you likely won't be able to deal with any malware or security threats. Features like automated scanning will also be turned off.

Other programs will stop updating the essential virus and malware databases that are used by the program to identify and clean new malware. This means that while you will be secure from known viruses and security flaws up to the date of the last database update, you will not be secure against newly discovered viruses.

Some popular programs like Kaspersky offer an antivirus scanner trial version or a program that comes with a newly purchased computer.With programs like these, they will normally stop functioning once the trial period is over. Yes, they will still open, but you won't be able to scan or perform any tasks.

In short, when your subscription expires, your systems will no longer be secure, or as protected as they should be. Interestingly enough, in mid-November 2014, Microsoft released its Security Intelligence Report 17. This report found that computers and systems with expired malware were only slightly less likely to be infected than systems without any malware scanners installed.

What do I do if my subscription is about to expire?

Before your subscription expires you should take steps to back up all of your systems and data. The reason for this is that should something happen you have a clean backup to revert to. Once this is carried out, then consider renewing your subscription. Most programs allow you to do this directly from the scanner itself, so it is often fairly straightforward.

As a business owner however, you are going to need to keep track of your systems and licenses. What we recommend is creating a spreadsheet with information on the subscription applied to all systems. Take account of when the scanner was installed on each system, how long the subscription period is for, and when it will expire.

What if my subscriptions are about to expire, but I don't like my current program?

There may come a time when the scanner you have selected simply isn't living up to your expectations. Maybe it takes too long to scan, uses too many resources, or simply isn't able to protect all of your systems. Regardless of the reason, switching scanners is always an option.

If you are thinking of moving to another scanner, we strongly recommend that before you do anything, you back up your systems. You can then start looking for other systems. We strongly recommend that you contact us, as we can help identify a solution that will work for your business and systems. We can then help ensure that the transition is carried out in a way that will not leave your systems open to attack.

We may have a managed antivirus solution that will work for your business. By using a system like this, we can help protect your systems, keeping them secure and always up to date, all without you having to get involved. All you need to do is get in touch to find our more.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Hardware
December 31st, 2014

security_dec24_AThere are so many ways that hackers can gain access to your computers and systems it boggles the mind. One of the more popular tactics employed is the increasingly common spear phishing. In early December 2014, news broke of a new, super savvy, spear phishing campaign that had succeeded in scamming top Wall Street companies and could be a danger to small businesses as well.

What is spear phishing?

Spear phishing is an advanced form of phishing where attackers troll the Internet for relevant information about you and then create a personalized email that is sent to you. This email is usually developed so that it appears to be coming from a friend or trusted partner and contains links to a site or program that can initiate an attack or steal information.

More often than not, these links are to websites where you enter account information, passwords, and even bank account details, or any other personal information which can be used to break into computers and even steal your identity.

What is this latest spear phishing attack?

This new form of spear phishing, being carried out by an organization who calls themselves FIN4, has actually been around since as early as mid 2013. When they attack Wall Street listed companies they are doing so to steal valuable plans and insider information.

What we know is that they send highly savvy and targeted emails to people at a company, trying to harvest Microsoft Outlook account information. Once they have this crucial data they then target others inside, or connected to, the organization, with the same email, while also injecting the code into ongoing messages. This method can spread the attack quickly, leading to a potentially massive security breach.

In the email examples of this phishing threat, the attackers write mainly about mergers and other highly valuable information. They also include a link to a forum to discuss the issues raised further. These emails come from people the recipient already knows, and the link is to a site that asks them to enter their Outlook account and password before gaining access. When this information is entered, it is captured by the attacker and used to launch more attacks.

What can we do to protect our systems?

From what we know, this attack is being carried out largely against law firms, finance companies, and other large organizations. While this discounts many small businesses, there is a good chance that the attackers will turn to small businesses operating with larger companies at some point.

Because this is an email-based attack, you need to be extra vigilant when opening all emails. Be sure to look at the sender's address, and read the body of the email carefully. While hackers generally have good English skills, they aren't fully fluent, which means you will notice small mistakes. Also, keep in mind previous emails sent by the recipient. If the tone and style is off, then the email may be fake.

It is important to always look carefully at all links in email messages. If a link looks suspicious, then ask the recipient for more information or to tell you where the link goes. If you come across any site asking you to enter account information, be extra careful. Look at the URL address in your browser, if it doesn't sat HTTPS:// before the address, then it may be a good idea to avoid this.

If you have any questions on spear phishing and how you can prevent it, contact us today to see how we can protect your business.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Security
December 30th, 2014

BCP_Dec23_AWhen it comes to backing up your important business data, there are many options available to your company. One of the increasingly common choices is to use online or cloud-based backups. Despite the popularity of these systems, there is still confusion over what exactly online backup is and the benefits it can bring businesses.

What exactly is online backup?

In a wide sense, online backup is a backup system where your files, folders, and even systems, are backed up to an offsite storage server over your Internet connection. Tech experts also refer to this service as remote or cloud-based backup.

When you back up your files and systems to an online solution, your files are stored off site, usually in redundant data centers. This means that should something happen to your files you can access the system via another computer and restore your backups onto that computer, as long as you have an Internet connection.

For many companies, this is arguably the most efficient form of backup, not because of the backup method itself, but because of the fact that your backups are stored remotely The chance your data will be accessible if your business faces disaster increase, as data can be recovered quicker than most other systems.

How do online backups work

Like most other technical systems out there, there are numerous varieties of online backups. Some of the most effective are image-based, which take a snapshot of a computer or server at a specific time and then upload this to the remote backup servers. This snapshot contains the whole system as it is and can be easily recovered.

Other solutions can be automated to back up specific files and folders, and run through a Web-based interface that can execute a backup from almost anywhere. Beyond this, many systems can be managed by a company like us. We can implement a system that works best for your company and your data, and then manage it so that your data will always be available when you need it. Should something go wrong, we can even help you recover your systems.

4 Benefits of online backup

Companies that implement an online-based backup have been able to realize the following benefits:
  1. Decreased recovery time - Because your data is stored online, as long as you have an Internet connection you can begin recovery at the click of a button; there is no having to go find your backup, then figure out how to recover it. Most companies see a generally reduced backup recovery time when they implement an online system.
  2. Increased backup reliability - Over time, physical systems break and need to be replaced, and this can happen at any time. Because online systems are managed by other companies, whose main job is to ensure backups are always available, you see increased reliability with these systems.
  3. Decreased costs - Physical backup systems can be costly, especially if you have a large number of systems or a large amount of data to back up. Many online providers charge a flat monthly fee that often works out to be less costly than other solutions. Beyond this, you don't need to invest in physical backup solutions and the storage space to house and maintain these. As a result you should see lower costs.
  4. Increased data availability - As long as you have an Internet connection, your data will be available. This means you don't have to worry about your offsite physical data being okay, if you have a problem or disaster strikes on your premises. With online services data is available when you need it.
If you would like to learn more about online backup, contact us today and let us reveal just how dynamic and effective our solutions can be. Don't wait until you have to face a backup issue to back up your vital data!
Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

December 23rd, 2014

androidphone_Dec22_AAndroid 5.0 has been released and devices are starting to get updates. With this latest development comes a number of new features and a fully redesigned look. One of the new features introduced is a tweak to the way open and recent apps are displayed (officially called Overview). While this new version of Overview is great, the way it handles Chrome tabs can be a little frustrating for some users.

A brief look at Overview in Android 5.0

Android 5.0 brings about a useful change to the way Android handles multitasking. On older versions, you have the "Recent apps" feature which is accessed by pressing the square button (usually at the bottom-right of the screen) or tapping on the home button twice. When opened, you usually see a list of recent apps listed either with small snapshots or as a live list showing content.

In Android 5.0, the recent apps list has been changed to Overview which now displays open apps in cards, much like Google Now cards. You scroll through the cards to see your apps and swipe them away to close them.

How Overview works with Chrome

While the new multitask view is a great, and certainly attractive, way to see your open or recent apps, one niggling issue for some users is that each tab in Chrome is given its own card. If you are like most users and have linked your desktop browser with your phone so that tabs open in the browser show up on Chrome on your device, you will likely see a large number of cards pop up in Overview.

If you are trying to find an app, scrolling through these cards can be annoying. Luckily, there is a way to turn this feature off and set it so that Chrome itself is assigned only one card.

How to disable individual Chrome tabs in Overview

To disable individual cards for each tab:
  1. Open Chrome on your Android device.
  2. Press the three vertical dots at the top-right of the screen.
  3. Select Settings.
  4. Tap Merge tabs and apps.
  5. Slide the radio at the top right to the left (Off).
  6. Press OK in the pop-up window.
Chrome will reload with tabs being contained within the app itself. The number of open tabs will be displayed at the top-right of the window with a number inside a small box. Tapping on this number will display your existing tabs.

If you are looking to learn more about Android and how you can use it in your business, contact us today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.