Windows 10 vs. Windows 7

Are you still using Windows 7? Are you wondering if you should switch to Windows 10 before the free upgrade is no longer available in June 29, 2016? Are you mainly wondering what the big deal with Windows 10  is? Well, we have done some research to help simplify the major differences between these two Windows programs. According to this research, the major aspects of change are in design, performance, and workspace.

Design:

Unlike the Windows 7 3D-like design, Windows 10 happens to have more of a flat and bold styling. This, along with the semitransparent and dark grey tones, helps create a more modern, professional look to the software. Another change in the new Windows system is that because the windows no longer have the wide borders around them, they appear to be smaller, clearer and more customizable.

An important detail is that, instead of remaining a tablet style desktop like Windows 8, it now returns to a Windows 7 style desktop. This allows you to efficiently use the system without any confusion.

Performance:

Performance is a big deal when it comes to making a changing decision. The more noticeable performance aspects are quicker boot-up time, better battery lifespan for laptops and, if interested in gaming performance, better gaming performance due to access to DirectX 12.

There are many other advances in performance through Windows 10. There is now added storage space that is designed to group hard drives together to ensure that data is backed up. The new share ribbon on the file finding tools for apps helps you transfer files quickly while viewing the transfer speed in real time. Even though Windows 7 allowed you to find any program or file by clicking on the start button, the new Windows separated the search box in a more organized manner while also including store apps and online searches.

Even with all of this, the most innovative performance feature would have to be the Cortana personal assistance. With this desktop device, you would be able to schedule appointments, make notes, and live search anything.

Workspace:

Like performance, workspace is another big deal when it comes to making a decision to change. With Window 10’s new task view mode, you are able to create multiple workspaces and switch between them as if you were on a different screen. This could help you manage your tasks in a more efficient manner instead of having to crunch in multiple windows into one desktop space while working. The new continuum feature also helps with workspace because it detects what device you may be using in order to switch into the appropriate tablet/desktop mode. This way, if on a tablet, it will allow access to touch-friendly icons.

Surface Pro vs. Laptop

Since Windows, various attempts to try and create hybrid tablets to replace laptops, we’re sure you’re probably thinking that there is no way. But after Windows’ Surface Pro 4 came to market it seems that the transition can very well be possible. If you’re stuck on wondering if making the switch is worth it, check out the comparisons we found on surfaces vs. laptops.

Similarities:

Since the new Surface Pro 4 had undergone some improvements, there are now many similarities between it and laptops. With the Surface’s new Type Cover, it provides a similar typing experience as when typing on a laptop. The Type Cover also provides a new and improved trackpad that’s bigger and made of glass. With this improvement the track pad can also provide a similar laptop experience.

Advantages of Surface Pro:

The main advantage the Surface Pro has over laptops is how lightweight it is in comparison. Because the Surface Pro continues to be as light as a tablet while being as productive as a laptop, it makes it more portable.

In comparison to the 13 inch MacBook Pro with Retina Display, the new Surface Pro has more pixels, which creates a sharper and better viewing experience when using it. It also provides brighter settings for whenever it’s being used under the sunlight in order to minimize glare. Another way it provides a great experience is through their new and improved pen that magnetically attaches to the side of the Surface. Aside from being able to write things down more smoothly and accurately, you can click the top once to open a blank OneNote file, double-click it to take a screenshot, and hold it down to get access to Cortana (digital desktop assistant).

An even bigger advantage is that the Surface provides a microSD socket, which gives you the ability to buy 1TB SSD for extra storage. This places the Surface Pro at an advantage with many laptops, including MacBooks, that don’t allow such storage, yet.

Advantages of Laptops:

With all its improvements and its advantages, the Surface Pro still falls short in some aspects. An important advantage the laptops have is that they have a widely better battery lifespan. The Surface Pro can only last a little over 7 hours while most laptops can run for almost double that time.

Another advantage is that, although the Surface’s kickstand has been improved to be sturdier, the laptops are more comfortable to use when sitting it on your lap. This makes it easier to type when in the outdoors with no other surface other than your lap.

The biggest advantage laptops have is that they are advertised with clarity. Because of this, you are more likely to know how much you need to spend to buy one, unlike the Surface where you have to purchase things separately and can add up to a more expensive price than you may have originally thought it would be.

Are your Mobile Devices Secure?

As a business professional, you probably try to be as cautious as possible when it comes to hooking up your laptops to public WiFi. You are probably well aware of eavesdropping hackers and maybe tend to use your own personal wifi or VPN (virtual public network) to do work in public. But, did you know that your mobile device is also susceptible to security issues? Well, they are and sometimes they are more likely to be targeted because these are where both your business and personal information can be located. Even having the most popular device of the season can be appealing to hackers. Because of this, we’ve researched and put together a list of ways you could protect your devices.

Don’t use Public Wifi:

If there were any way that could limit any possibility of getting hacked, this would be the best way to start. When using public wifi, especially those that don’t require a password, anyone can have access to them. At the same time, just because there is a password needed for access or you are using an encrypted wifi (like in hotels or coffee shops) it doesn’t mean that hackers will not be able to access the wifi as well. You should always be cautious about what work you are doing while on a public network.

Update the Software:

Whenever a new software update comes up, you should update it. Usually a new update has an upgraded or fixed security system. With that said, you also want to make sure that you’re not tampering with any auto security system your phone comes with. They’re usually set up a certain way for a reason.

Turn off Cookies:

When your phone is using cookies, it is saving and remembering your passwords and other personal information. The more data is saved into your device, the more at risk the device becomes. With that said, make sure you’re changing your passwords frequently to those with letters, numbers, special characters, and/or acronyms. This way you have a secured account.

Use a Secure Socket Layer (SSL):

An SSL means that the data in a website is encrypted, so you are able to share personal information with the site securely. This is usually the case with online banking, online health insurance management, and so on. You know if you’re on an SSL website when it has the ‘s’ in https. Keep in mind though, that hackers would still be able to see what you’re doing if you’re connected to public networks.

Choose your Apps Wisely:

Because some app stores do not have strict developing guidelines, many hackers can create a free app just to hack your device. Make sure to review apps before you download them to prevent an attack.

Use VPN:

Just like you are able to use a VPN for your laptop, you can also use it for your mobile device. Check out why your business should use VPN in our past blog post.

How Ransomware Affects your Business

As if all viruses and software malware weren’t enough to worry about, a new hacking attack known as ransomware is on the rise. If you don’t already know, ransomware is malware that encrypts systems to prevent users from accessing them. This malware is created to force the users to pay a ransom in order to regain access to their systems. These are capable of doing anything from locking a computer system to encrypting files with unknown passwords.

Ransomware can be immensely detrimental to any small or large business, and this is not simply because of the payment that needs to be made but, mainly, because of all the downtime it requires to get rid of it. According to a study made by Intermedia.net, 72 percent of businesses that were attacked could not access their data for at least 2 days. If you cannot seem to fathom the thought of losing 2 days from work, imagine going 5 or more days without access, like 32 percent of the businesses studied had to.

If you thought that by simply paying the ransomware culprits would eliminate having to deal with the downtime issues, you thought wrong. Even after the ransom is paid, the affected computers would have to be completely wiped and restored in order to make sure that all malware is cleared out. This process in itself can take 2 days, sometimes more.

Having all this downtime does not only affect your business in itself but other stakeholders as well. Stakeholders like Clients could become upset at the lack of work being done, while employees would not be able to work or would be unproductive for many days. Depending on what kind of business you run there could be many more stakeholders affected as well.

Ransomware is attacking more and more businesses each year, so here are some ways in which you can prevent this from affecting yours:

  •  Invest in a sophisticated security system that could not only recognize but also block any phishing attempts.
  • Educate your employees so that they can delete phishing emails before they click on it.
  • Create an advanced plan in order to contain any damages before an actual breakthrough occurs.

Does your Company have a Disaster Recovery Plan ?

On a daily basis, your business uses electronic email, Voice Over Internet Protocol telephone systems, electronic data sharing, servers that store critical business data, and numerous devices used by employees that hold information essential for your company to run. What would your business do if something happens that causes your data and information to be lost, destroyed or corrupted?  Hardware failure, human error, catastrophic natural disaster or hacking are only a few of the things that could go wrong. Every company needs a Disaster Recovery Plan (DRP) to keep a business running and to recover/restore hardware, applications and data that is vital to the survival and continued operation of your business.

 

Creating a disaster recover plan takes much more than just the members of your IT department – it takes the whole company to identify threats as well as areas that will need to take priority when it comes to recovery and restoration. Here are some things to consider when drafting your DRP.

 

  • Perform a risk assessment (RA) and/or business impact analysis (BIA)
  • Identify critical systems and establish recovery time objectives (RTOs) and recovery point objectives (RPOs).
  • Plan ahead for what strategy you will need to use when responding to whatever the crisis might be as well as what the possible recovery strategies could be depending upon the situation.
  • Include in your strategy who would be responsible for what, and try to plan a budget in advance for whatever may happen.
  • Planning should also take into consideration what happens if your physical workspace is compromised. Are there alternate work areas within the same site, at a different company location, at a third-party-provided location, at employees’ homes, or at a transportable work facility.
  • Access to technology should also be a consideration. What if hardware is ruined? Is there an alternate technology that can be used? Are there companies in your field of expertise that would allow use of their equipment on a temporary basis?
  • Data backup is also a huge issue when it comes to a disaster. Do you have a backup plan, alternate tech support or a qualified third party provider?
  • Call M&H Consulting to help plan your DRP and make sure you are covered in the event of a “worst case scenario.

 

Online Security Threats

Cyber security is a common concern for businesses as well as individuals hoping to keep their data safe from external (and sometimes internal) threats. Technology has become such an integral part of our lives both personally and in business, that it is hard to think of all the possible threats that are out there. Knowing how cybercriminals are threatening security is the first step to securing your information. Let’s examine some common online security threats that may impact your company.

According to the Internet Security Threat Report of 2015 completed by Symantec, there are key trends in the cyber threat landscape.  These key trends include:

  • New leapfrog techniques that leapfrog corporate defenses
  • Clever tricks malware authors use to avoid detection
  • Statistics regarding ransomware attacks (soaring 113% in 2014)
  • How social networks and apps enable cybercriminals
  • Why corporate defenses are falling behind as cybercriminals move faster
  • Why attacks on Internet of devices are more serious than ever

Common online threats include:

  • Malware- Malware is an abbreviated term meaning “malicious software.” This is software that is specifically designed to gain access or damage a computer without the knowledge of the owner. There were more than 317 million new pieces of malware created last year—that’s nearly one million per day! As if that is not bad enough, the malware is growing in quality not just quantity.
  • Spyware- Spyware and adware are often used by third parties to infiltrate your computer. Many times spyware comes in the form of free downloads and can collect personal information about you without you knowing.
  • Phishing- Phishing such as fake emails, text messages and websites are created to look like they’re from authentic companies but are meant to steal personal and financial information from your company.
  • Viruses – Viruses can be sent in email attachments or downloads with the malicious intent of infecting your computer. This can impact not just you but also everyone on your contact list.

The list could go on and on including ransomware, spoofing, Trojan Horses and Spamming. M&H Consulting can help you develop a strong security posture. Call M&H if you suspect that there is a security threat on your computer. We can analyze your system and evaluate for any threats. From there we can recommend and take action against any threats that are looming for your business.

Securing your Devices Before Discarding

Technology is evolving at a breakneck pace. Just a decade ago mobile phones were fairly large and had antennas. Technology like ipads, iphones and Apple watches were not even a twinkle in the eye of Steve Jobs yet. Today mobile devices have become more than just a fun accessory. They have become a crucial part of our daily life, both for personal and business use. Unfortunately, once a device has passed, it usually is decommissioned and disposed. How should that be done?  What about all that information on the device?  Let’s examine how to securely dispose of your computer technology after your business has retired it.

 

  • Eliminate Access – Ensure that you eliminate any accounts or other access to business systems associated with the decommissioned equipment. A former employee or disgruntled employee could access your system using old technology. You don’t want lingering network access accounts used to remotely connect to the computer system at your work. Shut down access immediately instead of letting the device sit around the office.
  • Protect and Destroy Data – Many businesses have sensitive data on their hard drives and on the devices that are carried around to clients. Reformatting or so called “erasing” isn’t good enough these days. Protect any data you still need by transferring it to one of your newer devices and use tools to destroy the data. For desktop computers make sure your personal data isn’t recoverable by reasonable means, do a secure wipe; this not only deletes your data but also overwrites the data a certain number of times, which makes the data much more difficult to retrieve. For mobile devices, the easiest way to securely erase a smartphone or tablet is to encrypt the device first, then do a factory reset. First, though, remember to backup any files you want to keep and remove the microSD and SIM cards.
  • Check Twice – After you’ve deleted your personal and business information, it’s good to double-check to make sure it’s gone. Check your: phone book, logs for both dialed and received calls, voicemails, sent and received emails and text messages, downloads and other folders, search histories, and personal photos. If you stored apps on your device, remove them and the data associated with them.
  • Discard Using Environmentally Friendly Methods – Once you have a clean desktop, phone or tablet, you have several options: recycling through the manufacture or local recycling program, donate it to a non-profit, or go the old fashioned way through the garbage. Before you decide what method you plan on using check with the Environmental Protection Agency to see if there are rules about how to dispose of each type of device.

What Holes are in your Firewall?

If you are not already aware of what a firewall is, it is a security system that is put in place to control any incoming or outgoing network traffic in order to protect your computer from any maliciousness. Because of this, you want to make sure that there are no holes that will allow bringing in any malicious activity.

Now, maybe you’re thinking that your firewall is so strong there is no way there could be any holes in it. Well, did you know that creating holes or ports in your security system is as simple as allowing a program to communicate through the firewall? By doing this you are unblocking a port. Each time a port is unblocked; your device becomes less and less secure, which makes it more possible for malicious software and hackers to get a hold of your system.

There are a couple of ways in which you can find out what holes or ports are opened in your firewall. One way to do so is by scanning your device’s port. This can be done by downloading a scanning system or by physically going through the unblocked programs in your device.

Here is how you can manually do it on a Windows system:

  1.     Go to control panel
  2.     Select system & Security
  3.     Click on Windows Firewall
  4.     Select “Allow a program through…”
  5.     Uncheck all the programs you wish to not have firewall access

For a more extensive look into your firewall, you could also contact M&H Consultants to handle this business for you.

If you are ever contemplating on unblocking a program into your firewall, there are a couple of points you should keep in mind. One point is that if you open a port, it will remain opened until you physically close it, even if the program is not being used at the time. Another point is that adding programs to a list of allowed programs rather than allowing the programs to directly communicate through the firewall can be a much safer for your device.

 

The Latest on Spyware

According to Pew Research, “Nine out of ten internet users say they have adjusted their online behavior out of fear of falling victim to software intrusions.” Spyware (aka spybot or tracking software online) and the threat of unwanted programs being secretly loaded onto computers are becoming serious threats to both business and personal use systems. Spyware can get in a computer as a software virus or as the result of installing a new program. Let’s look at at the latest statistics and trends when it comes to this insidious software invading our business and personal lives.

 

What is Spyware?

Microsoft Computers details spyware as, “numerous types of malicious software being spread around the Internet.”  Spyware is a general term used to describe software that performs certain behaviors, generally without appropriately obtaining your consent first, such as: advertising, collecting personal information, or changing the configuration of your computer. Spyware is most often associated with software that displays advertisements (called adware) or software that tracks personal or sensitive information. Some experts believe that spyware is now the single largest problem facing Internet users today.

 

What are the latest Statistics on Spyware?

Tens of millions of Americans have been affected in the past year by software intrusions and many more have begun to take precautions by changing the way they use the internet.(Source: Pew Research)  Recent studies estimate that 59 million Americans, say they have had one or more spyware programs on their home or business computer.

 

Practical Steps to Protect your Computer

  • Be aware of signs that you may have spyware installed on your computer including: pop ups, slow internet connections, new favorites on your browser that you didn’t put there, toolbars you didn’t install or possibly a home page that has changed and you can’t get it to change back.
  • Install two or three different anti-spyware programs (“spyware cleaners”) on your computer, and update their definition lists regularly. Ask a professional what program will be best for your system.
  • Create a routine of regular cleaning, such as “scan and detect.”
  • Carefully read licensing agreements. Sometimes the inclusion of unwanted software in a given software installation is documented, but it might appear at the end of a license agreement or privacy statement.
  • Save your data, and backup often! In case of spyware you always want to be able to recover your data.
  • Educate yourself on the latest strains of spyware or hire consultants like M&H Consulting who can keep you up-to-date on the latest spyware programs and tools that will be right for your business.

Password Advice

We live in a password driven world. On your phone alone you may have multiple sign-ins and passwords for multiple systems, Apps or accounts. It could be tempting to use an easy password so you can easily access all of your accounts. Why is this a bad idea? How can you “beef up” your passwords to protect your personal and business data?

Splashdata has again released its annual list of the most popular (and therefore worst passwords) found in over two million leaked passwords during 2015. If your password is on the list, then Splashdata said you are continuing to put yourself and your business “at risk for hacking and identity theft by using weak, easily guessable passwords.”

Protection Techniques

PC Online reminds us that the old adage when it comes to passwords is that, “Passwords are like underwear. You should change them often. Don’t share them. Don’t leave them out for others to see (no sticky notes!). They should be mysterious. In other words, make your password a total mystery to others.”

A strong password includes:

  • At least eight characters (Usually up to 20)
  • One or more of each of the following: lower-case letters, upper-case letters, a number and a punctuation mark.
  • Lookalike characters to protect against password glimpses. Examples:O as in Oscar and the number 0. Lower-case l and upper-case I. The letter S and the $ sign.

 

Weak passwords have common attributes such as:

  • Words you can find in the dictionary.
  • Passwords shown as “example strong passwords.”
  • Personal information, such as names and birth dates.
  • Keyboard patterns, like qwerty or 12345. Particularly avoid sequences of numbers in order.
  • Common acronyms.
  • All one type of character – such as all numbers, all upper-case letters, all lower-case letters, etc.
  • Repeating characters, such as mmmm3333.
  • The same password you use for another application.Worst Passwords 2015