Getting Optimal Performance out of your Network

It’s always a drag when you have a ton of work to get done online but your network feels like it can’t keep up with you and your tasks. We have all been there before when we have to upload a document online and you can’t even seem to get the website to fully load. Many times the solution to a better working network is a simple one. To get the optimal performance out of your network consider the following tips:

Place your wireless box closer. By placing the box at a closer or centralized location, your devices can get better connection. When doing this, you also want to make sure to avoid placing it near metal beams or doors. This can inhibit a wireless connection.

Use an Ethernet cable. Connecting to an Ethernet cable allows your devices to connect immediately with optimal signal. If you do not need to be portable, this is a great technique for the time being.

Upgrade your Router. Sometimes you just need to upgrade your router, especially if you’re using one that doesn’t work properly for the kind of network you are demanding. For example, when many devices are connected to a router it can cause it to slow down and sometimes crash. This happens when you do not have the appropriate equipment. An upgrade could be best.

Update your router and device. Sometime updating your equipment can feel like a drag, especially when it takes hours to complete, but this can be very helpful in the long run. Updates are usually made to fix any security flaws that were existent before. It can also help upgrade the speed in which it works.

Configure your network. You want to avoid having random devices using your network. You must configure its security to keep others from connecting to your network.

Connect to 5GHz network. If your device supports it, you should connect to a 5GHz network as opposed to the 2.4GHz network that all wireless devices usually hook up to. By doing this, you would have access to other “channels” and receive a better wireless connection since not many devices are connected to it.

If you find that you are still having a hard time with your network or you just need help figuring some this stuff out, contact us for more help.

The Decline of Tablet Sales

Are we falling out of love with tablets? Say it isn’t so, but the love affair may be over. Or at least it is fizzling. Our relationship with tablets began in the early 1990s when Apple released the several sizes of tablets. The expectation was that the trajectory of tablet sales would shadow sales trajectory of iphones and smartphones. Well, the experts were wrong! Smartphones, for various reasons, are unique. Why are tablets on the decline? Let’s take a closer look at this phenomenon.

 

  • Many families question whether a tablet is a necessary, personal device or a luxury one that’s often shared. Instead of being a personal device that holds “all that we hold near and dear to our hearts,” tablets tend to be a community item in families. That means that instead of having one for each member, like smartphones, many families share the item – thus causing less demand for the once beloved tablet.
  • Tablets do not have a defined use. Is the tablet a leisure device? A personal assistant? A workstation? It’s difficult to say. Without that identity it becomes a foggy ground as how to market this device.
  • With the rise of the larger phone or phablet, who really wants a tablet? Think about it. It is not as easy to carry around. It doesn’t fit in your pocket. It is almost a redundant device with the larger screened smartphones. Take this info and combine with the fact that smartphones that have larger screens are faster and capable of so, so much more.
  • Tablets need to be replaced at a slower pace. Phones get dropped and smash. Phones land in the toilet or puddle and are out-of-commission. Tablets, however, stay on the bedside table waiting for you to watch your next installment of Netflix. They tend to not need to be replaced as often thus adding to the decline in sales.
  • The Apps are not as good as they once were. According to Time, almost all the best apps are already available on phones, and in some cases, only on phones. Developers have discovered that the only way to compete with such low prices (say, $0.99 or $1.99) is to produce at a mass volume, and the only device capable of selling in mass volume is the smartphone.
  • Lack of competition for the tablet and, more specifically, the Apple iPad seems to be another determining factor in the decline of the tablet. Every year, the smartphone industry only seems to get more competitive, with Apple holding onto the high-end, Samsung clinging to the middle and upstarts, like Xiaomi, snapping up customers in the budget market. The competition just isn’t there for the tablet thus causing stagnation.

Caring for your Keyboard

Have you ever thought about all the filth and germs your keyboard cumulates? According to ABCNews, your keyboard could be dirtier than a toilet. Truth is that sometimes we’re too busy working on getting things done by the deadline to go out on an actual lunch break, so we eat at our desk while we work. During these times, we drop crumbs and sometimes spill some fluid onto it. Maybe we even have a cold and sneeze or spread germs onto them.

 

Because of this, you should consider a regular maintenance routine for your keyboards. Here are a few steps to take to help care for your keyboard:

First Step is to unplug your keyboard from your compute and maybe even shutdown your computer.

Second Step is to turn the keyboard over and shake and tap all the loose dirt and crumbs out of it.

Third Step; take a compressed air can and use it to blow out any excess dirt/crumbs in stuck in between the hard-to-reach areas. This step can also help loosen any crumbs that may be jammed.

Fourth Step is to repeat the second step and turn the keyboard over to shake and tap out loose dirt/crumbs.

Fifth Step; use a damp lint-free cloth to clean the surface of your keyboard. To eliminate germs, you may want to use diluted dishwashing soap along with the cloth.

Sixth Step is optional, but if you wanted to take it a step further, you can use a vacuum hose with a brush attached to help completely eliminate any leftover dirt or crumbs.

Having a well-maintained keyboard is very important, especially since there is no use for a computer without it. That is why, aside from keeping your keyboard clean and germ-free, you should also take into consideration the following:

  • Don’t press on the keys too hard. If you feel like you need to, consider purchasing a keyboard with soft keys to avoid doing so.
  • Get a keyboard cover to avoid any type of spillage from affecting it. However, if you find that there is moisture developing inside the cover, remove it for moisture can cause damages to the keyboard.
  • Keep keyboard dry and clean. This means avoid eating near it, spilling liquids, and dusty and areas with moisture.

Protecting your Mobile Device

When you think of antivirus or security protection, your initial thought is probably laptops and computers, but truth is that smartphones and other mobile devices are no longer safe from malware and viruses. Mobile devices are susceptible to cyber attacks by malware and viruses created specifically to target them.

It’s important to begin taking the same precautions we do on computers,  on mobile devices especially when these malware are so easily contracted, difficult to detect, and almost impossible to remove. Malware can be embedded into your devices, without you even being aware of it, and gain complete access to your device. The worst part about it is that malware can be hiding in any free app.

Here are a few tips to protecting your mobile device from such malicious programs:

Update. This is something we cannot stress enough. Updates come with security solutions to any gaps the past operating system had been missing.

Get Protection. Malware and virus protections do exist for your mobile devices. A couple that we recommend is Malware Bytes and Sophos Antivirus. Malware Bytes offers real time protection and scanning to detect any malicious programs in your device. Sophos Antivirus takes it a few steps further by allowing you to encrypt your data. This helps protect your data in case it is lost or stolen. If that wasn’t enough to convince you already, this program also allows you to set up a remote wipe, which will allow you to wipe out all the data in your device if it were ever stolen.

Avoid Third-Party Sites. This is one of the easiest ways for malware to gain access to your device. They don’t need to go through many tough restrictions like they would if they were going through iTunes and Google Play.

If you are interested in getting full protection on your mobile devices, contact us for advice!

Preserving Laptop Batteries

We’ve all been in that position where we’re on a roll working on a project of some sort on our laptops and, almost out of nowhere, the red battery symbol comes up and instantly remember leaving the charger on the outlet next to your bed or office desk. What do you do then? How will you complete the project before the deadline and hour from now? Read on to find out what useful tips you can take into action to help preserve the most battery life possible in a stressful moment like this.

Set on Battery Saving Mode. First thing is first, you want to switch your laptop settings to saving mode and adjust all other setting as well. If your laptop has a backlight on the keyboard, you can lower the dim the light or turn it off completely. By doing this and reducing the display’s brightness to at least 50 percent, or changing the resolution to basic, your battery’s life expectancy can significantly increase.

Disconnect Devices and Ports. This can be any device hooked onto your laptop through a USB cord or Bluetooth. If you are not using them, disconnect them. If you don’t need to use the Internet, disconnect your laptop from the Wifi so that it’s not wasting energy trying to stay connected. To disable ports that are not in use, navigate to your Control Panel and find “device manager.” Skim through the categories and disable all the unused ones by right clicking and choosing “disabled.”

Avoid Multitasking. Try to focus on one thing at a time. When you are opening multiple applications at the same time it can drain your battery more quickly.

Of course, these are quick fixes to help preserve your laptop’s battery life while in a “no charger” crisis, but in order to have an overall healthy, long-lasting battery you have to take good care of it and your device. Make sure you are charging your battery entirely while occasionally allowing the battery to drain completely. If your laptop has an internal fan and is heats up quickly, try to keep it cooled down and in an area where there is enough airflow. Otherwise, the heat will shorten your battery’s life entirely.

For more detailed information on how to preserve your laptop’s battery in general, contact us online or on the phone!

Worst Cyber Attacks of 2015

Did it seem like every month on 2015 brought a new announcement of a major company being attacked in one manner or another via cyber attacks? Well, it sure did feel like it and the statistics back up that perception. Tech Insider reports that nearly 300 million records leaked and over $1 billion were stolen in 2015. Shockingly, hackers besieged companies and governments alike month after month. No size or type of company was immune to the cyber attacks. Let’s take a look back at some of the major attacks of 2015 and what the root cause was for each.

 

  • Ashley Madison –  This hacking case hit not just the financial papers but the tabloids as well. An infamous adultery website exposed members and their so-called discrete affairs. A group called Impact Team stole the site’s user database in July and attempted to blackmail its parent company Avid Life Media into taking down the site. After 30 days the site still remained online, and the hackers released everything, which included personal info such as emails and physical addresses for 37 million users.
  • Health Insurer Anthem, Inc. – Early in 2015 Anthem was hacked by still-unknown attackers, who accessed 80 million records from people using health plans like Amerigroup and Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield. The breach exposed birthdays, addresses, social security numbers, and emails. There is some evidence that points the blame on Chinese hackers.
  • Sony Pictures Hack – The massive cyber attack on Sony pictures allowed viewers to download and watch unreleased movies and confidential data belonging to Sony Pictures. The massive cyber attack on the company was in response to the release of “The Interview” — a controversial North Korean-baiting film, where hackers threatened 9/11 Type attack at Theaters showing this movie.
  • FBI Portal Breach – A portal used by police and the FBI to share intelligence and arrest suspects was hacked in November 2015 and data on arrestees stolen. While the FBI didn’t announce figures on how many people were affected, this attack is thought to be one of the biggest law enforcement hacks of the year. This same group hacked the CIA director’s personal email!

Securing Business Email

Business email can be the bane of our existence, right?  It is never ending. It arrives constantly in our inboxes. For some of us we try to ignore it. While others try to open and get rid of it as fast as possible.  Unfortunately, business email is a primary way hackers can gain access to sensitive company data and information. This is especially true for small to medium sized businesses. Overall cyber-attacks on companies with 250 or fewer employees doubled in the first six months of last year—and the loss per attack was more than $188,000 on average. The effect of cyber-attacks on the American economy as a whole is a high cost of $100 billion annually, according to the Center for Strategic and International Studies. What are some easy and straightforward ways to secure your business email? Let’s take a look as some of the tips offered by security experts.

 

A Cyber Security Plan – Create, use and maintain a cyber security plan that has been carefully researched and based upon current information. This should include not just a secure email protocol but also ways to keep your website, payment information, client data and other private information secure.

 

Consider Email Encryption– Email encryption helps to protect personal information from hackers by only permitting certain users to access and read your emails. This could include downloading software, an email certificate or a third party encryption service.

 

Passwords!-  We cannot say this enough. Passwords should be reset every three months or so. Also consider requiring multi factor authentication when employees change their passwords. Remind employees that the strongest passwords contain 12 characters, including a combination of upper and lower case letters and numbers, symbols and characters.

 

Train Employees – Since employees are on the front line of opening and dealing with emails they should be trained on what to look for in suspicious emails and protocols to follow when opening and disposing of emails. According to the Business Academy, employees should be trained to comply with the following rules:

 

 

  • Never open links or attachments from unknown persons.
  • Don’t respond to emails that request a password change and require you to divulge personal information—no matter how official the source appears.
  • Ensure antivirus and anti-spy software is updated on your computer.
  • Encrypt any emails containing sensitive data before sending.
  • Don’t use your company email address to send and receive personal emails.
  • Don’t automatically forward company emails to a third-party email system.

 

 

Are Cyber Attacks on the Rise?

Seems like security breaches are on the news constantly. Each week there is a list of companies who have been compromised and will be contacting customers whose private data has been hacked or stolen. But are these seemingly daily events really on the rise? Let’s review the stats for 2015 to see the results as well as the reasons behind it.

 

First let’s look at how many people are actually using the technology. According to research company Gartner, there will be 6.8 billion connected devices in use in 2016, a 30 percent increase over 2015. By 2020, that number will jump to more than 20 billion connected devices, predicts Gartner. Put another way, for every human being on the planet, there will be between two and three connected devices (based on current U.N. population projections). That means the sheer number of devices is almost sure to increase the number of cyber attacks based on that statistics alone.

 

Here is a view of cyber attacks comparing 2014 and 2015 according to the numbers compiles by Hackmageddon. In general, 2015 has reported a more sustained activity, and this is easily and immediately visible from the Number of Monthly Attacks Chart. During 2015, the level of activity has always been higher, particularly in May, with the solely exception of October.2015-Cyber-Attacks-Statistics-Featured

 

What has also been interesting is looking at the motivations or the reasons behind the attacks.  During 2015, the percentage of events motivated by Cyber Crime has raised from 62.3% to 67%, while hacktivism has lost three points (20.8% in 2015 vs. 24.9 in 2014). Cyber Espionage reported a small growth, whereas Cyber Warfare is essentially Stable.Motivations-2014-vs-2015-2

 

Are you unsure of the security of your business? Companies can not risk the data being stolen or used in compromising ways. Call M&H for a complete evaluation of your system.

Top Online Vulnerabilities

In the tech world there are not of gray areas but there are two certainties that are happening right now that can impact the security of your business. The first is that the use of the internet for business such as ecommerce, email, data storage, and so on is drastically on the rise. The second certainty is that security breaches are also at an all time high. Put these two together and there are serious vulnerabilities when it comes to online business dealings and security breaches. An effective approach to IT security must, by definition, be proactive and defensive. Let’s examine the top online vulnerabilities before they impact your business.

 

  • Account Weaknesses – Specific weaknesses of accounts online include the one you probably hear about the most and possibly ignore – password protection and a weak password policy. A weak password policy could allow unauthorised access to the application or the wider system, resulting in severe compromise or gaining of root privilege.
  • Data Leaks – According to ZDNet, databases may be considered a “back end” part of the office and secure from Internet-based threats (and so data doesn’t have to be encrypted), but this is not the case. Databases also contain a networking interface, and so hackers are able to capture this type of traffic to exploit it. To avoid such a pitfall, administrators should use SSL- or TLS-encrypted communication platforms.
  • Keylogging – Keylogging is designed to record the user’s keystrokes. Keylogging allows criminals to look for particular bits of information that can be used for identity or intellectual property theft.
  • Mobile Security & Smartphone Vulnerability Threats – Cybercriminals can easily exploit vulnerabilities in your mobile phone to obtain private data. These vulnerabilities sometimes come from the apps you use or within your smartphone itself. Mobile phones are also vulnerable to malware, which can log keystrokes and capture screenshots. Protect yourself by researching the apps you download, being careful with what emails you open, and which pictures you decide to upload.
  • Phishing Attacks – When cybercriminals trick people into revealing sensitive information such as passwords and social security numbers, it’s called phishing. One of the most common ways phishing happens is when a person receives an email, purportedly from a bank or government organization, and are lured to authentic-looking sites. Once there, the person is asked to enter their password, social security numbers, and financial data. This could be devastating for your business if they get into your secure client data.

Best Secure Deletion Programs for your Computer

 

We have all deleted items from our personal computers thinking that it is gone for good.  Guess what? It is not really gone at all. Deleted files are not necessarily lost forever. In fact, deleting an item just hides it from the operating system. It isn’t really gone until the same space is written over by something else. The appropriate programs can restore them. But what if you don’t want that? This is the job of something called a file shredder. A file shredder can remove files from your hard drive without fear that they could be recovered.

 

Many companies have sensitive and personal  information that they don’t want to be recovered. In order to ensure this companies must use a file shredder to securely wipe files from your computer. Here are some of the highest rated file shredders out there.  

 

  • Eraser is a very well designed file shredder program. Eraser is a small program that can securely delete files, folders, unused disk space or even entire drives. To use Eraser, you’ll need to download and install it. When done, it will automatically add secure delete options to the Windows contextual menus. Eraser can be used to schedule data wipe tasks and supports lots of sanitization methods, making it a great way to evade file recovery programs.
  • Freeraser is another software designed to help you securely delete files. It’s interface is extremely minimalist: it’s just a simple trash bin. Freeraser is incredibly easy to use in that it places a Recycle Bin-like icon on your desktop that you can use for a file shredder. Just drag a file or group of files to the bin and they’ll be forever erased from your computer.
  • Free File Shredder – Another easy to use file shredder program is called Free File Shredder. It supports drag and drop, and you can delete one folder at a time or choose to remove multiple files at once. You can also use Free File Shredder to securely empty the Recycle Bin.
  • Moo0 File Shredder is another lightweight application, with a very simplistic interface. Once you launch it, all you have to do is drag and drop any file or folder you want to permanently delete. Unfortunately, Moo0 File Shredder doesn’t add any erasing option to Windows’ right click menus.