Lowering Ransomware Risk

It used to be that ransom notes were made from cut up pieces of magazines and mailed to an unsuspecting victim about the abduction of an item, or even worse, a loved one until they paid the required ransom. In today’s technology-driven world, ransomware has become much more advanced. Now hackers use digital software to block or encrypt all data that is being held for ransom. When the victim pays up the data is released. Let’s take a look at the risks and prevention techniques to stop this from happening to you or your business.

 

Lowering Your Risk –

  1. Be sure that all of your data is backed up whether it is on an external drive, in the cloud, or at an offsite facility. If you have copies of your data then you have no fear of losing it.
  2. Refrain from opening attachments that look suspicious in any way such as: attachments that look unfamiliar, unknown senders, misspelled senders, misspelled topic line, or even an email that is unexpected.
  3. Think twice before clicking on any hyperlinks. These links can even be from people you trust whose social media accounts have been hacked.
  4. Keep your software up-to-date and use the latest patches.
  5. Keep your firewalls properly configured at all times.
  6. Use a browser block for pop ups ads which is a common place for ransomware to be hidden.
  7. Disable file share so even if you do get hit only your machine will be vulnerable.
  8. Block unknown IP addresses.
  9. Switch off unused wireless connections.
  10. Set your computer email to deny emails sent with “.EXE” files, or to deny emails sent with files that have two file extensions.
  11. Use a reputable and comprehensive security program.
  12. Restrict access to certain parts of your data to only system administrators who have been trained on what red flags signal a ransomware attack.
  13. Educate your employees on what to look for and what not to click on in emails and on websites that may be fraudulent.
  14. Do not provide personal information when answering an email, unsolicited phone calls, text message, or instant message.
  15. If people in your office travel, alert the IT department beforehand, especially if you’re going to be using public wireless Internet. Make sure you use a trustworthy Virtual Private Network (VPN) when accessing public Wi-Fi like Norton WiFi Privacy.

Do you have questions about ransomware and need security for your business? Call M&H Consulting at 1-(866)-964-8324, or visit our website at http://www.mhconsults.com.

What Every Business Owner Should Know about Backups

 

The old adage, “To err is human, to really foul things up you need a computer” is absolutely true when it comes to events like, natural disasters, server failures, hardware breakdowns, loss of power, theft, or the oh-so-common human error component of IT. For these reasons, every business owner should know certain things about the value of a backup plan and how it works.

 

Business owners should have a detailed backup plan that is either automatic or is held responsible by specific people in the IT department. Questions like the following should be discussed in advance of a data disaster.

 

  • Where is the data that was most recently backed up in the case of a server failure or loss of power? Who can access it?
  • How often does the data need to be backed up? There are several methods and techniques for backing up sensitive data and data that is constantly changing or being added to. Which is right for your company?
  • Where should the data that is being backed up be stored? Should you choose an offsite facility, the cloud, or portable drives that can be moved easily?
  • When was the last test of the backup system? Do you know that the backups are occuring at the correct intervals and that the information is being properly stored? In the middle of a disaster is no time to find the flaws in your back up plan.

 

Computer data and sensitive client information is one of the most important assets of any company. With the amount and frequency of computer viruses and hacking going on in today’s business technology world, it is the responsibility of every business owner to know the answers to the questions that will be asked seconds and minutes after a data disaster. Does your company need help planning for disasters or solidifying a functional backup plan? Call M&H Consulting at 1-(866)-964-8324, or visit our website at http://www.mhconsults.com.

Medical Privacy Policies and the Need for a Strong IT Department

 

Have you noticed that every time you enter a doctors office they remind you about the privacy policy? Maybe you even need to sign a document stating that you understand the policy each time you visit. Under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), covered organizations such as dentists, and all medical offices must adopt written privacy policies, designate a privacy officer, and conduct training for employees on the privacy policies. HIPAA is complemented by state laws that, though similar to HIPAA, may offer more generous protections. Therefore there are several layers of protections to medical privacy that each office considers to be “in compliance”.

 

In order to remain HIPAA compliant, businesses in the medical field must not only train employees on the privacy requirements but also have an IT plan to keep all medical records, (digital and hard copies) protected as well. That is where a top notch IT department or IT consultant comes in handy. Companies like M&H understand the security requirements and procedures needed to keep medical offices protected and secure.

 

All protected health information (PHI) is considered confidential. PHI includes medical conditions, health status, claims experience, medical histories, physical examinations, genetic information, and evidence of disability. Many of these records are required to be stored as secured data for up to six years. This means that IT consultants must be able to install appropriate security protections such as firewalls and encryption access in order to stop external access attempts and scan and filter all outbound access. If your medical office needs help with maintaining the security and confidentiality of patient files, call M&H Consulting at 1-(866)-964-8324, or visit our website at http://www.mhconsults.com to find out more about our security protocols.

 

The Benefits of the Cloud

In the most basic terms cloud computing is the delivery of computing services such as: servers, storage, databases, networking, software, analytics, and more over the Internet or “the cloud”. Many companies use the cloud for storage, backup of data, recovery of data when needed, hosting of websites, streaming video or audio, delivering software, and analysis of data patterns. Many in the IT world make the analogy that cloud computing is similar to the comparison between renting and buying a property. Instead of companies buying their own IT requirements, they rent capacity (server space or access to software) from a cloud service provider, and connect over the internet. What benefits could the cloud offer your company?

 

  • Easy access to business data using a smart device while you are traveling or visiting clients.
  • Potential reduction in the cost of managing and maintaining your IT systems. By using the resources of your cloud computing service provider, cloud computing may reduce the cost of managing and maintaining your IT systems. For example, energy consumption declines, IT staff can be cut back, and system upgrades and new hardware may be included in your contract.
  • Having data stored in the cloud means that even in the event of a major natural disaster, power failure, or other crisis, your data is backed up and protected in a secure and safe location.
  • If your company is big or small, growing or possibly declining, the cloud has scalability to your specific business needs.
  • Automatic updates is one of the great benefits of cloud computing and many companies that offer this service include it in the monthly fee.
  • For companies that have remote employees, traveling employees and clients that need to access the same data, cloud computing means the ability to access data from home, on holiday or even while traveling.

 

Interested in cloud services and the benefits it could provide for your company? Call M&H Consulting at 1-(866)-964-8324, or visit our website at http://www.mhconsults.com.

 

How to Speed Up your Computer

Think back to when you first got your computer, brand new and ready to tackle your hefty workload. Fast forward a couple years and your computer probably isn’t as fast as it was the first day. This may be annoying or even frustrating because you find yourself twiddling your thumbs while waiting for programs to open. These slowdowns account for the majority of downtime, which means you get less done in the same time frame or, similarly, it takes you longer to complete your work. Either way, you’re probably looking for a solution before you give up and think about tossing the computer out the window. Lucky for you there are steps you can take to restore your system to its former glory before you make moves and act on such a drastic thought. Let’s take a look:

  • The cause – First, you should determine why your computer is slow. This could be any number of reasons such as: too many files, programs running in the background, a slow connection, outdated programs and software, a full hard drive, or a virus or malware, among others.
  • Clean up your system – Once you determine the cause of the slow down, your next step should be to clean out the clutter. This includes old files you no longer use, old documents, and other such things. Instead of just deleting these from your hard drive, you should transfer them to an external hard drive or a flash drive so you can still access them if the need arises.
  • Backup your hard drive – While we’re on the topic of external hard drives, you may want to backup your entire hard drive to an external hard drive. This way, if you choose, you can reset your computer. Be sure to backup your hard drive first, though, because resetting your computer will delete everything, and you don’t want to lose your files. When you reset your computer, it will go back to factory settings with an empty hard drive, so it’s almost like you’re starting fresh with a new computer.
  • Install antivirus and antimalware programs – To protect your computer from harmful viruses and malware, you should install programs that detect and delete these dangerous files. These programs protect your system 24/7, and updates are available almost every day. There are many free options available for download, such as Sophos, which offer all-around protection for your system.

Now that you’ve taken these steps, your computer should run faster, meaning you can get your work done and faster. For more helpful tips, keep up with our monthly blog, and for all your computer needs, inquiries, and questions, call M&H Consulting at 1-(866)-964-8324 or visit our website at http://www.mhconsults.com.

Why it’s Important to Update Regularly

Are you sick of seeing those annoying notifications every time you start your computer telling you to install an update? Well, the easiest way to get rid of them is to install the updates they’re recommending! All jokes aside, you should really install these updates. Let’s take a look:

  • New features – Every year around September, Apple unveils a new, updates operating system. The most recent is MacOS High Sierra, which is an updated version of the previous MacOS Sierra. In these software updates, there are often new features added, including design, functionality, performance, and even personal preferences, among others.
  • Security patches & bug fixes – Employees at tech companies like Apple and Microsoft are constantly monitoring the code of software and operating systems, staying vigilant for possible security threats that leave your information prone to hackers and looking out for bugs that may inhibit the speed/functionality/overall performance of apps or your system. When such problems are discovered, they work tirelessly to fix the issue(s) so the update will be available to the public as soon as possible. You should install these updates to keep your system secure against threats and possible hackers.
  • Protecting others – We’ve all heard the sound advice warning us to never open emails from unknown senders, or that have misspelled subject lines, or even which contain various links within to potentially harmful sites. Also, you’re probably not really related to a Nigerian prince, so don’t give in to the money schemes. Email is a great tool, but it can become problematic if you don’t exercise caution. If you don’t regularly install software updates, and you open one of these emails or the link(s) within, it could be forwarded to all the contacts in your email, posing a threat to them as well. Software updates can alert you to dangerous emails such as these, as well as protective you from malicious sites on the web.
  • Antivirus and antimalware – While we’re on the topic of security, you should download and install both antivirus and antimalware programs on to your system to protect you in real time while surfing the web or on email. It’s not enough to install security updates every month or so as suggested by your computer. These programs, instead, protect your system 24/7, and updates are available almost every day. These updates are usually quick and run in the background so they don’t interrupt your work to restart the computer. There are many free options available for download, such as Sophos, which offer all-around protection for your system.

In order to protect yourself from the dangers lurking on the web or within your operating system, you should regularly install updates as they’re released to the public. Nobody wants a compromised system, and getting your stuff back can be a pain or even impossible depending on the severity of the attack. If you’re hesitant about installing these updates, you can always read online reviews to get expert advice, as well as look into what specific problem(s) the updates address. For all your computer and security needs, call M&H Consulting at 1-(866)-964-8324 or visit our website at http://www.mhconsults.com.

802.11ax – The Next Standard of Wi-Fi

It’s been a while since the Wi-Fi standard 802.11ac rolled around, becoming available to consumers and businesses alike in December 2013. Since then, technology professionals have been working on an even faster Wi-Fi standard: 802.11ax Wi-Fi. Though it is still in development, this new standard aims to be stronger and faster than the current standard. What’s more, the new standard is rumored to work better in spaces with many devices. So your home and office should see a decrease in downtime because it will be able to better handle the demand of so many connected devices.

So, when can we expect a public release of this new standard? While it’s still in production, we won’t expect it to be publically available until sometime in 2019. Furthermore, devices will have to be constructed with antennae and other wireless connectivity parts that are compatible with the new standard, so even if you do go out and buy the new router, don’t expect your devices to connect to the network. So in reality, to take advantage of the speedy connection, you’ll just have to wait for new products, which should slowly be released in the weeks and months following the public release of 802.11ax Wi-Fi.  We’ll just have to wait it out and get by with our current connection, which shouldn’t be too hard considering how fast the connection already is.

How does this new standard compare to the current one? 802.11ax will work with both 2.4 GHz (a slower connection but a signal with a better range) and 5 GHz (a faster connection, but with a more limited range) frequencies. 802.11ac, however, only operates at the 5 GHz frequency.

Keep up with our blog every month as we dissect the newest trends in the world of computers. For all your computer and security needs, call M&H Consulting at 1-(866)-964-8324 or visit our website at http://www.mhconsults.com.

Benefits of Cloud Services

 

By now you have heard of “the cloud” and have begun to realize that it is not just some new buzzword in the world of technology that will fade. It is here to stay and your company may want to investigate the benefits of cloud computing for the long term. Here are a few of the benefits of cloud services that could assist your growing business.

 

  • Cut Costs – Using the cloud and the system upgrades and software that may be included in your contract could potentially cut your cost over time. By using the resources of your cloud provider, saving money is a realistic possibility.
  • Access to Updates of Newest Security and Software – Depending upon your cloud provider, your company could have access to the newest versions of security which can help you avoid malicious hackers or other cyber crimes.
  • Flexibility – As your business grows, the cloud services can scale up with you. For example, if your need more storage or installation of upgrades the cloud can easily work with you.
  • Sharing – If your company deals with employees from different locations or often needs to share with third parties, the cloud can make it easier to to communicate and share outside of the traditional methods.
  • Reliability – With a managed service platform, cloud computing is much more reliable and consistent than in-house IT infrastructure. Most providers offer a Service Level Agreement which guarantees 24/7/365 and 99.99% availability.

 

If you are considering the cloud and want to know the benefits specific to your company call M&H Consulting at 1-(866)-964-8324 or visit our website at http://www.mhconsults.com

Moving Offices? Why You Need an IT Consultant.

Is your business growing and it’s causing you to consider moving, upgrading, or expanding your office space? The good news is that business must be good if you are adding employees and growing. The bad news is now you have to worry about moving all of your business “stuff” including office furniture, client files and all that computer hardware! We recommend hiring IT consultants like the professionals on our team here at M&H to help you make the move as smooth as possible, especially in regards to the technology aspect of your move.

 

An IT consultant can help your company in the following ways:

  • Assessment of the New Site – IT professionals can help you understand the positive and negatives aspects of any new site you are considering from the lens of an IT expert. A consultant can help you ask critical questions such as: will there be a need to upgrade electrical or increase outlets or other technical considerations?
  • Plan for the Move – In order to avoid unnecessary downtime for your business networks and programs, planning the move so that it can coincide with what time is best for your clients and your business overall is important. Part of the planning should also include evaluating work spaces for ample power, access to Wi-Fi, network access, and the list goes on.

 

  • Assess the Technology – If you are expanding, chances are you may need to invest in more hardware to accommodate your growing staff. A consultant can help by advising your company on the best hardware and software for your growing needs.

 

  • Install and Test – On the day of the big move you may need some technical expertise to be sure that everything is installed and working properly. Our professionals can not only help make sure this is done but can test all the systems to be sure that you are ready to roll right after move-in day.

 

If you are considering moving your office or expanding, call M&H Consulting at 1-(866)-964-8324 or visit our website at http://www.mhconsults.com

 

Meltdown & Spectre – What You Need to Know

It seems every month or so there are bugs and vulnerabilities being discovered in our devices. This is both good and bad; it means people are actively monitoring what goes on behind the scenes, but it also could spell trouble for anyone affected by these bugs. The two latest vulnerabilities to appear are Meltdown and Spectre. Let’s take a look:

  • Meltdown – Theoretically, Meltdown would allow someone who has remote access to your computer or other device to bypass security protections in computer chips in order to steal secure information like passwords. With updates getting ready to roll out, this vulnerability should not be something to worry about for those who regularly update their systems.
  • Spectre – While Spectre is a vulnerability somewhat similar to Meltdown, there is no quick or simple patch for it. Instead, manufacturers of internal parts will have to completely redesign the processors in future devices to get around their current weaknesses and flaws, which will take years to do.
  • Seven months shrouded in secrecy – Researchers at Google and some universities discovered these vulnerabilities back in June 2017. So why are we only just hearing about them now? Well, if they were to immediately go public with their findings, it would run the risk of hackers prematurely gaining access to people’s secure information without having notified the tech giants first.

 

It’s always good preventative practice to install updates when they come out. They most often address bugs that could affect your device, offering patches to keep potential hackers out. Updating your system will also make it compatible with newer software programs. For all your computer and security needs, call M&H Consulting at 1-(866)-964-8324 or visit our website at http://www.mhconsults.com.