Online Safety

 

At M&H Consulting, we work alongside many small and medium sized businesses. Many of these business are managed by entrepreneurs who also balance work and family life. Many of them ask our expert advice on online safety for the employees, but keep their children safe as well.  

Whether you are an employee of a company that works online or a teen surfing the net, here are a few ways to protect yourself online.

  • Never give out personal information whether it is your phone number, address, or parents names without ensuring you are on a secure site.
  • Never post something that could come back to hurt you later whether you are in the working world trying to get a job.
  • Check for authenticity before downloading or installing software or doing anything that could possibly hurt the computer or mobile device or potentially jeopardize privacy.
  • Do not post risque images on business or personal sites.
  • Be true to who you are.
  • Never open emails that you suspect are from a stranger or could potentially have a virus attached.
  • Monitor who has access to different accounts and who your children are dialoguing with on a daily basis.
  • Talk to employees as well as you own children about cyberbullying and signs of an online predator.
  • Call the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children at (800) 843-5678 if you’re aware of the transmission, use, or viewing of child pornography online. Contact your local law enforcement agency or the FBI if your child has received child pornography via the Internet.

What If . . . things go wrong with your computer?

Accidents happen especially when we are stressed and overworked. Accidents on and around technology can be a whole lot more than a “whoops” moment. They can be downright damaging to the hardware and potentially files that are on the hard drive. We have compiled a few “What If. . . “ moments in case you are wondering what will happen to your technology if  (insert horrible event here) happens.  Here’s hoping you don’t have one of these events any time soon.

  • What if you spill a drink on your keyboard? The answer according to Guardian Online is fairly straightforward. “If you‘ve only spilled a small amount of clean water on it, you may well get away with it. You can remove and clean a sticky keyboard using a damp cloth or soft toothbrush and distilled water before drying it thoroughly, and in extreme cases, people try methylated spirits (ethanol) or solvents (isopropyl alcohol).”
  • What if your hard drive gets physically damaged? The answer really depends on the extent of the damage and if data can be recovered. If the damage is minimal try to get the data off the drive and take it in for a check up. If the drive is seriously damaged now is not the time to find out that your data recovery strategy is not up-to-date. Contact your IT department or the consultants working with your department who may be able to find backed up data or recover the data on that drive.
  • What if I accidentally open suspicious email? Obviously don’t click on emails that look suspicious in the first place but if your mouse gets moved or something unforeseen happens, disconnect your device, backup your files, and then call your IT department or IT consulting company to check your machine for malware or other suspicious content.
  • What if I get ransomware? According to PC World, “Don’t negotiate with e-terrorists. Instead, remove many ransomware viruses without losing your files. The process varies and depends on the type of invader. Some procedures involve a simple virus scan, while others require offline scans and advanced recovery of your files.” For specifics read here.

Amazon Web Services

Many of us enjoy using Amazon on a daily basis when we order products through Amazon Prime or watch movies through the Amazon Stick. But did you know that small and medium sized businesses have been using Amazon Web Services for features such as: computing, storage, database storage, analytics, application, and deployment services that help organizations move faster, lower IT costs, and scale applications. Millions customers are using Amazon Web Services for products and solutions. Let’s take a closer look at this and how it may be a good choice for your business.

 

Whether you are running applications that share photos to millions of mobile users or you’re supporting the critical operations of your business, a cloud services platform provides rapid access to flexible and low cost IT resources. Here are some of the benefits that businesses may procure with the use of Amazon Web Services.

 

  • Ease of Use – The intuitive applications of Amazon allow users to quickly and safely run aspects of business.
  • Affordable – Businesses only pay for the compute power, storage, and other resources used, with no long-term contracts or up-front commitments.
  • Security – Businesses will benefit from a data center and network architecture built to meet the requirements of the most security-sensitive organizations.
  • Flexible – Select the operating system, programming language, web application platform, database, and other services you need. With Amazon Web Services, your business will  receive a virtual environment that lets you load the software and services your application requires.

 

Contact M&H Consulting to find out more about these web services and whether they can be helpful; to your company.

 

Putting Google to Work for your Business

We all know the Google name and the power behind the well-known search engine. But did you know that just by signing up for a Google email for you and your employees, that you have the power of cloud computing right at your fingertips? Google’s suite of applications seems to cover every angle of computer-based work including: creating presentations, spreadsheets, documents, and calendars all in a collaborative format! This is a great opportunity for start-ups to reduce costs and maintain a superior level of communications among team members.

 

The benefits of using Google’s suite of applications are far reaching especially for companies that are highly mobile and operating on a tight budget. The standard version of Google Docs, which is amazing on its own, can be beefed up for just $50 a year or more. That includes cloud-based file storage and help desk services. In addition to the affordability of this suite, Google is highly mobile, meaning users can access files via mobile phones, even the Apple iPad, and of course from desktop computers and notebooks. If your work takes you out-of-the-office often, this may be a sound choice for your small or medium sized business.

 

Google Docs, spreadsheets, and presentations have other features that are a “must” in today’s collaborative work environment. For example, Google Docs provides automated backup for documents as they are edited. Collaboration is also made simple with Google’s ability of allowing multiple users work simultaneously on the same file. This is critical when a presentation is on a deadline and multiple employees are making changes and additions up to the last minute.

 

Finally, Google takes all the stress off the business owner by taking care of maintenance and security. Google and the secondary service providers worry about power surges, failed hard drives, upgrades, and compatibility while you run your business. Google’s security track record is also excellent. Data stored with Google is probably as safe as it would be in most corporate data centers.

 

Talk to M&H Consulting if you want to put Google to work for your company. We can help train and troubleshoot for your company.

Protect your Identity on Social Media

You probably have heard of many people getting “catfished” or of people “catfishing” others. This is one form of identity theft that usually comes about through a social media network with photos and identity information taken from other strangers’ profiles. The act of being catfished may not sound as serious to some. After all, it is social media, where pictures are easily taken; that’s what you sign up for when you create an account, right? Wrong. There are many things that can go wrong: someone can ruin your reputation by using your image or, even worse, gather information to piece together and create financial fraud, or any other serious identity theft crimes. But, don’t panic or go off to delete all of your accounts! We have some tips to help you stay safe.

Set your account to private. Keep all strangers from getting information about you. While doing this, go through the entire privacy setting to make sure everything you want to keep private stays that way. If you come across a setting you don’t understand, keep them closed anyway; it’s better to be safe than sorry.

Don’t give strangers access to follow you online. If you don’t know who those people are, you don’t know what their intentions may be in following you or adding you as a friend. After all, all it takes to file a fraudulent tax returns is a name, birth date and social security.

Use a hidden name. This can be a middle name or a nickname that only your friends and family would know, so that they can still find you online or know who you are.

Be aware of the content you are sharing. Make sure you are not mindlessly revealing the answers to your security questions online. Also, try not to post images that show the layout of your home so that strangers can’t figure out where you live. Avoid sharing your location and birthday, if possible.

Avoid clicking on random links on social media. This includes those random social media quizzes. Many times, those links can carry malicious and invasive codes along with them that can infect your account or, even worse, your technology.

Cyber Attack Trends to Watch out for

With all new technology trends come new cyber attack trends. According to an article in TechRepublic.com, 90 million attacks will hit tech users in a year and 70 percent of them will go unnoticed! Because of this, we have searched for the patterns of cyber attacks to be on the look out for years to come. Here is what we found:

Ransomware will continue to rise:

There have been many cases of ransomware in the past and they are expected to rise as a security problem in taking advantage of vulnerable servers. A large part of the reason for its rise is because this is one of the easiest ways of getting confiscated data back; you just pay the ransom.

Rise in attacks on Industrial Control Systems:

Let’s face it; many of our Industrial Control Systems are past the outdated stage of technology. Because these outdated systems were not designed with cyber security in mind, they are expected to be a security issue for the future.

More Sophisticated Spear Phishing:

With more sophisticated spear phishing, it will be more difficult to tell which emails should be avoided from those that are legitimate. Spear phishing emails are no longer as simple as a scam link being sent and asking to be clicked on. They are disguised as important business/company emails.

Hacking on Internet of Things:

Because the Internet is being applied in every device, even those, which were not originally built to connect online, many every-day appliances are expected to be hit with cyberattacks. These devices can be anything from an app-controlled coffee maker to self-driven vehicles. With these devices, privacy is limited once they are hacked. Hackers can get access to your home and business through these technologies.

Simply being aware of these cyber attack trends is not enough. Security measures need to be taken in order to prevent such attacks. For information on how to get ahead of these attacks, contact M&H Consultants!

Finding the Root Cause of an IT Problem

Do you ever think you have gotten rid of a computer virus just to find your computer acting the same way as it did when you had the virus? We have all been there. The reason why this happens is usually because you have actually taken care of the symptoms rather than the actual root cause. Because this is such a common issue, we have decided to go through a few steps to help you find out the root issue to your IT problem and how to prevent them from reoccurring.

We have combined a few steps to help analyze the root cause. Read along to find out.

  1. Find out what the issue is.

You have to first figure out what the symptoms are in order to figure out what the problem is.  For example, if your computer is infected, ask yourself, “why is it infected?” You may figure out that it is because your malware program is outdated.

  1. Find out why the problem exists.

This step doesn’t necessarily give you the root cause of your IT problem but, it could definitely be a first step direction to it. In continuation with the first example, here are a few questions you can ask yourself to figure it out: (a.) “Why is my antimalware outdated?” Maybe you simply didn’t update the program. (b.) “Why didn’t I update it?” Maybe you forgot to, or the program didn’t offer one. (c.) “Why didn’t the program offer an update?” Maybe there is no longer an update for this version of malware program.

  1. Find out the root cause.

Once you have figured out all the reasons why this problem exists, you are able to determine what the root cause is. Using the example, once you have figured out that you malware program no longer offers an update, you may wonder “why doesn’t it offer an update?” and through research find out that the service company may no longer exist. This means that the virus system kept coming back because you have a program that is no longer working for your system.

After figuring out the root problem, it’s important to design a plan to prevent the problem from returning. Maybe, after you figure out that you need to download a new malware, you can design a maintenance plan to remember to check for updates and to see if your malware program is still relevant.

If you need help figuring out what the root cause of your IT problem is, or you need help designing a solution for your problem, contact M&H.

Why your Website May Need a New Design

Often, we try to visit a website and find ourselves constantly refreshing the site or waiting a much longer period of time than necessary to upload a page. When this happened, we frequently tend to blame the issue on the computer or Internet network when the issue really lies on the website itself. We have put together some points to help determine whether your website needs to be redesigned. If you are someone who owns a website and are questioning if you should redesign your website, keep on reading to find out.

One major point that should stand out as a red flag to you is, if when visiting your site, your devices (computer, laptop, phone, etc.) are refusing to upload your web pages. This could mean that the coding for your website is outdated and not compliant with new devices. Another point that should stand out is if your website takes an extended amount of time loading. This could also tie into an outdated code. Not only is this annoying for you but it can also affect the amount of users visiting your website. Websites that take to long result in lower Google search ranking as well as loss of users.

Another factor that could affect the speed of your website is if it relies heavily on Flash. Not only is this bad for the speed of your site but, it also affects its search engine optimization, its ability to function on mobile devices, and difficulty in navigating through the site. These are all indicators that the issues arising in while online has to do with your website rather than your Internet network.

If you have updated and redesigned your website but are still finding that you are having a difficult time loading the pages, chances are that this issue is occurring with other websites as well. In this case, you may actually have an issue with your Internet network or, even, your device. In order to resolve this issue, contact M&H for advice on how to fix this issue.

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.

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.