Blog

September 12th, 2014

BI_Sep08_BWhen it comes to the success of your business, you likely rely, at least in part, on predictions made off of existing data. While simple forecasts are easy enough, it can be more difficult to set down long-term theories about what the future may or may not entail. That's why many businesses employ predictive analytics. While long used by enterprises, many smaller companies are also now starting to use these methods as well. At first glance, predictive analytics can be overwhelming, so, to help, here is an overview of the three main components.

Together, these three elements of predictive analytics enables data scientists and even managers to conduct and analyze forecasts and predictions.

Component 1: data

As with most business processes, data is one of the most important and vital components. Without data you won't be able to make predictions and the decisions necessary to reach desired outcomes. In other words, data is the foundation of predictive analytics.

If you want predictive analytics to be successful, you need not only the right kind of data but information that is useful in helping answer the main question you are trying to predict or forecast. You need to to collect as much relevant data as possible in relation to what you are trying to predict. This means tracking past data, customers, demographics, and more.

Merely tracking data isn't going to guarantee more accurate predictions however. You will also need a way to store and quickly access this data. Most businesses use a data warehouse which allows for easier tracking, combining, and analyzing of data.

As a business manager you likely don't have the time to look after data and implement a full-on warehousing and storage solution. What you will most likely need to do is work with a provider, like us, who can help establish an effective warehouse solution, and an analytics expert who can help ensure that you are tracking the right, and most useful, data.

Component 2: statistics

Love it, or hate it, statistics, and more specifically regression analysis, is an integral part of predictive analytics. Most predictive analytics starts with usually a manager or data scientist wondering if different sets of data are correlated. For example, is the age, income, and sex of a customer (independent variables) related to when they purchase product X (dependent variable)?

Using data that has been collected from various customer touch points - say a customer loyalty card, past purchases made by the customer, data found on social media, and visits to a website - you can run a regression analysis to see if there is in fact a correlation between independent and dependent variables, and just how related individual independent variables are.

From here, usually after some trial and error, you hopefully can come up with a regression equation and assign what's called regression coefficients - how much each variable affects the outcome - to each of the independent variables.

This equation can then be applied to predict outcomes. To carry on the example above, you can figure out exactly how influential each independent variable is to the sale of product X. If you find that income and age of different customers heavily influences sales, you can usually also predict when customers of a certain age and income level will buy (by comparing the analysis with past sales data). From here, you can schedule promotions, stock extra products, or even begin marketing to other non-customers who fall into the same categories.

Component 3: assumptions

Because predictive analytics focuses on the future, which is impossible to predict with 100% accuracy, you need to rely on assumptions for this type of analytics to actually work. While there are likely many assumptions you will need to acknowledge, the biggest is: the future will be the same as the past.

As a business owner or manager you are going to need to be aware of the assumptions made for each model or question you are trying to predict the answer to. This also means that you will need to be revisiting these on a regular basis to ensure they are still true or valid. If something changes, say buying habits, then the predictions in place will be invalid and potentially useless.

Remember the 2008-09 sub-prime mortgage crisis? Well, one of the main reasons this was so huge was because brokers and analysts assumed that people would always be able to pay their mortgages, and built their prediction models off of this assumption. We all know what happened there. While this is a large scale example, it is a powerful lesson to learn: Not checking that the assumptions you have based your predictions on could lead to massive trouble for your company.

By understanding the basic ideas behind these three components, you will be better able to communicate and leverage the results provided by this form of analytics.

If you are looking to implement a solution that can support your analytics, or to learn more about predictive analytics, contact us today to see how we can help.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

September 5th, 2014

Security_Sep02_BEveryone today seems to be constantly relying on their smartphones to help complete daily tasks which has resulted in the need to recharge subsequently increasing. And when you’re far from your charger, public charging kiosks can seem like a good substitute. However, this can lead to juice jacking of your smartphone. If this is news to you then let’s find out what juice jacking is and how you can avoid it.

What’s juice jacking?

Regardless of the kind of smartphone you have, whether it’s an Android, iPhone or BlackBerry, there is one common feature across all phones: the power supply and the data stream pass over the same cable. This setup allows for juice jacking during the charging process whereby user access is gained on your phone by leveraging the USB data/power cable to illegitimately access your phone’s data and/or inject malicious code onto the device.

The attack can be as simple as an invasion of privacy, wherein your phone pairs with a computer concealed within the charging kiosk and information such as private photos and contact information are transferred to a malicious device. However, on the other hand, it can also be as invasive as an injection of malicious code directly into your phone. According to security researchers at this year’s Black Hat security conference, your iPhone can be compromised within one minute of being plugged into a harmful charger.

Exposure to a malicious kiosk can also create a lingering security problem even without the immediate injection of malicious code. Once a device is paired to a computer, it can access a host of personal information on the device, including your address book, notes, photos, music, sms database, typing cache, and even initiate a full backup of your phone, all of which can be accessed wirelessly at anytime.

How do I avoid it?

The most effective precautions center around simply not charging your phone using a third-party system. Here are some tips to help you avoid using public kiosk charger:
  • Keep your devices topped off: Make it a habit to charge your phone at your home and office when you’re not actively using it or are just sitting at your desk working.
  • Carry a personal charger: Chargers have become very small and portable, from USB cables to power banks. Get one and throw it in your bag so you can charge your phone anytime you’re at the office or while on-the-go if you use a power bank.
  • Carry a backup battery: If you’re not keen on bringing a spare charger or power bank, you can opt to carry a full spare battery if your device has a removable battery.
  • Lock your phone: When your phone is truly locked as in inaccessible without the input of a pin or equivalent passcode, your phone should not be able to be paired with the device it’s connected to.
  • Power the phone down: This technique only works on phones on a model-by-model basis as some phones will, despite being powered down, still power on the entire USB circuit and allow access to the flash storage in the device.
  • Use power only USB cables: These cables are missing the two wires necessary for data transmission and have only the two wires for power transmission remaining. They will charge your device, but data transfer is made impossible.
Even the tiniest detail like charging your phone from a kiosk charger could affect the security of your device. While there are many substitutes to using a third-party system, ultimately the best defense against a compromised mobile device is awareness. Looking to learn more about today’s security and threats? Contact us today and see how we can help.
Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Security
September 4th, 2014

BCP_Sep02_BBusiness operators know that when it comes to business continuity, everything is about time. It doesn’t matter if you can recover your business activities if this isn’t achieved in reasonable time. But what is considered “reasonable”? This is what the business impact analysis (BIA) determines. The BIA aims to find out what the recovery time objective is for each critical activity within an organization. With that in mind, let’s take a look at five tips for reliable business impact analysis.

Five tips for successful business impact analysis:

  1. Treat it as a (mini) project: Define the person responsible for BIA implementation and their authority. You should also define the scope, objective, and time frame in which it should be implemented.
  2. Prepare a good questionnaire: A well structured questionnaire will save you a lot of time and will lead to more accurate results. For example: BS (British standard) 25999-1 and BS 2599902 standards will provide you with a fairly good idea about what your questionnaire should contain. Identifying impacts resulting from disruptions, determining how these vary over time, and identifying resources needed for recovery are often covered in this. It’s also good practice to use both qualitative and quantitative questions to identify impacts.
  3. Define clear criteria: If you’re planning for interviewees to answer questions by assigning values, for instance from one to five, be sure to explain exactly what each of the five marks mean. It’s not uncommon that the same event is evaluated as catastrophic by lower-level employees while top management personnel assess the same event as having a more moderate impact.
  4. Collect data through human interaction: The best way to collect data is when someone skilled in business continuity performs an interview with those responsible for critical activity. This way lots of unresolved questions are cleared up and well-balanced answers are achieved. If interviews are not feasible, do at least one workshop where all participants can ask everything that is concerning them. Avoid the shortcut of simply sending out questionnaires.
  5. Determine the recovery time objectives only after you have identified all the interdependencies: For example, through the questionnaire you might conclude that for critical activity A the maximum tolerable period of disruption is two days; however, the maximum tolerable period of disruption for critical activity B is one day and it cannot recover without the help of critical activity A. This means that the recovery time objective for A will be one day instead of two days.
More often than not, the results of BIA are unexpected and the recovery time objective is longer than it was initially thought. Still, it’s the most effective way to get you thinking and preparing for the issues that could strike your business. When you are carrying out BIA make sure you put in the effort and hours to do it right. Looking to learn more about business continuity? Contact us today.
Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

August 28th, 2014

socialmedia_Aug26_BMany businesses rely on visuals to sell their products. From bakeries to hotels, an attractive product will bring in the customers and ultimately profits. This is why social media services like Instagram have become so popular. Business owners are increasingly wanting to find out how they too can create high quality images on the mobile platform.

The truth behind some of Instagram’s best images

Those awesome Instagram photos we see aren’t always taken using mobile phones. Instead, many users use digital cameras which offer much better image quality. You can capture some amazing shots with a higher end DSLR cameras with multiple lenses.

If you have one of these cameras and are looking to create high-quality images for Instagram, or any other social media site, you may be slightly confused as to how to get the images onto the platform – especially since many of us use this via the mobile app. To make uploading a little easier, here is a brief guide detailing how to get images from your digital camera onto Instagram.

1. Transfer and process images

Once you have taken photos with your camera, you will need to get them off of your camera’s memory and onto your computer’s hard drive. Most camera’s have apps that allow you to do this, so be sure to follow the instructions in the app that came with it.

When your images have been transferred to your computer, you are likely going to want to process them a little bit. This is especially true if you have a DSLR or other high-end point-and-shoot which takes RAW images. These can be quite large and are not compatible with Instagram.

Most images taken with a camera are quite large in size, so you are going to need to use an image editing program like Adobe Photoshop, or free tools like Pixlr to process them. What you are looking to do is to crop your images so that they are square.

If you are used to the advanced photo editing features, then do your edits before cropping. When you crop your images you should crop or resize them so that they are 640X640 pixels. This is the size of all images taken using Instagram’s camera app.

Also, be sure to save the images as JPEGs, as this is the image format used by most smartphone cameras.

2. Save processed images in their own folder

It helps to create a folder somewhere on your hard drive (we recommend in the same folder where you save all of your other folders) that is specifically for images you want to post on Instagram.

When you have processed and edited the images to your liking, save the images here. Try using an easy to use file name like the date and a letter or note so you can easily tell which images are which, so you know which to use.

3. Move the images to your device

You can move images using the cloud or by manually transferring the images to your phone. If you decide to manually transfer your files, you will need to plug your device into your computer.

For users with iPhones, you can open iTunes and click on your device followed by Photos. Then select the box beside Sync photos from. Select the file you created in the step above and then Sync to transfer the images over.

For users with Android devices, plug your phone into the computer and drag the folder you created in the step above into the Photos folder of your Android device.

For Windows Phone users, plug your device into your computer and open My Computer on your desktop. You should see your device listed in the window that opens. Open the file system for your device and drag the image files you created above into the Photos folder of your phone.

If you choose to use the cloud to transfer your files, use the operating system’s cloud (e.g., iCloud, Google Drive, or OneDrive) to upload the files. Just be sure to use the same account as the one on your phone.

4. Add images to Instagram

Once the photos are either on your device, or in the cloud, you can now upload them to Instagram. This can be done by:

  1. Opening the app and tapping on the camera icon.
  2. Tapping on the button in the bottom left of the screen.
  3. Selecting where the image is located on your device. E.g., the Gallery app if you placed the photos in your phone’s hard drive, or the cloud service you used.
  4. Editing them as you see fit.

Once this is complete, you should be able to post your images as you usually do with any other Instagram image on your phone. Take the time to add filters, and hashtags as well as a good description before you post.

If you would like to learn more about using Instagram to share your images then get in touch and we will show you the advantages of the bigger picture.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.
Topic Social Media
August 26th, 2014

Security_Aug18_BThe idea of Internet security is almost always being called into question. It seems like nearly every month there is a security breach where important information like usernames and passwords are stolen. The trend appears to be increasing, with an ever expanding number of accounts being hacked. In early August, news broke of possibly the biggest breach to date.

The latest big-scale breach

In early August, it emerged that a Russian hacker ring had amassed what is believed to be the biggest known collection of stolen account credentials. The numbers include around 1.2 billion username and password combinations, and over 500 million email addresses.

According to Hold Security, the company that uncovered these records, the information comes from around 420,000 sites. What is particularly interesting about this attack is that such a wide variety of sites were targeted when compared this with other attacks which tend to either attack large brand names or smaller related sites.

How did this happen?

Despite what many believe, this was not a one-time mass attack; all sites that were compromised were not attacked at the same time. Instead, the hacker ring – called the Cyber Vor – was likely working on amassing this data over months or longer. How they were able to amass this much information is through what’s called a botnet.

Botnets are a group of computers infected by hackers. When the hackers establish a botnet, they attack computers with weak network security and try to infect them with malware that allows the hacker to control the computer. If successful, users won’t even know their computer has been hacked and is being used by hackers.

Once this botnet is established, the hackers essentially tell the computers to try to contact websites to test the security. In this recent case, the computers were looking to see if the websites were vulnerable to a SQL injection. This is where hackers tell the computers in the botnet to look for fillable sections on sites like comment boxes, search boxes, etc. and input a certain code asking the website’s database to list the stored information related to that box.

If the Web developer has restricted the characters allowed in the fillable text boxes, then the code likely would not have worked. The botnet would notice this, and then move onto the next site. However, if the code works, the botnet notes this and essentially alerts the hacker who can then go to work collecting the data.

So, is this serious and what can I do?

In short, this could be a fairly serious problem. While 420,000 sites may seem like a large number, keep in mind that the Internet is made up of billions of websites. This means that the chances of your website’s data being breached by this ring are small. That being said, there is probably a good chance that one of the sites related to your website may have been breached.

So, it is a cause for concern. However, you can limit the chance of hackers gaining access to your information and a website’s information.

1. Change all of your passwords

It seems like we say this about once a month, but this time you really should heed this warning. With 1.2 billion username and password combinations out there, there is a chance your user name for at least one account or site has been breached.

To be safe, change all of your passwords. This also includes passwords on your computer, mobile devices, and any online accounts – don’t forget your website’s back end, or hosting service. It is a pain to do, but this is essential if you want to ensure your data and your website is secure from this attack.

2. Make each password different

We can’t stress this enough, so, while you are resetting your password you should aim to ensure that you use a different one for each account, site, and device. It will be tough to remember all of these passwords, so a manager like LastPass could help. Or, you could develop your own algorithm or saying that can be easily changed for each site. For example, the first letter of each word of a favourite saying, plus the first and last letter of the site/account, plus a number sequence could work.

3. Test your website for SQL injection

If you have a website, you are going to want to test all text boxes to see if they are secure against SQL injection. This can be tough to do by yourself, so it’s best to contact a security expert like us who can help you execute these tests and then plug any holes should they be found.

4. Audit all of your online information

Finally, look at the information you have stored with your accounts. This includes names, addresses, postal codes, credit card information, etc. You should only have the essential information stored and nothing else. Take for example websites like Amazon. While they are secure, many people have their credit card and billing information stored for easy shopping. If your account is hacked, there is a good chance hackers will be able to get hold of your card number.

5. Contact us for help

Finally, if you are unsure about the security of your accounts, business systems, and website, contact us today to see how our security experts can help ensure your vital data is safe and sound.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.
Topic Security
August 22nd, 2014

BValue_Aug18_BMany countries around the world require businesses to implement systems and tools, which often includes technology, that meets the needs of all employees. This includes employees who have disabilities or special requirements. Because of this, it has become nearly essential for companies to develop an accessible technology plan for when certain technology needs arise.

What is accessible technology?

Accessible technology, also commonly referred to as assistive technology, is the idea of creating or implementing technology and systems that cater to employees with disabilities. While not every company will have or require accessible technology, it is required by many countries that businesses meet the needs of disabled employees.

To that end, it is a good idea to develop a plan on how to implement accessible technology. To help, here are five steps you could take:

1. Defining your strategy

The accessible technology strategy should be the first thing you develop as it will be the foundation of the overall plan. When looking at your strategy you should define how accessible technology fits into your overall organisation plan and how it will fit with your existing strategies.

What you are looking to do is to figure out how this form of technology will fit with existing systems and increase overall operating effectiveness. From here, you can define the overall objectives, budget, and vision for the plan.

2. Identifying requirements

In this step, you should look closely at existing technology in the organisation and the needs of your employees. Because each company is different and the needs of employees are different you should be careful to also identify the technology needs of your employees.

When looking at both the needs and existing systems you can work to come up with an overall set of requirements, along with a general priority. For example, will you need to modify existing computers or purchase new ones?

The key idea here is that you need to figure out exactly what you need.

3. Picking the new technology

Once you have identified what changes you need to implement, what new technology you will need, and your budget, you can then begin looking for the best solutions. The most effective way to do this is to work with it experts like us who can help you find and integrate the best technology and changes that will meet your adaptive technology needs.

4. Implementing and training

Once you have defined the changes, and new technology to integrate, you need to implement it. This may include altering physical devices and machines where necessary, and then testing the systems to make sure they are working properly.

It is also be a good idea to train your employees who will be using the systems, and the team who will be managing the systems.

5. Maintaining

As with all tech systems, it is important to realise that the solution you implement will not work forever, and will eventually require maintenance, updating, or even replacing. You should take steps to audit systems on a regular basis to ensure they are still meet the needs of your company and employees.

This can be a time consuming and potentially costly step, especially if you neglect it. We strongly recommend working with a company like ours, who can help manage your solution and ensure that updates and any necessary changes are implemented when they are needed, and that should needs change, systems are subsequently updated to meet the new requirements.

If you are looking to implement accessible technology in your business, contact us today to see how we can help.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.
August 16th, 2014

Virtualization_Aug11_BWhile there are numerous tech systems available to small and medium size businesses, one of the most useful has proven to be virtualisation. This movement of physical systems to a virtual counterpart offers many benefits when implemented correctly. Administered poorly however and you could see systems fail. To help avoid this, it is worthwhile being aware of five common ways virtualisation fails.

1. Migration is forced before it is ready

One of the biggest reasons virtualisation fails is that it is pushed before the company is ready for it. For example, it could be that the IT team is forced to fast-track virtualisation, resulting in staff being forced to drop all other tasks and focus on migration.

If you rush, the chances of failure and mistakes always rise. And when it comes to changing systems from physical to virtual, mistakes can be compounded, thus increasing overall migration time and costs.

To avoid this you should take the time to conduct research on solutions available, workloads, applications to the move, and your specific business needs. Once you are across this, you should also take the time to get to know your systems and test them before migration.

2. Trying to implement a management plan after virtualising systems

Some companies decide to virtualise first, and then try to figure out how to manage systems after migration is complete. This will almost always result in inefficiencies and frustration as the pressure is on not just to learn how to manage but also how to use this solution.

In order to see a more successful virtualisation, you should have a management plan in place before you migrate your systems. You should look at how virtual machines will be managed, who will be doing what, as well as what systems you are going to use, and more. One of the best times to develop an overall management plan is when you are in the testing phase, well before actual migration. This will give you an idea of how systems will work in reality and how you can manage them.

3. Virtualisation without employee buy-in, or involving employees

We have seen companies implement a virtualisation solution without having full buy-in from the employees who will be using and managing the system. What this results in is confusion, resentment, lost efficiency, and, in some extreme situations, sabotage.

In order to successfully introduce a virtualised solution, you should ensure that all employees who will be using the system are not only aware of it but are trained on how to use it and have been given a fair chance to air their opinions. If you can achieve employee buy-in, there is a better chance that the systems will be used more effectively, and employees will be more open to other solutions being implemented.

4. Assuming one solution that works for others will work for you

An easy mistake to make is to only consider solutions successfully implemented by other businesses. The fact is, every business is different, and you should be looking for a solution that meets your specific needs.

If you go with a ready-made solution, or one-size-fits-all solution, it will likely work to some extent. However, there is a good chance that it will not completely meet your needs. This will likely result in either lost efficiency or increased investment in order to get what you need.

We recommend looking for a provider who can meet your virtualisation needs with tailor made solutions. This way you will get what you need straightaway and likely not need to invest more in the future.

5. Not managing your virtual solution after implementation

Unlike some tech solutions, virtualisation is not really a ‘set it and forget it’ type of solution. You will need to manage it from the start if you want to be able to get the most out of your systems. This includes ensuring resources are being allocated properly; machines are created and shut down properly; apps and systems are updated; and more.

While virtualised solutions do require less management than their physical counterparts, they still require some management and you will need people to help you do that. One of the best solutions is to work with an IT partner like us who can help manage your systems and ensure that they are working efficiently.

In fact, we offer a wide variety of virtualisation solutions. By working with us, we can help take some of the virtualisation load off and allow you to focus on running your business. If you would like to learn more, contact us today to see how we can help.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.
August 15th, 2014

Data is an integral component to any business. Without it we would not be able to make decisions, develop marketing campaigns, or even operate. The issue many businesses face however is that the amount of data they generate and capture is increasing exponentially and it can be a challenge to collect and leverage it. One solution is to integrate a data warehouse, but how do you know if your business needs one?

What is a data warehouse?

A data warehouse is a system used by companies for data analysis and reporting. The main purpose of the data warehouse is to integrate, or bring together, data from a number of different sources into one centralized location. The vast majority of the data they store is current or historical data that is used to create reports or reveal trends.

Possibly the biggest benefit of a data warehouse is that it can pull data from different sources e.g., marketing, sales, finance, etc. and use this different data to formulate detailed reports on demand. Essentially, a data warehouse cuts down the time required to find and analyze important data.

While not every business will need one right this minute, a solid data warehouse could help make operations easier and more efficient, especially when compared with other data storage solutions. That being said, it can be tough to figure out if you actually need one. In order to help, we have come up with five signs that show your business is ready to implement a data warehouse.

1. Heavy reliance on spreadsheets

Regardless of business size, the spreadsheet is among the most important business tools out there. Used by pretty much every department in a company, they can be a great way of tracking data. The problem many business owners run across however is that spreadsheets can grow to immense sizes and can become unwieldy.

Combine this with the fact that each department has spreadsheets that you will likely need to pull data from in order to generate a report. If this is the case, you are creating manual reports, which can take a lot of your time.

If you are struggling to find the data you need because it is spread out across different sheets, in different departments, then it may be time to implement a data warehouse.

2. Data is overwhelming your spreadsheets

Spreadsheets are designed to operate with a set amount of data (rows and columns). Reach, or exceed this limit, and you will find that the file becomes sluggish or will downright prevent you adding more data.

While it can take a while to get to this point, companies will reach it if they keep adding to their data. At this point you will see a drop in productivity and overall effectiveness in how you use your data. Therefore, a data warehouse that can combine data from different sheets may be a great solution.

3. You spend too much time waiting

If you set out to develop a report, only to find out that you need to wait for colleagues to provide the information on their spreadsheets, or to analyze their data, you could find yourself waiting for a longer than expected time.

This makes you highly ineffective and can be downright frustrating, especially if employees are too busy or just can't provide the information needed. Implementing a data warehouse can help centralize data and make it available to all team members more effectively. This cuts down the time spent actually having to track it down and communicating with colleagues.

4. Discrepancies in data and reports

Have you noticed that when team leaders or members in different departments create reports that the data or findings are different from yours, or other reports? Not only is this frustrating, it is also time consuming to sort out and could lead to costly mistakes.

This can be amplified if some departments have data sources that they don't share with other teams, as this can throw doubt into the solidity of your data and other reports. If you have reached this point, and realize that there are discrepancies in your data, it may be time to look into a data warehouse which can help sort out problems while ensuring mistakes like duplicate data are eliminated.

5. Too much time spent generating reports

Ideally, we should be able to generate a report using existing data almost instantly, or with as few clicks as possible. If you find that when generating a report you have to keep going to different sources to check if the data is updated, or to keep manually updating other sources, you could quickly see the amount of time needed to develop a report grow.

Because data warehouses consolidate data, you only have to turn to one source for data. Combine with the fact that many data warehouses can be set up to automatically update if source data is updated or changed, and you can guarantee that the data you are using is always correct.

Looking to learn more about data warehouses, or about the different data solutions we offer? Contact us today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

August 8th, 2014

Security_Aug05_BWhen it comes to business security, many small to medium business owners and managers often struggle to ensure that their systems and computers are secure from the various attacks and malware out there. While there are a million and one things you can do to secure systems, one of the most useful approaches is to be aware of common security threats. To help, here are five common ways your systems can be breached.

1. You are tricked into installing malicious software

One of the most common ways a system's security is breached is through malware being downloaded by the user. In almost every case where malware is installed the reason is because the user was tricked into downloading it.

A common trick used by hackers is to plant malware in software and then place this software on a website. When a user visits the site, they are informed that they need to download the software in order for the site to load properly. Once downloaded, the malware infects the system. Other hackers send emails out with a file attached, where only the file contains malware.

There are a nearly limitless number of ways you can be tricked into downloading and installing malware. Luckily, there are steps you can take to avoid this:

  • Never download files from an untrusted location - If you are looking at a website that is asking you to download something, make sure it's from a company you know about and trust. If you are unsure, it's best to avoid downloading and installing the software.
  • Always look at the name of the file before downloading - Many pieces of malware are often disguised with file names that are similar to other files, with only a slight spelling mistake or some weird wording. If you are unsure about the file then don't download it. Instead, contact us as we may be able to help verify the authenticity or provide a similar app.
  • Stay away from torrents, sites with adult content, and movie streaming sites - These sites often contain malware, so it is best to avoid them altogether.
  • Always scan a file before installing it - If you do download files, be sure to get your virus scanner to scan these before you open the apps. Most scanners are equipped do this, normally by right-clicking on the file and selecting Scan with….

2. Hackers are able to alter the operating system settings

Many users are logged into their computers as admins. Being an administrator allows you to change any and all settings, install programs, and manage other accounts.

If a hacker manages to access your computer and you are set up as the admin, they will have full access to your computer. This means they could install other malicious software, change settings or even completely hijack the machine. The biggest worry about this however, is if a hacker gets access to a computer that is used to manage the overall network. Should this happen, they could gain control over all the systems on the network and do what they please on it.

In order to avoid this, you should ensure that if a user doesn't need to install files or change settings on the computer, they do not have administrator access. Beyond this, installing security software like anti-virus scanners and keeping them up to date, as well as conducting regular scans, will help reduce the chances of being infected, or seeing infections spread.

3. Someone physically accesses your computer

It really feels like almost every security threat these days is digital or is trying to infect your systems and network from the outside. However, there are many times when malware is introduced into systems, or data is stolen, because someone has physically had access to your systems.

For example, you leave your computer on when you go for lunch and someone walks up to it, plugs in a USB drive with malware on it and physically infects your system. Or, it could be they access your system and manually reset the password, thereby locking you out and giving them access.

What we are trying to say here is that not all infections or breaches arrive via the Internet. What we recommend is to ensure that you password protect your computer - you need to enter a password in order to access it. You should also be sure that when you are away from your computer it is either turned off, or you are logged off.

Beyond that, it is a good idea to disable drives like CD/DVD and connections like USB if you don't use them. This will limit the chances that someone will be able to use a CD or USB drive to infect your computer.

4. It's someone from within the company

We have seen a number of infections and security breaches that were carried out by a disgruntled employee. It could be that they delete essential data, or remove it from the system completely. Some have even gone so far as to introduce highly destructive malware.

While it would be great to say that every business has the best employees, there is always a chance a breach can be carried out by an employee. The most effective way to prevent this, aside from ensuring your employees are happy, is to limit access to systems.

Take a look at what your employees have access to. For example, you may find that people in marketing have access to finance files or even admin panels. The truth is, your employees don't need access to everything, so take steps to limit access to necessary systems. Combine this with the suggestions above - limiting admin access and installing scanners - and you can likely limit or even prevent employee initiated breaches.

5. Your password is compromised

Your password is the main way you can verify and access your accounts and systems. The issue is, many people have weak passwords. There has been a steady increase in the number of services that have been breached with user account data being stolen. If a hacker was to get a hold of say your username, and you have a weak password, it could only be a matter of time before they have access to your account.

If this happens, your account is compromised. Combine this with the fact that many people use the same password for multiple accounts, and you could see a massive breach leading to data being stolen, or worse - your identity.

It is therefore a good idea to use a separate password for each account you have. Also, make sure that the passwords used are strong and as different as possible from each other. One tool that could help ensure this is a password manager which generates a different password for each account.

If you are looking to learn more about ensuring your systems are secure, contact us today to learn about how our services can help.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Security
August 7th, 2014

BCP_Aug05_BMost IT experts will agree that in order for a business to survive, they need some sort of recovery or continuity plan in place. Regardless of the type of plan, or systems integrated, all systems need to have a back up mechanism. In the last article, we took a look at four tips to help improve your data backups, and continue this article with the final four.

5. Automate your backup

It can be tough to actually remember to back up your files, especially if your business is busy. Therefore, you could look into an automated backup solution. At the very least, you should set a schedule as to when backups are conducted and set what is being backed up. While this isn't a full automation, a schedule will help.

If you are using solutions like the cloud or NAS (Network Attached Storage), you can usually automate the process by selecting which files and folders to back up and when. The software that powers these solutions will then do this automatically.

Ideally, your backups should be carried out automatically to ensure your data is available should you need it. But you should check periodically to ensure that your data is actually being backed up. This is especially true if you are backing up other systems, as there have been cases where employees have become frustrated by the backup process and simply turned it off. The business owner, thinking their data was being backed up would be in for a bit of a shock when systems crashed, if this was the case.

6. Back up your backups

Redundancy of your backups is just as important as actually backing up your data. You should keep a backup of your backup in case something happens to your original backup. While this doesn't have to be carried out as often as the 'normal' backup, this should be done on a regular basis.

In order to really ensure backup redundancy we recommend that if your main backup is kept on-site, then the secondary backup should be on another storage medium that is kept off-site.

7. Don't forget data stored on non-physical drives

What we are referring to here is the data stored on different services like your email, social media, and non-physical locations. This is especially true if you say have you own servers. It's highly likely that there is data stored on these services as well, and should they go down and you haven't kept a backup, you may lose important information.

Essentially, think about critical data that is used in the company, but isn't physically kept on computers. It may feel like this is going a step too far with backups, especially for businesses who use email services like Exchange and Gmail. However, while the chances of these systems going down are incredibly rare, it could still happen. Therefore, you should conduct a monthly to bi-yearly backup just to ensure that data is there somewhere should something happen.

8. Test your backups

Finally, it is beneficial to actually test your backups from time-to-time to ensure that they are not only working but the data is actually recoverable. If you do a trial run on recovering your data, you can get a good idea of how long it will take to retrieve this information when you actually need to recover it. You can then take steps to optimize this and let the relevant people know.

Also, testing is a good way to discover any problems, e.g., if someone has disabled backups, or one solution isn't working. This will ensure that your data is there when you need it.

If you are looking to integrate a data backup solution, contact us today to see how we can help.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.