alt tag

Posts from April, 2017


Top 5 Security Tips for Email and Social Media Accounts

Wednesday, April 26th, 2017

email-2151046_640

Email and social media accounts provide a wealth of cyber security challenges for businesses. Hackers often look for exploits in account operations to steal information and seize control—both of which can be extremely damaging and difficult to combat.

A compromised account is a problem for any business, but the confidential nature of financial, legal, and healthcare data means the stakes are even higher for these industries.

The following five tips highlight ways your business can protect its digital assets from malicious seizure and abuse.

1. Protect Yourself with Internal Accounts

Old, unused email and social media accounts aren’t just clutter: They’re metaphorical Trojan horses. Staff should use an internal email address (e.g., yourbusiness.com) whenever this is feasible. It’s possible that an email or social media provider will recycle unused account names at some point, which can be used to steal access to any contingent account still tied to the original. However, internal accounts may not always be possible in cases like Google services requiring a Google account.

2. Use Stronger Authorization Credentials

While only available on some platforms like Google and Apple, 2-step verification is among the best available security practices to keep your accounts safe. These systems work by sending a text message with a time-sensitive code to your mobile device that needs to be entered any time someone logs in to the account using a new device. Even if the password is compromised, 2-step verification prevents account access without the associated mobile device.

3. Avoid Reusing Passwords

If you can’t use 2-step verification, a strong, unique password is your next best option. Email addresses are often used by different online services as an account identifier and password recovery method. If someone is able to reactivate an old email account, or create a new one that uses the same address, they can use “forgot” or “reset” password commands for accounts tied to that email address in order to seize access.

This situation is especially hazardous when staff members use the same password for all accounts. In these cases, email-based password recovery systems will not just restore access, but hand over the password.

4. Delete Over Deactivate

Make sure accounts are actually deleted, not just deactivated. Old, deactivated accounts become low-hanging fruit for hackers that your staff isn’t paying attention to. To put it bluntly, the more accounts tied to your company’s internal services, the more venues hackers have to exploit. Limit your exposure by closing unused accounts.

5. Remove Contingent Permissions

If you’ve deleted an account, it’s wise to remove any internal permissions in other services tied to it to prevent someone else from creating a new account with the same details. Email-related logins may still work on other services even after the account has been deleted.

For example, don’t just delete a departing employee’s Gmail account; remove their account permissions from Google Analytics and Facebook account management as well. Your team should also make sure any contingent service accounts connected to that email address are removed. It may help to work with an IT consulting service to devise a cleanup procedure for employee departures.

If your business is looking to secure its digital assets, MPA Reliable Networks Email service is a great place to start—not just for its risk mitigation security benefits, but also its productivity and continuity perks. Contact us today for more information.

The Dock Returns: Anticipating Trends for Productivity Potential

Wednesday, April 19th, 2017

tablet-313002_640

Samsung’s March 2017 announcement that its flagship smartphone would support first-party peripheral that makes the device work like a desktop computer could mean big changes for how people look at their productivity devices.

While this is not the first attempt to treat a smartphone as a computer substitute, it is the first time a market shipment leader put its weight behind the concept.

Business and IT professionals should watch these trends closely, because new ways of looking at existing technological mainstays may offer incredible opportunities to increase productivity.

A Note on Convergence

Samsung’s dock is another indication that the smartphone, tablet, laptop, and desktop device classes are gravitating towards convergence. Tablets and smartphones overlap each other in use and functionality: In many cases, you would not be able to tell the difference between a large smartphone and a small tablet outside of the ability to make phone calls.

Galaxy S8 Dex Dock

The Samsung Dex allows any Galaxy S8 user to connect the device to a charging dock that augments the smartphone with a desktop monitor over HDMI and USB peripherals. When connected to the dock, the Galaxy S8 display switches to a more computer-esque interface, making the phone function like a “fake desktop.” This is excellent for business continuity for three reasons:

  1. Employees can take a highly portable device with them anywhere they go, which can be plugged into a dock when available to function as a primary productivity device. It’s easier to carry a phone around than a laptop.
  2. Employees will no longer need to use a dedicated workstation. This means employees can easily relocate their main device.
  3. Sharing a desk workstation will be much simpler. Instead of requiring a centralized server and individual login credentials, employees can simply plug in their mobile device.

Similar third-party devices exist for laptop augmentation, such as the Mirabook, which works for both Android and Windows 10 devices. If these docks add support for multiple devices including multiple operating systems, this platform could be incredibly useful for businesses.

The Motorola Atrix Legacy

Businesses have been working on expanding smartphone capabilities to emulate what a traditional computer can do almost as long as the smartphone and tablet device classes have been popular. The Motorola Atrix, released in late 2011, is the first well-known example of turning a smartphone into a netbook. However, earlier takes on the convergence concept didn’t perform well because of high costs ($300-$500 for the Atrix compared to $150 for the Dex) and missing functionality.

Nintendo Switch Dock

The Nintendo Switch, released in March 2017, is a tablet-like device that connects to a dock to work like a traditional console on a TV. With the system selling well, the Switch will serve as the first tablet-like device millions of people have in their homes that works with a dock. “Living room infiltration” can make the public more comfortable with the dock concept, which could lead more people to try docks with other devices. The Nintendo Switch could do for docks what the Playstation 2 did for DVD video.

Even without the dock, the tablet and smartphone industry is pushing towards convergence. For example, Apple is selling the iPad Pro as a laptop replacement device with reasonable success. However, backup and disaster recovery will be more important than ever with docks—mostly because smartphones are easier to break and to lose than desktop computers.

Our IT consulting experts at MPA Networks are ready to help your business look into technology opportunities like the Dex dock. Contact us today.

This Is the End: Microsoft Takes a Hard Stance on Phasing Out Older Windows Versions

Tuesday, April 11th, 2017

windows-10-1995434_640

If your business hasn’t already made the switch from Windows 10’s predecessors to a new operating system, it’s time to make the initiative a priority. While your IT staff doesn’t need to upgrade every computer in your office, it’s necessary to make sure all vital software is compatible with Windows 10 because new replacement devices won’t fully support older Windows versions.

According to ZDNet,

computers running Intel’s 7th-generation Core CPUs and AMD’s Ryzen CPUs will no longer receive operating system updates for Windows 7 and 8.

Without updates, you are likely to experience IT security issues.

The Writing Is on the Wall

The change does not affect computers built and purchased before the last few months of 2016, but it matters for any new computer running new hardware. Back in January of 2016, Microsoft announced that new CPUs will only be compatible with Windows 10, so anyone looking to buy new hardware and put an older version of Windows on it is out of luck. However, Microsoft will continue to support Windows 7 and 8, with extended support for security updates through 2020 and 2023 respectively.

Plan Your Transition: Business Continuity Concerns

This change in policy means that moving over to Windows 10 will eventually be the only option. Your business should begin to develop a migration strategy with the help of IT consulting services to phase in Windows 10 devices as you replace older systems running incompatible hardware. Also, if your business plans to look into other options like Macs and Chromebooks, this is the perfect time to do it.

Make sure to consider these issues in your transition away from older versions of Windows:

  • Run a pilot Windows 10 system to ensure continuity for your existing work environment. Test your employees’ daily workflow on this system.
  • Install all the software your business uses on this system and see if it works with Windows 10. Your tests may identify legacy software that’s no longer supported but that you’re currently using for important operations. This can lead to expensive, painful transitions to replacement software.
  • Adjust your upgrade strategy to accommodate your findings. This could involve changing the schedule to allow more time for employees that run incompatible software to work out a solution. It’s most efficient to plan to upgrade to Windows 10 upon device replacement; however, if your tests don’t find any problems, you may opt to upgrade existing systems early. Note that the Windows 10 free upgrade period ended in July 2016.

Legacy Software Concerns

Your company may find that some of the software you’ve been using for the past 15 years without any problems will not work under Windows 10, which puts your business in a difficult position. Replacing software that’s vital to day-to-day operations can be a very disruptive process. Managed services providers can help your business devise a contingency plan to keep the old software running, but it’s a best practice to migrate to a contemporary solution eventually. There are a few options your company has to keep those older systems running so you can keep using the old software, including upgrading/repairing the old systems and running older versions of Windows through a virtual machine.

The experts at MPA Networks are ready to help your business find its best OS solution to balance productivity with security. Contact us today.

Avoiding Disaster: Overheating Computers

Wednesday, April 5th, 2017

funny-pictures-676672_640

If one of your office computers always seems to shut down or slow to a crawl at the busiest of times, you may have a case of overheating on your hands—especially if IT can’t find anything wrong on the software level. Performance hiccups might seem like a mere nuisance, but overheating shortens the lifespan of a computerModern computers are designed to protect themselves from dangerous temperatures, but they can’t prevent all long-term damage.

You can increase productivity and avoid disaster recovery situations in your workplace by making sure your computers are operating at safe temperatures.

The Symptoms

An overheating computer will exhibit one or more of the following symptoms:

How to View Temperatures

The easiest way to tell if a computer is overheating is to take its temperature via software. Your staff can install monitoring programs like CPUID’s HWMonitor or Almico’s SpeedFan for Windows devices, or enable CPU temp viewing on a Mac to get active temperature readings.

These programs show current operating temps and indicate overheating with red colored text, a fire icon, or a warning. Have employees keep an eye on the monitor program during normal work: If the test identifies a heating problem, it’s time to resolve the cause.

Ambient Temperature

Ambient temperatures, or the temperature of the room the computer is in, boost the base temperature of computers and cause parts to run hotter than usual. These problems could simply be the result of the room lacking climate control, or other nearby devices blowing hot air in the direction of the computer.

This is one of the reasons that server rooms feature extra cooling. Either reduce the environmental temperature, or move the computer to a cooler area.

Insufficient Fan Cooling or Blockage

Problems with the computer’s built-in cooling system can lead to overheating during regular use. In some instances, cooling fans can wear out over time.

With desktop computers, the system may have been designed with fans powerful enough to push adequate air through the case. This can usually be resolved by adding new fans or swapping in larger fans to move airflow in the front of the desktop case and out the back. On the outside, physical objects within 6 inches of the fan vents can hurt airflow. On the inside, loose cables and new components can restrict airflow.

Dust Buildup

Dust buildup can restrict airflow and cause a computer’s temperature to increase. While dust alone won’t typically break a computer, it can amplify other problems associated with overheating. We’ve talked extensively in the past about how dust buildup can cause crashes. Laptops generally do not have this problem as they don’t move as much air.

Failing Thermal Paste

Computer CPUs use a compound called thermal paste or thermal grease to help transfer heat to the cooling system. It’s possible for this material to wear down over time, which makes it far easier for a computer to overheat.

The solution is to disassemble the computer and replace the compound, but the process requires substantial expertise (especially with laptops) and can break the computer if done incorrectly. If this is the problem, it’s best to defer to the experts.

If your business is looking to keep its computers and network infrastructure running for maximum productivity, contact the IT managed services experts at MPA Networks today.