Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Wi-Fi (In)Security

One of the fastest growing trends over the last decade had been the availability of wireless internet. From homes and businesses to coffee shops and restaurants Wi-Fi has significantly changed the way we work and play. We have the ability to interact with the virtual world from pretty much anywhere, and that access is on the rise, with new networks and mobile hotspots popping up everywhere. However, the convenience of free Wi-Fi comes with some very real threats – from viruses to identity theft. Wi-Fi is a type of wireless local area network (WLAN) technology that allows laptop or smartphone users to exchange data or connect to the internet using radio waves. The core technology behind Wi-Fi is a hardware device called an access point, which connects the wired network and broadcasts the radio waves to extend the network wirelessly. All of the transmissions sent and received on a Wi-Fi network are encrypted using one of 3 different protocols (WEP, WPA, WPA2) to attempt to protect the data from theft. If your device uses WEP replace it immediately, it is outdated and insecure. A hacker can break through WEP in about 10-15 minutes of being within range of the network. WPA2 is the newest and most popular, and generally considered to be the most secure. There are more considerations that go into protecting your own network, and even some steps you can take to make your Wi-Fi network more secure, but what about public Wi-Fi? What risks do you face, and how can you know if you are safe? Public access points, called “hotspots” allow many people within a certain area to “tune in” to the specific radio waves used my that network to access the internet. An example of this is going to Starbucks and connecting to the “Starbucks Wi-Fi” while you are there. One of the biggest risks of public Wi-Fi like Starbucks is called Network Sniffing. If a hacker has gotten access to the wireless network they can use a “sniffing” application to intercept and sort through all visible traffic on the network. Anything you would do online could potentially be watched by someone else. Even without the presence of active hackers, your privacy is never guaranteed when you access a public hotspot. One of the biggest breaches of privacy is often perpetrated by the organization or business offering the free Wi-Fi. Often, when joining a public network you will be asked to leave an email address, phone number, or even like a page on social media. In addition they can use signal strength to track where you are in the store, and what types of websites you visit. Next thing you know, you are getting advertisements targeted to you based on your browsing history and location data. These may be less malicious that some threats, but can certainly be intrusive. One of the most dangerous threats you can face with public Wi-Fi is a spoofed or rogue access point. A savvy hacker could hook up their own access point next to a legitimate one and name it something similar, luring unsuspecting individuals to connect to it in error. Once you have connected to a malicious hotspot they can use it to install malware on your system, or track your activity to steal passwords or bank information. For example, if you try to go to facebook.com they may redirect you to a spoofed “look-alike” site they put together that will steal your password and any other information you give them. Before you even know if you could be well on your way to becoming a victim of identity theft. Although you always run a certain amount of risk when using public Wi-Fi there are certain measures you can take to protect against attackers. Here are the most common precautions: 1. Always confirm the legitimacy of a Wi-Fi network before connecting to it; do not reply on the name alone. If there are multiple access points showing up for the same venue, ask a staff member which one to use. Also, be sure to read that venue’s Terms of Service carefully to ensure that your privacy will not be breached. 2. Ideally, you should only use public Wi-Fi to browse websites that do not require login credentials (e.g., news websites, Wikipedia, etc.). However, if you do need to access sensitive data or enter login credentials, only go to websites that start with HTTPS ( a more secure version of the HTTP web protocol). 3. Never install software while using public Wi-Fi, it can often introduce viruses or malware into your computer. For example, a common attack is to inform a user of an outdated service like Adobe Flash and take them to a spoofed website to download the “update” 4. A good way to ensure good security while accessing public Wi-Fi is to use a VPN. A VPN essentially creates a secure tunnel between your device and a third party server. All data that passes through the tunnel is encrypted, and therefore protected from prying eyes like the Wi-Fi provider or anyone trying to “sniff” the network. It is easy to take free Wi-Fi access for granted. Unfortunately, as public hotspots become more prevalent, so will hackers. Your best protection against data theft is an understanding of Wi-Fi and its vulnerabilities, and taking a few precautions. If you want to look further into some of the different ways you can protect yourself, or how you can further protect your wireless network from breaches, please give us a call. We would be more than happy to review your current setup and make recommendations for any changes needed.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

How Do You Know When Enough is Enough?

Running a business can be full of challenges. One of the biggest challenges to face is knowing when to cut your losses and move on when something isn’t carrying it’s weight. Whether it is a workstation, server, or service; we have all faced that hard decision in one way or another. An easy trap to fall into is to live by the old adage “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”. All too easily it becomes “If it kinda works, don’t fix it”, and there is a BIG difference between something that “ain’t broke” and something that works the way it should. One method to evaluate if it is time to move on is to measure how much time you are losing each day to inefficiencies and problems. For example, if you are operating under a slower internet speed, you are probably spending time waiting on pages to load or content to refresh. Even if everything else runs perfectly this still adds up to an average of 10 minutes or more every day of wasted time. That may not seem like a lot, but over the course of a single year that adds up to more than a 40-hour workweek of wasted time. Another trap that a lot of businesses fall prey to is to sign up for internet service and the “set it and forget it”, paying the bill each month and renewing each year without reviewing their account to make sure they are paying for what they need and what they are getting. Technology moves so fast nowadays that before you know it, you are still paying for the same internet speed you had 5 years ago, and paying WAY more than need for what you are getting. So, how do you know when enough is enough? There are two types of checks that should be performed regularly to make sure that you are able to run your business efficiently and “get the most bang for your buck”. The first check is a network analysis to examine the current health and status of everything on your network to make sure that everything is running as smoothly as it should. This allows you to prepare for and make changes as they are needed; it is always better to be proactive than reactive! The second check is to have someone perform a telecom audit of your internet and phone service to make sure that you are not paying for things you don’t need, not paying too much for what you are getting, and not paying for service that is inappropriate to your needs. If you are interested in taking a deeper look at your network and telecom service please let us know. We can work with you to analyze your current situation and put together a personalized plan of any recommended action steps based on the findings. We have recently had a number of clients interested in upgrading their internet service; dropping older, slower, less reliable service for super-fast fiber internet - available at deep discounts in many areas through the end of the year.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Why Backup? The Importance of Protecting Your Data

One of the keys to running a successful business is to set goals and have strategic steps in place to get you there. We all set goals - whether at the CEO level, or the ground level, we all have something we are working towards. However, we live in an uncertain world. What would you do if disaster struck and derailed you from your course? What would your employees do if you lost all of your files, or if your customer information was corrupted or missing? One of the most important things you can do to protect your business is to have a plan in place before something happens to help you recover your data and get back to work quickly. The scary truth about data loss is that if you don't have a plan in place in advance, there is a less than 10% chance that you will be able to recover from a major data loss. That is 90% of businesses closing their doors within two years of a disaster! The good news is that the ugly aftermath of a disaster can mostly be avoided by having a plan in place in advance. You may never be the victim of a hurricane or tornado, but data loss comes in many forms. Hardware failure, computer viruses, and human error can be just as destructive as natural disasters, and often are harder to predict. You don't have to recreate the wheel and come up with a contingency plan to backup your data and to recover from a disaster on your own. We are happy to work with you to come up with a plan that fits the needs of your business and leverages available technology to help you be as prepared as possible. Give us a call if you want to discuss what that plan looks like for you. If you would like to get some more information on backup and recovery solutions we invite you to join us on September 15th for our Lunch and Learn "Why Backup? The Importance of Protecting your Data". Contact us for more info or to RSVP.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Windows 10 is Here!

Windows 10 has arrived, and brought with it a number of changes. Microsoft added many new features to their newest OS, but they removed a few "old favorites" too. Here are some of the biggest new features of Windows 10, as well as the things we will miss the most. One of the most welcome changes in Windows 10 is the return of the Start menu. Microsoft has designed a new start menu bringing back the familiarity and ease of use of Windows 7 with the information and customization allowed by the live tiles of Windows 8. Cortana, the digital Windows Phone Assistant will be making an appearance on your computer, allowing you to easily and quickly search your PC, set reminders, check the weather, and much more. Cortana even learns more about you over time, becoming more intuitive and providing more useful information based on your needs and preferences. Ever feel like you spend half of your time switching between different windows and apps trying to find the information you want? Windows 10 is introducing the ability to have multiple virtual desktops, so you can easily organize what information you see and when. This is especially useful if you are working on different projects at the same time and want to keep the information grouped together so nothing gets mixed up. Microsoft is introducing a new browser called Edge that is designed to help move you from browsing to doing. With the ability to take notes on webpages, read articles without distractions, and save your articles and notes for review later; Microsoft Edge is bringing some great new tools to help you be more productive. One thing to mention is that even though Windows 10 includes Microsoft Edge, Internet Explorer is still going to be around to support older applications and programs. Those are a few of our favorite new features, but what is going away? One of the biggest changes in Windows 10 is the removal of Windows Media Center. Got a DVD movie you want to watch on your PC? You will need to either use a 3rd party media player or purchase Microsoft's DVD player app from the Windows Store. Some older programs and equipment may not be compatible with the new OS. Before deciding to upgrade to Windows 10 it is recommended to make sure that all of your software programs and business applications will be compatible with the new OS. We have already seen users that have upgraded to Windows 10 that need assistance in reloading Windows 7 or 8 because their software did not function as expected, or because there were not drivers for some of their equipment. You don't want to run into a situation where you cannot work until you reload your PC. There are many more changes and considerations that may weigh in on your decision regarding if and when to upgrade. Contact us if you would like assistance in evaluating your setup and determining the best plan of action for your business.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Telecom Audit

Just about every week I encounter someone with concerns over how much they are spending each month on their internet or phone service. It seems that rates just keep going up and up, and then you have to remember those “Other Charges and Fees”. Some of those charges and fees are completely legitimate, but with all of the lawsuits and stories floating around regarding subscribers paying for services they don’t want or need, I wouldn’t blindly trust what is listed on the bill. We have worked with a lot of businesses recently to perform what is called a Telecom Audit – reviewing the current bill for Internet, phone, TV, to make sure that the business is getting what they are paying for, and not paying for things they are not receiving or do not want. Performing a Telecom Audit can be very useful in a couple of different ways. It can help you strip any “junk fees” or any unwanted services or charges from your bill to reduce your “monthly recurring cost”. This one easy step can help you feel like you are throwing less money away every month! The other benefit of a Telecom audit is that it can help you recognize when you are overpaying for the service you are receiving. We have worked with a number of clients to evaluate what services are available from different providers and can often assist them in securing better services for much less than they have been paying. In fact, we recently helped one customer save over 60% of their monthly internet and phone service bills by switching them to a more reasonably priced competitor. That is hundreds of dollars every month that your business does not have to spend! One of the biggest dangers a company can face is to sign up for services and “set it and forget it” never following up to make sure the billing stays accurate. It is all too easy for expenses to get out of control while you are focused on other aspects of your business. Let us help you with that. You should be able to run your business without worrying about “junk fees” or excessive charges costing you money. Contact us today for more information about Telecom Audits and what we can do to help!

Friday, May 29, 2015

Emerging Threats

It seems that every time you turn on the news you are hearing about a new data breach. From Social Security Numbers to credit card numbers, important data is out there and somebody wants it. The information security landscape can look bleak at times, with many U.S. companies experiencing an average of 1,400 security attacks weekly. Cyber-attacks were once mainly the concern of governments and large corporations, but the amount of sensitive information out there has put small and medium sized business in just as much danger of a serious breach. The potential financial reward associated with the theft of credit card info or other sensitive info has given rise to a new breed of malware called Advanced Persistent Threats or APTs. Imagine someone breaking into your home or business and stealing everything, but instead of leaving afterwards they hide and wait for you to replace everything and then rob you again. That is how APTs work – they are designed to get access to your system through a security flaw such as a zero day vulnerability and then steal your data or damage your network, and then morph and hide so it can remain undetected and attack you again and again. The good news is that there are ways to protect yourself and your network from a security breach. From forming a plan to implementing layered security measures there are steps you can take and we can assist with this process. Call us today to assess your current setup and get your sensitive information locked-down.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Hope to see you tomorrow!

On behalf of Computer St. Louis you have been chosen to receive a complimentary VIP pass to the...

**2011 St. Louis Tech-Security Conference**

Place: Doubletree Hotel & Conference Center
16625 Swingley Ridge Road
Chesterfield, MO. 63017

Date: Thursday, August 11th, 2011

Click on the following link to register for your free VIP pass:

VIP passes include Lunch and conference materials.

Gift Cards, iPods, software and many other give-aways!
Featuring 8 Tech-Security speakers and 30 exhibits!!

For full conference agenda click on:
Or call Dawn Morrissey at 636-778-9495 for more information.