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A team working on a an IT solution project

Three Easy Ways to Improve your Network Security

Cloud-based storage and computing lets you get out of the IT business and focus on doing running your business. It’s also, as we’re about to see, far more secure than traditional servers and storage.

Even now, more companies are depending on the benefits of cloud tech for remote work.

Furthermore, there are many big name companies that have found success by migrating to the cloud.

If you’re a smart business owner, you’ll see the writing on the wall. Cloud technology is essential for businesses’ success.

So without further ado, here are three ways to take advantage of cloud security:

1. Move your files to the cloud

Cloud file sharing and storage saves you from disaster. Say bye to lost attachments, file size limits and unsecure collaboration. More importantly, it puts the security of your files in the heavily-protected server room of an IT partner or technology provider – so you have a far safer back-up of all your files as well. It’s the easiest of all the cloud security steps and it dramatically improves your security overnight.

Security

Business owners use the cloud because the data stored on it is safe. Why is it safe? Because data stored on the cloud is distributed through redundant servers and never stored in just one place. Meaning, hardware failure of any kind becomes a non-issue.

If there is damage to your hardware due to a flood, storm or any other reason, your information remains secure.If a company like Cisco is vulnerable to a power outage chances are you are too.

Cloud servers also have automatic backups and multi-factored authentication to prevent data loss or theft.

This is especially helpful if your company has valuable or sensitive data. Security features on the cloud help protect against social engineering techniques like email scams. However,  there are also safe practices when emailing that can help mitigate threats.

Cost Savings

Annual operation costs drop significantly when using the cloud. Rather than pay for Internal IT software, everything is stored online or in a private server. Separate storage becomes unnecessary and so does much of your hardware and software costs.

Easy Sharing

If you’ve ever used Google Docs or Dropbox, you’re probably familiar with file sharing. File sharing is function of the cloud. A cloud environment facilitates remote work, communication and increased productivity as a result.

CIA uses the cloud for their most sensitive data and workloads

2. Move your applications to the cloud

Save over $30,000 a year by switching to the cloud per application

You probably already use cloud apps too. Facebook, Gmail, Slack or Office365 are all examples of cloud tech. However, you can also put your most important on-site apps, the ones stored on your computer, on the cloud. Application virtualization transforms any non-cloud app into a cloud-based app, easy, so your users  can access it from any device. 

Examples include :

1 . Quickbooks

2. Descartes

3. Thomas Reuter

For example, Nerds Support is a Quickbooks hosting provider. Which means businesses looking to adopt Quickbooks application services through us. Cloud based applications like Quickbooks are the best options for businesses that need to work remotely. Quickbooks hosting for remote work is a popular option among medium and small business for its accessibility.

Those times that you leave your laptop at home and have to rush back to pick it up before your 10 am meeting are gone. You can access that Excel and Powerpoint presentation in an instant.

Automation & Backups 

Creating data backups is among the biggest issues businesses face. Between dealing with complex client data, customer service, and business operations, it’s hard to remember to back up files and valuable information. This makes you vulnerable to data loss. With cloud storage, data backups are automated and routinely performed to prevent data loss or correct data mistakes that may arise. 

Data backups are good for medium and small businesses for many reasons. They also prevent ransomware attacks like the ones that plagued New Orleans in 2019.

3. Move your desktops to the cloud

Managing many PCs is a lot of work and can lead to many unsecure devices. Simply because businesses don’t have good data management practices. Your users can work on any device, any browser, anytime. And if they leave their laptop in an Uber, the airport, or at home, no problem.

Contact us today to start migrating your apps to the cloud. 

Outsourcing your tech responsibilities creates opportunities to scale and grow your business. But also consider what kind of cloud provider you’re trusting with your operation? You also need to establish a cloud migration plan. 

Nerds Support has over 17 years of experience, working with small and medium sized businesses in IT Cloud Solutions.

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Outdated technology causes issues for future situations

Outdated System Creating Issues For Those Filing For Unemployment

Outdated Systems

As the temporary shutdown forces millions of people out of a job, millions of Floridians struggle to file for unemployment due to the Florida Reemployment Assistance Program’s outdated website.

These website crashes leave many Floridians confused and desperate to find work. The system used by the Florida Economic Opportunity is called CONNECT. The CONNECT system runs on a software that dates back to 2013. Some of the system framework used to build the application seems to date back to the time of Governor Rick Scott.

Connect Keeps Crashing

The CONNECT system doesn’t seem to have been designed with an end date in mind. In other words, there was no plan put in place to replace or update it.

This results in slow and unstable connection to the site when users open the program from a P.C. using Windows 7 or newer.

The Cloud is Constantly Connected

To avoid the hassles of running complex software and storing and processing large chucks of data, businesses and government agencies outsource these processes to cloud service providers like Amazon Web Services or Nerds Support. That way, applications and programs are scalable and operate more efficiently.

The CONNECT system was developed before the time of cloud computing was as popular as well known. Governor Ron Desantis himself has acknowledged a flaw with the website.

“The website would be down more than half the time, it would take seven second just to connect through,” he said. ” It may have been okay in 1996, not in 2020.”

Old Browsers Beat Beyond Belief

Considering Windows 7 itself has recently reached the end of life period, you can image how problematic it is for people trying to use the current system.

This is why so many people in Florida struggle to file for unemployment.

This, however, is not an isolated incident.

Labor Department Lagging Log ins

New York’s State Department of Labor also experienced a flood of traffic to their website as people try to apply for unemployment as well.

The governor of New York got various tech companies to work on the infrastructure of the website. Furthermore, it increased server capacity and assigned 700 staff members to an unemployment insurance hotline.

Filing Formula Fixes Freeze

The State Department of Labor also asks to reduce the surge of traffic by scheduling when citizens file. For example, people with last names A- F apply on Monday, last names G-N apply on Tuesday, and last names O-Z apply Wednesday.

In Florida IT experts admit the existing website hasn’t been developed beyond earlier browsers. In order to navigate through the existing site, users would have to use an older, or outdated browser that functions better with the site.

Wednesday, April 8, Florida did provide a second website that was easier to use on smartphones and tablets. This helped ease the influx of traffic but many of the findings from the Office of Florida Auditors have not been addressed.

Word To the Wise From the Web

This should be cautionary tale for businesses with outdated IT or unaudited systems. This period of remote working should be an opportunity to review your IT network and infrastructure and ensure everything from security to data and filing systems are updated.

Even outsourcing some of these tasks to a cloud provider can dramatically increase the productivity and efficiency of your business.

If you’d like more information on cloud, cyber security, remote work or managed services visit our blog or contact us at 305-551-2009.

 

Business employees joining a video conference call

How to Choose Your Video Conference Apps: Zoom, Microsoft Teams & Skype

The outbreak of Covid-19 has forced business to adapt to remote work quickly. An important aspect of working remotely is video conferencing.  Therefore, utilizing the best applications and services are essential for a smooth remote experience.

The three most popular Video Conference applications are Zoom, Microsoft Teams, and Skype. Therefore, we’ll review them here to make sure you have all of the information you need to make the best decision.

Zoom

The Zoom conferencing application works on Mac, PC, Android and IOS. They offer a free plan that hosts no larger than 100 people. There is a paid option for medium and small businesses for $15 to $20 a month. For larger businesses, the application offers a $20 a month plan for a minimum of 50 people per Zoom call.

Zoom has HD video and audio, video recording capabilities, screen-sharing and co- annotation. Gmail, Outlook and iCal support Zoom meeting scheduling. You can set a meeting on your email service by integrating it with your calendar. Hosts can schedule meetings and send notification to attendees.

If you can’t use the microphone or camera, Zoom has a chat feature that allows you to communicate through text. This is useful during meetings or presentations where participants need to ask questions without interrupting the host.

You can sign up for Zoom free by creating an account with email or singing in with either Google or Facebook.

When using Zoom you must keep in mind their recent controversy and security issues. There have been concerns over the app’s privacy risks involving “zoombombing.” The education department in the US as well as several businesses have instructed employees to switch from Zoom to Microsoft Teams while the issues are resolved by the company.

However, you can still use the application if you take simple security measures to protect your meetings. You can use a meeting exclusive ID or enable Zoom’s wait feature “Waiting Room” that allows you to see who wants to join your meeting before giving access.

Microsoft Teams

If your company uses Microsoft Office 365, you already have access to Teams. The application offers the same features as any other conferencing platform like audio calls, video conferencing and chat. As a Microsoft platform it can integrate with other office applications like PowerPoint and excel for meeting that involve going over figures or presentations. It’s also compatible with other office apps like Word for file sharing.

On Teams you can video conference with 250 people at once. Also, you can live present with a maximum 10,000 people. You can talk to colleagues privately or over certain channels. You can even focus attention to a group or an individual with the mention feature.

Meetings can be scheduled through the Teams application itself or on Outlook.

It appears Microsoft Teams doesn’t share the same vulnerabilities Zoom does. It stated in a blog post that it doesn’t use your camera features to track participant attention, or use personal data to create ads. Microsoft Teams, it appears, is making a point to distinguish itself from Zoom in these ways.

Like Zoom you can download a free version but if you have Office 365 it comes included. In March of 2020, Microsoft made the free version accessible to businesses and schools for use without a subscription to Office 365. Microsoft is offering a six month free trial of its new Office 365 E1 for businesses that don’t already have Teams licenses. Moreover, there are business plans that have Teams included start at $5 a month per user.

Skype

Skype can sustain up to 50 people per video call which is good for business meetings. It can also record calls and caption if necessary. Skype integrates with mobile devices and tablets and functions like a VoIP phone service. It has caller ID, voicemail, file sharing, split screen and screen sharing.

Additionally, it has a chat for text communication. The benefit of Skype is these features are available for free upon downloading the application.

Hacker cracks into a business web meeting

Zoom: Tips and Tricks for Safe Video Conferencing

In the midst of the coronavirus outbreak, local and state governments in the U.S. have instituted shelter-in-place orders, quarantines and lockdowns. As a result, video chat programs have skyrocketed in popularity as people work from home and try to coordinate meetings digitally.

Zoom has become the most popular of the video chat apps. Unfortunately, Zoom’s security flaws like, “Zoombombing” and built in tracking features made it less than ideal for businesses and employees that want to keep themselves as safe as possible.

It has also been subject to a number of scandals and lawsuits due to these security issues and CEO Yaun has since stated Zoom will freeze features updates to address issues.

Data Issues & Privacy

Another big issue is Zoom was not end-to-end encrypted.  They are “transport encrypted, meaning data is accessible to Zoom. Furthermore, user emails, files and photos were being leaked

Here are some vulnerabilities to keep in mind while using video conference and a few things you can do to avoid them.

Zoom Bombing

As mentioned previously, zoombombing is one of the issues Zoom has with its video chat app. It’s when users of Zoom get their meetings highjacked by outside actors during a video conference. This is a type of cyber attack that’s proving increasingly more dangerous as schools, universities and private companies are jumping on platform to continue their work.

To protect yourself and your business from “Zoom bombing”, the FBI recommends the following safety measures:

  • • Ensure meetings are private. This is achieved by either requiring a password for entry or controlling guest access from a waiting room.
  • • Consider your security requirements when choosing a service. If you need end-to-end encryption, verify that the videoconference service has it.
  • • Ensure software is updated.  Using an older version of the app could leave you open to a security breach.

As you can see, this doesn’t only apply to Zoom alone. These tips are applicable to all video conference services. However, the two most used applications now are Zoom and Microsoft Teams.

Use a Domain Based Approach

A domain based approach to security in video conferencing allows system administrators to assign different levels of permission to users. This is achieved either by the video conference service or in house IT. This means if a hacker attempts to video call someone in the company, the hacker will have to wait until someone with the relevant credentials signs on and grants him access.

Selling Your Data

Like Facebook, Zoom has been caught with its hands in the cookie jar when it comes to user data. According to an article by Vice motherboard, Zoom sends user data to Facebook regardless of the user having a Facebook account.

Zoom uses Facebook’s software development kit to employ features into their apps in an easier way.  However, this has the added result of sending data to Facebook. For Zoom users, that means Facebook knows whenever a user opened Zoom and from which device it was accessed. Moreover, if a user is using a phone it would tell Facebook what carrier they had, their location and their unique advertising identifier.

Motherboard reported Zoom would stop sending certain data to Facebook.

In this case, either use a different Video Conference app that guarantees end-to-end encryption. If you’re using Zoom, review your security setting and try minimizing permission to access as much as possible.

Put a Video Conference Policy In Place

A video conference policy lets you set expectations and limits when using a video conference app like Zoom or Microsoft Teams. Companies should outline specific protocols for using Video conferencing that address the following questions:

  1. Who gets permission to record a video conference from everyone on the call? Can recording be done?
  2.  Can personal mobile devices be used on a conference call? If so when and under what circumstances?
  3.  When can sensitive information be discussed and with whom?
  4.  When and how should the cameras be used?
  5.  When and how should microphones be used?
  6.  Who gets remote control access to cameras and who doesn’t?

When using Video Conferencing

Remember to address employees and co-workers cordially, keeping in mind safe practices and procedures as if you were in office. Video conferencing applications are a useful tool but they aren’t perfect and should be used with caution.

If you have any questions or concerns about remote work optimizationcyber security or cloud technology give us a call or visit our blog for more articles and content.

Scammer calls citizen who just collected their stimulus check

How to Stay Protected Against Stimulus Check Scams

Stimulus Check Scams

President Donald Trump signed a Coronavirus Aid plan that would guarantee millions of Americans stimulus checks from the government.

Although many may see this as a positive, there are scammers looking to profit off this plan. Remember there is no sign-up required to receive the stimulus check. The process is automatic for all qualifying Americans.

How Will I Be Contacted?

The IRS always contacts taxpayers through traditional mail. Therefore, if you receive a phone call, email or text message from an “IRS official” stating you need to apply or register, it’s likely a scam.

The treasury department makes it clear on their website: “If you receive calls, emails, or other communications claiming to be from the Treasury Department and offering COVID-19 related grants or stimulus payments in exchange for personal financial information, or an advance fee, or charge of any kind, including the purchase of gift cards, please do not respond.”

How Much Will I Receive?

Americans will receive up to $1200 per person in the coming weeks and parents will receive an additional $500 for each child under 17 years of age.

Furthermore, the IRS clarifies that the agency will post any additional information when it’s available at www.irs.gov/coronavirus.

How Will I Get The Stimulus Check?

Those who file their tax returns electronically and provide the IRS with their bank information will likely get their payments earlier via direct deposit. Some 88% of individual returns were filed electronically in 2018.

Individuals who file their tax returns electronically get their payments earlier through direct deposit.

What if I Don’t Have Direct Deposit?

Those who did not provide the IRS direct deposit information on their 2019 or 2018 tax return will get that opportunity in a new government online portal. This way, citizens won’t have to wait for the check in the mail.

Paper checks are expected to take longer to arrive.

However, details about this online portal have not been released. Until the IRS releases an official web address and further guidance, don’t give out your personal banking information online.

What Types of Scams?

Scammers are taking full advantage of Americans’ financial vulnerability right now.

Details regarding the portal have not been made public, however. So, until the IRS releases more information on the website provided above, don’t give out any personal information.

Scammers target financially vulnerable people the most. The greater the desperation the easier it is to extort and manipulate them.

There have also been reports of fake checks going around. However, if one is informed they have a better chance of not falling victim to these scams.

How Do I Know I’m Being Scammed?

Any and all checks delivered by mail now are scams or fraudulent. It will take the government at least a few weeks to mail out considering the bill was only passed Friday, March 27.

Additionally, any check you receive in the mail that requires online verification or contacting a given number is also fake. Be skeptical of checks for odd amounts of money, specifically checks with a cent amount.

The government stimulus will be for an even amount of money regardless of the amount received.

What Kinds of Scams should I Expect?

Any emails with suspicious links, text messages or even voice messages you receive regarding payment is probably a social engineering scam. If you receive an email that fits the description above, don’t open anything. Simply file a complaint with the FBI or Federal Trade Commission.

This applies to businesses as well. If you are working remotely and find yourself reading an email regarding the stimulus check, contact your IT department immediately. It is always better to be safe than sorry.    

According to CNBC report, coronavirus phishing scams are rising.

The Federal Trade Commission and Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. issued warnings for Americans to be keep aware of cybercriminals who attempt to steal form users with COVID-19 related content.

Scammers work best when they hide behind legitimacy. Therefore, they use headlines, current events, trends and personal information to trick victims into giving up valued information.

Stoking fear and uncertainty is a tried and true method of manipulating a victim. Capitalizing on ignorance is the best method.

Those who don’t keep up with the news or are unclear about the specifics of the stimulus plan passed by President Trump’s administration are likelier to make a mistake than those who aren’t.

What Do These Attacks Look Like?

Scammers launch phishing attacks, through email and text to take advantage of those who have received checks. Often, these messages appear authentic, usually with a call-to-action such as “download our guide to using check” or “Get your money now, click here.”

If you are currently working remotely, contact your fellow employees, team members or IT department to verify any and all emails received. Have a strong cyber security plan in place.  There is strength in numbers and communicating doubts is the best way to deal with uncertainty.

Make sure you have a VoIP system in place to coordinate and communicate with your team, employers, or IT department at all times. This could be Skype, Zoom or any other online communication system.

Hackers are using this time of social distancing and isolation to their advantage, hoping that victims won’t verify the phishing emails they send out.

Having a reliable network of trusted experts or peers is good way to protect yourself from falling into one of these scams.