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Business employee working on his laptop remotely from home

Advice For Your Employees While Working Remotely

More and more companies are working remotely due to the pandemic and it doesn’t look like this trend is going to stop anytime soon. Companies are offering more full-time remote positions, which gives employees more flexibility to their work-life balance. However, this shift isn’t always seamless for the company; managing technology and people is very different while the whole team is working remotely. Today we will cover some technology tips to tackle ASAP and advice to give your employees to help them work from home as efficiently as they can!

Technology tips

Providing the tools, platforms, and apps your employees need to work remotely is a must. Depending on the type of service you offer, a laptop will be the very minimum of what they need in order to digitally transform their home office. You may also need to provide things like a second monitor or external hard drives.

It will fall on the IT department to equip every computer with the communication and workflow systems necessary for your employees to work effectively from home, so you need to be ready to teach your employees how to use communication platforms. Tools like VoIP phone systems or chat room applications will help your team communicate just as you would in person. And unlike a traditional office phone set, these digital communication platforms can be easily installed for employees who are already working outside the office. Hosting meetings to teach your employees how to use the new applications will be a helpful start, then you can continuously share tips about system updates and user training so they stay up to date with the changing technology!

Once all of the heavy lifting from the IT department is complete, you can still blast out technology resources and help your employees work effectively from home. General computer help and cybersecurity will go far while people aren’t working in the office.

In light of COVID-19, online phishing and other scams have become more common. Provide your team with a comprehensive list of ways to avoid phishing scams, viruses, and other attacks on your devices that come via email. It’s important to have individuals stay aware and vigilant of these attacks, especially while working remotely. Other, general computer tips like restarting on a regular basis, backing up data to an external hard drive, and closing out of unused tabs can be helpful for people who aren’t technologically savvy! This advice will keep their computers running faster and will result in fewer headaches at home.

Workplace advice

HR is another department that will have a heavy hand in getting your team working remotely successfully. They will be the main communicators of company changes and the ones willing and ready to offer additional support to remote employees.

You may have to offer resources on home-office environments, mental health, and childcare services. Some employees may be looking to create a home office space or even preparing to sell their home now that they’re working remotely full-time. This is a great opportunity to share information about home equity loans. This large sum of money can be used to upgrade their home office or make other changes around the house if they’re planning to sell.

Telehealth services have seen a large increase in usage over the past 6 months due to the pandemic. This is a great time to share a telehealth service that can be used by your team and covered by your insurance provider. Proper mental health practices will help keep your employees productive and happy while working at home.

Finally, share local childcare services that are still available and open during COVID-19. Parents who work from home may appreciate the break in their day that they were used to having while working in an office setting or while their kids were at school. Employees will value the advice you have to share about local happenings that can positively impact their family and home environment!

There is plenty of information and resources available to you to pass along to your employees while they work remotely. From cybersecurity to childcare, your employees will value that you are researching and sharing ways to help them do their jobs effectively and keep a good work-life balance while at home.

 

A businessman holding a laptop secured by the cloud

Top Cybersecurity Risks for CPA Firms in Miami

Cybercriminals are always hunting for identity theft victims. It is becoming increasingly important for you to take proactive measures to protect your clients’ personal and financial information. It doesn’t matter if you work by yourself or for a large accounting firm—digital security risks are a growing concern for everyone in the accounting profession. Those who don’t address these concerns are putting themselves and their businesses at serious professional liability risk.

There has been a rise in cyber attacks since the Coronavirus pandemic set in. 80 percent of firms have seen an increase in cyberattacks. Therefore, it is becoming increasingly important to take proactive measures to protect clients personal and financial information.

The truth is, cybercriminals are always hunting for new victims. Gartner research shows that the cyber security market will be at $170.4 billion by 2022.

We’ve already seen countless instances of hackers targeting businesses and institutions and getting paid millions of dollars in ransom money. Cities like New Orleans and Naples, Fl have suffered severe attacks that compromised their systems and the security of the cities themselves.

Since financial institutions are trusted with much of their client’s personal data, they are high valued targets for hackers.

Here are the Top Cyber Security Risks CPA Firms in Miami are facing:

Ignorance

While the advanced abilities of modern cyber criminals may seem obvious, too many businesses do not grasp the reality of the frequency and the severity of the threat. One study estimates that 97% of companies have already experienced a breach of some sort, meaning at least one hacker has bypassed all layers of security. The threat of cyber security is real, and ignorance offers no protection.

Poor Passwords

Passwords are the most basic defense against unwanted digital access. How secure are your passwords? Are you using them to their fullest potential? For most corporations, poor passwords are a major security risk. About 76% of corporate network breaches are directly related to lost or stolen credentials, like easily hacked passwords. Change your password immediately if it is “123456,” “password,” or something equally unsafe. Be sure to follow best practices for strong passwords like a long chain with varying types of characters.

Internal Threats

Internal threats usually come from individuals who misuse their information access. Unfortunately, no matter how careful your firm is, you may have an unscrupulous employee on your hands. Also, service vendors may find themselves in a building where sensitive information is on display. It’s important to restrict access to information to employees on a need-to-know basis.

The Cloud and Other Technological Vulnerabilities

Unless you have Managed IT experience, finding all the technological vulnerabilities in your software and hardware is nearly impossible. Every application and operating system on your computer, phone, or tablet can have a vulnerability, and it only takes a hacker one moment to exploit it once it has been found. When you use cloud-based storage, you add another layer of vulnerability. Work with an IT professional and be sure to review your cloud-based service providers often.

Phishing, Malware, and Hacking

4,000 firms were analyzed in a 2020 Verizon report and they found that 52 percent were a result of hacking.

Phishing and malware are malicious attempts to access sensitive data. Phishing is the process of sending an email that entices a reader to click on an attachment and enter personal data, which opens the computer to a hack. Malware is malicious software installed without a user’s knowledge with the purpose of hacking the computer or otherwise disrupting its function. Both are a risk for the modern CPA. All it takes is an involuntary click on a seemingly innocent email to infect a computer or release sensitive information.

Of course, you also have the risk of being hacked.

As a data collector and caretaker, a CPA has a legal responsibility to remain compliant with government regulations. Over time, the data that is stored in order to remain compliant becomes a threat in and of itself. If the data is not properly stored, or if it is not able to be found in the event of an audit, your firm could face a large set of legal risks.

How to Defend Against Cyber Security Threats

Work with an IT professional

Work with an IT professional to ensure you have proper security protocols in place. Review any cloud-based service providers to see if they have good security measures as well. Perform a security risk assessment to stop any potential problems before they can grow.

Understand and Protect the Flow of Confidential Data

Make sure you understand the flow of confidential data in your firm and enforce proper security procedures. Review access controls to ensure only those who should see data have access to it. Train, vet, and monitor your employees, and carefully screen any service providers or vendors who come to your facility. Make sure customers are not able to see the data of others when they visit your facility.

Create an Information Security Plan

Have a written information security plan that includes a timely purging of generic data sets. Train your employees to adhere to these rules. Review the plan periodically among leadership staff as well as employees.

Reduce Your Risk with Professional Liability Insurance

Protect yourself with proper insurance. While all of these risk reduction strategies are important, the most important way to protect yourself and your business is through professional liability insurance. Purchase a policy that properly addresses all potential cybersecurity exposures.

Protect Your Firm from Cybersecurity Threats

For CPAs, protecting data can quickly become a full-time job. It is your ethical and legal responsibility to do everything in your power to protect your clients and their personal data. Beyond that, you need to protect yourself—Cybersecurity risks are very real in this modern world. By following these strategies and obtaining appropriate liability coverage, you can fight cybersecurity threats head on.

Conclusion

The cyber risks are so great these days that management must get involved to ensure that appropriate mitigation strategies are in place. We all know the first step to treating addiction is admitting there is a problem. Similarly, the first step toward cyber security is acknowledging that you are at risk.

 

a man using the cloud on his tablet

How To Help Your IT Department with Managed IT Services

Managed IT Services Transitions Businesses to a Cloud-based Infrastructure

If you’re looking to grow your business, you should consider managed IT services in Miami. Managed IT Service Providers help improve business’s operations by reducing costs and providing superior technology solutions. Here are a few ways an MSP can help you achieve your business goals.

You can take a look at 10 examples of cloud computing on our blog.

Hybrid Cloud Solutions Increase in Popularity

It’s no secret that Nerds Support’s Miami cloud solutions is increasing demand day-by-day. A lot of companies are turning to the hybrid cloud. Organizations need to learn about hybrid cloud to grow. But hiring an MSP can help them.

Experts expect  the hybrid cloud market to grow from $44.6 billion in 2018 to $97.6 billion by 2023.

The hybrid cloud market was valued by Markets and Markets at $45.70 billion in 2019. Furthermore, hybrid cloud is expected to reach $128.01 billion by 2025.

These numbers indicate that Hybrid cloud systems are growing in popularity and use. Therefore, it’s not a surprise that 94 percent of enterprises use cloud systems. This is according to Right Scale annual state of the cloud report.

More and More Businesses Embrace Multiple Cloud Applications

In addition to using the hybrid cloud, companies are using more cloud applications like Citrix & Vmware. So, it becomes important for organizations to integrate all of these different solutions. An MSP can provide integrated solutions so that companies have a smooth workflow.

Sticking to one type of cloud solution might resolve some issue but create others. Both public and private cloud solutions have benefits and drawbacks.

Pros of Public Cloud

  • Based on a pay-as-you-go model. Lower upfront costs.
  • Large enough to meet the needs of a majority of organizations
  • Massive network of servers which protects the system from failure.
  • Servers are physically housed in a secure, offsite data center
  • Large public Cloud providers like Amazon Web Services and Comcast Business Cloud have enterprise level infrastructure and top grade security.
  • Scalable on-demand resources and applications

Cons of Public Cloud

  • Options are limited if a company requires more customized solutions.
  • The public nature of cloud puts your data at risk. A hacker targeting the public cloud vendor could expose your data even if the hacker was not targeting you specifically.
  • Public cloud may be a one-size-fits-most, and has limited flexibility in configuration and security.
  • Public cloud is not ideal for companies who use sensitive data or is subject to compliance regulations.
  • Data centers might be located overseas where specific regulations don’t apply or compliance standards differ.

The Pros of Private Cloud

  • Hosting and infrastructure are not shared by customers, providing a higher level of control, security and customization.
  • Server can be stored onsite or offsite
  • Capable of delivering different service models
  • Strong security features make it ideal for companies who operate using private data.
  • Can adhere to strict compliance standards
  • Has more flexibility and controls
  • Cost could decrease over time
  • Lower security risk. Private clouds are not as targeted as larger public cloud vendors.
  • Higher scalability than public cloud.

Cons of Private Cloud:

  • Remote access of a private cloud could create security risks
  • More expensive up-front costs than public.
  • Private clouds might require hardware that you will have to own and maintain.
  • Security, in many cases, is up to the user

The Pros and Cons of Hybrid Cloud

Hybrid cloud harnesses the capabilities of both public and private clouds. Hybrid clouds offer more customized options than public cloud by giving companies the option to choose decide where to place your IT applications.

Pros of Hybrid Cloud:

  • Flexibility and scalability depending on individual application needs within the company.  For example: interacting with clients on the public cloud, but keeping their data secure on a private network.
  • Scalability and flexibility is determined by the needs of the company
  • Higher level of security than a public cloud alone
  • Can choose what aspects of IT will be private and which will be public.
  •  Integrates benefits of both private and public cloud solutions

Cons of Hybrid Cloud:

  • Keeping track of multiple different platforms and vendors
  • If you’re using multiple platforms and vendors it it could get overwhelming to track.
  • Using both public and private clouds may require more complex IT management that could equate to higher overall costs
  • Using a combination of public and private clouds could require advanced IT support and management that will raise costs

Fortunately, many of the drawbacks associated with hybrid clouds are resolved through managed it services. A managed IT services company like Nerds Support offers co-managed IT. That means we provide the business with supplementary IT department capable of handling the transition. Not only that, but we also provide the hardware necessary for a successful cloud migration.

Moving Enterprise Applications to the Public Cloud or Private Cloud

Cloud migration, for those of you who don’t know, is the act of moving business operations into the cloud. It is more a digital move than a physical one but it is at least partly physical. Cloud migration involves moving applications, data, IT processes, and data to the data center or centers.

Enterprise applications are located in the private cloud to maintain the security of an organization. But more and more organizations come to know that cloud is actually the more secure solution. So, companies are moving enterprise applications to the cloud. An MSP, like Nerds Support can help you move your enterprise applications to the public cloud safely.

Optimizing IT Cloud Strategies

As more and more companies are using the cloud, it becomes important to optimize and refine services and reduce expenses. As companies know the benefits of cloud solutions, they are looking to improve on the costs related to cloud. MSPs can assess the status of an organization’s cloud infrastructure. They can provide an all-in-one solution at an affordable cost.

Well, MSP service is not just about growing your business. It’s about achieving meaning growth. Let’s build a stronger foundation for the future with reliable managed services.

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Be careful with social engineering scams that install malware

Reduce Malware Infections in 7 Steps

7 IT Solutions To Reduce the Risk Of Malware Infections

Friday, June 26 2020 The University of California at San Francisco School of Medicine paid over $1 million to regain access to data after hackers encrypted it with malware.

Situations like this happen all the time. Unfortunately, businesses and institutions across the world have failed to properly prepare for cyberattacks. In many cases it’s a matter of outdated infrastructure and insufficient funding. In other cases, it’s neglect or improper training.

Because of the fact that if your system is infected, you likely won’t be getting your files back unless you pay the ransom, you likely don’t want this to infect your work systems. One of the ways to limit the possibility of this is to educate your employees on how to minimize the chances their systems will be infected. Here are seven practical IT solutions to reduce the risk of malware infections.

1) Watch out For Vulnerabilities

Cyber attackers are using all kinds of technology to exploit networks and systems. One piece of malicious tech they use are exploit kits. Exploit kit, also exploit packs, are programs used to deliver malware to a vulnerable network.

What do I mean by vulnerable? A vulnerability in software is a mistake, or error, in the code. The hacker manipulates the user into visiting a malicious website and if any errors exist in the code of the system, the exploit can be implemented.

Furthermore, exploit kits function in the background making it difficult to determine when you’re experiencing an attack.

Update your operating system, browsers, and plugins. If there’s an update to your computer waiting on queue, don’t let it linger.  Additionally, updates to operating systems, browsers, and plugins are often released to patch any security vulnerabilities discovered.

You can protect yourself from these types of attacks by avoiding links and remembering to update your software. Many of us have the nasty habit of putting off systems updates. The little icon in the corner that reminds us of a new update is often seen as a bother. However, consider the alternative.

These systems updates fix any security vulnerabilities the developers and programmers uncover. There is actually a type of vulnerability called a Zero-Day vulnerability and it happens when hackers exploit undiscovered or unintended vulnerabilities. The malware is actually called zero-day exploits.

This applies to mobile phones as well. Software updates on your phone are meant to strengthen the software and patch any flaws the programmers missed when releasing the software. Software is constantly improving because code is constantly improving.

This explanation in many ways oversimplifies the process but it works for our purposes.

2) Remove Software and Files From your Systems You aren’t using

We’ve all heard of spring cleaning. We look through all the things we have and toss out what we don’t use. If we let things accumulate they create clutter and can create big problems. Well, the same thing applies to software on your devices.

You have to periodically look through all the software on your devices and determine which ones are outdated and which ones are worth keeping. For example, Microsoft no longer releases software updates for Windows 7 and Windows XP. Furthermore, using these applications without support or patch updates puts you in a position to get hacked.

How old are the applications you use? When did you last update them?

Do your homework and find out or someone else will.

3) Be aware of Social Engineering

Cybercriminals spread malware into your systems through social engineering tactics like phishing. There are older, less commons ways too that are worth going over. In some cases, a hacker will place an unlabeled USB in a public place or an office. The idea is that an unsuspecting victim will pick it up, consider it harmless and claim it as their own. This is also a form of social engineering because it still manipulates users into executing a certain action.

There are anti phishing tools you can use like Retruster that protect against fraudulent emails, phishing and ransomware. There are also many plug ins available for free that help users identify malicious links by creating a “safe to click” marker on them.

4) Inspect your Inbox Like Your business depended on it: Because it does.

Understand that the biggest vulnerability your business has walks on two feet. It doesn’t matter how many tools, tips and software updates you have if you fall for a social engineering scam. And it doesn’t just happen to small companies either.

Facebook and Google put together were victim to a payment scam of over $100 million. Between 2013 and 2015 a Lithuanian hacker managed to send each company fake invoices while pretending to be an Asian manufacturer they were in business with.

This is an example of Vishing, a.k.a. voice phishing. Leading to the next point:

5) Always Verify credentials with Cold Callers

Vishing is a bit more difficult to pull off on companies. However, when done correctly it can generate a huge amount of profit for the scammer like I mentioned with Facebook and Google.

Depending on the company you might get a call from someone pretending to be Microsoft. In other cases it’ll be a vendor or a bank checking in. It’s difficult to say in what form these scams will come because the scammers tailor them specifically for a business.

In the case of Facebook and Google, for example, the scammers had to know they two companies were working with that specific vendor.

For your company it will be different according to your specific circumstances. If it isn’t believable then the victim won’t fall for it.

6) Make sure You have a Secure Connection

Whether you’re working in the office or remotely, you need to ensure your connection is secure. If you’re working from home, perhaps you’ll need a VPN to protect your Wi-Fi connection. Additionally, when you’re browsing on the web make sure the website is secure.

7) Use strong passwords with Multi-layer authentication

A large percentage of people reuse the same passwords for the personal and professional logins. It’s time to change that habit. Companies like Google and Apple created password generators that create strong, complex passwords. However, don’t leave it up to google.

If your business doesn’t use multi-layer authentication for access to important documents, files or websites, you’re living in the past. Nerds Support uses multi factor password authentication to ensure whoever is logging in can only do so if they are the right person.

Our systems require a mobile phone confirmation, email confirmation and password confirmation in order to provide access to our systems. That way, if a device gets stolen or a hacker gains access to a password, neither will be enough to access files alone.

Conclusion

Malware attacks are growing. Now that businesses are moving towards remote work, protecting against these types of attacks are more important than ever. Cyber security is not just about the technologies that protect your important data. It’s also about what you are doing to protect your business. It is the first and the last line of defense.

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Two business employees strategize their IT plan

Three Things Your Miami IT Strategy Needs to Succeed Now

Cyberattacks are among the biggest concerns in today’s world. A Varonis study reveals 62 percent of small businesses experience a cyberattack in 2018. However, this problem doesn’t simply affect small business.

The following companies were affected by cyberattacks in 2017

  • Whole Foods
  • Equifax
  • Deloitte
  • Yahoo

This doesn’t even begin to talk about other major breaches in cyber security. But nonetheless, the message is clear: cybercrime is at an all-time high and it shows no signs of slowing down.

Our Business IT Support team at Nerds Support is making it their resolution to keep providing their clients with the best IT services in Miami and to give prospective clients a new IT Strategy, designed to make their businesses efficient.

If you are looking to plan an IT strategy for your business, then the following three components are key to making your business safer.

1. Miami Data Backups:

Ransomware ignited a new fear within business owners. For months, business owners without an IT strategy imagined what they would do if their company was under a ransomware attack.

  • Should they pay the fine and hope the hacker would return the files?
  • Should they find someone to help them?

They struggled to make a solid choice.

Nerds Supports clients, on the other hand, did not have to make such a choice. Not only did our 24/7 IT Support team carry extensive knowledge on how to take down such malware, but Nerds Support also conducts daily backups.

This means that at the end of the work day, Nerds Support always saves a copy of all your company data. That way, if something happens the next day, at least you still have the data from the previous work day. Having a data backup plan not only makes a company feel safer, but also guarantees their company safety.

2. Miami Cloud Security:

The 2020 Lockdown proved that working at a secure office location might not always be possible.

Many businesses across multiple industries were forced to continue operating remotely. Although technology has enabled successful transition to a remote work environment. That doesn’t mean your business is safe with any security system.

If you can’t guarantee that all the devices of your employees are secured with advanced security features like multifactor authentication, compliance review and network security checks then you are taking a big risk.

When our Managed IT team explains cloud solutions to our clients, we always drive the point that the cloud’s strongest advantage is the security that cloud solutions provides. Nerds Support’s data centers are heavily monitored and constantly scanned to make sure your company files stay safe.

Our Business IT Support team also makes sure your company files are secure, so you may work from any place, at any time, with complete ease. Our cloud ran efficiently with no problems in 2017 and it is just as ready to take on Cyber Security.

3. Business Continuity:

How many businesses shut down after a hurricane hits?

During 2017, South Florida hit a major setback with Hurricane Irma. Businesses were left in the dark for anywhere between days up to weeks, leaving Miami business owners anxious to get back to work. But at Nerds Support, all the company’s clients were able to continue running their business through the hurricane. This was because Nerds Support’s servers were running at 100% capacity before, during and after the hurricane. That meant that nothing happened to all of our clients’ company data and even if their workplace was inaccessible, employees could have just opened their laptops from other locations and resumed working.

If you cannot operate under these conditions you are risking your business. Companies like Twitter, Square and Facebook are committing to a fully remote business model. Other companies like Goldman Sachs are looking into partially remote operations. That is because the world is waking up to the tentative nature of a business that depends on an office space to function.

Look around at all the retail stores that close down after a natural disaster or the COVID-19 outbreak. All of the major outlets and shopping malls that depended on their physical store to generate profit. However, we don’t have to look at the retail industry to see the breakdown of the old model.

CPA firms have struggled to migrate to the cloud and, therefore, integrate themselves to a remote work environment.  Some firms that had adopted the cloud partially are limited.  As this article in the Journal of Accountancy points out, firms that successfully migrate to the cloud are safer, more secure, more efficient and more productive as a result.

Business continuity ensures your business survives through any unpredictable event.  You wouldn’t buy a house without doors. You shouldn’t have a business without a business continuity plan.

Conclusion:

If you want to have a business IT strategy for 2018, you need to make sure it includes the following:

  • Data Backups
  • Cloud Security
  • Business Continuity

As a business owner, it’s easy to understand why developing an IT strategy from scratch can be difficult. But Cyber security is going to be so important, that it will be irresponsible to not have an IT Strategy on hand. The good news is that with Nerds Support, developing an IT strategy is as simple as making a phone call or visiting a website. Nerds Support’s clients are some of the most secure businesses in South Florida and our Business IT Support team is ready for anything cyber threats have in store. Call us today to see how you can kick off your year with a customized IT strategy.

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