The BYOD Hangover

Some businesses got drunk on BYOD – Bring Your Own Device. They bought heavily into the idea that they could cut costs and get more work out of employees by letting them use their own mobile devices and computers. Now we’re starting to see more problems for businesses, individuals and everyone they touch electronically.

Ten years ago, the benefits were clearly present for businesses and their owners/partners and employees. As the first generation of smartphones, mostly Blackberry, took hold, busy people and small businesses found they could untether themselves from office systems. Tablets, starting with iPad, increased their freedom because their bigger screens and keyboards made it easier to read spreadsheets, written documents and email and update files or respond to email.

  • Salespeople could access pricing lists, customer records and just about any critical information they needed to provide better service.
  • Everyone with a smartphone – and soon after, a tablet – could respond with increasing capabilities.
  • Busy parents could stay in touch with the office, giving them more flexibility to manage their lives.

In our business, IT professionals could respond to client or corporate information management needs from anyplace that had cellular service.

As Wi-Fi and all forms of communications networks grew and more smartphones and tablets came to the market, along with various carriers, the ways to stay connected lost all technical limits. And because everyone wanted to have their own personal technology – smartphone, tablet, laptop or desktop computer – to use on their own time, businesses of all sizes met the demand. Employees no longer needed to have specific products. IT managers were able to incorporate everyone’s devices, and employers were happy to give everyone 24/7/365 work capability.

It was intoxicating for everybody. Now, it’s intoxicating for hackers and cybercriminals; everyone else is having a big, bad hangover. The problem is security.

Here are some sobering concerns:

  • While we can help our business and professional services clients secure their networks and access to the data on their corporate servers, we need to educate employees about programs to control security. A business really needs to depend on its employees to keep their individual devices and computers secure. One hole can be an entry point to sensitive data anywhere.
  • Mobile phones and tablets are becoming more vulnerable to security problems. Why? That’s where the money is. With people conveniently accessing critical data over cellular and Wi-Fi networks all the time, hackers are finding more ways to penetrate security measures. Everyone needs to make sure they know that anybody in the world can take a peek at their business on any unsecured public network – like one in a coffee shop, hotel lobby or airport.
  • Even if you take every available security step in your corporate and personal systems – strong passwords, strong firewalls, up-to-date and active anti-virus and malware software – anyone with access to your system who doesn’t follow the same precautions puts you at risk.
  • The convenience of publicly accessible storage sites, such as Dropbox, can lead to the loss of privacy of your data. When you give someone the ability to download files from a storage site onto their own computers or tablets, you effectively give them ownership of that data. That means an employee can “own” client lists, financial information, etc.

With the horses already out of the barn and out on the open range, you can’t corral them and bring them back. But there a number of steps you can take:

  • Educate everyone in your organization about the need for security and what they need to do:
    • Have strong passwords and change them often
    • Be aware of when they are on unsecured public networks
    • Keep their own personal technology protected with up-to-date, activated anti-virus and malware programs
    • Understand that any holes in their own security systems can open holes for hackers to get into your business’s system and the systems of anyone or any organization they’ve ever contacted over the Internet – and that it can go viral from there
  • Require strong passwords (combination of upper and lower case letters, numbers and special characters) to access your data files wherever they are
  • Require frequent password changes
  • Determine which files need to stay on a secure server that you control
  • Backup data securely and often
  • Monitor your backup

We can help you with all of these steps:

  • Lunch ‘n’ Learn programs about security
  • Audits of your system’s security
  • Monitored backup services

Contact us by phone – 973-433-6676 – or email to keep your data clean and your systems sober in the BYOD environment.

Defeating the Biggest Business

Cybercrime is the world’s biggest business, and there are no signs it’s shrinking. While you can take a number of steps to protect yourself, here’s what you need to do if you suspect you’ve been hacked: ACT FAST.

The reason fast action is vital is because it takes practically no time at all for criminally minded hackers to get into your system once they find an unlocked door – or find a “cyberlock” they can pick. With a little more time, they can use your information to exploit larger systems to which you may have a connection, such as a large merchant or a bank. Your complacency works to their advantage.

After lying relatively low for a few months, malware and ransomware have once again reared their ugly heads. Google recently removed more than a dozen malware-infected apps from its Google Play store. Variations of the Crypto Locker and Crypto Wall viruses, which plagued the IT world in 2014 and 2015, are coming back in email attachments and fake update notices for Java and Adobe Flash.

If you see something really unusual or strange on your screen, you should call your IT specialist immediately. An IT professional should be able to fix the problem right away. We see a lot of the problems on a regular basis, and we know where to look to make the fix. If you can’t get your IT professional right away, take a picture of the screen with your smartphone and send as text or email. You can also take a screen shot and paste it into a blank Word document that you can save and send to your IT professional. On a Windows-based computer, press the FN key (it usually has blue lettering) and the PrntScrn key (also lettered in blue). Then paste it (Ctrl-V) into the Word document.

As soon as you do that, you can shut the computer off – without saving anything.

To further protect yourself and your data, you need to look before you click. DO NOT:

  • Open email attachments from sources you don’t recognize
  • Open email attachments that look suspicious or odd even if they appear to be from a source you know
  • Click on a link you cannot verify for authenticity

We’ve talked a lot about hacking, and here are some figures to cause concern. Some 82,000 new pieces of malware are released every day, and 600,000 Facebook accounts are hacked daily. On top of that, hackers are finding more ways to load ransomware on your computer, essentially holding your data hostage until you pay them money.

If a hacker manages to defraud you of money in your bank account, you get no FDIC protection. That is one reason why we recommend you stop using a debit card – remember, the money comes directly out of your bank account – and just get a plain-old, single-purpose ATM.

You can also sign up to get alerts from your bank or credit card company anytime a transaction is made on your account. That way, you’ll know immediately if somebody made an unauthorized purchase with your credit card or debit card or made an unauthorized withdrawal from your bank account.

Another concern you should cover is the data on your hard drive if you lose your computer or if it’s stolen. With all the personal data that most people keep on their computers, a computer thief can easily get into your data and find all the account numbers, user names and passwords you have stored. Encrypting your data could make it extremely difficult – if not impossible – to get at your data. At the very least, it can give you enough time to contact banks, credit card companies and stores where you have accounts to shut down activity.

The possibility of losing your computer, having it stolen or getting hacked is also a good reason to make sure your data files are all backed up offsite – and it’s a good reason, too, to rely on the cloud instead of your hard drive for the bulk of your storage needs. Also make sure you have fully licensed application software. With securely backed-up data files and licensed app files, we can clean out ransomware and malware problems and restore your data and apps – and get your security up to date.

We can help you maintain the security and integrity of your information. Contact us by phone – 973-433-6676 – or email to talk about your business or home system, how you use your computer and the best available anti-virus, malware and backup programs for your needs. We can also make sure you’ve set up all defenses properly.

Effective Parental Control on the Internet

Wondering where your kids are wandering on the Internet is a major concern for parents. We’ve found a product we really like in our house. It’s Circle with Disney, a joint effort by Disney and Circle Media. You can buy it online through the Disney store for $100.

For parents, it’s the best solution we’ve seen yet to cover Internet management needs for their children of all ages. In summary, here’s what you can do:

  • Track where your kids go on the Internet from a mobile phone, tablet or computer
  • Block sites you don’t want them to access
  • Track how much time they spend on any website, including homework websites
  • Set a time to shut off Internet access
  • Set a time to allow Internet access
  • Stop access to any website at any time

We installed it a few weeks ago, and we’ve more than happy with its capabilities. They go far beyond the tools provided by many other filters. We also love our accessibility. You can monitor and manage everything from a mobile device.

Circle with Disney gets hardwired into your computer system, and it has a set-up process. While they say the set-up is routine, there are some complexities, especially with how you need to recognize a number of devices. They can have unique information, and you need to program Circle for those devices.

You can order them online or have us order them for you and set it up before we put it on your system. Or, we can remotely set up your Circle once you connect it to computer system and make sure it will do everything you need. Contact us by phone – 973-433-6676 – or email to get your Circle with Disney set up and running to protect your children and you or to answer any questions once it’s running.