Cyberbullying Hits Home

When you know a family that’s been victimized by cyberbullying, you take a closer, more personal look at this problem as both a parent and an IT professional.

As I was waiting for a flight home the week before last, I saw something on Facebook and had a sinking feeling. I knew the family through my affiliation with the Morris County Chamber of Commerce, and I had heard about a service earlier in the week for a young woman in our community, Mallory Grossman.

It was a suicide that came to a head because of cyberbullying. It brought home problem that is plaguing mostly youngsters but also people of all ages. The internet allows anyone to post the meanest messages imaginable and largely stay anonymous.

The solution is not a tech issue because this problem is rooted in how we function as a society. Some people have cruel senses of humor, and in the absence of personal filters, there are few filters to prevent them from spewing venomous posts. When the target of cyberbullying is experiencing other issues, which the bully likely doesn’t know about (and could selfishly care less), it’s like pouring gasoline on a fire.

I honestly don’t know what the answer is. As parents of two children approaching their teenage years, my wife and I are extremely concerned. Perhaps we need an even more concerted effort to provide better education for parents and students, and maybe that can be done through the school curricula in coordination with programs run by PTAs and/or business associations. The business associations can encourage their members to provide some kind of education program for their employees.

Technology measures by themselves will be ineffective for many reasons. Chief among them, very few parents have the capability to totally monitor and control their children’s online activity. Even for those of us who know a lot about technology, what will it accomplish? It won’t teach our kids about social responsibility. Instead, it will motivate them to find ways to break our technological measures, and kids in groups are pretty good at figuring out how to override our controls.

Further, what’s to stop any kid who has no access to some websites from going to a friend’s house and getting online there?

Any blocking we can do is ultimately temporary, but if it can be a sufficient delay to prevent just one tragedy, it helps. If you have any questions about what you can do and need any help in setting up parental controls, call us – 973-433-6676 – or email us. And that goes double for working together on what we really need to do as a community to fight cyberbullying.

Passwords Becoming Passé

I’m as tired as anyone else when it comes to remembering dozens of arcane passwords for all the websites I need to access. Current and future technology will be able to provide relief and stronger protection. Here’s the lowdown on locking down.

If we’ve learned anything at all from the monthly ransomware reports, electronic “locks” are pickable. We’ve also learned that time is money for hackers when it comes to planting ransomware and other viruses that can make life painful or costly or both.

Operating under the assumption that any electronic barrier can be hurdled in time, you want to lengthen the time of your defense as much as possible – and we’re talking decades. The longer and more complicated the password, the longer it will take for hacking software to crack your code. We all know that when you include uppercase and lowercase letters in combination with numbers and special characters, the time stretches out. Making sure it follows no special pattern – that it’s totally random – adds to the security.

Many theories abound as to how to create a complex, random password that’s easy to remember. One suggestion is to take a phrase or sentence that you can easily remember. Then, take the first or second letter in your phrase and turn some into uppercase letters, numbers or special characters in a random order.

I have one password I use for everything, and I am extremely confident its length and complexity will deter hackers. You may find fault that I have only one password, and that would be a valid criticism. If it’s cracked, someone could get into every internet account I have.

You can eliminate the need to remember multiple passwords by using a password manager program. Some are free and some have a nominal cost. Basically, you just need to remember a master password to get into the system. The password manager randomly generates new complex passwords when you visit each site. Yes, you can argue that somebody could crack the password manager’s system. It’s possible, but would you feel more comfortable with $1 million under your mattress or in a vault that’s a half-mile underground, encased in 20 feet of concrete and guarded by a randomly rotated army that’s always being retrained?

You can augment the password manager with two-factor authentication, something we’ve liked and used for years. In many cases, you need to answer a question, and it should be something only you know. Other measures might include answers to randomly generated multiple choice questions based on publicly available information that can be verified as “right” or “wrong.” No “maybes” allowed.

In the future, passwords will give way to biometrics. The software is there; the hardware needs to catch up. Windows 10’s Hello can handle the biometrics, but most computers don’t have the 3-D cameras needed to use the feature. Some Microsoft Surface tablets have the cameras, and if you are in the right place, it works really well.

Regardless of what technology you use, don’t let your guard down. Don’t buy things or do your banking over a public Wi-Fi network. Use a trusted, secure network or a cellular data network. Make sure the networks you control are secure with up-to-date firewalls and anti-virus and anti-malware software. Make sure all operating systems and firmware are current with all bug fixes and security patches.

Remember that we can help you with all of your internet password and security needs, including choosing and setting up a password manager, setting up two-factor authentication and answering your questions about biometrics systems. Call us – 973-433-6676 – email us to set up an appointment.

Big-Picture Solution

When a new client wanted to go wireless in their new space, we found a way to wire it now and avoid future problems. The client is happy we offered the alternative, and that’s what got us the business.

There were two compelling reasons to wire the space.

The first reason was that the company, which does interior space planning, uses printers and plotters that cannot be connected over a wireless network. We noticed that when we went to their old offices the night before the move to disconnect all their systems.

The second compelling reason was that the opportunity was there.

Here’s how those two reasons fit together.

We had blocked out an entire day to install their equipment in their new office space, and that turned out to be a good move. From studying the map of where everything was supposed to go, we had envisioned a half-day of work. But experience has taught us that something always pops up.

When we arrived at the new offices, we noticed immediately that the floor below was vacant and that there was easy access to the space between the two floors. Our client’s new offices also had floor jacks to accommodate computers and work stations.

To our way of thinking, that was a bonus. We started to wire the office. The client agreed with our belief that wired systems are more reliable than wireless, and because there was wide-open space, it would be less disruptive and less expensive to do the wiring while moving in.

In the few weeks they’ve been in their new space, they’ve been running at top speed with no signal interruptions. That’s the benefit an experienced IT service firm can bring to a business. If you’re moving, we can look at your equipment, your new space and your business needs and help you optimize your information management system.

If you’re planning a move, call us – 973-433-6676 – or email us to look at your new space and plan a setup that works for you.