IoT and the Fourth Industrial Revolution

At a recent technology conference in Las Vegas, I was overwhelmed by how far technology has advanced in such a short time – and by how much faster the impact of technology on our lives will grow. We are in the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

Where are we headed? We’re headed for the clouds – the massive server and data storage networks make it possible to do everything imaginable from a phone or tablet from anyplace in the world where you can get an internet connection. This time-compressed evolution is the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Yes, it does seem strange to talk of an evolution, which is long-term movement, with the short burst of a revolution. But that’s just how fast technology moves.

In 1995, we were astounded that we had PCs on every desk. By 2005, we had democratized data in the sense that businesses of all sizes stored and sometimes shared data they gathered and used. That could be correspondence (email), financial records (banks, large retailers), or business info of all sorts, ranging from sales and inventory records to programming heavy industrial equipment. In 2015, society made a really big leap to the cloud to store and manage all the data we use for practically every aspect of our lives. Even people who never use the internet and pay cash for everything are affected by today’s technology if they drive or vote or pay taxes.

Some things I saw in Las Vegas give indications where we’re heading. Business is undergoing a digital transformation built around their customer experiences and new business models. Some one million digital devices come online every day, and by 2025, 60 percent of all computing will be in the cloud. While we each need to maintain our online security vigilance, the entire computing world needs to step its efforts because no bit of information ever goes away. Further, no matter how deeply hidden any information remains, the tools to find it and exploit it are constantly developing. The bad guys can build botnets (networks of electronic robots) to find IP addresses for any exposed device. The Boa open source server, which was used to automate a lot of web-related functions quickly and securely, was discontinued in 2005. But it’s still used in some devices, and with no technical support, bad guys are free to try to pick away at out-of-date defenses. Opening one door can lead to other doors that can be opened, and in some cases, the hackers who open the doors can’t be traced – or can’t be traced quickly enough.

It’s not just the bad guys using stealthy methods to find information. Anyone can use a Google search to find systems and get into them. Those systems can include security cameras and alarms and smart speakers. A Google search can also turn up expired security certificates, which can indicate vulnerabilities.

So, here’s some of what needs to happen:

  • The owners and operators of every server – from a single location to server farms with multiple links – must make sure their firewalls are “locked-down” and secure. That requires the installation of all security updates and patches as they become available and constant monitoring to make sure all ports are secure.
  • All device manufacturers must keep their firmware updated for maximum security. And, if the manufacturers can’t send you updates, you should get and install them on your own.
  • You need to make sure your firewalls and devices are secure through patches and strong passwords. You also should be running virus and malware scans regularly and frequently.
  • Be extremely careful and attentive when you click on a link. You can’t afford to let down your guard.

We also highly recommend an onsite security audit if you have any hint you may have an exposure. We can check all connections for everything on your network – home or office – and trace back anything that looks like a possible security issue, apply a fix and test it. Security issues never resolve themselves and fixing them involves looking at a variety of complexities.

If your computers or devices are running slowly, if you clicked on an email or link you think shouldn’t have, or if you think you’ve been hacked, call us – 973-433-6676 – or email us to set up a security audit. None of us wants to give up our technology; we just need to make it as safe as possible.

SSL Certificates for Websites

When it comes to the security of your business website, size does NOT matter. Your business most likely either houses some bit of information about clients or customers or has access to information. That makes you a target for hackers. It also makes you a target for a Google search engine flag to warn that your website may not be secure because your security certificate isn’t current.

Starting July 1, Google will require that websites have current SSL certificates. SSL (Secure Socket Layer) is used to provide an extra layer of security for websites, and it’s added to each individual page on a site. You are most likely familiar with SSL as a computer user. When you go to a secure page for transacting business, you may have noticed that the secure page URL begins with https:address instead of http:address. You’ll also usually notice the image of a padlock.

Google is implementing the requirement for its Chrome browser, which is widely used worldwide. When someone uses the browser to visit a site without an updated SSL certificate, they’ll see the phrase “Not Secure” before your URL in the address bar. Most likely, they’ll leave the page immediately, and that will increase your site’s bounce rate and endanger your inbound leads. The increased bounce rate will hurt your overall Google ratings, and that will affect your Google page ratings on all browsers, such as Firefox, Edge and Safari.

You can see if your certificate is up to date simply by looking to see if your URL starts with https:. If not, it’s an easy problem to fix with the services of website developer. They can help you purchase an SSL certificate through your website’s hosting company and then add the proper code to your pages. The certificate costs between $40 and $100 per year, and the coding can typically be added in two to four hours.

We are more than happy to refer you to one of our partners, Rachel Durkan at Paradigm Marketing and Design. You can email Rachel for specific information about getting your website in compliance. If you have any other questions or concerns about SSL certificates and website security, call us – 973-433-6676 – or email us to talk about them.

Advice from the FBI

If you’re a longtime client or reader of Technology Update, you can say the FBI has either listened to us or validated us with its recent call to restart your routers. Our national law enforcement agency says that routers can be vulnerable to hackers, and one of your best defenses is to restart them. There’s more you can do, but restarting a router is easy to do.

First, let’s look at the restart process, which clears out a lot of junk piles – junk piles that make great hiding places for the bad guys who want to use your network as the entrance to your entire computing world. Rebooting can also help your network’s performance, just like a reboot or restart helps your computer. All you need to do is:

  1. Unplug your router and modem – or combined gateway, which includes your router/modem and VOIP telephone – from the power source. If there is an adapter that plugs into your unit, you can usually do it right there. Do the same for any network switches you might have. If you have batteries for backup power in any equipment, make sure you pull them out.
  2. Wait at least 30 seconds. This is important to help junk clear out, and it signifies your system is offline. Waiting a minute wouldn’t hurt.
  3. Reconnect your system, starting with your modem if it’s a separate unit. If you have a gateway, connect that. If it doesn’t power on automatically, press the power button. Wait at least a minute to give your ISP time to authenticate your connection and assign a public IP address.
  4. Reconnect your router and wait two minutes. This gives your router time to boot back up and gives everything on your network time to get new private IP addresses assigned by the DHCP service in your router. If you removed the power from any switches or other network hardware, now is the time to power those back on. Just give them a minute or so, too. If you have several devices, be sure to power them on from the outside-in, based on your network map.

If you don’t understand anything in the fourth step, it’s a good idea to call us for help. We can follow the map and help you test everything on your network to make sure it’s all working properly. You can also reset your modem if you are concerned about security and/or performance, and that’s something we can help you with, too. Call us – 973-433-6676 – or email us with questions or to set up an appointment.

Save Your Vacation with Additional Storage Capacity

OK, I’m as the frugal as the next guy – maybe even more frugal than most. But not spending a buck or three per month to store all your vacation images in the cloud can be penny wise and pound foolish.

Let’s begin this discussion with one certainty: No matter how much your vacation costs, you’ll never be able to replicate the exact conditions or scene that you photographed or videoed. That makes your photo or video priceless.

Automatically sending your photos and videos to a cloud-based storage facility is the best insurance you can have, and for most people, spending $0.99 to $2.99 per month will take care of all your needs. We’ll talk mostly about Apple’s storage plans because more and more of you are using your iPhones (and sometimes iPads) as your primary camera and video recorder.

iPhone users typically get 5 GB of storage space in the cloud for free. That’s for a lot of photos and videos for many. For the most part, nobody pays attention to storage until you get that nasty little notice on your phone that your storage is full. The notice usually refers to your available iCloud storage, and when it’s all full, the camera basically stops recording new photos or videos until you have sufficient space. However, you can remedy that by buying extra storage space on the spot, as long as you have internet access. If you don’t know your Apple password, you can always reset it.

Your least expensive option is get 50 GB (10 times the free storage) for $0.99 per month. Two other plans are 200 GB for $2.99 per month or 2 TB for $9.99 per month. That last one may be overkill but put it in perspective. If you can travel the world and want to keep your memories safe – or share them with anyone at any time – a little less than $120 per year is a cost-effective option.

Apple and iPhones are not the only options. Android users can tap into Google Photos with Google Drive, which gives you 15 GB of free storage to use across Google Drive, Gmail, and Google Photos. You can also use Google Photos with a computer or iPhone/iPad. You can get 100 GB for $1.99 per month or $19.99 per year or 1 TB for $9.99 per month or $99 per year. Amazon offers all its customers 5 GB of photo storage free and unlimited storage to it Prime customers.

There are also numerous websites that offer storage and the ability to share with family and friends. In addition to storage and sharing, they offer you and registered family members and friends the ability to buy photos, photo books, coffee mugs, etc. Some also will sell your photos online. Some of the better-known websites include Flickr, Shutterfly and Photobucket.

Camera technology is also keeping pace with the online world. Whether you have a compact point-and-shoot camera or a professional DSLR, manufacturers are adding wireless capabilities, so you can upload photos and videos directly to the cloud or store copies on your mobile device, though they can cut those file sizes to 2 MB. Also, be aware that when you delete photo and video files from your devices, you may also be deleting them, too, from your cloud storage. Check for settings that keep the files in the cloud, and if you can’t set that up, be careful about what you delete – though many of the servers keep your files for 30 days.

Every year, we get calls to try to recover photos and videos. Sometimes, recovery is not possible. But it is possible to prevent the problem. Call us – 973-433-6676 – or email us to help you select the best available storage program for your needs or to help set up your storage. It could save your vacation.