Who’s in Your Electronic Wallet?

Complacency is likely to be the greatest threat to your online security. The FBI recently reported that the padlock icon and HTTPS:// in a website cannot be trusted all the time in letting you know a site is safe. With the cost of SSL-TSL certificates falling, it’s cheap for crooks to set up malware sites and lure you in. We’ve discussed on-line shopping security and keeping other transactions secure, but the FBI’s warning compels us to revisit a few ideas.

First, what is an SSL-TSL certificate? The certificate is an acknowledgement that the owner of a website has installed SSL or TSL technology provide secure communications over a computer network. The certificates are granted by third-party providers, such as VeriSign, which is now owned by Symantec. The certificate shows us HTTPS (Hyper Text Transfer Protocol Secure) in a secure website’s URL. You can view the certificate by clicking on the lock symbol on the browser bar.

What do SSL and TSL stand for? In short, SSL stands for Secure Sockets Layer, the standard technology for keeping an internet connection secure and safeguarding any sensitive data that is being sent between two systems. It’s designed to prevent criminals from reading and modifying any information transferred, including potential personal details. TLS (Transport Layer Security) is just an updated, more secure, version of SSL. Symantec still refers to security certificates as SSL because it is a more commonly used term. SSL certificates can also cover other internet- based communications, and they come in various levels. If you are curious, you can click here to read more from Symantec than you might want to know.

What you should know, the FBI reports, is that cybercriminals are more frequently incorporating website certificates when they send emails that imitate trustworthy companies or email contacts. They’re typically phishing schemes used to acquire sensitive logins or other information by luring potential victims to a malicious website that looks secure.

We’ve published many articles that call for the internet industry to provide more safeguards, but as we’ve always noted, cybercriminals are working just as a hard to defeat current and developing security tools. One industry executive hit the nail on the head by noting that cybercriminals can’t work around an aware user, who has been trained to look for misspellings in the URL of a web page and knows not to trust a padlock icon. Addressing her firm’s corporate business targets, the executive called on organizations to invest in solid, continuing training programs.

We echo the FBI, which says the following (familiar) steps can help reduce the likelihood of falling victim to HTTPS phishing:

  • Do not simply trust the name on an email: question the intent of the email content.
  • If you receive a suspicious email with a link from a known contact, confirm the email is legitimate by calling or emailing the contact; do not reply directly to a suspicious email.
  • Check for misspellings or wrong domains within a link (e.g., if an address that should end in “.gov” ends in “.com” instead).
  • Do not trust a website just because it has a lock icon or “https” in the browser address bar.

The FBI encourages victims to report information concerning suspicious or criminal activity to their local FBI field office, and file a complaint with the IC3 at www.ic3.gov. If your complaint pertains to HTTPS/SSL/TSL issues in a phishing expedition, write “HTTPS phishing” in the body of the complaint.

You can protect yourself by being prudent and deliberate when opening emails and clicking on links, and you can support your efforts by installing, updating and using anti-virus and anti-malware protection programs. We work with several trusted providers, including Symantec, and we can help you select and set up the programs that best meet your needs. Call us – 973-433-6676 – or email us if you think your security may have been compromised or if have any questions about online security verification.

New Technology Raises Bottom Line

Presenters at a recent conference we attended hammered home the economic benefits of upgrading your technology. Keeping old equipment running may far exceed the cost of investing in new systems, and here are some of the ways presenters quantified the costs.

In one analysis, the total cost of owning a PC that’s four years or older is $2,397, which is enough money to buy one or more newer PCs. The biggest factors in the cost are repairs and lost productivity, and here’s how they were broken down:

  • Total direct costs for PC repairs and upgrades for computers four years or older are $442. While this doesn’t seem like much at first glance, older computers experience problems nearly twice as frequently as newer ones – and they can drain employee productivity and IT resource efficiency.
  • Lost productivity costs can add up to $1,965 in the example we saw. They used an average of 98 lost hours and an hourly pay rate of $20 to come up with that number.

Your numbers may be higher or lower, but here’s the real question you must ask: What will it cost in lost business when you can’t close a transaction at the time your customer or client is ready to move? If your equipment is balky, your customer or client may balk. Four years seems to be the maximum service life for most technology these days, but your experience might be different.

What does a new computer cost? The range of variables is as wide as the sky, but let’s say $500 to $1,500. The numbers can give you some guidelines for determining how advanced you need your technology to be. In a world where time is money, you should be able to benefit from serving your customers and clients faster – because they benefit from it, too.

Companies that supply computers to businesses find customers want hardware-based features such as electronic pens, which essentially capture hand-written notations without the need for typing or retyping to increase productivity. Other features that increase productivity are faster multi-tasking capabilities – which can include the ability to run certain applications faster as well as switch apps fasters – and faster refresh rates. Businesses consider design (to aid productivity) and security as key factors, too, but performance is top of mind.

This doesn’t necessarily mean everyone in an organization should get a new, feature-filled computer. Today’s range of choices allows you to focus a computer’s capabilities on the needs of each job. A more basic set of tasks can still be accomplished faster with new equipment that doesn’t need all the bells and whistles. The same logic can apply to technology for printers/copiers. Those who need to print or copy more documents than others should have access to faster machines. If you’re the boss and you want to print or copy your own documents, you can tie your computer to a personal printer.

More than just computers and other office technology, your operating system makes a huge difference. And that’s why you should upgrade from Windows 7 to Windows 10 if you haven’t done so already. In a business environment, you can select a level of sophistication to match the needs of groups of multiple users to keep your office workflow up to speed. Windows 10 OS software also keeps you up to date on system security. Microsoft has said many times that Windows 10 will be its last OS. All security and performance advances will come as updates of Windows 10.

Avoid the risk of falling behind because your systems are old, slow and prone to failure. We can help you plan equipment upgrades to maintain or improve your office productivity, especially if you haven’t moved up from Windows 7 – which Microsoft will no longer support after next February. Call us – 973-433-6676 – or email us to set up an appointment to discuss how upgrades can improve your productivity.

More Companies Want Your Collaborative Efforts

Dropbox has entered the collaborative space by adding a host of new tools to help you and teams share files. We see it as a big leap for a company that started as a file-sharing provider, but we don’t see it as the equal to Microsoft OneDrive.

Two areas where we see OneDrive as far superior are cost and feature sets.

The cost of OneDrive is built into the cost of the monthly subscription of Office 365 for all but the most basic plans. For most of our clients, plans range from $5 to $12 per month, and the key benefits are access to the most widely used business and home applications, such as Word, Excel and PowerPoint. The subscription provides updates for security patches and bug fixes and performance and feature updates. OneDrive almost comes across as a throw-in, but Microsoft has recognized the value of keeping its massive user base in the family. What was an extra-cost feature set is now a way to provide tools and features, such as collaboration and file backup tools and useful apps from other providers. We covered some of them last month.

Depending on your plan, the cost of Office 365 with OneDrive includes the ability to store terabytes of files, which can be set up as shared files when needed. Collaborators can make changes, and the files are immediately updated, so everyone knows they are working with the most recent file. This capability has been available through Google Documents and Dropbox, but by keeping it all within Office 365, it’s about as seamless as a process can get.

Dropbox has always made a limited amount of file storage free, now 1 terabyte, but you need to be on a plan if you need more. The cost of the additional storage, for most of our clients, is roughly the same cost as having Office 365 without having the applications and tools included. In effect, you pay twice for the same capabilities.

As for capabilities – and features and tools, Dropbox can argue that by teaming up with Google, Slack and others, you can benefit from a broader range of ideas. Yes, that may be true, but here are two considerations:

  1. In the course of all the things you do, what are the tools and features that matter most to you? If you have Office 365 and it does all that you need it to do, you might be better off keeping it in the family.
  2. For a business or network of volunteers, how much training and retraining do you want to do? Learning a system is a lot like learning a language. The more you use it (or speak it), the better you become. That translates to better productivity.

Yes, Microsoft can be a big, plodding giant, but we believe its standardization works best for consistency, and that’s a huge advantage for businesses and volunteer networks. It’s easier to keep everyone together.

Finally, we like OneDrive’s file transfer capabilities better. Prices for cloud-based services can change at any time, and it can be difficult to move and verify the transfer of large volumes of files. We share a concern that this could make it difficult to migrate from Dropbox because the transfer process is too complex. Part of this may stem from changes made to a computer’s registry, where Microsoft, Dropbox and other applications are waging a war for the limited number of overlay icons to show file status. Each app changes its name to claim a spot in your Registry Editor, which Microsoft allots in alphabetical order. This could potentially create registry problems, which are all difficult to resolve.

We can help you set up OneDrive and transfer files from your computer and Dropbox. Call us – 973-433-6676 – or email us to discuss your options and begin the process.