The 2FA Police

Microsoft is enforcing requirements for 2FA (two-factor authentication) for many of its apps. The good news is that it protects your data better. The bad news is that you must use authenticator codes and messages. It’s time to ensure everyone in your office (or family for home users) is up to speed on using authenticators and other 2FA measures.

Microsoft’s Authenticator App gets downloaded onto your iPhone or Android phone and helps to verify it’s you when you log in to an online account using two-step or two-factor verification. It uses a second step, such as a code sent to your phone, to make it harder for others to break into your account. Two-step verification helps you use your accounts more securely because passwords can be forgotten, stolen, or compromised.

One common way to use the Authenticator app is through 2FA, where one of the factors is your password. After you sign in using your username and password, you can either approve a notification or enter a provided verification code. Options include:

  • Signing in by phone with a version of two-factor verification that lets you sign in without requiring a password. It uses your username and your mobile device with your fingerprint, face, or PIN.
  • Using a code generator for any other accounts that support authenticator apps.
  • Using it with any account that uses 2FA and supports the time-based one-time password (TOTP) standards.

Any organization can require using the Authenticator app to sign in and access its data and documents. Even if your username appears in the app, the account isn’t set up as a verification method until you complete the registration. The entire process can be done more efficiently with a mobile phone that can scan a QR code on a computer screen.

Remember that most authenticator apps still require a password in commercial use, and every user must know their password or risk being locked out. The consequences can be time-consuming and costly – if not fatal. Everyone should write their passwords on a piece of paper and store them in a safe place.

We had a case with a client who used a customized database that was never upgraded for 20 years. A former IT company did the last work on it. Nobody had the password to get into the account housing the database. They suggested calling the programmer, but the programmer had died. Nobody admitted to changing the password at any time. We spent a few hours trying to access the database to no avail. Finally, we called the former IT company, and they had a password for one file.

That was the password that worked, and we were able to perform the necessary work. But we can’t stop thinking about all the time – and money – that was wasted because nobody had a password.

In today’s world of hacking and cybercrime, it will become more and more challenging to try multiple passwords without severe consequences. It’s up to you to ensure that you and key employees have all your necessary passwords and 2FA to protect your data – and to insist that your employees have 2FA set up for their corporate login info.

We can help you ensure you have all the correct authentication and management systems. Call us – 973-433-6676 – or email us to discuss your needs and develop an action plan.

Don’t Speculate on Computer Specs

When one of our clients merged with another company, they adopted the other company’s desktop computer specifications. They differ from ours, but the conversation sparked a good discussion about guessing how much computing power you need. There are some rules of thumb, but it’s easy to avoid problems down the line when you understand what you’re buying with a computer.

We consider these to be the three key specifications: 1.) RAM (random access memory), 2.) the processor chipset, and 3.) hard drive capacity. Some people use the term memory for RAM and hard drive capacity interchangeably. Those of us in the computer business know they are separate, and you can order the right computer more effectively if you keep them separate, too.

RAM is – in a sense – temporary memory capacity. It’s the memory that’s used to perform functions, i.e., spreadsheet calculations, word processing, internet searches, etc. Once you save whatever you were working on, it goes to “permanent” storage, i.e., your hard drive or the cloud. The more RAM you have, the faster you can work because it can hold more data.

In our discussions during the merger, the other company specified 32 MB (megabytes) of RAM for desktop computers. We thought that was on the high side. But on the other hand, too many companies try to save money by requiring only 8 MB or 16 MB RAM. If you don’t have a lot of RAM, you’ll generally need more patience. The more complex your computing needs, the faster you’ll be able to work.

Yes, you can upgrade RAM in a desktop, but it’s not always possible in a laptop – or it’s limited. You may be caught short if you blindly speculate that less RAM will be sufficient. From our experience, 16 MB has worked well in almost all cases. Typically, extra RAM can cost $100 or $200 more in a new computer. That’s much less money than replacing a computer just to get more RAM.

The latest processing chips in our commercial-grade computers are Intel Core i7 chipsets. The latest generation is the 13th. Without going geek on anyone, the latest and greatest chipsets give you faster processing power. You can have a lot of RAM, but you won’t be able to take full advantage of it with old, slow chipsets.

Finally, there’s hard drive capacity. The merged organization’s specification is 512 GB (gigabytes). As SSD (solid state drive) hard drives have become commonplace, the industry has gone to smaller drives, typically 256 GB capacity, because the drives need less room to manipulate data as you work on files – and because more files and apps are stored in the cloud. You have more margin for error with a larger hard drive – 512 GB or even a terabyte or two – but you can easily work around the 256 GB spec with good hard drive management. Microsoft OneDrive, for example, allows you to free up space with a few keystrokes. Simply open File Explorer and your directory of top-level file folders, such as Documents. Right-click within your (Documents) directory and click “Free up space.” This will transfer files physically from your hard drive to the cloud.

We can help you develop specifications for the computers you need based on the work each computer will do. Some definitely need higher performance levels, but others can operate more cost-effectively when matched to their tasks. Call us – 973-433-6676 – or email us to discuss your needs.