Manage Your Email to Avoid a Scam

As more businesses are bought and merged, it’s more important than ever to pay attention to email accounts for all the entities involved. We’re finding “sleeper agents” hiding in neglected accounts, and they’re waking up to bite hard.

In a recent case, a client bought a business a few years ago and set up a number of special email accounts to help manage the transition and keep tabs on things going forward. The only problem is that going forward, they did not monitor those emails – and the account – so they didn’t realize their system was compromised.

They did notice irregular financial dealings in a bank account, and they went to the bank to change the account and the associated online password. But the person who had infiltrated their system still had access to all the email notifications, rendering each system fix ineffective. It took some heart-to-heart conversations with our client to get to the root of the problem and then fix it.

We needed strong passwords on every online and email account they had, but with a mole inside the system, that wasn’t enough. There are two more steps you need to take to tighten your system.

The first step is to set up two-factor authentication (2FA) for every account. Yes, it is a pain to wait to complete a secondary step, but it works. We find a text connected to a cell phone is effective because whoever is accessing the account has the cell phone nearby, and you know the verification code is going to the right person. The chances of the text message being intercepted are extremely remote.

The second step is to manage your email more effectively – and that calls for more than just checking it frequently. Whether it’s at the office or home, many email accounts have – or can have – a secondary email associated with each account. Please don’t leave it blank. That’s the door a hacker uses to get in. When you change the password, go into the profile for the user and reset or start using the secondary email account. At the same time, reset the rules for managing each account. The hackers had email forwarded to an account they could monitor, which let them stay up to date on all the changes our client made.

For both online and email accounts, you need to check each user’s profile information regularly. That’s where we can help. We can check or tell you where to look to see if anyone has electronically “jimmied” open a window to your system and help you take more protective measures. As businesses and consumers, we depend more and more on electronic payment systems to pay our bills and have our invoices paid accurately and on a timely basis.

Call us – 973-433-6676 – or email us to talk about your concerns and to schedule an assessment and a remediation plan – if needed. It’s your money, and if a scammer gets it, you likely will never get it back.

New Device, Same You, New Problem

You’re still the same person you always were, but when you get a new device, you’re a different person as far as some login procedures are concerned. You need to get back to basics in setting up account access. It’s a more acute problem as we do more work outside the office.

We recently got a call from a client who had trouble logging into a work system through a VPN with two-factor authentication (2FA). Nobody had changed any of the login information, so it was all baffling until the client mentioned they had a new phone.

Another client called because they couldn’t get into their email. Again, they had a new phone.

These incidents highlight the good and the bad of multiple authentication steps. The good is that they’re based on the device being used to verify the right of the person to access an account. That means a hacker halfway around the world can’t use their computer to get in. The bad is that you have to take the time to reconfigure all your access info. (Hey, we’re really sorry for the inconvenience.)

Because both cases involved clients with new cell phones, we had to invalidate their old cell phones. We registered one client as a new user and registered a new cell phone number for the other. These are essential steps everyone needs to remember to take as you get new devices.

And because all the 2FA steps in common use are tied to devices, it’s a good idea to make sure your devices require some extra steps to unlock them. Many people use a four- or six-digit PIN, and more people are going to biometrics. While nothing is impossible, even if someone knows your online login info and has your device, they can’t access your accounts if they can’t unlock the device.

If you or your employees are getting new devices, we can help you make sure that they have access to email and online accounts and protect them from unauthorized users. The process isn’t difficult, but it does involve diligence to check all the boxes in the setup process. Call us – 973-433-6676 – or email us if you have questions or need help in going through the process.

iPhone Falling in Line on USB-C

Apple will finally join the rest of the world in switching to USB-C cables for charging iPhones. What pushed them over the line, and what does it mean for you?

In a nutshell, European regulators pushed Apple over the line. The European Union is a large market, and that market includes countries that are geographically close to EU members, even if they’re not members. The regulators are looking at standardizing all types of battery charging systems to reduce the number of cords and charging devices people use to cut waste. If you can use one cord (charger) for multiple devices, fewer cords and chargers will wind up in landfills after they’re worn out and discarded.

Most of the device world has gone to USB-C cords and chargers, and Apple is under pressure to ditch its Lightning cords. Rumors abound that Apple’s new iPhone – iPhone 15 is next in line for an introduction sometime this year – will have a USB-C port.

The EU’s regulations will go into effect next year, and it’s possible that Apple will only make USB-C ports available only in Europe. But that doesn’t make any business sense. We can figure on it being a reality.

So what will it mean for you as a user?

Most likely it will be speed. One respected iPhone analyst believes the iPhone 15 Pro and iPhone 15 Ultra will get USB-C ports that support data transfer speeds of up to either 20Gbps or 40Gbps, up from just 480Mbps on current iPhones. While USB-C isn’t a data standard, several types of USB-C cables exist, including USB 2.0, 3.0, and Thunderbolt 4. You’ll need to look at speed rates for each of them.

You’ll also get faster charging times. Apple’s phones currently max out at 20W charging speeds, while USB offers up to 240W. Few phones offer more than 50W charging, but Apple is still lagging behind the more recent Samsung Galaxy phones, which can charge at 45W. Access to faster charging speeds can be a significant upgrade and allow Apple to stay more competitive going forward.

USB-C also unlocks better support for accessories, including external storage, hubs and docs, external displays, keyboards, mice, etc. While all these things are already available on iPads, adding enhanced connectivity to the iPhone through USB-C will give you more choice and flexibility on how they use your phones.

You’ll be able to use the same charger that powers other devices, like your MacBook laptop or iPad, to charge your iPhone, and there’s a broad accessory ecosystem for USB-C. It’s been standard on most electronics, including many other Apple products, for the better part of the last decade. In all likelihood, this also will mean you’ll no longer feel tied to Apple-approved chargers, giving you more flexibility to shop around. The rumor mill reports that many device and charging system manufacturers will produce units to meet Apple’s standards.

Want to add one more twist? There have long been rumors that Apple has been developing a port-free iPhone, which would eliminate all cords. The entire smartphone industry shifted to Qi wireless charging several years ago, Apple included, so wireless chargers are compatible across platforms.

As you all know, we like new technology, and faster data transfer speeds may be something you justifiably need. We can help you determine if the change to USB-C is a game-changer for you. Call us – 973-433-6676 – or email us to talk about your needs.