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January 27th, 2016

2016Jan25_BusinessContinuity_AMost business owners don’t normally think they will be a victim of a natural disaster...not until an unforeseen crisis happens and their company ends up suffering from thousands or millions of dollars in economic and operational losses -- all because of the lack of thoughtful disaster preparedness. This post gives small or mid-sized businesses (SMBs) basic information on the vital importance of having a Disaster Recovery (DR) plan to help them survive any potential disasters.

As we all know, unpredictability is a fact of life. The aftermath of Tropical Storm Bill in Texas and recent floods in South Carolina are a grim and unfortunate lesson for many overconfident business owners who think their companies are spared from the likelihood of cataclysmic weather, technological malfunctions, or human actions. A 2014 survey by the IT Disaster Recovery Preparedness (DRP) Council reveals just how many companies worldwide are at risk: 73 percent of SMBs are failing in terms of disaster readiness. What does this mean? It means that 3 out of 4 companies aren’t prepared to handle emergencies and save their businesses from a worse-case scenario.

If it’s not clear and compelling enough for a business owner like yourself to consider putting a well-conceived Disaster Recovery (DR) plan into place, perhaps it’s time to give it some thought. Doing so can save you years of business loss. Here is some useful information about what DR is all about and how it can ensure your business’s survival in the wake of unforeseen circumstances.

What is Disaster Recovery (DR)?

Disaster recovery is a plan for restoring and accessing your data in the event of a disaster that destroys part or all of a business’s resources. It is a key component involving many aspects of business operations that requires this information to function. The job of a DR plan is to ensure that whatever happens, your vital data can be recovered and mission-critical applications will be brought back online in the shortest possible time.

What kind of disasters are likely to happen?

Business disasters can either be natural, technological, or man-made. Natural types of disasters include floods, earthquakes, tornadoes, hurricanes, landslides, tsunamis, and even a pest infestation. On the other hand, technological and man-made disasters involve hazardous material spills, infrastructural or power failure, nuclear power plant meltdown or blast, chemical threat and biological weapons, cyber attacks, explosions, or acts of terrorism and civil unrest.

Why does your business need DR?

Regardless of industry or size, when an unforeseen event takes place and causes day-to-day operations to come to a halt, a company will need to recover as quickly as possible to ensure you will continue providing services to clients and customers. Downtime is one of the biggest IT expenses that any business can face. Based on 2015 disaster recovery statistics, downtime that lasts for one hour can cost small companies as much as $8,000, mid-size organizations $74,000, and $700,000 for large enterprises.

For SMBs particularly, any extended loss of productivity can lead to reduced cash flow through late invoicing, lost orders, increased labor costs as staff work extra hours to recover from the downtime, missed delivery dates, and so on. If major business disruptions are not anticipated and addressed today, it’s very possible that these negative consequences resulting from an unexpected disaster can have long-term implications that affect a company for years. By having a Disaster Recovery plan in place, a company can save itself from multiple risks including out of budget expenses, reputation loss, data loss, and the negative impact on clients and customers.

How do I create a DR strategy for my business?

Creating, implementing and maintaining a total business recovery plan is time-consuming but extremely important to ensure your business’s survival. Many organizations don’t have the time or resources to dedicate to this process. If you would like to protect your company from unexpected disasters but need further guidance and information on how to get started, give us a call and our experts will be happy to discuss Disaster Recovery options and solutions with you.
Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

January 25th, 2016

2016Jan20_Security_AIt’s been said so many times that many small business owners are likely to block it out, but the truth remains: cyber criminals target SMBs. Perhaps the reason for this ignorance is that when an SMB falls victim to an online attack, it’s not breaking news. But this time, in a recent NY Times article, a cyber attack wasn’t focused on the Ashley Madisons or Dropboxes of the world. This time the focus was on a small business who is lucky to still be in business after a serious cyber attack.

Last holiday season, Rokenbok Education, a small, California-based toy company of seven employees realized its worse nightmare. During the busiest time of the sales year, the files in their database had become unusable, infected with malware. The hackers used ransomware, a malware designed to hold a business’s data hostage, to encrypt their files and demanded a payment to make them usable again. However, instead of paying the ransom, Rokenbok restructured their key system. To do this it took four days. That’s four days of downtime, lost sales, and confused customers who likely lost confidence in the integrity of their company. Luckily this did not put Rokenbok Education out of business. But many SMBs aren’t so fortunate, and are forced to close after such a security debacle.

So why do security breaches like this happen to SMBs?

There are many reasons, but a common one is that small and medium-sized businesses often focus on profits over security. And really, it’s hard to blame them. When you’re small, you want to grow your organization as quickly as possible. And you likely think that because you’re small, no one is going to attack you. However, nowadays hackers are on to this way of thinking. They know that SMBs don’t focus as much on security, which make them a perfect target. In fact, according to Timothy C. Francis, the enterprise lead for Cyber Insurance at Travelers, 60 percent of all online attacks in 2014 targeted SMBs.

So what can your business do to protect itself against online attacks? There are a range of options, but it’s best to start off with an audit of your current security system to see where the holes are. This audit should check areas of risk which include customer data, employee access, and assets such as servers, computers and all Internet-enable devices.

After that, an obvious thing to do is to strengthen your passwords. While this has been said thousands of times over, many SMB owners do not take heed. Clay Calvert, the director of security at the Virginia-based firm MetroStar Systems, notes that hackers analyze how we create passwords and use big data analytics to crack them. “They have databases of passwords,” Calvert said. The best way to create a strong password is to make it long with a mix of characters. Password managers that encrypt your passwords can also help.

Aside from passwords, there are many other ways to boost your business’s security that include installing a firewall, keeping your antivirus up-to-date, and moving data over to the cloud (instead of storing it on company servers). Also, since many security attacks occur because an employee clicked on a malicious website or link, training your employees is a smart move. A good way to start this training is to create an employee manual that includes security guidelines they must follow. For ongoing training, you can keep them up-to-date on the latest security threats through email updates and regular meetings. Once you feel confident that your employees are up-to-speed and your security practices are updated, you can try hiring ethical hackers to test your systems and try to break through your security. This will let you know if there are any security holes you missed.

Calling in a security specialist

However, if all of this sounds far too much to bother with, consider outsourcing your security to a service provider that specializes in digital security. This can oftentimes save valuable time and money in the long run. Best of all, this can provide peace of mind, knowing that you have a security specialist watching over your business.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed and unsure where to start with your business’s security, we’re happy to help perform a thorough audit and provide you the digital security solution you need to keep your business protected. Security worries don’t have to keep you up at night, and we can help you implement the measures that will protect your business from disastrous security problems.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Security
January 22nd, 2016

2016Jan22_BusinessIntelligence_AWhen you think business intelligence, you likely think about charts and graphs that reveal valuable data about your customers, profits, and operations. While these may be simple enough for some to understand, what if you could simplify your data even more? A new innovation in the business intelligence world may have just made this a possibility. Here’s what you need to know.

Earlier this week, the Chicago-based company, Narrative Science, integrated with the business intelligence and visualization software company, Qlik. The fruit of this integration is a new way of looking at your data beyond your standard charts and graphs. Yes, charts and graphs are still used, but now there is a new element that comes into play: story. Qlik now enables businesses to take the data on their charts and graphs and automatically turn it into a narrative that will explain the most important and relevant points of their data. These stories are presented in easily understood, natural language and can be personalized to the audience who is reading them. For example, if you want to change the format, language style or detail of the story, you can easily adjust these.

How storytelling can help with business intelligence

While charts and graphs are easy to read for people who are regularly looking at them, there can be a learning curve for those who are new to the specific set of data they’re analyzing. And when you are presenting a series of charts and graphs to a group of colleagues, it may be difficult for you to convey the data in an easily understandable way. This is why storytelling can be a vital tool with your business intelligence efforts.

Everyone can relate to a story. In fact people have been doing so since the stone age as evident by the carvings on cave walls depicting different tales. Today, all it takes is a simple click of your remote to see hundreds of different stories appear on your TV. Storytelling makes it easy to digest information for anyone. This is why both morals and ethics are often illustrated in parables or stories to convey their message. These stories that many of us heard from childhood, like the story of King Solomon who suggested cutting a living child in two to settle an argument or of King Midas and the golden touch, remain in the minds of many of us for a lifetime.

Stories stick in our brains. And they can make it easy to understand complex information, which can be especially helpful when it comes to data. This is why Qlik’s new data to story function sounds so exciting. It aims to make it easier to present data in a more user friendly way. This will hopefully save time and headaches for people trying to understand complex data. Of course, since it is so new, only time will tell what kind of impact it will have and whether or not it will live up to expectation.

Want more of the latest business intelligence news? Need help making sense out of your data, or looking for other ways new technology can help? Get in touch with our IT experts today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

January 21st, 2016

A lot of businesses are still mystified as how to measure just what kind of value they are truly getting from social media. Because it is a medium that is still evolving, it can be hard to understand just what works and what doesn’t when it comes to social media and measuring its value. In fact, it’s not unusual to see so-called experts contradict themselves. Don’t worry if you are unable to totally understand social media value. We’ll break down a few things for you.

Social media is important for your business and it can have a great deal of value for your company if utilized correctly. Of course measuring this value is an imperfect science. While we don’t have a magic formula to help you figure it out, we do have a few things for you to consider when it comes to estimating it for yourself.

Followers matter but…

...they are not the end all be all when it comes to your social media efforts. When social media first started, it was all about how many followers you had. In the eyes of consumers, more followers equaled more credibility. However, that sentiment is no longer a prevailing thought among consumers and the number of followers you have won’t make or break your organization.

However, having a lot of followers does still reflect well on your business and it also gives you an easy way to reach your target audience directly. This is where it becomes important to monitor things like average clicks, the number of clicks the page you shared got, and conversion rate - the number of people who clicked on your share that turned into a sale or lead. If you have 100,000 followers but don’t get clicks, then your social media doesn’t hold a whole lot of value. The next point comes in handy if you’re having trouble monitoring all of these.

Simplify the way you monitor social media

A lot of businesses make a simple mistake that convolutes the way they estimate the value of social media. That mistake is failing to create unique campaigns and contact points for each social media channel. Doing this can make it difficult to determine just what leads and sales are coming from which media. Here’s an example for you. Your business shares a link on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn to a page on your website where people can download a free report. You get 150 people to download which is good but it can be hard to determine just where everyone came from to download the report unless you have advanced tools like Google Analytics at your disposal.

That’s why for every promotion or pitch page on your website that you share via social media, you should create a distinct URL for each one so you can easily monitor where people are coming from. This will help you understand what kind of value each of your social media channels has. You might also want to consider creating a separate phone number for each social media channel so that way when a person does call, you will know where they came from. This option is especially easy and cost effective to implement if you have a VoIP phone system in place.

Set social media goals

Without goals in place, it’s pretty hard to figure out the value of anything including social media. If you already have social media goals established, then these are probably the place to start in determining the value of your company’s social media. If goals have not been set up, you are going to want to create some and see if your company is able to reach these. That’s because the easiest way to determine if something has business value is to establish if it can help your company reach its goals. If you see that social media isn’t doing this, then you’ll need to reconfigure your strategy accordingly. If social media is adding value, then you will want to dig deeper using different tools to get a better idea of just what that value is.

If you aren’t using social media to add value to your business, then you are losing out. And if you aren’t utilising technology to assist in these efforts then you are really falling behind. Talk to our experts today to see how you can get started.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

January 16th, 2016

SocialMedia_Jan11_AYouTube is one of the most powerful tools for video marketing out there, especially for businesses who want to create an online reputation in order to generate more leads and revenue. It allows you to introduce your company’s unique brand and personality to the online community. And the best part? It’s free! Here we provide some useful tips to make sure that your YouTube marketing campaign is a total success.

Keep it short and simple

Most people have short attention spans and won’t watch videos that are longer than a couple of minutes unless they’re really interested. This means lengthy videos might not perform as well as you might hope, since viewers are likely to be turned off completely. There’s no fixed formula here, but the idea is to create videos that convey your intended message within five minutes at most. If you have the need for longer videos, simply split them into small segments - this is another great way to keep your visitors hooked and make them want to come back for more.

Use humor in your videos

Have you ever wondered why the funny videos on YouTube earn so many hits in such a short time? That’s because people love humor. We all like a good laugh. There are several YouTube channels out there that have had huge success by injecting humor into their videos. You don’t have to make your audience fall on their backs laughing - just flashing a little sense of humor will do the trick.

Consider quality over quantity

With the vast number of amateur and low-quality videos that come up on YouTube’s search results, you need to go the extra mile and make your video stand out from the competition. It’s worth investing in a high-quality video camera if you’re serious about YouTube marketing. Each of your videos should contain helpful and engaging content. And before posting it live, make sure to ask for a second or third pair of eyes to go through it again. This way you can take out the fluff and polish the videos so they’re appealing to viewers.

Set engaging titles

When it comes to YouTube marketing, this is perhaps the most important thing to keep in mind. Make sure you include relevant keywords in the title, so your viewers know what to expect to see in your video. The general rule of thumb is to keep it clear and concise, since long titles will be truncated in YouTube’s search results. Another thing is to refrain from using misleading titles that trick people into watching your video. Not only will your viewers hit the close button right away, this cheap trick will also have a negative impact on your video’s ranking.

Promote your videos

YouTube videos have a high chance of ranking well in Google, being the search engine giant’s subsidiary and following similar search algorithms. But this is no excuse to skimp on marketing. There are many ways to promote your videos to your specific target audience. Using relevant keywords and descriptions may help with organic traffic, but there’s also paid options like Google AdWords and Facebook Ads that will help you earn more exposure for your videos.

YouTube is a great tool to generate traffic and interact with your customers online. But do keep in mind that no matter how great your videos are, they won’t get seen if you don’t promote them well enough. If you want to learn how to maximize your YouTube marketing campaigns, get in touch with our experts today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Social Media
January 7th, 2016

BusinessIntelligence_Dec28_AUnderstanding how your visitors are using your website is one of the most important things you can do to optimize your online presence and generate more leads and revenue. Google Analytics remains the top analytic tool, allowing you to keep track. Yet many companies tend to focus on the overall performance without taking the time to understand other key metrics that contribute to the end result. Here, we’ve compiled a list of Google Analytics’ metrics that are worth knowing about.

What exactly is Google Analytics?

Google Analytics is a free website analytic product offered by Google. It is an application that collates visitor data from your website and provides basic statistics and analytical tools for search engine optimization (SEO). The data is used to generate reports that give you insights as to how your visitors are engaging with your website.

With Google Analytics, you can analyze your traffic to discover whether your target market is finding your website, how they’re finding it, and if they’re taking the actions you expect them to take while on your site. By tracking and analyzing your traffic you can increase the engagement and enhance your marketing strategies.

Google Analytics’ Key Metrics

Navigating Google Analytics can be mind-numbing, since you are likely to get lost in its many features, variables, and settings. Check out these basic key metrics that will help you analyze your website traffic.

Unique Visitors Most people tend to confuse this metric with “Visits”. The Unique Visitors metric can give you an accurate number as to how much real traffic you receive on a daily basis because, unlike the Visits metric, it doesn’t solely rely on cookies to count. This means any of your visitors would be counted once, even if they cleared their computer of cookies.

Pageviews The Pageviews metric should increase in direct proportion to the numbers shown in Unique Visitors. This metric represents how deep your unique visitors go into your website pages. If the percentage is low, your content may not be engaging enough to encourage visitors to explore the your website further than the home or landing page.

Bounce Rate The Bounce Rate metric will tell you the percentage of visitors who left your website after viewing only one page. High bounce rates can mean that your website is not appealing to visitors in certain aspects such as the design, content, navigation, and so on. Tracking your website’s bounce rate will quickly help you identify things that are not working well on your website, so you can fix the problem accordingly and ensure you grab visitors' attention from the first click.

Traffic Sources This metric shows which sources drive the most and least traffic to your website. Generally there are four types of metrics: Referral, Direct, Organic Search, and Social.

  • Referral traffic - These visitors found your site via your off-page marketing efforts, such as backlinks and blog articles on other websites.
  • Direct traffic - These visitors are highly targeted, since they type your URL directly into their web browser.
  • Organic search - These visitors discover your site after searching a keyword in a search engine, usually from Google.
  • Social traffic - These visitors came from social media platforms, such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
These are the metrics that matter to tracking your website’s visitors. They consist of basic numbers that are easy to understand and interpret. Once you get a handle of these metrics, you can make your way to more advanced metrics that provider deeper level and more accurate insight.

For more tips on how to utilize your business data with Google Analytics, contact our specialists today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

January 5th, 2016

BusinessContinuity_Jan4_AWhen people think of the causes of downtime and the need for a Business Continuity Plan (BCP), they tend to think big. Powerful storms, massive blizzards, fires and floods are usually what springs to mind when business continuity is mentioned. And while these disasters can disrupt your business, a small power outage can be just as problematic if you’re not prepared. Here’s what to do to make sure your company isn’t halted when a power outage occurs.

Power outages are one of the only disasters that can strike just about anywhere in the United States. If you are in Seattle chances are tropical storms are not going to be an issue and if you’re in Miami you aren’t going to fret over a blizzard, but losing power can occur anywhere, at any time and without warning.

A Department of Energy report noted that power outages cost American businesses nearly $150 billion in 2014 and added that increasing demand for energy coupled with an aging infrastructure could see the number of blackouts increase. While weather-related events are the most common cause of power outages in the U.S., it is far from the only thing that can disrupt energy service.

Since this is a problem that will continue to plague businesses, especially those ones that are unprepared, it’s important to be ready should a blackout strike. Here are a few things you should consider when it comes to power outages.

Power outages hurt in more ways than you think

The most notable issue a business faces when a power outage occurs is an inability to work. Employees often times sit around unable to do anything until the power is turned back on. Once the power does return, additional time is needed to safely turn everything back on and to check if all your files are still there.

There are also numerous indirect consequences that your business may face either during or after a power outage. These include a loss of revenue from potential sales, a decrease in customer satisfaction and a drop in your company’s reputation. The more your company is prepared for a power outage, the better continuity you will see and the less damage will be done. While it may be impossible to completely avoid issues caused by blackouts, you can minimize their impact.

Be ready in case of an outage

One of the biggest sources of frustration for employees during a blackout is losing files they had been working on. Autosave features do help prevent this but sometimes you’ll still lose that one important note or sentence you didn’t have the chance to save. Uninterruptible power supplies (UPS) are one way to buy your employees a little extra time should the power go out. You're able to plug your computer into these devices and they will operate as a battery when the power goes out. The life of these power stations is anywhere from ten minutes to an hour for some models which should give you enough time to save your work and properly shutdown your computer.

If you want to stay in business during a power outage, a standby commercial generator can help. These normally run on propane or natural gas and immediately switch on as soon as your main power supply goes out. If you aren’t concerned about the lights but want to keep your employees productive, equipping them 4G enabled devices with Office 365 or Google Apps will let them continue to work on files that have been saved and stored on the cloud.

Always test your outage plans

Regardless of what your company's plans are during a power outage, you will need to test them on a regular basis to ensure everything runs smoothly when the real thing does happen. If you utilize a UPS or standby generator, you will want to test these out every six months at the very least to make sure they function properly. If your business has special plans for what employees need to do during a power outage, you should run a practice drill on a yearly basis to ensure everyone is up to speed on their duties.

They key to business continuity is preparation. Let our team of experts help prepare your business for anything thrown its way in 2016 and beyond.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

January 4th, 2016

Multiethnic Group of People Meeting with SymbolIt’s possible you take your access to Facebook, Twitter and other social media platforms for granted. Maybe you’ve never thought about what a world without news feeds and constant updates and selfies from your friends and acquaintances is like. While there are moments when we’re all fed up of so-and-so’s latest attention-seeking Facebook status or their endless stream of glamorous vacation photos, the stark reality is, if our social media platforms were suddenly taken away from us, many of us would be at a loss. So what is it like to live in a country where many of these forms of communication are banned?

While China is probably the most well known country for restricting their population’s ability to view certain websites, whether through a desire to restrict access to information that might harm the country’s image or because of industry competition, there are other nations which also exercise strict control over what their people can and cannot see online.

Take Iran for example. Its citizens are denied access to Facebook and Twitter while Instagram is partially blocked due to the fact that it is possible to block individual accounts whilst leaving other parts of the platform online. Of course, anyone wanting to update their Facebook status, send tweets or upload a risqué selfie can do so using a VPN. But most VPNs charge a monthly subscription for their services and even then the access can be sketchy at best. However there is one social media platform in Iran that is freely available and that is Line, the instant messenger chat application. Unlike China which has blocked Line (something that is more to do with it being direct competition to the homegrown chat app WeChat than freedom of speech), in Iran Line is big news. In particular its social media function, called Timeline, is connecting people throughout the country, and in some surprising ways.

Texting someone is yesterday’s news, and messaging apps are the primary form of quick communication for people everywhere. And in Iran the app of choice used to be Viber – at least it was until it was blocked by Iranian officials at the end of last year. In its place came Telegram, a Russian chat app which has almost 60% of its total users in Iran. Line doesn’t currently compete with Telegram when it comes to messages, but that could change at any time, mainly thanks to some users of the latter’s penchant for spreading pornographic content.

In direct contrast to that, the Japanese owned Line is intent on maintaining its wholesome image – and Iranian companies are recognizing that and using Line as a platform to market themselves. And it’s no great surprise when you look at the numbers: well known for being one of, if not the, biggest blogging communities in the world, Iranian citizens are devout readers and creators of online content. What is particularly attractive to marketers in Iran is that a staggering 90% of people in Iran who use Line are actually active on a daily basis on Timeline.

But using Timeline in an official capacity is not as simple as merely opening an account and updating your status as it is on say, WeChat, Twitter or Facebook. Line stipulates that anyone who wants to open an ‘Official Account’ – be they a corporation or a celebrity - must apply to be a Line Partner. Line can decide whether or not to accept their ‘partner’ and, if deemed a good match for the platform, the company or person in question will then be made to sign an agreement and pay a subscription – and periodic fees. Harsh as this may seem when compared to free platforms, it is precisely this which enables Line to ensure its content is continually updated whilst also being of a permissible standard. And it is this policy of control and moderation that allows Line to operate unfettered in Iran.

So who are the Iranian celebrities who have signed up for an official Line account? The country’s first adopter was AlireSaa, a viral celebrity famous for humorous musical clips and anecdotes. At the time of signing up with Line he had around 320,000 Instagram followers – a number which took him two years to build. But after just five weeks on Line he had already beaten this – and his number of followers doesn’t show signs of abating any time soon – his fan base is already tipping the 500,000 mark.

So why is AlireSaa so phenomenally popular on Line but less so on Instagram? The answer lies in the fact that, aside from being partially blocked in Iran (although AlireSaa’s account was not) there are a number of features that Line offers to its official account holders that other social media platforms do not. One of these is Line’s ‘On Air’ sessions which uses live chat. AlireSaa used this feature to run a video contest for followers. His fans were treated to a two hour long live chat with their hero and were able to submit videos of themselves performing one of AlireSaa’s musical clips.

A staggering amount of people engaged with AlireSaa, who let’s remember is not a global superstar - 50,000 of them in fact and 10,000 of them submitted videos during the two hour window. When he announced the live chat, AlireSaa had 215,000 Line followers – a number which exploded as news of the contest spread like wildfire on the app’s Timeline feature.

If you’re still of the opinion that social media is a waste of time and can’t do anything for your business, maybe it’s time to take another look. If you want to follow in AlireSaa’s shoes and become a viral success, why not get in touch with us today. We can’t promise to make you an Internet superstar but we can help point you in the right direction.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Social Media
December 29th, 2015

Security_Dec14_AThere are numerous strains of malware out there, but one particularly unpleasant one is ransomware. While this malicious software has been around for some time, recently a newer, nastier upgrade was discovered. Posing a threat to businesses of all sizes, the program, called Chimera, has upped the ante when it comes to scaring its victims out of their hard-earned cash. But what exactly is this malware, and what do you need to look out for?

Business is booming in the world of cyber crime, and scammers, extortionists, phishers and hackers are constantly on the lookout for new ways to exploit our fears and naivety in order to boost their bank accounts, steal our data, or simply cause us mayhem for their own twisted pleasure. One of worst types of malware for playing with our emotions - and therefore increasing the likelihood of us capitulating to its demands - is ransomware. If you don’t know how this program works, read on for an introduction.

If your computer has been infected by ransomware, the first sign that something is wrong is normally discovering that you are unable to open one or more of your files. That’s because the malware encrypts them, rendering them completely inaccessible. The next thing you see will be a ‘ransom note’, either in the form of an email or a notice that appears directly on your screen. You will be told that if you want to see your files again you will need to pay a sum of money. After making payment you will (allegedly) be sent a code that will allow you to decrypt your files.

Some types of ransomware up the fear factor even further by pretending that the FBI, CIA or other national law enforcement or government agency is behind the ‘kidnapping’. You will be told that your files are being held hostage because you have downloaded pirated software or files, or visited an illegal or illicit website - such as those depicting extreme pornography or threatening national security. Regardless of whether or not you are guilty of any of the above - be it a visit to an x-rated website, or downloading a pirated copy of the latest episode of The Walking Dead, your first instinct is probably to panic. The thought of no longer having access to any of our information, files or data is enough to make most of us break out into a cold sweat. If you haven’t backed up, everything from your vacation pictures to your company’s data could be lost for good.

The problem for ransomware creators, however, is that many users have wisened up to their tactics, and are refusing to pay, instead calling in an IT specialist to try and restore their encrypted files. This has left cyber criminals needing to find a way to boost ‘trade’. And that is where Chimera comes in. Christened by the Anti-Botnet Advisory Centre - a part of Germany’s Association of the Internet Industry - unlike previous forms of ransomware, which were indiscriminate when choosing their victims, this latest threat primarily targets businesses.

An employee will receive an email, purporting to be an application for a job within your firm, or some kind of corporate deal. This email will include a link ostensibly to the applicant’s resume or to details of the offer, but will in fact go to an infected file stored in Dropbox. Chimera then infects the user’s computer and encrypts any local files. Once the PC has been rebooted, the ransom note will be displayed on the desktop. Payment is usually set at around $680 USD, which must be paid in Bitcoins. And in order to further scare the victim into paying, the note will also state that failure to make payment will result in the user’s files being published online.

If there is a slight silver lining to the Chimera cloud, it is that the Anti-Botnet Advisory Centre has not found any proof that files have been published - at least not yet. In fact, it is still unknown whether the ransomware does actually take the encrypted files or if it is just an empty threat. Regardless, it is still a threat which could easily convince many users to pay the ransom. And should Chimera make good on its threats, the ramifications for a business are huge - and that’s without taking into consideration the nightmare of having your files encrypted in the first place. With Chimera targeting businesses of all sizes, and random employees within the business at that, isn’t it time you took another good look at your organization’s security posture?

Contact us today and talk to one of our security experts. We’ll be more than happy to help ensure that your small or medium-sized business isn’t taken hostage by Chimera or any other type of ransomware.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Security
December 29th, 2015

Computer IT Support Worker Fixing Machine In Office

Incorrectly disposing of old computers can have serious repercussions.

Old, outdated computers can take up tons of space in your house. If you are planning on updating your home office with new computers, it is vital that you take the time to properly dispose of your old computers to keep your sensitive information safe.

Even if you have been very careful, your computer most likely contains a lot of personal information, including:

  • Credit card, debit card, and financial account numbers
  • Passwords
  • Registration number or license keys for software programs
  • Tax records
  • Photos
  • Prescription and medical information
  • Phone numbers and addresses of all your contacts
  • Internet browsing history

Deleting files may not be enough to completely erase the information from your computer. Knowing how to completely clear off all information from your computer will help to keep your records safe and secure.

In order to permanently erase all data from your hard drive, it will need to be wiped clean or overwritten. Before you clean your hard drive, make sure any information that you need id backed up to a secondary source. If you do not want to erase or overwrite your hard drive, take it out of your computer and physically destroy it.

When it comes to disposing of your computer, you have a few options, including:

  • Donating it. Some organizations will collect old computers to donate to charities.
  • Repurpose it. You may be able to use old computers as a DVR for security cameras.
  • Resell it. Just because you no longer want a computer does not mean someone else doesn’t want it.
  • Recycle it. Most communities hold regular electronic recycling programs so that you can get rid of any unwanted computers safely.

For more information on how to safely get rid of old computers and other electronics, contact Proactive Networks in Pasadena, California.