October 7th, 2015

Security_Oct2_AVulnerabilities in the web-based version of popular instant messaging app WhatsApp recently left up to 200 million users exposed to hackers and malware. The bug was picked up by an Israeli IT security firm, and WhatsApp put a fix in place before news of the potential threat spread. Nevertheless, it highlights the need to remain vigilant when using apps like WhatsApp, whether for business reasons or in a personal setting. Here’s what you need to know about the security incident and how to protect yourself going forward.

The web-based version of the WhatsApp app was only launched a few months back, initially for WhatsApp accounts on Android and Windows Phone devices and later for those on iPhones, but has already grown in popularity. The recent security vulnerability related to vCards, electronic business cards shared by WhatsApp users, and effectively amounted to a kind of phishing.

An error in the WhatsApp web client meant that less-than-innocuous vCard business cards created by hackers were not properly filtered out by the app. As a result, these phishing-style cards made it through to users who, if they clicked them, were at risk of the cards converting themselves to more harmful executable scripts once downloaded - and potentially accessing and playing foul with users’ personal data. There are even reports of a ransomware approach being taken by hackers in this case, with attempts being made to extort cash from WhatsApp users in exchange for restored access to their infected devices and hijacked data.

WhatsApp put a fix in place, by releasing an updated version of the app, prior to making public news of the security vulnerability. It’s worth making sure you have the latest version of WhatsApp installed on your phone, if you haven’t checked recently - WhatsApp’s phone and web versions are linked to one another, so ensuring you are up-to-date on your phone is the way to ensure you’re safe when using the web client too. The patch is also available directly through the web client, though this won’t update your phone’s version of the app at the same time.

The whole affair also serves as a timely reminder that it pays to be vigilant when it comes to using WhatsApp and other instant messaging platforms - including email. Avoid opening links or downloading files that you’re not expecting to receive, and proceed with caution even if you were anticipating them. It’s better to double check with the sender that they’re consciously passing a file to you, and that they’re fully aware of its contents, than to wait until your device has been infected and damage has potentially been inflicted on your vital data.

Want to learn how to keep your devices safe from phishing attempts and other potential security vulnerabilities? Give us a call and let us equip you with tamperproof solutions.

Published with permission from Source.

Topic Security
October 5th, 2015

BusinessIntelligence_Oct5_ABusiness intelligence (BI) tools are powerful platforms that allow organizations to gain significant insight into their business activities, clients, employees, infrastructure, and much more. But as data volume continues to grow exponentially, more and more business owners are realizing that traditional BI tools are becoming less effective - and so they turn towards a more modern, efficient, and self-service approach.

What is self-service business intelligence?

Self-service BI is a reporting and analytics platform that business users with limited IT knowledge and experience can use for themselves. Simply put, if an end user trying to find an answer to a business question can access, use, and generate reports without bothering the IT department or data analysts, then they’ve done self-service BI.

The end goal of self-service BI is to eliminate redundant processes where users have to request access and assistance from data analysts and technology experts. With self-service BI, users are able to gather information, analyze it, and share the reports with others, without having to know the technical protocols required to access the data.

Traditional vs. self-service

In traditional BI systems, analysts create reports based on input data, and deliver them to key decision makers. In the case where the decision makers need more detail or different data, or change their business questions, analysts have to adapt the report or create new ones.

Self-service BI is designed to eliminate this time-consuming reporting process, placing much of the responsibility for report creation on end users. It opens the door to data exploration and new possibilities. Instead of asking analysts to generate reports, end users have the ability and tools to find the answers to their own business questions whenever they want.

How self-service BI can benefit your business

Self-service BI helps improve organizations in various key areas. Here are just some of the benefits it has for your business.
  • It saves time - most likely there are far more people asking business questions than there are IT experts creating reports to answer them. By removing the dependency on data analysts and technical staff, companies are able to improve the efficiency of their analytical process and save time, as end users can find the answers to their questions themselves.
  • It eliminates mistakes - the more decisions users have to make, the less likely they are to make the right ones. Self-service BI helps ease the decision-making process by delivering nearly instant reports and visualizations that are easy to understand. Users can analyze their data from any angle and deduce answers without having to consult specialists.
  • It reduces costs - since end users are able to utilize self-service BI with little to no training, training and support costs are significantly lower than other BI solutions. What’s more, self-service BI platforms can be accessed from anywhere and at any time, without the need to install expensive hardware and servers, allowing businesses to save money.
There are plenty of benefits of adopting self-service BI. As more employees are able to analyze and explore data by themselves, decisions can be made much faster and at a far lower cost. Want to learn more about business intelligence and how you can implement it in your organization? Give us a call today.
Published with permission from Source.

September 28th, 2015

164_A_SMDo you ever feel like your social media efforts are going nowhere? Does it feel like you spend more and more time marketing your small business on Facebook, Twitter and other social media platforms, but with little return? Well, a recent survey reveals just how much ROI small business owners are actually gaining from their social media efforts, and the results are eye-opening.

Survey details

The survey was conducted by a small business directory and support network known as Manta. They surveyed 540 of their small business members with the aim of learning how much ROI these companies are gaining from social media marketing.

The results

Based on data on the 540 participants, 41% of businesses are receiving a return from social media marketing, which leaves nearly 60% with nothing to show for their investment of time and money. And as for the businesses that are gaining a return, over 80% earn less than $1,000 a month from their social media efforts. More surprisingly, close to half bring in less than $100 a month.

As a small business owner, should these numbers be cause for alarm? According to the CEO of Manta, John Swanciger, part of the reason the return is so low for most businesses is that their social media priorities are misguided. He notes that social media is less about bringing in new customers, and more about community building. "For a long time, the mantra was that social media could bring in new customers,” he says. “In reality, social media is a community builder, and your biggest fans are your already-loyal customers. When small businesses treat social media as the new word-of-mouth community, the real return will follow."

One of the oldest marketing tactics around is word-of-mouth marketing. Every day, people recommend products, restaurants and businesses they love to friends and family members. And social media is the perfect platform to cultivate your fans’ love of your brand. But according to the Manta survey, less than 8% of business owners cited building community as their primary social media goal.

So how do you build a community on social media?

Besides the obvious investments of time and money, here are a few quick tips to get you started:
  • Regularly post content that is valuable to your social media following - the keyword here being valuable.
  • Ask your followers questions to start conversations, and then engage with them. This builds a connection between your brand and customers.
  • Show your followers that you genuinely care about them, and they’ll likely do the same for you with glowing recommendations to friends and family.
Of course there is much more to it than this, but these quick tips can help you get started. If you’re struggling with your own social media efforts and would like to learn more, we’re happy to point your business in the right direction. Call us today to speak with one of our experts.
Published with permission from Source.

Topic Social Media
September 25th, 2015

Router, wifi, modem icon vector image.Can also be used for home electronics and appliances. Suitable for mobile apps, web apps and print media.

Google Router

Almost every home in America has a router for wireless Internet. However, routers tend to be unattractive and full of wires, which leads to them being hidden on the ground. Routers on the ground are not able to work as well, which means that your Internet strength is not where it should be. Luckily, Google has an answer to ugly, obtrusive routers with OnHub.

The design of OnHub has replaced all of the cords that stick out of traditional routers with internal antennas and useful lighting, so you will have no problem placing the device out in the open. When setting up OnHub, the device searches for the fastest connection and best channel. Smart software is always working in the background and will adjust automatically to avoid interference and keep your network working its best.

The router can be controlled by a smartphone app, available for both iPhones and Androids. The app will let you know how much bandwidth your devices are using at any moment. It also allows you to run a network check right from your phone. You can also prioritize your devices from the app so that your favorite device can get the bandwidth it needs for optimal performance.

While the mobile app comes with many helpful features, it also has some features that may lead to security issues with your router. The app allows you to reveal all passwords with a simple tap and will also let you pass on the passwords to friends with an email or text.

For more information on OnHub and what it may mean for your IT securitycontact Proactive Networks in Pasadena, California.

Topic Articles
September 21st, 2015

One of the most neglected aspects of a Business Continuity Plan (BCP) is what happens to employees. Much emphasis is put on protecting and recovering data, but your employees are just as valuable to keep your company running. By setting up your company’s BCP with detailed instructions on working from home during a disaster, your employees can help you make it through anything. Here’s how you can do it.

Step 1 - Prepare

What good is a BCP if your employees don’t understand or even know about it? Saving your data and information is important during times of emergency, but so is making sure your employees can execute their day-to-day functions. Guarantee they understand what is expected from them during a disaster by explaining this in a dedicated meeting. This will also provide a forum for your staff to ask questions and better understand how they fit into the BCP as a whole.

Among the most important things to include in the formulation of any planning are clearly defined roles and open lines of communication. Everyone should know who they report to, as well as who his or her backup is. This will help ensure your company has all its bases covered if a disaster should strike.

Step 2 - Give them the right tools

You can’t expect employees to work from home during a disaster if they do not have the proper tools to succeed. Of course, these also have to be cost effective as well; it’s not feasible to simply hand out workstations to everyone to store at home in case of emergency. For starters, investing in cloud-based solutions will help make it possible to keep service interruptions to a minimum. Microsoft Office 365, for instance, lets users access its programs and files from anywhere and on any device. This means that, if your office is no longer accessible, staff can keep working on their existing projects at home from their own device.

Cloud-based VoIP is another tool that can keep employees up and running from home. These systems can make sure all calls to your office are forwarded to your employees’ cell phones. This allows for communication between your clients and employees to continue uninterrupted even if your office is closed.

Step 3 - Practice

Have each employee take a day to work from home so they are able to get hang of how the process will go if a disaster strikes. This will get them comfortable with the workings of everything, as well as seeing if there are any issues that crop up. Rarely, if ever, does anything go perfectly on the first attempt, so practicing before a disaster can help eliminate any problems that might occur during the real thing.

Make sure you take the time to review how it went with each employee. This will give you an opportunity to see how practical this aspect of your BCP is, and which areas can be made stronger. The idea of the exercise is to allow each employee to feel confident in his or her ability to work during a disaster, and to give you the reassurance that they understand their role as it relates to the wider BCP.

Step 4 - Be alert

Finally, it’s important to keep an eye on possible events that could force you to shut down your office, and make sure your staff is also aware of the situation. The more time they have to prepare to work from home, the more ready they will be. Of course, not every event is possible to predict ahead of time, but if the a blizzard is forecast or there have been protests nearby, alert your staff of the possibility that your BCP may go into effect.

A comprehensive Business Continuity Plan can be the difference between your business surviving or failing if a disaster occurs. Let our experts find a BCP that ensures your company can carry on through thick and thin.

Published with permission from Source.

September 17th, 2015

Security concept in cloud computing and hosting technology

IT News – Shadow IT

The use of unauthorized online services by employees of a company, known as shadow IT is a major concern for anyone who defends a business from network attacks. New systems are being built that are making the concerns of these shadow IT defenders more justified than ever before.

One of the most common attacks is known as “Man in the Cloud,” and involves making a very simple change in the configuration settings that then turn a service such as Google Drive or Dropbox into a serious criminal tool. Man in the Cloud attacks are not easily detected using common security measures, making them even more dangerous.

The key to the attacks is the way that the services sync files from all the devices that are linked to the account. Each device has special software that is provided by the service to help make sure that the information that is on the devices and in the cloud are the same across the board. When any changes are made through the service, the software will make sure that the change is also made in the cloud and all other devices that are linked to the account.

When any changes are made, the devices have to be authenticated. Since the authentication process uses tokens instead of passwords, it is possible to steal the tokens and add it to a device without the knowledge of the account owner. Every time the owner of the account changes any information, the changes will also appear in the unauthorized device. The user will not know that the hack is happening, and it is very difficult for network defenders to detect the issue.

Contact Proactive Networks in Pasadena for more IT news about shadow IT and how it may affect your IT security.

Topic Articles
September 9th, 2015

Hand clicking a search button. Computer monitor in the background

Google Chrome Flash Update 

Earlier this year, Google turned on a feature in the Chrome beta that will help to save notebook battery power by freezing some content that is rendered using Adobe’s Flash Player. The option is turned on by default in the beta, which is one of the three channels that Chrome maintains, and will also be automatically enabled in the stable build.

With the new update, when you are on a website that runs Flash, Chrome will intelligently pause any content that is not central to the page, while keeping all central content, including a video playing without any type of interruption. The update works to significantly reduce power consumption which will allow you to search the Web much longer before you have to plug in your laptop.

The power saving feature can be manually enabled on the stable branch, or can be disabled in any version through the Preferences pane. Users will have to click “Show advanced settings,” followed by the “Content setting” button under the Privacy page, and then select one of the three choices of the Plugins.

The new update follows Safari’s suit. Apple added a very similar feature to Safari 7 in 2013 in which it will ship with “Power Save” enabled. In both web browsers, users can simply click any Flash content to activate it. Without a click, the content will remain static but visible.

For more information on the Google Chrome Flash update, and what it may mean for your computerscontact Proactive Networks in Pasadena, California.

Topic Articles
September 7th, 2015

Business_Value_Sep7_AWe all know IT plays a valuable part in your company’s operations, but is it possible to quantify that value? By asking your IT guy the right questions you should be able to get an idea of what they are adding, or subtracting, from your business’s value. Whether your IT is handled in-house or through a Managed Services Provider, here is some advice on what you can do to help determine its value.

Don’t accept metrics

IT people love using metrics to show how they are contributing to your business. The problem is most of these metrics don’t show you anything. Sure, high uptimes sound great and low mean-time resolutions are probably a good thing, but how do these impact your business? Don’t arbitrarily accept these as signs IT is contributing to the value of your bottom line. Dig deeper and get an explanation as to why these metrics matter. There is a reason your IT department wants you to see these metrics, but it is important to have them explain it.

Ban “tech speak”

There was a time in the world when it was impossible to avoid “tech speak”, but that era has passed. Your modern-day IT person should be able to explain just about everything to you in plain English. Realistically, if they are doing a good job, they should want to share that information with you in a way you will understand easily. If you find your IT department relying heavily on “tech speak”, chances are there is something they don’t want you to know about.

Make sure your IT provider understands business goals

If you want your IT working for you and adding value to your company, then those responsible for it have to know what your goals are. It is then, and only then, that they will be able to manage your technology with these goals in mind. Too often companies assume their IT provider knows what their priorities should be, founded on company principles, but the reality is that the contractor will operate on the basis of what it thinks is best. These two entities pulling in separate directions can hurt your business in many ways. By making sure your IT department - again, whether in-house or outsourced - is pulling in the same direction as everyone else, technology can add a whole lot of value to your company.

Meet with your IT provider often

It doesn’t matter if you have in-house IT or use a Managed Services Provider, you should be meeting with them on a regular basis to understand what they are doing. There is no need to banish them to some dark corner of the building, or only summon them when something breaks. By incorporating them into the operations process and maintaining open lines of communication, you are likely to see things in your office run a whole lot more smoothly. Not only will you get a better understanding of how IT is providing value to your business, they will gain a deeper appreciation of how your company operates. This will help both sides understand how the other operates, and enable you to find new ways to help each other.

Listen to IT recommendations

Chances are that whoever is handling your IT has numerous different ideas on how your company can use technology to decrease costs, increase productivity, and become more profitable. You would be foolish to not at least consider what they have to say. One of your company’s most valuable assets is technology,and your IT department should be up-to-date on what improvements can be made. There could be nothing more valuable to your company than an IT department proactively finding ways for you to get ahead of the competition using technology.

Is IT hurting your business value? Want to instead use it to drive increased bottom-line profits for your company? Contact our technology experts and find out how we can help.

Published with permission from Source.

September 3rd, 2015

Back to school chalkboard sketch Vector illustration

Back To School Tech Tips

With the new school year getting underway, it is the perfect time to make sure that you have everything you need for a successful year. While traditional back to school shopping meant stocking up on pens and paper, it now means getting your hands on the latest technology. Look out for these back to school tech tools that can help you make it through the school year.

  1. HGST Touro S 1TB portable hard drive – there are few worse feelings in college than trying to print out a research paper, only to have your computer crash. This portable hard drive weighs just 5 ounces and can back up all of your papers and other important information so that you are not left asking for a deadline extension after your computer crashes.
  2. iKlip Grip phone tripod/stabilizer – the best way to document all the fun that you are having in college is with your phone, since chances are you always have it with you. This tripod/stabilizer is perfect for taking pictures of your new best friends or video chatting with your loved ones back home.
  3. New smartpen N2 – while this pen comes with a high price tag, around $170, it will capture digital copies of anything that you write down or draw. Working with special notebooks and either an iOS or Android app, you can convert your handwriting into plain text, helping to make your notes searchable.
  4. Scholly: Scholarship Search app – available for both iPhones and Android, this 99 cent app can help you pay for college. You simply enter the filters that match with your situation and it will return a list of scholarships that you can qualify for.

For all of your IT support needs throughout the school year, and to keep you connected, contact Proactive Networks in Pasadena, California.

Topic Articles
August 31st, 2015

You’re probably all too aware of the Ashley Madison hack by now. Maybe you are closely following the names and people involved, perhaps you don’t care or most likely you are somewhere in the middle. No matter where you find yourself standing on this issue, it should be used as a valuable learning tool for your company’s security. Here are three lessons your business can take away from the scandal.

1. Make sure your company’s security data is actually secure

You probably tell clients their information is secure, but just about every company makes that claim. One of the biggest mistakes made by Ashley Madison was the failure to know if its data was truly secure. The company publically lauded its security, but it now seems like those claims were rather hollow. In fact, it appears as if no one at Ashley Madison knew a whole lot about its security practices until it was too late.

Don’t simply pass off your business’s security to the IT department. Being involved will allow you to see how it works. You don’t need to be a tech expert to understand how your data is being secured. Your security provider, whether it be in-house or via a managed services provider, should be able to explain security practices in layman’s terms. This will allow you to ask questions and be proactive because chances are if you see a weakness, others will notice it as well.

2. Beware of your employees and their email and Internet activities

Another takeaway from this scandal was the fact many employees, both from private companies and government offices, were using business email accounts to sign-up for Ashley Madison and office Internet connections to access the site. Putting the ethical questions aside for a moment, public sentiment is undoubtedly negative and companies with employees who used Ashley Madison at work have been exposed to the scandal’s backlash.

By placing the appropriate email and Internet security solutions in place at your business, you can reduce the amount of risk your company is exposed to by employees. No one really wants to put restrictions on their employees’ Internet and email access, but it is important to be smart. Being connected to scandals like this can bring unwanted publicity to your business. Worst of all, your employees might not even realize they are putting your company in harm’s way when they access this type of content at work.

3. Be prepared for data loss

As the Ashley Madison case has shown us, massive data theft or loss can be the end of your business. When clients trust your business with their data, they are confident in your ability to protect it. Of course, things do happen and if your data does go missing, it’s important to have a plan of action ready. While it’s unlikely your company’s data breach is unlikely to garner the attention of Ashley Madison, it means a whole lot more to you, your company and your employees. Just because your company isn’t big doesn’t mean it’s invincible.

A disaster recovery plan can help your company ensure it has backups and even backups of your backups. If you believe your data has been stolen by hackers, it is important to act immediately. You’ll need to quickly assess what information has been stolen and inform the appropriate parties so they can take the necessary steps to protect themselves. From there, you will want to re-secure your company closing any security loopholes that have been found. Finally, access your backups and make sure your business continues to operate as close to normal during the crisis.

Worried about your security? We can show you how to protect yourself. Contact us today for more information on how to keep your company safe.

Published with permission from Source.

Topic Security