The End of Your OS’ Life and Your Next Move

The End of Your OS' Life and Your Next Move

Software developers create software for function, to make profit, to challenge convention, and many other reasons, but when a software company becomes as important to people as Microsoft has become, they have to ensure that their products are well supported. Microsoft support, as an extension of their software offerings, typically helps users navigate the problems they have with their software. Every so often, however, the product you have navigated automated menu after automated menu for will turn out to be unsupported, leaving you asking yourself, “When did that happen?”

Data Warehousing and What It Can Do for Your Business

Data Warehousing and What It Can Do for Your Business

Data is one of the things in business that you collect naturally and can benefit from, but do you have a system in place that lets you collect and store it for future use? Considering how vital data collection is to the success of any organization, it’s reasonable to suggest that data storage can be a valuable investment for your business’s long-term futures and goals.

Have You Heard of Evernote for Your Business?

Have You Heard of Evernote for Your Business?

Every business owner has a lot of work on their plate that can make organizing vast amounts of information difficult. Thankfully, there are software solutions out there that can be incredible assets for the business owner. Evernote is one such application. It is designed to help your business focus on completing tasks and communicating effectively. Some of the main uses that it has for business-class use is for connecting teams through a unified platform and gathering information for later review. Of course, the main purpose of Evernote is to provide a comprehensive platform for note taking and organizing notes.

Investing in Innovative Network Security a Must

Investing in Innovative Network Security a Must

In 2018, enhancing cybersecurity has to be at the top of every business owner’s to-do list. If your business relies on Internet-connected computing at all, you need to invest, and invest wisely in innovative security constructs. Fueled by demand, organizations from around the world have made a point to protect themselves, their data, and their customers’ personal information against some of the most sophisticated threats ever created. They’ve done so in many ways that include utilizing cloud computing, biometric identification and authentication, security analysis, and managed security services.

What Are the Problems with Mobile Payment?

What Are the Problems with Mobile Payment?

Internet commerce has created a vast market for digital payment. With Near Field Communication (NFC) built into almost every smartphone, some of the major financial services companies in the world have created mobile payment platforms that they have advertised as being a fast and secure option for consumers who want to use their smartphones to make retail payments. While this technology has been around for a few years now, not many people utilize it frequently. Here are four reasons mobile payment hasn’t taken off.

Traditional Payment Types Work
Even in a society where the gold standard is more of a marketing ploy than anything else, cash is still extraordinarily useful. As a result, many people simply use methods of payment they’ve been using for decades. First Annapolis Consulting’s “Study of Mobile Banking & Payments” states that while 64 percent of all smartphone users have used some form of mobile payment platform, only a measly five percent consider themselves frequent mobile payment users. This shows that while it may work for the time that you forgot your wallet in the car, most of the time users will stick to what they know.

What Incentive Is There to Use Mobile Payment?
Mobile payment services have grown more sophisticated over the years, and some states have undergone a shift to a digital ID system. Your first thought might be that this completely eliminates the wallet, but how secure are these digital representations of formerly physical identifiers? The ID? The credit card? These constructs have worked for decades and you can see how users will need some form of incentive to move away from them.

Moreover, mobile payment services have, in the past, made it difficult for users to redeem their loyalty points with the use of a mobile point of sale machine. Take, for example, Starbucks, which uses loyalty points that are exchanged through a mobile payment platform. Their mobile application takes both the loyalty points and mobile payment and combines them into one easy way to earn back value as a customer. Just like the consumer, a company won’t want to invest in a solution if it’s not something that will produce a sense of long-term value.

Therefore, the best way to convince users that a mobile payment platform is the right way to go, is to ensure that they get some sort of value from it.

Mobile Payment Requires Considerable Effort
One of greatest benefits of mobile payment is that it’s a much easier method of payment than others. All you need to do is “tap and go.” However, it can still take more time than you think to open up a smartphone app and make a payment. In fact, it can take just as much time as it would to take out your card and make a normal payment. With a mobile payment system, you take your phone out, unlock it, access the mobile wallet app, and select which card you’re going to use. You then have to hold your phone to the terminal. Finally, you need to sign a receipt or a screen and provide a PIN. While it might offer an interesting alternative to traditional payment options, it’s still a pain, and you need to remain cognizant of this fact.

Mobile Payment Means Security Issues
As is the case with most digital systems, there is a considerable convenience at the cost of security, in most cases. It’s not an uncalled-for concern–in fact, countless people suffer from data breaches at banks, stores, and other major online retailers on a daily basis. Why would mobile payments be any different?

The cybersecurity industry has expressed a cautious optimism of payment applications. A 2015 Mobile Payment Security Study urges users to wait and see what the results of such applications are, but it does acknowledge that there has been considerable progress made in this sector. The security of mobile financial transactions has made leaps and bounds, including account tokenization, cryptograms, and multi-factor authentication–all to keep security at an all-time high for mobile transactions.

What will the future hold for mobile payments and transactions? VentureNet can help you implement mobile solutions designed to augment your operations. To learn more, reach out to us at 214-343-3550.

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year…for Thieves

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year...for Thieves

In terms of data loss and theft, the holiday season is one of the riskiest times to travel. When it comes to protecting your personal information, thieves and cybercriminals are counting on either your irreverence to the issue as a whole, or to be so distracted that you make careless mistakes. In 2016, the number of fraud attempts went up by 31% during the holiday season. In addition, credit cards, mobile devices, and open Wi-Fi are common targets during the holiday.

Here’s a few tips that can help keep you and your family safe from hackers and thieves.

  • Hide the Goods – Pickpocketing is a tried and true method of theft that is still extremely effective – especially in a hectic environment like an airport during the month of December. A favorite target of pickpockets are smartphones. Travelers should avoid storing any personal belongings, including smartphones, in places that are easily accessible.
  • Bring Only Necessities – Between work and personal uses, most adults have at least three mobile devices. In general, bringing all of them with you while traveling isn’t necessary. The more devices along for the trip, the more targets there are for criminals. Travelers are encouraged to bring only the technology they need.
  • Free Wi-Fi is Not Free – To conserve mobile data usage, many people are tempted to hop onto Wi-Fi whenever possible without fully comprehending the risks. Some open Wi-Fi access points are easily hacked and you’ll likely have no idea what kind of security the connection will have. It might be a bit costly but using your data instead of open Wi-Fi may save you from identity theft in the long run.
  • Patch It – It’s always a good idea to keep your technology up-to-date with security patches and bug fixes. Many of the large ransomware attacks that made headlines earlier this year could have been avoided by security patches. When traveling, reduce vulnerabilities by installing all necessary patches and updates before you leave your house.
  • Go Phishing – During the holiday, phishing scam emails emulate holiday-centric emails. Scams will often appear to be from legitimate establishments like FedEx or Amazon. They will often ask for account or password information – or offer exclusive coupons that need to be downloaded to use. Remember: If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Avoid downloading any attachments and never give out your password or account information.
  • Skimming a Bit Off the Top – For those of you who aren’t familiar with card skimmers, the premise behind this type of theft is to copy your credit or debit card information by disguising a scanning device on a legitimate source, like a gas pump or ATM. They are then free to use or sell the information from the credit cards. Skimmers are easily overlooked and protecting your information requires constant vigilance. Whenever you’re using a credit card during your holiday travels, look closely at any device that you are going to be swiping your cards on.
    *Note: You can access an application designed to help you identify scanners with your android device here:

    https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=skimmerscammer.skimmerscammer

  • Social Media for Burglars – For many, social media is about sharing their good times and memories with friends and family. For thieves, it’s a road map to determine when a home is going to be vacant because their owners are traveling and how long they’re going to be gone for. To eliminate your house from a burglar’s radar, avoid posting specifics of your trip information on social media.

Approximately 100 million Americans are going to be traveling this holiday season – meaning that there is no shortage of potential victims. By following these tips and being cognizant of the problems you could face, you can be ready for any situation that comes your way. By taking a proactive approach to keeping your identity and finances safe, you already have the drop on the many would-be thieves that people come across in their holiday travels.

Managed IT Services Bring Substantial Value

Managed IT Services Bring Substantial Value

How does your business handle IT maintenance? Chances are that your small business is in one of two situations: you either have a small internal IT department that can only accomplish a handful of tasks every month, or you have no IT department and rely on your employees to perform any maintenance. No matter how you look at it, this situation is not advantageous.

Thankfully, managed IT is something that can replace the age-old break-fix method to IT maintenance. Break-fix is the traditional model of technology maintenance in which businesses would seek out companies trained in how to resolve IT issues. Examples of such trouble could be a hardware failure, data loss, or even something as simple as an email flow problem.

Unfortunately, by the time the issue is resolved, downtime has cost your organization likely more than it did to fix the problem, hitting your business where it hurts twice. In fact, downtime is one of the major problems associated with any technology maintenance, and it’s a big enough pain point that any way an organization can reduce or eliminate downtime is important to consider. In order to optimize the use of a small business’ capital resources, downtime needs to be thwarted. A managed IT service provider accomplishes this by preventing issues through proactive maintenance.

This is something that, by nature, a break-fix IT company is incapable of fulfilling. After all, a break-fix provider profits from your technology breaking down often. Rather than just slap a temporary fix on your infrastructure, managed IT looks at the core reason why they have happened in the first place. Managed IT aims to understand and prevent issues to reduce downtime, and thus cost. When the business’ technology breaks, an MSP is actually losing money. This method ensures that when you have a managed service provider handling your IT services, it is fully committed to seeing your organization’s technology run effectively.

To this end, managed IT provides technicians who are more than capable of either helping your current IT department, or filling the gap that’s currently being manned by your employees. Doing so can open up a world of possibilities for your on-site technicians. They can finally get around to implementing new solutions designed to help your organization profit, rather than answering endless questions thrown at them on a daily basis. On the other hand, if they would prefer to play the support role, our technicians can help your organization implement new technology solutions to streamline operations.

In other words, managed IT can be whatever you want it to be–whether as a supplement to your in-house team; or as the primary service provider.

One of the main selling points of managed IT is that it’s much more affordable than break-fix IT. As previously stated, you’re not waiting for a big bill in the event of a technology issue. Instead, you’re making smaller, predictable payments once a month to keep issues from surfacing. This keeps these small issues from becoming major problems.

If you’ve had enough irritating technology troubles and want to learn more about how managed IT services can save you money and help your organization be more profitable, call the IT professionals at VentureNet today at 214-343-3550.

Software as a Service Is Helping Small Businesses

Software as a Service Is Helping Small Businesses

What kind of software does your business use to keep operations moving forward? Depending on what industry you are in, you might find it increasingly painstaking to procure and manage the software titles your organization uses, particularly if yours is a small business that has limited capital to invest in its software. Nowadays, however, the acquisition of software doesn’t have to be troublesome, as software as a service (SaaS) is providing organizations with limited resources access to software it normally could not afford.

SaaS is a cloud computing strategy that makes available the mission-critical software your organization needs for an affordable monthly fee. If you use the traditional method of software procurement, you’ll be purchasing your software by the license, meaning that the more users who need access to a particular software, the more it will cost you. While this concept doesn’t really change with SaaS, the long-term ramifications of these titles can be mitigated.

Instead of utilizing a traditional method of acquiring software solutions, organizations that leverage SaaS options are gaining access to dynamic software that is hosted, managed, and maintained by the provider–significantly reducing the overall cost and transferring the larger capital outlay to a more manageable operational cost. To take advantage of this software, all you have to do is pay for access to the software, and it’s delivered over your Internet connection.

Some benefits your organization will see by using software as a service, include:

Lower Costs
Your business spends a pretty penny on software; and, it is probably more than you even know. On top of a software license, you traditionally also have to pay for the resources you need to host, monitor, and maintain infrastructure. These costs add up quickly, but by utilizing a software as a service model, you can get all the software your users need, per user, with one monthly payment.

Up-to-Date Editions
Typically, your Software as a Service applications will be accessed through an online environment. These cloud-based solutions are, more often than not, completely up-to-date, meaning that you’ll be using the most recent version of this software; and, as mentioned above, none of this maintenance is your responsibility.

Flexibility
If yours is like many modern organizations, you have trouble keeping within the confines of your technology budgets. Software as a Service allows an organization to do more with less. By the end of 2017, over 94% of small businesses will be utilizing SaaS in one form or another. One of the most cited reasons for this is the overall flexibility SaaS provides. Not only does SaaS improve your organization’s financial flexibility, it brings with it dynamic scalability and anytime accessibility. Many SaaS platforms are available from anyplace there is an Internet connection, on a whole myriad of different types of devices. To scale your software deployment, it is as simple as adding new users to your service plan. All you have to do is reach out to the service provider and make the required arrangements.

Does your business want to take full advantage of software deployment in the cloud? To learn more about software as a service and how to stretch your organization’s technology budget to see the fastest and largest return on your technology investments, call us today at 214-343-3550.

Leveraging AI Might Be What Stops Hackers

Leveraging AI Might Be What Stops Hackers

There are times that hackers can’t interfere with data, and then there are times that hackers really can’t interfere with data. CERN, the Conseil Européen pour la Recherche Nucléaire (European Council for Nuclear Research) maintains far too powerful of a computer grid to risk it falling into the control of hackers. To protect it, CERN leverages the cutting edge of security to protect its European Laboratory for Particle Physics: artificial intelligence.

There are a few reasons that using AI as a part of security is a solid strategy. First, it gives users a fighting chance to stay abreast of the changes that malware makes. As a means of fighting threats, the scientists at the European Laboratory for Particle Physics are teaching their AI to identify, extract, and eliminate threats on the network.

This is saying something, especially considering the resources needed to operate CERN’s famous Large Hadron Collider and Worldwide LHC Computing Grid. The LHC collected around 50 petabytes of data between January and June of 2017–and all of the data it collects is shared to a network of 170 research facilities across the globe. These facilities can even be supported by the vast computing resources within this network as needed.

This setup provides a few challenges for those responsible for maintaining CERN’s cybersecurity. First, maintaining computing power and data storage capabilities, while second, securing their global network against threats.

To accomplish this, CERN has turned to AI and machine learning so their security systems can differentiate between usual network activity and activity from a malicious source. Their AI is still being tested, but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t similar solutions that you can’t leverage to protect your business.

To clarify, we aren’t talking about sentient androids with human qualities and behaviors as one would see in a movie. CERN’s security AI probably isn’t going to find itself feeling unrequited love for a break room toaster. Rather, we’re discussing a tool that is much more accessible than you might initially realize. For instance, Google. Each time you press ‘Enter’ to run a search, the results are compiled, indexed, and categorized without the immediate involvement of a human being. Through machine learning and hundreds of other factors, Google can draw the most relevant results it can for you, specifically.

This allows search results to be delivered faster than the eye can blink, and millions of results to be balanced and compiled just as quickly. Imagine the difference we would see if human beings delivered search results: biases would influence the results, Google would be bankrupted by the staffing costs, and the speed of return would slow to a crawl.

AI’s capabilities are also extremely well-suited for security needs, as it can tirelessly run penetration tests, patch vulnerabilities, and scan for flaws. Improving defenses, like spam blockers and firewalls, can continue at all hours without the human need for a break. With the ability to draw upon and utilize security resources at inhuman speeds, hackers and other malicious actors will have a much harder time.

While true AI is still in the realm of science fiction, we’re getting much closer to making it fact.

Cybercrime and Punishment: Who Is Accountable for Data Loss?

Cyber Crime and Punishment: Who Is Accountable for Data Loss?

These days you can’t go a week without hearing about governments, companies, and other organizations dealing with major data breaches. It’s so commonplace that sometimes people don’t stop to consider the effect all these data loss events can have. As it pertains to the individual, there is always the chance, if a company gets breached, or loses data from a disaster or a hack, that your anonymity is a casualty. After the media attention fades, there are millions of people that are left exposed and companies, some huge multinational conglomerates, that don’t face any repercussions.

Some time ago, the U.S. Government determined that these general data breach events were an issue for individual state governments. State lawmakers are the only ones that currently have the jurisdiction to create and enforce data security laws in the United States. After an organization is breached, they are typically mandated to provide knowledge of the breach to that state’s Attorney General, who ultimately determines whether or not the state will sink resources into investigating and prosecuting the breached organization.

With data largely running the U.S. economy, however, there have only been two federally-mandated digital security laws passed in the last 20 years: The Healthcare Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) and the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act (GLBA), which covers the healthcare industry and the financial services industry, respectively. Since data-theft-based crimes are still roundly federally unprosecuted, it has left a large amount of the business sector left to be protected by the various states’ attorney’s offices. In fact, the first complete trial for data theft was in 2015.

Other parts of the world have more overreaching data security mandates. In fact, the only financial entity that has a greater financial stake in world business affairs than the U.S., the European Union, has recently approved a comprehensive cybersecurity law called the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). The GDPR gives regulators authority to stop the transmission of data, or levy fines against businesses that lose individual’s information. The fines are substantial, too, ranging as large as $20 million or 4% of the organization’s revenue, whichever is larger.

Since the civil responsibility of prosecuting data security laws lies with individual states in the U.S., there has been a wide disparity of how these situations are handled. It is up to the state to come up with the penalties for offending companies, so different states have different penalties. Some states prosecute by violation, some by series of breaches, and some, strangely, by resident. Moreover, even if a company is prosecuted for the data that has been taken, there are only four current states (Arkansas, Illinois, Nevada, and Pennsylvania) and the District of Columbia that have given their courts the ability to collect reasonable restitution. Stranger even, some states bar individuals and organizations from taking action against entities that compromise their data, as only class action lawsuits are heard in these states.

There are times when state courts can come down heavily on an organization, as some have had to limit or stop operations completely, pending an investigation. The cost and lost revenue from having to halt operations, coupled with the damage done to the organization’s reputation, can cripple a business’ chance of ever resuming normal operations, even before the verdict, and resulting restitution, has been ruled upon.

The lack of cybersecurity laws on the books is being remedied in several states. Many state legislatures have, at the very least, proposed bills to give courts the ability to hear cybersecurity-related cases. Additionally, many states have already enacted mandates that make clear the amount given to a breached organization before they have to notify the State’s Attorney, as well as setting a baseline for the number of records that have been exposed before notification is required.

Cybercrime and data loss are major issues today, and the more they become prevalent, the sooner we expect the federal government to create additional mandates to protect citizens’ personal information.

How do you think data breaches should be handled? Do you think the U.S Government has to be more active on this issue? One thing is for certain, cybercrime is not going away. To protect your business from data loss and reputational harm, contact the IT security professionals at VentureNet today.