Pandemics Stimulate Innovation

The Coronavirus outbreak is one of the most remarkable events in our lives, but it is not the first time that people have had to deal with these seemingly mystical forces. Today, we have been able to stem the tide a little bit with our access to information technology, but for past pandemic victims, some good did come out of tragedy. This month we thought we’d talk about the importance of innovation in dark times.

 

It wouldn’t be overstating that innovation pulls our economies along, but if you look back over history, in troubled times, innovation gets a boost and has brought about some of the most important changes to modern society. Today, we see the COVID-19 outbreak, killing people, overwhelming our healthcare resources, hurting our economies, stymieing travel, impacting normally-thriving industries, and invading our lives by keeping us pent up inside at a time when a lot of people begin to congregate. It’s a bad situation, but it isn’t the first time that people have had to deal with things like this (and it likely won’t be the last).

 

The first pandemic on record was the Plague of Athens in 429 BC that took 100,000 lives and changed the way that the people of the Athenian state thought about disease. Our doctors today still take the Hippocratic Oath that was established during those dark years. Situations like this foster an innovative spirit, because in order for our species to continue, we have to constantly adjust our view of what’s possible.

The Plague

The Black Death or Great Plague was the singular worst pandemic in recorded human history. In a span of 22 years in the mid 14th century, the Black Death killed nearly half of the population of Europe alone. No one even knows how many people died, but it took the world 200 years after it was over to regain the population that was lost in the pandemic.

 

Innovation followed. The people that were left had to work harder for longer because of a lack of workers. Human labor then became a premium which created the modern work style. Workers were paid more, and overall the working classes gained power. The Black Death resulted in widespread land ownership and a substantial increase in education and literacy. This in-turn led to a new freedom of thought and innovation.

You began to see more complex clocks and a total overhaul from the religion-based health system to a more modern health system. Eye glasses, guns, and hospitals were developed. The dark ages that cast a cloud over Europe for centuries started to open up and in a short period of time you began to see people inventing and innovating so quickly that today we call that period the Renaissance.

SARS

Skipping up to contemporary times, the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) outbreak of the early 2000s appeared, like COVID-19, in China. It quickly spread to Hong Kong and can be thought of as the worst disease outbreak of modern times (before the situation we find ourselves in now). SARS shut down global commerce just at a time when it was in its beginning stages. Some estimates say that it cost the world $40 billion or so.

 

As people looked for a way to mitigate their exposure to the disease; and, risk making it a worldwide pandemic like we’ve seen with Novel Coronavirus, innovation took over. The Internet, which wasn’t a widely-used tool in China at the time became the answer. eCommerce, a strategy that was just starting to take hold in the United States and Europe exploded in China. SARS accelerated the growth of website and application development for the Internet.

Today, we all depend on Internet-connected applications for collaboration, communication, or just recreation. Without the SARS pandemic, this innovation probably would have taken a few more years to really become the extraordinary valuable tool that we’ve all come to depend on.

COVID-19

Now, we turn briefly to our current situation. We’re still in the throes of it, but we can already see that this pandemic is accelerating innovation and change rapidly. Using information technology, doctors from all over the world can work together to promote solid health practices, exchange research, and hopefully, develop a cure.

That’s just in the health arena.

 

In the business world, millions of people are now working remotely, using cloud technologies and remote access to continue their company’s operations. Working from home is changing the face of collaboration; and, as a result, you will begin to see new software and improvements to other business software that makes the coordination necessary to have a remote workforce possible.

 

Video conferencing, a tool that many organizations used sparingly, is now one of the most utilized tools by businesses. This use will improve their ability to incorporate more people and integrations.

 

Application-run delivery services like Instacart and Amazon are flooded with orders, keeping people out of harm’s way while they get the groceries and toiletries they desperately need. These companies are finding that the faster they are able to innovate on their services, the better received they are and the more people will be apt to use them.

 

Innovation is a huge part of our society and we should be proud that people have the ingenuity to make necessary improvements to better help businesses, individuals, and society as a whole. For more great content, please read our monthly newsletter and visit our blog.

The Benefits of Switching to VoIP

Every business needs some sort of telephone system. If you are looking to save some money, a Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) platform is a good place to start. However, VoIP can do more than just trim down your communications spend. There are many other options that VoIP can open up for the benefit of your business’ efficiency and productivity.

Accomplish More With VoIP

Yes, VoIP is a telephone system by definition, but that definition may be an overly limited one. As it uses your available bandwidth instead of the typical, dedicated RJ-11 connection, you have many more options available to you. While these options may scale up the solution’s cost slightly, it is certainly worth the value that the incorporated instant messaging, archival, and conferencing capability provides.

There’s Simpler Security

When compared to the traditional landline’s analog system, the digital connection VoIP relies on is far easier to secure. By encrypting the information, it is able to be transmitted to the recipient safely.

You Can Take VoIP With You

Imagine if you could bring your desk phone around with you. VoIP effectively allows you to, as many solutions have a mobile application counterpart. Your smartphone can be linked to your business phone and become a secondary line, enabling you to keep in touch with people without sharing your personal number. If you or your employees would rather not install an application, call forwarding can be implemented instead.

VoIP Can Automate Your Client Interactions

With the right configuration, a VoIP system can be used to connect your entire business. Automated menus are built in that allow employees to access their voicemail, connect to a coworker, or even focus more on their work without neglecting the people trying to reach them. VoIP accounts can also include call forwarding and parking, along with other premium features.

While the traditional telephone landline served businesses well, VoIP is now here to attend to your business’ needs. For more information about what VoIP can do and how to acquire such a system for your own business, call 214-343-3550 and speak with a professional from VentureNet today.

Respond to Adversity with Disaster Recovery

The tragic reality of the COVID-19 pandemic is that businesses are in a very uncomfortable situation. As the virus made its way around the world, many businesses have had to enact their version of a disaster recovery policy. Not all businesses will look at this the same way, but if you want your business to have the kind of continuity that will allow it to get through tough situations like this, formally creating a disaster recovery policy will put you in the position to weather any storm you encounter.

A Brief Explanation of Disaster Recovery

Every business has some type of business continuity plan. It is the set of actions that need to be taken to ensure that your business isn’t mortally affected by negative situations. Within this plan is disaster recovery, which is a specific plan to get your operations up and running after a “disaster”. Here are a few examples of disasters that could affect your business’ continuity:

 

  • Natural disaster – Flood, hurricane, tornado, wildfire, electrical storm, worldwide pandemic; the list goes on and on.
  • Human error – Accidental, negligent, or deliberate situation an employee puts the business in which causes a disaster-like result.
  • Cyberattack – Data breaches can be some of the worst, especially when people’s sensitive information is involved.
  • Failing Hardware – If the right component goes out at the right time it can have devastating effects on your business.

 

No matter what problems your business has to deal with, getting your resources back up and running as fast as possible should be one of the core priorities of any negative situation. The reality of the situation is that every minute your business breaks continuity is a massive problem, and can lead to some very unpleasant results.

DR From the Beginning

There has been a lot made recently–for very good reasons–about how the COVID-19 pandemic will actually work to improve disaster recovery in the future. That is a positive notion, but many businesses don’t have a disaster recovery plan in place now, and you will see that those organizations will have a hard time sustaining operations when situations like this happen.

The first thing you need to know about your disaster recovery policy, is that it has to be created with the notion that it’s a matter of when, not if, you will need to use it. The statistics reinforce this idea. Three-out-of-five businesses that experience a prolonged system outage will be out of business within two years of the event. So, even if you are able to get back up and running again, the lost revenue may eventually catch up and ruin your business.

 

With that knowledge, the first suggestion we’d make is to stay calm. A business owner–who has toiled and taken his/her business from a one or two-man operation to an organization that people and their families depend on–needs to make calculated decisions to get their business back up and running properly. Acting impulsively will often lead to making decisions that will further hurt your business’ chances of returning to normalcy.

The first real action that needs to be undertaken is to contact the people that will need to know that a disaster has occurred. Setting up a call list to notify people that need to know is a good practice. Since the focus has to be on getting data accessible, once department managers are notified, they can decide how and when to notify their subordinates. Regardless of how you plan to set this up, communication will be key to get your business back up and on track.

 

One of the most important parts of a disaster recovery strategy is to have digital copies of everything. We suggest using a Backup and Disaster Recovery service that backs up data incrementally and saves multiple copies of data in a network-connected device, as well as in an offsite data center. Having a comprehensive backup is a core strategy of any disaster recovery platform.

 

Depending on the disaster, you may need to find alternative means of managing your workforce. This COVID-19 outbreak has led to tens of millions of people moving out of their offices and working from home. Being able to provide your staff with that ability in the face of a disaster is extremely useful to keep revenue flowing in. You may not be a fan of remote working, but when disaster strikes it may be your only outlet; and, you may be surprised just how productive your workers will be from outside the office.

 

The end result will be systems up and running, your data and applications are able to be accessed by remote workers, and your business’ data is intact. Outside of this, your business continuity policy will handle the rest. DR is about getting your business’ assets up and running in the face of a disaster, whether that is a deleted file or a worldwide pandemic.

If you would like to talk to one of our IT professionals about your disaster recovery policy, call us today at 214-343-3550.

New to Managing a Remote Staff? Here’s What You Need to Know

Like it or not, many businesses have been forced to send employees home thanks to COVID-19. That has left a lot of business owners and managers stuck with a whole new paradigm to deal with.

 

First thing first – don’t panic!

 

Yes, totally switching gears to allow most or all of your staff to work from home is no small feat, but it can be done. In fact, many organizations offer it as a perk or encourage it to keep office expenses down. Granted, they were able to transition at their own pace instead of having a global pandemic force their hand. Still, it’s not only possible, but it can result in more productivity in the long run.

 

There are a few things you need to know when you’ve sent your entire workforce home.

Cybersecurity is Still Critical

Just because everyone is home doesn’t mean your IT isn’t at risk. It just means that suddenly, your IT footprint is a lot wider, and the edges are pretty fuzzy. What do we mean by that? If you have 20 employees who used to sit at 20 workstations at the office, and suddenly they are sitting at 20 personal computers instead, the risks grow exponentially.

 

Those 20 employees on 20 computers are connected to 20 home networks, some with other devices. Some of those networks have unsecure Wi-Fi. Some of those networks have more devices on them – do they have kids, spouses, roommates, or family members on the network or computer too? You don’t control access to all of that.

 

This isn’t meant to prevent you from sleeping at night, but to show you how important it is to provide a safe avenue for doing business in what is essentially the wild west of IT.

 

Fortunately, the solution isn’t nearly as complicated as the problem. Instead of contending with all of those personal endpoints and whatever mess or risks the end user might have at home on their network, you can just have remote staff access the company network over a VPN.

 

Setting up a VPN on your network is a relatively simple task, and educating your users how to use it doesn’t take a lot of time. It’s important that they understand how the VPN works and why they are using it – it’s to protect and secure all company data. You don’t want them emailing files to themselves or doing work directly on an unsecure device.

Give Them Access to the Documents and Applications They Need

Good news! If you are addressing your cybersecurity for your remote staff, you already have the tools needed to grant access to all the applications and documents they need to do their job. The VPN will allow workers to gain access to all of their usual applications as if they were sitting at their computer in the office. No need to help them install anything, they just need to be taught how to remote in using the VPN.

 

There might be some exceptions to this – a video editor or graphic designer might have a little better luck being able to work directly off their own computer versus remoting in. If that is the case, then you might need to issue company-owned and controlled hardware for them to work on. For most office workers though, this usually isn’t necessary.

You Don’t Need to Supply the Device, But You Certainly Can

We’ve been talking about scenarios where your staff are working from their personal desktops and laptops at home. Although most consumers probably do have some kind of computer at home they can use, that might not be the case for everyone.

 

This gives you some options. Outside of a crisis, you could restrict offering remote work to those who have their own device. You could also issue out work devices to specific departments or individuals as it makes sense. You could offer a bonus to help supplement the costs of a device, provided that the user keeps it for work.

 

It’s always been a good practice to have an extra workstation or two put away in a closet at your office in case someone’s work computer were to need to be replaced. It’s starting to make a lot more sense to have a few laptops in stock as well, ready to go in case you need them.

Provide Communication Methods

Every business has different needs for communication, but every business NEEDS the ability to communicate. That might include taking support calls, making sales calls, setting up meetings with clients, and holding internal meetings.

 

First off, if you aren’t using VoIP, you are doing yourself a disservice. VoIP is a massive improvement on the traditional phone system, and in a situation like we are in now, it will really shine. Most VoIP systems allow you to make and receive calls from anywhere on any device. Many even work through an app on your smartphone. This means your workers can pick up their phone without being at their desk.

 

Since we’re all trying to avoid face-to-face interactions with people to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, it’s also important to have a replacement for the in-person meeting. Sure, a phone call works wonders, but there are plenty of tools out there that make things even more dynamic. Applications like Slack, Google Hangouts, Microsoft Teams, and many more can not only give your staff an avenue for internal communication, but it can give you the ability to oversee communication. There are plenty of professional services for screen sharing and video conferencing as well.

Keep Holding Meetings, Especially While Working Remotely

If you have regular department meetings and staff meetings, don’t postpone them for after the pandemic. Now is the time to double down on internal communication, and encourage it between staff. Managers and department heads should do friendly check-ins throughout the day. The goal isn’t to babysit your staff, but to keep that line of communication open.

 

Keep up the old habits – if you hold a department meeting every Tuesday at 3 p.m., keep that meeting at the same time, send out the meeting notes, and treat it no differently than a real face-to-face meeting.

Your Employees Probably Aren’t Slacking Off

We can’t make you the promise that 100 percent of your staff are perfectly diligent when you aren’t looking. That said, a two-year Stanford University study shows that in general, remote workers are as productive, if not more.

 

Take this into consideration, and simply keep encouraging good communication. Every business and every employee are going to be different, but in many cases your good workers will strive from home. Workers that tend to get distracted at the office may find opportunity to focus.

 

It’s important to find the best way to measure productivity and success within your business. It’s going to be different for everyone. For sales, it’s having appointments set and opportunities closed. For marketing, it’s conversions, subscribers, or clicks. Each department should have someone responsible for making sure productivity doesn’t lapse.

 

If your business is struggling to get your staff situated working remotely, you aren’t alone. We’ve been helping Dallas businesses stay productive during the global pandemic. If you need help, we encourage you to reach out to us at 214-343-3550.

Collaboration Is a Big Deal for Businesses

“Un pour tous, tous pour un,” was made famous by Alexandré Dumas’ The Three Musketeers. The collaboration of the Musketeers: Athos, Aramis, Porthos with the brave and clever D’Artagnan makes for great fiction, but for the average business, the act of working together for a single goal possible is less heroic, but still mandatory. Let’s take a look at modern collaboration.

How does Collaboration Work Inside the Modern Business?

For today’s business, collaboration is typically promoted through the use of technology, specifically communication tools. Through tools like Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP), Email, and instant messaging, collaboration has become easier. This collaboration comes in a few different methods. They include:

 

  • Simple Collaboration – The most basic form of collaboration. This comes in the form of basic communications. Team cooperation can only be manifested if team members are on the same page.
    Document Collaboration – Document collaboration used to be sent via manila envelopes, but today most document collaboration is being done via cloud-based services like Microsoft Office 365 and G Suite.
  • Structured Collaboration – Structured collaboration is the act of coordinating tasks that need to be completed by a team. The more tasks that need to be accomplished, the more collaboration is needed to ensure that the project is completed and ready for delivery before any hard deadline.

 

Why is Collaboration So Important?

If more people work together to create a product or service, it stands to reason that it will be more effective for its intended purpose. Using today’s most powerful collaboration tools, an organization can get work done faster, and of higher quality. Some of the best collaboration tools include:

 

  • Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP)
  • Conferencing solutions
  • Email
  • Cloud productivity suites
  • Instant Messaging
  • Customer Relationship Management
  • Document management platforms
  • Collaboration apps

 

…And more

 

If you are looking for help maximizing your human resources by getting the best collaborative tools on the market call VentureNet today at 214-343-3550.

How a Mobile Device Policy Can Benefit Your Business

With mobile devices being as popular as they are, so ingrained into modern culture, the fact of the matter is that your employees are going to have them in the workplace. They may even want to use them in a work capacity. This can provide a few benefits to a business, as long as it is managed properly. A carefully-crafted mobile device policy can help accomplish this.

Here, we’ll go into what your mobile device policy needs to cover, if you are considering integrating one or revisiting the one you currently have.

Security Standards

Due to its extreme importance to your business and its success, security seems to be an appropriate place to start. There are many guidelines that you should enforce among your staff in exchange for the ability to use their own device to not only protect your operations, but also to help prevent these devices from threatening your organizational productivity. For instance, it is probably a good idea to include the following:

 

  • All devices must be password-protected in accordance with your company’s password policies and guidelines and set to lock if left idle for a given amount of time.
  • Employees are unable to install any applications that are not approved by the company.
  • Any devices not included in the acceptable list, or that are not a part of a BYOD policy (i.e., are exclusively for personal use) may not connect to the network.
  • Any device may be wiped if it is misplaced, if the owner leaves the company, or a potential threat is detected by IT.

 

Of course, this is not a comprehensive list (as none of our examples will be), but it is a good starting point to help you establish your mobile-based policies.

Liabilities, Risks, and Disclaimers

On the topic of security, you will want to make sure that you are not only protecting yourself against external threats, but also the ones that can influence your internal productivity or are sourced from within your business. In other words, you need to cover your butt. This can be (at least partially) accomplished by including a few items in your policy:

 

  • Any lost or stolen devices need to be reported to IT within 24 hours, with the mobile carrier notified immediately.
  • By using their mobile device, an employee consents to the company’s acceptable use policy and adheres to it.
  • Any mobile device is subject to being disconnected from the network or have its services disabled without notice.
  • Should a device need to be remotely wiped to protect company data, IT will make every effort to protect the user’s data from being lost. However, the company’s security will come first, which means that users need to take their own backups.

 

It is important to put all of these policies in writing to establish precedence.

Acceptable Use

Your mobile device policy should create clear guidelines for how your employees are to use their personal devices in the workplace, or out of it for work purposes. Many of these are largely up to your discretion, while others tie back into security and are strongly recommended. This is why you will want to include things like:

 

  • Clear definitions of acceptable business use and acceptable personal use on company time, as well as what actions are forbidden at any time (such as storing illicit materials or harassing others).
  • A list of the business resources that employees can access via their mobile devices.
  • Approved and disapproved applications – including those acquired outside of Google Play or iTunes.
  • Which websites cannot be accessed through the corporate network.

 

Again, this has been a very brief selection of points for your mobile device policy to cover. For more assistance designing, implementing, and enforcing it, reach out to the pros at VentureNet.

There Are Some Serious Benefits of Backup

How are you protecting your data from disaster? If you don’t have a backup and disaster recovery platform in place you are missing one of the most crucial parts of managing your business’ Think about it, if your organization were to suddenly lose a significant portion of its data, would it be able to continue to function effectively?

 

For years, when a business had a redundancy platform, it would have been magnetic tape. A tape backup has several problems. It isn’t automatic like the modern BDR. It has to be manually taken at a time when data isn’t being used. This causes major problems for the modern business that functions around the clock. Furthermore, you had to store the tapes, and someone had to manage it. All these problems are avoided with BDR.

Using BDR

If you want data redundancy for your business in the information age, you need to get a BDR. Not only is your data backed up locally, it is also pushed to the cloud. Having data on site is great if you need to quickly restore something, or if you server crashes and you need a substitute server, while cloud backup is great for protecting the data in case of a major disaster that knocks out your onsite hardware.

 

The BDR is automated to back up data incrementally, meaning that once there is a full backup taken, the BDR only copies changes made since the last backup. This allows you to run backups frequently (as frequently as every 15 minutes). Additionally, if you need to restore from you BDR, VentureNet can do a bare-metal restore, ensuring that you get all the data you need.

 

Avoiding data loss is essential if you want to maintain solid operational effectiveness and maintain a sterling reputation. For more questions reach out the IT professionals at VentureNet today at 214-343-3550.

Small Business and the Internet of Things

For the amount that you hear the phrase “the Internet of Things” you’d think that it is the newest Ben and Jerry’s flavor. We hear it everywhere. On the television: “the Internet of Things”. In the stores: “the Internet of Things”. Even on the Internet there is this constant stream of consciousness that references the Internet of things. Well, today we are going to look at the Internet of Things as it is, and why you need to listen to what everyone is saying about the Internet of Things.

What Is the Internet of Things?

The Internet of Things is essentially referencing all the “smart” devices being manufactured today that can be connected to the Internet. The “things” are everywhere. They include mobile devices, appliances, wearable technology, and all types of other mechanical and digital machines. There are even smart dog collars. This may seem innocuous enough, but the fact is that each “thing” is an endpoint that needs access to your network. Since your network is the lifeblood of your business, controlling endpoint access is critical to keeping it free of threats.

 

Now, your company may not have an office dog with a smart collar, but it likely has a working staff. That staff is bringing more “things” into your office than ever before, and if you don’t do anything about it, it could cause some serious problems for you. In fact, according to a survey from the Ponemon Institute, 20 percent of companies that had a data breach have traced that attack back to unsecured IoT devices. Fortunately, you have the resources to keep IoT devices from becoming problematic, and today you need to start taking advantage of them.

Keep Your Team Aware

When you set out to write your business’ mobile security regulations, the things you have in mind are typically your staff’s mobile devices and any smart tools that your company already uses. The emergence of more “things” on your network changes the way it has to be managed. That’s why you should let your people know that IoT devices, while increasingly useful and secure, are an emerging problem that could be putting the company’s operations in jeopardy.

Try to Limit Your Exposure

The first thing you will want to do is to enact some semblance of procedure surrounding the management of these devices. Do you want to quarantine them? You could create a guest network for these devices, but you would take on any cost of doing so. Do you want to outlaw them? You could, but that IoT fueled coffee mug your receptionist just got from her parents for her birthday would go the way of so many coffee mugs, stored in a dusty cabinet someplace.

 

To be effective in keeping IoT-driven problems off of your network, it’s not necessary to eliminate the use of IoT devices, and it doesn’t have to cost your business more capital to build a secure network for all of the devices. All it takes is to register network-attached devices. That means all of them. Every laptop or smartphone, tablet or smartwatch needs to be registered.

Secure Those Devices

To take it a step further, each device needs to have built-in security or be secured before being put on your business’ network. The IoT has a lot of devices that don’t have the necessary security, and if they are on your network, they are vulnerabilities. You need to be positive that any new device cannot hurt your business. Any IoT device you allow needs to be updated to its last firmware update and needs to be secured with proper password and two-factor authentication practices.

 

If you plan on hosting IoT devices–and you should because they can have benefits for your business–you will want to ensure that you are in control of your network. If you need help with IoT–or device–security, don’t hesitate to reach out to the technology professionals at VentureNet at 214-343-3550.

A Recent Data Theft Shows Us What to Watch Out For

Trend Micro, the developer of the popular antivirus program, has attracted some unwanted attention after a former employee managed to steal customer data and sell it to scammers. These scammers then use this data to call Trend Micro customers. If you use Trend Micro’s antivirus solutions, you’re going to want to pay close attention to any calls you get.

What Happened?

We aren’t shy about informing our clients about the potential dangers of allowing access to more than an employee needs to do their job. This is a practical example of why we say that.

 

The (now former) Trend Micro employee was able to access more data than they needed to have. Trend Micro provided a pretty succinct explanation of the situation, saying that the employee was able to “gain access to a customer support database that contained names, email addresses, Trend Micro support ticket numbers, and in some instances telephone numbers. There are no indications that any other information such as financial or credit payment information was involved…”

 

The perpetrator’s name has not yet been made public, but whoever they were, they were able to bypass Trend Micro’s internal protections.

 

Consider what it would take for a phone scam to really be convincing: really, if you were called by someone from “Trend Micro” who knew who you were and that you were a user of their product, you wouldn’t have much reason to doubt them, would you? The data that was up for grabs at Trend Micro contained much more information than that, making it potentially even more valuable to a cybercriminal or scam artist.

You Need to Watch Out for Unsolicited Tech Support Calls

As you might imagine, this scam has been around for about as long as there have been personal computers and is in no way exclusive to Trend Micro customers. Tech support scams have been used to target users for years, often profiling users by their age to find victims more likely to fall for the ruse. Combining this profiling with scare tactics and put-on urgency, the scammer is able to shock their target into handing over their credit card information or allowing the scammer to access their PC remotely.

It isn’t uncommon for these scammers to identify themselves as a member of some “Microsoft Windows support team” or another support company. If the targeted business is big enough, a scammer may just claim to be from the IT department.

 

This is why you have to be sure that all of your employees know how to have their technology support questions addressed through the right channels.

You Also Need to Keep Your Employees from Accessing More than They Need

Take a critical look at the permissions you afford your employees as far as your network is concerned. How accessible are the folders you store your sensitive information in, like a client’s personal data or financial information?

 

Best practices dictate that an employee only be given access to what they need to do their job, while common sense dictates that you can’t make an employee’s job too difficult for them, either. Striking a balance between the two can be tricky but working with your IT provider to establish permissions makes it far easier.

 

If you want to avoid potentially running into a similar situation as Trend Micro did, enforcing security policies is a step you need to take. Doing so should include access control to certain files and areas of your network, requiring MFA/2FA (multifactor/two-factor authentication), and quite a bit of planning to put it all together. However, if it keeps your data safe from threats (inside and out), it’ll be worth the damage control you get to avoid.

 

If you could use some assistance in securing your network and educating your employees about how scams can be identified, give VentureNet a call. Our professionals are here to help – call 214-343-3550 today.

 

Start Using Two-Factor Authentication Everywhere, Today

It can be easy to slack off when it comes to good password practices. Many users still use the same password across multiple sites and often don’t use secure passwords. Password managers make this a lot easier, but it’s really two-factor authentication (2FA) that can make all the difference. Strong, unique passwords are still important (not all accounts offer two-factor authentication) but let’s talk about why you should always enable two-factor or multifactor on all of your accounts when possible.

 

Getting into my programs or logged onto different websites has been easy enough by using a password management tool, especially since there are settings that can be enabled to remember a specific device. When logging on from a different device, my phone or email is immediately hit with a notification. It’s a PIN, and without the PIN there is virtually no chance of logging in. This might be annoying if my phone isn’t on me and I’m sent a text notification, but let’s be honest, I don’t go anywhere without my phone, it’s my most valuable tool.

 

So, you might have tried 2FA before or you might have been endlessly hitting the “ask me later” option that you are prompted with on new software that implemented the additional authentication measures. Whether you decide to use it or not there is one indisputable statement regarding this feature: two-factor authentication makes your accounts more secure.

What Is Two-Factor Authentication

Even if you haven’t used 2FA, you’ve probably seen it in action. In fact, many sites, like bank accounts, Google, and Facebook might force a type of 2FA on you. If you’ve ever logged into a website from a different computer and then received an email or notification on your phone that a login from an unknown location just happened – that’s two-factor authentication. Albeit, it’s the reactive version that doesn’t do much to prevent others from gaining access to your information. Let’s not rely on being reactive, and look at true two-factor authentication.

 

By definition, two-factor or multi-factor authentication is an authentication method in which a computer user is granted access only after successfully presenting two pieces of evidence to an authentication mechanism: knowledge, and possession.

 

Knowledge: This is your password. You’ve memorized it or stored it securely in a password manager. The idea is that only you know it or have access to that information. In events where you don’t know your password, some sites might also accept your full email address or phone number in order to reset your password.

 

Possession: This is something that you own and almost always have in your possession. This is typically your smartphone, but other methods might have you carrying around a USB thumb drive or an electronic key that generates a random number.

 

The instantaneous code that is sent provides one more feature. It acts as an informant. If somebody were to log into one of my accounts with my password, I would find out instantly. Even then, they wouldn’t be able to get the PIN from my text message or authenticator app to finish the login process. This tells me I should change my password immediately, but otherwise my account should be safe.

Don’t Assume You are Safe

Enabling two-factor authentication won’t entirely protect you from threats or breaches. If you have two-factor set up on Facebook, Facebook can still get breached and passwords could be stolen. We see this happen all the time, with high profile attacks on large online entities stealing millions of records in a shot.

 

Following the other password best practices, like using strong passwords and never using the same password on two accounts is critical.

 

Recently, we saw the launch of Disney+, and it was reported that several thousand users had their brand-new accounts hijacked within hours of the launch of the service. This wasn’t because Disney was hacked; hackers just attempted to log in to steal accounts with emails and passwords they already had from some other data breach.

 

Phishing attacks are plaguing millions of inboxes every single day. These attacks replicate the website in which they are impersonating, with a realistic login screen. Users are tricked to go there, fill in their information, and the credentials are directly sent to the cybercriminals.

 

As previously mentioned, 2FA isn’t the fix-all to cybersecurity. It does however put one more step between you and an ill-willed cybercriminal. VentureNet has many more tips to help your business become more secure. If you would like to talk to one of our experts, give us a call at 214-343-3550.