Thursday, July 12, 2018

Why USB Drives are Effective but also Dangerous

External USB drives are convenient and extremely affordable, which makes them the perfect solution for many uses. Consider the following applications:
  • Moving files from one computer to another
  • Keeping a secondary copy of important files
  • Holding software executables, like anti-malware or internet browsers, to install on computers with malware or other issues that make it challenging to install software in traditional ways
  • Sharing large files with others that email filters traditionally block
When USB drives are connected to a device, the device automatically detects it and installs software as necessary. This process takes less than a few minutes and once finished, the device is ready to use. Unfortunately, like many items that make our lives easier, they also bring risk. For example, Internet of Things, or IoT, devices can be controlled via apps and online applications. This also makes them a target to hackers and the easiness of using USB flash drives makes them a target. 


Example of an external USB flash drive. This particular drive has a rotating cover to protect the USB connector.

Thursday, July 05, 2018

3 Things you Should do to Every New Computer

Purchasing a new computer is an exciting process. New devices boot faster, the screen resolution is better and applications respond so quickly compared to older systems. While it can be easy to get carried away with using a new device, there are a few things you should do first. Installing new software and setting preferences is important, but you will be better off if you first do these three things to a new computer.


3 Things you Should do to Every New Computer


Document the serial number, service tag, etc.

Before logging into the new computer document any of the following numbers as applicable:
  • Serial number
  • Model number
  • Service tag
  • Product number
Each manufacturer uses different language for similar sets of unique numbers. They are typically located on the back of a computer tower, on the bottom of a laptop or under the laptop battery. These numbers will be important if you need warranty work or if you need to download the original drivers again whether the driver was corrupted or the drive crashed and needed to be rebuilt.

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

4 Features of Windows Versions to Know Before Buying - Part 2

In our last post, 4 Features of Windows Versions to Know Before Buying - Part 1, we discussed two main features you should be aware of before purchasing Windows 10 when considering the Home, Pro and Enterprise versions. These features included adding a device to a network and memory limitations. This week we continue this topic by discussing two additional features and an important bonus feature you should be aware of before purchasing your next Windows license.


4 Features of Windows Versions to Know Before Buying


Bitlocker to encrypt the drive

If you plan to purchase a laptop, or if it will ever be used to hold private information, whether it is your own or someone else's information, it is a good idea to encrypt the drive. Encrypting the drive protects all the data on it if the device falls into the wrong hands, is lost or stolen. Bitlocker, an encryption software, is included in the Professional and Enterprise versions and can encrypt both traditional hard disk drives (HDDs) and solid state drives (SSDs). 

NOTE: Encryption does NOT protect against misuse of passwords. If you use simple passwords or have passwords written in plain site, encryption will not protect your files!

Thursday, June 21, 2018

4 Features of Windows Versions to Know Before Buying - Part 1

When shopping for a new computer, laptop or other device, there are many components to think about. The processing speed of the CPU, the amount and speed of the memory, the case size, the feel of the keyboard, the warranty and the video graphics are just a partial list. Yet there is more to consider than the hardware alone. Before making this big purchase, be sure you also consider which version of Windows will best meet your needs.

The three main versions of Windows 10 are:
  • Home
  • Pro
  • Enterprise
This post covers a few of the major differences between these versions so you can purchase accordingly.

4 Features of Windows Versions to Know Before Buying


The Home Version - no ability to add to a network


Wednesday, June 13, 2018

What to Do When Browser Pop-Ups Warn a Device is at Risk

Websites contain far more than just text, they often include images, videos, ads, pop-ups, banners and more. Some features are more intrusive than others. Almost everyone has been to a site where an ad began playing in the background and you were forced to hunt it down to pause it. Unfortunately, because these ads load automatically and are constantly changing, they are often targeted by hackers. 

There is a history of ads being injected with malicious code before being presented to the visitor and every so often articles are released about this issue. Phishing browser pop-ups are presented in different ways including those:
  • Stating your device may have been infected by malware and to call a number for assistance. This attack often claims to be coming from Microsoft which it is not!
  • Stating there has been a problem with your computer and to call a number for assistance. The number typically claims to be tech support.
  • With a warning message and an accompanying audio message. The audio typically loops for dramatic effect and follows the script of the pop-up.
An example of a browser pop-up.

Wednesday, June 06, 2018

Managing Mobile Devices - 3 Controls you Need to Know

From smartphones to tablets to laptops, these devices connect us to mail, social media, business documents, photos and videos, and more. Whether for work or for personal reasons, the purpose of these devices is to make our lives easier, and to provide timely information in a convenient way. The drawback to easy and quick access to information is the potential for unknown individuals to gain unauthorized access to that data.

Personal devices typically have less important information than business devices, but security threats can be detrimental to both. For a business the threat is constant and measurable. Loss of client personally identifiable information, or PII, can lead to financial penalties, loss of reputation and much more. Mobile devices present greater management issues than those in main office buildings managed by firewall and content filter rules. Mobile devices are often targeted more actively while having less protections. Luckily, there is software that provides management tools which has been created specifically for assisting in managing mobile devices and the security threats that target them.

Managing Mobile Devices - 3 Controls you Need to Know


Consider the following:
  • An employee traveling for work has their laptop stolen and an unknown individual may gain access to the files on that device
  • A family member leaves a device behind in a coffee shop
  • Someone who is no longer an employee fails to return a device provided to them

Thursday, May 31, 2018

The Security Risks Presented when Using Public WiFi

Connecting computers and laptops to WiFi provides the ability to browse the internet. Connecting smart phones to WiFi allows them to browse the internet without the data being transferred counting against a data plan. Additionally, local WiFi can often provide faster transfer rates than using a smartphone's built-in cellular connection because of the close proximity.

Taking advantage of the many benefits provided by utilizing WiFi seems like a win-win! Unfortunately, there is a big difference between using secure WiFi at your home or office and connecting to public WiFi.


The Security Risks Presented when Using Public WiFi


Connecting to your wireless network at home should not provide security risks when the network is secured with a unique password that is changed at least 1-2 times per year. When your wireless router supports it, create two wireless networks and implement them like this:
  • Use one to connect computers, laptops, shared storage devices, and printers. 
  • Use the other to connect smart phones and all IoT items like fans and thermostats, streaming devices like Roku and Chromecast, and for guest devices.