Recognizing Phishing Messages

9b99phishing-BWhat’s phishing? How does it work? Keep yourself aware of basic phishing techniques and you might just save yourself from becoming yet another victim of these unscrupulous fraudsters.

Online oracle Wikipedia defines phishing as: “the criminally fraudulent process of attempting to acquire sensitive information such as usernames, passwords and credit card details by masquerading as a trustworthy entity in an electronic communication.” We probably don’t need to tell you what kind of damage unscrupulous people can do with that kind of data in their hands. This is why it’s important to identify phishing messages from the get go and prevent becoming a victim.

What makes a phishing message tick? How are they different from spam? What makes phishing different from spam is that phishing messages masquerade as official correspondence from a trusted source. While spam can be filtered, many phishing messages manage to bypass these filters precisely because they seem to be legitimate messages. They can be disguised as communication from your bank, your credit card company, or even from a large company such as Microsoft or Google, or social networking sites like Facebook, or MySpace. These messages come complete with official-sounding content and even logos stolen from the legit websites.

The website links in the message, however, direct you to a fraudulent but official-looking website where you are asked to divulge personal information. You can check these links by simply hovering your mouse pointer over them – watch out for misspelled or faked / masked websites.

Sometimes a telephone number is posted, and when called, you are asked for personal information. Remember, legitimate companies never ask for your password or similar data.

Another identifying factor: phishers bait people with everything from ultimatums (such as a deadline or expiry date) to shocking statements (such as, “you’ve won a hundred thousand dollars!”). These kinds of phrases are designed to create a sense of urgency, making users fill out forms and click on links without fully considering the consequences.

If you want to know more about phishing and how you can safeguard yourself against it, we’ll be happy to fill you in and discuss a customized security plan to keep you fully protected.

 

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Prevent Hackers from Getting into Your Email Account

9748email-hacked-BMost hackers just like the thrill of breaking through a computer security system, but there are others who may not be as harmless. Some will get into email accounts and use all the sensitive information that they can access, for their own benefit.

Email hacking is becoming a common problem of web users. As more people have become dependent on the internet for almost everything they need, a vast amount of sensitive information is now within reach of unscrupulous individuals known as hackers.

Cybertopcops.com defines a hacker as “someone who gains unauthorized access to a computer system.” Most hackers just like the thrill of breaking through a computer security system, but there are others who may not be as harmless. Some hack into email accounts and use all the sensitive information that they can access, for own their benefit.

How can you tell if your email was hacked?

  • You can’t log into your email account.
  • Your sent folder contains messages that you never sent.
  • Your email contacts inform you that they have been receiving spam messages from your account.

What can you do if your email has been hacked?

  1. Change your password.
    If you learn that your email has been hacked, change your password immediately. Choose one that won’t be guessed easily.
  2. Check all your other accounts: email, social networks, blogs, etc.
    Many people use one password for all their accounts because it’s easier to remember. While this may be more convenient, think of the major losses you could suffer if a hacker gets into all your accounts.
  3. Delete all accounts that you have not been using for a long time.
    Hackers love to get into email accounts that you don’t use anymore, since it takes a longer time for you to realize that you’ve been hacked  giving the hacker more time to do damage.
  4. Send an apology to all your email contacts.
    While most internet users are aware that email hackers are the ones sending the spam, some may not understand and may be angry with you. So, it is best to send all your email contacts an explanation and an apology.

How can you prevent hackers from getting into your email account?

  1. Choose a password that cannot be easily guessed.
    Many people use easy-to-guess passwords such as their own names with their birthdates at the end, which is very easy for hackers to crack. It’s best to combine upper case and lower case letters along with numbers and symbols such as the ampersand, dollar or percent sign.
  2. Change your password at regular intervals.
    To make it more difficult for email hackers to crack your password, change your password every one to three months.
  3. Avoid giving your email address to every website that asks for it.
    Give your email address only to people and organizations that you trust. Some websites exist only to sending out malware or spyware. Think twice before you provide your email address to websites that you browse.

The internet has certainly made life a lot more convenient but unfortunately, it’s also made it easier for hackers so you must be vigilant. Take all necessary precautions so that your email account is always secure.

 

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Is Your Email Enough?

9c65Email-System-BHaving the right kind of email system in place can do wonders for increasing productivity, especially for people on the go. It’s important to note the distinctions and feature differences of the email systems available to you, so you can be sure that what you’re using is the most efficient and cost-effective solution.

Whether you work from an office or are productive while on the go, email most likely plays a big factor in the way you go about your business. Unbeknownst to many, some types of email systems have certain limitations that by extension can also limit the level of productivity of your business, and especially for people in the organization who must also work while out in the field.

One major issue for many people is synchronicity. Many people need their emails to be accessible on their mobile phones, PDAs, or other mobile devices, and they need them to be properly synchronized with their desktop workstations. The need to constantly update conversations and email threads from mobile devices to desktops with certain types of email can prove to be tedious and unproductive– and some email system types don’t include this ability at all.

Depending on the way you use your email, especially when on the go, having full access and full control of your account can define how productive you and others in your organization can be. Besides providing a much better degree of synchronization and integration with mobile devices, certain types of email systems also have features for sharing and collaboration features that allow you to set schedules and share files from your mailbox, as well as central storage for emails that allows you to access your account seamlessly with any mobile device, regardless of where you are located.

Of course, having a full-featured email system might not be best for everyone. The key is to know whether adapting a more bare-bones system is cost-effective for your business (especially in the long run). Sometimes the top of the line may be needed, and sometimes all you need is a bit of tweaking on your less fully featured system. Not sure which is best? Call us and we’ll be glad to sit down with you and assess what kind of email system is best suited for you and your business.

 

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Email in the Cloud with Google Apps and Microsoft Office 365

9fe7GGApps-MS365-BInterested in setting up your company’s email in the cloud? Here are two options to consider—one from Microsoft, the other from Google. See how they compare.

Google Apps
Google Apps is a service from Google that started in 2006, with the introduction of Gmail—a hosted email service, and which later incorporated other apps such as Google Calendar, Groups, Talk, Docs and Sites. Google Apps allow customers an independently customizable version of these Google products under their own domain name. The entry level option is free, but the package offered for Businesses is a paid service with an annual fee per user and additional storage space.

  1. Storage. Gmail, Google Apps’ email service starts with a sizable 7GB of free storage. Business users get 25GB. Bear in mind however that this storage space is shared with any data you have in other Google properties such as Picasa Web Album and Google Docs. Extra space can be bought however starting with USD $5 per year for an extra 20GB of storage. E-mail attachment sizes are limited to 25MB.
  2. Calendaring and Task Management. Gmail can be integrated with the overall excellent Google Calendar application. Google Calendar allows you to easily share personal calendars with colleagues, or create shared calendars used by groups of people (such as a calendar to track meeting room reservations, marketing events and others). Google Calendar also offers a built-in, but somewhat underpowered task management tool. Tasks can readily be added with due dates, but not readily shared or cannot be nested or linked with other tasks.
  3. Spam filtering, security and reliability. Gmail’s spam filtering features a community-driven system. Email tagged as spam by users help identifies similar messages as Spam for all other Gmail users. Generally the system works well, although some have complained that it can get over aggressive in its filters. In terms of security and reliabilityGmail has been criticized in the past with showing ads in its free Gmail service that display based on key words in the user’s messagespotentially violating their privacy. Its paid service offers however the option of disable these ads. Reliability is generally good with very few, but widely publicized disruptions in service.
  4. Usability. Gmail offers a host of unique usability enhancements that make it different from most other mail services. For one for a web app it loads really fast, as Google has been known to studiously optimize web page loading performance for their products. Another is that it offers a threaded view of messages by default. It also uses a starring/labeling system to tag and segregate messages instead of using folders. Another interesting enhancement done recently is the ability to sort messages by “importance” where it learns based on your usage over time what email messages it thinks you think are important.
  5. Mobile access. Gmail offers a version optimized for mobile devices, as well as support for a variety of devices for their native mail applications such as iOS and Android.

Overall Gmail is a solid mature choice if you are thinking of moving email to the cloud and are not afraid of being on the bleeding edge of cloud services and technology.

Microsoft Office 365
Microsoft Office 365, like Google Apps, offers a host of applications such as online versions of productivity tools which we all already know and use such as Word, Excel and PowerPoint. Most however work best when they are used in conjunction with your desktop-installed Office applications. Focusing on email, Office 365 offers a Hosted Exchange service, which transforms the mature, business-proven on-premise application to an on-demand service. Compared to Google Apps, it is quite newbeing introduced only last June this year, although its suite of products in an alternate form has been around for much earlier.

  1. Storage. Microsoft’s Hosted Exchange email service gives users 25GB of storage. Attachment file sizes are limited to 35MB. Additional storage can be purchased for $2.5 per GB per user per month.
  2. Calendaring and Task Management. Exchange integrates a mature feature set for personal productivity including calendaring, resource management, and task management. As an example tasks can be grouped, color coded and easily sorted. Emails can be converted as tasks and so on.
  3. Spam filtering, security and reliability. This is an area where perhaps Microsoft easily outshines Google with Exchange’s roots as an enterprise-class application. It offers spam protection, antivirus and others via Microsoft’s Forefore Online Protection for Exchange technology. It offers other features such as more full features user management, identity access management, mail archiving, etc. If you are in a highly regulated industry like financial services or healthcare these features may be essential for your business.
  4. Usability. While the web apps of Office 365 is not as fast loading or as slick as Google, it does offer familiarity. Modeled after their desktop brethren, or directly integrating with themthey offer a smoother migration experience for users specially if they have been weaned on Outlook.
  5. Mobile access. Like Gmail Microsoft made sure to support a variety of devices on launch, as well as integration with a variety of devicesspecially enterprise stalwarts like Blackberry mobile phones.

Overall Office 365 is a solid choice if you are thinking of moving email to the cloud but may be hesitant with changing the apps your users already know and use. Also if you are a business with strict policies related to security and compliancethis service may be something your auditors and IT people may be more comfortable with.

Interested in learning more? Can’t decide which to try? Let us know and find out how we can help get you the right balance between your existing IT systems and infrastructure and the cloud.

 

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Managed Services = Optimum Efficiency + Productivity

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If you’re worried about how much outsourcing costs, think about how much you’ll spend hiring a consultant or pulling someone away from their normal job every time you have a computer breakdown or outage – and how much money your business loses during that downtime.

These days businesses are increasingly dependent on IT, making it essential to have experts to handle the regular maintenance of your IT infrastructure. However, most small and medium businesses cannot afford to hire a qualified, full-time IT administrator. Managed Services is the best solution, since it allows you to concentrate on what you do best  managing the core competencies of your business.

When you choose Managed Services, all of your IT operations are handled by a highly qualified and knowledgeable provider who assumes ongoing responsibility for monitoring, troubleshooting, and managing selected IT systems and functions on your behalf. The Managed Services Provider is in charge of network equipment and applications located on your premises, as specified in the terms of a service-level agreement (SLA) established to meet your company’s specific business needs.

Why is Managed Services important for your business?

1. Managed Services is cost effective.
If you’re not an IT expert, you’ll need to hire consultants for basic IT maintenance  and this is usually too costly for small and medium-sized businesses. The downtime during breakdowns of computers or outages will cost your business more money in the long run than outsourcing costs.

2. It’s easier to predict how much you need to spend.
Managed Services offer a choice of service levels which may be priced on a per-month or per-device basis. This subscription model gives you more predictability in expenses as opposed to the as-needed time and billing models used by consultants.

3. Managed Services Providers take full responsibility, but business owners have full control.
Although Managed Services are outsourced, you do not surrender complete control of your IT infrastructure. You decide which aspects of your network the service provider will take care of and what you want to handle. You are also informed of everything that happens in the process and management of your systems.

4. Managed Services involves 24/7 IT support.
With Managed Services, you get support whenever you need it. You don’t have to wait in line for whatever system problems you need resolved.

5. Knowing your IT is in good hands gives you peace of mind.
Knowing that your IT system is in the hands of experts, you are assured that somebody is there to do proper maintenance of all your computer hardware and software. You can also be confident that if you encounter any problems with your IT, there are experts who will help you fix them immediately.

 

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

MS Outlook Integrates Account with Social Networking Websites

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The people behind MS Outlook have now integrated social networking into the system through the Outlook Social Connector.

Outlook has long been the staple in many business communications – it is truly one of Microsoft’s feats of genius given how prevalent it is in professional correspondence between businesses and organizations today.

In order for the platform to conform and adjust to current norms, the people behind MS Outlook have now integrated social networking into the entire system through what they call the Outlook Social Connector (OSC). What the Outlook Social Connector basically does is enable the user to connect his or her email account with his or her LinkedIn, Facebook, MySpace, and Windows Live accounts. You’ll be able to receive updates from these social networking websites through MS Outlook.

Outlook Social Connector is compatible with versions of MS Outlook beginning with 2003 and up, and boasts features such as adding friends into social networking websites through the new Outlook People Pane, as well as receiving updates from friends and contacts whose email address is also listed in their social network account. Also, like a social network, the OSC allows you to set privacy settings and select the kind of information you want made public.

 

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Why Entrepreneurs Should Consider Managed Services

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Most entrepreneurs are not IT professionals or IT experts. Outsourcing IT services to experts is a definite advantage for business owners.

The term Managed Services is defined as “the practice of transferring day-to-day related management responsibility as a strategic method for improved effective and efficient operations”. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Managed_services) While large corporations regularly choose this technology solution, many owners of small and medium-sized businesses are still hesitant to go this route. Here are some reasons Managed Services can benefit all sizes and types of business:

1. IT is an integral part of most businesses.
Especially in recent years, the business world has become increasingly dependent on IT. Almost all businesses rely on some sort of technology. With this increased use of IT comes an increase in problems and outages – and even loss of data – all of which result in loss of productivity.

2. Faulty or under-supported IT causes costly downtime.

Small, in-house IT departments of one or two people are usually not able or equipped to handle occasional IT breakdowns, and employees must call on somebody else for help, sometimes resulting in hours or even days of lost productivity. This downtime greatly affects the bottom line of your business.

3. Technology is constantly improving.
Improvements in technology are continuing at a rapid pace. Equipment is upgraded and new specialties in IT are emerging. Small to medium-sized businesses are not equipped to keep up with these constant changes.

4. IT Managed Services provide state-of-the-art solutions.

Managed Services providers are experts in the field of technology, and bring knowledge and experience in the latest solutions to your business. And taking advantage of scale of economies, the Managed Services model gives you access to affordable state-of-the-art technologies previously only available to large enterprises.

5. Many businesses involve special compliance requirements.
Even small to medium-sized businesses can have complicated compliance requirements, but most owners do not fully understand how to comply with these regulations. Many Managed Services providers stay current on these regulations and requirements, and can help you translate them to your technology needs in order to stay compliant and avoid fees – and possibly worse.

6. IT Managed Services cost less in the long run.

With today’s economic downturn, IT budgets have been slashed in most companies. But bear in mind that businesses still depend heavily on IT, and work increases as resources diminish. This can bring about low morale for employees and lost productivity – and ultimately customer satisfaction suffers. While IT Managed Services may cost more in the beginning, lost productivity and lost customers cost a lot more.

The question is, are you an expert in IT? Most entrepreneurs aren’t. If you want to concentrate on your company’s core competencies without having to worry about your IT infrastructure, outsource your IT services to a reputable Managed Services provider.

 

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.