There are countless examples of words that have evolved to meet the needs of their times. Meat once referred to solid food of any kind before it came to mean the edible flesh of animals. The word nice once had many meanings that completely contradicted each other. Today’s Tech Term, dongle, is another word that has evolved, albeit at a faster pace.
There is no questioning that the term dongle is largely used in reference to technological devices, just as there is no questioning that “dongle” is an inherently silly word.
However, this silly word has become a constant in the world of tech, especially on the consumer side of things. Dongles can be found everywhere, from the adapters that allow headphones to be used with devices that are now made without headphone jacks, many of the streaming devices that can be found in the home could be considered dongles, and arguably any device that plugs into a computer via a USB port qualifies as a dongle.
Officially, the term dongle (if defined by its most common denominator in computer networking) is any small device that is plugged into a computer to allow a particular network connection to be made. We see them most often today in USB devices. However, this blanket term doesn’t include USB devices that serve as data storage devices. Instead, the term dongle applies to other USB devices, such as Wi-Fi dongles that connect a device to a wireless network, or a modem dongle that connects to 3G or 4G wireless Internet networks.
As for the name itself, there are a variety of theories, including that the term is simply a play on the work ‘dangle’ (which most dongles do), or that the term held some significance to the developers of the Commodore PET Computer, which was released in 1977 and used a device similar to a dongle to boost its memory.
Regardless, the dongle is a term that is ingrained in modern technology. For more tech terms, tips, and tricks, make sure you subscribe to this blog!
Losing a smartphone can be a problem for anyone. For the modern business, it can really cause issues. Mobile devices are notorious for housing a lot of personal information, which makes them extraordinarily dangerous to lose track of. How much is at stake with mobile devices going missing; and, what kind of information is stored on these devices that makes them so dangerous to misplace?
To get started, let’s think about the information that’s being put at risk. Here is a list of information that could possibly be stolen from mobile devices--a surprising amount of data for most users, to say the least.
Payment information: The applications on your device could potentially be storing credit card numbers or bank routing numbers, which could become problematic if stolen. Hackers could make off with all of your precious, hard-earned cash.
Passwords and usernames: If you use your device’s web browser, it’s likely that you have passwords and usernames saved on it--even if it’s been done accidentally. These usernames and passwords can be stolen from the device, or used on the device by whoever is accessing it.
Application data: There are a lot of applications installed on your business’ devices, and these applications store lots of information that a hacker could have a field day with. Even if applications are locked behind a login screen, these accounts can be infiltrated if the login credentials are stored on the device
Cloud storage: Access to cloud storage is one of the best things about mobile devices, but if you lose one, you’ll be compromising any sensitive data that your account has access to. Any information that’s shared with your device will be accessible by whoever finds your misplaced device.
Social media accounts: If you have social media applications on your device, it’s likely that you have the password and username saved to the device. This means that anyone who finds your device will have access to your social media accounts, ready to use for whatever vile purposes they want.
Email: You’d be surprised by how much information you keep hidden in your email inbox. Think what would happen if any of your countless messages was accessed by a hacker who has found your smartphone. Now THAT’s frightening!
Contacts: You might not think the people you associate yourself with are valuable targets for hackers, but they certainly are. Contact lists for both business and personal use hold a lot of value, as it essentially becomes a list of potential targets to hit with phishing scams.
Keeping all of this in mind is of the utmost importance, especially if you want to make sure your mobile devices don’t become a liability in the event of a loss scenario.
Should your next computer purchase be a desktop or a laptop? Let’s talk about the less obvious differences between the two so you can make the right decision when buying computers for your staff.
Is a Laptop or Desktop the Better Option? As you might expect, this question more or less hinges on your particular need of mobility. If you find yourself conducting business in various places in (and perhaps occasionally out) of the office, the mobility of a laptop will likely serve you better than a desktop would. Conversely, if your work is more or less contained to the office, a desktop may be more appealing than a laptop. While other factors may also influence your choice, mobility should be one of your primary considerations.
Some other factors to keep in mind are the cost of upkeep of your systems, as well as its intended use. Desktops are often the more cost-effective option, and maintenance is quite often easier. Additionally, a computer capable of more resource-intensive projects--like video editing or CAD rendering, for instance--will cost more, but a laptop will see a faster price increase than a desktop will.
ROI A desktop can sometimes provide a better return on investment, as they tend to upgrade easier than laptops. This can increase its useful lifetime, allowing your business to remain competitive longer. Another consideration would be reducing your carbon footprint, as you reduce the amount of material going to the landfill.
Checking the Specs As we just touched on briefly, your intended use of the device should influence your decision considerably. Depending on what you need the computer to be capable of for your business purposes, you may have different requirements than someone else from your organization. For instance, if you primarily use your computer for communications and administrative management, you will not need the same capabilities as someone who regularly uses theirs for advanced, resource-intensive operations. Your role in your organization, as well as the industry you are a member of, will have an impact on this. After all, some industries rely on more data than others, and will therefore have more to manage.
If you’d like assistance in establishing what your particular computing needs are, and which device would serve you best, don’t hesitate to reach out to Net It On for help.
Bargain Hunting Again, depending on your industry, what qualifies as a good deal for you may be very different than what is considered a good deal for another company that serves a different audience and has different needs. On top of this, there’s also the need to find a reliable vendor who can deliver the technology you need at a reasonable rate - a process that can take an exceptionally long time.
Social engineering can allow a cybercriminal to access networks without being hampered by the security solutions that a business has in place. Through the manipulation of the human element of a company, its critical resources are exposed. In order to protect your business against the threat of a social engineer, there has to be an overall awareness in your company culture.
Why Social Engineering Works One of the main reasons that social engineering can be such an effective tactic for cybercriminals is because, rather than telling the target what they want to hear, the target is told what they expect to hear. By coming forward under the guise of someone who should be coming forward, the cybercriminal is able to extract information from unwitting staff members, adding to their intel through intensive online research.
These are the key factors that allow these kinds of attacks to be as successful as they are. The methods used by social engineers aren’t the kind that immediately come to mind when one thinks about cyberattacks. Since the attack doesn’t typically resemble more well-known threats like ransomware, these attacks are often able to infiltrate their target without any suspicion. Additionally, there is an excess of information available online, known as open-source intelligence, that provides the social engineer with the knowledge they need to craft their approach.
This open-source intelligence can come from a variety of places, making the social engineer’s job that much easier. There is plenty of information readily available on the Internet, all it takes is looking in the right place.
Sample Information While it’s no secret that there is a ton of information online, the true scope of what is available can be alarming when all laid out. The following information can all be found if one knows where to look, and is by no means a comprehensive list of what is there:
Technological Details Considering how valuable a cybercriminal would find the details of what technology is used in a business, these details are remarkably easy for cybercriminals to find. Companies will often show their hand in online job postings, identifying the hardware and software that they use in order to find someone with the experience. This not only ensures that qualified applicants send in their resumes, it also allows cybercriminals to send in the exploits needed to take the company down. Social media posts can also share this information--the wrong picture could give access to networking hardware and other critical and sensitive data.
Employee Data On the topic of social media, sensitive company information can easily leak through oversharing. Employee activities that are shared or tweeted can provide a cybercriminal with crucial insights. Images can create an even bigger problem. If not scrutinized before posting, you can inadvertently display key details, from the data on the screens to the model of the computer that holds the data.
Furthermore, employees using social media carelessly can deliver more invaluable data for a cybercriminal to leverage. Discussing work schedules or even sharing specifics of work experience can potentially put your business at risk.
External Companies Unfortunately, social engineering attacks can leverage data that you have minimal control over against your business as well, as other companies and vendors you do business with may share their experience with you as evidence of their value. Furthermore, if your janitorial services and trash pickup providers aren’t secure, your data could be stolen after it has left your property.
So while it is absolutely critical to leverage cyber protections for your data’s security, including solutions like firewalls and authentication measures, your employees also need to have their eyes peeled for the threat of social engineering. Every business needs to have a plan to avoid and mitigate the threat of social engineering.
The International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) is designed to showcase new technology and products to the world, with a focus on industry professionals and companies that want to showcase their latest projects. The show, which was held in Las Vegas in January, saw the introduction of many consumer products, but the ones that showed off new virtual and augmented reality capabilities made a considerable impact on attendees.
Hype has been building over VR and AR for years now; hype which has failed to meet the considerable expectations placed on the technologies. It turns out that these innovators are coming up with valuable new ways in which to leverage these rather complex technologies.
Virtual Reality Even now, virtual reality is a huge deal. Manufacturers are still finding ways to develop both hardware and software for it specific use. However, the problem that developers are finding is that VR has taken too central of a role in the entertainment industry compared to its more practical or business-oriented purposes. In the future, manufacturers are hoping to create valuable applications for the technology to keep the demand high.
In an article for Forbes, Charlie Fink showcases that VR will most certainly show a profit, but the market is still only at around $2 billion per annum. Judging from previous trends set by color TV, VCR, PC, cell phones, and the Internet, it’s not beyond the realm of possibility that the standard consumer will see VR as a worthwhile investment before too long. However, Fink points out that “...before VR companies can understand how consumers want to spend, they need to cater to how consumers want to consume.”
Even though it’s not as profitable as other technologies at the moment, VR had a huge presence at CES. New technologies in VR ranged from novelty to necessity, including the HTC Vive Pro and an analytical tool called Looxid. Looxid allows for marketers and analysts to track eye movement and brain activity during use, providing information that should improve the way businesses understand consumers. For a more practical tool, the Meshroom VR headset can turn CAD drawings into legitimate 3D prototypes that can be effective for the use of architecture or engineering.
Regardless, even though VR has been around for quite some time, it is still a developing and volatile technology. It’s clear that it will be worth the investment in the near future--particularly when more useful applications are developed that can take advantage of it.
Augmented Reality Compared to virtual reality, augmented reality is a bit more tame and less of an attention-grabber. Instead of transporting the user to a virtual world, augmented reality adds virtual elements to your surroundings. The easiest example to help explain this technology is to add a top-down overlay interface to your field of vision, allowing for the viewing of information or analytics at a glance. Yet, AR has found plenty of use in the real world already, from statcasts in the sports world to smartphone games like Pokémon Go. Some developers, like Google and Apple, have invested considerably in the creation of augmented reality applications, and it’s only going to improve in popularity as more companies create effective ways of leveraging AR.
At CES 2018, AR was a prominent force. Manufacturers are finding new and improved ways to take advantage of displays. Some of the more notable products include Vuzix Smart Glasses with Alexa--much like Google Glass, but with Amazon’s Alexa built into it. WinRay’s AR windshield is another device you should keep your eye on. This windshield can display directions, roadside information, and even basic car functions. Even Apple’s iOS 11 comes with built-in AR.
What are some ways that you can think of to take advantage of AR and VR? Let us know in the comments, and be sure to subscribe to our blog.
Cryptocurrency, most notably Bitcoin, has made the headlines in recent months with huge fluctuations in supposed value. While the topic of cryptocurrency is one that would take far more than a single blog post to discuss, we can examine the technology that allows these currencies to exist and posit what it could likely be used for in the near future.
Identity Authentication While privacy and anonymity are big concerns in online computing, sometimes it is especially important that you can confirm that you are who you say you are. Blockchain technology can make authentication much easier, whether its regarding digital identities, passports, birth certificates, or wedding certificates. Instead of relying on the relatively insecure measures that we do today, we soon may use blockchain technology to safely track and store the identification that we need to navigate so much of modern life.
Notary Functions Many documents require a notary in order to be signed, the notary serving as a neutral third-party present to ensure that all parties have signed the document of their own volition. However, the blockchain’s features allow it to largely act as a notary. By timestamping when data was introduced to the blockchain, the entire chain more or less serves as a witness to the data’s validity.
Voting On a related note, blockchain may help to make the democratic process more transparent and secure against tampering through voter fraud. By leveraging the blockchain as a part of the voting process, the identity of each voter can be unquestionably verified, and their vote cemented into an unalterable record.
Automated Contracts The blockchain can even serve as an executor of a contract, automating agreements that are triggered when agreed-upon terms are met. By populating a smart contract with the information on the two parties, as well as the payment information and conditions, the blockchain allows the terms of an agreement to be fulfilled automatically once the conditions are met.
While cryptocurrency may have most of the attention at the moment, the blockchain is far from a one-trick pony. What else would you like to see developed as a function fulfilled through the blockchain? Let us know in the comments!
While you should be sure to keep yourself apprised of threats, it could be argued that it is even more important for your employees to be aware of them. After all, they are the ones utilizing your business’ workstations, software solutions, and even Internet-based apps to facilitate their daily duties. You need to make sure that your employees are able to spot attacks and react to them properly.
While many of today’s employees do have to undergo some sort of security training as part of their employment, the increased sophistication of these attacks makes them more difficult to spot; and, subsequently, harder to react to. One of the most common ways that this occurs is through invoice impersonation attacks. These attacks send customized emails under an assumed name--usually one that is a real-world contact--that includes a link to an online invoice, where the user can download the invoice.
Instead of downloading the invoice, the victim downloads malware to their device. Ransomware is often spread in this fashion, hoping that the victims will download the invoice in a state of panic, wondering what in the world they are being billed for.
Warning Signs To keep yourself from being tricked by an invoice impersonation attack, or any other type of phishing email, the best route is to provide training and remain aware of the warning signs.
One of the most common ways a hacker will take advantage of email is by sending a message demanding payment, with a link to make things convenient for the user to do so. The problem with email is that the user is forced to take it on good faith that the message comes from the proper recipient. If it were a phone call, you might recognize that the voice is different from whoever should be calling, and if it were a handwritten message, you might notice a discrepancy--but with a message with no identity, it gets considerably more difficult to identify a falsified message.
If you ever receive an email claiming to be from someone who needs a payment from you, there’s a good chance that the link leading to a “payment portal” is just a link to a ransomware program or other type of threat.
Securing Your Business Phishing attacks naturally rely on the victim trusting the impersonation, so you can take advantage of this opportunity to sow the seeds of distrust--that is, to train your employees to identify emails and distrust anything suspicious that they receive in their inboxes. Your employees should always be wary of risk factors, but they should also attend regular training sessions that test how much they remember about cybersecurity best practices.
You can also take it one step further by implementing spam filters, malware blockers, and other security solutions designed to prevent infections in the first place. If you minimize the chances that your employees are exposed to threats in the first place, they are less likely to make a mistake that has great ramifications for your network security.