Monday, December 5, 2016

New Hacking Method Listens to the Noise a Hard Drive Makes

As though computing systems apparently weren’t under enough threats, security researchers have discovered yet another potential vulnerability from a truly unexpected source. The sounds your hard drive makes can give a properly-equipped hacker everything they need to gather data from your machine, including any encryption keys you may have in place.
Targeting the hard drive’s actuator, DiskFiltration malware can decipher the sounds that the actuator makes as it writes data to the drive’s platters, assuming the malware is paired with the correct device.
Fortunately, this method does not look to be a promising option for hackers to make use of. For one, the hack will only work if the recording device is within six feet of a system for an extended period of time, as the data rate caps out at 180 bits each minute. Furthermore, this method of hacking is only effective against hard disk drives, as solid state drives make no sounds for DiskFiltration to filter through. Therefore, to avoid falling victim to DiskFiltration, there are some relatively simple precautions to take.
Encourage employees to keep an inventory of their desktops. Since the physical component of DiskFiltration requires a very close range, chances are it can be avoided if a worker just keeps track of the things on their desk, keeping unfamiliar devices away from your system. Make sure your employees remain vigilant of threats, both online and in person.
Consider upgrading to SSD. Without the physical noise of a mechanical hard drive, DiskFiltration is rendered useless. Plus, your systems will receive a boost in stability in general from the moving-part-free hardware.
If you upgrade to an SSD, you are that much better defended against a new variety of threat, as well as given the opportunity to prepare for similar threats before they advance.

When Powerful Computers Predict Real-World Outcomes

Businesses rely on analytics more every day, with one of the primary reasons being that they’re exceptionally helpful for developing artificially intelligent technology systems that can aid in their missions. One of the qualities of a good AI program is machine learning, which is the ability of a system to look at information to identify and learn from trends. In fact, this practical aspect of AI is one of the reasons why it’s becoming popular in the business setting.
What is Machine Learning?
The main idea of machine learning is to sift through a huge amount of data to find applications for it in the real world. An algorithm is what determines how the system will use the data collected. Either the program uses the data as it sees fit, or it can be told to use it in a certain way. Here are three ways machine learning is used, as reported by TechRepublic:
  • Supervised learning: The "trainer" will present the computer with certain rules that connect an input (an object's feature, like "smooth," for example) with an output (the object itself, like a marble).
  • Unsupervised learning: The computer is given inputs and is left alone to discover patterns.
  • Reinforcement learning: A computer system receives input continuously (in the case of a driverless car receiving input about the road, for example) and is constantly improving.
In some cases, “deep learning” may be used in order to provide a different approach to big data. Deep learning uses algorithms layered in ways that allow systems to process data and reach predictions. If you think that sounds familiar, that’s because it is--the big difference between deep learning and machine learning is that deep learning doesn’t rely on the assistance of users.
How It’s Being Used
One of the best ways to understand how machine learning is being used is by looking to IBM’s Watson, the Jeopardy-winning robot. Another example is Google DeepMind, which can use machine learning to excel at the complex board game, Go. Furthermore, Amazon and Microsoft have machine learning platforms that can be used by organizations that want to build their own machine learning tools.
In terms of practical business use, machine learning can be applied in several ways. Some organizations have implemented automated help desk solutions which use “chatbots” to answer frequently asked questions. Others, like Dominos, have innovated to allow customers to place orders through Facebook Messenger and Twitter, using intelligent technology that can alter orders and suggest favorite menu items. Even Uber, the ride-hailing app that’s making waves in the industry, is using chatbots to help users request rides and receive updates.
Notice a pattern? Machine learning is being used by organizations that don’t have time to deal with individual questions, or by those who deal with tedious or repetitive tasks. Of course, not every client wants to talk to an automated chatbot, so the support extension still has a lifeline to hold onto for a while to come.
If your business wants to focus more on operations, you can optimize the way you handle your technology solutions through outsourced IT management. Net It On provides several services that keep your operations in mind. You shouldn’t have to be pulled away from your work just to resolve a technology problem. 

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Tip of the Week: 3 Ways to Prevent Technology From Busting Your Budget

When it comes to making progress on your organization’s future, your IT budget presents your business with a major roadblock. We bet that it would feel great to eliminate the stress associated with your IT budget. Here are three ways that you can plan for your business’s future and keep that IT budget slimmed down.
Build an IT Roadmap
If you want to make the best decisions for the future of your hardware and software procurement, you can’t make these choices on a day-by-day basis. An unexpected server or workstation failure will be a major detriment for your organization. You’ll probably have to invest in new systems which will break your budget.
An IT roadmap can easily resolve this issue. By working with a trusted network administrator or IT technician, you can plan out how you want to allocate your resources across the next one, five, or ten years. This is a great way to make sure that your hardware and software refreshes aren’t unexpected or budget-breaking. Furthermore, with an IT roadmap you can guarantee that your budget is flexible enough to work around major changes.
Minimize Downtime
Downtime is a major disruption that most organizations consider to be the biggest waste of time and resources. Downtime is any situation where your business cannot operate at full capacity, either due to a loss of personnel, Internet connection, or mission-critical resources. As such, technology failure is a major cause of downtime, and eliminating these issues is key to maximizing the value you get from your IT budget.
This problem is simple to eliminate, as a backup and disaster recovery is capable of practically eliminating downtime caused by hardware failure and technological troubles. BDR provides comprehensive, consistent access to several modes of data backup, including both on-site and off-site options. Furthermore, in the face of disasters like floods and fires, there’s no better way to get back in the game. BDR can restore your data directly to the BDR device from the cloud, drastically cutting down on time spent resolving issues.
Outsource as Much as Possible
While it may seem like a good idea to handle as much IT maintenance as possible by yourself, this is a dangerous practice that can lead to lost time and assets down the road. Let’s use an analogy to explain why it’s best to have professional technicians working with your technology: would you rather have a trained pilot fly a commercial airliner, or fly the plane yourself for free after reviewing a quick online tutorial on how to operate the mechanism? That’s right--you’d probably select the actual pilot with the years of training.
Outsourcing is a way for businesses of all shapes and sizes to obtain skills that they may not be able to take advantage of otherwise. In particular, IT maintenance and management translates well to an outsourced service. Hiring new in-house technicians means adding new salaries to your budget, whereas outsourcing provides an affordable alternative in the form of monthly payments for services rendered. You can take your IT’s capital costs and turn them into operation costs.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Finding the Cloud Solution that’s Right for Your Business

Implementing a cloud solution is a difficult choice for many businesses, primarily because it represents a change in the way your organization functions. If you make a rash decision before doing your research, it might lead to downtime or a decrease in operability. Therefore, it’s important to understand why businesses move to the cloud, as well as what’s available for implementation.
Why is the Cloud Such a Great Investment? 
Organizations have found that the reliable access to data and applications is too good to pass up--especially considering that all you need is an Internet connection and a mobile device. The increase in mobility and productivity has provided countless businesses around the world with the ability to break down workplace barriers. Professionals who were once limited to the office can now work wherever--and however--they want.
We wish it were as simple as explaining how the cloud works, but it’s not. There are several different types of cloud solutions, and the one you want to use will vary depending on what you have planned for your cloud. Here are the three different types of cloud solutions, including their advantages and disadvantages.
Public
The public cloud is usually offered by a third-party cloud provider, and the basic definition of it is that it’s a shared online space where users can store files and applications. Users can only see their own storage space. These solutions are for consumers, but some offer additional features for businesses or enterprises. The public cloud is ideal if your business doesn’t have someone on-hand to take care of an internal cloud system. Since it’s maintained by professional technicians within the provider’s organization, you won’t have to deal with updates or maintenance.
However, the public cloud provides limited control of your data, and you can’t take additional security measures that you might be able to with the private cloud.
Private
The private cloud is generally hosted in an on-site location on company hardware, but some cloud providers will partition off a section of their infrastructure for private cloud clients. If you choose to host your own private cloud, you’ll be responsible for the upkeep, management, and maintenance of it. This is usually only possible if you have an internal IT department with the technical knowhow, but managed service providers offer a workaround in most cases.
If you want a hands-off private cloud solution, but still want the security benefits, a hybrid cloud can work well for you.
Hybrid
Hybrid clouds are a combination cloud solution that combines the previously mentioned services into one dynamic package. A hybrid cloud keeps your data safe while minimizing the amount of maintenance your business must perform. Hybrid clouds can be private clouds managed on-site by an outsourced IT provider like Net It On. Or, we could host your private cloud on our own servers--whichever you prefer.

Friday, November 25, 2016

Why You Need to Be Cautious About How Your Company Approaches Social Media

Social Media allows businesses to share their brand with the outside world in entirely new ways. While the benefit of social media is that everyone and their mother is on it, the problem with social media is that everyone and their mother is on it. People put all sorts of information on their accounts, which translates into a major security risk in the form of targeted phishing attacks.
Social media urges people to share information about their lives with others on the Internet. If you think about it, this trend has shown people that, despite the countless threats that can be found on the Internet, it’s “okay” to share information with others who want to contact you. This causes people to put their trust in social media, which can have dangerous side-effects. In particular, it makes them vulnerable to phishing attacks performed by hackers. Plus, you need to take into account that all of your employees likely have social media accounts, and that they share their contact information with anyone who can view their profile.
This becomes another vector that a hacker can use to exploit your business. Even if your business blocks access to these websites, employees will use these sites off of your network, be it through mobile devices or otherwise. Hackers could pose as an employee’s old friend, reaching out for the first time in ages--perhaps asking for a small loan. Or, maybe they’ll ask employees for sensitive credentials or personally identifiable information. Either way, you can bet that any compromised accounts will attempt to spread malware through suspicious links or advanced phishing attacks designed to target the user’s trusting nature.
After all, social media can be trusted, right? Wrong.
Too many businesses think that social media is simply another waste of time, rather than a legitimate threat. It’s a matter of perspective; users aren’t going to suspect that threats could lie on trusted websites like social media accounts; and the more connections someone has, the more potential outlets for hackers. The reality of the matter is that threats come in all shapes and sizes, and will take whatever measures needed to steal sensitive data or infect machines with malware. Plus, the more employees you have, the greater your chances of encountering situations like the aforementioned scenarios.
Is your business nervous about experiencing social media attacks? Your first line of defense is to educate your employees on security best practices. This includes how to identify incoming threats, especially through social media websites, where hackers could pretend to be someone familiar. It’s your responsibility to ensure that your employees understand how to keep themselves safe both in and out of the office.
You should then augment your best practices by implementing a content filtering solution from Net It On. A content filter can keep your employees from accessing risky or time-wasting websites, which includes social media like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and so on. Furthermore, you can block access to social media on a per user level to keep the problem employees in check.

Tip of the Week: 3 Ways to Travel Without Fear of Hacking

Cyber threats are everywhere. If you’re one to travel, then you’ll encounter many of these threats on public Wi-Fi networks. Therefore, remote workers need a secure way to access company files. Here are three tips to protect your digital assets while traveling.
Connect With ConsiderationPublic hotspots are a problem, especially for corporate data. One of the favorite ways for hackers to steal information from unsuspecting users is to create their own Wi-Fi network that mimics the name of an establishment’s official network. For example, if you’re staying at the Motel California and attempt to connect to its Wi-Fi, you are given the options of MOTEL_CALIFORNIA_GUEST or MOTELCALIFORNIA_FREEWIFI. In a fictitious scenario such as this, it may be difficult to determine which connection is legitimate.
Just to be sure, confirm which network is real by asking the establishment’s staff. Plus, if the Internet connection claims to require a software update, disconnect and inform management immediately.
The Briefer, the Better
The longer that you’re logged in to a wireless connection, the more time you’re giving hackers to access your data. If you’re not using the Wi-Fi for any particular reason, disconnect from it and log back in at a later time. This practice might be annoying, but it’s much more secure than staying connected longer than you need to.
Rely on Your Own Resources 
If you have a mobile data plan that can sustain your usage, you should use that connection to create your own hotspot rather than relying on a potentially unsecured connection. At the very least, you’ll significantly decrease your chances of falling victim to a hack attack.
Bonus tip: Be sure to keep your devices close at hand. This includes storage solutions, especially those that are unsecured. If you have to leave your devices alone for any period of time, be sure to keep them locked away in cases, just to be safe.
Traveling doesn’t give you an excuse to ignore data security. By taking advantage of the proper layers of protection, as well as a security solution like a Virtual Private Network, you can make sure that your data is safe while you’re on the go. 

Every Business Owner Needs Their Technology to Do These 2 Things

Every business is different, and will require technology solutions specifically designed with their organization in mind. However, it can often be difficult to implement new solutions, especially if you don’t know what your options are. By taking a careful analysis of your current IT assets, as well as where you plan to be in the next few years, you can accurately gauge your business’s expectations and implement the right solutions.
There are a few concepts that technology solutions should meet for SMBs; functionality, interoperability, and flexibility.
Interoperability and Functionality
Your organization needs technology that works with other solutions that your organization provides. This can be difficult to gauge, especially since managing your business comes first and handling your IT comes second. Or, rather, it should be this way for a business owner, but it’s often the case that managing IT interferes with business operations. Since you don’t have the time to properly vet a solution, it might be tempting to implement it before you know it’s compatible with your infrastructure. It’s best to consult a trusted technician before implementing new technology solutions, as doing so without first understanding compatibility can cause wasteful downtime.
Plus, it helps to have professional technicians on-hand who can help your business identify good technology deals. Without having an intimate knowledge of the latest technology, it’s easy to purchase new hardware or software and have it fall short of your expectations.
Scalable, Flexible Solutions
In particular, cloud and communication solutions are designed to retain a certain flexibility for the consumer. This means that they are easy to scale to your business’s specific needs, and you will only pay for services that you want, rather than expensive bundles. Think of it like cable television; sure, it’s nice to have, but not when it also comes with several other functions and services that you’ll never use, but are still paying money for. You can see a great parallel to this type of saving in regards to cord cutters, who favor services like Netflix and Hulu Plus compared to spending much more on cable.
Some of the many IT solutions that are both flexible and scalable to meet your needs include:
  • Cloud services
  • Virtual helpdesk and support
  • VoIP telephony
  • Hosted email
  • Productivity suites and software as a service
This flexibility is what keeps organizations coming back to managed IT services, as it allows organizations to create solutions that are specific to their needs. Doing so guarantees them that they will have solutions put into place that can be increased or decreased with demand, or with corporate growth.
It should also be noted, it can be difficult to implement solutions without having a solid goal in mind, especially if you’re hoping to grow. Using an IT roadmap can dramatically increase the return on investment of your business’s technology solutions, as it takes into account your goals and how your business adjusts to growth.