Thursday, January 26, 2017

Tip of the Week: 5 Tricks to Building a Collaborative Office

Collaboration can present a great many benefits for the modern business. With technological innovations making it simpler than ever to cooperate, today’s business owners and executives need to know how to leverage these technologies into greater organizational efficiency. For this week’s tip, we give you five points of emphasis every manager has to understand in order to make new collaborative technology work for your business.
Onboard Usings Work Tools
When you onboard a new employee, one of the best ways that they can learn how to do their job is to work with an experienced coworker who can show them the ropes. Or, you can always do this by just throwing a new hire into action, forcing them to think about how they are going to solve problems. Either way, when your business has the right collaboration solutions in place, you can onboard employees faster, and get them up to speed more proficiently.
Lead By Example
Employees expect that their direct supervisors adhere to the same protocol that they must follow. For example, if you recommend certain ways of cooperating with other employees, but you don’t necessarily follow your own recommendations, they might see little value in doing so themselves. Therefore, by showing them first-hand how this type of collaboration benefits your business, they’ll be more likely to fall in line.
Know When to Step Aside
One of the most important parts of being a leader is understanding when it’s best to leave the job to the people you depend on to accomplish it. No good comes from micromanaging projects, and forcing people to work with other people that don’t offer any value to a project stymies positive collaboration, wasting time and reducing employee morale.
Encourage Employees to Speak Up
Employees want their voices to be heard, so allow them to share their thoughts and opinions whenever possible. Create an outlet that they can use to share thoughts, where employees can suggest ways to improve the organization and its workflows. Taking the opportunity to work together to resolve common issues will bring any team closer together, creating more efficient and higher quality work.
Outline the Benefits Collaboration has For Your Workers
Your workforce is made up of people that likely want to know what collaboration efforts have to do with their role in the office. They want to know how they individually will benefit from these strategies and tools. Instead of explaining how the company benefits from collaboration, explain how the users themselves will benefit from it. Even if a person is highly specialized, understanding the work that others put into a project typically gives workers a greater appreciation for other workers’ skills, making the team stronger.
How do you optimize workplace collaboration? Let us know in the comments.

These Technologies Prepare Kids for a Bright Future in Robotics and Coding

Teaching children a skill can be a difficult job if they’re not having any fun. Therefore, turning kids on to lucrative careers in technology can be challenging, especially since tasks like coding can seem rather dull compared to say, fighting fires and driving racecars. This is why educational apps and tools have been created to make learning about technology fun!
If you’ve got some kids in your life that you feel may have a knack for technology, then try introducing them to the following educational tools. Hey, seeing as you could have the next Bill Gates or Mark Zuckerberg on your hands, it’s worth a shot.
What young child has never dreamed of building their own working robot? While many activity kits can do just this, Littlebits offers a variety of kits that allow kids to create many assorted devices, including: security devices for their bedroom, Internet-connected devices for their home (with their Cloudbit device), or any of the assorted projects on their website with other components. Able to also integrate with other playthings, Littlebits allow a child to see the qualities of technology as their world seems to come to life, thanks to them - instilling a deep appreciation for technology at an early age.
For a more advanced option, better suited for those future tech gurus who may be a little older, Arduino makes for a great educational tool for young minds. Arduino, its sister brand Genuino, or others like them, can offer a solid introduction to electronic work and programming with their open-source electronics platform. Kids can create and program systems to light LEDs, start motors, or other mechanical functions. Arduino may also serve as an introductory system before one graduates to utilizing a Raspberry Pi to program their creations.
For those who are a little more hands-on, there are projects available on other websites, such as those developed and run by Make Magazine. Make: allows kids to design IoT projects (such as a working electric piano made out of fruit, or a homemade version of the game Operation) and share them online with other kids for them to make.
Minecraft Education Edition
Most parents have probably, at least once, asked their child to do their homework instead of playing Minecraft. Well, now with the Education Edition of Minecraft, young minds can learn about programming and other subjects with one of the most popular video games of all time. With various lessons like creating boolean logic gates to urban planning. In fact, many schools are starting to use Minecraft to leverage various lessons and social development.
That said, this is a little different than the version of Minecraft your kids are playing, but the shift from game to education tool might keep them engaged and interested in diving in deeper.
You never know what a kid is capable of until you give them the tools they need to succeed. Can you think of any other ways to get kids into technology? Let us know in the comments.

The 4 Core Apps of Every Good Productivity Suite

Productivity suites are a common sight, if not being entirely necessary for the modern business. You need the word processing power and the ability to provide an email solution to your organization’s staff so they can communicate internally and externally. We’ll discuss two of the most renown productivity suites--Office 365 and Google’s G Suite--and why your business will need what they offers.
When we talk about a productivity suite, we generally mean a software solution that bundles together useful programs that help your organization function on a day-by-day basis. By this, we mean a word processor, presentation builder, spreadsheet management software, and most of all, email management. While there are several different solutions out there, your productivity suite will probably contain, at the very least, these four pieces of software. It doesn’t necessarily matter which industry your organization is in, as regardless, you’ll find that the software will come in handy for various purposes.
What follows are ways you can use a productivity suite, like Microsoft Office 365 and Google’s G Suite, to get the most out of your organization’s assets.
Word Processor
The ability to compose written documents shouldn’t need explaining, but sometimes it might be difficult for service industries to see this value. You can write up notices for your on-site staff, as well as write up memos for yourself, put up signs regarding messes in the break room, print out and mail physical copies of invoices, and so many other things. Microsoft has Word 2016, while Google has Google Docs.
Email Management
A good email solution will help you keep in touch with your team and allow for important outgoing communications with clients, vendors, and prospective clients. Plus, when you use a cloud-based version of an email software, you can access it from anywhere on any compatible device. However, it should be mentioned that managing email solutions isn’t exactly an easy job, so it’s best to have this responsibility managed by a service provider like Net It On. Microsoft offers Outlook, while Google has its signature Gmail.
Spreadsheet Builder
You wouldn’t believe how useful spreadsheets can be for various reasons. With built-in formulas, you can use them for financial purposes, or you can use them for simpler tasks, like inventory management. Basically, spreadsheets are helpful for any type of organizational purpose, so it’s good to have them around in general. Google Sheets and Microsoft Excel are both viable solutions for your spreadsheet needs.
Slideshow Software
Presentations can be helpful for presenting information, such as statistics or key performance indicators, to your organization’s staff. Slideshows are also great for delivering information about events that you’ve attended, or providing deliverable content to a prospective client about your goods or service. Microsoft has PowerPoint, while Google provides Google Slides.

Tip of the Week: Outsourced IT is the Affordable Alternative to Hiring IT Staff

There seems to be a shortage of IT skills in today’s job market. Unfortunately, there has never been a worse time for this to happen, as cyber security threats are more prevalent today than ever before. In response to the demand for highly skilled IT management experience, outsourced IT is a great way to take advantage of the latest security solutions without the burden of hiring an in-house IT department. Here are three ways that outsourced IT is the way to go to resolve the problem of the IT skills shortage.
You’re Paying Fewer People
When you look for an internal IT department, you add more salaries to your payroll. This complicates your budget, which isn’t something most businesses can easily account for. While this cost could easily be eliminated by having your current employees manage your IT, this approach could quickly become both a security problem and a time sink. They simply don’t have the training required to keep problems to a minimum and streamline operations.
When you outsource your IT, this risk disappears, and you get a flat-rate, month-by-month service that prevents issues altogether as per your service level agreement. You can then use the money saved by not hiring new employees to invest in other parts of your business.
Qualified, Professional Technicians
When you want someone to be in charge of your IT, you need someone who, without a doubt, has the skills needed to maximize the ROI you get from your technology. Therefore, you want to make sure that you find someone who knows their stuff. The ideal candidate will have a combination of experience managing IT systems, and maybe even certifications. The last thing you need is someone who doesn’t know what they’re doing, dabbling with your network and its components.
Plus, take into consideration that your office might be located in an inconvenient location and finding the talent to fill this gap might be challenging. Situations like this could make it tempting to allow your team to maintain their own technology when it’s not prudent to do so.
Don’t make this mistake. Instead of taking such an unnecessary risk, you can supplement your organization’s lack of IT skills by outsourcing these services to a qualified managed service provider like Net It On. You get all of the skills required without the frustrating hiring process.
Less Time Thrown Away on IT Issues
Anyone who has tried to troubleshoot their own technology troubles knows how much time can be spent doing so. Unless you’re a technology wizard, you might miss a vital detail and be troubleshooting for the wrong symptom. Plus, if you don’t have the time to address any and all issues, a vital problem might bring your network down, resulting in downtime and data loss. Furthermore, any resources thrown away on unneeded maintenance could easily break your budget. Simply put: your employees don’t have time to worry about IT, and neither do you.
Outsourcing this responsibility to trained professionals who have made it a goal to master the art of technology management can save your business countless hours of work every week. You can then invest in other initiatives meant to expand and improve your business’s operations.

The Science of Motion Sickness: Why Reading in the Car Makes You Want to Spew

There are two types of people in the world; those who can read and accomplish work while on the go, and those who can’t. For the folks in the latter camp, it’s not that they don’t want to be productive while traveling, but rather, they physically can’t. This unfortunate condition is commonly referred to as motion sickness, and if you suffer from it, then it’s quite literally “all in your head.”
The thalamic portion of the brain is responsible for processing what’s going on around you and then sending signals about these experiences to your body so it can respond accordingly. Under normal conditions, this arrangement works nicely. For example, your eyes detect movement and informs your brain so that your body knows to keep itself upright.
However, when your body experiences motion sickness, your eyes focus on an object that’s stationary (like a book or a mobile device), while at the same time your eyes notice the movement that’s going on around you. These conflicting signals are then sent to the brain so it can sort out whether the body is or isn’t in motion. When these signals become too much for the brain to process, the brain gets overstimulated and releases chemicals into the stomach in order to cause nausea.
This negative reaction is presumably a natural defense mechanism, designed to get you to stop with the confusing behavior. While it’s annoying to experience these symptoms and have to put down your book or whatever it is you’re working on, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the human brain can’t handle a modern experience like traveling at highway speeds while reading text. After all, as far as the development of the human brain goes, only the most recent generations have had the capability of traveling at speeds made possible by the combustible engine, and even horses and wind sails make up a minute portion of the human experience when considering the grand scheme of things.
All this to say, motion sickness is the result of the human brain not yet adapting and evolving to the place where it understands that a body in-motion-yet-not-in-motion is in no real danger.
Now that you understand the cause of motion sickness, for those suffering from this disorder, the followup question is, “How do I beat it?”
Unfortunately, short of a brain transplant, completely overcoming motion sickness isn’t really a possibility. However, you can try a slew of remedies in order to stave off motion sickness long enough to perhaps get some work done. Such as:
  • Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of fluids.
  • Open a window for some fresh air.
  • On your device, make use of high-contrast or nighttime mode in order to prevent eye strain. Net It On can help you adjust these settings if you like.
  • Try taking motion sickness medication such as Dramamine.
  • Utilize text-to-voice and audio books.
As you’ve realized by now, either you’re affected by motion sickness or you’re not. This is due to people’s brains having neurological differences, meaning that, if you don’t suffer from motion sickness, you’re just lucky like that.
What are some ways that you beat motion sickness and stay productive while on the go? Share your advice with us in the comments below.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Simple Solutions to Make Sure Your Webcam Isn’t Spying on You

Did you know that many webcams are infested with RATs? Not unlike their furry counterparts, RATs (or Remote Access Tools) are a nuisance that can cross the line into hazardous. This form of software allows a non-user to spy on a computer, giving them the ability to steal information or even record you and your environment with a PC’s webcam.
RATs are used to spy on people in all contexts, residing in a legal area as grey as their namesake’s fur. While IT professionals use remote tools to offer tech support and service, they are also used in many cybercrimes. Even school districts have gathered photos of students at home, through laptops distributed with a “tracking system” that snaps an image of the computer’s surroundings. Stalkers and blackmailers also gather photos and information about computer owners by activating the computer’s webcam without their knowledge.
While this threat may strike anyone who owns an electronic device, legal protections and repercussions are lacking as of yet. Unfortunately, outdated laws and far-too-specific requirements for litigation limit the actions a victim of intrusion may take even further.
Largely immune from legal recourse, hackers will then take the information they have gathered and twist it to their own personal desires. Webcam footage is used to blackmail and extort money from the victim, or is just illegally posted online for embarrassment or personal financial gain. Personal information allows hackers to commit identity theft, destroying credit scores and reputations on a whim.
How do you stop such invasions of your privacy?
Besides just taping up your webcam, there are a few practices to follow to protect the security of your device:
  • Keep your security software fully updated always helps to keep malware at bay.
  • Make sure that the latest firewalls and antivirus software are all installed.
  • Use a secure Wi-Fi connection to do your browsing online.
Another strategy is to keep an eye out for warning signs of trouble, such as suspicious emails possibly containing malware or the webcam indicator light coming on when the device is not in use by you, the user. To defend yourself even further, use strong, frequently-changing passwords and do routine file searches of your system to check for any suspect files.
Otherwise, you can always keep taping over the camera every time you aren’t using it, and hope that someone isn’t watching the screen from the other side.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Tip of the Week: 4 Ways to Fix the Dreaded Blue Screen of Death

Microsoft’s Blue Screen of Death has haunted every version of Windows since Windows NT, way back in 1993. In recent times, despite the BSOD’s emoticon makeover in Windows 8 and Windows 10, the notification isn’t any less frustrating to encounter. When experiencing the dreaded BSOD, the question on every user’s mind is, “How do I fix it?”
Before you can resolve the BSOD, you’ll need to understand what’s causing it. Essentially, the BSOD results from Windows experiencing a system error that’s critical enough to require a reboot. This is a problem that’s more serious to encounter than an application error, which typically causes the application or PC to freeze without displaying the BSOD.
A typical BSOD scenario involves a problem with the PC’s hardware, like a driver that’s gone bad, or a software issue, like a virus infection. Upon encountering such a problem, Windows throws up a STOP Error and crashes. Subsequently, a complete reboot is in order, which will doom any data that’s unsaved.
Also, before you take action, be sure to look over the BSOD carefully and make sure that it’s not fake. One way to find this out is to look for a phone number. If you see any contact information, then it’s a giveaway that you’ve got a fake BSOD on your hands. It’s important to keep in mind that Microsoft doesn’t include contact information with their official errors--only an error code and reboot instructions.
Once you’ve determined that the BSOD is real, then resolving the issue is a fairly straightforward process. Try these troubleshooting tips:
Malware Issues: After rebooting your PC, you’ll then be able to perform a virus scan. This should reveal if the cause of the BSOD is malware or not, and depending on the antivirus software, you may be able to quickly remove the malware and resolve the issue that way.
Boot Up in Safe Mode: Safe mode is a way to boot up your PC with only the essential drivers running. This is a way to troubleshoot if the problem lies with a certain driver or not. While in safe mode, an experienced user or IT technician will be able to access event logs and other tools in order to determine where the problem lies.
Important Note: In the event that those two options haven't resolved your issue, we strongly suggest that you contact an IT professional before you consider the following two options.
System Restore: Performing a system restore is a way to troubleshoot the problem and determine if the issue lies with the software. A system restore involves restoring the software to a previous version; we should mention that this is a fairly complicated process that an IT technician should oversee, or else risk backtracking over something critical.
Reinstall Windows: Consider this your last-ditch option since it will completely replace your current operating system with a new installation of Windows. If you go through this process and still have the BSOD pop up, then you know that it’s a hardware issue, like a hard drive failure, memory error, etc. Also, if you reinstall Windows, you’ll have to reinstall all of your applications and adjust your settings before you can get back to using your PC like you’re used to. Remember, you’ll want to be extremely confident that your data is backed up or stored in a central location before reinstalling Windows.

Monday, January 9, 2017

This Malware Only Needs 2 Minutes to Turn a Security Camera Into a Zombie

There are billions of devices that now connect to the Internet, even devices that may seem to not have any practical reason to do so. However, there is a new type of malware that uses these devices to perform attacks on the networks of all types of organizations: Mirai.
The Mirai botnet, which was responsible for the attacks on Dyn (which controls much of the Internet) last year, has gradually created an immense network of infected Internet of Things devices. This includes smartwatches, printers, security cameras, and other connected devices enslaved by the malware. These devices are then used to fuel Distributed Denial of Service attacks on various entities. These attacks basically work by assaulting a network with so much traffic that it buckles underneath the weight of the attack and completely shuts down.
While DDoS attacks were once developed for and powered by the ordinary desktop computer, mobile devices, which make up The Internet of Things, have instead become a very versatile means to utilize these botnet attacks.
This increase in popularity isn’t without solid reasoning. IoT devices have spread all over the world for countless and different purposes. After all, there’s strength in numbers, so the more devices that are infected, the better for the attackers. The more Internet of Things devices that are in a household, the more likely that these devices will be used by hackers. With many household appliances like coffee machines, refrigerators, blenders, and so much more now equipped with smart technology, these seemingly benign devices are more dangerous than you think.
There is also the question of how secure these devices are. In many cases, manufacturers don’t build adequate security into these devices, seeing them as no threat to the user. As the events of the DDoS attacks on Dyn make clear, security cannot be an afterthought for Internet of Things devices, as there is much more at stake than people initially realized.
For an example of how this works, take a look at a researcher who decided to put the resilience of a security camera to the test. The researcher subjected the device to Mirai, and it took less than two minutes for the malware to infect it; quite shocking indeed.
In cases like this, there isn’t much that the user can do to protect their IoT devices. These unfortunate events are, however, opening the eyes of the industry as to where IoT devices fall short. Therefore, either these IoT devices will need enhanced security, or they will have relatively short lifespans.

Saturday, January 7, 2017

This Cyber Crime Landed a Former IT Administrator 2 Years in Jail

Managing permissions for their network is something that many organizations may only consider when it’s too late to do anything about it. This can provide outsiders with access to sensitive information that shouldn’t be seen by anyone but your employees. To learn a few lessons about user permissions, let’s look at the misfortune of PA Online, a Pennsylvania-based Internet service provider.
A former system administrator for PA Online was issued a prison sentence of two years, alongside a fine of $26,000, for using the company network when he wasn’t supposed to. Dariusz J. Prugar, who had been fired just days before the incident, found that his credentials were still valid. He then proceeded to cause the network to crash, leaving countless residents and Pennsylvania businesses without an Internet connection.
Prugar used these credentials to infiltrate the network and steal back software which he claimed was rightfully his. He continued to plant backdoors across the network, and to keep his antics hidden, Prugar enabled scripts that would delete the network’s access logs.
However, the results of this action were far from the intended purpose. The scripts used by Prugar caused the entire system to crash, which led to the company calling Prugar in to assist with getting the systems back online. He then made the mistake of demanding to renegotiate the rights to “his” software, which was a major red flag for PA Online. The ISP called in the FBI to investigate the occurrence, and… well, you know the rest.
The end result was that PA Online’s customers went a week without an Internet connection, and the company eventually had to shut itself down. The effects of a rogue admin led to the demise of the ISP, and it’s only because this former employee still had his own credentials to access the company network.
There is a clear lesson to be learned here; a user who doesn’t need access to your network shouldn’t be able to do so. Often times, an employee who gets terminated or leaves the company for some reason may do so with their credentials intact, and in the confusion of losing a worker, your IT department may forget to revoke their access to the network. Enforcing this practice will help you avoid a premature failing due to a situation similar to what happened to PA Online.
Net It On is the ideal solution to these system access problems, as we can monitor your network access in real time for discrepancies, as well as restrict permissions as the need arises. You can know for certain that any users who aren’t currently employed by your business won’t have credentials to access the network. To learn more, reach out to us at (732) 360-2999.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Tip of the Week: 3 Basic Practices for Maintaining Your PC

You may need business technology to ensure that operations go off without a hitch, but at the same time, you’re reliant on it in order to function. If your technology fails, you’ll be left with a large deficit to fill. Here are three ways that you can improve PC performance with basic maintenance practices.
Keep it Clean
You can significantly improve the lifespan of your PC by taking the time to keep it clean. Dust will build up around your computer’s vents, which can limit airflow. Plus, you need to consider that heat will build up within your machine, which can lead to overheating. This can cause unnecessary data loss. Therefore, it becomes important that you keep your device’s fan vents from being blocked in any way.
Monitor RAM Usage
RAM is one of the components that controls the processing power of your computer, so if you don’t have enough RAM in your PC, your ability to perform multiple tasks at the same time will suffer. If you think your PC is running abnormally slow, you can easily check to see if it’s up to speed by viewing your Task Manager and seeing where your PC’s resources are being allocated. Depending on what’s happening in your computer, you might even be dealing with security problems, so it’s best to have professionals investigate issues dealing with RAM usage.
Install Updates and Patches
Having the latest patches and security updates installed on your device is absolutely crucial if you want to mitigate security problems. Plus, a lot of the time, updating your driver software can address operational issues that may linger following an update or install. Since hackers are always trying to create new malware to take advantage of known vulnerabilities, it’s your responsibility to make sure that your business’s technology solutions are protected from any and all threats.
By now you’ve noticed that all of these tips have one thing in common: they are proactive measures that are designed to prevent major problems. This is one of the best ways to preserve your IT equipment. You can keep your technology running efficiently through proactive maintenance, be it through working with your own internal IT department or by outsourcing the responsibility to Net It On.

Monday, January 2, 2017

Year in Review: 2016’s Biggest Breaches

2016 was quite the year for cybersecurity and the assorted issues, threats, and concerns associated with it. As 2017 rolls along, we may be able to anticipate what this year might bring by reflecting on the events of the last.
Governing Bodies Can Be Hacked
Two breaches in the United States proved that nobody is impervious to hacking attacks. The first, directed towards the Internal Revenue Service, resulted in the theft of over 101,000 PIN numbers through the e-file PIN reset function. The next, in which the Democratic National Committee had its email system breached and the resulting data dumped on Wikileaks, is thought by some to have altered the course of the 2016 U.S. Presidential election. Other attacks, targeting Illinois and Arizona voting systems, only contributed to the growing question: Could a hacking attack change the course of history by interfering with an election?
These events contribute a few major takeaways from 2016, but the most important is that if this is possible, then any business is also at definite risk of being digitally infiltrated.
Ransomware is Only Getting Smarter
Speaking of known threats, it seemed that there was another ransomware attack every time you turned around. With targets spanning across all industries, various forms of ransomware dominated many of 2016’s headlines. What’s worse, these ransomwares were steadily improving, adopting smarter and more effective tactics.
A standout example was the Petya ransomware, which deviated from the typical approach of encrypting a victim’s files to encrypting a victim’s master boot record. There was even a rise in “Ransomware-as-a-Service” offerings, allowing more users of varying experience to extort money from targets. Nobody seemed to be safe; targets including private users, businesses, even hospitals. Since businesses are a popular target of ransomware attacks, often distributed through phishing campaigns, workforces need to be educated to identify the warning signs that something is off.
The Internet of Things is Vulnerable
While it might be fun to stream a zombie movie, it’s not so much fun to get hit by a botnet made of zombified streaming devices. Yet, with the release of the Mirai code, it is now possible for anyone with a bit of know-how to create a botnet out of infected IoT (Internet of Things) devices. Most notably, an IoT botnet managed to take several major websites out of commission for a brief period of time by attacking Dyn, a DNS (domain name server) service provider, taking out dozens of the most popular websites for a while in October in the largest scale cyber attack in history.
However, it’s clear that the IoT is here to stay, so there must be cognizance of the IoT’s security shortcomings as 2017 progresses.
Yahoo and User Accounts
If 2016 was a rough year for any company, however, that company would have to be Yahoo. It was revealed that Yahoo had been breached not just once, but twice. The first breach to come to light had occurred in 2014, with the account credentials of more than 500 million user accounts being compromised. If that wasn’t already bad enough, Yahoo then had to announce that one billion accounts were compromised in a separate attack in August of 2013. This gave Yahoo the distinction of being the source of the largest-ever hack of user data. Pairing this with the fact that the estimated total of Internet users is just 3 billion, this news is monstrous.