Monday, July 6, 2020

Best 30 Day List:


VoIP Is a Strong Communications Option

Over the past few years, VoIP has become an extremely popular solution for small businesses. In fact, 30 percent of today’s businesses use some sort of VoIP platform. There are many reasons why businesses are making the switch to VoIP. Today, we’ll explain a few. 

VoIP Saves Money

VoIP, or Voice over Internet Protocol, is the first real viable alternative to the telephone company’s monopoly over business telephone systems. By switching to VoIP, you eliminate the relationship you have with the traditional telephone company and use bandwidth to place and receive calls. By using a service that your business already relies on, you save on a lot of costs.

VoIP offers many different ways to gain value. Not only does it eliminate the large expense a business would see, it also offers businesses a lot of different options. Businesses that use video and voice conferencing options afforded them by their VoIP provider pay an average of 30 percent less than they would without VoIP.

Business can also gain value by using the soft phone feature. VoIP providers have dedicated smartphone apps that work on all Android and iOS-fueled devices. This gives a business the added mobility that they seek, without the huge hardware costs that are associated with buying mobile devices for your staff. 

Internationally Superior

If your business does business internationally, communications costs can really be a major problem. Finding a communications system that provides affordable international calling is important. VoIP providers have a competitive model for keeping international communication costs down. With VoIP, you can cut down on your communications spend while retaining the reliability and feature-rich system that you use domestically. 

If you are looking to improve your business’ communications, while also saving some pretty serious coin in the process, look no further than VoIP from Net It On. 

Wednesday, July 1, 2020

Avoiding Cybersecurity Placebos in Your Business

When it comes to your business, especially its technology, some of the buzzwords you hear floating around can be pretty convincing, almost intoxicating. Unfortunately, like most buzzwords, many of these are aggrandized beyond their worth to the average small-to-medium-sized business. Let’s take a look at how this can impact a business’ perception of its cybersecurity, as well as dig into the reality behind these terms.

To begin, let’s examine a phrase coined in the early 2000s by cybersecurity technologist Bruce Schneier: “security theater.”

What is “Security Theater?”

Security theater is a simple shorthand for any security efforts put in place that do little to better ensure one’s security, despite making one much more comfortable, generally for some considerable cost. The idea behind it is that security exists as both a reality based in math and science, and as a perception that is based in emotion.

In a 2007 blog article, Schneier cited a personal anecdote where a friend’s newborn was fitted with an RFID tag to help prevent infant abduction during their stay in the maternity ward. However, the rates of infant abduction were astoundingly low at that point. In his blog post, Schneier posits that these bracelets were a form of security theater, meant more to placate the parents when their bundle of joy was out of sight than it was to help prevent the rare case of infant abduction.

While security theater may have perceived benefits, Schneier says, the true concerns come with the costs that are associated with it.

Let’s return to his example of the tracking tags on newborns. With such a low rate of infant abduction, there was realistically little-to-no practical risk of someone’s child being abducted from the hospital. However, as the low-cost RFID bracelets allowed parents to breathe a little easier when their baby wasn’t in the room with them, hospitals found this investment to be worthwhile. Another example that Schneier gives is the introduction of tamper-resistant packaging on over-the-counter drugs in the 1980s. With poisonings getting some significant coverage by the press in this era, the idea that medications would be tampered with was relieved.

It didn’t matter that the statistical likelihood of a drug being altered was negligible, or even that the tamper-resistant packaging wasn’t all that effective anyways. The theater of the tamper-resistant packaging that companies would use helped align the perceived threat with the practical odds.

The Trade-Offs

However, there is a point at which security theater can become detrimental: when the investment (real or perceived) into your security is generating negative returns—or in other words, when your security measures are actually making you less secure. One glaring example from recent years is the 2013 hack into Target, where numerous security teams dropped the ball as numerous failsafe notifications and procedures were ignored. Let’s go into how you might be “overacting,” so to speak, when it comes to some of the security theater you have in your office.

Excessive Password Updates

Forcing your employees to update their passwords each month has long been established as a counterproductive security measure, as this will only encourage them to adopt other behaviors that will directly undermine your resiliency. Perhaps these passwords will become embarrassingly predictable, or your users will resort to writing them down somewhere to keep track of them all. Instead, use other methods of reinforcing your business security, such as multi-factor authentication (MFA) or single sign-on solutions, paired with a more moderate password policy.

That said, we’re not advocating never changing passwords, but the bad habits it causes are much worse than what mandatory password changes do for the greater good.

Alert Overload

A never-ending barrage of security notifications can have a few negative repercussions on your users. Naturally, their workflows will suffer from consistent interruptions, but there is also the fact that these notifications will eventually be tuned out. As a result, if a real issue does eventually present itself, it is more likely to be ignored. An MSP’s services can help to separate the wheat from the chaff, preventing your users from encountering interruption in most cases.

Lacking User Awareness

Think back for a second: when you last had a cybersecurity training session for your users, what was the general format? Was it primarily a lecture, or were your employees involved and engaged in the process? When was your last training initiative? Many companies figure that these seminar-style sessions serve their purpose, but the more effective means of instilling good cybersecurity training is through shorter, more frequent, and (most importantly) more interactive efforts.

Net It On has the tools and resources that can help you to better ensure your security efforts are contributing to your practical security. To find out more about the solutions that we can assist you with, reach out to our team by calling (732) 360-2999 today.

Monday, June 29, 2020

Tip of the Week: Improve Your Management of Remote Workers

For the past few months, a much larger percentage of people have been working from home. This remote workforce has proven to be much more effective than many would have thought, but some companies haven’t had the success getting the production out of their remote workers that others have. Today, we present three tips that will help you get the most out of your remote workforce.

1. Communication Is Extremely Important

When people who work together--and typically see one another--don’t for long periods of time, you may think that collaboration would stall and productivity would wane. This may not be the case for businesses that have the communication tools in place to make it work. To get a jump on this, taking the initiative and using the conferencing tools to have regular virtual meetings is a good way to give and get feedback, give direction, and ensure everyone is on the same page.

2. Provide the Tools Needed for Collaboration

This is basically an extension of the first point, but remote teams absolutely need software solutions that are integrated with the features that allow for solid collaboration. This includes:

  • Communication tools - email, instant messaging, VoIP, conferencing
  • Productivity software - multi-user word processor, spreadsheets, presentation software
  • Collaboration software - project management, task management, customer support

By having the right tools to keep team members motivated and engaged, you will see more higher degrees of productivity and better product and service delivery.  

3. Engage Your Team

One of the biggest challenges for a company when they depend on remote workers is that their staff tends to get less engaged with the company than they otherwise would be. This is natural, but it doesn’t have to be so. Engaging with your remote teams in chat, in an email chain, in virtual meetings, and talking about human things like what people have been eating, what they are feeling, and how they do what they do can go a long way toward getting your business the remote staff that wants to get up and come to work each day.

Remote work is filled with potential pitfalls, but the benefits can be pretty fantastic if it is handled correctly. If you need to talk to someone about how to properly manage your remote workers, or if you need solutions for problems you have surrounding your remote team, call the IT consultants at Net It On today at (732) 360-2999.

How Automation Will Play into the Post-COVID-19 Workplace

As workplaces and offices everywhere have struggled to cope with the restrictions brought on by social distancing mandates, the adoption of automated solutions has surged ahead. Of course, this does open a few important questions to consider. For instance, what this could mean for employment post-pandemic, and how automation may be used in the future to mitigate the impacts we’re currently experiencing.

The Situation

As COVID-19 spread across the world, many businesses suddenly found themselves in a very tough spot—especially those who were not deemed essential and were therefore unable to open to help reduce the risk to their employees. To try and counter this, many businesses have adopted assorted tools to simplify their responsibilities and maximize their output—including automation.

Pharmaceutical companies, for instance, are feeling significant pressure to deliver right now, as many are seeking treatment options for the COVID-19 virus. To assist with the more administrative and record-keeping aspects of their operations, these companies have put solutions in place that can accomplish what would have otherwise taken weeks in mere days. By removing rote responsibilities from an employee’s workflow, this employee’s time can be better spent elsewhere.

The Future

It is likely that these kinds of solutions will be adopted on a wider scale when implementing them can help improve safety within the work environment. Furthermore, counter to the fear many have held that “the machines will take our jobs,” the focus has increasingly been on an approach that emphasizes an optimal end result through the combined efforts of your human workers and the output produced by the tools they have at their disposal.

Calculators didn’t replace accountants, they just made their jobs far more efficient, and there are countless more examples that we could cite.

Of course, this does mean that your employees will need to adapt to these changes as well. By learning new skills and embracing the capabilities of modern technology, your team members can enable themselves to accomplish far greater results than they could previously, without the procedural responsibilities that would once eat up their time.

The real question is how your business will use these trends to innovate and maintain itself, especially during challenging times like the one at hand. We can help you to do so with modern technology solutions and services. Learn more about what we have to offer by calling (732) 360-2999 today.

Friday, June 26, 2020

The Basics of PCI Compliance


Businesses today should be accepting card-based payments, regardless of their size. In addition to the convenience it offers to customers, it’s the most secure means you have of being paid. To protect consumers and their personal and financial information, many card providers have adopted a unified regulation that applies to businesses that accept these payments. Let’s review this regulation and how it impacts the average small-to-medium-sized business.

Understanding PCI

Established in 2006, the Payment Card Index Digital Security Standard (or PCI DSS) was sponsored by the members of the PCI Security Standards Council. This council was founded to help the credit card industry self-regulate and manage the standards for consumer privacy that businesses would be beholden to. You certainly have at least one of the council’s members in your wallet right now: Visa, Mastercard, American Express, and Discover.

The standards that this council established apply to any and all businesses that accept payment cards from their customers. If you process or store payment information or process digital payments, PCI compliance is mandatory.

To remain compliant, any business that accepts payment cards needs to: 

  1. Change passwords from system default
  2. Install sufficient network security tools (antivirus, firewalls, etc.) that will work to protect card data
  3. Encrypt transmission of card data across public networks
  4. Restrict the transmission of card and cardholder data to a “need to know” basis
  5. Assign user ID to all users with server or database access
  6. Make efforts to protect physical and digital access to card and cardholder data
  7. Monitor and maintain system security
  8. Test system security regularly
  9. Create written policies and procedures that address the importance of securing cardholder data
  10. Train staff on best practices of accepting payment cards

Any business, all businesses, each and every business of any kind that takes credit card payments needs to get these ten things done. Many businesses already accomplish these things as part of their typical routine… if you aren’t one of them, and accept card-based payments, your non-compliance could get you in serious trouble.

PCI and the Size of Your Business

The above checklist were the things that all businesses are responsible for, across the board. Based on what “level” of business you operate (according to the PCI Security Standards Council) there are other needs you must address. As the council defines them, there are four different levels you may fall into:

  • Merchant Level #1 - A business that processes over six million payment card transactions per year.
  • Merchant Level #2 - A business that processes between one million-to-six million payment card transactions per year.
  • Merchant Level #3 - A business that processes between 20,000-to-one million e-commerce payment card transactions per year.
  • Merchant Level #4 - A business that processes less than 20,000 e-commerce payment transactions, and fewer than one million overall payment card transactions per year.

As a level one breach will almost certainly have an impact to a larger number of consumers, the focus of the PCI regulatory body tends to be on these larger organizations. The means just aren’t there for every business to be checked constantly. However, that doesn’t mean that small businesses aren’t also facing severe risks. Here are some of the other requirements that businesses must fulfill, based on their Merchant Level:

Merchant Level #1

Considering the scale of these businesses and the reach that they have to consumers both online and in-store, these merchants have much greater responsibility. PCI compliance for Merchant Level 1 requires that merchants:

  • Complete a yearly Report on Compliance (ROC) through a Qualified Security Assessor (QSA)
  • Undergo a quarterly network scan by an Approved Security Vendor (ASV)
  • Complete the Attestation of Compliance Form for PCI Council records

Merchant Level #2

Standards relax as the number of transactions decreases, so Merchant Level 2 dictates that these merchants:

  • Perform a yearly Self-Assessment Questionnaire (SAQ)
  • Allow an ASV to complete a quarterly network scan
  • Complete the Attestation of Compliance Form for PCI Council records

Merchant Level #3

This is where most medium-sized businesses would classify, and also requires that merchants:

  • Perform a SAQ
  • Allow an ASV to complete a quarterly network scan
  • Complete the Attestation of Compliance Form for PCI Council records

Merchant Level #4

This level applies to the vast majority of small businesses. Like the prior two merchant levels, this level requires that all merchants:

  • Perform a SAQ
  • Allow an ASV to complete a quarterly network scan
  • Complete the Attestation of Compliance Form for PCI Council record

Noncompliant businesses can be reviewed, and are generally fined, watched more closely in the future, or even prohibited from accepting payment cards at all. Obviously, this isn’t something you want to happen to your business.

Thursday, June 25, 2020

Ubiquiti Amplifi System Home install with Nest Doorbell and Google Home Screen


The Amplifi System went in flawlessly. Configured via Android App.  The mesh extenders took a few minutes to appear and configure in the app.






Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Tip of the Week: Using Google Drive’s Workspaces to Stay Organized

Many businesses looking to consolidate their tools are turning to cloud services and software suites that offer a centralized collection of solutions—such as the G Suite, as offered by Google. While G Suite offers the Google Drive as a means of organizing your work resources and documents, different files can sometimes be saved in different places. This week, our tip is going to cover how you can work around this fact with a feature called Workspaces.

What are Workspaces?

It isn’t unusual for your team members to need different resources to complete their various tasks. Due to the collaborative nature of Google Drive, these resources could quite easily be stored in many different folders. This could, in turn, increase the amount of time it will take for these tasks to be completed as these resources are navigated to each time they are required.

Workspaces solve this problem. With Workspaces, each of your users can generate their own quick-access lists of files needed for their assorted responsibilities. This makes it far more convenient to call up the necessary materials to accomplish more. Once the project is completed, the Workspace in question can be deleted without having any impact on the included files themselves.

Creating a Workspace

To create your own Workspaces, follow this process:

  • In Google Drive, access Priority from the left-hand menu.
  • You will be brought to a page that presents you with any documents tied to upcoming meetings and those recently accessed, along with your Workspaces.
  • In the Workspaces section, click Create.
  • A prompt will pop up to name your new Workspace. Name it, and press Enter.
  • This will open a new window, where you will be provided with suggested files to include in your Workspace, as well as the option to Choose other files… This option will open an Add to Workspace sidebar, where you can search through your Google Drive folders for the files you want to add.
  • Once you no longer need an item present in a Workspace, you can remove it through a three-dot menu without deleting the actual file.

There you have it. With this simple process, you can establish a simple means of accessing the materials you need to be productive more efficiently and conveniently. Make sure you subscribe to our blog for more ways to make your workday more convenient and productive!

Monday, June 22, 2020

Shifting IT Strategies as Your Business Grows

There is a saying that you hear a lot in business: Plan for the worst, hope for the best. This is typically related to data redundancy, cybersecurity, or one of any other proactive steps a business should take to control the continuity of their business. What happens when you plan for the worst, but the best comes to fruition? What happens when your business consistently meets demand, prospers without issue, and grows quickly? Today, we will take a look at some issues the small business owner has to deal with when his/her business isn’t so small anymore. 

Are You Running a Small Business? 

In today’s business culture, new entrepreneurs have a tendency to emulate successful case studies. When you are running a small business, it doesn’t afford you a whole lot of time to seek out the answers to the never-ending stream of questions you have. Sure, you will pick the brains of other business owners and try to make decisions that will support staying in business longer than the average business (around half fail within five years), but ultimately what the business demands to thrive is that you work on it as well as working in it.

Working in the business is doing the actual work needed to make the business work. Do you own a restaurant? You likely are the chef or the business manager for that business, but if you aren’t constantly updating and innovating, you will likely fail. Entrepreneurship is the hardest of work, but over time if it’s approached right, it can have the sweetest of payoffs. This takes a certain perspective that can only come from constantly working on the business. That entails forging relationships, studying market dynamics, operational analytics, consumer demand, and much, much more. 

How IT Fits In

Information technology is making businesses of all sizes, in all markets, more efficient. The use of IT can be as small as a single computer to a sprawling IT infrastructure that features onsite and hosted resources. Regardless of what you use IT for, as your business grows, to keep order, you will likely turn to more IT. The earlier an entrepreneur looks to IT to handle their presumptive operational problems, the more likely they will be able to see substantiated growth. Sure, our new restaurant may need limited IT, but once the business demands expansion to new locations, having technology to automate and manage your business’ processes will be a godsend. 

Small businesses that automate redundant and menial tasks, regardless of the market in which they operate, will provide value in the forms of added efficiency and cost reduction; two variables every small business is looking for. Once that small business grows into a larger business, building on that technology-centric model cultivated from the beginning of the business will be much simpler than trying to incorporate new IT environments into a system. Our restaurant incorporating a point of sale system at the beginning will be less operationally prohibitive to the business then having to retrain your entire staff to use a new POS system years after inception. Sometimes technology isn’t in the budget, but if it is, incorporating it early is a solid strategy.

Management of Growth

Many entrepreneurs get to the point where their business is ready to take the next step only to be held back by their own intuition. Many small business owners, while working in the business, find themselves involved in elements of the business where, frankly, they don’t belong. That’s not to say they can’t do what they please, but some business owners focus on the customer recognition rather than the collaboration needed to build a successful product. Being too involved in the day-to-day running of a business can actually hinder your business’ growth. Going back to our restaurant, if you are the chef and you demand input on the manner in which the servers interact with the customers, and the food starts to suffer, are you really doing yourself any service?

No. 

Hiring managers that have complementary skills (those are skills that you traditionally struggle with) and trusting them to do what’s best for your business is the only way that you will have time to work on your business. Most entrepreneurs tend to hire people like themselves, to create the echo chamber of positive reinforcement that they crave, but to get the most out of your business, you need people committed to the business, but not to a static way of doing things. A positive company culture starts with a great mission and workers that have freedom of thought. The more innovative minds are working toward the same end, the more successful the endeavour will ultimately be.

Look For Experts

Finally, as a small business grows, new avenues will be made possible as long as payroll doesn’t become prohibitive. Paying the people that help you get to this point will cost you less than having to continually find, hire, and train new employees, but overextending your business’ capabilities to pay your staff can cause problems as well. What’s the answer?

Outsourcing.

Once a business gets to a certain point, resources are needed that may not be completely in the budget. Today, there are outsourced options for much of your business’ needs. They come on contract and can provide you with immense value. In IT management a company like Net It On can reduce your upfront technology spend substantially by offering you a monthly service agreement that covers all your business’ computers, servers, networking equipment, software, and more. You’ll have a budgetable amount every month and you will get access to some of the best business technology support in New Jersey.

That’s just one option. You can get help from anything from accounting to water management from professionals that will work to proactively monitor and manage your business’ systems so you can keep profit-sapping downtime to a minimum. 

Friday, June 19, 2020

Storing Data Is a Miracle of Physics That We All Put Too Much Trust Into

We all store data on our computers. Whether you have family photos and text documents on your home computer, or databases and on-premises applications running your entire business, data is typically stored in exactly the same way. If you knew how delicate your data actually was, you’d never let a single file exist in one place ever again. Let’s explore that.

How Do Hard Drives Store Data?

A traditional mechanical hard drive, also known as an HDD, holds your data on small magnetic platters. These platters are layered on top of each other, with a small mechanical arm that rests above them. Think about a record player, with the arm and needle over the record, except you have many, many records stacked on top of each other.

Of course, a record player spins the record between 33 and 78 times per minute. Your hard drive typically spins the platters much faster, most of them clocking in at 7200 rotations per minute.

The platters spin so fast, that it creates a cushion of air that prevents the head of the arm from touching the surface of the platter while it spins. This is critical, because if the head (the needle, to continue with the record analogy) were to even graze the surface of the platter, it would destroy the data on the drive.

These hard drives are mechanical in nature. Just like your car, mechanical systems can and will fail eventually. The little motor in the drive can burn out, the spindle can seize up, and so forth. These issues will very likely make the hard drive inaccessible. Thus, your data is lost. Opening files, saving files, and general computer use (even web surfing) causes the hard drive to read and write data. You are always using it, and depending on its stability to protect your data.

(Of course, there are also SSD drives, which don’t utilize moving mechanical parts. These tend to be a little more shock resistant, but they aren’t immune to failure either.)

Yet, we trust these devices every single day. If you have a computer or a laptop, you likely have one or two of these inside it. Your servers tend to have many more. Many of us have external hard drives we use to store data to take around with us. If they are using a mechanical-based hard drive, all of our data is at the mercy of several rapidly moving parts and a thin cushion of air.

This leads us to ask:

Why Would You Ever Rely on a Single Hard Drive?

If your data is only stored on a single hard drive, consider it at high risk. It only takes one tiny issue to lose it all.

Fortunately, preventing data loss is easier than ever. We help businesses establish thoroughly tested, highly-trusted backup solutions that ensure that no disaster will be able to destroy your data. That includes storing a copy of all of your data on a separate device within the office, and a copy stored securely offsite that you can access at any time. This means even a major disaster like a fire or flood doesn’t cause data loss.

Tuesday, June 16, 2020

Ubiquiti UniFi Security Gateway 3P Cooling Mod

After having the USG 3P overheating. I decided to add some auxiliary cooling to the case. See photos for details.
It was locking up with any combination or single instance of DPI, IPS or IDS. As soon as the little guy had any tax on its processor, it would freeze and not boot up properly until it cooled. It was always wall mounted with no obstruction to the vents. I didn't want to purchase another of the same unit and I don't mind putting in the effort to keep this one alive for a while longer. I am a fan of this company's tech. There are 4 UniFi AP-AC-Pros and an 8 Port Unifi Switch on this network, so I am pretty invested in this platform.











Friday, June 12, 2020

Tip of the Week: Easing the Shift Between Remote and In-House Work

While many businesses right now have found it best for their operations to shift to a remote strategy, it is important to consider how these operations will return in-house when it is again appropriate to do so. For this week’s tip, we’re reviewing a few best practices to help you contend with both processes.

Shifting from In-House to Remote

Whenever your business is considering (whether by choice or through necessity) remote operations, it is important that your team is prepared for the experience. Here are a few things you should do to make sure that this transition goes as smoothly as possible.

  1. Prepare for productivity—As you and your team embark on your remote working endeavors, it may be helpful to keep some of the conventions of the office in place. From keeping similar working hours, to setting a dedicated workspace, to dressing as though you’re going to the office, there is a lot that can be done to ensure that everyone is in the right headspace to get work done.

  2. Encourage good communication practices—As your team will not be working alongside one another as they work from home, they will not have the same inherent opportunity for communication in the office. In addition to providing them with the means to collaborate with one another, actively insist that they do so until it is second nature. This will also help prevent feelings of isolation that could pop up over extended periods of remote work.

  3. Provide the right tools—Proper remote collaboration will require your team to have access to the tools that enable it. While email is the most recognizable of these, other solutions need to be in place for different contexts. Video conferencing and instant messaging platforms are suited for certain needs, while email and file sharing serve others.

Shifting from Remote to In-House

Once your team can return to the office, it is equally important that they are prepared to switch back over to the professional environment. As this happens, your team will likely need some assistance in adjusting back to the office routine. Here are some simple ways you can help them to do so.

  1. Carry over your remote work habits—When the time comes to resume working in the office, you should encourage your team to maintain some of the same routines as they did while working from home as much as possible. If they’ve found that a certain task is more effectively fulfilled in the morning, have them continue that pattern.

  2. Make the workplace more comfortable—While we aren’t saying that your employees should start showing up to the office in a pair of old sweatpants and a mud mask, encourage them to make adjustments and customizations to their private work areas. Small plants, blankets, and other amenities can help bring a little bit of home with them.

  3. Be social, with boundaries—One sacrifice that comes with remote work is the sudden lack of any social aspect to work. Once your team is back in house, don’t be too strict about your employees chatting with one another if they are able to focus on the task at hand as need be. You might consider implementing company events and occasions for the purpose of team relationship building. Of course, we’re not totally out of the woods when it comes to COVID-19, so plan accordingly.

The transition to and from the office and the home can be jarring. Try these tips to make it a smoother experience for your team. Net It On can also provide the tools to help simplify the practical aspects, like improved business technology and collaboration solutions.

Storing Data Is a Miracle of Physics That We All Put Too Much Trust Into

We all store data on our computers. Whether you have family photos and text documents on your home computer, or databases and on-premises applications running your entire business, data is typically stored in exactly the same way. If you knew how delicate your data actually was, you’d never let a single file exist in one place ever again. Let’s explore that.

How Do Hard Drives Store Data?

A traditional mechanical hard drive, also known as an HDD, holds your data on small magnetic platters. These platters are layered on top of each other, with a small mechanical arm that rests above them. Think about a record player, with the arm and needle over the record, except you have many, many records stacked on top of each other.

Of course, a record player spins the record between 33 and 78 times per minute. Your hard drive typically spins the platters much faster, most of them clocking in at 7200 rotations per minute.

The platters spin so fast, that it creates a cushion of air that prevents the head of the arm from touching the surface of the platter while it spins. This is critical, because if the head (the needle, to continue with the record analogy) were to even graze the surface of the platter, it would destroy the data on the drive.

These hard drives are mechanical in nature. Just like your car, mechanical systems can and will fail eventually. The little motor in the drive can burn out, the spindle can seize up, and so forth. These issues will very likely make the hard drive inaccessible. Thus, your data is lost. Opening files, saving files, and general computer use (even web surfing) causes the hard drive to read and write data. You are always using it, and depending on its stability to protect your data.

(Of course, there are also SSD drives, which don’t utilize moving mechanical parts. These tend to be a little more shock resistant, but they aren’t immune to failure either.)

Yet, we trust these devices every single day. If you have a computer or a laptop, you likely have one or two of these inside it. Your servers tend to have many more. Many of us have external hard drives we use to store data to take around with us. If they are using a mechanical-based hard drive, all of our data is at the mercy of several rapidly moving parts and a thin cushion of air.

This leads us to ask:

Why Would You Ever Rely on a Single Hard Drive?

If your data is only stored on a single hard drive, consider it at high risk. It only takes one tiny issue to lose it all.

Fortunately, preventing data loss is easier than ever. We help businesses establish thoroughly tested, highly-trusted backup solutions that ensure that no disaster will be able to destroy your data. That includes storing a copy of all of your data on a separate device within the office, and a copy stored securely offsite that you can access at any time. This means even a major disaster like a fire or flood doesn’t cause data loss.

Monday, June 8, 2020

There’s a Reason Some Scams are Painfully Transparent

“Hello sir/ma’am, I am a member of royal [sic] family and I am in grave danger in my country. If you send me money to get out safely, I will share my great riches with you as reward.”
Scams like this one have become a punchline for many, which makes you wonder why they are still commonly used by cybercriminals. As it turns out, there’s a very compelling reason that they do so, one that’s been known for years.

Understanding Advance-Fee Fraud

The kind of scam that we’re referencing, officially known as advance-fee fraud, has been around for centuries. Many scams were conducted in the 18th and 19th centuries that involved letters sent to victims requesting a small amount of money, with the promise of a large reward in return. One such scam, known as the Spanish Prisoner, purported that the writer was trying to help smuggle a wealthy captive out of a prison in Spain and needed money to bribe the guards.
The famed French investigator Eugene Francois Vidocq included an account of a similar letter in his memoirs, and transnational scams have been charted from 1922.
The name “Nigerian Prince scam” comes from perhaps the most famous example, where a royal seeking to escape from some danger requests assistance in transferring their great wealth—with a significant cut going to the person who assists them, of course.
Once the Internet entered the equation, these scams became even more prevalent, as there were no longer postal costs restricting the number of messages that these scammers can send.

Why Are These Scams So Sloppy?

As we’ve established, these scams are something of a modern punchline. The premise of the scam alone has become an instant red flag for most people, which begs the question: why is it still used at all?
A few years ago, in 2012, a Microsoft researcher named Cormac Herley wanted to find out, and so he underwent a research project to dig into the tactics of the cybercriminals who launch these transparent advance-fee fraud scams. His research revealed a fascinatingly simple concept: these scams are effectively a hacker’s litmus test for promising victims.
Here’s the crux of the matter. False positives (or an incorrect assumption that something worked) influence tests and analyses of all kinds. For an attacker, they are anyone who is targeted but doesn’t ultimately take the bait. As cyberattacks require some investment from the perpetrator, the greater the number of false positives they target, the less worth their time a scam will be.
Through many complicated mathematical formulas and the analysis of assorted cybercrime statistics, Herley found that by mentioning “Nigeria” in the very beginning of a scam, it was possible for cybercriminals to only attract the most gullible people from the very beginning. This meant that the investment that was necessary for the rest of the scam was more likely to pay off.
By optimizing their target pool through outlandish stories and obvious spelling and grammar errors, scammers are simply taking the most economical option.
You can see Herley’s research article here for the full equations and details.

Protecting Your Business

However, this doesn’t mean that all scams are so obvious, so it is important that you and your team are aware of what to keep an eye out for. The Federal Bureau of Investigation has a few suggestions to help you and your users keep an eye out for advance-fee scams that Net It On can get behind:
  • If something sounds too good to be true, it is safe to assume it is.
  • If you receive correspondence from someone asking for money or information, go through the proper steps to confirm the message’s legitimacy through other means, like a phone call.
  • Have a professional go over any agreement you’re about to enter so that you can fully understand what it says.
As for your business, your team needs to be able to spot the warning signs that a message isn’t all that it says to be. This kind of activity is now known as phishing and comes in many forms.
To learn more about phishing and other threats (and how to keep them from becoming a problem for your business), subscribe to our blog! Of course, we’re always available at (732) 360-2999 to discuss your business’ cybersecurity needs as well. Give us a call today.call today.