Understanding the Heartbleed Bug

Posting Date: 04/10/2014  |   Filed Under: Internet, Security, Technology, Tips  |   2 Comments
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Yesterday an enormous exploit was announced impacting OpenSSL, the open-source software package extensively used to encrypt Web communications. They named this exploit the Heartbleed Bug. Many have questions about what this bug is, how it will impact them, and what they should do to protect themselves online. Hopefully this post will help you answer these questions and more about the Heartbleed Bug.

 
What is the Heartbleed Bug?
The Heartbleed Bug uncovers a vulnerability in the OpenSSL cryptographic library that permits attackers to access to highly sensitive data that is regularly protected by the SSL/TLS encryption methods. This sensitive data includes username, passwords, credit card numbers and information on virtual private networks (VPN’s).

 

What is does?
This noxious Bug allows anyone on the Internet to read the memory of the systems protected by the vulnerable versions of the OpenSSL software,” according to Heartbleed.com. The bug compromises the secret keys OpenSSL utilizes to encrypt online communications. With access to these secret keys, attackers are able to eavesdrop on communications, impersonate other users and steal information.

 

Who discovered it?
The Bug was uncovered a late last week by the Finnish security firm Codenomicon and analysts at Google who then revealed it on Monday. By mid-day Tuesday many websites stated they had already addressed the issue, or were in the process of upgrading their websites OpenSSL.

 

Are you at risk?
OpenSSL is the most commonly used open source cryptographic library and TLS implementation source to encrypt data on the Internet, so the answer is yes you are likely at risk. Popular social sites, your organization’s site, hobby and interest website, commerce or shopping websites and even government sites use OpenSSL and therefore may be impacted by this Bug.

 

What should you do to protect yourself?
Experts suggest that refraining from using the Internet for 2-3 days, specifically from accessing social sites, banking sites, and email accounts will give you the ultimate level of protection against the Heartbleed Bug. This is not realistic for most us, so it is suggested that you change all of your passwords once the OpenSSL update has been installed on the impacted website.

For more information visit www.Heartbleed.com.

Take Your Business to the Next Level with an Outsourced IT Support Model

Is an IT professional currently handling the technology needs of your business, or are you contemplating transitioning to an outsourced IT services model like many other small businesses?  According to a survey completed by CompTIA 62% of the organizations surveyed planned to make greater investments in Outsourced IT Services (managed services) over the next two years.

If you are thinking about moving in this direction let us help you understand what your IT Service Professional should be doing to support and improve your business technology:

Trusted IT Expert & Advisor: Any IT Service Provider that you choose to work with must be an expert in consulting and providing IT service to small businesses.  The small business is unique in its needs and growth potential.  Additionally, they often come with a diverse and skilled workforce, which is difficult for small businesses to hire on their own.  And finally, they should have a comprehension about your business in order to make technology suggestions that will improve technology and increase profit potential.

Proactive Management: Proactive management of your technology equipment provides information on how your infrastructure is currently running, and allows for advance planning and knowledge regarding equipment upgrades and replacement to avoid disruptions in employee productivity.

Secure & Backed Up Infrastructure: When you move to an outsourced IT support model you no longer have to worry about the possibility of malicious online attacks to your equipment or network should your employees click on an unsafe link or open an infected email attachment.  They will also provide managed backups of all your company information and data so if something is deleted or a natural disaster occurs and everything is lost, they can quickly recover it and get you back to work.

Increased Efficiency & Productivity: They will work to identify slow running equipment and network issues, and schedule maintenance to fix these issues decreasing the amount of downtime your employee’s experience.  Technology upgrades provided by the IT support provider will result in a streamlined workflow that increases business efficiency and employee productivity.

Controlled Costs: An extreme benefit when moving to an outsourced IT support model for a small business is the ability to control and predict expenses.  When you moved to an outsourced IT support model you are given back control of your technology costs through one monthly bill that covers all of your technology needs.

Scalability: Since your IT service provider understands the long term goals of your business, they are able to take them into consideration as they are implementing new technology now and ensuring future growth potential will not be impacted.

IT Support Dedicated to Your Small Business

There are over 23 million small and medium sized businesses in the U. S. who are trying to remain competitive against large corporations with more money and resources. One of the main ways a small or medium sized business can continue to compete with these larger businesses is through the strategic planning and use of technology. Small and medium sized business owners see technology only as a device to increase productivity, increase communication with customers, and decrease operational costs. Expending past these obvious uses is sometimes difficult for small business owners to uncover.
As a business owner you should be able to answer the following questions:
o Is your business running an updated operating system?
o Will your business be impacted by the end of the Windows XP life cycle?
o Is your network secure against cyber-attacks?
o Do you have a reliable and tested backup system?

Smart business owners understand that their “job” is to work on the business, not in the business. Owners can stay competitive and focused by utilizing the functions of an outsourced IT service provider to enhance or even be the small business IT support department. We recommend you explore the following services that can be provided by an outsourced IT service provider
•Cloud Services: Currently 61% of small and medium sized businesses are running some type of cloud based programs. Cloud services give you the ability to have access to reliable data storage and back up systems, and a variety of industry and business software. Cloud based programs gives employees the ability to access many programs and files remotely, expanding their productivity and your profit potential.
•Security Services: With a new virus popping up daily, security services are becoming increasingly more important. In 2013, digital assaults on small businesses had increased by 18% over a two year period. Of the businesses that were impacted, over 60% folded within six months. Absence or inadequate security services can compromise critical client and business information. Additionally, with the end of life cycle for Windows XP happening on April 8, 2014, those who have decided to ignore the warnings you will be leaving their business vulnerable to criminals who are waiting in the wings to attack computers that are still running XP.
•Managed Services: When you take advantage of Managed Services you can really give your business an edge. You have a Trusted IT Service Advisor at your disposal to manage all of your technology and the vendor relationships, you will receive predictable and stable billing, and you are able to create customized plans that fit your business needs. Outsourced IT support is able to provide a helpdesk for your employees to utilize, accomplish specific technology upgrades and fixes, or manage your entire IT infrastructure. They are also able to make technology recommendations when equipment is aging or new products are launching that can make your business more profitable and productive.

Is Your IT Professional Also a Trusted Business Advisor? They Should Be!

Posting Date: 03/17/2014  |   Filed Under: Data Back-up, Security, Technology, Tips  |   No Comments
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As a business owner, one of the best moves you can make is to outsource your IT services to a professional provider. When it comes to outsourcing your IT service needs, there are a wide range of service options that involve varying levels of management responsibilities and costs. An IT professional can provide service for a single specific task such as help desk support or managing network security. At the other end of the service spectrum, an IT professional can assume management responsibilities for a client’s entire IT infrastructure. The advantages of outsourced services are improved operational efficiencies, cost savings and predictable service for a nearly-fixed monthly fee.

Redefining the Role of Your IT Professional
Redefining the Role of Your IT Professional

An increasing number of businesses have switched to the outsourced IT service model. If you are already working with a contracted IT professional, then you have given your business the advantage of a head-start on the competition. The next big question is whether your business is actually making the best use of your contracted IT professional? It is likely that your IT professional is responsible for repairs, fixes and upgrades for your business’ computers and network problems. Computer repairs might be a key part of the contracted job, but there are probably some value-added IT skills that your business might not be fully utilizing.

Do You Need a Trusted Business Advisor or a Computer Repair Service?
Do You Need a Trusted Business Advisor or a Computer Repair Service?
  • Trusted advisor is an important role that an IT professional can fill by understanding the business owner’s goals and long range plans for the business. By understanding the “big picture,” an IT professional can share expert technical information while understanding various solutions, costs and the latest technology trends. Functioning as a trusted advisor, an IT professional can make experienced recommendations that are in the best interests of the business’ long term goals as opposed to implementing quick fix, computer repairs.
  • Decisions about new technologies might not be in the comfort zone of most business owners. How can a business owner be fully versed in technology and able to identify the difference between the latest hype and a proven strategy? Which technology is going to provide the best return on investment? Is it the best strategy to implement a new technology now or wait until next year? Is your business currently compliant with network security requirements? Is your data safe? If your business needs to update its operating system, is now the time to purchase new computers? If your IT professional is acting as a trusted advisor, these larger issues can be explored together with the shared goal being the long term sustainability and success of your business.
  • Technology coach is another important element of the trusted advisor’s role. As a member of the client’s “inner circle,” the IT professional needs to bring a variety of skills to the table including the ability to carefully explain technology solutions. The ability to really listen to the business owner is also critical. One size does not fit all – especially when it comes to technology decisions. A knowledgeable IT professional must be able to not only recommend the best technology solutions, but also make the best recommendations for a business’s particular needs in the context of their industry, finances and long range goals. A proactive IT professional will be constantly evaluating new technology products, solutions and reliable vendors that will best serve the needs of the client’s business.
Thinking Beyond Computer Repair Services

As a business owner, you know that we all need to think “outside the box” more often. Geeks On Call encourages you think outside of the “computer repair” box and see that your IT professional is a valuable asset that you might be able to utilize to even greater advantage. Geeks On Call values your business and we want to be your trusted advisor when it comes to technology solutions! Give your local Geeks On Call office a call today. We are ready to listen.

What to Consider When Hiring a Small Business IT Support Provider

As technology grows more complex the small business owner is struggling to manage these complex systems.  Many are starting to outsource their technology support needs and are looking for an expert Small Business IT Support Provider.

Here are a few items small business owners need to consider when looking for IT Support Provider:

Listens & Understands:  When you are “interviewing” a small business IT support provider (and it may be wise to meet with more than one) you should be doing the majority of the talking.  They should be gathering information about your business, your current technology infrastructure, and your long term business goals.  They will also describe the services and technology they can bring to your business, but by developing an understanding for your business first, they are able to provide details about the technology that suits your business best.

Fixes the Issue: You are likely searching for an IT support provider because you have an immediate technology need or you can no longer manage the complex technology system within your business.  Any IT support provider should diagnosis your immediate issues, explain the issue and resolution in a way you understand, and quickly implement a solution so your business experiences as minimal downtime as possible.  Only after any technology issues you have are resolved, should they begin  offering you preventative measures and additional services that will benefit your business.

Stabilization & Recommendations:  Once the Small Business IT Support provider comprehends your business, the current technology infrastructure, and has fixed any immediate items that are preventing daily operations they should begin to move into the role of a trusted IT advisor.  In this role, they should be maintaining and proactively managing all technology within your business to minimize downtime, looking for ways to increase productivity, bringing new technology that will enhance the business, and offering a customized Managed IT Business Solution that encompasses all technology management under one monthly bill.

The Final Countdown to Microsoft’s April 8th Deadline

Posting Date: 02/20/2014  |   Filed Under: Security, Technology, Tips  |   No Comments
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In 2002, Microsoft presented its official Support Lifecycle Policy that was based on detailed customer feedback. The predictability of support services was cited as a very important issue for Microsoft’s customers. Microsoft responded accordingly by alerting customers years in advance that the XP operating system and Windows 2003 have an “end of life” date scheduled for April 8, 2014. Although XP and Windows 2003 have been very popular, Microsoft will no longer support these products after the April 8th deadline. This information has been well-publicized by Microsoft for many years. There are still over 600 million worldwide XP users and it seems that many have chosen to simply ignore these repeated notifications. We can assume that users who have not upgraded by now fall into one of two categories. The first group includes those who are willing to take their chances and plan to continue using Microsoft legacy products that are no longer supported. The second group is XP users who are truly unaware of the deadline. Do you fall into one of these two groups?

The Final Countdown is Now!

The Final Countdown is Now!

After years of these “end of life” warnings, XP and Windows 2003 are now in the final days of the deadline countdown. Surprisingly, one of Microsoft’s latest strategies has been to ask for help. Geeks On Call recently posted a story on our Facebook page about how Microsoft had begun taking a grassroots approach to spreading the word. Microsoft resorted to asking for help by seeking volunteers to remind business owners, friends, family and colleagues about the upcoming XP deadline. Via their blog, Microsoft asked experienced and technically savvy users to help others understand why it is important to make the switch to Windows 8 and to make the upgrade now!

Ignoring this Deadline is Not an Option

Some users claim a variety of reasons for resisting this XP upgrade, but don’t forget that there are a few key reasons you cannot ignore this deadline. The issues for residential users can be serious, but the consequences for businesses hold additional threats and even possible legal ramifications.

Here’s How You and Your Business Can Be Impacted by Not Upgrading

Here’s How You and Your Business Can Be Impacted by Not Upgrading
  • Security Risks: Without the security provided by an updated operating system, all of your business data and personal information are vulnerable to harmful viruses and spyware. Malicious viruses will very likely be unleashed on XP’s “zero day.” Undefended computers can be completely immobilized with viruses quickly spreading over the net to PCs still operating on XP. No business owner wants to think about a virus spreading through all of their computers. All of the data that keeps your business functioning will be placed at risk.
  • Compliance Issues: Businesses that continue to operate on XP can actually face compliance issues. Resulting compliance issues can lead to suspension of certifications, and/or public notification of the organization’s inability to securely maintain its systems and customer information. Compliance problems can place your business in legal peril and seriously damage your business’ reputation in the process.
  • Upgrade Expenses: If you think a system upgrade is just too expensive, Geeks On Call urges you to reconsider this viewpoint. Many technical experts consider using an unsupported product such XP, as an act of irresponsibility on the part of the business. Remember that the problems that are likely to arise can cost your business significantly more than the upgrade. Don’t be penny-wise and pound foolish when it comes to investing in an upgrade.
  • Custom Support Available for a Price: In fact, there will still be some support available to XP users after the deadline, but at the annual cost of $200 per device. Depending on the number of computers your business is using, it’s not much of a bargain. In reality, this is only a temporary, contingency plan.

Upgrade Today!

Playing “chicken” with this deadline is tempting fate and there can be serious consequences. You can find yourself in the cross-hairs of cybercriminals on April 8th and potentially face business compliance problems. If you are still using XP, take action today. Call Geeks On Call and one of our experts can help you understand your XP migration options and work with you to develop an upgrade strategy. Call Geeks On Call before it’s too late. The final countdown is now! Are you prepared?

Why you should upgrade from XP today!

Posting Date: 02/17/2014  |   Filed Under: Consoles, Internet, Security, Technology  |   No Comments
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Business Technology Solutions: Planning Before Implementing

Posting Date: 01/30/2014  |   Filed Under: Technology, Tips  |   No Comments
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Before you jump head first into implementing the newest and greatest in business technology solutions, make sure the decision and the technology align with the larger goals of your business.

Many times people go for the flash and status of having the newest technology, and never actually consider how it will work in their physical space, with the business, and with their employees.

In companies of any size, it is not uncommon to see technology departments with their own goals and budget, in addition to company larger goals and budgets.  When technology departments are making decisions independently, that are not aligned with company goals a gap in adoption and implementation can occur.  You may think that this issue only happens in large companies, but that is not true.   Misaligned decisions about technology can occur in a company of any size.

 

When it comes to choosing business technology solutions, here are a few things to consider that will ensure everyone is informed and aligned with technology direction of the company.

•The Horse Comes Before the Cart

Technology should not dictate your work process; technology should enhance your work process making it more productive and efficient.  In many cases you need to revamp your work processes before selecting and investing in new business technology solutions.  Applying new technology to an antiquated work process will be counterproductive and may not work in many cases.  Your business technology solutions should enhance your business not weaken your business.

 

•Avoid Hasty Decisions

In today’s fast paced world people tend to make decisions on a whim, and that is never how you should make decisions about business technology solutions.  These decisions need to be thoughtfully made as they impact the future success of your business.  You should also take time to seek input from a technology professional that is not associated with selling the product and professionals that are using the product.

 

•Ability to Scale

As you choose  new business technology solutions, make sure that it is able to grow and evolve with your business.  Avoid situations where an entire system will need to be replaced or have pieces/parts tacked on to an older system.   These scenarios can cause unnecessary headaches and expenses.  Selecting a system that offers investment protection and flexibility will benefit your business in the long term.

Small Business Owners have to Face Technology Issues Head On!

Posting Date: 01/10/2014  |   Filed Under: Technology, Tips  |   No Comments
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Small business owners have to deal with frequent issues that arise within their business each and every day.  Many of these issues stem from technology that is not working correctly or as expected.

Below are some of the most common business technology issues that small business owners face and potential solutions:

Insufficient Backup Solutions: Everyone knows they need for a backup system in place.  And, may even have system in place that they believe is working appropriately and being tested regularly. But is it?  As a business owner you need to be certain your back up system is working properly, because if you are impacted by a data loss it can be detrimental to your business.

Solution: Implement a backup system that fits the needs of your business; additionally creating a testing strategy of your backup system that occurs at least one a month to guarantee you are able to recover from a data loss.  We suggest a managed backup system that also has the ability to expand with your business.

Lost, Stolen, & Unsecure Mobile Devices: Employees are accessing and saving your business data on their mobile device, whether it be a personal device or a device issued by the company.   What happens to your business data if the mobile device is stolen or lost?

Solution: All mobile devices need to be integrated into your IT infrastructure and required to have the same level of protection as your servers, network, and computers.  Integrating solutions for encryption and remote wipes, should a mobile devices be lost or stolen will help protect your company information.

Lost Productivity: Have you ever attempted to measure the time your employees spend online or on their individual cell phones?

Solution: Many small businesses are cracking down on the use of personal devices and online usage by putting Internet and Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policies in place.  These policies state what workers can and can’t access on company equipment and on their personal mobile devices while they are in the workplace.  Some businesses are taking it one step further and placing access blocks up within the office that disable mobile device features and restrict website access from within the office.

Unsecure Networks: Are they also placing your business network in harm’s way by accessing suspicious websites or opening unsafe email attachments?

Solution: As a business owner it is your obligation to ensure your confidential business information, as well as your client’s information is protected. Each desktop, cell phone and server needs to have sufficient and current security measures installed.  There are noxious bugs and infections developing day by day, and with a single click your whole office might be put at danger.

Increased Efficiencies with Technology: Do your employees continue to manage accounting, payroll, and client information the same way they always have?  If the answer is yes, then your business is not allowing technology to streamline the daily functions of your employees.

Result: Implementing updated technology through cloud based solutions gives businesses the ability to adapt to new technology that can streamline and automate daily tasks.  Taking advantage of cloud based technology also gives your employees access to information from anywhere providing them flexibility in their job and clients a better experience.

The best solution to many common technology questions is for small business owner is to build an relationship with an IT service provider that has experience providing business technology solutions.  Allowing them to manage your technology, while you remain focused on growing your business!

Business IT Support: Are you prepared for 2014?

Posting Date: 12/27/2013  |   Filed Under: Data Back-up, Internet, Security, Technology, Tips  |   No Comments
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As 2013 comes to a close, many will spend this time reviewing the what they achieved this past year and begin making plans of the things they hope to achieve in 2014. For the majority of people this will include both personal and professional plans. When developing new business goals, it often includes increased efficiency while saving time and money and learning to work smarter not harder.

As you begin to establish and outline your goals and resolutions for 2014, we would like to take this opportunity to encourage you to consider establishing an IT support plan for your business.

 

How a Business IT support Plan can Benefit your Business

Moving into a Business IT Support Plan (also known as a Managed Service Contract) provides you the opportunity to find someone who can assess your current technology systems and understand the needs of your business.  After the initial assessment and understanding of future needs, a service plan can be developed that will move the IT responsibility into the hands of an expert IT professional, freeing you up to run the business.

Advantages of Establishing a Business IT Support Plan in 2014: 

•You have the ability to control costs, and have less “surprise” technology costs, when you outsource this to a true IT professional.  With this model you are only paying for services that your business needs, you are not responsible for many of the costs associated with a traditional employee, and you have someone monitoring your equipment that will be able to inform you of issues on the horizon that you can proactively address.

•When you move to this model you gain an immediate increased level of efficiency and expertise.  The IT professional that you have chosen to hire should provide an extremely high level of technology knowledge and have the ability to stay ahead of product trends for you and your business.

•New viruses and technology threats are emerging every day.  Are you convinced that your business is properly protected?  Your IT professional should make your business needs regarding security a number one priority, establish a plan if something were to go awry, and maintain updated knowledge on how to protect you against new threats.

•Save time and money by running and managing your business not your technology.  A Business IT Support Plan will allow you to rely on the suggestions and guidance of highly skilled IT professional so you can make informed decision on how to move and maintain your business technology at a managed cost.