Understanding the Heartbleed Bug

Posting Date: 04/10/2014  |   Filed Under: Internet, Security, Technology, Tips  |   2 Comments
Tags: , , ,

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.

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.

The Final Countdown to Microsoft’s April 8th Deadline

Posting Date: 02/20/2014  |   Filed Under: Security, Technology, Tips  |   No Comments
Tags: , , , , ,

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
Tags: , , , , ,

>

Business Technology Solutions: Planning Before Implementing

Posting Date: 01/30/2014  |   Filed Under: Technology, Tips  |   No Comments
Tags: , ,

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.

Business IT Support: Are you prepared for 2014?

Posting Date: 12/27/2013  |   Filed Under: Data Back-up, Internet, Security, Technology, Tips  |   No Comments
Tags: , ,

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.

3 Features get an Upgrade with the Windows 8.1 Release

Posting Date: 12/18/2013  |   Filed Under: Technology, Tips  |   No Comments
Tags: , , ,

There has been much scrutiny and opinions about Microsoft’s Windows 8 operating system, and with the launch of the 8.1 upgrade there is no end in sight.

We have looked at three improvements that are part of the 8.1 upgrade, so if you are in the market for a new computer or have Windows 8 and are thinking about the upgrade you will be better informed about these 3 improvements that Microsoft has put in place.  These are not the only improvements they have made, but in trying to keep this blog post to a reasonable length so we choose to look at three.

 

Return of the Start Button (sort of): Users reacted swiftly and loudly when they realized Microsoft removed the Start Button from the new Windows 8 operating system. Microsoft listened to the users, and brought back the Start Button with the 8.1 upgrade.  The new Start Button won’t work as it did in past operating systems, but it will give you a shortcut to the tile menu and when right clicked it will display a contextual menu with additional options.

Snap is Overhauled: If you have not utilized the Snap feature on Windows 8, or are running an previous operating system it can be extremely useful.  Snap allows you to have multiple app screens open at the same time. This is an extremely useful feature, but they missed the mark with execution in Windows 8. In the 8.1 upgrade they fixed the issues and you are now able to resize smaller winders to just about any size with a simple swipe.

Optimized Search: Windows 8 unveiled a new search feature, but like many other new features within Windows 8 it did not meet user expectations.  The search function allowed you to begin typing on the Start screen and search for settings, apps, and information on the web.   With the 8.1 update, Microsoft’s Smart Search powered by Bing, provide search results that are more organized in a visually results driven page.

 

Is the upgraded Windows 8.1 flawless?  No, but a number of the user requested fixes and features upgrades has improved user experience between a tablet and a desktop.  Most felt as if Microsoft had launched Windows 8 to just the tablet market overlooking its place in the desktop market and angering users.

Microsoft is listening to the users, and created solutions to many of the issues that caused complaints and frustration, so hopefully it will be a little easier to take the plunge to Windows 8.    Consumers looking to purchase a new computer will have little choice when it comes to an operating system since all pc computers are coming standard with the Windows 8 operating system.  And, with the Windows XP deadline quickly approaching in April, 2014 many people will soon be in the market for a new computer and will be forced to take on Windows 8.

Viruses of 2013

Posting Date: 12/16/2013  |   Filed Under: Internet, Security, Tips  |   No Comments
Tags: , , , , , ,

As 2013 comes to a close, everyone produces lists for the year in review. I love these, and look forward to reading them every year.   As we jump into 2014, we wanted to review the computer viruses, scams, and issues that made their appearance in 2013 and will probably continue into 2014, so you can make sure you and your technology continue to be informed and protected.  When you log on remember to STOP. THINK. CONNECT.

CryptoLocker – Emerging into the computer world in the fall, hackers were hitting computer systems and holding personal information and files for ransom.  The concept of holding something for ransom has been around for ages, but this is the first time it has taken a 21st century twist holding your computer hostage and demanding money to get it back.

This virus was developed by organized criminals overseas, and is spread through phony attachments in emails.  The best way to protect yourself is to avoid opening email attachments from unfamiliar senders or that you are not expecting to receive.

You should also invest in good anti-virus protection software, and if you are hit they suggest unplugging your computer immediately before the program as had a change to run completely.  The hope is that the virus stalled when you unplugged your equipment and an expert technician will be able to salvage your data.


Microsoft Phone Scam – This was making its rounds during the summer months, and even happened to one of our franchise owners.  Its goal is to catch people off guard, lull them into a false sense of trust by saying they are from Microsoft and there is an issue with your computer, and you give them remote access to your computer.
Once the representative, claiming to be from Microsoft, has access to your computer they install a virus.  Then charging you money to remove and repair your computer.

FBI Virus – This global Internet scam gets into your computer and preys on your fear of being contacted by the FBI and threatened with jail time.  A fake message with the FBI logo will appear on your screen claiming, virtually locking your computer, that you illegally downloaded some type of material.  Then like a ransom notice, the attacker forces a payment for access to the computer.

Computers become infected, most of the time undetected by the user, when a unfamiliar email attachment or an untrustworthy website is accessed.

Facebook Virus – The Facebook Virus is transmitted through Facebook by clicking a link, then find its way to your bank account and drain all of the available money.  This virus, commonly called Zeus, will remain inactive on your computer until someone log into a banking website.  It then swiftly moves into action, stealing username and passwords so the funds can be accessed by thieves.

The best line of defense is to only click on links from people you know that do not look suspicious or contain strange patterns or characters.  Also, because this virus targets bank accounts, making sure your banking establishment’s website is secure and has a 2-step verification process will help protect your money.

Search Conduit – Our final virus is not a traditional virus, it is actually a browser hijack.  It is a menace that exhibits malicious traits. It is most commonly bundled and installed  through something you downloaded, it will add the Conduit Toolbar and change your browser homepage and default search engine to search.conduit.com.

The Conduit search engine will display advertising and sponsored links in your search results and will act very much like Google and Bing.  It will also collect search terms from your queries in an effort to boost their advertising revenue, which is a black hat SEO tactic. It is pretty difficult to remove since it takes hold of some many pieces of your computer including your browser and operating system.

Protecting Your Business from Cyber Security Threats

Cyber Security is a concern for all business and residential computer users.

We are delighted to present Protecting Your Business from CyberSecurity Threats conducted by Michael Kaiser, Executive Director of the National Cyber Security Alliance.

Geeks On Call was proud to have been a 2013 Champion of National Cyber Security Awareness Month. During October we presented information about Cyber Security safety through our monthly newsletter, blog posts and a social media campaign. We felt that this webinar would continue to help educate and make everyone understand how to be safe and protect their business online.

Leave us a comment and  let us know how you are protecting yourself from Cyber Security Threats!

 

Creating a Technology Plan for the New Year

Posting Date: 11/22/2013  |   Filed Under: Data Back-up, Security, Technology, Tips  |   No Comments
Tags: , , , ,

We all make personal New Year’s resolutions on January 1st. This year, why not commit to a few professional resolutions for your business, too? Geeks On Call strongly encourages you to put a new technology plan at the top of that list for 2014. We are offering some technology planning guidelines that can help you form a strategy as you think about your business resolutions and professional goals for 2014.

Technology Solutions That Can Benefit Your Business in the New Year

Backup Services: Cloud services include data storage and backup systems plus access to software programs. Information stored on the cloud can be shared with other users anywhere and at any time. Data shows that 61% of surveyed small businesses are currently using some form of cloud-based service with another 5% planning to add cloud services by 2014. If your business is not currently using the cloud for backup service, it’s time to make a plan for switching over. The cloud can provide data storage plus a variety of services and benefits. Put the cloud at the top of your list.

Security Measures: Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) research shows that over two-thirds of surveyed companies already have employees using their own computers on the job. The advantage is that BYOD makes it easier for employees to stay in constant contact and also work from home more productively. The efficiency of BYOD comes with the responsibility on the part of the business for training employees on security policies and standards. Safeguarding your network and ensuring the confidentiality of your data is critical to the security of your business.

Disaster Recovery: Within the past year unexpected weather-related disasters, such as Hurricane Sandy, have raised the business community’s concerns over data recovery solutions. As you consider your disaster recovery plan, try to consider the consequences of losing all of your business’ data. Think of the lost revenue if your business is off-line for several days. This will remind you of how important it is to have a solid disaster recovery plan in place. There are a variety of disaster recovery plans available. After the disaster occurs, it’s too late to wish you had kept that New Year’s resolution for a disaster recovery plan! Commit to a disaster recovery plan now.

Managed Services: Technology is a key component tied to the success of your business. It enables your business to stay efficient, productive and competitive in today’s marketplace. That is as long as your technology systems are up to date and functioning properly. Have you considered a managed service plan? A managed service provider develops a customized IT service plan that will suit the budget and the needs of the client’s business. A service plan can help your business reduce IT operational costs while actually providing a higher level of IT service. The need for a managed service provider has become increasingly important as business owners need to make informed and increasingly complex choices about technology solutions.

Please visit our blog  for additional information about technology planning in the New Year.

Prepare for 2014 – TODAY!

Geeks On Call can work with you to assess your IT needs and develop a customized plan for your business. If your business needs to develop a backup system, move to cloud services or develop a Mobile App – we can help. Geeks On Call is here to help your business stay productive, efficient and competitive in 2014. Give your local Geeks On Call office a call and one of our computer professionals will be happy to help you.