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How to Avoid Holiday Cyber Scams

hacker_santaNow that we’re officially in the middle of the holiday season, there’s a flood of emails flying through cyberspace from family, friends, online retailers and charities. This heavy online traffic makes it easier than ever to sneak in malicious emails, targeting unsuspecting users looking to connect with old friends and find holiday deals. Whether it’s a phishing scam that is trying to snag your credit card number or a malware campaign that installs unauthorized code on your system from an email link, ‘tis the season to protect yourself.

Taking Precautions

So where, exactly, do these seasonal cyberscams come from? Many of these malicious Grinches send emails from fake URLs, disguising them to appear legitimate. Faux charities are another common scam designed specifically to take advantage of your generosity during the season of giving. Even friends and family may send what looks like an innocent forward your way, only to discover that they inadvertently launched some decidedly un-cheery, unpleasantness to your inbox instead.

However, if you take some basic online protective measures you’ll be in a lot better shape to avoid the latest cyberscams this holiday season:

  • Change your email settings so that attachments aren’t automatically downloaded. This gives you more control over what gets into your system.
  • Never open attachments or click URL links in emails from unknown or unverified senders. Even be cautious of known senders.
  • Remember that cyberscammers can spoof return addresses; their malicious emails might look like a holiday e-greeting from Grandma judging from the subject line alone. If there’s nothing specific in the subject or body of the message (i.e. “Check out the great Holiday pics I took!”), it’s worth verifying with the sender before opening the attachment.
  • Never respond to requests for financial information that arrive via email. Instead, visit the applicable site or account directly from your web browser to verify any claims.
  • Always research charities and other organizations before you donate a penny.
  • Keep your antivirus and anti-malware software updated and run regular scans to keep your system squeaky clean.  Also assure that patches are applied regularly to the operating system.
  • Listen to your intuition. If something seems fishy about an email, even if it’s from someone you know, don’t download any attachments or follow embedded URLs. Again, return addresses can be spoofed to look authentic and familiar, so use caution even with trusted senders.

Spread Cheer, Not Fear

There’s no better time than the holidays to wrap up a nice bit of malicious code masquerading as an online promotion for a major sale or a holiday e-card. That’s why the U.S. Computer Emergency Response Team (US-CERT) has released a security alert that focuses specifically on how to avoid holiday-related cyberscams. Additionally, the Anti-Phishing Working Group (APWG) offers a comprehensive list of suggestions on avoiding phishing scams that are good any time of year.

The holidays should be a time for celebration. Use smart online practices to help spread seasonal cheer, and stay safe this holiday season.

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Boomerang makes calendars better

A common trend of office software developers – those who make programs that allow users to create documents, spreadsheets, etc. – is to focus on tools that make the user more productive. Two such tools are email and the calendar, both of which are heavily used by nearly all business owners and employees. The problem is, for Google users at least, that the calendar is separate from email which is a bit of a hassle when you need to access it. There is an app that makes this easier however.

You may be familiar with the app Boomerang which allows you to schedule emails to be sent later. Well, the developers of Boomerang also offer Boomerang Calendar for Google Calendar. This app brings three great productivity enhancing features.

One-click scheduling of meetings
Gmail users know that when you are reading an email and need to look up a date, you can’t easily do so directly from your email. Boomerang Calendar adds an option to ‘suggest meeting times’ directly in the email draft window. Pressing suggest meeting times will bring up a pop-up window of Google Calendar with lets you select different potential meeting times.

You can then generate a template in the email which will contain the suggested times. This is a lot easier than switching back and forth between tabs and sending more than one email to figure out a time and date.

Smart email scanning
Another cool feature of this app is that it scans your emails for dates and will give you the option to create meetings or events directly from your email. Alternatively, clicking on the time will open your calendar in a pop-up window to the date and time to show you if you have any conflicting appointments. You can also suggest alternative times if there is a schedule conflict.

Better group planning
Collaboration and teamwork are crucial these days, but it can be a chore to get employees from different departments together at the same time. This app allows you to create a group event right from Gmail with the press of a button. Pressing the Plan Group Event button will open a pop-up where you can invite team members, name the event and propose dates and times.

When you send the email, recipients will be able to sign up for the time they like, allowing you to keep track of it. This helps the group pick a time that works, and reduces the number of emails that go back and forth, which means you can spend more time on managing your business.

Boomerang Calendar is currently only available for Gmail users, and is in Open Beta testing, meaning it’s free. There is no word on when, or if, this will be released for Outlook users, however the chances are high that there will be an app coming soon. If you would like to install this app, check out the website here. And if you would like to learn how our tech products and services can help you be more productive at work, please contact us today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

6 ways to reduce printer costs

Small to medium businesses are highly susceptible to increasing operational costs. An increase of only USD$1.00 for an essential item could be enough to force a company out of business. That’s why many business owners are always on the search for ways to cut costs. One way which is often overlooked is reducing the costs associated with your printers.

Here’s six ways to cut printing costs.

  1. Print double sided – While printer paper isn’t overly expensive – an average of USD$8 per ream (for 500 sheets of non-recycled, multipurpose paper) – many companies only print on one side. This really adds up over a year, especially if you have more than one printer or print large documents on a regular basis. To save money, set your printers to print on both sides of the page. This will cut down the amount of paper used and waste generated. Just be sure to put page numbers on the documents so readers know it’s double sided.
  2. Lower print quality – Most printers can print at various quality levels. Higher quality means it’s easier to read, but uses more ink. If you are printing out memos or other inter office documents, you probably don’t need high, or even medium quality. Low quality is still readable and will save you on ink costs.
  3. Print in black - Ink is by far the highest cost of any printing job, and supplies always seems to deplete quickly. To save money set up your printers to only print using black ink, which is about 30% cheaper than color ink.
  4. Implement print quotas – Nothing makes an environmentalist cringe more than seeing a 100-page PDF freshly printed, and lying in the recycle bin because someone accidentally printed the whole document instead of just one page. Not only is this bad for the environment, it’s also bad for your costs. One way around this is to use quotas. Many new printers allow you to assign computers or people IDs which you can set limits on. This will encourage employees to think twice before printing.
  5. Go paperless - With the introduction of cheap cloud storage and collaboration services, the paperless office has become mostly viable. Granted there are some aspects of business, like shipping waybills, receipts, payslips, etc., that must legally be printed, but you could move non-essential documents onto cloud storage. This is a great way to reduce printing costs, while simultaneously fostering a sharing and collaborative office environment.
  6. Work with managed print services – If you find that printing costs are skyrocketing, why not work with a managed print services provider? The vast majority often charge a flat fee and will take care of your printers and often your ink too.

Unless you adopt massive changes e,g., completely getting rid of all printers, you won’t see huge savings from reducing printing costs. However, every little bit counts towards the bottom line. If you’re looking for a managed print services company or for more ways to reduce your IT costs, please contact us today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Don’t focus on big data just yet!

The idea of big data is fairly new, but like almost every other big tech advancement, it’s really taken off. Many popular tech sites and news outlets have focused on it in the past year and companies are enthusiastic to take advantage of it. Companies shouldn’t be too eager however, as the idea and practice of big data is still unclear to many and could lead businesses to make costly mistakes.

A study published in mid 2012 by Harris Interactive looked at what exactly big data is. The research polled 154 companies, more than half of which were small businesses, on what they think the definition of big data is. The results? No one really agrees on a definition of big data.

The survey found that 24% of respondents believed it’s the technology that allows the management of massive amounts of data, while 28% believed it’s the idea of massive growth of transactional data. The survey concluded that nearly 80% of businesses identify big data as some form of opportunity in the near future.

Beware of big data hype
This goes to show that businesses are aware of the trend, and may feel that they have to be a part of it to gain any sort of competitive advantage in the near future. However, this is the wrong way to look at big data. The fact of the matter is, while big data is here to stay, many small business simply don’t have the resources – monetary, staffing, knowledge, or otherwise – to launch big data initiatives.

Don’t not focus on data
The amount of data available and being generated is growing at an exponential rate, and even small businesses are overwhelmed with often unintelligible data. The danger is that if you turn your back on data you might soon find yourself lagging well behind your competitors.

If big data and ignoring data are out, what’s left? The middle road, or in this case, small data. Take a look at your business and identify and prioritize the most important data for your business. For example, a dentist is probably going to want to know how many patients are walk-ins or appointments. From here, you can analyze the data and begin to pick out trends, anomalies and weaknesses, etc. Taking the dentist example above, if data identifies that walk-ins are 10 times heavier on a Monday morning, it may be better business practice to have more staff on Monday mornings to better deal with customer flow.

Baby steps leads to big data
The key is to start in a small and manageable way. Focus on understanding critical data by getting to know how to collect and analyze it. This will provide a platform from which you can launch bigger data initiatives in the future. Once you are comfortable, you can introduce more advanced dashboards to better utilize your data. If you do methodically, you should be aligned perfectly to take advantage of big data when it becomes viable for all businesses.

Interested in learning more about data in your organization? Contact us today to see how we can help you.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.