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OK Google, How Safe Are You Really?

OK Google, How Safe Are You Really?

Are you prompting Siri, Google, or Alexa? When you talk a home assistant, you join a growing number of smart homes.

Smart home assistants search online, start phone calls, order groceries, play music, turn lights on. All with a single spoken command.

Research into how people use Google or Alexa demonstrates the core features. Listening to music ranked first. Checking weather and asking for general information rounded out the top three. Setting timers and reminders, asking for the news or jokes (perhaps to make up for the news?) are also common.

Yet, the question remains, just how safe are these virtual assistants? After all, having a smart speaker in your home means there is always an open microphone in your house.

Smart Speaker and Home Assistant Safety Concerns

The convenience of the speaker demands that it always be on, ready and waiting for you to say Hey Siri or OK Google. Once triggered the device records the command, sends the data to servers for processing, and figures out its response.

Smart speaker users can log in to view the history of queries on their accounts. This prompts some concerns that these mega-companies will use the information for financial gain. For example, those talking about an overseas holiday might start seeing related ads on their computers.

Someone hacking into the home assistant to gain access to your personal information is another concern. Those who set smart speakers as a hub for many devices also create more points of vulnerability.

It’s difficult to anticipate all the ways the assistant could prove too good a listener. In one case, a voice assistant recorded a private conversation and sent it to the couple’s contacts list.

Steps to Stay Secure with a Smart Speaker

That candid conversation share aside, few big privacy flubs or personal data breaches have been reported. Nevertheless, if taking advantage of Alexa, Siri, or Google helper, keep these strategies in mind.

  1. Clear your history. Don’t leave everything you’ve ever asked it stored on the company server. The assistant will relearn your commands quickly.
  2. Connect with caution. It’s great to be able to turn on the TV and dim the lights without leaving the comfort of your sofa. Be wary of connecting security or surveillance devices to your home assistant.
  3. Mute the microphone. Yes, it undermines your ability to call from the closet “OK, Google, what’s the weather like today?” But, turning off the mic when it’s not in use stops recording without you knowing about it.
  4. Secure your network. Home assistants do their work by connecting to the Internet using your network. Ensure they are accessing a password protected network. They should use devices (e.g. modems) changed from default password settings.

With a little effort you can gain convenience without worry.

Want more questions answered about setting up a smart speaker to be safe and reliable? We’re here to help. Give us a call at 885-2410.

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Remote IT Will Create Tech That Works for You

Remote IT Will Create Tech That Works for You

There are few things as frustrating as IT issues getting in the way of your work. Even the simplest of problems can break your flow, ruin your productivity, and waste your time. IT should be working to boost your day instead of slowing you down.

Tripping up on a computer glitch can happen at any moment. Working to fix one can take hours. You might try a few steps that have worked before, ask a colleague for help, or try a web search to see what turns up. All of these take time from you or your colleagues, and often make the original problem worse.

When you outsource your help desk, your IT problems become our IT problems. We take charge of righting the ship to keep your tech on the right track.

Setting Up Your Business for Success

Many businesses try a break/fix model to deal with IT issues. This means waiting for problems to happen before contacting IT to resolve them. Break/fix adds costs and downtime to every IT issue as they happen. To us, this makes it an unacceptable long-term solution for business.

The process of scheduling a mutually suitable time to visit, diagnosing the issue, and resolving every issue on a case-by-case basis is massively time-consuming. Both IT technicians and in-house staff waste productive hours dealing with, often trivial, problems.

We think that time could be better spent building your business instead.

Your Personal Help Desk

When you outsource your IT help desk, you get a custom service dedicated to resolving your issues fast. Technicians with the knowledge and experience of years in IT can work without creating new problems or making the original issue worse. In modern IT, knowledge and experience is the key to successful solutions.

Many of the issues we resolve on a day-to-day basis are problems we have seen many times before on many different systems. IT is our business, and we know it very well.

How Outsourced IT Works For You

Outsourcing your IT means simply submitting a ticket to have issues taken care of. Having your own help desk to rely on means having help available exactly when you need it. Waiting on a local firm, or nearby technician to become available should be a thing of the past.

Queueing for an ‘advisor’, waiting on hold, and spelling out your problem over and over again is no fun for anyone. There should be better ways your time can be spent. There are certainly many ways firms can benefit more from ours.

Submitting an electronic ticket to resolve your issue is an easy, one step, process. Detail the problem once, email the ticket, and you can return to your work. We’ll call you back to work on a solution when the timing best works for you.

Managing Problems Remotely

To resolve system issues, diagnose, update, or maintain systems, we often log in remotely and take ownership of the problem personally. We’ve found there is little advantage to wasting time asking staff to find menus, click on links, and tell us what they see. We get straight to the heart of the problem and fix it there and then.

Problems that tie up one or more machines for a long time can be scheduled for out-of-hours, holiday, or weekend fixes. Large, system-wide updates or upgrades can be done remotely when they won’t get in the way.

For staff, updates appear to happen without anyone around to see them. You would be forgiven for thinking the IT is fixing itself.

Our golden rule is to make sure IT works for you, not the other way round. If you are wasting staff hours on hold, arranging meetings just for your tech, or structuring your day around simple problem solving, your firm could be upgraded in a flash.

Call us at 885-2410 or just submit a ticket and we’ll sort out the rest.

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Struggling With Email Overload

Struggling With Email Overload

Email has allowed us to send and receive messages more easily than ever before. While this is a good thing, it can lead to problems. You may receive dozens or even hundreds of emails in a day. At this point, it feels like you’re wasting your entire day dealing with those incoming messages. Even worse, it makes it difficult to find important messages in your inbox. You can quickly become overloaded with emails.

So how can we deal with this overload? The first step is to reduce the number of emails you receive overall and there are a few ways to do this.

Restrict who you give you email address to It’s important to think carefully about who you give your email to. For example, if you enter a lot of contests, this often automatically subscribes you to several email campaigns. If you type your email into every popup box asking for it, these add up. Reduce who you give your email to.

 

Unsubscribe

Go through your inbox and unsubscribe to newsletters that you never read. If you haven’t opened one of their emails in months, chances that you’ll start to later are low. Turn off notifications from social networks such as Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest. If you like emails from these networks, then at least adjust the settings so they email you highlights once a week or month rather than allowing them to spam your inbox several times per day.

Do you need that notification?

If you receive emails that contain information you can find elsewhere, switch those notifications off. For instance, you might run an e-commerce site that sends an email for every sale. If your website already has a record of this, you don’t need it in two places. Make sure not to use your email as a to-do list. When you need to remember to do something, put that on a list elsewhere to clear up your inbox. If this is a hard habit to break, at least make a folder for things you need to do and move emails there and out of your general inbox.

Change your email habits

Change your own email sending habits. If a topic is complex and will require a lot of back and forth conversation, consider discussing it in person or over the phone. Sending fewer emails will reduce how many you receive in return. Remember that you don’t need to respond to every email you receive. A response indicates a willingness to continue to conversation.

Resist the urge to send messages with a single word like “Thanks!” or “Ok” and you’ll notice others will stop sending you similar, unnecessary messages. When sending group emails, you can also remind others not to use “reply all” unless it’s information relevant to the entire group.

Start clearing out

Now you can start emptying out your inbox and getting rid of any old emails you don’t need to keep. Delete old calendar invites, advertisements, or any emails where the problem has already been resolved. Respond to any messages that can be answered within only a few minutes. File everything that is left until you have a completely empty inbox. Archive messages where you don’t need to take an action, but you think might be useful. You can search and find these later if necessary. Put other emails into folders based off of the type of email and the priority level.

From now on, all of this can be automated. You can have receipts automatically go into a receipt folder, calendar invites go into another, etc. A cluttered inbox leads to your mind feeling just as cluttered.. Free up your inbox to free up your mind and create more time in your day-to-day life. Let email overload become something of the past.

If you need help with your emails, give us a call on 885-2410.

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How Losing a Mobile Device Puts Your Entire Business at Risk

How Losing a Mobile Device Puts Your Entire Business at Risk

Losing a mobile phone or laptop is an experience that everyone dreads. The expense and inconvenience of buying a new device is unpleasant, but only represents a fraction of the damage done when a device is misplaced. The cost of data contained within every device can add up to many times more than the total value of the device itself.

Chances are, you already use automatic login on a large variety of online services. Each of these services are vulnerable to an attacker having possession of your device.

Usernames and passwords – An obvious place for an attacker to start is the likely long list of usernames and passwords saved for future use by your browser. This is often done to save time when logging into sites that you visit often. Almost universally, people opt to save login information so that they don’t have to attempt to remember it every time they return.

In only a short amount of time, a browser is trained to log in to your Facebook, cloud storage, and bank details just by visiting the page using your regular device. These details, called up by the browser, are saved in a single list accessible to anyone with access to the device. For an unscrupulous stranger with a found device, this list represents a goldmine of information. Simply by finding a phone misplaced in public they may gain access to a huge array of services.

The problem can be made many times worse where a single password or a combination of similar passwords have been used across several accounts. In some instances, an attacker need only gain access to a single one and reuse the same stolen credentials across many sites and services.

Email – Email accounts are a key target for attackers looking for access to your personal information. It is a service that many take for granted, logging in once the first time they set up the device and using automatic login every time after. It is a service that also unlocks a great deal more than just private messages. Of course, an attacker having free access to read your personal emails is bad news, but with email access a malicious user can gain access to many of the most commonly used web services online.

Using the “forgotten password” button on many sites triggers a response that emails a password reset link to the email address registered on file. An attacker may use this feature to reset account passwords to one of their choosing. Doing this both grants themselves access to your account and denies you access to rescue it.

Contacts – One of the best features of instant messaging is that your contacts know the messages come from you. When a message is sent from your device to someone you know it displays along with your name, details, and likely a photograph too. This can lead to identity theft, one of the biggest concerns of a lost or stolen device.

With contact information already programmed in an attacker has an opportunity to impersonate you when speaking to anyone in your contacts list. Using your identity, an attacker may attempt to steal yet more details about you and your contacts.

Social Media – Your social media accounts are often the face of your brand. They can be a primary way to reach out and contact customers. They are almost always the first point of contact a client has with your business. They are also extremely vulnerable to being hijacked from a stolen device.

Fraudulent social media access can allow attackers to harvest both client and business data. Even without profiting directly, posting privileges can be used to cause irreversible damage to a business.

Protecting your business – Services, accounts, and entire businesses can be put in great danger by something as simple as misplacing an unsecured mobile phone or laptop computer.

We can help you to stay secure and remain in control even in the face of losing a device. Give us a call at 604-885-2410 and let us help secure your business.

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Storage Struggles? How to Keep Up with the Data Explosion

Storage Struggles? How to Keep Up with the Data Explosion

Many businesses have already embraced the benefits of going fully digital. It has allowed us to do more than ever before; saving us both time and money iterating over work drafts and emails. It has saved us a ton of space too, eliminating the need for stacks of file cabinets in every office.

The digital boom presents us with brand new problems too. By moving all our files into a digital space, the amount of storage we need to maintain has grown larger and larger just to keep up.

As digital technology has improved, the resolution, clarity, and size of the digital files we create has exploded. Items such as Xrays, which used to be printed on film are now digital files transferred by computer. As a result of the increase in both the number of digital files we use and their ever-growing size, the size of the data we need to store has exploded exponentially.

There are a number of ways in which we can tackle our ever-growing storage problem.

Local server or Network Attached Storage (NAS)

A local server is a machine physically located within your own office or building. These are typically designed to serve many files to multiple clients at one time from locally held storage.

The primary advantage that a local network server has is that all your vital data is available to all users in one central location. This means that employees across the network can access all the resources made available.

These machines can serve files at the speed of the local network, transferring large projects, files, and documents from a central position within the network with ease.

A NAS has many of the same network properties, typically packaged as a smaller profile, low powered computer. A NAS is specifically designed to enable network file sharing in a more compact package. These can be available in units small enough to fit in a cupboard nook and yet still provide staggering storage capacity on only a small amount of power.

Both a local server and NAS device allow for large amounts of storage space to be added to the local network. These units are often expanded with more and more storage over time. As an organization grows over time, so do its data storage requirements.

Cloud Storage

Sometimes the best option for storage is to move your ever-expanding data outside of the business completely. Often, offloading the costs of hardware and IT management can work out to be an intelligent business decision. One that provides freedom and flexibility in your data storage needs.

The major advantage of cloud storage comes from the ability to expand and contract your services as needed without the unnecessary overhead of adding and maintaining new hardware.

By moving storage to the cloud, data can be accessed from anywhere in the world. The flexibility provided by cloud storage allows limitless expansion to any number of devices, locations, and offices. Being able to access data from many locations at a single time can often provide a valuables boost to productivity that can help to speed projects along.

Some of the drawbacks of cloud storage come from factors that may be outside of the control of the business. Not all internet connections are found to be up to the task of handling large amounts of data to and from the cloud. In some cases, the infrastructure is quite simply not in place yet to support it.

IT security regulations can prove to be a barrier to enabling storage in the cloud too. Some regulations either prohibit the feature entirely or enable only certain specific types for use.

The Right Choice for your data

Both cloud and local storage can provide further benefits to enhance your business. Audit logs, central backups, and version control can all be used to secure the way your firm handles data.

Whatever your situation, whether a small NAS can boost your office productivity, a local server can provide the connectivity missing from your firm, or cloud storage can switch on new resources, we can advise on the best choices for your business.

Give us a call at 555-5555 to allow us to use our expertise to make the right chose for your data.

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