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Cybersecurity: Safety and Cost Equilibrium

October 21, 2019 Leave a comment

by Dean Chester

Cybersecurity has been a hot topic for quite a while and it’s not likely to change any time soon.

Equilibrium

“Equilibrium” by Guido Sorarù is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Every new day brings more data breaches and more online scams. No single entity is completely safe, it seems: hackers target both private individuals and companies. The size of an organization doesn’t matter either because the security of even the largest of them such as Yahoo and eBay can become compromised.

Not all cybercriminals are ambitious enough to go after corporate giants. Sadly, some also have smaller businesses covered. And when the security of those gets breached, the losses may look negligible to companies that deal with billions of dollars. For a small, family-run enterprise, such losses often become insurmountable and lead to it going out of business.

One of the main reasons why small companies are such an attractive target for hackers lies exactly in their size. Because of it, these businesses can’t afford to spend a lot of money on their Internet security. They can’t afford large teams of security specialists that – for all the owners know – may never actually prove useful. Obviously, such an idea is wrong, but as long as there are no apparent breaches (which situation can very well be a result of the said specialists’ work), it’s hard for some people to see value in supporting such a team.

It’s possible, of course, to find free or low-cost solutions and to save on one’s cybersecurity. But is it a responsible thing to do?

It’s been said time and again that when something is free, it’s because you are the product. Money spent on providing that free solution must come from somewhere, after all.

There are a few ways in which money can be made off of customers who use free cybersecurity software:

  • They can be shown ads coming from third-party vendors. The frequency of it can vary from “relatively unobtrusive” to “all the time”.
  • Speaking of advertisers, the customers’ private info can be sold to them to expand their bases of people to target. This is especially true for shadier providers of free services such as virtual private networks and the like, that is, services that have access to the users’ Internet activity. The information gathered by such a “free” service can be then used to better understand what ads to show to their client base.
  • As a more extreme example of the above, free users’ Internet bandwidth is known to have been sold to a third party that used it for its own purposes, and those purposes weren’t benign. In fact, they included creating a botnet and conducting DDoS attacks on certain websites.
  • Pestering free users with ads has another purpose as well: it’s easy to get tired of such an inconvenience so much that getting a paid version of the same service will seem like a cheaper option.
  • Related to the last one, free versions of antivirus and other computer security software most often do not have all the features that the paid ones do, making their users consider investing money into them.

Besides that, there are definite concerns about the levels of security and protection that those free solutions can provide. As they are free, it’s somewhat unreasonable to expect them to have the best technology available.

If it’s a private individual we’re talking about, it’s obviously up to them to decide if they want to skimp on their security or not. However, as far as companies are concerned, things are more complicated.

If a business becomes a target of a data breach, it doesn’t only endanger that business. Its clients’ personal data may also be obtained by the perpetrator, and that’s bad news for both the clients and the company’s reputation.

That’s why I don’t think it’s the best decision for a business to rely exclusively on free cybersecurity software. It may be enough to protect it but the chances are not terribly high.

However, the question of money still stands. Yes, in the case of a breach the company is going to lose even more, but it doesn’t make the wherewithal to get professional security tools just magically appear. So what can be done?

  • Reinforcing the weakest link of cybersecurity: to make sure employees won’t click any suspicious links or tell anyone their passwords is supremely important. It can be done by anyone with a good grasp of IT security, really, but ideally, it should be entrusted to professionals.
  • System penetration testing: while it should be performed regularly, it doesn’t require having permanent staff and can be done\by a security company.
  • Getting cybersecurity tools at a discount: almost all major software manufacturers hold a sale from time to time, allowing small businesses to save quite a lot if they’re buying many copies at once.
  • Getting a data breach insurance: if a breach does happen, this can help with covering the losses and subsequent expenses, including those inflicted by reputation damage.

Although finding the balance between security and keeping costs neutral is not an easy task for smaller businesses, it is necessary to take care of it. In the long run, the potential price of negligence is going to be much higher than spending on protection.

Dean Chester is a cybersecurity expert and author. He is absorbed in online security and takes all measures to ensure that non-tech-savvy users can be protected on the Internet.

The Beginners Guide To Understanding Tools Available To You Through AWS

February 27, 2019 Comments off

There are thousands of “How to’s”, and “Basics 101” guides for programmers out there who are interested in learning code and developing skill sets. However, from a business perspective, you don’t want to know the algorithms, and blocks of code. All you want to know is…

Does this help my business become more profitable, right?

Which is perhaps why you are reading up on Amazon Web Services. You know all about the delays between your Developer and Operation teams. You are tired of customers waiting, and the project line falling behind.

Well, the good news is that is exactly what Amazon Web Services is designed to fix. Through this article, we will be going over all the basics you need to know moving forward with your interest in AWS, and Cloud Computing.

What Is AWS In Laymen’s Terms?

To keep things simple, think of AWS as a platform where you can utilize the various services, tools, and advantages the cloud is famous for.

In other words, it’s really just a gigantic bundle of cloud computing services readily available on an easy to use platform.

So, why is it so great? What’s the catch…

Well, some of the major advantages of AWS are:

  • Easy to use
  • Limitless Capacity
  • Provides Speed And Agility For Your Services
  • Secure and reliable platform to work on.

But of course, if there were no downfalls of using AWS it would be to good to be true. If you are seriously considering investing in AWS, it’s important to mention some of the downfalls to be on the lookout for. Including:

  • Limitations of Amazon EC2
  • There is a fee for technical support.
  • General issues known in Cloud Computing
  • There are some limitations on what you can do security wise.

AWS Services Available To Implement

So, Cloud Computing has several elements that can individually be broken down. So, let’s get into it.

Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2)

Basically, when we break it down this is the technology/computer that we use to host our data. Of course, there are different types available in terms of size and performance. Think of it as renting a server from Amazon on an hourly basis. The two big benefits of investing in this include Auto Scaling to prevent overloads and Elastic Load Balancing.

What Is Auto Scaling?

Every business/service is different. Some may need a ton of space and RAM available to deal with large quantities of traffic. Whereas others will need lower performance computing. Auto Scaling is basically the ability to increase the capacity either up or down depending on your needs.

This helps reduce spikes in performance due to higher traffic while still keeping everything budget friendly to maximize your businesses triple bottom line.

What Is AWS Elastic Load Balancing

When you are trapped under a mountain of work, oftentimes you reach out for help to ensure that everything gets done by the deadline, right?

Well, Elastic Load Shedding is basically the same principle. If one server is overloaded with the traffic coming in, another server will be implemented to keep services running seamlessly.

AWS Identity And Access Management (IAM)

It’s all good to have a secure server where users can do what they want. However, it would be a bit redundant, if not darn right dangerous to not be able to control and set limitations for these users.

Which is where IAM comes into the picture. Think of this as the bodyguard to the entire platform. Using this, you can set levels of permissions. Control different blocks of resources, and so forth.

AWS S3

This service is pretty straightforward. It’s the media center for AWS. Using this tool, we can store images and other similar data. This can also be used to manage and transfer data files between different platforms.

AWS Glacier

AWS Glacier and AWS S3 work in conjunction. Do you know how we always rant on to customers, friends, and even family members about how darn important it is to keep backups of everything? Well, business is no different. Glacier serves as a backup service for all of your data, images, and other business-critical information.

AWS Lambda

Ever wished you had a singular computer for running scripts and a completely different one to see the results and make any necessary tweaks? I bet you have, I know I have.

Well, that’s exactly what Lambda is for. It was designed to solely run scripts and nothing else.

And there you have it. Of course, there are plenty of other tools to list that you get through signing up on AWS. However, these are some of the most critical tools for you to know when looking to invest.

Contributed by Tom English of CloudConformity

6 Signs That It’s Time to Upgrade Your PC

January 17, 2018 Comments off

Your computer, no matter how powerful it is right now, will eventually succumb to obsolescence. That’s the natural life cycle of electronics, after all. One day, you’ll want to upgrade your rig – whether piecemeal or complete package – when your current one is inadequate for your needs. So, when is the best time to upgrade your computer? Here are some cautionary signs that signal the right time to do so.

  1. It takes forever to boot up.

Something is generally amiss when your PC is slow at startup. Generally, it’s an issue with too many applications being queued to run at the start. Sometimes, it’s a driver or installation thing that goes away after it’s completed. If it’s not an application or driver issue, as you’ll find out after a clean reformat, then it’s your hardware giving way.

  1. It’s generally slow at everything.

Related to #1, it may be time to upgrade your PC when everything you do is seriously sluggish. Opening your office application is slow as molasses? You can’t play Full HD videos and you’re experiencing stuttering during playback? When you launch your favorite game, it stays on the loading screen forever? A clean reformat or some cleaning and driver upgrading might do the trick and fix these problems. However, if they linger afterward, it’s time to upgrade your rig.

  1. Your storage is maxed out.

You can’t download new 1080p videos to your hard drive anymore. You can’t install new applications and games because you lack disk space. It’s high time you get new hardware then. If you’re lucky enough, you can install a new storage drive or two on your PC, if your hardware can still handle it. Another alternative would be to invest in portable hard drives, though, they’re typically more expensive than regular drives.

  1. You can’t play the latest games.

If you can’t play the latest and greatest games at the most minimum recommended specs, you’re badly in need of upgrades. At that point, given how dated your computer is, you’re better off building a new gaming rig. Rather than work with old, dated parts which may or may not be funky after years of wear and tear, it’s best to go all new for maximum compatibility and durability.

  1. You can’t install anything anymore.

It’s bad when you can’t install the latest version of your operating system. Sure, you can still run your rig with older drivers and applications. You can still play certain games with it. However, if you need the most updated software and want to play the newest titles, you’ll want a new computer with the recommended specs.

  1. You spend most of your time fixing it.

Whenever you do video editing, your PC crashes while you’re rendering. A graphically-intensive scene in your favorite game bluescreens your PC and forcibly restarts it. Your rig experiences random reboots for no discernable reason. Despite all your maintenance and spring cleaning, it’s still on the fritz. You’ve spent countless hours testing and gauging your hardware’s reliability, and yet you still haven’t found a solution. It’s time to move on.

How To Take Proper Care of Your iPad

December 6, 2017 Comments off

iPad in useArticle contributed by Tara Desquitado.

Like most gadgets, your iPad needs to be taken care of to keep it running well. Although it does not require as much care as a laptop or desktop, it still needs a little bit of maintenance. In this article, we have listed down ways for you to take proper care of your iPad and keep it in check so that it can be of use to you for as long as it can.

Don’t leave it charging
You shouldn’t be leaving your iPad to charge all day and night. Overcharging it will only reduce its battery life. Avoid completely draining its battery as well. It’s best to let the battery down to 5% or less and then plug it in to charge. To help get the most out of your iPad’s battery life, you should also shut it down every now and then. Powering it down once a week can help extend its life.

Keep iOS Updated
Updating your iPad not only gives it more features, it also downloads the latest security updates too. Since iOS products are becoming more ubiquitous, there has been an increase in malware directed to target it. Updating your iPad equips it with better defenses. It also fixes old bugs found in the previous versions, making your iPad to run more effectively.

Add a passcode
Keeping your iPad secure from others is very important. Others may reconfigure its settings or come across personal or sensitive information. Adding a passcode can remedy this. It allows you to leave your iPad without having to worry about someone using it without your permission. If you can, you should also add biometric protection to your iPad. This ensures its security to privacy even more.

Use a screen protector
Although an iPad’s screen is made of a relatively durable material, it is the area of the iPad that is most likely to get damaged first since it receives the most contact. Using a screen protector is one way to safeguard your iPad’s screen from unwanted scratches and cracks. Make sure to apply it after its screen has been thoroughly cleaned as well. It is best to apply the screen after washing your hands so that oils will not end up on the screen when the protector is being placed.

Use a protective case
Since the iPad is designed to be extremely thin, a simple accidental drop may severely damage it. The best preventive measure is to suit it up with a protective case. There is a great selection of iPad cases to choose from. It is suggested to pick one that is made of durable material and fits the iPad’s form. Avoid loose-fitting cases as they are usually used for aesthetic purposes and provide little protection for the iPad.

Conclusion
Maintaining your iPad isn’t a process that falls under a long and tedious checklist. All you have to know is the hazards that are most likely to damage it and keep it away from those. Make sure you keep it protected, avoid overcharging it, keep it away from moisture and extreme temperatures and you’re good to go. Make it a point to clean it every now and then when you can find the time to do so as well and you’ll have your iPad running smoothly and effectively.

Be sure to visit macfixit.com.au for all your favorite Apple and Apple-compatible products and accessories.

The Future of IT: Hype vs. Reality

December 16, 2016 Comments off

SpiceworksSpiceworks launched a new report today –Future of IT: Hype vs. Reality – that examines organizations’ adoptions plans of emerging technology like IoT, AI, VR, and 3D printers and the expected impact in the workplace.

The survey results show that among these emerging technologies, IT pros expect IoT devices and AI technology to have the biggest impact in the workplace. They don’t expect mass adoption to take off for VR and 3D printers, but some industries have significantly higher adoption rates than the industry average.

Key findings:

  • Artificial intelligence

o   Apple Siri is most commonly used in the workplace, but Cortana expected to overtake Siri in next 12 months

o   Over next 5 years, 60% of companies plan to adopt machine learning; 72% plan to deploy business analytics with AI; 32% plan to deploy self-learning robots

  • Internet of things

o   As with AI, security is the top concern with IoT in the workplace

o   Healthcare industry has highest adoption rate for IoT at 28% with an additional 50 percent planning to adopt it

  • Virtual reality

o   Only 7% of companies use VR and 13% plan to adopt it; Construction/engineering industry has highest planned adoption rate at 27%

o   Cost is biggest barrier to adoption; security/privacy is the least concern

o   IT pros surveyed named Oculus the most innovative leader in VR

  • 3D printers

o   Only 11% of companies use 3D printers and 22% plan to adopt them; Education industry has highest current adoption rate at 45%

o   As with VR, cost is biggest barrier to adoption and security is least concern

[Ken’s Notes]

No VR for BusinessThis report, like all reports from Spiceworks, is excellent and accurate. There’s a lot of hype around virtual reality (VR) tech and it will have some adoption in universities and in specialty businesses, but for most of us, don’t invest too heavily in anything VR-related. Most businesses don’t need VR and those that do, already have it in some form.

One point I disagree on, and it’s not uncommon for me to do so, is artificial intelligence (AI). For the past many* years, I have thought that AI would be the one technology that really surpassed all the others in terms of adoption, especially for voice-controlled applications, like Siri, Alexa, and Cortana. I’ve waited for 20 years for a decent voice-recognition program so that I don’t have to type, but can just dictate. Yes, I know about Dragon, and it’s pretty good. But I want something that’s truly ready for prime time.
For me, voice recognition is the first step in AI. Once you have voice recognition, then you can create programs to respond to commands and to perform complex functions. I need for it to be better than my R2D2 robot and the current state of Siri, Alexa, and Cortana. There are a lot of applications for voice recognition, but we just haven’t tapped into them yet.

Overall, this is a very thorough report. I like the visual statistics and the comparisons. I think that you’ll find it enlightening. Use the Comments section to tell me how closely these statistics come to your reality.

*many – A bunch. More than I’m going to tell you about.

Why a Seamless Digital User Experience Matters

November 3, 2016 Comments off

Pem GuerryGuest post by: Pem Guerry

As the digital space evolves, new applications, services and platforms are introduced to the market each year. This multitude of digital tools have certainly proved beneficial in the workplace and at home, but because so many of these programs work independently, users often miss out on the benefits of a truly seamless digital experience.

Integrating, or combining, two or more digital services into one fluid application greatly improves efficiency, usability and the overall user experience. This can be seen in the most robust e-signature integration—where a company combines a third party e-signature service with its own user platform for a swift signing process.

E-signature integration isn’t new to the digital conversation, but the technology behind these integrations has continued to improve—enabling you to offer a completely seamless signing experience for your clients.

API Integration

The most effective way to integrate e-signatures is through an application programming interface (API), which acts as a bridge between multiple applications, allowing you to manage them from a single platform.

The catch is looking for the degree of integration that an e-signature service can provide. There’s a difference between simply connecting two software workflows together and building a truly cohesive, integrated experience for signers. Most e-signature services will be able to provide a rudimentary-level integration where users can flow from one digital service, like a CRM portal, to an e-signature platform—an automatic connection from “Point A” to “Point B.”

Far fewer are able to provide a true private-label integration—where it’s virtually impossible for a user to tell that there are two technology engines behind their digital workflow. However, some technology providers and development resources have capabilities that allow you to customize an e-signature dashboard to match your own user interface with the same colors, fonts, logos, navigation menu and more. Because the end user does not have to switch back and forth between your site and an e-signature site, it’s a transparent process for him. This allows you to appear as the only source your clients must go through to submit approval, providing him with a smooth and easy signing experience.

Why does this level of detail matter? Why not simply take users from Point A to Point B? Two primary reasons:

  1. Client Trust

Client trust is a top priority – especially for members of highly regulated, high-stakes industries such as financial services, real estate and healthcare. Your clients are familiar with your brand, have had positive experiences using your software and have grown to trust you.

So think about how they’ll feel if they’re suddenly shuffled to an outsider for a portion of a transaction. For a homebuyer about to sign a real estate contract worth hundreds of thousands of dollars, going from the lender’s original website to a third party e-signature site could suddenly raise suspicion and cause hesitation. An integrated approach gives users a single, consistent and secure platform throughout the entire process.

  1. Brand Retention

In a world full of competition, creating a memorable brand—including company personality, logos, slogans and more—is key if you want to stand out in consumers’ minds. E-signature integration contributes to brand retention and exposure by eliminating third party branding and keeping your company name at the center of the signing process.

When searching for an e-signature service, make sure that you’re not leaving the aesthetics out of the conversation. With a cohesive, easy-to-use platform, your clients will complete seamless transactions and have more positive encounters with your company, furthering their loyalty to your brand.

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Pem Guerry is the Executive Vice President at SIGNiX, a digital signature solutions provider that makes signing documents online safe, secure, and legal for any business. SIGNiX offers the only independently verifiable, cloud-based digital signature solution, which combines workflow convenience with superior security. Learn more about what makes SIGNiX different at www.signix.com.

iPhone 7 Release: How to Save Money on Smartphones

September 6, 2016 1 comment

Guest Post by Andrea Woroch

For gadget heads and Apple fans, the wait is over. The much-anticipated press event held by Apple every year is scheduled forSeptember 7, at which the company is expected to unveil new iPhones and possibly new MacBook Pros and the Apple Watch 2.

While early adopters are likely making plans to line up at the nearest Apple store, the average consumer would rather not pay full price for the latest-and-greatest gadget. To help reduce the cost of your next smartphone upgrade or replacement, follow these seven tips.

Check competitor offers.
Whenever Apple releases their newest iPhone and other devices, competitors often feel the burn with a drop in sales and offer discounts in an attempt to grab attention away from Apple products. In the past, we’ve seen retailers like Walmart and Best Buy as well as wireless carriers such as Verizon and AT&T slash prices on Samsung, LG, Motorola and other Android devices. Keep your eyes peeled for similar deals this year!

Save big on previous models.
With the arrival of the iPhone 7, prices of previous-generation iPhones typically drop by as much as $150. Since the design and functional differences between the iPhone 6 and iPhone 7 are reportedly minimal, buying a previous-generation iPhone at a reduced rate is hardly a compromise. Same goes for Android devices: the Samsung Galaxy S6 was offered for just $1 with a two-year contract in April of this year, ahead of the S7 release.

Search for refurbished.
One of the best ways to save on any smartphone is to search for deals on previously-owned and certified options across brands and carriers including Apple, Samsung, AT&T or Verizon to save 20% to 40%. Even sites like Overstock offer certified-refurbished phones. For example, a refurbished iPhone 5s Unlocked GSM starts at $381.99, compared to $450 for a new iPhone 5s from Apple.

Wait it out.
Jumping on the latest release of any new gadgets means you’re going to pay a premium. Wait for deals to come out later in the year and mark your calendar for Cyber Monday, the one day every year that Apple releases deals on their popular gadgets. Last year, for example, Best Buy offered the iPhone 6s for $99.99 with a two-year activation with Verizon during Cyber Week, a $100 price drop from when the phone was released in September.

Repair first.
If you’re considering upgrading or buying a new phone because of a faulty mechanism or cracked screen, consider repairing it first before shelling out big bucks for a new one. Common issues such as cracked screens, broken charging docks and diminished battery life can be fixed for low fees at sites like RapidRepair.com, saving you hundreds of dollars.

Unload your old device.
Once you buy your upgrade or new device, think about what to do with the old one. Sites like Gazelle.com pay surprisingly well for a number of phone models. For instance, a quick search revealed that they offer $168 for an unlocked iPhone 6S 64GB in good condition and $45 of a Samsung Galaxy Tab 3 10.1 tablet. Otherwise, Apple offers their own trade-in program, while retailers like Walmart and Best Buy are also getting in on the action.

Buy extras online.
Spending on a new smartphone doesn’t end with the device. You’ll likely buy a case, screen protector, additional chargers or even upgraded headphones (especially if the iPhone 7 doesn’t have a headphone jack, as rumored). Before loading up with these extras from a traditional retailer or your wireless carrier, know that most stores mark up mobile accessories by up to 60%. Instead, save big by shopping for these accessories online at sites like Amazon or AccessoryGeeks, and search for coupons before checkout. For example, deals’ site CouponSherpa.com recently featured several Amazon promo codes for $4 to $7.50 off popular iPhone accessories.

Keep an emergency smartphone stash.
30% of smartphone users admit to breaking their device by dropping it, while others cite irreparable water damage. Though Apple’s new upgrade program includes coverage for up to two incidents of accidental damage, the best insurance comes in the form of an emergency fund. Set aside a few hundred dollars in a separate account to cover the full cost of replacing your device.

Feel free to share “iPhone 7 Release: How to Save Money on Smartphones” with your audience, giving proper attribution to the source.

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Andrea Woroch is a money-saving expert who transforms everyday consumers into savvy shoppers by sharing smart spending tips and personal finance advice. As a sought-after media source, she has been featured among such top news outlets as Good Morning America, Today, CNN, Dr. OZ, New York Times, MONEY Magazine, Consumer Reports, Forbesand many more. In addition, Andrea’s stories have been published among leading publications and sites such as Yahoo!, AOL Daily Finance, CNN Money, Huffington Post, LearnVest and New York Daily News. Check out Andrea’s demo reel or visit her website at AndreaWoroch.com for more information about booking an interview or requesting an original written article. You can also follow her on Twitter or Facebook for daily money tips.

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