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January 17th, 2017

2017January17_VoIP_AVoIP has become the ultimate communication tool for enterprises, but it has also become another vulnerability that hackers exploit. Because voice is essentially transferred as data, the risk of digitized messages being intercepted and heard by unauthorized ears increases. That’s why businesses need security systems like an up-to-date session border controller (SBC) to protect against a plethora of voice attacks.

What is it? In a nutshell, an SBC is a dedicated hardware device or software application that acts as a gatekeeper of your VoIP network, controlling how phone calls are initiated, conducted, and terminated. Much like a firewall, an SBC examines voice messages transmitted as IP packets and prevents unauthorized sessions to the network. This protects your business from call jacking, eavesdropping, and denial-of-service attempts.

But even though most businesses deploy SBC, many tend to leave it unmanaged, rendering it ineffective against new and emerging VoIP-based attacks. To make sure this doesn’t happen in your business, consider the following security best-practices with SBC:

Update frequently Security threats are ever-evolving, and your security systems need to do the same. Set aside one hour per week to check for security updates and distribute them company-wide. To avoid disrupting daily operations and consuming large amounts of bandwidth, we recommend performing updates during off-hours.

Enable real-time alerts Whether via email or text, your SBC product should alert you when something happens, when it has blocked a call, and why. These alerts will let you know about any attempted attacks and will notify you when your SBC is due for an update.

Assess SBC performance To find out whether your SBC is routinely blocking threats, make sure to periodically evaluate its effectiveness. If a third-party is managing your VoIP systems, have them perform a security test to identify possible vulnerabilities within your system.

After the security assessment, your provider should compile a report about SBC performance and recommended solutions and updates you should install to mitigate security risks. This allows you to close up any security holes well before a malicious hacker exploits them.

Educate staff Understanding why you need to update your SBC is a good first step in defending against a variety of VoIP-based attacks, but that’s no silver bullet. Aside from technical attacks, businesses need to train staff to spot cunning threats like vishing, a social engineering scam whereby hackers attempt to obtain sensitive information via phone calls.

Installing an SBC is important, but it can give businesses a false sense of security. As we mentioned, the cyber security landscape is ever-changing. So if you’re not taking a proactive role in updating and assessing your SBC, then your business might suffer for it in the near future.

To avoid spending a lifetime recovering from successful voice attacks, contact us today. We take the time to ensure your SBC is up-to-date and your business is safe.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic VoIP
January 12th, 2017

2017january12_security_aCyber security is something you hear about a lot these days. Sometimes it’s thrown around to scare business owners, other times it has proven to be a cautionary tale, one that small businesses can learn from to fend themselves from online threats that can leave devastating impact. What’s certain is statistics don’t lie, and as much as you’d like to believe your business is safe, the worst could happen at any time. Because antivirus software alone can only do so much to protect your business, managed services has become the solution. To make our case, here are several statistics that prove you need managed services from a technology provider.

The numbers

Small businesses are not at risk of being attacked, but worse, they’ve already fallen victim to cyber threats. According to Small Business Trends, 55 percent of survey respondents say their companies have experienced cyber attack sometime between 2015 and 2016. Not only that, 50 percent reported they have experienced data breaches with customer and employee information during that time, too. The aftermath of these incidents? These companies spent an average of $879,582 to fix the damages done to their IT assets and recover their data. To make matters worse, disruption to their daily operations cost an average of $955,429.

The attacks

So what types of attack did these businesses experience? The order from most to least common are as follows: Web-based attacks, phishing, general malware, SQL injection, stolen devices, denial of services, advanced malware, malicious insider, cross-site scripting, ransomware and others.

Why managed services?

Managed services is the most effective prevention and protection from these malicious threats. They include a full range of proactive IT support that focuses on advanced security such as around the clock monitoring, data encryption and backup, real-time threat prevention and elimination, network and firewall protection and more.

Not only that, but because managed services are designed to identify weak spots in your IT infrastructure and fix them, you’ll enjoy other benefits including faster network performance, business continuity and disaster recovery as well as minimal downtime. One of the best things about managed services is the fact that you get a dedicated team of IT professionals ready to assist with any technology problems you might have. This is much more effective and budget-friendly than having an in-house personnel handling all your IT issues.

Being proactive when it comes to cyber security is the only way to protect what you’ve worked hard to built. If you’d like to know more about how managed services can benefit your business, just give us a call, we’re sure we can help.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Security
January 11th, 2017

2017january11_business_aThe new year is well upon us, and with it comes an equally new IT budget. Judging by the advancements in computing technology, many 2017 business wish lists probably include powerful onsite servers, workstations, and the Internet of Things. But as tempting as these purchases may be, it’s important that you don’t dismiss an old yet essential IT resolution: disaster recovery.

DR isn’t a huge investment A common misconception about disaster recovery is that it’s a large, bank-breaking investment. Expensive secondary data centers, networks, and server maintenance usually come into mind when a business owner is confronted with the idea of business continuity. And while that may have been true in the past, establishing a strong disaster recovery plan today is as simple -- and as cheap -- as going to a cloud-based disaster recovery provider and paying for the data and services that your business needs. Subscription pricing models are actually incredibly low, meaning you can have minimal downtime while still having enough to invest in new tech.

Onsite backups just won’t cut it Although you might feel secure with a manual backup server down the hall, it is still susceptible to local disasters and, ultimately, does very little in minimizing company downtime. When disaster recovery solutions are hosted in the cloud or in a virtualized server, restoring critical data and applications only take a few minutes.

Business disasters can be man-made, too Even if your workplace is nowhere near frequent disaster zones, cyber attacks and negligent employees can leave the same impact on your business as any natural disaster can. Setting a weak password, clicking on a suspicious link, or connecting to unsecured channels is enough to shut down a 5-, 10-, or even 50-year-old business in mere minutes.

Sure, installing adequate network security is a critical strategy against malicious actors, but last year’s barrage of data breaches suggests that having a Plan B is a must. A suitable disaster recovery plan ensures that your data’s integrity is intact and your business can keep going, no matter the malware, worm, or denial-of-service attack.

Downtime will cost you A business without a DR plan might come out unscathed after a brief power outage, but why risk the potential damages? Either way, downtime will cost your business. First, there’s the general loss of productivity. Every time your employees aren’t connected to the network, money goes down the drain. Then there’s the cost of corrupted company data, damaged hardware, and the inevitable customer backlash. Add all those variables together, and you end up with a business-crippling fee.

So, if you want 2017 to be the best year for your business, make the smart choice and proactively take part in creating your company’s business continuity plan. Your business will be in a better position financially with it than without it.

Keep your business safe, recover from any disaster, and contact us today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic business
January 10th, 2017

2017january10_socialmedia_a“What’s your Facebook name?” is not a question you’re often asked when someone needs your contact details. In the first place, Facebook messaging isn’t everyone’s voice call app of choice, especially for group conversations. As of now, Skype rules that arena, especially for business communications. However, once the social media giant has put the finishing touches on its desktop-capable group voice calling, you can expect to hear “What’s your Facebook name?” a bit more. It might even become the norm.

No one gets left behind

In group chats, there’s always that one person who gets the joke last, or reads it last, and so feels left out. With Facebook’s group video chat, this never has to happen as every participant in the group can be connected at the same time. The functionality is still in the “small test” phase, which means certain details are still being ironed out. When it fully launches, though, expect a considerable portion of Facebook Messenger users to consider moving their Skype group video conversations to Facebook.

Potentially compelling benefits

Since introducing its audio calling capability in 2013, Facebook has worked hard to keep up with the competition. Facebook’s introduction – and potential domination – of desktop group video calling might signal the end of times for Skype and other players. For one, Facebook and social media user growth hasn’t shown signs of slowing down. Moreover, most users of internet telephony might inevitably see the advantages of using a single platform for their social media activity and online communications.

Possible user reservations

Users who prefer a communication tool that creates zero distractions in their chats might not opt for Facebook when conducting group video conferences. Facebook is, first and foremost, a social media platform, which serves as a springboard for important news updates, personal anecdotes, and funny cat videos. Not everyone will prefer all those distractions while in a business meeting.

Those looking for a clean communications tool might find the wealth of content a bit overwhelming. In addition, employees of small companies in need of a free communications tool might not immediately warm up to the idea of surrendering their Facebook profile as an official point of contact.

If there’s anything Facebook has proven, however, it is the ability to improve upon previous versions by adding or removing details to enhance user experience. Users may not always be pleased with the updates, but that hasn’t slowed down the billion-user company’s popularity. If the newly introduced desktop group video calling function proves efficient, Facebook might persuade even more users to lean towards its messaging tool.

With many options to choose from, the only thing left for people to do is discern which platform best serves their communications needs. For advice on which VoIP platform is best for your business, contact us today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Social Media
December 28th, 2016

2016december28_security_aPopcorn Time is taking ransomware to a new level of devilish trickery by asking victims to give up two of their friends for a chance to rid their own computers of the virus. In cyber security this level of diabolical blackmail represents a new and scary trend for hackers. For more information on how Popcorn Time works and what you can do to keep it off your system, keep reading.

Ransomware is nothing new. Cybersecurity miscreants have been taking advantage of online users for years by requiring payment to "unlock" a victim's computer. What Popcorn Time does differently is give users the option to spread the virus to two other victims in the hopes that they will pay the ransom -- a tactic that promises to double their money at the expense of your sense of morality (and at the expense of your friendships as well).

The Cost of Popcorn

When you inadvertently download this ransomware, you will be met with a screen that explains that your files have been hijacked/encrypted, and that to get them back you will need to pay one Bitcoin for a decryption key that they keep stored remotely. The Bitcoin fee is usually more than $700, a hefty price to pay during any season but particularly difficult for those infected during the holiday season.

Spread the "Holiday Cheer" and Hope they Bite

What makes Popcorn Time unique is the option victims have to take their cost away by allowing the ransomware to affect two of their friends for a chance to get a free decryption code. Of course, it works only if both friends pay the ransom, which leaves you looking (and feeling) like the Grinch.

Avoiding Popcorn Time this Season

The easiest way to avoid downloading ransomware is to stay off of sites that might contain questionable files. However, this is nearly impossible for modern users, and many hackers are getting good at making their files look legitimate. Limit your exposure to potential ransomware by keeping your software up-to-date and your computer protected with a security program from a reputable company (for example Norton or Symantec). If you need to learn more about how to avoid running into ransomware while you're online, give our professional cybersecurity consultants a call. We'll keep you away from the popcorn this season.
Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Security
December 27th, 2016

2016december27_voip_a

In a mobile communications space dominated by WhatsApp, iMessage, and Facebook Messenger, the voice and text messaging company, Skype, wants to be much more than just another mobile messaging tool. Earlier this month, they launched their new communication hub named “Skype Mingo” to improve upon the traditional, well-known Skype app. Here are just a few of the many new communication features you can expect from the revamped Skype app.

Skype Mingo borrows a lot from the original Skype app’s features and interface, but with some slight differences. For instance, Mingo allows you to manage call history and phone contacts. This means that if you use Mingo’s search function, the mobile app will search both your Skype directory and your contact list.

Skype Mingo also comes with SMS relay, a feature that allows you to sync native texts with your Skype account, Skype desktop program, and mobile app. All these features suggest that Skype wants smartphone users to set Mingo as their default for photo sharing, SMS, VoIP, file sharing, and contact management.

What’s more, Mingo reinforces Skype’s already strong data-powered video and voice-calling functionality. Microsoft promises that the communication hub is “small, fast, and optimized for speed.” So far, we know that Skype plans to achieve this by offering solutions for data saving through Economical Calling and On-Demand Sync features.

If that hasn’t sold you on the Skype Mingo, you’ll also be able to enjoy the full functionality of Skype bots and virtual assistants for numerous tasks. Need to look for cheap flights? Let Skyscanner know about your travel plans. Want to schedule meetings on the go? Send Zoom a message to set an appointment. Need some medical attention? The Baymax bot can be your healthcare companion.

It’s certain that most of the possibilities that were once out of reach for mobile phones are now possible thanks to Microsoft’s innovations. Though it’s unclear how it will affect the way we use our VoIP or messenger applications in the near future, Skype Mingo definitely looks like a promising addition to the Skype brand.

Currently, the app is still in its alpha testing phase, so expect new features when the full version is rolled out. We will likely keep track of Mingo’s development and public release date, so stay in touch with us to get the lowdown on Skype.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic VoIP
December 22nd, 2016

2016december22_business_aMany businesses and enterprises have long struggled with the drudgery and difficulty that is data analysis -- especially data analysis in a cloud-based system. AWS (Amazon Web Services) may have just the solution to that problem. A new app, known as “Glue,” offers the opportunity for businesses to clean up data to help analytics run more smoothly. Learn more about how AWS accomplishes this, right here.

Data analysis can be an extremely profitable arm of your business, if undertaken carefully. Much of what people consider to be data analysis for a business is actually just digital clerical work, which makes the process even more frustrating and time-consuming than it needs to be. At its core, AWS’s Glue is an app that automates this tedium, which is often referred to as ETL (extract-transform-load).

Third-party software already exists to help with this task, but the service from AWS is one of the first cloud-based alternatives to come to market. Glue is designed to work with businesses that have their own on-premises data centers and infrastructures in addition to working with AWS frameworks. In fact, if a business makes changes to on-premises data, Glue can be set up to trigger jobs and update the data in the cloud so users always have access to the most up-to-date information for use and analysis.

Essentially, AWS extracts various types of data from a wide array of sources and analyzes it, ultimately homogenizing the data to fit the business's existing database. This eliminates a great deal of work because the extremely tedious task of importing data is often done by hand. Handing this burden over to AWS allows businesses to focus on the real analysis work; saving effort, time, and money in the process.

Every day, data becomes more and more integral to building a successful company. And with such a heavy burden placed on this facet of business, falling behind on the technology that makes it possible is an expensive mistake. If you’re hosting large amounts of data on-premises or in an AWS database, contact us today about how you can eliminate costly ETL processes.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic business
December 13th, 2016

hackerscybersecurity-170px-01As 2017 rolls in, the threat of more formidable cyber attacks looms large. Hackers and the cyber police will spend a lot of time outsmarting each other, while consumers of technology, individuals and businesses alike, anticipate the best security plan that can guarantee they sleep soundly at night. When it comes to defending against cyber-attacks, forewarned is forearmed. Here are some of the threats we predict in the coming year.

Increased threats on cloud technology

Cloud service has numerous benefits to businesses. They make data storage, collaboration, and processing more efficient; they enable employees to work faster; and they help operations flow smoother. Cloud technology’s popularity is expected to rise well into the next few years, but as demand increases, so does the dangers presented by cyber attackers.

Ransomware will be more complex

Ransomware incapacitates computer systems by locking down files and preventing access for ransom. In its 2016 Threat Predictions report, security software company McAfee predicts a peak in ransomware attacks next year. Although they also predict it to recede by mid-year, damages to vulnerable cloud-dependent infrastructures can be great and costly. Most alarming in the prediction, however, is that in the coming year ransomware attacks will be more complex due to new elements.

Ransomworms, which use advanced victimization techniques to mine further data within an already compromised network, are expected to put an even crueler spin to an already formidable malware. Doxing, on the other hand, affects avenues such as social media and any place where sensitive, easily identifiable information can be extracted to serve the ultimate purpose of extorting money. Yet another wicked ransomware to watch out for is Backup Deletion, which destroys the very mechanism that can otherwise help you recover from a compromised system or files: your backup data.

More threats to IoT (Internet of Things)-enabled devices

It is also predicted that 2017 will see attacks made on IoT-powered devices, which will make life harder for those who depend on technology that makes life easier. It targets medical devices and Electronic Medical Records, “connected cars”, basic domestic tools, and tech-driven wearables, such as smartwatches and fitness trackers. The danger posed by this intrusion is fully capable of corrupting information stored in your devices.

Advanced cyber espionage

Cyber espionage is by no means a novelty. In 2017, it’s expected to hold sway in cyber-threat prevention measures as it becomes even more complex. It encompasses all sectors of society, including individuals, private organizations, government institutions, and entire countries. Perpetrators will have the means to bypass networks by attacking firewalls and wreak havoc in their victims’ network. Fret not, for there will be measures in place to detect this threat also in the coming year.

Hackers are one of the most cunning criminals to have ever existed. While the cyber-police and the defenses they put up are no slouches, threats to security systems can still make technology-dependent individuals and businesses quiver. Although damaged networks can be repaired, compromised privacy restored, and stolen data returned, the amount of damage that hackers can cause might be irreparable and/or result in a significant dent in your IT infrastructure and budget. The value of a network security system makes itself known when you least expect it, which is why security should be a top priority.

Are your systems protected from these predicted remarkable feats of hacking? Call us if you want to discuss security services that are best for you.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Security
December 12th, 2016

instagram-170px-01Did you know that your thousands of Instagram followers are a goldmine for potential sales? Yes, they are, but you can’t make the most of this goldmine by simply switching your posts’ filters from Clarendon to Valencia on a regular basis. Turning your Instagram followers into customers requires more than just a finely curated set of photos; it calls for marketing-savvy strategies that can engage current followers and attract potential customers. Here are 5 ways you can make that happen.

Ensure your posts are shoppable

This simply means providing a convenient path in which your followers can buy the products posted on your page. With a shoppable Instagram tool, you can direct users to your online shop where they can make an actual purchase. Instagram is, arguably, not the best ecommerce platform to use if you depend on clickable media, but if you know how to tweak the app to your advantage – and provide an attractive presentation of your products – you can turn likes into sales.

Give away discount codes or coupons

Entice followers to engage with you and share content with incentives such as discount codes or coupons. You can do this by running contests with an interesting concept, cool prizes, and a sharing or voting element that encourages participants to share your content with their friends. Better yet, engage followers by tapping into user-generated content via photo contests, resulting in free promotion for your brand.

Come up with a strong call-to-action (CTA)

Instagram doesn’t exactly have the most mobile-friendly CTAs, but don’t let this prevent you from sending followers to your sales page. Whether it’s telling them to go to the link on your bio or simply incorporating a shoppable Instagram feature on your page, specific instructions on how to buy or know more about your product can spell the difference between making a sale and getting ignored.

Post frequently and make the most of all available tools

Post photos using stylish filters, create snappy and quirky videos, or let your followers take a friendly behind-the-scenes peek at your organization using the Stories feature. Come up with a catchy and relatable caption that encourages participation and engages your core audience. Also important: using hashtags on your posts. Any business Instagrammer worth his or her salt knows that a simple hashtag can pave the way for other users to reach your content and, ultimately, buy your product.

Last but not least…

Create captivating content

Remember that Instagram is a visual platform, and as such, users are enticed by striking images rendered in flattering filters, vivid colors, and clear messages. Although other social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter are excellent mediums for promoting products, the image-oriented nature of Instagram brings in a wealth of opportunities for promoting your brand. Aside from coming up with likeable posts, crafting a clear and concise caption can lead to a winning Instagram marketing campaign.

With some creativity, visual flair, and a well-defined strategy, these tips can help shape your Instagram feed as an attractive online sales generator. If you need further advice on how you can make the most of your social media presence, contact us and we’ll be happy to help.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Social Media
December 9th, 2016

2016december9_voip_aVoIP technology has done wonders for business communications by simplifying the way business owners and staff communicate with stakeholders. VoIP apps compete for a big slice of the consumer spending pie and those who adapt well to developments are poised to succeed. One such development is Apple’s new framework, CallKit. Although still in its beginning stages, this new framework presents exciting innovations in VoIP technology.

What does CallKit do?

Plenty. For one, it integrates all the useful functions of VoIP apps with Apple’s native interface. Remember that CallKit is merely a way for third-party apps to integrate with Apple mobile devices. As such, the CallKit framework has already been integrated with Windows-owned Skype and a slew of other third-party apps such as Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp, among others. These developments present a host of benefits to businesses looking to integrate communications under a manageable corporate account. It also offers a significant enhancement to the user experience, mainly in eliminating the need to open an app when answering, dropping, or blocking a call.

With CallKit, seemingly minor inconveniences -- such as having to unlock your phone, going to the app, and pressing answer -- as well as having to drop VoIP calls for incoming cellular calls are addressed and solved. For added convenience, CallKit also allows you to tag contacts as favorites.

VoIP benefits

The benefits of VoIP apps are varied and plenty, especially for businesses. VoIP apps are inexpensive to implement and easy to install and configure. Most iterations offer connections that are as good as, if not better than, cellular-based telephone calls, with VoIP apps like Skype constantly making improvements on both interface and functionality.

CallKit’s architecture is designed to make VoIP app calls as seamless as possible. With CallKit, users can initiate calls with Bluetooth, a voice command to Siri, and Apple’s native interface for iOS 10 and above. It also has a mechanism for blocking spam calls, enabling a Do Not Disturb functionality, and interacting with other VoIP apps, which means users are now able to handle incoming and outgoing calls and messages with more efficiency.

Despite improvements in VoIP apps, many users don’t bother with mobile apps unless circumstances -- like being in a foreign country, where making phone calls would be expensive -- compel them otherwise. VoIP and developments like CallKit can turn that around. Thanks to CallKit, users can now make VoIP calls from iOS’s native call history and contacts apps – provided, of course, that there is a stable internet connection, which in this day and age has long ceased to be a luxury but a necessity.

A call to action for an improved CallKit

With CallKit, business communications are definitely much easier. But at this point in its development, has it solved all possible problems inherent to unified communications? While there still are some challenges with routing calls through enterprise unified communications platforms, CallKit presents a compelling advancement that promises an even greater communications experience.

As more VoIP app developers look for ways to improve their technology, businesses that depend on VoIP-assisted communications can expect more developments, and Apple’s CallKit is one to watch for. Call us today if you want to explore how VoIP solutions can help you.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic VoIP