Abbotsford IT Professionals

Our Top Tips to Avoid Device Theft When Travelling | Fraser Valley Tech Consultants

Many of the people we work with spend a fair amount of time out of the traditional office setting and on the road. Since summer is now fully with us and, probably, the most popular season for travelling, we thought it was a good time to give a few reminders and tips on how to avoid your tech (or data) being stolen while you are on the road!

Image by Austin Distel on Unsplash

Image by Austin Distel on Unsplash

The temporary coffee shop office

This should be a no-brainer, but you would be shocked how many times we have been at a coffee shop and watched someone leave an untethered laptop or bag, while they disappear to the bathroom. You can be complacent and say “oh, it’s a quiet, local spot… we’re in a safe part of town”, but it takes seconds for an opportunist thief to swoop by. Not only are you vulnerable to theft, though, you are also vulnerable to prying eyes!

If you are working remotely at somewhere at a coffee shop, you should be taking the following precautions:

1.      Use a laptop tether to secure your device to the table.

2.      If you need the bathroom, and you are alone, take your bag with you!!!

3.      Be aware of who/what is behind you, especially if you have sensitive info on the screen. (Ideally locate yourself so only a solid wall is behind you.)

4.      Try to avoid using the “free WiFi”, but if you really must, only use websites that use HTTPS, make sure you are definitely on the coffee shop owner’s WiFi and use a VPN before logging into any accounts or view sensitive data. (A recent survey found 70% of hacks actually took place through unsecured public Wifi!)

Photo by   Oleg Magni   from   Pexels

Photo by Oleg Magni from Pexels

Security at your destination

No matter where you go in the world, there will always be plenty of light-fingered friends to relieve you of your prized tech. Beaches are a goldmine for pickpockets and petty thieves. Once again, it can only take a few seconds for someone to scoop your bag (and valuable tech devices) while you quickly cool off in the waves.

1.      The best defense is to simply not take your mobile devices to the beach!

2.      Make use of the hotel safes.

3.      If you must take your device, and want to swim, (and it’s not waterproof) look at purchasing a waterproof case so you can keep it with you.

4.      If you must take your device and want to take a nap on the beach, keep the device discretely tucked away and preferably anchored/hidden under your body!

5.      Be vigilant of unexpected distractions. Thieves can use these as a diversion, and when your gaze wanders, your stuff becomes theirs!

6.      Keep close to lifeguard towers. Of course, these guys are there for safety and not to watch your stuff… but thieves will avoid those areas because of the higher risk of getting caught.

The airport security scam

If a flight is on your travelling agenda, watch out for the dreaded X-ray scanner scam! Here is how it works…

At the airport security check, the first scammer will go through the line quickly & efficiently. A second scammer will wait until the people just behind them have loaded up their tech devices (cellphones, laptops etc) to the x-ray machine conveyor belt, and then proceed to hold these people up (something innocently-looking like struggling to get keys or change out of a pocket).  The first scammer then scoops up those devices as they emerge from the x-ray at the other end and walks away!

Be vigilant and only put your devices on the belt when it is your turn to go through, keeping an eye on them as they pass by! If you see someone taking an unhealthy interest in your devices, alert security personnel immediately.

Safe travels!

Top 6 Tips to Protect Your Business Technology & Data From Theft | Chilliwack & Abbotsford IT Consultants

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We have talked a fair bit, before, about protecting your business against online threats – with all sorts of scammers constantly trying to steal passwords, identities, data or money. But what about the good old-fashioned real-world threats of theft? No matter how safe you think your location is, break-ins and property theft are also still a concern that you should take into consideration for your business.

Here are our top 6 tips to help you protect your data, and keep the impact to a minimum, if your business is broken into…

1. Anchor or tether equipment to immovable objects

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A laptop is stolen every 53 seconds (according to tech research firm, Gartner). Stats suggest that the vast majority of these are actually stolen from public places, but they are still a quick payday from an office-interloper too. Did you know there is a way that you can lock up your laptop to protect it from light-fingered visitors? Almost all laptops, for quite a while now, have a small opening on them where you can attach a locking cable. (Like this one , available at Staples) So, you can use this to lock your laptop to an immovable object! You can also do something similar with desktop units in the office.

2. Lock computer cases to prevent removal of hard disks.

For the smart thief, yanking out hard drives makes a quicker & lighter getaway. To thwart them, locking a computer case completely shuts them out – and adding that to a machine already tethered, your data is far safer!

3. Back-up data to online storage

Our favourite phrase does seem to be back-up, back-up, back-up… but we just can’t stress this one enough! Back-ups can save so much time and money in cases of data loss, whether it is from a theft or natural disaster. Using online server storage will also protect precious data in the event of a hardware theft, since that precious data was never on the machine to begin with!

4. Encrypt your hard disk

If you do have to keep important data or files on your PC/laptop, then encrypting your hard disk is a great way of keeping non-authorized eyes away from the goods! (Particularly if you are on the road a lot and not always able to tether your machine). If you are using Windows 7, 8 or 10, then this is actually a really easy thing to do yourself. You can see how, by checking out our quick tip video…

5. Keep servers & network storage devices locked away.

If you do use physical storage devices in your business, make sure they are kept in a locked room or cabinet. Key/combination holders should be kept to a minimum, with access given to only those people who really need it.

6. Install tracking software

If you are the kind of business that is on the move a lot, you may want to consider installing tracking software or services to your mobile devices. Sadly, the chances of retrieving a stolen device are slim, but this could give you a fighting chance… and many will, at least, give you the opportunity to wipe the data from the wandering device! Prey and LockItTight are 2 such services who can help you to track your devices and secure or delete data, or even see what the thief is up to.

If you are an Apple consumer, you have the Find My Mac or iPhone options in the iCloud settings, which also allow you to lock or wipe the devices. Make sure the setting is on.

If you are in Chilliwack, Abbotsford, Langley or the surrounding areas of the BC Fraser Valley, and would like more advice on how you can protect your business technology both online and in the real world, our team will be happy to help! Call us to book a consultation at 778-771-0184 or email help@wildfrogsystems.com.

What is Spear Phishing and How To Avoid It | Fraser Valley IT Consultants

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You have probably already heard of phishing – after all, it is everywhere, these days - from the good old-fashioned Nigerian prince email all the way through to the CRA phone scam (also known as voice-phishing or vishing). The scammers cast a huge, wide, net as far as they can, and wait to see if anyone bites. However, there is another, more-complex level of phishing, that you may not have heard of, called Spear Phishing.

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Spear phishing is different in that they target a specific person – usually someone in a large company with access to valuable data or finances. Before they are contacted, the scammer will take the time to do some research on their intended victim, mostly online through social media accounts etc.

Using the personal information that they have gathered, they will then contact this intended victim, making their email as personal and legit looking as they can. It may be as an application to a job that they know they are recruiting for, or a faked email from a friend claiming to have a link to a new menu from a favourite restaurant. Of course, this link or document will contain a malware-infected link or document.  Once clicked, the hacker either gains access to company data, or can plant a crypto-locker virus for ransoming.

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Most spear phishing is aimed at mid-tier employees. However, there are a few brave spear-phishers who will sometimes target someone at the top of the company tree, like a CEO, CFO or senior manager. When this happens, it is called whaling.

So, how can you prevent this kind of phishing?

  • Education is a key one here. Making employees aware that this can happen will go a long way! Advise them to keep their social media content as private as possible (after all, that is as much for their own personal benefit as yours!).

  • Make sure all employees know what to look for in fake emails (such as poor spelling and grammar, or checking link addresses before clicking them by hovering the mouse pointer to see a pop-up box of the address. If you get a link claiming to be from a certain bank or company, open a browser window and go to the bank/company website directly and compare their actual address to the one you see on the email.

  • Limit data to the people who need it. If you keep data on shared drives, make sure sensitive data is housed on separate drives (eg a drive for Accounting only, a drive for customer lists only etc) and only give people access to the areas/drives they need to work.

  • Keep all software, anti-virus programs and firewalls up-to-date.

  • Back-up, back-up, back-up!! Back-up your data well and back-up often!!

If you are worried about your company’s potential vulnerabilities, give our team a call at 778-771-0184 or email info@wildfrogsystems.com, and talk to us about scheduling a Tech Health Check-Up.

What are Password Managers and Why You Need One! | Fraser Valley Tech Consultants

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Passwords, passwords, passwords. They are everywhere! With more and more software and platforms transferring to the ease and expanse of the cloud, the number of passwords we need on a daily basis has increased exponentially in the last few years.

Now, if you are following the golden rules of passwords (as you should be!), you should..

  • Never use the same password twice.

  • Use a password at least 8-12 characters long.

  • Use a mix of letters, numbers, uppercase/lowercase and symbols.

  • Do not store the password in your browsers or somewhere obvious like a sticky note.

This is where the average (busy!) human brain can run into some trouble. Bearing in mind that virtually everything we do requires a password – banking, office suite, social media, email, online shopping and so on - AND with the need for every single password to be unique, unpredictable and complicated, keeping track of them can be a bind for even the best memorising geniuses.

This is where having a password manager can be a lifesaver. Then you only need to remember 1 complicated password!

1 password to keep them all? That doesn’t sound safe!

Well, these programs are all about security, so they have to be! They employ techniques like multifactor authentication (meaning you need a password and a random code that it sends to a device of yours when logging in), and all data is encrypted at a local level.

So, what are your options?

There are a number of password managers out there, and you need to pick the one that best suits your needs and budget, but here are a few to get you going…

LASTPASS

LastPass is a great manager and has a number of package options for both business and personal clients, starting with a free version. It works on multiple devices, multiple browsers and has a variety of features such as strong password generators, digital file storage and auto form completing for online shopping.

KEEPER

Keeper is another leading password storage solution. Offers a wide variety of tailored package & feature options for personal (starting at $2.50/mo), family, business (starting at $2.50 per user/mo) or enterprise use. Again, works on multiple browsers and platforms.

DASHLANE

Dashlane also offers a free (but limited) version, as well as more feature-laden packages for business or personal use. This manager also comes with VPN protection and alerts you when a site’s security has been reported as compromised.

1PASSWORD

Popular manager, 1Password, has been protecting passwords for 13 years. No free version, but multiple options again, starting at $2.99/mo for personal or $3.99/mo for teams. Offers applications and extensions across a broad range of platforms and devices, with the usual menu of features on offer, plus a “watchtower” which keeps track of breaches and security issues.

Photo by  bruce mars  from  Pexels

Photo by bruce mars from Pexels

There are more password managers out there, but this is a list of the most popular to start you shopping around. With companies and websites reporting data breaches every single day, the important thing is to get your passwords protected as soon as you can, as best you can… and this step will take you a long way towards a better night’s sleep!

How to Change the Name of your Facebook Business Page! | Chilliwack IT Support & Services

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So, as you may (or may not) have heard, we recently had a little makeover and got ourselves a shiny new logo and name. It sounds like a simple thing to do (and it WAS very exciting!), but the reality is that changing a business name can take a lot of work.

So, when our grand launch day finally arrived, we were more than ready to share our hard work with the world. All our ducks were in a row, paperwork finished, and the new artwork prepped and ready to go. First job of the day (for me!) was to head to our social media channels to do the announcement and the “big switch”. This was where I found things to get a bit interesting…

Changing things on most of our social media went very easily and smoothly. Instagram was a breeze, as were Twitter and Google. However, (surprisingly) Facebook was more of a challenge than we had anticipated.

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Facebook Procedures

On the surface, it looks easy. You just go to the About section of your business page and click “edit” next to your page name. However, this is where you must stop and think.

Facebook’s algorithms will not approve your name change if it looks too different to the previous one. We ran into this problem because our new name looks nothing like our old name… and Facebook refused to approve the change! (Even more surprisingly, though, they had no issue with us changing the username, which gives you your vanity URL!)

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In the Page Support Inbox, next to the message telling us of our new name failure, there is an option to appeal their decision. However, our experience (and further research!) showed us that this will do absolutely nothing to help your plight.

So, we found a work around… and it was a success! Being the helpful folks we are, we thought we would share our process…

2-Tier Process

For the easiest success, it is best to do the change in 2 phases.

PHASE 1: First, you change it to a temporary name that incorporates both your new name AND old name. (So, for example, if you are changing your business from something like “Joe Bloggs Plumbing” to “Easy Run Waterworks”, you would make the new FB page name something like “Easy Run Waterworks – Joe Bloggs Plumbing”.) You need to leave it like that for at least 7 days (as per Facebook rules).

PHASE 2: Once your 7 days is up, go back to the name edit option, and repeat the process, but this time change it the name you ultimately want. (i.e. dropping the old name part). Done!

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I totally understand the logic behind it. Facebook works on a lot of automation but still wants to protect the everyday user from scams and confusion. You also want your customers/audience to understand that you are the same company with just a new name, and this 2 step process does reinforce that. It is just a tiny bit annoying when you just want to get things done and move on!

Office 365 Tips - Dictate Function | Fraser Valley Tech Support

With the introduction of Office 365 and moving functionality to the cloud, our Office programs are now getting all sorts of regular tweaks and updates to help make working smarter easier. We know you are far too busy running your awesome company to keep up to date with these changes, so we’ll keep track for you, and add some of the most useful to our blog!

Photo by  bruce mars  from  Pexels

Photo by bruce mars from Pexels

So… it’s Thursday afternoon (I know… I am writing this on a Friday, but I’m trying to paint a picture!). You are tired… your eyes hurt… your fingers ache. It’s just one more day until the weekend, but you have to get those meeting notes typed up before 5pm today, or maybe you have an awesome idea and you want to get it recorded before you forget it. Well, the bods at Office HQ have now added a Dictate function to Word, Powerpoint and Outlook!

To find this handy tool, simply click Home tab in your top menu (Or Message in Outlook), and it should appear in your tool options above, called Dictate

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Click the Dictate button, and you should see a red dot. This means it is now recording. As you talk, the text will appear on the screen! To insert punctuation, say the name of the punctuation mark you want to add. Here is a list of what it recognizes…

  • Period

  • Comma

  • Question mark

  • Exclamation point

  • Exclamation mark

  • New line

  • New paragraph

  • Semicolon

  • Colon

  • Open quote / Close quote

  • Open quotes / Close quotes

When finished, click the Dictate icon again to stop recording. If you happen to make a mistake while dictating, simply move your cursor to the mistake and fix it with your keyboard. (No need to turn the microphone off… or just wait until you are done and go back to make your changes!)

That’s it! You just need to have Office 365 and a microphone, and away you go!

Is AI as scary as it sounds? | Fraser Valley IT Consultants

AI (or artificial intelligence) is such a big buzz word/phrase, right now, as more and more new products are claiming to use the technology, with plenty more predicted to come. AI is everywhere… from transportation to healthcare. This year’s CES even featured a few products claiming to be AI-infused, although how many of these products are actually AI? Should we be worried about the rise of the machines? Well, it really depends on what your definition of AI is.

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To many of us, you say AI and you immediately conjure up scary images from movies like Terminator or iRobot, with a real fear that one day machines will eclipse mankind and relegate us to some form of servitude or post-apocalyptic society. In reality, the version of AI that we are now seeing is actually a subcategory called machine learning. It is really a form of coding that is allowing a machine to finish its programming by learning from various patterns and behaviours that it observes. It really doesn’t have an awareness of self or independent thought beyond the given task. (Big sigh of relief there!)

So, looking at real world examples, take the self-driving car. It uses the data, rules and parameters that it was given (highway code laws, maps, your chosen route, collision avoidance rules) to navigate roads it hasn’t travelled on before and get you to a destination. It may use AI to make an instant decision to avoid a collision or choose a better route in a heavy traffic situation, but it doesn’t actually think spontaneously for itself and only seeks an outcome to arrive at a predetermined destination in one piece. No sudden distracted diversions because of its personal opinion that it thought the little red hatchback was cute and wanted to see where it was going! (On the very rare occasions when these cars have been involved in an accident, reports have shown that 94% of those cases were, in fact, as a result of human error, not the technology).

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It really does have some great benefits, as a computer’s black or white “thinking process” can see patterns that the human brain can miss, leading to better results. The learning process also means far less initial programming, as you are not giving it every single scenario or piece of data to work out its results – it is figuring that out on its own. Used right, machine learning can make more accurate predictions, so companies can make business decisions based on that data-driven outcome.

Machine learning technology can save lives –medical tech that requires action when it knows body chemistry isn’t correct (eg an insulin pump that uses data to know when to deliver a dose). It can save time and money – predicting a product’s performance success & making design adjustments in the early development stage, rather than having to spend more time finding those flaws at the prototype stage. The benefit list goes on.

Of course, research and development into AI is still very much ongoing, and its definition (& role in our society) will definitely change over the next 10, 20 or 50 years. It may replace the jobs of some, but it will create jobs in other areas. For now, though, it is very much at the forefront of current technology development trends and is something to embrace rather than fear.