Tips for using Outlook more efficiently

Outlook is arguably the best tool that businesses use to manage their email, set up meetings, and coordinate projects. It’s much more than a basic email program and includes features that help you organize your work, contacts, and business communications. Let’s take a look at a few tips you may have missed.

Clean Up your inbox
No matter inbox how meticulously organized your Outlook inbox is, there’s always room for improvement. For a little computer-assisted help, try the ‘Clean Up’ feature.

  • From your Inbox, click the Home tab and choose from Outlook’s three Clean Up options:
    • Clean Up Conversation – Reviews an email thread or a conversation and deletes redundant messages.
    • Clean Up Folder – Reviews conversations in a selected folder and deletes redundant messages.
    • Clean Up Folder & Subfolders – Reviews all messages in a selected folder and its subfolder, and deletes redundant messages in all of them.

Ignore (unnecessary) conversations
An overstuffed inbox is often caused by group conversations that aren’t relevant to you. The Ignore button helps you organize your inbox and focus on relevant emails.

  • Select a message, then click Home > Ignore > Ignore Conversation. You can also do this by opening a message in a new window and clicking Ignore under the Delete function. To recover an ignored message, go to the Deleted Items folder, and click Ignore > Stop Ignoring Conversation.

Send links instead of a file copy
Help your colleagues save storage by sending a link to a cloud version of a file instead of the file itself. This is particularly useful when sending massive files. You can also set permissions to allow recipients to edit and collaborate on linked files in real time.

  • Upload the file you wish to send on OneDrive and send it to your recipients. From the message box, click Attach File > Browse web locations > OneDrive.

Improve meetings with Skype and OneNote
Outlook allows you to combine Skype’s HD video and screen-sharing features with OneNote’s organizational and project planning functions. It’s easy:

  • Go to the Meeting tab in Outlook, then click Skype meeting and send the link to participants. After the meeting has started, select Meeting Notes (under the Meeting tab) and choose whether you want to Take notes on your own or Share notes with the meeting.

Tag contacts
To get the attention of a specific person in a group email message, use the @Mention function. This works particularly well for mails to multiple recipients or for if you simply want to convey the urgency of your message.

  • In the email body or meeting request, type the ‘@’ symbol followed by the first and last name of the person you wish to tag (e.g., @firstnamelastname).
  • To search for emails you’re tagged in, select Filter Email from the Home tab and choose Mentioned, then choose Mentioned.

These are just a few strategies for getting more out of Microsoft’s email platform. To unlock Outlook’s true potential, you need the support of certified IT professionals. Give us a call today.

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Are hackers using your PC to mine Bitcoin?

Cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin and Monero are so popular because they’re secure and potentially worth thousands of dollars. But investors and consumers aren’t the only ones interested in them. Hackers are using malicious tactics to steal cryptocurrency, and they’re doing it with something called cryptojacking.

Hijacked hardware
Cryptojacking secretly uses your computer to calculate complex mathematical problems to generate cryptocurrency. They get inside by using phishing emails to lure victims into clicking on a link, which then runs malicious cryptomining programs on the computer. Any cryptocurrency produced then gets delivered to the hacker’s private server.

But hackers have developed an even more insidious tactic. By infecting websites with ads and plugins that run cryptojacking code, any visitor who loads the web page instantly gets infected with the malware, sending their computer’s processor into overdrive trying to generate cryptocurrency.

Unlike most malware, cryptojacking software won’t compromise your data. But it will hijack your hardware’s processing power, decreasing performance while increasing your power and cooling bills. So instead of paying for the computing power themselves, hackers can simply use thousands of compromised computers.

Surge in cryptojacking
It’s difficult to tell how much hackers are making with cryptojacking, but there’s a good chance that this type of attack will be as popular as ransomware was in 2017. In fact, for as little as $30, anyone can purchase a cryptojacking kit from the dark web to force other computers to generate Bitcoin or Monero for them.

According to several reports, even sites like The Pirate Bay, Openload, and OnlineVideoConverter are allegedly using cryptojacking exploits to diversify their revenue streams.

The biggest reason why this is becoming so popular is because it’s a low-risk, high-reward scheme. Instead of extorting money directly from the victim, hackers can secretly generate digital currencies without the victim knowing.

If it is detected, it’s also very hard to track down who initiated the attack. And since nothing was actually “stolen” (other than a portion of computing power), victims have little incentive to apprehend the culprit.

Prevention and response
To avoid cryptojacking, you need to incorporate it into your monthly security training sessions. Teach your employees to practice extra caution with unsolicited emails and suspicious links. Using ad-blocker or anti-cryptomining extensions on web browsers is also a great way to stay protected.

Beyond prevention, use network monitoring solutions to detect any unusual behavior with your computers. For example, if you notice a significant number of PCs running slower than usual, you should assume that cryptojacking is taking place.

If you’ve confirmed that it is, advise your staff to close browser tabs and update browser extensions as soon as possible.

Cryptojacking may seem less threatening than some malware we’ve discussed in the past, but it can incur real power, cooling, and performance costs to your business when several systems are compromised. To make sure you don’t end up enriching any hackers, call us today. We offer hardware solutions and cybersecurity tips to keep your business safe and sound.

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Improve Business Productivity with Cortana

As an entrepreneur, you understand how essential time is. There is always a need to come up with new processes or search for new technology to keep your office organized. If you use Windows 10, you already have an underutilized tool right in front of you.

To take advantage of Cortana, you should enable it on your desktop first. The process is easy: Just press the Windows Key, type “cortana” and click on “Cortana settings.” From there, you can change whether it responds to your voice or get activated by a keyboard shortcut, and you can set other personal preferences.

Voice Reminders, Notes and Alarms

As soon as you enable “Hey, Cortana” on all your gadgets, you can begin using it to dictate notes, set alarms, and create reminders. Thanks to advancements in AI, Cortana should be able to recognize most natural-language requests, like “Wake me up at 9am tomorrow,” or “Remind me to pick up my dry cleaning tomorrow.”

Meanwhile, you can use it as a voice recorder during meetings instead of writing down notes. Just say, “Hey Cortana, make a new note in OneNote,” and whatever is recorded will automatically be saved to OneNote!

AI-Scheduled Meetings

With Microsoft’s new Calendar.help feature, you can issue commands to a group email chain by saying things like, “Hey Cortana, can you help us book a 30-minute call next week?”

Calendar.help will work with Cortana to contact each attendee individually, find out what times they are available, and pick the best option for the group. You would only need to email the details, including duration, agenda and location, before you cc Cortana and forward it to the people involved. At that point, Cortana will send invites and handle all email exchanges. For now the project is still in preview/beta, so you will need to sign up.

Quick Conversions and Calculations

There are times when you need to make some calculations, but Googling or using your phone’s calculator just takes too much time. Cortana can answer complicated math problems, even if they are stated in plain language. What’s more, Cortana is able to convert temperature, time zone, weight, and volume.

Cortana will not only improve your business processes, but also help create a more relaxed workplace. And when employees are less stressed, everyone experiences more rewarding workdays.

We’re experts in traditional office IT, but we’re also pretty savvy with exciting new tools like Cortana. Send us a message today to learn more tips on improving productivity in your workplace.

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Hackers exploit vulnerable Office feature

As the world’s most popular productivity suite, Microsoft Office tends to receive much attention from cybercriminals. Generally, hackers embed malware in authentic Office files to trick users into unleashing it onto their machines. However, the most recent exploit proves to be much more dangerous than any Office hack we’ve seen.

What’s the new Office threat?
The Office exploit takes advantage of Microsoft’s Dynamic Data Exchange (DDE), a protocol that sends messages and data between applications. For example, DDE can be used to automatically update a table in a Word document with data collected in an Excel spreadsheet.

The problem with this is hackers can create DDE-enabled documents that link to malicious sources rather than to other Office apps. Theoretically, this allows hackers to launch scripts that download Trojan viruses from the internet and execute it before the user is even aware of the attack.

And unlike most malware-embedded Office files, which are usually blocked by security protocols from Microsoft, DDE exploits are instant. Once a compromised Word file is opened, it automatically executes the hack.

Outlook at risk
What’s even more alarming are the DDE vulnerabilities in Outlook. Recent reports found that hackers can embed malicious code in the body of an email or calendar invite, allowing them to perform phishing scams without a file attachment.

Fortunately, Outlook DDE attacks are not as automated as Word or Excel DDE attacks. Two dialog boxes will usually appear when you open the email asking if you want to update a document with data from linked files and start a specific application. Simply clicking ‘No’ on either of these boxes will stop the attack from executing.

Defending against DDE attacks
Beyond saying no, you can protect yourself by following these security best practices:

  • Evaluate the authenticity of unsolicited emails before interacting with them and don’t open attachments from unfamiliar contacts.
  • View emails in plain text format to completely stop DDE attacks embedded directly in emails from running. Note that this will also disable all original formatting, colors, images, and buttons.
  • Use a strong email security system that prevents phishing emails, spam, and other unwanted messages from reaching your inbox.
  • Get in the habit of checking for Microsoft updates, as they’re usually quick to release patches after vulnerabilities have been discovered.

Last but not least, consider working with our team. We’re Microsoft Office experts who can keep you safe from the latest threats. Call us today to get started!

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Useful Business Features in Windows 10

The Windows Fall Creators Update released in April introduced many useful and interesting features, including a decluttered Start menu, more control over Windows updates, and an enhanced Microsoft Edge browser. Five months later, Microsoft follows up on all those enhancements with a new set of features. Here’s everything business users should get excited about.

Files on-demand in OneDrive

‘OneDrive Files On-Demand’ solves syncing problems often encountered by those who don’t want all their files synced to all their devices. This feature will give users the option to choose the folders that will be downloaded to the device they’re using, which helps save storage space and bandwidth, and gives users more flexibility.

Greater protection from ransomware

Microsoft beefs up Windows 10 security by introducing ‘Controlled folder access,’ a welcome feature in an era of rampant ransomware outbreaks such as WannaCry and Petya. This security enhancement enables users to assign a ‘switch’ to applications. When the switch is turned on, users are alerted any time unauthorized applications attempt to access or modify files in protected Desktop, My Documents, My Music, My Pictures, and My Videos folders.

Enterprise-level threat prevention

The Fall Creators update will also feature ‘Windows Defender Exploit Guard,’ a threat prevention system that, in Microsoft’s own words, ‘helps make vulnerabilities dramatically more difficult to exploit.’ The platform is primarily intended to recognize and safeguard against brand new malware that has not been cataloged or analyzed by security professionals.

Microsoft will also introduce ‘Windows Defender Application Guard,’ a program that protects Windows 10 users by isolating and containing threats and malware within the Edge browser. For now, it will be available only to Windows 10 Enterprise Edition and Hyper-V users.

Both ‘guards’ will complement firewalls and antivirus software to provide comprehensive protection to data, programs, devices, and networks.

Easier to reach contacts

Windows 10 subscribers will also benefit from the ‘My People’ feature, which will enhance collaboration. This new feature will let users pin contacts from their contact list to the Start Bar for quick access to email, instant messaging, or video calling. To activate, launch the People program and click on the icon found in the taskbar’s notifications area. Contacts can be pinned only if they have the Windows 10 App open in their system.

Other essential enhancements

The Fall Creators Update will also introduce small yet essential enhancements that will prove highly advantageous to businesses, one of which is a bandwidth limiting capability. Using this feature, network administrators can limit the amount of bandwidth allocated for Windows updates, allowing them to manage the updates for all devices across an entire network.

To do this:

  • Go to Deliver Optimization > Advanced options
  • Tick any of the three sliders
  • Adjust download and upload settings: limiting bandwidth for downloading updates; uploading updates to other PCS on the internet; and adjusting monthly upload limit

A battery-saving function will also be introduced to the new Windows 10 via ‘Power Throttling,’ which determines the activities that the system should prioritize based on a user’s activity. For example, if a user has multiple apps open but is actively using only a photo-editing tool, the system will allot greater power resources to the most actively used app and minimal resources to inactive ones.

Are you maximizing your Windows-powered computers’ features and capabilities? Get in touch with our experts to explore what Microsoft products can do for your business.

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Here comes Firefox Quantum

Google Chrome wasn’t always the browser of choice for internet users. Before 2008, people turned to Safari, Opera, and even Internet Explorer. But all of that changed with the arrival of Firefox, the reigning champ of its time. And now, we think it deserves your attention once again.

What is it?

Firefox Quantum, AKA Firefox 57, is Mozilla’s newest and fastest web browser, a culmination of years of Mozilla engineer’s hard work if you will.

What has changed?

Most of the updates in Firefox Quantum comes from Mozilla’s experimental web browser layout engine called Servo. It has been the testing platform for all of Firefox’s new features, including a new programming language called Rust that Mozilla had developed.

Rust is important because it allows Firefox Quantum to take full advantage of multiple CPU cores, a functionality that no previous versions of Firefox have. This gives the web browser a substantial speed boost. It also means that Firefox now uses 30% less RAM, possibly even less than Chrome.

Apart from speed, Firefox Quantum comes with a simple, streamlined interface that can be customized based on your preferences.

Mozilla has also made sure that the web browser’s display has clearer definitions on high-DPI screens and work better on laptops with touchscreens.

Firefox Quantum still comes with Pocket, a feature which lets you save articles, videos, pages, and other files to an easily accessible folder. It also has screenshot functionality and a reading mode that hides anything other than the page’s contents to remove any distractions.

All in all, Firefox Quantum seems to have tackled all the gripes that led many users to Chrome: speed and resource usage. The final version is scheduled to launch on November 14th, 2017.

Until then, you can test its features in the current beta or developer release. And as always, if you have any questions or would love to know more about how the web might benefit your business, just give us a call.

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The ABC’s of Cyber Security part 1

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