How to extend your laptop battery’s power

Keeping your laptop plugged in all the time doesn’t solve your battery problems. It may keep your laptop fully charged for a day, but this practice may do more harm than good in the long run. Luckily, there are quick-and-easy fixes and long-term solutions to help save battery power on your laptop. Here’s a look at some of them.

Manage your laptop’s power settings

Computer manufacturers are aware that battery life is an important consideration for most users, which is why many Windows and Apple computers have settings that help reduce battery consumption. Windows laptops have a Power Plan setting that lets you choose either a standard setting or a customized power plan; Energy Saver under MacOS’ ‘System Preferences’ offers a setting that allows you to adjust display and sleep controls.

Adjust display and system settings

You can also make adjustments to your laptop’s display and system settings to reduce brightness, turn off screensaver, disable Bluetooth and Wi-Fi (when they’re not used), and trigger the system to hibernate instead of sleep. A “sleeping” laptop consumes a little energy, but a “hibernating” laptop consumes absolutely none.

Use a battery monitor and other maintenance tools

If you think your laptop battery drains unusually fast, access your system’s battery maintenance tool to check its status. If your laptop doesn’t have one, you can download an application that creates a battery health report. That report will include charge cycle count, which determines the number of charge cycles your laptop has; and battery life estimate, which states how much longer the battery will provide power based on its current settings.

Keep your laptop operating efficiently

One way to accomplish this is by managing your web browser usage. Having many tabs opened on your browser drains your battery’s power and reduces your productivity. If you really must have a handful of tabs opened, consider switching to power-saving browsers such as Windows Edge or Opera. When multitasking, close unused apps and programs — especially those that download files or play media, as they consume the most power. This not only helps reduce battery consumption, but also helps the user stay focused on the task at hand.

Handle your laptop with care

Laptops are delicate and require safe handling and a cool temperature. With the exception of a few models (e.g., Apple’s MacBook Air), many devices are designed with a cooling system that keeps its CPU, graphics processor, and other components from overheating; and not to mention, its battery from depleting fast.

For that reason, handling your laptop with great care ensures longer battery life and better overall performance. When using your laptop on-the-go, make sure you don’t block its vents from circulating air, which means you should never put it on a surface such as a bed or similar soft surface that could prevent its cooling fans from working. And while it may seem harmless — and appropriate — putting your laptop on your lap is actually unsafe.

For businesses with remote workers and/or bring your own device (BYOD) policies, a laptop that lasts all day allows employees to be more productive and saves your company from having to spend on new laptops or replace batteries as a result of neglect. For cost-effective strategies on business technology, call us today.

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This fake Google app is really a phishing scam

If employee training and education isn’t an integral part of your cyber-security strategy, a recent scam might force you to reconsider. Instead of relying on complicated programming code to steal and destroy data, hackers are increasingly relying on human errors to get the job done. Even well-trained users are falling for the most recent ploy, take a look.

Broadly defined, “phishing” is any form of fraud in which an attacker tries to learn information such as login credentials or account information by masquerading as a reputable entity or person in email, IM or other communication channels.

These messages prey on users who click links, images and buttons without thoroughly investigating where they lead to. Sometimes the scam is as simple as an image with a government emblem on it that links to a website containing malware. Just hovering your mouse over the image would be enough to see through it. But some phishing schemes are far more difficult to recognize.

The Google Defender scam

Recently, an email spread to millions of GMail accounts that almost perfectly imitated a message from Google. The text read:

“Our security system detected several unexpected sign-in attempts on your account. To improve your account safety use our new official application “Google Defender”.

Below that was a button to “Install Google Defender”. What made this scheme so hard to detect is that the button actually links to a totally legitimate site…within Google’s own framework. When third-party app developers create GMail integrations, Google directs users to an in-house security page that essentially says, “By clicking this you are giving Google Defender access to your entire inbox. Are you sure you want to do this?”

Even to wary users, the original message looks like it came from Google. And the link took them to a legitimate Google security page — anyone could have fallen for it. The Gmail team immediately began assuring users that they were aware of the scam and working on eradicating it and any potential copycats.

There’s no happy ending to this story. Although vendors and cyber-security experts were able to respond to the crisis on the same day it was released, millions of accounts were still affected. The best way to prepare your business is with thorough employee training and disaster recovery plans that are prepared to respond to a breach. To find out how we can protect your business, call today.

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Fileless malware: who are the targets?

Business owners have spent the last couple months fearful of cyber attacks from the “fileless malware” plastered across headlines. The reality of this new threat doesn’t actually call for panic…yet. Getting acquainted with this new malware today could save you from a headache in the future.

What is this new threat?

To oversimplify the matter, fileless malware is stored somewhere other than a hard drive. For example, with some incredibly talented programming, a piece of malware could be stored in your Random Access Memory (RAM).

RAM is a type of temporary memory used only by applications that are running, which means antivirus software never scans it on account of its temporary nature. This makes fileless malware incredibly hard to detect.

This isn’t the first time it’s been detected

Industry-leading cyber security firm Kaspersky Lab first discovered a type of fileless malware on its very own network almost two years ago. The final verdict was that it originated from the Stuxnet strain of state-sponsored cyber warfare. The high level of sophistication and government funding meant fileless malware was virtually nonexistent until the beginning of 2017.

Where is it now?

Apparently being infected by this strain of malware makes you an expert because Kaspersky Lab was the group that uncovered over 140 infections across 40 different countries. Almost every instance of the fileless malware was found in financial institutions and worked towards obtaining login credentials. In the worst cases, infections had already gleaned enough information to allow cyber attackers to withdraw undisclosed sums of cash from ATMs.

Am I at risk?

It is extremely unlikely your business would have been targeted in the earliest stages of this particular strain of malware. Whoever created this program is after cold hard cash. Not ransoms, not valuable data, and not destruction. Unless your network directly handles the transfer of cash assets, you’re fine.

If you want to be extra careful, employ solutions that analyze trends in behavior. When hackers acquire login information, they usually test it out at odd hours and any intrusion prevention system should be able to recognize the attempt as dubious.

Should I worry about the future?

The answer is a bit of a mixed bag. Cybersecurity requires constant attention and education, but it’s not something you can just jump into. What you should do is hire a managed services provider that promises 24/7 network monitoring and up-to-the-minute patches and software updates — like us. Call today to get started.

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What exactly is preventive cyber-security?

There has been a movement among technology providers to promise “proactive” cyber security consulting. Small- and medium-sized businesses love the idea of preventing cyber-attacks and data breaches before they happen, and service providers would much rather brainstorm safeguards than troubleshoot time-sensitive downtime events. But it’s not always clear what proactive cyber-security means, so let’s take a minute to go over it.

Understand the threats you’re facing

Before any small- or medium-sized business can work toward preventing cyber-attacks, everyone involved needs to know exactly what they’re fighting against. Whether you’re working with in-house IT staff or an outsourced provider, you should review what types of attack vectors are most common in your industry. Ideally, your team would do this a few times a year.

Reevaluate what it is you’re protecting

Now that you have a list of the biggest threats to your organization, you need to take stock of how each one threatens the various cogs of your network. Map out every device that connects to the internet, what services are currently protecting those devices, and what type of data they have access to (regulated, mission-critical, low-importance, etc.).

Create a baseline of protection

By reviewing current trends in the cyber-security field, alongside an audit of your current technology framework, you can begin to get a clearer picture of how you want to prioritize your preventative measure versus your reactive measures.

Before you can start improving your cyber-security approach, you need to know where the baseline is. Create a handful of real-life scenarios and simulate them on your network. Network penetration testing from trustworthy IT professionals will help pinpoint strengths and weaknesses in your current framework.

Finalize a plan

All these pieces will complete the puzzle of what your new strategies need to be. With an experienced technology consultant onboard for the entire process, you can easily parse the results of your simulation into a multi-pronged approach to becoming more proactive:

  • Security awareness seminars that coach everyone — from receptionists to CEOs — about password management and mobile device usage.
  • “Front-line” defenses like intrusion prevention systems and hardware firewalls that scrutinize everything trying to sneak its way in through the front door or your network.
  • Routine checkups for software updates, licenses, and patches to minimize the chance of leaving a backdoor to your network open.
  • Web-filtering services that blacklist dangerous and inappropriate sites for anyone on your network.
  • Antivirus software that specializes in the threats most common to your industry.

As soon as you focus on preventing downtime events instead of reacting to them, your technology will begin to increase your productivity and efficiency to levels you’ve never dreamed of. Start enhancing your cyber-security by giving us a call for a demonstration.

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Microsoft’s Windows 10 Free Upgrade is Back!

Microsoft has announced that it will bring back free Windows 10 upgrades, but on one condition: Only small- and medium-sized businesses that have previously passed on the offer are eligible. So if you or someone you know has declined Microsoft’s previous proposition, here are some reasons you might want to reconsider.

They’re extending the free upgrade to this segment of customers to help them get to Windows 10,” said Wes Miller, an analyst at Direction on Microsoft, specializing in complex licensing rules and practices. Much like the 12-month upgrade deal that ended last August, this offer applies to personal computers running on Windows 7 or Windows 8.1. The only difference is, the offer is exclusive for businesses that have subscribed to one of the Windows Enterprise plans.

According to Nic Fillingham, a small business product manager: “Customers subscribed to Windows 10 Enterprise E3 and E5 as well as Secure Productive Enterprise E3 and E5, can now upgrade their Windows 7 and Windows 8.1 PCs and devices to Windows 10 without the need to purchase separate upgrade licenses.

The Windows 10 Enterprise E3 and E5 subscriptions are priced at $7 per user per month and $14 per user per month, or $84 and $168 per user annually. Unlike Microsoft’s historical licensing — which permanently licensed the operating system on a per-device basis — the E3 and E5 subscriptions are per-user licenses, and payments must be maintained to run the OS. This was introduced to target customers that didn’t want to sign a long-term volume licensing agreement.

In order to qualify for a Windows 10 Enterprise E3 or E5 subscription — which are delivered through a CSP (cloud service provider) — devices must already be running on Windows 10 Pro. SMBs could upgrade their devices for free last year if those devices ran older Windows 10 versions, and SMBs can upgrade the devices they newly acquire this year if those devices are already equipped with Windows 10 Pro.

When the CSP originated, the only qualifying OS was [Windows] 10 Pro Anniversary Update,” said Miller. “You had to be on 10 Pro. So, if you missed the consumer upgrade window, you would have to buy the underlying 10 Pro license.” It’s this license that Microsoft is giving away to customers subscribing to Windows 10 Enterprise E3 or E5. The acquired license is “perpetual” and will be tied to the specific device. “This means the license will not expire or be revoked if the customer chooses to end their Windows cloud subscription in the CSP program,” added Fillingham.

Since the upgrade is considered a subscriber benefit, a PC upgrade might be needed — from Windows 10 Pro to Windows 10 Enterprise — and if the user isn’t already covered by an E3 or E5 subscription, an additional $7 or $14 monthly is needed to run the system. Miller stated that the likeliest reason Microsoft brought back the free upgrade was to get more people onto the User Subscription License (SL). Providing upgrades from older editions makes more of a customer’s PCs eligible for use under the SL model of E3 and E5 (which is licensed per user, not per device). Another motivation could be to promote a partner-centric CSP.

Microsoft has officially confirmed the Windows 7/8.1-to-Windows 10 Pro upgrade offer is a permanent addition to the benefits for subscribers to Windows 10 Enterprise E3 and E5, and not a time-limited pitch. If you’re still hesitating or would like to ask some more questions, feel free to give us a call anytime!

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Spoofed email takes down NBA team

RefereeThe NBA Finals may now be over but for one team, the losses keep coming. Yahoo! Sports reported that the Milwaukee Bucks fell victim to a spoofed email scam last month. Names, addresses, Social Security numbers, compensation information and dates of birth of the players were unknowingly sent to a hacker and created a massive security issue for the team. And just because your employees don’t make millions of dollars doesn’t mean hackers won’t target your company. Here are four ways to protect yourself from spoofed emails.

Education is key
There are countless cliches out there promoting the importance of education, but when it comes to cyber security, you might as well embrace them all. In the case of spoofed emails, you need to make sure your employees know what these are and how they can harm your company. They can come in several forms and look to attack your organization in a number of different ways. A good defense starts with trained employees using best security practices when it comes to emails. Knowledge isn’t just the key to success, it’s the building block of a comprehensive email security plan.

Check the sender
The easiest way to determine a real email from a spoofed one is to view who is sending it. While your basic junk mail folder will screen the really lazy attempts at spoofing, you and your employees can’t rely on it to weed out everything. A lot of cybercriminals have gotten skilled at mimicking the look and feel of companies through professional looking graphics and signatures. For starters, you are going to want to ignore email display names as these can be deceptive. The domain name provides the best clues as to who the sender really is. For instance, if an email requesting your company’s financial documents claims to be from the IRS but the domain reads, it’s a spoof email since that domain is not what the IRS uses. If you ever spot an email containing a domain you consider to be suspicious, delete it immediately. If it is from a legitimate sender, they will send you a follow up email in a couple of days.

Embrace DMARC
Domain-based Message Authentication, Reporting and Conformance (DMARC) can help reduce the risk of spoofed emails being sent internally. For businesses that do not set this up, it is possible for someone to spoof an email account that looks like it is from your business or a current employee and send it from a different server. As we saw in the case with the Bucks, these can appear legitimate to employees who will then in turn do what is requested such as turn off security settings or handover sensitive data. With DMARC in place you can prevent spoofed emails from utilizing your domains by requiring any email sent by your domain to come from your server. This greatly reduces the risk of an internal spoofed email showing up in the inbox of your employees.

Utilize email protections
A lot of companies believe they can get by with the simple protections that come standard with an email client. However, doing the bare minimum is rarely enough to stop spoofed emails, not to mention all of the other threats lurking in your inbox, and high-powered email and spam protection will give your organization the added layer of security it needs. Much like elite-level basketball players need the best coaching and equipment to succeed, the only way to truly reduce the risk of falling victim of a spoofed email is to educate your staff properly and then equip them with email filtering. This ensures they aren’t wasting their time constantly trying to identify legitimate emails from fake ones but are prepared when the situation presents itself.

When it comes to email security, working with us is a slam dunk. We may not have the skills of Steph Curry on the basketball court but when in the realm of IT, competitors say they want to be like us. Give us a call today to find out more.

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Windows 10 Free Upgrade Ends on July 29, 2016

Windows10LogoSince Windows 10 launched in July 2015, Microsoft had indicated that current customers with Windows 7 or Windows 8 would be allowed to upgrade for free for a limited time. Microsoft has now announced that the end of the free upgrade period will be the one year anniversary of the operating system, July 29, 2016.

After July 29, the cost to upgrade will be $119 for Win 10 Home and $199 for Win 10 Pro.

There is no requirement to upgrade. Windows 7 will continue to be supported until January 2020. However, now is the time to consider if upgrading your computers is right, while it is still free. The recommendations from tech professionals are mixed. InfoWorld published the 10 reasons you shouldn’t upgrade. ComputerWorld published the 10 reasons to embrace Windows 10. In other words, there is no one right answer.

Here are a few things to consider:

  1. If you are using Windows 8, upgrade to Windows 10. With Win 10 Microsoft kept the good parts of Windows 8 and brought back the missing features (start button) they took away from Win 7. The look and feel is mostly the same with improvements.
  2. If you are using a laptop and have any concerns about data security, upgrade to Win 10 Pro. Win 10 Pro comes with BitLocker Drive Encryption. This means that if your laptop drive is encrypted and it is lost or stolen, someone cannot simply pull the hard-drive and copy your files.
  3. If you are using Microsoft cloud services, such as OneDrive and Office 365, seriously consider upgrading. Windows 10 has significantly more integration to cloud services with easier access.

If you are at all considering this for your computers, let’s discuss backup prior to the upgrade and let’s begin with a non-critical machine to ensure compatibility with your other software, printers and scanners. A little bit of up-front planning is the key to a successful implementation and with the clock now ticking, it is important to begin this planning ASAP.

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