Tech Tips& Trends

Whether you’re still trying to learn how to use your desktop computer more safely and efficiently, or you’re planning future technology advances for your organization, here are a few things the Balsam Technologies team has found helpful lately!


Past Newsletter's

Tech Tip Of The Month

End of Support for Microsoft Products- what does this mean for you?

Microsoft provides 10 years of product support for their desktop and server software applications. When this 10-year product support period ends, Microsoft discontinues support of those products to focus on supporting newer product technologies. Below we’ve listed some of the major upcoming “End of Support Product Dates” for your convenience. After that date, technical assistance and software updates from Windows Update, that help protect your computers and sensitive data, will no longer be available for those products. Microsoft strongly recommends moving to current product versions sometime before the stated “end of support date”, in order to avoid a situation where your computers are no longer updated with security patches for emerging security vulnerabilities. Below is a list of some of the major upcoming end of support life dates. The list below are also URL links with additional information for you. We’re currently reviewing all our client networks so that we can notify those of you who may still be using these products and will be contacting you soon to discuss how to address these issues.

 

Upcoming End of Support Product Dates: January 14, 2020.

 

-Windows 7 Operating System

Tech Tip Of The Month

October 2019- 5G- What is it and is it Here Already?

5G data networks

The 5th generation of mobile internet connectivity is going to give us super-fast download and upload speeds as well as more stable connections. While 5G mobile data networks became available for the first time in 2019, they were mostly still expensive and limited to functioning in confined areas or major cities. 2020 is likely to be the year when 5G really starts to fly, with more affordable data plans as well as greatly improved coverage, meaning that everyone can join in the fun.

Read More at…https://www.pcmag.com/article/345387/what-is-5g

Tech Tip Of The Month

September 2019- What is a Firewall and Why They Are Important?

Firewall is a software or hardware device that protects your computer from being attacked over the internet by hackers, viruses, and worms. This may occur either at a large corporate network, or simply at a small home network; both have the same security issues.
Having a firewall in each company’s internet connection allows the business to setup online rules for the users. For example, with the firewall the company can control the access to certain websites, giving it the control of how employees use the network. These are the different ways of how a firewall controls the online activities:

  • Packet filtering:small amount of data is analyzed and distributed according to the filter’s standards. .
  • Proxy service:online Information is saved by the firewall and then sent to the requesting system.
  • Statefulinspection: matches specific details of a data packet to a database of reliable information.

Firewalls allow you to either add or remove filters based on certain circumstances such as:

IP addresses: If a certain IP address, not belonging to the company’s network is accessing too many files from the server, this IP can get blocked by the firewall.

Domain names: with the firewall, a company is able to block or allow access to certain domains.

Specific words and phrases: The firewall will scan each packet of information to match the filter content. You may select any word or sentence to be blocked.

Protect your home computer at home by turning on a firewall, or if you have more than one, use a hardware firewall (such as a router) to protect your network. If you use a “public” computer, you should follow the network administrator’s policy.

Even though some firewalls offer virus protection, it is recommended to install anti-virus software on each computer. Depending on the layers of security you use, you will determine how many threats can be blocked by your firewall, and prevent any outside user to login into your private network.

Tech Tip Of The Month

Cyber Safety for Students- Tips to Help Keep Kids/Students Safe Online.

As summer break ends, students everywhere will return to school with mobile devices, smart phones, tablets, and laptops. Although these devices can help students complete schoolwork and stay in touch with family and friends, there are risks associated with using them. However, there are simple steps that can help students stay safe while using their internet-connected devices. For instance, making use of available tools/applications that can help you protect your child on your home computers and devices, while teaching our children about internet safety in order to better protect them when they are away from home. Carving out some dedicated time to talk to children about the dangers of the internet so that they recognize suspicious behavior or activity is another great way to keep everyone up to date and aware of what’s out there. We all make mistakes, have downloaded files we thought were safe or clicked on links we thought were legitimate. Keeping children informed about some of the concerns and dangers will help us all recognize the warning signs early and avoid any negative ramifications of viruses, malware or any number of unsafe websites or files.

 

Below are a number of links with helpful information to help us all be more informed about the most up to date risks and safety concerns to be aware of as students make their way into the 2019/2020 school season.

 

Tech Tip Of The Month

July 2019- Getting more Productivity and Less Distraction with Technology

The buzz of a cell phone on vibrate. A ding from an email notification. The pop-up at the bottom of your screen with the most recent post.

We are all familiar with the many tech distractions that can come from working in an environment that is integrated with technology, but why does it matter? As many as 41% of workers respond to incoming emails in 15 seconds or less and are interrupted at least 11 times an hour on average. Considering it takes the average person 15 minutes to regain focus after a distraction, that has a tremendous effect!

 

What do? Find more tips at https://www.theoverturegroup.com/blog/how-to-reduce-tech-distractions-at-work/

Tech Tip Of The Month

June 2019- 3 Fun (TECH) Things to Do With Your Kids This Summer

Summer is the perfect time to spark kids’ interest in activities they may not be exposed to during the traditional school year. Technology can help them learn new skills while being entertained. Motivate your kids to imagine, create, enjoy and explore new possibilities with these three free tech ideas from Microsoft.

Read More at…https://blogs.microsoft.com/latinx/2018/06/08/dont-know-what-to-do-with-your-kids-this-summer-we-have-3-tips-for-you/

Tech Tip Of The Month

End of Support for Microsoft Products- what does this mean for you?

Microsoft provides 10 years of product support for their desktop and server software applications. When this 10-year product support period ends, Microsoft discontinues support of those products to focus on supporting newer product technologies. Below we’ve listed some of the major upcoming “End of Support Product Dates” for your convenience. After that date, technical assistance and software updates from Windows Update, that help protect your computers and sensitive data, will no longer be available for those products. Microsoft strongly recommends moving to current product versions sometime before the stated “end of support date”, in order to avoid a situation where your computers are no longer updated with security patches for emerging security vulnerabilities. Below is a list of some of the major upcoming end of support life dates. The list below are also URL links with additional information for you. We’re currently reviewing all our client networks so that we can notify those of you who may still be using these products and will be contacting you soon to discuss how to address these issues.

 

Upcoming End of Support Product Dates: January 14, 2020.

 

-Windows 7 Operating System

 

-Windows Server 2008 and Windows Server 2008 R2

 

-Microsoft Exchange 2010

 

As noted above, we will be contacting everyone soon to discuss a plan to address these end of support products you currently utilize.

Tech Tip Of The Month

The "Dirty Dozen" list of Tax Scams for 2019

Did you know: The Internal Revenue Service has wrapped up issuing its annual “Dirty Dozen” list of tax scams? The IRS reminds taxpayers to remain vigilant to these often aggressive and evolving schemes throughout the year.

This year’s “Dirty Dozen” list highlights a wide variety of schemes that taxpayers may encounter at any time, although many may peak during tax-filing season. The schemes run the gamut from simple refund inflation scams to complex tax shelter deals. A common theme throughout all: Scams put taxpayers at risk.

Click below to see the full list!

2019 Tax Scams

Tech Tip Of The Month

Is Identity Theft Just A Problem For People Who Submit Information Online?

  • You can be a victim of identity theft even if you never use a computer. Malicious people may be able to obtain personal information (such as credit card numbers, phone numbers, account numbers, and addresses) by stealing your wallet, overhearing a phone conversation, rummaging through your trash (a practice known as dumpster diving), or picking up a receipt at a restaurant that has your account number on it. If a thief has enough information, he or she may be able to impersonate you to purchase items, open new accounts, or apply for loans.The internet has made it easier for thieves to obtain personal and financial data. Most companies and other institutions store information about their clients in databases; if a thief can access that database, he or she can obtain information about many people at once rather than focus on one person at a time. The internet has also made it easier for thieves to sell or trade the information, making it more difficult for law enforcement to identify and apprehend the criminals.What is Identity Theft?

Tech Tip Of The Month

Microsoft Office 365 Tips & Tricks...

February 2019

Tech Tip Of The Month

Microsoft Office 365 Tips & Tricks..

You’ve heard Microsoft has a cloud version of Office, called Office 365, and either you’ve already migrated to this platform or you’re wondering should you make the switch and how will it help your organization.   With Microsoft Office 365 you can use the cloud based versions of the Microsoft Office suite, and also depending on your monthly subscription level you can install the Microsoft Office software directly on your computer, to give you the best of all worlds. Included in your monthly subscription, Microsoft automatically adds new features to the online versions of the Office suite. Whether you’ve already adopted the new Microsoft 365 cloud platform, or you’re considering it, follow the links below to learn about the benefits, tips, and tricks available in Microsoft Office 365…

Find more information about how to make the most out of Office 365…

 

Productivity

Don’t be afraid of your Inbox

Does the size of your mailbox give you the shakes?

Is the fear of losing an email giving you nightmares?

Don’t drown in your inbox. Breathe deeply; face your fears.

Innovations

Lost and Found

Have there ever been times where you lost a device and wish you had some type of GPS tracking? Or wondering if your children are safe on Halloween night and wanting to track them via GPS?

Consider these new technology solutions:

Tech Tip Of The Month

January 2019- What is Two-Factor Authentication (2FA)

  • 2FA is an extra layer of security used to make sure that people trying to gain access to an online account are who they say they are. First, a user will enter their username and a password. Then, instead of immediately gaining access, they will be required to provide another piece of information. This second factor could come from one of the following categories:
    • Something you know: This could be a personal identification number (PIN), a password, answers to “secret questions” or a specific keystroke pattern
    • Something you have: Typically, a user would have something in their possession, like a credit card, a smartphone, or a small hardware token
    • Something you are: This category is a little more advanced, and might include biometric pattern of a fingerprint, an iris scan, or a voice print

    With 2FA, a potential compromise of just one of these factors won’t unlock the account. So, even if your password is stolen or your phone is lost, the chances of a someone else having your second-factor information is highly unlikely. Looking at it from another angle, if a consumer uses 2FA correctly, websites and apps can be more confident of the user’s identity, and unlock the account.

     

    Read More at…https://authy.com/what-is-2fa/

QuickTime for Window’s End-of-Life

US-CERT Article concerning QuickTime for Window’s End-of-Life:
QuickTime is now a security risk!

Alternately use Windows Media Player –
Windows Media Player (Version 12) – plays .mov files
The answer to your media problems is already installed on your Windows computer!

Watch out for these holiday shopping scams

Unfortunately the holidays presents prime opportunities for scammers to take advantage of online shoppers looking for a “good deal”.   Consumers can be especially vulnerable when conducting their online shopping from smartphone devices.  Read on in the following article link to learn how you can avoid these malicious cyber criminals and have a fun, safe holiday season….

Watch out for these holiday shopping scams

 

Halloween Tips and Tricks for Safer Trick-Or-Treating

Over 41 million kids in the US will take to the streets on Halloween night for some fun and treats.  Help keep your kids safe by training them how to handle unexpected interactions with strangers.  Think about using a tracker app to keep tabs on where your kids are.  Communication, common sense, and a little bit of technology can help make sure your little ones have a fun and safe evening.  Read on in the following article link to learn more…

Halloween Tips and Tricks for Safer Trick-Or-Treating

 

Preventing and Responding to Identity Theft

Identity theft isn’t just a problem for people who submit information online over the internet.  Thieves can steal your personal information over the phone, by stealing your wallet or purse, picking up receipts at a restaurant with your account number on it, or even by rummaging through your trash for personal information and account statements.  Read on in the below article and learn how you can help avoid becoming a victim, and what to do if you do become a victim…

Preventing and Responding to Identity Theft

 

Lesson of BLU: Make the right privacy, security calls when working with service providers.

It is important to keep a watchful eye on your service providers. Your service providers often have access to personal information needed to perform their service functions.  However, they should not be sharing this information with other third parties and there are strict guidelines for how your personal information should be managed and safeguarded while in their possession.  Read on in the below article to learn more…

Make the right privacy, security calls when working with service providers.

 

Identifying Hoaxes and Urban Legends

Chain Letters are Often A Problem…not only can they be used to house and distribute viruses, but they also can consume bandwidth and can be a big time waster and drain on productivity.  There are certain things you can watch for to determine if a chain letter is a hoax or urban legend.   Below is a useful article to help explain and keep you safe on the internet…

Identifying Hoaxes and Urban Legends

Staying Secure in Tricky Times

In today’s cyber security landscape, email-born phishing, malware, and viruses are among the greatest threats to organization. Ransomware and data encryption viruses run rampant in even the most secure government environments, and identity theft and personal information security breaches are also at an all-time high.

“Spear phishing” is a term used to describe targeted, malicious email attacks; messages are addressed to a specific individual, appearing to come from a trusted source — even from someone with authority in your own company — and can expose the receiver to spyware, viruses, or other malware. A proactive approach to network security can effectively prevent your organization and your data from being a target for cybercriminals.

In response to the heightened need for security, Balsam continues to offer current, preemptive security services for avoiding security breaches.  Feel free to call us at any time to discuss the security of your organization. There is no single fool-proof way to avoid phishing attacks, but there are practices that will educate your staff and protect your assets from attack.

Also see this related article:  “What is SpearPhishing?

Tech Tip Of The Month

Consider Encrypting Your "Thumb" Drive

Flash drives can contain valuable sensitive information and should not be handled carelessly.

The MA Data Security Laws and sound cybersecurity policies require the encryption of all personal or sensitive data. Although there are several third-party apps available to encrypt USB flash drives connected to your PC, we recommend using Bitlocker, the built-in Windows tool.

If you’re looking for a 3rd party option that can also work with your Apple computer, PC World has some additional recommendations.

Security

Office Horror Stories

Many organizations pour hours of time into the thorough formulation of a reliable data backup and business disaster recovery plan, only to live through the horror of watching strategies fail – thanks to a lack of reliable automated technology and accurate monitoring and alerting when systems are needed most. Would your business survive a major data loss?

Here are a few things to consider as you formulate your backup and disaster recovery strategies:

Back Up vs. Disaster Recovery

Virtualization and Data Back Up

Productivity

Don’t be afraid of your Inbox

Does the size of your mailbox give you the shakes?

Is the fear of losing an email giving you nightmares?

Don’t drown in your inbox. Breathe deeply; face your fears.

Innovations

Lost and Found

Have there ever been times where you lost a device and wish you had some type of GPS tracking? Or wondering if your children are safe on Halloween night and wanting to track them via GPS?

Consider these new technology solutions:

Tech Tip Of The Month

Gone Phishing

Did you know that 91% of cyberattacks begin with a user clicking on a phishing email?
Scammers try to copy email and text messages from legitimate companies to trick you into entering personal information and passwords. Never follow links or open attachments in suspicious or unsolicited messages. If you need to change or update personal information, contact the company directly. Be suspicious if you receive the following:

The sender’s email address or phone number doesn’t match the name of the company that it claims to be from. EXAMPLE: From: FedEx [mailto:tracking@afedex.com]
The message starts with a generic greeting, like “Dear customer.” Most legitimate companies will include your specific name.
A link appears to be legitimate, but when you hover over it with your mouse, you can see it point to a URL that match the address of the company’s website. EXAMPLE: Link says, “FedEx invoice for tracking” but the link directs to http://auburnmachine.com/file.php?
The message looks significantly different from other messages that you’ve received from the company.
The message requests personal information, like a credit card number or account password.
The message is unsolicited and contains an attachment.

Still unsure? If the email came from someone in your address book, send them a new email asking if they sent the “phishy” one. Better safe than sorry!

Finally, be a smarter clicker with these helpful tips.

Security

Password PROTECTED? Choose Wisely!

What do these passwords have in common?

  • 123456
  • qwerty
  • password1
  • admin
  • football
  • 121212

Answer: They are among the worst passwords used in 2016..
Get smart with these helpful password protection strategies from one of our valued partners!

Looking for even greater protection? Consider two-factor authentication for logging into your company’s most sensitive systems.

Innovations

What is the IoT—Internet of Things?

Think your refrigerator can’t talk to your phone? What about your toothbrush? Think again.

Here’s the buzz about the “Internet of Things” and how it relates to the Cloud.

Technology, Compliance, and the Law

Are your technology needs growing, shrinking, or just changing?

Many organizations don’t fully realize the types of data they are storing and, as such, what precautions are necessary to ensure compliance with local, state and/or federal guidelines.

Below are three questions to consider when examining data, security and disaster recovery planning:

1:  Does your organization have accurate written policies in place to ensure you are in compliance with applicable data security laws and regulations?
2:  Has your organization ever experienced a data security breach in which critical data was accessed or stolen by an unauthorized intruder, or personnel?
3:  Which local, state, or federal mandates, laws, and/or compliance regulations are of concern to you?

If you are unsure how to answer these questions, please feel free to contact us here at Balsam, and one of our representatives can demystify these laws and mandates. We can help you make the necessary changes to achieve and maintain compliance.

Common Compliance Requirements:

i. HIPAA – Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act
Defines policies, procedures and guidelines for maintaining the privacy and security of individually identifiable health information as well as outlining numerous offenses relating to health care and sets civil and criminal penalties for violations. HIPAA also regulates the availability and breadth of group health plans and certain individual health insurance policies.

ii. MA Data Security Laws: 201 CMR 17:00
Defines standards for the protection of personal information for the residents of MA. This regulation establishes minimum standards to be met in connection with the safeguarding of personal information contained in both paper and electronic records.

iii. PCI Compliance
The Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) is a set of security standards designed to ensure that ALL companies that accept, process, store or transmit credit card information maintain a secure environment. The PCI DSS applies to ANY organization, regardless of size or number of transactions, that accepts, transmits or stores any cardholder data.
Additional References

iv. SEC Compliance – Securities and Exchange Commission
Defines requirements set forth by the Securities and Exchange Commission for financial investment companies and investment advisers registered with the Commission to adopt and implement written policies and procedures reasonably designed to prevent violation of the federal securities laws.

v. SOX (also known as Sarbox) – Sarbanes-Oxley Act
Defines responsibilities of a public corporation’s board of directors, adds criminal penalties for certain misconduct, and required the Securities and Exchange Commission to create regulations to define how public corporations are to comply with the law.

Tech Tip Of The Month

QuickTime for Window’s End-of-Life

US-CERT Article concerning QuickTime for Window’s End-of-Life:
QuickTime is now a security risk!

Alternately use Windows Media Player –
Windows Media Player (Version 12) – plays .mov files
The answer to your media problems is already installed on your Windows computer!

Tech Tip Of The Month

Preventing and Responding to Identity Theft

Identity theft isn’t just a problem for people who submit information online over the internet.  Thieves can steal your personal information over the phone, by stealing your wallet or purse, picking up receipts at a restaurant with your account number on it, or even by rummaging through your trash for personal information and account statements.  Read on in the below article and learn how you can help avoid becoming a victim, and what to do if you do become a victim…

Preventing and Responding to Identity Theft