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Why does your company need an internet policy?*

With computers and Internet access such an integral part of every business, and the Internet filled with everything from gambling to x-rated websites, it is critical that every business has an Internet use policy in place. This policy can help prevent your employees from accidentally or intentionally causing harm to your company or your company’s reputation. While you don’t want to give your employees the idea that they are living in George Orwell’s 1984, you want them to have a clear understanding of practices that are and are not appropriate during work hours. It is necessary for companies to create an Internet policy that everyone can live with.
Why Have An Internet Policy?
What Elements Should Your Internet Usage Policy Contain?
* Article from MSP University

Cloud Computing – How will it affect you?*

We are always on the watch for the 'next best thing' when it comes to technology and the Internet. Certainly no one can doubt that the next generation of the Internet (known as Web 2.0) has had a dramatic effect on how people interact and connect with each other - both from an individual standpoint and a business one.

Another emerging concept that has the power to change how we perform tasks is taking place before us as well, and it is called 'cloud computing.' Simply put, it is the ability to use resources and tools via the Internet without actually owning or being near them. The only requirement is to be able to access them.

The term 'cloud' is used to indicate the whole of computing services accessible via the Internet. It is an all-encompassing description of the complex internet-connected networks that exist in datacenters all over the world that power services and applications behind the scenes.

The concept of utilizing resources in these networks is being adopted by businesses both large and small. These resources are categorized to describe their function, and include:

  • Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS)
  • Platform as a Service (PaaS)
  • Software as a Service (SaaS)
  • Web 2.0

In the most general terms, Infrastructure as a Service means that companies may no longer need to own and house their own back-end servers and other network computing infrastructure besides an internet-connected PC or laptop in order to maintain business functionality. This capability can be purchased on a subscription basis from entities that market these services in a 'virtual' manner. This allows businesses to keep their costs low by not having to purchase, maintain and recycle their own equipment for this purpose, and also mitigates the possibility of business interruption due to the highly available nature of these solutions. This equates to increased uptime and profitability for Infrastructure as a Service customers.

Platform as a Service is also known as 'cloud-ware', and refers to the availability of development tools in creating web applications and services to the end user. Like IaaS, you never 'see' the inner-workings of this environment unless you are a computer programmer or IT resource, but it exists nonetheless and again affords those who use these tools the ability to reduce costs while running their businesses.

Software as a Service is defined as software applications that are subscribed to and accessed only through the Internet, and not installed on local PCs or laptops. Applications built by and accessed via Google fall into this category, as well as the many photo sites to which you can upload your pictures and videos, edit and share them with others. These solutions are gaining tremendous popularity, because end users do not need to install, update and maintain software locally - only connect to it and use it when the need arises.

Web 2.0 describes the whole of the social networking movement on the Internet, and includes but is not limited to destinations such as Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter. These sites offer the ability for people all over the world to share common interests, stay connected and learn more about each other - and these sites aren't just for the young. Statistics show that the over 50 generation is logging onto these sites in greater numbers than ever before. In fact, in one month alone, Facebook adds over 17,000 new members.

The next time you are on the Internet and upload a photograph and use the online tools to modify that picture, you are participating in 'cloud computing.' The picture is probably loaded to a site that uses IaaS for their servers, PaaS in order to provide the visual interface in which you modify the photograph, and SaaS applications you'll use to access your email program and social networking sites in order to send it to or post it for those with whom you would like to share the picture.

* Article from MSP University

6 Tips for using passwords to protect against identity and business theft*

Ah, those pesky passwords. If you work in the corporate world or in an office, you have one for your PC/Network and, unless there is a password synchronization application that combines them, you probably have more than one for other applications. Add those to the ones that you have for your home Internet, your banking and other websites that require passwords, and before you know it you have a nightmare on your hands in trying to manage them.

Part of the frustration has to do with the different requirements for password formatting. Some systems only require four characters, some require eight. Some need a combination of alpha and numeric characters and others do the same with the addition of a few capital letters thrown in for extra security. It can be positively maddening.

The worst thing you can do with your passwords is to place them in a text document which can be accessed on the hard drive of your computer. Your files are vulnerable - even if you think they are not. If someone is intent on finding them, they can. Even if you place them into a password protected document, those can be cracked, too.

Writing them down has its own vulnerabilities, too, and there are varying opinions on this practice. If you do write them down on a piece of paper, put the document in a locked location whether it is in your home or at work.

Here are 6 tips on how to handle your passwords:

  1. Make them complex. People who use easy to remember or short passwords are inviting disaster. Use a little imagination and pick a password that is very difficult to attach to your life. Stay away from birth dates, phone numbers, house numbers, or any other number that is associated with your life. 
  1. Keep passwords unique. When you change your passwords, make them unique from each other. Do not use the same password on all of your sites. If you do, then you are open to having every site that you have a password to being vulnerable to hackers to log on and steal your identity, money or destroy your reputation. 
  1. Be obscure. Use a combination of letters, numbers, capital letters and special characters if possible. The more you do this, the more secure your passwords will become. Create an alphanumeric version of a term you can remember. Using this technique the word "Spaceship" becomes "Sp@ce5h!p". 
  1. Change regularly. This is the singular tip that can save you if you do not heed any of the other tips. How often should you change your password? How secure do you want to be? The frequency with which you change your password will determine how secure you are from becoming a victim. The more often you change it, the better you are. The longer you leave it the same, the more vulnerable you become. Three months is a good cycle for a password, but certainly if you fear for the security of your identity, then a monthly change is not out of the question. 
  1. Password-protect your PC. Be sure to give your PC a password on power-up. This will help protect your files unrestricted access to your PC.
  1. Password-protect your wireless home network. If you have a wireless home network, be sure to password protect it as well. Use the same principles above in order to secure your wireless network. This will prevent others from accessing your connection and using it maliciously to hack the personal or business PCs and laptops you and your family use at home.

Finally, there are password programs that can help with this important task, but the best advice is to start with the tips above right away. Password software can be useful as an organizational tool, but it is no match for using sound methods to manage and make your passwords difficult to crack.

* Article from MSP University

Password Strength is Vital in Protecting Your Business and Personal Information*

In today's technologically driven business marketplace one of most often overlooked points of vulnerability to your business and personal security is the strength or weakness of the passwords that you define for usage when logging into: your computer network, email provider, online banking and accounting or payroll applications. To underestimate the importance of strong passwords is to leave the door wide open to identity theft and corporate piracy. Your passwords must be a robust combination of all the characters that are available, must be unique for different applications and must not be a word commonly found in any dictionaries, in any language.

We have been conditioned to use weak passwords. For many people the first password we ever needed was for our ATM cards. If this is the case we were limited to the numerals on the keypad 0-9. That simply will not cut it anymore. Malicious computer deciphering programs can run through all of the possible combinations in a matter of seconds. The same types of programs can run through all of the words in the dictionary, plus most common names, in multiple languages even spelled backwards, in a matter of minutes. You cannot have the same password for all of your password needs; if that one password was to get compromised then all of your sensitive private data would be at risk.

How do you come up with strong passwords that you can actually remember, without writing them down where they could be easily found and used to cause you or your business harm?

A good method is to come up with a phrase that is meaningfully unique to you, and therefore it will be something you will be likely to remember. For example: “I love muscle cars and custom motorcycles” or “Ping golf clubs are my favorites”

Use the first or last letter of each word to create a string or characters, from the example above: “I love muscle cars and custom motorcycles” I could come up with: “Ilmcacm” or “Iemsdms”

Replace one or more of the characters with its numeric position in the alphabet or a special character as in: Ilm3a3m or Ilmc@cm

Add a suffix or prefix to make it unique to each application that you will use it for.

For my Yahoo email I could use: YeIlm3a3m

For my Chase bank account I could use: CbIl3ma3m

Make sure that your each unique string of characters is at least 10 characters long.

Now that you have a strong password, that last thing you need to worry about is using them wisely.

  • Do not write them down on a sticky note and put them under your keyboard or behind your monitor. Do not store them in the file system of your computer.
  • Do not use your passwords on computers that have open access to the general public, such as those found in Internet cafes, airports or mall kiosks.
  • Do not enter personal information such as your user names and passwords on unsecured websites.
Do make sure that the computer terminals that you use your passwords on have up to date anti-spyware and anti-virus applications.

 

* Article from MSP University

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