5 Ways to Protect Your Business's Email Accounts from Hackers

While CIA Director Brennan was a casualty of a duped service provider there are other ways hackers use to gain access to your email.  See the full story here:  https://www.wired.com/2015/10/hacker-who-broke-into-cia-director-john-brennan-email-tells-how-he-did-it/    A hacked email account is a serious problem. Besides reading emails, cybercriminals can access other types of information associated with the account, such as calendar and contact data. Hackers can also use the account to send out spam or malicious emails, or even access other online accounts. For example, suppose they see a sales confirmation email from an online office supply store in the inbox of the hacked email account. Website login credentials often consist of an email address coupled with a password. The hackers already know the email address, so they might try entering commonly used passwords or running a password-cracking program to find the password.

Here are five ways to protect your business's email accounts from hackers:

1. Require Strong, Unique Passwords for Email Accounts

Both hackers and password-cracking programs are really good at figuring out weak passwords. For this reason, your business's email account passwords must be strong. A strong password:

  • Is at least eight characters long (the longer, the better)
  • Uses uppercase and lowercase letters
  • Includes numbers, but not in a predictable pattern such as 123
  • Uses special characters (e.g., question mark, ampersand, percent sign) when possible

Email account passwords also need to be unique. Hackers know that people reuse passwords, so once they obtain an account's credentials, they try them elsewhere. Since creating and remembering strong, unique passwords is difficult, have employees use a password manager to create and store their credentials.

2. Secure Your Business's Computers

Hackers can use malware to obtain passwords. For instance, they might use malware that logs keystrokes or searches a computer for credentials. To help prevent such malware from infiltrating your business's computers, it is important to use anti-malware software as well as regularly update your operating system and applications.

3. Educate Employees about Phishing and Spear Phishing

Hackers might try to obtain email account passwords through phishing or spear phishing emails, so you need to teach employees how to spot these emails. When doing so, stress the following points:

  • If employees receive an email from someone they do not know, they should not open any attached files or click any links (unless it is a normal part of their job, such as an HR manager opening attached resumes sent by job applicants).
  • If employees receive an email from someone they know but it contains an attachment they were not expecting, they should check with the person first before opening the attachment to make sure he or she sent it.
  • If employees receive an email from someone they do not know and the email contains a link, they should not click the link.
  • If employees receive an email from someone they know and the email contains a link, they should check the link (hover their cursor over it to see the web address) before clicking it.

4. Create an Official Email Policy

Employees are increasingly using their personal smartphones, tablets, and other computing devices for work. You can use an email policy to let employees know whether they are allowed to access work emails from their own devices.

An official email policy can also lay down some ground rules on accessing emails while traveling for business. For example, the policy might state that employees should not access work emails from public computers (keyloggers might be installed) or use public Wi-Fi hotspots (sniffing attacks could occur).

5. Require Two-Step Verification for Email Accounts If Available

More and more email service providers are offering two-step verification, including Gmail, Hotmail, and Outlook.com. Two-step verification adds another layer of security to email accounts. For instance, employees might need to provide a password and a security code to access their email accounts. With two-step verification, hackers cannot access an account even if they have the password.

What You Need to Know about SQL Server 2005's End of Support

Which database management system is running on your company's server units? For end users, it's not something that they put a whole lot of thought into. However, if you completely overlook your Microsoft SQL Server, you may end up running an expired version that puts your data at risk. Case in point, SQL Server 2005, for which Microsoft recently ended support .

Microsoft's support for SQL Server 2005 ended on April 12, 2016. This is not unexpected, as this software is more than a decade old. If you are still using SQL Server 2005, it will continue to function. However, relying on it in the long term might not be the best course of action.

The Pitfalls of Staying with SQL Server 2005

Continuing to use SQL Server 2005 to drive the backend of your business has several drawbacks. The most serious one is that your business will be more vulnerable to cyberattacks. Because Microsoft is no longer providing security updates for SQL Server 2005, your databases will not be protected against new malware or new attack vectors. To make matters worse, many cybercriminals keep track of when versions of popular programs like SQL Server reach their end of support. Once that day arrives, the cybercriminals intentionally launch new attacks that target the unsupported software.

Another downside of sticking with SQL Server 2005 is that it will be increasingly harder to achieve compliance with regulations and standards like the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) and Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS). Both HIPAA and PCI DSS call for the protection of sensitive data, which databases often contain. If you cannot protect your SQL Server 2005 databases from new cyberattacks, you might be found in noncompliance with HIPAA and PCI DSS. Noncompliance can result in penalties, higher costs, and even lost business.

Although not as serious as the disadvantages just discussed, continuing to use SQL Server 2005 means that you cannot turn to Microsoft for help. The Microsoft Customer Service and Support staff is no longer able to answer any technical questions you might have about SQL Server 2005 or help you troubleshoot any problems. The only assistance that Microsoft offers is its publicly available online content, such as Knowledge Base articles and support webcasts.

You Do Not Have to Make the Decision Alone

Staying with SQL Server 2005 has some obvious benefits — namely, you do not have the hassles and the costs associated with upgrading to a new version. However, you need to keep the pitfalls in mind. PowerOne can help you weigh the pros and cons of each course of action.

If you choose to upgrade, the options include migrating your onsite databases to SQL Server 2014, which requires Windows Server 2012 or Windows 8. Alternatively, you can use SQL Azure Database, Microsoft's cloud-based database service. With this service, you access your databases with the Azure Management Portal. It works on all modern desktop and tablet devices running at least one of the following web browsers: Microsoft Edge, Microsoft Internet Explorer 11, Apple Safari, or Google Chrome. PowerOne can help you determine whether it is more advantageous to keep your databases onsite or move them to the cloud.

7 Convenient Calling Features That Can Boost Productivity

Employees tend to have many responsibilities, especially in small businesses. To handle these responsibilities, they need to manage their time wisely. One way you can help your employees be more productive is by providing calling features designed with convenience in mind.

Here are seven convenient calling features that you might want to look for in a phone system:

1. Sequential Ringing

Employees who are on the move will find sequential ringing helpful. When this feature is enabled, an unanswered call is automatically forwarded to a preset list of phone numbers, but the person calling only has to dial one number. Employees specify the phones to forward their calls to and the number of rings before the call is forwarded. They often set up sequential ringing so that calls go to their desk phone, then their cell phone, and finally voicemail. The possibilities are endless, though. For example, if employees are unable to answer their phone, they can have their calls go to another member of their department, followed by a third department member, and finally the office receptionist.

2. Simultaneous Ringing

With simultaneous ringing, all the phones specified in a list will ring at once when a call comes in. As soon as the call is answered, the ringing stops. Employees often set up simultaneous ringing so that both their desk phone and cell phone ring at the same time. Businesses can even have all the phones in a department set to ring when someone calls that department.

3. Conference Calling

Traveling to a meeting can make an employee's productivity plummet. With conference calling, employees can attend meetings without wasting time getting there. Plus, businesses can save money because they do not have to pay for travel expenses. Conference calling provides a virtual meeting room, which employees enter by using a dial-in number and personal identification number.

4. Three-Way Calling

Three-way calling lets employees participate in impromptu conference calls. During a call, an employee can add another person to the conversation. All the employee needs to do is press the switch hook or flash button, call the third person, and then press the switch hook or flash button again.

5. Enhanced Voicemail

With enhanced voicemail, employees can listen to their voicemails from any phone or through a web application. They can even receive them as MP3 files attached to emails.

6. Voicemail Transcription

Rather than having to listen to and write down information in a voicemail, employees can have an automated system transcribe the message so that they can simply read it. Most often, these automated systems send the transcribed messages to employees via email. In some cases, employees can receive them via a text messaging service.

7. Telemarketer Blocking

Telemarketing calls can waste employees' time. Fortunately, there are features that can detect and block these calls. One such feature works by detecting when telemarketers use a machine that automatically dials every number in a phone directory. Another works by blocking phone numbers that display "Anonymous," "Unknown," "Unavailable," or "Restricted" instead of the phone number on caller IDs.

8 Reasons to Upgrade to Windows 10 (and a Few Warnings)

Windows 10, the latest version of Microsoft's flagship operating system, was released on July 29, 2015, and millions of people have already received their copies of the tech giant's newest piece of software. While there are plenty of good reasons to upgrade, Windows 10 isn't necessarily for everyone.

Here are a few issues to consider when choosing whether or not to get Windows 10:

1. It's Free (for Most People)

Microsoft is offering free upgrades to Windows 10 for anyone with a genuine copy of Windows 7, Windows 8.1, or Windows Phone 8.1. The free-upgrade promotion — which expires on July 29, 2016 — will entice a huge number of Windows users to make the switch.

However, the offer doesn't extend to Windows Vista, Windows XP, Windows 7 Enterprise, Windows 8.1 Enterprise, Windows RT, and Windows RT 8.1. That being said, Microsoft started selling Windows 10 Enterprise and Windows 10 Education on August 1, 2015.

2. Improved Performance

Windows 10 features several performance upgrades. It boots up faster and its better hardware acceleration means that the operating system is a bit quicker when in use. The OS's power management system has also seen some improvements that tend to extend the life of mobile devices' batteries.

Additionally, the Refresh and Reset functions were reimplemented so that they work without the need for a recovery image. This reduces the amount of system resources that the OS requires, and makes it easier for users to remove any unwanted software that hardware manufacturers might have bundled into their copies of Windows.

3. Better Security

Security was clearly an important consideration for Microsoft's developers when they were creating Windows 10. The new OS provides automatic updates, which can make things easier for some users. It also has a number of features designed to keep users and their data secure.

Its Device Guard tool blocks unauthorized applications from accessing Windows 10 computers or the networks that they are connected to. The OS's Passport and Windows Hello features protect accounts by changing the way that people approach user authorization. Instead of relying on a password, these features let users launch Windows 10 devices by using biometric characteristics like their faces, irises, or fingerprints.

4. The Return of the Start Menu

One of the main criticisms against Windows 8 was the loss of the Start menu. This clear and easy-to-use menu was a staple of previous Windows versions, and many users were upset when they were unable to use it. Thankfully, Microsoft learned from its mistakes by bringing the Start menu back with Windows 10.

The new version of the Start menu will be familiar to Windows 7 users, but it also features a customizable side panel with live tiles similar to the ones used in Windows 8. You can reorganize this panel as you like, combine and resize live tiles, and create shortcuts to your favorite applications. Alternatively, if you don't like the live tiles, you can delete them and go back to the basic Windows-7-style menu.

5. A New Web Browser

The release of Windows 10 also served as the debut performance of Microsoft Edge, the company's latest web browser. Windows 10 users will still have the option to use Internet Explorer, though. This will help companies that need to keep using the 20-year-old web browser for compatibility reasons.

Microsoft Edge is designed to be faster, more secure, and more user-friendly than Internet Explorer. Users can customize the web browser by picking a background or choosing a set font size. It also has several new features, like the ability to convert to a streamlined format that removes sidebars and is easier to read. There is also a tool that lets you make notes on web pages, and then share screenshots of the pages through email or a social network.

6. A Universal Approach

Windows 10 is a universal operating system that works on every Windows machine, whether it's a computer or a mobile device. Any app bought through the Windows Store will work on all of a user's machines, and will feel familiar regardless of the device that it is being used on. Users can also switch from one device to the next without losing any of their work. If you start working on a document on your computer, you can easily switch to your tablet and pick up right where you left off.

Microsoft's Continuum also facilitates this broader versatility. This feature changes the operating system's interface based on the status of the device. For example, if you plug a keyboard and mouse into your tablet, the operating system will recognize the change and switch to desktop mode.

7. A Digital Personal Assistant

Cortana is Microsoft's answer to Google Now and Apple's Siri. Originally connected to Windows Phone, the digital personal assistant can now be used on any Windows 10 device. Users interact with Cortana by speaking or by typing in questions. The digital assistant learns about users by keeping track of the things they like, and is integrated with Microsoft's calendar and email clients. This means that it is able to answer more personal questions like "How long will it take me to get home?" and recognize specific issues that might affect you, like a traffic jam or travel delay.

8. Virtual Desktops

With Windows 10, you can create multiple different desktops and choose which apps to run on each one. This helps you keep your work life and your personal life separate, and allows you to share desktops with your colleagues.

A Few Words of Warning

Although Windows 10 does have a lot of advantages, there are a few things that you should be aware of before you upgrade. As noted above, Windows 10 users will get automatic updates. In some cases, this can be a good thing, but some users, and especially organizations that need consistent desktops for all staff, like to maintain more control over their updates. For those people, Microsoft has noted that Windows 10 Pro and Windows 10 Enterprise let you avoid this automatic updating process.

Additionally, the Windows Media Center is not part of the new OS, so if you use this application a lot — by watching DVDs, for example — then you will need to find a suitable replacement online.

Lastly, compatibility with existing, older software may be an issue. If you have applications that are only compatible with a certain operating system, check with your IT staff or service provider about the possibility of migrating to Windows 10. By the same token, if you have older hardware or peripherals that don't have updated drivers, then Windows 10 could be a problem and it might be time to buy newer pieces of equipment.

Windows 10 has a lot of privacy and bandwidth settings that you may not want to have enabled. Many of these are automatically turned on by default during the installation process. As a precaution, be sure to look over the settings in case you want to change them. Talk to your IT provider if you have any questions on the effect of enabling or disabling a setting.

The Big Finale

The media has claimed that the new OS could be the last version of Windows. Setting aside the speculation, the basic premise behind this statement is that Microsoft may be moving to a so-called Windows-as-a-Service model in which it will push out frequent updates to its current operating system rather than release a new version every few years.

Regardless of the hype, the fact of the matter is that Windows 10 will be here for years to come. Microsoft has already committed to a 10-year support cycle for it. Windows users will, in all likelihood, have to adapt to it at some point. Deciding when that point will be is something that you can do with the help of your IT staff or service provider.

How to Back Up Data Using the File History Feature in Windows 10

There are many ways you can lose files and other valuable data. Your computer might crash or be attacked by malware. Your hard drive might fail. Even dropping a laptop or spilling coffee on it can lead to data loss.

Experts recommend that you back up your data locally as well as to an offsite location, such as the cloud. That way, you will be able to quickly restore files from the local backups when needed. You will also have a copy of your data if a disaster (e.g., fire, tornado) destroys both your computer and your local backups.

While most people realize that backing up their data is a good idea, many fail to do so for a variety of reasons. The File History feature in Windows 10 helps eliminate some of those reasons by providing an easy, set-and-forget way to back up data locally to an external storage device or to another computer or storage device in a network. You cannot use this feature to back up data directly to a cloud storage solution.

After you set up the File History feature, it will automatically back up your data. By default, it will do so every hour and keep the backups forever. You can, however, change how often backups are taken and stored.

You can also change what folders are backed up. By default, File History backs up your contacts, links, downloads, favorites, desktop items, documents, pictures, videos, music, saved games, searches, and OneDrive files that are available offline. File History will not back up your computer's operating system, system settings, and applications. If you want to back up those items, you will need to create a system image.

One way to access the File History feature is to type "file history" in the search box and click "File History" in the search results. However, File History's advanced settings window will open. Setting up the feature from this window is not as intuitive as setting it up through the main interface. You can access the main interface by opening the File History feature through the Settings app. The following instructions on how to back up your files use that method to access File History.

How to Back Up Your Files to an External Storage Device

If you want to back up your files to an external storage device such as an external hard drive or USB drive, follow these steps:

  1. Click the "Start button" and select "Settings".
  2. Select the "Update — security" option.
  3. In the left pane, click "Backup".
  4. Connect the external storage device to your computer.
  5. Click the large button with the plus (+) sign, which is next to the "Add a drive" label.
  6. When prompted, choose the external storage device you connected in step 4.
  7. Notice the new "Automatically back up my files" option that appears. Its on/off slider will be set to the "On" position. Your files will now be automatically backed up.
  8. If you want to change the default settings for the File History feature, click the "More options" link under the on/off slider. Besides changing the folders to back up, you can change how often the backups occur and how long they are kept.

How to Back Up Your Files to a Network Location

If you want to back up your files to a computer or storage device in a home or business network, follow these steps:

  1. Click the "Start" button and select "Settings".
  2. Select the "Update — security" option.
  3. In the left pane, click "Backup".
  4. Click the "More options" link.
  5. Choose the "See advanced settings" option.
  6. Click the "Select a network location" link.
  7. Select the "Add network location" option and follow the instructions provided.
  8. Notice the new "Automatically back up my files" option that appears. Its on/off slider will be set to the "On" position. Your files will now be automatically backed up.
  9. If you want to change the default settings for the File History feature, click the "More options" link under the slider.

A Pretty Painless Process

With the File History feature in Windows 10, backing up your data locally is pretty painless. Once you configure the feature, it will run silently in the background. With the local backup process in place, you can then concentrate on how you want to handle your offsite backups.

Contact us for an assessment of your data backup options. We can provide personalized insights and recommendations for your company's data backup plan.