How can private browsing protect your online privacy?

You may not know it, but some of the websites you visit or apps you download leave a trackable digital footprint. One step you can do to avoid leaving your online behavior exposed to third parties is to use private browsers to surf the internet.

What is private browsing?

Your web browser — whether it’s Chrome, Edge, Firefox, Safari, or Opera — stores the URLs of the sites you visit, cookies that track your activity, passwords you’ve used, and temporary files you’ve downloaded.

This can be convenient if you can’t remember your login details or if you’re trying to recall a website you visited a few days ago. The feature also helps speed up the loading time of websites you frequently visit. But if someone else uses or gains access to your computer, your most private internet activities are exposed for that user to see and exploit.

Private browsing is a feature known by various names across different browsers. For instance, it’s called Incognito Mode in Chrome and InPrivate Browsing in Edge. When you use this feature, the browser does not record your browsing history, passwords, and temporary files. Instead, all this information is discarded as soon as you close the browser. You’re also instantly logged out of all accounts you accessed using the private window, which comes in handy when you’re using a public or shared computer.

Furthermore, tracking cookies are not stored when you surf the internet with a private browser. Such cookies are small bits of data used to identify your computer. Sites like Facebook use cookies to know your preferences based on your online behavior, such as which sites you visit. By doing this, they can personalize the ads on their platform, ensuring that the ads you see are for products and services you’re likely to take interest in.

What are the limitations of private browsing?

Although private browsing prevents your web browser from storing your data, it doesn’t stop anyone from snooping on your online activities in real time. If your computer is connected to the company network, system administrators can still track what you’re browsing, even if you’re in Incognito Mode.

Also, if spyware or keylogger malware is installed on your computer, hackers will still be able to see what you’re doing online. Even though private browsing has quite a few benefits, you shouldn’t solely depend on it for online privacy. Instead, you should use a virtual private network (VPN) when you go online. This tool encrypts your internet connection and prevents anyone from intercepting your data. And don’t forget to use a strong anti-malware program to scan your computer and keep spyware and other malicious web monitoring software at bay.

If you want to know where you can get these solutions or learn more about web browser security, call us today. We have the tools and expert advice you need to prevent anyone from snooping on your internet browsing.

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Why monitoring your employees’ online activities is both good and bad

More and more businesses are choosing to monitor their employees’ online behavior, as it’s one way of keeping their data and devices secure. However, there are consequences to monitoring your employees’ activities. For instance, doing so can make them feel like their privacy is being violated, which can affect productivity and morale. Because of this, it’s important that you know the advantages and disadvantages of employee monitoring, as well as some guidelines to follow, should you decide to implement it.

The case for monitoring

Monitoring your employees’ activities on company devices can be beneficial, as it helps:

  • Protect your organization from data theft or harm since careless or disgruntled employees may leak or steal your data.
  • Ensure members of your staff comply with policies such as not downloading illegal programs or visiting websites with illegal or hostile content.
  • Provide evidence in case of a lawsuit should an employee participate in illegal activities using your business’s computers.

Arguments against employee monitoring

Of course, you should also be aware of the potential downsides to monitoring. These include:

  • Reduced productivity, as monitoring can put a damper on employee morale and the perceived distrust may make your employees less driven to perform well.
  • Privacy or discrimination issues that may stem from you being privy to personal details about your employees that you would’ve never known about had you not monitored them. For example, you may discover their political or religious views, sexual orientation, or medical problems. This subjects your business to potential privacy or discrimination issues if you or your management team acts negatively based on any of this information.

Monitoring guidelines to follow

If you decide to monitor your employees, here are a few tips you should follow.

1. Create written policies
When you monitor your employees, ask yourself, “Am I doing this for security purposes? Is it to ensure my employees aren’t wasting time on games or social media?” Monitoring policies that are too strict could create an atmosphere of distrust.

Set guidelines for acceptable use of email and social media, web browsing, instant messaging, and downloading software and apps. Also, make sure to include how monitoring will be carried out and how data will be used, secured, and destroyed.

2. Inform your employees
It’s important to inform your employees about the scope of your monitoring policies. If they find out you’re doing it secretly, you could face legal issues.

Explain to your employees why you’re monitoring them and the risks your business faces from misuse of digital assets. Reassure them you’re not doing it to spy on their personal lives, but to create a compliant and law-abiding workplace. Because their activities will now be less private, encourage your staff to use their smartphones for personal matters. Also, provide your employees with a copy of your written policy for them to read and sign.

If implemented correctly, employee monitoring makes your business more secure and productive. For more information about security and other IT support tools, get in touch with us today.

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What are distributed spam distraction attacks?

The average person goes through anywhere between one and a dozen assorted emails per day, but have you ever experienced receiving a few thousand emails in a span of a few hours? If so, you may be experiencing a distributed spam distraction (DSD) attack. Here are some things you should know about it:

What is DSD?

DSD is a type of attack wherein cybercriminals bombard email inboxes with tens of thousands of emails in a short span of time, typically between 12 and 24 hours. These emails don’t contain dangerous links, ads, or attachments, just random excerpts of text taken from books and websites. But because of the sheer volume of these emails, deleting and blocking each one of them can be overwhelming. Worse, the email and IP addresses used to send them are all different, so victims can’t simply block a specific sender.

While these spam messages may seem like harmless annoyances, their true purpose is to draw victims’ attention away from what attackers are doing behind the scenes, which is stealing and using personally identifiable information to conduct a raft of illegal activities. These include stealing money from the victims’ bank accounts or making unauthorized purchases in their name. In a DSD attack, the thousands of spam emails serve as a smokescreen that hides payment confirmation messages.

In other words, if you are receiving an unusually large volume of emails from legitimate-looking accounts, you should act very quickly because the attackers likely already have access to your login credentials.

What signs should users look out for?

Over the years, attackers have developed new DSD tactics. Several reports show that instead of nonsensical emails, these crooks are using automated software to trick their targets into signing up for thousands of free accounts and newsletters to distract them with authentic messages. This allows DSD blasts to slip past spam filters that weed out the email text used in traditional DSD attacks.

Also, anyone can go on the dark web and pay for DSD services. For as little as $40, you can get an attacker to send out 20,000 spam emails to a specific target. All you need to do is provide the attacker with your target’s name, email address, and credit card number — all of which can also be purchased on the dark web.

What to do if you’re experiencing a DSD attack

DSD is a clear sign that your account has been hijacked, so if you receive dozens of emails in quick succession, contact your bank to cancel any unfamiliar transactions and change your login credentials as soon as possible. Also, you should install anti-spam software, or update your existing software if you already have one to protect your inbox from future DSD attacks.

Attackers only initiate DSD attacks after they’ve obtained their target’s email address and personal information, so make sure your accounts and identity are well protected online. Regularly change your passwords and PINs, enable multifactor authentication, set up SMS and/or email alerts for whenever online purchases are made in your name, and be careful about sharing personal information with others.

DSD is just one of many cyberthreats out there. For expert advice on how to ensure your safety and security online, get in touch with our team of IT professionals.

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Keep cybercriminals from attacking your business printers with these tips

It’s easy to overlook printers when implementing a cybersecurity strategy, as they may seem safe from cyberattacks. But in reality, many hackers these days exploit certain printer vulnerabilities to gather information about businesses or even infiltrate their systems without anyone noticing. Protect your business printers by following these tips.

What makes business printers vulnerable to cyberattacks?

When assessing network security threats, companies primarily focus on servers and computers not only because these are the most exposed to external threats, but also because they get the bulk of cyberattacks. Printers are often at the bottom of the list since they are not prime targets. What’s more, their functions seem to be internal at first glance, as they don’t interact with external systems.

But it’s exactly because of their primary functions, namely printing and scanning, that make print devices perfect cybercriminal targets. Businesses run important documents such as tax forms, employee information, medical records, and financial statements through print devices — information that hackers would definitely love to get their hands on.

And they can, easily.

Network printers store previous print jobs in their hard drive, sometimes including those that have been canceled. If anyone accesses the printer — even remotely — they may be able to see those documents by hacking into the printer using a specialized tool.

Files can also be intercepted during wireless transmission, as modern printers can now be connected to the web. Not only can hackers exploit printers’ open network ports to view data, but they can also take over vulnerable printers and transmit their own data through these machines.

Lastly, hackers can exploit vulnerable printers to bypass your cybersecurity system. Once they find a way in through your printers, crooks can then launch broader cyberattacks from within your network, which can be difficult to contain.

What can you do to protect your business printers?

Business printers should not be disregarded when planning a cybersecurity strategy. Keep your print devices secure by following these best practices:

  1. Monitor your network surreptitiously and always promptly install printer software updates and patches. Printer manufacturers often release software support or updates, so always be on the lookout for those.
  2. Change the default password and administrator login credentials of printers with web management capabilities.
  3. Allow only company-owned devices to connect to your printers.
  4. Always connect to your printers using secure connections. Conversely, avoid accessing your printers through a public internet connection.
  5. Restrict printer access by using a firewall.
  6. If your wireless printer has a feature that requires users to enter a PIN before they can print documents, enable it to prevent unauthorized access.
  7. If you don’t use your printer for fax and email, isolate your printer from your main company network and disable out-of-network printing.
  8. If you handle classified data, do not connect your printer to any network. Instead, connect it directly to your computer using data cables or print from a thumb drive.
  9. Secure your printouts by enabling manual feed. This setting requires a user to manually input paper (or any material to be printed on), reducing the risks of the printed document getting stolen or being left in the printing area.

Another way to secure your printers is by partnering with an IT company that can take care of your printer-related worries. From thwarting attacks to reducing management costs to keeping your printer at optimal functionality, our experts can help.

Are you interested in learning more about cybersecurity? Call us today and discover how our wide array of tech services can safeguard your business.

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Surf securely with a VPN

There was a time when installing an antivirus program was enough to secure your data, but that’s no longer the case today. Whether you want to keep your online activities hidden from third parties or prevent your data from being intercepted by hackers, you need to invest in a virtual private network (VPN).

What is a VPN?

A VPN creates a secure tunnel between your device and the websites you visit, protecting you from hackers looking to intercept your data. All data transmitted and received through this secure connection is encrypted, preventing any third party from monitoring your online activities.

VPNs can also disguise your location. Once you’ve established a connection to a VPN server, your computer acts as if it’s using the same local connection as the VPN. As far as websites are concerned, you are browsing from the server’s geographical area and not your actual location.

Why should you have a VPN?

VPNs augment your cybersecurity and help protect your privacy. For instance, it’s generally considered bad practice to connect to public Wi-Fi networks, like those in cafes, libraries, and airports. This is because all data transmitted through these networks are unencrypted and, thus, are susceptible to exposure and theft. If you must use public Wi-Fi, make sure to activate your VPN. The VPN encrypts your data and keeps your connection secure as you surf the internet.

VPNs’ ability to mask your location also makes them ideal for accessing geo-restricted websites and content. If you’re traveling abroad and you find that critical documents or US websites are geo-blocked in your current location, just connect to a VPN server in the United States to regain access.

How do you choose a VPN?

Given the increasing demand for greater online privacy, VPNs are surging in popularity. When selecting which VPN to purchase, take the following into account:

Cost

There are free VPNs out there, but they likely keep logs of your internet activity or are filled with disruptive ads. That’s why it’s best to invest in paid VPNs like NordVPN and ExpressVPN. These paid options come with robust features, such as a large list of available servers, and configurations that bolster your data’s security.

Location

Where your VPN’s servers are located matters for several reasons. For one, the farther away the server you’re connected to is, the greater the likelihood that you’ll suffer latency issues. For a smooth surfing experience, it’s best to connect to the closest available server. Additionally, if you want to avoid geo-restrictions, you’d want to connect to servers in the same location as the content you’re looking to access. This means if you want to access research published in the United Kingdom, make sure your VPN has servers located in that country.

Capacity

Inquire with the provider or read their terms of service to determine how much data you’re allowed to use. If your tasks require a lot of online resources, then you should choose a VPN with a high data allocation. Also, find out how many of the VPN servers are online; a greater number of online servers means the VPN is capable of supporting resource-intensive tasks

Device compatibility

Choose a VPN that can be used across multiple devices. If you use your laptop, tablet, or smartphone to do your tasks, then you should invest in a VPN that’s compatible with all of these.

IP leak

Some VPN tunnels are not as secure as others. In some cases, the VPN could leak your IP address, enabling third parties to track your data and activities. Before buying a VPN, sign up for a free trial of the service if available. Activate the VPN and visit IP Leak. If the website says your IP address is being leaked, choose a different VPN.

If you need help in selecting the right VPN for your business, consult with our security experts today. We also offer comprehensive cybersecurity services so no hacker or third party can get their hands on your data.

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What is proactive cybersecurity, and how do you implement it?

To keep cyberthreats at bay, you need proactive cybersecurity solutions in your arsenal. They identify and contain threats before they wreak havoc on your systems and cause significant productivity and financial losses. Here’s all you need to know about proactive cybersecurity and how to implement it.

What is proactive cybersecurity?

Traditional cybersecurity is reactive — your IT team or managed IT services provider (MSP) will be alerted of a cyberattack after it has happened, leaving them to alleviate the impacts. In contrast, proactive cybersecurity is preventative — it takes into account all potential threats and seeks to identify vulnerabilities so that they can be addressed before they lead to larger, downtime-causing issues.

Many organizations have adopted proactive cybersecurity measures along with reactive ones and are now reaping the benefits, including the ability to stay one step ahead of cyberthreats and improved data compliance.

How to implement proactive cybersecurity

In adopting a proactive approach to cybersecurity in your organization, you must follow these steps:

  1. Understand the threats you’re facing
    Before you can work toward preventing cyberattacks, you must know exactly what you’re up against. Seek the help of your in-house IT staff or MSP in identifying the types of attacks that are most common in your industry.
  2. Reevaluate what it is you’re protecting
    Once you have a list of the biggest threats to your organization, you need to take stock of how each can damage the various components of your network. Map out every company device that connects to the internet, what type of data they have access to (regulated, mission-critical, low-importance, etc.), and what services are currently protecting those devices.
  3. Choose proactive cybersecurity measures to put in place
    Depending on the risks and assets uncovered in steps 1 and 2, your IT team or MSP may recommend any of the following measures:
Proactive measure What it entails
Security awareness seminars for all internal stakeholders Train everyone from the receptionist to the CEO about effective security practices such as password management, proper mobile device usage, and spam awareness.
Updated anti-malware software or cloud-based service Protect your data and systems against the latest and most menacing malware.
Routine software patches and upgrades Minimize the chances of leaving a backdoor to your network open.
Web filtering services Blacklist dangerous and inappropriate sites for anyone on your network.
Perimeter defenses (e.g., intrusion prevention systems and hardware firewalls) Scrutinize everything trying to sneak its way in through the borders of your network.
Policy of least privilege Limit users’ access only to the data they need to fulfill their tasks.
Data segmentation Rank data according to sensitivity and build micro-perimeters around high-value datasets.
Full-disk encryption Make data stored in computers and portable devices unreadable so that if these machines are stolen, the files they have inside remain secure.
Virtual private networks Make data transmitted across unsecured connections unreadable so that intercepting it would become futile.
Strict access controls Prevent unauthorized access to accounts by using strong passwords, multifactor authentication, and auto screen locks and logouts for idle users. 
AI-powered network monitoring Identify suspicious user and software behaviors such as employees accessing files outside their departments.

If you’re looking to implement a proactive cybersecurity strategy to protect your business’s critical systems, give our professionals a call today. We’ll assess your needs and recommend the best, most effective solutions to address them.

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What is single sign-on and what are its benefits?

Secure logins are a necessity in business, but managing so many user credentials can get tedious. The good news is that you can simplify your organization’s login processes without compromising security by deploying single sign-on.

What is single sign-on (SSO)?

Single sign-on allows you to use one username and one password to provide secure access to multiple websites. If you’ve ever clicked “Continue with Google” on a non-Google website, you’ve already enjoyed the benefits of SSO. It’s faster, simpler, and more secure. With SSO, small businesses can accomplish the same level of efficiency between their employees and cloud platforms.

Instead of requiring in-office and remote workers to track separate accounts for Office 365, Slack, Trello, and other cloud apps your company uses, you can give them a single set of credentials and manage what they have access to remotely. All employees have to do is come enter their designated username and password, and they’re all set for the day.

Why is SSO more secure?

There are a number of ways to set up a small-business SSO solution, but most of them focus on removing login information from your servers. Usually, you’ll provide your employees’ logins to an SSO provider (sometimes referred to as an Identity-as-a-Service provider) and each employee will receive a single login paired with a secondary authentication — like a biometric scan like iOS’s FaceID, or a one-time PIN (OTP) code sent to a personal device.

Every time one of your employees visits a cloud platform, such as Office 365 or Google Workspace, the SSO provider will verify the user’s identity and the connection’s security. If anything goes wrong, your IT provider will be notified.

Should your network or any of the devices connected to it gets compromised, hackers would find nothing but logins to your SSO accounts, which are meaningless without fingerprints or mobile devices.

How to get started with SSO

The first step is making sure you have a healthy and responsive IT support system. You need a team that’s constantly available to review suspicious alerts and troubleshoot employee issues. If you don’t currently have that capacity, contact us today and we’ll help you out!

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Shopping for antivirus software? Consider the following points

As viruses, ransomware, and spyware become more dangerous these days, it’s more important than ever to have powerful antivirus protection. When choosing the right antivirus program for your computer, however, there are many things you should consider. Let’s take a look at the most important ones.

Cost

There are free antivirus programs in the market, but they only offer basic protection that advanced malware can easily evade. There’s also a risk that they contain adware, which collects data and sells them to third parties. Antivirus companies may even bundle potentially unwanted programs to generate revenue.

Speed and performance

Antivirus programs are notorious for consuming a lot of system memory, resulting in sluggish computer performance. Thanks to new technology, however, this problem has been addressed. Still, remember that antivirus performance is more important than device speed. What’s the point of a fast computer if it’s quick to succumb to hackers and malware?

Compatibility with multiple devices

Most people these days use or own more than one device, such as smartphones and tablets. Look for antivirus software that can protect all your devices, regardless of their operating system or date of purchase. It’ll be inconvenient and expensive to have different security software per device.

Comprehensive protection

Your antivirus should protect your devices from a wide variety of cyberthreats. These should include popular malware and phishing attacks, as well as malicious downloads, denial-of-service attacks, cryptojacking, and other damaging threats.

Customer support and service

Take the time to learn more about the antivirus software manufacturer. Does the company have a good reputation? Do they actively discover zero-day vulnerabilities and new cyberthreats? And are they at the forefront of developing cybersecurity solutions? If they tick all the boxes, you’re sure that their products and services are worth your investment.

Cybersecurity is not a luxury but a necessity for all businesses. If you’re looking for the right antivirus protection, then let our experts help you. We’ll provide you with the robust security your devices and network need.

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