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Hackers Covet Your Identity; 5 Ways To Thwart Their Efforts To Steal It

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Hackers Covet Your Identity; 5 Ways To Thwart Their Efforts To Steal It

Each day people take a virtual trip through the internet to do their banking, make hotel reservations, shop for a new car, or engage in a myriad of other activities important to them.
It’s so routine that it’s easy to forget that you need to be just as careful about protecting yourself on those virtual journeys as you would on an actual one.
Hackers are creative about dreaming up new ideas for stealing your identity, so it’s important that you stay vigilant even if you already have taken action to guard yourself and your data,” says Chris Hoose (www.choosenetworks.com), an IT consultant who works with small businesses.
Hoose says a few steps you can take to protect your identity include:
Use a password manager. One problem with passwords is that people often use simple ones that are easy to remember, but also easy to hack. A password manager provides an encrypted database where you can store unique, long, complex passwords for each of your online accounts, and access them when you need them. “With a password manager, you can have better passwords that are harder to hack, and you don’t have to memorize them,” Hoose says.
Do your online activities with a VPN. Worried that your online browsing will lead identity thieves right back to you? One solution, Hoose says, is a virtual private network (VPN), which lends you a temporary IP address and hides your true IP address from every website or email you connect with. “It also prevents the sites you visit from learning your physical location,” he says. “You just need to remember to connect to it when you want to use it.” A VPN usually costs about $40 to $50 a year, he says.
Be wary on social media. Most people check in on social media routinely to catch up on family news, connect with college buddies, or perhaps to share photos of a new puppy. Unfortunately, cyber thieves lurk in the background. “They know that social media platforms are an excellent source for personal information and information about your contacts, which makes identity theft that much easier for them,” Hoose says. To stay safe on social media, he suggests you check to see if you have already been compromised; avoid password reuse; update your security settings regularly; and limit your connections because the more you have, the more potential for a fraudulent or compromised account to send you a malicious link.
Keep tabs on your credit report. One way to make sure no one has taken on debt in your name, and damaged your credit in the process, is to request a full credit report from any of the three major agencies: Equifax, TransUnion and Experian. You can get a free copy from any of them through the site www.annualcreditreport.com. Also, it might be time to get off the mailing list for all those credit offers you receive that say you are pre-approved. “Those offers are a gold mine for identity thieves,” Hoose says. You can opt out of pre-approved credit offers by visiting www.OptOutPrescreen.com.
Be sure to install anti-virus/malware software. Your first and best line of defense against identity theft on your computer remains anti-virus software and anti-malware software, Hoose says. When choosing one, he suggests making use of the trial period most companies offer. “That way you can try them out and decide which one works best for you,” he says.
“The more people try to foil identity thieves, the more sophisticated those thieves seem to get in their methods,” Hoose says. “But by being watchful and attentive, you can stay safe and enjoy your time online.”
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Chris Hoose (www.choosenetworks.com) is the president of Choose Networks, an IT consulting firm for small businesses. Hoose started the company in 2001 to give large-scale solutions and support to businesses that can’t afford their own in-house IT department. He earned a Master of Information Systems Management from Friends University.
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5 Tech Trends That Businesses Can’t Afford To Ignore

With technology evolving at such a rapid pace, some business owners are left digitally disoriented as they try to figure out which of the latest innovations they need to invest in and what they can ignore.

It can make for confusing times.

All that bewilderment aside, though, these fast-developing advances also create opportunities that can help small and medium-sized businesses become more competitive – if they understand how to seize them.

“Technology exists today that at one time was available only to large corporations with huge technology budgets,” says Chris Hoose (www.choosenetworks.com), an IT consultant who works with small businesses.

“Every year, technology becomes even more accessible to companies of all sizes.”

Hoose says businesses that want to stay on top of their games should make sure they invest in these technological trends, if they haven’t already:

The Internet of Things. Many Internet of Things-connected devices, such as smart refrigerators and thermostats, are designed for home use, but there are also applications for small businesses, Hoose says. Some examples: smart locks use digital keys that can’t be lost or stolen, and log a record of who uses a door and when; RFID tags on merchandise can prevent theft and automatically update inventory; and mobile-card readers can replace cash registers.

Artificial intelligence. Don’t be fooled into thinking that AI is something only the big organizations can afford to use, Hoose says. “It’s making inroads into technologies accessible for businesses of all sizes,” he says. “AI can help you offer increasingly personalized experiences to customers by maximizing your time and automating manual tasks, like data entry.” AI also can be used to improve decision making, Hoose says. Essentially, AI will help you take that jumble of data most businesses have and analyze it in a way that allows you to make better-informed judgments on the actions you need to take.

Telecommuting. The office world is changing and more workers spend at least a portion of their work week telecommuting. “In many cases remote employees use their own equipment, which can eliminate some of the company’s costs with purchasing and maintaining computers, printers and mobile phones,” Hoose says. Video conferencing, instant messaging and other advances are helping to make telecommuting a viable option, he says.

Customer-relationship-management (CRM) software. Any application that a business uses to interact with customers, analyze data, or recommend products and services to customers is “part of the CRM family,” Hoose says. “This type of software helps your team manage, control and build customer relationships,” he says. “It can log your team’s touchpoints with prospects, including emails, phone calls, voicemails and in-person meetings. You can have a complete record of your team’s interaction with a prospect that’s easy for anyone to access.”

Voice search. Consumers increasingly are making use of such AI assistants as Siri or Alexa to help them do internet searches using their voices. “Voice search is changing the way people find information because these queries are structured differently than when we type terms into a search engine,” Hoose says.

“Organizations of all types can benefit from optimizing their content to improve where they fall in a voice search.”

“To help propel your business going forward, it’s important to stay abreast of technology innovation,” Hoose says. “These technologies will help you expand your customer base, create more efficient in-house processes, and increase engagement from both customers and staff.”

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Chris Hoose (www.choosenetworks.com) is the president of Choose Networks, an IT consulting firm for small businesses. Hoose started the company in 2001 to give large-scale solutions and support to businesses that can’t afford their own in-house IT department. He earned a Master of Information Systems Management from Friends University.

5 Outdated IT Practices That Companies Need To Eliminate

Technology changes nearly as quickly as the calendar flips. A new device or upgrade that was trending not long ago may become antiquated or obsolete before you know it.

Information technology is integral to most businesses today, but keeping up with the interrelated parts of IT and the advancements – from software to cyber security to social media platforms – isn’t always prioritized. IT experts say companies falling behind in that category could see their business slip as a result. 

“Over the last several years, many IT practices have become fixed and inflexible,” says Chris Hoose (www.choosenetworks.com), an IT consultant who works with small businesses. “While older concepts are a good springboard, some have become ineffective. There are many you can reconsider and/or eliminate.”

Hoose looks at five IT practices he thinks businesses should stop using:

Outdated software. One of the biggest security vulnerabilities a company can face is one of the simplest to address: outdated software. “There are many risks associated with using unsupported or outdated software, and hackers love to exploit these gaps,” Hoose says. “Then there are the inevitable problems of a system failure or antiquated workflows that slow a company’s productivity. Although upgrading software – including your operating systems – can be time-consuming and expensive, doing so can safeguard your organization and create more room for innovations.”

In-house server hosting. Much of today’s modern software is hosted in the cloud. “Most cloud vendors are able to provide public, private or hybrid cloud hosting based on your requirements,” Hoose says. “With such extensive cloud capability, there is no reason anymore to rely on in-house server hosting. Migrating to these versions can not only help save your business the costs of purchasing and maintaining software, but also the costs of maintenance and upkeep on servers.” Another plus of cloud computing is the added security of cloud disaster recovery, a backup and restore capability that enables companies to recover data and switch to a secondary operational mode.

Inflexible work environment. The new wave of the workforce is an IT strategy that includes video cameras and laptops for team members to facilitate remote work and remote communications. “If your firm doesn’t have that flexibility, they risk being left behind,” Hoose says. “Flexible work arrangements improve a company’s effectiveness and morale. It’s one of the best uses of today’s IT.”

Newsgroups and discussion forums. These popular mediums once served as portals where questions were raised from the team and answers were provided in a question-and-answer format. Better alternatives, Hoose says, are options like Facebook, Hangouts or Slack. “The format is far more intuitive and user-friendly with social media pages than with conventional discussion forums,” he says. “Also, multiple answers can be handled easily with social-media pages.”

Unnecessary complexity. Hoose says an overly complex structure is the core failing of legacy systems. “Rethink your architecture and prioritize for simplicity,” he says. “When modernizing your systems, less is more in terms of both architecture and functionality. You can start by implementing only the most important features. Make sure the new application will worrk well with the rest of the tools used in your business by default. Whatever applications you choose, make sure you use a solid and future-ready technology stack to deliver optimal performance.”

“Many executives are unsure, or even unaware, of the risk that obsolescence presents to their technology portfolios,” Hoose says. “Their uncertainty stems from not having the right data and dealing with conflicting points of view on priority, value, and risk.”

About Chris Hoose

Chris Hoose (www.choosenetworks.com) is the president of Choose Networks, an IT consulting firm for small businesses. Hoose started the company in 2001 to give large-scale solutions and support to businesses that can’t afford their own in-house IT department. He earned a Master of Information Systems Management from Friends University.