Category

Hardware

How to secure your IoT devices

By | Hardware, Managed Service, Managed Technology, MSP, Security

More firms are using the Internet of Things (IoT) to create new business opportunities. For instance, companies that install smart sensors can automate data entry and monitor their inventory. However, if left unsecured, IoT devices also give hackers an opportunity to breach your network. In order to keep attackers at bay, we advise you take the following precautions with your IoT devices.

SET PASSWORDS

Many often forget they can set passwords for IoT devices. When this happens, they tend to leave their gadgets with default passwords, essentially leaving the door open for hackers. Make sure to set new and strong passwords — preferably with a combination of upper and lower case letters, numbers, and symbols — for each device connected to your network. Then, use a password manager to securely keep track of all your passwords.

Disable Universal Plug and Play (UPnP)

UPnP is designed to help IoT gadgets discover other network devices. However, hackers can also exploit this feature to find and connect to your IoT devices. To prevent them from getting to your network, it’s best to disable this feature completely.

Create a separate network

When you’re dealing with IoT devices, it’s wise to quarantine them in a separate network unconnected to your main office network. By doing this, user gadgets will still have access to the internet but won’t be able to access mission-critical files.

You should also consider investing in device access management tools. These allow you to control which devices can access what data, and prevent unauthorized access.

Update your firmware

If you want to keep your devices secure against the latest attacks, then you need to keep your IoT software up to date. Security researchers are always releasing security patches for the most recent vulnerabilities, so make it a habit to regularly check for and install IoT firmware updates. If you have several gadgets to secure, use patch management software to automate patch distribution and set a schedule to check for updates monthly.

Unplug it

Disconnecting your IoT devices from the internet (or turning them off completely) whenever you don’t need them significantly reduces how vulnerable you are to an attack. Think about it, if there’s nothing to target, hackers won’t be able to make their move. Turning your IoT devices on and off again may not seem like the most convenient strategy, but it does deny unauthorized access to your router.

Unfortunately, as IoT devices become more commonplace in homes and offices, more hackers will develop more cunning ways to exploit them. Getting into the above mentioned security habits can protect you from a wide variety of IoT attacks, but if you really need to beef up your security, then contact Simpatico Systems today at 855.476.6347. We have robust security solutions that keep your hardware safe.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

How thin and zero clients save money

By | Business, Hardware, Managed Service, Managed Technology, MSP, Office

Businesses are always looking for ways to cut costs without sacrificing growth. For the longest time, many believed that they had to purchase workstations with its own processing power, RAM, and hard drive. But thanks to virtualization, companies can save money and get the computing processes they need with thin and zero clients.

What are thin and zero clients?
Thin clients are stripped-down computers with minimum processing power and memory. They rely on a basic operating system and a network connection to access a more powerful system where almost all computing processes take place.

Zero clients work the same way. The only difference is that there’s no local storage or operating system installed on the device; all the software, storage, and processing power sits on a server until you need it. This setup makes it ideal for cutting costs, and here’s why.

Reduced hardware costs
When it comes to upfront costs, thin and zero clients are the obvious choice. Conventional desktops start at $300 per user, while thin clients can go for as low as $90 per user. And since they have no hard drive or other moving parts, lean devices tend to be more durable and have a longer lifespan than their traditional counterparts.

Simplified IT management
Another benefit of thin clients is that they can be managed from a server. Suppose a new software update was released. Instead of manually downloading the patch on each computer, you can simply install the update on your server and roll it out to all thin clients. Apart from upgrades, you can make backups, security configurations, and application deployments in the data center. This quickens setup, reduces downtime, and increases employee productivity.

Minimized security risks
Thin clients also help you avoid costly malware attacks and data breach incidents. Your employees and poorly managed endpoints are the biggest vulnerabilities with traditional desktops. Thin and zero clients reduce these problems by limiting direct access to the operating system. This prevents employees from copying sensitive data to removable media and installing software, malicious or otherwise.

If your thin client is damaged or corrupted, you don’t have to worry about your data, as it’s originally stored in an impenetrable server.

Decreased energy consumption
Because processing is done locally, traditional desktops generate a lot of heat and require more power, which results in huge power and cooling bills at the end of the month. By contrast, thin and zero clients consume only 4-6.5 watts of power, almost 1/50th of thick client requirements. What’s more, they require little to no cooling, allowing you to enjoy significant cost savings.

When looking for cost-cutting solutions, thin and zero clients should never be overlooked. The reduced hardware costs, power bills, and security risks are just too good to pass up. But if you’re still unsure about this technology, give Simpatico Systems a call at 855.476.6347. We’ll assess your tech needs and determine whether or not thin or zero clients can help you succeed.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Why businesses need a UPS

By | Hardware

Power outages caused by utility failure, accidents, and natural disasters such as storms, flooding, or earthquakes are inevitable. There’s very little you can do to prevent any of these from happening, but you can avoid the consequences to your business by using an Uninterruptible Power Supply (UPS).

What is an uninterruptible power supply?

An uninterruptible power supply is an essential piece of hardware that protects both your computer and your data. It provides a backup power source in case of main power failures caused by electrical current problems such as blackouts, brownouts, and power spikes.

Smaller UPS units can protect individual computers while larger models can power multiple devices or an entire office. Small businesses can opt for individual UPS units, which should be enough to back up critical computers and other devices that are key to business continuity.

Benefits of having UPS

It’s a known fact that power outages can damage or completely destroy electronic equipment, especially computers. Unexpected computer shutdown can cause great damage to your computer hardware and make you lose unsaved data. A UPS ensures you never experience such a scenario.

Here are other ways that a UPS benefits your systems:

  • Uninterrupted power flow during power surges

When you have UPS, the voltage that passes from the main electrical lines to your devices is consistently stabilized. This protects your computers from power surges, which happen when the voltage in other equipment suddenly rises.

  • Refined and filtered power supply

It normalizes power levels so that your computers are protected against dips and spikes caused by lightning or an abnormal power supply that usually comes from restored power after a blackout.

  • Instant power during brownouts

An uninterruptible power supply guarantees your operations’ continuity. In the event of short-term interruptions, it gives you enough time to switch to a larger, more stable power supply such as a generator. But unlike a generator, it provides instant power to your equipment at the exact moment the power goes out.

Does your business need a UPS?

If you’re purchasing new computers for your small business, a UPS is an invaluable add-on. Businesses that require constant power to function such as hospitals, banks, academic institutions, manufacturing companies, and any business for which storing and processing data are critical tasks can benefit from uninterrupted power.

Determining the type of UPS for your business as well as installing and maintaining it may require the expertise of professionals. We have experts who could provide you with information on properly operating a UPS, replacing its battery, identifying devices that should never be connected to it, and other safety tips. Call us today 855.476.6347 … we know how to help!

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

IMPORTANT – Intel’s Manageability Firmware Vulnerability

By | Business, Hardware, Managed Service, Managed Technology, MSP, Security

According to a recent email received by Simpatico Systems from a trusted manufacturer, systems utilizing Intel® Active Management Technology (AMT), Intel® Standard Manageability (ISM) or Intel® Small Business Technology (SBT) may have a vulnerability in the firmware.  A potential attack could compromise security, allowing access to business PC’s, sensitive data or devices using the affected Intel® product.

Intel® is reacting appropriately, providing information, proactively identifying individual devices and implementing validated firmware updates.  In most cases, consumer class products with consumer firmware and data center servers using Intel®’s Server Platform Services are not part of the vulnerability.  Below are some helpful links to better understand the issue, how to find out if you are vulnerable and how to mitigate the firmware vulnerability.

Press Release – Click Here.

Technical Summary – Click Here.

INTEL-SA-00075 Detection Guide – Click Here.

Simpatico Systems’ partners … fear not!  While you were sleeping, we solved the problem.  If you would like to sleep better and need a proactive technology partner, call Simpatico today – 855-476-6347.

Extending your laptop’s battery life

By | Hardware

Whether you prefer a quick fix or a long-term solution, extending your laptop’s battery life should be among your priorities if you’re a heavy laptop user. Replacing an old battery with a new one or purchasing a new laptop shouldn’t be your only options, especially if you operate a business with limited resources. Here are some more economical ways to extend your laptop’s battery life.

Manage your laptop’s power settings

Computer manufacturers are aware that battery life is an important consideration for most users, which is why many Windows and Apple computers have settings that help reduce battery consumption. Windows laptops have a Power Plan setting that lets you choose either a standard setting or a customized power plan; Energy Saver under MacOS’ ‘System Preferences’ offers a setting that allows you to adjust display and sleep controls.

Adjust display and system settings

You can also make adjustments to your laptop’s display and system settings to reduce brightness, turn off screensaver, disable Bluetooth and Wi-Fi (when they’re not used), and trigger the system to hibernate instead of sleep. A “sleeping” laptop consumes a little energy, but a “hibernating” laptop consumes absolutely none.

Use a battery monitor and other maintenance tools

If you think your laptop battery drains unusually fast, access your system’s battery maintenance tool to check its status. If your laptop doesn’t have one, you can download an application that creates a battery health report. That report will include charge cycle count, which determines the number of charge cycles your laptop has; and battery life estimate, which states how much longer the battery will provide power based on its current settings.

Keep your laptop operating efficiently

One way to accomplish this is by managing your web browser usage. Having many tabs opened on your browser drains your battery’s power and reduces your productivity. If you really must have a handful of tabs opened, consider switching to power-saving browsers such as Windows Edge or Opera. When multitasking, close unused apps and programs — especially those that download files or play media, as they consume the most power. This not only helps reduce battery consumption, but also helps the user stay focused on the task at hand.

Handle your laptop with care

Laptops are delicate and require safe handling and a cool temperature. With the exception of a few models (e.g., Apple’s MacBook Air), many devices are designed with a cooling system that keeps its CPU, graphics processor, and other components from overheating; and not to mention, its battery from depleting fast.

For that reason, handling your laptop with great care ensures longer battery life and better overall performance. When using your laptop on-the-go, make sure you don’t block its vents from circulating air, which means you should never put it on a surface such as a bed or similar soft surface that could prevent its cooling fans from working. And while it may seem harmless — and appropriate — putting your laptop on your lap is actually unsafe.

For businesses with remote workers and/or bring your own device (BYOD) policies, a laptop that lasts all day allows employees to be more productive and saves your company from having to spend on new laptops or replace batteries as a result of neglect. For cost-effective strategies on business technology, call us today at 855.476.6347 or email support@simpat.co.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Firewalls: hardware vs. software

By | Hardware

Most people have a vague idea of what a network firewall does. But some business owners are easily fooled by promises of quick and easy solutions that can be installed and managed right from your desktop. In the software vs. hardware debate, there’s a clear winner when it comes to your security. Let’s take a look at what the differences are and why they matter.

Software firewalls

Calling a piece of software a “firewall” is a bit of an exaggeration. Installing it on a local hard drive is more like locks on a door than impenetrable walls. When data is scanned for threats by a software firewall, the information it contains has already been passed through your router, network switch, and finally your local hard drive.

Once the whole cycle has finished, software firewalls can prohibit risky activities based on blacklisted IP addresses, known malware definitions, and suspicious application requests.

Although these solutions do have value, they can’t guarantee that malware won’t spread to other systems before each packet of data can be scanned, unless they’re standing guard at your business’s gateway to the internet. And whenever the computer with the firewall is powered off, everything it protects is left unguarded.

Hardware firewalls

Because the drawbacks of a software-based firewall are centered around their inefficient network position, a hardware solution is the safer option. Hardware firewalls sit directly behind your router, so every single packet of data coming from the internet must pass through your gatekeeper before landing on any of your internal drives.

Most of these solutions include far more sophisticated controls than just web filtering and basic data scanning. Like most developments in the IT industry, newer hardware firewalls focus on “intelligent” functions that analyze huge datasets to recognize malware and cyberattacks based on irregular activities instead of relying solely on cataloged viruses and attack vectors.

Another benefit of hardware firewalls is that they’re always on. There’s no need to worry about whether the workstation hosting your solution will crash because these devices are built for 24/7 protection. The only downside to this type of solution is the level of monitoring and maintenance it requires. Hardware firewalls are extremely complex and managing them is no easy task.

“Cloud” firewalls

The most recent, and undoubtedly best, solution to network perimeter security are “cloud” firewalls. These are on-site pieces of hardware with software interfaces that can be managed remotely by certified security professionals.

This service model means that experts will monitor your network performance and security for anomalies while your team goes about its business as usual. No need for onsite tweaks and updates — all of it can be done remotely.

You may hear a lot of experts telling you that the age of on-site hardware has passed and everything can be done in the cloud. Remote administration may be the next wave in network services, but the need for hardware will never go away. If you need someone to manage your physical devices, contact Simpatico Systems at 855.476.6347 option 3.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Are your printers safe?

By | Hardware

This is not a question often asked by anyone who has ever used a printer. Given the increasing sophistication of hackers’ capabilities, the discovery that cyber thievery can, in fact, be performed through some popular printer brands hardly comes as a surprise. One study reveals that at least 20 printer models are vulnerable to Distributed Denial-of-Service and other types of attacks. Let’s take a look at this chilling development in cybersecurity.

Which printers are prone?

Based on the study made by Ruhr University Bochum researchers, printer brands such as Hewlett Packard (HP), Brother, Dell, Samsung, and several others are prone to different types of cyber attacks. Online printers from these brands could serve as cyber criminals’ path in which to steal credentials, corrupt a printer, or leak sensitive data from printed documents obtained through a printer’s memory.

Printers serve the basic purpose of turning computer documents into paper and have never been a typical entry-point of hackers’ attacks. Government and corporate offices, business establishments, non-profit organizations, and homes own one, and when you think about the fact that most printers are linked to computer owners’ internal networks, this expansion of cyber theft to printers begin to make even more sense.

How can attacks be made?

Researchers identified security vulnerabilities that would enable hackers to corrupt common printer languages such as PostScript and PJL, which they could then use to launch Distributed Denial-of-Service attacks or reset the corrupted printer to its factory defaults, also termed as ‘protection bypass.’ Other ways in which hackers could exploit their access are through print job manipulations, which could lead to minor cases of printing corruptions or persistent printing distortions, and information disclosure, the leaking of sensitive information.

What safety measures are being developed?

The researchers who discovered the vulnerabilities developed the PRinter Exploitation Toolkit (PRET), a program designed to determine if a printing device is a likely target. This toolkit ‘connects to a device via network or USB and exploits the features of a given printer language, and is complemented by a wiki page that documents attacks made. It’s worth noting that more printer models and brands haven’t been tested due to the team’s lack of resources. But with this open-source toolkit, vulnerabilities of many brands and models may soon be identified.

Stealing information online is far from being a novelty in cyber security. But to do so through printers requires a special set of skills. It’s too soon to tell whether this form of cyber thievery is going to pose serious threats in the future, but regardless of how further studies progress, failing to implement security protocols for your network can cost you dearly. Get ready for any security threat by contacting our security experts at Simpatico Systems!

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Internet Technology – The Misunderstood Managed Service

By | Hardware, Managed Service, Managed Technology, MSP, Security, Virtualization, VoIP, Web & Cloud

Written By:  Fabienne McGeever

Where clients pay a fixed monthly rate to manage their entire IT infrastructure/Network. NOT!

That is the first of many misunderstood statements the IT Managed Services Provider, known by the acronym “MSP,” industry faces today.  I remember the days when anything computer related, I would call up my sister and ask her for help.  We would spend hours trying to figure something out and she would ask me a barrage of questions that I didn’t know the answers to.  I would say, but you work with computers!  Enough said.  There is hardware, software, networks, VPN’s, domains, servers, data centers, storage, versions and levels and then there are third party vendors and partners with all kinds of areas that are a specialization unto themselves.

There are other times when an MSP misrepresents or avoids speaking directly to what they will actually be doing for you.  For example, they may offer a back-up solution but fail to explain what is indeed being backed up and where. You are thinking “I’m covered”.  Not always the case as there are different levels of backup solutions from local to external to off site.  Different devices and storage capacity.  You need to know what data is being backed up, where and how often. All businesses should have a disaster recovery solution in place so that should something catastrophic happen, the business can easily recover and get “back to business” with minimal data loss.

Typically the client and the MSP are bound by a contractual, service-level agreement(s) that states the performance and quality metrics of their relationship.  The agreement should address a range of issues related to cost, quality and timeliness of service, remote and/or on-site support and the recovery risks.  An in-touch business person will understand completely what is being accomplished and how much they are paying for the level of service being provided.  A good estimate for this is 4% of the business revenue costs yearly, so make sure this is in the budget.

A well-intended MSP offers many services including communication i.e.: email, VoIP phones, workstation support, backup solutions, security solutions, and facilitation with third party applications.  An MSP assumes responsibility for providing a defined set of activities and tasks for its clients either proactively or, as the MSP, for a certain product.  The services configure in many variations based on the client’s needs and budget.

Hiring an MSP facilitates streamlining of processes, outsourcing services and redesigning systems so a business owner worries less about IT and focuses on running/growing their business.  The decision to hire a MSP that can remotely monitor and manage your computer network is a no-brainier. The managed service provider improves efficiency, reliability, security, and maintenance — all while lowering costs.  The slogan “pay now or pay later” comes to mind.  What will you do?  Give Simpatico Systems a call.  We are here to help!  855.476.6347 Read more about us at Why Simpatico Systems. 

About the Author: Fabienne McGeever is a middle child/twin in a family of ten children.  She gained the unique perspective to see both sides and get along with most. She loves snow skiing, the beach “in any form,” and glamping. Fabienne lives in Santa Clarita, CA and serves as a Corporate Admin/Client Relations Liaison for Simpatico Systems.  Contact her directly:  fabienne.mcgeever@simpat.co

IoT scanner detects at-risk “Smart Devices”

By | Hardware

After the recent Dyn attack that took Netflix and other major websites down, business owners are vigilant about ensuring the security of their network and devices connected to the “Internet of Things” (IoT). A new scanner from Bullguard promises to warn owners of potential entry points for hackers. Keep reading to learn more about Bullguard’s IoT Scanner and how it can help you keep your company data secure.

The Dangers of IoT

The “Internet of Things” is a relatively new phrase that basically refers to a network of connected devices. The network might include your computer and smartphone, but could also include apps that you have downloaded, your Fitbit, a remotely monitored home security system, routers, printers and any other wireless device that needs an internet connection. Although all these devices are but convenience items, they can also be potentially dangerous considering how much personal and business information is stored on your personal computer, which is connected to the same network.

How can I protect my IoT devices?

Every device that connects to the internet must connect through your network. If you are technologically challenged and have only a laptop in your office and a couple of desktop computers scattered throughout the building, chances are you don’t worry too much about the security of your connection. It’s easy to install a firewall and antivirus program that will keep your network connection secure. But internet security isn’t that simple for the business owner anymore.

The internet security vendor Bullguard has released a new tool that business owners can use to locate any vulnerabilities that might be found on their network. The program uses on online directory to double-check whether your device uses an “open” or unsecure port to connect to your network. If it determines that your network or any of your devices are connected with an open line, it gives you the location of the detected vulnerability.

What can the IoT Scanner Do?

While the scanner only points to places of invulnerability and does not attempt to fix anything, it provides the information you need to take that next step. Many times the real danger of a smart device is that it connects to your network without your knowledge, allowing hackers an “open door” to wreak havoc. Knowing where the hackers might enter can keep you vigilant to fix that breach.

Scanners like this are exactly what we hope to accomplish with our blog. We want you to provide you with useful tools that help educate you about your network and your IT, while also showcasing what we can do for you as an outsourced IT consultant. Bullguard’s IoT scanner will help you get one step closer to enterprise-level security, but we’re the partner you need to cross the finish line. Get in touch with us to start making improvements today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Choosing the best small business computer

By | Hardware

Your employees are some of your business’s best assets. With that in mind, it is imperative that they work with high-performance computers that will unlock their full potential and contribute to your business’s profitability. If only it were that simple. Selecting a computer often involves several factors such as mobility, quality, and price – there are simply too many things to consider. Choosing the right computer requires careful thought, and this is what we’re here to discuss.

Laptop or desktop?

Laptops are highly portable, efficient, and inexpensive. If these are the most important qualities your business requires in a computer, then by all means, choose them. Clearly, desktops aren’t built for mobility, but what they lack in portability, they more than make up for in storage, processing capacity, and security. Although laptops make perfect sense for small businesses with great need for portability, they are much more prone to security threats and are not as easy to upgrade and maintain, unlike desktops.

Processor

The Central Processing Unit (CPU), or simply processor, determines the speed at which you can access your data and perform business-critical tasks. Speed is measured in Gigahertz (GHz), and a processor that runs from 2 to 4 GHz should be plenty for small enterprises. Arguably the most important item on the list of a computer’s specifications, the processor plays a crucial role in your computer’s speed and efficiency.

Storage

As critical hardware components, hard drives indicate how much information you can store and use. Storage capacity typically ranges from 128 gigabytes on “light computers”, all the way up to 2+ terabytes on more critical machines. If your business doesn’t need to store large files such as videos and images and will be used mostly for email and a few applications, 250- or 500-GB storage should do the job. If processor speed is number one on your list of computer requirements, it’s followed closely by hard drive storage.

Operating System

Operating system (OS) decisions often boil down to choosing between Windows or Mac. It might help in your decision-making to know that Windows remains the most widely used OS mainly due to its high compatibility with business software, not to mention, its relatively cheaper price. Macs can perform just as brilliantly as Windows-operated systems can. And although Macs are usually more expensive, they’re well known for their own outstanding features, such as being less prone to crashes.

Other Components

Not to be confused with storage drives, a computer’s Random Access Memory (RAM) is only used to run open applications. It is responsible for keeping your computer performing at optimum speeds, especially when you’re working with several applications or programs at once. For small businesses, a 1200-2600-MHz RAM should suffice. The higher the MHz of your RAM, the higher its performance will be. To keep your basic programs running, 6-8 gigabytes of RAM is often satisfactory.

Ready to Buy a New Computer?

Deciding which computer to buy is an important business decision. While there are a handful of factors to consider, what you aim to accomplish in your business’s day-to-day operations should be your main consideration when choosing a computer. Businesses that require plenty of remote and mobile work should definitely go for laptops. Those that require regular transfers of large datasets could benefit from the increased storage capacity associated with desktops.

Do you need expert advice in choosing the best computers for your small business? We’re happy to guide you in every step of your purchase decision. Give us a call today…806-224-0300 or toll free 855-476-6347

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.