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The Internet of Things and Business Employee Security

IoTEach day, nearly six million devices connect to the Internet. The International Data Corporation estimates that by 2020, there will be 26 times more devices connected to the Internet than people! With the rapid growth of Internet “gadgets” such as Fitbits, NEST home automation systems, refrigerators that email you a grocery list, and all of the phones and tablets in use, it is easy to understand the explosive growth in the “Internet of Things” (IoT).

As the IoT continues to expand, business owners are struggling to keep up, especially in regard to device privacy and security. These employers must manage any potential risk to customers and vendors arising from the conduct of their employees, while also protecting the employees’ best interests.

The first concern for an employer is to minimize the risk of a data breach resulting from careless or rogue employees. Minimizing this insider risk is often the first line of defense. Although data security is usually seen as an “IT concern”, it is an issue for any business that wants to minimize potential liability. Companies should consider conducting a privacy or security risk assessment, minimizing the data they collect and retain, and testing their security measures before launching their products. As for personnel practices, organizations should train all team members about good security practices.

Enhancing Business Security in the IoT

For companies who process or store IoT data, they should only store necessary records and information for the correct period of time and in the proper format. A business is in a better position in any litigation or government investigation if it can show that it took reasonable steps to protect confidential data within its possession. Most states already impose data breach obligations on companies, and some jurisdictions even require a written information security program (WISP) outlining what they have done to protect confidential data. This process involves using specific policies and employment agreements related to the storage and dissemination of IoT and other electronic data, as well as training of individuals with data access.

Employee training options include:
• Teaching employees about the importance of data security to create a culture of awareness and safety;
• Implementing policies on what data is retained, how long it is retained, and how it is stored and protected;
• Adopting policies addressing employee use of laptop computers and other mobile devices, including bring-your-own-device policies;
• Developing policies on employees using public WiFi while outside of the office and requiring the return of all mobile devices and information from employees upon job conclusion;
• Implementing checklists and procedures to block computer system access for any terminated employee;
• Establishing programs to monitor employee compliance with security, including potential internal attacks to determine employee vulnerability; and
• Developing appropriate password and encryption policies with assistance from IT.

The IoT gives business owners the ability to have a more efficient, productive and healthy workforce. However, prudent businesses will take the necessary steps to not only protect themselves against data breaches caused by employees, but will also take steps to ensure that to the extent an employer obtains employee health data, appropriate steps are taken to protect the privacy and proper use of that information.

If you need help making sure that your business is secure and ready for the IoT, contact Dorset Connects.


Think Your Passwords are Safe? Think Again!

We have all seen the news stories: compromised passwords causing many high-profile business security breaches, including Sony Pictures, Apple, LinkedIn, and Target. These breaches happened because most users’ passwords are easily guessed or “phished” by hackers. Even worse, they are sometimes stored in a file that can be easily stolen.

If you want to keep your business’s, clients’ and personal information safe, here are five suggestions to boost password security:

Add extra symbols and characters

Adding extra symbols and characters to a password will make it tougher to crack. Passwords should appear to a stranger as just a random string of characters, incorporating a good mix of upper and lower case letters, numbers, and punctuation symbols. Try using a long acronym or partial words from a phrase to throw off any kind of dictionary-based attack.

Use at least 12 characters

Short passwords are easy to crack with modern technology; even ones with eight characters can be cracked in a few days. Passwords of at least 12 characters (alphanumeric with special characters) that are completely random present a tougher challenge for event the most sophisticated decryption systems used by hackers.

Get a password manager service

A password manager is a secure way to generate long, complex and unique passwords without relying on your brain or a piece of paper to remember them. It is easy to import log-in data from all the accounts associated with your email address, and they are encrypted. Highly-rated password manager services include Dashlane, LastPass and Sticky Password. No matter which service you choose, it’s better than storing your passwords on your browser!

Use two-factor authentication for all accounts, including email

Two-factor authentication is an increasingly popular way of tightening security when using web services, such as Amazon, Dropbox, and Facebook. Users can add a secondary authentication method, such as a text message, email, or phone call to verify account details.

Enhance your 4-digit PIN for extra security

Most people have a 4-digit PIN on their cell phones, but if you’re serious about security, use the password setting on your phone to make the PIN longer. It’s also a good idea to differentiate it from your banking PIN.

Dorset Connects’ team of IT security experts can help you make sure that your organization is taking the right steps to keep its data secure.


Time is Running Out on the Free Windows 10 Upgrade

Microsoft’s free Windows 10 upgrade offer will end on Friday, July 29th. After that date, the cost to upgrade to Windows 10 Pro will be $199. The free upgrade is available to qualified new or existing Windows 7, Windows 8.1, and Windows Phone 8.1 devices. To initiate the upgrade, users just need to click on the Windows 10 pop-up window when it appears on their desktop screen. All of your files will be automatically transferred, but we recommend backing up your data prior to initiation.

Windows 10 logo

What’s in It for Me?

If you have been hesitant to make the switch to Windows 10, here are four reasons why you should do so by the 29th:

  1. Look out Siri, here comes Cortana: This voice-commanded personal assistant can play music, take notes, tell you jokes, and remind you to pick up milk before you head home from the office. As a plus, Cortana’s Notebook function keeps track of your interests for future use.
  2. The new browser, Microsoft Edge, offers improved compatibility and speed, as well as helpful new capabilities like webpage markup and reading mode.
  3. The upgrade includes enhanced security features, such as Device Guard, Microsoft Passport, and Windows Hello.
  4. It has universal apps, including an Xbox feature that lets players stream games from the console to the PC and play multiplayer games from your PC against other players on Xbox.

In addition to Windows 10, Microsoft has stated that all future upgrades will be free, including the 1-year Anniversary Update, which is scheduled for Tuesday, August 2nd.

Business Benefits of Windows 10

Now running on more than 350 million PCs, Microsoft expects Windows 10 be running on 1 billion machines by 2018. While most of the first-year adopters have been individual consumers, business users who have completed the upgrade have noticed improved ease of use, improvements in worker productivity, and an increase in cost savings by enabling security features provided by the upgrade, such as Credential Guard and Device Guard.

If you have questions about how to make the most of the Windows 10 upgrade for your business, contact Dorset Connects today at 484-845-1600.


Why Secure Email is Essential for Your Business

Malware most commonly reaches your business through email. As attacks become more sophisticated, your business could be vulnerable. A malware attack means more than just a security risk. If attacked, your business runs the risk of lost intellectual property, productivity, business reputation, time and money. The average total organizational cost of a data breach in the U.S. is $6.5 million, and an average of 250,000 malware variants are detected every day.

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Malware is any software created to cause damage, but there are different types and considerations when looking to protect your small business. What types of malware are threats to your small business?

  • Spyware is software that gathers information on a user or organization without their knowledge.
  • Trojan horses are malicious programs that trick victims into installing on their computer.
  • Phishing is an attempt to acquire sensitive information by posing as a trusted entity.
  • Worms are standalone programs that replicate themselves to spread to other devices.
  • Ransomware restricts access to system data, demanding ransom to remove the restriction.
  • Viruses are malware that replicate by inserting copies of themselves into other programs, files or hard drives.

Unprotected emails open the door to attacks. Most viruses, Trojan horses and worms are activated when users open attachments or click links in email messages. Without proper protection, you’re opening the door for costly and damaging attacks. The right preventative measures, however, will guard your business against the loss a malware attack brings. These include secure email hosting, email encryption, using a secure email server and anti-virus protection.

Malicious or criminal attacks are the primary cause of data breaches: 49 percent involved a malicious or criminal attack, 19 percent concerned negligent employees and 32 percent involved IT and business process system glitches. Businesses can build up their defenses by using a paid, hosted cloud. Fortunately, Microsoft Office 365’s Exchange Online cloud-hosted email for business fortifies your IT defenses with a variety of tools like robust antivirus protection, automatic patching and anti-spam filtering.

As attacks become more sophisticated, advanced security, privacy, encryption and anti-virus technologies from Office 365 can be your best defense. To learn more about the protection that Exchange Online can offer your business, check out the infographic, “Guarding against email attacks.

Thanks to the Microsoft Office Team for this contribution.


Tackling Technology Budgeting for SMBs

To stay competitive, troublesome Technology budgeting can’t be avoided

The typical SMB manager’s approach to IT budgeting used to be pretty straightforward. Keep it lean. Keep it simple. Avoid change as much as possible. Fix what’s broken, and upgrade when only necessary.

And since there’s often a vocal group outside of IT that’s unhappy with change, you would think twice before you made a major investment into a project that might have a disruptive effect. That doesn’t work too well anymore.

Disruptive stays ahead of competition

Disruptive is no longer a bad word. It is almost a mandate. The competitive and efficiency advantages that innovations such as cloud computing offer have become too big to ignore. The other guy is reaping the benefits while your company is stuck in neutral.

At the same time, IT thinking has changed too. People are thinking less about IT as the department that keeps the machines humming, and more as the gatekeepers of a company’s information and process matrix. IT can be a profit center in its own right. IT suddenly has a lot more to live up to—and it needs the means to do it.

How do you break out of just-getting-by, repair-and-replace IT budgeting and create a budget that really makes sense for your business? You can do this in much the same way as other budgeting is accomplished. Start with a solid assessment of needs, benefits, and costs.

Ask the right questions

Along the way, it helps to ask a few key questions that can help determine the right spending level for your company.

* What are the neighbors doing? IT spending varies wildly by industry and business size. There is no universal “right” dollar amount from one company to the next. It’s doubtful that your competitors discuss their spending with you. But new or trending technology initiatives that support small businesses can give you an idea of where you need to invest. Examples are the moves toward hosted applications or a mobile-enabled workforce. (See Transform Your Small Business Through New, Affordable Technology for more data!)

* How do you expect technology to support your business objectives? Technology is expensive, no doubt about it, but nowhere near as expensive as lost market share or missed revenue projections. Your IT department and the technological tools play a central role in hitting company performance targets. Take full account of that role and spend accordingly.

* Are you thinking about costs or benefits first? Sure, nobody likes making significant capital expenditures. But, an exclusive focus on cost-cutting or lean operations can be fatal to competitive capability where technology is concerned. The benefits of maintaining an optimal business technology environment are tangible and can have a decisive effect on business results.

What are others spending on their Technology?

This may sound like a bitter pill, but try to swallow it anyway. No matter how much you’ve spent, you may be underspending. A recent study showed that the size of the average IT team is 3.7 people in North America, but it is 4.4 people in Europe, the Middle East and Asia. That’s seven-tenths more in terms of a worker’s yearly hours that EMEA companies of comparable size spend on innovation, problem solving, efficiency drives, and business automation. For companies with undersized IT departments, it’s a lost opportunity.

Whether you’re working with outsourced or in-house IT, you get what you pay for. The same spend-and-receive principle holds true for investment in development, applications, cloud services and other IT functions.

A properly allocated, right-sized IT budget can have a transformative effect upon your business, particularly if lean years or simple inertia has led your company to slip behind the technology curve.

Developing a well-considered IT budget might seem like a difficult task if you haven’t tackled it head-on before. The rewards of IT budgeting are matched by the risks of failing to.


Enhancing Customer Relationship Management (CRM) for Small & Midsized Businesses


Small to mid-sized businesses (SMBs) become successful by truly understanding their customers and being responsive to customer needs. They deliver a superior Customer Experience from initial contact, to sale, delivery, and post-sale service. It is their prime marketplace differentiator. And customer relationship management (CRM) software has become critical to SMBs by automating their ability to identify profitable sales opportunities and to develop customer loyalty and lifetime value, including social media referrals. CRM applications, combined with business savvy, makes these businesses more competitive in an often challenging market. Still, there are business, economic, and vendor technology challenges in turning realization into reality. How the small to mid-sized firms respond when implementing CRM and deciding on the right applications could well decide their future.

CRM Trends

The following are several trends that are shaping the use of CRM and the design of CRM applications today:

  • CRM focus shift. Businesses are changing their CRM use priorities from sales, then support, and then marketing, to marketing and sales in tandem, followed by support. As a result, SMBs achieve higher profits by targeting customers whose requirements and budgets fit best with their products and services. Abetting this strategy are the customers themselves targeting specific companies to engage. There are more productive sales lead qualifications, faster closings, greater customer satisfaction, loyalty, and referrals. There also is reduced customer service and support costs. Customers are experiencing fewer issues with their products and services now that they’re getting more aligned with their needs.
  • Strategic social media use. SMBs are now turning to CRM tools to “social prospect” – surfacing prospects’ career, demographics, interests, location, and purchase information from their social content. They are enhancing customer lifetime value (CLV) by uncovering, assessing, and tracking customers’ social influence and referral values. SMBs target the top social influencers with specific content or offers, and measure product use across demographics. They quickly spot their strongest brand advocates and ensure they stay loyal and engaged.
  • Stronger solutions. CRM applications aimed at SMBs are becoming easier to use, more functional, with added integrations and workflows. They supply deeper insights into customers and sales staff performance. They now permit any mobile device access and data inputs from multiple sources. CRM for SMB applications often now feature marketing automation, sales acceleration, and integration with enterprise resource planning (ERP) software. Hosted CRM applications have given SMBs more affordable and flexible access to features once only available with expensive and enterprise-targeted on-premise delivered solutions.

Read the full report: http://www.reportlinker.com/p03186599-summary/view-report.html