3 New Year’s Resolutions for Business Owners in 2017

Something about flipping the calendar over to a new year means the opportunity for a fresh start — a chance to do the things you knew you should have been doing, but didn’t. Since businesses are run by human beings, the same could apply to a business. Here are 3 New Year’s resolutions for businesses to consider for 2017:

Cycle Out Aging Technology

Doesn’t every office have some workstations or servers that don’t work well anymore? Maybe you held off replacing up upgrading to save money, but support on older machines costs more than you thought. Make 2017 the year you replace creaky older technology and enjoy higher productivity and efficiency with newer devices and software.

Perform a Network Assessment

Often, networks don’t grow in dramatic large steps. Instead, they grow by little dribs and drabs — a machine here or there to accommodate a new hire, or a new software. After a period of time though, you have a network with no up-to-date documentation, which stifles strategic thinking. Since you don’t what you have, you can’t possibly manage it. This also means, looking forward, it’s hard to define what you need. A thorough network assessment will provide a myriad of data to help you make informed strategic decisions. It will pay for itself many times over.

Get Serious About Network Security

Maybe you think you already are serious about Network Security. “I have a firewall, and I have anti-virus software!” you say. Nowadays, threats loom from vectors that those two methods never anticipated. Stay ahead of the bad guys with a multi-layered approach to Network Security that includes a combination of technology, employee training and corporate culture. Devise, implement and enforce a company security policy and keep it up to date.

Looking at these three resolutions, the only trick to keeping them is to get started. And the only impediment to getting started is, you’re too busy running your business to spare resources to plan and execute these resolutions. So get help! Clare Computer Solutions can provide expertise in planning and executing these IT projects — basically, acting as your company’s Chief Information Officer (CIO).

The result is, a business with up-to-date, reliable, and secure technology. Contact us now to get started!

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Harden Your Operating System To Prevent Cyber Attacks

When attempting to compromise a device or network, cyber criminals look for any way in. Many small and medium-sized businesses aren’t aware that operating system vulnerabilities provide easy access.

5 Operating System Hardening Tips

While different operating systems have their own intricacies, there are recommended practices that apply universally. This list is not all-inclusive and you may implement additional best practices when applicable. However, in order to minimize your risk of suffering a cyber-attack, adhere to the following protocol:

  1. Programs clean-up– Remove unnecessary programs. Every program is another potential entrance point for a hacker. Cleaning these out helps you limit the number of ways in. If the program is not something the company has vetted and “locked down,” it shouldn’t be allowed. Attackers look for backdoors and security holes when attempting to compromise networks. Minimize their chances of getting through.
  2. Use of service packs– Keep up-to-date and install the latest versions. It’s that simple. No one thing ensures protection, especially from zero-day attacks, but this is an easy rule to follow.
  3. Patches and patch managementPlanning, testing, implementing and auditing patches should be part of a regular security regimen. Make sure the OS is patched regularly, as well as the individual programs on users’ computers.
  4. Group policies– Define what groups can or can’t access and maintain these rules. Sometimes, it’s simply user error that leads to a successful cyber-attack. Establish or update user policies and ensure all users are aware and comply with these procedures. For example, everyone should be implementing strong passwords, securing their credentials and changing them regularly.
  5. Security templates – These are groups of policies that can be loaded in one procedure; they are commonly used in corporate environments.

Clare Computer Solutions can help your company harden the operating systems on your network, providing another layer of defense against cyberattack. Contact us today to get started!

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3 Internal Threats to Your Network You Should Know About

The media always seems to have some reports of hackers gaining access to sensitive company data, and those threats are very real. The nature of our connected networks means attacks can come from anywhere in the world.

Most prudent companies make a concerted effort to protect their IT infrastructure from attacks from the outside – using firewalls, address translation, intrusion detection and other schemes to thwart cyber-criminals.

However, there is another attack vector many companies overlook: threats from within the network. Disgruntled employees behaving badly is an obvious concern, of course, but here are three others to consider with regards to internal threats:

Unintentional Threats from Employees

Remember the old days when well-meaning employees might introduce a virus through the use of an infected floppy disk? We don’t have to worry about that so much but consider these points of entry for malware, enabled by an innocent employee:

* Infected websites – even when using the Internet for legitimate business purposes, search results often include sites infected with malware, and visiting those sites can introduce a virus or worm into the user’s computer, and then into the network.

*Infected thumbdrives – this is the modern equivalent to the old floppy disk danger, it’s just a different storage device. The employee gets some data or a program from outside the network and when they plug that drive in, any infection on that thumbdrive can propagate through the network.

*Email social engineering – good virus software can prevent malware from launching automatically when attached to emails. But links to infected sites, or “phishing” attempts can get employees to follow a link or be fooled into providing malware a way into your network.

A clear (and enforced) Company Security Policy, coupled with a corporate culture of security awareness and education, can greatly reduce these types of internal threats.

Inside Access from Non-Employees

It’s not just employees who access the company network. In many cases, suppliers and even clients may have some access to data or applications on your network. Your company’s Security Policy should define the level of access for all users on the network.  The rule of thumb is, everyone should only have the minimum level of access they need to do what they need to do. One size does NOT fit all when it comes to user access policies!

In addition, the Security Policy should provide for immediate deletion of user accounts whenever the need for the account goes away (employees who leave, changes in suppliers, etc.) Every extra active account is an internal threat to your network security.

Controlling Access Within Cloud and Virtual Environments

Cloud and virtualization technologies have provided some great benefits with regards to manageability, flexibility and cost savings.  However, close attention must be paid to ensure that users accessing systems in the cloud, and/or virtual machines can only access the systems and applications that they need.

There are tools for securing these environments, and they should be used. Also, pay some attention to what regulations your business must follow to demonstrate compliance. The financial and healthcare industries, for example, have very specific requirements with regards to data storage and security.

In general, it’s best to address the issue of Network and Data Security from the top down, rather than the ground up. Devise an appropriate Security Policy and make security awareness a part of your corporate culture. Make sure it applies to everyone, and enforce it. You should also re-assess your infrastructure’s security at least annually.

Clare Computer Solutions can help with a lot of the planning, evaluation, implementation and maintenance of your company’s data and network security. A place to start is with a Disaster Recovery and Business Continuity plan. Security breaches can be very costly – they could put you out of business. Take the time to protect your business!

For more information on ways to avoid these internal threats and protect your business, watch this short video on Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery Tips, or contact us.

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Web Content Management – Big Brother or Smart Business?

Web content management has become more important for business than ever before. There can be little doubt on the liberating effect on workers and businesses of widespread internet access. Having ready access (from a variety of devices) to a wealth of information and easy communication has transformed society and business.

But with any transformational technology, there are good and bad aspects.

Here are three areas where unfettered internet access could have a negative effect on your business, and why web content management is so important:

Bandwidth

Your business-grade internet connection can seem like an old modem connection if too many demands are placed on your available bandwidth. Any business should aim for enough bandwidth to handle the businesses’ anticipated needs with regards to web access (for business), email, phones (VoIP), file transfers (for business) and data backup. But what if the employees at your company are also listening to streaming music, watching videos or downloading large media files for personal use? That drives your network performance down, and your costs up – does this make good business sense?

Malware/CyberCrime

Most modern businesses take steps to catch viruses attached to emails, and prevent hacking from the outside of the network inwards. Now, many modern cybercriminals turned to enlisting the help of your employees, usually without their knowledge. Many seemingly benign websites have malware within their site’s code which can infect users’ machines and be very difficult to eradicate. In addition, phishing attempts exploit users and trick them into following bogus links to infected sites or open innocent-looking email attachments.

Time Theft

How many of us have casually looked for something on the internet, which led to something else which led to something else (and so on), and suddenly, two hours have gone by?  Multiply that by the total number of employees at your company, and the potential loss of productivity is enormous.

Given these facts, it’s not inappropriate to protect your company’s investment in personnel and technology by using web content management to control the use of your company’s internet connection. There are a number of solutions to choose from, and many are very sophisticated – allowing controls on internet usage based upon each employee’s legitimate needs, and even the time of day.

Clare Computer Solutions has helped quite a few companies take back control of their corporate internet connection, and save thousands of dollars in the process. Contact us today to see how we can help your company!