How to Protect Your Business from SHTML Phishing

Email Phishing

Email Phishing

Protecting Your Data from SHTML Phishing

Data security is vital to any business. Learn how SHTML phishing works and how to minimize the risk of your data falling into the hands of attackers.

Email phishing has been in the playbook of hackers since, well, email. What’s alarming is the scope in which criminals can conduct these attacks, the amount of data potentially at risk, and how vulnerable many businesses are to phishing attempts. Here’s what you need to know to spot the hook and protect your data from being reeled in.

How Does Email Phishing Work?

A phishing email typically contains an attachment in the form of a server-parsed HTML (SHTML) file. When opened, these shady files redirect the user to a malicious website often disguised as a legitimate product or service provider. The website then requests sensitive information such as the user’s address, date of birth, social security number, bank account number, etc. in exchange for providing said product or service.

Users who comply end up giving their information to a criminal who may then sell it to various illegal organizations. Victims may end up losing money and having their identity connected to criminal activity. The attackers may even offer to sell the information back to the owner for a hefty ransom. For businesses, the damages can be irreparable. Phishing is often the launchpad for large-scale cyber attacks, and businesses that fall victim can lose not only cash and assets, but the trust of current and would-be customers.

Who Does SHTML Phishing Target?

While many individuals fall victim to phishing, the main targets are businesses in the banking and finance sector. The sender may use a seemingly legitimate email address, often posing as a trusted, reputable organization. They may goad users to open attachments by claiming to be the IRS, a wealthy businessman offering a lucrative deal, or, ironically, a security provider offering to scan the user’s computer for vulnerabilities. While many phishing attempts are obvious, some can be convincing, and all it takes is a hasty click to give the phisher what they want.

Types of SHTML Phishing

Depending on the attacker, a phishing attempt can range from simple and generic to detailed and personalized to fit the target. For businesses that conduct large quantities of transactions, a phisher may send a simple email claiming to provide a receipt for their purchase. Others may send invoices. Sophisticated attackers may gather information about the business including its suppliers, partners, and even names of individual employees. They may then create fake accounts disguised as these trusted entities, fooling the target into giving away sensitive data. While most phishing attempts fail, a convincing premise combined with a busy, distracted user can equal success – and disaster.

Potential Signs of SHTML Phishing

Being proactive and training your employees to spot phishing is the best line of defense. Here are some potential red flags that may, but not always, indicate that an email is a phishing attack:

  • Poor spelling and grammar
  • Strange characters and punctuation
  • Email addresses comprised of a seemingly random combination of letters and numbers
  • Emails claiming to offer large sums of money
  • Emails claiming that you owe a large sum of money
  • Emails claiming that your data is at risk and offering protection
  • An overly lengthy or short email body
  • Attachments with file types you don’t recognize

How to Protect Your Business from SHTML Phishing

While there’s no way to guarantee that your business will be 100% safe from phishing attacks, you can take precautions to greatly minimize your risk of becoming a victim. Many email clients have rules that automatically filter out suspicious or spam emails. Savvy IT professionals can create additional rules to identify and block phishing emails.

The greatest defense is training every employee to recognize the red flags, especially the not-so-obvious ones. Make basic data security a part of the onboarding process, and hold presentations and seminars several times a year to keep employees aware and bring to light any new threats they should look for.

Data security is more relevant than ever, and businesses need to stay up to date on the latest cybersecurity threats. Is your business taking the necessary precautions to keep phishers away?

Intel Humiliated by Losing CPU Market Share to Eager AMD

Intel Processors losing to EMD

Intel Processors losing to AMD

Intel Humiliated by Losing CPU Market Share to Eager AMD

Intel’s continued problems with delivering CPUs are expected to go on throughout the fall and potentially 2020. Intel’s CEO Bob Swan told shareholders during their second-quarter conference call that the delays in processor deliveries would continue until September.

The fallout benefits AMD, which increased its market share from 9.8 percent in 2018 to 18 percent by the end of June 2019.

Why is Intel having trouble shipping CPUs on time?

The culprit is Ice Lake, Intel’s high volume 10nm processor. The chipmaker announced Ice Lake at CES 2019, but the processor hasn’t been forthcoming in the volumes Intel promised. The 10nm project has slowed Intel’s other chip line production. Lower-end processors have especially suffered, leading to supply chain problems for manufacturers, retailers, and customers.

What are Intel’s problems with the 10nm CPU?

The current problems continue Intel’s struggles with 10nm chips which date back to 2013. Intel’s initial goal for 10nm CPUs was 2015. Year by year, Intel has pushed back the deadline for 10nm CPUs. Intel’s second-quarter conference call gave late 2019 as the deadline — but the real date is more likely to be 2020 for most people who want to buy PCs with the new CPU.

The bottom-line culprit is engineering choices. Intel’s 10nm design selections have consistently held mass production back on its 10nm CPU project. As problems continued, Intel responded by refining its 14nm CPU performance and production process. TSMC and Samsung have 10nm CPUs, but their performance is equivalent to Intel’s 14nm CPUs.

What is so good about increasingly tiny CPUs?

Intel and its competitors, including AMD, are continuing R & D on smaller and smaller gate-size processors. Smaller gate sizes allow more CPU cores, or they enable a smaller die for the same performance as a larger CPU.

Smaller CPUs also use less power and generate less heat, a must for mobile devices and laptops. With desktop PCs, heat and power consumption aren’t as important, so processor performance can be improved in other ways.

How have Intel’s supply problems affected its business?

Intel’s stock has increased 6% since January 2019 according to Fortune, but rival AMD’s stock has gone up 83%. Nvidia’s stock has risen 25% since January.

The supply problems are mirrored by leadership problems at “Chipzilla.” Intel’s former CEO Brian Krzanich resigned in June 2018 when a relationship with a former employee was disclosed. Krzanich’s replacement Bob Swan is credited with improving company morale and redirecting the floundering 10nm CPU team.

Has AMD taken advantage of Intel’s delays?

AMD is gaining market share with scaled-up production of 12nm circuits. The Santa Clara-based chipmaker is gaining market share from Intel with its Ryzen 14nm and 12nm CPUs. It has announced 7nm Ryzen and Rome CPUs. AMD’s year-to-year market share in desktop computers grew from 12.2% in the first quarter of 2018 to 17.1% by the first quarter of 2019. In notebooks, AMD’s share grew from 8% to 13.1 %.

AMD also expects the number of Ryzen CPU notebooks to grow significantly in 2019, with desktop units growing by 30% and notebooks by 50%. Lenovo, the world’s #2 PC manufacturer, will be using Ryzen 7 Pro 3700U chips in its upcoming ThinkPads.

Which Intel and AMD news should industry pros and investors watch in upcoming quarters?

Intel has delayed shipments of all of its CPUs, not just the promised 10nm Ice Lake and variant chips. Rivals AMD and Nvidia have taken advantage of ongoing delays to ink new deals with major companies including Lenovo.

Investors and industry pros should keep an eye on CPU market shares for the rest of 2019 and into 2020. This will indicate if the agile upstarts are going to continue to take on “Chipzilla” and change the landscape of computing power in 2020 and beyond.

How Do I Choose a Cloud Computing Model?

Cloud Computing

Cloud Computing

How Do I Choose a Cloud Computing Model?

No matter what your company or organization specializes in, it’s sure that you have some form or forms of data that needs to be stored, well, somewhere.

Before the invention of cloud computing, most company data was always stored on-site — that is, in the hard drives at a place of business. Additionally, some businesses may have had data stored on remotely-located hard drives or discs; but the majority of data was “in the building.”

Naturally, you can see how this would be dangerous — both for you as a business owner and your clients, customers, and investors. Sensitive data such as customer specs or financial information could be easily stolen, corrupted, lost because of a computer glitch, or even destroyed in a fire.

Today, with the advent of cloud computing. The bulk of these worries are gone. Nearly all major companies, organizations, governments, and many individuals use the cloud.

What is the cloud and what is “cloud computing”?

The first thing to know about “the cloud” is that it’s not a physical thing like a computer or a hard drive. Instead, this term refers to a virtual space or a select part of the Internet — the part that stores data.

Just as you can surf the web from anywhere in the world as long as you have an Internet connection, you can also access the cloud from anywhere in the world — plus whatever you store there. Again, you simply need an Internet connection. In this way, many people simply define the “cloud” as a metaphor for the Internet.

“Cloud computing” is the generally recognized term for all computing actions done in or via the cloud. Therefore, cloud computing refers to cloud-based data storage, but it also means cloud-based:

  • Data management
  • Content delivery
  • Access to applications and software
  • Delivery of services

Should your business be using cloud computing?

Before we dive into how to choose a cloud computing method, let’s talk about why you should be using cloud computing — and you absolutely should be.

Cloud computing provides numerous benefits that old-fashioned computing methods just can’t live up to. Specifically, cloud computing provides:

  • Mobility and Efficiency: You can work on the cloud from anywhere. Allow your employees, customers, clients, and investors to access the best that your company has to offer, without worrying about weighing down the system or collapsing your infrastructure.
  • Ultimate Security: The cloud provides the best security available when it comes to storing your sensitive data. Even when hardware and equipment fails, you know your data will be stored safely and backed up.
  • Scalability and Flexibility: With non-cloud computing solutions, you must anticipate the extent to which you’ll use your storage space and other computing needs beforehand. Cloud computing allows you to scale your cloud services up or down, based on your unique needs.
  • Strategic Value: Cloud computing methods are always updated with the latest software and the newest tech. This gives your company a competitive edge. Plus, there’s no need to toss outdated technology or revamp your entire network, which would otherwise set your company timeline back significantly.

What method of cloud computing should my business use?

This depends on the organization’s specifications, needs, and goals. There are three basic methods of cloud computing to choose from.

Private Cloud Computing

This model of cloud computing provides dedicated use to your company’s data and systems over a private IT infrastructure. This is a good model to choose if you are particularly concerned about confidentiality and security. Only a trusted third-party or your company’s internal resources team should manage a private model of cloud computing, and you should only give access to those within your company.

Public Cloud Computing

This method of cloud computing allows your business’s resources (software, platforms, infrastructure) to be available to the general public. In some cases, these types of cloud computing models are offered to the public for free, but they may also be sold by a pay-per-usage model.

Hybrid Cloud Computing

As the name suggests, the hybrid cloud computing model blends a public cloud and a private cloud. The hybrid model is mostly by companies who need to operate both models, and thus, the two are integrated into one overarching system.

Resources in the cloud are easier to access, manage, and recover after an equipment malfunction. By switching your business to one of the cloud computing models outlined above, you’ll have a competitive edge and complete control of your company’s data and systems.

Your MacOS Is Under Attack: 2019’s Biggest Malware Threats

MacOS and Malware

Your MacOS Is Under Attack: 2019’s Biggest Malware Threats

MacOS and Malware

The Mac operating system (MacOs) has frequently been hailed as one of the best systems for its resiliency to malware and typical viruses. But the days of MacOs standing strong and tall with no worries have really always been a misconception. Mac systems are just as vulnerable to the beefed-up, intelligent malware threats that are out there today.

SentinelOne published a lengthy review of the MacOs malware at the end of 2018, but in a new release, SentinelOne also stated that there has actually been an uptick in the numbers of new types out there attacking users. Here is a look at some of 2019’s biggest MacOs malware threats that every Mac-reliant business owner should know.

1. OSX.Siggen: A Malware Download from a Malicious Domain

Masquerading as a helpful app called WhatsApp, OSX.Siggen is actually a latched-on malware that slips in during a regular app download. WhatsApp is a fake social media platform, and the download looks super enticing when users come across it. However, once added to MacOs, the app runs with a backdoor designed to take administrative control over the system.

2. KeyStealDaemon: Password Hijacker

This dirty malware showed up in February of 2019, but by June it was still running strong. Apple allowed a patch several years ago designed for another purpose, but KeyStealDaemon can create administrative privileges for itself by slipping through. Unfortunately, this malware allows the person behind the scenes to get into the system and steal pretty much any password you have stored. The good news is, if you have properly updated your system, KeyStealDaemon can be booted out because it cannot break through.

3. CookieMiner Slips In and Steals Credentials

Toward the end of January 2019, a cryptominer showed up with its own installed backdoor to induce a threatening combination of technologies to steal cryptocurrency exchange cookies and passwords for Google Chrome. The worrisome thing about CookieMiner is this: experts believe that the malware could potentially have the rare ability to bypass things like authentication processes that involve multiple factors. If CookieMiner is capable of gathering enough cookies and credentials, cryptocurrency wallets can be virtually pickpocketed right in plain sight.

4. Mokes.B Puts On a Good Act

Persistence agents running amuck on your MacOs with familiar names may never be spotted, especially if they are calling themselves things like Firefox, Skype, or Chrome. This is precisely how Mokes.B avoids suspicion when it latches onto the operating system in application support folders and tracking files. Mokes.B is super-scary because it can gain the ability to take actual screenshots whole you are on pertinent screens, but it can also record keystrokes to steal date you are keying in.

5. A Variant of OSX.Pirrit Has Shown Up

OSX.Pirrit caused a lot of problems a few years ago, but this malware never really disappeared altogether. Instead, new family members under the old parent app are still being found on MacOs, and they are not being detected as they would otherwise be when acting as OSX.Pirrit. The aim of this malware is to make money from redirect actions that occur as a result of a browser infection, but there are rumors that PIRRIT is potentially capable of stealing data as well.

6. OSX.Dok Reroutes User Traffic

OSX.Dok gets into a system and installs a securely tucked-away Tor version location on a Mac system. User traffic hitting a site gets sent to an onion server instead of where it should be, which is a major problem for business owners needing to protect sensitive customer actions when they think they are on an e-commerce website. One of the scariest things about OSX.Dok is the fact that it can steal even SSL encrypted internet traffic maneuvers. Older versions of this software were thought to be banished, but new versions continually pop up.

Even though there are so many Mac users who think they are covered by some unseen immunity from malicious software, these risks are there and the growing list of 2019 proves that fact. Attackers deploying these software programs are targeting those easy-to-break barriers, so something like an improperly updated computer or even an unsuspecting employee can leave a business computer wide-open for an attack.

Habits You Want From Your Technology Partner

IT support partnership

Habits You Want From Your Technology Partner

When you are running a business, you want your technology to integrate well with the other tech you use in your business and with your overall IT platform. When you run into situations where your tech fails to integrate well, it can cause serious problems—leading to lost productivity, lost data, and general inefficiency that is not desirable for any business.

IT support partnership

Choosing technology partners requires looking carefully at how those partners play with others. You want to know that your tech will integrate and operate well, which means you want a tech partner that is interested in ensuring cross-compatibility and integration. Many tech partners will be interested in such cooperation, but not all will. It is important to know what to look for in such a partner to ensure that you team up with a business that you can rely on.

Tech Partner Habits—Must-Haves from a Tech Partner

1. Interest in improving the overall experience, not just the bottom line

There are plenty of tech partnerships that develop to increase profits. After all, money drives business and it only makes sense for companies to seek arrangements that will improve their profitability. But creating the best customer experience requires more than just a focus on profitability—it also requires a real and sustained interest in ongoing improvement, which necessitates cross-pollination.

You want a partner who wants to ensure that everything works and strives to avoid tech silos that inhibit customers and companies alike. However, you also want a partner who will offer ideas for improvement and accept constructive feedback for their own improvement. The sharing of knowledge and insight and interest in such sharing makes a great tech partner.

2. Willingness to be part of a team

It may seem like asking too much for a tech partner to treat your business and the other tech vendors you work with as a team—but the fact is, you need a team player to achieve your goals. Sure, it can take some serious self-reflection on the part of one business to decide to team up with another business and actively engage in such teamwork, especially if there is a fear of missing out on extra earnings. But the long-term benefit of teamwork will yield future rewards that are otherwise unachievable. The tech partner that is willing to forgo a little extra profit today for benefits for the entire team, later on, is one worth keeping.

3. Interest in a long-term partnership

Many of the best results are only achievable through long-term planning and implementation. Some tech partners may see the option of a partnership as more of a short-term advantage that is not worth maintaining for the long-term. These potential tech partners fail to realize that whatever short-term benefits they can get now will pale in comparison to the benefits they could realize through long-term engagement and partnership. Of course, the challenge of long-term relationships is that they typically require some sacrifice on the front-end. Tech partners that are wise enough to see the value in such early sacrifice are more likely to benefit your business in the future.

4. Desire to contribute to the partnership

One of the best ways to facilitate a successful partnership in technology is to give as much access to your technology base as possible. There are many reasons for this need. For example, by giving as much open access to their technology base and IT stack as they can—within reason—a tech partner can make it much easier and faster to develop integration between their tech and the tech of other partners. The harder partners have to push to gain access to the information they need, the longer it will take to achieve true integration. It is possible that with enough pushback on access, a partner could just give up on the idea of achieving integration and go somewhere else.

5. Seek regular and open communication

The need for communication in business is significant when partnering with tech vendors and service providers. You want a company that will keep you up to date about everything that is going on—at least all the things that are relevant to you and your business—and you want a company that will take your need to communicate seriously. When you want to communicate, your partner should be available or make themselves available at a reasonable time. You also need to know what your partner wants and expects out of the business relationship, just as your partner should know what you want and need out of the partnership.

Building a Rock Solid Cybersecurity Plan

Cyber Security

Cybersecurity Plan

Cybercriminals may be going into a stealth mode, but that doesn’t mean that cyberattacks are slowing down — quite the opposite, in fact. According to the 2018 SiteLock Website Security Report, attacks increased by 59% and accelerated going into December. Record numbers of businesses are being infiltrated by hostile actors, with data breaches affecting hundreds of millions of users in a single attack. This all comes during a time when cybersecurity costs are accelerating as more organizations scramble to bring expensive systems and well-paid IT assets online to help protect their business from attack or assist with recovery. By the year 2021, damage to businesses is expected to exceed $6 trillion annually from cybercrime alone. It’s becoming increasingly difficult for businesses to manage the complexity required for a comprehensive cybersecurity plan alone, but these basics will give you a starting point to managing the risk to your organization.

Understanding “Current State” Security Practices

Many organizations begin crafting their cybersecurity plan by reviewing and documenting the current state of their risk-reduction efforts. This could include everything from data structures and storage locations, physical and cloud-based infrastructure models, third-party vendors and other connections. This “current state” report gives you a comprehensive view of the organization and allows you to capture potential risk centers that will need to be addressed in the future.

Balancing Security Needs with Business Requirements

It’s a fact of life that IT professionals are often in top demand, making it difficult to implement the full range of cybersecurity protections that proactive leaders feel are necessary. This balancing act may take place as ongoing negotiations between business and technology teams as the risks of not taking specific steps to tighten security are weighed against the potential benefits of new functionality. IT teams need to have a full understanding of how data and applications are utilized throughout the organization, including how remote partners or staff members are connecting into business applications and databases. Going through this process prompts conversation around the replacement value of particular platforms. Where an IT team may feel that an older platform could be deprecated without undue business impact, one particular unit may be utilizing that data in an unexpected way. In this instance, business and IT leaders will have to negotiate whether it makes sense to enhance the security or simply move to a newer alternative.

Crafting Your Plan and Training Your Staff

Understanding all of the various assets that your business has available allows you to gain a more holistic view of the business, a crucial element of any successful cybersecurity plan. Define replacement or bypass recommendations for each of your core business assets, and then fully document any changes that need to be made to reduce the risk of a breach or the effect of any malware or ransomware attacks. Having the plan in place also requires determining the training level that your staff will need. According to Cisco, the majority of malicious file extensions are made up of popular files such as Microsoft Word, Excel and PowerPoint, making ongoing training an important part of any cybersecurity strategy.

Small and mid-size businesses are the organizations least likely to have a formal cybersecurity plan in place, but these businesses are a high-risk target that is extremely attractive to hackers. Managing the complexity associated with the various platforms and data sources is often cited as a significant challenge for over-taxed IT personnel. Making regular cybersecurity reviews a priority can help your organization not only stay safe online but also identify processes challenges that need to be addressed to improve operational efficiency. Even with a rock-solid cybersecurity plan in place, that doesn’t mean your organization is completely safe. Instead, it means that you’re ready for an attack and are able to respond appropriately and in a timely manner — which can save your company hundreds of thousands of dollars in the event of a breach.

Old School Meetings Revisited

Microsoft Teams

You know running a successful business requires much more than just offering a great product or service. It takes constant engagement and collaboration of all of your employees to produce the best results, and it takes your best effort to remain competitive in a crowded marketplace. Collaboration between employees used to mean lots of daily and weekly meetings. Those long hours stuck in the meeting room often wind up taking a toll on productivity, and this loss of productivity is quite often negatively reflected in a company’s bottom line.

Microsoft Teams

The good news is that modern technology now provides an alternative to the traditional meeting: Online meetings. Conducting meetings online not only saves employees travel time and the expense of attending a meeting in person, but quality online meeting software provides the tools that make hosting a meeting more convenient and more efficient than ever before.

Many companies used to avoid online meetings because they were complicated to set up, time-consuming to maintain, riddled with technical problems, and expensive to purchase. But now there are no more excuses. Microsoft offers businesses of any size a quick, powerful, and inexpensive way to streamline meetings: Microsoft Teams and Microsoft Teams Rooms.

What is Microsoft Teams and What is Microsoft Team Rooms?

Microsoft Teams is an ideal way to keep everyone who works at your company, as well as your partners and shareholders, in the loop and working in concert. Microsoft Teams is a suite of communication tools, including web-based, allow employees access to secure and private chat, file sharing, critical business apps, and the video meeting software, Team Rooms. Microsoft Team Rooms eliminates many of the hassles and time-sucking aspects of face-to-face meetings while still allowing them to be productive.

Whether you are having a 1-to-1 meeting or hosting a webinar for hundreds of people, Microsoft Team Rooms goes beyond many of the standalone online meeting solutions to give you the features which really matter to you. A few of these standout functions are easy scheduling, one-click joining, automated note-taking, extensive whiteboarding tools, along with the ability uploading files and share desktop screens. The best part is that Microsoft Teams and Microsoft Team Rooms is part of the Office 365 subscription you probably already use!

How Can Microsoft Teams and Microsoft Team Rooms Help to Make Your Next Meeting Better?

When it comes to hosting a productive meeting, you need a system that you can depend on no matter what. Microsoft Team Rooms has you covered by:

  • Offering a single platform accessible through desktop computers, mobile devices, and dedicated video conferencing systems. Whether your meeting attendees are at your home office, in the field or even at home, accessing Microsoft Team Rooms is a breeze. Everyone will be able to participate fully using one seamless and secure application.
  • Securing your data. As part of the Office 365 suite of applications, Microsoft Team Rooms reduces the security risk of transmitting your private data using another video conferencing solution. Microsoft is dedicated to protecting your information.
  • Making administration and maintenance a snap. Even if you have a dedicated in-house IT department, you want it to concentrate on running your business, not your video conferencing software. Setting up Microsoft Team Rooms is intuitive, and if your employees ever run into problems, assistance is always available.
  • Providing almost infinite scalability. Do you host a variety of meetings from small groups to large webinars? You don’t have to spend thousands of dollars on dedicated video conferencing equipment, use any smart monitor or computer-attached screen. Do you have a lot of new hires? They can immediately access Microsoft Team Rooms meetings with their Office 365 account through their computer!
  • Supporting post-meeting follow-ups. Since Microsoft Team Rooms is part of the Office 365 suite of applications, if you choose, your employees will continue to have access to notes and files after the meeting. This accessibility makes it a snap for your employees to work together and reduces the amount of time it takes to complete a project.

With the quality tools you need to host an online meeting, the collaborative tools you need for your employees to be productive, and a price point you can’t believe, Microsoft Teams and Microsoft Team Rooms are a comprehensive online meeting solution.

How to Keep Your Business Safe From the Dark Web

Dark Web

Dark Web

Assassins for hire, drugs by mail order, and fake passports: What do all these things have in common?

You can find them all on the dark web.

“Okay …” you may be thinking, “Sounds like a blast — but how does this affect me and my business?”

Well, most likely, you’re not surfing the dark web for fake travel documents and drugs by mail. But as it turns out, the dark web can affect you and your business. Most notably, your information can end up there — and that’s exactly where you don’t to find it.

Below, we’ll learn more about what the dark web is, how it came into existence, and how you can protect your business from the trouble that lurks there.

First Thing’s First: What Is the Dark Web?

The dark web began much more innocently than one might assume. In fact, at its very beginning in the late 1990s, it was the brainchild of a government entity, the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory (NRL).

The NRL’s main goal was to cloak their online presence, effectively protecting their clandestine communications online while also anonymously monitoring the world market and getting access to hidden data without a trace. The software development stage went by the name The Onion Routing Project and resulted in the creation of Tor (The Onion Router).

Whether you’d call these beginnings “innocent” or not, to be sure, the NRL never anticipated their creation to morph into the toxic netherworld it is today. During the late 1990s and early 2000s, the software was for government use only, but in 2004, it was open-sourced and went public, effectively creating an anonymous web browser for anyone and everyone to use.

What Is Tor?

Tor or The Onion Router is the software program used by the dark web. Normally, when you surf the web, you can be traced wherever you go because you always have an IP address trailing your clicks and searches.

Tor facilitates an Internet browser that messes with your device’s IP address, effectively enabling you to travel around the Internet anonymously. It does this by bouncing your IP address to a multitude of diverse locations. As a result, if someone were to attempt to track your site visits when you were using Tor, it would be an impossible challenge to pinpoint your exact location. For Tor to work, individuals from around the world “donate” their Internet browsing devices (computers, tablets, etc.) so that the bouncing IP addresses have more places to land.

So, the Dark Web Provides Anonymity and Privacy – How Does That Put My Business at Risk?

While Tor and the dark web can be used for good (namely, identity protection, which is often beneficial to whistleblowers or journalists, for example), it can also protect criminals. And it does protect criminals — lots of them.

Cybercrime is the number one thing going on on the dark web, and unless you have good reason to require the benefits of The Onion Router, the dark web is definitely not a place you want to find your information. This is what we mean by being wary of your business getting mixed up with the dark web.

There are numerous threats that the dark web poses to businesses of various sizes, industries, and backgrounds. This is where cybercriminals can learn how to obtain information such as access codes and passwords, credit card information, gift card information, customer data, and more. It’s also where they can sell such information to third parties who can then do with it what they please.

In other words, you should want to know the moment your company name, address, or other company-related information is noticed on the dark web because what happens next is bound to be bad.

How Can Businesses Protect Themselves From the Dark Web?

Essentially, you can protect your business from the dark web by doing two things: Ensuring a strong setup of cyber privacy practices (hiring a cybersecurity-savvy IT company) and monitoring the dark web so that you’re notified the moment your information is found there.

The latter can be a part of the services you outsource to your IT company because actual dark web monitoring involves getting dark web access and knowing how to accumulate, parse, normalize, validate, refine, and enrich what you acquire. If you don’t know how to do that yourself, professionals can come to your aid.

While the dark web may be a place that helps good journalists and few others stay hidden and anonymous, it’s predominantly a place of crime and misdeeds. Keep your business safe from the dark web by knowing the risks and taking the appropriate precautions.

Which Application Rules Supreme: Outlook or GMail

Office 365 or GMail

Office 365 or GMail

Currently, 30% of email addresses change every year. The majority of these changes are business related. No one wants to deal with the problems that come with changing personal contact information. Quite often, personal emails are attached to personal bills and subscriptions as well.

When the big change happens and it is time to make a move, is usually away from a smaller email platform into one of the two behemoths – Microsoft Outlook and Google Gmail. These two email providers have become the blue chip operators in what is now an essential part of everyone’s life.

What is so good about Outlook in Gmail? Are there aspects of one that makes it better than the other? We are here to look at the subtle differences between the two so that you can make an informed decision about which is better for you.

The Basics

The Outlook and Gmail user interfaces couldn’t be more different from each other. Outlook seems more business oriented on the surface, while Gmail’s UI maintains a feel that you might get from last year’s tech startup. In short, Outlook is Baby Boomer; Gmail is Generation Z.

Outlook is all about add on features while Gmail brings a “what you see is what you get” mentality to the forefront. Both services come as part of a larger suite that make a lot of money for their respective companies. If you go Pro with Outlook or Gmail, you will actually be purchasing Microsoft Office 365 or Google G suite. The first requires an annual commitment, and the second is based on a monthly subscription plan.

The Tools

So the cat out of the bag – Outlook and Gmail are actually loss leaders for the business suites that Microsoft and Google hope to sell to you eventually. Microsoft Office 365 has all of the industry standard programs that we are used to – Word, Excel, PowerPoint and all of the newer injuries that have become business staples such as OneDrive, OneNote and Microsoft Teams.

Believe it or not, Google is actually the challenger brand in this arena. Its Calendar and Hangouts tools are definitely name brands, but other aspects of its business suites such as Keep, Sites, Forms, Drive and Currents have not quite hit mainstream acceptance.

The result is the difference between a set of features that you know and love (Outlook) or a possibly wider and more robust feature set with a learning curve (Google).

Organization

If you are actually doing good business, your email is going to be a place of constantly changing activity. This is your mission-critical location, and some of the emails that you receive are essential in making mission-critical decisions. Keeping your emails organized is one of the most important things that you can do for your business. Outlook and Gmail have two entirely different philosophies for this.

Outlook works on a method of organization that predates the Internet. Its traditional system of folders looks and feels like a file cabinet. Anyone who makes use of Gmail can tell you this is definitely not the way that Google organizes things. Gmail uses labels and tags and allows you to customize your experience much more. If you know what you’re doing, you can quickly tier your email system and get to your most important emails more quickly. If not, then your email will probably look like a jumbled mess every time you open it.

The Company

With such powerful companies underwriting the programs, it is difficult to look past the influence of the brand. When you use Outlook, you have the advantages of Microsoft behind you. One of the most important features that Microsoft offers is the ability to completely delete unread emails from existence. This is simply not possible with Google, although Gmail offers many other advantages that are difficult to overlook. Gmail offers extended power of Google search and all of the associated features that Alphabet has now monopolized, meaning that you have an extremely powerful suite of tools behind you every time you open your Gmail.

So who wins the battle of emails between Outlook and Gmail? This is actually a question of your business philosophy. If you like more traditional, old-school methods of thinking and organizing yourself, the outlook is probably the brand for you. If you are a New Age thinker who wants a personalized digital experience, then Gmail will probably suit you better. There is no right and wrong; only good and bad for you.

How Much Should A Company Invest In Information Technology?

Business IT Budgets

Business IT Budgets

The rapid increase in technology use in businesses has affected every industry. Across all businesses, the need to keep up with the competition means paying attention to what technologies are available and incorporating the right tech tools as they become viable. Whatever your business, you know that you need to invest in information technology to excel in your industry. But how much should you invest, exactly? To determine your IT budget, you need to look carefully at your industry, your business goals and most importantly, what you can reasonably expect information technology to do for you on your path towards those goals.

Putting Technology Investment in Context

Depending on what stats you read, it appears that businesses spend anywhere from 3% to 6% of their budget on IT. The average spend on tech is expected to go up in the coming years, but no one is quite sure how much it will increase. It makes sense to expect an increase, of course, given the drastic increase in tech adoption across all facets of daily life and business. But the amount of increase is hard to be certain of because no one is sure exactly what the future holds.

What is clear is that an IT budget is necessary for building and maintaining a business. However, the size of that budget can vary considerably depending on the business and the industry that business is part of. In a study conducted by Deloitte, it was found that banking and securities spent 7.16% of their budget on IT—the most of any industry—while construction spent the least at 1.51%. Other industries spent somewhere in between. Such a large difference in spending is indicative of a spectrum of need for IT that differs significantly depending on the business. Those differences make it impossible to define a one-size-fits-all budget percentage for IT for all businesses. There are simply too many variables to consider.

How to Determine How Much Your Company Should Spend on IT

Guidelines on how to determine your own IT budget can be much more useful than a blanket statement about how much you should spend. By knowing what questions to ask, you can get the answers you need to form your own ideas about what your company needs as far as IT goes.

Some questions you can ask include:

Do we need an IT budget?

The answer to this is an obvious “YES”, but it is worth coming up with your own reasons for having a budget to begin with. The closer you look at your circumstances, the more apparent it will be that IT is simply a part of doing business and an area that you will always have to navigate as a company. And it is not enough to put off IT decisions until you make a split-second purchasing decision financed by extra cash you have lying around—not if you want IT to generate reliable results. For long-term success, you need a specific budget.

What is the budget for?

IT investments should serve to further your business objectives. Pulling a random number out of the air is not going to achieve optimal outcomes. The budget should be set to ensure that you can use the technology you need to achieve the outcomes you desire. Of course, to answer this question, you may need to clarify your business objectives and your IT needs. The CIO, CMO and other business leaders can work together to set guidelines for what needs to be accomplished and the budget can be built from there.

Are we spending more just because?

Knowing that business spending on IT is increasing in many industries is useful, but just because others are doing it does not mean that you need to do it. Increasing spending on IT is not enough on its own to improve your business. That increased spending needs to have a purpose. Maybe you are upgrading important infrastructure. Or, perhaps you know of a new tech tool that is virtually guaranteed to make you more competitive. Just make sure that an increased budget has a purpose.

Is the budget based on current economic conditions?

Some businesses are still stuck in a recession mindset. They try to avoid any extra spending because they think it is a necessity for survival. But if the economy has picked up, it is vital to take advantage of increased revenue to bolster your technology while you can. The better you equip your company to move into the new age now, while you have the resources, the more capable your company will be of weathering any storms to come.

The reality of IT budgets is that they need to be customized to the business using them. Fortunately, the process of determining the IT budget can greatly improve your company’s understanding of where it is, where it is going and how technology will help it get there.