What Are the Key Differences Between IT Services and Consulting?

IT Services

What Are the Key Differences Between IT Services and Consulting?

When business leaders create annual budgets, IT typically ranks among the top investments. More than $4 trillion was spent globally in 2019, and the average company funneled 8.2 percent of its total revenue into IT. The primary focus for too many companies was IT services, without consulting support. Putting all of your eggs in the IT services basket could lead to work stoppages and problems that could otherwise be avoided. By understanding the key differences between services and consulting, informed decisions can be made about an organization’s IT health.

IT Services

What Are IT Services?

There are plenty of technical explanations that define “IT services.” But a direct way to understand this term is from the customer’s perspective. You invest in IT services to help accomplish tasks and goals. Company leaders typically broker a deal with an experienced IT services firm to ensure things run smoothly. In other words, you hire someone to keep everyone on your team working at a high level and minimize disruptions. These generally include the following:

  • Technical & Help Desk Support
  • Backup & Recovery Services
  • Software Management Services
  • Cybersecurity Monitoring & Threat Response
  • Cloud Migration & Maintenance
  • Internet-Based Communications Services

The underlying premise of IT services is that a third party is generally under contract to help you maximize productivity and solve routine issues. Companies don’t usually invest in technology for technology’s sake. It’s a necessary tool that requires an expert to maintain.

What Makes IT Consulting Different?

The million-dollar question is that if you already have IT services in place, why invest in a consultant? That’s a fair question from the consumer’s point of view. Your email works, computer restarts are at a minimal level, and Cloud-based systems enable your outfit to connect with remote workers and business partners in real-time. If it’s not broken, why fix it?

The primary reason to invest in IT consulting is that it is proactive by nature. A consultant reviews your critical operations and makes an analysis of the next steps and long-term technology planning. An IT consultant may be only minimally interested in the software and services your organization uses to complete tasks and further goals today. Instead, they consider solutions for the future that deliver the following benefits:

  • Bring an Objective Perspective: Your IT service provider and staff members have a way of conducting operations every day. While their methods may work at a high level, an outside perspective can help companies take advantage of emerging technologies.
  • Proactive vs. Reactive: It’s essential to understand that IT services are crucial. They can react to technical problems and resolve them quickly. By contrast, IT consulting focuses on future disruptions and innovations and advises business leaders about preventative measures.
  • Increase Leadership Focus: When management teams get bogged down with technical problems, they cannot devote the focus necessary to maximize an organization’s potential. An IT consulting firm brings a wealth of knowledge to the table that allows leaders to make high-level decisions about the state of their technology.

As an industry thought leader, perhaps the best way to understand the differences between IT services and consulting is that they are different cogs in a machine that makes your company go. One without the other limits your potential to achieve goals and compete. Technology changes quickly, and companies require IT services to maintain operational integrity and consulting experts to get you ready for critical next steps.

Microsoft Makes Anti-Spam Changes

Microsoft Antispam

Microsoft Makes Anti-Spam Changes

The year 2020 is not the only thing that is coming to an end. Microsoft is slowly rolling out changes meant to deter spam. This is causing some features to come to an end and changing the way a few Microsoft products, most notably email, is used. As a business owner, it is important to stay on top of changes with the software and programs that your business utilizes. Here is a little bit more information about the anti-spam changes and what those changes can mean for your business.

Microsoft Antispam

Why Is Microsoft Making Anti-Spam Changes?

Microsoft recently released an add-on: Microsoft Defender for Office 365 Plan 2. Many of the anti-spam changes were made when this add-on released, and a few more are expected to roll out at the end of January 2021. The primary reason for these changes is to better protect your business against phishing attacks, spoofing attacks, and to limit the number of spam emails that are sent. Some of these changes affect all Microsoft products as a whole, while others are geared toward specific products, such as email.

Why Should Your Business Be Aware of These Changes?

Your business needs to be aware of these changes because they can alter the way your business operates. You may need to update software or you may need to retrain your staff on how to use products. As these changes roll out, many IT professionals are already receiving phone calls from those that they serve letting them know that they can no longer use certain features and asking for a workaround. Releasing an email to your staff or providing them training as a group can help prevent mass emails or phone calls to your IT professional.

What Types of Changes Is Microsoft Making?

One of the biggest changes that Microsoft has made so far is disabling automatic e-mail forwarding. This has changed the way that your office may forward emails to other employees in the business and clients outside of the business. One of the major changes that is expected to happen at the end of January 2021 involves no longer allowing the “allow list” or “block list” from the SPAM policy setting in Exchange Office to function. Instead, you will need to add your allow or block list elsewhere. Finally, Microsoft is making subtle changes to all license-level software to increase protection and decrease phishing and spoofing risk. While you may not necessarily see these changes, you may find that you need to update your software if it does not automatically self-update.

Microsoft is making anti-spam changes to decrease spam and to help prevent phishing and spoofing attacks when using Microsoft Office 365. If you own a business, you need to be aware of these changes, as it can impact these products. Your IT professional can help advise your office on the changes that are being made and update your software to ensure you are using the latest Microsoft Office products.

Top 15 Microsoft Teams Tips and Tricks

Microsoft Teams Tips and Tricks

Top 15 Microsoft Teams Tips and Tricks

Microsoft Teams is one of the most popular and influential digital team-building solutions available for startups and business teams of any size. Using Microsoft Teams as your company’s preferred collaboration tool provides access to myriad features, from private messaging and group chats to file and document-sharing. With a few tips and tricks, optimize your time and productivity whenever you and your team put Microsoft Teams to use.

How Can I Get Better Organized with Microsoft Teams?

In order to use Microsoft Teams as efficiently as possible, getting organized with the system is a must.

1. Bookmark Important Messages and Content

Whenever you receive a noteworthy message or content from another member of your team, select the bookmark icon next to the message. You can search for bookmarks by browsing for content within the message you are trying to find via your search bar or by typing the command “/saved” into the bar when searching for a list of your saved bookmarks.

2. Use Drag-and-Drop Features to Stay Organized

Use Microsoft Teams drag-and-drop features to organize messages, teams, files, as well as calendar events and important dates.

3. Create Groups for Users

Grouping members of your team or users who have joined you on Microsoft Teams is a way to keep better track of those you communicate with throughout each day. Create a new tag for specific groups to communicate with more team members in less time.

4. Select Favorites

You can also choose favorite channels and teams when using Microsoft Teams to gain quick access to those you use most. Favoriting or bookmarking channels and teams will keep them at the top of your list.

How Can I Increase Team Engagement?

5. Add Subject Lines

Adding subject lines throughout conversations and group messages can help to keep communications more organized and clutter-free. The icon for creating subject lines is located in the bottom left corner of the messaging section of Microsoft Teams.

6. Use Animated Graphics (GIFs) and Other Visual Media

Using visual media is a great way to break up conversations, make a point, and send a message without a wall of text. Use GIFs as well as other relevant imagery or visual media during conversations to keep track of the overall theme and direction of the conversation.

7. Use Urgent Messages and Notifications When Necessary

If you are looking to get in touch with a member of your team immediately, send an “Urgent” message from the messaging tab of Microsoft Teams.

8. Use Polls to Increase Engagement

Increase the engagement of your team members by implementing a question or a poll with the messages you send out en masse.

9. Use Eye-Catching Headlines and Titles

Use appealing and eye-catching headlines and titles when communicating with your team to keep them focused and interested in the content of your conversation or meeting.

Improve Meetings Altogether With Microsoft Teams

10. Putting Together Mode to Use

Use Together Mode from Microsoft Teams to emulate a full conference room of participants.

11. Instantly Call a Team Member Within a Chat

If you are in need of more one-on-one communication, instantly call a team member from directly within a private conversation.

12. Record Your Meetings

Record your meetings from the main control panel in your Microsoft Teams account. It is also possible to use this section to transcribe each of your meetings for future use and reference.

13. Use Microsoft Teams Meeting Notes

Using Microsoft Teams Meeting Notes section is another way to keep track of conversations, topics that are covered, and tasks for teams and individuals alike.

14. Blur Out Your Current Background at Home or at the Office

Whether you are working remotely permanently or want to minimize and limit distractions during team meetings, you can blur your background from the main settings area of your Microsoft Teams bar.

15. Title and Log Meetings Appropriately

In order to maximize overall productivity, be sure to title and log all of your meetings and conversations in Microsoft Teams appropriately for future searches and use.

Using Microsoft Teams for your business, startup, or brand is a great way to effectively communicate with co-workers and team members remotely, regardless of your location and time zone. By taking the time to optimize Microsoft Teams for you, increase productivity and overall efficiency among all of your team members and employees.

Need a quick book on Microsoft Teams: Click here to check out one we recommend.

Microsoft Teams Tips and Tricks

9 Meeting Tips for Using Microsoft Teams

Microsoft Teams Meeting

9 Meeting Tips for Using Microsoft Teams

Microsoft Teams is a simple, yet effective tool for hosting meetings. It has both audio and video capabilities as well as a chat feature. It can handle conference calls and one on one meetings, with members of your organization as well as guests. Plus, it has a convenient chat feature that can be used to share documents and spreadsheets. Here are a few tips for using Teams effectively in meetings.

Microsoft Teams Meeting

  • Send Invites through E-mail: Anyone in your organization who has access to your company communications can be easily searched and added when you create a new meeting. But if you’d like to add someone from outside of the organization, all you have to do is enter their email when you create an event or add it later on. They will receive an invitation in their inbox that will allow them to enter the meeting when it starts.
  • Admit Guests from the Lobby: Members of your organization who are invited to the meeting will be able to join automatically when it starts. But those who are not must be admitted. When guests enter the meeting, they will be placed in the lobby to await your admittance. You will receive a notification and see them waiting in the lobby – all you have to do is click the checkmark next to their name and they will be able to enter the meeting.
  • Keep the Noise to a Minimum: Conference calls can get noisy. A loud air conditioner or nescient conversations in the background of one guest’s location can disrupt the entire call. Attendees can mute themselves while others are talking to reduce interference. Or if one particular guest is not complying with the request, as the host you can mute them.
  • Make Sure Guests Download Teams: To join a Teams meeting, guests must download the app or browser extension. It’s free to download and doesn’t require any fancy plugins. But guests may be confused if you don’t make them aware that the call is being conducted through an app.
  • Decide on an Audio or Video Call: Teams has video capabilities as well as audio. It may be awkward for some if they are not aware that they will be visible during the meeting if it’s a video call. So, to make things run smoothly decide beforehand whether a video call is necessary and make sure everyone is on the same page.
  • Share Documents in the Chat During a Call: The chat feature allows you to seamlessly share and view documents and text communications while on a call. If you have an important memo or chart you want everyone to see, simply drop it in the chat and participants can view it without leaving the call.
  • Join with Audio Conferencing: Teams is generally run through Wi-Fi, but if you or a guest is in an area with limited internet access, you can always join a call through audio conferencing. Audio conferencing allows members to dial in manually using their phone line. Those who have audio conferencing available will see dial-in instructions provided alongside the meeting info.
  • Record Your Teams Meetings: Teams has a recording function if you want a video of the meeting to reference or transcribe. All you have to do is select the “…” button in the meeting and press record. But keep in mind, you may want to make participants aware that they are being recorded, so no one feels uncomfortable.
  • Share Selected Applications: Teams allows you to share selected applications with meeting participants, rather than your entire desktop. So, if you want to show your browser, but not your email, you can do so with application sharing.

Teams is a powerful app and there are a variety of innovative yet simple features you can play around with. Employ these tips in your next meeting to increase your productivity and efficiency.

What’s New With Microsoft Forms

Microsoft Forms

What’s New With Microsoft Forms

Microsoft Forms gives you a plethora of features to utilize to your advantage. It easily creates useful documentation for your business and is accessible to virtually everyone in your organization. Forms integrate well with many other Microsoft Office products, including Outlook, and it is completely free to use. Microsoft Forms makes it possible to organize documents, create tracking data, and support large-scale projects — and in today’s dynamic business environment, nothing is more important than data collected and analyzed. Microsoft Forms is an essential piece of software that transforms the way we work by connecting everyone into a collaborative environment.

With its many features, Microsoft Forms makes it easy to visualize real-time data and use an automated form of predictive analytics to capture rapid insight. Customization allows users to create forms that fit their own needs. Businesses use Microsoft Forms for more than just keeping track of data; they use it to implement customer research and manage their various social media presences. Sales teams can collect and organize all of their prospecting surveys and then store and analyze the results of their data collections to the cloud.

Businesses can use Microsoft Forms tools to survey employees, gather feedback, and even ask for advice on projects and other key decisions. Many businesses also use it to share interactive quizzes that allow them to create proprietary data stores, which they can then mine for insights.

Data Visualization

Another great benefit of the Microsoft Forms tool is visualized data. Once the form data has been collected, the online software converts it into graphs and charts that make your data more accessible and easy for others to interpret. Easy data visualization is at the core of Microsoft Forms, and what they have can be seen as an upgrade over other top survey tools.

There are also advanced analytics capabilities along with an impressively professional user interface. With all of these upgrades over other online survey alternatives, it becomes clear why Microsoft Survey has been gaining so much traction. Microsoft Forms allows for handling multiple surveys at a time. This not only makes it easier to gather data, but it also makes it a better tool to manage your surveys. Quizzes can handle complex functionalities, even when built from scratch, due to the modular user interface and extensible components that the software affords.

Microsoft Forms in the Classroom

Forms are set to become a vital, fundamental, and integral tool for ensuring that students are continually up to date with the world around them. Using Microsoft Forms, students can conduct transactions, undertake research, and apply real-time data to various tasks. In addition to taking advantage of all the Office Online tools and bringing with it the power of Office Web Apps, Forms sports new features that help with collecting surveys during specific time periods, retrieving input from third-party software, and integrating it with Microsoft Teams — another platform that is gaining an impressive following from the academic community.

One of the powers of Microsoft Forms lies in its ability to bridge student needs from both web, email, and text, facilitating communication along with the data that drives it. With Microsoft Forms, students can maintain private electronic environments — which comes in handy for classes run by the same institution. The software is slowly becoming the standard for student needs, and as such, it is imperative that students effectively utilize Microsoft Forms when interacting with external and unstructured data sources. By staying synced online in an isolated cloud environment, students can also use Microsoft Forms for composing collaborative survey documents, a practice that students have used as a vital tool for research purposes.

As Microsoft continues to fit their needs, a growing number of students will continue to get the most out of their academic careers by utilizing the platform’s features.

Microsoft Forms

Beware: COVID-19 Vaccine News May Lead to New Wave of Phishing

COVID 19 Vaccine

COVID-19 Vaccine Related Phishing and How You Can Protect Your Organization

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to claim lives across the globe and infection rates continue to soar, scientists are continually looking for a solution to end the world’s suffering. In the past weeks, vaccine manufacturers, such as Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech, have published encouraging results from the last stages of their vaccine trials, giving the world a glimpse of hope.

However, with all these vaccines that have been developed and those in their final stages, none has been officially released for mass consumption. As the population continues to get overwhelmed with pandemic fatigue and scientists get closer to developing a real vaccine, cybercriminals are now using the developed vaccines as a ploy in their extortion activities.

COVID 19 Vaccine

What are phishing emails?

Phishing is a form of social engineering often used by cybercriminals to trick their targets into providing them with their personal information and account data. Once this information is obtained, these malicious actors use the targets’ credentials or install malware into their systems to obtain data. Phishing is carried out via text messages, instant messages, social media messaging platforms, phone calls, or email. However, phishing emails are the most common. The recipient of the email is usually tricked into clicking on a malicious link, which may lead to the installation of malware that may obtain sensitive information or freeze the recipient’s system as a way to deny services as part of a cyberattack.

At the initial stages of the COVID-19 pandemic, these emails came in different forms with luring subject lines such as:

  • What to do if you have come into contact with someone with COVID-19.
  • Free COVID-19 testing emails.
  • Advice on what to do if you have violated COVID-19 health protocols.

The main aim of these emails was to exploit the anxiety surrounding the pandemic. With the vaccine in sight and the topic naturally arousing excitement and attention, these emails are now being tailored to announce the promise of COVID-19 vaccines.

How can you identify phishing emails? As an organization, you have probably already started seeing vaccine-themed phishing emails or may expect to start seeing these emails in the next few weeks. But how exactly do you distinguish these fake emails from verified ones to protect your employees and ultimately protect your organization’s systems?

Here are several tips to help you identify phishing emails:

  1. Legitimate companies don’t request sensitive information via email: The chances are that if you receive an email purporting to be from a legitimate institution that provides you with an attachment or link and asks you to provide sensitive data, it’s a scam. Most verified organizations don’t send emails asking for credit card information, account usernames and passwords.
  2. Legitimate companies don’t send unsolicited links or attachments: Unexpected emails that contain links and attachments reek of hackers. Authentic organizations don’t randomly send you emails with links or attachments; they usually direct you to their websites.
  3. Look out for spelling errors: The easiest way to recognize a phishing email is terrible grammar. Emails from a verified organization are usually well-written.
  4. Legitimate companies have domain emails: Don’t only check the name of the person sending you the email, also check the email address. Most companies use their domain email addresses when sending out emails. However, this is not a foolproof method of identifying phishing emails.

How can you protect your organization against phishing attacks?

To protect your organization from phishing attacks, you need to practice vigilance. Training your employees on what to look out for when it comes to distinguishing phishing emails goes a long way toward protecting your organization from malicious attacks.

The following pointers will help to mitigate risks for phishing attacks:

  • Use two-factor or multifactor authentication methods to add an extra verification layer when logging in to sensitive applications.
  • Integrate firewalls to establish a barrier between your internal network and incoming traffic from external sources to block malicious traffic.
  • Keep all your software and applications updated.
  • Install security software such as antivirus, antispyware and anti-malware programs to help detect and remove malicious programs.
  • Enable email filtering to filter out incoming emails for phishing content and automatically move them to a separate folder.

No matter how secure your company’s network is, it only takes one reckless employee to fall victim to a phishing attack and send your company’s data into the hands of cybercriminals. Your employees need to understand and be able to recognize phishing emails to protect your organization.

Microsoft Teams and the Future of Video Calling

Microsoft Teams

Microsoft Teams and the Future of Video Calling

Microsoft Teams is a free cross-platform collaboration software that focuses on users, enabling great collaboration with teammates and customers across any device and empowering customers to work faster. Teams aims to propel traditional productivity experiences to the future, giving all kinds of teams a purpose and a reason to stand alone from other software. Team members set their own notifications based on their roles and priorities, so they never get too few or too many messages in their inbox. This flexibility to prioritize notifications with peers and outside users will be appreciated by anyone on your team, and it encourages trust, collaboration, and increased productivity. The Microsoft Teams alert feature alerts team members when necessary, and you can assign a timer to notifications, helping you better manage the number of people and alerts by priority.

Microsoft Teams

Why Microsoft Teams Integrations

Teams has thought long and hard about their integration with Microsoft Office 365. This implementation is available at no extra cost. Teams also integrates with other popular tools from Microsoft, such as Skype, Slack, Excel, PowerPoint, Word, and OneNote. This flexibility helps make collaboration and communication easy and available to everyone on your team that uses other Microsoft products. Team members set their own notifications based on their roles and priorities, and this is a crucial feature to assist in prioritizing notifications with peers. Just like the dial-in phone number in Teams, the notifications now include the message, your team number, and additional information. The call response options are now easier to navigate and make it easier to initiate a group conversation than before. You can call an entire group at the same time to save time when calling similar groups of people. Team members will receive a notification when they get a new call in a conversation screen, so they can respond quickly.

Why Is Microsoft Teams Growing So Fast?

At first, when a topic dominates the news, it is easier to assume that the reality won’t measure up to the hype. But the reason why Microsoft Teams is growing so quickly is because it adds a lot of substance to the hype. All types of teams need this service, so they love that new features are being added at an alarming rate. We’re continuing to see customers and business teams increasing their usage of Microsoft Teams. The stream of good news continues to grow at this time, surrounding the features that make their video collaboration and presentation features rival and exceed competitive online software. Organizations are not just embracing Microsoft Teams; they are making their own success stories. General Mills uses Microsoft Teams to help its broad base of users, along with its IT support team, brand partners, and suppliers on teams worldwide.

More than 500 companies use Microsoft Teams at this time, and big data continues to remain at the heart of every digital transformation project, so Teams has made improvements in facilitating this area as well. Today’s customers expect businesses to leverage the insights provided by big data and to inform decisions for the future – driving better business outcomes. These are never binary decisions: Users want to be part of the conversation. To achieve big data success in partnership with great service that empowers them, IBM collaborates with Microsoft Teams to provide real-time communications, conversational commerce, and customer insights to help understand “what they see, hear and do.” IBM announced a new privacy-focused version of IBM Smart Answer — information about people, tasks, and interests — for Microsoft Teams, giving customers worldwide a secure, central view of their data to learn about their customers, behaviors, and how they choose to interact with their businesses.

Does Your Workforce Create Strong Passwords?

Strong Password

Does Your Workforce Create Strong Passwords & Have a Plan B Cybersecurity Defense?

As the old saying goes, “a chain is only as strong as its weakest link.” Unfortunately, the new saying is that a business network is only as secure as its employees’ passwords.

Despite widespread knowledge that hackers exploit weak passwords to breach entire systems, trusted workers still use ones that are easy to guess at and repeat them across platforms. If that seems counterintuitive, business leaders may want to consider these statistics.

  • The two most commonly used passwords remain “iloveyou” and “sunshine.”
  • Approximately 23 million people use the password “123456.”
  • More than half of workforces use the same password for personal and business purposes.
  • Upwards of 57 percent of phishing email scam victims do not change their password.
  • One-third of people stop doing business with organizations responsible for compromising their credentials.

What seems stunningly illogical about rampant password protection failures stems from this statistic: Approximately 90 percent of internet users say they are worried about getting hacked due to a compromised password. Industry leaders may be left scratching their heads. But as a decision-maker responsible for ensuring the integrity of digital assets, something needs to be done. You can set company policy that educates team members about how to create and remember strong network passwords. If that doesn’t work, there’s always Plan B.

Strong Password

How To Educate Employees About Strong Passwords

Getting workers to create powerfully secure passwords may not be that difficult. Insisting on a series of unrelated letters, numbers, and characters will fend off most hackers. On the other hand, team members will likely lose productivity, resetting a difficult-to-remember login profile. Fortunately, a happy medium can be achieved without too much difficulty.

Passwords do not necessarily need to be obscure. They just need to be difficult for hackers to unveil. A password employing 8-10 characters can be hard to crack if done cleverly. For example, the too common “iloveyou” can be tweaked to “iLuv2Make$,” which could be a tough one. That’s largely because it uses untraditional “Luv” in place of the spelled-out word, employs uppercase letters, a symbol, and a number. All an employee has to do is remember the phrase “I Love To Make Money” as a trigger.

Repeated passwords also need to be addressed. Consider training those under your leadership to make variations on one primary password. In this case, it could include “uLuv2Make$2” or “iH82owe$.”

It’s also important to share the reason that complex passwords are necessary. Hackers have a toolkit at their disposal that typically includes brute-force and dictionary techniques. When brute-force attacks try to run every conceivable combination of letters and characters possible. This tends to be time-consuming, and digital thieves are likely to give up when faced with strong passwords. Dictionary attacks run common words at the profile. If your worker’s password is “sunshine,” consider your network breached.

How Can Business Leaders Implement a Plan B?

Practical business leaders learn that human error ranks among the top reason things go sideways. Cybercriminals send out thousands of scam emails, knowing someone will open one, download a malicious file, or respond with critical information. Someone will make a mistake. Given that your financial future can be one mistake away from ruin, organizations are using multi-factor authentication as a fallback defense.

Multi-factor authentication requires employees to receive and enter a secondary code before gaining access to the network. This may be sent to another device that hackers cannot access. In some instances, an email alert is sent that must be approved. Even if someone foolishly uses “password123,” a cybercriminal would still need to know the authentication code or approve login access to upend your network.

If you are concerned about password security, consider working with a managed IT professional to educate employees about password protection, and install multi-factor authentication just in case.

What Is PCI Compliance?

PCI Compliance

What Is PCI Compliance?

You’re probably reading this because you looked up information on PCI compliance. This article explores how you can meet PCI requirements and secure your clients’ sensitive cardholder data.

Today’s business world is highly regulated, and while this has its upsides, there is a great deal of pressure on businesses to stay compliant with all the relevant standards. If your business processes, stores, or transmits credit card information, you need to ensure you meet all the PCI requirements.

PCI non-compliance poses a frightening host of risks such as:

  • Compromised data that can harm your clients and business
  • A severely damaged brand image
  • Account data breaches that could result in lower sales, and destroyed relationships
  • Lawsuits, government fines, insurance claims, payment card issuer fines

If you aren’t PCI compliant, don’t panic just yet. Our team has assembled this article to share what you need to start your journey towards PCI compliance. Let’s first define some important terms.

PCI Compliance

What Is PCI Compliance?

The Payment Card Industry Data Security Standards (PCI DSS) is a set of requirements designed to create a secure data environment for any business that processes, stores, or transmits credit card information. It’s a legal requirement and assigns two compliance levels for service providers (third-party vendors) and four for merchants (brands). Behind its launch in 2006 was the need to manage PCI security standards and bolster account security throughout the transaction process.

What Is PCI DSS?

The PCI Security Standards Council (PCI DSS) is an independent body that administers and manages the PCI DSS. It was created by Visa, MasterCard, American Express, JCB, and Discover. However, the responsibility of enforcing compliance falls on the payment brands and acquirers.

How Can You Achieve PCI Compliance?

PCI compliance involves consistently adhering to the PCI Security Standards Council’s guidelines (PCI DSS). PCI DSS has the following six major objectives:

  1. Maintain a vulnerability management program
  2. Build and maintain a secure network and systems
  3. Regularly monitor and test networks
  4. Protect cardholder data
  5. Maintain an information security policy
  6. Implement strong access control measures

Apart from 78 base requirements and over 400 test procedures, PCI compliance also has 12 key requirements.

What Are the 12 Key PCI DSS Compliance Requirements?

  1. Use and Maintain Firewalls: Firewalls are highly effective in preventing unauthorized access to private information.
  2. Proper Password Protections: We recommend keeping a secure device/password inventory and implementing basic precautions like regularly changing passwords.
  3. Protect Cardholder Data: By encrypting data and performing regular scans to ensure no unencrypted data exists.
  4. Encrypt Transmitted Data: Even data sent to known locations need to be encrypted.
  5. Use and Maintain Anti-Virus: This is required for all devices that interact with primary account numbers (PAN).
  6. Properly Updated Software: This includes firewalls, antiviruses, and any other piece of software.
  7. Restrict Data Access: Cardholder information should be exclusively “need to know.”
  8. Unique IDs for Access: These enhance security and reduce response time in case data is compromised.
  9. Restrict Physical Access: Cardholder data needs to be kept in a secure physical location and access locked.
  10. Create and Maintain Access Logs: You must document any activity involving cardholder information and PAN.
  11. Scan and Test for Vulnerabilities: This will help you identify potential weaknesses at any stage of your compliance efforts.
  12. Document Policies: Everything needs to be recorded, from equipment to software to authorized employees to access logs, and so on.

Need Reliable IT Support with PCI Compliance?

Our experienced team is eager to help your organization achieve PCI compliance and safeguard your sensitive cardholder data.

Contact us now to schedule your first PCI compliance consultation.

MFA Bug Opens Door For Hackers To Attack Microsoft 365

New and heightened digital threats develop every day, and having standard security software may not be enough to protect your personal data and business from exploitation from malware attacks. Businesses across industries are vulnerable to new attacks, as many security software lags behind. Hackers find ways to work around the most common security platforms to find new ways into systems to gain access to all sorts of information, and the only way to ensure that you are as protected as possible is to work with an IT expert who knows how to take the preventative measures to keep up with the latest malware developments.

Microsoft 365 Bug

One of the latest bugs causing a lot of damage to businesses is a vulnerability to the Microsoft-based cloud office platform, Microsoft 365. This platform allows businesses to push their productivity almost entirely online, giving employees access to their data from literally anywhere in the world while still collaborating in real-time. The use of cloud platforms allowed businesses to stay productive during the 2020 shutdown. The use has grown exponentially in popularity as everything from law firms, doctors’ offices, and schools have shifted as much business as possible over to the virtual platforms.

Hackers recently exploited a bug present in the multi-factor authentication system for access into the Microsoft 365 platform, which meant that there was a somewhat easily accessible back door into the otherwise secure cloud system. There is a lot of damage done when a hacker can get access to your business or personal data. Information can be stolen or deleted, which could lead to costly repairs as you spend time re-collecting data or ensuring that your employees and clients are protected from additional attacks on their finances and identity based on the type of information accessed by the hackers.

System flaws happen, and typically patches are issued to fix bugs that may allow hackers into programs — especially in the case of well-funded, popular programs like those owned by Microsoft. However, that doesn’t mean that there isn’t a chance of an attack before that patch being issued. Also, if your employees aren’t receiving guidance on keeping up with regular updates and maintenance on their work computers, they could be putting everyone at risk as those updates are how patches are installed. A single point of access through an outdated computer can allow hackers to access all sorts of data.

In the case of the latest vulnerability that impacted Microsoft 365, the issue was present in the WS-Trust, an OASIS standard that delivers security extensions and is used to renew and validate security tokens, thus ensuring identity. A bug in this system could be disastrous, allowing for the easy manipulation of security tokens and identity, allowing hackers in. The attacker could easily access mail, files, data, contacts, and more — depending on the amount of information stored on the cloud.

Working with a strong IT support team is the best way to ensure that you are protected from the latest developments in malware. Keep your computers up to date and your employees knowledgeable on the best ways to stay protected by having a strong IT support team to rely on.