The electronic systems used by businesses of all sizes operate with a range of sensitive and confidential data. These systems must be optimally secured, to protect not only your business, but your partners and clients also. Overseeing your data security can be an overwhelming task. We’ve provided a simple airport security analogy to help you understand the 4 stages you need to undertake to implement a comprehensive data protection plan.

1) Luggage Checkpoint & Spam Filter

You’re ready to embark on your trip. The first security step when entering the airport will be carry-on luggage screening to ensure prohibited items are not brought on board. Consider your first line of defense for data protection as your computer’s spam filter.

One careless click and your business could be compromised by a virus or malware. Worse yet, some filters are too aggressive and can cause you to miss important emails. Advanced spam filters will identify and sort incoming website traffic such as links, attachments and emails. Filters then ensure suspicious data is blocked as soon as it’s picked up, before serious damage can be done to your device.

2) Customs & Firewalls

You’re luggage has been cleared by security and you’re next stop is to pass through customs. Here, your passport will be checked and anything dangerous which wasn’t picked up in the luggage security check should be identified. For your businesses data protection, your second line of defence is to install a firewall.

A firewall will provide an added layer of spam filtering, taking a deeper look at the traffic coming through from the internet. Fortinet Fortigate Firewalls will block viruses, worms, spam, phishing attacks and malicious websites without the need for administrative intervention. You can also determine what sites you don’t want employees accessing, to ensure constant protection from the latest threats.

3) Boarding Pass & Antivirus

After passing through customs, you arrive at your gate to present your boarding pass. If information on the boarding pass is invalid, you will be stopped. This means, anything which was not picked up during the first two security checks should be here.

Your third line of defence for your data protection is to install an anti-virus protection software. An anti-virus software will prevent any malicious traffic that has passed the last two stages, and stop it from going any further. Even better, If a virus has infiltrated a device, the antivirus will be there to stop it from running.

4) Seating Allocation & Staff Education

You’ve passed each step! Now you’re ready for the flight attendant to show you to your seat. You’ll be comfortably on your way knowing the numerous security protection processes have kept you safe.

Our final, and often overlooked, data protection line of defence is staff education. Much like a flight attendant being educated of the plane’s seating chart, you must educate your staff about the importance of data security. Knowledge is power, so find engaging ways to convey the value of data, best practices and policies.

Here at Synapse IT Consultants, we offer a variety of services and products to ensure your devices are always protected. If you would like to find out more about how we can help your business, please click here.

The ‘chronic failure’ to use secure passwords has grown increasingly concerning for individuals and companies alike. Password hacking software now enables passwords, thought to be safe, to be unscrambled within seconds.

We have compiled the top reasons why implementing a complex password policy is vital for your protection and exactly how to put it in place.

The most common passwords

According to Keeper Security the most common passwords of 2016 included ‘123456’, ‘qwerty’ and ‘password’, while approximately 50 per cent of people use the top 25 most common passwords. Shockingly, data reveals this list has remained relatively unchanged over the years, showing user understanding on the importance of complex password policies remaining limited.

The two main types of hackers

Although hackers differ in the methods they use to access your personal information, you can definitely educate yourself about the two main types of hackers.

Opportunistic

The motivation behind opportunistic hackers often lies behind simple boredom and the quest for notoriety, rather than a fixed goal. Such hackers often target a large group of people, adopt simple and well known hacking methods, yet make little attempt to conceal their actions. Trustware revealed the main warning signs you are being targeted by an opportunistic hacker include ‘missed delivery’ spam and phishing emails.

Planned

Planned security attacks, however are targeted attacks on a specific organisation or person. These attackers use modern and sophisticated hacking methods to cause damage and steal valuable data. Planned hackers go to great lengths and time to conceal their actions and are often experienced individuals who are motivated by high monetary gain. How do you know if you’re being targeted by a planned hacker? These individuals often call up companies imitating a specific person affiliated with the company and requesting information.

The 4 most common hacking methods

Brute-force attack

Brute-force attacks use automatic computer programs to decrypt files by calculating every password combination possible, at an incredibly fast rate, until correct. Used against any type of encryption, as updated and faster computer hardware becomes available, these attacks become more efficient and successful.

Dictionary crack

A dictionary attack occurs when a large list of words are entered into a software program in an attempt to generate a password. These attacks are incredibly popular as individuals and companies leave themselves vulnerable by choosing weak and common words as passwords. These attacks also occur through email spamming techniques whereby large amounts of emails are automatically generated and sent to random addresses in the attempt to spontaneously reach real email addresses.

Phishing

Seemingly obvious to avoid, phishing attacks are incredibly common whereby hackers simply ask users for their passwords. This most commonly occurs through emails claiming to be online banking requiring you to login and provide information. Banks will under no circumstances require you to provide such details over email, yet many unsuspecting individuals often fall trap to this hacking method.

Social engineering

An extension of phishing, social engineering occurs externally to online methods. In these cases, hackers actually call or come face to face with users, while impersonating someone affiliated with the business. The most common impersonation is that of an IT security tech, who calls the business and claims to need passwords to alleviate a security issue.

Most important things to include in your password policy

Due to the enormous security threats associated with a poor password, it is clear a company’s best interest is to implement a complex password policy. Although it would be ideal if website operators enforced basic password complexity policies, research shows the majority fail to do so. Therefore, the ultimate responsibility lies within the user to protect themselves with a secure password.

Create a strong password

The passwords most resistant to hacking are those made up of a mix of numerical, uppercase, lowercase and special characters, opposed to common words and simple number sequences. These passwords are incredibly effective against dictionary attacks as they are not common words and considerably slow down the efficiency of brute-force attacks. For example, create a password out of a complex sentence, which can even be about yourself! “I am 30 and work in IT’ can be translated to ‘Ia30awiIT’. This is considerably safer than your name and your profession.

Two-factor authentication

Ensure login processes include this multi factor authentication, which requires not only a password but another external piece of information that can only be accessed by the correct user, such as a phone number.

Different passwords for logins

Many companies require numerous passwords to access a vast array of different platforms. In this case, it is imperative each password is different to one another and do not vary in levels of complexity. In this case, if one password is compromised the others remain safe and protected.

How to remember your safe password

Now you’ve got your strong and unique password (potentially numerous of them!), you might be worried about how you’re going to keep track of them. Fortunately, there are many password manager platforms available, such as IPassword, which easily store your passwords and provide access with a simple click.

Here at Synapse IT, we can work with your business to create organizational group policies for password management. These policies enforce systems and rules to using strong passwords and will add a significant layer of protection for your company. If you would like further information regarding us, feel free to contact us!

Weak, predictable and common passwords leave your financial and private information vulnerable to hacking. It is essential that businesses and individuals alike enforce mandatory strong password policies, based on the information we’ve provided to significantly reduce the risk password hacking.

Whether you’re trying to lose weight, quit smoking or save money, the New Year is often a time to set new goals.

With 2017 underway, it’s time to ask yourself if you’ve stuck to your New Year’s Resolutions- after all, only 8% of people who set resolutions achieve them!

Regardless of your goal this year, we’ve put together a list of the most common New Year’s Resolutions and some great smartphone apps which can give you that extra boost of motivation:

To Lose Weight/ Get Healthy:

Noom Weight Loss Coach

After examining 800 apps, experts from the University of Sydney’s Charles Perkins Centre have found that Noom Weightloss Coach is the app most likely to change behavior and assist with weight loss.

Featuring a step counter, meal log and calorie counter, the Noom Weight Loss Coach allows you to work on your diet and exercise with the support of your very own personal coach. Need a little bit of extra support? Download the premium version and join other users in groups.

Available: iOS and Android

Price: Free (paid upgrades available)

To Quit Smoking:

My Last Cigarette- Stop Smoking Stay Quit

There are hundreds of apps designed to help smokers quit, and My Last Cigarette is one of the best.

Originally created in 1999, My Last Cigarette gives users daily motivational messages and provides medical facts about smoking, quitting and the difference you’re making by choosing healthy options.

With statistics such as money saved and cigarettes not smoked, My Last Cigarette is bound to get you motivated to quit.

Available: iOS and Android

Cost: $1.49

To Learn a New Language:

DuoLingo

DuoLingo is without a doubt one of the most fun and easy ways to learn a new language.

With 15 languages to choose from including French, Spanish, German and Italian, DuoLingo’s highly visual lessons make learning a new language fun and exciting.

Not only does DuoLingo track your daily progress and identify your weakest words and phrases, but also keeps you motivated with the in-built goal-setting tool.

Available: iOS and Android

Cost: Free

Quit / Cut back on Alcohol:

Whether you want to reduce the amount you drink or quit alcohol altogether, I am Sober and AlcoDroid Alcohol Tracker are two great apps to keep you on track.

I Am Sober (iOS)

I Am Sober is a sobriety tracking app which has daily and weekly milestones. The app allows you to reach out and talk to other people facing similar battles and also shows you how much money you’re saving by not drinking.

Available: iOS

Cost: $2.99

AlcoDoird Alcohol tracker (Android)

Like the I Am Sober App, the AlcoDroid app is an alcohol tracker which monitors your consumption and how much you’re spending on drinks. In addition, AlcoDroid estimates your blood alcohol content (BAC) based on the drinks you’ve logged. While it may not be advisable to base your decision to get behind the wheel entirely on the app, it is helpful in tracking how much you’re really drinking.

Available: Android

Cost: Free

Get More Sleep:

Sleep Cycle Alarm Clock

If you ever wake up feeling drowsy, Sleep Cycle Alarm Clock is the app for you. The sleep cycle alarm clock tracks your sleep pattern and wakes you up during your light sleep, allowing you to feel naturally rested.

Sleep cycle also tracks movement during the night, using sound analysis to identify sleep states and patterns.

To help you get to sleep, the app also includes a number of different sounds including white noise, ocean waves and rain on a tin roof.

Available: iOS and Android

Cost: Free

Save Money/ Stick to your Budget:

Pocketbook 

Whether you’re saving for a new car, or maybe even a holiday, Pocketbook can help you achieve your saving goals!

With the ability to track daily expenses, set budgets and monitor where you’re spending the most, Pocketbook makes managing your finances easy.

What sets this app apart from the rest is that you can connect it to your bank so that you can track income and expenses automatically!

Available: iOS and Android

Cost: Free

Drink More Water:

Drinking the recommended 2L of water each day is easier said than done, however with apps like Waterlogged, keeping track of your intake has never been easier.

Waterlogged 

Waterlogged helps you keep track of your daily water intake through logging your daily water consumption. With the ability to set reminders at a certain time (free version) or for regular reminders that you are falling behind (paid version), Waterlogged is a great app for keeping you motivated to stay hydrated.

Available: iOS and Android

Cost: Free (can upgrade to premium)

Spend Less Time on Social Media:

If you’re like most busy professionals today, it can be hard to keep away from your phone screen. With apps, email, and social media, we’re constantly distracted by our smartphones. It may seem counter-intuitive to use an app to unplug, but Offtime is certainly a great tool for those easily distracted.

Offtime

Voted Best Apps of Google in 2014, Offtime helps users unplug by blocking distracting apps like Facebook, games and communication apps.

With the ability to choose a mode like Work, Family, or Me Time, the app allows you to access the things you need without being distracted by the things you don’t. In addition, the app also provides intuitive analytics about your phone usage and  daily habits.

Available: iOS and Android

Cost: Free (can upgrade to premium)

Stay Organised:

Google Keep

Google Keep isn’t just for to-do lists – it’s an Evernote-style service for keeping notes, photos and recordings, allowing you to keep track of tasks and ticking them off as you go.

As with Gmail, there’s a good system of labels and colours to separate different parts of your life, as well as an alert feature with the ability to set location-based reminders.

To Give Back:

GiveGab

Mentioned in last year’s list, GiveGab is an app which connects you to volunteering opportunities in your area. Regardless of whether you’d like to volunteer on a long-term basis or for a one-off event, GiveGabfilters volunteering opportunities by category and location, allowing you to easily find a volunteering position suited to your needs.

Whatever your new years resolution is this year, we hope these apps help you stay motivated!

Trying to schedule a meeting time to suit everyone can result in wasted time and lots of back and forth.

While tools like Scheduling Assistant in Outlook and Outlook on the Web have helped users coordinate schedules, and search for rooms, the tool isn’t without its hiccups.

On occasions where most attendees have accepted a meeting, and one of the attendees suggests a new time, users have to try to accommodate by checking with everyone else if the new time is ok.

Unlike Scheduling Assistant, FindTime is an Outlook add-in designed to help users schedule meetings quickly, by creating a meeting poll, where users can vote on their preferred meeting time:

  1. First, you select the users you would like to attend the meeting
  2. Select one or more suggested times
  3. Each attendee will then receive a request to vote for their preferred time- voting is live so you’ll be able to see the current voting status and results
  4. Once there is a consensus, FindTime will send out a meeting invite automatically

FindTime requires Outlook 2013, Outlook 2016 or Outlook on the Web, where users must have an Office 365 account in order to send an invite. To receive a FindTime invitation, recipients only need to have an email address and internet access to vote on the FindTime website.

Use the drop down arrows below, to see how you can install FindTime on Outlook and Outlook on the Web:

How to Install FindTime on Outlook

Installing FindTime in Outlook on the Web

Using FindTime as an Organiser

Now that you know how to install FindTime in the full Outlook client and in Outlook on the Web, here we’ll show you how to use FindTime for organising meetings.

Using the example provided on MS Exchange.Org, a meeting will be scheduled between three internal users (Filipe, Mota and Linda) as well as an external user called Nuno. Please note, that this example is using Outlook 2016.

While you could utilise the Scheduling Assistant tool, FindTime goes beyond and allows users to choose what works best for them.

Start by clicking the FindTime button in your meeting invite

When using FindTime for the first time, you will need to link it to your Offie 365 account by clicking on the blue button ‘Link Now’

Once you have clicked on Link Now, you will need to type in your Office 365 credentials and sign in:

Now FindTime is linked to your account and ready to be used.

Here, you can choose from a predetermined meeting duration or can customise and select your own duration. You also have the option to change your time zone.

As illustrated below, the first group of timeslots includes all the options available where every attendee is available for the period of time we selected. In this case, there is one “grey” user which is external (FindTime cannot query this user’s free/busy information)

The second group is those timeslots where one or more attendees are not available:

To see who is available and who is busy, click on the group of people icon, here it will show you exactly who is busy and who isn’t.

The calendar icon displays what else is going on in your day around the suggested time so you can easily see how busy, or not, you are for each suggestion:

The next step is to choose one or more time slots for the meeting and click Next:

If you need to keep someone in the loop but don’t want to wait for them to respond, you can include them as an optional attendee by moving them to the CC: line – only required attendees’ names are underlined:

Once you’ve selected your time slots and clicked Next, you can enter the location for the meeting or set it up as a Lync or Skype meeting.

If you click on Meeting options you are presented with three further options for your meeting:

  • Notifications: sends you an email when attendees vote. The email includes the current poll status and an option to schedule the meeting immediately;
  • Auto schedule: automatically schedules a calendar event if all required attendees vote favourably for a meeting option. If multiple options are available, the earliest will be scheduled;
  • Holds: adds an appointment to your calendar for each meeting option you suggest. All hold appointments are removed upon scheduling a meeting option (either by the auto schedule option or manually on the voting site) or cancelling the poll.

Click on ‘Insert to email’, FindTime creates a new meeting invite in the form of a normal email with a link to allow users to vote on their preferred option(s).

Send the email!

Once your email has been sent, recipients will be able to view the meeting options and vote for a time most suited to them:

After everyone has voted and a time has been set, FindTime will automatically send an email to all recipients finalising the meeting time:

With Christmas less than a week away, now is the perfect time to get those last minute gifts, stocking fillers and Kris Kringle presents. Here is a list of just some of our favourite gift ideas to suit all budgets!

Price Key:
$= Under $100
$$= Under $200
$$$= $200+

Bose QC 35 Headphones ($$$)

Ideal for travellers, the latest QuietComfort 35 wireless headphones from Bose have been proclaimed as being the company’s ‘best headphones yet’.
With premium sound, world class noise cancellation and luxurious comfort, these headphones will make anyone’s Christmas a joyful one.

To Buy: www.bose.com.au

Heat Colour Changing Mug ($)

A perfect stocking stuffer, or Kris Kringle gift, this heat-sensitive ceramic coffee mug has a battery power meter with green cells that light up when you pour boiling water into it. As you drink, the battery fades – letting you know it’s time for a refill/recharge!

To Buy: https://www.yellowoctopus.com.au

Key Kong Magnetic Key Holder Bottle Opener ($)

Do you have a friend or colleague who is always losing their keys? Shaped like King Kong, this magnetic gorilla doubles as a bottle opener and key holder.

To Buy: https://www.yellowoctopus.com.au

Creative iRoar ($$$)

Voted best portable speaker by PC Mag, the Creative iRoar is a feature-rich and powerful portable Bluetooth speaker with fantastic sound quality.

To Buy: http://au.creative.com/

Fitbit Charge 2 ($$)

The latest Fitbit to hit stores, the Fitbit Charge 2 enables users to maximise workouts with PurePulse heart rate, multi-sport modes and Connected GPS. Track all-day activity, exercise and sleep. And make the most of your routine with smartphone notifications, reminders to Move and guided breathing sessions.

To Buy: https://www.jbhifi.com.au/

Star Wars R2-D2 Projection Alarm Clock ($$)

Ideal for the Star Wars fan in your life, this R2-D2 projection alarm clock always obeys its master and will never let you down. At the push of a button, R2 will project the time, date and seconds onto your bedroom wall in large, easy to read red numbers.

To Buy: https://www.yellowoctopus.com.au/

Punching Bag Hole Punch ($)

Have an office KK but don’t know what to purchase? How about this novelty punching bag hole punch!
With this punching bag exterior, you can literally punch some holes in your work. Ideal for the home or office, this hole punch makes filing a lot more amusing.

To Buy: https://www.yellowoctopus.com.au/

Key finder : Tile Mate ($)

Included in last years list, Tile Mate has made it to our best tech gifts list once again!
Conveniently find your missing items such as keys, purses and more, with the help of the Tile Mate Bluetooth Tracker.

To Buy: http://www.harveynorman.com.au/

The term cloud computing is thrown around a lot these days. But the question is, ‘what exactly is cloud computing and how can it benefit your business”?

Picture this scenario. You are an executive at a large corporation. One of your many responsibilities includes making sure that your employees have the correct software and hardware they need to be able to do their jobs. These days, simply buying computers for all of your employees just isn’t enough. You also need to purchase software as well as software licenses in most cases to give them the tools they need to get their job done. You have to make sure your current software license allows another user when you hire someone new or you need to buy more software.

There’s a significant workload shift in a cloud computing system. How so? This is because your computers no longer have to do all the heavy work when it comes to running your applications. This happens because the network of computers that make up your cloud takes care of it instead. This means that the hardware and software requirements on your part decrease. The only requirement the user’s computer has is to be able to run the cloud computing system’s interface software. This can be as simple as a web browser while the cloud’s network takes care of everything else.

The good news is that instead of installing a whole suite of software for each and every computer, one application is all that would be needed. The application would let workers log into a Web-based service, which hosts all the needed programs. This is all the user would need for his or her job. Machines owned by another company would run everything remotely from word processing to email to complex data analysis programs. This system is called cloud computing. It has the potential to change the entire computer industry.

The system works like an e-mail account with a Web-based e-mail service like Hotmail, Yahoo! Mail or Gmail. If you have one of those types of accounts, then you have used cloud based systems before without even realising it. The idea is that instead of running an e-mail program on your computer, you simply log in to a Web e-mail account remotely wherever you are in the world. All the needed software and storage for your account isn’t stored on your computer but on the service’s computer cloud.

A question that comes to mind at this point is, why would you rely on another computer system to run programs and store your valuable data? Here are just a few basic reasons:

  • Workers would be able to access their applications and data from anywhere in the world, 24 hrs a day and 365 days a year.
  • It could reduce your hardware costs
  • Your company would not have to buy a set of software or software licenses fir every one of your employees. The only fee payable would be a metered fee to a cloud computing company.
  • Your company might save money on IT support

Cloud computing applications are practically limitless. If you have the right middleware, a cloud computing setup could execute all the programs any normal computer would run. Everything from a simple word processing software right through to customized computer programs that are designed for a specific company would be able to work on a cloud computing system.

CryptoLocker is not a regular computer virus which infects your computer and causes inconvenience. Instead, CryptoLocker encrypts your personal files and then demands a ransom to unlock them.

Created by criminal organisations, CryptoLocker is extremely aggressive in nature and is spreading increasingly fast among computers operating using Windows XP, Vista and 7.

Originating in the US, CryptoLocker spreads into a user’s computer via an email that appears to be a tracking notification from UPS or FedEx. Users who open the email and download the file enable CryptoLocker to infect their computer.

Although it sounds foolhardy to download the file, it is easily mistaken for a legitimate file as it has the double-extension .pdf.exe, leaving many to be tricked. It is no accident that this virus originated in September 2013, only a few months before Christmas. With many people shopping online before and after the festive season, it is easy to lose your guard if you believe the email to be from an online shopping company.

Once CryptoLocker infects your computer, it encrypts all of a user’s personal files, including photos, videos and documents. It gives the user four days to pay a ransom; the value of which depends on whether the user is a business, government or private computer. (There have been cases of US$100,000 ransoms.)

 

Ransoms are paid through MoneyPak or Bitcoin, and so transactions are very difficult to track. As such, the criminals behind CryptoLocker have not been traced.

After four days, the user’s files will be destroyed and unrecoverable.

As this virus is relatively new, there are not many methods to prevent or remove CryptoLocker.

Experts say the best way to prevent CryptoLocker from infecting your computer is to regularly back up important files and keep your antivirus up to date.

Some clever people have developed free tools to shut down CryptoLocker before it starts. One such tool is CryptoPrevent, which disallows a computer from downloading double-extension files in the first place.

If CryptoLocker infects your computer, there are some tactics you can try. First of all, you should disconnect your computer from the internet and turn it off. The virus explicitly tells users not to do this, but you must remember it was written by criminals, who lie to take advantage of people.

Unplugging your computer could very well save files that have not yet been encrypted.

Once your have done this, you can try restoring your system using Windows System Restore, which restores your computer to a predetermined date, thereby removing the virus. Unfortunately files that have been encrypted will remain inaccessible. The only way to get these files back is to restore them from a backup.

Besides that, there are no other effective options for users besides paying the ransom. Previous victims have stated that paying the ransom works and their files are restored. However experts advise against this, as it encourages copycat viruses which will almost certainly be worse than CryptoLocker.

One thing is for sure: once the ransom is paid, the money is gone forever.

With this in mind it is worthwhile to inform colleagues, family and friends about this virus and to ensure it doesn’t infect your business or personal life.

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