The Blockchain Revolution

You know the old saying, “I heard it on the internet, so it must be true!” Indeed, the internet is a great resource for expanding education and remaining up-to-date on current events. The trouble is, well, it’s the internet, and it’s really easy for otherwise smart people to be duped. Whether it’s a news article, a quote, or an expertly crafted phishing email, the internet has been instrumental in raising a generation of hardened skeptics.

Internet Quote

This is what makes blockchains so attractive to entrepreneurs. Why? Because they are nearly impossible to fake.

So, back up. What is a blockchain? Blockchain is the technology that made it possible for Bitcoins to become a thing. And the way it works is kind of genius. Blockchains combines both established cryptology and years of computer science to do something remarkable—get people on the internet to agree on something. The something, in this case, is an accounting ledger. And they agree upon the accuracy of a ledger because the ledger itself is available on a public network, and previous blocks of the chain are not editable. The information also can’t be copied—only distributed—making it ridiculously difficult to forge.

It’s true, the initial use of blockchain was digital currency like Bitcoin, but the tech community is not known for finding just one use something. Indeed, blockchain could well be the bones of a new kind of internet. The same technology that made Bitcoin a trending news item is easily applicable to business.

Parks & Rec - Andy on Bitcoins

Think about the documents that are on your shared server. Say Bob in accounting needs to make a change to last month’s P&L report for his supervisor. We’ll call her Sally. So Sally opens up the P&L report and gets the following message: “Locked for Editing”. This is how document sharing is conducted across the board right now.

Now apply the blockchain method. There’s that P&L report, and like your existing server, this document is available on any computer that shares the same network. The applied blockchain technology would remove the “Locked for Editing”, because with a blockchain, there is no master document. Since the data is shared, every piece distributed across that network has the same value, and anyone can watch in real-time as updates are made.

Though this might not sound secure, the fact that at any given time, anyone can be looking at a blockchain makes them virtually impossible to hack. A blockchain has no central owner—everyone who is a part of the network has an equal share of ownership. It also doesn’t use the username/password system that has proven to be so easily exploitable by internet hackers. Rather, it uses encryption technology to remain secure, the foundation of which are “keys”. A public key is your address on the blockchain; it is a randomly generated string of numbers. When people make Bitcoin exchanges, the coins are recorded as belonging to the address holder of the public key. A private key functions as a password, which allows the owner to view their digital assets.

The possibilities with blockchain technology are limitless. We are still in the beginning phases of seeing how this tech can be implemented across industries. So don’t be surprised if you hear the word “blockchain” with increasing frequency. And if you have any questions about how they work, well, we’ve just hit the tip of the iceberg. Feel free to contact us and we’ll be happy to discuss blockchains and how they might be useful in your business.

 

Avoid Phishing Scams

Internet scams have been around since, well, the internet. Some are blatantly obvious—we all know not to buy anything a self-professed Nigerian prince is selling—while others are so subtle they can fool a seasoned internet skeptic.

The most common kind of email scam is “phishing”, the term coming from the idea that scammers are “phishing” for information they can use to believably assume your digital identity and through that, your financial information. This term goes all the way back to 1996 when scammers hacked into America Online accounts after they conned passwords out of trusting AOL users. In fact, phishing is like the grandfather of security threats—viruses, trojans, and ransomware can all stem from the phishing scam.

Phishing scams can be amateur or incredibly sophisticated, and have born their own set of rules that are as ingrained in some people as our parents’ warnings to never take candy from strangers. These rules include never give out your password and never click a link in an email from a user you don’t know. The trouble is, some scammers can so perfectly duplicate legitimate online platforms it can be easy to believe the email you just received actually did come from PayPal and your account actually does need immediate attention.

So what are the hallmarks of email scams?

  1. 1. Did the email go to the right email address? Most of us have not one email, but several. If a PayPal email went to an email address not linked to your PayPal account, it’s likely a scam.

2. Bad grammar and spelling are key giveaways that you’re dealing with a scammer rather than a legitimate company.

3. The email leaves out your name. In an age where everything is personalized, your name should be attached emails you receive from legitimate vendors.

4. You didn’t actually sign up or do business with the website in question. Now, this might lend some people to believe that someone has stolen their information and used it on this website, generating a false report. The trouble is when you click a link in the email, it won’t take you to the true destination (Amazon, PayPal, eBay, your bank, etc.), rather a dummy website that exists specifically to capture your information or spread viruses and malaware to your computer.

Not all phishing scams will be so blatantly sloppy that it’s immediately clear they’re scams, and it can be easy to overlook bad spelling and grammar or not notice your name is missing if you’re in a panic over the security of your account. So here are some ways to avoid being phished.

1. Suspect everything. Even you receive an email that looks legitimate from a company you regularly do business with, tread carefully. Instead of clicking the link provided in the email, pull up another browser tab and type in the web address. This will bypass any potential duplicates and take you directly to the company itself. There, you can login and check your account as you would normally, and change your password if you’re concerned about security.

2. Use free virus protection software and browser add-ons like McAfee SiteAdvisor to be alerted when you might be visiting a site suspected of malicious activity.

3. Use commonsense. It’s pretty much impossible to win contests you didn’t enter or receive security alerts from accounts you don’t have.

4. Trust IT partners like PCnet to provide virus and spam filtering for email.

Have a question about online security? Contact your friends at PCnet. We’ll work with you to create a plan that makes sense for your business so you and your employees can use the ‘net safely.

Building a Secure P@$$w0rd

It seems we can’t go five minutes without some major brand announcing they’ve had a data breach and all of your information is floating around an ominous (but real) entity known as the dark web. Even if your information isn’t acquired as a result of a massive data breach, you can certainly think of at least one time when a friend, family member, or professional colleague sent out a mass SOS to alert their contacts that their email had been hacked.

The bad news is, everyone who is connected to the internet is at-risk. There are some safeguards that can be put in place, such as two-step verification (if your email provider offers this), secret image or word confirmations, identity-specific questions, and so forth that can and do offer protection from identity thieves. If you do nothing else, be sure to assign your accounts with a complex password. In 2018, we should be well beyond leaving off numerals or special characters, and for the love of Pete, your password should never, ever be “password”. Please.

So where do you start? Remember, not only does your password have to be secure, but you need to be able to recall.

First—one of the best ways (as an employer) to prevent data breaches is not necessarily to require frequent password changes, as associates will often recycle a variation of a previously used password, rendering the practice more or less meaningless. And it’s no wonder why employees would do this—with the level of complexity that most passwords demand, this is kind of like asking each employee to instantly memorize a new phone number every 30 to 90 days. The better way to prevent breaches is to monitor the activity on the account. Did Susie Q really try to login into her company email at three in the morning? Ask her. If yes, you’re good. If no, it might be time for a password change.

Second—be technical over complex. According to the NCSC (National Cyber Security Centre), the long, complicated passwords frankensteined together with multiple character types are somewhat counterintuitive because people, when it comes down to it, are predictable. Such as replacing the letter O with a zero. These strategies are predictable and place a lot of burden on the user with minimal benefit to the overall security. Worse, the people you’re trying to keep out are well aware of your security workarounds. They will then use a combination of frequently used words and character substitutions to undo your gloriously long password.

So what can employers do?

Lock it up. If a user fails to enter the correct password after a certain number of attempts (no more than ten), then lock the account.

Take away certain words—particularly if they’re frequently used. Forbes has a list of frequently used passwords as of December 2017, which includes everything from “letmein” to “monkey”, “starwars”, and, yes, our old frenemy “password” (and its accomplice, “123456”).

5 Reasons Why Your Company Should Switch to a VoIP System Now

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A reliable phone system with up-to-date features can be the change that helps your business flourish. Voice over Internet Protocol, or VoIP, systems allow you to make phone calls over your internet connection instead of standard analog phone lines. This service offers better functionality, lower costs, and other helpful business benefits.

How could your business profit from a VoIP system?

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PCnet Celebrates 30 Years in Business!

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October 28th marked PCnet’s 30 Year Anniversary!

We’re proud to be a part of Springfield’s amazing community, made up of friends, partners, clients and team members.

As we honor our past and celebrate all the many blessings and people that have gotten us here, we now look forward and will work to uphold all the values that we as a company hold so dear.
Thank you to everyone that has been a part of our family business.

As technologies change, there’s one thing that doesn’t, the team you rely on to help you navigate that change.

We look forward to helping your business recognize its full IT potential by taking IT off your plate and giving you the time to focus on what you do best.

Thank you for trusting us as your IT partner, we look forward to growing with you!

Marty Roach
President, PCnet & 85under

WPA2 Wi-Fi Security Vulnerability

shutterstock_247356091It was announced yesterday that a vulnerability was discovered in the vastly used WPA2 Wi-Fi protocol. This vulnerability leaves the potential for compromise if an attacker is physically within range of your Wi-Fi network. If compromised, the attacker would be able to attain sensitive information, passwords, credit card numbers, emails, manipulate data, and more.

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The End of Life for Office 2007

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What does it mean for your company?

Ten years ago, Microsoft presented Office 2007, a software suite which helped popularize the Ribbon interface toolbar and several other software enhancements. Businesses still use this decade-old software suite, despite mainstream support ending in October 2012. Most companies have upgraded to newer versions of Office, but many still rely on the 2007 Office suite. With extended support for the software end date of October 10th, 2017 quickly approaching, it is time for businesses to seriously consider upgrading to a newer version. (more…)

DRaaS: A step above Offsite Backups

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The concept of Offsite Backups seems to be understood by most – PCnet backs up your data to our “Cloud” (offsite), where it can be retrieved when needed most.  However, “Disaster Recovery as a Service (DRaaS)” is still foreign to many business owners.

“Disaster Recovery” does suggest a more robust approach to an unforeseen data emergency.  But is DRaaS necessary for your business?  Let’s find out… (more…)

Why Your Second “In-House” IT Hire Should Be “Outsourced IT”

Outsourced IT is cheaper than hiring more IT personnel.

Your first step into the world of IT came with an in-house hire, and your business responded by growing…a lot. So much so, in fact, that your in-house tech cannot keep up. Now projects are piling up, IT security is falling behind, and the auditor’s reports aren’t looking good.

Sound familiar? It might be time to expand your IT department. And when you make that decision, it may be much more advantageous to consider an outsourced IT solution. More and more, outsourced IT is becoming the definitive solution for companies either just entering the world of IT, or those learning one lone employee isn’t enough. (more…)

Has Cloud Computing Replaced the “Black Box”?

Will cloud computing make computer brands obsolete?

“Black box” refers to a term coined by IBM’s PC. This PC was first introduced August 12, 1981. It used an 8088 processor and could access up to 1 megabyte of RAM. More than 50 new businesses came on the market prior to the release of the IBM PC in 1981. Over the years, as many companies have replicated IBM’s PC, only a handful have survived. Companies like Dell, HP and Lenovo are now market leaders in the server and PC space. This has been directly related to the power of the name brand that these companies have created.

While name brand is still important in some respects, it’s not as meaningful as it once was. Cloud computing is now taking hold and these name brands will be increasingly insignificant as businesses move to the cloud. Cloud computing is expected to more than double during the next six years, from 37 percent to nearly 80 percent (more…)