Microsoft’s WinShock Bug Exposed!

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In what may come as a surprise to some, IBM just announced that it has worked with Microsoft to patch a security exploit found in its OS called WinShock — and the scariest news is that this has been a vulnerability through all Windows operating systems since Windows 95!* This bug has been a part of all of our beloved Microsoft OSes for 19 years!

IBM initially discovered the bug back in May. However, Microsoft chose not to go public until a patch was in place. Microsoft has just released 14 patches as part of its ‘Patch Tuesday’ updates (Tuesday is when Microsoft releases patches for its OSes) to address the WinShock bug. Another two patches are also on the way. To get the latest updates, type ‘Windows update’ in your search bar (if you have anything Vista or later) and install the important patches.

If you would like to read Microsoft’s Security Bulletin on the WinShock bug, you can do so here: https://technet.microsoft.com/library/security/ms14-nov

The bug is introduced through Microsoft’s schannel, which is Microsoft’s way of securing the transfer of data. However, WinShock not only affects the OS, it also affects Microsoft Office products and Microsoft servers. If you are hosting a website that sends encrypted traffic, you are going to want to update as soon as possible. Even though there is no proof that this bug has affected anyone, it was still rated 9.3 out of 10 on the CVSS, so all server administrators should consider this just as important and severe as the latest bugs that have been identified (i.e. Heartbleed, Shellshock, etc.)

For more information on how to protect your environment against the WinShock bug, call Everon at 1-888-244-1748.

*The WinShock bug does not affect Windows phones or tablets, as they do not use schannel.

Excel Power Users: Don’t Be Scared – Use Arrays!

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As a frequent user of excel, at what I would consider advanced-level expertise, I spend my days flying through data connections, pivots, all kinds of complex formulas, and even a dash of VBA. But there was still one hurdle I hadn’t jumped. For some odd reason those squiggly brackets { } (technically I believe they’re called “braces”) had intimidated me from dabbling in the world of arrays. Something felt unnatural about hitting ctrl + shift + enter before exiting a formula. What magic would happen behind the scenes if I pushed those buttons simultaneously? I understood the logic and language of Excel, so asking it to “work differently” just seemed bizarre. I found myself working around actually using arrays by means of  extra columns, pivots, and very elaborate lookups and formulas.

This past week, however, I faced my fear and jumped in… three keys at a time!

Game changer!

Imagine you have a list of contact dates and clients. You want to figure out how recently each person has been contacted by running a quick summary on the data. Sure, you could throw a pivot on the data, but what if you needed it in the table format? There is not a “MAXIF” formula to perform this action. In fact, for all its strengths, there is a gap on available “IF” formulas in Excel. Enter-in arrays! Arrays give you the power to combine formulas that analyze data in tabular form without having to pivot the data.

Here’s how it works:

Let’s say you have a list of sales, and you want to be able to reach out to clients with whom you haven’t spoken in a while. Knowing the last contact date alongside their YTD sales will help you make sure that you are staying on top of communication with your best customers. Here’s a list of sales with contact dates. We can easily throw a “SUMIF” formula in to calculate the running total, per customer, per line. But finding out the most recent (or “max”) date is not so easy, because you cannot make a “MAXIF” formula. Instead, we can “nest” them with an array.

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In everyday language, we need the formula to perform the following tasks:

=MAX(number1, number2,…)

where the numbers are all in column A, “Contact Date.” If we just do MAX, it won’t take the customer into account. We need to add a criterion to also look for the max date of that customer.

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In theory it should be this:

=MAX(IF(Customer Name = This Row’s Customer Name, THEN return the Max date from column A, OTHERWISE return a 0)

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Unfortunately it doesn’t wrap the IF with the MAX and it produces a result that is the max overall. So let’s jump into those scary squiggly braces and see what we can do.

When you use the exact same formula — but before hitting enter at the end — instead, hold down CTRL + SHIFT + ENTER. You’ll see that Excel adds braces { } around the formula. When you copy this down, the formula magically evaluates both conditions across all the data you’ve selected. Voila! You have now added analytics to your table.

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NOTE:  You cannot simply add braces to your formulas to make this happen. You have to hit ctrl + shift + enter to make Excel perform the array formula.

So… What’s the takeaway? What can this do for you? By performing this array formula and quickly sorting my list… looks like I better reach out to Examples R Us. They’ve spent the most and it’s been the longest since they’ve been contacted.

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Imagine what arrays can do to inform your business!

Silk Road 2.0: The Latest in the Cybercrime Fight

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Most consumers have probably never heard of the stuff I am going to discuss here, however, it’s very important for the security and health of the Internet. This week police forces made a great breakthrough against what is considered the “black market” of the Internet. Seventeen arrests were made in cooperation between US and European forces, in relation to the Silk Road 2.0. This is a secret cache of websites that runs off the Tor Network, a specialized network that is not searchable via common search engines. The websites that were shut down total around 400. Most of them dealt in illegal drugs and weapons.

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The Tor Network, sometimes just called Tor, is a very dark place within our Internet world. It was originally set up by the US to assist people fighting against oppressive regimes, however, it is now overrun with illegal sites, including ones that do more than just selling illegal drugs and firearms. It includes sites for child exploitation, and it is a place where extremist groups (such as ISIS and Al-Qaida) operate, so it is constantly targeted for shutdown through all specialized cybercrime sources. To get to the Tor Network (which I am not going to explain here), you have to set up specialized proxies and VPNs to re-route your traffic and find these sites.

The Silk Road 2.0, a notoriously dark area within Tor, was set up in October after the original Silk Road was shut down and the owner arrested. (Not everyone agrees with the latest shutdown.) As a consumer, there is not much needed to protect yourself from the Silk Road. It is not a location that targets consumers. It is really a place for black market activities. You should be aware of where your family members go online. You should also be aware of similar things with your staff, if you own a business. There are many nefarious locations on the Internet that you need to be aware of so you can protect your family and/or your company.

First off, ensure that your antivirus is up to date on all machines in your home and office. If you have a special router, ensure its firmware is up to date and all passwords have been changed from their default settings. In addition, you can download tools to help review where your family or staff goes online. You can also put proxies in place to prevent people from stumbling onto bad websites.

Here are some great sites to protect your children from dangerous sites online:
http://www.onguardonline.gov/topics/protect-kids-online and
http://www.netsmartz.org/Parents.

If you need help setting up similar protections for your workplace — or if you even want to manage (or block) the time your employees spend on social media (or other adult sites) – feel free to call our experts at Everon. We are just a phone call away: 1-888-244-1748.

 

Tech Tips for Techs: Visio – custom stencils to enhance your drawings

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One of my favorite things to do in IT is create Visio drawings of clients’ networks. Not only does it help them visually understand how their network is connected, it helps our teams here understand all of the connection points for a network for our troubleshooting. Visio is an extremely important tool for any IT Professional. If you haven’t looked into it yet, do yourself a favor, download a 60-day trial of Visio 2013 Professional, and create a network diagram.

Visio comes with several basic stencils for completing your diagrams, such as a brick wall to signify a firewall and a basic tower server for your server needs. However, you have the ability to modify your Visio to include actual drawings of popular brands, such as Dell and HP. Check out the following link:

http://www.visiocafe.com/index.htm

This site creates custom stencils for your Visio drawings. You download a ZIP file, unpack it, and there will be a VSS file inside. That VSS file will go wherever your shapes are located on your computer. (At the moment I am still, unfortunately, using Visio 2007, so my shapes are found under Documents\My Shapes.)

If you input the VSS file in there, and then launch Visio, and browse to File ->Shapes ->My Shapes, you will now see your custom stencils!

Check out the photo below for my custom Dell shapes, which I am currently using:

VisioI can now use actual Dell PowerEdge server stencils for my Visio drawing, which really enhances your drawings and allows your client to better understand the drawing and what they are looking at!

If you are interested in getting a Visio drawing done for your company, become a client of Everon’s today by calling 1-888-244-1748!

 

Quick Tip: How to add a poll to an email in Outlook

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It’s Election Day again! But while you’re waiting to find out who won the midterms, you can do more than just check your news feeds: you can stage your own voting topic. I recently learned a super-easy way to add a poll to an email in Outlook. This is a great way to get feedback from everyone in the office on topics from, “Should we take the designer’s advice and paint the walls red?” to “Where should we go for lunch today?” The only catch is that you have to be running on a Microsoft Exchange server. (If you’re unclear as to whether or not your company has one of these, you might have to ask your tech support. If that happens to be Everon, you can call us at 888-244-1748.)

With a poll, you can do anything from ask a yes/no question, request an accept/decline response, or ask a question with a multiple-choice response. Here’s how, using Outlook 2010 for this demo:

1. From Outlook’s Home tab, select “New E-mail.”

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2. Click in the body of the new email. Then go to the Options tab. Select “Use Voting Buttons,” and pick from the drop-down menu. (For our demo, we’re going to use the “Custom” buttons.)

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3. In the Voting and Tracking options section, type your categories into the space, using semicolons to separate them. Today, for our demo, we’re doing a poll to see who had the winning costume in our Halloween costume contest. I entered seven categories, separated by semicolons, and clicked “Close.”

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4. Now all you have to do is add your message and subject line. Once you click “send,” your recipients will get an email with a poll line in the header.  (If your colleagues aren’t familiar with email voting, you may need to instruct them on how to do this.)

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5. If you’ve sent the poll to yourself, you will also have the opportunity to vote. When you or anyone makes selections, you will get an email-update on the individual’s vote (yeah, it’s not 100% private this way, but only the original poll-sender can see these things).

6. You will also be able to easily track the entire group’s responses. Go to any of the response-emails and hover over the “i” line in the header (the voting section). The line will turn yellow. Click it, and you will have the option to view all of the voting responses.

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If you select “View voting responses,” you will get a summary-tabulation of how many votes each category has, as well as a table that breaks out how individuals voted. It’s that simple!

So… where are you all going for lunch today? ;)