ISIS Attacks, Duped CEOs, Baby Monitor Hacks, and Data Privacy Day

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Today is Data Privacy Day. Celebrated in the US and Canada (and in Europe as Data Protection Day), Data Privacy Day commemorates the 1981 signing of the first legally binding international treaty dealing with privacy and data protection. Here are some compromises that are going on in the world today and ways you can protect yourself.

Email

Early January, 2015. Emails being sent all over Australia looked as though they were being sent from News Corp Australia, a leading Australian news company (part of Rupert Murdoch’s dynasty). They had a subject line, “ISIS attacks in Sydney?” They carried attachments that looked like Word documents. Unfortunately, when users clicked the attachment to read the news story, they unleashed “a malicious attachment that could allow hackers to access targeted computers.” (Source.)

Data Privacy Day reminder: The bad guys are very clever, and they have no conscience. Never, never, never click on an email attachment—even if you think you know the sender—unless it’s something you were expecting. When in doubt, contact your IT department.

Company finances and sensitive business info

Late January 2015. News blew up about a sophisticated email scam which targets CEOs, CTOs, CFOs and Controllers. In the scam, a victim receives an email that looks as though it’s coming from a legitimate vendor with whom the company already does business, or sometimes from the company’s own founder or CEO, and requesting a wire transfer. (Source.) Since late 2013 an estimated 1,200 U.S. businesses have lost upwards of $180 million. (Source.)

In similar, recent attacks, a group of hackers infiltrated the emails of senior execs at biotech companies. The hackers were apparently native English speaking, and were savvy enough with Wall Street lingo, that they were easily able to dupe their targets into dishing sensitive company info. The hackers have not yet been caught. It is believed that their motive is to garner enough intel to be able “to affect global financial markets.” (Source.)

Data Privacy Day reminder: Again, there’s not much you could do to recognize these very clever criminals—especially through the veil of cyberspace. (Chris Hanson, “To Catch a Predator,” anyone?) In both of these cases, though, emails were hacked and read—this is how the criminals discovered a lot of the specialized details that made them seem like insiders. Change your passwords often, and if your information is truly sensitive, consider encrypting the email. Also, ask your IT company whether all of your security policies are up to date (including firewalls, antivirus, etc.).

Internet of Everything

On the news last night and this morning, a major headline was about baby monitors being hacked. Baby monitors! A creepy guy decided to freak out a nanny in Houston, Texas, by letting her know he was watching as she changed the baby’s diaper. And who knows how long he’d been sitting there, checking out things on the networked cameras all around the house? It’s not the first instance of baby monitor hacking, just the most recent. (Source.)

Data Privacy Day reminder: Another challenge we face, as more and more things are interconnected through cyberspace, is security. The baby monitor’s camera, in this case, was not password protected, even though the family’s WiFi, to which the camera was connected, was password protected. The baby monitor’s manufacturer has made changes to its software, but not all of its customers did the software updates. The manufacturer also notes that the most common ways baby monitors are hacked is because of users’ easy-to-guess passwords. Make sure to always do updates to any software you have and create a unique, difficult password to your home’s WiFi. Use of both upper and lowercase letters, numbers and punctuation make your password exponentially stronger. This will detour all but the most sophisticated hackers — and sometimes even them.

And remember, if you have any questions, you can always contact us here, at Everon. We’re available 24/7 at 888-244-1748. We can also be reached at [email protected] We’re here for you!

 

Quick Tip: How to Mass-Send Personalized Emails, Via Word

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A few days ago, I confronted a project: the annual update for our 37-person company directory. I knew I wanted something better than the generic, blank form I’d emailed out last year. I also knew there had to be something easier than copying and pasting our existing records – of every single person – in order to individually email them all.

There was!

email mail merge blog - 1I was already quite familiar with Word’s Mail Merge function, having used it for years to convert my personal address database into print-‘em-off, peel-and-stick labels for my Christmas cards. (No, that’s not cheating. It’s efficient time-management.) But I couldn’t find a similar mail merge function in our email software — we currently use Outlook 2010, at work. So I ran a search in Outlook Help. The answer to my email dilemma… was back in Word!

1. I started a new Word document, went to the “Mailings” tab and, from the “Start Mail Merge” dropdown, I selected “Email Messages.” Then I typed up the basic version of the letter I wanted to email out to everyone.
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2. Next, I went back to the “Mailings” tab. This time I clicked the “Select Recipients” dropdown. I already had the old database from last year, so I picked the “Use Existing List…” option and browsed for my file. (Note: in order for this to work, you need to have your recipients’ email addresses as one of your database’s fields. You’ll need it for Step 4.) I added the fields that I wanted personalized in my generic letter. (Dear <<Name>>…,)
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 3. Just like in a regular Mail Merge, with an email merge you can edit your recipient list and preview your results to check for errors. When you’re happy with how it all looks, go to “Finish and Merge” and select “Send E-mail Messages….”
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4. Then, from the dialogue box that pops up, select your database field that contains the email addresses.
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5. When that’s done, click “OK.” Boom. Messages all sent. You’re done!

 

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.”

Email poll 1

 

 

 

 

 

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.)

Email poll 2

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.)

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? ;)

 

Five Things You Should Do to Clean Your Computer This Weekend

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tree computer pic

Fall cleaning? Don’t forget your computer!

There’s no time like now to get in all that fall cleaning you want to do before the holiday season kicks in. So why leave your computer out of all the fun? I asked the techs at Everon what they would do to clean their own computers. Here are their top five responses:

1.      Run a virus and/or malware scan. If you don’t want to spend the time running both, pick one and do the other later. You can get good virus removal programs, like Avast, AVG, Symantec, or Malwarebytes, a malware removal program, for free. Each of these scans could take several hours. A good idea is to start the scan before you go to bed and let it run all night, while you sleep.

2.      Get rid of extra programs that you don’t need. A lot of times, when you download or install new software, you’re also saddled with extra programs you neither asked for nor need. Those can be a real memory-suck. Look for ones that redirect your browser. (Any extra toolbars on your Internet browser?) Now is a good time to uninstall these pieces of baggage. Also, bloatware – preinstalled software on a device – is another nuisance. Check out this blog, by James, for one way to get rid of it. This process should take around 30-45 minutes.

3.      Blow the dust or lint out of your system, especially the fans. This can be done with one of those handy cans of compressed air, available at just about any store that sells office supplies, or with an air compressor. If you haven’t done it in a while there will be a lot of dust, so you may want to take your computer outside. Remove the outer casing and blow away. (Note: do not use your breath! The moisture from your mouth can damage the microprocessor. Plus, if you get too close to all that dust you will probably sneeze.) Pay particular attention to getting those dust bunnies out of the fans. If they stay clogged up, your computer can overheat.

4.      Clean your keyboard. While you’re taking your computer outside to power-blow it, unplug and bring along your keyboard. Tilt it upside down, and blow it out, too. You will be both grossed out and amazed at what falls out of there. But all of that stuff can build up between the keys and make them stick or not work properly.

5.      Clean your screen, mouse, and keyboard (again). As long as we’re doing a proper cleaning, let’s do it right. You can get out the isopropyl (rubbing) alcohol and cotton swabs, or you can just buy pre-moistened, disposable electronic wipes (my preference). Wipe down your computer screen and your mouse. Pay attention to the buildup on the mouse’s underside. Also, before you plug your keyboard back in, give the keys a good wipe down. These last three steps will take you 30 minutes or less.

There, all done. This entire process can take an hour or so (not including the scan that ran while you were asleep), but once done your computer will run more efficiently. You can add years on to the life of your machine with regular maintenance like this. Not to mention how good it feels to have a sparkly-clean desktop. ;)

When Techs Need Tech Support: a spooky story

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Zombies - 28:50 a.m. I walked into work at Everon, stood at my desk, clocked in, and was immediately attacked by zombies. These humanoid creatures closely resembled my co-workers, but with huge eyes and stress-creased faces. They plodded forward, closing in on me. The same words repeated out of their mouths in a strange, garbled chant: Coffee machine… broken…. Won’t. Make. Coffee.

I am in charge of dealing with the coffee needs of the office. This is, of course, because I drink tea.

My breathing became shallow. I backed up until my legs hit my desk. Terror gripped my gut. The Walking Dead had nothing on these guys.

In some dim, still-rational recess of my brain, I knew this was a situation I’d seen before. My mind raced, trying to remember what to do, hoping that whatever I’d done before would work again. I hid my fear, nodded solemnly, and schooled my expression to be clinical, like a doctor. (Zombies are afraid of doctors, right?) Then, as fast as I could, I sat down at my desk and blitzed out an email to our coffee rep. More zombies approached. Coffee machine… broken….

Warm Bodies, Summit Entertainment/Lionsgate, 2013

Thirty seconds later, when my rep hadn’t responded, I pulled out her business card and called her cell phone. This time I also programmed her number into my contact list. She answered. As calmly as I could I explained the situation. I then relayed her message back to my coworkers—a message that was eerily reminiscent of what our own clients must say to their coworkers, after having contacted us for downed servers or Internet failure:

“A ticket has been opened; our status has been marked as ‘urgent.’ An onsite tech will be here shortly.”

Resigned groans filled the air, but my under-caffeinated colleagues lumbered back to their desks. I prayed my slightly-misleading verbiage would go unnoticed: I had no idea how long “shortly” would wind up being.

Trying to keep the horde pacified, I repeated the message frequently. The clock ticked. At one point a Desktop Engineer, who was clearly not himself, demanded coffee-status updates in 15-minute increments. I kept my expression clinical and forced myself to take deep breaths, so as not to belie my fright.

Hours later, at 3 p.m. the coffee machine tech arrived. We had an unusual problem that took him a half-hour to fix. But I’d made it. More to the point, my crew had made it. They say doctors make the worst patients. Well, it’s the same with techs who need tech support, especially when it involves missing their java. Now we’re all good. As long as we don’t run out of beans…!

Zombies - 3a