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February 2021

Biggest Hacks in 2020

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Worldwide losses from cybercrime skyrocketed to nearly $1 trillion in 2020. That’s more than the net worth of most countries.
Run a quick search and you’ll be surprised at how many hacks occur every week. Modern security is the best it has ever been. Unfortunately, hackers are motivated to be one step ahead of all of us. Breaches resulting in credit card information hacked by the millions are quite common. Even the pandemic hasn’t slowed them down.

According to zdnet.com, the switch to businesses using remote employees has changed the hacking landscape. In 2020, up to 20% of all cybersecurity attacks were aimed at the new remote workforce. With employees and companies learning how to shift into going remote, hackers knew this weak-link was ripe for the picking.

Cyberwarfare is the battlefield of the 21st century and beyond. There are three common types of entities that create most hacks. Let’s discuss these entities, their motivations, a few of the biggest ones that happened this year, and what we can learn from the nature of those hacks.

The Forces of Evil

Simplifying things, there are basically three types of hacking profiles that are likely to engage in these nasty hacks. What most people think of first are criminals and ne’er-do-wells looking to profit from this inexcusable behavior. Money motivates them to steal credit card information or sensitive personal information. Then they sell it to sketchy third parties. On a global scale, foreign powers can, will, and have engaged in destructive hacks to disrupt economies. Often politically motivated, these crooks hope to instill unrest and frighten civilians.

Finally, some hackers just think they’re smarter than everyone else. They breach security systems because they enjoy causing chaos. Some of these hackers insist they’re working for a good cause. They focus on blowing the whistle on government projects they feel are wrong. But all too often these hacking attempts are completely random. Sometimes years of data and research is wiped out or stolen. They don’t seem like Robin Hood then!

Some of the biggest hacks in 2020

By studying past events we can learn a lot about protecting ourselves both in the corporate and private worlds. The most common attacks are usually through malware. Short for “malicious software,” malware is invasive software that finds a way into PCs and corrupts or destroys files and programs.

One victim of a malicious malware attack last year was Travelex. In January 2020, they lost an undisclosed amount of money. And an undisclosed number of private records were compromised due to the presence of malware. Everyone who has given them personal information, like credit card numbers, are now at risk.

Estee Lauder had over 440 million internal records exposed due to Middleware, and other security failures. Middleware, while not the same as malware, does add extra complications to systems. Middleware gets its name by hiding between the operating system and the applications on a PC. Hackers can then use middleware to delete, copy, or encrypt anything that passes through it.

Phishing, another hacking method, lead to damaging incidents with Virgin Media, Whisper, and Marriott throughout January, February and March. Using phishing tactics to learn password and login information, hackers gained access to countless records. Again, millions of innocent people are now at risk of credit card fraud, drained bank accounts, or identity theft.

What can we learn from this?

These are far from the only hacks. As you can see, no matter how secure we think we are, hackers can usually find a way in. Poor training and the lack of conscientiousness in user security are the biggest ways hackers gain access to information.

This results in things like ransomware attacks, data loss, and stolen files. These breaches can do serious damage to businesses and private citizens alike. Presently, despite great security measures, we still need stronger security in place on the corporate side. Better training is a necessity for employees. Middleware, which is often found by using Antivirus programs, needs to be eliminated whenever possible. Better walled gardens can be built and utilized by businesses that hold private records and data.

These attacks are unfortunate, but rather than being rueful to the victimized companies, we should demand that they learn from these mistakes. Hackers are not going to go away. You can count on them to find more and more ways to steal your data.

These major companies can afford the best cybersecurity defenses available. Yet, they are still vulnerable. If you don’t feel your cybersecurity is as strong and safe as it should be, please contact us anytime. As your Managed Service Provider, it is our job to make sure your precious data is as safe as possible.

Artificial-Intelligence

Artificial Intelligence: Better Living (and Working) through Automation

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Artificial intelligence, also referred to by the simpler term AI, has long been the holy grail of futurists, science fiction authors, and fantasists alike. Even before we established the concept of computer science, the notion of mechanized entities capable of learning, thinking, and acting on their own was a popular subject for science fiction. This is especially true of cautionary tales. 

While AI stories predate this work of art, the earliest popular demonstration in the common zeitgeist is the silent film Metropolis. Released in 1927, this movie is almost 100 years old. It deeply explores the idea of intelligent technology and its impact on our society. It also explores the ethics involved in creating machinery that is capable of awareness. 

We’re not here to discuss science fiction robots that can think and feel just like people. We’re not even going to discuss the menacing software displayed in the Terminator or Matrix franchises. Although, these are very interesting concepts. A discussion about the repercussions of AI does merit a conversation, but we’re not there yet. Not by any stretch of the imagination. That’s called the singularity, and it’s going to happen someday soon. What we’re here to discuss today is AI as we currently know it. 

Demystifying Contemporary AI 

You’re not aware of it, but you experience AI every day. Talking to your phone, Siri, and Alexa, or searching on Google or other search engines, AI tracks you. AI directs your searches based on your past search history, as well as what you’re inputting. It compiles data from users and learns their interests and habits. It then uses this info for marketing and other purposes. 

AI also exists in the business and consumer sectors. But AI in the sense of what people think of in science fiction movies certainly does not yet exist. So, what exactly is it that we have that we’re calling AI? 

AI, or Machine Learning, is any form of software or hardware technology that is capable of learning from input and results. It then uses the ability to make intuitive predictions based on what it has learned. This includes abstractly solving problems based on past tasksIt will then adjust its approach to tasks and become more efficient and effective at making decisions. It is clever, but not conscious. 

AI can be powerful. You might be wondering exactly how this business automation like this can help you. Keep reading to find out! 

Tireless Workers 

With AI capable of basic accounting functions, administration, and CRM, you can eliminate a lot of redundant tasks. Over time you’ll have less unnecessary staff and less overhead.  

Arguably, AI isn’t quite smart enough yet to handle dealing with an angry customer on the phone or in a chat, as anyone who’s tried to talk to these so-called bots will attest. But they are very well-suited for simpler tasks. 

AI can learn customer habits, allowing it to be a handy assistant to CRM, PR, and customer service employees. AI can recall information about customers, and instantly suggest go-to solutions that make sense. Efficiency is the name of the game. 

Redundant tasks, such as appointment setting, cold calling, or pesky reoccurring jobs, can also be handled by AI. This frees up skilled employees to deal with people directly as they are trained to do. 

Artificial Intelligence can be useful for business planning and logistics management. It learns from markets, business climates, and current events. It is capable of making accurate predictions and connecting relationships that analysts may not be able to notice. This makes AI programs excellent tools for business analysts, traders, and marketing experts as well. 

AI Versus Outsourcing 

Outsourced work is often of subpar quality, as reflected in the reduced price associated with it. AI responds instantaneously to notifications from customers and provides personal replies. It prioritizes deadlines with no emotional opposition nor fatigue associated with it. AI works 24/7 and doesn’t need breaks or time off. It learns from operating and repetition. While little bit of patience may be necessary when AI is put into place, it learns remarkably faster than people. This is not because it’s smarter than people, but because its “brain” is designed specifically for the tasks at hand. 

AI doesn’t need holidays, vacation pay, or anything of the sort. It never stops. It never gets bored, and it provides a far better, less emotionally charged customer experience.  

This Has Potential, Where Do I Start? 

If the prospect of tireless, intuitive business automation tool like this sounds intriguing, your next step is to figure out what your business needs are. Do a little research. Read up on how Artificial Intelligence works, and compare platforms you’re interested inGet a feel for what this technology is and where its prime applications lie. Look into where it’s used now, and notice the day-to-day things that are powered by AI. You’ll be surprised by how prolific it is. 

Or, if the whole thing is confusing for you, drop us a line. We specialize in business technology and are avid proponents of business automation. We can even provide you with advice on how to integrate Artificial Intelligence with your current staff. After all, we want to help you grow your business, not find ways to lose valuable employees. Contact us today to find out more. 

Touchless Business: A New Era

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The COVID-19 pandemic has affected individuals and businesses across the globe in a manner that rings with permanence. Many businesses that were previously successful are now left baffled as to how they should adjust their business models. To work effectively in this new age of touchless business, we need to adopt to new systems and organizational methods. 

 

How do I even begin to mobilize my business in light of current restrictions? 

 

The top priority for businesses that haven’t done so already is to establish an online presence. And they should get online fast! Establishing an efficient online storefront is the first step to attracting customers who shifted to shopping online during this pandemic. If a website is already part of your business model, then some tech solutions may be needed to handle more sales. Make your website functional enough to be a solidified option for those at home. IT solutions, such as adding a shopping cart or transitioning a POS terminal, can help adjust your online presence. 

 

For businesses who deem their online presence to be adequate but struggle with restricted capacity, touchless payment options may be the answer to your problems. What businesses have found to be convenient and successful is the installment of computer tablets as hubs for touchless payments. The prevalence of consumer tech solutions such as ApplePay, Samsung Pay, and Google Wallet have established a safe and easy way for customers to take advantage of digital tablets in physical business locations. 

 

How do I maintain effortless communication between coworkers and employees? 

 

Another struggle many businesses face in this period of touchless business is, how to effectively communicate with employees and coworkers. Scheduling business meetings in person is not exactly COVID safe. Luckily there are alternatives for maintaining a solid and reliable communication link. Platforms such as MS Teams, Zoom, Skype, Google Hangouts, Adobe Connect, and many more have streamlined the ability to connect individuals virtually. Business meetings have, in a sense, never been easier to achieve. By cutting out the commute time for many employees, you can provide more time for scheduling important business meetings.  

 

An additional way to streamline communication efforts is to construct a working online business network. You can do so through new platforms, like Slack, Microsoft Teams/Office, and Google Hangouts. Making sure remote employees have a designated business computer to utilize during work hours is essential. It assures the success of online performance, as programs are only as good as the diligence of the employee checking them.  

 

Now that I have a working website, how do I continue to make sales and service my clients? 

 

Maintaining a business during a pandemic is one thing; soliciting new business and sales are a whole other feat. Establishing a working website is not enough to ensure the success of any business or private firm. It is merely the first step in the process of creating an engaging and attractive online presence. Not all customers you want to attract are as tech-savvy as you probably are. Being prepared to help them transition to an online client is something you can do to make this process easy for them. Older clientele may want to do business with you but aren’t sure how to use Zoom. Being able to assist them, or hiring someone who can, is a reliable way to bridge this gap and continue growing your business. 

 

Making sales during such a confusing and evolving business era can be intimidating and uncertain. Small to medium businesses are currently struggling more than ever to keep their doors open. For many, it is tough making sufficient sales to sustain the company and its employees. With every business transitioning to online services, how do you make your business stand apart? The next step for facilitating sales is to engage with your customers and their concerns. You should have a dedicated customer service person with reliable tech solutions for answering emails, fulfilling online orders, and facilitating responses to customer questions promptly. Being responsive to this kind of online interaction is essential to keeping and attracting customers. If you aren’t making the online process easy for the customer, the competition will. 

 

A Summary of How to Mobilize 

 

The touchless era is a difficult time in which to mobilize your business. But it is not impossible. Creating an easily accessible and efficient online platform for customers to enjoy and engage with, and maintaining a strong online presence is essential to moving your business into a successful space. Finding different IT tech solutionslike installing online video chat programs to continue communicationwill help affirm employee accountability as well as customer satisfaction. Finally, bringing all these aspects together to create a comprehensive and well-oiled touchless business model will assure your business has the best chance of survival and success possible. 

 

 

If you have questions about setting up online services or getting your employees to work remotely, please contact us at any time.