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How to Spot a Phishing Attack

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Would you know if you were the subject of a phishing attack? Many people claim that they’d be able to tell right away if they received an email from an illegitimate source. If that were the case, there wouldn’t be 1.5 million new phishing websites every month. A 65% increase in attacks in one year! Hackers would have moved on to the next idea for swindling people out of their identities and money.   

 

Unfortunately, hackers are using phishing attacks every day. Why? Because they work! Phishing emails take very little effort to create, and, if they get results, they can bring in a lot of money. 

 

So, how do you spot a phishing attack and avoid becoming a victim? Let’s go over some key elements of phishing attempts so you can be prepared before you become a victim.
 

Look for these red flags:
 

Sender Email Address: Always check to make sure that the email address is legitimate. Amateur hackers will send things from Gmail or Hotmail accounts and hope you don’t notice. More sophisticated hackers will closely mimic an actual email domain, like amazonprime.com rather than amazon.com. Double check the email address before responding, clicking, or opening, even if the from name appears correct. 

 

Discrepancies in Writing Format: If the attack is from overseas, you’re likely to notice some small issues in writing format, like writing a date as 4th April, 2021 rather than April 4, 2021. While this is subtle, it is a huge red flag. 

 

Grammar Issues: We all fall victim to the occasional typo, but if you receive an email riddled with grammar and spelling mistakes, consider the source. It’s likely from a hacker, especially if the email supposedly comes from a major organization. 

 

Sender Name: This one is also difficult to track, but phishing emails will typically close with a very generic name to avoid raising suspicion. You should recognize the people who send you emails. Or, at the very least, you should clearly understand their role in their organization. 

 

Link Destination: Before you click on any link in an email be sure to hover over it. The destination URL should pop up. Check out the domain name of this URL. Similar to the sender email address, make sure that this address is legitimate before clicking. 

 

Attachments: Is it realistic to expect an attachment from this sender? Rule of thumb, don’t open any attachment you don’t expect to receive, whether it’s a Zip file, PDF or otherwise. The payload for a ransomware attack often hides inside these phony surprises. 

Email Design: A kooky font like Comic Sans should immediately raise red flags. Especially if you don’t clearly recognize the sender. Also watch out for weird spacing, kooky graphics, and color fonts. 

 

Links to Verify Information: Never ever click on a link to verify information. Instead, if you think the information does need updating go directly to the website. Type in your email and password, and update your information from the Account tab. Always go directly to the source. 

 

Odd Logo Use: Hackers try their best to mimic a websites’ look and feel. Oftentimes, they get very close; but they won’t be perfect. If something feels off, it probably is. 

 

 

While there is no fool-proof method for avoiding falling victim to a phishing attack, knowing how to spot likely culprits is one step in the right direction. As you can gather from the above tips, if an email looks fishy, it probably is (phishy).  

 

Use these tips to double-check any email you might have doubts about. Be especially careful of links and attachments. Double-check the return address. If the questionable email looks like it’s from a large company, let’s use Amazon as an example, but the return address is something like Amazon-rebates@dupe87351.net, then it’s not from Amazon.  

 

As always, if you are unsure about the safety of an email, contact us right away. We are here to insure your safety. It’s our job to protect you from every type of cybersecurity attack, phishing scams includes. 

What is Phishing & How do Hackers use it?

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What exactly is Phishing? It’s one of the biggest threats from hackers, yet most people still aren’t sure how phishing works. Hackers mimic the emails, forms, and websites of legitimate companies to lure people into providing their private, personal, and business information. Credit card numbers, social security information, account logins, and personal identifiers are just some of the data hackers are looking for. Victims don’t realize they’ve been compromised until long after the event took place. And often only after their identity or finances are affected. 

In the past, an attack was carried out relatively quickly. As soon as the victim gave up their information, the hacker moved in and stole money from the compromised account. Today, it’s often more lucrative for hackers to sell that information on the Dark Web, resulting in longer-lasting and even more devastating attacks. 

3 Types of Phishing Attacks 

Spear Phishing 

Phishing attempts directed at specific individuals, or companies, are termed ‘spear phishing.’ These attacks gather personal information to increase the probability of success. This technique is by far the most successful on the Internet today, accounting for 91% of attacks. 

Personalized attacks work because the victim typically doesn’t identify the attack as a threat. The approach is usually an email that contains a bogus attachment. The email usually looks legitimate, as it includes the person’s name and position in the company. Once the attachment is clicked on, threats, including ransomware, are launched. 

 

Clone Phishing 

Clone phishing is an attack where a previously delivered email containing an attachment or link is used to create an almost identical email. The attachment is replaced with a malicious copy, then sent from an email address spoofed to appear that it came from the original sender. It may claim to be a resend of the original or an updated version. 

 

Clone Phishing attacks can look like an anti-virus update, a refund or credit offer, and even gift cards. Make sure you know where these emails came from before you click on any links. Better yet, don’t click on those links at all! 

 

Whaling 

The term ‘whaling’ is used because these attacks target the big fish of the company. These phishing attacks are directed specifically at senior executives and high-profile targets. Aimed at executives, the masquerading emails will take a more serious tone. The email is crafted to target the person’s role in the company. The content of a whaling attack email is written as a legal subpoena, customer complaint, or a payment request. 

 

Whaling emails masquerade as a critical business messages. They appear to be sent from a legitimate businesses. Whaling phishers have also forged official-looking FBI subpoena emails and claimed that the manager needs to click a link and install special software to view the subpoena. 

Some examples are, emails from a bank or medical office asking to update information online or confirm the username and password? It could be a suspicious email from your boss asking you to execute a wire transfer. If you see any of these you’re among the 76% of businesses that were victims of a phishing attack in the last year. 

 

Methods of Delivery 

Most phishing scams are received through emails. But now hackers are getting trickier with their methods of execution. Personal device and Phone attacks using SMS texting (smishing), Voice phishing (vishing) are very common. Social engineering, a method in which users can be encouraged to click on various kinds of unexpected content for a variety of technical and social reasons, is everywhere. 

 

 

Ransomware 

Phishing, the most widely used method for spreading ransomware, increases significantly every year. Anyone can become a victim of phishing, or in turn, ransomware attacks. However, hackers have begun targeting organizations that are more likely to pay the ransom. Small businesses, education, government, and healthcare often don’t have protected data backups. That means they are unable to re-install a pre-ransomed version of their data. Instead, they have to pay their way out or cease to exist. The cost of the ransom alone can be the end of many small businesses. Victims of phishing campaigns are often  branded as untrustworthy. This could mean that some customers turn to their competitors, resulting in even greater financial loss. 

 

Phishing campaigns are rampant 

There are nearly 5 million new phishing sites created every month, according to Webroot Threat Report. On the dark web, hackers can find Phishing as a Service, offering phishing attacks in exchange for payment. One Russian website, “Fake Game,” claims over 61,000 subscribers and 680,000 credentials stolen. 

The stats of these attacks are scary. Over 30% of phishing messages are carelessly opened. 12% of targets click on the attachments. In short, these hackers look legitimate. 

New phishing campaigns and sites can be built by sophisticated hackers in a matter of minutes. While we think there are far more legitimate ways to earn money, these individuals have made a living out of scamming the general public. 

 

Protect Yourself 

Since Emails are the most common delivery methods for Phishing attacks, it makes sense to train your employees how to spot these scams. It’s safe to assume that, if an email looks fishy, it probably is. Contact us if you have any questions or concerns. 

Develop your Vendor Relationships

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For SMBs that want to take their business to the next level, you need help from your vendor partners. Unless you have this help, your business might not reach its potential. We all know vendor partnerships are key to strategic growth and longevity. Therefore, we need to become actively involved in that partnership.

Why do we need strong vendor relationships?

Having a strong partnership with your vendor is vital to continued business growth. It will mean your clients receive better service and will provide PR opportunities that raise your business profile.

Without a strong relationship, your business can stall. It might lack the resources or momentum to get to the next level. Securing and continuing to build a great relationship is critical to growth. Vendor management is one of the most underappreciated, yet critical functions you are responsible for. Luckily, this is something that can be easily addressed. So, how do you get that secure relationship where you become the vendor’s favorite partner? Let’s find out!

Make the vendor the center of your growth strategy

If you give your vendor relationship the central place in your growth strategy, you’re headed in the right direction. To be successful and grow, you need your vendor to think of you as a partner and not just a customer. A key approach is building up the relationship you have with your vendor account manager. Needless to say, this a very important step, so don’t let the relationship dry up.

Oftentimes SMBs will avoid emails or telephone calls from accounts managers as they see them as irritating. They’re trying to avoid sales pitches trying to get more money. But, if you take the opposite line of attack, you might see things change in your favor. For example, don’t wait for a sales call from your vendor, call them yourself and ask how you can become their favorite partner. With this approach, you show the vendor that you’re willing to make this a two-way relationship that can help them as well as you.

Take a forward approach

Being forward in this way can be quite surprising for vendors. They mainly spend their time dealing with SMBs that ask for discounts or favors. What’s more, they don’t often have them asking to help them.

In this regard, it’s good to have a bit of inside knowledge of how vendor account managers are measured in terms of performance. It might come as a surprise to learn that it’s not only their sales volume that is considered. Additionally, vendor account managers are measured on the sales pipeline visibility and how many new SMB partnerships they get.

Furthermore, it’s a good idea to open up communications lines with vendor account managers so they see the sales opportunities that arise. This will also mean that the vendor account managers can report sales pipelines accurately to their management.

Making direct introductions

Remember we said this is a two-way relationship – help your vendors by making introductions directly. Talk to your peers about the work you do with your vendor partners. Tell them what you enjoy about working with the vendor and how your business has grown thanks to the good relationship.

These activities might seem unusual as recommendations usually go the other way. After all, not many are doing it, which is why you can become your vendor partner’s favorite client quickly.

Does this yield results?

With this sort of helpful attitude, you will notice your partnerships flourish. You build trust. This trust will result in quicker resolutions to technical and supply issues more quickly – a bonus for your clients.

There really isn’t a downside to building a strong relationship with your vendor. Correspondingly, your relationship will become a real partnership with mutual commitment leading to success for both.

Final thoughts

If you want to move your business to the next level, approaching your vendor relationship in a different way can help to achieve growth. Without such a relationship, your growth could hit a wall that you might struggle to get beyond. If you have questions or need help managing your vendors, please contact us to discuss how we can help in this area.

Are you getting nickel-and-dimed?

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Are you getting ‘nickel-and-dimed’ by your vendors? This is a great phrase that you’ll hear concerning charges for extra services within a larger service or purchase. According to Grammarist.com, the phrase ‘nickel-and-dimed’ has been around since the 19th century. Originally, it meant small amounts of money. It wasn’t until the 20th century that this phrase became a verb and an adjective for descriptive purposes. It’s a relevant phrase when it comes to the SMB-vendor relationship. Being ‘nickel-and-dimed’ means you’re spending more on extra services than you agreed to. The phrase makes you consider the impact unknown costs can have on a business and its profit margin. 

As a business owner, you need to decide what level of IT support is right for you. Small businesses frequently operate under the “break-fix” model. Break-fix is exactly what it sounds like: you run your business normally until something breaks, then you pay someone to fix it. Managed Service Providers, like us, offer a monthly service agreement to handle all of your IT support. But remember, not all managed services are created equally – don’t get nickelanddimed! 

Break-Fix Model 

While the break-fix model appears the simplest out of the gate, it ends up costing more than you think. The ‘breaks’ cost you more because you’re stuck with unexpected hardware and software costs, and the ‘fixes’ cost you a lot more due to downtime, outages, and lost potential revenue. At some point, you’ll get tired of your CFO running into your office with a stack of bills from all of last month’s fixes. 

 

Working with Vendors 

Finding a vendor that works well for your business is essential. SMBs often seek out vendors that offer full solutions. These deals are usually better for the client as well as their revenue and profitability. 

Choosing a vendor that offers a complete solution means you won’t get ‘nickel-and-dimed.’ When a vendor gives you the option to pick your solutions it often sounds too good to be true. However, this way often makes things more complicated for both you and your client. It also makes it hard to predict revenue and costs going forward. 

SMBs need efficiency 

Efficiency is paramount for SMBs and this translates to your customers too. When vendors offer features individually, the SMB purchases separate parts as individual products. With a turnkey solution, they have one single comprehensive package. Otherwise, you’re spending money on features that you thought were included. Unbundling your service might also mean ending up working with multiple vendors. What you need is a single vendor; a one-stop-shop for all of the features you need. Bear in mind that this vendor also needs to be able to adapt to you in the future too. 

What SMBs need their Vendors to know 

SMBs need a vendor that recognizes their role in supporting your business. We buy, employ and use their technology to run our businesses. SMBs should expect their vendors to listen to them and help them build their business. If you suspect you’re being nickel-and-dimed, then this isn’t a partnership worth pursuing. Don’t stick with it because it might seem like an easy option or because it’s hard to find a vendor that checks all of the boxes. You can maximize profitability and ROI with a vendor that works for you and works with you. 

Future-proofing 

When new features become available, they should not be a separate offer or a stand-alone service. SMBs need to ensure the vendor they work with can future-proof their plan to add any new features onto their existing offering. 

With a complete, fixed-price solution, vendors will earn your business each month and will then continue to improve their solutions without having to ask for extra money. A good vendor will focus on lowering the costs and not try to upsell new opportunities as they arise. 

Final thoughts – don’t be nickel-and-dimed 

You need a solution that will meet your needs straight out of the box. It should be a ready-to-go turnkey solution that will make you satisfied in the knowledge that you have all you need to be able to solve any business problem – all while paying a reasonable sum. You also need your vendor to incorporate new additions into your product as they arrive without it costing you more. It’s vital not to settle when you’re looking for a vendor. If the vendor doesn’t look out for your and your customers’ interests, can you call them a partner? 

If you are having issues with your vendors, please contact us at any time. We want to be sure you’re getting what you’re paying for. 

 

Your Vendors: How To Manage Them

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When a Business relationship with vendors is good, it can form a strong and strategic partnership that strengthens and develops your business.

Many businesses don’t have the capability or skills that are needed to build marketing and sales in their business plans. Vendors can support businesses in this area. Vendors have the resources to tap into their expertise and provide guidance on how your business can promote your services. A vendor can give advice on which marketing goals should be a priority.

Establishing solid relationships with your vendors is crucial to staying competitive. This is true in both customer service and business growth. Take care of them and they will take care of you.

Two-sided relationships 

The relationship isn’t a one-sided one. Both you and the Vendor need to engage with one another to establish in-depth growth and development plans. Hold one another accountable. Vendors can also help businesses execute strategic plans by providing services that may be out of reach. These could be marketing resources or technical recommendations. Vendor partnerships with strong foundations also lead to efficiency in operations. Having a good vendor allows you to reduce the number of resources required with simpler, automated processes. As you can tell, this is good for your bottom line.

A positive vendor lifts you up 

Vendors have lots of expertise and valuable advice to share with you. Whether they’re forthcoming or not depends on the relationship you have with them. Just like any working relationship, a relationship between a business and a vendor is not just transactional. The traditional format of the vendor-buyer relationship is no longer enough to stay competitive. You both need to go much deeper than that. To have a vendor that lifts you up requires you to establish a two-way relationship and dialogue. Strive to help each other.

Both parties have key responsibilities. Vendors should listen to their clients to discover what services, support, and products they truly want. You, on the other hand, should engage proactively with the Vendor to gain access to price promotions, bundles, and Marketing tools. This will help you provide better services to your clients and stand above your competition.

How can you get more out of your Vendor? 

Often, small businesses don’t have enough budget or time to plan and carry out marketing programs on a big scale. Vendors can plug this gap. You can ask vendors how they invest in making their client network a success. Another question to ask is, do they create activities for lead generation? To help support the vendors become actively involved in their promotions.

You need to work to make the most out of your vendor partnership. When dealing with a Vendor, articulate your needs clearly. In turn, your Vendor has to make it easy for you to have access to the materials and resources you need to sell your services. There is no place for being timid here. Ask the Vendor how they can help you and what the available support is. Examples of this might include payment plans with added flexibility or discounts to help with your cash flow.

Build your relationship 

Often, business owners are quick to criticize a vendor for not providing or offering the support that was expected. We must remember that this is a reciprocal partnership and a two-way street. The relationship needs to work for both parties. Sometimes, owners find that their Vendor isn’t creating the positive effect on their business that they would like. For this to happen, you must engage fully with the Vendor to set achievable, common goals. Spending time to establish the right partner is an investment SMBs often can’t afford to miss. Having a trusted partnership with a vendor impacts your company’s success.

Collaborate with technology 

Simply listing each other’s company on your website is not a collaboration. For the relationship to go deeper, it should involve the integration of technology. An intertwined technological relationship will open up ways to create more innovative services. Your vendors have a larger budget for research and development than you do. Being collaborative as a technology partner is an important consideration that many businesses can benefit from.

What if your Vendor is negative to your day-to-day operations? 

Strive to build and maintain good relationships with vendors. Remember, vendors also have to play a positive role in the relationship. Some vendors aren’t good for your business and it’s important to work with the ones that are. As MSPinsights.com describes, sometimes vendors alienate themselves by offering “channel” products that mean they have direct contact with your clients. You might even find vendors that offer competing products to the end clients or require them to sign contracts. This kind of ‘offer’ often suggests that these vendors are not interested in treating your business as a legitimate partner.

Final thoughts 

For best results, you need to become your Vendor’s favorite partner. Essentially, you’ve got to find someone who wants to build a partnership that works two ways. If you need a little help managing your vendors, remember that we can do that for you. Contact us and we’d be happy to get the ball rolling.

Can Hackers fool AI?

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Hackers – the word alone can send fear down the spine of anyone who owns an internet enabled device. And for good reasons, too! Yet many people assume that hackers are only an issue for their business computers, desktops, laptops, and portable tablets. This isn’t entirely the truth. In fact, hackers can actually pose a major threat for your or your AI devices, too. As AI devices become core commonplace, this can represent a major security concern for many people.

As a result of this, it is absolutely essential that you’re are of how hackers can target your artificial intelligence systems. It’s vital that you also know how you can protect yourself against these threats. Fortunately, as your managed service provider, we are on hand to give you the support you need to keep yourself, your business, or your family, safe from the dangers that hackers can pose.

Can Hackers Access Artificial Intelligence IT Services?

To start with, we’ll ask the question, “Can hackers really get access to your AI systems?” The answer is, yes. This is becoming increasingly more common. As a result, it’s vital that anyone implementing artificial intelligence systems for their business or home is aware of the protective measures that make breaking in more difficult for hackers.

How Much of a Threat do AI Hackers Pose for your Desktops, Laptops, and Tablets?

At first glance, it might not be clear how much of a threat professional hackers can pose for your personal or business computers, desktops, laptops, and tablets. However, it is important that you never underestimate these threats because hackers gaining hold of your personal data can be a major threat for your personal security and safety. Not to mention your bank account.

Some of the ways in which hackers threaten us include:

Loss of personal data – one thing hackers want is your personal data. Names, addresses, telephone numbers, and emails can allow hackers to expose you to Phishing Scams. These contact details can also be easily sold to less than legitimate buyers. Even worse is if your financial details are taken by a hacker. If that happens, the hacker, could easily transfer money from your account without your authorization. They could also use your personal financial information to make purchases.
Business risks – if you run a small business then you store data for your customers. A hacker getting access to this data is a massive concern. Loss of personal data could result in your business getting fined substantial amounts. No company is safe in this regard. Even giants such as Adobe, Canva, eBay, LinkedIn, MySpace, Yahoo, and Marriott have suffered recent data breaches. A staggering 3.5 billion people have already seen their personal data compromised since the year 2000. That’s almost half the world’s population.
How Hackers Hack AI Systems

We’ve clarified that hackers can gain access to your personal or business computers, but how do they do this? There are numerous methods that hackers can use to breach systems. These vary depending on the type of AI being used.

There are two main ways in which hackers may be able to access data through AI: First, by monitoring your activities. This is similar to how personalized cookies work when you login to a website. The second way is by gaining access to your system through weak passwords. In devices like Alexa and Suri, this will allow the hacker to listen in through your AI devices. Hackers can even access cameras if they are attached to your devices, such as Ring doorbells. The implications are, frankly, terrifying. Depending on how many “Smart”, or AI devices you have in your home, there may be no room that is safe from hackers.

How to Protect Yourself

We’ve clarified that hackers can represent a serious problem for your business or personal life. Luckily, there are a few different ways that can help you avoid getting targeted by hackers. Some of these tips include:

Never share your personal information. This is one of the most important tips we can give to keep you safe from hackers. It’s important that you keep this in mind during all of your online activities. Never give out passwords, no matter who you think you’re talking to. And never leave it written down anywhere!
Choose a complex password. This is a good first-step to stay safe from hackers. Ideally, you should choose – and then memorize – an automatically generated password that has no reference to your life. We know it’s not easy, but it is your safest choice.
Keep Bluetooth turned off when not in use. If you’re not using your Bluetooth or the internet, we recommend turning them off to prevent hackers from using these connections to get access to your devices.
Final Thoughts

Hackers are a big problem in our modern society, but you can defeat them by taking preventative measures. With AI and Smart Devices becoming more common each day, hackers are finding more ways to break into your Personal life. Take every precaution to secure your accounts at every opportunity! For more advice on how your personal or business computers can make use of IT solutions to protect your data, contact us today.

The Hidden Heart of Artificial Intelligence Technology

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The futuristic views of artificial intelligence (AI) as synthetic consciousness has been spread in Hollywood and science-fiction novels for generations. However, fantasy-aside, artificial intelligence is simply a process or system that performs tasks that ordinarily need the intelligence of humans. Examples of such tasks are problem-solving, diagnosing medical problems, and recognizing human emotions.

AI is already everywhere

The ‘hidden heart of technology’ that constitutes AI, currently has an important place in society and many of us don’t even realize it’s there. Think about your daily living. Do you browse the internet? Are you buying things online? Do you watch Netflix, HULU or Amazon Prime? Then you’re already interacting with AI.

Netflix and AI

The AI solutions that Netflix provides are particularly unique and have a significant impact on the user and the business.

Perhaps the most obvious to the end-user is the personalization of recommendations. For example, a user who watches Film X is likely to enjoy Film Y. What Netflix does is track user history to make their recommendations based on what other users have gone on to watch too. This is beneficial to users as they get recommendations that they enjoy. It also benefits Netflix too as it keeps its viewers interested and engaged, thus keeping their monthly subscriptions.

Another use of AI in Netflix is the auto-generation of artwork and thumbnails. Believe it or not, but the thumbnails you see for different shows are personalized to you. Netflix uses thousands of video stills from a particular movie to generate thumbnails. Each one is annotated and ranked according to how likely it is to result in a click. The technology is strengthened when users begin watching the show or movie. Netflix can see which thumbnails are the most popular. For example, if a user likes a certain actor, they are more likely to interact with a thumbnail showing that actor. The website Becoming Human has lots of images of different users’ thumbnails to compare, it makes for very interesting reading!

Advertising

Artificial Intelligence in advertising isn’t just about creating adverts; it’s about transforming every level of advertising right from creating the ad to targeting the audience and buying ads. As the Marketing AI Institute states, there are so many uses of AI in advertising that already exist. Brands are using AI to identify audiences, build creative ads, improve ad performance, and optimize customer spending. This happens automatically at scale and in real-time.

The beauty of advertising (specifically online advertising) is that it provides huge amounts of data. This includes things like impressions, bid levels, click-through rates and demographics. Of course, as humans, we’re perfectly capable of producing good advertising and measuring its impact but digital advertising is a whole new ball game. Digital advertising can generate so much more data across content, social media and searches.

With all of the necessary data, ad tools powered by AI can find patterns in ad data and use them to predict campaign changes to improve ad performance. This all takes place in a matter of seconds. For a person to do this it would take between hours and weeks to analyse the data, let alone create improved ads from it.

Cookies – manipulating behavior

If you’re familiar with internet cookies, you’ll know how useful they can be in helping you to remember details and passwords. There’s another side to cookies, however, in that sites use them to track your online behavior and tailor ads to show you. The BBC referred to behavioral advertising as ‘the latest buzz phrase’ back in 2012, but the truth is, this is something still at the forefront almost a decade later. For marketers, cookie profiling is a big advantage. Cookie profiling empowers marketers. They can see the bigger picture of the person they are targeting.

The hidden heart of technology

We’ve seen some examples of how AI is the hidden heart of technology in this blog. The truth is, AI use isn’t always overt at all. Forget I, Robot and The Bicentennial Man. This AI is more like Bruce Willis’s character in The Sixth Sense – hidden in plain sight if you can see it. Artificial intelligence is a rapidly developing area of information technology. As a Managed Service Provider of IT support, we can help you understand how to implement these tools for your business, ensuring your data remains secure. Contact us for any questions you might have.

AI – What It Is and Isn’t

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AI has been rapidly evolving in recent years with the IT industry placing demand on this innovative technology solution. It began life with humble origins compared to the immense potential that modern AI software can offer for business networks. This blog will be looking at what AI is, how it originated and developed, and how your business can take advantage of this tool.

A Brief Look at AI for Business Networks – What It Is (And Isn’t)

It’s important that we know what AI actually is. Indeed, many businesses don’t entirely understand how AI can be beneficial for their tech problems and solutions.

Let’s define what AI is and what it isn’t. When someone mentions the term “Artificial Intelligence,” you probably think of  automatic computers or machines, like robots. This belief was widely popularized by Alan Turing’s statement claiming that “one will be able to speak of machines thinking without expecting to be contradicted.” However, artificial intelligence IT solutions are actually a bit more complicated than this; the modern realm of AI certainly isn’t capable of self-awareness just yet, but it is still capable of offering a huge amount of potential for businesses.

So, AI isn’t just an android; rather, it’s a program that is capable of completing tasks to a similar standard as a human or better.  AI systems can be categorized as: Narrow, General, or Super-Intelligent.  Narrow and general AI systems are already available for business networks to implement as an IT solution. These systems serve to do a small number of specialized tasks. Super intelligent AI is still in development though, and will likely not exist for a long period of time.

The History

AI hasn’t always been at its current standard. In fact, it’s taken a long time for AI to evolve to it’s current stage! Of course, the earliest origins of artificial intelligence could be Alan Turing’s original Turning Machine – the first ever variant of a computer, although certainly nothing like the modern computers we rely on for business nowadays.

Many don’t know that AI has actually had a notable prominence in our society and culture for easily a century. The first machine capable of automatically playing chess without human intervention was Leonardo Torres y Quevedo’s creation in 1914. Following this creation, in 1929, Japan’s Makoto Nishimura developed  the first-ever “robot”.  The model was able to use air mechanisms to move its hand and head and control its expression! It wasn’t until 1955, that “artificial intelligence” became a term.

Despite a somewhat early start to life, tales surrounding artificial intelligence were commonplace. They spoke of IT solutions that would serve to better the world and provide an alternative to normal tech solutions, of science fiction stories and seemingly unbelievable feats of business computer systems. The first artificial intelligence programs in the 1990s, Jabberwack and Cleverbot chatbots designed to “simulate natural human chat in an interesting, entertaining, and humorous manner.”

A new line of AI also came around the turn of the century. The Furby toy was created and went on to be the first “pet” robot for children, and in 1999, Sony released AIBO, a robotic dog that could recognize over one hundred voice commands and even communicate directly with its owner. This would prove a big step forward in terms of the development of artificial intelligence software and programs.

Modern AI Programs

Modern artificial intelligence has developed rapidly. As a business owner, you must know how these IT solutions could be applicable for your organization. Some AI programs used in businesses include voice commands and applications like Apple’s Siri and Amazon’s Alexa. These programs respond to user inquiries with natural language.

So, how can modern businesses use AI programs for the best business network boost? Well, artificial intelligence can be applicable in many different ways for your business, from helping to reduce the incidence rate of human error (which is invariable with any business) through to automating production processes and supply chains based on demand and availability. Artificial intelligence can also have a big impact on your business’ hiring practices, helping your business to streamline the recruitment process and lower the costs of hiring new talent for your firm!

Indeed, the potential that artificial intelligence can offer even today is massive – and as time passes likely, artificial intelligence systems will only get more and more complex and refined.

Learn More About AI for Businesses

For more information on how AI could benefit your business networks, contact us. Our team provides quality IT services so that you can get back to doing what you do best – managing your business. Don’t compromise – let us help you find the perfect AI and IT solutions today!

Microsoft Exchange Server cyberattacks: who is behind it and why are they attacking?

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A wave of data breaches and cyberattacks began in early 2021 when four zero-day vulnerabilities were found in Microsoft Exchange on-premises servers. These vulnerabilities meant that hackers had access to user credentials connected to network devices. As well as, admin privileges on servers affected by the zero-day exploits.

Typically, attackers install something called a ‘backdoor’, which is a covert way of bypassing encryption or authentication. With a ‘backdoor’, attackers can access impacted servers after updates to fix the exploits.

Why Microsoft Exchange?

Microsoft Exchange is seen as a good target for attackers who want to get into business networks. Microsoft says that their email server software is unique in its environment as hackers can carry out a multitude of tasks using the same scripts or tools that admin use for maintenance. “Credential stuffing” is the assumption numerous users will recycle passwords and usernames across an array of services.

Once attackers log in as a user; they perform actions that allow them to remotely connect to the server, assume the role of administrators with said privileges. With administrator rights, hackers can upload code to create a ‘backdoor’ so that they will have continued access. Even if patches are downloaded to protect Exchange servers, they won’t retroactively remove any installed ‘backdoors’. This means hackers can still access the server until these, and any additional user accounts are removed.

 Who are the hackers?

Microsoft says that the original attackers were Hafnium, a group they say operates out of China. It is a cyber-espionage hacking group, often referred to as an APT (an advanced persistent threat). This type of group is often a state-sponsored, stealthy actor that goes undetected for a long time. Hafnium has alleged ties with the Chinese government, but they have denied all responsibility for this recent Microsoft Exchange breach. Microsoft has described this group as “highly skilled and sophisticated.”

Although Hafnium was the first hacking group to exploit the vulnerabilities, there are now thought to be over 10 different groups with each using a different style and procedures.

Who is vulnerable to attack?

Microsoft confirmed that their Exchange Server versions for 2010, 2013, 2016, and 2019 are susceptible. All cloud-based services like Office 365 and Microsoft Exchange Online are not affected.

So far, estimates suggest 250,000 servers have been attacked; including small or medium businesses, local governments and local institutions across the globe. These are the main victims of the attacks because they don’t have the necessary expertise to resolve cyberattacks.

Tom Burt of Microsoft wrote in a blog post that victims had included law offices, defense contractors, disease researchers, non-governmental organizations, think tanks, and universities. Other known victims include local governments and schools.

Latest developments

On March 12th Microsoft Security Intelligence announced that a ransomware called ‘DearCry’ was being used on the first servers infected. This made the servers unusable unless a payment was made to recover the files. Microsoft has said, however, that paying such a ransom won’t guarantee you access to the files.

What businesses and organizations should do?

There are several steps that can secure your Exchange server; a list of which is detailed in this blog post. Essentially, organizations at risk need to take the necessary precautions, ie downloading Microsoft patches.  But they should also scan all networks for any threats and potential compromises. The most targeted countries currently are German, the UK and the US. Contact us for your cybersecurity concerns.

Meet AI: Your Newest Co-Worker

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When it comes to hiring new staff, it’s important that you choose the right person for the job. But what if the right person for the job isn’t a person at all, but instead, an IT solution? Artificial intelligence offers many benefits for businesses, now, and into the future. Just one of these benefits is bypassing the hiring process. Before purchasing your AI solution, it’s important that all businesses consider the benefits and drawbacks of artificial intelligence. When looking to optimize your IT management, a quick Google search for the best “automated small business solutions” will lead you in the right direction. Then you can focus the search to your specific industry.

Let’s take a look at what Artificial Intelligence is and how it might benefit us.

Artificial Intelligence: A Brief History

Artificial intelligence is a recent development with only the first two stages widely rolled out for business support: narrow and general AI, which provide a highly specialized and broader range of support respectively. The final stage of artificial intelligence is super-intelligence, which is characterized by AI programs developed to be capable of self-thought. This level of AI is still a long way off, though, and modern AI systems are a little simpler. With that being said, the simpler nature of modern AI is a benefit in and of itself. It means that small and large businesses alike may be able to implement AI into their existing business networks easily and efficiently. And that means that better control of your budget, and profit growth should be the end result.

How did AI originate? During the 1990s, toy manufacturers were one the first industries to use AI. Popular AI toys were early versions of robots, with the Furby being arguably the most well-known. Sony also created their own artificial intelligence robotic dog that was capable of memorizing up to one hundred commands. These creations would pave the way for future AI developments in the decades to follow.

How AI Can be Used by Businesses

There are many ways in which businesses can make use of the benefits of artificial intelligence solutions. Research AI developments in your field. It’s important that your business knows how to make use of AI to the best effect.

During the Hiring Process

Artificial intelligence can be a huge benefit for small businesses wanting to make the process of hiring new staff easier. During the hiring cycle, Artificial Intelligence can be used in many different ways to streamline the task because of its ability to learn your company’s processes.

AI is an effective tool to enhance the application process for new employees. Particularly in terms of automatic chats that can provide applicants with immediate help and support.

It can also help with screening applicants. AI can categorize applicants based on their skills, experience, qualifications, and whatever parameters you set. Automatically screening applicants is beneficial for small businesses who are overwhelmed with applications for a specific job posting. Then, the business can quickly find applicants who are a good fit for the job. That translates into saving a great deal of time, and money.

It’s worth noting that artificial intelligence can be useful even after candidates have been selected. You can use AI to contact applicants and arrange interview times with them. It also provides them with answers that they may have to questions about your company. Some advanced AI software can even analyze facial expressions, tone of voice, and the like for participants which can help to provide a clear view of the applicant’s suitability for the job role.

To Support Your Employees

Artificial intelligence is a highly diverse and useful IT solution for businesses to consider investing in. More and more people are looking for business IT support companies near them to help with installing AI. Employees can utilize this new technology to support their day-to-day activities.  Additionally, employees can use AI to streamline automated processes to improve work productivity and affordability.

For Your Customers

Finally, artificial intelligence can provide an affordable option for your small business in terms of supporting customers. This is particularly the case for chatbox. You can use Artificial Intelligence to engage your clients and provide them with instant responses to their queries, without the huge expense of hiring a 24/7 in-house team. This can represent massive savings for your business and help boost customer satisfaction.

Don’t Rely Solely on AI!

Artificial intelligence options are some of the fastest evolving IT solutions for business networks, however, they are not perfect and need a team of human workers behind them to keep them working effectively. Always make sure that you check your AI is providing the results that you want; in doing so, you’ll be able to balance the cost-saving nature of artificial intelligence with the personal touch that human staff can provide.

In turn, your customers will be able to enjoy an incomparable service overall, making AI solutions potentially a great investment for your small business. To learn more, contact us to see if AI could be right for you.