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Remote Work: Not Your Parent’s Work Environment

By: Kelly Gillespie, Business Account Consultant

As many of us have experienced recently, the traditional brick-and-mortar office isn’t the only viable option for performing our jobs these days. In the wake of the pandemic, business leaders have needed a more open approach to remote work, and the IT/Cybersecurity folks have made a mad scramble to have the right equipment, security, and applications to make the experience feel seamless.

So now you need to be prepared for more remote work. The gear you hurriedly assembled to get it done during the last few months sufficed under the circumstances, but might not be the best long-term solution. Not to worry – we have guidance on the “what” and “how” to set up a remote or a mobile office! Let’s start with the basics: equipment.

What are you using and why?

This sounds so obvious that you will roll your eyes (at first), but it is the very essence of setting up remote access. Examining the functions of your job will help you determine your equipment needs. Allow me to expand…

Desktop PC

While a desktop PC is the most powerful and least expensive option, it is not necessarily the right one, especially if you are a road warrior in sales or field service. If you’re a power user who does database work or graphic design, for example, you may need a desktop.

Laptop

Everyone loves the laptop, but is it the right tool for the job all the time? Since laptops are essentially miniaturized versions of desktops, they generally lag behind in processing power and storage technology. They can have significant limitations, such as memory, input/output ports, operating system support, and power. If you are a field service engineer, a laptop is usually a must-have, but many other jobs don’t require the full function of a laptop.

Tablet

With the rise of Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) adoption, a tablet can typically cover the bulk of most job functions – email, productivity suites, and web interfaces, including remote desktop access, to most SaaS line of business applications. The downsides are lack of support for dashboard accessories, such as secondary monitors, full size keyboards or mouse, and enhanced security software.

A few essentials for the home/mobile office

Here are a few items you need in order to make your remote work life much easier. Let’s assume that you have a dedicated workspace with a decent desk, chair, and lighting – all important and essential items – and focus on the gadgets and more to round out your remote office.

Internet Bandwidth

It should go without saying, but your home internet connection may not be sufficient to the needs of supporting a home office. Check with your IT folks to see what kind of bandwidth you need to operate remotely.

Monitors

Regardless of your computing platform, monitors are key to being able to do it without ruining your eyes or happy thoughts. At a minimum, desktop or secondary monitors should:

  • Be at least 21” diagonal screen
  • 16×9, high definition (at least 1080 pixel) configuration
  • Support HDMI connection as most newer laptops have native HDMI ports

You should have at least two monitors (one can be a laptop screen). Productivity software works best when you have extended screen real estate to work with, not to mention using multiple web browser windows.

You also may want to consider a monitor mounting system to improve your viewing angle and ergonomic comfort, not to mention gaining some of your desk space back.

Adapters/Docking Stations

If you are using a laptop or tablet, one of the essential accessories should be a docking station. This will provide multiple ports, including connections for monitors, USB, and even Ethernet. Otherwise, you will need to buy separate adapters for each device type you want to connect and you will likely only be able to use one at a time on ultra-slim laptops or tablets.

Extra Power Supply/Cable/Charger

Who hasn’t gotten to the client meeting or presentation and realized their laptop/tablet was almost out of battery and the power supply wasn’t in the bag? Keep one on your desk and one in your bag. Same with your phone charger. ‘Nuff said.

Webcam/Microphone/Headphones

As we have all experienced over the last few months, video web meetings are the new norm. Most laptops and tablets have a decent webcam for a single person, but the built-in microphone is not of the highest quality for the best audio experience. Use a USB microphone and headphones if you are doing video meetings with more than just the person seated directly in front of the laptop. An external webcam is also a good investment when displaying a meeting room or larger group.

External Hard Drive/USB Drive

For backups and nothing else. And like your Mom said, don’t ever take USB drives from strangers. You don’t know what has been on that drive and could inadvertently find yourself with a virus.

Miscellaneous Items

You may want to consider a few other items to make your life easier.

  • Cable organizers – Because who wants to have to fight cables for desk space?
  • Printer – Yep, people still read things on paper and occasionally even send them via postal mail.
  • Surge protector/UPS – Even though laptops and tablets run on batteries, you probably want to plug more than one thing into that impossible-to-reach outlet behind your desk. Also, both of these devices can offer some protection against electric spikes to your laptop or tablet.
  • Notebook – No, I’m not talking about anything electronic, just plain old paper and pen. Having a pad of paper to jot down the odd note or phone number is just indispensable.

Software you will need, but probably haven’t thought about yet

You have your remote/mobile office all set up and you are feeling pretty smug about it because you can check email, share documents, check inventory, etc. That’s great, but what happens to all of that information when you click a suspicious link or visit the odd website only to find that you are the unhappy recipient of malware?

Virtual Private Network (VPN)

Don’t leave home without it. In fact, use it at home, too. Your IT department may have a specific VPN application that you need to use, so check with them first, but on laptops, tablets, and smartphones, having and using a VPN is essential.

Anti-Malware/Advanced Endpoint Protection

You wouldn’t dream of leaving your house unlocked while you are away, so why would you leave your data unguarded? A good anti-malware program is essential, especially for mobile devices. Check with your IT department first, but make sure all of your mobile devices, including your smartphone, have security software installed.

Backups

Your best line of defense, especially against ransomware or theft of a device, is a regularly scheduled, secure and tested backup. Not only should you backup your laptops/tablets/smartphones, but what about all of that data in the SaaS cloud? You guessed it: that needs to be backed up as well.

Some stuff that doesn’t have anything to do with security

Here are some miscellaneous pieces of software/websites you may find useful when working remotely:

  • Binaural Beats – atmospheric music that enhances your creativity, relaxes you, and promotes general wellbeing
  • Dragon Naturally Speaking – Tired of typing? Use Dragon’s dictation software!
  • IFTTT – Want a way to automate mundane tasks or connect separate calendars? If This, Then That (IFTTT) is your answer.
  • RescueTime – This is an app that helps bring some discipline and sanity to your remote work by tracking your screen time between productive and distracting apps and websites, even blocking the distracting sites when you need to focus.

The Tax of Remote Work

Finally, working remotely isn’t just about technology, it is about how you can efficiently and effectively operate outside of the traditional workspace. Here are a few tips.

  • Structure your workday just as if you were in the office, no matter where you are.
    • Have a definitive start and stop time.
    • Take breaks, just as if you were in the office.
    • Keep a daily ‘diary’ of your workflow using OneNote, a calendar program, or even a giant old legal notepad.
  • Minimize distractions and set boundaries
    • Ditch the personal social media accounts and email during work hours.
    • Roommates, spouses, family, and friends need to clearly understand that even though you are home, you aren’t “home”. Set clear expectations for your workspace and interruptions.
    • Plan your work and work that plan. Lay out the day’s tasks and items that need to be complete, and work through them.
    • Use appropriate music as a background. Instrumental music works best for most people.
  • Interact with co-workers on a regular basis. Possibly the most difficult hurdle for remote work is a sense of isolation. Make a conscious effort to connect with coworkers via phone or video.

Buying and Selling Online: Keeping Your Money and Information Safe

By: Jerry Horton, Technology Director

We are all shopping online more today, whether we are making purchases or being purchased from. While it is convenient, it can also put you in danger of having personal and financial information stolen. Cyber attackers are always at work, but take full advantage of situations like the current pandemic. Both consumers and businesses need to ensure they are taking the proper safety precautions.

On the Attack

When it comes to online shopping, the internet gives attackers multiple ways to obtain your personal and financial information. Once they have it, they will use your information to make their own purchases, or sell it to someone else. They may target their potential victims through fraudulent websites and emails, including fake shops and charitable organizations. Just remember the old adage, if a deal looks too good to be true, it probably is.

Another way attackers are able to get your information is through intercepting. If a vendor does not use encryption during a transaction, your information is at risk.

Attackers also prey on vulnerable computers. Consumers and businesses alike need to take steps to protect computers from viruses and other malicious code that attackers may use to access personal and customer information. Keep your devices up to date and protected.

Keep Your Info Safe While Shopping

Perhaps the most important way to protect yourself is by doing your due diligence. Here are some ways to keep private information secure:

  • Do business with reputable vendors.
  • Ensure a secure website – If you are a consumer, make sure you are purchasing from a secure site, which should have a URL that begins with “https” instead of “http” and a closed padlock icon.
  • If you are a business that sells to consumers, ensure that your site has been secured and that you are using the proper web security (i.e. web app firewalls, full blown security commerce suite), and maintain PCI DSS compliance in store or online.
  • Do not provide sensitive information through email. No reputable business will ask for private or sensitive information via email.
  • Use a credit card or prepaid debit card, which, by law, offers some level of fraud protection.
  • Use a Virtual Credit Card – How it works: you own a credit card account with the institution that offers the card. When you make a transaction, your account generates temporary, random numbers in place of your actual credit card number. This offers one more layer between you and attackers. Some cons to this method include difficulty returning or denying a purchase, they’re not accepted by all merchants, and not every purchase offers the same fraud protection as with credit cards. There are three major companies offering virtual credit cards: Bank of America, Citibank, and Capital One.
  • Check your app settings – Shopping apps should tell you what they do with your data and how they keep it secure. There is no legal limit on your liability with money stored in a shopping app or gift card. Read the terms of service. The pro to shopping through store apps is that it can help avoid clicking a “bad” link to one of those legitimate-looking, but fake, websites.
  • Check your statements and accounts – Compare receipts and purchase copies with bank statements for discrepancies. If you think this is a small point, read your neighborhood cybersecurity guy’s personal fraud experience.
  • Check privacy policies – Most of us probably skim these, but before entering any personal or financial information, you should understand how your data will be stored and used by reading through the website’s privacy policy.

Collecting Payment as a Business

The same security rules apply for businesses as with consumers: make sure there is a layer of protection in the transaction. I recommend all businesses that are selling to consumers do the following:

  • Be set up to take credit cards and debit cards – Look at services like PayPal, Square, Amazon Pay, Google Pay, Apple Pay
  • Work with your financial institution – They will help support all that goes into conducting electronic transactions and have knowledge of industry policies.
  • Set up with reputable companies that will advocate for both the buyer and seller. PayPal, Amazon Pay, Google Pay, Apple Pay, for example, meet the necessary standards. Check that your organization is PCI DSS compliant. PCI DSS is a stringent set of standards created and policed by the industry itself.

Use Solid Business Accounting Practices

Setting up your transactions for optimum cyber security is one step. Another step businesses must take for their added protection is to set up solid accounting practices. Be sure to have a clear “chain of evidence” – a clear process in place about where an invoice came from, how much it is, and what it’s connected to. Accounts should be charted and set up with vendor and accounting codes. And be sure to separate duties; one person should not be responsible for the entire process. Just as you would frequently check your personal bank statements, keep solid records and look through details, understanding that attackers can steal enough information to make it look like an invoice came from a company.

Unless you’re an enterprise level business, don’t attempt to go at this by yourself. Utilize a reputable dealer and make sure to have a discussion with your financial institution.

The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated a process that was already in place with attackers/ hackers using their best tricks and tactics to steal consumer information. Something else to consider while online shopping at this time is how to be a socially responsible shopper. if you’re making purchases, support local when possible. Don’t engage in panic buying. And if you see someone else in need, give.

The Microsoft Office 365 Rebrand, Explained

By: Jake Schulte, IT Manager

Late last month, Microsoft unveiled the rebrand of their subscription service, Office 365. Now called Microsoft 365, there’s no price or service change associated with the new brand, but subscription packages also received new names. The new branding simplifies the catalog of product options for individual consumers and businesses, with better descriptions of their features.

The Office suite applications themselves are also not changing –for example, you won’t notice any difference when you open Microsoft Word. Microsoft is simply renaming their packages of program offerings to bring them in line with the types of features they provide, and to help customers determine which subscription is the right choice.

The history of 365s

Office 365 launched in June 2011, replete with the applications that are central to the brand’s identity – Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, and more.

In 2017, Microsoft launched Microsoft 365, designed for use by large enterprise companies, generally employing over 250 people. Over time, Microsoft 365 evolved to accommodate the needs of small and medium-sized businesses. The software as a service program now includes capabilities to host meetings online in Microsoft Teams, store files in the cloud, easily access information remotely, and protect data with innovative security solutions.

All these features are crucial components for businesses under the “enterprise” threshold, so as Microsoft’s product line has evolved, so too has their packaging of those products to make it easier for budding businesses to best select their subscription.

What’s in a name?

The new names for subscription packages include:

  • Office 365 Business Essentials is now Microsoft 365 Business Basic.
  • Office 365 Business Premium is now Microsoft 365 Business Standard.
  • Microsoft 365 Business is now Microsoft 365 Business Premium.
  • Office 365 Business and Office 365 ProPlus are now both Microsoft 365 Apps.

The features once labeled as “premium” are now considered part of the standard product line Microsoft provides. “Premium” is reserved for businesses requiring a higher level of intricacy or access from their subscription, making it easier for new and prospective subscribers to select the arrangement that best serves their needs.

What differences will users see?

Current users of 365 subscriptions will only see a difference in what’s listed on their invoice – the name of the package of features they receive. The price of the subscription and the features themselves won’t change. This may, however, invite an opportunity for current subscribers to look at what their package offers and determine if it’s still the right fit for them.

Evolution from a software program to a productivity suite

With the rebrand, Microsoft is officially naming the expansion of the role it’s already started occupying in the function of the businesses that subscribe to its services.  Microsoft is confidently promoting the Microsoft 365 line as “the world’s productivity cloud” and moving away from the mindset that 365 is only the applications we recognize. It’s also an email server, a file-sharing service, an online meeting hub, and more.

This shift also makes it easier for users to grow into their product line, with a clear path forward for customers seeking to upgrade the features of their package.

For example, if you begin by only needing Outlook to access email stored on a Microsoft exchange server, there’s a product for that. As your business grows, you may find you have an increased need for sharing files across multiple computers in different locations; there’s a package that can accommodate both needs, one step up the ladder. With the rebrand, its name better reflects what it has to offer.

As Microsoft shared when announcing the rebrand, “these changes represent our ambition to continue to drive innovation in Microsoft 365 that goes well beyond what customers traditionally think of as Office.”

Networks Plus can help you manage Microsoft 365

A Microsoft 365 subscription is a great choice for any business seeking to increase productivity. Networks Plus is a proud Microsoft partner, and helps businesses of all sizes set up their Microsoft 365 suites. We provide subscription options on a monthly basis, help with full implementation of the suite, and ensure the products are working.

We also provide a third-party backup service, another fail-safe in addition to the redundancies Microsoft has in place to prevent unintended loss of data: files, emails, contacts, and other vital business information. Microsoft can protect against data loss to an extent, but for user-end error such as deletion or corruption of files or contacts, data recovery is more difficult without additional backup measures in place.

Networks Plus is the partner you need to keep your business productive and secure. Call to find out how we can help you.

Keeping Your Information Safe: WiFi Tips for Secure Remote Work

By: Jerry Horton, Technology Director

Having WiFi at your house makes the work at home life many of us are living right now more convenient than days of ethernet or–perish the thought–dial-up. But WiFi by its very nature comes with its own security risks. Make sure your work is secure by practicing safe WiFi usage.

Understanding WiFi

A WiFi network connects devices together using radio waves, as opposed to a physical medium such as cable or fiber. Whereas fiber is immune to hacking (outside of physically splicing a device into the fiber strand), WiFi is comparably easy to hack because it’s a radio transmission designed to remotely connect multiple devices simultaneously. Once someone is “inside” the network, it becomes easy to gain access to any equipment sharing that network – allowing hackers to control devices, steal data, and implant viruses where and how they see fit.

A Cautionary Tale

In October 2016, the entire Eastern seaboard lost internet for 16 hours in what is called a distributed denial of service attack, which disrupts service by consuming all available bandwidth to knock users offline. Called the Mirai botnet, the attack was initially designed by an undergraduate student at Rutgers trying to profit off of Minecraft players. The botnet–somewhat more successfully than anticipated–implanted malware in all manner of wireless devices it encountered and proceeded to transmit and clog traffic. Any unsecured devices are susceptible to this kind of compromise.

Methods of Securing WiFi

You may be familiar with networks using open authentication. As the name implies, this method allows a device to join a network as soon as it sees the SSID – Station Set Identifier without requiring a password. 

Another method is WEP – Wired Equivalence Privacy – which has somewhat fallen out of favor as it offers minimal security, but is still available on most routers. WPA – WiFi Protected Access – encrypts traffic, making it a bit more secure than WEP.

WPA2 is the best WiFi option because it uses algorithms and advanced encryption systems to make traffic on the network harder to infiltrate and disrupt. Don’t worry if you feel like you’re floating in alphabet soup–we nerds love our acronyms.

Getting to Work

Cyber criminals, like most criminals, are looking for low hanging fruit. If you’re working remotely with access to sensitive information, don’t use an open public network, because these are highly unsecured. 

Disabling automatic connections to WiFi on your devices will give you more control over what networks they access. Always use a VPN – Virtual Private Network – when connecting to a business network from any remote location such as your local coffee shop. Your IT team should ensure you have this precaution in place.

Never operate as an administrator of your device when joining a business network remotely; use personal user credentials with lower clearance levels to limit the information available to potential hackers, and encrypt any files stored locally on the device. 

When securing your personal WiFi network, use WPA2 and a long, unique password. If you’re not tech savvy, not to worry; router manufacturers are making your life easier with prebuilt passwords at different security levels. Visit the router manufacturer’s website for directions on how to make security changes; most devices are managed from a web app where you can personalize your network settings.

Tips from the Experts

For personal devices, we recommend turning on your local firewall, installing an anti-malware program, and investing in a VPN software and network. When browsing the web, if a site offers multifactor authentication, turn it on. 

Multifactor authentication consists of one of four things – something you know (password or PIN), something you have (token), something you are (biometrics), or somewhere you are (geolocation). And of course, never give out your account passwords to anyone, including (anyone claiming to be) IT personnel – anything they need to access, they can access without asking your credentials.

Wrapping it up

Without a doubt, WiFi makes our lives easier, providing connectivity without cables in almost every home, business, and point of interest, but it is not without security flaws. It is up to you to make sure you are maintaining good cybersecurity practices by using WPA2, personal firewalls, good anti-malware, multi-factor authentication, and a VPN whenever it is possible.

Stay safe and healthy!

To Cloud or Not To Cloud?

To Cloud or Not to Cloud? That is the question!

Download Jerry’s latest white paper here and learn about different cloud models. Is on-premise, hybrid, or Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) right for your business?

Cloud White Paper

Communication and Collaboration using VoIP

By: Kurt Sack, VoIP Technician

Landline phone systems haven’t only become a thing of the past in our homes. More and more companies are modernizing their communications technology too. With the growing use of cell phones and the greater speed and reliability of the internet, businesses across the world are taking advantage of Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP).

It has also become very apparent amidst the COVID-19 epidemic that companies with a VoIP solution in place had more flexibility in moving employees to work remotely and put call menus in place to streamline customer calls.

What is VoIP?

VoIP is a type of hardware and software that allows the use of a high-speed Internet connection to communicate voice, video, and data. It turns analog data (i.e. your voice) into packets of digital data, which can then be transmitted through internet cable lines.

As a business communications tool, VoIP can be a cost-effective way to encourage collaboration within an organization, as well as with customers and clients. Through a wide range of applications, VoIP also enhances the collaboration experience between employees and clients with tools that help manage projects, as well as facilitate mobile communication. Capabilities can include virtual call centers, auto attendants and more, allowing businesses to flex big communications power.

Virtual PBX on the cloud

Networks Plus is a leading provider of VoIP services for businesses. We use a cloud-based system called Virtual PBX, also known as a hosted VoIP or hosted private branch exchange (HPBX), that is accessible over a network in the cloud. By utilizing a hosted system, companies experience savings through the elimination of installation, operation, software, hardware, and maintenance costs.

More than one-third of businesses today – large and small – are using a VoIP phone system. In recent years, Networks Plus has received a growing number of requests for VoIP and we expect about half of all businesses will make the switch to some sort of VoIP or HPBX phone system over the next five years.

When switching to HPBX, the business leases or buys the phones and pays for their internet connection.

HPBX allows multiple call appearances on one line. Each individual phone–or seat–has the ability to host up to three calls at one time. The phone can be located anywhere there is an internet connection, which allows transferred calls and voicemail. Each phone has a seat charge.

Networks Plus Basic Seat

  • For breakrooms and spaces where there is not always a user present
  • No voicemail
  • Can only take or place calls

Networks Plus Standard Level Seat

  • Includes voicemail
  • Includes Find Me/ Follow Me (call forwarding)
    • Set your desk phone to ring a certain number of times before the call is automatically transferred to a mobile phone – beneficial when in and out of the office frequently
  • Ability to have voicemails sent in an email as a .wav file, allowing you to get them wherever you are.

Networks Plus Premium Seat

  • Mobile phone or desktop computer can become your phone by downloading our softphone app
  • Turns your device into an IP based phone
  • Allows for continued connection to the system – ability to transfer calls, park, etc.

Benefits of Networks Plus HPBX

  • No fly-by-night 3rd party solution here. Networks Plus HPBX switch is owned and operated by our parent company, Blue Valley Technologies, who has been in the telecommunications business since 1956.
  • Lower setup and maintenance costs than traditional phone lines
  • Free long-distance calls
    • Note: There is an additional charge for international calls
  • Easier to install, configure, and maintain
  • Highly scalable technology, with intuitive remote work capabilities
  • Adapter available for fax lines
  • Versatility of Features
  • Customer communication is enhanced
  • Increases collaboration between employees across multiple office locations

When VoIP services first rolled out, one of the greatest disadvantages was the requirement of a reliable internet connection. Today, most locations have a fast and stable internet, making VoIP a more popular option. About 90% of Networks Plus customers find our Virtual PBX to be a good solution. There are, however, some instances in which we would not recommend using a HPBX.

Those include businesses where:
  • There is not reliable Internet service
  • It’s not feasible to rewire
  • There is a four-pair wire, which was category 3 or lower. VoIP requires an eight pair conductor wire.
  • There are no internet jacks or internet wiring in the areas you want your phones

You also want to consider security when considering VoIP. Any time your business connects to the internet, there is risk involved, however secure encryption can protect your voice data. Networks Plus has a team of cyber security experts to ensure your data is safe.

10 Virtual Experiences to Enjoy with Your Family

By: Angie Armstrong, Director of Marketing & Business Development

In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Networks Plus team has been walking the ‘social distancing’ walk of working from home, home schooling our children, and keeping everyone entertained while staying at home. Of course, this is all on top of keeping our clients connected and running smoothly!

So, while we are feeling the same levels of stress as the rest of society, we thought we would share a bit of the fun times we have had during this era of social distancing. And what better topic for a group of technology folks than to share some great virtual experiences we’ve had over the last 30 days!

Below, some of our team members share the virtual experiences they’ve enjoyed.

Google Earth

Submitted by Candace Wright, CEO
For the world traveler: Google Earth offers endless 3D views and voyages. Simply go to earth.google.com to spend hours exploring the world from your own home. Grab your favorite drink and let this feel like a mini vacation.  

NordicTrack with iFit

Submitted by Jake Schulte, IT Manager
For the biking fanatic: Jake and his wife recommend hitting the virtual trails with NordicTrack Studio Bike with an iFit subscription. They enjoy biking all around the world virtually without leaving their home.

Louvre Museum

Submitted by Adam Boyle, Business Consultant
For the art enthusiast: Adam recommends taking an online virtual tour at the well-known Louvre museum in Paris. His favorite has been the “Egyptian Antiquities” tour. Check it out here.

Field Trip Penguins

Submitted by Kelly Fleming, Office Administrator
For, well, everyone: Who doesn’t enjoy watching a penguin visit other animals at an aquarium? This link and several others are featured on Chicago Tribune’s article “Field Trip Penguins and More: 5 Visits to Chicago Zoos, Museums During the Coronavirus Pandemic”.

Virtual Garden Tours

Submitted by Angie Armstrong, Marketing & Business Development Director
For the garden devotee: While Angie hasn’t quite developed her green thumb just yet, she has been audience to a few virtual garden tours as she studies how to get said thumb developed. She recommends this site that features “8 Stunning Virtual Garden Tours Around the World”.

Eagle Cams

Submitted by Kelly Gillespie, Business Consultant
For the outdoorsman: Kelly, a true outdoorsman himself, has been spending most of his free time mushroom hunting as of late. But, when stuck inside due to rain, he has been enjoying the bald eagle cams featured on hdontap.com. He tells us to be sure to check in on “Glenda and Grant Bald Eagles” in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee as they have a new fuzzy white chick they are caring for!

Virtual Disney World

Submitted by Brad Jepsen, Master IT Engineer
For the adrenaline junkie: Brad and his family have enjoyed taking rides at Virtual Disney World during their quarantine. You can check it out here.

Roblox

Submitted by Paul Facey, Advanced IT Technician
For the wannabe farmer: Paul’s family has had quite the adventure raising chickens on ROBLOX. Unfortunately, they reported in that their flock had been turned into chicken nuggets and stolen by another player, which had all of us in stitches!

Sea Monsters Roller Coaster Ride

Submitted by Katy Schoening, IT Technician
For the adventure seeker: It’s no surprise that our adventurous Katy would enjoy this roller coaster ride. This 360-degree experience on YouTube is bound to scare your socks off!

San Diego Zoo & Story Time

Submitted by RJ O’Donnell, Advanced IT Technician
For the whole family: RJ and his young daughter have enjoyed many zoo cams, but highly recommend the San Diego Zoo cam. This one has become their favorite because of the multiple cameras and variety of animals.

He also wanted to share that since his daughter is a huge fan of Disney’s, Frozen, she also recommends attending story time with Josh Gad, the voice of Olaf, on Twitter.

From all of us at Networks Plus, we wish you all much health and happiness as we navigate through these trying times.

Stay safe. Stay healthy. Stay connected.

Webinar Replay: Important Considerations & Communication Tools for Remote Workers

Did you. miss our latest webinar? You can find our recording here on Important Considerations & Communication Tools for Remote Workers.

Don’t Get Hacked at Home: A Guide to Secure Remote Work

By: Adam Boyle, Business Consultant

The COVID-19 pandemic has many of us working from home offices. While it’s a critical step for keeping ourselves and others safe from contracting and spreading the novel coronavirus, cybercriminals look for any way to exploit weaknesses in systems. Protect your computer, your data, and your company from cyberthreats by taking precautions and employing security best practices while working remotely.

Hackers play on fear

Cyber criminals use fear tactics to try to manipulate you into taking an action that grants them access or information they can exploit. Mounting uncertainties and the unknowns about the COVID-19 pandemic typify the exact scenario hackers will use to send phishing or spearphishing emails.

Even though your environment is different, take the same precautions you would at the office about opening emails, clicking links, and downloading files. Remember that hackers use a sense of urgency to pressure you to take an action. Cybersecurity is a frame of mind, and the most powerful thing you can do is slow down and think. Call up a co-worker to verify a strange email or request. Be suspicious of unexpected emails. Double-check with the source before downloading any attachments.

Additionally, hackers are designing malicious websites disguised as information sources about the spread of the coronavirus. Some sites are showing up on Facebook designed as sophisticated live feed maps of the spread of the disease with real-time updates. But the sites are embedded with malware, which will slow your computer.

Use verified sources

Use trusted sources. Don’t click on Facebook links. Stick with verified sources like government and news channels. A few verified sources include:

  • Kansas Department of Health and Environment
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
  • World Health Organization

We are all under higher levels of stress than normal. Be aware that stress can make us more vulnerable to do things we wouldn’t normally do. Having awareness and taking precautions will go a long way toward keeping you safe.

The best way to access the server at the office while working from home is by a virtual private network, or VPN. It passes through your company firewall with a secure tunnel that lets you work with files and systems on your workstation at the office just like you were there.

At Networks Plus, we use and trust LogMeIn as a secure remote access. It allows users to securely access their computer desktop as if they were sitting in front of it. Users can store, share, and collaborate on files with one click, and even print documents from a remote computer to the nearest printer.

Keep software and applications up to date

Hackers not only exploit fear, they exploit system weaknesses. Make sure your computer is safe and secure by updating all operating systems, applications, and software when patches are released.

Set updates to happen at night so they don’t interrupt your workflow. Just don’t forget to install them.

Your security and firewall should work from anywhere

Computers taken off premise to a home office don’t have to adhere to firewall rules set up at the office, because those rules are bound geographically. Setting up managed DNS (domain name system) on work computers makes the rules specific to the device, and they apply no matter the location of the computer.

Managed DNS works by redirecting web traffic through a cloud-based, DNS security solution. That means businesses can enforce the same web access policies and regulatory compliance when employees are working remotely. Even better, it stops the vast majority of threats before they come near the network or endpoints. At Networks Plus, we recommend Webroot Managed DNS.

Consider new protection measures

There are promising new cyber security developments called real time threat detection that go a long way toward keeping users safe from computer malware, ransomware, viruses, hacking, and all kinds of systems exploitation.

Real time threat detection works by using artificial intelligence to detect user signatures. The threat detection monitors how employees use their machines on a daily basis. If the program detects something suspicious or unusual, it will notice the anomaly and send an alert to the monitoring team so threats can be stopped in real time.

For example, if an employee who uses their computer on a daily basis but never accesses the security feature suddenly goes in and starts making advanced changes, real time threat detection would trigger an alert.

Real time threat detection also scans PDF files for malicious content before the user opens them. It’s the next generation of antivirus software, and we expect it to grow in usage quickly. At Networks Plus, we recommend a program called Sentinel One real time threat detection software.

Call Networks Plus for help

Cybercriminals never back off, even when the world is in crisis. Don’t let the transition to remote work put your systems at risk. Give us a call and let us help you keep your systems and business safe.

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