Most tech companies, such as Microsoft, collect certain information about their users so they can provide better, more personalized experiences. However, these companies also often use the data they gather for advertising purposes. The good thing is that as a Microsoft user, you have a fair amount of control over your own privacy. In fact, you can disable Windows 10’s intrusive privacy settings — here’s how.

Turn personalized advertising off

Windows 10 assigns each user an “advertising ID” that is used for ad personalization based on your recent browsing history. If you’d rather see generic ads targeted to you based on demographics rather than your ID, we recommend turning this feature off. Here’s how to do it:

  1. Click on the search box at the bottom left of your screen. If your search bar is hidden, right-click the taskbar and select Search > Show search box.
  2. Next, type in “Privacy,” then click on Privacy Settings and select General.
  3. Turn off the option that states “Let apps use advertising ID to make ads more interesting to you based on your app activity.”
  4. Lastly, open your web browser and go to this link. Once there, turn off the “Personalized ads wherever I use my Microsoft account” and “Personalized ads in this browser” options.

Following these steps resets your ad ID, letting you surf the web without targeted advertisements.

Disable Cortana

Voice-controlled digital assistants have become big business. Microsoft aims to capitalize on this market with Cortana, an incredibly resourceful built-in assistant that allows you to quickly set reminders, schedule events, and send emails, among many other intuitive features. However, the way it uses the information it collects can become overbearing at times. Here’s how to disable Cortana:

  1. Type “Task Manager” in the search box, or use the keyboard shortcut Ctrl + Shift + Esc.
  2. In Task Manager, click the Startup tab and find Cortana in the list of programs.
  3. Right-click the row and click Disable.
  4. Open the Start menu, then find Cortana under All Apps.
  5. Right-click on Cortana, select More, and click on App settings.
  6. Toggle the switch under “Runs at log-in.”

Once disabled, the Cortana option disappears and you’re now left with just a search bar, which you can use to search for things online or on your desktop.

Stop peer-to-peer file sharing

With peer-to-peer or P2P file sharing enabled, Windows 10 shares downloaded updates to your PC with other Windows 10 users in the same network by default. This helps other users update their systems faster and speeds up your upgrade downloads. However, if you are unhappy with your files being used by other users, you can turn P2P sharing off.

  1. Click the Windows icon and head over to Settings.
  2. Click on Update and Security then choose Delivery Optimization from the sidebar.
  3. Under “Allow downloads from other PCs,” switch the toggle to “Off.”

If you want to share your files with PCs on your in-house network only, leave this option on and select the option that says “PCs on my local network.” For more detailed instructions on how to stop P2P updates, click here.

Blunt Microsoft’s Edge

Microsoft Edge is chock-full of features — such as Cortana Integration and typing prediction — that send data back to Microsoft. To turn off these intrusive functionalities, open Edge and click on the three dots in the far right corner.

Then, click on Settings > Cookies and site permissions. There you have the option to disable a bunch of settings, such as those related to ads, automatic downloads, and location sharing.

These simple security tips will stop Microsoft from tracking your online activities for good. Don’t hesitate to contact us today for all matters security-related.

If you are looking for an expert to help you find the best solutions for your business talk to GCInfotech about a free technology assessment

Published with consideration from TechAdvisory.org SOURCE

Like it or not, there will come a time when your once lightning-fast Mac computer can no longer meet modern computing demands. When this happens, you’ll face the following dilemma: should you stick to your current Mac computer or purchase a new one? To help you make this decision, we’ve listed several signs you need to watch out for.

Your device can’t support the latest macOS version

Apple releases a new version of macOS every September or October. Typically, Mac models from the past several years are supported. So if your device can’t update to the latest version, it’s a sign that you need to have your Mac replaced.

The latest macOS version that’s currently in public beta is 12 Monterey. Here are the following Mac models that support the update:

  • MacBook (early 2016 and later)
  • MacBook Air (early 2015 and later)
  • MacBook Pro (early 2015 and later)
  • iMac (late 2015 and later)
  • iMac Pro (2017 and later)
  • Mac Pro (late 2013 and later)
  • Mac mini (late 2014 and later)

This means that devices made earlier than those in the list cannot install macOS Monterey. For instance, a 2010 Macbook Pro running Mac OS X Lion cannot support the upcoming version of macOS. Your device is likely obsolete, and while you can keep on using it as usual, you won’t get any new features and its slow performance may cause productivity issues.

You’ve run out of free space

File sizes are constantly growing, which means that they are bound to take up more space in computer hard drives. If your Mac only has 128 or 256 GB of storage space, you’ll find yourself freeing up space for new files often. You have the option to purchase flash drives or external hard drives, but these aren’t built into your system, so the chances of losing them are high.

It’s therefore more ideal to purchase a new Mac instead. Newer versions offer as much as 4TB of storage, which will allow you to store more files in the long run.

Your Mac has poor specs

If frozen screens, slow-loading apps, and poor battery life are already a part of your typical day while using your Mac, then it might be time to replace it.

For instance, the performance of a hard disk drive (HDD) slows down with age, which could cause your computer to load files and programs sluggishly. The same principle applies to your battery. You may experience short standby and usage times, or the device could suddenly turn off. There’s the option of plugging your device into an outlet while using it, but this sacrifices portability.

To mitigate these issues, you can add more random access memory (RAM), swap out the HDD, or replace the battery. It’s important to note that some components are soldered to the motherboard, so replacing them may not be an option. The money you would spend on upgrading your Mac would be better put toward a new machine, which will not only be faster, but also much more reliable.

Your Mac’s hardware is damaged

You need to replace your Mac if it has suffered serious physical damage. This could range from a broken display, damaged hard drives, missing keyboard keys, or nonfunctioning USB and charging ports.

It’s easy to have your device fixed, but it’s not the most financially sound decision to invest money in an obsolete machine when you can buy a new one that will last longer. Also, small issues can become major problems. Let’s say you’re using your Mac with a heavily cracked screen. The device might be usable for a while, but the display might stop functioning anytime, which is a major hindrance if you’re in the middle of something important.

If problems on your Mac are already affecting your productivity, consider replacing it with a newer version that performs much better and has no hardware damage.

You’re experiencing software issues

An outdated Mac can experience software problems such as unresponsive apps, visual glitches, and random shutdowns. If your Mac is running an older version of macOS, it might run into software compatibility issues. For instance, a program may refuse to run because your operating system is outdated.

You can usually fix these problems by freeing up your RAM or storage space. Reinstalling macOS is also a good option. If the problems persist, however, you should consider investing in a new Mac.

It’s important to have a Mac that not only performs well, but also helps you become more productive and efficient. If you want to learn more about replacing your Mac, drop our experts a line today and we’ll be in touch.

If you are looking for an expert to help you find the best solutions for your business talk to GCInfotech about a free technology assessment

Published with consideration from TechAdvisory.org SOURCE

Apple security threats

The hearsay that Macs cannot be infected by viruses or malware couldn’t be further from the truth. There are plenty of cyberthreats that pose risks to Macs, so if you’re a Mac user, you should prioritize your device’s security. The good news is that protecting your Mac is simple and easy. Just follow these steps.

Check your privacy settings

Make sure that your Mac settings are set up properly to keep your data safe. Manage the information your Mac makes available across the internet or on a network by going to Apple menu System Preferences Security & Privacy Privacy. From there, you can choose which information to share and with whom. For example, you can specify which apps are allowed to see personal information, such as your location, contacts, photos, or music.

Take advantage of the firewall

A firewall protects your Mac from unwanted contact initiated by other computers on a network or the internet. It protects your computer by allowing only authorized services and apps to communicate with your Mac, so be sure to enable macOS’s built-in firewall.

To do so, just go to Apple menu System Preferences Security & Privacy Privacy then, click Firewall. If the padlock icon at the bottom left is locked, click it and key in your username and password. Enable the firewall by clicking Turn On Firewall.

To modify Firewall settings, click on Firewall Options… just below the “Turn Off Firewall” button. You will find a list of services and apps that are allowed to receive inbound connections. If you want to add an app or service to the list, just click the “+” button below the list itself. However, we recommend keeping this list as short as possible, as the apps listed can be exploited by cybercriminals.

Another useful feature to enable is stealth mode. This option will make your Mac more difficult to find, thus keeping hackers and malware at bay. For instance, if you are in a coffee shop and connected to its unsecured Wi-Fi, enabling stealth mode will make your Mac invisible on that public network. To turn on this feature, just tick the box next to “Enable stealth mode” in Firewall Options. A dialog box will pop up, and you can click on the “Enable Stealth Mode” button.

Set up a firmware password

Every new Mac today has the FileVault encryption automatically enabled. This means that your device already encrypts the hard drive by default, and the only way your data can be accessed is by logging in. Keep in mind, though, that this feature won’t necessarily save your account in case someone reinstalls the operating system or uses a memory stick to boot the Mac and remove all data from your hard disk.

To increase protection, set up a firmware password. Do this by restarting your computer, then pressing and holding down Cmd+R before the Apple logo shows up on the screen. You can let go of the keys once the progress bar pops up.

When the utilities window appears, click on Utilities in the menu bar, then choose Startup Security Utility or Firmware Password Utility. Click on Turn On Firmware Password… and simply follow the succeeding instructions.

Finally, quit the utilities window, then choose Apple menu Restart. Make sure to never forget or misplace your firmware password, because only Apple technicians can recover it.

Ensure that your confidential data remains private by performing minor tweaks on your Mac’s system settings. It takes only a few minutes to ensure lasting online protection. If setting up a firewall or firmware password sounds a little too advanced for you, or if you need to set up more advanced defenses, don’t hesitate to get in touch with our experts.

To learn more about how to safeguard your business, or if you are looking for an expert to help you find the best solutions for your business talk to GCInfotech about a free technology assessment.

Published with consideration from TechAdvisory.org SOURCE

Your company’s servers will eventually need to be replaced. To conserve and maximize your resources, you need to anticipate the best time to do this, as well as consider alternatives that offer the same — if not better — outcomes for your business.

When do my servers need to be replaced?

This is a difficult question, but there are two factors you will want to consider: age and performance. The useful life of a server is around three years. While it’s not unheard of for servers to function properly beyond year three, relying on them past this point can be risky, as hardware problems may occur more often. This means you will have to deal with costly repairs and possible sudden downtime.

In terms of performance, it doesn’t make sense to keep your servers around until year three if they are slow and too costly to maintain. It’s important to compare how much money you will lose in repairs and downtime versus the cost of buying new hardware.

Do I have an alternative to buying new servers?

Believe it or not, the answer to your server problems might not necessarily be purchasing more physical servers. One solution is to embrace server virtualization. This process allows your servers to be stored and maintained off-site, with all your resources being delivered to your office via the internet.

There are two notable benefits of virtualizing your servers. First, you don’t have to spend a ton of money on new equipment. Second, virtualization is a scalable technology, meaning you only pay for the data capacity you use. For instance, you can have just two and a half servers, if that’s all your business needs. This is in contrast to having physical equipment, which would require your business to either make do with two servers or splurge and buy a third one even if you didn’t need all of that space.

Of course, there are a few things you need to consider before making the switch to server virtualization. One of the biggest issues is security. Ask yourself if you feel comfortable keeping all of your data off-site. While this isn’t a concern for some companies, others may not see this as palatable. There are several workarounds to this issue, including the hybrid option where you keep sensitive data on-site and everything else off-site.

Can I do anything to prevent a full-scale server replacement?

Yes. It’s certainly possible for you to buy some time and give your current servers additional life, but these are short-term fixes, not long-term solutions. Server upgrades are a good place to start if your servers are less than three years old but are performing poorly. Installing additional CPUs or memory may increase server performance at a fraction of the cost of buying new servers.

It’s also possible to extend the life of servers that may have four or five years of wear-and-tear on them via repurposing. Instead of swapping out all of your servers, use the old ones for non-critical processes and purchase new ones to handle critical workloads. This will help you get a better ROI on your technology while avoiding a wholesale hardware purchase, which could cripple your budget.

If you have any questions about your servers and how you can increase their performance, get in touch with us today. We can help you procure new hardware or explore other alternatives such as server virtualization.

To learn more about how to safeguard your business, or if you are looking for an expert to help you find the best solutions for your business talk to GCInfotech about a free technology assessment.

Published with consideration from TechAdvisory.org SOURCE

Windows 10 features

Windows is the most popular operating system in history, but despite its popularity, many users still do not know about all of its functionalities. Here are some Windows 10 features from the latest update that you might have missed.

Night light

This feature lets you reduce the amount of blue light emitted from your screen, which helps reduce eye strain and boost sleep efficiency. Night Light is disabled by default, so you need to enable it by following these steps:

  1. Click the Start Menu.
  2. Open the Settings app (or press the Windows key + I to quickly open Settings).
  3. Select the System icon followed by the Display option in the left-hand pane.
  4. Set Night light to “On” or “Off.”

Taskbar pin

Opening browsers and typing in web addresses are simple tasks as they were, but Windows 10’s taskbar pin feature makes it even easier than before. This is an essential shortcut for anyone who relies on specific web-based apps such as email or company intranets. Simply right click on the app or document you wish to gain easy access to and choose “Pin to Taskbar”.

Organize your open windows

Do you struggle to organize a screen cluttered with open windows? Holding the Windows key and pressing an arrow should solve most of your problems:

  1. Windows key + Left – Resize the current window’s width to half the size of the screen and align it to the left
  2. Windows key + Right – Resize the current window’s width to half the size of the screen and align it to the right
  3. Windows key + Up – Maximize the current window to fit the entire screen
  4. Windows key + Down – Downsize the current window

When none of those keys are enough to set you straight, holding the Windows key and pressing the Tab button will show you all the apps you currently have open.

Focus Assist

Notifications are frustratingly distracting. Windows 10’s Focus Assist feature helps you tackle this issue by customizing which contacts and applications can interrupt you during predetermined periods of time. Try it out by:

  1. Opening the Settings window
  2. Clicking the System icon
  3. Selecting Focus Assist from the left-hand pane
  4. Adjusting the notifications settings based on your preference

If you wish to disable Focus Assist and receive all notifications, simply click Off.

These are just a few of our favorites. For more software and productivity recommendations, give our experts a call today.

If you are looking for an expert to help you find the best solutions for your business talk to GCInfotech about a free technology assessment

Published with consideration from TechAdvisory.org SOURCE

Managed IT Services

Today’s companies need technology to function. Without it, businesses cannot compete and succeed. But with technology comes the ever-constant threat of hackers and cybercriminals. That’s why small- and mid-sized businesses need to protect themselves with robust cybersecurity solutions managed by IT professionals.

The numbers

According to the Ponemon Institute’s 2019 State of Cybersecurity in Small and Medium-Sized Businesses (SMBs) survey, cyberattacks have increased dramatically. Here in the United States, 76% of companies were attacked in 2019, a significant leap from 55% in 2016. Sixty-nine percent of US businesses reported data breaches in 2019, up from 50% in 2016.

The financial consequences have also increased considerably. The average cost spent by companies because of damage to or theft of IT assets and infrastructure increased from $1.03 million in 2017 to $1.2 million in 2019. Costs due to disruption to normal operations increased from an average of $1.21 million in 2017 to an average of $1.9 million in 2019.

The attacks

Globally, the most common forms of attack on SMBs are those that rely on deception: phishing (57%), stolen or compromised devices (33%), and credential theft (30%). Worse, cybercriminals are targeting SMBs more, with reported attacks having increased from 60% in 2017 to 69% in 2019.

Why managed services?

Partnering with MSPs is the most effective way to prevent attacks and protect your business from malicious threats. MSPs offer a full range of proactive IT support that focuses on advanced security, such as around-the-clock monitoring, data encryption and backup, real-time threat prevention and elimination, network and firewall protection, security awareness training, and more.

And because managed services are designed to identify and fix weak spots in your IT infrastructure, you’ll optimize the digital backbone of your business processes. You’ll have faster network performance, a solid business continuity and disaster recovery strategy, and minimal downtime. One of the best things about managed services is that you get a dedicated team of IT professionals ready to assist you for any technology problems you may encounter. This is much more effective and budget-friendly than having in-house personnel handling all your IT issues.

Being proactive when it comes to cybersecurity is the only way to protect what you’ve worked hard to build. If you’d like to know more about how managed services can benefit your business, just give us a call — we’re sure to help.

To learn more about how to safeguard your business, or if you are looking for an expert to help you find the best solutions for your business talk to GCInfotech about a free technology assessment.

Published with consideration from smallbiztechnology.com  SOURCE

The hacker’s message is urgent and aimed directly at you. We’ll teach you how to keep from getting duped.

Everyone has access to something a hacker wants. To get it, hackers might aim a targeted attack right at you. The goal might be stealing customer data that’s useful for identity theft, your company’s intellectual property or even your personal income data. The latter could help hackers steal your tax refund or file for unemployment benefits in your name.

Targeted attacks, also called spear-phishing, aim to trick you into handing over login credentials or downloading malicious software. That’s what happened at Twitter in July, where the company says hackers targeted employees on their phones. Spear-phishing attacks also often take place over email. Hackers usually send targets an “urgent” message and include credible-sounding information specific to you, like something that could have come from your own tax return, social media account or credit card bill. These scams aim to override any red flags you might notice about the email with details that make the sender sound legitimate.

Despite corporate training and stern warnings to be careful who you give your password to, people do fall for these tricks. In addition to the Twitter fiasco, there was the release of Hillary Clinton campaign chair John Podesta’s emails, including his technique for making risotto (hint: keep stirring!). Podesta reportedly entered his personal username and password into a fake form designed by hackers specifically to capture his credentials.

Another consequence of falling for a spear-phishing scam could be downloading malicious software, like ransomware. You could also be convinced to wire money to a cybercriminal’s account. So how do you avoid falling for a spear-phishing scam? By taking these security habits to heart.

Know the basic signs of phishing scams

Phishing emails, texts and phone calls try to trick you into visiting a malicious website, handing over a password or downloading a file. This works in email attacks because people often spend the whole day at work clicking on links and downloading files as part of their jobs. Hackers know this and try to take advantage of your propensity to click without thinking.

Despite corporate training and stern warnings to be careful who you give your password to, people do fall for these tricks. In addition to the Twitter fiasco, there was the release of Hillary Clinton campaign chair John Podesta’s emails, including his technique for making risotto (hint: keep stirring!). Podesta reportedly entered his personal username and password into a fake form designed by hackers specifically to capture his credentials.

Another consequence of falling for a spear-phishing scam could be downloading malicious software, like ransomware. You could also be convinced to wire money to a cybercriminal’s account. So how do you avoid falling for a spear-phishing scam? By taking these security habits to heart.

Know the basic signs of phishing scams

Phishing emails, texts and phone calls try to trick you into visiting a malicious website, handing over a password or downloading a file. This works in email attacks because people often spend the whole day at work clicking on links and downloading files as part of their jobs. Hackers know this and try to take advantage of your propensity to click without thinking.

Despite corporate training and stern warnings to be careful who you give your password to, people do fall for these tricks. In addition to the Twitter fiasco, there was the release of Hillary Clinton campaign chair John Podesta’s emails, including his technique for making risotto (hint: keep stirring!). Podesta reportedly entered his personal username and password into a fake form designed by hackers specifically to capture his credentials.

Another consequence of falling for a spear-phishing scam could be downloading malicious software, like ransomware. You could also be convinced to wire money to a cybercriminal’s account. So how do you avoid falling for a spear-phishing scam? By taking these security habits to heart.

Know the basic signs of phishing scams

Phishing emails, texts and phone calls try to trick you into visiting a malicious website, handing over a password or downloading a file. This works in email attacks because people often spend the whole day at work clicking on links and downloading files as part of their jobs. Hackers know this and try to take advantage of your propensity to click without thinking.

Because spear-phishing scams can be so tricky, there’s an extra layer of caution you should apply before acting on a request that comes over email or the phone. The most important of these extra steps: guard your password. Never follow a link from your email to a website and then enter your account password. Never give your password to anyone over the phone.

Banks, email providers and social media platforms often make it policy to never ask for your password in an email or phone call. Instead, you can go to the company’s website in your browser and log in there. You can also dial back to the company’s call customer service department to see if the request is legit. Most financial institutions, like your bank, will send secure messages through a separate inbox you can access only after you’ve logged onto the website.

Beat phishing by calling the sender

If someone sends you something “important” to download, asks you to reset your account passwords or requests that you send a money order from company accounts, call the sender of the message — like your boss, your bank or other financial institution, or the IRS — and make sure they really sent it to you.

If the request came by phone call, you can still pause and double check. For example, if someone says they’re calling from your bank, you can tell the caller you’re going to hang up and call back on the company’s main customer service line.

A phishing message will often try to make the request seem incredibly urgent, so you might not feel inclined to add an extra step by calling the sender to double-check. For example, an email might say that your account has been compromised and you need to reset your password ASAP, or that your account will expire unless you act by the end of the day.

Because spear-phishing scams can be so tricky, there’s an extra layer of caution you should apply before acting on a request that comes over email or the phone. The most important of these extra steps: guard your password. Never follow a link from your email to a website and then enter your account password. Never give your password to anyone over the phone.

Banks, email providers and social media platforms often make it policy to never ask for your password in an email or phone call. Instead, you can go to the company’s website in your browser and log in there. You can also dial back to the company’s call customer service department to see if the request is legit. Most financial institutions, like your bank, will send secure messages through a separate inbox you can access only after you’ve logged onto the website.

Beat phishing by calling the sender

If someone sends you something “important” to download, asks you to reset your account passwords or requests that you send a money order from company accounts, call the sender of the message — like your boss, your bank or other financial institution, or the IRS — and make sure they really sent it to you.

If the request came by phone call, you can still pause and double check. For example, if someone says they’re calling from your bank, you can tell the caller you’re going to hang up and call back on the company’s main customer service line.

A phishing message will often try to make the request seem incredibly urgent, so you might not feel inclined to add an extra step by calling the sender to double-check. For example, an email might say that your account has been compromised and you need to reset your password ASAP, or that your account will expire unless you act by the end of the day.

To learn more about how to safeguard your business, or if you are looking for an expert to help you find the best solutions for your business talk to GCInfotech about a free technology assessment.

Published with consideration from CNET.com  SOURCE

Outlook

Microsoft Outlook comes with a raft of features that make managing your busy schedule and boosting your productivity easier. If you find Outlook’s myriad capabilities a little overwhelming, don’t worry — these tips and tricks will have you using Outlook like a pro in no time.

Organize your inbox

Is your Outlook inbox getting a little too cluttered for your liking? Use the Clean Up feature to tidy up your inbox.

From your inbox, click the Home tab and choose from one of three Clean Up options:

  • Clean Up Conversation – reviews an email thread or a conversation and deletes redundant messages
  • Clean Up Folder – reviews conversations in a selected folder and deletes redundant messages
  • Clean Up Folder & Subfolders – reviews all messages in a selected folder and any subfolders, and deletes redundant messages in all of them

Ignore conversations

Besides redundant messages, group conversations that aren’t relevant to you can clutter up your inbox. The Ignore button helps you organize your inbox and focus on relevant emails.

To activate this feature, select a message, then click Home > Ignore > Ignore Conversation. You can also do this by opening a message in a new window and clicking Ignore under the Delete function. You can easily revert this action by going to the Deleted Items folder and clicking Ignore > Stop Ignoring Conversation.

Send links to files

This function is especially useful when you need to send large files to your coworkers or clients. You can send a link to the file instead of the file itself as well as set permissions to allow recipients to edit and collaborate on linked files in real time.

To do this, upload the file you wish to send to OneDrive. Then from the message box, click Attach File > Browse web locations > OneDrive.

Schedule a Teams meeting

Teams is Microsoft’s unified communication and collaboration platform, and it includes the Outlook add-in. This feature allows you to set up Teams meetings directly from Outlook. It also lets you view, accept, or join meetings in either app.

To schedule a Teams meeting on Outlook, follow these steps:

  1. Switch to the calendar view on Outlook. Click the New Teams Meeting tab.
  2. Add individual participants or entire contact groups to the Required or Optional fields.
  3. Type in the topic, start time, and end time of the meeting. There’s no need to add the dial-in phone numbers and conferencing IDs to the invite, as Outlook does this automatically for you.
  4. Create a message inviting the recipients to the meeting, then click Send.

Tag contacts

To get the attention of a specific person in a group email or meeting invite, use the @Mention function. This works particularly well for emails sent to multiple recipients or if you want to convey the urgency of your message.

In the body of your email or invite message, type the @ symbol followed by the name of the person you want to tag (e.g., @johndoe). Doing so will highlight the name in the message and automatically add it to the To line of your message.

You can also search for messages you’re tagged in by selecting Filter Email from the Home tab, and then clicking Mentioned.

These are just some of the things you can do to improve your Outlook experience. For more on how to get the most out of Outlook and other Microsoft products, drop us a line today.

If you are looking for an expert to help you find the best solutions for your business talk to GCInfotech about a free technology assessment

Published with consideration from TechAdvisory.org SOURCE

Obsolete Firmware

Are you still hanging on to your old work computers since they “still work fine”? While they may still help you get the job done, their outdated firmware can make you vulnerable to security risks that can lead to major problems.

What is firmware?

Firmware is a basic type of software that is embedded into every piece of hardware. It controls the device it’s installed on, cannot be uninstalled or removed, and is only compatible with the make and model of the hardware it is installed on. Think of it like a translator between your stiff and unchanging hardware and your fluid and evolving software. For example, the firmware of a TV remote control processes the button presses and sends that data into a format that the TV can understand.

Why is firmware security important?

To clearly explain the importance of firmware security, let’s use the firmware installed in a router as an example.

When you buy a router and plug it in, its firmware allows it to connect devices to your wireless network with almost zero input from you. However, if the router manufacturer is outside of California, then they might still be using the same username and password for the same router model, if not for all router models. If you don’t change these default settings, you could be exposed to hackers.

Default usernames and passwords is an example of a known vulnerability, and firmware could have other vulnerabilities that cybercriminals could exploit. Black hat hackers could use these to spy on you, steal or corrupt your data, or even damage your systems. Unfortunately, firmware exploits are not rare occurrences. Not too long ago, a cybersecurity professional discovered that sending a 33-character text message to a router generated an SMS response that included the administrator username and password.

How do I protect myself?

The best way to defend yourself from firmware exploits is to immediately roll out firmware updates from the device’s manufacturer. With that said, you need to keep in mind that every manufacturer has different procedures for checking and updating firmware. For instance, if you have a D-Link router, typing “192.168.0.1” into a web browser will allow you to access its firmware and update process, assuming you have the username and password. If you’re unfamiliar with your router manufacturer’s procedures, you can type “[manufacturer name] router firmware update” on any search engine like Google.

But remember, routers are just one example of how firmware affects your cybersecurity posture. Hard drives, motherboards, and even mice and keyboards need to be checked as well. We understand this can be extremely tedious, and that’s why we highly recommend hiring an IT provider to take care of it for you. If you’re curious about what else we can do to help, give us a call today!

To learn more about how to safeguard your business, or if you are looking for an expert to help you find the best solutions for your business talk to GCInfotech about a free technology assessment.

Published with consideration from TechAdvisory.org SOURCE

Windows 10 PC

Is your computer taking a lot of time to perform tasks it used to finish within seconds? Just because your unit is slowing down doesn’t mean you’ll need to spend hundreds of dollars on a replacement. We’ve compiled four ways to speed up your Windows 10 computer for free:

Prevent programs from launching at startup

Windows makes certain programs readily available by loading them at startup. While Microsoft likely has good intentions for doing this, this auto-launch feature slows down your computer. To fix this issue, you’ll need to adjust your settings.

Open the Task Manager by pressing Ctrl+Shift+Esc to see the programs that launch during startup. On the startup tab, you can easily disable any programs you don’t want launching at startup, such as media players and optional accessories that don’t have to be active all the time. But to be on the safe side, keep essential apps, such as antivirus software, enabled.

Get rid of useless applications

Having too many programs installed on your computer uses up valuable memory and hard disk space. This slows down your computer and makes the machine work harder than necessary. Quickly uninstall programs you don’t need by following these steps:

  • Tap the Windows key on your keyboard and type “Add or remove programs” (this will show you all the apps stored in your computer).
  • A link to the system settings will appear. Click on the link.
  • Select the program/s you no longer want, and click Uninstall.

Once you do this, you’ll then be guided through several steps to complete the uninstallation process.

Organize your disks

It’s important to regularly clean out your computer of data you don’t need. Thankfully, Microsoft’s Disk Cleanup tool makes it easy to do so.

To find the tool, tap on the Windows button on your keyboard and type “Disk Cleanup.” If you click on the link, the tool will automatically find files that take up too much memory space, such as temporary Internet and system memory dump files. Just click OK to send these files to your Recycle Bin.

Turn off apps running in the background

You may not know it, but there are a lot of programs running in the background as you use your computer. Microsoft enabled their native universal apps to do this so you can quickly access their features. However, this also slows down your CPU. Disabling them will reduce the burden on your computer and speed it up.

To find out what programs are running in the background, press the Windows button on your keyboard and type “Background apps.” Find the programs you don’t need running and toggle the On-Off button.

By following these four steps, you’ll see a noticeable difference in the speed of your PC. If you want to learn how to optimize your Windows system further or need assistance with your other Microsoft products, give us a call.

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Published with consideration from TechAdvisory.org SOURCE