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 While they may still help you get the job done, their outdated firmware can make you vulnerable to security risks that can lead to major problems.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

Even before COVID-19, remote working was already quickly becoming the new normal. It took a pandemic to tip the scale, and now most jobs are being done from home. But it’s not always a smooth ride. There are many things that can cause productivity dips, one of them being limited internet bandwidth. How much bandwidth do you need to be able to work from home without lags or interruptions?

What is bandwidth?

Bandwidth refers to the maximum data transfer rate possible in a network or internet connection. It indicates the amount of data that can be sent over a connection in a given amount of time, and is usually expressed in bits per second (bps) or bytes per second (Bps).

Imagine two computers with the same internet speed at 100 megabit per second (Mbps): the first computer only has a 50 Mbps bandwidth, while the second one has 100 Mbps. If they were to download the same 500 Megabit (Mb) file, the first computer would be able to do it in 10 seconds, while the second one could do it in just five.

This is because the first computer’s bandwidth is capped at 50 Mbps — even if the internet was fast, the limit of transfer would still be low. Therefore, the higher the bandwidth, the more data can be sent over a connection, contributing to faster uploads and downloads, and overall better internet experience.

How much bandwidth do you need for remote working?

The answer to this question isn’t clear cut. The biggest considerations are the type of work that you do and the apps that you use. If your job mostly consists of sending emails, editing and writing on Google Docs, and communicating on Slack, then you can do your job with ease even with a low bandwidth. On the other hand, if you frequently attend meetings through video calls, then you’d definitely need a plan with higher bandwidth.

Once you have a clear picture of how much data you send and receive on an average work day, you can start looking for plans that can support your needs. And while you definitely don’t need to conduct virtual meetings in 4K quality, you also won’t want your clients and colleagues to appear pixelated during a meeting. Neither would you want a session that gets choppy or cut off mid-conversation.

Here are the minimum requirements for the most common video chat apps used by remote workers today:

For 1:1 video calling:

    • 600 Kbps (up/down) for high-quality video
    • 1.2 Mbps (up/down) for 720p HD video
    • Receiving 1080p HD video requires 1.8 Mbps (up/down)
    • Sending 1080p HD video requires 1.8 Mbps (up/down)

For group video calling:

    • 800 Kbps/1.0 Mbps (up/down) for high-quality video
    • For 720p HD video: 1.5 Mbps (up/down)
    • Receiving 1080p HD video requires 2.5 Mbps (up/down)
    • Sending 1080p HD video requires 3.0 Mbps (up/down)

HD video quality  

    • Outbound signals must always meet a 3.2 Mbps bandwidth requirement.
    • Inbound signals: 2.6 Mbps with two participants; 3.2 Mbps with five participants; and 4.0 Mbps with 10 participants

Standard definition (SD) video quality

    • Outbound signals must always meet a 1 Mbps bandwidth requirement.
    • Inbound signals: 1 Mbps with two participants; 1.5 Mbps with five participants; and 2 Mbps with 10 participants

Video calling

    • HD: 1.2 Mbps (up/down)
    • SD: 400 Kbps (up/down)
    • The more participants, the higher the bandwidth requirement for downloads: 512 Kbps for three participants; 2 Mbps for five participants; and 4 Mbps for seven people. Upload requirements remain constant at 128 Kbps.

Teams requires the same upload and download internet bandwidth for the following scenarios:

    • 30 Kbps for peer-to-peer audio calling
    • 1.2 Mbps for peer-to-peer HD-quality video calling at 720p
    • 1.5 Mbps for peer-to-peer HD-quality video calling at 1080p
    • 500 Kbps/1 Mbps for group video calling

If you’re worried about your internet bandwidth, you can opt for audio calls instead of video calls. This considerably helps lower the information you need to upload and download. For more tips and solutions on how you can work from home without a hitch, call us. We’d be happy 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 TechAdvisory.org SOURCE

For most businesses, a reliable internet connection is no longer an option but a necessity. A fast and reliable internet connection makes for more efficient and productive operations. But what do you do when you’re faced with connectivity issues or slow speed? Below are some solutions to five of the most common Wi-Fi worries.

Range constraints
Wi-Fi works via radio waves that are broadcast from a central hub, usually from a piece of hardware known as a router. In order to avoid a weak signal in your office, make sure:

  • Your router is placed in a centralized location and not tucked away in the farthest corner of your facility.
  • Your Wi-Fi antennae are either in a fully horizontal or vertical position for optimal signal distribution.

Note that Wi-Fi range constraints can also occur from interference, so if your office is situated in a highly populated area, try changing your router’s channel.

Slow speed
Despite having high-speed or fiber optic internet, slow load times can still occur for a number of reasons. To eliminate this, try the following:

  • Make sure your router is located in the same room as your computers.
  • Have more routers to better accommodate a high number of connected devices.
  • Limit the use of bandwidth-intensive applications such as Skype, Dropbox, YouTube, and Facebook.
  • Disable your router’s power-saving mode.
  • Create a new router channel to avoid network bottlenecks.

Connection issues
It can be frustrating when the Wi-Fi network shows up on your device but you just can’t seem to connect to it. Before you give up, try these:

  • Determine whether your Wi-Fi connection is the problem or if your internet is down by plugging in your laptop directly into the router via an Ethernet cable. If you get a connection, then your Wi-Fi is the culprit.
  • Reset your router. Use a paperclip or a pen to hold down the reset button for about 30 seconds.
  • Reboot your device.

Unstable connection
Random drops in Wi-Fi connection can happen from time to time. If this has become a constant nuisance in your office, try the following quick fixes:

  • Move your router to a different spot or a different room.
  • Avoid having multiple routers in the same location as they can confuse your device.

Network not found
Glitches in the router can result in your Wi-Fi network not appearing at all. Two solutions that can resolve the problem are:

  • Disconnecting the router from the power source and waiting at least 30 seconds before reconnecting it.
  • Checking to see how old your router is; if it’s over three years old, you’re probably due for a replacement.

When you experience Wi-Fi issues, these tips will help you avoid serious downtime. But if you’d rather have a dedicated technology provider take care of your hardware needs, give us a call and we’ll be happy 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 TechAdvisory.org SOURCE

Today, Wi-Fi isn’t only crucial for your employees to get work done; it’s also a necessary amenity for your office guests. But there’s a right way and a wrong way to set up guest Wi-Fi, and the latter can result in a frustrating experience for you and your users. So, how do you set up your guest Wi-Fi properly?

Never give guests access to your primary Wi-Fi

Giving your guests access to your company’s main Wi-Fi connection might seem like a good idea, but you should avoid this at all costs.

Anyone with a little technical know-how can potentially access everything on your company network, including confidential data. In addition, if any of your visitors’ mobile devices have been compromised, it’s possible that they can transmit malware to your entire network.

Ways to create secondary Wi-Fi for guests

If your router comes with built-in guest Wi-Fi support (you can check this feature through a quick web search), you can use it to create a separate “virtual” network. This means guests will have access to the internet without directly connecting to your company’s primary network.

If your router doesn’t support multiple Wi-Fi networks, you can implement a separate wireless access point that bypasses the rest of your network and connects directly to the internet, thus preventing any outsider from accessing your company’s private data.

Keep in mind that guest Wi-Fi still uses your ISP connection, so you should limit bandwidth usage on your guest network. Visitors streaming videos can slow down your internet connection, which can affect the productivity of your employees. With that in mind, you can even have your employees use the guest Wi-Fi on their mobile devices to minimize the chance of them hogging company bandwidth for personal use.

Remember, your guest Wi-Fi should only provide outsiders with internet access, nothing more. While the proper setup isn’t rocket science, it can be a tedious process. Having said that, if you need a team of experts to take care of it, or if you simply have questions about how else to leverage your hardware for better efficiency and security, just give us a call.

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

Microsoft has warned Windows users to install an “emergency” out-of-band security patch.

The software giant said in an advisory that a security flaw in some versions of Internet Explorer could allow an attacker to remotely run malicious code on an affected device. A user could be stealthily infected by visiting a malicious web page or by being tricked into clicking on a link in an email.

“An attacker who successfully exploited the vulnerability could take control of an affected system,” said Microsoft.

Microsoft said the vulnerability was under active exploitation, though details of the flaw had not been made public.

More than 7 percent of all browser users are running affected versions of Internet Explorer 9, 10 and 11, according to recent data. All supported versions of Windows are affected, including Windows 7, Windows 8.1 and Windows 10, as well as several Windows Server versions.

Most users can install the patches using Windows Update.

Microsoft also issued a fix for its in-built malware scanner Windows Defender, which if exploited could have triggered a denial-of-service condition resulting in the app failing to work.

The company said no action was required by users to remediate the bug in Windows Defender.

It’s rare but not unheard of for Microsoft to release emergency security patches outside of its typical monthly patching cycle. The company typically releases security fixes in the second week of each month on its so-called Patch Tuesday, but will also release fixes for significant vulnerabilities under active exploitation as soon as they are made available.

Homeland Security warned in its own advisory urging affected users to install the patches.

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 TechCrunch.com  SOURCE

Events out of your control can disrupt your business operations. While you can’t necessarily control the unexpected, you can take some precautions to prevent most business disruptions. Here are some things to consider when developing a business continuity plan (BCP).

Backup your data, applications, and servers

Today, companies are more dependent than ever on IT and data. If these critical components suddenly become inaccessible, there’s little chance your business will survive. Regularly backing up these elements ensures they can be restored quickly in the event of a disaster, security breach, or damage to IT equipment.

In the past, most businesses would create backups on-site and with tape backups, but today more and more businesses are using the cloud, and here are several reasons why:

  • Cloud backups are affordable and cost much less than onsite backups
    Backups can be automated, therefore saving you time
  • Cloud providers usually back up your data to multiple locations (so if one of their facilities goes down, your backups are still safe at another site).
  • Backups can be accessed from anywhere, whether it’s at an employee’s home or at an alternate office.
  • If you need to access them, backups can be restored quickly

Virtualize servers and desktops

When you virtualize your servers or desktops, they can be used at any location – be it at your workplace, home, or a coffee shop in the Bahamas. In terms of business continuity, this is useful in case your main office suddenly becomes unusable due to hostile weather conditions.

Have a backup power supply

No electricity means zero productivity and money down the drain. Having a backup power supply will ensure that when the electricity goes down, your employees can continue working.

A good solution is an uninterrupted power supply (UPS), which gives employees a fair amount of time to finish their work as if nothing ever happened. Also, if you have a server room, a UPS will ensure your vital servers stay cool.

Utilize social media

Whether it’s Facebook, Twitter, or Google+, most people are on at least one social network these days. And if there is any kind of outage or disaster, social media is usually one of the first places customers, colleagues, staff, and vendors will check the status of your business. So when it comes to business continuity, keep at least one social media account active to keep your customers and followers informed.

Implement unified communications

Unified communication (UC) creates a virtualized communication infrastructure. That means instead of your communication tools – like phones, instant messaging, and video calls – all being stored locally at your workplace, you can access them anywhere. So if your office is inaccessible, employees can still use your phones and other communication tools from their homes. What’s more, UC tools can route business calls to your employees’ smartphones. That means they’ll never miss an important call, even if they’re not in the office.

Keep in mind that these are only the first few items you have to address in your business continuity plan. You’ll also need to consider things like training employees and having a communications plan for informing stakeholders. If you want more advice on these areas or need top-class business continuity tools, contact us 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

Unless the computer app is critical for your work, alerts about a new patch update or incoming message can distract you. Luckily, you can personalize your notifications settings on Windows 10’s action center using these three simple steps.

Overarching action center settings

First of all, you should customize your Windows 10 system-wide notifications settings. To view these:

  • Click on the Cortana icon on your taskbar and type ‘Notifications’.
  • Click ‘Notifications & actions settings’.

Here, you can turn off alerts entirely or customize the alerts for core functions such as alarms, reminders, and incoming VoIP calls.

Settings for individual applications

If you want to take a far more nuanced approach to your notifications, there are advanced options to create rules on an app-by-app basis. At the bottom of the ‘Notifications & actions’ setting screen is a section titled ‘Get notifications from these senders.’ By enabling any of the items in this list, you can open a new window full of more graded notifications options. From here, users can specify lock screen, sound, and priority settings for individual software.

You can also adjust the amount of notifications of a particular app in the ‘Number of notifications visible in action center’ setting. To do so, click on the app’s name and select the amount of notifications you’d like to receive at any given time. Although the default amount is three, you can choose to get up to 20 notifications.

Closing the blinds

For users who have no interest whatsoever in the Windows 10 action center, you can banish it entirely. To do this:

  • Open Cortana and search ‘Notification area’.
  • Click ‘Turn system icons on or off’.
  • Toggle the Action Center option to remove the icon from your taskbar.

You can also choose which apps to remove from your taskbar entirely. To do so, click the back arrow to return to the ‘Notification area’ window and choose ‘Select which icons appear on the taskbar’.

If artists have tools unique to their style, why shouldn’t the tools of your trade be tailored to your preferences? Get in touch with us today to speak with one of our tech-savvy specialists about your technology goals to start achieving new levels of productivity and efficiency on your Windows machine 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

Are you still using that old computer that is not-so gracefully aging and devaluing? Maybe you are running important programs on older machines with old operating systems since they “still work fine.” While it might still help you get the job done, there may be hidden security risks that can lead to major problems later on.

What is firmware?

Firmware is a basic type of software that is embedded into every piece of hardware. It 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, Windows can be installed on almost any computer, and it helps users surf the internet and watch YouTube videos. But how does Windows know how to communicate and connect with your hardware router to do all that? Firmware on your router allows you to update and modify settings so other, higher-level pieces of software can interact with it.

 

Why is firmware security important?

 

Firmware installed on a router is a great example of why addressing this issue is so critical. When you buy a router and plug it in, it should be able to connect devices to your wireless network with almost zero input from you. However, leaving default settings such as the username and password for web browser access will leave you woefully exposed.

 

And the username and password example is just one of hundreds. More experienced hackers can exploit holes that even experienced users have no way of fixing. The only way to secure these hardware security gaps is with firmware updates from the device’s manufacturer.

 

How do I protect myself?

 

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.

 

Unfortunately, every manufacturer has different procedures for checking and updating firmware. The best place to start is Googling “[manufacturer name] router firmware update.” For instance, if you have a DLink of Netgear 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.

 

Remember that routers are just one example of how firmware affects your cybersecurity posture. Hard drives, motherboards, and even mice and keyboards need to be checked. Routinely checking all your devices for firmware updates should be combined with the same process you use to check for software updates.

It can be a tedious process, and 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

 

It doesn’t matter what the size of your business is when it means everything to you. Small business owners are particularly invested in the companies that they have created with their own imaginations, hard work, countless hours and occasionally, their life savings. Being able to protect your business’s computer network can be vital in maintaining a smooth working environment while protecting your data and your customers.

 

Starting and growing a small business takes massive effort, a willingness to take a chance, and financial capital. Many owners don’t believe that they have room in their already tight budgets to spend on their IT support services company but they may be wrong.

 

When considering the option between hiring an in-house IT person or turning to a service provider, it is important to look at the long-term benefits and expenses side by side. With an in-house employee, you are relying on the expertise and experience of only one person and not a network of highly trained specialists. A monthly salary paid to an onsite employee may seem preferable than dishing out for a more complex team to monitor your systems. In actual fact, the amount that is spent on salary, bonuses and health benefits can cost you more than investing in a tailored security plan that meets your business’s needs.

 

A professional IT service provider will work with you to evaluate the type and complexity of plan that will keep you protected and on budget. Each business has individual needs based on not only the type of commerce you are involved in but what your plans are for future expansion. Having a solid infrastructure and security plan that will not only protect your interests but allow your company to grow is vital to keeping things running smoothly on a daily basis.

 

Some of the benefits and services that are provided by professional service providers, like GCInfotech, are listed below. Consider how these services could be of value to your organization.

 

  • Maintenance of network infrastructure
  • Hardware maintenance and support
  • Security management
  • Anti-virus systems management
  • Network and firewall configurations
  • Software maintenance & upgrades
  • Data backup
  • User setup
  • Documentation of changes
  • Disaster Recovery plan management

 

With new technology firmly entrenched in the business world, many companies are finding that nearly all of their business dealings are done in the cloud or on a private network. The risk of system failure or a breach of privacy is an all so real threat in the marketplace today. Investing to a proper degree in protecting your data, customers and the well-being of your business should be a priority for all entrepreneurs.

 

Putting your trust in a professional company with extensive experience, highly trained experts, and a solid back up team that is ready to help is an advantage that every business owner would like to have in their corner. When you work with the best, nothing can stand in your way.

 

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 TechMoran SOURCE

 

Contrary to what you may believe, cyberthreats don’t only target Windows computers. Even small-business users can click a seemingly harmless link and become a victim of a cyberattack. If you don’t want this to happen to you, there are a few simple things you can do.

Check your Privacy Settings

Begin by making sure that your Mac settings are set up properly to keep your information safe. Click System Preferences (the gear icon along the bottom of your screen), then open the Security & Privacy pane, which contains four tabs that allow you to manage different security features. You should do this with an administrator account so the changes affect everyone who uses this computer.

Take Advantage of the Firewall

One of the biggest steps you can take to protect your computer is to enable macOS’s built-in firewall to block unwelcome network connections. Just go to the Firewall tab in the Security & Privacy settings, click on the padlock at the bottom of the screen, and key in your username and password. Then enable firewall by clicking on Turn On Firewall.

To modify its settings, click on Firewall Options just below the Turn Off Firewall button. A dialog box will pop up and you can click on Enable Stealth Mode. Turning on Stealth Mode will make your Mac invisible on public networks (like an unsecured coffeeshop WiFi).
In the Firewall Options, you will also 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 because any app connected to the list can be exploited.

Set Up a Firmware Password

Nowadays, macOS/Mac OS X automatically turns on FileVault encryption. This means that it encrypts the hard drive by default, and the only way it can be accessed is by logging in. Keep in mind, though, that this feature won’t necessarily save your account in case someone reinstalls macOS/OS X, or when they use a USB memory stick to boot the Mac and possibly remove all data from your hard disk.
To increase protection, set up a firmware password. To do so, restart your computer, and then press and hold down Cmd+R before the Apple logo shows up on screen. You can let go of the keys once the progress bar pops up.
Choose your location and language when asked, then click on the Utilities>Firmware Password Utility menu. Simply follow the instructions here, and make sure to never forget or misplace your password. Forgetting your firmware password can be quite a hassle because only Apple technicians can recover it.
Ensure that your confidential data remains confidential simply by performing minor tweaks on the system settings. It takes only a few minutes of your time to ensure lasting online protection. If setting up a firewall or firmware password sounds a little too advanced for you, 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