Your 2018 New Year’s TECH Resolutions!

Say goodbye to 2017 and make some changes to protect your Technology

As with all New Year’s Resolutions- my advice is not to make them SO insurmountable that you set yourself up for failure. On the flip side, don’t make them so easy that they do nothing for you, or that you feel no sense of accomplishment.

1. ORGANIZE!

That being said, my number one Resolution is to Organize. Now this is an incredibly broad word and in its entirety, is way easier said than done. My point here is just focus on ONE part of your life. Your desk, your bedroom, your kitchen. Likewise, maybe just your EMAIL, your to-do list, your daily routine, etc.

My focus here is related to a conversation I had with a friend last night. They were searching everywhere for their medical card (NOT a Medical marijuana one). I asked them if they use Dropbox. She said “yes, it’s great for all my pictures!” I used to do that too. It is so one dimensional though that I was missing the point. When I came to LA Creative Technologies I found a big EMPTY file cabinet. I asked Josh where all his important documents were- like the one I had at my last business that overflowed with papers and junk and mismatched files?

He said- “they’re all in the cloud”. Assuming that he didn’t just throw them all in a bonfire I asked questions and found that he kept scanned copies of EVERYTHING- contracts, tax returns, legal documents, leases, warranties, etc. etc. in a cloud application like Drop Box. Anywhere we go in the world we simply sign in to that app, search for the folder (or even the name of the document, like “copy of Driver’s license”) and Viola! there it is!

So, guess what? No more frantic searching for documents or ID cards that you need once a year and can never remember the “clever” spot you put them in! Try this and you will NEVER look back! AND you will never look for those documents either!

2. UPDATE your software!

Some of the most damaging Cyber-attacks in 2017 involved Ransomware.  In May, the ransomware known as WannaCry affected more than 200,000 Windows computers in 150 countries. Security experts believe the malware spread through machines by getting people to download it via email.

This is the incredible part: Microsoft had already released a security update that would have prevented the WannaCry malware from infecting machines. But the hacked computers were behind on downloading the updates. This episode was an important reminder that keeping your software up to date is crucial.

3. Read Privacy Policies

Amid Uber’s laundry list of scandals, which included sexual harassment accusations and an undisclosed security breach, there was an important revelation that everyone can learn from. It involved Unroll.me, a free service that unsubscribes you from junk mail.

To gather intelligence about its competition, Uber bought information about its main rival, Lyft, from Unroll.me. How did Uber do that, exactly? Unroll.me scanned the contents of its users’ inboxes and sold anonymized data, information that did not have individuals’ names attached to it — in this case, emailed Lyft receipts — to Uber.

You may be shocked to learn about Unroll.me’s business model. But the truth was always there in the fine print: the company’s privacy policy clearly stated that “we may collect, use, transfer, sell and disclose non-personal information for any purpose” and that data can be used “to build anonymous market research products and services.” Still, people were understandably outraged by the misleading nature of Unroll.me. A company that promised to rid you of spam mail scanned your inbox and sold information about you to other companies, including marketers.

So, make it a habit to read a company’s privacy policy. As boring as it sounds, a bit of reading will go a long way.

4. Delete Unnecessary Apps

The Unroll.me episode also raised awareness of the sheer number of third-party apps that may be leeching off your personal information. There are probably apps and web services you don’t remember downloading or subscribing to, and they could still have access to your data.

THIS year do an audit on your third-party apps. On your smartphone, delete apps that you have not touched in several months. For a clean break, in some cases you will also have to visit the company’s website and request that your account be deleted entirely.

Also check your primary online accounts, like Facebook, Twitter or Google, to see which apps are hooked into them. Chances are you have used those accounts to quickly sign up for a web tool or app. The ones you never use may still be leeching off your personal data, so you should disable them.

On Facebook, go to the settings page and click on the Apps tab to see which apps are connected to the account. On your Google account page, you can find a similar apps list labeled “Connected apps & sites.” And on Twitter, go to the Apps page under “Settings and privacy.”

5. Use a VPN

In April, Congress voted to overturn privacy rules that would have made it more difficult for broadband providers like Comcast and Charter to track and sell information about your browsing history to advertisers. The stronger privacy rules never went into effect, meaning nothing changed. But the privacy repeal underlined the sheer magnitude of data that internet service providers can collect and share about you. Subscribing to a virtual private network, or VPN, is a meaningful safeguard for your online privacy.

When you browse the web, a broadband provider helps route your device’s internet traffic to each destination website. Every device you use has an identifier consisting of a string of numbers, also known as an IP address. When you are on the internet, a service provider can see which devices you use and which sites you visit. You must realize that this information is used extensively in marketing and advertising to YOU among other things.

VPNs help cloak your browsing information from your internet provider. When you use VPN software, your device connects to a VPN provider’s servers. That way, all your web traffic passes through the VPN provider’s internet connection. So, if your internet provider was trying to listen in on your web traffic, all it would see is the VPN server’s IP address connected to the VPN service.

VPNs have their drawbacks. They often slow down internet speeds significantly, and some apps or services don’t work properly when you are connected to a VPN. I also wasn’t able to buy my 5th Groupon in a row during a sale because they found I was using a VPN from a different state (we’ll leave that story for another time…). But everybody can benefit from using a private network, especially in certain situations, like connecting to an open Wi-Fi network at a cafe or an airport.

BONUS Resolution!

For the love of Pete (Or any other person or Deity you choose), get a case and screen protector for your phone!! Just because you got it FREE or only $199 (with an MSRP of $999) after agreeing to pay $30 extra dollars a month, DOES’NT mean that it will be free again when you drop it.

Newer phones are made more and more out of glass and are even more susceptible to damage. For someone who worked in the cell phone industry over 18 years, this author doesn’t leave the store without a case and screen protector in hand (or at least an order placed on Ebay/Amazon for one)

 

I hope these help you to enter 2018 more aware of Internet Technology and how it can and WILL improve your life. People say technology is doing damage in some ways to society, but I feel it’s all in the hands of the users. Literally. Let it IMPROVE your life, not take it over.  I wish you all a Wonderful, Happy and Healthy New Year!

See you in 2018.

 

Some of this information was quoted from New York Times writer Brian X. Chen’s article “5 New Year’s Resolutions to protect your Technology”

 

Apple Mistake! You can log into macOS High Sierra as root with NO password

 

A simple-to-exploit flaw in macOS High Sierra, aka macOS 10.13, allows users to gain admin rights, or log in as root, without a password.

The security bug is triggered via the authentication dialog box in Apple’s operating system, which prompts you for an administrator’s username and password when you need to do stuff like configure privacy and network settings.

If you type in “root” as the username, leave the password box blank, hit “enter” and then click on unlock a few times, the prompt disappears and, congrats, you now have admin rights. You can do this from the user login screen.

The vulnerability effectively allows someone with physical access to the machine to log in, cause extra mischief, install malware, and so on. You should not leave your vulnerable Mac unattended until you can fix the problem. And while obviously this situation is not the end of the world – it’s certainly far from a remote hole or a disk decryption technique – it’s just really, really sad to see megabucks Apple drop the ball like this.

Developer Lemi Orhan Ergan alerted the world to the flaw via Twitter in the past hour or so:

Dear @AppleSupport, we noticed a *HUGE* security issue at MacOS High Sierra. Anyone can login as “root” with empty password after clicking on login button several times. Are you aware of it @Apple?

You can access it via System Preferences>Users & Groups>Click the lock to make changes. Then use “root” with no password. And try it for several times. Result is unbelievable! pic.twitter.com/m11qrEvECs

View image on Twitter

It gets worse. You can use this programming blunder to disable FileVault…

But there is a workaround for now. If you have a root account enabled and a password for it set, the above blank password trick will not work. So, keep the account enabled and set a root password right now…

Everyone with a Mac needs to set a root password NOW.
As a user with admin access, type the following command from the Terminal.

sudo passwd -u root

Enter your password then a new password for the root user.
Anyone got a better fix?@SwiftOnSecurity @rotophonic@pwnallthethings

Employee Engagement

It’s not unreasonable to think that a happy employee will be a more productive employee.  That’s kind of human nature, isn’t it?  If you’re recognized for your hard work and you’re praised for something that you’ve done well, that typically makes you feel good.  If you’re completely ignored, no matter how hard you work, or if you feel like your ideas aren’t heard- then you probably won’t experience a sense of self-worth in your position.  This is relevant in all aspects of our lives, not just when it comes to employment.  It’s easy to forget these simple truths of life when we’re caught up in the daily chaos and hubbub of work, so we’ve compiled a list of things that you should keep in the back of your mind to promote the type of engagement and productivity that you’d like to see from your employees and coworkers.

  • Share the wealth. First and foremost, we all go to work every day to make money to provide for our families and ourselves.  Do not lose sight of the fact that each and every person in every organization is primarily there to earn a living.  Don’t be too stingy.  Evaluate your employees regularly and understand if they’re underpaid or are lacking in benefits.  One of the quickest ways to alienate employees, lose their respect, and eventually have them leave you is by neglecting raises and promotions, especially if it’s obvious that business is on the incline.
  • Listen. When it comes to implementing new processes or considering going after new markets, get the ideas from your employees.  The people that actually do the processes every day are the ones that really want to be heard.  They want their ideas to be put in motion and they don’t want to be completely ignored.  Likely the easiest way to earn respect and increase employee pride and production is simply by hearing them!
  • Keep it fun. Even though we’re at work, we don’t want it to feel like work.  While that might be a wish and a pipe-dream in some situations, it shouldn’t be hard to offer some sort of fun incentive to promote internal competition.  Simply putting a gift card or convenient, dedicated parking spot on the line each week or month is an effective method of increasing production and employee participation.
  • Comfortable climate and atmosphere. Where possible, keeping working conditions comfortable in temperature and humidity can go a long way in promoting employee happiness.  If you’re in a 90 degree, 70% humidity environment for any length of time, you will likely feel hot, drained, and annoyed.

These are in no way the only ways to promote employee buy-in or engagement within an organization.  They’re just some of the easiest and most effective ways to build a good working relationship with your employees.  This guide is an excellent document to better understand the science behind employee happiness and the reflection that moral has on engagement and production. Happy employees are more productive employees – so put it at the top of your priority list.

5 Antidotes to Common Workplace Tech Distractions

When it comes to workplace productivity, technology can be a double-edged sword. The same applications and devices that keep employees connected to clients and each other can prove to be annoying distractions, and disruptive time-wasters. Managing these distractions doesn’t have to call for major policy changes or constant policing of employee behaviour. It can be as simple as having a conversation with your team and setting some basic ground rules.

LA TECHNICAL SUPPORT

  • Smartphone use in the office – Decide when it’s appropriate to check emails and text messages, and whether or not alerts should be muted on all devices. Consider a no phones rule for meetings to help keep employees focused.
  • Social media during business hours – Personal and professional life is often blurred due to the number of hours employees spend working both in and out of the office. A “coffee break” rule with specific times during the day where social media use is allowed can curb the tendency to continually check Facebook or Instagram.
  • Inter-office communication – Set standard practices for connecting with other employees. Email should be avoided for time sensitive or mundane questions. Instead, make use of an instant messaging program. It’s both faster and more convenient to have a “conversation” about smaller issues instead of a long chain of emails.
  • Limit notifications – Most applications on both mobile devices and computers come with notifications and alerts that can be disabled. Turning off these notifications cuts down considerably on an otherwise steady stream of stimuli that is guaranteed to be a distraction.
  • Encourage face-to-face conversation – Holding productivity meetings can help get everyone on the same page, and keep them there. Urge employees to make use of their lunch hour by participating in voluntary productivity sessions to help drive the message home.

Looking for more tips to help your get the most out of your staff, and your technology? Contact us at {email} or {phone}. We’re the trusted IT experts for businesses in {city}.