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Businesses Can Now Schedule Instagram Posts

Following in the footsteps of other social media giants, Instagram is now trying to add flexibility to their platform in order to attract more business owners. Since their inception in 2010, Instagram has had no way to allow users to schedule posts. Posting manually can be time-consuming for businesses that want to send out posts daily at certain times. Savvy business owners are well-versed on the best days of the week and the most optimal times for post scheduling.

Instagram

This type of scheduling feature is already available on many platforms including WordPress and is considered indispensable, allowing users to schedule a post for whenever they like. Research shows that there are better times and days of the week to post content.

What days and times are best for your posts?

One study claims that videos that get posted to Instagram at 9:00 PM get 34 percent more action. Regular content will get more attention if posted on Monday or Thursday between 3:00 – 4:00 PM. Instagram traffic decreases on Sundays. All these little facts can help users reap a big reward in engagement from their audience, which is why business owners are taking the time to learn all the nuances of optimizing traffic on their favorite social media platforms.

A few drawbacks

Instagram will add support to its API, then use the functionality of applications like SocialFlow, Sprout Social, and HootSuite to support the feature. Eventually, they do believe that post-scheduling will be added to the product itself. At the moment, the post-scheduling feature doesn’t include ads, but that could change as well.

“The scheduling and publishing of Instagram content has been the number one request for our 16 million customers,” said Ryan Holmes, HootSuite CEO. “Now, they (business owners) can manage large volumes of content, multiple team members and multiple Instagram accounts with ease and security. HootSuite is excited to partner with Instagram to make this happen.”

The major drawback is that most regular users will not be able to take advantage of post scheduling. Only larger companies that use third-party software programs with Instagram will be able to use the new feature. Industry experts do believe that it’s only a matter of time before post scheduling will be free and available to everyone.

SocialFlow CEO Jim Anderson commented that, “It’s always been very time-consuming to create Instagram posts. That’s not necessarily a problem for individual consumers, but when you’re a media company that creates more than 100,000 posts a month, it’s simply impossible to do everything manually”.

Instagram replacing older API platforms

Instagram has plans to phase out their older API Platform during the next two years. The older API will be replaced with a newer Graph API. This will give users the ability to analyze metrics on their company’s performance. By allowing business owners to gain insights and analyze metrics, Instagram believes it can better compete with giants like Facebook and Twitter. The new API will also allow users to moderate comments and respond to them. These changes are set to take place on July 31, 2018.

Ingenious new features in the works for Instagram

Other features aimed at attracting more businesses to its platform are being considered by Instagram. These include a feature called business discovery, which, similar to LinkedIn, will give Instagram users the ability to check out other business profiles. The company notes that it will eventually roll out these cool features to all its regular users, and not just business owners.

Post images directly to Instagram with HootSuite
One of the more popular software platforms that integrates with Instagram is HootSuite. Posts can be scheduled from the HootSuite dashboard or the mobile app. As previously stated, only business accounts are eligible for this service at this time. Using HootSuite, customers can schedule their posts so that they are published on a specific day and timed. HootSuite also allows companies to run analytics to discover information that can help them reach a broader audience.

Other new features

The early results are in and the majority of business owners are reporting better conversion rates and more traffic with these new Instagram features. This success has spawned a new revolution for Instagram, a platform that has always been about photos and videos. Now, using a feature called “Type Mode”, users can type words that can be placed on colorful backgrounds (e.g., many users enjoy sharing the lyrics to their favorite song). Users can add fancy font styles, photos or videos to enhance the post. Instagram users are traditionally very imaginative people so this offers them an innovative outlet for their creativity.

From January 2013 to September 2017, the number of active Instagram users has risen from 90 million to 800 million. Though this does seem like a huge number of people interacting on their platform each week, for context, Facebook has over 2 billion users worldwide. Social media platforms with this type of potential exposure represent an unprecedented advertising market for companies of all sizes and types.

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Microsoft Teams: Business Without Boundaries

Where you work is no longer defined by four walls and a door – not even by cubicle walls. Gone are the days where productivity requires a set geographical location, at least for some roles, anyway.

Recent years have seen the rise of the remote workforce that can effectively collaborate on projects from across the globe. Organizations can cut costs and increase productivity using various platforms that facilitate communication and collaboration, and it’s only becoming more popular.

Revolution or Evolution?

Major metropolitan cities from New York to Los Angeles are filled with your classic skyscrapers, and every town and suburb in between is dotted with professional office parks. However, are these buildings, once filled to the brim with bustling businesses, still relevant?

They’re no longer the norm – but why? Even with the periodic recession, the overall post-WWII American economy didn’t just emerge with success – it exploded! The “four walls and a door” was waiting for every entry-level candidate until the late 1980’s when the cubicle first gained popularity.

Fast-forward to today, and the latest concept to revolutionize the workforce isn’t revolutionary at all. Telecommuters now represent a significant portion of the global workforce, and do so quite ably. To say the idea of the office has evolved is quite the understatement: now, an office can be anywhere. From your desk at home to your local coffee shop, from the waiting room at your car dealership to Row 6 Seat B on your flight, telecommuting facilitates progress so long as you can access your files, email, and anything else you need to get the job done.

  • Did you know that telecommuting has increased by more than 300% in the past 20 years? Technology has made telecommuting easier and more effective and has helped organizations retain quality staff longer.

No longer is the stereotypical full-time staffer a given when organizations look to fill a role, either. People are now demanding flexibility in a job description, and what was once a 9-to-5 position is becoming obsolete. For more than a decade, flexibility has evolved into an expectation over a fringe benefit, and with good reason. A global remote workforce offers business without boundaries and productivity that never stops.

A Collaborative Culture

The evolving business culture demands evolving means by which to collaborate and connect. Digital platforms are plentiful, with features that cater to your business’ specific needs. Platforms like Basecamp and Trello are beloved by project managers, Salesforce.com and Microsoft Sharepoint offer great sales team support, and technology teams rely on tools like Microsoft Team Foundation Server – often shortened to TFS. Organization is critical to any company, especially when teams are separated by time zones.

Where would we be today without Microsoft? Microsoft and Windows have remained the primary professional computing mainstays for about 30 years. Microsoft Office remains the fundamental application suite on which companies rely for day-to-day operations, even when office space is nonexistent. The irony of the name is not lost on us, either!

Microsoft recognized an opportunity in the permanence of telecommuting. Never one to shy away from innovation, Microsoft launched a suite of applications catering to the “digital” crowd in 2011, under its Office 365 brand. If Microsoft Office is a basic tool for the 9-to-5 professional, the subscription-based Office 365 is a fundamental lifeline of the telecommuter. Office 365 allows the use of applications across a multitude of devices, as well as file hosting, email, and a range of other networking tools designed to feed our daily addiction to all things Microsoft.

Rumors began swirling in 2016 of a Microsoft acquisition bid for the cloud-based Slack collaboration tool, a darling of the technology industry – but why buy when you can create and customize? Microsoft’s Skype for Business product offered similar basic functionalities and was already installed on the digital desktops of millions of professional customers. In early 2017, Microsoft released what it believed to be the next-level professional platform: Microsoft Teams.

  • Slack offers itself as a “freemium” product, a marketing and pricing strategy where the base model of a product or service is widely available free of charge, but premium features are available for those willing to pay the added cost.

Making the Most of Your Microsoft

Microsoft didn’t face a great hurdle in convincing customers to “buy in” to Microsoft Teams, given its position as a new-and-improved version of anything currently on the market. If Microsoft Office was the predecessor to Office 365 and Skype for Business, Teams is the logical next generation.

Why is the next generation so important? Microsoft realizes that the workplace is evolving and that more businesses are hiring independent contractors, freelancers, consultants, and other external resources to support permanent staff – all of which work together toward one common goal. Microsoft Teams refers to these external resources as “Guests.” If collaboration is the cornerstone of professional success, then communication is the foundation upon which that stone is laid, and Guests don’t need to be granted full access to proprietary information.

The solution is Guest Access, and it’s a new feature in Teams, which customers have been requesting for some time. Aside from the previously mentioned independent contractors, etc., Guests may also include vendors, suppliers, or even interns. Guest Access is available to users who have an email address that corresponds to an Azure Active Directory or Office 365 work or school account.

Organizations can provide external access to their teams for applications to partners, resources, chat communication, and documents in channels while maintaining control and protection.

In Microsoft Teams, Guest Access is a tenant-level setting that’s turned off by default. Do you need help turning on this new feature? Follow these steps:

  1. The global admin needs to login to the dashboard: https://portal.office.com/adminportal/home
  2. In the left navigation menu, expand Settings and select “Service and Admin.”
  3. Scroll and select Office 365 Group settings.
  4. In the menu that opens, toggle the bottom option to “On,” giving Group Owners the ability to add Guests from outside the organization, and click “Save.”
  • This setting needs to be enabled because Team permissions are based on Groups.
  1. Next, scroll through the list to select Microsoft Teams
  2. In the left navigation menu, find the “Settings by user/license type” and select “Guest” in the drop-down menu and toggle setting to “On.”
  3. Click “Save.”

After changing these settings, Team Owners can add and manage Guest Access within their Team.

Microsoft Teams

Whether you include mostly in-house staff, a team of telecommuters, or a range of every type of resource at your organization, we can help you make 2018 the best year yet – as a team!

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BYOD in the Workplace: Pros vs. Cons

Many modern companies are now implementing BYOD policies that permit employees to work with their personal laptops, tablets, and smartphones.

BYOD in the Workplace

Bring your own device (BYOD) to work. Who would have thought, even twenty short years ago, that you could use a little phone to do business instead of a big clunky computer? That’s today’s reality and tomorrow’s norm. However, with this new wave of change in the workplace, there comes many risks and rewards to both employers and employees.

Bring your own device programs can be broken down into three important areas of review.

  1. Determining which software applications are required to manage devices connecting to the network.
  2. Preparing a written policy outlining the responsibilities of both the employer and users.
  3. Ensuring users sign an agreement acknowledging that they read and understand the policy.

This is where things get tricky. You can create all the policies you want. Write them up and discuss them until you’re blue in the face, but how do you truly enforce them? The answer is that you can’t. You can’t control what employees do even if they sign an agreement on usage. So, it stands to reason that you must be very careful when hiring employees. Trust is crucial. You must be able to count on your staff to do the right thing all the time.

Asking people to use their own devices certainly offers several advantages. It can lower company costs and improve efficiency and effectiveness. Mark Coates, a VP at Good Technology notes that “By enabling employees to securely and easily access corporate data on their own device, productivity levels will naturally increase. In terms of cost savings, there are huge benefits, since SMBs will not have to manage and fund a second device for employees”.

Tony Bradley of PC World states that “when companies embrace BYOD policies, they have advantages over competitors. Some of these advantages being lower costs to the company since employees already own these devices and employee satisfaction and familiarity with the devices. Obviously, they’d rather use the devices they love rather than being stuck with laptops and mobile devices that are selected and issued by the IT department”.

On the other hand, the obvious cons are trying to control private and sensitive information. Data breaches can and have occurred. Software and hardware are replaceable, but company data is not. In a BYOD workplace, organizations lose much of the control over the equipment and how it’s used. After all, how do you tell an employee what they can and can’t do with their own laptop or smartphone? Company-issued devices, on the other hand, are protected by company-issued security that is controlled by the IT department.

Advice is being offered to companies considering a BYOD policy via government guidelines. The US Department of Commerce’s NIST, National Institute of Standards and Technology, has the following to say.

Teleworkers who use a BYOD desktop or laptop (PC) for telework should secure their operating system and primary applications.

Securing a BYOD PC includes the following actions:

  1. Using a combination of security software, such as antivirus software, personal firewalls, spam and web-content filtering, and popup blocking, to stop most attacks, particularly malware.
  2. Restricting who can use the PC by having a separate standard user account for each person, assigning a password to each user account, using the standard user accounts for daily use, and protecting user sessions from unauthorized physical access.
  3. Ensuring that updates are regularly applied to the operating system and primary applications, such as web browsers, email clients, instant-messaging clients, and security software.
  4. Disabling unneeded networking features on the PC and configuring wireless networking securely.
  5. Configuring primary applications to filter content and stop other activity that is likely to be malicious.
  6. Installing and using only known and trusted software.
  7. Configuring remote access software based on the organization’s requirements and recommendations.
  8. Maintaining the PC’s security on an ongoing basis, such as changing passwords regularly and checking the status of security software periodically.

Teleworkers who use a BYOD mobile device for telework should secure it based on the security recommendations from the device’s manufacturer.

  1. Limit access to the device, such as setting a unique personal identification number (PIN) or password not used elsewhere, and automatically lock a device after an idle period.
  2. Disable networking capabilities, such as Bluetooth and Near Field Communication (NFC), except when they are needed.
  3. Ensure that security updates, if available, are acquired and installed at least weekly, preferably daily.
  4. Configure applications to support security (e.g., blocking activity that is likely to be malicious).
  5. Download and run apps only from authorized apps stores.
  6. Do not jailbreak or root the device.
  7. Do not connect the device to an unknown charging station.
  8. Use an isolated, protected, and encrypted environment that is supported and managed by the organization to access data and services.

They go on to say, “Sensitive information, such as personally identifiable information (PII) (e.g., personnel records, medical records, financial records), that is stored on or sent to or from telework devices needs to be protected so that malicious parties cannot access or alter it. An unauthorized release of sensitive information could damage the public’s trust in an organization, jeopardize the organization’s mission, or harm individuals if their personal information has been released”.

As you can see, a lot of thought needs to go into deciding whether this practice is right for your workplace. If you’re still not sure, check out the link below for a detailed graphic checklist.

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6 Ways to Prevent Cybersecurity Breaches

It is becoming commonplace to hear of big security breaches. Consumers wonder how this keeps happening. It would seem like every company should be taking their data security very seriously. After all, a data breach typically costs millions of dollars and tarnishes the company’s reputation.

Cybersecurity Breaches

After the Target data breach of 2013, shoppers were wary about returning to the retail giant to shop. To date, the breach has cost Target over $90 million, and there’s no way to measure the damage to their reputation. Target stores, like many other brick and mortar stores, are already suffering from the consumer trend to buy everything online. Numerous surveys confirm that patrons are reluctant to shop online at smaller stores. The overall belief is that larger stores have better cybersecurity.

This theory was certainly questioned when the nation’s largest banker, JP Morgan Chase, lost the names, addresses and personal information of 76 million of its customers. Breaches like this erode the public trust and cause consumers to back away from doing business online altogether.

So how can you stop this from happening to your company? Is anyone really safe nowadays? Below, we discuss six solidly proven ways to prevent cyber security breaches from occurring at your company.

1. Limit access to your most valuable data.

In the old days, every employee had access to all the files on their computer. These days, companies are learning the hard way, to limit access to their more critical data. After all, there’s no reason for a mailroom employee to view customer financial information. When you limit who is allowed to view certain documents, you narrow the pool of employees who might accidentally click on a harmful link. As corporations move into the future, expect to see all records partitioned off so that only those who specifically need access will have it. This is one of those common-sense solutions that companies probably should have been doing all along.

2. Third-party vendors must comply.

Every company does business with a wide array of third-party vendors. It’s more important than ever to know who these people are. Companies can even open themselves up to lawsuits by allowing strangers to enter their premises. What if the guy who delivers office supplies just got out of prison? It’s something to think about. In addition, be sure to limit the types of documents these vendors can view.

Though precautions like this can be a hassle for the IT department, the alternative could be a multi-million-dollar data breach.  For those companies that are allowed to view your important data, demand transparency. Make sure they are complying with privacy laws; don’t just assume. Ask for background checks for third-party vendors who must enter your company on a regular basis. CEO’s need to get tougher on security if they really want to instigate change.

3. Conduct employee security awareness training.

According to recent surveys, employees are the weakest link in the data security chain. In spite of training, employees open suspicious emails every day that have the potential to download viruses. One mistake that employers make is thinking that one training class about cybersecurity is enough. If you’re serious about safeguarding your important data, schedule regular classes each quarter or even monthly.

Believe it or not, employees have been known to leave those classes, return to their desks and open suspicious emails without even thinking twice. Marketing studies show that most people need to hear the same message at least seven times before it begins to change their behavior.

4. Update software regularly.

Professionals recommend keeping all application software and operating systems updated regularly. Install patches whenever available. Your network is vulnerable when programs aren’t patched and updated regularly. Microsoft now has a product called Baseline Security Analyzer that can regularly check to ensure all programs are patched and up to date. This is a fairly easy and cost-effective way to strengthen your network and stop attacks before they happen.

5. Develop a cyber breach response plan.

What would you do if you went to work tomorrow and learned that a data breach had occurred? Surprisingly few companies have a sound breach response plan in place. It either hasn’t occurred to them that they may need one someday soon, or they feel they can handle the response as necessary. There’s a significant fallacy in this thinking. In the past, large companies that had cybercriminals break in and steal records were slow to make this public. They were also reluctant to share the truth about how much data and what type of data was stolen.

The government’s OPM break-in was handled very poorly. It was months after the breach before FEMA made a public announcement. When they did announce that a data breach had occurred, they downplayed how serious it was, issuing incorrect information about exactly how many records had been compromised. It was several years before the true nature of the breach was exposed.

For consumers, this is unacceptable. People feel they have a right to know exactly when the breach occurred and what was lost. Though it took several years to learn this, government employees were finally told the truth: over 21 million records were stolen. Most of them contained names, addresses, social security numbers, and fingerprints.

Developing a comprehensive breach preparedness plan enables both the employees and the employer to understand the potential damages that could occur. An employer should be very transparent concerning the scope of the breach; employees want to know the truth. A good response plan can limit lost productivity and prevent negative publicity. Employees feel angry when they find out that the company they work for had a data breach six months ago and told no one told them about it.

Your response plan should begin with an evaluation of exactly what was lost and when. Find out who is responsible whenever possible. By taking swift, decisive action, you can limit damages and restore public and employee trust.

6. Difficult to decipher passwords

In the past, businesses rarely got involved with how often employees had to change their passwords. Recent cyber breaches have changed all that. When security experts come to your company to educate your employees, one thing they will stress is the need to regularly change all passwords. Most of the public has discovered the importance of making passwords difficult to decipher. Even on our home computers, we’ve learned to use upper case letters, numbers and special characters when formulating passwords. Make it as difficult as possible for thieves to break in and steal your stuff.

Reassure your customers.

Online shopping now represents over $80 billion in sales for American businesses. People seem to love to shop online. It’s so easy and convenient. The future looked bright for online sales until data breaches at stores like eBay and Amazon occurred. Recent surveys of consumers across America show that 56% have cut back on their internet purchases due to fear of their personal info being stolen. This equates to lost sales in the millions of dollars.

This has now become such a prevalent problem that companies create marketing campaigns to reassure shoppers that it’s safe to shop online again. But, it can take years to restore the public’s trust once it’s lost. If customers see that your company is doing its best to prevent cyber theft, they may feel better about buying from you.

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Beware of This Ransomware Strain and Its Dangers for Cloud E-mail.

We recently came across some chilling news. A white hat hacker developed a working “Ransomcloud” strain, that encrypts cloud e-mail accounts like those in Office 365, and it does this in real time. This strain uses a smart social engineering tactic to trick you into giving the bad guys access to your cloud e-mail account. This means that if you open your e-mail in a browser, it can encrypt the whole lot right in front of your eyes. Thankfully, Ransomcloud hasn’t hit the wild yet. With that said, there’s no reason why it wouldn’t, especially because it’s not all that hard to do.

Ransomware is a term that you should be aware of. There are 3 types of ransomware: File- Scareware, Screen Locker, and File-Encrypting Ransomware.

  • Scareware is malware that works for both security software and tech support. It can be recognized by its notification telling you that your computer is plagued with a specific bug or virus. In order to remove it, you need to pay a fee to the hacker.
  • Screen Locker uses an official-looking seal from government programs such as the FBI or Department of Defense. It locks your computer screen and requests that you pay a fine to unlock it and retrieve your data.
  • File-Encrypting Ransomware is a type of malware that tricks you into clicking on a suspicious link or opening a phishing e-mail. Ransomcloud is the newest variant of file-encrypting ransomware and is incredibly dangerous. In the Ransomcloud Demo Video, Kevin Mitnick, KnowBe4’s Chief Hacking Officer, shows us the dangers of this new variant and what it means for our cloud-based emails. Once the Ransomcloud is initiated, either by clicking on the link or opening the e-mail, it immediately begins encrypting or scrambling e-mails. This is especially dangerous if you are connected to a corporate network that shares access to files, such as a shared cloud. Any files you have access to can be encrypted.

Often the malware is represented as something else. For example, the e-mail can come through as an update or program that is beneficial to you. For example in the demo video, the e-mail looks like it was from Microsoft. The e-mail may appear to come from a large company such as Microsoft–even using authentic logos–It’s important to look for anything suspicious before opening it or clicking on it. If you see that the e-mail says that Microsoft is launching a new anti-spam pro product, without taking a deeper look, you could easily shrug it off as authentic.  (Keep in mind, that while this specific example uses the ruse of a “new Microsoft anti-spam service” it could be anything from any company as long as it helps the hacker reach their goal.) Since the e-mail stated that this new program will keep spam from your Outlook 365 inbox it wouldn’t be suspicious if it asked you to stay logged in and provide access to your data.

Ransomware Cloud

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As soon as you accept these terms, the fatal mistake is made. You are essentially providing an “OAuth token,” which gives the hacker complete control. Once that OAuth Token is given up, all of your e-mails and attachments are encrypted real-time! The horrifying thought is that a Ransomcloud attack will work for any cloud e-mail provider that allows an application to give control through e-mail. It will also work for Google. After the link is clicked, and you go back to your e-mail, at first, it looks perfectly fine; then you’ll see changes moving swiftly throughout each and every e-mail in your inbox. All of your e-mails are quickly encrypted, leaving only the header readable.

Ransomware earns its name for what it does next.

Next, you’ll be notified that to decrypt your data you must pay a ransom. The hacker will explain how to do this.

The ransom is typically requested in the form of bitcoins. Bitcoins were created in 2009, as a new form of currency. When using this currency, there’s no need for banks or other middlemen, to intervene. The transaction is just between you, your bitcoins and your supplier. So why would bitcoins be a common currency for ransomware attacks? Because Bitcoins can be used without the name and paper trails (which can be limiting to criminals). Additionally, Bitcoins don’t use credit reports, or fees, and can work internationally without the regulations that other currencies are subjected to.

Using bitcoins gives this crime another shade of elusiveness. In the KnowBe4 Ransomcloud Demo video the hacker’s ransom e-mail states that the cloud e-mails have been encrypted and if the user wants the decryption code, they must pay a fee of $300 bitcoins to be sent to a specific bitcoin address. The video ends with the user paying the hypothetical $300 bitcoins and receiving the decryption code. Just as quickly as it started, it’s over, and the e-mails all return to their readable status.

The dangers of this are especially pertinent if you and your employees are working in a cloud-based environment. This is why it’s especially important to train your employees to be vigilant to secure your business data. They should carefully look at each e-mail prior to opening it or clicking on links. One small click of the mouse can turn into a world of trouble for your business.

The Take-Home Message

Simple training can help secure your company and your data. Training staff to spend a little more time when sorting through e-mails could save your business from a ransomware attack. This is where the importance of the training comes in. Employees should be trained to recognize ransomware emails and constantly look for ones that are suspicious, such as those containing simple grammatical mistakes or excessive punctuation. You should have a policy in place that tells them how to flag suspicious e-mail. Additionally, employees should all be trained on the importance of not opening or clicking on suspicious e-mails or links.

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Data Security for Beginners: 6 Tips to Maintain Information Privacy Online

January 28th, 2018 is Data Privacy Day, an international effort led by the National Cyber Security Alliance (NCSA) annually for the purpose of raising awareness about the importance of safeguarding data. Data Privacy Day commemorates the signing of Convention 108, which took place on January 28th, 1981 as the first legally binding international treaty regarding data protection.

Data Privacy Day

Your data is your most important business asset, and when it’s lost or stolen, your company faces serious direct financial losses – from legal fines to decreased productivity to lost sales and a damaged reputation. You simply can’t afford to leave your data vulnerable to the sophisticated cybercriminals out there patiently waiting to get their hands on it. Paradigm Network Solutions has always put data security first and foremost – helping our clients stay as secure as possible.

Data security is becoming more important than ever before as we bank, shop, and communicate online…

That’s why we’ve compiled 6 great tips to help you better protect the privacy of your data online:

  1. Encrypt as much and as often as possible: Encryption acts as an extra layer of security; scrambling sensitive information so it’s unreadable to anyone who doesn’t have the authorization to read it. There are tons of tools available to encrypt your sensitive information at rest and in transit.
  2. Keep your operating system up-to-date: You’ll hear this tip time and time again because it’s so important. Those operating system and software updates might be annoying, but they’re absolutely vital to ensure you have the latest security updates and vulnerability patches installed.
  3. Run anti-virus software periodically: There’s a wide range of dangerous threats out there waiting to attack your system at any given moment. As a result, it’s crucial for you to install a reliable anti-virus software and make sure you’re performing scans on a periodic basis.
  4. Use unique, complex passwords for accounts: Reusing passwords on accounts and/or services is a huge risk. You need to ensure you’re using a unique, complex password for every account and/or service you own. Your passwords need a mix of letters, numbers, and special characters for optimal protection.
  5. Keep up with managing your privacy settings: While it’s daunting to look into the privacy settings of every application and account you have, it’s important to ensure you’re not providing anyone with access to sensitive information you’d rather keep private.
  6. Avoid using free Wi-Fi networks: Almost every restaurant or shopping center offers free Wi-Fi access nowadays, but it’s not entirely safe, especially when you’re doing online banking. At an absolute minimum, never check your bank account on a free Wi-Fi network, but it’s preferable to avoid them altogether.

Need help implementing the 6 tips listed above? Paradigm Network Solutions is your trusted team of IT security experts in Toronto and The Greater Toronto Area. We put data security first and foremost on our priority list – helping our clients stay as secure as possible. Call (416) 490-9019 or email us at sales@ittoronto.com.

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The Security Issues Caused By Misdirected Emails

When we consider the security of our business technology, we often think of scams or phishing e-mails. These get easily shrugged off, as we assume no one would fall for e-mails that simply ask for money or state other falsities such as your having won a lottery in which you never participated. If we were to list the actual security threats of the companies, you would be surprised. The #1 data security incident reported in 2017 was misaddressed e-mails. Something as simple as typing too fast, or misspelling a person’s name can have huge repercussions for your business. The scary thing is any employee, at any moment in the workday, could make this terrifying mistake.

Misdirected Emails

Two major issues result from misaddressed e-mails. One is the result of your e-mail being accidentally sent to the wrong person. Now, some person has information that wasn’t meant for them. This could be as small as a secret joke about the boss, or as treacherous as spreadsheets with a department’s payroll information. Either way, this simple mistake could have enormous consequences.

The second major security issue results from a more sinister adversary where something you send is accidentally delivered into their eagerly awaiting hands. This is known as “doppelganger domains,” where websites are similar to legitimate ones. These similar websites are bought for the entire purpose of capturing your misaddressed e-mails. How many misaddressed e-mails could there be that could do damage to the integrity of your business? Research shows in one case using only two researchers, in six months time, they managed to capture 20 gigabytes of information from various Fortune 500 companies.

The e-mails they captured contained various levels of confidentiality that ranged from employee username and passwords, to even legal documents such as contracts or affidavits. The scary thing is that while a company could catch an e-mail and be working on improving their security, it could be all too late. After a hacker has confidential information such as passwords and usernames, or payroll accounts, the business has all but already handed over the reins. Anyone of these items could be dangerous enough to seriously endanger the business, but all together? The outcome could be catastrophic.

If you were on the receiving end of an e-mail that was not meant for you, what should you or your employee do? The New York Times recently answered this question with the following recommendation, ”If the message appears life-threatening or otherwise very important, then you have a moral responsibility to reply back and try to get the e-mail where it was originally headed. If the message is not life-or-death, you can safely ignore it. That approach means you don’t punish people in need, but otherwise, you let Natural Selection do its thing on people who can’t be bothered to check e-mail addresses.”

Knowing the dangers of misaddressed e-mails is only half the battle. What can we do to prevent it and protect the integrity of our business? Basic e-mail policies are key to improve the security of your business. To do this, you should encourage the use of strong passwords, so they can’t be easily guessed or forged. Secondly, you should ask employees to memorize their passwords (rather than write them down, as this poses another security risk). Thirdly, remember to change their e-mail passwords frequently–it is recommended to do so every two months.

Training, in regards to e-mail and internet etiquette, go hand in hand with your business’s e-mail policy. Training should show employees the importance of always remaining vigilant in attempts to catch e-mails that carry malware or phishing attempts. To achieve this objective, employees should avoid opening attachments or click on suspicious links. Secondly, employees should be suspicious of clickbait titles and check their e-mails for names of unknown senders to ensure they are legitimate. Lastly, train employees to look for inconsistencies or style red flags, simple grammar mistakes or excessive or unusual punctuation.

Businesses do have other options in dealing with doppelganger domains. A study done by the University of Cape Coast shows that companies can buy their own doppelganger domains, thereby maintaining the integrity of their business. The research goes on to state that the business should “set it up so that when a message is received, it will automatically send out a failure notification. Awareness of the issue should be raised among employees.” This could capture any e-mails accidentally sent to the wrong address, and thereby maintain the business’s integrity.

After establishing good work policies for e-mails, there are further steps that you can take to ensure the safety of your business’s confidential information. Similar to how Grammarly checks for spelling and grammar issues, you can check for doppelganger domains. CheckRecipient is a next-generation e-mail security technology to prevent highly sensitive information from being sent to the wrong people. CheckRecipient uses artificial intelligence and machine learning to analyze historical e-mail data and automatically identify anomalies and mistakes in outgoing e-mails which may result in inadvertent data loss. Some of the world’s largest organizations rely on CheckRecipient’s technology across the financial, legal, professional services and biotech sectors.

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Introducing…The Facebook Tango

Do you like to dance?

Facebook in 2018

Dancing is both a science and an art. The waltz is a beautiful and romantic flowing dance, the foxtrot involves intricate alternating fast and slow steps, and the tango is rigid with its pace starting slow and increasing in intensity. Each of these is recognized by their steps and a set pace, and partners must step in sync or the dance results in absolute chaos.

A brand’s presence on Facebook is much like the tango: Your content must follow intricately timed steps that the famous Facebook algorithm uses to decide the fate of your post. This algorithm has the final say in the reach of your content, thus impacting engagement.

The Famous Facebook Algorithm

The Facebook algorithm is nothing new to brands that use Facebook to drive traffic. This algorithm is complex (and a closely-guarded secret formula), and prioritizes posts based on the meaningful interaction and discussion they inspire (or not).

The Social Network was born in 2003 and evolved into TheFacebook.com. TheFacebook was initially only available to students at Harvard but was wildly successful, and the rest is history. Considering that Mark Zuckerberg was a computer science student at Harvard when planning TheFacebook, it makes sense that even 15 years later its algorithmic secrets are enigmatic. More than a student directory, TheFacebook project was an edgy and innovative way to take socialization to new levels, paving the way for person-to-person interactions beyond the walls of a classroom or dormitory hall.

Fast-forward to 2018, and Facebook is still testing boundaries and pushing limits. From its humble beginnings as a student-to-student connection channel to today’s content-filled environment where brands compete with bodies for attention in a user’s Feed, Facebook is still focused on social interactions, but is embracing innovation and changing things up on us – again!

Evolution of the Feed

Facebook users were recently sent a survey, with no incentive to complete other than Facebook’s request to understand how users “feel” about the product. Why is this important? Facebook is a business like any other, right? Wrong. Facebook is a for-profit entity with the idea to facilitate interactions between people and to bring them together. The fundamental foundation of Facebook is people.

Facebook Feeds are increasingly becoming more populated with posts from brands and businesses; even the media deliver news via Facebook. Less personal interactions are taking place, and the overall “feeling” from people about Facebook is becoming largely negative. This is not the perception Facebook wants users to have for long-term success.

The last presidential election is a great example of overwhelming Feeds with more news and branded content than actual social posts from friends and family. Facebook has also been blamed for the demise of friendships and destruction of relationships and marriages, with social profiles being checked for “dirt” by attorneys to use in legal proceedings. Social media has been accused of facilitating cyber-bullying and linked to lowering self-esteem. Efforts to combat negativity have been largely unsuccessful given the very public nature of the channel.

Where did the “bad” begin? Even the algorithm can’t pinpoint the precise moment that Facebook started to take a turn. Around 2013, Facebook eliminated the ability for users to have their privacy settings remain invisible to the public and not appear in searches. The notion was that having a private profile on a social network was counterintuitive – and users couldn’t argue since Facebook is a public website. The change came as an unwelcome shock for many users “flying under the radar,” but as in any situation, users adapted to this latest change from the platform known for shaking things up once or twice a year.

What we know for sure

One thing we know is that change is afoot at Facebook: Zuckerberg & Co. want to get back to basics. That’s not to say much will change for users posting content, but brands are going to feel the difference where it hurts. Facebook is responsible for a vast amount of referral traffic from brands’ organic posts on their individual Facebook Pages.

The algorithm will focus on the quality of content, and prioritize people over public posts, pushing for more person-to-person interaction with a focus on community over profit in post content. Facebook is listening to feedback where users are tired of click-baiting, a practice where teaser headlines get users to click to consume content and are sometimes tricked by misleading headlines.

What does this mean for brands?

The bottom line for brands is to evolve or die. Facebook is envisioning a few key outcomes:

  1. Users – people – will spend less time on Facebook
  2. A decrease in user engagement overall
  3. An increase in sharing of personal posts
  4. More lively discussion among users

None of these are making brands do cartwheels with excitement. Engagement is what drives users – again, people – to be on-platform longer. If people spend less time on Facebook, this means less attention is given to brand content and fewer clicks. This translates into a major impact on referral traffic. It’s also going to force brands to re-think their definition of engagement. How can brands still reach users and connect with them? Brands are going to be forced to adapt and change their social media strategies.

The fascinating part of all of this is that Facebook wants an increase in the sharing of personal posts and more discussion among users. These posts are what drive their ad targeting system—Targeted paid advertisements are the way Facebook wants brands to reach their audience.

The bad news for brands is that ad costs have significantly increased in the last few years, a trend that is likely to continue for a few reasons. Facebook is a wildly popular platform and well aware of its position. Even with user churn, Facebook’s user base continues to grow – there are more new users than those who become inactive or choose to leave – thus establishing solid logic for advertising prices, as well as continually increasing the potential reach for a paid targeted ad.

When a brand uses its Facebook Page to post content, the goal is to be in the Feed of every user. This is, in fact, something Facebook has been scaling back since before 2012. Dancing to the tune of the algorithm has long been a challenge brands must overcome to survive and maintain a Facebook presence. Adversely, Facebook has an eventual goal of Page posts reaching no user Feeds at all.  This is rumored to be labeled “Facebook Zero” – where only paid ads and “sponsored content” (paid posts) will target user Feeds.

  • Did you know that brands can use Facebook Messenger for promotions? They can message their customers directly within the Messenger platform and sidestep the Feed rules. Like email marketing, when deployed strategically, engaging with Facebook users via Messenger can yield impressive results. Brands can also use systems to automate updates sent to subscribers and responses to inquiries – at least for now.

The Exception to the Rules

Over half of Facebook users are members of at least one Facebook Group. The numbers speak for themselves: The number of Facebook users hovers around 2 billion, and Facebook Groups have a user base of more than 1 billion active users every month. There are more than 100 million users in Groups considered “meaningful,” in that the discussions are deemed informative, insightful, and intellectual – and users find them very helpful.

  • Did you know that the total count of users who are members of Facebook Groups outnumber Instagram and Snapchat total subscribers combined?

Zuckerberg & Co. believe Groups are underestimated and underappreciated. There is value hidden within Facebook Groups. In 2017 Facebook hosted a Communities Summit that was free for U.S.-based Group members, with Facebook covering the hotel and food tab for attendees.

What is the benefit for brands? To be heard through the noise on Facebook, a brand is going to need to get (even more) creative. A brand can create a Group through their Page, and follow a few tips and best practices to successfully incorporate Groups into their overall strategy:

  • Don’t confuse brand “sales” with Facebook’s “Buy and Sell” when choosing a Group Goal; “Buy and Sell” is widely used for garage sale-type Groups.
  • Choosing a “Closed” Group setting as a privacy option helps create the feeling of exclusivity for users.
  • Be careful not to be too detached in choosing your cover photo; a cold photo expressly aimed at generating a profit isn’t going to send the right message.
  • Invite members through Messenger with a personalized message. This is still an element you can automate, but remember to convey the value a member can find within the Group

Active Group discussions are key drivers of “free” post visibility. Above, we learned Facebook wants to focus on lively discussions among users. Carefully crafted posts in Groups for targeted, engaged members will yield incredible reach, all while playing Facebook’s game!

Time to Tango

For users, in a perfect world, they would see funny memes and videos of cats and updates from friends and family. Facebook maintains that memes and videos don’t offer the satisfaction and fulfillment that user interaction holds —And since they control the algorithm, they’re leading this tango. Brands that choose to dance need to stay in step, or they’ll be forced to sit the next one out.

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The Key to Winning the Age Old Battle for Privacy on LinkedIn is…

LinkedIn, the increasingly popular business and employment-focused social networking site is a crucial tool for professionals who are happily employed or still searching for the job of their dreams. It’s a fantastic place for you to network with others in your field or reconnect with old co-workers from the past. Regardless of what you’re using the social networking site for, you need to make sure you’re staying as safe as possible.

Privacy on Linkedin

Similar to any social networking site, there are privacy concerns you need to consider. First and foremost, keep in mind you typically share a lot more personal information on LinkedIn than you do on Facebook or Twitter. Why? Because your profile is essentially a digital resume – showcasing your entire past from where you’ve attended school to where you’ve worked.

So What’s the Secret to Keeping Yourself Safe on LinkedIn?

While accounts are protected by a series of automatic checks designed to stop unauthorized sign-in attempts, you still have to do your part when it comes to keeping your data safe. Your privacy settings give you tons of options when it comes to sharing and receiving content. For example:

  • Don’t share your activity: You can prevent anyone who isn’t one of your connections from seeing your activity. Go to privacy & settings, select the privacy tab, and click the change option under follows in the blocking and hiding section.
  • Hide your list of connections: If you want to keep your connections private, go to privacy & settings, select the privacy tab, and click the change option under who can see your connections. You’ll get a drop-down menu where you can choose “only you.”
  • Keep your profile photo private: Keep your profile photo private to only your first-degree connections or network if you prefer. Go to privacy & settings, then find the link to change your profile photo and visibility under the privacy controls box.
  • Limit the contact information you share: Make sure you’re not sharing any personal contact information, such as personal phone numbers/emails or home addresses. Go to the edit profile link from the profile menu, scroll down to the personal information option, and click edit.

We are here to help with all things cybersecurity-related – from safeguarding your online privacy to installing a secure wireless networking solution. Call us at (416) 490-9019 or email us at sales@ittoronto.com for more information.

Aside from updating your privacy settings, what else can be done to keep you protected? Here are a few great tips:

  • Set up two-step verification: Members can opt into two-step verification for their accounts. If you choose to do this, you’ll be required to type a password, as well as a numeric code that’s sent to your mobile device when the device you’re signing in from isn’t recognized.
  • Turn on secure browsing (HTTPS): Secure browsing offers extra protection when viewing all pages across the social networking site. This will keep you safe from hackers. Simply go to settings, click the account tab, and click manage security settings to check the box.
  • Keep an eye out for phishing emails: LinkedIn doesn’t ask for sensitive personal or financial information via email, so don’t be fooled if you receive an email from them or any other social networking site. How can you tell if it’s a phishing email? Here are a few hints:
  • The message is filled with bad spelling and grammar.
  • The message contains a suspicious email attachment or software update.
  • The message is threatening in some manner (XYZ will happen unless you act now.)
  • Update your password on a regular basis: The simplest way to stay safe is keeping your password up-to-date. Here are some best practices to follow:
  • Change your password at least once every 3 months
  • Use different passwords for each website or service
  • Throw in some capital letters, symbols, and punctuation
  • Substitute numbers for letters that look similar (3 instead of E)
  • Do not share your password with others
  • Check which apps can access your data: Check which applications have access to your profile and data. This can be done by clicking the groups, companies & applications tab, then click the option to view your applications. Remove access as you see fit.

Last but not least, sign out of your account after using a public device for optimal protection. The tips above should keep your account fairly secure, however, always be on the lookout and use common sense. Be careful what you share online on any social networking site. Remember, even the safest social networking sites get hacked. Don’t say anything privately that you wouldn’t want to be made public.

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Is LinkedIn Premium Really Worth the Splurge?

We know LinkedIn is the most popular ‘social network’ for professionals in a wide variety of industries. It’s filled with fantastic features and functions that will propel your career or business in terms of expanding your professional network and enhancing your credibility in the marketplace. So what’s the deal with LinkedIn Premium? Is it really worth the big bucks?

LinkedIn Premium

Here’s the Full Scoop on LinkedIn Premium Plans…

LinkedIn Premium plans aren’t exactly cheap – costing around $29.99 to $47.99 per month for job seekers, $69.99 per month for business development or sales professionals, and $99.95 per month for recruiters looking to fill positions.

The base plan, Premium Career ($29.99 per month), is great for job seekers who want to connect with people within any company, industry or geography. You’re able to enhance your profile for greater visibility while sending three InMail messages per month.

The next plan, Premium Business ($47.99 per month when billed annually), gives you unlimited searches in your extended network. Plus, you get advanced search filters and 15 InMail messages each month.

Premium Sales Navigator Professional ($64.99 per month when billed annually), possibly one of the most useful plans, is phenomenal for business development or sales professionals alike. Why? LinkedIn stores mass amounts of data on people from all sorts of companies and industries.

This data is seriously game-changing when you’re trying to make that next sale or add leads to your ever-growing funnel. You not only receive lead recommendations and invaluable insight into existing accounts, but you also get 20 InMail messages each month.

Premium Sales Navigator is also available in a multi-seat version known as Sales Navigator Team ($99.99 per month when billed annually). This option gives you 30 InMail messages, 10 PointDrive presentations, 25 Out-of-Network profile unlocks, and much more.

Premium Sales Navigator Enterprise takes it to the next level with 50 InMail messages and an unlimited number of seats. All of the Premium Sales Navigator plans give you the following great features, so it’s entirely dependent on what extras you need and what you’re willing to spend:

  • 100-mile maximum search radius from specific postal codes
  • 1000 profiles shown per search
  • 15 saved search alerts each week
  • Unlimited number of saved searches, accounts, and lead recommendations
  • Advanced search filters
  • Access to the mobile app

Last but not least, LinkedIn’s Talent Solutions, starting at $99.95 per month when billed annually for the starter tier: Recruiter Lite. Recruiter Lite gives you 30 InMail messages, advanced search, automatic candidate tracking and integrating hiring, and more.

Recruiter Lite is great for those who need to make a few hires. Recruiter, the next tier, is great for those who are always in search of people to add to their team. Pipeline Builder, the last tier, is great for creating a constant pipeline of talent for your team.

Need more information? Call (416) 490-9019 or email us at sales@ittoronto.com to find out more about Premium Career, Premium Business, Sales Navigator Professional or Recruiter Lite. Our team is always here to help.

What’s the Final Verdict?

LinkedIn Premium is absolutely worth the splurge (and of course, we would recommend choosing to be billed annually to get the discounted price of whichever plan you choose). Upgrading is well worth your time and money if you’re looking to:

  • See more than just the last five individuals who have viewed your profile in the last 90 days.
  • Access expanded search results with features like filtering results by industry or job title.
  • Send messages to members of the site (professionals or employers) who are not currently contacts of yours.
  • Receive lead recommendations and insight into existing accounts easily to keep your funnel constantly up-to-date.
  • Find great talent to join your company, whether you’re hiring a few people or an entire team.
  • Learn more about your industry and increase your chances of securing employment within that field.

As an added bonus, LinkedIn Learning and LinkedIn Salary are included with all four versions of LinkedIn Premium. LinkedIn Learning gives you the most in-demand technology, business or creative skills through industry expert-taught courses.

LinkedIn Salary, on the other hand, gives you a breakdown of salaries by job title and location. You can also view data on specific businesses, such as geographic expansion, employee turnover, and other useful information.

If you’re ready to get started with one of the plans mentioned above, get in touch with us now at (416) 490-9019 or sales@ittoronto.com. We’ll answer any questions you might have about LinkedIn Premium and what the right plan can do for you.

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