FTC Warning: Beware of Card Skimming at the Gas Pump

The Federal Trade Commission recently posted an article advising consumers to keep an eye out for card skimmers when paying for gas at the pump.

Skimmers are discrete devices which can be attached to payment terminals, allowing criminals to capture your credit card information.  Once they have your information they will either sell it to another party, or use it to make purchases on their own.

Unfortunately these devices are hard to spot and tend to blend in, especially when our attention is focused on pumping gas.

By educating yourself on what to look for, however, you stand a good chance to avoid becoming a target of criminals employing this technology.

The FTC has several examples posted on their website of what to look for.  They also advise:

  • Look for a seal (sticker) on the gas pump.  If the seal is broken or appears to have been tampered with, use a different pump and alert an attendant.
  • Check to see if the card reader at your pump looks different than the readers at other pumps.  If it does, move to a different pump and let an attendant know.
  • Keep a close eye on your credit card statements.  Be sure to report any fraudulent charges to your bank or card issuer.

Click here to read the full article on the FTC’s website.

Bryley Systems welcomes Beverly Wheeler to the team

Bryley Systems Inc. welcomes Beverly Wheeler as Technical Services Dispatcher/Administrator. In this newly created position, Ms. Wheeler will work directly with Bryley Systems’ Technical Services department, dispatching team members and assisting clients.

“Beverly’s extensive experience in managing, scheduling and supervising service technicians will be an asset to our team.” Garin Livingstone, Director of Professional Services, stated: “We have built high-value, long term relationships with our clients for over thirty years and as we continue to grow, so does our technical services team.”

Ms. Wheeler has held positions as office manager, administration assistant and customer service supervisor in the construction, automotive accessories and background music fields.

“I am proud and excited to be working with the professionals at Bryley Systems,” said Beverly. “Being able to service clients and provide support to the technical services team is very rewarding.”

Bryley Systems has been providing Managed IT, Managed Cloud and Managed Security services since 1987.

September 11, 2001 is a day we shall always remember

Thousands of Americans died in a terrorist attack on our nation and today is a day to honor their lives.

It’s a day to honor all first responders who came together in a courageous effort to save lives.

Our nation fell silent as we watched the horrific events that unfolded that day.

Pain, sorrow and families torn apart by such massive destruction.

Set time aside today in silence…

Take this day to give thanks to those who were there to help and comfort others.

Pray for the people who lost their lives and for those families who lost their loved ones.

9/11 — We will never forget.

Let Trusted Eyes Watch Over Your Network

A firewall is a network security system that monitors and controls incoming and outgoing network traffic based on predetermined security rules. A firewall typically establishes a barrier between a trusted internal network and an untrusted external network, such as the Internet.  Firewalls block unauthorized access to your computer network from hackers, malware and viruses. They monitor data as it passes between your computer, your server, and the Internet to make sure that nothing harmful or unintended slips through. A firewall may block certain downloads, or require system administers to grant authority before opening files that fail to meet their security standards.

Firewalls are a critical component to effective security, and so is the configuration. A poorly-managed firewall can block legitimate activity, causing workflow errors and excess frustration for the end user. Or, a firewall with overly lax restrictions could miss harmful data packets, lending the user a false sense of security while malware and viruses penetrate your network.  If firewalls are not managed and implemented properly, it can leave gaping holes in your security and give hackers the keys to your kingdom.

A firewall should always be properly configured.  Knowing when to override its rules and let data through, as well as to understand how to respond in case of an alert, are judgement calls that require specialized knowledge and experience.  Fortunately, a trusted IT partner like Bryley Systems will not only recommend the proper firewall, but configure, manage, and support it so that your network is locked down.

Regardless of your organizations size, no business owner wants the horrible consequences that a security breach can bring.  Larger organizations often have greater resources to dedicate towards security. If you are a small to mid-sized organization, you generally have fewer resources and smaller budgets, and having your IT network brought down by a cyberattack can bring an organization to its knees.

Unauthorized access to your system files can result in the loss of important data, the leak of confidential client information, or the compromise of other security features.  A properly managed firewall can nip this problem in the bud.

Internet usage has become a surprising sore point in employer-employee relations, as they are often used to block access to certain sites online. While some employees feel that blocking access to popular social media sites and other types of Internet browsing during work hours is simply a way to micromanage personal habits, many business owners feel it is necessary to cut down on the type of distractions that eat up productivity, as well as open up security issues at the office.

There are definite pros and cons to each side, but by prohibiting access to all but a select group of websites (or by using strict controls to determine what other websites are permissible) business owners can safeguard against employees accidentally visiting a dangerous website by mistake. This type of protection can prevent an unsuspicious employee from falling victim to a phishing scam or from entering important information into an insecure website.  A managed firewall/Internet-security solution that provides website filtering can help your organization identify which websites your employees need to be able to access, based upon the type of organization you are, and what the employee’s job role is.  It can even create a custom configuration of settings to block problematic websites for safer Internet browsing.

Having your firewall and Internet-security solution managed properly by an IT partner dramatically reduces the disruption of your day-to-day business tasks while providing you with the protection you need. Your managed IT service provider will maintain proper system configurations and monitor your network for potential security threats and will respond to alerts in a timely manner. Furthermore, your managed IT provider should be up-to-date with new technology, proper certifications, and security compliance regulations that might affect your organization. While you focus on running your business at peak efficiency, your managed IT provider also ensures your software and hardware remains up-to-date.

Educate your staff about the importance and significance of firewall protection and other Internet-security measures. This training can also help your employees spot potential scams before they fall victim to them.

Your organization should also consider other safeguards, such as monitoring software that can spot suspicious activity, or programs designed to detect and remove viruses from your system.

One of the most secure ways to protect your most valuable data is by limiting user access. Make sure to store your most secure files in as few locations as necessary. Only allow access to those employees who need it, and protect it with encryption and strong passwords.

If you would like a more thorough audit of your current security network strategy and needs, please Contact us at 978-562-6077, or by email at ITExperts@Bryley.com to learn more. We are here to help.

Family Computers – Set Up, Usage and More…

A family can benefit from sharing a computer – whether it be the kids, parents or even grandparents.  When you set up this new computer there are a few things to keep in mind so that everyone can enjoy it, especially if you have a large family.

You will want to make sure that the computer will perform to the required standards so that it will fulfill all of your needs.  If you are retiring an old computer, be sure to dispose of the old one properly.

First, if you have only one computer in your home, you should think about putting together a schedule that fits for both children and adults.  Think about the things that need to be accomplished such as homework, study time, family related chores such as bill paying, scheduling the kid’s events, or work related tasks. Figure out the time when everyone needs the computer and set time limits appropriately.  Kids can often overlook their time limits on the computer so have a plan in place as how you will address this.

Most kids will know how to use a computer but it’s important to set the ground rules and locate the computer in a common area so the computer is more visible.  Also think about the location of your computer so that the device is in a safe location to prevent it from overheating.

Each individual member will need an account.  You wouldn’t want your work documents to get mixed up with Jr.’s projects.  Having separate accounts will enable you to control each account and set up the necessary restrictions so that the kids cannot access unsuitable material, chat with strangers or change system controls.  The parental controls are important so make sure that you have put these in place prior to the kids use the computer.  You can also set up shared folders, too.  Since the majority of families have multiple devices such as tablets, smartphones, etc, so you should consider high speed internet. Most families will download and steam content so you don’t want a slow internet connection to be constantly interrupting your tasks, especially when you are sharing it with multiple people.

A key must for any computer is a good quality and up to date antivirus software.  The internet is fun but it can be dangerous, especially for kids and even inexperienced computer users such as a grandparent.  The best software will block web threats, block dangerous web sites, secure transactions, and safeguard your kids.  Top antivirus systems will protect all of your devices.  Take the time to ask questions, do research and be sure this is set up properly.  Email is something every family member can use, but if you have young children then you should set them up with a kid-safe email service.  These services will enable a parent to monitor and control who the kids are emailing, as well as content, and block out inappropriate language.

A family computer will have a lot of data on it.  It typically will contain family photos, school documents, family schedules, music, work related tasks, financial information, and more.  Backing up all of this data is crucial.  Have a scheduled “maintenance” routine to back up data to a hard drive.  You may even consider cloud storage in the event you are concerned about something happening to the hard drive.  In your regular maintenance routine, include cleaning the computer going through files, software, etc., and delete the unnecessary things you don’t need.

Family computers are fun and with a few rules for usage and adequate protection in place along with fast internet and all the software you need, your family will enjoy it – and enjoy it safely.

Another Annoying Robocall. Help!

How many times have you answered your phone only to hear a recorded message instead of a live person?  It’s annoying, it’s illegal and it’s known as a robocall.  “The FTC has seen a significant increase in the number of illegal robocalls because internet-powered phone systems have made it inexpensive and easy for scammers to make illegal calls from anywhere in the world, and to hide from law enforcement by displaying fake caller ID information.

To date, the FTC has brought more than a hundred lawsuits against over 600 companies and individuals responsible for billions of illegal robocalls and other Do Not Call violations.

The FTC also is leading several initiatives to develop technology-based solutions. Those initiatives include a series of robocall contests that challenge tech gurus to design tools that block robocalls and help investigators track down and stop robocallers. They are also encouraging industry efforts to combat caller ID spoofing. Here’s the FTC’s game plan to combat robocalls:

  • continue aggressive law enforcement
  • build better tools for investigating robocalls
  • coordinate with law enforcement, industry, and other stakeholders
  • stimulate and pursue technological solutions

There are options for blocking robocalls and other unwanted calls.

Mobile Apps.  Call blocking apps let you create blacklists – lists of numbers to block from calling your cell phone. Many of these apps also create their own blacklist databases from numbers that have received significant consumer complaints and some even use complaints to the FTC as a source.  They also let you create whitelists – numbers to allow – that are broader than just your personal contacts.

Some mobile apps let you choose which types of calls you want to block. For example, you might block all calls except contacts, or all calls except your contacts and numbers on a whitelist that you have created. Some apps offer additional features: reverse call look up, providing data on incoming numbers (like community-based reviews or data about the number from a search engine), blocking unwanted texts, logging the number of calls received from a number, and silent ringers for unknown callers. Some mobile apps give you choices about how to respond to an incoming call. For example, you can send a prewritten text message to the caller or file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission. And some apps let you block calls based on the geographic location or area code of the incoming call.

Many call-blocking apps are free or only cost a few dollars. However, some apps may upload your contact information, along with information about what numbers you call or call you. The app’s privacy policy should explain how it gets and uses your information.

Features Built Into Your Mobile Phone.  Many mobile phones come equipped with features built into the device that can block calls from specific numbers. These features can let consumers block specific contacts, identify unwanted incoming calls for future blocking, and set “do not disturb” hours. You must manage these lists on your own, and the device may limit the number of calls you can block.  Since these features are built into the phone’s operating system or come pre-installed, you may not need to download an app unless you want some more sophisticated features, like tapping into a database of blacklisted numbers.

Cloud-Based Services.  Cloud-based services can block unwanted calls for mobile phone lines or phone lines that operate over the internet, like phone service provided by a cable company. Your carrier may give you information about a cloud-based service operated by another company. The service might be a mobile app or a service that requires you to register your phone line. Cloud-based services reside on large, shared computer systems that can collect data from lots of users and use it to build crowd-sourced blacklists.  These services rely on accessing your call data to add to their databases. Some cloud-based services and mobile apps require all calls to be routed through their service, where they are instantly analyzed.  You may have choices about how unwanted calls are handled – for example, they might ring silently, go straight to a separate voicemail, or go to a spam folder. Some cloud-based services are free and some charge a monthly fee.

Call-Blocking Devices.  Devices that block unwanted calls can be installed directly on a home phone. Some devices use blacklist databases of known spam numbers and allow you to add additional numbers to be blocked. Other blocking devices rely on you to manually create and update your own blacklist. Some devices divert the call after one ring, and some show a blinking light when an unwanted call comes in. Other devices connect the unwanted caller to a recording with options that allow legitimate callers who were mistakenly blacklisted to ring through.

Some devices rely on a whitelist that limits incoming calls to approved numbers.  Some also allow you to set up “do not disturb” hours. You’ll have to pay to buy a call-blocking device, and not all devices work on all types of home phones and carriers.

Carrier Services.  You may consider using services provided by your phone service carrier. Carriers typically have solutions for all phones – landline, cable, internet and mobile devices. Many carriers allow you to block between 10-30 numbers, but you are responsible for identifying the numbers to block. Robocallers frequently shift the numbers they use, so the robocaller may still be able to get through by changing the number they use.

 

Many carriers also allow you to block calls from anonymous callers – those who prevent their phone number from appearing on a CallerID device, or whose number shows up as “ANONYMOUS” or “PRIVATE.” But robocallers often show fake numbers on your CallerID. Some carriers also offer services that allow you to block calls or divert them to voicemail for periods of time. This lets you set up quiet or “do not disturb” hours.”1

Some carriers provide these services for free; others charge a fee. You can check your carrier’s website or call customer service for more information.

Reference:
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is the nation’s consumer protection agency.
Federal Trade Commission, Privacy, Identity and Online Security.

30th Anniversary Open House Photos

We had a wonderful time introducing everyone to our new location at 200 Union St. Clinton, MA. Don’t miss these excellent photos taken during the event by Andy Weigl.

End-Of-Life Hardware – Retire or Not Retire?

Many IT departments have processes to keep costs under control and systems running smoothly. However, most organizations fail to adequately plan and properly manage the end-of-life (EOL) transition for routers, firewalls, switches and other critical network infrastructure. A device that is fully depreciated does not yield cost savings – these devices actually represent potentially higher costs due to non-compliance, chance of failure and lack of adequate support.

There are many reasons why organizations do not proactively manage EOL network assets. Two of the most common reasons include:

  1. Reluctance to spend money and time on something that is working
  2. Insufficient resources to prioritize the task of managing network assets

However, underlying risks and costs exist if you do not establish and follow a well-defined process to transition EOL devices out of your network.  Operating legacy hardware poses a significant risk and higher operating cost due to the following reasons:

  • Regulatory non-compliance
  • Excessive support costs
  • Decreased productivity
  • Business disruption

Regulatory Non-compliance:  Non-conformance costs will become an issue if the device is unable to achieve control objectives defined by your policies. This may be due to a lack of technical capability or because the device is no longer able to receive updates that address security vulnerabilities.

Excessive Support Costs:  The primary reason for increasing support costs are due to vendor end-of-sale and EOL policies. As a device approaches EOL, the support services can become more expensive. Failure to secure or renew a maintenance agreement before critical EOL dates expire will prevent you from receiving vendor technical support and maintenance upgrades. Therefore you may be forced to develop or maintain more expensive in-house skills or contract externally for those needed services.

Decreased Productivity:  IT technology is a significant business productivity driver. Therefore when new IT technologies are not adopted and utilized, then opportunity costs may negatively affect bottom-line financial performance. This is also a problem when the organization wants to expand service only to discover that the underlying infrastructure won’t support the business requirements because it is no longer supported. This discovery then forces unplanned expenditures and cost overruns.

Business Disruption:  This risk often produces a broad spectrum of affects caused by catastrophic device failure and often leads to business disruption and accompanying lost revenue and/or brand damage. These problems are amplified when remediating a legacy device consumes even more time because spares cannot be located or the replacement device requires extensive install and configuration effort.

Tracking EOL devices can be difficult because of the challenge to effectively manage, track and verify the information.

  • There is no pattern for how long a vendor will keep a product in market or when they will issue an EOL announcement.  Therefore, you simply can’t perform this research annually (without the likelihood of missing several announcements throughout the year). Vendors make it your responsibility to watch for these announcements. If you miss any announcement then you will miss out on important transition dates and options.
  • Vendors often communicate end-of-sales/end-of-life announcements according to a product series as opposed to a specific model or part number. Therefore an EOL announcement may, or may not, apply to your specific device.  Tracking EOL dates takes time because you have to carefully read each applicable announcement and determine how it applies to your equipment.
  • It is very important to have an accurate inventory of your devices, including serial numbers, part numbers, etc.
  • All of this data has to be well integrated with management, and if it’s not part of your network management system, it will require more effort to properly manage all of this data.

If you don’t have an internal system for tracking this information, your managed service provider should be tracking this for you.  Any organization running EOL technology faces many unknown and potentially costly challenges. It’s important to work with a firm that has vast experience and expertise in helping organizations transition to newer technology.

Rely on Bryley Systems as your trusted partner to assist your organization properly phase out EOL technology and adopt new technologies, so that your IT functions are operating at its maximum potential.  Contact us at 978-562-6077, or by email at ITExperts@Bryley.com to learn more. We are here to help.

My Software Has Reached End of Life. Now What?

When software reaches end of life (EOL), all of a sudden you find yourself wondering what impact will this have on our organization?  Take a moment to understand what vulnerabilities may be at hand and what are some best practices for planning ahead.

Never just ignore EOL timelines because there are some risks to be concerned about.

EOL Software Dangers:

  • Security vulnerabilities: When using software that’s no longer supported, computers become a gateway for malware.  When vulnerabilities are no longer patched, it leaves the door wide open for hackers.
  • Software incompatibility:  New applications are optimized for the most recent operating systems. That means when using EOL operating systems, you can’t upgrade to the latest and greatest, so you’ll have to hold onto legacy applications which are likely also EOL, or soon to be.  When the legacy applications come to their EOL, they are extremely difficult to migrate onto new infrastructure, costing your business time and money.
  • Poor performance and reliability: Chances are, if you’re still running legacy apps or old versions of Windows, then you have some aging servers and workstations too.  This will add to your risk because these likely out-of-warranty devices are prone to breaking down. Consider the downtime alone could be more costly than an overdue upgrade.
  • High operating costs: If technology is out-of-date or out-of-warranty, both cost and downtime are magnified when a failure occurs.  Your organization can’t afford a mission-critical app failing, and trying to maintain and bug-fix any post-EOL software can be very expensive.
  • Compliance issues: Regulated industries like healthcare and e-commerce deal with lots of sensitive customer data. Entrusting your critical information to a decade-old OS or an insecure application?  In addition to security lapses, it could result in big fines, company shutdowns, or more legal issues that could ruin your organization.

There is no bulletproof way to run EOL software.  Security, compatibility and compliance are all challenges with EOL software.

 

What are some best practices to plan ahead?

  1. Define business service management requirements:   Identify nice-to-have capabilities desired for incident management, service level assurance, problem resolution, change management, configuration management, self-service options, and integration requirements.
  2. Evaluate needs:  Focus on options that will enhance profit, ease business operations, increase revenue and reduce company operational costs. Know what you are looking for and what you want to do for an EOL replacement.
  3. Focus on processes for operations:   Identify service management processes that are unique to your business when considering vendors and purchases.
  4. Leverage modern technology:  A good objective in EOL replacement is to apply the benefits of newer technology to resolve the most obvious pain points in your IT management organization. Investing in the latest software is great, but being mindful about outdated operating systems is even better.

EOL software poses a large risk to organizations every day.  With an adequate understanding of the risks involved, advanced planning, and help from Bryley Systems, you can identify and migrate away from EOL software.  Contact us at 978.562.6077, or by email at ITExperts@Bryley.com to learn more. We are here to help.

High Tech Gadgets to Travel With

Summer is here.  Everyone is eager to plan those well-deserved long weekend trips and vacations.  Here are some trendy, cutting edge and fun gadgets that may come in handy as you head out on your next adventure.

Interested in taking high quality photos and videos on the go?

If you’re taking that dream vacation and want the perfect shot, you may be interested in Selfly.  It has a detachable, universal drone living in its 9mm phone case, which allows you to take photos on its 13mp camera and even film 1080p/60fps videos. If you’re looking for that flawless hands-free travel shot, this easy-to-carry camera can help you capture those memorable moments.

Are you a social media user?

Perhaps you would like to spice up your Facebook page or record some fun videos of that day trip with the family. The Insta360 Nano Camera brings you to a whole new world for video.  Take 360-degree photos and videos by simply plugging the device right into your iPhone or using it as an independent camera. Regardless of how you choose to film, capturing the world around you in 4K is remarkable.

Travel to Europe without the language barrier.

Overseas travel and immersing yourself in unfamiliar territory can be exciting but language barriers can be confusing.  Remove the fear of not speaking a different language by taking along Travis the Translator.  Travis is a small handheld device that can interpret 60 languages when it is connected to a Wi-Fi via a SIM card, and 20 languages in offline mode.

Planning a cross country drive?  Taking a cruise?  Flying somewhere?   For those who get motion sick, you may think about the Reliefband, which is a high tech wristband that uses electric pulses to regulate and reduce that awful feeling of nausea associated with motion sickness.

Recharge your mobile phone with iOttie. These safe and stylish fast charging solutions offer wireless charging cases and mounts for cars, bicycles, and tabletops.  Belkin also offers wireless chargers.  Even though this technology isn’t brand new, its wider spread implementation is.  Using QI-certified pads, the energetic technology can deliver a charge to your QI-enabled smartphone (including newer models of iPhone and Samsung) by simply having the phone placed on top of the pad. And there’s a bonus – for phones with lightweight cases, there’s no need to “disrobe” to make the connection.

Planning your next getaway is just half the fun.  Traveling with handy technology will help your trip be more enjoyable.