Don’t Let the Summer Heat Destroy Your Mobile Devices

As much as we all enjoy outdoor activities that go along with those “lazy days of summer”, we are always reminded to stay hydrated, use sunscreen, avoid too much physical activity during peak hours, etc.   But, what about our precious mobile devices?  Are they being protected from the heat?

Here are a few things to remember as you’re out and about enjoying the warmth of the summer days.  If you get hot, your mobile devices probably will too.  Read on for a few helpful tips to keep your smartphones and tablets cool and running smoothly all summer long:

1 – If at all possible, charge the battery in your phone or tablet indoors where it’s cool.  Charging any battery will cause it to heat up, and if the temperature is 90 degrees or above it could possibly cause the entire device to over-heat and fail.

2 – Try not to use your device in direct sunlight for extended periods of time on hot summer days, especially if it has a black or dark colored case.  The sun’s hot rays can rapidly turn most any electronic device into a chunk of molten plastic and silicon, and typically, the damage is done before you even realize that it is happening.

3 – Install a quality anti-malware app on your devices to prevent viruses and malicious apps from over-working their CPUs and other components.

4 – Don’t leave your devices in a hot vehicle all day, even if the vehicle is in the shade when you park it.  If you have no choice and simply must leave your device(s) in a hot vehicle, wrap it in a cloth and leave it in the trunk.  Avoid leaving it in the passenger compartment.

5 – Use an app such as Clean Master or CCleaner for Android to keep your devices running as efficiently and cool as possible.These apps can help keep your device’s virtual working environment free of clutter, which in turn will allow the CPU and memory to work less while the device is running.

While we cannot control the outside temperature on a hot summer day, these steps can help protect your smart phones and tablets.  Stay Cool!

Phishing Scams During Tax Season – Protect Your Personal Information

Phishing schemes, especially during tax season, have become very widespread.  A little extra caution can go a long way to avoid the threat of refund fraud or identity theft.

The Definition of Phishing. It is the attempt to obtain sensitive information such as usernames, passwords, and credit card details (and, indirectly, money), often for malicious reasons, by disguising as a trustworthy entity in an electronic communication.

Phishing scams are easy to accomplish and can be done from home. A typical phishing email during tax season will bear similar (or sometimes identical) IRS letterhead or logos and will instruct you to follow a link that will lead you to, you guessed it, a site that requests your personal information. Some individuals are too quick to trust a logo or letterhead and forget to check the validity of an email/site before divulging their personal information.

In recent years, thousands of people have lost millions of dollars and their personal information to tax scams and fake IRS communication. Scammers use the regular mail, telephone, fax or email to set up their victims.

Knowledge is Power! Remember that the IRS doesn’t initiate contact with taxpayers by email, text messages or social media channels to request personal or financial information. In addition, the IRS does not threaten taxpayers with lawsuits, imprisonment or other enforcement action. Recognizing these telltale signs of a phishing or tax scam could save you from becoming a victim.

Last-Minute Email Scams. The IRS, state tax agencies and the tax industry urges taxpayers to be on guard against suspicious activity, especially email scams requesting last-minute deposit changes for refunds or account updates.

Learn to recognize phishing emails, calls or texts that pose as banks, credit card companies, tax software providers or even the IRS. They generally urge you to give up sensitive data such as passwords, Social Security numbers and bank or credit card accounts. Never provide your private information!  If you receive suspicious emails forward them to phishing@irs.gov. Never open an attachment or link from an unknown or suspicious source!

IRS-Impersonation Telephone Scams. “An aggressive and sophisticated phone scam targeting taxpayers has been making the rounds throughout the country. Callers claim to be employees of the IRS, using fake names and bogus IRS identification badge numbers. They may know a lot about their targets, and they usually alter the caller ID to make it look like the IRS is calling.

Victims are told they owe money to the IRS and it must be paid promptly through a pre-loaded debit card or wire transfer. Victims may be threatened with arrest, deportation or suspension of a business or driver’s license. In many cases, the caller becomes hostile and insulting. Or, victims may be told they have a refund due to try to trick them into sharing private information. If the phone isn’t answered, the scammers often leave an “urgent” callback request.”1

The IRS will never:

  • Call to demand immediate payment using a specific payment method such as a prepaid debit card, gift card or wire transfer. Generally, the IRS will first mail you a bill if you owe any taxes.
  • Threaten to immediately bring in local police or other law-enforcement groups to have you arrested for not paying.
  • Demand that you pay taxes without giving you the opportunity to question or appeal the amount they say you owe.
  • Ask for credit or debit card numbers over the phone.
  • Remember: Scammers Change Tactics — Aggressive and threatening phone calls by criminals impersonating IRS agents remain a major threat to taxpayers, but variations of the IRS impersonation scam continue year-round and they tend to peak when scammers find prime opportunities to strike.

Surge in Email, Phishing and Malware Schemes. “When identity theft takes place over the web (email), it is called phishing. The IRS saw an approximate 400 percent surge in phishing and malware incidents in the 2016 tax season. The IRS has issued several alerts about the fraudulent use of the IRS name or logo by scammers trying to gain access to consumers’ financial information to steal their identity and assets.

Scam emails are designed to trick taxpayers into thinking these are official communications from the IRS or others in the tax industry, including tax software companies. These phishing schemes may seek information related to refunds, filing status, confirming personal information, ordering transcripts and verifying PIN information.

Variations of these scams can be seen via text messages. The IRS is aware of email phishing scams that include links to bogus web sites intended to mirror the official IRS web site. These emails contain the direction “you are to update your IRS e-file immediately.” The emails mention USA.gov and IRSgov (without a dot between “IRS” and “gov”), though not IRS.gov (with a dot). These emails are not from the IRS. The sites may ask for information used to file false tax returns or they may carry malware, which can infect computers and allow criminals to access your files or track your keystrokes to gain information.”

Unsolicited email claiming to be from the IRS, or from a related component such as EFTPS, should be reported to the IRS at phishing@irs.gov.

Tax Refund Scam Artists Posing as Taxpayer Advocacy Panel. “Some taxpayers may receive emails that appear to be from the Taxpayer Advocacy Panel (TAP) about a tax refund. These emails are a phishing scam, where unsolicited emails try to trick victims into providing personal and financial information. Do not respond or click any link. If you receive this scam, please forward it to phishing@irs.gov and note that it seems to be a scam email phishing for your information.

 TAP is a volunteer board that advises the IRS on systemic issues affecting taxpayers. It never requests, and does not have access to, any taxpayer’s personal and financial information.

How to Report Tax-Related Schemes, Scams, Identity Theft and Fraud. To report tax-related illegal activities, you should report instances of IRS-related phishing attempts and fraud to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration at 800-366-4484.”3

Additional Scam-Related Information:

Security Summit – Learn more about how the IRS, representatives of the software industry, tax preparation firms, payroll and tax financial product processors and state tax administrators are working together to combat identity theft and refund fraud.

IRS Security Awareness Tax Tips

Tax Scams — How to Report Them

State ID Theft Resources – State information on what to do if you or your employees are victims of identity theft.

IRS Dirty Dozen – The annually compiled list enumerates a variety of common scams that taxpayers may encounter

 If you suspect you are a victim, contact the IRS Identity Theft Protection Specialized Unit at 800-908-4490. When reporting to the IRS, you will need to:

  • Send a copy of an IRS ID Theft Affidavit Form 14039 – download the form here: irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/f14039.pdf.
  • Send a proof of your identity, such as a copy of your Social Security card, driver’s license or passport.

After doing that, make sure to:

  • Update your files with records of any calls you made or letters you sent to the IRS
  • Put a fraud alert on your credit reports and order copies of your credit reports to review any other possible damage
  • Create an Identity Theft Report by filing an identity theft complaint with the FTC and a police report

 

Sources and References:

1 http://www.vanderbloemengroup.com/articles/irs-impersonation-telephone-scam

2 http://www.irs.gov

3 http://www.irs.gov

http://usa.gov/business-taxes

http://www.aarp.org

https://taxadmin.org/

https://treasury.gov/tigta/

Spring Cleaning? 4 Options for Discarding Old Hardware

Whether replacing old equipment with something new or simply cleaning out the office and getting rid of some old devices, we all have the same question on our mind.  What do we do with all this old technology?

We live in a world where technology is considered obsolete after only a few years. And if you are like many people I know, you have a drawer, closet, or room full of old devices. Unless you want to make a guest appearance on “Hoarders,” it is best to discard them. But how? You can’t just bring it to a landfill. (Those toxic materials regulations will get you every time!)

Before considering what to do with the old devices, it is vital that all data is properly removed. Simply deleting them from your recycle bin won’t do the job. Even if you can’t see the files, they still exist on the hard drive. It is therefore important to have the hard drive wiped or destroyed. Here at Bryley, we perform data erasure crush the drives to ensure the data doesn’t fall into the wrong hands.

We have come up with 4 possible options when discarding old hardware:

  • Reuse/Repurpose – Since many devices use similar parts, you may consider keeping one or two spares. Accidents happen and you never want to be in a situation where you don’t have a backup device. I, personally, keep one prior phone and laptop, just in case. I would rather have it and not need it, than not have it and need it.
  • Donate – Why not help those that are less fortunate by donating a device you no longer need. There are many organizations that would love to have second-hand items. When it comes to donating mobile devices, I usually drop them off at my local police station for either Phones for Soldiers or for those in domestic violence situations. Phones for Soldiers will sell the phones to purchase phone cards so that members of our military can stay connected with their loved ones. The police will often give old phones to individuals living with domestic violence. These phones can be used to contact emergency personnel even if there is no SIM card. Here at Bryley, we take older PCs, wipe them and display them in our window with a request for $15 to be donated to the Hudson Food Pantry or the Hudson Boys and Girls Club.
  • Donating to an after-school program is another great option. Some children do not have a reliable computer at home. It can therefore be challenging for them to complete their coursework.
  • Recycle – Recycling your devices is another viable option. Here at Bryley, for a small fee, we will responsibly recycle your devices and ensure that it is properly taken care of. Most stores that sell computers, and towns that have a program for responsibly disposing of your devices, will help you recycle your devices. They follow specific EPA protocols for disposing of the toxic materials within computers, laptops, printers, and mobile phones. Most towns have set dates for these programs, so it’s best to contact your local DPW (Department of Public Works) to inquire when the drop-off program will next be available.
  • Sell – Another option when considering getting rid of old hardware is to sell it. Technology is a depreciating asset, so if someone is willing to pay you for a device that you were going to dispose of, why not do it? There are numerous outlets for selling your old devices – Craigslist, Gazzelle.com, and eBay, to name a few. You can always leverage your social network as well.

If you would like assistance in donating or recycling your older devices, call us at 844.449.8770 or email us at ITExperts@Bryley.com. We are here for you.

The Benefit of a VPN

The news is filled with how internet service providers have the ability to track our web surfing habits and the numerous data breaches that occur – it is no secret that online privacy is nearly non-existent.  Private browsing features can temporarily cover up your browsing history, but they do not completely protect your online activities. A Virtual Private Network (VPN) is one of the easiest ways to protect your employees and your corporate data.

A VPN is a network created between your employee and what they access.  It is a group of servers connected via the internet.  Essentially, your corporate data is encrypted and no one else can view, control, influence or change your activity.

Security and privacy are the main reasons why you would want a VPN. For example, if one of your road warriors is connected to a public Wi-Fi network — like the ones in local cafes and airports — using a VPN encrypts the information they are sending or accessing online. This means things like credit card details, login credentials, private conversations, or other sensitive documents can’t be intercepted by a third party.

Some advantages of using a VPN:

  1. Enhanced security. When you connect to your network through a VPN, your data is kept secure and encrypted – making it difficult for a potential hacker to do damage.
  2. Remote access. The ability to access information from home or while your employees are traveling, will increase productivity while remaining secure.
  3. Access to geo-restricted websites.  If your employees travel overseas, they may experience some US websites that are blocked in that region.  By connecting to a VPN located in the US, your employee will gain access to the site(s) they need.
  4. File sharing.  A VPN will allow you to share files for a long period of time.  While your employees are working on group projects with multiple people accessing data, it allows your employees to accomplish that task securely.
  5. Increased performance. Bandwidth and efficiency of the network can be generally increased once a VPN solution is implemented.
  6. Online anonymity. The advantage of a VPN service is that it allows you to access both web applications and websites in complete anonymity.

If your employees are working remotely, a VPN is a vital component of cybersecurity.  Consult with one of our experts today.

To inquire about Bryley’s full array of Managed Cloud Services and Managed IT Services, please contact us by phone at 978.562.6077 or by email at ITExperts@Bryley.com. We are here for you.

Relocating Your Organization? Set Some Goals and Hire IT Experts to Help.

Moving your business in 2018?

While moving to a new location is exciting, let’s face it, there is a lot that goes into a move, and it has the potential to be very disruptive to your business.  As the moving date approaches all the little details you never even considered suddenly become insurmountable obstacles. By being proactive, you can keep all interruptions to a minimum.  Whether you are expanding or consolidating space, when you are ready to ‘make the move’ keep in mind that you should set some goals and hire some experts to help.  Proper planning can be the difference between a seamless transition or a giant disruption for your business.

Bryley Systems has worked with many clients over the years to assist them in their relocation efforts.  Here are some guidelines based on our experience:

Keep the Communication Lines Open.  Getting everyone up to speed on the details of the plan is essential and training the key personnel on what their tasks are is step 1.  Gather your team and develop a plan so that you know who is in charge of what.  Each member will need to begin working on their tasks to ensure a smooth transition.

Plan Well in Advance. Once you know you’re moving into a new office, scope out the space and decide on the layout, including where everything and everyone will go. That will allow you to plan out what your needs are as far as new office equipment goes, and give employees an opportunity to do their own planning ahead for their new space. Create a map or floor plan so that everyone knows the plan.  If you need new office equipment, allow yourself a couple months to place orders for new equipment.

It is a good idea to reach out to your IT department or service provider at this stage.  At the very least you want to make sure that you will have the necessary network access in your new environment, and they will be able to make recommendations that may inform how best to arrange the space.

Hire a Reputable Moving Company.  Plan well in advance and hire a company that is capable of moving commercial equipment. Your moving company should be held to the highest professional standard as any of your other business partners.

Clean and Toss.  Then Toss Some More!  Don’t bring things you don’t need! Shred all unnecessary papers, get rid of office furniture that has been collecting dust and sell or donate equipment that you won’t be needing anymore.  There is no point in moving things you will not need, and in today’s modern electronic age, why move heavy boxes of paper files?  Scan important documents and create a clean, organized electronic filing system.  And remember, shred those unneeded documents.  Hire a shredding company to remove all the paper so that you don’t leave your organization vulnerable to a security breach.

Get Your Staff Organized.  Have your employees pack things neatly and label everything so that your movers can swiftly put things in to place – efficiency and organization go a long way.

Be Sure to Schedule Meetings and Deadlines Realistically.  It’s very important to give your staff the appropriate time to do everything they need to do prior to the move, along with making sure they keep up with their day to day tasks. If it means creating a buffer zone for meetings, then do it.  Being ill-prepared for a meeting is a disaster so give yourself a few days or a few weeks to be fully up and running in your new location before you hit the road or have a major deadline.

Talk, Talk Talk! Tell Your Clients and Business Partners.  Reducing client concerns is a huge factor so remember to be visible and communicate to the world that you have a new office space.

Yes.  Hire IT Experts – like Bryley! When it comes to your IT hardware, you need a specialist.  You may think you are capable of handling your move internally, but before machines are powered down, they need to be backed up. New ports and connections at your new location need to be in place and ready to go before you get there with the equipment.  Setting up cabling and jacks will need to be installed by an expert to ensure your setup is correct and that your employees are as productive as possible when they arrive to work their first day at the new location. This is not an easy job, and doing it incorrectly can be very disruptive.  If your IT hardware isn’t handled properly, you risk catastrophic data loss at a volatile time for your organization.

This is also a great time to plan for the future.  If you expect to be adding personnel within a certain timeframe after moving, make sure that you bring this up with your service provider.  They can help you plan accordingly so you don’t find yourself replacing hardware you just paid them to move because it can’t handle the new demands you are making of it.

The key to a successful office move is careful planning. Moving your IT is one of the most critical tasks. You need to minimize downtime to prevent any impact on your business.  Bryley Systems has worked alongside numerous companies who needed a capable IT provider to guide them along the way.  We will meet with you, gather details, understand your business and your IT infrastructure, and plan for a seamless transition of your equipment, and work with you at your new site to trouble-shoot any challenges you have.

If you are planning a move, give us a call at 978.562.6077.  We will meet with you, gather details and plan for a seamless transition of your IT equipment. And, we will work with you at your new site to trouble-shoot any challenges you have. We also have a detailed moving guide available on our website for you to reference.

 

Bryley Systems has 30 years of experience taking the worry off of our clients’ shoulders and effectively managing IT environments at a predictable cost. For more information about Bryley’s full array of Managed IT Services and Managed Cloud Services, please contact us at 978.562.6077 or by email at ITExperts@Bryley.com.

We are here to help.

How to Tell a Client You Are Relocating Your Office

Making the decision to relocate your organization is the first step in the process of a very long list of to-do’s.  It is a complicated but rewarding process.  It will take careful planning to eliminate employee downtime and for you to minimize the impact on your business’ day-to-day operations.

One of the crucial tasks involved with moving is to be sure you make it as simple as possible for your clients to find you. Here are some tips to help you communicate that message effectively:

Tell Your Clients as Soon as Possible.  Start telling people far in advance of the actual move date. Use whatever tools you would normally use to reach out to your clients.  Use email, social media, announce it on your web site, include a notice on your email signature and put a note on your invoices. Be sure to post regular reminders and updates about the move.

Why Not Make It Local News?  Contact your chamber of commerce and networking groups to request they make announcements.  It’s a great and effective way of getting the word out there, and typically you’re not paying extra dollars for reaching many people in the community.

Make It a Big Deal.  In every piece of content that you announce the move, make it exciting! Tell your clients why it’s exciting – whether it means a bigger location, you’re expanding your business, or that you’ll be closer to your clients. If you are downsizing, it can be described as a positive business decision aimed at decreasing wasted resources.  Either way, it’s all in how you package it.

Post A Notice On Your Website.  Put an announcement on your homepage in a very visible way. Create a page dedicated to move updates so expectations of office relocation dates are very clear.  On your About Us and Contact Us pages, add information for both your current and new location, including dates you will be moving or closed for moving. If you have a blog, post updates regularly.

Hopefully these tips will help your organization spread the word to your clients to make the transition easy for them!

Windows 7, Windows 8, or Windows 10? Eeny, meeny, miny, moe?

By Anna D, Client Relationship Manager, Bryley Systems

Choosing which Windows operating system (OS) to install on your computer is not child’s play.

I know, because as the Bryley Systems’ Client Relationship Manager, I have this conversation with clients over and over again, especially when clients are purchasing new computers.

Here’s what I recommend.

If you are purchasing new computers for your organization, you should seriously consider installing Windows 10. 

Some clients want to install Windows 7, perhaps because they’re familiar with it. However, Windows 7 has a relatively short lifespan. It will be at “end of life” on January 14th, 2020.  This means that Microsoft will no longer be providing security updates for that operating system, in which case your computer will be more susceptible to viruses and your organization will not be compliant.  In 3 years, you will have to upgrade that operating system. An upgrade involves labor costs, software licensing, and employee downtime. Not the best idea.

What about Windows 8? Good question. Windows 8 was the operating system that Microsoft “abandoned,” probably because it was not well received. Windows 8 was only around for 3 years, making it one of the most short-lived operating system licenses that Microsoft has ever released. What’s more, many distributors are not stocking their inventory with computers that have Windows 8 or 8.1 pre-installed. That’s a problem.

That brings us to Windows 10, which is definitely my recommendation. Of course, prior to installing Windows 10, you need to find out if all of your applications are compatible with this newest operating system.  We can help you make that determination.

Transitioning to a new operating system isn’t always easy, but it is a best practice and we can guide you through the process. For more information, please call Bryley Systems at 978-562-6077 or toll free at 844-449-8770. Of course, you can also email us at ITExperts@Bryley.com.

Why Invest in a UPS?

UPS stands for uninterruptible power supply. This electrical device is meant to provide a power supply in the event of a power outage or when the power input fails.

Power outages can result from electrical poles being damaged by storms, traffic accidents, fire, flood and other disasters.  Faults in the grid or power plant can also cause blackouts.  We cope with these inconveniences but our computers, unfortunately, just are not hardwired to cope with them in the same way.  Sudden power loss during data transfers can be damaging making the hard drive inaccessible.

Computers can be fragile pieces of machinerySevere damage can occur with a sudden power outage or fluctuation.  Components in a computer such as a hard drive can be affected and data can even get lost when power goes off and you have not properly shut down your computer.  It is especially damaging to the computer’s hard drive when there is power interruption.  When power is suddenly cut off, your hard drive spins down without being shut down properly.  When power comes back and you restart, you may find that much of your work has been lost. When power is restored, it is often accompanied by fluctuations which may turn your computer off again.  Hard drives can only take so much, and in some cases, computers can be destroyed. To protect your computer’s hard drive from these unfortunate scenarios, you need to plug your computer into an electrical device called a UPS system.

Right at the moment of a power blackout, these handy devices will act as a battery backup power supply which will automatically provide power to your computer for enough time to allow you to save your data and properly shut down your computer.

Because the circuit in this power device continuously monitors the voltage, it can sense surges, spikes and outages. When the UPS senses an electrical problem, it switches to AC power which is generated by a battery which provides you with protection.

Ultimately, a UPS backup battery gives you peace of mind while working. You won’t have to cringe when a thunderstorm rolls through, wondering if it would be better to simply power down your machine and wait it out. In addition, you won’t have those fears in the back of your mind that a power blackout may instantly cut off your work, wasting your time and efforts, and even worse, destroy your computer.

Remember, having a plan and being prepared is your first line of defense.  If you would like more information about emergency power outage strategies please contact us at 978.562.6077or by email at ITExperts@Bryley.com.  We are here to help.