How Secure is Your Windows 10 Install?

It’s easy to poke fun at “12345” passwords and phish-y emails, but PC security is tough for the average user to manage. And if you’re a network admin, it’s even tougher to deal with security slipups that infect the whole network.

That’s where the new Windows Defender Security Center will come in handy. Debuting spring 2017 as part of the Creators Update, it’s an efficient suite of security features that’ll help users avoid hacking, malware, and other threats. You can view and control your security protections—the applications running in the background that most users don’t often think about—all in one place.

It’s simple, really: The Defender Security Center is a dashboard where users can get a full security overview of their system. And if a problem is discovered, the security center makes it easy to solve it. The Center is also a place to customize security across what Microsoft has deemed “the five pillars of protection”:

Virus and threat protection allows you to view your anti-malware app, whether you’ve chosen to use the Windows Defender Antivirus app that comes with Windows 10 or a third-party app. If you’ve chosen the Windows Defender Antivirus app for your network, you can scan results directly on the screen. (A third party app will just appear on your screen and you can launch it from there.)

Device performance and health displays your latest Windows updates, battery life, storage capacity, and drivers. This is also where you can access the “Refresh Windows” feature, which helps you do a clean install while saving your files and settings.

Firewall and network protection gives you information on network connections and firewall settings, helping you find network issues and troubleshoot them.

App and browser control lets you adjust your SmartScreen settings and tips you off to possible malicious sites and downloads, as well as unrecognized internet apps and files.

Family options is a consumer feature. According to Microsoft, you can also view the health and safety of your personal devices from this centralized location,1 which helps make all your PCs running Windows 10 more secure and manageable.

How can Defender Security Center help your business?

It’s a security tool that can be especially handy for remote workers who have to troubleshoot their devices without hands-on support. And by making it easier for the average user to secure their devices on a day-to-day basis, you’re saving your IT staff time and money—not to mention catching small problems before they become big ones.

Excited about checking out the Defender Security Center (and the entire Creators Update)? This spring you can give it a try on the HP EliteBook x360, the world’s thinnest and most secure business convertible2, and the HP Elite x3, the world’s first built for business 3-in-1 device.3 The HP Elite series—enhanced with HP Sure Start Gen34 and HP WorkWise5 protection—also supports other Windows 10 security features, such as Windows Hello and the monthly Windows Update, that work together to make sure your device security is up-to-date.

8 Tips to Turn You into a Wi-Fi Power User

Having difficulty with your Wi-Fi? Maybe your speeds are slow or you’re having trouble with the connection dropping. Here are eight tips for improving your Wi-Fi, to be better, stronger, faster!

1. Put your Wi-Fi router in the best place

Don’t put it behind large objects or inside of a cabinet. Don’t put them next to brick walls or metal, which can interfere with the signal. Put it out in the open, hopefully with direct line-of-sight to other devices. If your router is right next to a device, consider an Ethernet cable connection.

2. Switch to a stronger signal

If your devices are compatible – such as modern mobile phones and tablets – switch them to 802.11n or 802.11ac, to ensure stronger signal and faster speeds. (What’s the difference? How much faster is 802.11ac?)

3. Keep your Wi-Fi strongly secured

Configure your Wi-Fi so that unauthorized users can’t hijack it and slow down your speeds. Add WPA2 security to your network – and strong passwords!

4. Use quality-of-service (QoS) to limit bandwidth for certain apps

Dedicate the greatest speeds to the apps and services you need the most. Not sure how to change QoS on your router? Because there are so many brands and thousands of models, google what you have. Try this more detailed overview as well.

5. For large areas – buy a Wi-Fi repeater

This can extend the range of your Wi-Fi network. Wi-Fi repeaters, extenders, and boosters are all roughly the same thing, and you can research what is best for your situation

6. Switch to the 2.4HGz band to prevent a wide broadcast

Most modern routers have two frequency band settings – they are called “dual band” – which are 2.4GHz and 5GHz. 2.4GHz is for long-range signal, and 5GHz is for short-range signal. Switching to the 5GZz band can limit the people who can access your network without authorization (and pair this with locking down your network).

7. Shell out for the more expensive advanced router

Newer models offer the best security features and the fastest speeds.

8. Upgrade your wireless adapters

Upgrading your router to 802.11n or 802.11ac may increase your Wi-Fi performance, but also upgrade wireless adapters of devices to these newer standards to maximize your advantage. You can upgrade your computers with PCI, PCIe, or PC wireless cards, or USB wireless adapters. You may find that just one of these tips fixes your slow Wi-Fi woes – or that you need a combination of fixes – but speed is within your reach!

How to Add an Email Signature in Office 365 Mail

If you’re using both Office 365 Mail (Outlook.com) and Outlook on desktop, you’ll have noticed that saving your email signature in Outlook does not save it in Office 365 Mail. This can be frustrating if you’re sending email in your browser and your email signature is always missing.

You have to add your email signature in both places. Here’s how to create your Office 365 Mail email signature:

    1. In Office 365 Mail, click the gear icon in the upper right.
    2. In the menu that appears, scroll down to Your app settings and click Mail.
    3. The Options menu will appear on the left. Scroll down to Layout and click the second item, Email signature.
    4. If you want to automatically include your signature in outgoing messages and/or messages you forward or reply to, check or uncheck the two options.
    5. In the composer, enter your email signature. You can copy and paste a pre-made signature from Word or a webpage if you need to.If you want to create a table-based signature, click the down arrow button to the right of the composer buttons, and then click the Insert table. You can also find the Insert hyperlink, Undo, and Redo buttons under the “more” arrow.
      When you are done making your email signature, click the Save button at the top.

And that’s all there is to it! Just remember that if you update your email signature in Office 365 Mail, you’ll want to update it elsewhere (such as Outlook on desktop) too.

Note: If you are using Outlook Web App (OWA) instead of Office 365 Mail, you may notice discrepancies between these instructions and what you see on your screen. OWA and Office 365 Mail functionality has diverged in some cases and the user interfaces may appear different.

2016 the year of ransomware?

Ready for 2016: the year of ransomware?

It sounds easy: never negotiate with terrorists or other criminals. It’s not so simple, however, as the Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center found out after its communications systems were held hostage by ransomware in February. It fought back for 10 days, but after staff at the 434-bed hospital were reduced to pen and paper, the hospital folded and paid about $17,000 to regain access to its system.

This is shaping up to be the year of ransomware—malicious software that locks up a computer or whole network until a ransom is paid.

As the Hollywood case shows, institutions are targets, but attacks on individuals are the norm. You’re more likely to see employee laptops taken out individually rather than find your whole network taken down. Hackers typically demand their ransoms in Bitcoin because it’s untraceable. The value of Bitcoins fluctuates like any currency. At the time of writing, a single Bitcoin is worth hundreds of dollars.

When it happens to you, it’s not a hostage crisis that law enforcement is going to help with. The FBI’s cybercrime chief, for one, told security experts at a conference, “To be honest, we often advise people just to pay the ransom.”

There’s no excuse for leaving yourself an open target, however.

  1. Maintain backups

Ransom Trojans aren’t difficult to remove—some of them even remove themselves. If you’ve got backups, then just remove the Trojan, recover the files from a backup, and hope the user at fault has learned a lesson.

  1. Keep software up to date

Some ransom Trojans target user carelessness—click this link, open this attachment. Others exploit holes in software. Patch your software, especially those from popular vendors. They’re the first ones hackers will probe for vulnerabilities because they have the most customers to hold hostage.

  1. Filter executables

Ransomware writers love to disguise a program as an invoice, an “urgent” document, or a notification that you’ve missed a delivery. These are often hidden in ZIP archives, so filter those (and executables in general).

  1. Show file extensions

Make it harder for the authors of ransomware to hide their intentions because you’ve allowed Windows to hide the file extension. If a file is really called “Invoice.doc.exe,” then you shouldn’t allow it to present itself to the user as “Invoice.doc.”

Forcing Windows to call an executable an executable gives your users at least a fighting chance.

  1. Restrict user privileges

One infected user can’t bring down another user if they don’t have access to their machines in the first place. Giving a machine access only to what it really needs makes it harder for your network to fall like a line of dominoes.

  1. Disable remote desktop protocol

Malware operators like to use Windows’ native remote access feature and third-party software to get malicious code onto computers in the first place.

Remote desktop protocol is phenomenally useful, but it doesn’t need to be switched on all the time.

Ransomware will undoubtedly grow, given that the profits from a piece of ransomware:

  •  Increase without marginal cost
  •  The rewards per machine are in the hundreds of dollars

Stay vigilant!  If you don’t know the sender and an attachment looks suspicious, contact the ROC.

What you need to know about Mobile Apps and security!

Mobile apps are amazing! There is no denying that. Countless are the Fruit Ninja and Clash of Clans fans who swear the games are the best thing since sliced bread! But your favorite gaming app may not be the safest for your phone and your personal information.

You are in control… Until you press the download button!

Every time you download an app, it will most likely ask for permission to access: phone networks, information on your device, your location and more. So far so good. Apps need to use your mobile networks to connect to the internet and deliver the service they promise. Depending on the app, they might need to access your location and other basic information. The conundrum starts when permissions are used for purposes users are completely oblivious to. It is common practice for some apps to transfer your personal information to 3rd parties without your consent
When it comes to applications downloaded from either the Apple store or the Android store, you are ultimately in control, as you make the decision to or not to press to download button. In the end, it is up to you to be vigilant when downloading apps. The best practice is to compare and contrast the app’s service and the permissions it asks for. For instance if a photo editing app demands access to:  your call history, your location, your microphone and more, that should be enough to raise a red flag! Look for discrepancies between the app’s description and the permissions it asks for.

social-personal

Be extra cautious when apps ask for permission to access phone applications that may contain sensitive information such as: historical info, device and app history, photos, identity, microphone and recordings, contact information, SMS/messages, location etc. In doubt, use the Privacy grade website to double check and see how your apps are rated . The website uses a grading system (on an A to D scale) that compares permissions required by a given app against your expectations of the app’s behavior and the actual usage made of the accessed files. Privacy Grade is one of many resources users have at their disposition to make informed decisions when downloading new apps. Apps like Gmail and Facebook received and A grade on privacygrade.org while the publicly acclaimed Fruit Ninja received a  D grade. This is not surprising given that most apps generate revenue by displaying ads using your personal information or by selling your data to advertising companies. In the world of free applications, there is no such a thing as a free lunch!

Don’t Just Keep Up with IT. Lead the Pack!

Maintaining your company’s IT environment may feel like running some twisted obstacle course. You are constantly dodging security threats, running towards the next solution, and jumping across the gaps in your IT department. While performance-enhancing supplements are forbidden in organized sports, your IT department’s performance will take all the help it can get.

Businesses that get caught up in the obstacles and can’t adapt soon find themselves fading away into obscurity. Forbes found that of the companies on the Fortune 1000 list ten years ago, seventy percent are no longer in business because they were unable to adapt. That’s right. 700 companies went the way of the dinosaur just because they weren’t able to keep up with changes going on around them.

You don’t have to run the gauntlet alone. When you utilize a managed service provider like Optimum, you have a team of trained professionals behind you that can help you source the right products and solutions so you’re never buying things you don’t need. We identify the solutions your business needs to propel forward.

lead-the-packOur warehouse inventory enables your business hit the market harder and faster, giving you the advantage over your competitors. We have your hardware ready on hand to keep up with your business’ growth. Never again will you have to wait for your managed service provider to keep up with you.

Need more direction to keep in shape? Optimum can fit your IT department with a Virtual CIO (Chief Technology Office). The VCIO will meet with you and your team on a regular basis to:

  • Keep your products and services suited for your business’ needs
  • Make sure technology is up to date
  • Keep technology solid and stable

All this and more is included with your Virtual CIO and the On-Care Premium Package.

Run circles around your competitors and leave them in the dust! Call Optimum Networking at 720-248-3580 to schedule an assessment today!

The Service Desk (R)evolution: Real People with Custom Solutions

 

When you talk to IT support, they are supposed to help you find a solution as quickly as possible, right? Unfortunately, most help desks have a milquetoast first response to your IT issues. After a while, you get tired of the same old, same old. The problem here is that many of the ‘first responder’ technicians are not trained well enough to be able to thoroughly address your problem, resulting in a transfer to yet another technician to attempt a solution. Optimum Networking is solving this problem by evolving and revolutionizing IT support.

So what are the ingredients of an IT revolution?

  • Our support technicians are experts in the industry – We only hire the best of the best professionals who have years of experience and have earned their ‘expert’ status.
  • We’re LOCAL – Our experts aren’t in another country. We’re right here in the USA.
  • No touch-tone menus – Immediately reach a real person who can give you the help you need.
  • We’re connected — Our Remote Operations Center features monitors on the wall with detailed information about your servers’ vitals.
    servicesWe pride ourselves on providing a truly dependable service desk. Choosing Optimum gives you unlimited access to our growing expert team of IT professionals and engineers—an incomparable knowledge base that you simply can’t get with a single IT person. Optimum technicians are always ready to help when you experience unexpected downtime. We deliver a comprehensive menu of the quality resources, tools, and expertise to get you back up and running quickly and efficiently. By choosing Optimum, all of your services are made to order! You will be getting a custom designed and sized server or storage device, in addition to an expert team dedicated exclusively to you and your specific IT needs, infrastructure, and preferences. Optimum focuses on IBM hardware for servers and storage, including V3700 storage area networks. We have installed countless numbers of these systems and have vast experience with many of their product lines.By properly setting up your networking solution, we’ll prevent as many problems as possible. If a problem comes up, it won’t be a problem for long. Rest assured, we’re here to help.Get cooking with the custom IT support you need from Optimum Networking. Call 720-248-3580 to schedule a free evaluation.

Keep Your Healthcare Data Within Arm’s Reach, Not Within Theirs

Healthcare providers, have enough on their minds when it comes to maintaining patient records and keeping them within compliance. The changes in privacy regulations seem to happen on a daily basis. Patient data needs to be private, yet available to physicians and patients. The latest trend in providing this level of security and accessibility was the cloud – the cloud allowed anyone to remotely access and store data. The cloud was the answer to the growing storage needs of business.

But lately, the cloud has lost its clout. Breaches in security wounded some of the largest organizations in the country. Businesses all across the country soon feared that their cloud-hosted data would be vulnerable to such attacks. Hacked cell phone photos are one thing, but when it comes to your clients’ personal information and data, every precaution must be taken to secure them. Even with these imminent security threats, customers have to forgive and forget because these organizations are their primary product and service provider.

health

Between January and July of 2014, almost 12 million health data breaches were reported to the US Department of Health and Human Services. There is no doubt that this number will only continue to escalate unless preventative measures are taken. Wouldn’t it be nice if there were someone out there who not only understood your concerns but also could help alleviate them?

At Optimum Networking, all your client data isn’t floating out there in the cloud to get perused by unauthorized eyes. We offer safe and secure on-site servers that can provide the same level of accessibility as the cloud but a greater level of security. We utilize the latest IBM System X servers with V3700 storage area networks. Our knowledge and expertise with these systems are unparalleled and is available for you benefit from.

When looking for a storage solution, we understand that your IT department has a seemingly endless list of needs and wants but at Optimum we have the solutions ready to satisfy that list. Call 720-248-3580 to schedule a free assessment to see how Optimum can optimize your IT.

Leveraging Big Data and Analytics in the Oil and Gas Industry

The oil and gas industry has come a long way since Spindletop, when the first big strike opened up the historic Texas oilfields. Today, the oil and gas industry is at the forefront of technology innovation, which means that when the oil company’s office server goes down, the activity in the field may come to a screeching halt.

These two environments – the office/data center and the field – are inextricably linked in highly specialized ways. The availability of sensors that collect and transmit data, combined with new predictive analytics capabilities, are enabling companies to avoid failures and costly downtime.   According to Oil and Gas Monitor, “Being able to pinpoint where exactly abnormalities initially develop allows operators to plan downtime to minimize lost productivity.”

Predictive analytics allows a company to shift from costly reactive maintenance to proactive planned maintenance, resulting in:

  • Improved equipment reliability
  • Asset availability
  • Efficiency and productivity

Similarity-based Modeling (SBM) technology helps detects anomalies and provides prioritization and advanced diagnostics based on historical data from hundreds of millions of machine hours and tens of thousands of failures. That’s big data, but without the ready availability of analytical tools, anomalies in the system can go unnoticed leading to more costly failures in the future.

“The reality is that predictive analytics software can turn astronomical problems that are weeks or months down the road into minor, lower-cost fixes that can be done today.” Oil and Gas Monitor

In addition to the predictive analytics used to extract and analyze data from system monitors, big data analytics are critical to exploration and production. According to a report by Booz, Allen & Hamilton, one of the key differentiators for oil and gas companies will be their ability to extract insight from big data using analytics. The data coming from field exploration and production must be analyzed and acted upon faster than ever to gain competitive advantage.petroleum dataAnother article in Oil and Gas Monitor focuses on the impact of big data, and the need for IT resources:

“Oil and gas companies will spend more money on equipment outfitted with advanced sensors to collect data. These companies will want a measurable return on this investment. But to obtain that return, more computers and software will be needed, with increased processing power. Trained personnel, who are in short-supply, will be needed to design and analyze these systems to tease out relationships from fast-flowing, unstructured data from seemingly unrelated data sets.”

Optimum Networking has a special understanding of the complexities of IT in the oil and gas industry, both in the field and in the data center. Designing, implementing, and maintaining systems for oil and gas companies is a specialty honed over many years of experience. Helping companies develop systems and software that can take advantage of big data from the field is one of Optimum’s specialties. Contact Optimum Networking for more information.

Adapting to Fluctuations in the Oil and Gas Business

If there’s one industry where scalability is a top priority, it’s oil and gas. Boom and bust cycles can create chaos, particularly in the IT department where rigid infrastructures can be both risky and expensive to reconfigure. A recent Network Computing article quotes a Gartner study [RK1] that predicts that 50 percent of unplanned IT outages will be caused by hand off issues and integration changes, configurations, and releases through 2015. In an industry that is constantly scaling up and down, changes in the IT department can be a serious liability.

When market fluctuations lead to data center instability, potential profits can burn off like a flare. Rapid scaling can result in a patchwork IT infrastructure that isn’t tuned to the task and is doomed to fail. This Band-Aid process costs far more in the long run than an upfront investment in the proper IT consulting, planning, implementation and management.

petroleumLike all industries, oil and gas has specialized IT needs. Many of these needs are driven by technologies outside the data center, where information is gathered and devices are controlled. In the evolving digital oilfield, many customized applications may be required. According to Colorado’s Innosphere, a entrepreneurial sandbox of sorts, these specialized apps include:

  • Surface and downhole modeling capabilities
  • Visualization
  • Data capture
  • Advanced data analytics
  • Smart devices, sensors, and the internet of things
  • Wireless communication
  • IT and physical security

Above all, IT managers in the oil and gas business should partner with an IT service firm that understands how to control and manage rapid fluctuations in their environment and the best practices required to build a solid, sustainable IT infrastructure.

One of the common misconceptions IT leaders have in traditional industries like oil and gas is when it comes to the rent versus own option. Many new or growing oil and gas companies assume that there will need to be a huge up front capital expense for IT infrastructure and related gear.

In the last five years, the manner in which companies consume and pay for IT has changed dramatically. Technologies like virtualization and cloud have made it feasible for a company to subscribe to IT services the way we subscribe to utilities. The IT functions that can now be consumed “as-a-service” delivered over the Internet include:

    • Infrastructure (servers, storage, networking)
    • Backup and recovery
    • Business Continuity and Disaster      Recovery
    • Business applications, both standard      office and industry-specific
    • Security
    • Communications
    • Video surveillance
    • And more…

Each service can be delivered on a “pay for use” basis, dramatically decreasing the capital investment required to get the firm operational.

If you’re just getting started in oil and gas or trying to scale to current market conditions in any industry, the professionals at Optimum Networking would like the opportunity to chat with you about your IT needs. Our engineering heritage makes us particularly well-suited to serve the oil and gas industry, and we can build a plan that will allow you to safely scale your infrastructure and respond to fluctuations in the marketplace without burning through your IT budget.