How Is the Metaverse Going to Change Business?

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How Is the Metaverse Going to Change Business?

The new buzzword around town is “metaverse.” But what does that actually mean for businesses? Is it just something that social media companies need to be concerned about?

According to people like Apple’s CEO Tim Cook, the metaverse is coming. He stated that “Life without AR will soon be unthinkable.” Whether that’s a short-term or long-off prediction, companies need to be ready.

First comes the understanding of what the metaverse is. Metaverse is a general term – hence why it’s not capitalized like a proper name. The metaverse refers to a collective upgrade of the internet to a 3D virtual environment. This would be a world interconnected between various sites. These sites would reflect the immersive games that you see today.

Did Facebook/Meta invent the metaverse? No.

The idea of connected 3D immersive worlds has been around for decades. Several online gaming companies have staked a territory in the metaverse. But their applications are less interconnected.

What’s one of the best representations of the early metaverse? It’s a short-lived software called Adobe Atmosphere. This 3D immersive experience included interconnected online worlds. It also gave people the ability to chat with others. It was a bit before its time but shows how the concept of the metaverse has been around for a while.

The metaverse is getting attention now because technology has advanced. It has begun to catch up to the needs of such a world. This includes fast internet connections and immense processing power. It also includes a delivery method for 3D that works on most PCs.

Are we there yet? Not quite. But the metaverse is picking up steam. Recently, Microsoft announced a partnership with Meta. This partnership is to bring Microsoft 365 apps into the metaverse. This means collaboration in an entirely new way. Microsoft notes that 50% of Gen Z and millennials expect to do some of their work in the metaverse in the next two years.

Image source: Microsoft

How Does the Metaverse Impact Your Company?

With companies like Microsoft looking at the future of AR/VR, it could be a reality soon. You can expect the metaverse to touch your own company in some way in the next few years. Here’s a preview of what it may impact.

Where to Advertise

When the internet was first introduced, companies didn’t immediately realize its potential. Now, most companies wouldn’t consider operating without a website. It’s a necessity for driving leads and converting sales.

If the metaverse takes off as a new 3D iteration of the internet, it could be just as important. This means exploring metaverse-type advertising in virtual worlds. Also, potentially creating your own VR site or showroom.

How to Service Customers

As the popularity of social media took off, companies realized customers used it to reach out. Seventy-nine percent of consumers expect companies to respond to a social media message. And they expect that response within a day.

To address that need, many businesses have a social media presence. They use this for marketing and to answer questions and inquiries from customers.

The metaverse may be the next step. If people begin hanging out there, they will expect to interact with businesses in that space. Just like they do now with social networks.

This means companies need to be aware of how customers may be using the metaverse as it grows. Adding a question about metaverse use to a year-end customer survey could be a way to be proactive on this topic.

Employee Training

One of the touted benefits of the metaverse is its ability to enable more immersive training. This could greatly increase training capabilities for everyone from doctors to forklift operators.

Imagine being able to replicate a task more closely in a virtual world. A person could safely make mistakes there. Then they could grow proficient before doing that thing in real life.

Start thinking about the types of training that your employees need. Then, look at ways that a VR world may make the training safer or more efficient. The metaverse may not have what you’re looking for now. But with the pace of technological advancement, it could in a year or two.

More Immersive Remote Team Collaboration

Virtual meetings skyrocketed out of necessity during the pandemic. Now, meeting by Teams or Zoom is commonplace. The next generation of online team meetings may end up being in a virtual world.

As we noted earlier, Microsoft is already working on bringing its apps into a virtual space. Add a few avatars and an immersive setting. Suddenly, you have a completely different meeting experience.

What’s one more way to enhance remote team collaboration in the metaverse? It has to do with building design and maintenance. Imagine being able to walk through a 3D recreation of a space before it’s built. Then fine-tuning the construction while inside that space.

Is Your Business Ready for the Next Digital Transformation?

What are your digital transformation plans for the next 12 months? The next three years? If you’re not sure where to begin, we can help. Contact us today to schedule a technology brainstorming session.


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This Article has been Republished with Permission from The Technology Press.

Have You Had Data Exposed in One of These Recent Data Breaches

Have You Had Data Exposed in One of These Recent Data Breaches

There’s a reason that browsers like Edge have added breached password notifications. Data breaches are an unfortunate part of life. And can have costly consequences for individuals. Hackers can steal identities and compromise bank accounts, just to name a couple.

Cybercriminals breach about 4,800 websites every month with form jacking code. It has become all too common to hear of a large hotel chain or social media company exposing customer data.

Hackers can breach your personal information and passwords without you knowing it. And the time from breach to notification of the breach can be lengthy. One example is the data breach of CafePress. This is a popular online retailer that prints personalized items.

CafePress suffered a data breach in February 2019. That breach exposed millions of names and addresses, security questions, and more. Hackers also breached social security numbers that weren’t encrypted.

As mentioned, the breach happened in February. But many consumers weren’t notified until late summer. The FTC recently took action against the company. This was due to its careless security practices.

The point is that months or years can go by without you knowing about compromised data. Unless you happen to look at the right website, you may not even realize it. Those breached password features in browsers are helpful. But what if you have other information beyond a password compromised?

It’s best to protect yourself with some knowledge. We’ll help by listing several recent breaches. If you’ve interacted with any of these companies, you’ll want to take steps to protect yourself from the fallout.

Recent Breaches of Personal Information That May Impact You

Microsoft Customer Data Breach

On October 19, 2022, Microsoft announced a breach that exposed customer data. A misconfigured server was to blame. The breach exposed certain business transaction data. It’s thought that this breach could have affected more than 65,000 entities worldwide.

2.5 Million Records Exposed in a Student Loan Breach

Did you get a student loan from EdFinancial and the Oklahoma Student Loan Authority (OSLA)? If so, you could be in trouble. The organizations notified impacted individuals by letter in July 2022.

The personal information at risk included:

  • Social security numbers
  • Email addresses
  • Home addresses
  • Phone numbers.

The breach compromised the data of over 2.5 million loan recipients.

U-Haul Data Breach of 2.2 Million Individuals’ Data

Large rental firm U-Haul is a household name. It also just had a major data breach. It notified clients in August of 2022 of a compromise of some rental contracts. The contacts in question were between November 5, 2021, and April 5, 2022.

The breach exposed names, driver’s license numbers, and state identification numbers. It affected over 2.2 million individuals that rented vehicles from the company.

Neopets Breach May Have Compromised 69 Million Accounts

You wouldn’t suspect a cute site like Neopets to be a cybersecurity risk. But users of the platform got a rude awakening due to a breach of the service. An estimated 69 million accounts may have had emails and passwords leaked.

The full stolen Neopet database and copy of the source code were being offered for sale for about $94,500.

One Employee Computer Causes a Marriott Breach

Hotel giant Marriott suffered another breach in July 2022. It blamed a single unsecured employee computer. About 300-400 individuals had data leaked. This data included credit card numbers and other confidential information.

Unfortunately, the company shows a pattern of poor cybersecurity. Within the last four years, it has suffered three separate breaches. That’s enough to want to pay in cash or use a pre-paid card if you stay there.

Shield Health Care Group Exposes Up to 2 Million Records

In March of 2022, Shield Health Care Group detected a breach. This Massachusetts-based company found that hackers breached up to 2 million customer records. This includes medical records, social security numbers, and other sensitive personal data.

Flagstar Bank Takes 6 Months to Identify Individuals Affected in a Breach

In December of 2021, Flagstar Bank suffered a breach. It wasn’t until 6 months later that it identified the individuals affected. And the impact was large. It included exposed social security numbers. The hack impacted about 1.5 million customers.

8.2 million Current and Former Customers of Block Compromised

Block was formerly known as Square, a popular payment processing platform. It announced in April of 2022 that it was breached the previous December. A former employee accessed customer names and brokerage account numbers. Some accounts also had other stock trading information accessed.

About 8.2 million current and former customers had their data exposed.

Crypto.com Breach Nets Hackers Over $30 Million

Cryptocurrency may be hot at the moment, but it’s very susceptible to cyberattacks. In January 2022, over 483 users had their Crypto.com wallets breached.

The criminals made it past two-factor authentication, which is usually quite effective. They stole about $18 million in bitcoin and $15 million in Ethereum and other cryptocurrencies.

How Secure Are Your Passwords?

There are many solutions that can help you better manage and secure your passwords. Give us a call to learn more about protecting your personal data from a breach.


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This Article has been Republished with Permission from The Technology Press.

2023 Trends in Data Privacy That Could Impact Your Compliance

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2023 Trends in Data Privacy That Could Impact Your Compliance

Data privacy has been a growing requirement ever since the internet age began. So much personal information is flying around through computer networks. Protecting it has become a mandate.

Most companies must follow HIPAA, GDPR, or another industry or locality-based privacy rule. By the end of 2024, 75% of the world’s population will have their personal data protected. It will fall under one or more privacy regulations.

You don’t need to be a large enterprise organization to have data privacy compliance at the top of your mind. It goes hand in hand with cybersecurity. Additionally, privacy requirements hit all sized companies.

Between July 2020 and July 2021, GDPR violations rose by 113.5%. The number of associated fines also jumped, by 124.92%. When it comes to HIPAA violations, each incident can carry a penalty between $100 to $25,000.

It’s important to make data privacy a priority and factor it into all your data collection processes. When companies collect, send, or store personally identifiable information (PII) it needs protection. This means putting adequate safeguards in place.

To stay on top of your privacy compliance obligations, you should also keep up with trends in this area. Next up, we’ve documented the biggest data privacy trends happening in 2023 that you should be aware of.

What’s Happening in Data Privacy Compliance?

AI Governance

Approximately 40% of privacy compliance technology needs artificial intelligence (AI) to operate. AI has certainly made its way into many of the applications we use on a daily basis.

When you’re typing in MS Word and text just springs up as a suggestion, that’s AI predicting what you’ll type next. When working on a photograph in Photoshop, you can now click a button to give a frowning face a smile. This is also the work of AI.

So, it’s no surprise that AI is running many of the algorithms responsible for keeping data protected. But what happens when there is a problem with the AI?

This is the question that AI governance is working to address. This is a new trend in data privacy because AI has never been so prevalent throughout the data journey as it is now.

Whenever AI is used in the data protection area, organizations need to govern it properly. This helps ensure that automated processes aren’t accidentally exposing sensitive data.

Consumer Privacy UX

A trend that we’ve seen over the last several months is putting more privacy power into the consumer’s hands. Many privacy regulations require that apps and websites provide data transparency. They need to tell people what data they’re collecting, how they’re collecting it, and what they do with it. People also need an “out” to get their data back.

These needs have led to consumer privacy UX becoming a “thing.” You can think of this as a centralized privacy portal. A place people can access privacy-related settings in various apps. This gives better visibility into how their data is being used.

Increased Scrutiny of Remote Employee Monitoring

The pandemic has forever changed the global workforce. Many organizations are now running completely remote offices. Or may be using a mix of remote and in-office staff. The dramatic increase in people working from home has led to data collection changes. Companies are ramping up their monitoring of those employees working off-site.

But this type of monitoring opens a can of worms when it comes to data privacy. Organizations need to ensure that they aren’t encroaching on the rights of their staff. This is most pertinent when putting monitoring in place on employee devices.

For example, approximately 49% of remote employees use their personal computers for work. Companies often put endpoint device monitoring in place for security reasons. They need to ensure they are not gathering or backing up any personal data. That would be data owned by the employee and not the company.

Data Localization

One of the concerns when the social app TikTok became popular relates to location. With the firm being a China-based company, people worried about the privacy of their data. The data was originally stored on servers governed by the Chinese government. A country with very different data privacy rules than the US and other countries.

Data localization is going to become more prevalent. Increasingly organizations look at where their cloud data is being stored. Where a server resides governs the privacy rules and regulations that it may fall under. Thus, companies and governments are now asking a question of cloud providers. This is, “Where is my data stored?” Many want their data to be as close to home as possible.

Privacy-Enhancing Computation (PEC)

Data privacy by design is a fairly new term. Using privacy-enhancing computation is a way that AI is helping cybersecurity. By using PEC as a built-in component of software and apps, developers provide value to clients. They address privacy concerns by making data protection more automated.

Look for PEC components in data analytics when shopping for business tools.

When Is the Last Time You Had a Compliance Check?

How are your data privacy protections? Are you risking a penalty due to lax controls? Give us a call! We can help with a compliance checkup.


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This Article has been Republished with Permission from The Technology Press.

8 Tech Checks to Make Before You Travel

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8 Tech Checks to Make Before You Travel

Our technology inevitably comes with us when we travel. Most of us won’t even travel to the end of the block without our smartphones. When you go on a trip, not having your technology there when you need it can ruin your day.

Travel smarter and more securely by doing several checks before you go. Use our handy tech travel checklist. It can save you from suffering from lost devices, missing chargers, or a data breach.

1. Check Your Apps

Have you ever sat at an airport gate wondering why it looked so empty? You then found out that your gate had changed, and you had no idea. You go rushing to the other end of the concourse, hoping you’re not too late.

How did everyone else know about the gate change? They most likely had the app for the airline and received a notification.

Before you leave for a trip, make sure to download any apps you may need. It’s better to download them when you’re at home on your own Wi-Fi. If you wait until you’re at the airport, reception may be an issue.

Some of the apps you may want to grab or update before your trip are:

  • Airline app
  • Train app
  • Hotel app
  • Theme park app
  • Camping ground app
  • Weather app
  • City tourism app

2. Check Your Cords & Adapters

People leave behind countless chargers and adapters every day. They litter airports, restaurants, and train stations around the world. Make sure to bring a backup charger for your laptop, tablet, or phone. Otherwise, you may find yourself paying a premium for a new charger in a gift shop. Your device could also go black if you lose its charger and can’t quickly get a new one.

3. Check Your Power

A great way to ensure you have the power you need is to buy a small charging battery. You can find these in most major retailers or online. They are small “blocks” that hold a charge and can power up a cell phone in a pinch.

Having this extra backup also helps you avoid potential juice-jacking ports. These are fake or compromised public USB charging ports. Hackers use them to steal your data when you plug in.

4. Check Your Mobile Plan

If you’re traveling out of the country, you’ll want to check your mobile plan. If you don’t have the ability to call internationally, then you may not be able to text or call home.

Carriers can add an international capability to your plan, but ask about pricing. It can get expensive if you’re on long calls or using mobile data. An alternative is to set up a VoIP app you can use with your office, friends, or family while you’re traveling. These enable both calls and SMS, but you do need an internet connection.

5. Check or Add a VPN

Free Wi-Fi may be a welcome site when you’re on the road, but it can also be dangerous. You don’t know who else is using that Wi-Fi. A hacker hanging out on the connection can easily steal your data if you’re not protected.

It’s better to use either your mobile carrier connection or a virtual private network (VPN) app. VPN plans are inexpensive and will keep your data encrypted, even if you’re on public Wi-Fi.

6. Check Your Backup

Unfortunately, mishaps occur when traveling. You may leave your phone behind on a boat, have your luggage lost, or get your device stolen while in a crowded area.

10% of all laptop thefts happen in airports.

Don’t lose all your data with the device! Back up your devices to the cloud or local storage before you travel. This ensures that you won’t lose the valuable information on your device. You also won’t need to think twice about enacting a remote “wipe my device” command if necessary.

7. Check Your Device Security

Make your devices as secure as possible before you hit the road. When we’re traveling, our minds are occupied by other things. So, you may not think to check your antivirus or avoid suspicious phishing links.

Protect your devices before you go using:

  • Antivirus/anti-malware
  • DNS filtering
  • Screen lock with passcode
  • Sharing features turned off
  • VPN application
  • Find-My-Device feature turned on

8. Check Your Double-Checks

What do we mean by checking your double-checks? Use the buddy system as a backup. When the family is getting off a plane, each should check with the other that they have all their devices.

If you’re traveling alone, have a friend or family member check up by text. Did you grab your charger? Is your VPN turned on?

Those little reminders can go a long way toward avoiding digital travel nightmares.

Improve the Security of Your Devices Now

Don’t leave your devices unprotected. This could mean a breach of your banking app or personal data. Contact us for device security solutions to reduce your risk.


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This Article has been Republished with Permission from The Technology Press.

7 Most Exciting App Announcements at Microsoft Ignite 2022

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7 Most Exciting App Announcements at Microsoft Ignite 2022

If you follow Microsoft products, then you may know about Microsoft Ignite. Held annually, it generates many exciting updates and announcements in the Microsoft world.

Microsoft held its most recent conference last October. In the rush of the recent holidays, you may have missed some of the highlights. So, we’re bringing them to you now.

One thing you’ll notice is that Microsoft Teams got a lot of love at the event. Microsoft is now describing Teams as “the app at the center of Microsoft 365.” We can see why the company keeps enhancing this virtual workspace. Teams now has over 280 million users. It’s not surprising seeing that Microsoft has introduced over 450 new Teams features. And that’s just in the last year.

We’ll go over some Teams features below, along with other Microsoft App announcements from Ignite. These may give you some ideas for your next digital workflow upgrade.

Teams Premium

There is a new Teams Premium offering from Microsoft that adds a whole new AI component to the platform. This service includes several AI-powered features. They make it seem like you have your own meeting assistant.

Some of the cool features include automatically generating chapters from a Teams meeting. The app also generates personalized highlights for you. This saves you from having to rewatch the meeting later.

If you’re meeting internationally, you can enjoy real-time translations for captions. Meeting guides is another new feature. It sets up your meeting options according to your needs.

360-Degree Intelligent Camera for Teams Meetings

SmartVision 60 is the first 360-degree, center-of-room intelligent camera. It has the ability to track the speaker as they’re moving. The camera is also due to have a people recognition feature coming soon.

Virtual meetings can feel much more like real meetings using SmartVision 60. Instead of just seeing a small video feed of one person, the movement of the camera can capture a whole team.

Cisco is Now a Certified Devices Partner for Teams Rooms

Those that are fans of Cisco meeting products will be pleased to know they now have more options. Microsoft announced that Cisco is now a Teams Room Certified Devices partner. You can now start Teams meetings across all certified Cisco meeting devices.

Microsoft Places

One of the virtual workspace apps to support the new hybrid movement is Microsoft Places. This is a team management app that integrates with the rest of the Microsoft 365 ecosystem.

The office is still around, but for how long? Much of the world had to do things virtually during the pandemic. Many companies and employees found they like it better that way. Seventy-four percent of US companies have or plan to put in place a permanent hybrid work model.

Microsoft Places is one more way Microsoft is leading the hybrid office revolution. Some of the app’s features include:

  • Manage and track where employees are working (at home or in the office)
  • Track whether coworkers are away or available
  • Track physical room use to make strategic decisions

Hours & Location Feature in Outlook & Teams

Another feature announcement related to the hybrid working world is hours and location. This is a new capability added to Teams and Outlook to make it easier to schedule in-person meetings.

It can get tricky to plan in-person meetings when you don’t know who is working at the office and who is remote. If you plan without checking, you’re bound to alienate someone. They won’t be happy if they were planning to work from home that day.

The new hours and location feature allows people to specify where they are working. They can adjust this from hour to hour. It takes the guesswork out of scheduling.

Loop App Private Preview

Another exciting app announcement that Microsoft made was about its Loop app. It stated that Loop entered private preview. This gives some organizations a chance to check it out.

Loop is a collaborative workspace app that helps teams ideate in a virtual space. All data pulled in from Microsoft 365 apps syncs automatically to stay up to date.

Microsoft Clipchamp Video Editor

You may have noticed an unfamiliar app popping up on Windows. Microsoft Clipchamp was formally announced at the Ignite event. It’s a quick and easy video editor for Windows PCs.

Have you ever felt frustrated trying to fix a video and not having the right tool to do it? Then you may want to take a closer look at what Clipchamp has to offer. It looks to have a fairly low learning curve.

Get Help Navigating the Microsoft 365 Universe

Microsoft 365 has come a long way in a short period. There are many different app integrations you can use to power your workflow. But it can get a bit complicated without an expert to help. Give us a call today to schedule a Microsoft consultation.

 


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This Article has been Republished with Permission from The Technology Press.

What Cybersecurity Attack Trends Should You Watch Out for in 2023?

What Cybersecurity Attack Trends Should You Watch Out for in 2023?

The new year has just begun and it’s a time of renewal as we plan for the possibilities to come in 2023. It’s also a time when you need to plan for resiliency in the face of ever-present cyberattacks.

Sixty-eight percent of surveyed business leaders feel that cybersecurity risks are getting worse. They have a good reason. Attacks continue to get more sophisticated. They are also often perpetrated by large criminal organizations. These criminal groups treat these attacks like a business. 

In 2021, the average number of global cyberattacks increased by 15.1%.

To protect your business in the coming year, it’s important to watch the attack trends. What new methods are hackers using? What types of attacks are increasing in volume? Knowing these things is important. It helps you better update your IT security to mitigate the risk of a data breach or malware infection.

We’ve pulled out the security crystal ball for the upcoming year. And we’ve researched what cybersecurity experts are expecting. Here are the attack trends that you need to watch out for.

Attacks on 5G Devices

The world has been buzzing about 5G for a few years. It is finally beginning to fulfill the promise of lightning-fast internet. As providers build out the infrastructure, you can expect this to be a high-attack area.

Hackers are looking to take advantage of the 5G hardware used for routers, mobile devices, and PCs. Anytime you have a new technology like this, it’s bound to have some code vulnerabilities. This is exactly what hackers are looking to exploit.

You can prepare by being aware of the firmware security in the devices you buy. This is especially true for those enabled for 5G. Some manufacturers will build better firmware security into their designs than others. Make sure to ask about this when purchasing new devices.

One-time Password (OTP) Bypass

This alarming new trend is designed to get past one of the best forms of account security. Multi-factor authentication (MFA) is well-known as very effective at preventing fraudulent sign-in attempts. It can stop account takeovers even in cases where the criminal has the user’s password.

There are a few different ways that hackers try to bypass MFA. These include:

·        Reusing a token: Gaining access to a recent user OTP and trying to reuse it

·        Sharing unused tokens: The hacker uses their own account to get an OTP. Then attempts to use that OTP on a different account.

·        Leaked token: Using an OTP token leaked through a web application.

·        Password reset function: A hacker uses phishing to fool the user into resetting a password. They then trick them into handing over their OTP via text or email.

Attacks Surrounding World Events

During the pandemic, the cyberattack volume increased by approximately 600%. Large criminal hacking groups have realized that world events and disasters are lucrative.

They launch phishing campaigns for world events. Attacks come for everything from the latest hurricane or typhoon to the war in Ukraine. Unsuspecting people often fall for these scams. This is because they are often distracted by the crisis.

People need to be especially mindful of scams surrounding events like these. They will often use social engineering tactics, such as sad photos, to play on the emotions.

Smishing & Mobile Device Attacks

Mobile devices go with us just about everywhere these days. This direct connection to a potential victim is not lost on cybercriminals. Look for more mobile device-based attacks, including SMS-based phishing (“smishing”).

Many people aren’t expecting to receive fake messages to their personal numbers. But cell numbers are no longer as private as they once were. Hackers can buy lists of them online. They then craft convincing fake texts that look like shipping notices or receipts. One wrong click is all it takes for an account or data breach.

Mobile malware is also on the rise. During the first few months of 2022, malware targeted to mobile devices rose by 500%. It’s important to ensure that you have good mobile
anti-malware. As well as other protections on your devices, such as a DNS filter.

Elevated Phishing Using AI & Machine Learning

These days, phishing emails are not so easy to spot. It used to be that they nearly always had spelling errors or grainy images. While some still do, most don’t.

Criminal groups elevate today’s phishing using AI and machine learning. Not only will it look identical to a real brand’s emails, but it will also come personalized. Hackers use these tactics to capture more victims. They also allow hackers to send out more targeted phishing messages in less time than in years past.

Schedule a Cybersecurity Check-Up Today

Is your business prepared for the cyber threats coming in 2022? Don’t wait to find out the hard way! Give us a call and schedule a cybersecurity check-up to stay one step ahead of the digital criminals.

 

Article used with permission from The Technology Press.

What’s Changing in the Cybersecurity Insurance Market?

What's Changing in the Cybersecurity Insurance Market? 

Cybersecurity insurance is still a pretty new concept for many SMBs. It was initially introduced in the 1990s to provide coverage for large enterprises. It covered things like data processing errors and online media.

Since that time, the policies for this type of liability coverage have changed. Today’s cyber insurance policies cover the typical costs of a data breach. Including remediating a malware infection or compromised account.

Cybersecurity insurance policies will cover the costs for things like:

·        Recovering compromised data

·        Repairing computer systems

·        Notifying customers about a data breach

·        Providing personal identity monitoring

·        IT forensics to investigate the breach

·        Legal expenses

·        Ransomware payments

Data breach volume and costs continue to rise. 2021 set a record for the most recorded data breaches on record. And in the first quarter of 2022, breaches were up 14% over the prior year.

No one is safe. Even small businesses find they are targets. They often have more to lose than larger enterprises as well. About 60% of small businesses close down within 6 months of a cyber incident.

The increase in online danger and rising costs of a breach have led to changes in this type of insurance. The cybersecurity insurance industry is ever evolving. Businesses need to keep up with these trends to ensure they can stay protected.

Here are some of the cyber liability insurance trends you need to know about.

Demand is Going Up

The average cost of a data breach is currently $4.35 million (global average). In the U.S., it’s more than double that, at $9.44 million. As these costs continue to balloon, so does the demand for cybersecurity insurance.

Companies of all types are realizing that cyber insurance is critical. It’s as important as their business liability insurance. Without that protection, they can easily go under in the case of a single data breach.

With demand increasing, look for more availability of cybersecurity insurance. This also means more policy options, which is good for those seeking coverage.

Premiums are Increasing

With the increase in cyberattacks has come an increase in insurance payouts. Insurance companies are increasing premiums to keep up. In 2021, cyber insurance premiums rose by a staggering 74%

The costs from lawsuits, ransomware payouts, and other remediation have driven this increase. Insurance carriers aren’t willing to lose money on cybersecurity policies. Thus, those policies are getting more expensive. This is at the same time as they are more necessary.

Certain Coverages are Being Dropped

Certain types of coverage are getting more difficult to find. For example, some insurance carriers are dropping coverage for “nation-state” attacks. These are attacks that come from a government.

Many governments have ties to known hacking groups. So, a ransomware attack that hits consumers and businesses can very well be in this category.

In 2021, 21% of nation-state attacks targeted consumers, and 79% targeted enterprises. So, if you see that an insurance policy excludes these types of attacks, be very wary.

Another type of attack payout that is being dropped from some policies is ransomware. Between Q1 and Q2 of 2022, ransomware attacks increased by 24%.

Insurance carriers are tired of unsecured clients relying on them to pay the ransom. So many are excluding ransomware payouts from policies. This puts a bigger burden on organizations. They need to ensure their backup and recovery strategy is well planned.

It’s Harder to Qualify

Just because you want cybersecurity insurance, doesn’t mean you’ll qualify for it. Qualifications are becoming stiffer. Insurance carriers aren’t willing to take chances. Especially on companies with poor cyber hygiene.

Some of the factors that insurance carriers look at include:

·        Network security

·        Use of things like multi-factor authentication

·        BYOD and device security policies

·        Advanced threat protection

·        Automated security processes

·        Backup and recovery strategy

·        Administrative access to systems

·        Anti-phishing tactics

·        Employee security training

You’ll often need to fill out a lengthy questionnaire when applying for insurance. This includes several questions about your cybersecurity situation. It’s a good idea to have your IT provider help you with this.

This can seem like a lot of work that you have to do to qualify for cyber insurance. As you review the questions, your IT partner can identify security enhancements. Just like other forms of insurance, if you take steps to reduce risk, it can often reduce your premiums.

So, it pays to do a cybersecurity review before applying for cyber insurance. You can save yourself time and money. It can also fortify your defenses against cyberattacks.

 

Need Help Making Sense of Cybersecurity Policies?

Cybersecurity coverage and insurance applications can be complex. If you answer wrong on a question, it can mean paying hundreds more in premiums than you should.

If you’re considering cybersecurity insurance, don’t go it alone. Give us a call and schedule a consultation. We can explain the policy details and provide guidance.

Article used with permission from The Technology Press.

Don’t Set Yourself Up to Fail: Tips for Safer Home Security Setups

Don't Set Yourself Up to Fail: Tips for Safer Home Security Setups

The global home security market has been growing by leaps and bounds. By 2026, experts expect the market to expand at a rate of 20.1%. This is on top of an expected increase of 21.6% from 2021 to 2022.

From Ring doorbell cams to entire home security systems, consumers want these solutions. Watching your front door from afar has never been so easy. With cloud-based video streams, homeowners can view any part of their home.

Sharing doorbell camera shots on neighborhood social media groups is now common. These home security systems also provide peace of mind at a wallet-friendly cost.

But don’t let the ease of setup fool you. Home security cameras can open your family up to risks if you don’t take precautions. Often, people are so excited to see what they can do, they don’t stop to think about device security.

There are horror stories online about hacked video cameras. This includes strangers saying disturbing things through those cameras to children.

Additionally, in 2019, Ring suffered a data breach. That breach exposed the personal data of over 3,000 Ring users. This included usernames and passwords.

It’s enough to make you reconsider your decision to add extra security. But don’t let those incidents scare you off. You can properly secure a home video camera system to ensure it’s not breached.

Here are some of the things you should do for a safe home security setup.

Make Sure Your Router is Secure

You access an IP security camera via the internet. Any commands going to the system or footage coming from it go through your router. So, you need to make sure that your router is properly secured.

Hackers breach routers so they can get to the devices connected to that network. Ensure your router security protocol is no lower than WPA2. The next generation, WPA3, is even better. These protocols govern the protection of data transmitted through the wireless network.

Give the router a strong password that is at least 12 characters long. Software can crack a password of only 8 standard characters instantly. But a 12-character password with at least one upper case letter, number, and symbol takes 34,000 years.

Change the Default Username & Password

You also need a strong password for your security system’s admin account. You should also change the default device and username. Hackers have lists of all these device defaults and use them to break into these systems. 

Changing the default username and password for the device should be one of the first things you do. Otherwise, it could be mere minutes after you connect to the internet that you’re hacked.

<H3>Ensure the System Uses SSL/TLS Or Other Encryption</H3>

You don’t want the footage from your cameras transmitted for anyone to grab and watch. Make sure the security system you choose notes SSL/TLS. Or another standard encryption.

This ensures that the data cannot be intercepted and accessed. SSL is short for Secure Sockets Layer, and TLS is short for Transport Layer Security. Without a form of encryption, a hacker can easily breach your device.

Keep the Software Updated

If your security system has an automatic update feature, turn that on. Unfortunately, many users don’t think about updating their device software. This leaves it more vulnerable to a hack.

Updates often include important security fixes for found vulnerabilities. You want to make sure updates install promptly. That’s why automating this is best.

Consider Access Levels for Multiple Users

Do you have several family members accessing your cloud-based security device? If so, set up some access levels. Not everyone needs to be at an administrator level.

Hackers love it when they can breach the login of an admin user for an account. This gives them more privileges, like changing settings. Giving lower-level privileges, such as “view only,” to most family members improves security.

Enable Camera Security Features

There will be various security features that are available with your system. Manufacturers often do not enable all security settings by default. The user must turn all or some of them on.

If you’re unsure of what settings should be on or off, we’ll be happy to help. Some home security systems have generous sharing options. This can be an invitation for hackers. You want to restrict these as much as possible.

Make Sure Your Mobile Device is Secure

Most people access their security cam through their smartphone. Make sure that you secure yours and keep it updated with the latest operating system. Hackers can gain access to a security system through a device with weak safeguards.

Add things like:

·        Mobile anti-malware

·        DNS filtering

·        Screen lock

·        Automated updating

 

Looking for Help Protecting Your Cloud Security System?

Give us a call and schedule a visit. We’ll be happy to help you ensure your security system is set up with best practices.

 

Article used with permission from The Technology Press.

Align Your Team to Company Targets with Microsoft Viva Goals

Align Your Team to Company Targets with Microsoft Viva Goals 

You often hear the words “digital transformation” and “collaboration.” But what do they actually mean? What do they mean for the day-to-day of running your business?

Collaboration can’t happen without shared goals. When departments are siloed and unconnected, priorities can conflict. People are doing their best but may not be moving in the same direction.

Digital transformation is simply the use of technology to better reach business goals. This encompasses moving from analog ways of doing things. Transitioning to tools that are more automated and connected.

 

Microsoft has been at the forefront of digital transformation and collaboration. Its Viva platform drives an improved employee experience. It does this by use of AI, automation, cloud connectivity, and more.

In this article, you’ll get an overview of Microsoft Viva. Then, we’ll dive into one of the newest Viva offerings, Viva Goals. We’ll explore what it does and how it can help your company meet its targets.

What Is Microsoft Viva?

Microsoft Viva is a line of employee experience applications. These connect to the Microsoft 365 platform, and especially Microsoft Teams. The apps act as add-ons that can build on your organization’s digital capabilities.

There are currently seven apps within the Microsoft Viva line:

·        Viva Topics: Allows organizations to harness knowledge and experience. It serves up relevant topics from the company knowledge base from keywords.

·        Viva Connections: Gives employees a personalized and connected newsfeed. The company newsfeed serves up important news, conversations, and tools.

·        Viva Learning: Consolidates employee training apps. Makes it easy for employees to gain new skills from inside the MS Teams application.

·        Viva Insights: Improves employee wellbeing and corporate culture. Uses data-driven insights to provide productivity and well-being recommendations.

·        Viva Sales: Reduces the data input needed from salespeople. Serves up helpful lead interaction recommendations.

·        Viva Engage: Cultivates personal networks and community. Fosters engagement and knowledge sharing.

·        Viva Goals: Enables clarity and alignment of corporate goals.

The Viva line expands what businesses may traditionally see as “software.” It creates a connection between Microsoft Office and M365 apps. It also focuses on the people, rather than the tool. Microsoft designed Viva applications to use AI. This makes work easier and gives visibility into actionable data points.

What is Viva Goals?

Viva Goals is one of the newest Viva applications from Microsoft. It connects teams so they’re moving toward a shared set of goals. Employees align, whether someone works in the accounting department or customer support.

Business leaders can look at Viva Goals as a way to solidify company objectives. They can then tie these objectives to meaningful targets for each department.


Image from Microsoft

For example, say you have a corporate target to provide exceptional customer support. This goal by itself is generic. It doesn’t connect to what teams need to do to make it happen.

In Viva Goals, that target can have directives for various teams. Such as customer support reducing ticket resolution by 8 hours. This brings goals to a meaningful level and allows organizations to track progress.

Here are the key value-adds of using Viva Goals.

Aligns Your Team to the Same Goals

Viva Goals puts company goals and targets in a tangible form. There is a definition of success for teams and individuals. Work outcomes are directly connected to company-wide objectives.

Everyone is on the same page, rather than departments pursuing different targets. With alignment, companies can more easily reach their goals.

Maintains Focus on Goals

Viva connects to other M365 apps, making it easier to gather data insights. These insights help leaders more easily see goal progress.

 

Employees stay focused on goals. This is because goals connect to their daily work targets. Rather than being something they hear at a company event, goals get infused into the workflow.


Image from Microsoft

Integration with Teams & M365

The integration with Teams keeps goals front and center. Employees get recognized for meeting targets and helping the company achieve its goals. This keeps everyone engaged and moving together.

Progress towards goals isn’t kept on a spreadsheet on someone’s cloud drive. Instead, stats on goal achievement live in tools used daily. When goals remain visible, organizations have a better chance to achieve them.

How Do You Get Viva Goals?

If you want to subscribe to Viva Goals as an add-on to your M365 plan, it is currently $6.00/user/month.

 

For the entire suite of Viva applications, the current price is $9.00/user/month.

Questions About Microsoft 365 or Viva Goals?

Digital transformation with tools like Microsoft Viva is a necessity if you want to keep up. Old ways of doing things are giving way to the cloud, AI, and machine learning. We can help you navigate that territory. Give us a call and schedule a consultation to learn more.

 

Article used with permission from The Technology Press.

7 VoIP Setup Tips for a More Productive Office

7 VoIP Setup Tips for a More Productive Office

The global pandemic put a big emphasis on the need to run a business from anywhere. Enabling employees to work remotely requires cloud solutions. This includes collaborative platforms like Google Workspace and Microsoft 365. VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) phone systems have also become critical.

VoIP allows companies to stay in contact with customers and potential customers. Employees can work from anywhere and still answer the business phone line. Callers get a similar experience no matter where employees may be working, office or home.

When you have people working from home, those old landline systems are inefficient. This has led to a large movement by businesses to VoIP. Both for necessity and cost-savings.

According to Microsoft, 82% of organizations have reported saving money after implementing VoIP.

While VoIP is the way to go for the future, this doesn’t mean it’s foolproof. Companies that don’t set up their system efficiently, can experience issues. This includes things like dropped calls, low bandwidth, and features left unused.

If you’ve been struggling to make your cloud phone system more efficient, check out these tips below. They provide setup best practices for VoIP. Use these to positively impact your bottom line.  

1. Check Network Capabilities

You can’t just assume that you can enable a VoIP system, and all will be well. Your network may not be able to handle the extra bandwidth needs without adjustments.

Things you want to look at include jitter and packet loss. Additionally, review router settings to make sure it can handle peak traffic times. Experiencing dropped calls or choppy audio shows a need to address issues. These may include adjusting network hardware and/or increasing your ISP bandwidth.

2. Prioritize Your VoIP Software Using QoS Rules

Quality of Service (QoS) is a router settings area that allows you to say which traffic is most important. If QoS is not in place, it means resource issues. A large cloud backup could kick in and interrupt your calls because it’s taking up bandwidth.

QoS sets up “traffic lanes” that give priority to certain functions. You’ll want to have your VoIP software prioritized to get the bandwidth it needs. This avoids issues with less critical processes hogging up internet resources.

Using QoS keeps your calls smooth. It also improves the reliability of your cloud phone system. It’s also a good idea to use these rules for other important cloud activities.

3. Provide Quality Headsets for Your Team

A cheap headset can ruin the call experience for a potential customer. If someone calls in and can’t hear anything or gets choppy reception, they’ll quickly get frustrated. They will most likely figure that your company doesn’t have its act together.

Your employees may not be able to afford high-quality headsets. They also may not know what type to buy. Head off potential problems by issuing quality headsets for your team to use.

4. Set Up Departments & Ring Groups

One of the great features of VoIP phone systems is the ability to set up ring groups. You first set up your department groups (accounting, marketing, etc.). Then set the included employee extensions.

Creating a ring group allows you to have a call go to your customer support department as a whole. This is better than one person, who may be busy. That way, the whole group gets the ring, and the first available person can pick up.

Ring groups improve the caller experience by reducing the wait time. It can also mitigate the need for the caller to leave a voicemail and get stuck waiting on a callback.

5. Create Your Company Directory 

Auto assistants are extremely helpful and nearly all VoIP systems have them. First, you set up your company directory and then record messages to prompt the caller.

For example, you can set up a message that prompts them to input the last name of the person they are trying to reach. If they aren’t calling a specific person, they can be routed to a department.

While setting up a company directory takes a little effort upfront, it will save much more. You no longer will need to have someone specifically routing every call. Callers can also get to the person or department they need faster. This improves the customer experience and boosts office productivity.

6. Have Employees Set Up Their Voicemail & VM to Email

When you get out of a long meeting, going through a bunch of voicemails can take time. Instead of having to listen to each one to see which calls are a priority, you could simply read through them.

The voicemail to email feature in VoIP phone systems will automatically transcribe voicemails. They are then emailed to the recipient. This improves efficiency. It also eliminates wasted time having to listen to entire messages to know who called.

Have employees set up this feature with their extension and email address. Some VoIP systems also offer an option to have transcribed voicemails sent via SMS.

7. Train Your Team on the Call Handling Process

Don’t leave your employees to jump in and learn a VoIP system themselves. It’s important to train them on the features and the company calling process. This ensures that your team can enjoy all those time-saving features.

Get Help Enhancing Your Business Phone System

Need help improving your business phone system? Looking for a better customer experience? Give us a call and schedule a consultation. We can help!

 

Article used with permission from The Technology Press.