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Business guru Peter Drucker doesn’t mince words with that statement, which succinctly sums up the need for a company to employ some level of business intelligence (BI).

Not sure what BI is? First and foremost, it addresses the integration of people, businesses processes and technology within any organization. At the next level, it is any activity, tool or process used to extract raw data from multiple sources and transform it into meaningful information to support faster and more informed decision making. It shouldn’t provide data for data’s sake; instead its purpose should be to glean information that is accurate, actionable, of high-value, and provided in a timely manner.

Few would dispute the need for BI, after all, since decision-making has always required information. But what is the real value of a successful IT-based BI strategy? Many people think of “value” only as a dollar-for-dollar return on investment. However, the byproducts of well-deployed business intelligence practices transcend the purely financial.

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You’ve no doubt seen them on your computer: the popups telling you to buy their Anti-virus product because your computer is “infected”; the strange ads and search bars that appear when you google something; ominous popups alerting you that your files are encrypted.

These dastardly interrupters are what you probably know as “viruses” or “malware” - and you probably use the words interchangeably. But are they the same thing? Not exactly.

Viruses are, in fact, a subcategory of Malware. The latter word, in fact, is a shortened version of Malicious Software, an umbrella term for any software that does harmful or unwanted things to your computer, usually without your permission or knowledge. Since viruses certainly fit that bill, they can be considered Malware.

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Successfully managing virus threats essentially boils down to managing two things: technology and people. Sure, it’s easier said than done… but certainly doable.

Let’s start with the technical side. You’re probably aware that there is no single or foolproof solution to completely protect your network. However, by deploying multiple solutions with a layered approach, you certainly mitigate the vast majority of risks.

Creating multiple layers of protection defends against attacks from each aspect of computer use. The first layer is one that most people are familiar with - an Antivirus application. This is the most basic form of defense; it’s well established in the industry and is easy to find and deploy. It provides the first layer of protection by scanning the system itself and identifying any known viruses – in most cases eradicating them before they can do much damage.

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Two things in life are fairly universal: Work is Hard, and Life is Messy. Our lives, both personal and professional, are complicated, constantly in motion, and - no surprise here - not always in sync.

Newton’s Third Law of Physics tells us that for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. That means that there are two forces at work on the two interacting objects, and the size of the forces on each object is equal. That’s great if we’re talking about kicking a ball, but what about achieving work-life balance?

Well, let’s take a peek inside the Newton household.

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Imagine coming into the office one day to find all of your business data completely unreadable or unusable, and in order to get it back, someone is politely asking for payment of one or two bitcoins.

Your first thought may be “wow, these cyber-thugs are very nice.” Your second might likely be, “what on earth is a Bitcoin?”
Bitcoin is an anonymous online currency; it’s like cash on the internet. Although Bitcoin was created in 2009 - and gained momentum among small groups of investors, Internet activists, and computer science geeks - Bitcoin has become somewhat of a household name over the last year thanks to criminals.

Their game is cyber extortion and Bitcoin is their currency of choice. Or you can call it “ransom.” Here’s how the scheme works: Criminal organizations, demonstrating their technical skills and business prowess, created a new type of malicious software which encrypts any files it can access and then demands a ransom be paid in order to unencrypt them. For unfortunate businesses who don’t have a rock-solid backup and disaster recovery solutions, these Crypto-type malware infections can be crippling.

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Staying ahead of security threats Staying ahead of security threats

Most people are enamored with the internet, and the ability we have to connect to limitless data and each other. The benefit is so great, in fact, that most people are also willing to accept the risk that comes with joining a network of five billion devices (expected to reach 20 billion by 2020). Each device has the capability to connect to another for any purpose intended by its user – good or evil. So even if only one percent were controlled by someone with malicious intent, 50 million devices would be in the hands of criminals.

Let’s explore why an evildoer would want to get control over millions of devices. This landscape has changed over the years, but today it’s about financial gain. An assailant’s ability to control scads of devices capable of executing code gives him an enormous amount of processing power – which can then be used to dismantle security measures, disable companies, and ultimately steal information. For which he gets a pretty penny on the black market.

Some attacks are strategically targeted, such as the one executed on Target stores in late 2013. This attack, according to Reuters, left 40 million customers’ credit card numbers exposed. It was precise, too, hitting the 19 busiest shopping days of the holiday season. More recently, cyber criminals have upped their game, attacking smaller companies by encrypting and holding their data for ransom- a class of attack generically called “ransomware”. If the victim doesn’t pay for a decryption key within a given time, the key is deleted and the data will never be decrypted. Most are left with no choice but to pay. What’s worse, these cyber-thugs are selling the code, proliferating this sort of attack on a grander scale.

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How often do you end up deleting unwanted subscription-based e-mails? Sometimes you may find value in these messages, but often times it becomes a nuisance and you end up simply deleting the message. Real spam will get caught by spam filters such as our Barracuda spam filter, but oftentimes we may receive other unwanted e-mails in the form of newsletters, marketing updates, etc. Read on to find out how you can reduce the amount of these messages.

One of the main requirements for subscription based emails is that they must provide an unsubscribe link in the e-mail. Simply open one up, scroll to the bottom and click unsubscribe. Follow the steps in your browser to complete your removal. Ok, that was easy, and now we know how to deal with the messages individually, but let’s take that a step further.

A great way to easily find and unsubscribe yourself from all unwanted subscriptions is to do a search of your mailbox for the word “unsubscribe.” You can then easily find the messages you do not wish to receive anymore and unsubscribe yourself. If you use Office 365 things can be even simpler. Office 365 will attempt to detect unsubscribe links and when possible, will display an unsubscribe button that you can click to be unsubscribed automatically.

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Trimming the Fat with Technology

Posted: January 22, 2015    

Is your technology streamlined? Is your technology streamlined?

Did you know that street vendors now accept credit cards? It used to be that hawking your wares out in the open air precluded you from incorporating telephones or internet into your business. Then Apple introduced the iPad, and Square introduced the mobile card swiper. As a result, tools that were previously only available to businesses of a certain size (and above) became accessible to smaller operations. This opened up whole new markets and customer bases to those small businesses.
Perhaps more importantly however, it automated something that had previously been done manually. The checkout experience was smoothed out, made more streamlined, which freed up time and resources, perhaps the two most valuable components of any business.

Automation through the intelligent application of technology is one of the most obvious, and yet often overlooked tools we see in the workplace. When a business is small, each operational step can be done manually, without losing much in the way of revenue or quality. But as businesses grow, they seldom grow at a one-to-one ratio with their employees. Each person's workload increases, the number of tasks that have to fit into an eight hour day balloons, and low priority items have to be dropped. The result is a loss of quality, morale, and ultimately revenue.

In these high pressure seasons, usually one of two things happen: Either attrition occurs, and the business naturally sheds the increased volume until things fall back to a manageable level, or, operational procedures undergo a transformation to ensure any and all fat is removed, and a new, more efficient, more focused business emerges.

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New Crypto Malware

Posted: January 21, 2015    

We are posting this notice because of a new variant of encrypting malware that we became aware of today. It has many similarities to Cryptolocker and Cryptowall (although is not seemingly from the same source) and overall the response plan stays very similar, however there are some notable differences that I wanted to make everyone aware of.

1. All traffic from the infected machine is re-routed out through the TOR network. This is ostensibly for payment purposes but it does potentially expose all traffic from the PC to whoever deploys this.
2. It randomly renames file extensions multiple times making granular file restores extremely difficult and cost prohibitive in most cases
3. Its available for sale through black market sources for $3000 and is in many ways less sophisticated and easier to manage, meaning it could potentially be seen more frequently than previous crypto infection.

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Hearst Media recently released their annual list of Top Workplaces in CT for 2014. The Network Support Company was selected as one of the top 10 workplaces in CT. Read on for the full article as published by Hearst Media and written by Michael King on the award. You can also read the issue in it's entirety here.

The Network Support Company, a Danbury-based IT company, does more than support the IT needs of small and midsized companies. It supports its employees.

“It’s a very transparent, caring company,” said CEO Jim Kennedy. “People have a sense it’s very much a family here, but we don’t compromise expectations around performance.” If people struggle with a family crisis or illness, the company allows unlimited personal time.

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