Should You Let Your Employees Use Personal Devices For Work?

BYOD, or “bring your own device,” is one of the fastest-growing trends for all businesses. With almost all applications moving to the cloud, it’s no longer necessary to have a traditional network with laptops and PC connected. But is it a GOOD idea to give employees that freedom? Here are some pros and cons about employees using their own laptops, tablets, and smartphones for work.

The pros of BYOD
• You save money because you no longer have to purchase new hardware when you hire someone.
• Your employees will be using devices they’re comfortable using, which often makes them more productive and less frustrated when working.
• If the equipment malfunctions, the employee bears the responsibility and cost of repair. However, some employees may expect you to pay for this since they are using it for work purposes as well.

The cons of BYOD
• What if that employees leaves? Since they own the device, they may have confidential information stored on it. How can you extract and/or erase that if you won’t have ownership of the device?
• How do you ensure security? This is the biggest downside and needs to be carefully considered. What happens when your salesperson’s six-year-old downloads a virus? What if your accounts-payable person loses their device at Starbucks? What if they’re using their device to use file-sharing sites that are riddled with viruses? If you’re a publicly held USA corporation, you’re governed by the federal Sarbanes-Oxley Act (SOX). The Act is designed to protect against fraud by creating verifiable security controls to protect against disclosure of confidential data, and tracking of personnel to detect data tampering. If your business accepts credit card payments, you need to be compliant with the 12 regulations of the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS). If you’re in or you support the health-care industry, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act demands that all HIPAA-covered businesses prevent unauthorized access to “Protected Health Information” or PHI (patients’ names, addresses, and all information pertaining to patients’ health and payment records).

With viruses and online threats at an all-time high, you need to lock down and protect your company “environment” as much as possible by issuing company-owned devices, laptops and computers that are monitored and properly secured, backed up and protected.

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Top Mistakes that Make You a Prime Target for Identity Theft

The numbers are staggering: according to the 2006 Identity Fraud Report, identity theft cost consumers and businesses a whopping $56.6 billion dollars. Identity theft occurs when someone steals your name, Social Security number (SSN), bank account number, or credit card to open accounts, make purchases, or commit other fraudulent crimes.

The Methods They Use To Steal Your Identity
The methods identity thieves use include low tech strategies (like going through your trash can, also known as “dumpster diving”) to highly sophisticated phishing scams that include cloned PayPal or bank websites that trick you into giving your username, password, or account number. Other ways include:
•Stealing records from an employer or bribing an employee who has access to the records.
•Hacking into the company’s employee records.
•Stealing mail, such as bank account or credit card statements, tax documents, pre-approved credit cards, or new checks.
•Abusing their employer’s authorized access to credit reports.

How Identity Theft Affects You
Once someone has stolen your identity, they can use your credit cards or bank account to purchase expensive consumer goods like computers and electronics that can easily be resold for cash. They can also open and charge up new credit cards, which can be a real mess to straighten out with vendors and credit reporting agencies. Other criminal activities include taking out auto loans in your name, opening a new phone or wireless service in your name, or writing counterfeit checks to drain your bank account. Some have even used it to file for bankruptcy to avoid paying debts they’ve incurred, or to avoid eviction.

How to Protect Yourself and Your Employees
Never give your personal information, Social Security number, credit card number, or bank account numbers over the phone or online unless you know for certain you are dealing with a legitimate company. Make sure your employees are given an AUP (acceptable use policy) that educates them on the dangers of phishing scams and spam e-mails designed to either trick you into giving your information or installing a virus that secretly steals the information stored on your PC without your knowledge.

You can recognize a secure website, as it has an https:// at the beginning of the web address (regular web sites only have http:// and no “s”) at the top of the page on which you are submitting your information. It also must have a picture of a lock in the bottom right corner of the page. If you don’t see both of these measures in place, do not submit your information.

And even if you DO see this, use a credit card instead of a debit card or pay by check option because you’ll get security protection from your card’s issuer. Visa, MasterCard and American Express all have a zero liability policy. If you notify the bank of unauthorized transactions, you pay nothing. And some credit card companies offer one-time use numbers to prevent someone from stealing your account number and using it for unauthorized charges.

Shred all medical bills, financial statements, credit card applications, tax statements, or any other mail that contains confidential information about you before you throw them into the trash.

Never open e-mails or attachments from e-mail addresses you are unfamiliar with, and NEVER respond to e-mails that ask you to verify your account information because your account is being closed, suspended, or charged. If you want to verify this, call the bank or the company to see if it was a legitimate e-mail.

Signs That You’ve Fallen Victim to Identity Theft
If you see any unexplained charges or withdrawals from your bank accounts, if you receive credit cards that you did not apply for, or if you start receiving bills or collection letters for items you have not purchased, someone may have stolen your identity.

Always follow up with the business or institution to find out exactly what is causing the situation as quickly as possible. The faster you act on identity theft, the easier it will be for you to clear your name.

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Tips for Handling, Storing, and Disposing of Confidential Documents

In the past 10 years, over 10,000 new regulations have been placed on the books by local, state and federal agencies pertaining to the handling, storage, and disposal of confidential client, patient, and employee documents.
A few examples are:

•SEC Rule 17a-4 Electronic Storage of Broker Dealer Records Graham-Leach-Bliley Act
•Financial Services Modernization Act
•Sarbanes-Oxley Act
•DOD 5015.2 Department of Defense
•Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA)
•Fair Labor Standards Act
•Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) Act
•Payment Card Industry Data Security (PCI DSS)

No matter how small your business is, you are surely going to be affected by one or more of these new government regulations. Naturally some industries are more regulated, such as financial or medical, but all companies that hold information such as employee social security numbers, credit cards, financial statements (credit applications, bank statements, order forms) fall under these new regulations.

While we cannot cover every single aspect of protecting your company, here are a few tips that will go a long way in making sure you don’t end up fined, sued, or with a bad reputation for not securing your clients information:

•Seek professional help. If you think you are holding confidential information that should be secured, ask a qualified attorney who specializes in data confidentiality in your industry about what you must do to meet new government regulations.
•Shred all documents that contain confidential information. A good shredder should do a cross cut or diamond cut versus a simple strip shredder to make it more difficult for someone to piece together a shredded document.
•If you have to keep a copy of contracts or other documents that contain confidential information, contact a high-security document storage facility like Iron Mountain ( and they will store your documents in a high-security location.
•Keep a fire-proof safe with a lock and key for employee documents you need to keep onsite.
•Make sure your offsite backups have 32-bit encryption (ask your provider). Also make sure the facility where the information is stored is under lock and key with security camera and access-controlled security.

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How to Safely Dispose of Old Computers

Many of you may have upgraded your old PCs for shiny new ones. So what should you do about that old PC left over?
Whatever you do, don’t just throw it into a dumpster! Not only is it an environmental hazard you could be fined for, but you also don’t want complete strangers getting access to your old files, passwords, financial information, and e-mails.

First, keep your old PC around for a few months until you are absolutely certain that you transferred all of the files and programs you needed to your new PC.

Next, you need to make sure the hard drive is wiped clean of any data you had stored on it — and simply deleting the files is not enough. We recommend you seek professional help in clearing the hard drive from any old PCs you are disposing of.

Finally, you may consider donating your old PCs to a charity such as Youth for Technology ( or Computers With Causes ( Many of these organizations will clean your hard drive to prevent identity theft, and you can write off the donation on your taxes!

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10 Early Warning Signs Of Impending Computer Disasters

Computers rarely stop working overnight. In most cases, there are early warning signs that problems are brewing. Below are 10 surefire signs that you need to get a professional to investigate your network ASAP:

1. Your workstation or server starts running very slowly, freezes up, or crashes.
2. Your web browser has been changed to another strange browser you’ve never seen before.
3. You are getting an unusual amount of pop-up windows, even when you aren’t surfing the web.
4. You don’t know if every computer on your network has the most current virus definitions.
5. You don’t know if you have a firewall in place or the last time it was updated.
6. You haven’t attempted to restore your data from a backup tape or other storage device in awhile, and you aren’t checking your backup log for errors.
7. You receive e-mails accusing you of sending spam, and/or you find e-mail messages in your “outbox” or “sent” folder that you didn’t send.
8. Your computer starts making a grinding, clicking, or loud whirring sound.
9. The fan is constantly running.
10. You are getting a growing number of error messages, and you are forced to create work-arounds to complete certain work tasks.

If any of these signs are present, you should contact a pro immediately to investigate further!
The old saying of an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure is especially true in the world of computers and all things digital; and if you are like most businesses, your computer network is critical to the operation of your business so make sure you don’t procrastinate if any of these signs are present.

Ideally, you should perform regular health checks and maintenance on your network to make sure problems don’t crop up. Here’s why:
• Critical security updates need to be applied at least once a month to protect you from a constant flow of new hacker attacks.
• Firewall, virus and spyware protection need to be monitored and updated on a daily basis because new attacks are released daily.
• Your data backup system needs to be monitored and tested frequently to ensure easy data recovery in the event of loss. The rate of tape drive failure is 100%; that’s why you need to frequently monitor your backups.
• Servers and workstations need regular tune-ups to keep them running fast and error free.
• Monitoring of disk space is important to avoid data loss, crashes, and storage problems.
• Server event logs need to be monitored for early alerts to network issues.

One of the biggest mistakes business owners make is taking a reactive approach to network support and maintenance rather than a proactive one.

In other words, they wait until something stops working and THEN they call in the professionals to fix it. This approach not only costs more in the long run, but it also leaves you vulnerable to more devastating crashes such as data corruption and loss, virus attacks, and extended downtime. Even NEW computers and equipment need regular maintenance because new threats are constantly evolving.

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How To Protect Your Computer From Mother Nature

August is bad weather month here and it’s not uncommon for a severe storm to hit without warning. That’s why protecting your computer and printer with a surge suppressor is more than a good idea—it’s an absolute must.

While a home circuit breaker can protect some of your appliances, they were not built to protect the sensitive electronic equipment in a computer. If a high electrical surge hits your computer, it could fry your motherboard and CPU in seconds causing you to lose data AND the use of your computer.
The biggest mistake most home users make is thinking that their power strip will protect them, when in reality, it won’t. To adequately protect your sensitive electronic investments, you need a quality surge suppressor designed to handle the job.

There are main 2 things to look for in a surge suppressor:
First is response time. This is the amount of time it takes this device to react to a power surge. This should be 10 nanoseconds or less; any longer and you run the risk of damaging your PC.

The second thing to look for is the amount of energy it can absorb and dissipate before it blows, measured in joules. I recommend at least 800 joules or more.

Another feature to look for is a failure indicator light. This light will come on when the suppressor is fried and no longer protecting your computer. Most surge suppressors will have this.

If you are using a dial-up modem, be sure the suppressor blocks electricity that can come in from the phone lines. If you have a fax or cable line, make sure the suppressor you chose handles those too. You also want to make sure the suppressor you choose meets the UL 1449 specifications (this will be listed on the box).

There are three levels of protection: 330, 400 and 500. This number refers to the maximum voltage that the suppressor will allow to pass through the line. The lower the number, the better off you are.

Finally, unplug your computer and all computer equipment, telephone, and modem lines during a lightning storm. This is the ultimate protection against sudden and devastating power surges.

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4 Hidden Dangers Electricity Poses To Your Computer

Is your computer plugged in? Do you use a power strip with a surge protector? If so, you are a heartbeat away from disaster and don’t even realize it. The same electricity you depend on to run your computer and network is also trying to destroy your data.

Believe it or not, electricity is one of the biggest threats to your computer network and the data it contains. Here are four computer power problems you must know about and how to prevent them.

1.) Transients – Commonly known as surges and spikes, these are caused by lightning storms, wind, squirrels shorting out power lines, auto accidents, etc. Several times each week these spikes can travel up the power cord into your computer damaging everything from power supplies to motherboards. Conventional wisdom says use a power strip with a surge protector and you are safe. As usual, conventional wisdom is dead wrong. After several months, these surge protectors become useless having been zapped by the surges they were designed to protect against.

2.) Blackouts – Whether momentary or prolonged, the sudden loss of power can corrupt your PC to the point of not being able to start up again when the lights come back on.

3.) Sags – This is when the power drops below normal. Have you ever seen the fluorescent lights flicker for a moment? Then you have witnessed sag. Sags are more common than surges and are caused when equipment like air conditioners, blow dryers, water heaters, laser printers, copy machines and other electrical equipment are turned on or come out of sleep mode. A typical small office will experience 30 or more sags each day. Sags cause many of the weird and unexplained problems computer users complain about every day.

4.) Noise – Ever been watching TV and seen fuzzy pictures and/or white lines or dots when you turn on a blender or vacuum cleaner? This is the result of electrical noise. While a fuzzy TV picture is an annoyance, this electrical noise causes many computer problems including loss of data.

So how do you protect yourself from electrical problems? The most simple and inexpensive solution to all four of these hazards is a battery backup. The battery backup (also known as a UPS or Uninterruptible Power Supply) senses when there are problems with the power and automatically switches to the battery protecting you from computer damage and data loss.

Choosing the correct battery backup for your computer or server can be tricky. Having one with a battery too small is the same as having none at all. For most desktop computers, a battery backup with a 500VA or larger rating should be sufficient to keep you going through momentary power problems. Protecting your server requires detailed knowledge of the server functions and power consumption in order to pick the right battery backup solution.

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4 Reasons You Might Be Wasting Good Advice

Have you benefited from all the good advice you’ve received over the years? Have you experienced times when you got great advice and it didn’t work?

Don’t we all want good advice from whoever can give it? There are times when even the best advice doesn’t pay off. Here are four reasons you might be wasting good advice.

Reason #1: You don’t think you need it.
You can’t help somebody who doesn’t think they need it, and these people aren’t usually seeking good advice. Sometimes someone who doesn’t think they need it asks for advice for appearances, or to ingratiate themselves to someone.
Even if the non-learner stumbles upon worthwhile information in a speech or seminar, they will dismiss it: it becomes seed falling among the stones.
Moral of the story: don’t ask for advice unless you really value and need it. Asking to patronize someone will usually backfire, especially if you don’t take their counsel.

Reason #2: The advice is good but you’re the wrong person.
The relevancy of the advice is dependent on the person and their situation.
I’m always amused when I hear a new salesperson say they don’t need to prepare because they know a sales legend in their company who successfully “wings it.” Really? Might it be that the successful old pro has prepared so much over so many years that he or she makes it look effortless?
Likewise, you might be past the point in your career where the advice offered is relevant. It might apply to someone with less experience, but it won’t reward you where you’re at in your journey.

Reason #3: You get good advice at the wrong time.
Sometimes advice arrives when you’re not in a position to apply it immediately. There are more urgent or pressing matters to attend to, or you don’t have the necessary resources. If this is the case, put it on your “to do as soon as possible” list.
Sometimes it is the “wrong time” in that the advice might be too uncomfortable or painful. You need to wait until you’re able to accept it gracefully.

Reason #4: You don’t recognize it as good advice.
You might not like the advice you’re getting because it is difficult or painful to accept. The best advice often comes from friends and colleagues who love us enough to tell us the truth. Don’t let the unpleasantness of advice prevent you from recognizing its value.

So what is good advice? It is information relevant to you and your business based on where you are at a particular point in time. Advice that comes too late or too early won’t be helpful to you. And you need to be receptive to what it suggests you do.

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5 Cell Phone “Urban Legend” Myths Debunked

There have been a number of e-mails circling the Internet talking about hidden tricks and features of the average cell phone. Below are a few of those myths and the actual truths according to

Myth #1: The emergency number worldwide for mobile phones is 112. This number can be dialed even when the keypad it locked.
Truth: Calling 112 on your cell phone will connect you with local emergency services in some parts of the world—primarily Europe—even if you are outside of your service area, and some phones will allow you to dial 112 even if you lack a SIM card or if the keypad is locked.

Myth #2: If you have a remote keyless entry system for your car and lock your keys in the car, you can call someone with a spare key and get them to transmit the “unlock” signal via your cell phone. Simply get them to press the unlock button on the spare key into their cell phone while you hold your cell phone close to the door. It will open instantly.
Truth: Cars with remote keyless entry systems cannot be unlocked by relaying a key fob transmitter signal via a cellular telephone.

Myth #3: Pressing *3370# on your cell phone will unlock hidden battery power on your phone.
Truth: This is a misunderstanding of an option available on some brands of cell phones, such as Nokia. However, this option is activated by pressing #4720#; pressing *3370#actually enables Enhanced Full Rate Codec, which provides better sound quality at the expense of a shorter battery life.

Myth #4: You can totally disable a stolen cell phone by giving your phone’s serial number to your service provider and reporting it stolen; they can disable the phone so that even if the thief replaces the SIM card, the phone is still useless. You can get your cell phone’s serial number to display on your phone by punching in * #06# on your phone keypad.
Truth: Entering the sequence *#06# may display a 15-digit identification code string, but this function only works with certain types of phones. Plus, reporting this number to your service provide to shut down the phone is extremely limited.

Myth #5: To avoid paying telephone directory charges associated with 411 info, dial (800) FREE-411.
Truth: Some companies like (800) FREE-411 do provide free directory assistance to cell phone customers. However, users should know that while the service is free, your cell phone service provide may still charge you for placing the call.

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Do You Love Your Computer A Little Too Much?

It’s the relationship you spend more time on than any other. It deepens every year. And when things go wrong, you become afraid, tearful, and in some cases so enraged that you lash out by throwing things—but you’re willing to go right back into the relationship no matter what happens.

What are we talking about? The bond you have with your computer. If you work in an office, chances are you spend more time staring into your computer screen than having conversations with real live human beings. And you probably spend more time at your PC than you do with your significant other, best friend, and even your kids.

According to research conducted by SupportSoft Inc., a firm in Redwood City, California, that makes software for computer help desks, people are spending an increasing amount of time at their computer. This survey also revealed how computer problems can unleash powerful—even dangerous emotions. When confronted with a dead computer, 19% admitted to wanting to hurl it out the nearest window, 9% felt stranded and alone, 11% used language normally reserved for special occasions, 7% did so loudly, 3% did so tearfully and another 3% vented their wrath on inanimate objects.

With these results it should come as no surprise that 48% said they would rather help a friend move than deal with a computer problem, and 30% said they felt more frustration with their computer now than in previous years.

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