The ways in which we communicate have changed drastically over the last 100 years. New communications systems were invented including the internet and telephones. While the methods that we communicate change rapidly, the primary systems used to manage them change somewhat infrequently. Take phone services for example. The overall structure of the cell phone networks has only changed a handful of times, but each iteration brings major changes.

5G is the next big advancement in communications technologies, and it is set to change how we communicate again. Here is a look at the ways 5G will change how you communicate.

Instant Communication Becomes Possible

The speed of communications plays a large part in its quality. While devices and networks are getting faster, there is still a noticeable lag in the time it takes to send and receive messages. This is especially true for larger messages. In many cases, this lag makes communication spotty and reduces the overall sound quality.

When 5G networks come online, the speed at which we can send information will drastically increase. One of the major advantages to 5G is the ability to send information faster with a lower latency rate. Latency is a measure of responsiveness, and lower latency numbers mean that we can interact with information sooner. That way, as we receive more data over a 5G network, we can analyze it and respond at much faster rates, as well as receive larger packages faster.

More Connectivity

Most of our communications happen verbally over the phone, or in text-form through text messages and emails. However, these are not the only ways to communicate. In many cases, devices that can communicate over networks are limited, and many devices lack these capabilities since current networks have limited capacities.

For businesses, this means that staff members can take advantage of the 5G network to stay connected wherever they need to go. While Wi-Fi is pervasive, it is not everywhere and can have limited performance in other places. Many Wi-Fi networks are protected as well and can be used to look at any data that is transmitted over them. Having access to a 5G network means that any device with a phone service transmitter can connect on a secure connection. Most devices including smartphones, tablets, and laptops can be equipped with these transmitters, allowing you to provide your team with the tools needed to connect anywhere.

Extremely High Capacity

One of the leading problems that networks face is the capacity limit compared to the number of devices. 4G networks have already experienced problems due to this limit, but 5G networks likely won’t have that problem for a long time since they have a much higher capacity than older networks. This will likely create a two-fold issue since many 4G devices may initially be incompatible with 5G networks. However, many communications companies are working to find ways of transitioning 4G devices to 5G networks without problems.

As 5G networks come online, the way we communicate will change. Fortunately, there are a lot of companies working to make this transition as smooth and enjoyable as possible. Once you can get on a 5G network, you are likely to see major improvements in the speed and quality of your communications. 5G is expected to begin coming online near the end of 2018.

When it comes to protecting your company’s digital assets, fewer decisions are more important than the adoption of new cybersecurity measures. Today, one out of five small businesses is affected by cyber crimes in one way or another. Even more worrying than this statistic is the fact that 60% of these businesses are shut down within six months of being attacked.

So what can businesses do to ensure they’re better equipped to withstand these attacks? Here are five cybersecurity strategies that your IT department can start to implement right now.

Deploy Firewalls and Network Segmentation

An unfiltered infrastructure can present itself as an easy target for cybercriminals. Firewalls tend to be the first and foremost line of defense against outside cyber attacks. IT teams can deploy and configure these digital walls to strike a balance between protection and usability on internal systems.

Another useful measure of protection is to segment networks into smaller subnetworks. These protective measures ensure that your company data is not stored in one central location. By splitting each computer network into several smaller ones that have the same level of cyber security, hackers have to work much harder to reach the same goal before they’re noticed and countered by your system.

Set Company User Access Controls

As your organization begins to scale, it’s essential that employee access is limited to specific role allocations. Having open access to all areas of your network makes it much harder to recognize unauthorized access from hackers. Assigning licenses and user-restrictions to your system enable you to allow or deny access to specific areas of your

By having fewer people with access to sensitive areas of your operations, the less likely there will be any data leakage. By creating these role-restrictions, it will also be easy to ensure former employees don’t have access to systems once their employment has ended.

Audit Systems and Introduce Security Patches

Hackers tend to look for weaknesses in systems typically identified by outdated software and old firmware versions. IT teams should always ensure their systems maintain the latest security patches and upgrades. System patches help recognize open areas of your network that might be susceptible to attacks and enable your team to address the issues.

There are also many auto-updating systems that will automatically alert you once a new patch is available for your system. These systems can be configured to automatically download and install the latest versions of software protection, ensuring you don’t risk operating one moment without the most up-to-date protection.

Train Employees on Cyber Threat Awareness

Most companies feel like cybersecurity measures should be limited to an IT department and not involve employees in other areas of the company. However, most security breaches are caused by employees who inadvertently open malicious emails or download virus-containing files without adequately vetting the source.

By implementing a cybersecurity training schedule for all employees, organizations can ensure they significantly minimize the risk of unauthorized system access and data breaches. Cybersecurity best practices should be discussed at the outset of employment and standards should be adhered to at all times.

Create a Disaster Recovery Plan

If a system does become compromised, it’s imperative that a company is prepared to quickly bounce back and repair the damage that’s been done. Disaster recovery plans are an essential part of a company’s ability to contain cyber attacks, restore systems, and recover any lost data.

By developing a recovery plan ahead of time, you can assign appropriate personnel and procedures to get your systems back up and running efficiently and repair any damage that has been done.

Developing and executing cybersecurity measures is an integral part of scaling and sustaining your business. By staying up-to-date with the latest cyber threats and setting up appropriate defenses, you can ensure your systems stay  operational and that your digital assets are always protected.

If you are not employed in the tech industry, you have likely assumed the term “IoT” to be just another hot buzz word. While the Internet of Things (IoT) is an innovative concept in the field, you do not have to be a tech aficionado to understand, or use, the technology involved. In fact, chances are that you’re already using the IoT in your everyday life. Recent statistics show that there were 3.9 billion IoT-connected devices in use during 2016 alone.

What Is the Internet of Things?

Simply put, the Internet of Things is a system of connected physical devices that collect and share data with one another. While this may sound intimidating, it is much less complex than it may seem. Most devices equipped with a “smart” title qualify as IoT devices if they are capable of communicating with other devices. They may be in the form of a thermostat, light bulb, refrigerator, security system, watch or even a car.

The Difference Between Computers and IoT Devices

These devices are not programmed and operated like traditional computers, tablets or smartphones. This is because they do not require regular human interaction to perform tasks. Through the utilization of embedded sensors and technologies like Bluetooth, GPS, WiFi or Artificial Intelligence, these devices operate intuitively. They gather and exchange information using their own specialized device-to-device communication modules, thus creating the Internet of Things.

Examples of IoT Device Functionality

One good example of IOT device functionality is that of a smart thermostat, which uses a number of tools to learn a user’s preferences. If a homeowner typically lowers the temperature in their home before bedtime, the thermostat will predict this on its own, and no further action will be required on behalf of the homeowner. In the event that the temperature becomes too low or too high, the thermostat is capable of communicating this concern with the homeowner via a mobile app or email notification.

Another prime example is smart lighting. Several different smart bulbs can be connected to a singular home automation hub. These lighting systems often contain motion sensors or other automated systems, which trigger the hub to communicate with smart bulbs in relevant areas of the home. The hub can communicate with bulbs in the living room, for instance, and direct them to turn on upon a homeowner’s arrival. Similarly, when no motion is detected, the devices will communicate through the IoT to ensure that unnecessary lighting is powered down.

The Current Role and Future of the IoT

Currently associated with the convenience and energy-saving capabilities of home automation, the technology is a relatively new notion. Though it is purported to have been “born” between 2008 and 2009, the focus on expanding and improving it has only been mainstream in the industry for a few short years. Shockingly, it is already transforming the way that users live their daily lives, and experts predict that this is only the beginning.

Certainly there is much more to the IoT than meets the eye of everyday consumers. Experts in the IoT space work diligently on intricate setups, user-friendly platforms and advanced hardware to make the IoT possible and functional. With no shortage of applications for the technology, it is estimated that there will be a staggering 21 billion IoT-connected devices by the year 2020. Fortunately, with a general understanding of the interconnected workings of the IoT, even those with limited technological knowledge can understand the excitement and hype surrounding the future of the Internet of Things.

Late last week, CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield said that it was the victim of a data breach which potentially exposed the personal information of 6,800 of its members including names, member identification numbers and dates of birth. In eight cases, social security numbers could have been exposed.

CareFirst believes the breach was the result of an email “phishing” scheme. Phishing attacks use deceptive emails and websites to convince people to disclose personal information. Phishing has become one of the most pervasive problems facing data security staffs today. Generally speaking, a basic phishing attack is relatively easy to conduct and inexpensive for the attacker.

Our Checklist:

When you are going through your email and before you click that link, consider these rules of thumb before opening or clicking any links.

  1. Does the email ask for personal or sensitive information, such as your date of birth, Social Security number, an account number or login credentials? Most legitimate businesses do not request such data in an email.
  2. Does the email asks you to click on a link to access a web site? If so, that site might be fake.
  3. Does the email have a generic salutation rather than your name? Your bank or service provider know who you are and normally will address you by name.
  4. Does the email have an attachment? If you are not expecting an attachment, don’t click on it. Confirm its validity first with the sender.
  5. When you move your mouse over the email, is the entire email a hyperlink? If so, it likely is a phishing attack.
  6. If the email makes an offer too good to be true, such as a large sum of money, a prepaid gift card or an expensive piece of electronics for free, it’s likely a phishing attack.
  7. Be careful of emails that make an emotional plea while asking for money. While many charities use such tactics, it also is a popular approach used by phishers.
  8. If the email claims you have an immediate problem, such as a virus or that you are running out of email storage space, and you must take immediate action, be careful. This is a common phishing tactic.
  9. If the email makes a direct threat and requires that you take immediate action by clicking a link for the IRS, a police agency or the like, it’s probably fake.
  10. An email might appear to be from a friend asking for money. Never send money without calling the friend first to confirm the request.

Find out just where you are with your tech. Technology should never be considered a “set it and forget it” part of your business. It takes constant tweaking, monitoring and maintenance to make your system reliable. You should strongly consider having a formal IT Security Assessment performed on your system no matter how large or small your business is as these formal scans can give you an excellent chance to find out just where you have vulnerabilities.

We can assist you with any of the above protection measures mentioned above. It is far less costly to be proactive than it is to be reactive. NOW is the time to find out, not later or even worse… after!

In many ways, smart devices have made life more convenient and enjoyable. Today, you can ask the smart devices in your home to follow a temperature schedule, play music in any room, stream television shows and adjust lighting. You don’t even have to get off your couch to make your environment perfect for you.

Unfortunately, some home technologies put your privacy at risk. If you want to add smart devices to your home, make sure you know effective ways to prevent security and privacy risks.

The Government Can Hack Your Smart TV

In 2014, the CIA worked with British intelligence agency MI5 to develop TV malware called Weeping Angel that could infiltrate Samsung smart TVs. Unlike most television apps, Weeping Angel worked in the background to quietly collect information without the owner’s knowledge.

Weeping Angel poses a threat to homeowners because it has the ability to record audio and capture WiFi keys. Having access to your WiFi keys would make it easy for the government to access passwords, usernames and other sensitive data stored on a home network.

British and American intelligence agencies likely built Weeping Angel so they could spy on suspected terrorists. Considering that the agencies kept their projects secret, though, it’s impossible to know their ultimate objectives.

Assuming that you’re not involved in illegal activity, it’s unlikely that the CIA would try to use Weeping Angel against you. Still, it wouldn’t be the first time that the government abused its power to surveil citizens.

You can avoid Weeping Angel by updating Samsung smart TVs to the latest firmware. Keep in mind, though, that other malware may target the update and other smart televisions.

Old Insteon Products Make Hacking Easy

Insteon has been producing and installing home automation technology since 2005. Unfortunately for early adopters of the technology, Insteon products made before 2013 have vulnerabilities that practically anyone can take advantage of. It doesn’t even require basic hacking skills.

When journalist Kashmir Hill began researching Insteon’s products, she discovered that she could access many home networks without usernames and passwords. Insteon had even made it possible for Hill and others like her to find vulnerable systems through search engines.

After some tests, Hill discovered that she could control lights, garage doors, cameras and other devices. She even found some networks that contained sensitive information, including the names of children, the household’s nearest major city and IP addresses.

Avoiding the threat posed by Insteon products only requires buying newer versions. In fact, the company held a recall for the affected devices in 2013.

Computers Can Record Everything You Do or Say

Numerous viruses have the ability to turn your home computer or laptop into a surveillance device that records everything the device hears and sees. Hackers have used viruses to blackmail people caught doing things that they wouldn’t want released to the public.

Luckily, these security risks are easy to counter. If you have a computer with a built-in camera, put tape over the lens to prevent viruses from recording the things that happen in your home. If you have a separate camera, make sure you detach it from your computer when you don’t plan to use it.

You can take similar steps with microphones. Ideally, you should purchase computers that don’t come with built-in microphones. That way, you only need to unplug your external mic to prevent hackers from recording you. If your computer has an internal microphone, you can muffle the sound by placing tape over it. You can also disable the computer’s audio input hardware. Keep in mind, though, that you may not be able to use the internal microphone after you disable it.

Internet technology continues to change the way that people live. As long as you take the right precautions, you can enjoy the benefits of smart devices without losing your privacy.

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