It’s time to bring your technology into the 21st century

March 29th, 2019 by Julie Lough

Microsoft to end support of Windows 7

Grand Rapids, Mich. – If your computer is beige and your network server is old enough to drink, it’s time to take a look at what 21st-century technology has to offer. Micro Visions Inc., a local leading IT managed services provider (MSP) started in 1989 – the same year the World Wide Web was invented – knows how to make business technology as efficient, secure and productive as current technology allows.

Helping Grand Rapids businesses run their companies more effectively with state-of-the-art technology for the past 30 years, Micro Visions offers advice and service excellence enhanced by research, lab testing, certifications and regular training to stay abreast of ever-evolving technology trends, tools and practices.

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Celebrate World Backup Day on March 31st

March 29th, 2019 by Julie Lough

When Was Your Last Backup?

Data backups are a critical part of protecting the information and files you cannot afford to lose. And yet, many people have bad backup habits – or no backup habits at all.

 

 

March 31st is World Backup Day – a perfect opportunity for you to update your existing backups, double-check that your backups are functional and retrievable, or create that backup you’ve been meaning to get around to.

Data Backup

Need help creating or maintaining your data backup system? Give Micro Visions Inc. a call at (616) 7760-0400 or email us at and talk to our technology experts today.


What Is Windows Lite?

March 27th, 2019 by Julie Lough

Is Windows Lite Microsoft’s Answer to Google’s Chrome OS?

Microsoft is working on a new operating system — Lite — with a different look that’s designed for the casual computer user while targeting Google’s Chrome OS  

Windows Lite

Windows Lite is the oft-rumored, highly anticipated stripped-down operating system that Microsoft is reportedly working and could be unveiled sometime in the spring of 2019. What exactly is Windows Lite and why is Microsoft investing in it?

What Is Windows Lite?

Rumors began to surface in late 2018 that Microsoft was working on a new version of its Windows 10 operating system. While details have spotty at best, it appears that Windows Lite is intended to be Microsoft’s latest attempt to compete with Google’s Chrome OS, the driver of its popular Chromebook product line.

Windows Lite reportedly will be faster and leaner than other Windows operating systems. In fact, some reports indicate that the new operating system will be so different from other Windows products that Microsoft may remove the “Windows” name from it altogether.

How Will Windows Lite Work?

The new operating system reportedly will only run apps from the Universal Windows Platform (UWP) downloaded from the Microsoft store. It will also allow progressive web apps, which are applications that are run through an online service but operate like an offline app. Microsoft is exploring whether Lite will eventually be able to support Win32 apps as well.

Windows Lite will also be instantly on and always connected. It will be designed to work with multiple CPUs, providing flexible options for device manufacturers and consumers.

The focus is on building a product that emphasizes simple interactions and maintenance.

It’s expected that Windows Lite will not be available directly to consumers but rather to OEMs as a way to offer an alternative to the increasingly popular Chromebook. Instead, it will come pre-installed on laptops marketed to the home user and students.

The product is designed for users who only need “light” computing without the power, complexity and strength of traditional Windows operating systems. For users who need to write an essay, chat with friends or listen to music, Windows 10 is a bit of overkill.

Will It Look Like Windows?

The Lite OS will likely look very little like Windows. The interface is expected to be cleaner and more modern. The Start button is in the middle of the screen, for example. The search box is reminiscent of Chrome OS, with suggested and pinned applications listed prominently.

That said, there are some familiar components. File Explorer is still there and foundational components like Settings are present at this time.

The divergence from Windows is why some believe that Microsoft will remove the Windows branding entirely from the new product. Why would Microsoft intentionally move away from the established, decades-long Windows brand?

For one, ‘Windows’ carries with it certain expectations about functionality and capabilities. Microsoft may well want to begin reshaping how people think about what an operating system is, what it looks like and its user interface. It could be the beginning of a new direction for the company.

It could also be a way to circumvent the notion that Windows is too complex, complicated or fully featured, attracting those who have sworn off Windows operating systems in the past.

When Will Windows Lite Be Available?

There has been no official announcement or scheduled release date published. Given that hints about the new operating system are beginning to appear in Windows Insider builds, it’s likely that Microsoft is quite far along in its development. One possible target for an unveiling would be at the Microsoft Build 2019 conference in May 2019. Wider testing could begin this summer.


New Whaling Schemes: CEO Fraud Continues to Grow

March 22nd, 2019 by Julie Lough

CEO Fraud

In previous years, the first clue that your corporate email has been compromised would be a poorly-spelled and grammatically incorrect email message asking you to send thousands of dollars overseas. While annoying, it was pretty easy to train staff members to see these as fraud and report the emails. Today’s cybercriminals are much more tech-savvy and sophisticated in their messaging, sending emails that purport to be from top executives in your organization, making a seemingly-reasonable request for you to transfer funds to them as they travel. It’s much more likely that well-meaning financial managers will bite at this phishing scheme, making CEO and CFO fraud one of the fastest-growing ways for cybercriminals to defraud organizations of thousands of dollars at a time. Here’s how to spot these so-called whaling schemes that target the “big fish” at an organization using social engineering and other advanced targeting mechanisms.

What Are Whaling Attacks?

Phishing emails are often a bit more basic, in that they may be targeted to any individual in the organization and ask for a limited amount of funds. Whaling emails, on the other hand, are definitely going for the big haul, as they attempt to spoof the email address of the sender and aim pointed attacks based on information gathered from LinkedIn, corporate websites and social media. This more sophisticated type of attack is more likely to trick people into wiring funds or passing along PII (Personally Identifiable Information) that can then be sold on the black market. Few industries are safe from this type of cyberattack, while larger and geographically dispersed organizations are more likely to become easy targets.

The Dangers of Whaling Emails

What is particularly troubling about this type of email is that they show an intimate knowledge of your organization and your operating principles. This could include everything from targeting exactly the individual who is most likely to respond to a financial request from their CEO to compromising the legitimate email accounts of your organization. You may think that a reasonably alert finance or accounting manager would be able to see through this type of request, but the level of sophistication involved in these emails continues to grow. Scammers include insider information to make the emails look even more realistic, especially for globe-trotting CEOs who regularly need an infusion of cash from the home office. According to Kaspersky, no one is really safe from these attacks — even the famed toy maker Mattel fell to the tactics of a fraudster to the tune of $3 million. The Snapchat human resources department also fell prey to scammers, only they were after personal information on current and past employees.

How Do You Protect Your Organization From Advanced Phishing Attacks?

The primary method of protection is ongoing education of staff at all levels of the organization. Some phishing or whaling attacks are easier to interpret than others and could include simple cues that something isn’t quite right. Here are some ways that you can potentially avoid phishing attacks:

  • Train staff to be on the lookout for fake (spoofed) email addresses or names. Show individuals how to hover over the email address and look closely to ensure that the domain name is spelled correctly.
  • Encourage individuals in a position of leadership to limit their social media presence and avoid sharing personal information online such as anniversaries, birthdays, promotions and relationships — all information that can be leveraged to add sophistication to an attack.
  • Deploy anti-phishing software that includes options such as link validation and URL screening.
  • Create internal best practices that include a secondary level of validation when large sums of money or sensitive information is requested. This can be as simple as a phone call to a company-owned phone to validate that the request is legitimate.
  • Request that your technology department or managed services provider add a flag to all emails that come from outside your corporate domain. That way, users can be trained to be wary of anything that appears to be internal to the organization, yet has that “external” flag.

There are no hard and fast rules that guarantee your organization will not be the victim of a phishing attack. However, ongoing education and strict security processes and procedures are two of the best ways to help keep your company’s finances — and personal information — safe from cyberattack.


Staying Safe Online: Are You the Target of a Fake Check Scam?

March 18th, 2019 by Julie Lough

Fake Check

Great news! You’ve posted a batch of pricey items from your business on Craigslist, and someone has offered to purchase the lot. However, when you receive the check you realize it’s not for precisely the right amount. Perhaps you contact the seller to get a revised check — and they are so accommodating that they trust you to deposit the full amount and then wire them the difference. You’ve sold your excess inventory or goods and have payment in hand, so where’s the concern?

Unfortunately, this all the hallmarks of a traditional fake check scam. Selling online is one of the three scenarios where you are most likely to find a check scammer, but it pays to always be aware that this could be a possibility. Fake checks are rampant in today’s culture, with scammers making off with millions of dollars on a regular basis. The Better Business Bureau (BBB) estimates that over 500,000 Americans are the victims of swindles involving counterfeit checks, costing each victim an average of $1,200.

How Fake Check Scams Work

First of all, there really isn’t a legitimate reason for someone to ask you to wire money back to them after handing you a check. None. If someone requests this of you, your first thought should be that there is something fishy going on — whether it’s a business or personal situation. The checks that these individuals will pass to you look completely real; even cashier’s checks that portend to be certified by a bank. Unfortunately, you’re responsible for funds from the check that you’ve deposited. This means that you will be liable for the entire amount that you wire to the criminals. Some variations of fake check scams include:

  • Foreign lottery: Congratulations! You’re the winner of a (fake) lottery. Here’s your prize money!
  • During the job application process you’re asked to submit a check for an application fee.
  • An online buyer requests you to set up an account for them to deposit payments into

Scammers are taking advantage of your trusting nature — something that you simply cannot afford to have in today’s society.

Your Liability With a Fake Check Scam

You might think that your liability is limited in the event of a fake check scam, but the opposite is true. While your bank may make deposited funds available to you immediately or within a few days, they are simply acting in good faith that the funds are available from the check you’ve deposited. When it turns out that the check is fraudulent, by federal law you are responsible for any funds that are withdrawn against the check. It often takes weeks to untangle the conspiracy around a fake check, and banks are perfectly within their rights to withhold funds from your use to equal the amount you’ve overdrawn during that period.

Protecting Yourself from Fake Check Scams

Other than simply never accepting a check, there are a few ways to stay safe from this particular type of fraud. Any offer that asks you to submit payment to receive a prize or gift should be immediately tossed. It’s always a good idea to limit how and where you are wiring money — both personally and as a part of your daily business dealings. It’s never a good idea to accept payments that are greater than the amount you’ve requested for a particular online sale, and consider using an escrow service or other third-party payment strategies for more substantial online sales. When you’re working with a new vendor for the first time, it doesn’t hurt to quickly check out their customer service number and even Google their location to ensure that it is on the up-and-up. Avoid any exceptional offer that purports to only be available for a limited time,” where the buyer is putting extensive pressure on you to act immediately. These are rarely legitimate, and can cause you much more frustration in the future.

The hard fact is that scammers are everywhere, and if something seems too good to be true — it probably is! If you think you have been a victim of a counterfeit check scam, you can report the issue to several government agencies including: U.S. Postal Inspection Service, the Federal Trade Commission and local authorities. Even though it may not save you from losing any funds, you can potentially stop the fraudsters from targeting others in the future.


Happy St. Patrick’s Day This Sunday

March 15th, 2019 by Julie Lough

March 17th is one of our favorite days of the year – St. Patrick’s Day. For some, it’s a day to celebrate centuries of rich culture and Irish heritage, and for others, an opportunity to have a pint or two with friends.

 

However you’ll be spending this St. Paddy’s, our team hopes you have a fun and safe 17th.

St. Patricks Day


Spring Forward This Sunday

March 7th, 2019 by Julie Lough

Daylight Saving Time for 2019 starts on Sunday, March 10th.

I’m sure you know how Daylight Saving Time (DST) works, but did you know not everyone in the US observes this time change? Arizona hasn’t observed DST since 1967, and Hawaii has never used DST. Michigan skipped DST from 1969 – 1973, while Florida is in the process of moving to keep DST year round!

Daylight Saving is a great excuse to sleep a little later this Sunday – take advantage, and don’t forget to double check your non-Internet connected timekeeping devices.

Daylight Savings Time


4 Questions Every CEO Needs To Ask About Cybersecurity

March 5th, 2019 by Julie Lough

CEO Cybersecurity

With the ever-increasing rate of digital interconnectedness and accessibility, IT systems are more at risk of attack by hackers and spies than ever before. Yet, many companies still haven’t seriously addressed the issue of cybersecurity in their organizations. If you have concerns about the preparedness of your business, now is the time to start taking steps to protect your data.

A Growing Threat

The last few years have seen the largest data breaches in computer history. Billions of people have been affected by having their personal and financial information exposed and in many cases, used in criminal activities. The Equifax breach in the fall of 2017 compromised the data of over 143 million Americans. Attacks skyrocketed in the first half of 2018, with 765 million occurring from April to June alone. Many other large breaches have been reported since then. Almost every individual has been affected in one way or another, and businesses have lost hundreds of millions of dollars to cybercrime. It’s become so common that people have become complacent and fatalistic about it, accepting that their information is out there somewhere, or soon will be. Nevertheless, despite such a high risk, in 2017, a major survey revealed that more than 58% of companies failed to effectively measure their vulnerability to cyberattacks. Businesses simply can’t afford to be so indifferent.

Addressing The Risk, Finding Solutions

Decision-makers and leaders in the top echelons of every organization need to make identifying and addressing their cybersecurity needs a top priority. You can begin by starting a conversation between your IT team and managers and employees at all levels of your company about information security and how best to protect sensitive data, but you need to know the right questions to ask. Here are four questions to ask to get the discussion started and moving in the right direction.

4 Questions Every CEO Needs To Ask About Cybersecurity

How informed is your team about the vulnerability to and potential impact of cyber attacks on your company?

It’s important to assess the current awareness of everyone in your organization about cyber threats and the potential damage from data breaches. It’s likely that everyone has heard of the many well-publicized breaches that have occurred over the last several years, but possibly haven’t considered them within the context of their own organization. This is the first step to developing an educational initiative to get everyone up to speed on the problem and identifying the at-risk areas in your system. After that, you can begin to develop a chain of communication to take immediate action in case of a breach and set protocols and expectations for response times. A fast and effective response is critical to limiting data exposure.

What are the specific risks to your infrastructure and what are the best steps to take to address them?

Have your IT team prepare a comprehensive risk assessment at all levels of your organization and prioritize the most urgent areas. Remember that the threat isn’t limited to just hackers. Many breaches occur because lower-level employees click on a link in a phishing email, leave a password lying around where it’s easily seen, or by unknowingly becoming a victim of a social engineering scam by giving it to someone over the phone who is impersonating a company employee. Then they can begin to identify the resources needed to protect your data, including third-party security software and updated equipment. Simply informing your employees of the threat of such low-tech risks can greatly increase your cybersecurity. If you don’t already have one, you should assign a dedicated security manager within your IT department.

How many security incidents are detected in your systems in a normal month or week, what type are they, and how we’re others informed about them?

You should have a system in place to detect, monitor, analyze, and record any type of potential security incident no matter how small or seemingly insignificant, and disseminate that information to the appropriate personnel, or perhaps to all employees to raise awareness. You should discuss hiring a managed services provider or buying software to do this, and identify which ones would best serve your needs. You should also consider a cloud-based solution.

Does your company have an incident response plan? How effective is it, and how often do you test it?

The only way you can quickly react to prevent or limit the damage from a breach is to have a clearly defined response plan in place. It should document how every pertinent department in your company should react in the event of an emergency from the top down, including your public relations team and your attorneys. This plan should be available to all employees. It should be tested on a regular basis, at least once each quarter, and updated whenever significant changes are made to your IT infrastructure.

Cyberattacks are just a fact of life these days, and that’s not going to change anytime soon. But by asking your team the right questions, starting a dialogue about how to address the threat, raising awareness and implementing training, and having a response plan in place, although you’ll never completely eliminate them, you can reduce your risks significantly.