Hana LaRock – Smeester & Associates :: Denver, Colorado USA

All Posts by Hana LaRock

Are You Confident Enough in Your Organization’s Ability to Mitigate Risks?

Cybersecurity is a huge concern for all businesses. Companies understand that they need to prioritize their security methods in order to ensure they don’t experience major losses due to a potential data breach. Despite major headlines that have repeatedly demonstrated the impact these hacks have on companies, recent studies have found that people are still not as prepared as they need to be in order to mitigate such risks. While these companies may be confident saying that they believe in their organization’s ability to manage cybersecurity internally, according to the data, that doesn’t seem to be working (or entirely true).

Even companies who have the best IT teams and equipment understand the need for an outsourced CIO to handle cybersecurity, as well as other managed services.

Here’s why:

Many Risks are Internal

One reason that companies are unable to mitigate all the risks is because they are simply looking in all the wrong places. Every time we learn of another major breach, it doesn’t take long to discover that it happened due to something internal. Perhaps a firewall wasn’t updated, an employee used their personal unsecured device to access work, or the network infrastructure the company is using isn’t being maintained properly, leaving gaps all over. Companies don’t want to admit that they are a risk to themselves. And, even if a breach came from elsewhere, the fact that a hacker could get in is usually the company’s fault.

To fix this, an outsourced CIO can come in, take a look at your systems from an outsider’s point of view, and do what they need to do to patch it up.

Everybody Needs to be Vetted Before Being Onboarded

If your company hires contractors, partners, or interns to work with you, they will likely be given access to the company’s network. And, the more often you’re onboarding “strangers,” the easier it is for one of these people to let in a breach. Typically, it’s unintentional, but there are times where perhaps an employee who was recently let go seeks to take some kind of revenge on the business.

However, with the right network infrastructure (these days, it’s the cloud), security is placed on identities themselves, provided for new or temporary employees. When this is set-up by a managed service provider, HR and IT follows the process and works together with the outsourced CIO to prevent any leaks from occurring. Of course, proper vetting of the individual is necessary before providing them with company access as well.

Because Your Day to Day Job Doesn’t Involve Monitoring Security Risks

In general, 70% of respondents off the Marsh-Microsoft Worldwide Cyber Perception Survey reported that their IT departments are in charge of making important decisions about the company’s network. A lot of these decisions naturally have to do with the network’s security overall. As a business leader, this definitely isn’t your department, so you’re counting on the individuals over in IT to make the right choices. But, believe it or not, IT shouldn’t really have that kind of say, either. Their job isn’t just calling the shots on security measures.

While cybersecurity is certainly a task that involves a little work from everyone in the company, it takes a little more expertise than that. An outsourced CIO can help assign appropriate roles to each employee to make sure everyone is doing their part. Additionally, companies who have moved over to a cloud infrastructure are likely to face fewer risks, too, as cloud technology manages many risks on its own.

The Costs Alone Aren’t Worth the Risk

According to Business Insurance’s breakdown of the survey, 40% of respondents who reported a data breach in the last 12 months said that the worst-case scenario lost them $50 million or more. Out of that number, only 19% revealed “they are highly confident in their organizations’ ability to mitigate and respond to a cyber attack.” 

With that much money at stake, it doesn’t really seem worth it to take your chances. As a C-level leader, if you’re not totally comfortable in your company’s ability to mitigate such risks, then it’s time to find someone you can trust who can.

In the meantime, try our RiskAware™ Cyber Security Scan & Report to see where your security currently stands.

Hire a CIO Who Understands the Importance of Cloud Technology

Every day, the technology companies rely on in order to run their business continues to evolve. Nowadays, more and more companies are moving over to the cloud. For companies who aren’t native to the cloud, then moving your entire network to this new infrastructure takes a professional with solid expertise. If your network is already in the cloud, then making sure apps and software are running smoothly while maintaining their security, also takes a knowledgable person. While most companies have IT leaders working internally, many outsource the help of a CIO to take charge of data on the cloud.

So, before you choose any CIO, you want to make sure yours is keeping up with the times.

Cloud Expertise is What’s On the Menu

Many companies today are being convinced that the cloud is the way to go. They are taught about all the benefits when it comes to cost, security, scalability, and managed services. Companies know that if they aren’t at least thinking about moving to an all-cloud environment, then they will start to fall behind. At this rate, the help of an outsourced CIO is not only important, but it’s necessary. And, when you go shopping for one, cloud expertise should be at the top of their list of skills.

It’s time to step forward into the future.

The Cloud Provides Companies With More Flexibility

A CIO who can provide the option of “possibilities” is a great place to start when looking for someone to manage your network. Luckily, a professional who understands the cloud doesn’t need to work too hard, as a cloud infrastructure provides lots of flexibility on its own. The cloud allows users to do what they please with software that fits their company’s needs. For instance, if you’re currently running software on AWS, but you want to transition to another provider (or, you want to use more than one), a cloud environment allows you to do that.

However, an ordinary business leader might not know where to start with all of this. Therefore, reaching out to a CIO who can manage your cloud for you will help you experience all this flexibility worry-free.

Consistent Management of Security

Another reason CIOs should be pushing for the cloud is because of the security it provides. The cloud allows security to be focused on the apps and the different identities accessing the network themselves, unlike traditional firewalls that aren’t quite as reliable. One of the most important roles of an outsourced CIO is to manage your network’s security, which is especially important for businesses that are constantly onboarding and offboarding third parties or have employees who work remotely.

With the support of an expert CIO, the cloud helps keep your network more secure than ever, while ensuring that your business stays compliant with industry standards.

Everyone Has a Role

One reason business leaders may feel hesitant about outsourcing their CIO is because they may feel as though they have the expertise they need already at their office (or their remote office). If they already have an IT team managing their network needs, it may feel a bit like ‘betrayal’ to outsource that kind of thing.  The thing is, as familiar as your IT team may be with the cloud, their role is still a bit different (yet, still important) than that of a CIO. While the CIO may be in charge of choosing the apps or infrastructures best suited for your business, the IT team may be on top of securing those apps, making sure those apps are consistently updated, and assigning new users with identities that follow a strict protocol.

The cloud certainly takes a lot of work off of a human’s hands, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you need to let anyone go. Everyone still has an important role when it comes to the cloud, it’s just that those roles may shift.

If you’re interested in hiring managed services, that’s great! But, just make sure your CIO has significant experience with the cloud.

In the meantime, try our RiskAware™ Cyber Security Scan & Report to see where your security currently stands.

 

Concerned About Carillion? Why Your Small Business is Safe

In January 2018, U.K.’s second-largest outsourcing construction company, Carillion, collapsed, leaving many people confused and others significantly out of money. When a company this large has to completely go into liquidation, projects simply cease to continue, and a lot of questions have since been raised. While the media has been discussing the issue of private contracts being combined with public services, companies who outsource services are also concerned, but for different reasons. This is making the general public a little uneasy when it comes to the idea of outsourcing overall.

However, there are lessons to be learned from a company like Carillion. And, especially if you’re a small business, you really don’t need to worry. Just check on these:

Communication is Key

In any business, bad communication can lead to even worse problems. In order to make sure things don’t go wrong, having open communication is imperative. Unfortunately, with Carillion, communication may not have always been as clear as it could have been, and when things started to going downhill, a rescue plan was too late to execute. Of course, this can be inevitable when you’re running such a big operation.

Luckily, as a small business leader, communication between you, your CIO, and your IT team is not only easy, but it’s kind of the whole point of outsourcing to begin with. An unbiased CIO allows there to be a smooth conversation among all parties, ensuring that no one is left out of the loop, and instructions are given to the right people. It also helps to make sure businesses stay compliant, as they should be advised their own role in compliance along with the CIO and IT.

Always Pay Attentions to Contracts and SLAs

If your biggest worry about hiring an outsourced CIO is the legitimacy of the contracts and service level agreements, that’s a valid concern. A contract that’s not treated seriously or that doesn’t clearly outline what it will encompass, can potentially cause a lot of damage. Additionally, contracts should also be flexible; as a client, it’s nice to have the freedom to go back in and make changes as needed — changes that won’t put anyone at a disadvantage. Carillion didn’t really have this option, as they mainly worked with long-term contracts.

An SLA is the single most important thing you can consider before moving forward with outsourcing your CIO. But, as a small business with very specific needs, it’s likely you’ll be in good hands no matter what.

How Busy is Your CIO?

In the case of Carillion, they were managing way too many contracts at once — many of which didn’t pan out. When you’re taking on contracts to build everything from schools to roads to hospitals for the government, it can get a bit too overwhelming to keep everything in order. Any outsourced CIO may be able to relate to this to some degree. After all, a CIO who wants to provide the best support for their clients needs to be available on a regular basis, and know what to do and how to do it.

It goes without saying that if the CIO you’re looking to hire seems too busy with other clients, then a similar situation to Carillion — though, on a smaller scale — may happen. Would it affect you? Not necessarily. But, it’s still important to work with someone who isn’t stretching him or herself too thin.

Outsourcing Your CIO is Still a Great Idea

Though the Carillion situation might be a bit scary when it comes to the thought of outsourcing, unfortunately, they had factors going against them that won’t be the case for small businesses. One of the reasons Carillion had a downfall was because, at the end of the day, they took on more than they could handle. This was one of the rare times where we see the potential negative side of outsourcing. That being said, even though potential customers may have some reservations, the benefits certainly outweigh those concerns by a long shot.

For businesses who don’t have the time to handle their technology needs, outsourcing to an expert CIO can make a world of difference. They do what they need to do to make sure your network runs smoothly, letting you take care of business. Of course, a good CIO will work with your IT team while still keeping you in the loop. Overall, outsourcing your CIO saves you time, money, and the stress.

Still worried? Hopefully, this made you feel a bit better about your outsourcing plan.

In the meantime, try our RiskAware™ Cyber Security Scan & Report to see where your security currently stands.

It’s Time to Start Giving Your Data the Respect It Deserves

Many of us like to think of data as bits of information floating around in the cloud — after all, what other way is there to envision something that’s more or less invisible to the naked eye? Well, if that’s how you refer to the data in your network, then it’s likely you’re treating it as such, too. The problem with this is that data deserves more respect than it’s getting. When companies make big decisions based on what they consider a ‘single-entity of data,’ they might be missing a lot of worthy information and could end up making a costly choice because of that.

The Deal with Data

There are currently a lot of trends surrounding data, but sometimes it’s not about the data itself — it’s about how you’re managing it. Because data is so fundamental to business operations, it’s time that we start treating data as a valuable asset to the company. Whether you need to imagine data wearing a suit and tie to work every day or that it’s sitting in the conference room at a team meeting, that’s fine. But,  if you don’t, there may as well be big consequences for your company.

Unfortunately, it’s not so easy. The problem is, data is just too big. When it comes to gaining real value from interpreting data, it’s impossible to know where to begin. This is why companies are starting to look at data lakes and other solutions to help find what’s valuable, without wasting time on shuffling through data that might not serve a purpose. While data lakes might be out of the question for your business, there is a lot you can do on your own, first.

How to Make Data a True Asset

Just as you would set certain protocols and management tasks as a company leader, data shouldn’t be left out from this. Remember, data in many ways is an enterprise. Therefore, those same protocols and principles you assign to anything else in your company should also be assigned to data. Just as you would measure an employee’s performance, calculate your sales, or monitor your network’s security, you should monetize, measure, and manage your data the same way. This way, you can be sure that the information you gain from this data is truly meaningful, without any part of it being overlooked.

Apply Analytics to Data

How would you really internalize potentially imperative information at your company?

You would analyze it.

So, data needs to be analyzed, too, in the appropriate manner — just as you would apply analytics to any other aspect of your business. If you want real ROI, then it’s absolutely necessary to put data under the microscope. This can be hard when there is just a plethora of data out there, waiting to be sorted. Therefore, data needs to be evaluated while being combined with the analyses done on sales, marketing, and feedback.

If you’re not quite sure how to go about this, keep in mind that there are several lenses with which to look at data. According to James Burke, director at ISG, you can proceed this way:

  • Descriptive analytics: What happened?
  • Diagnostic analytics: Why did something happen?
  • Predictive analytics: What will happen next?
  • Prescriptive analytics: How can we make something happen?

Today, there are many resources companies can utilize to help analyze their data correctly and treat that information as an asset. When done consistently, companies will see positive results.

How Outsourcing a CIO Can Help With This

The right data can tell us about our business. If your company is eager to find strategies to grow, then it’s worth looking at that data to see if it holds any clues. Likewise, companies don’t want to spend money on resources they don’t need, especially if that budget is needed elsewhere. When treated as an asset, data can be very valuable in terms of understanding your business because it can give companies a better visual of what’s really necessary. But, this is difficult for companies to do on their own.

The solution?

Outsourcing your CIO — a professional who knows how to do all of this. They know what to look for, how to analyze it, and how to apply it to future decisions. They know what to take from a large amount of data, putting it under the microscope to find what’s valuable. They know what they are doing and how to help you. Investing in a CIO, then, will save your company a lot of time and money in the long run.

In the meantime, try our RiskAware™ Cyber Security Scan & Report to see where your security currently stands.

Pay Attention To These Top 5 Security Concerns for 2018

Cybersecurity is hands down becoming one of the most talked about issues today. Companies nowadays have to put their security before anything else they do, and this can be a costly venture if not done correctly. While one aspect of managing security involves hiring an unbiased third party to take care of it, it’s also important to know what you could be doing for yourself and your company to keep everything that matters secure. Each year, the cybersecurity conversation is constantly changing, though, due to the ever-increasing sophistication of data breaches that we typically see.

These are the security issues you want to pay the most attention to as 2017 comes to an end:

1) Machine Learning

It may not be Judgement Day yet, but we might be well on our way to the land of the “Terminators.” Machine learning is happening fast, and next year we will have technology that doesn’t need to be programmed to learn a new task. Sound scary? Well, the implications machine learning can have for people with bad intentions looks good for them, and very bad for everyone else. Hackers out there with such intentions can use machine learning to their advantage.

2) Digital Baggage

Remember all those Facebook photos you posted back in college? Okay, maybe you didn’t grow up during the Facebook age, but if you have children now that are online, it’s something you need to know. That’s because 2018 will be a year where we discuss “Digital Baggage” in terms of cybersecurity. These days, minors can essentially post whatever they want online, and there aren’t too many regulations in place to stop it. While some parents are very cautious with this, most are too busy to pay too much attention. Regardless, anything that you post online can have the potential to hurt you later on. Next year, companies will start looking into this when it comes to hiring new staff or getting rid of employees they already have.

3) Biometrics and Serverless Architectures

Technology is continuing to expand into realms that we have never seen before. Next year, we’re likely to see biometrics — such as face and fingerprint scanning — be incorporated into device verification. We will also start to see more serverless architectures which are apps that can be built without having to host them on a managed server.

What do these two things have in common? Well, whether it’s the ease of use, low-cost, or user-friendly interfaces, biometrics and serverless architectures are pretty attractive. However, while they seem to be some of the most secure methods out there, there are still some inconsistencies and questions being raised. For instance, how secure really is a face scan? And, aren’t serverless apps immune to DoS attacks?

4) Wireless Breaches

We are in an era now where everything is connected. You may have heard it described as the ‘Internet of Things.’ Pretty soon, things like smart homes will be the norm. We will be connected in every aspect of our lives, on every device possible. As we already know, Wi-Fi isn’t always as secure as we want it to be, and the more connected we become, the more we need to pay attention to our security on each of those devices.

5) A Closer Eye on Companies

It seems that no matter how many times big companies make headlines for data breaches, we still continue to see this happening in the news over and over again. Because consumers rarely read privacy regulations (often checking off the “agree to terms” box to get to the next step), companies tend to cut corners and take advantage of this in order to save themselves money. At the same time, companies who do experience data breaches seem to think that ignoring it or covering it up will keep customers on board. Unfortunately, after what we’ve seen with Yahoo!, Uber, and other companies, the more they’ve tried to hide it, the more they’ve made the problem worse.

Next year, you can be sure that there will be more watchful eyes upon companies when it comes to their cybersecurity. And, these watchful eyes won’t just be from auditors, but from the customers themselves. Therefore, the more you make security a priority, the better off you will be.

In 2018, anything involving data, machines, Internet, etc., will certainly have more streamlined processes. However, it’s important to keep in mind that there are two sides to everything. What’s easy in one aspect could be a nightmare in other aspects, in this case, security. Get ahead of the game and know what to look out for next year so you’re company is prepared. 

In the meantime, try our RiskAware™ Cyber Security Scan & Report to see where your security currently stands.

What Companies Do After Data Breaches That’s Causing More Harm

Data breaches can happen to any company. No matter what industry you work in, there’s always a threat out there. While companies can be doing a lot to stop a breach before it happens, they sometimes have to learn the hard way that they’ve made an error somewhere along the line.

But, it’s not always what companies do before a breach happens that’s a problem. Sometimes, it’s what they do afterward that results in more serious problems long-term. However, if companies can be aware of what mistakes they can make following a data breach, then they can do a better job of cleaning up the mess and getting back on their feet.

Of course, if you ignore this advice, then you could be making things much worse:

Trying to Keep it Quiet

When a breach happens, there’s no doubt that it’s embarrassing. You’re well aware of what people will say about your company, and that some customers may decide to stop buying your products and services altogether. But, it’s always important to remember that honesty is the best policy. And, in today’s world, if you fail to be honest, people will eventually find out anyway, and wonder why you didn’t come forward in the first place.

We’ve seen it in the headlines with major companies. Equifax, Target, Yahoo…all of these companies waited quite some time before reporting the breach to the news. Uber failed to say anything at all. But, often times, the public beat them to it, leaving customers asking, “Why?”

If consumers know about the breach, they have time to call their banks, change their passwords, and secure their information. Most people are also understanding that breaches happen. What they can’t understand is why the company would waste any time in helping them their consumers protect their data.

If your company experiences a data breach, inform relevant parties ASAP. If you’re still waiting for information, you can let your customers know that you will give them more details as soon as possible. Of course, having a protocol in place to deal with this is very important.

Not Giving Correct Information

Perhaps what’s worse than trying to cover up a breach is giving the wrong information about it. While you should give a press release as soon as you can, it’s never okay to jump to conclusions and then report those conclusions to consumers. Instead, you can say “We’re waiting for more information at this time,” instead of flooding the media with information that isn’t necessarily true. Many major companies have done things like this on various occasions, leading to more confusion and questions that could have been avoided.

Trying to Protect Your Reputation and Taking it Too Far

In addition to keeping a breach “hush-hush,” companies also make the mistake about fretting over their reputation too much. And, as we’ve all learned, sometimes putting in too much effort in anything has the opposite effect.

For instance, back when the Yahoo breach happened, CEO Marissa Meyer did not inform users to reset their passwords. She was too concerned that this would “annoy” customers when instead, it could have protected them. Additionally, when the Equifax breach occurred, the company profited off of consumers by giving them the opportunity to freeze their report for a price. Before that, they told consumers that they’d get a year of free credit score reports if they waived their right to sue the company.

If you experience a breach, there are always going to be consumers who have something negative to say about it. But, as long as you follow protocol, the consumers that are loyal to you will appreciate your cooperation and not let the breach ruin the relationship they have with you.

 Not Owning Up to Your Role in Causing the Breach

Although we know a breach can happen to anyone, the truth of the matter is that most companies can prevent a breach – or, at least minimize the magnitude of that breach – if they really wanted to. It’s also important to recognize that many breaches are a result of human error within the company and not external threats. Company leaders who fail to come clean and give a public apology for the breach, regardless of whether or not they actually had a role in the matter, are causing more damage long-term.

So, bite your tongue, apologize, and make sure whoever or whatever is responsible for the breach is held accountable, only after you’ve said your “sorry.”

If you can avoid these mistakes after a breach occurs, you will be better off.

In the meantime, try our RiskAware™ Cyber Security Scan & Report to see where your security currently stands.

Are You Keeping Your Information Secure this Holiday Season?

With Black Friday and Cyber Monday around the corner, as well as a whole month of holiday shopping, people are using their debit cards, credit cards, and other accounts — like Paypal — to make purchases. But, because of all the transactions being made via the Internet, companies need to work hard to make sure they’re keeping themselves and their customers secure. Hackers will be looking for every opportunity possible to get their hands on some valuable information. Remember, a data breach of any kind can cause you or your company long-term problems.

Do your best to prepare yourself and your company against these threats this holiday season.

Here’s how:

Make Sure Compliance Practices are Up to Date

The best way to make sure you protect yourself this season is by making sure your compliance practices are up to date. If you’re keeping up with compliance laws, then you’re significantly lowering your risk of experiencing a data breach. Speak with your managed service provider to ask them if you’re doing everything you’re supposed to be doing, and if there are any new threats you need to be aware of.

Stay Away from Public WiFi Networks

It’s a no-brainer that shopping online while you’re in a public place, connected to a public Wi-Fi network, can seriously put you at risk. This holiday, whether your company is buying from suppliers online, or you’re shopping online for friends and family, don’t make the mistake of shopping at a new place. Shop from the safety of your secured home or office network, so you don’t risk prying eyes stealing sensitive data.

Add Additional Security

Whenever there is the increased risk of threat, it doesn’t hurt to add additional security to combat that. This might be a good time to change some passwords, avoid logging in from other devices, and checking on who has access to what. Keep a sharp eye and make sure there’s no funny or phishy” business going on.

Don’t Trust Strange Links or URLs

If you’re browsing online and add things to your various online shopping carts, you can anticipate a lot of e-mails reminding you to complete your purchase. Hackers will use this as a way of getting into your network. What might seem like an obvious link leading back to your shopping cart, could be Malware waiting to be easily installed on your device.

Stay Up to Date on Your Bank Statement

Last but not least, this time a year is a good time to constantly check on your banking activity. With all the purchases being made, a hacker can use your credit card information to make small purchases without you even noticing. It goes without saying that you should pay attention to what you buy, and if you work at a company, what purchases are being made. This way, if you notice any inconsistencies, you’ll be able to address them quickly

In the meantime, try our RiskAware™ Cyber Security Scan & Report to see where your security currently stands.

How Secure is Password Managing Software Like Dashlane?

Any individual or company who wants to follow best security practices understands how important it is to make sure any passwords used are strong and hard to break. In addition to that, people try to utilize two-factor authentication whenever possible and are starting to stray away from sites that don’t offer this. However, as people are taking their passwords more and more seriously, it’s getting more difficult to remember all those passwords.

Password managing software, like Dashlane, has helped to find a solution to the “forgot my password” problem. At first, many people are skeptical about using it, and we don’t blame them. With all your passwords stored in one location, doesn’t that make it riskier?

If you’re considering using a password managing software, it’s good to know what you’re getting yourself into. So, here are some basic facts and how we feel you should move forward.

How Do Password Managers Work?

Websites like Dashlane have a variety of different features that keep it secure. First of all, your master password doesn’t get stored on the servers. That master password is the only key to your closet of passwords. Beyond that, each individual password you have on there is encrypted, so if a hacker really wanted to know your information, they’d have to decode each one separately – and that would take a really long time. Therefore, there’s no possible way for all of the passwords you have stored to be decoded – at least, not all at once.

Additionally, companies like Dashlane use some of the most reliable servers, such as AWS, which scatters data in a lot of different places. This means that if you were to visualize where your passwords are sitting in cyberspace, they aren’t in a room that’s labeled “John’s Passwords.” They are split up with other users’ information, too.

Lastly, these companies are generally working with cybersecurity providers on a constant basis so that security is consistently being audited.

How Can I Be Absolutely Sure My Master Password is Safe?

Unlike other websites, your master password for a site like Dashlane is unique. As mentioned before, it’s not stored on their servers. There are no password hints given, and once you create a master password, it can’t be reset if you forget it. This is to keep tricky hackers out there from easily resetting your password so they can then have access to everything else. Of course, these password managers also ask you to create a very secure password using a combination of letters, numbers, symbols, etc. – and, generally, won’t approve your account until the password is strong enough.

Is it Worth It?

There are a lot of proactive individuals and companies needing to utilize password managing software but are worried that the consequences of a hack are much worse than if just one password happened to be revealed. That being said, it seems as though that these managers are doing everything in their power to keep your information as secure as possible.

Does that mean it could still get hacked? Well, these days, it’s not impossible. But, it seems very, very unlikely.

If you’re still hesitant, one of the best ways to keep your passwords safe is the old – fashioned way; in a notebook, locked in a safe. Still, it’s also important to practice safe password protocol, and if you do use a notebook, make sure absolutely nobody untrustworthy has access to it!

There’s no clear answer about how secure password managing software is, so, at the end of the day, it’s up to your discretion. And, best security practices are constantly changing, so just make sure you stay up to date.

In the meantime, try our RiskAware™ Cyber Security Scan & Report to see where your security currently stands.

 

 

This is Why You Need a VPN – Even at Home

When people want to feel safe in their home, they take security very seriously. They move to a safe neighborhood, get some kind of security system set-up, and maybe even get an additional form of self-protection, whatever that may be.

But, in today’s world, there are other ways for bad people to infiltrate well beyond your household walls – and it’s all done through the Internet. Your Internet security is just as important as your physical home security, because you need to be protected from the dangers that lurk in cyberspace – as silly as that may sound.

One of the easiest and most effective ways to do this is by downloading a VPN on your network. It may seem as though a VPN is only necessary for businesses or people traveling abroad, but that’s not the case. If you use WiFi in your home, you’re just as much as a target as a major company – if not more.

Keep yourself safe, and consider utilizing a VPN for your remote access network.

What is a VPN?

VPN stands for “Virtual Private Network.” It’s a way to access the Internet through a private, secure connection, and it’s also a way to share information over the Internet while remaining protected. You could think of it as a firewall that protects you while you’re online, and stops hackers and viruses from getting in and taking your information.

If you need a little help visualizing how it works, it’s nice to think of a VPN as a “tunnel” – a tunnel that leads you right to where you’re intended destination is, without risking any detours, leaks, traffic jams, or accidents (hacks) along the way.

There are plenty of VPNs you can get for free online. However, some of those can slow down your connection and, in general, aren’t as useful or reliable as paid VPNs.

Why Everyone Should Use a VPN

Nowadays, people need to protect their business online just as much as they protect their physical, household possessions. The Internet can reveal a lot about an individual, and when that information gets into the wrong hands, you can find yourself in a lot of trouble.

As it is, people could be doing more to protect themselves online, like practicing better password strategies or staying away from harmful URLs. Adding a VPN is another layer of protection on top of all that.

Whether it’s to guard your private messaging conversations, hide your location from those who don’t need to know it, or even streaming your favorite TV shows at top speeds, everyone can find a good reason to use a VPN.

When and Where to Use a VPN

There are really no rules when it comes to when and where a VPN should be utilized. As we mentioned before, it certainly won’t hurt you to use a VPN at home when you’re accessing the Internet over WiFi. However, one could argue that a VPN is best utilized when you’re accessing a public WiFi network that is not trusted (perhaps at an airport or a cafe).

Additional Benefits of Using a VPN

One of the most important benefits of using a VPN is that you can do what you need to do online without having to worry. Whether you want to access your online banking, book a trip or make a purchase, apply for a mortgage, or stream a live event, a VPN lets you do all of this as safely as possible.

But, besides security reasons, using a VPN also has other benefits. For one, it helps you access certain websites from abroad, especially if those sites are unavailable in your location. For instance, if you’re traveling in a country where a website like Paypal or an app like Venmo isn’t yet available, a VPN can help you access it without any issues.

So, based on all this information, why NOT get a VPN?!

Want to go with the most trusted VPN out there? Then take a look at ExpressVPN!

Is Your IT-Team Prepared for Disaster Recovery? Ask Them These Questions to Find Out

When it comes to managing your company’s data and cybersecurity, there are a lot of different people involved. Whether your outsourced CIO is making the decisions or your company leader is calling the shots, the IT team needs to be in the loop of what’s going on. And, although your IT team should never be substituted for an unbiased, outsourced professional, they are the ones staying on top of the systems from day to day so that business can run smoothly.

Therefore, if your IT team isn’t prepared for a disaster if and when it strikes, your business is going to suffer. If you want to make sure they’re ready, then hold a meeting and ask these questions:

“Where Exactly is the Data Being Stored?”

As a business, every single piece of data you have now or have collected over the years has played an important role in the growth of your business. It could be archives of your various web designs or brand logos, an extensive email list of your customers and leads, or even the sensitive information belonging to your clients.

So, with all that in mind, where is this information being stored? Can your IT team tell you exactly where it is on your network? How secure it is? Is it encrypted? Who has access? Where the servers are located, etc.?

“Do We have a Disaster Recovery Process and Procedure Documented?”

Unfortunately, no company is invincible to cyber attacks. They can happen any business, no matter how big or how small. That being said, you shouldn’t have any reason to worry — as long as your whole team has a specific protocol to follow. If a cyber attack or blackout does occur, the entire IT team should have a clear document outlining the process and procedure to reach recovery and get back up and running again, without losing any data. These procedures should be in print, of course, and easily accessible in the case of an emergency. Also, as a C-level leader,  it’s important to make sure any new staff you hire is aware of these procedures right from their first day

“Do We Frequently Test Restorations?”

There’s no question that companies should be backing up their data as frequently as possible. But, don’t assume that just because you think it’s being backed up, it actually is being backed up. Sometimes, there are problems with the hardware or someone just forgets to click a button. Whatever it is, these back-ups need to be checked consistently and disaster recovery restorations need to be tested on a regular basis. IT teams don’t want to catch a mistake in the disaster recovery process in real-time; better to do a few drills and know the system is ready to go.

“How Far Can We Go Back if It’s Urgent to Retrieve Data?”

This is a big question that might not be the first thing C-levels think of. But, here’s why it’s important. In general, we know how to restore important information — or, rather, what we think is important at the time.

Think about it.

If you were asked to pick out the five most crucial pieces of data that if lost, would pose a huge threat to your business, you could probably think of them very quickly. But, if the time actually comes when your company is a victim of a cyber attack or power outage, you might realize right then and there that you forgot to add something to that list. Something so important, but didn’t occur to you because the last time you checked the file was more than a year ago.

You don’t necessarily need to think about those items now. But, what you do need to think about is asking your IT team how far back they can retrieve data if the worst case scenario happens.

“In the Case of a Natural Disaster or Outage, How Long Until You’re Up and Running Again?”

And, last but not least, there are disasters that happen and they aren’t due to any hacker or any human errors. It’s simply Mother Nature. The power goes out. A local computer burns out. A snowstorm is coming. Any of these things can happen, and it can sometimes put business to a complete halt. Therefore, you need to know how long it will take your IT team to get things up and running again. And, if it might take a while, be aware of how much each minute down can cost your business.

You have the right to know your IT team is prepared. As long as they can answer these questions without hesitation, your business should be in good shape for a disaster recovery.

In the meantime, try our RiskAware™ Cyber Security Scan & Report to see where your security currently stands.

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