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The Equifax Data Breach Shows the Importance of IT Security

equifax hacked - The Equifax Data Breach Shows the Importance of IT Security

For better or worse we live in a credit driven (some would say a debt driven) world. Anyone who wants to own a home, drive a nice car or just partake of the finer things needs to cultivate and maintain a good credit rating. To that end there are three major agencies that provide most of the world’s credit reports – Experian, TransUnion and Equifax.

These are companies that hold unfathomable amounts of personal data which they use to devise credit reports that hold enormous sway over the quality of our lives. The idea that any one of these big data behemoths could or would fall victim to a malicious hack has long been one of the scenarios that have kept IT security professionals awake at night. And now it’s happened. We had a chat with one a leading IT Support company in Glasgow and here’s what they had to say.

The Nightmare Scenario

For decades average people the world over have been asked to put their faith in the big three credit reporting agencies. Every time they’ve been asked to provide personal information there have been robust assurances that the information would remain absolutely confidential. Well, the days of blind trust in these (and by extension other companies that ask for personal information) are over. Because between May and July of 2017 Equifax was the target of one of the largest hacking operations in history.

During that time personal data on 143 million individuals was stolen from the Equifax servers by hackers exploiting what turned out to be a seemingly minor flaw in the company’s software. That data included names, birth dates, addresses, driver’s license numbers and the all-important Social Security numbers. Chances are if you’ve ever applied for credit in the US a hacker somewhere now has possession of your personal information.

Perhaps just as galling as the loss of privacy for so many people was the fact that the Equifax hack unfolded over the course of 3 months early in 2017. Every day during that period directors of the company showed up for work, held their meetings, discussed policy and continued to accumulate ever greater amounts of personal data while at the same time hackers scoured the Equifax servers for every last piece of information they could get their hands on.

When the company finally discovered the hack in July their response was less than exemplary.

They created a team to manage the crisis from an IT perspective in August and only announced their servers had been compromised in September. Following the revelation they botched the launch of a website intended to provide information to concerned consumers while language on their own site seemed to indicate that if a person wanted to know what was going on they first had to waive their right to sue the company.

In time these and other issues were set right but the damage to the company’s reputation was almost as significant as the amount of data lost in the hack and the CEO was forced to resign in disgrace.

The Implications

While millions of consumers were horrified to learn their confidential information was now in the hands of criminals business owners around the world we just as horrified by the implications of the Equifax hack. After all, if such a huge company – one that spends tens of millions of dollars a year on data security – could be violated in such a comprehensive manner what does say about the IT security of other, less well financed companies?

Businesses Respond

In the wake of the Equifax fiasco individual consumers are not the only ones who need to take a good long look at the way they conduct themselves. Businesses too need to take stock of their IT practices and determine a better way forward. The primary areas of concern boil down to:

  1. A) Getting some idea how the Equifax hack may impact your business directly and
  2. B) Taking steps to strengthen your current IT practices

Find Out if Your Business Was Affected

If you suspect your business may have been victimized by the Equifax hack there are a few steps you can take to protect yourself.

  • Go to the Equifax Cybersecurity Incident Info page – They have a complete list of every company whose data was compromised. You can also sign up for the company’s free credit monitoring service which will inform you of any activity related to your information the minute it happens.
  • Freeze Your Credit – If you learned through the Equifax Cybersecurity Incident page that your information was indeed stolen you should seriously consider freezing your company credit immediately. While this may be a significant inconvenience it may also prevent your company from being dragged into the abyss.
  • Monitor Your Credit Report – You have a right to request a free credit report once a year. Do so. This can alert you to any problems that may have slipped through the cracks of your other security related efforts.

Ramp up Your Security Efforts

No one should feel bad for Equifax though perhaps they should be thanked for providing two important lessons all businesses can and should learn:

  1. Address any Issues, Now – As it turns out Equifax was aware of the IT weakness the hackers used to gain entry to their servers. They had simply put off dealing with it, thinking it was not a significant issue. They could not have been more wrong and you should not make the same mistake. Order an immediate review of your IT security protocols and address any concerns, no matter how seemingly minor, without delay.
  2. Secure What Information You Have – Find out exactly what sensitive information you have on your servers, where it is and who has access to it and then take steps to protect as much of it as possible via additional security tools. This may include taking steps to classify all of your data so that hackers cannot gain access to the most sensitive information. Data classification can be time consuming and expensive but having vulnerable data on your server in this day and age simply isn’t going to cut it, as Equifax has hopefully taught us all.

True Talk: Is It worth Buying the New iPhone?

True Talk - True Talk: Is It worth Buying the New iPhone?

There has been a lot of news about Apple launching its latest phone called the iPhone X. So now the question goes: is it truly worth buying? Ever since the iPhone graced the world in 2007, it has certainly changed the world of phones as we knew it.

Instead of something that was used simply to communicate with each other, it now became the premiere choice for cellular phones. With consistent releases even after the death of Steve Jobs, Apple continues to dominate the gadget sphere. However, this does not mean there has not been any grumblings over the phone. Here are some of the largest reasons why there has been a lot of hesitation regarding the latest iPhone:

 

Price

The selling price of the iPhone has only gone up through the years. It’s not even something that you can excuse with inflation. When the very first iPhone was launched, it was selling for almost $600. It was shortly after that they dropped the price to around half. However, as the company saw that regardless of the price, they took that as the sign that they had the market in a pretty solid way.

From what we’ve gathered, the latest iPhone will hit wallets for 999 pounds for the 64GB variation and almost 1,150 pounds for the 256GB version.  If anything having the latest Apple gadget is more of a status symbol than anything.

 

Specs

In terms of performance, most people tend to still prefer the iPhone 8. While the newest iPhone does boast a massive screen size—the largest seen on an iPhone—people aren’t too happy about the facial recognition unlock feature. Privacy has always been a great concern, particularly now that hacking seems to be a fairly regular occurrence.

The OS is in the latest form which introduces a lot simplistic styling. The camera comes in a double 12 MP rear camera and a 7 MP front one. One of the things that we’re really looking forward to trying is the wireless charging. As anyone who has ever owned an iPhone will know that the first thing to ever break is the charger. This will be an interesting take to help lessen the carrying load as well as the amount of plastic used to produce chargers.

There are a huge number of smartphone aficionados that say that in terms of capacity, the latest iPhone isn’t really bringing anything new to the table. It’s just a flashy way of saying “I’ve got money!”

 

Are you getting one?

As of right now, Apple has announced that pre-orders will start at around the latter part of October. We’re definitely going to get our hands on one just to get a fully assessment and review by our own team of writers. After all, you can’t really provide an accurate review if you don’t have the actual product with you.

Let us know if you’re planning to get one or if you’re interested in reading a full on review. We’re always glad to hear from our audiences!

 

tips to buy a used iPhone 6 Infographic - True Talk: Is It worth Buying the New iPhone?

Infographic by: http://cdn.mobilesiri.com

 

 

Browsing Safely in 2017: the Tips You Need to Know

Browsing Safely in 2017 - Browsing Safely in 2017: the Tips You Need to Know

While you can load your device or computer with virus detectors, it is crucial that you constantly brush up your knowledge about browsing safely. That is what we shall be discussing this day. No matter what browser you’re using, it is important to be aware that there are viruses and invasive programs that are specifically made to target your computer or device. It was only this year that the WannaCry ransomware virus hit a tremendous amount of users all over the globe.

In light of that, here are a few tips for you to remember whenever you are browsing the internet:

 

Do not open websites that are not secure

If you’ve ever opened up a website, try to gander a look at the address of the link. You will normally come across something like “https”. The letter ‘S’ stands for secure—this means that the website you are viewed is safe.

 

Do not click on pop-up windows

A usual tactic by hackers is to create small windows that attach upon unsecured websites. These windows try to mimic social media sites or even ads that declare that you have already won something simply by viewing the website that you are on. This is all a ruse. If you click upon a such a pop-up, you will most likely be prompted to either input your login details for something, fill in a form full of your sensitive information, or even to download and run a particular program.

All of those are malicious programs designed to either steal your personal information or to hijack your computer system.

 

Be wary of extra files from pirated content

We know for a fact that despite it being a crime, there are loads of people out there that download movies, music, and games off of certain sites. While that is your business, you should be aware that some of those people whose files you are downloaded may come with an unexpected package along for the ride.

Hackers are known to create fake files and give them the name of something else. For example, a hacker will upload a virus in the guise of a movie that has not hit the theaters yet. The user will download the file and run it without realizing that they have downloaded something malicious.

 

Look out for files that automatically download

Certain types of malware and viruses take advantage of the fact that most people allow their browsers to download content automatically. If you are browsing a website and something starts to download automatically, it is important to act fast. Stop that download immediately. If you do end up downloading it, do not run it. Instead, delete it immediately and run a virus scan for your system.

It would be in your best interest to disable your automatic downloads on your browser to avoid any similar incidents from happening again.

 

Always be vigilant!

One of the best ways of staying safe while you browse is by being alert at all times. Avoid clicking your mouse continually whenever on a website. You may accidentally select a suspicious link and trigger a download.

 

infographic fastBrowsers - Browsing Safely in 2017: the Tips You Need to Know

Infographic by: www.brolik.com

 

Let’s Talk About Wi-Fi: Common Problems and Solutions

Let’s Talk About Wi Fi - Let’s Talk About Wi-Fi: Common Problems and Solutions

It’s the year 2017 and yet Wi-Fi problems persist. As the occurrence of them can’t be completely removed, it’s best to learn how to troubleshoot common issues! Here are a few issues that continue to plague an otherwise seamless browsing or gaming experience:

 

Slow Net Speed

- Let’s Talk About Wi-Fi: Common Problems and Solutions
Is there anything worse than slow internet? Internet speed is everything when you are using your computer or your mobile phone to look for something or when you’re in the middle of a free internet call. Internet speed is also critical for those with home offices or students that need to pass something before the deadline.

Given that slow net speeds can happen to the best of us, here are a few surefire solutions that you can try:

 

Location, location, location!

Location - Let’s Talk About Wi-Fi: Common Problems and Solutions
If you’re pestered with intermittent speeds, it might be because of the location of your router. You can try to either: 1.) move your computer/laptop/gadget closer to where your router is. 2.) Move your router higher (preferably up on a shelf where there are no obstructions).

 

Upgrade

Upgrade - Let’s Talk About Wi-Fi: Common Problems and Solutions
When there are a lot of gadgets or computers in your home, they may all be sucking up the bandwidth allocated for your internet plan. What you can do: 1.) limit the use of data-hungry programs or apps (YouTube and streaming websites are particularly gluttonous when it comes to the internet). 2.) Upgrade your internet plan.

 

Beef up your security

Beef up your security - Let’s Talk About Wi-Fi: Common Problems and Solutions
If your router is at a good spot and there does not seem to be anyone else in your home that is using any data-hungry programs or machines, you may want to check if you have a leech in your system. By leech, we mean someone (like a neighbor or so) who is using your internet connection. You can check the attached devices via your security settings.

If you see anyone there who isn’t authorized, you can kick them off. After that, it would be best if you set up a password for your network.

 

Faulty Net Connection

Faulty Net Connection - Let’s Talk About Wi-Fi: Common Problems and Solutions
While slow net is terrible, having no net at all is worse. If you experience periodic loss of your internet connection, you can try these options:

 

Reboot

Reboot - Let’s Talk About Wi-Fi: Common Problems and Solutions
Yes, you have probably heard this one before but it does work! Switch your router off and leave it off for at least 1 minute. From there, switch it back on and wait about three minutes. Your connection should be running.

 

Call it in

Call it in - Let’s Talk About Wi-Fi: Common Problems and Solutions
When your internet connection has been going off more than you would normally expect AND you have done the whole reboot thing, it would be important to get in touch with your ISP (internet service provider).

 

Replace

- Let’s Talk About Wi-Fi: Common Problems and Solutions
Often, intermittent internet connection is due to a faulty router. Yes, your router has a wear and tear lifespan to it—just like everything else. When this occurs, talk to your internet provider and see if they have a system upgrade coming up. Normally, they will upgrade your router at little or no extra cost.

With the tips above, your Wi-Fi problems should be manageable!

 

L9a4z4r - Let’s Talk About Wi-Fi: Common Problems and Solutions

Infographic by: www.visualistan.com

 

We Used “OK, Google” Again! Here’s what we think About It

Google - We Used “OK, Google” Again! Here’s what we think About It

While this Android feature has gathered a bit of dust on it, we’re surprised to hear that a lot of people aren’t using this! Today, we’ll be discussing the wonders of Google Voice Search.

 

It’s been around a while

It’s been around a while - We Used “OK, Google” Again! Here’s what we think About It

Specifically, it’s been here for around 15 years. It was first launched in 2002 and has quite a bit of tweaks done to it. Not that there was anything wrong, it was just that features and applications evolved. So it only made sense that the feature be updated to match everything else. Back then, it was called Voice Action. But has since just been referred to as “OK, Google”.

This is because in order to start the search, you say “OK, Google” out loud. It’s a really handy feature that not a lot of people (particularly the elder set) seem to use simply because they don’t realize that it is there for use.

 

How is it used?

How is it used - We Used “OK, Google” Again! Here’s what we think About It

On your Android mobile phone, you’ll more than likely have the Google search bar on it. If you look toward the right side end of the bar, you may notice an icon or image that appears to look like a microphone. If you select it, you can do a search by saying your question or statement out loud.

For example, you can say “how do I open an Avocado” and Google with process the information and provide you with search results. It’s as easy as that. Setting it up for future searches is quite simple as well. The program itself will ask you to repeat that phrase “OK, Google” three times. This will record your voice, your tone, and inflection. There will also be the option to allow the hands free search to operate even when your phone is idle. You just say the phrase and your phone will activate.

 

What other things can it do?

You can use it to open other applications

applications - We Used “OK, Google” Again! Here’s what we think About It

This is something that’s truly useful for us forgetful folk. You can start up the search and say “Open [App name]”. For example, “Open Viber”. This will automatically start up the application for your use.

You can use it to make calls or type out messages

messages - We Used “OK, Google” Again! Here’s what we think About It

One of the best things about this particular program is that it is fully integrated into your mobile device. You can make use of this program to call people in your contact list. You can even make use of this to type out text messages for you. It may even set up reminders for you.

 

Usage Tips:

Speak Slowly

Speak Slowly - We Used “OK, Google” Again! Here’s what we think About It

A common mistake that most users make is speaking fast. What we all need to remember that no matter what we see in the movies, our gadgets still need to process the request or command. You’re not doing yourself any favors by speaking fast.

Enunciate

Enunciate - We Used “OK, Google” Again! Here’s what we think About It

While this program now hosts a large variety of dialects and languages, it is still important to enunciate appropriately. This will help the program pick up on the usual inflections that come with a language in order to meet your needs adequately.

 

How big is Google   - We Used “OK, Google” Again! Here’s what we think About It

Infographic by: www.econsultancy.com

 

Cowon C2 Personal Media Player:Up Close and Personal

Cowon C2 Personal Media Player - Cowon C2 Personal Media Player:Up Close and Personal

If a commute is a standard part of your day, having a handy MP3 player is a must. Join us as we do a bit of digging into the Cowon C2 Personal Media Player. In a land where it’s always either you stare out the window for hours until you reach your destination or make use of your phone and risk having your gadget stolen, the choices can be difficult. It’s good then that technology has evolved enough that gadgets can be quite discreet.

So without further ado, here’s our review!

 

First Impressions

To be honest, the writers of Tech Made Easy were not really expecting much from such a tiny thing. It’s easy to be skeptical when faced with something unfamiliar. From the start it was hard to believe that anyone could really utilize something so small. The screen was around less than three inches in diameter so if you were hoping to watch any videos on this thing, you’re going to have to squint.

Screen impression notwithstanding, the entirety of the gadget is pretty solid and easy to hold. It fits comfortably between two hands so there is little chance of losing grip. It also helps that the back part is matte so there is definitely more of a grip than initially expected.

 

Specs

For something so tiny, it sure has a lot of storage space. The variations available are 4GB, 8GB, and 16GB. What’s even more delightful is that there’s a slot for an micro-SD card—it can handle up to 32GB in size. Even the base model is enough to hold a couple of 480p movies. Since songs are usually in such miniscule formatting, you can pack a LOT of songs in this tiny gadget.

Oddly enough during a time of highly reactive screens, we liked how the C2’s screen needed a bit of pressure in order to swipe or input a command. This meant that if it was in your pocket, it’s not going to randomly start skipping songs because your pocket somehow managed to unlock the thing. It’s got a built-in radio so if you’re really not into listening to music, you can catch up on news channels.

 

User Experience

As for usage, the interface is pretty direct. There aren’t a lot of unnecessary apps so it’s a very straightforward user experience. When we tried out the video capability, we were shocked! The picture came out clearer than we thought it would. Whatever it lacks in size, it makes up for in quality.

While the built-in speaker isn’t that great, if this is your go-to for a commute, you would not be using that anyway. If you use the C2 with a trusty pair of headphones, the experience is pretty good. The sound quality produced by the C2 is pretty clear once you’ve stuck your headset into it.

 

Verdict: Yes, with Reservations

Let us explain. It’s a fairly solid product but the price of £105 for the 8GB model is a bit steep for something so small and isn’t going to be used beyond a commute.