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Java Targeted by Attackers

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

On Thursday the 10th of January, Java came under attack once again with a Zero-Day vulnerability. The immediate advice of Oracle (the company that maintains Java) was to promptly disable Java running on any machines to minimize the damage done. A Zero-day vulnerability is a flaw in the software or code that the creator or maintainer isn’t aware of at the time of the attack. This means, at the time of the major attack on Thursday, Oracle had no idea the vulnerability was being exploited and thus had no way to fix the issue right away.

According to InformationWeek, this isn’t the first time Java has been under attack in the recent months. Last year, over 600,000 Apple Mac computers were infected after another Zero-Day vulnerability was discovered. Java is installed on all sorts of machines ranging from Macs to Windows PCs and even Linux machines. The latest vulnerability found affects all three major operating systems and can be used to ‘execute arbitrary code.’ This means the attackers will be able to run pieces of code on your system that normally wouldn’t be run. Attackers would then have the ability to do any number of things to harm your system and spread the virus out. At this point, it is believed that 34% of all PCs are running a version of Java 7 which in turn could show the vulnerability on up to 400 million systems.

As of Tuesday the 15th, Oracle has released a patch to Java that fixes this vulnerability and relieves the stress on the company just a bit. Apple took a different approach on Friday and updated their operating system OSX to disable Java if not in use within 35 days. Firefox also updated their software so Java wouldn’t run automatically. Now that Java itself has been updated, users should be okay to re-enable Java and continue to use it as normal. Just confirm that it’s updated to the latest version through the Java Automatic Updater and the vulnerability will be patched!

If you have any questions on whether you’re affected or how to keep yourself safe, give IT Resource a call at 616.837.6930 and someone will be able to answer to your questions.

Importance of Privacy

Friday, January 04, 2013
It seems over the past year, privacy concerns have risen to the point of overhauling many major websites’ privacy policy. One of those websites which received the biggest criticism over their policy is Facebook. Recently, Randi Zuckerberg, sister of Mark Zuckerberg posted a photo on Facebook meant to be private. However, due to the recent changes made to the settings within Facebook and an unfortunate tagging event, that photo went public. Now, Randi is placing the blame on the general public rather than the privacy settings of Facebook or even herself. But that’s not the point of this particular post.

The real question is, how seriously do you take your online privacy and do you believe there should be stricter rules in place? Websites like Facebook and Twitter allow you to privatize your pictures and posts, but is it enough? Sometimes friends of friends can see those pictures and before you know it, the photo is out in the public for everyone to see. Should it be left up to the person posting, the friends, or the website to lock down security? Most may say that it should be up to the person posting to keep their information private. But what if the company responsible for holding the information is changing their policy without much notice? Then is it their fault?

How do you feel on the privacy situation? What precautions do you take to keep your information on the internet within your grasps and not everyone else? Do you believe the responsibility should be on the company, or yourself? Let us know what you think! Don't be the victim of an information security, email security, or network security breach.

Fraudulent e-mails from scammers across the globe

Wednesday, December 05, 2012
During the holidays, it is unfortunately very common to receive fraudulent e-mails from scammers across the globe who are trying to conduct an information security breach. These e-mails claim to be trustworthy companies, trying to acquire personal information, i.e. credit card information. This process is called “phishing”. If opened, these e-mail phishing scams can give the scammer access your personal data, credit card numbers, and other security data.

Phishing messages can appear to be identical to a legitimate e-mail, containing copied company logos, company colors, legal disclaimers, and what seems to be a valid address. However, these messages can contain Malware and other viruses. These third party scammers are not associated whatsoever with the company they are claiming to be.

One rule of thumb to use when sorting through your inbox is take note of who you are expecting an e-mail from. If you see an e-mail from “UPS” stating the location of your package, and you are not expecting a package; that should definitely raise a red flag. The message should not be opened or downloaded. If you do happen to open an e-mail and you realize it is pretentious, you should immediately run a virus scan. If you do become a victim of a phishing attack, call IT Resource and we can help resolve the problem.

While fraudulent e-mail is a very common form of malicious internet attacks, other mediums to use cautiously are the following:
  • Holiday screensavers/desktop backgrounds
  • Online shopping advertisements – extreme low prices
  • Credit card applications
  • Requests for charitable donations
  • E-greeting cards
  • Requests for personal information when applying for holiday or seasonal jobs

Example of an e-mail phishing scam claiming to be UPS:

Image provided by www.UPS.com

Don't be the victim of an information security, email security, or network security breach.

11 Innovative Tech Gadgets for the Holidays

Monday, December 03, 2012

Whether it's a new phone, tablet, game, or some other fun gadget, the holidays are a great time to stock up for every member of the family. If you're not sure where to begin, we've put together our list of this year's top tech gifts. You're sure to find something to please even the hardest to buy for!

Fitbit
This device is a great tool that helps put numbers around health in order to quantify the good or the bad. Great for the engineer types that are number crunchers. This can track your daily activities and sync wirelessly to offer insight. $59.95

Nest Learning Thermostat
This breathes new life into technology that is common place in every home, and brings intelligence to the heating and cooling world in order to conserve energy and money. Control the temperature of your home – from anywhere. $249.99


iPad Mini
Enjoy the high quality of Apple products – on a 7.9 inch display screen. This smaller sized tablet offers the equivalent sharp text, a vibrant screen, ultrafast performance and wireless with over 275K apps to download. The iPad Mini has superior build quality and is extremely light for a significantly lower price tag. $329.00 16GB

Microsoft Surface
Competitively priced with the iPad, this tablet is the first to offer the new Microsoft OS, Windows 8. The surface has a very sleek and simple design. It was built to be tough, made with VaporMg casing for superior durability. This tablet also has the MS Office feature to produce content versus using a tablet for pure entertainment. $499.99 32GB

Wii U
The new Wii U is completely transformed, now offering a GamePad which is the new controller that has a 6.2 inch screen built into it. This controller also has motion control, stereo speakers, a microphone and a front facing camera. These new features eliminate prior barriers between the game and the player. $299.99 8GB

Eye-Fi Memory Card
The Eye-Fi memory card has built in Wi-Fi so when you take pictures with your digital camera, the pictures are saved to your memory card, and then automatically uploaded to your computer. It’s super convenient, and frees up the space on your memory card with its endless memory feature. $39.99 4GB + Wi-Fi

Infrared Thermometer with Laser Targeting
This handy electronic tool makes distance measuring a breeze. This gadget can instantly measure temperatures in a wide variety of engines – including cars. This tool makes it ultra-easy – just point the laser at the object and within a 500 millisecond response time, the temperature will be shown on an LCD displays screen. It’s perfect for reading temperatures in hazardous areas! $34.99

Roku 2 XS
This surprisingly small device is the market leader for streaming entertainment to your TV. It provides over 500 channels, including many free movies. The Roku lets you instantly watch Netflix, Hulu, Pandora, Facebook, and Wall Street Journal Live among many others. It is incredibly easy to set up and there are no monthly or extra fees – ever. $99.99 –includes Ethernet port and pre-installed games

Jobe Keychain WiFi Finder
Ideal for people doing business on the go, the Jobe, which looks like a key fob can detect wireless hotspots instantly for anyone who needs to connect to the internet. $9.99

Google Nexus 7
This tablet is the perfect size for any situation. It has a 7 inch display and a battery life that lasts all day long. The performance will be well up to par with a quad core Tegra 3 processor and Wi-Fi enabled. $199.99 16GB

Windows Phone 8X by HTC
The next generation of mobile phones and tablets, specifically the Windows Phone 8, has a feature called Kid’s Corner. It grants permissions only to designated apps, music, games, and more so you can hand over your phone to your kid – or colleague – to provide an extra layer of security for your information. Large scale, this concept is called “sandboxing” and is not a new idea to computer security – it is used often for testing code in a virtualized environment. Users can install sandbox applications easily on their own PC’s at home to isolate web surfing or games and applications to ensure a safer environment for kids. Check out how to set up Kid’s Corner on your Windows Phone. $199.99

Section 179 Tax Break: Expiring December 31st, 2012

Friday, November 30, 2012
There is still time to save your business money before the New Year with the Section 179 hardware/software tax break! If your business is looking to expand its IT department, there is a great tax incentive to make those hardware and software purchases within the next 4 weeks.

On or before December 31st, 2012, businesses can take advantage of these tax breaks:
  • If a company purchases, leases, or finances new or used equipment totaling less than $139,000 they are eligible to write off their entire qualifying purchase!
  • If your equipment totals more than $139,000, you will receive a significant deduction that can be taken all at once versus depreciated over a certain amount of years.
  • The maximum that can be spent on equipment before the deduction begins to reduce is $560,000. If this amount is reached, a bonus depreciation of 50% can be used for new equipment only.


Print off your Section 179 IRS form today at www.section179.org and call a consultant at IT Resource to take advantage of this great year-end tax break savings!

Source: www.section179.org

A Camera that’s a Phone?

Monday, November 19, 2012

These days it’s pretty difficult to find a new phone that doesn’t have a camera built right in. Many phone users carry around a smart device that not only functions as a phone, but doubles as a camera, calendar, and personal notebook. Some of the features of the phone make it much easier to access your calendar on the go or upload your photos to Facebook as soon as they’re taken. However, a photo enthusiast isn’t looking to use their phone to take high quality pictures. The phone’s camera just isn’t made for that. But, what if there was a device out there that went the other way? What if there was a camera that had phone capabilities instead? Well, that’s what Samsung has just released.

This isn’t your normal run of the mill point-and-shoot camera. This is the new Samsung Galaxy Camera. Packed with a 16 Megapixel sensor and 21x zoom, this camera stacks up nicely against its counterparts in the market today. However, it’s not the picture taking abilities that has the people buzzing. This camera runs a friendly version of Android which allows it to behave similarly to your Android powered phone! So all those photo editing and filtering apps you’ve downloaded on your phone can also be downloaded straight to this camera. Additionally, it comes built in with WiFi and an optional HSPA+ Cell Radio so you can upload those photos to the internet on the go. The big benefit to this device over a cellular phone with a camera is the ability to take significantly better pictures while in an easier to hold device. Along with the better lens is a Quad-core processor, 4GB of internal memory with the ability to add a microSD card, and the ability to take HD Video. If you’d like more information with a very intuitive review, visit Engadget’s website where they have this and plenty of other reviews to check out.

Technology Money Saving Tips and Tricks

Monday, November 12, 2012
Technology is an essential part of running any successful business. But how that technology is utilized can impact the amount of time and money being spent. To make things easier for your business, we've put together a list of tips and tricks to help you save valuable time and/or money.

Use all-in-one printers at one central location
Using all-in-one printers not only combines your printer, scanner, and fax machine but it can save desk space, individual repair costs, and save money on multiple printer cartridges. Also, it can be used as network devices so it can be shared across your LAN.

When it’s not in use, turn it off!
Even for small periods of time, for example, on your lunch break or during an off-site meeting. LCD monitors still use power when blank. The start up and shut down of computers does use a small amount of energy but not nearly as much as a constant running computer.
Stop overcharging your laptop battery
Once your laptop is fully charged, take out the battery. If it is left in, it will still use power even though it is fully charged. This can lead to long term consequences including premature battery replacements.

Buy office supplies in bulk
If your business is purchasing office supplies every two weeks, think about purchasing these supplies at a wholesaler and buy in bulk. You will save money and time/gas by not running to the store every couple weeks.

Switch to Internet based phone services
Voice over IP (VOIP) can slash your phone bill dramatically when compared to traditional land lines. VOIP can also offer increased functionality and uses versus regular phone systems.

Get rid of bulky, energy inefficient equipment
To create a less cluttered office, remove applications, servers, backups and all other hardware that can instead be implemented as software as a service (SaaS) and/or cloud computing. These alternatives offer enhanced security, increased bandwidth, expert staff, and no hefty hardware bills.
Save money on shipping costs
If you send out mailings to mass contacts, shipping costs and stamps can become very expensive. Make sure that you have the most recent and correct mailing data to avoid returned mail. The U.S. Post Office will go through your mailing list, fix addresses and flag incomplete addresses – for free. Every address that is not returned is money saved.

Laptops > desktops
If possible, have your employees use laptops versus desktops. Laptops can use up to 90% less energy than desktops, using less heat and reducing utility costs. Laptops also make it possible to work remotely, which can save time, money (travel expenses), and crowded offices.

Install motion sensing lights wherever possible
When every light in the office is on every day, those monthly energy costs will add up fast. Installing motion sensing lights makes the most sense in areas that are infrequently used – such as closets and bathrooms.

Choose Energy Star office equipment
When purchasing new equipment, an easy indicator of energy efficient products is to look for the Energy Star models – which are designed to power down or hibernate after a period of inactivity. Energy Star models can save between 35-65% on most items and up to 90% on some products.

Let an expert assess your situation
If you still feel like you could be saving more money but can't figure out how, hire one of our IT Consultants to review your workplace habits and their recommendations could save you a lot of time and money!

3G vs. 4G: Is It Worth It?

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

As an employee in the IT profession, I am often asked what the latest and greatest is when it comes to upcoming technologies and services. One of the big questions is whether 4G technology on mobile phones and tablets is really worth it compared to its older counterpart, 3G. Most, if not all smart phones released today have the 4G radio built into the phone which gives access to the new network and potentially faster speeds. Each cell phone carrier (Sprint, AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile, etc) has a different 4G Network. The big ones we’ll need to focus on are LTE, WiMax, and HSPA+.

First, let’s look at a comparison chart thanks to diffen.com


These are general estimates of the speeds of 3G and 4G comparatively. Just from this table we can see that 4G is considerably faster than 3G. However, tables don’t mean anything without data. I wanted to really test the speed of 4G just to confirm this website's claim. I have a Droid RAZR through Verizon which used the LTE 4G network. AT&T recently moved to LTE as well as Sprint. AT&T also uses the HSPA+ network on their previous iPhone 4’s however it’s not as fast as LTE. I connected my phone to the 4G network and ran a speed test to find out what kind of speeds I was getting. Here are the results of that test.

This was taken from my phone while at the IT Resource office on the 4G network. My download speeds were just about 18.6 Mbps which is far above the data throughout the table above. To put it into perspective, at those speeds we should be able to download a 5 Gigabyte movie in just less than 40 minutes or a full length CD in just about a minute and a half! However, it’s not nearly as high as the projected 1 Gbps which is expected. The same goes for the Upload speed. But, these numbers don’t mean much unless they’re compared to different tests. So, following that test I removed my phone from the 4G network so I was only using 3G to test the speeds. Here are the results from that test.

Take note, both the download and upload speeds are significantly slower compared to the 4G test done previously. And for reference, that same movie downloaded here would take almost six hours and that same CD would take over 6 minutes! While this was only done on the Verizon Network, the LTE technologies between the three big carriers (Sprint, Verizon and AT&T) are similar enough to warrant similar results.

Just to compare Phone Network speeds to home speeds, I decided to run a speed test against my home Internet Service Provider which is AT&T Uverse. I have the 18Mbps plan which is advertised at 18Mbps Download and 1.5Mbps Upload. Here are the results of that test.
 While not spot on, the results I received were close to what are advertised for my contract. However, they’re still slower than what I receive on my phone. This really shows how far along the phone companies have come regarding wireless connections and speed.

While these tests shouldn’t be used solely for your phone or internet decision making, hopefully it helps with making the next choice in phone technologies. Most companies will also offer a 4G solution for your home as well if you like the speeds you’re seeing. 

Of course, if you have any questions on phone technologies offered today and what phones are compatible with your network, please don’t hesitate to give IT Resource a call or refer to the Android and Apple and Blackberry…Oh my! blog post done back in February. We would love to hear from you!

The Dirty World of IT

Thursday, August 16, 2012
The ubiquity of mobile devices and their ease of use have left many of us with oft-forgotten, but still occasionally used desktop computers languishing in the corner. Turned on or off, these workstations are magnets for dust and debris that can reduce the lifespan of your system and negatively impact performance if not properly maintained. Fortunately, this problem can be resolved with a few simple steps.

Dust and other airborne particles aren’t often discovered in a computer case until it’s too late; after the grinding and vibration from a struggling fan have long ceased. Power supplies, video cards, and the case itself all have fans to provide airflow, cooling components to a steady operating temperature. Static electricity attracts a general buildup of dust and dirt which reduces this airflow causing hardware to overheat and malfunction. Unless you build your own computer, chances are the manufacturer has not provided a fan filter found on some custom built rigs.
True to form, bunnies seem to multiply inside computer cases


Unobstructed airflow keeps computer parts cooled and running smoothly

There are a variety of tools available to keep our computers clean inside and out. The most common is a can of compressed air. While it can be expensive ($5/can), the tradeoff is convenience – it’s portable and found at most grocery stores. If you need to remove any adhesives from the case, 99% isopropyl alcohol is best as it dries quickly and will not leave a residue. Another great product is CyberClean, a reusable, putty-like substance you can smoosh into your keyboard or other areas to remove grime and gunk which could slow down your words per minute. 
 
As tempting as it may be to take a vacuum to the inside of your case, the belt may cause a buildup of electrostatic discharge which could damage the electronics. Save the hoovering for the aftermath of the dust settling. If you’re really hardcore, you can use an air compressor with a nozzle and set the output to no more than 20psi – we want to ensure all soldered parts stay that way.
Granted this is an older PC, but it was in an office environment, not a home

Once you have turned off, unplugged, and opened your computer, discharge any static electricity before reaching into the case. Using the can of air, use short, sweeping blasts to blow out dust from the inside of the case. Keep the can upright and be sure to gently hold any fans in the center so they do not spin while you are cleaning to protect the bearings.

After you clean your computer, check it one month later. If all seems relatively clean, it’s safe to say you can probably get away with only opening your case a few times a year – more so if you keep your computer on the floor and/or near a heating or cooling vent, or if you happen to catch your pet taking a snooze on your keyboard.
Keep the cat (hair) on the outside of the computer case

If you think your PC is bad give us a call and we'd be happy to take a look at it for you. In the meantme, check out these other cringe-worthy candidates.

Organized Cabling is Better Cabling: Avoid Server Room Spaghetti

Tuesday, July 24, 2012
While working in IT, we've come across our fair share of server rooms, IT closets, and network setups. Everyone has a different way of installing equipment and routing their respective cables; however a large emphasis should be placed on organization and cleanliness when creating the setup. We’ve seen examples of really well done cabling and examples of poorly routed cables. And then, there are examples like this:

A room like this is an extreme. Most server rooms don’t tend to get this bad, however if left unmanaged, things can quickly escalate out of control. Also, the more people involved in cable management, the more disorganized things can become as one employee may run cables one way while another may run them completely different. 

  

Poorly routed cables can lead to an assortment of problems over time. In the above examples, cables could have been plugged into devices as they arrived or hardware mounted in the most sensible locations. This can lead to cables crossing in front of moving parts or spilling out into walkways where they can be tripped on. Not only is it messy looking, poorly routed cables can lead to decreased airflow and improper hardware management. Just imagine how difficult it would be trying to trace a cable through that mess?

Fortunately, companies like Belkin and Tripp Lite offer great cable management products. With the help of these products and a little time and effort, a server room can go from disaster to exceptional!


Better cable management can lead to increase in performance, traceability, and management. Without all those cables clumped in front of the fans, the servers can breathe a little easier, reducing the risk of overheating. Eliminating stray cables on the ground also ensures the safety of the network engineers. On top of all the operational benefits, we can’t forget how aesthetically pleasing proper cable management is either!

Here is a recent server spaghetti story from one of our engineers. Names have been omitted to protect the innocent.

"I was asked to help out in a very small, one-rack data center that, in my thoughts, was actually rather nice. It was nicely cabled, clean, and tidy. I was able to do my work quickly, and I was quite impressed by how well things were put together. On my way out, I was closing the door behind me and flipped off the lights. When the lights went out, I noticed that the room got a lot quieter. That’s when I noticed that none of the equipment was on. There were two light switches that were right next to each other, neither marked. But one turned off the power to the rack. Busted!"

Overall, proper cable management is not something to overlook. It can help with performance and ease of locating devices. If you’d like to take it one step further, don’t forget to label everything including devices and cables. You’d be amazed on how easy this makes managing your network!