Ebay Hacked – Hold Onto Your Shopping Cart (And Your Password)!

eBay issued an official declaration on Wednesday, May 21, 2014 that one of its databases had been hacked. The worst part? This database, which housed users’ passwords, was compromised. But, there is a silver lining to all of this – no information has been stolen.

None that they know of, anyway. The auctioning website is still cautioning users to change their passwords in light of the attack.

Earlier Wednesday morning, PayPal (owned by eBay) posted a blog article asking users to change their passwords as soon as possible. For reasons unknown, PayPal’s article was promptly removed after being posted for a only few hours. This caused confusion among users, but the hack was later confirmed via an official statement from eBay on their site.

Apparently, the attack was detected two weeks ago, at which point eBay began to investigate the origins of the attack and how it took place. They discovered that the attackers had compromised several employee log-in credentials, which allowed them to access the auction house’s corporate network. The database, compromised sometime between late February and early March, held not only customers’ names, but also their encrypted passwords, email addresses, physical addresses, phone numbers, and dates of birth – literally everything that a hacker would need to access someone’s account or steal their identity.

eBay also states that they first noticed the compromised employee log-in data about two weeks ago, and between then and now, they had been trying to identify which database was accessed, and an announcement delay was the result.

eBay says, “After conducting extensive tests on its networks, the company said it has no evidence of the compromise resulting in unauthorized activity for eBay users, and no evidence of any unauthorized access to financial or credit card information, which is stored separately in encrypted formats. However, changing your passwords is a best practice and will help enhance security for eBay users.”

Michell Consulting Group couldn’t agree more. In light of all of the hacking attacks and vulnerabilities as of late (we’re looking at you, Heartbleed), changing your passwords on a regular basis is looking more and more appealing. eBay’s hack attack should be taken more seriously (128 million active users), and it shouldn’t have taken two weeks to resolve the problem.

You don’t want to take risks with your sensitive information, and Directive can monitor your systems to ensure you don’t get hacked, like eBay did. Most importantly, we won’t wait two weeks to let you know if you have. We’ll resolve the issue as quickly as possible remotely, so you don’t have to experience any downtime.

Is Microsoft’s Patch Tuesday Revealing XP Vulnerabilities?

In light of all of the recent vulnerabilities found in Microsoft’s Internet Explorer browser and Windows XP operating system, owners of XP are growing nervous about the upcoming “patch Tuesday,” Microsoft’s monthly patch release day. But, what if what Microsoft isn’t patching in the newer operating systems is what needs to be patched the most in XP?

Some believe that Microsoft is basically giving out a list of software that can be exploited in Windows XP by stating what they are patching every month. True to their word, there are no patches being released for Windows XP or Office 2003 this month. Some of these patches fix coding problems that may have originated in earlier software (including Windows XP and Office 2003). According to Wolfgang Kandek, chief tech officer for the IT security company Qualys says, “Studying what is being fixed with each month’s round of patches could give attackers an easy entry point into these older, now unsupported, systems, because these older systems probably have the same vulnerabilities.”

This doesn’t just mean no support for Windows XP, though. Those who run Windows 8.1 are also at risk of being left in the dust after June 10th (or August 12th for business owners), the deadline to install Windows 8.1 Update, lest they suffer the same fate as XP users.

So, from what Kandek says, hackers could locate patterns in what is being fixed and what isn’t being fixed, and exploit the systems.

You don’t want to worry about hackers taking advantage of your system, right? If so, you should contact Michell Consulting Group as soon as possible. Microsoft might not be able to provide you with a fix to your computer’s vulnerabilities, but we sure can! Upgrading away from your current operating system isn’t as difficult as it sounds when we’re here to help you with data migration to ensure that you deal with minimal downtime.

When it comes to patches being issued, you can count on Michell Consulting Group for that, too. As patches are released for your newer operating system, we’ll apply them for you so your computer is as up-to-date as possible. This reduces the probability that hackers will access your system. But, as usual, the best way to avoid a hacker disaster is to stay sharp and always be aware of what’s going on in the tech world. Michell Consulting Group can help with that, too!

Additionally, Michell Consulting Group can also provide monitoring services for your new systems. We’ll keep a close watch for anything that doesn’t belong, such as malicious software, viruses, or hackers trying to get into your system. If a threat presents itself, we will isolate it and eliminate it before it causes harm to your PC and your business.

In the words of famous inspirational speaker and environmentalist Smokey the Bear, “Only you can prevent forest fires.” A hack attack might not be a forest fire, but it sure can be just as detrimental, if not catastrophic, for your business. This is why it’s so important to stay in the loop and always exercise caution on the Internet. We have a solution for all of your tech needs, so why not give us a call at 305.592.5433? Put these fears out of your mind, for you are on Michell Consulting Group’s side – and we take care of our own.

 

Save Money and Go Green with These Printing Tips!

How much paper and ink does your company use every week? Every month? Every year? More importantly, how much does this wind up costing your company in the long run? According to a study by 14 year-old science fair wiz Suvir Mirchandani, it was discovered that his Pittsburgh-area school district could reduce ink consumption by 24 percent and save an average of $21,000 a year by simply switching fonts. That’s half of what the average American’s annual salary is!

It’s the subtile difference between…

this1

and

this2…that could make all the difference.

The first text is Times New Roman, the most widely used font, while the second is Garamond. It looks thinner, and takes up less space on the page, which results in savings in both ink and paper!

Mirchandani also applied his findings to the federal government, discovering that they could reduce ink consumption by 30 percent and save nearly $136 million dollars each year. Additionally, another $234 million could potentially be saved by having state governments switch their fonts to Garamond. However, the government doesn’t seem all that interested in switching typefaces, and will just concentrate on printing less documents and recycling paper.

Mirchandani’s research does bring up an interesting point, though. How much do you think your company could save by switching fonts? You might not be willing to make such a drastic change, but there are other ways you can save money and ink.

Think About the Note Card
In high school or college, some teachers would let you bring an index card full of notes to a test or exam. Remember trying to cram as much stuff on there as possible? The same thing can help you in the business world. We don’t mean to shrink your text to a miniscule size. Instead, you can print on both the front and the back of the page. You can also print multiple PowerPoint slides on each page, and use the “shrink to fit” option for Excel spreadsheets. Directive can assist you with locating and utilizing these features.

Make a “No Print” Day
If your employees can’t sate their hunger for printing, you can just take away the printers altogether. If some people are printing too much, you can ban their access to the printers. Or, if you’re feeling daring, ban your printers altogether for a day or two a week. This will make people realize that they really don’t need the printers as much as they think they do, and will hopefully inspire them to use more conventional means of sharing cat photos or silly memes.

Who knows? Maybe you’ll realize that you don’t need the printers altogether, and that could lead to even further savings.

Upgrade to a Print Server
A print server solution from Directive can automatically enforce money-saving print settings with certain users, making it so that only the employees that need to print in expensive color will have the capability. A printer server will also give you the option so that every black and white page will automatically print in grayscale.

Stop Printing!
Every tree is a weeping willow when it comes to printing unnecessary pages. One of the most basic things you can do to cut down on printing costs is to stop printing so many pages. If you have something you want to share with the rest of your company, send an email instead. It’s far more economical, for both your company and the environment.

That being said, there is literally no reason to print out a majority of the paper you are printing out. A common trend among today’s business industry is going paperless. Not only is it much easier than sifting through file cabinets every day, it’s much easier on your budget and your bottom line. Michell Consulting Group can assist you with making your company a paperless one. We’ll keep both your wallet and the environment teeming with green!

Technology and Life Insights from “The Most Connected Human on Earth.” Part 2

In our previous blog article, we introduced you to Chris Dancy, aka “The Most Connected Human on Earth.” We told you Chris’ story, how the former IT manager lost his job due to corporate downsizing and then turned to quantitative technology to find relevance in an ever-changing work environment. Today, Chris utilizes hundreds of different technologies and systems as part of his “quantitative life existence.” In part two of our interview with Chris, he explains how you too can be a connected human.

Most people who appreciate technology are open to the idea of using more of it in their lives if the tech can deliver the benefits it promises. However, other people may be uncomfortable at this level of technology integration due to its ability to broadcast so many personal details. Chris refers to one’s life shared over the Internet as their “augmented self,” and he will be the first to advise users to carefully prune which collected information is shared and not shared.

Like all technology, a person’s “augmented life” isn’t a goal in and of itself – rather, it needs to be strategically presented in such a way that it will positively influence one’s “offline life” (aka real life). For Chris, taking advantage of these hundreds of technologies and systems is a way to ensure a successful future. Wired Magazine explains, “Dancy doesn’t think that all tracking is necessarily positive, but he’s fatalistic about the future. Even if workers reject more Orwellian surveillance from employers — or companies determine these measures to be counterproductive — individual workers will likely use self-tracking to gain a competitive edge.”

How Can You Take Advantage of Quantitative Technology?
After considering the benefits of quantitative technology, you may feel ready to plug into the revolution. However, there’s so much personal tech and quantitative gadgets on the market that getting started with the data-driven lifestyle can seem daunting. To help you out, Chris shared with Directive practical advice on how an average tech user would go about adopting a data-driven lifestyle.

  • “Start at home. Put a nest thermostat in your house. Understand how the thermostat uses weather and behavior to self adjust. Watch it change as the climate changes. Watch it learn.” A home thermostat like this, that’s connected to a user’s smartphone and collects data to automatically adjust temperatures, is a great first gadget to begin retrofitting your home with connected technology.
  • “Then get a fitbit. Wear it all the time, but only look at the data every two weeks. Then use that data and compare it to your schedule, see if you can find patterns.” For Chris, the quantitative lifestyle comes with health benefits. In an interview with FOX Business, Chris revealed the using technology to monitor and track his health helped him lose 100 pounds!
  • “Stay off the ‘news hype’ ‘tech fetish’ cycle. There will always be something new and cool to talk about with peers and friends. Learn who you are and what you do. Work in 2020 is about awareness of information and how people will live a data-driven lifestyle.”

Chris utilizes hundreds of systems, and obviously, some are more useful than others. Therefore, we posed Chris the question, “If you had to limit yourself to five, which five would you choose?” Chris selected his top five techs for us, and if you’re looking to get started with quantifying your life, these are a must.

1. A fitness tracker (anything on the market, like Fitbit Flex)
2. Wireless scale (anything on the market, like Fitbit Aria)
3. Automatic (a car sensor)
4. Cube Sensor (an environmental sensor)
5. Evernote

How Can Your Business Plug into the Quantitative Revolution?
Directive can help equip your business with the technology it needs to succeed in the future. We asked Chris Dancy what are some traits that an organization should look for when selecting an IT company to help equip and advise them with the implementation of new technology. To help sort out the forward-thinking IT companies from the break-fix operations, Chris advised businesses to ask about three specific tech terms. “What is your time frame for ‘location aware,’ ‘proximity based’ and ‘wearable’ technology integration. If they can’t answer at least one, change IT providers today.”

  • Location Aware – Devices that use technologies like GPS to deliver specific information based on your location.
  • Proximity-Based Technology – A wide variety of devices that connect over WiFi, Bluetooth, or NFC (Near Field Communication) connections to deliver analytics and information.
  • Wearable Technology Integration – Devices like smart watches, Google Glass, and fitness trackers, that makes Internet-connected technology even more mobile.

Michell Consulting Group is well-versed in the latest tech trends that can provide your business with the competitive edge. Don’t sit on the sidelines and have the technology revolution pass your business by. Call us at 305.592.5433 to equip your company to be “The Most Connected Business on Earth!”

Learn more about Chris Dancy by checking out his website: http://www.chrisdancy.com/

Don’t Let New Technology Blind You

If your workplace is filled with computers, you likely experience a number of eye-straining problems related to your technology. According to All About Vision, symptoms of computer eye strain impair 50-to-90 percent of all computer workers. That’s a pretty good-sized chunk of your employees, and they probably don’t enjoy any of these symptoms, including physical fatigue, decreased productivity, and even increased error rate.

We’re no optometrists, but we do know technology – and how to cut down on the eye-strain that heavy computer use can result in. There are a number of tech-related things you can do to minimize the damage done to your eyes from your workplace computer, such as changing the way you look at your computer display, resolution, and even simply altering the way that your workstation is set up!

Scrap that Clunker

Some businesses still use cathode ray tube (CRT) monitors, the huge, bulky things from the days of early computers. These old pieces of hardware are vulnerable to what is called a “flicker” of images on the screen that can be a huge cause of eye strain. These complications are even more likely if the refresh rate of your massive monitor is less than 75 hertz.

In order to avoid flicker, it is highly recommended that you upgrade your display to a liquid crystal display (LCD) monitor. The higher the resolution, the better. The flicker problem doesn’t exist for LCD screens. The backlight controls the brightness of the pixels, and it normally operates at close to 200 hertz, more than enough to eliminate flicker. Directive can assist you in finding the monitor that suits your business’s needs. However, if you don’t have a choice and have to work with a CRT monitor, adjust the display settings to the highest resolution and refresh rate to minimize the damage to your eyes.

Adjust Your Display

Even something as simple as adjusting your current monitor’s display settings can help reduce eye strain. Your screen’s brightness should be adjusted to about the same brightness as your workstation. In general, if your display looks like a giant lightbulb, it’s far too bright. If it looks dark and dull, it is too dark. It’s all about finding the comfortable medium between the two.

If you are reading or composing long text files, you should adjust the size and contrast of the text for comfort. A safe bet would be black text on a white background (the default in most cases), but whatever is most comfortable for you is best.

The color temperature, the spectrum of visible light that’s emitted by the color display, also plays a big part in long-term viewing comfort. You want to reduce the color temperature of your display and lower the short-wavelength blue light that impacts eye strain.

In a Microsoft Windows operating system, the display settings can be adjusted via the Control Panel, while in an Apple computer, the display settings will be found in Systems Preferences.

The Workstation Blues

Sometimes the root of your eye-strain could be from your workstation. If it’s not eye-friendly, it could lead to more than just eye-strain. If you’re constantly looking back and forth from printed paper and your monitor, this leads to eye-strain. Placing the paper on a stand directly adjacent to your computer screen can help remediate this issue. The stand should also be properly lit, somewhat like your computer screen – you don’t want the light to be too bright (i.e. shining directly in your eyes or the monitor), but it should also be enough to clearly read what’s on the paper.

Even improper posture can be enough to cause eye-strain. You should be able to comfortably look at your computer screen without adjusting your head too much. Sit up straight with your head positioned about 20 to 24 inches (about two feet) away from the monitor for maximum comfort.

We at Michell Consulting Group know that health in the workplace coincides with the level of productivity you can attain. Eye-strain is something that can be controlled and limited with proper use of your technology. Call Michell Consulting Group at 305.592.5433 today and let us open your eyes to the wonders of our IT services!