How to Remove the Harmful Superfish App Off Your PC

One would assume that software preinstalled on a new PC is secure and has been properly vetted by the manufacturer. This is the case 99 percent of the time, but an exception has recently been discovered with the Superfish app, which came installed on new Lenovo computers sold between September and December of 2014. How can you protect your PC from this fishy security threat?

First off, if you have Superfish on any of your devices, whether it be a new Lenovo computer or other, you should cease using the app. The shopping-search app has been deemed to be a security threat by Errata Security, reporting that it’s capable of providing hackers with a user’s encrypted Web data, the likes of which include online passwords.

This risk applies to you whether you actually use the Superfish app or not. Just the app’s presence on your device is enough to warrant action for its removal. As soon as Lenovo learned of the threat, they disabled the app on systems that already had it installed. Although, you will still need to take action in the aiding of the removal process.

One way to remove Superfish from your PC is to go to Windows Control Panel > Programs > Uninstall a Program. Now, locate Superfish on the list of programs > select it > and click Uninstall.

However, going through the Windows Control Panel like this isn’t enough to remove all traces of Superfish from your computer. If you’ve ever tried before to remove preinstalled software on your PC (known as bloatware), you know from experience that it can be extra difficult to remove–we’re looking at you AOL.

To fully remove all traces of the Superfish app, Lenovo offers users a removal tool and instructions on their support page: http://support.lenovo.com/us/en/product_security/superfish_uninstall

This removal tool is thorough enough to fully rid your device of the threat posed by Superfish, but don’t think that you’re totally in the clear just because you’ve removed the app. You will now want to go into damage control mode and clean up from this super smelly fish. As is the case when learning about any known threat on your computer, it’s a good idea to immediately perform a virus scan, making sure that your anti-virus software has its definitions up to date–better safe than sorry.

An additional security measure that we recommend is to change the passwords for any online account you’ve accessed on the device from before Superfish was installed. This may feel like a bit of an inconvenience, but it’s the best way to protect your sensitive information in the event that a hacker has stolen your password. It should be noted that regularly changing your online passwords is a security best practice, so it’s good to get in the habit of doing this every few months, especially in light of the growing number of unforeseen threats like Superfish which seem to be extra prevalent these days.

One benefit from doing business with a managed services provider like Michell Consulting Group is that we will remove all the bloatware and other unnecessary applications prior to installing the machine onto your company’s network.

For assistance removing Superfish from your company’s computers, and to take advantage of a free IT assessment to make sure that your network is safe from hidden threats such as this, contact the IT security professionals at Michell Consulting Group.

The Advantage of Knowing Why a Client is Calling Before You Answer

Are your employees trained to answer the phones in a helpful and professional manner? If you’re not intentional about this, calls made to your company will be fumbled, notes will be scribbled on paper, and clients will lose confidence in your business. One way to really impress callers is to equip your staff with phone features allowing them to know pertinent information about a client before they answer the phone.

VoIP is one of the best communication tools that you can possibly equip your staff with due to the wide array of features it offers. In regards to improving customer service, one of the most effective features for this is customer calling, which pulls customer data from your customer relationship management (CRM) software and displays it on the screen while the phone is ringing. VoIP is uniquely set up to perform a task like this due to the fact that it uses your company’s Internet connection to make phone calls, instead of traditional phone lines.

When VoIP is combined with your company’s CRM, you’re armed with much more information than what’s displayed by a puny caller ID, which only shows the caller’s name and phone number. With customer calling from VoIP, you can display any desired customer data found in your CRM as the phone rings. This includes helpful information like recent orders, account information, past problems, recent returns, billing, and much more.

Armed with detailed customer information like this, your customers may mistake the employee they’re calling as some sort of genie because they’ll know so much about them before they even thank them for calling. As far as customer service goes, this VoIP feature is a game changer. If a customer calls to complain about a problem and they’re prepared to rage, you will be able to determine ahead of time what the problem is and answer the phone with an apologetic tone.

Or what about those “special” clients. You know who we mean. Talking to them takes special knowledge about their “unique” personality in order to avoid landmine-like topics. If this information is recorded in your CRM, then your staff will know from the get-go to avoid such hot-button topics.

Best-case scenario: A customer calls your company to complain about something stupid, and they’re so impressed at the quality of service that they’ll forget about the tirade they were prepared to unleash upon your poor operator. Situations like this are where excellent and knowledgeable communications with customers will keep them satisfied with your business, and every business owner knows that it’s much easier to make a new sale to a current client that’s satisfied than it is to prospect a new sales lead.

What’s your current system for answering phone calls? Are callback numbers scribbled on a notepad? Are answers to a client’s question found by thumbing through file cabinets? Also, are you tired of your long distance phone bill eating away at your communications budget? If you answered yes to any of these questions, then your business will benefit immensely from the money-saving and feature-rich VoIP phone system provided by Michell Consulting Group.

To learn more about the benefits of VoIP, give us a call at 305.592.5433 ext. 2601, and don’t be alarmed if the operator already knows everything about you; they’re not physic–they’ve got VoIP!

Tip of the Week: Understanding Business Technology Acronyms

Before investing in a solution for your business, it’s important to understand what you’re getting into. Sometimes it can be difficult, especially with all of the jargon floating around. In fact, an excessive amount of this “geekspeak” can intimidate prospective clients, and maybe even frighten away a sale. While it’s avoided as much as possible, it sometimes can’t be helped, and some business owners are still lost on certain sayings or acronyms.

Here, we’ll help you understand six of the common acronyms we might use the most when referring to the business or IT industry. This way, you can know what we’re talking about when we mention stuff like VoIP solutions for SMBs, or BDRs for your BCP.

Small and Medium-Sized Businesses (SMBs): SMB is a term used to refer to the group of businesses who employ 1-to-500 people. The SMB is actually our target audience, as our managed services allow smaller businesses like yourself take advantage of enterprise-level solutions that might not ordinarily fit your budget.

Return on Investment (ROI): A service like tech support doesn’t come without its risks. Any investment is the same way, and it requires a particular analysis to determine if the reward is worth the risk. When this is achieved, it’s called the ROI, or the return on investment. This measurement is used to determine whether or not the solution integrated was worth the investment. A similar term to this is “risk assessment.” In a sense, it’s cause and effect. The risk assessment will help you determine the ROI for a particular solution.

Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP): VoIP is a technology which is gaining momentum in the modern office. Basically, a VoIP phone transfers your voice over the Internet to another computer, allowing it to function largely like a legacy telephone system. Additionally, VoIP has several other features which can be integrated into it, like video conferencing, instant messaging, and more.

Unified Threat Management (UTM): When it comes to network security, nothing can beat the UTM solution. It’s our comprehensive security device that includes firewall, antivirus, spam blocking, and content filtering solutions. The main idea is that your network can’t afford to allow threats to have their way with your data, so the UTM keeps threats out of your network in the first place, and quickly neutralizes those that are detected.

Backup and Disaster Recovery (BDR): An investment your business can’t afford to be without is a BDR. The BDR solution is designed to help your business handle a disaster in the quickest, most-efficient manner possible. It allows for multiple backups throughout the workday, as well as fast data recovery. In fact, the BDR can act as your server if you need to replace your hardware due to failure or other manners of destruction.

Business Continuity Plan (BCP): Some business owners confuse their BCP with a BDR, but in reality, the two are much different from one-another. In fact, the BDR is only one part of the BCP. The business continuity plan is how your business will deal with issues which might affect your business’s ordinary operations, like a major disaster, death or illness, employee turnover, and more. In other words, even unlikely scenarios should be considered in order to provide your business with the greatest likelihood of continuing operations as long as possible.

Now that you know all about some of the acronyms we discuss consistently, what do you think? Could your business benefit from a UTM or a BDR? You bet it could. Michell Consulting Group is chock-full of trained IT professionals who want to see your business get the maximum ROI for your technology, and we specialize in making this technology work for you. Give us a call at 305.592.5433 ext.2601 to learn more.

Windows Server 2003’s End of Support Date is Fast-Approaching

Last year, Microsoft pulled the plug on Windows XP’s support. Now, one year later, Windows Server 2003 is scheduled to meet its demise. If your servers are still running Windows Server 2003 as their operating system, it’s important to upgrade before the end of support date of July 14th. Otherwise, you could be running a server operating system without necessary patches and security updates.

As the owner of a small or medium-sized business, you know how important technology is to your success. However, technology that’s outdated can hold your business back from its full potential. Therefore, it’s imperative that you always upgrade your server’s operating system when upgrades are possible. A big reason for this is to keep the competitive edge over companies running legacy software, also security is a primary concern. The latest patches and security updates are only available to supported operating systems, and Windows Server 2003 will be joining the list of unsupported systems in only a few short months.

Of course, nobody is stopping you from keeping Windows Server 2003. If you want to keep using it, you either have to go unsupported or shell out massive amounts of cash. According to Processor magazine, Microsoft is offering custom support for Windows Server 2003 for around $200,000 annually, which will certainly break your IT maintenance budget. This in particular should emphasize the importance of upgrading to a more recent server operating system, especially if you need to comply with strict security standards put into place by HIPAA and other industry-specific ordinances.

While upgrading away from Windows Server 2003 is a simple enough process, you need to be aware of what kinds of applications your business utilizes. After all, some of your older applications might have trouble moving from a 32-bit operating system to a more recent one. This kind of project requires the skills and knowledge of trained professionals, so this must be taken into account when upgrading to a new OS. Approach this project knowing what you need and how to go about integrating these changes into your infrastructure. This will prevent expensive downtime by keeping your server online as long as possible.

Michell Consulting Group knows how to carry out this procedure in the quickest and most efficient manner possible. We can put together a time-saving plan that takes into account minor discrepancies and larger problems which might arise from the process. We’ll migrate your data to a temporary server so your business can set up your new server, meaning minimum downtime for your business. Productivity can continue without a hitch.

Of course, you also have the option of virtualizing your server units and adjusting for growth that way. Your old server units likely experience a lot of wear and tear over the years, so this is a good way to eliminate the need for physical maintenance associated with the server’s hardware. A cloud server is just as efficient, and it’s easier on your operating costs.

Michell Consulting Group can help you understand the best course of action for your business. Give us a call at 305.592.5433 Ext.2601 for more information about server maintenance, upgrades, and more.

Microsoft PowerPoint is Useful, but Not In the Courtroom

We all know Microsoft PowerPoint as a great presentation tool which can help you drive information home to the audience. Naturally, this makes it a great medium for use in more than one type of professional environment. It can be used for webinars, lectures, and even the courtrooms; but is a legal trial really a place for a slideshow?

Why is this the case? For one, PowerPoint allows users to make a powerful case for or against something. In fact, this practice is widely accepted in all venues of the professional environment, so you’d think that PowerPoint would be exceptionally useful for the defense attorney.

Unfortunately, it only makes things more difficult for them, since the prosecutor has access to the same kind of technology. In a Washington court case, the prosecutor was brought up on charges for an exceptionally incriminating PowerPoint presentation, which was used as the prosecutor’s closing statement.

In fact, according to WIRED magazine, “US courts have reversed a criminal conviction because prosecutors violated the rules of fair argument with PowerPoint,” at least 10 times over the past two years. You might be wondering what constitutes fair use of PowerPoint in presenting a court case, but instead, we’ll tell you what you shouldn’t do: Don’t use the defendant’s mug shot in a slide with a big, red “GUILTY” across it.

The reasoning for this is simple, yet ever so complicated at the same time. Legal scholars are calling this method “visual advocacy,” which can be considered the influencing of a jury’s decision through manipulating the subconscious signals sent via an image. For instance, displaying a picture of a criminal in their prison garb in the slideshow eliminates the notion of innocence before proven guilty, which is what the court system of the United States is built on. In the words of the Washington Supreme Court, captions like the previously mentioned one would be “the equivalent of unadmitted evidence.”

It’s a very touchy subject that can be convoluted to understand. Seeing how strongly a PowerPoint can influence the decision of a jury, it’s not surprising that PowerPoints can be exceptionally potent solutions for displaying an argument. After all, just because it doesn’t translate well to the courtroom doesn’t mean that it’s not without its uses. It’s a well-known fact that businesses around the world are taking advantage of PowerPoint to craft compelling, engaging mediums which augment a lecture or presentation, so it’s understandable that all professions desire to take advantage of slideshows.

However, in order for PowerPoint presentations to excel in the courtroom, more powerful laws governing what’s allowed in visual aids will likely need to be put into effect. If not, more prosecutors will likely try their hand at some of these shenanigans.

Whether it’s moral to shove the guilty verdict on someone in a slideshow might be up in the air, but it’s fairly safe to assume that prosecutors who use presentations for this purpose are simply taking advantage of the technology available to them to better perform their duties and uphold the laws of society.

What are your thoughts on PowerPoint as a presentation medium? Do you have any slideshow best practices you’d like to share? Let us know in the comments.