Companies Must Address Employees’ Lax Cybersecurity Habits

A third of employees picked up bad cyber security behaviors while working from home, according to Tessian’s Back to Work Security Behaviors report.

Despite the remote workers’ bad security practices, 9 out of 10 organizations prefer the hybrid workplace as COVID-19 restrictions eased. Similarly, 89% of employees want to work remotely during the week.

The firm advises business owners to consider the bad employee behaviors as organizations transition to hybrid workplace models.

As employees go back to the office, businesses need to address changes to employees’ security behaviors since they have been working remotely.

Most employers are wary that the post-pandemic hybrid workforce would bring bad cybersecurity behaviors.

More than half (56%) of employers believed that employees had picked bad security practices while working remotely.

Similarly, nearly two-fifths (39%) of employees also admitted that their employee behaviors differed significantly while working from home compared to the office.

Additionally, nearly a third (36%) admitted discovering ‘workarounds’ since they started working remotely.

Close to half of workers adopted the risky behavior because they felt that they weren’t being watched by IT departments. Nearly a third (30%) said they felt that they could get away with the risky employee behaviors while working away from the office.

However, small businesses placed more confidence in their employees while transitioning to the hybrid workplace.

Over two-thirds of business owners believed that their staff would observe their company’s cybersecurity policies.

Many employees are unlikely to admit cutting corners

The fear or failure to report cybersecurity mistakes was a huge cybersecurity risk for organizations. A quarter of employees refused to report such mistakes believing that nobody would ever discover them.

Similarly, more than a quarter feared reporting cybersecurity mistakes to avoid potential disciplinary actions or being forced to take additional security training.

However, younger employees are more likely to admit cutting corners, according to the Tessian report.

More than half (51%) of employees between 16-24 years old and 46% of those between 25-34 years old were more likely to admit circumventing the company’s security protocols.

“Create a security culture that encourages people to come forward about their mistakes, and support them when they do,” the authors suggested.

Personal devices will undermine the network perimeter in the hybrid workplace

Some of the security threats and challenges experienced when people work fully remotely would be imported into the new hybrid workplace.

While many employees used infected devices for remote access during the pandemic, some would bring them to the hybrid office. Company leaders now have to shift to a new security architecture for good – one that involves zero-trust network access, endpoint security, and multi-factor authentication.

Phishing and ransomware attacks are major challenges in the hybrid workplace

Ransomware attacks were also a major concern for more than two-thirds (69%) of companies who believed that the hybrid work environment would be a target for ransomware attacks. These attacks posed a business continuity threat to targeted companies.

Similarly, phishing attacks concerned over three-quarters of IT decision-makers who believed that credential phishing would only exacerbate in a hybrid workplace.

They believed that employees were more likely to expose company data in public or fall for phishing scams impersonating airlines, booking companies, hotels, or senior executives on a business trip. In fact, “back to work” phishing emails were a concern for 67% of IT leaders.

Phishing was the gateway to ransomware attacks. Consequently, successfully blocking phishing exploits reduces the chances of a ransomware attack.

“Stop phishing, business email compromise, account takeover attacks, and social engineering scams, and you significantly reduce the risk of ransomware,” the report authors noted.

However, bad employee behaviors, such as failing to report clicking phishing links, made it harder to stop these attacks.

6 Low-Cost Productivity Tips To Increase Competitiveness

Increasing workplace productivity can mean the difference between a business that succeeds and a great idea that fails. When a company produces more products or delivers higher-quality customer service more quickly than the competition, it gains the advantage.

To get the most benefit out of technology, however, organizations need to match the technology solution to the business need. Start by assessing business processes to identify areas for improvement. For instance, do employees find themselves bogged down with paperwork? Or does distance hinder effective collaboration?

The following low-cost productivity tips will help address productivity problems without breaking the budget. Some cost relatively little to implement, while others pay for themselves quickly in productivity gains.

Low-Cost Productivity Tips For Remote Workers

For many employees, remote work has become a way of life. A few essential technology items can significantly boost comfort and productivity for remote workers. Here are some examples:

Desktop comfort: Start with a wireless mouse, a Bluetooth keyboard, and a laptop stand.

Headsets: Wireless headsets enable office corridor roaming on calls and generally doing two things at once. Studies show that using a headset increases productivity by up to 40 percent.

Video conferencing technology: When employees spend hours each day on video conference, the right technology makes a significant difference. Start with an external webcam and a dedicated mic. Headsets can increase sound quality, as well.

Multiple monitors: For many jobs, such as customer support, dual monitors increase productivity by streamlining the process of copying between windows and improving multi-tasking.

Fewer Meetings, More Communication

Nothing interrupts a good work rhythm more than a useless meeting. On the other hand, when teams integrate communication technology into the workflow, productivity rises.

For instance, Microsoft Teams incorporates group chat directly into its popular Office apps. This allows team members to conduct just-in-time communication without leaving the work at hand.

Put It On The Calendar

When employees get in the habit of putting everything on the calendar, they work more efficiently. And when groups share a calendar, colleagues can determine availability at a glance, even for team members in another office.

Facilitate Information Sharing

In a data-driven environment, workers require on-demand access to up-to-date information. Cloud-based document management systems make essential documents accessible anytime, anywhere. And when employees share critical documentation through centralized information repositories, people have the information they need to work effectively and reduce errors.

Automate Repetitive Tasks

The more organizations automate repetitive tasks, the more employees can focus on core business tasks. Take an inventory of bottlenecks in your organization and determine whether automation can help solve the problem.

For instance, automation can help reduce time-consuming paperwork such as invoice processing and expense tracking. Likewise, sales and marketing departments benefit from automated call logging and tools that manage social media publishing.

Use Existing Tools More Effectively

Sometimes the solution lies not in purchasing new technology, but rather in optimizing the technology already at hand.

We can also help you adjust your network management and cybersecurity systems to ensure business continuity. And we can assist you with determining optimal email settings and retention policies to streamline communications. Call us today to discuss more low-cost productivity tips.

Best Tips To Maximize Efficiency When Working From Home

A quarter of people plan to work from home either permanently or more regularly when the pandemic is over.

No surprises there. Many people feel more productive when they work from home. And three-quarters believe there are fewer distractions at home (when the kids are at school, anyway).

Here are five things we recommend you put in place for everyone who’s going to be working from home, long-term:

A dedicated working space

Trying to work in the same space as other members of the family is testing for everyone. Help your team to identify where they will work and set up a proper work environment. This will also help them draw the line on the day’s work when they leave their workspace.

Fastest possible Internet

Slow speeds are the biggest frustration. There are often options to speed up Internet speeds. Maybe you could subsidize them upgrading to a better service?

Dedicated tech

62% of home workers would like their company to provide better technology to help them stay connected to what’s going on in the business.

From a data security point of view, you’ll have a lot more control if you give team members a business device to use only for work.

Collaborative software

Whether it’s Microsoft Teams or other software, it’s so easy these days for anyone working anywhere to stay up to speed on all relevant projects.

Help them feel involved

This can be as simple as sending pizzas to everyone’s houses, so your team can have lunch together on a video call.

Three Trillion Minutes On Zoom (Is That Just This Week?)

Zoom calls… Teams meetings… Google Meets… whichever tech platform your business uses*, do you ever get to a Friday evening and feel a bit “over Zoomed?” Especially if you then have ANOTHER Zoom arranged with friends or family?

According to estimates, over three trillion minutes will be spent on Zoom this year. That’s about 5.5 million years!

As much as they’re a pain when you have them all day, video calls really do help us be productive and get things done while we’re working remotely.

76% of all employees use video calling for remote work, according to some stats we’ve been reading. Three quarters of those say it makes them more productive. 41% of employers believe video calls lead to better engaged teams.

How to feel less “over Zoomed” then… here are three suggested rules that have worked well for us.

1. Do a tech test before every meeting: Check your video and sound are working. Zoom has a test call facility at www.zoom.us/test

2. Never meet unless you have a written agenda: And put the agenda on screen using screen share. This stops meetings from dragging on.

3. Stand up, especially if you’re the organizer: This is good for real life meetings, too. When you stand for a meeting, your body will give you feedback when the meeting’s dragging. Standing desks are a great idea for productivity and keeping energy levels high.

* Side note: Do you remember in the old days (2018) when people used GoToMeeting for video calls? Or the really, really old days (2017) when we used Skype?

Microsoft 365 Is The Best Thing For Staff Productivity

Thomas Fox is president of Tech Experts, southeast Michigan’s leading small business computer support company.

Pandemic + Work From Home = relying on technology more than ever before.

The tools available in Microsoft 365 have developed to help us stay productive wherever we’re working.

If you’ve been using Microsoft’s software for years, now’s a good time to discover new features.

If you haven’t started exploring yet, you’re missing out on loads of ways to boost productivity and make your life easier. Here are some of the main things to explore.

Microsoft Teams
Teams has made communication and collaboration even more effective than traditional ways of working face-to-face. [Read more…]

Three Ways That Technology Has Transformed Businesses

Thomas Fox is president of Tech Experts, southeast Michigan’s leading small business computer support company.

Breakthroughs in technology have torn apart old ways of working, as new alternatives have become impossible to ignore.

Here are three examples of ways that technology has transformed businesses everywhere.

Instant customer service
As new methods of communication have emerged, businesses have been able to significantly increase the quality and availability of the customer service they offer.

Instead of relying on face-to-face meetings or telephone calls to answer customer questions, businesses can now help through immediate online channels like live chat.

This is convenient for many customers, as they can talk at the exact moment they need help. It allows them to get immediate answers to their questions without needing to navigate telephone menus or book an appointment.

[Read more…]

Pandemic Continues To Affect Business Models (Even Microsoft’s)

Jason Cooley is Support Services Manager for Tech Experts.

The global pandemic continues on, and here in the United States, we are once again seeing numbers surge after a few months on the decline.

With the holiday season approaching, many are changing and cancelling their usual plans. Many employees are still working from home when possible. Everyone – from tech giants to a small mom-and-pop business on the corner – have been affected in some way.

So, with a reduced workforce, what does that mean for a company like Microsoft? For starters, they are pushing back end-of-support dates. One of which is Windows 10 1803, which had its support extended by six months.

This is partly due to the impact the pandemic has had on Microsoft, but beyond that, it is because many businesses cannot operate normally right now. This is obviously problematic on many levels. The last thing a business owner or company needs is to push out updates without the proper support in place.

Productivity may be down in some cases as people adjust to workflow changes and remote working, but many have become more comfortable with their new normal. They have hit their stride, if they missed a step at all, and Microsoft has opted not to disrupt that.

If a giant like Microsoft is adjusting their business models and plans, the impact is sure to reach the little guys. Although a majority of businesses rely on technology and computers in some capacity, not everyone has the capability or the support needed to move to a completely remote business model, even temporarily.

For a managed service provider like Tech Experts, managing clients remotely has been our primary focus for years. There will always be times that even we need to physically be somewhere to perform certain tasks, but in a pandemic, even for us, that number has decreased.

Some industries are more reliant on physical presence to be effective, which completely shakes up their operations.

In Monroe, schools have now switched to all online classes. Most students were already primarily remote, and due to surging cases, they have now switch to online.

I sat in on parent teacher conferences last week. During the conferences, I spoke to different teachers, and I gained some perspective on how the pandemic has affected their classes and their interactions with students.

More than one teacher specifically mentioned how, even on Zoom, it feels like they are teaching to an empty room or a black screen. Participation is down, but usually, school work comes in without issue.

Remote capabilities are in place, but it’s a very different experience than sitting in classrooms with peers.

Whether you’re an IT pro, doctor, lawyer, insurance agent, teacher, or student, your days this year surely look a lot different than they have in the past. We’re getting by as well as we can under the circumstances, trying to make things work with what we have.

Even with a vaccine on the way, things may never be exactly the same again. Work-from-home positions may become more popular or widely offered. Traveling for meetings will be less likely as many companies have gotten used to teleconferencing. Some students may flourish in online school and cause the industry to expand.

Changes aren’t always easy, but hopefully, the things that can be improved will be. No matter how it has affected you, the pandemic will not be missed.

Zoom In: A Look At The Increase Of Virtual Meetings

Jason Cooley is Support Services Manager for Tech Experts.

Quarantine as a whole was (and still is) a strange thing to see happen in the United States. With state-by-state protocols varying and dates in which states began to open back up done on a per-state basis, months were lost.

Schools shut down and businesses closed, some permanently. The businesses deemed “essential” stayed open with new restrictions in place.

Travel was restricted domestically and halted internationally. Anyone that could work remotely was reassigned to work from home.

With travel bans and remote work orders in place, Zoom saw huge increases in usage.

Zoom is meeting software, allowing users to do video or audio conferences as a group. There is a very good free tier for users to join unlimited calls, to host calls with up to 100 participants for up to 40 minutes, and unlimited one-to-one calls.

Among other similar solutions, Zoom has seen skyrocketing numbers since the pandemic started.

In December 2019, Zoom reported 10 million daily meetings taking place. Fast forward to March 2020, and Zoom hosted 200 million daily meeting. By the end of April 2020, Zoom reached 300 million daily meetings.

Zoom users vary from friends chatting, students collaborating, businesses meeting, conferences, and even the British members of Parliament.

Video conferencing has been used to keep gatherings to a minimum, teach students, conduct business meetings, and more.

While there may be a time that the number of video conferences may drop down, I believe the way we do business and operate as people has changed in some ways that will continue the prevalence of video conferencing.

Many schools across the US closed early late last year due to the pandemic. In Michigan, students in K-12 have a few different options when it comes to how they proceed with their learning now. Students can work remote or virtually.

Remote learning has two options itself, in-person learning with remote or just remote. The in-person learning involves a limited school day and less days in attendance per week. Or a class will be entirely remote.

Virtual school will remain that way all year. This is an existing system in place, and students will remain home doing virtual learning even when restrictions ease. Students may have already been using this system prior to the pandemic.

In both cases, students are typically using Google Classroom and Zoom. Remote learning with Zoom sees students join a conference with an instructor. They may have a lecture or another type of lesson that is done over the video conferencing. Virtual school’s lectures can vary based on the program itself.

When restrictions are lifted in Michigan for schools, those who are doing remote learning with attendance will attend school on a more regular schedule, but will still see some use of Zoom as a way to reduce traffic and students in different classrooms. Those doing just remote learning will stay home after restrictions are lifted and continue to attend video conferences as classes.

There have been many changes this year, and some are for the better. There will probably be a decrease in travel, even as bans are lifted. Some things that had previously been done in-person will now be done through video conferencing. Students will continue to be able to attend school from home. Work-from-home positions may offered by more companies.

Things will continue to return to how they were before the pandemic, but video conferences will continue to thrive.

Do We Have A Connection Here Or What?

Most businesses are heavily reliant on the internet. Everything is cloud-based and streamed. And it’s especially important now we have more people working from home than ever before.

Without the Internet, those Zoom chats wouldn’t work. We’d spend the day with a mobile phone glued to our ear, and probably with chronic neck ache. Ouch.

So how do you cope if one or more of your remote workers has a poor Internet connection? That can quickly become a frustrating experience for everyone.

Your first port of call would be to run a speed test and then shop around. Find out which providers offer the best speed in their area.

And if they need to, switch. You might choose as a business to financially help them with upgrading their home Internet.

If that’s not an option, then we need to get a little more creative. In extreme cases, you can look at alternatives such as satellite Internet, or a Wi-Fi router that uses 4G.

You can also check their Wi-Fi router to see if an upgrade would be beneficial. And there are things called range extenders that boost the Wi-Fi to reach different parts of their home.

If you’re not sure what you’re looking for or could use some advice on helping your staff get more done from home, call us.

Three Ways To Avoid Work From Home Burnout

The lines between work and non-work have blurred for so many people. For those who are still working from home (WFH), they may now be in their sixth consecutive month where there’s little balance between what they do professionally and personally.

Because when the work is sitting there in your personal space, it’s far too easy to work early or late – or both. Accidentally spotting that “urgent” email just before you’re about to go to bed really is incredibly damaging.

Added pressures of childcare have made this worse. Some parents feel that working all hours is the only way they can make up for the perceived reduced quality in their work.

The stress of constantly working (or constantly thinking about work) is dangerous. Our bodies and minds simply aren’t designed to be “on” all the time.

This is bad for our mental health. Which can easily have a negative effect on our physical health too. As IT specialists, we’ve been working remotely for years. Here are our top 3 suggestions to avoid WFH burnout.

1) Have physical ways to transition from personal you to work you, and back again. The easiest way to do this is with a dedicated workspace that’s strictly only used for work.

Even a specific seat at a table can be dedicated to work, even if you sit in other seats to do other things, like eat or play games. Some people dress for work each day, so they can change their clothes to mark the end of the working day.

2) Set strict work hours and stick to them. 9 to 5 might be impossible, but you can still have set work times, even if they’re scattered throughout the day. Make sure your family knows when you’re working. This is where having a set physical space can really help. In your non-work hours, make sure you only do non-work things. And do not check your email!

3) Prioritize what really matters: The other downside of sitting surrounded by work all the time is that there’s always something else that can be done. There’s no point working on minor tasks at 11pm at night, because the chances are, you’re not actually achieving anything meaningful. Assume you have 3-4 hours of truly productive time each day. And make sure you get and stay organized to achieve the most important things in this time.