Your Remote Workers Aren’t Using Computers That Look Like This, Are They?

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

When did you last check everything was OK with the devices your team uses when they work remotely?

That might sound like a strange question. But a recent survey discovered that 67% of remote workers are using faulty devices to work from home. And the reason?

They’ve likely damaged the device themselves and are too scared to tell you!

Laptops, keyboards, and monitors are most likely to be damaged (in that order). And it’s usually because of food or drink spills… though some people blame their partners, children, and even their pets!

We’ve all watched in horror as a cat rubs itself against a full glass of water next to a laptop…

[Read more…]

Tech Tip: How’s Your Video Call Etiquette?

Two years on, we’re all Video Call Champions now. Bet that’s a skill you never thought you’d master.

It’s so convenient to hop on a video chat with a colleague to discuss a problem or clear up details on a project. You don’t really think twice about it anymore, do you?

There’s always room for improvement. So here are our suggested rules for good video call etiquette:

Create and share a meeting agenda
If you schedule a meeting with several others, let everyone know what the meeting is about and give them chance to prepare. If you use Teams, there’s a text box at the bottom of the New Meeting invitation where you can add in details.

Make sure your background is suitable
Cameras on, everyone. Seeing people is the big benefit of video calls. While people may be intrigued about where you are, blurring your background or working in front of a plain wall will make sure the focus is on you and not your house.

Don’t overshare
Ever been caught out when screen sharing? Maybe you’ve received a notification for a personal message, or even forgotten to close down a website before joining your meeting?

You can share only the application you want to show by clicking ‘Share’ and choosing the thumbnail shown in the ‘Window’ category.

Stand up
Want to keep your video calls focused and productive? Then get everyone to stand up for them. This might seem strange, but guess what? It works really well for in-person meetings you want to keep short and to the point.

Should You Monitor Your Remote Workers?

At the end of last year, Microsoft announced it would be adding increased employee surveillance to Microsoft Edge.

The changes mean admins can access compliance monitoring through the browser, such as seeing which files have been printed or copied to USB devices.

Machine learning is being used to increase this visibility of what’s happening to sensitive files. But how will this impact employees? Will they feel that their privacy is being invaded? Will it cause trust issues? And do you think this is an appropriate level of monitoring when people have proved that remote work can be just as productive – if not more – than working from the office?

Our advice would be not to buy into this increased employee surveillance, unless you want to damage the delicate trust you’ve no doubt worked hard to build with your team.

There are other, more open ways to help your people get their work done. For example, there are plenty of tools that help limit distractions like notifications or temporarily block apps and websites to allow better focus. Your employees can choose to activate these to aid their productivity when they need a boost.

You’ll find some within your Microsoft 365 subscription – that means more tools at no extra cost.

If you want some suggestions personalized to your business, give us a call.

Five Things You Should Never Do On A Work Computer

Whether you work remotely or in an office, the line between personal and work tasks can become blurred when working on your company computer. If you’re in front of a computer for most of your time during work, then it’s not unusual to get attached to your desktop PC.

Over time, this can lead to doing personal things on a work computer. At first, it might just be checking personal email while on a lunch break. But as the line continues to get crossed, it can end up with someone using their work computer just as much for personal reasons as work tasks.

In a survey of over 900 employees, it was found that only 30% said they never used their work PC for personal activities. The other 70% admitted to using their work computer for various personal reasons.

Some of the non-work-related things that people do on a work computer include:

  • Reading and sending personal email
  • Scanning news headlines
  • Shopping online
  • Online banking
  • Checking social media
  • Streaming music
  • Streaming videos/movies

It’s a bad idea to mix work and personal, no matter how much more convenient it is to use your work PC for a personal task during the day. You can end up getting reprimanded, causing a data breach at your company, or possibly losing your job. Here are several things you should never do on your work PC.

Save personal passwords in the browser
Many people manage their passwords by allowing their browser to save and then auto-fill them. This can be convenient, but it’s not very secure should you lose access to that PC.

When the computer you use isn’t yours, it can be taken away at any time for a number of reasons, such as an upgrade, repair, or during an unexpected termination.

If someone else accesses that device and you never signed out of the browser, that means they can leverage your passwords to access your cloud accounts.

Store personal data
It’s easy to get in the habit of storing personal data on your work computer, especially if your home PC doesn’t have a lot of storage space. But this is a bad habit and leaves you wide open to a couple of major problems:

Loss of your files: If you lose access to the PC for any reason, your files can be lost forever.

Your personal files being company-accessible: Many companies have backups of employee devices to protect against data loss. So, those beach photos stored on your work PC that you’d rather not have anyone else see could be accessible company-wide because they’re captured in a backup process.

Visit sketchy websites
You should assume that any activity you are doing on a work device is being monitored and is accessible by your boss. Companies often have cybersecurity measures in place like DNS filtering that is designed to protect against phishing websites.

This same type of software can also send an alert should an employee be frequenting a sketchy website deemed dangerous to security (which many sketchy websites are).

You should never visit any website on your work computer that you wouldn’t be comfortable visiting with your boss looking over your shoulder.

Allow friends or family to use it
When you work remotely and your work computer is a permanent fixture in your home, it can be tempting to allow a friend or family member to use it if asked. Often, work PCs are more powerful than a typical home computer and may even have company-supplied software that someone wouldn’t purchase on their own.

But allowing anyone else to use your work computer could constitute a compliance breach of data protection regulations that your company needs to adhere to.

Just the fact that the personal data of your customers or other employees could be accessed by someone not authorized to do so can mean a stiff penalty.

Additionally, a child or friend not well-versed in cybersecurity could end up visiting a phishing site and infecting your work device, which in turn infects your company cloud storage, leaving you responsible for a breach.

At least 20% of companies have experienced a data breach during the pandemic due to a remote worker.

Turn off company-installed apps like backups and antivirus
If you’re trying to get work done and a backup kicks in and slows your PC down to a crawl, it can be tempting to turn off the backup process. But this can leave the data on your computer unprotected and unrecoverable in the case of a hard drive crash or ransomware infection.

Company-installed apps are there for a reason and it’s usually for cybersecurity and business continuity. These should not be turned off unless given express permission by your supervisor or company’s IT team.

The Security Problem Of John’s “Other” Laptop

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

Love it or hate it, Working From Home is huge and here to stay.

As a nation, we’ve really embraced the changes forced upon us by the pandemic. Many businesses have become more flexible with a mixture of office-based workers, hybrid workers and fully remote workers.

We had no idea that we could change so much, so quickly, did we? Work just doesn’t look the same as it did in 2019.

And because of that, cyber security in 2022 doesn’t look the same either. When you have people working away from your office, you need to take additional security measures to keep your data safe.

Even before we’d heard the word “Coronavirus,” many of us were working from home now and then. Checking emails on the weekend. Finishing up a project in the evening. Getting a head start on your week.

Now, Working From Home has to be taken more seriously. If any of your staff works anywhere away from the office, there’s a chance they’re taking unnecessary risks with your data. [Read more…]

How To Effectively Apply Technology In Your Business

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

Technology can help your business to become significantly more efficient, engaging, and highly successful in your industry. Implementing the right technology can greatly help transform business infrastructure.

Here are nine of the most common and groundbreaking technologies that can help your company succeed today.

Use of mobile apps
You can improve your business’s overall reputation and seek higher brand recognition by introducing a mobile app with your business logo.

This keeps your products, services, and customer support at your client’s fingertips wherever they are. And depending on the complexity of your business, it can be surprisingly affordable. [Read more…]

Free VPNs Are Not Your Friend

Prior to the pandemic, VPNs (Virtual Private Networks) weren’t in the toolbox of the average office worker. Many of us sat down at our desk and logged into our computer, websites, and programs, then got started on our day.

Whatever we needed was a click away, our access already nestled into a secure network. Work-from-home has changed the game and requires a security boost wherever possible.

VPNs help with that by establishing secure connections, protecting your privacy, and allowing you to access your work network from home or anywhere else.

At a glance, VPNs seem to function similarly to remote desktop connections, which many businesses are more familiar with now, however they have some key differences. A remote desktop connection allows you to control a specific computer via software while a VPN provides encrypted access to a network while away.

If you’re interested in a VPN for business or personal use, it can be tempting to go with a free option – but be careful. Some freeware (software published for free download) can be a great find, but much like work shoes or your mattress, you want to find something that does its job well, even if it costs a little more.

Cheap shoes and mattresses may leave your body sore while a free VPN could be a gigantic security risk to your company or home network.

Like many freeware programs, you can’t always trust a developer. There’s usually a catch, and for VPNs, that comes at the price of security. VPN services aren’t cheap to provide, for one, and the free ones aren’t shared out of charity; they likely have interest in selling your data, bombarding you with ads, infecting you with malware, or stealing your identity.

One of the main motivations for using a VPN in the first place is to create a secure connection. A paid service will provide that – that’s what they’re there for and that subscription is how fund their operations. A free service, however, is unlikely to have the same level of security or the same capability to patch vulnerabilities, even if they have good intentions.

Additionally, you want whatever VPN you use to actually work. Free VPN services can’t support users the same way as a paid service. At best, they can be slow, lagging, or non-functional while their resources are spread thin across their userbase. At worst, you may be roped into some shady cybercriminal practices like botnets.

If you’re a small business looking to set up a VPN, we recommend researching which of the trusted, big-name VPN providers match your needs and budget.

Many come with free trials so you can test them out before you buy. If you have a managed service provider like Tech Experts or an IT department, please reach out to your technology partner and ask about options.

A secure VPN service is worth the cost to protect yourself from cyberattacks, vulnerabilities, and identity theft. Free is nice, but it’s better to take advantage of free things that don’t have the potential to infect and bring down your company’s network. Give us a call at (734) 457-5000 to learn more.

Work-From-Home Precautions For Your Network

Mark Funchion is a network technician at Tech Experts.

As our world has shifted to a heavy work-from-home environment, it is important that you do what you can to make sure your business’s network is secure, whether your employees are working from home or in the office.

Working from home can pose many challenges. The first involves the device the employee uses. If they have a company-issued laptop and you implemented a VPN, then great, you’re fairly secure.

What do you do if they are using their own home PC? Do they have anti-virus? Are they accessing documents through a common cloud storage location, such as OneDrive or Dropbox?

If so, that can cause issues because that home PC may have other users who are not careful about what they download or what emails they open. If that PC is infected and your employee connects to shared storage, your business may become infected.

For these reasons, you should really consider only allowing access to your data over a VPN that your employees must log into. Do not share files through cloud storage unless you are sure the devices connecting are secure.

This means you may need to provide anti-virus to your users. Yes, it’s an expense, but it’s much cheaper than recovering from a ransomware attack because an employee’s 12-year-old downloaded a Fortnite “hack” to get more V-Bucks.

Next, push the use of two-factor authentication (2FA) and password managers. Having a simple password like “CompanyVPN1!” won’t cut it.

Force your users to use strong and varied passwords. Now, those can be difficult to remember, so it may be a good investment to look into a corporate password manager. This will securely store passwords and make it easier for employees to use stronger credentials.

In addition to better passwords, use 2FA. This security measure sends a verification code to your employee via email or text when they log into secure apps or websites. It’s another extra step, but again, the more precautions you take, the better off your security will be. Just because your employee logged in from home with a strong password doesn’t mean it’s actually your employee. That second authentication makes it much more difficult for the end user’s information to be gained by cybercriminals.

Educate your employees about using public Wi-Fi as well. It’s nice to sit in a comfy chair at Panera and enjoy a bagel and coffee while responding to emails, but who else is on that network? If they must do this, then using a VPN and 2FA are a must.

These are a lot of scary things, but don’t lose sleep. Be diligent in securing your network. If you allow work-from-home, be prepared to invest in setting up VPNs, 2FA, password managers, and anti-virus software for your employees. This time and due diligence will greatly help you prevent your data and network from becoming compromised.

Also, remember you are not in this alone: Tech Experts is here to help. If you want to secure your network for remote work, reach out to us at (734) 457-5000. We secured our own network so we can work remotely and have the expertise to help you do the same.

Modern Utilization Of Tech In Schools & Workplaces

Everywhere you look now, there is some type of technology in use and nearly every industry takes advantage of it. Between food delivery apps, the capability to review your accounts online, or the self-scan check-out lanes at the grocery store, we use technology every day and it’s all part of our common experience.

While we may overlook a lot of it in our daily lives, the right tech can make your professional life much easier and efficient. Convenience is one of the main reasons we innovate, right?

One way you can bring helpful tech into the work setting is by using a company-wide chat. You can have a group messaging system like Discord or Slack, but even a group chat over text messages can be a helpful addition in the right workplace.

A company-wide chat allows you to have conversations as needed and communicate with minimal interruptions. Questions, updates, and requests can be reviewed, then responded to a timely matter or addressed right away. It creates a “paper trail” as well, so past messages can be referenced easily.

With chat, you are able to touch base with your peers, employees, or bosses anywhere and anytime. Instead of having ten people trying to reach the same person all at once, they can send them a message and have a reply almost instantly. Unlike email, chat is less likely to be buried in conversation chains, coupons, and other mail.

Another good way to use modern technology is by utilizing remote access. Being able to work remotely is a huge time-saver and a great help for online collaboration, in both schools and the workplace. It allows us to work from anywhere with an Internet connection.

Remote learning is also a very good use of new technology because it allows students to work from home and have all of the same access to resources as if they were sitting in the classroom in front of a teacher. For working professionals, it’s the same – they can complete their work from anywhere as if they were sitting at their desk in the office.

Another great way that technology has influenced the workplace for the better is automation in repetitive tasks. Some examples are network monitoring, notifications, emails, file-sharing, and time management.

Automation allows employees to focus on critical tasks instead of repetitive, time-consuming ones that aren’t necessarily as important. It also prevents some things from falling through the cracks by sending reminders or by entirely handling a task without human intervention.

Automation can also take on many forms, and you may already be benefiting from it. One example of automation that we use at Tech Experts is that our incoming service tickets, sent via email, are automatically disseminated to the right team. If this was not set-up, someone would have to manually sort every ticket that came in. The programs and apps that you already use in your business may have options to make your life easier through automation, such as email rules in Outlook.

Current technology has come a long way. Copiers, calculators, and faxes used to be amazing, and now, some of us can work entirely off of the phone in our pocket. Sometimes, it may seem overwhelming, but even small tweaks – like email rules – can have a big impact. Embracing the efficiency of tech can give you freedom and time back so you can make the most of your work hours.

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.