Five Habits Your Smart Remote Workers Should Have

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

Remote work has become a way of life very quickly, hasn’t it? Loads of businesses and their people are reaping the rewards of flexibility and convenience.

But it also brings cyber security challenges that demand your attention. Of course, this should always be a concern, but when you have employees working from home, a coffee shop, or anywhere else for that matter, you need to make sure they’re making wise decisions that put the security of your data at the forefront.

These are five habits your remote workers should adopt straight away.

Choose your work location wisely

Working from a favorite coffee shop or a picturesque park may seem like a dream come true, but it can expose you to more cyber security risks.

Over-the-shoulder attacks, where cyber criminals discreetly snoop on your screen in public spaces, might seem unlikely, but they have real potential to lead to data breaches. Employees should choose to work in quieter, more private settings to minimize this risk. [Read more…]

Collaboration Tools Are GREAT. But Are They A Security Risk?

In today’s digital age, workplace collaboration tools and messaging apps such as Slack, Teams, and Zoom have become indispensable.

They’ve revolutionized the way we work, making communication with colleagues a breeze, facilitating seamless file sharing, and allowing for productive meetings without the hassle of commuting.

The ability to discuss even the most sensitive of topics from the warmth and safety of our homes seems like a dream. However, every silver lining has a cloud.

While we see these tools as productivity enhancers, cybercriminals see them as gateways to potential vulnerabilities. The very platforms that have been champions for our productivity are simultaneously creating a playground for cyber threats.

It’s alarming to realize that, for instance, while Slack employs encryption, it does not have end-to-end encryption. The reason behind this? To provide companies with an overview of their internal communications.

Moreover, if you’ve jumped on the WhatsApp bandwagon for business, beware. This popular app has been a victim of numerous social engineering attacks. And Telegram? It’s steadily climbing the list of hotspots for cyber attackers. These threats have ushered in a new form of cyber-attack known as Business Communication Compromise (BCC).

Think of it as the menacing relative of the widely recognized Business Email Compromise (BEC).

Shockingly, a 2022 Data Breach Investigation Report highlighted that a staggering 82% of data breaches stem from human errors. Just one misguided click on a deceitful phishing email, and your prized communication channels become a hotbed for these cyber rogues.

But there’s hope! Here are some measures to safeguard your digital spaces:

Establish robust access controls. Ensure that only authorized individuals can access your platform. Even basic protocols like multi-factor authentication can act as formidable barriers against intruders.

Adopt stringent data loss prevention techniques. Opt for systems that provide end-to-end encryption and have capabilities to remotely wipe data from misplaced or stolen devices.

Educate your team. Regular training sessions on best practices for handling sensitive information can make all the difference.

Your security is our priority. If you need guidance on fortifying your digital defenses, we’re here to assist.

Meetings Are Making Your People Less Productive

Are you one of the many businesses that still offers your people the flexibility of remote or hybrid working?

If so, you’re probably relying on video meetings a lot more than you usually would. And that makes sense, because it feels like the easiest way to get people together at the same time.

But meetings can be a real drag for everyone at some stage. Whether you’re dealing with introverted employees who are hesitant to speak up, scheduling conflicts that make it tough to get everyone in the same virtual room, or colleagues who try to take all the credit for your brilliant ideas (the worst!), meetings can actually slow down your productivity.

So what are some simple solutions to help?

For projects that have a visual element, digital whiteboards are your new best friend. These handy tools allow for collaboration wherever, whenever, and replicate the feeling of being in an actual conference room. Plus, they don’t put anyone on the spot, so introverted employees can contribute without feeling self-conscious.

And for projects that don’t require visuals? Maybe collaborative docs could be a good alternative for you. These documents are easily shared and distributed, making it easy for team members to work together in real-time or asynchronously.

Let your team know that they don’t need to respond immediately to every notification or email. And if you really want to free up some time for deep-focus work, consider implementing a “no meetings” policy like Shopify has done.

This empowers your team to work when they’re most effective, regardless of their time zone.

When it comes to productivity, transparency is key! So have you considered prioritizing public channels over direct messages? It can be a game-changer for your team as it helps everyone understand how different individuals and teams work, and increases workers’ faith in their managers.

In fact, research shows that employees who trust their leadership are 50% more engaged at work! And when it comes to clarifying priorities, the responsibility falls on leadership. Make sure you’re coaching your direct reports and giving regular feedback. Consider consolidating work in one platform to make things simpler.

By choosing the right tools and minimizing time spent in meetings, you can increase your productivity and get more done in less time. So why wait? If we can help you get started, get in touch.

Boost Your Team’s Engagement With Better Tech

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

The stresses and pressures of the cost of living crisis are hitting many people hard. That makes employee engagement more of a challenge than ever.

As a business, you might be finding it hard yourself. It may not be possible to offer salary rises that keep pace with inflation.

And at the same time, you might be asking more of your people or making changes to the workplace that are hard for some to adjust to.

The last thing you want is to lose good people just when you need everyone firing on all cylinders.

That’s why some of the most effective engagement strategies right now involve relieving the stress and tedium of repetitive tasks and removing workplace frustration – with the added benefit that you become more efficient in the process. [Read more…]

Thinking Of Moving Offices Or Going 100% Remote?

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

Has hybrid and remote working left you and your team rattling around an office that’s too big?

If you’re now in the position of overspending on rent, utilities and cleaning, you might be thinking about downsizing to another location – or even abandoning the office completely.

That’s something that will take some planning if you want a smooth transition with minimal, expensive downtime.

Moves are always stressful, and relocating your IT systems takes a bit more thought than manhandling a desk up the stairs.

So here are our top three suggestions to make it easier to shift your IT setup to a new location.

[Read more…]

What Is App Fatigue And Why Is It A Security Issue?

The number of apps and web tools that employees use on a regular basis continues to increase. Most departments have about 40-60 different digital tools that they use. 71% of employees feel they use so many apps that it makes work more complex.

Many of the apps that we use every day have various alerts. We get a “ping” when someone mentions our name on a Teams channel. We get a notification popup that an update is available. We get an alert of errors or security issues.

App fatigue is a very real thing and it’s becoming a cybersecurity problem. The more people get overwhelmed by notifications, the more likely they are to ignore them.
Just think about the various digital alerts that you get.

They come in:

  • Software apps on your computer
  • Web-based SaaS tools
  • Websites where you’ve allowed alerts
  • Mobile apps and tools
  • Email banners
  • Text messages
  • Team communication tools such as Slack or Teams

Some employees are getting the same notification on two different devices. This just adds to the problem.

This leads to many issues that impact productivity and cybersecurity. Besides alert bombardment, every time the boss introduces a new app, that means a new password.

Estimates are that the average employees is already juggling about 191 passwords. They use at least 154 of them sometime during the month.

How Does App Fatigue Put Companies at Risk?

Employees Begin Ignoring Updates

When digital alerts interrupt your work, you can feel like you’re always behind. This leads to ignoring small tasks seen as not time-sensitive. Tasks like clicking to install an app update.

Employees overwhelmed with too many app alerts tend to ignore them. When updates come up, they may quickly click them away. They feel they can’t spare the time right now and aren’t sure how long it will take.

Ignoring app updates on a device is dangerous. Many of those updates include important security patches for found vulnerabilities.

When they’re not installed, the device and its network are at a higher risk. It becomes easier to suffer a successful cyberattack.

Employees Reuse Passwords (and They’re Often Weak)

Another security casualty of app fatigue is password security.

The more SaaS accounts someone must create, the more likely they are to reuse passwords. It’s estimated that passwords are typically reused 64% of the time.

Credential breach is a key driver of cloud data breaches. Hackers can easily crack weak passwords. The same password used several times leaves many accounts at risk.

Employees May Turn Off Alerts

Some alerts are okay to turn off. For example, do you really need to know every time someone responds to a group thread?

But, turning off important security alerts is not good.

There comes a breaking point when one more push notification can push someone over the edge.

What’s the Answer to App Fatigue?

It’s not realistic to just go backward in time before all these apps were around.

But you can put a strategy in place that puts people in charge of their tech, and not the other way around.

  • Streamline your business applications
  • Have your IT team set up notifications
  • Automate application updates
  • Open a two-way communication about alerts

Smartphones Are Now The Preferred Device For Mobile Work

Smartphones have taken over from laptops as most people’s preferred portable work tool.

They enjoy the flexibility and, perhaps obviously, they’re easier to carry around than a laptop or a tablet.

It means that mobile connectivity and reliable broadband have become two of the largest IT considerations. In turn, that creates a different set of security risks.

If a number of your people need a phone to do their job, here’s a big thought: Would they be better off using a work-issued phone instead?

If an employee has contact with customers, would you want to own their phone number in case they left?

And there are security considerations that might be best handled on company-issued phones. That includes rolling out security updates, managing secure mobile gateways, and administering passwords.

You should make sure data on the device is encrypted, not only to protect data from cyber criminals, but to make sure your information is safe should the phone be lost or stolen. Can the phone be remotely wiped?

The software installed on the phone should be policed too. You may need a policy that limits or blocks the use of third-party software. This can also help establish a boundary between work and personal tasks.

As with most tech, this isn’t a case of set it and forget it. You need to make sure updates are run on time, and remotely audit company-issued devices to ensure they’re secure, protected and don’t contain any malicious applications.

Is this something we can help with? Your technology headaches are exciting for us! Get in touch, we’d be glad to help out.

What To Do If You Lose Your Laptop (Or Other Device)

So, you’re in the car on the way home from the coffee shop, basking in the glow of consuming your triple-shot, low-foam, extra-hot pumpkin-spice latte when you suddenly realize your laptop has gone missing.

You drive back like the caffeinated lunatic you are, only to discover no one has turned it in.

What do you do?

That depends on what precautions you have (or haven’t!) taken.

First, if you’ve properly encrypted your data, password-protected the access to your device and shut down and logged off all key applications, you’ve got a bit more time to respond.

But the next thing to do, whether or not you’ve taken those precautionary measures, is to notify your IT support company that you’ve lost your device.

That will allow them to change passwords and lock access to applications and data a thief may gain access to via your unprotected laptop.

They can also remotely wipe your device to make sure no one will be able to gain access to the data stored on your computer. (Which is also why it’s critical to back up your data on a daily basis!)

Next, change all the passwords to every website you log into, starting with any sites that contain financial data (your bank account) or company data.

If your laptop contained medical records, financial information, or other sensitive data (like social security numbers, birthdays, etc.), then you need to contact a qualified attorney to understand what you may be required to do by law to notify individuals who may be affected.

Quite simply, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, so make sure you’re engaging with your IT support company to encrypt and back up your data, as well as put remote monitoring software on all mobile devices.

Set a pin-code lock or password requirement to access a device after ten minutes of inactivity and get into the habit of logging out of websites when you’re done using them.

Some other tips to keep your laptop safe:

Use strong passwords, change passwords frequently, and avoid setting up automatic sign-ins. This will make it more difficult for thieves to log on to your computer and access your personal information.

Don’t write down your passwords. If you must write your passwords down, don’t keep the list close to your laptop (for example, on a sticky note kept in your laptop bag).

Never leave your laptop in an unlocked car or conference room.

Never leave your laptop in plain sight in your locked car. Lock it in the trunk and make sure no one sees you put it there.

Carry your laptop in something other than a laptop bag. This may seem unusual, but a laptop bag makes it very obvious to thieves that you are carrying a laptop. Use something more inconspicuous, such as a backpack or messenger bag.

Always keep your laptop in your sight. Don’t leave a meeting or a conference room without your laptop – always bring it with you. You never know who could have access to that room, even if you’re only gone for a few minutes.

Be especially diligent when traveling – airports are a common place for laptop theft. Also be careful in taxis, hotel rooms, restaurants, and coffee shops.

If your laptop is stolen, you’ll want to make sure you have the make, model, and serial number so a complete report can be filed. Keep this information in your desk at work or at home.

Finally, if you store important data on your laptop, make sure it is being backed up! Most workers store their data on a company server, where it is protected and backed up.

If you’re a mobile worker, backups are extra important since you don’t have the security of a server-based backup system.

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.