Technology
Windows 8.1 Now Available; Should You Upgrade?
Thursday, October 17, 2013 09:42

Tags: microsoft | Operating Systems | windows 8

Windows 8.1 is avaialble. Should you upgrade?

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If you are running Windows XP, you pretty much have no choice but to upgrade to Windows 7 or the newer, Windows 8.1, operating system. XP is not going to be supported anymore by Microsoft. The fact that you have stuck with Windows XP even after Windows 7 and Windows 8 were released indicates that you're not a techie, don't care much about this stuff, or don't trust Microsoft.  

 

I've been using Windows 8 since Februrary 2013. Based on my personal experience and the many reviews I've read in the press, Windows 8 and 8.1 is solid. It does not crash. While I would not have suggested non-techies upgrade desktop machines from XP to Windows 8 until now, today's release of the 8.1 version of Windows addresses the useability issues that made Windows 8 confusing. The familiar "Start" button is back and there's a lot more help for new users in 8.1. So you'll be fine. 

 

If you are already running Windows 8 on a computer or tablet, you can now download the free update to Windows 8.1 online through the Windows Store. The update has been getting very good reviews and you'll only benefit from the improvements.

 

If you are on a device running Windows 7, Windows Vista, Windows XP, or the Windows 8.1 Preview, visit this page on Windows.com to detect your OS and get Windows 8.1 on your device.

 

To get the full benefit of Windows 8.1, you really need to use it on a device enabled for touch computing. Tablets, laptops, convertibles, and phones with touch screens are an inexpensive way to try out the touch-enabled operating system. This holiday season, a new generation of ultra-high resolution touch screen monitors will be debuting that will make the touch experience on desktops much better. Because these monitors are 2560 X 1440 resolution, they can be closer to you (18 inches) and you can comfortably reach out and touch the screen. With a high-definition 1080p monitor, everything displayed on the monitor is too large when it is only 18 inches away from you. Check out new Windows devices available now and coming in the holiday season.

 

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Researcher Uncovers Backdoor Vulnerability in D-Link Routers
Monday, October 14, 2013 21:19

Tags: privacy; security

A security researcher this weekend discovered a backdoor vulnerability with certain D-Link routers that might allow cyber criminals to alter a router's setting without a username or password, and D-Link says it is working on a fix.

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D-Link will address by the end of October, says PC World.

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The New Surface Is Coming Out October 22, Should You Get One?
Thursday, October 10, 2013 13:23

Tags: microsoft | Surface 2 | Surface Pro | Surface Pro 2 | Surface RT

Has Microsoft hit a homerun with the new line of Surface tablets?  The original Surface RT and Surface Pro were released in 2012 and met with a lukewarm reception.  Recent reports however, are indicating that the new Surface 2 and Surface Pro 2 almost sold out.  When October 22 comes should you be standing outside the store waiting for it to open to buy one of these new tablets?

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Since the Surface 2 and Surface Pro 2 are not out yet all we have to go by is the original line of Surface tablets.  We currently have Surface RT tablets in our office and have been quite happy with their performance.

 

The Surface allows us the convenience of an “on-the-go” tablet while giving us some of the functionality of a computer.  In our eyes the Surface is lightweight, easily portable and runs the web-based applications we use daily, making this the perfect tablet for us.

 

The question now is, should you get the Microsoft Surface or the Surface Pro?  The screen, connectivity option, size and weight are pretty much the same in both tablets.  As far as hardware goes, the Surface Pro has a better processing unit, which makes the tablet run faster.  The Surface Pro also has better rear and front facing cameras.  Both newer models of the tablets, the Surface Pro 2 and the Surface 2, come with the full Microsoft Office suite.  In the older models the Surface RT only comes with a trial addition of Office, whereas the Surface Pro does come with the full suite.  One of the biggest differences is the Surface Pro allows you to download applications on your desktop and the Surface 2 does not.  The Surface 2 will be starting at $449 and the Surface Pro 2 will be starting at $899.

 

To decide which tablet will best fit your needs you should first figure out what you want the tablet to do.  If you are looking for the tablet to replace your laptop then you would probably want to go with the Surface Pro.  The Surface RT is a great tablet, but it is just that, a tablet.

 

For those of us who have applications still dependent on Internet Explorer, the Microsoft Surface line of tablets is a great option.  If your applications are not dependent on Internet Explorer you can also consider the iPad and Android tablets.

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5 Ways To Secure Personal Info
Wednesday, October 09, 2013 08:17

Tags: cyber security | passwords | secure

If you are a small business owner or manager you are likely the person that everyone turns to when things are going well, and not so well. One problem you may face is a security breach, where private information is stolen or leaked. If this were to happen, you will likely be asked questions and maybe even held accountable. Therefore, it is advisable to take steps to ensure that the personal information in your systems is secure.

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As October is Cyber Security month in the US, it's the perfect time to take a look into ways you can make your business and systems more secure. One of the best places to start is to look at how your company stores and protects personal information. Here are five tips that can help you protect personal information in your company.

 

1. Change your passwords
One of the weakest links, in terms of security, is not the programs, networks, or systems, it's actually the passwords used to access these. You should ensure that your passwords are strong - at the very least use a mixture of capital and lowercase letters, numbers and special characters like ! or @. This makes passwords harder to crack.

It is a good idea to change your passwords on a regular basis. You should change them at least once a year, but far preferable is to change these every 90 days. This will minimize the chances of your password being hacked and likely increase overall security.

 

2. One password shouldn't rule them all
The number of password protected systems and sites that we use on a daily basis is increasing and it can be tempting to have one or two passwords for all of these systems. This is not a good idea though because if one password is compromised, a hacker could gain access to all of your systems and the personal information stored on them.

The best solution is to have a unique password for each system and one that is as different as possible. Using a password manager like Dashline or LastPass might be worth looking into but just be sure to use a separate password to access to this system as well!

 

3. Don't keep everything
While passwords are a common way hackers can access systems, another popular way they get in is through malicious links in email, social media posts or online advertising. These links can be viruses and trojans that install backdoors to systems, allowing hackers access to files and potentially sensitive information.

In order to maximize security, you should look at every link and ensure it is legitimate before you click on it. The best way to do this is to look at the sender's email address and ensure there are no spelling mistakes or weird characters. Look for any strange spelling, and if possible check there is https:// at the beginning of all links. This indicates that the page is legitimate. If a link seems even remotely suspicious, simply delete it.

 

4. Don't react immediately
Communications, especially in online ads and emails, often urge you to click immediately. Pause for a moment, inspect the email or links and try to verify them. As a rule of thumb, if it sounds too good to be true, it is. Therefore, think first and don't click the link.

 

5. Develop policies
In order to secure your systems and protect information stored within, you should develop a policy for all staff to follow. Be sure to look at how you plan to protect information, where it is stored and how it is stored, as well as who has access to it, how can it be accessed, and what happens when the policy is breached. How do mobile devices/devices brought in by employees fit into the plan?

 

Once you have developed a policy, communicating it to your employees and ensuring that they are all on the same page in following it is essential. We know it can be challenging to develop an effective policy, so why not contact us? We may be able to help not only secure your private information but also develop a sound policy that is workable.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.
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Brilliant Question From An A4A Member About Google's New Remote-Lockdown Feature For Android Phones And Tablets; If Your Google Account Gets Hacked, Can The Hacker Lock You Out Of Your Phone Or Tablet?
Wednesday, October 02, 2013 17:24

Tags: android | google | phones | practice management | privacy; security

Brilliant question from an A4A member today about Android’s new feature that allows you to remotely lock or erase data on your Android phone in case it is lost or stolen. This security feature is great for financial advisors because you can lock or erase data on your Android device remotely by logging into your Google account and using Google’s free device manager.  

 
The question that came in today is what happens if your Google account gets hacked and you have enabled the remote-lock/erase feature?
 
“If anyone hacks my Google/Gmail account, can they reverse the process and lock/erase my HTC?” asks dmorton.”What protections are there for that, if any are needed?”

The answer: If your Google account gets hacked, the hacker can lock you out of your cell phone and/or erase all of your data.

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The screen shot above shows the Google account device manager interface, which displays your phone’s location and enables you to erase or lock your phone or tablet if it is ever lost or stolen. (For details, see my post from last week.) To change your lock-screen key, Google device manager asks only for a new password. So a hacker who gains control of your Google account would simply input a new password to lock you out of your phone or wipe it.
 
I locked my phone just now using the Google device manager to try it out. (I always try to do this stuff before I tell readers to do it, a practice that should be required of all practice management "experts.") Seconds after I used Google's device manager to change my Android phone's lock-screen key, I was indeed locked out of my phone. It worked like a charm. And all that was needed was creating a new Android lockscreen-key using Google's device manager. To be clear, anyone with credentials to your Google account can lock you out of your Android tablet or phone if you enable the new Google-Android security feature released last week.
 

On the bright side, Google device manager’s remote-lock feature for Android tablets and phones only allows a hacker who gains control of your Google account to erase or lock you out of your phone; it does not give a hacker to access your phone’s data.

 

As long as you have not synched your Android contacts, pictures, and other data with your Google account, a hacker who takes control of your Google account cannot see your phone contacts, pictures and other data on your phone or tab.

 
Software companies, Google included, launch features in simple form to gain wide adoption. Then slowly add bells and whistles. My guess is Google will fix the weakness highlighted by your question by adding some form of authentication of a phone’s lock-screen password. For example, Google could simply require users to submit their current lock-screen password for their Android before they can change their lock-screen password. This simple security measure would safeguard against hackers disabling your access to your phone or erasing data stored on your tablet after breakign into your Google account.
 
Until the issue is addressed, prudent advisors that have an Android device can use the new lock-screen feature but must be conscientious about using a strong password and mindful of key-loggers.
 
Not many advisors are storing client data on Gdrive, Gmail or other Google Apps. So I suspect most advisors don't have client or personal data at risk in their Google account. If you are using Google to run your advsory business, please let us know. If it is prudent, of even possible to use Google to run an advisory practice, please let me know.
 
While many advisors use Google as a spare email account, the vast majority of advisors do not use Google for client communications--as a system of record for regulatory purposes--and I do not believe Google is tightly integrated yet with any professional apps for portfolio accounting, financial planning or CRM. Google is cutting-edge technology but adisos are know for prudence. Adopting the newest technology is not characteristic of advisors.    
 
Which makes dmorton's question all the more important.
 
Because advisors are probably not routinely using Google for sensitive client or personal data, most have probably not thought much about the security aspects of adding this new feature for remotely locking an Android phone or tablet to from a Google account. Dmorton's question underscores the need for advisors who use this new Google/Android feature to create a strong passwords for their Google account and o consider the risk of someone hacking their Google account and locking them out of their Android phone.
 
One final thought:  In the event someone hacks your Google account and erases your Android phone or tablet’s data--and that the device has not been stolen or lost--you can take your phone to your service provider and it should be able to get you back into your device. You may even be able to recover any data wiped by the hackers.
 
Let me know what you think.
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