General Telephony

Guest Blog: How to Secure Your Company Data Without Expensive Antivirus Programs

For our Partner Blog Series we like to highlight the relationships we have with our peers and business partners from across all areas of the telecommunications industry. We know that when it comes to relationships, the whole really is greater than the sum of the parts. That’s why we want to share with you the wisdom, experience, and perspective of the companies we work with.

This edition of the Partner Blog Series comes to us from Don Harold of Dead Drop Software, the online collaboration tool that allows for safe communications and secure file-sharing. Here he covers some of the dangers of computer viruses, how they are commonly contracted, and ways to avoid letting one ruin your network.

How to Secure Your Company Data Without Expensive Antivirus Programs

How-to-Secure-Your-Company-Data-Without-Expensive-Antivirus-ProgramsWhat are you doing to protect your company data from the prying eyes of hackers? Are you confident enough to say that your data are well protected and nothing can ever break your wall of security? If you’re not sure, perhaps you should ask yourself these four questions-

  • Does your company send files and images out to clients?
  • Are Google Drive and Dropbox a common tool you’re using for exchanging documents?
  • Do you frequently use email to connect with your clients, teams and other connections?
  • Do you regularly download files sent to you via email?

If you’re doing even just one of the listed above, then it’s time to think twice.

To secure your data, it’s often believed that you need an expensive antivirus program. Many such programs aren’t the blanket protection you’d expect, however, much less are they the only way to combat malicious software attacks. In fact, you can actually live without an antivirus and still keep your data safe. Before we get into that, though, we should first examine some of the biggest attacks in recent history.

Here are some of the notorious viruses as listed by Sharon Weinberger, Executive Editor of Foreign Policy:

  1. ILOVEYOU In the year 2000, a Filipino man named Onel de Guzman launched this epic virus as an email message with a subject line “ILOVEYOU” with an attached file entitled “LOVE-LETTER-FOR-YOU.txt.vbs”. People fell into the trap and opened the file thinking it might be a love confession for them. The virus caused an estimated US$5.5 – 8.7 billion damages worldwide affecting 10% of all Internet-connected computers back then.
  2. Code Red In 2001, a computer worm was launched. Computers running Microsoft’s IIS web server were attacked leading the worm to take down some websites, including the White House website. The virus caused over $2 billion in losses.
  3. Stuxnet Originally named as VirusBlokAda, this malicious computer worm was specifically created to cause real damage to Iran’s nuclear program, in the year 2009. It ruined about 1/5th of Iran’s nuclear centrifuges making the machines spin out of control and tear themselves apart.
  4. Other scandalous viruses include Conficker Virus, agent.btz, Zeus, and WannaCry.

Hopefully, you weren’t affected by any of these, but perhaps you’ve had run-ins with less prolific viruses. In fact, it’s very possible that’s the case because a virus is essentially any type of malware. Malware (malicious software) is software written specifically to disable, damage, or harm computers and computer systems. Common malware types are the virus, adware, spyware, worms, trojan, and ransomware. A computer virus is a malware type that is capable of cloning or replicating itself by modifying or changing computer programs and spreads over the system, destroying and corrupting data and the computer system itself. And viruses have the destructive ability to delete and corrupt files and change the way your computer operates. Viruses are lethal! They can cause you thousands of dollars, if not millions, of damages.

How Can an Antivirus Program Protect Your Data?

Antivirus programs protect a computer system from cyber attacks and computer viruses while online. They’re made for data security scanning and detecting viruses from files and websites. Antivirus programs can be run automatically or manually, making sure there are no viruses lingering on your computer and data. But, antivirus programs also come with a price, and some of the most commonly used antiviruses are truly expensive. Considering that antivirus protection may not be enough to keep you away from harm, is it really worth it?

Rob Verger, assistant tech editor at PopSci said on his PopSci article that:
Your antivirus software is not enough. “Prevention is the main function of an antivirus software. Some antivirus program can delete downloaded viruses, but not necessarily all viruses as some are other types of malware as mentioned above (adware, spyware, worms, trojan, and ransomware). One needs to acquire a malware remover to work side by side with an antivirus software.”

Learning the common culprits of this destructive malware is the first step to achieving maximum security. Rick Broida, writer of CNET’s Cheapskate blog listed these as the two main culprits of malware:

  1. Unsafe Links Email is likely doing your business more harm than good. In emails, most of the time, we receive phishing emails with unsafe links. For example, the groundbreaking ILOVEYOU virus came from an email spread over to millions of people worldwide. Similarly, links are largely sent through emails and when people click on it, it can run an installation of malware/s to a computer.
  2. Spyware-infested downloads Websites offering free software downloads are rampant. And that’s where some malware are secretly hiding and some are confidently joining with other download buttons, confusing innocent visitors. Once you click on the fake download button, the malware is downloaded. And you know what happens next.

How To Secure Your Data Without Using Antivirus

  1. Use Dead Drop Software Because some of the malware come from unsafe links sent via email, minimize email use. Consider using a different messaging system that can protect you from online attacks and malware. Dead Drop Software is an online collaboration tool that allows for safe communication, secure file-sharing, and easy project collaboration. With Dead Drop, you’re hitting not just two birds, but three birds at the same time! This cloud-based software was built with bank-level security using data encryption for both data in transit and at rest within the platform. You would merely need an internet connection and a web browser to securely use the software. Plus, it comes with other amazing features such as tasks and project management, document management, team collaboration and so much more.
  2. Practice secure browsing habits Always be vigilant before you click anything online and practice secure browsing habits. There are available tools online that would allow you to mouseover the link first and see a preview of its content first before you go click and go to the website. There’s SearchPreview for Chrome users and HoverSee, to name a few. Or use an ad blocker, Adblock for example, for Chrome and Safari users. It blocks and prevents advertisements from showing up on any websites, thus protecting you from culprit #2. From Lifehacker:
    “Adblock Plus is one of the most robust browser extensions out there, and while its namesake is its most-used feature, it’s not just about blocking ads. In fact, you can do all sorts of things with it, including cleaning up Facebook’s interface and making sure websites aren’t tracking you.”
    Also, be careful what you download and never click a link or open an attachment from someone you don’t know and always have second thoughts before you download or click forwarded emails with attachments or links.
  3. Backup, backup, backup If you’re using Dead Drop Software, you probably won’t need data backup since the software does not have storage and bandwidth limits. Anyone with an account can post and share as many files as they want. Make sure to always backup your data in the cloud and locally.
  4. Up to date systems Updates on applications are mostly to fix bugs and for performance improvements. One way to keep safe is to maintain an up-to-date system by updating your applications, hardware, and software regularly. Danny Stieben, from MUO (Make Use Of) says:
    “The next step is to make sure that all your software, especially your browser, is up to date. Newer versions will fix security bugs that may be present in older versions, and updates could also bring support for new security technologies. That way, it will be much harder for a hacker or virus to exploit a security hole to compromise your system.”
  5. Create strong passwords Creating complex and strong passwords will not only help you secure your data but will also protect you from hackers. Also, do not reuse your passwords across different accounts. Once an account has been hacked, if you’re using the same or similar passwords for other accounts, the hacker can easily see a pattern and eventually hack your critical data. Gary Davis, a Chief Consumer Security Evangelist suggested this:
    “… check to see if your online accounts offer multi-factor authentication. This is when multiple pieces of information are required to verify your identity. So, to log into an account you may need to enter a code that is sent to your phone, as well as your password and passphrase.”
  6. firewallUse a firewall A firewall is a network security, categorized as either software and hardware, that protects and monitors outgoing and incoming network traffic establishing a wall or a barrier between trusted and unauthorized communication on computer hosts or networks. Other software firewalls are built-in in some operating systems. If you have a built-in firewall, make sure to always turn it on. However, if you don’t have one, you might want to consider buying a hardware firewall. It is wise to use a firewall to keep you invisible on the internet, blocking unauthorized communications from untrusted sources.
  7. Make sure to overwrite your deleted files Because data that is deleted from a computer isn’t ever technically gone forever, the best way to really ensure that your old data is gone forever is to overwrite it. Or if you’ve decided not to use the old hard drive and utilize other means of data backup instead, you may want to opt on totally destroying the device physically like using a chainsaw perhaps.
  8. Spread the news Teach and educate your employees about the suggested ways above. Data security cannot be achieved by only one person’s efforts, but everybody’s efforts. Educating your employees will not only protect your company from data breach and cyber attacks but will also build a team effort protection. Plus, a bit of education is always less expensive than paying for the repair of virus-infected systems.

Conclusion

Acquiring and using an antivirus software to secure your company data is never a bad option as it vastly reduces chances of suffering malware attacks. But, it is always wise and smart to be vigilant and incorporate using the tips above to get maximum data security even without using antivirus. So while the threat of viruses is about 100% likely to be an insufficient deterrent to keeping people from going online, it persists nonetheless. That’s why you’ll want to make sure you follow these tips, keep safe distance between your connected devices and bad actors, update all of your hardware and software, and most importantly, if you have questions about network security that you can’t answer internally, contact a Network Monitoring expert to see what your situation is and how to improve it.

What do you think? Do you feel secure using an antivirus program? Or are you not even using one at all? Let us know by joining the conversation on Twitter and Facebook, and make sure to stay tuned for more from the Partner Blog Series.

4 Tips on How to be a Work at Home Receptionist

work at home receptionistHome based receptionist jobs are on the rise thanks to the increase in hosted telecommunications that allow businesses to have employees who work remotely. How to land one of the virtual receptionist jobs from home isn’t as simple as knowing how to transfer calls, though. Being a work at home receptionist is about how to be the most efficient employee you can be and without allowing the many distractions that come from your home environment interfere with your productivity. That’s why we’ve tapped our massive amount of experience with remote workers, distributed workforces, and digital nomads to bring you these tips on how to land one of those coveted at home receptionist jobs.

How to Become a Work at Home Receptionist

We’ve been pioneering the technology that powers remote workers for over 20 years, so we’ve seen what does and doesn’t work for most companies when they try to hire for their at home receptionists. Also, because we’re huge advocates of work from home policies, we have the entirety of our workforce working all or part o the time from their homes, ourselves. It’s with these combined areas of expertise that we’re able to provide the following tips on how to be the most attractive candidate for your next at home receptionist job.

  • Ensure That You Can Maintain a Professional Image at Home One of the first things that gets lost in the mix when people consider working from home is that you still need to project professionalism for your employer. Being an at home receptionist often times includes video conferencing with inbound callers as well as fielding phone calls, so designing the ideal home office with a separate space that is conducive to healthy productivity is as important as not rolling out of bed and right into your desk chair.
  • Remember Business Telephone Etiquette Even if you design the ideal home office, an at home receptionist job can be difficult to keep the lines drawn between any commotion going on in the home and the conversations you’ll have with customers. Remember to keep the background noise to an absolute minimum and always follow these steps on good telephone etiquette to make sure you’re keeping your callers, and employers, happy.
  • Respect Your Working Hours Another way that some people can stumble in their search for the ideal at home receptionist job is by failing to respect the hours of operation. Though certainly some flexibility is afforded to at home workers, drawing and enforcing healthy boundaries about your working hours is just as important for at home employees as it is for those who visit an office everyday.
  • Ensure That Your Home Office Can Support Remote Work Honestly, most employers will provide the technical assistance necessary to establish the workstations for their at home receptionists, but it’s always good to review your own tech thresholds, too. Competing for an at home receptionist job won’t hinge on being able to say your home meets all the network requirements for VoIP, but it’s definitely going to make you an more attractive candidate.

Let Us Know How Your Search Goes

Hopefully these tips will help you land the at home receptionist job of your dreams, but they’ll make your remote work more productive and rewarding either way. Also, if you can think of any other essential tips for aspiring work from home receptionists to follow, let us know on Twitter or Facebook, and maybe we’ll include them in the next set of tips on how to be a work at home receptionist.

The Mexico City Earthquake and How to Help through Los Topos

mexico city earthquake los toposWe’ve all been reminded recently exactly how unpredictable life can be. The recent surge of hurricanes that have battered the Caribbean and United States is proof enough, but additional forest fires all over the Pacific Coast states and into Montana are stark reminders that even without low pressure systems, natural disasters can strike in an instant. Nowhere has that been made more apparent, however, than in the capital city of our neighbor to the south. Mexico City has been literally rocked to its core by a devastating 7.1 magnitude earthquake that hit the most populous metropolitan area on the continent on Tuesday. Now, with emergency crews scrambling to free survivors from tons of rubble, the world is looking on in anticipation and with a desire to find a way to help.

What Makes The Mexico City Earthquake So Significant

First, a little background on what makes this week’s earthquake so significant. Not only was the Richter Scale tipped on Tuesday so much as to cause such pervasive destruction, but the timing of this quake came at a particularly significant time, as well. The quake on September 19, 2017, came exactly 22 years to the day after the catastrophic tremor in 1985 that leveled Mexico City with an 8.0 on the Richter Scale. In the wake of that event, the city was ill-prepared with a formalized response to such widespread carnage. What they didn’t lack, however, was a willingness to act. Therefore, the minutes following the historic quake saw the almost immediate formation of a group of volunteers who began to unearth survivors and clear debris. This group, which is now known as Los Topos, was barely formed before it was dispatched to nearby El Salvador following an earthquake there. Since then, Los Topos have been fixtures all over the planet in helping emergency responses to all manner of natural disasters where there are massive impacts to infrastructure. And while the group has been instrumental in helping save countless lives the world over, they remain relatively unknown, even during this moment of their greatest need in the most auspicious of circumstances and setting; Mexico City on September the 19th. We’d like to help change that.

Los Topos, The Moles, To the Rescue

We’re typically quite deliberate in avoiding an overt endorsement one way or another on a lot of topics. There are some agendas, however, which we feel obligated to work towards advancing. From our philanthropic endeavors, to our focus on service, and commitment to personal wellness, we have no qualms with asserting some positions. We believe that supporting Los Topos in our neighbor’s time of need is one of those times. In the vacuum of more well-known agencies and NGO’s that we typically direct our donations and support to in times of domestic disasters, we’ve seen that many people want to help Mexico City but don’t know exactly how to do that. Therefore, we’ve pulled this information below on exactly how to donate to the rescue efforts of Los Topos.

Los Topos is a professional non-profit Mexican rescue team. They need our support more than ever. If you can spare a few extra dollars this week, please support them via the following methods:
From Mexico:
Bank: Santander Cuenta, #92-00070929-4
CLABE: 014180920007092942
Reference: Brigada de Rescate Topos Tlaltelolco, A.C.
From Anywhere Else:
Paypal: donativos@brigada-rescate-topos.org

No matter how much or little anyone gives to Los Topos, we believe it’s important that we recognize their efforts as they rush to save lives in their own backyard. For an organization that has given so much to so many around the globe, we are humbled to give our thoughts and prayers to them, the people of Mexico City, and anyone who has been affected by all of the recent natural disasters around the globe.

All New SIP Trunking From VirtualPBX Is Here

SIP TrunkingToday is a bit of a banner day for the foundations of the hosted telecommunications industry. That’s because just today we’ve launched an all-new SIP Trunking service as part of our overall lineup of hosted telecommunications options. The reason this may sound familiar to you is that we have always been in the game of delivering on both SIP and VoIP solutions for small businesses, but now we’ve made huge strides to be able to deliver a totally new, streamlined option to bring SIP Trunking to the modern era alongside all of our hosted communications offerings.

What is SIP Trunking?

I’m glad you asked! We’ve prepared a helpful rundown of exactly what our new service provides for anyone who has ever wondered what the difference between SIP Trunking and Hosted PBX service is. The main takeaway is that SIP Trunking is most useful for businesses that are still financially committed to a robust, on-site PBX and are looking for ways to both expand its functionality as well as trying to defray the costs of their parent system as much as possible. Without getting too much into the technical jargon of it all, SIP Trunking is a way to bridge the gap between an expensive legacy PBX and the flexibility of a cloud-based system. This is something we’ve been doing for ages already, so we know our way around the marriage of systems like this, but today marks something new for the SIP Trunks of yesteryear, too. With this new offering, we’ve modernized SIP Trunking to the exacting standards of our other clean, intuitive VoIP products and services.

Get Your SIP Trunks Now

We’ve always been proud to be the transparent option for you to modernize all of your communications to cleaner, more powerful, cloud-based solutions, and SIP Trunking is no different. Just because we’re changing how well SIP Trunks work for businesses, doesn’t mean we’re going to rewrite the rules on how we interact with our customers. Simply review the benefits of a SIP Trunking solution for your business here and you can sign up for a brief consultation with one of our SIP experts. The whole process generally just take a few minutes and then you’re well on your way to saving by switching to a hosted phone solution without throwing the baby out with the bathwater, either!

Thanks, also, to all of the businesspeople who contributed to the design and function of this new product by way of their participation with the VirtualPBX Product Roadmap. Without your valuable insight we wouldn’t be able to keep delivering such great products and services as easily as we do. You can participate yourself by heading to the VirtualPBX Product Roadmap or by pinging us on Twitter or Facebook, too. Either way, thanks again and we hope you love your new SIP Trunks!

What the NFL Can Teach Us About Cloud Communications

nfl cloud communicationsAre you ready for some football? For many, that question can elicit feelings of dread as they know they are about to lose their significant other for huge gaps of time each weekend. For others, the same question can trigger feelings of euphoria and sheer joy. Wherever you fall on the spectrum of reactions to the NFL regular season and its associated pageantry, pomp, and circumstance, there is an undeniable impact that the league has on Americans in general. This blog examines why that is and exactly how the NFL has come to be such a ubiquitous juggernaut in the collective American experience for the better part of five months. Spoiler alert, it has way more to do with cloud based communications than you think.

Four Downs, Zero Cables

The massive explosion of NFL games is measured in a lot of ways, most easily in the pervasive growth of the media footprint it occupies. Between the three major broadcast networks and ESPN, the total amount of investment to simply be allowed to cover NFL games was over $20 billion in 2016. This is just the cost for these companies to have the right to cover the games, that doesn’t include the massive costs associated with producing the game for broadcast. Like all investments, these huge amounts wouldn’t be shelled out if the promise of an equivalent return weren’t so likely. However, the huge infrastructure that typically has delivered sports media to throngs of eager crowds is no longer enough to get the largest audiences possible. Especially considering the mass exodus that viewers have been making from traditional media outlets in favor of cutting the cord and going with leaner media options.

Touchdown From Anywhere

More and more people are leaving traditional media outlets for cloud-based communications. That is evidenced by the fact that 40% of all businesses report a likely shift to VoIP over the next two years. We see this shift in the number of businesses that are also augmenting their existing communications networks with over-the-top applications. Additionally, the NFL recognizes this trend as being the reality moving forward for its fan base, as well, which is why it made massive investments into new, robust compression and streaming technology for its hundreds of millions of viewers each week. These are worthwhile investments, indeed, when you consider that the very first time the college football championships were decided by a four-team playoff, the only way to view that game was through a famously insufficient streaming service from ESPN that crashed repeatedly during its maiden voyage. With such huge dollar amounts on the line, clearly, the NFL recognizes they can’t afford to have the same problems. Nor should, in our humble opinion, any business be so blind to the trends that they miss the boat on the importance of cloud communications.

How to Enjoy Modern, Mobile Gridiron Mayhem

Ultimately, to enjoy the growing list of services, products, and entertainment streams that are becoming available over the internet, the most important variable to consider is the quality of your network connection. Just like the speed and agility of a wide receiver is rendered useless without a fast and accurate pass for him to catch, having a robust streaming platform is under utilized with a suboptimal internet connection (sorry, I couldn’t resist). The best way to ensure that your internet connection can handle your cloud communications needs is to conduct a thorough network health check that will assess the total capacity, use patterns, and thresholds of your overall networking behavior. And unlike a simple speed test that provides a simple snapshot of the bandwidth of a network, a health check will dig deeper to provide a more useful, holistic view of the health of your network. This is typically an invaluable tool for businesses looking to maximize the benefits of a cloud-based communication network, but it will also come in handy by allowing you to prioritize various types of use so that the important traffic goes through uninterrupted. I’ll leave it to you to decide if that traffic is for VoIP, or for the NFL streams. Either way, we hope you have a happy season opener tonight, whether you were aware of it or not!

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