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Will Your Website Be Hacked Next?

website-infection-graphAt Excalibur Technology we design, host, update and secure websites.  We constantly stress to our clients the importance of keeping their websites up to date in the following ways:

  • Ensure that your CMS (content management system) is running on the latest version
  • Ensure that your website software and plug-ins are running on the latest version
  • Ensure that your website database is running of the latest version
  • Update the code that runs your website and bring it up to today’s coding standards
  • Run a thorough security scan against your website to test for weakness and vulnerabilities

Ensuring that your website is updated and secure will help protect both you and your clients that are visiting your site.  Imagine if a customer goes to your site expecting to find information about your company or services and instead they are confronted by the latest malware or virus because your site was hacked without your knowing and compromised to deliver malicious code!  You probably will never earn any further business from that client.

Check out this article from the folks at Security Affairs.  Their study shows that many sites out there are infected with dangerous code.  The number one cause of these infections?  Outdated software, especially CMS systems.  Read the entire article by CLICKING HERE.

We strongly urge you to participate in our Web SSA (Simple Service Agreement) that provides monthly review and updates to your web systems by professional programmers.  This will help ensure that your site and your customers stay safe!  It can also help ensure that your website content remains fresh and relevant!  Call one of our Technology Consultant today at 877-NET-KING for additional details about this important service.


5 Steps You Can Take to Foil the Plans of Hackers

Maximum Security For Your NetworkHackers have the ability to cripple systems and steal important (or sensitive) data, and if you’re not careful your business could become their latest victim. Here are five ways that you can make it more difficult for hackers to infiltrate your systems and steal your data.

Protect Important Security Credentials
Hackers naturally target the credentials of important figures within an organization. This could entail stealing the usernames or passwords from someone who has access to crucial, mission-critical information, like the administrator of your IT department or your business’s C-Suite staff. Therefore, it’s important that you ensure these credentials are protected by encryption, and that they’re as long and complex as possible. If you store them anywhere, it should be in an encrypted password manager, where only they can access them.

Restrict Admin Access
Similar to the above point, you want to restrict access to certain locations of your network on a per-user basis. This means keeping the average joe from peeking at information like financial credentials and personally identifiable information, among other things. The fewer people who have access to important information, the less likely it is that this data can be stolen. Therefore, your users should have access to only information that they need to do their jobs properly, and nothing more.

Augment Password Security with Best Practices
If you’re using a password manager, you can implement all sorts of password best practices to further augment your organization’s security. For one, password managers make it so that you can feasibly use different complex passwords for every single one of your online accounts. This is important, seeing how long, complex passwords that utilize upper and lower-case letters, numbers, and symbols are very difficult to remember on their own.

Cut Down on Shadow IT
Hackers love to take advantage of forgotten-about technology solutions to infiltrate networks. While you might be patching all of your organization’s crucial software solutions, you might be neglecting that open source word processor that an employee downloaded one day. You should emphasize to your team that if they need a solution to do their job properly, they should go through the proper channels (like through IT or management) before implementing an unapproved solution.

Train Your Staff on IT Best Practices
While it’s helpful that you understand IT best practices, this can only get you so far. You should make IT security a part of company culture by thoroughly educating your staff on how to stay safe online. Teach them what to do if they suspect that they’ve been hacked, and help them avoid dangerous threats, including malicious links, spam phishing attacks, and unsolicited email attachments.

To learn more about cyber security, reach out to Excalibur Technology at (877) NET – KING.


According to FBI Director, Privacy is a Misnomer

There Is No Privacy In CyberspaceThere’s an ongoing debate concerning whether the United States Constitution gives the American government the right to access data held on electronic devices by its citizens. In case they didn’t make themselves heard clearly enough, the director of the FBI, James Comey, has released a statement at Symantec’s Annual Government Symposium. You might not like his answer.

Do you remember the controversy concerning Apple and the FBI? It was a case that swept the country and encroached on unprecedented ground. The FBI demanded that Apple release information on how to unlock an encrypted iPhone that was connected to a terrorist attack, but Apple chose to vehemently refuse the FBI, stating that it would be endangering the entirety of their consumer base by doing so. The FBI threatened Apple with lawsuit after lawsuit, but in the end they were able to unlock the device without Apple’s help.

The popular trend of providing mobile devices with encryption has led to increased complications during investigations, and Comey chose to clarify the Bureau’s stance on the privacy of the typical American citizen. While there has to be a reasonable expectation of privacy in houses, vehicles, and even mobile devices, Comey claims that these expectations can reasonably be revoked in a court of law. He says: “With good reason, the people of the United States–through judges and law enforcement–can invade our public spaces.”

This statement prompts yet another question: how does a personal device qualify as a public space? According to Comey, a mobile device actually can be considered a public space: “Even our memories are not absolutely private in the United States,” Comey said. “Even our communications with our spouses, with our lawyers, with our clergy, with our medical professionals are not absolutely private. Because a judge, under certain circumstances, can order all of us to testify about what we saw, remembered, or heard. There are really important constraints on that. But the general principle is one that we’ve always accepted in the United States and has been at the core of our country: There is no such thing as absolute privacy in America. There is no place outside of judicial authority.”

Additionally, Comey made sure to point out that the FBI has no business telling American citizens how to live and govern themselves, and that the tech companies don’t either. You might recall the open letter that many tech companies addressed to the the FBI last April, demanding that the government cease issuing mandates that would require tech companies to provide encryption keys for their software.

It’s natural that these Silicon Valley giants don’t agree with Comey. In fact, there are even those amongst his peers who don’t believe he’s right on the matter. Nuala O’Connor, the President and CEO of the Center for Democracy & Technology, as well as the first Federal chief Privacy Officer for Homeland Security, is one of them. She says, “He could not be more wrong on encryption.”

O’Connor is hardly the only one of his contemporaries who disagree with Comey. Two other notable former government officials had something to say about the FBI’s stance on encryption, and they both spoke at the RSA Cybersecurity Conference. Former Department of Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff claims that forcing Apple to provide software that can hack into an encrypted iPhone would be like “creating a bacterial biological weapon.” Similarly, Mike McConnell, a former Director of National Intelligence, claimed that “ubiquitous encryption is something the nation needs to have.”

This isn’t a problem that only technology companies have to deal with. It’s something that all users of smart technology (and most technology in general) have to endure. After all, any rulings in favor of the FBI’s stance could be detrimental to user privacy. For example, in the case of Apple creating a software that can crack their iPhone’s encryption, what would happen if this software were stolen and exploited by hackers? It would become a major problem, just like the NSA’s surveillance vulnerabilities that were stolen and sold on the Black Market just this past summer.

In light of Comey’s response, what are your thoughts on the FBI’s stance on encryption? Do you think that government agencies have the right to access devices, despite invading the privacy of its citizens? Do you think that this “greater good” argument holds water? Share your thoughts in the comments.


How One Major Government Department Is Revamping Its IT Infrastructure

Government Revamps IT InfrastructureAfter implementing their current infrastructure for almost a decade, the U.S. Department of Education have plans to upgrade, directing their attention toward ensuring that the new initiative keeps mobile capabilities as a high priority.

The current infrastructure, EDUCATE (Education Department Utility for Communications, Applications, and Technology Environment) was the first to move away from an IT environment owned by the government and operated by contractors, to one that’s owned and operated as a service by the contractor–in this case, Perot Systems.

Perot won the contract bid in 2007 for $400 million, and has since provided comprehensive managed service solutions to the Department of Education. Now, however, the Department is ready for a change.

Jason Gray, Chief Information Officer for the Education Department, cited the numerous changes made to IT technologies and capabilities since EDUCATE was implemented in 2007 (when he announced that there was interest for new proposals), as well as changes to goals shared the Department of Education.

The objectives of the new infrastructure, dubbed PIVOT, or the Portfolio of Integrated Value-Oriented Technology, were described in a request for information (RFI) distributed to potential providers. The new infrastructure should, according to the RFI, encourage innovation, optimize the cost to benefit ratio, and show flexibility to make integrating changes in requirements simple. As part of the new initiative, each aspect of the infrastructure (like oversight, hosting data, printing, network services, technical management and integration, and mobile services) will have its own contract written up.

Most of all, however, the Department of Education wants to focus on the mobile capabilities of their solutions. The RFI predicts a shift from a permanently established office space to an increased utilization of teleworking and hoteling (where workers gather temporarily in a shared space) as a result of the National Strategy for Reducing the Federal Government’s Real Estate Footprint. This would cause a shift of over 6,200 users away from an office environment, certainly achieving the objective of the National Strategy.

Migrating technology into a new workspace or implementing mobile and teleworking solutions clearly takes considerable planning, and in such cases, it’s best to consult with an expert in the field. Excalibur Technology has the experience necessary to ensure that your IT initiative goes off without a hitch, and that your solutions are optimized for maximum performance. Give Excalibur Technology a call today to see what we can do for your solutions for a lot less than $400 million.


Use Android Doze to Help Save Battery Power

Android Doze Helps Save BatteryHow often have you grumbled as you’ve reached for a charger at 2 in the afternoon as your smartphone clings to its last moments of life? If you’re anything like the typical user, quite often, but Android has attempted to reduce that number with the Android Doze feature.

Doze accomplishes this by disabling an application feature known as a wakelock. These wakelocks keep the device from entering its energy-conserving deep sleep mode, as deep sleep can interfere with some applications and functions.

While wakelock was originally intended to allow fitness trackers and similar applications to continue functioning with the screen deactivated, app developers began to apply wakelock to all of their applications, whether they needed it or not. This is precisely the reason that many apps are notorious for being battery-killers–we’re looking at you, Facebook.

So, the useful functionality of wakelock was spoiled by these app developers, essentially eliminating the power-saving capabilities of deep sleep mode. However, the implementation of Doze looks to fix all of that. By disabling wakelocks and network access after the phone hasn’t been used in a while, Doze prevents applications from pointlessly draining energy while still allowing these apps to update during periodic “maintenance windows.”

Android has even enabled users to customize their Doze settings, so that a user can dictate which apps are affected by the feature. To access this customization:

  • Open Settings.
  • Navigate to Battery.
  • Select Battery optimization from the Menu button.
  • Select All apps from the top-of-screen drop-down menu.

Doze will automatically set almost all of your applications to optimize your battery by default. If there is an app, however, that you need to have connected, you can always switch the setting to Don’t optimize for that app in particular.

Doze even has third-party apps designed to customize its functionality even further. With apps like Doze Settings Editor, a user is able to set Doze to turn off when a phone moves a certain distance–but only if the phone is running Android Marshmallow.

With all of this additional battery life available, do you think you’ll ever have to worry about missing an important call or notification? Let us know in the comments.


Latest Windows 10 Update Has Kindle Users Feeling Blue… Screen of Death

Windows 10 Blue Screen of DeathHave you have recently plugged in your Kindle and received a blue screen of death? Many Kindle users have found that Windows 10’s anniversary update is creating an issue in the way that Kindle transfers books and charges via a USB connection. Some users are reporting that connecting a Kindle to a Windows 10 device will cause the device to lock up and display Windows’ infamous blue error screen before rebooting.

Users who have experienced this issue have taken to the Microsoft support forums hoping to find a way to resolve this issue. Unfortunately, what happens seems to vary by the user–some claim that the problem is rooted in the anniversary update, while others seem to think that it’s due to the pre-release software testing service Microsoft Insider.

The fallout of the issue also seems to vary. Some reports claim that the device can be restored to normal functionality after the reboot, but the problem comes up again with the next reboot. Some users have found that leaving their devices asleep as they plug in their Kindle can prevent the error from happening. Yet, even this doesn’t prevent the crashing, as many users report that the issue happens regardless of what they do.

All of these issues are in response to what users did to troubleshoot their own individual problems, yet nothing that they did could resolve them, despite elements like the USB cable being used as variables.

Worse yet, this isn’t the first problem that Microsoft has had to deal with since they released Windows 10’s anniversary update. While the update brought an enhanced usability and interesting new features, it also brought a bug that has led to some Windows 10 users being unable to use their webcams.

So far, neither of these issues have been resolved, though Microsoft claims that the webcam fixes will be available in September. In regards to the Kindle issue, there have been no hints as to how long these issues will persist. Kindle users may have to avoid causing the blue screen error in the first place, and tolerate the problems until the official fix is issued.

For the latest tech news and tricks, subscribe to our blog.  For immediate help with any of your technology concerns or needs, call one of our friendly Technology Consultants at 877-NET-KING.


4 Reasons Why You Should Quit Stressing Out About Stress

Stop Stessing Out About StressStress is a natural part of the workplace. It’s almost impossible to make it through the workday without getting stressed out about at least one thing or another, especially when you’re a business owner. In these stress-filled circumstances, it’s important to remember that stress isn’t always a bad thing; it has some redeeming factors that are often lost amongst the cacophony of shuffling papers and constant phone calls.

However, this needs to be mentioned before anything else; stress created for the sole purpose of being stressed cannot possibly become a good motivator. Inc states that “stress that comes from not having enough information or that’s based on an irrational fear is a poor motivator.” Therefore, it makes the most sense to keep stress to a minimum whenever possible, as there’s no good reason to be stressed out all of the time. Remember, stress without control can be dangerous, and you can’t let it take over your life.

That being said, there are some benefits to be gained from the occasional bout of stress. Here are four of them.

Stress Provides a Much-Needed Energy Boost
We often think of stress as a draining factor that can sap energy right out of you, but it’s hard to argue that a sense of urgency comes from being in conflict with something or another. You’ll notice that you’re more aware of your surroundings, and you actually have the energy required to complete your work.

Stress Proves that You Do, In Fact, Care About the Project
If you’re stressed out about a certain project, at first you might hate yourself for it. You might fool yourself into thinking that you don’t care how it turns out, and that you just want to get it done. This is actually the opposite of what’s really happening. If you’re stressing about the project, you care about its outcome. Otherwise, why would you be stressed? Make this connection yourself and you can harness the frustration and channel it into energy.

Stress Teaches You to Enjoy the Times You’re Not Stressed
Imagine working outside in absurdly hot weather, under incredible physical duress and on an empty stomach. You then walk into an air-conditioned home with a delicious meal waiting for you on the dinner table. Working with stress can be absolutely awful, but it will teach you to enjoy the little things in life that much more.

Stress Inspires Quick Action
Stress is something that literally nobody wants to deal with, so naturally, people will move toward a solution in order to absolve themselves of the pain it brings. This doesn’t mean that you should make stress to create that sense of urgency; rather, you should think of the stress as an unfortunate advantage, like falling out of an airplane and into a giant pit of pillows.

Despite its advantages, stress is still something that must be properly managed if you want your team to succeed in their endeavors. One of the main reasons why employees might be stressed in the workplace is thanks to using outdated or dysfunctional hardware and software solutions. Think about it; if you weren’t able to work in multiple browser tabs at once, or open your mission-critical apps, you would probably be in a tight spot, and may actually begin to feel stress.

Excalibur Technology’s managed IT services can make it so that you never have to feel stressed about your technology or IT budget ever again. To learn more, reach out to us at (877) NET – KING.


3 Expert-Level Search Tips To Help You Find Exactly What You’re Looking For

Expert Google Search TipsThese days, being able to find the exact information you need online is a valuable skill. However, sometimes a website’s search capabilities aren’t robust enough to be of much use. For this week’s tip, we’ll show you how to combine a website search feature with your browser’s search tool so you can easily find exactly what you’re looking for.

To begin, let’s go over one of the most valuable tools for online searching, quotation marks. If you need to locate a specific phrase, then enter it into a search engine like Google Search and bookend the phrase with quotation marks. Google will then show you results meeting your criteria exactly, word for word, instead of giving you a bunch of random results pertaining to each individual word of the phrase (which would be the case if you didn’t use quotation marks).

While using a major search engine like Google Search to find what you’re looking for is one thing, using the search feature of an individual website is completely another. For example, not every website allows you to use quotation marks to narrow down a search within its pages.

If you run into this problem, try instead using the website’s search feature to look for one of the two keywords, like “email,” and then use your browser’s search function to search for a second keyword, “hosting.”

To access your browser’s search function, simply select Ctrl+F. A drop down menu will then appear where you can enter the second word you’re looking for. Next, hit Enter and the browser will automatically highlight every instance of the second word you’re looking for that’s located on the open webpage.

When these two searches combine, you’ll essentially be able to weed through all the irrelevant search results provided by the website and use your browser to find exactly what it is you’re looking for.

Another Way to Search: One way that you can skip having to use a website’s search tool altogether (and keep in mind that not every website offers a search tool) is to search the content of an individual website using Google Search.

To do this, type into the Google Search form “site:” followed by the website URL, minus the “http://” and the “www.” Following this entry, add what it is you’re searching for. So the form should read something like this:

site:website.com email hosting

Add Quotation Marks: To help narrow down your search even further, Google allows you to search individual websites this way and use quotation marks so you can find an exact phrase. For example, site:website.com “email hosting” will provide much more specific results than site:website.com email hosting.

Ultimately, utilizing Google this way may be more effective than combining the website search and your browser search as previously suggested. Although, you’ll still want to keep this double search tip in mind for when you do use a website’s search tool and find that it’s not working for you. Also, keep in mind that not every website makes its content available to Google Search; using a website’s search tool for a site like this will yield results that Google won’t.

If you’ve found this tip helpful, let us know in the comments and check back with Excalibur Technology’s blog every week for more great tips!


According To Hackers, Windows 10 Security Passes The Test

Hackers Hate Windows 10Windows is perhaps the most common workplace computing tool, and hackers have been trying for decades to uncover holes in its security. In some cases, like with unsupported operating systems, they’ve succeeded. However, Microsoft’s latest addition to their OS family, Windows 10, seems to have exceptionally potent built-in security measures, many of which have the hackers at the Black Hat conference scratching their heads and scrambling to find threats to talk about.

During Black Hat, the annual hacker convention in held in Las Vegas, Windows 10 was lauded as perhaps the most secure Windows operating system in decades. It was agreed that Windows 10 is much more difficult to break into than its older brethren, but like any software, nothing is impossible with enough funding and research. The Black Hat presenters discussed potential ways that Windows 10 could be hacked, and how Windows 10 makes it more difficult for attackers to breach its systems.

Windows 10 Uses Built-In Anti-Malware Tools
Windows 10 has what’s called the Antimalware Scan Interface (AMSI), which is designed to identify and capture malicious scripts in its memory. Your applications can access the information stored in the AMSI, and can use it to protect your systems. For example, Windows Defender and AVG use AMSI. The primary reason why the AMSI is a huge problem for hackers is because most of their attacks utilize some sort of script. Of course, the AMSI is a valuable tool, but it still needs secondary security protocol (like antivirus or remote monitoring and maintenance) to keep your network safe. While it’s great for detecting scripts executed in PowerShell (since PowerShell records logs), it still requires someone to regularly monitor the logs in order for it to be most effective.

Active DirectoryActive Directory has long been a critical part of how Windows administration works, and recent innovations have allowed for the management of workloads through the cloud and identity and authentication management on in-house networks. Microsoft Azure puts Active Directory to good use, allowing for quality security for any Azure-based cloud platform. The problem with AD, though, is that any user account can access it unless the administrator has limited these permissions. Your IT administrators need to restrict access to AD and control authentication procedures for it.

Virtualization
Virtualization-based security features a set of protocols that are built into the hypervisor of your Windows 10 OS. Basically, Hyper-V can create a virtual machine that stands separate from the root partition. This machine can then execute security commands as needed. Hyper-V creates a machine that can’t be compromised, even in the face of hacking attacks that target the root partition. It’s a way to minimize the damage done by data breaches, but it only works if the credentials aren’t found in the root partition. IT administrators, therefore, need to ensure that these systems cannot be compromised.

Eventually, there may come a day when Windows 10 experiences a dangerous flaw that’s exploited in the wild. Hackers are always trying to undermine security measures, but Microsoft engages these attacks with patches of their own, so it’s an endless cycle. Hackers will inevitably find ways to crack Windows 10’s innate security, so it’s your responsibility to complement your OS’s security with your own solutions.

To secure your business’s devices, reach out to us at (877) NET – KING.


Hardware Management Is Difficult – Here’s How To Do IT Right

Hardware Management How To Do It RightYour business relies on intensive and expensive technology solutions, which are designed to keep your staff productive and provide them with the tools they need to perform their daily duties. Yet, small organizations often run into trouble when managing their mission-critical hardware systems. How does your business maintain its technology? Chances are that there’s a better way to do it, and it all starts with managed services.

Consider this scenario: Your server is experiencing technical difficulties, but you don’t suspect that it’s a major issue. The problem persists, but eventually, the symptoms escalate, and you’re left with a slow, dogged piece of hardware that’s holding your business back. Just when you get the idea that you need to upgrade to a new server, the old one crashes, and all of your data is lost. Now what?

Depending on how much data was stored on the server, you’ll be in varied degrees of trouble. If your entire infrastructure was stored on it, it’s safe to say that the data is likely gone, and it will be difficult, if not impossible, to restore it. This means that your business will lose client data, contact information, employee records, and other important documents and information. In most cases, businesses that cannot recover their data will go out of business within one year of the data loss incident.

Plus, even if you can get back on your feet, you’ll have to collect all of your data, explain the circumstances to your clients, and hope that they still see you as a reliable business worthy of their patronage. After you carelessly lost their data, what do you think the odds of that are? We’re willing to bet that you’ll see at least some budget problems due to replacing hardware solutions and losing customers. Combined with the frustrations of downtime and productivity loss, it’s enough to dig even the most reputable enterprise’s grave.

The solution is to take care of your hardware and resolve issues before they can become major problems, but the small or medium-sized business may not be able to identify these subtle changes in operation. Managing hardware takes time, which is a rarity amongst business owners and organizations that don’t have internal IT departments. Furthermore, it requires an expertise that not many people, besides trained technicians, can muster.

The solution, therefore, should be to find an outsourced provider for your hardware maintenance and management; one that’s competent and conscious of your business’s specific needs and goals. You want them to be able to remotely monitor and maintain your systems, and to limit on-site visits whenever possible. You want to keep issues from becoming major problems, and you want to do it without breaking your budget.

Ordinarily, you’d be asking the impossible; but we’re not just any old service provider.

You don’t want to go with any typical break-fix IT service provider. All they will do is bleed your business dry and welcome any problems that are associated with your organization’s technology. You need assistance from a provider that’s ready and willing to help you save time and money – one that considers your success, its own success. You want an organization like Excalibur Technology by your side.

For more information about how we can help your business protect its data, call us today at (877) NET – KING.



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