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3 Significant Ways The Cloud Can Grow Your Business

Make Business Work in the CloudHas your business moved to the cloud yet? If not, you’ve got some work to do–it’s only a matter of time before the need for the cloud completely overshadows your organization. Thankfully, it’s only challenging to move to the cloud if you don’t have a group of professional IT technicians helping you.

Here are three ways that the cloud allows your business to do more with less.

Anywhere Access to Applications and Data
If your business is new to the process of cloud computing, one of the best ways you can realize its value is by virtualizing applications and providing access to them over an online environment. You may already be using cloud-based applications in the form of Microsoft Office 365 or Google Apps. These types of data storage and cloud solutions can help your employees stay productive from anywhere they have an Internet connection, which allows them to get more work done and improve efficiency.

You can also host other applications and solutions in the cloud, like a Voice over Internet Protocol system. It’s basically an online phone system, and some of the more dynamic VoIP systems have phone apps that allow your employees to use their company phone number on their smartphone.

Improved Budget
The cloud takes advantage of virtualized machines like servers and desktop infrastructures, which allow you to cut down on the amount of hardware stored on-site. The idea is to reduce workloads in-house and place these mission-critical services in the cloud, located in a virtual environment that can be scaled and managed online. This type of virtualization is important for limiting the amount of on-site technology that needs maintenance, which affords your business more opportunities for cost savings. Additionally, the fewer resource-intensive solutions you have in your office, the more you’ll save on energy bills like electricity and air conditioning.

Simplified Network with Room for Flexibility
A simplified network means that you’re hosting the bare minimum amount of hardware on-site, and that you’ve managed to virtualize the majority of solutions that your business relies on. For example, many businesses don’t take advantage of full-fledged workstations, and instead choose to use thin clients. Thin clients work by calling a desktop infrastructure from the virtualized server, as well as all of the necessary resources to function properly. Thin clients are less expensive and consume less energy, so they’re a viable alternative to the traditional workstation–when backed up by virtualization, of course. Furthermore, cloud-hosted solutions have the flexibility to change and adapt to your business’s specific needs. This helps by allowing you to allocate resources as they’re needed.

To implement a cloud solution that’s right for your business, reach out to Excalibur Technology at (877) NET – KING.

Access Old Clipboard Content With ClipDiary

Save to the clipboardThe Copy and Paste feature has long been a staple of computing, but it’s easy to lose something that may have once been stored on the clipboard. Most people who have used a PC understand this pain and will be happy to hear that recovering the lost “copy” might be easier than they thought. A third-party tool called ClipDiary allows users to retrieve information lost in this way, but without it, it’s notoriously difficult.

The Copy/Paste Conundrum
Let’s say that you copy some important text to your clipboard with the intention of using it somewhere–perhaps a username or password. You close the app containing this information and open the app that you need to enter it into, but then you get distracted by the Internet. Maybe it’s a cat video or a page of memes. Regardless of what it is, all you know is that you want to share it with the world via social media. You copy the URL of the page, and that’s when it hits you: you have copied over the information on the clipboard that you needed to use elsewhere.

Now you have to go back into the app you’ve already closed and copy the original information, or worse–completely rewrite the whole thing. Depending on your situation, you might realize that this is a bigger pain that it needs to be. Think about it like not saving the progress on a favorite video game, or forgetting to put a bookmark in a novel.

The unfortunate reality is that there isn’t a “secret” file within Windows that holds your copied content, so there’s no way by default for you to access any deleted copied content. Instead, you can install an app called a clipboard manager, like ClipDiary, which allows you to retrieve your copied content.

Introducing ClipDiary
If you’ve experienced the aforementioned Copy/Paste dilemma, or it’s a mistake that you can see yourself making in the future, try installing ClipDiary:

ClipDiary lets you dodge this bullet. Just enter the keystroke Ctrl+D to open ClipDiary. The app will display your clipboard history and allow you to copy items back to your clipboard.

The problem we explained in detail is just one of the ways which Copy/Paste woes can translate into missed productivity, and how ClipDiary can help. For some other similar tales, check out this blog from ClipDiary’s website:

ClipDiary also comes with some pretty useful features:

  • Insert saved data directly into any application
  • Fast copy data back to the clipboard
  • Paste text without formatting (as plain text)
  • Find data you once copied to the clipboard
  • View the list of clips in the clipboard history viewer window
  • Recover data accidentally replaced in the clipboard
  • Improve your productivity and save lots of time with the clipboard manager

If you choose to check out ClipDiary, let us know what you think. It might turn out to be the most useful tool you’ve never heard of.

What Volkswagen Is Doing To Prevent Hackers From Controlling Your Car

Volkswagon Protecting Cars From HackersToday’s cars are equipped with more complicated computer systems that allow users access to cutting-edge technology and services. Due to the increasing number of cyber attacks on computerized cars, Volkswagen has chosen to team up with three Israeli cybersecurity experts to equip advanced vehicles with the proper security solutions.

Ownership and investments made by both parties haven’t been made public yet, the new partnership has adopted the name Cymotive, and its goal is clear. Its chairman, Yuval Duskin, formerly sat at the helm of the Israeli Security Services, and said: “Together with Volkswagen we are building a top-notch team of cyber security experts. We are aware of the significant technological challenges that will face us in the next years in dealing with the cyber security threats facing the connected car and the development of the autonomous car.”

It’s dangerous to assume that a hacker can’t get to you in your own car. Bluetooth connectivity and computerized dashboards have given criminals brand new ways to infiltrate connected cars. Researchers have recently discovered a way for an intruder to hack into Volkswagen vehicles using nothing but an inexpensive radio kit. This flaw affects vehicles sold since 2000, so there’s huge potential for this to cause trouble for millions of owners.

Volkswagen is far from being the only car manufacturer that produces systems that are at risk. Check out this YouTube video where two seasoned hackers use a laptop to control a Jeep Cherokee. They connected the laptop to the controller area network (or CAN bus) and were able to take complete control of the vehicle’s brakes. While this is a local hack, it could very well become a threat that could be controlled remotely.

Though the video seems proof enough that this trend is a problem, upon submitting their findings to Fiat Chrysler Automobiles–the manufacturer of the Jeep brand–their findings were swiftly dismissed as invalid and inappropriate, claiming that sharing “how-to information” could put the public at risk. They further claimed that the attack required considerable technical knowledge to use, and that the flaws had already been addressed.

Granted, hackers are always trying to find new vulnerabilities and exploits to test their mettle against. Whether it’s a vehicle computer or a corporate workstation, you can bet that in the near future hackers will find ways to infiltrate and exploit them. This race won’t end anytime soon, so it looks like hackers and cyber security professionals will be trapped in an endless cycle of hack or be hacked.

Will your next automotive purchase include a computerized system, or would you rather keep it simple? Let us know in the comments.

Do Memes Have A Place In The Professional Business Environment?

Memes In The WorkplaceWhether we like it or not, memes have had a profound effect on how the world’s population views current events and popular culture. In part, this is thanks to the prevalence of the Internet, which has fostered these absurd images and provided them an outlet to flourish. Due to how viral they are, it would be foolish to dismiss them as inconsequential; in fact, when leveraged properly, memes can make a statement about your business and its specific brand.

The term “meme” is actually much different from what we’ve come to know over the past few years. Richard Dawkins, a British evolutionary biologist, coined the term in his 1976 book The Selfish Gene. Its official definition is “an idea, behavior, or style that spreads from person to person within a culture.” It was originally meant to discuss the way that ideas and values are passed on and adopted by people within a society. The evolutionary idea of a meme is based on sporadic and random change, but the Internet meme spreads in a much different way. Basically, what happens is that an Internet meme “hijacks” the original intended purpose of an image or video, and changes it to mean something else.

In other words, the Internet meme takes something popular that was originally used somewhere else, and transforms it. Many memes use images from popular culture. Take, for example, the “Futurama Fry” meme. It uses a funny picture of the show’s protagonist in deep thought, and uses it to explain a situation filled with confusion or indecision.

ib meme 1

Another classic example is the “Matrix Morpheus” meme, which places text over an image of Morpheus from The Matrix to describe a revelation. According to KnowYourMeme, this meme often “belittles futile or petty behavior.”

ib meme 2

Some memes are often funny simply because they aren’t funny. For example, the “Anti-Joke Chicken” explicitly aims to find humor out of something that’s honestly not all that funny. The beginning text often tells the beginning of a joke, but instead of a hilarious punchline, it regresses into an obvious statement–usually something that makes logical sense, or something unexpected.

ib meme 3

It’s funny because it’s not funny. Or, maybe it’s not funny at all. We’ll let you decide.

Making memes that you can use for your business is easy and free. In fact, it can even be fun, if you’re doing it right. There are plenty of meme generators online that you can use to make silly pictures. However, you should take these thoughts into consideration when making memes to either share on social media, or to send to your coworkers.

Stay Relevant to Your Goods or Services
If you want to use memes for your business, you need to first figure out what theme you want it to follow. It should be aligned with the services that you offer.

Use the Right Image
Once you’ve figured out the theme for your meme, you can proceed to find the right image for it. We recommend doing some research and looking at examples of previously existing memes, but be warned; the Internet has many memes, many of which may be offensive.

Keep the Audience in Mind
Your memes should appeal to your target audience, especially if that audience consists of young people that frequent the Internet.

Be Funny
At their very core, memes are meant to be funny and humorous. If they aren’t, you’re not doing it right.

Share it on Social Media
The point of a meme is to bring light-hearted attention to your brand and to be shared. You can do both by exposing it to many followers on social media.

For an example of how you might apply a meme to the real world, we’ve made this one using the “Disaster Girl” meme character:

ib meme 4

Two notes: 1) Get your point across by finding a meme character that’s relevant to your goods and services, and 2) Use a combination of humor and a call to action to inspire action from the viewer. If you found this on your social media news feed, would you laugh at it? We hope so.

So, have we managed to pique your interest in Internet memes? Let us know in the comments, and be sure to subscribe to our blog. Also, leave your favorite memes; we like a good laugh.

Take Commuting Out Of The Picture And Watch Productivity Soar!

Commuter Stuck In TrafficCommuting to and from the office is a regular occurrence all over the world. In the United States alone, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, the average commute for the everyday worker is around 25 minutes. Even if this commute is necessary, it could be holding your business back from achieving its full potential.

Think about it this way; if your employees are on the road for an hour every day, that’s an hour that’s not being used for work, and an hour that the employee doesn’t have to themselves. It effectively adds an hour to the workday, but it doesn’t benefit either your business or the employee. This knowledge can be disheartening, but there are plenty of other reasons why a commute can put a damper on your bottom line.

Commuting Eats Away At Your Energy
How much time do you spend sitting in traffic every day on the way to work? This can be exceptionally frustrating and rage-inducing if you live in a metropolitan area. Any positive energy that you had when you left for work in the morning is completely gone by the time you get to the office, and when you start the day on a bad note, it can only get worse. Plus, longer commutes can cause health problems due to increased stress.

Commuting Causes Exhaustion and Sleep Deprivation
Even if the average commute for the United States worker is about 25 minutes, what about those who are on the higher end of the spectrum? If you have workers commuting 45 minutes or more, they could be losing out on precious sleep. When your team isn’t well-rested, mistakes can be made, and on a long commute to the office, they could even be putting their lives at risk.

Some organizations believe that remote workers are a liability and that they cost more than they’re worth, but the reality of the situation is that remote workers aren’t costing you money, and they aren’t decreasing your bottom line. If anything, they’re helping your business; remote workers don’t use your technology or your electricity, which means that you don’t have to provide them with the hardware required for the job, and your energy costs decrease. In an interview with Inc, Sara Sutton Fell, CEO of the job platform Flexjobs, states that 47 percent of her workforce works remotely, and this has saved her organization around $78 million. Even if you’re a small business owner, you can benefit from immense cost savings associated with remote workers.

You have nothing to lose and everything to gain by allowing your team to work remotely. As long as you have the technology solutions to make it a productive environment, your workers and your business can flourish remotely. Not only will your employees be happier and healthier, but this improvement can lead to greater productivity and employee satisfaction that’s crucial to retain talent.

To get started with remote technology solutions, give Excalibur Technology a call at (877) NET – KING.

Alert: New ATM Scam Can Steal 32,000 Card Numbers Per Machine

ATM Scam Can Steal Your Card NumberBanks and companies that manage automated teller machines, better known as ATMs, have been warned against another method thieves have been utilizing to commit identity theft–by no less than the Secret Service.

Machines in Connecticut and Pennsylvania have been found to have periscope skimmer devices attached inside, especially in those machines with openable lids that provide relatively easy access to the inner workings. The device is placed in such a way as to allow the probe of the device to read the magnetic strip on the card as the machine’s user makes the mistake of utilizing that particular ATM.

Estimates place the device’s battery life at 14 days per charge, with enough storage to collect 32,000 card numbers. Fortunately, the device doesn’t seem to collect PIN numbers, but that is also unfortunate, as it indicates that these devices were possibly part of a practice run in preparation for a real robbery.

Despite the apparent lack of a PIN collection device on this version of the periscope skimmers, it is a good habit to cover the entry pad with your free hand as you input your number on most ATM devices, just in case the thieves have placed a hidden camera on the device, or accessed the native camera, which can capture your credentials as you type.

The new use of chip-based cards won’t help you much, either, as many ATMs still require the magnetic strip in order to accept the card as legitimate.

Unfortunately, as these skimmers are placed internally, there isn’t much of a method of identifying these devices by sight. The best advice to protect yourself from these scams, therefore, is to think a bit like a criminal trying to place a device. Is the ATM in a busy place with lots of potential eyes on it, or is it set aside, secluded and solitary? Is the top accessible, allowing for a cybercriminal to access the machine’s inner workings through the lid? Be on the lookout for all of these suspicious traits.

As a precaution, do your best to utilize ATMs in high-traffic areas, with plenty of eyes around as to serve as witnesses for as many hours of the day as possible. Also, avoid ATMs where the body of the machine may be accessed easily, and use those that are embedded in a wall as often as possible. Those well-lit ATMs that are embedded in the walls of banking institutions are the ideal ones to use, as the high surveillance banks utilize will protect the machine (already well-defended on three sides by the building’s construction) from tampering, as well as you from a cash-machine mugging attempt. Plus, most ATMs also have a built-in camera.

Of course, if dealing with finances pertaining to your business, it may be most advisable to utilize the tellers that aren’t automated, or to handle your banking online behind the online protections that Excalibur Technology can put in place for your business.

Call (877) NET – KING to discuss the security improvements that we can provide.

How Virtual Reality Could Help Paraplegics Walk Again

Helping People Walk AgainVirtual reality is a major contender for the next big technology to hit the business industry, and it’s been able to accomplish what modern neuroscience could not. In the medical sector, virtual reality has been tested on paraplegic patients in attempts to help them walk again using brain-controlled robotic limbs. However, these innovations have yielded unexpected, astounding results.

The project, called the Walk Again Project, was first introduced in 2013. Scientists from all over the world have gathered to help paraplegics walk again through the power of technology. The study examined eight patients who had been diagnosed as being entirely paraplegic; as in, they can’t move or feel their legs at all. The project involved several simulations that featured the use of a haptic feedback device, which issued sensory feedback to the patient when their thoughts translated to movement.

The first experiment they performed consisted of using a brain-machine interface therapy combined with virtual reality. The patient wore a device that sent brain signals directly to an Oculus Rift (a commercial VR headset). On the device, the patient would see themselves walking. The other type of therapy used involved a robotic walker to assist with walking therapy. The patient was suspended over a treadmill while their legs were controlled by the robot. This activity was sent to a computer where the data could be analyzed.

The most interesting method of therapy involved the use of robotic legs to send brain signals directly back to the patient. The legs utilized electronic sensors that were placed at key locations along the leg. These sensors sent signals to the patient and offered stimulation to the user whenever their legs were supposed to be moving.

Thanks to the ongoing brain machine interface therapy, the patients found that they could sometimes feel–or even move–their paralyzed limbs. In particular, the treatment improved bladder and bowel function, which is a significant first step toward providing some semblance of autonomy back to those who suffer from paraplegia. The treatments were so successful that in many cases the doctors changed their diagnoses to only partial paralysis.

Though scientists still aren’t sure what has caused this development, it’s thought that it could be the first step toward discovering a way to completely restore mobility to those who suffer from paraplegia. Technology has given these victims a second chance, and it’s one that can (hopefully) improve their lives.

What do you think about this development? Let us know in the comments, and be sure to subscribe to our blog.

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.

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