Technology Advisor Blog

Google AutoDraw turns your scribbles into beautiful icons for free

Posted by Ann Westerheim on 5/23/17 4:21 PM

With Cybersecurity threats in the news with lots of technology gloom and doom, its fun to consider the light side of technology.  Google's latest Artificial Intelligence (A.I.) experiment turns your rough drawings and scribbles into beautiful icons with their new application AutoDraw.  

To test it out, I Laptop-Sketch.jpgtried to draw a laptop and it didn't look too good.  No problem, though, since the program almost instantly recognized my little sketch as a laptop and with the click of the mouse, I was able to get a great Laptop-Autodraw.jpglooking image.  


Wow!  this is fun.  

It works on your computer, phone or tablet, and uses Artificial Intelligence to guess a more polished version of your sketch.  The system learns and gets better each time a drawing is submitted.  The drawings shown here took me just seconds to create.

Check it out next time you have a few minutes!

Tags: computer graphics, fun tech

Employee Training - Protect Your Company From Ransomware

Posted by Ann Westerheim on 5/18/17 8:08 AM

Computer Training.jpgAs I am sure you have heard, this past weekend we experienced perhaps the most extensive cyber-attack yet seen, as computer networks globally, in over 100 countries including the US, were infected by the WannaCry Ransomware.  Hopefully, your company was able to avoid this infection, but don’t relax - additional waves of WannaCry are expected, followed by increasingly more sophisticated ransomware variants.  Ransomware has not only become an increasingly profitable activity, but provides a warped sense of technical accomplishment for the cybercriminals who successfully perpetrate it.  WannaCry is just the beginning, and ransomware infections will continue, becoming increasingly more dangerous and difficult to stop, at the extreme threatening the very survival of your business.  You must now take the steps to protect your business.

 While security technology will lessen the risk of ransomware infection or provide the ability to recover, there is no single technology product or combination of products available which will fully protect your business from all cyber threats.  The behavior of your employees represents your biggest vulnerability, and their actions will most likely be the cause of security problems and data breaches.  They must be trained to recognize and avoid the email phishing scams which will trigger ransomware infections and other cyber exploits, and in how to use your company computing resources and protect your valuable data in a secure fashion.

There are many great resources available to create "DIY" training for your employees, but this isn't enough and a more structured approach is needed.  All it takes in ONE employee to make a mistake, and this becomes your "weakest link".  Also, the Massachusetts Data Security Law and other industry-specific regulations require employee training.

We can provide your employees with the necessary security training, and reinforce it by testing their ability to recognize phishing emails, and providing continuous weekly reminders, monthly security newsletters, and a set of Security Policies and Procedures.  The value of this training and complementary security services to protect your organization from ransomware and other threats will far exceed your small investment in time and money.

 Please contact us at 978-692-4200 to arrange security training for all your employees for an affordable price – this can no longer be considered an optional service.  You don't need to be on a support plan with us to sign up for training.

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Tags: training, cybersecurity

WannaCry Ransomware - 4 things you need to know

Posted by Ann Westerheim on 5/15/17 2:00 PM

Ransomware.jpgA fast moving ransomware variant "WannaCry" has infected tens of thousands of computers in over 100 countries since Friday.  The attack even caused Britain's NHS to cancel surgeries and chemotherapy sessions and left ambulance service in disarray.  

Ransomware is a particularly bad type of virus that holds your data hostage.  A message appears on a user's screen to inform the user that they have been locked out of their files, and asks for ransom to recover files.  The United States Computer Emergency Response Team (US-CERT) issued a warning  about the attack and discourages users from paying the ransom as there is no guarantee that access will be restored.  

We may be lucky this time around since a lone British cybersecurity researcher surreptitiously discovered a kill switch when he analyzed the code.  This may have saved the world from an even more devastating attack.

What can you do to protect yourself and your network?

1.  Keep your security patches up to date.  If you're on a support plan with Ekaru, we actively test and deploy patches, and also actively monitor status.  PLEASE REBOOT SYSTEMS.  Many security patches are sequential and need reboots for the subsequent patches to install.  We can program scheduled reboots for you, but most users like to reboot at their convenience - but it needs to happen!  Never use software that is discontinued and no longer receiving security updates.

2.  Use Multiple Layers of security protection.  There is no such thing as 100% protection, but putting together multiple layers is like bulletproof glass.  Each layer alone (patches, antivirus, antimalware, firewall, etc) can't do it all, but TOGETHER, you have solid protection.  SMB budgets are tight, but this is an area where what you "save" will only cost you more if you ignore it.

3.  Make sure you have a reliable backup - "It won't happen to me" is NOT a viable strategy for protection.  All your important files need to be backed up with a business class backup.  Often users lose track of where they keep files.  Review your systems, and get serious about protection.  The money invested in a solid backup will seem like nothing when you're faced with having your files held hostage.

4.  For mission critical systems, engage a business continuity strategy.  Getting your files restored from backup can take considerable time.  With immediate failover, you'll reduce your downtime.  We advise all businesses to consider this BEFORE a crisis.  Ask us about our downtime cost calculator if you have concerns.

Bottom line:  These threats aren't new, and they are not going away!  As bad as these current threats are, at least when they hit the popular press, they get people's attention.   Hackers are using automated tools to initiate broad attacks, so no one can hide.  Stay alert and keep up to date!

Tags: cybersecurity, ransomware

Couple Lost Home over email Scam - What you need to know.

Posted by Ann Westerheim on 5/12/17 9:41 AM

Home for Sale.jpgBuying or selling a home can be a very stressful event, but with scammers on the sidelines, things can go to a whole new level.  This past year, Jon and Dorothy Little were all set to close on their new $200,000 home in North Carolina when their Realtor sent an email to the closing attorney asking for wiring instructions to send money to the escrow account prior to closing.  They received detailed instructions in reply, and promptly wired the funds.  At the closing, they were shocked to find that the money was missing.

It turns out that email scammers had infiltrated the process and set up fake wiring instructions to steal the money.  The fraudulent wiring instructions looked like the real thing, down to the firm's letterhead and the proper bank name - Bank of America.  Unbeknownst to all the parties involved, the funds were actually transferred to a Bank of America account controlled by a willing or unwitting "money mule" and the bulk of the funds (minus 10%) were then wired to another bank account at TD Bank.  Fortunately the FBI was able to freeze the funds as soon as it hit TD Bank.  Had the funds been transferred out of the country, they would be gone forever.

Even though authorities were alerted right away, the situation became complicated in that banks have an obligation to honor transfers to other banks, and even though the Littles were tricked, they were the ones who ordered the transfer.  For more details about this story and a more detailed legal analysis, read the article on  popular security site: Krebs on Security.

The FBI has been keeping a tally of the financial devastation resulting from wire fraud scams with a total of nearly $3.1 billing scammed from 22,000 victims.

The story has a mostly happy ending in that the Littles were able to recovery most of their money ($180,000), but they had to cancel the contract on their desired hom while the haggling between the banks lasted for over four months.

The moral of the story:  Verbally verify any wire transfer.  Never respond to an email with instructions.  Also, act quickly if a wire transfer feels suspicious or didn't go as planned.  The fast response by the Littles was probably the sole factor that enabled them to recover most of the funds.




Tags: Cybersecurity, email scams

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