Technology Advisor Blog

The Psychology of Passwords - Are your Passwords Secure?

Posted by Ann Westerheim on 6/26/20 11:49 AM

Password Psychology

We all know what we "should" do about passwords, but reality is quite a bit different as a recent report by LogMeIn shows, in collaboration with the National Cybersecurity Alliance.  At Ekaru we're on a mission to help Small Businesses stay strong in the face of cyber threats.  The more you know about the threats you face, the better your chances of keeping your data safe an your name out of the headlines.

As more and more people work and socialize exclusively online, protecting your digital identity is more important than ever. Most people believe they are knowledgeable about the risks of poor password security; however, they're not using that knowledge to protect themselves from cyber threats.  Good password hygiene is one of the most important steps you can take to secure your data.  

Gerald Beuchalt of LogMeIn and Dan Eliot of the National Cybersecurity Alliance put together a great program this week on the Psychology of Passwords and here are some of the key take away's.  Many in our community will recognize Dan from our in-person lunch and learn event several months ago.

  • 91% of computer users know that using the same or variation of a password is a risk, but 66% do it anyway.
  • 54% of computer users try to keep track of passwords by memorizing them and its not working.  24% of them need to reset passwords monthly after forgetting.
  • The old advice of 8 characters for a strong password is out of date - the longer the better and eight is not enough.
  • 52% of computer users haven't changed their password in a year even after learning of a breach!
  • Don't re-use passwords.  Keep in mind that hackers can use "credential stuffing" to try to use your password at all the other sites you may use it.  Don't re-use passwords.  With automated tools, now starting to be powered by AI, this is a quick task!
  • Use MFA - Multi Factor Authentication - whenever available.  Yes, it can be an inconvenience, but you will drastically increase your security with this simple step.

One question we hear a lot came up during the presentation. Is it okay to store passwords on paper stored in a secure location?  It is possible to very safely store the paper, but it's important to consider Protection vs Availability.  When we see users doing this, typically they end up keeping the paper with them, making it a lot less secure.

Also, the typical 90-day forced password reset policy actually can make passwords less secure.  Why?  Users will fear forgetting their password and will quickly take on some other bad habits like writing them down, re-using passwords, or creating passwords that are too simple.  The current advice is to keep a password that's strong until you have reason to change it (like a publicized breach). 

What can you do?  Educate your team.  Talk about security during your staff meetings and make sure everyone is on board.  Help create a culture of security in your organization.  You can get fancier with a formal training program, but even just a conversation will help.   Using a password manager like LastPass helps solve a lot of problems around keeping passwords strong and secure, but daily behavior improvements can go a long way.

Contact us at 978-692-4200 if you'd like a demo of LastPass or want to learn more

Also, here's a link to the video, report, and infographic from the National Cybersecurity Alliance:   View the Video and Get the Report

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Tags: small business, password, cybersecurity, work from home

Reopening the Workplace After COVID-19:  A Checklist for Businesses

Posted by Ann Westerheim on 6/15/20 3:52 PM

Reopening the Workplace after COVID-19

As countries, states, and cities begin to ease lock-down restrictions, this checklist for reopening businesses can help you jump-start your return.

You and your employees have been quarantined for the past few months at this point, and now authorities are looking to lift restrictions and open up.  Here is Massachusetts we're already on "Phase 2".  With no vaccine, universally effective treatment, or significant immunity, we will still face nervous times, but things are starting to be a bit more "normal".

Now is the time to prepare.  There are so many areas to consider:  people, workplace, technology, and your customers.  With proper preparation, you can alleviate many concerns for your employees enabling them to focus on work, not the global crisis. 

Here are a few highlights, and at the bottom of the page you can download the entire checklist.

People:

  • Over communicate to your staff about returning to the workplace.  Make sure they understand what precautions you have taken and assure them they can return safely.
  • Establish an ongoing Work From Home (WFH) policy.  This will help the workplace from getting too crowded, and will accommodate those who can't quickly return.  

Workplace:

  • Establish guidelines for any visitors for entering your establishment.  Post the guidelines to ensure visitors understand and comply
  • Remind your employees of the recommended social distancing guidelines.  Place posters in your workplace to remind employees to stay diligent.  It's human nature to want to be connected with co-workers, but don't get complacent to safety guidelines.

Technology:

  • Schedule a meeting with your IT team.  Schedule a time to review all IT related matters and cybersecurity.  Cybersecurity threats increased dramatically over the past few months as workers were displaced.  It takes just one bad click to potentially put a business out of business.  
  • Evaluate any new technology deployed during the crisis.  What worked?  What didn't work?  What do you want to permanently deploy?

Your Customers:

  • Maintain an open line of communication with your customers.  Create a stream of communications to ensure you address their questions, comments, and concerns.  
  • Survey your customers.  Survey your customers about what worked, what didn't work, and what changes they would like to see.

The abrupt change to work from home left many businesses scrambling.  As they say, necessity is the mother of invention and we've entered an age of technology dependence at this point. Many changes are here to stay, but the return to the office, or a change to "work from anywhere" will require ongoing, focused planning.  

DOWNLOAD NOW!

 

Tags: small business, work from home

Leading a Team Through Crisis and Pivoting Your Plan for Success in 2020

Posted by Ann Westerheim on 6/5/20 10:10 AM

Lunch & Learn June 2 @ 12_15These are challenging times for all, and 2020 hasn't gone as planned for anyone.  But there are still seven months left to the year!  This week we hosted a guest speaker at our webinar to help our community step up to the challenge and do our best in 2020.  Herb Cogliano of Aspire Growth Advisors walked us through the Scaling Up methodology, based on the best-selling books Scaling Up and The Rockefeller Habits, by Verne Harnish, to get refocused on 2020.  Herb is a former INC 5000 CEO, multi-year recipient of the Boston and South Florida business Journal Best Places to Work award, and serves on the Carroll School of Management Board of Advisors at Boston College.

At Ekaru, working in IT and cybersecurity, our days in normal times are full of change, interruptions, and unexpected events, like a lot of small businesses.  In today's time with the pandemic and unrest, it's even harder to stay focused.  We feel a strong responsibility and commitment to our clients, employees, suppliers, and our community to do our best work.  We've stepped up communications with our team and community, increased our daily huddles to twice a day to deal with rapid changes, and we've completed over 200 hours of training just during the month of May!  

There's a saying I've recently heard that applies to the time:  Be the Buffalo.  Charge the Storm.  The metaphor is that when a storm rolls in, cows tend to move slowly away from the storm but actually travel with the storm, the net effect being that they wind up in the storm longer and suffer more damage.  Buffalo's move towards the storm, and fare better.  I've thought of that metaphor a lot recently.  There are many things we can't control, but we CAN control our own effort, and our willingness to face challenges.

Herb's presentation covered a lot of strategies that apply to business owners, managers, and individual contributors.  Here are some of the key take-away's, and the full recording is linked at the end of this blog post.  

  • Companies can't succeed with just a great leader - it takes a team
  • Although it may not feel like we are scaling up right now, being in a pandemic, we can focus on what we CAN do to build our people and leaders, and bring back revenue and profit.
  • In the US, there are over 28 million businesses, and only 4% have revenues over 1 million.  Only 0.4% of businesses reach the $10M mark.  It's easier to start a business than to scale up a business.
  • Herb opened with a classic example of a pivot -  Cars vs the Horse and Buggy industry.  The equine industry is a $300 Billion industry.  Businesses that were able to pivot away from transportation, to entertainment for example, had a big opportunity ahead.  Don't blame the industry you're in.
  • People, Strategy, Execution, Cash - your biggest challenge will be one of these.  Cash and Strategy right now are typically on the top of the list right now for many businesses.
  • Think of your strategic plan as the cover of a jigsaw puzzle.  A vision of what you're trying to create makes it that much easier to achieve success. A 30 page plan isn't as powerful as a one page plan you can more easily visualize.
  • Strategic Pivots to consider:  Product Category, Business Model, Market Pivot, Offering Pivot.
  • What is the ONE THING?
  • Get real about managing cash and pricing.  That is the oxygen of your business. 

Herb closed with a powerful example of the historical rebounds after recessions.   The average 5-year rebound was 110%!   We'll all get through this.

Aspire Growth Advisors - Historical Note on Optimism

Here's a link to the full video:

 

Tags: small business, scaling up

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