Author: Dan Quick

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.

Exactly What is an Auto Attendant?

what is an auto attendantMany companies looking to save money on their overhead come to us asking what is an Auto Attendant. At the most basic level, Auto Attendants are literally automated facsimiles of an in-office receptionist that will route callers to the appropriate parties. We’ve been fortunate enough to provided thousands of businesses with the cost-savings of Auto Attendants, Follow Me Calling, and the rest of the features that are unique to VoIP plans like Dash. Last week, we discussed how companies save money by hiring an at home receptionist, which is a good segue into another option to streamline operations; Auto Attendants.

How do Auto Attendants Compare to Real Receptionists?

Auto Attendants can do mostly everything that you’d expect from any in-office equivalent though they operate as an integrated feature within a VoIP phone plan. Because Auto Attendants are digital programs, though, they don’t offer the same coverage for businesses that rely on inbound foot traffic as much as they do inbound call traffic. For companies that aren’t reliant on having a receptionist to field both calls and walk-ins, however, VoIP-based Auto Attendants are more than sufficient. In fact, because Auto Attendants are programs, they’ll never need vacation time, bathroom breaks, and they don’t mind working overtime. Heck, they’ll even operate on a 24-hour window with only a few clicks of the mouse. Of course, we aren’t suggesting that you can replace all of the joys of a member of your team with a computer, but from a strictly functionality standpoint, Auto Attendants are excellent at giving your callers repeatable and consistently good experiences.

So How do Auto Attendants Work?

Much like all of your own business decisions, Auto Attendants will work as you desire them to. All of the features of an enterprise grade VoIP system like Dash are totally customizable to your exact specifications. That means that you can rotate pre-recorded greetings to coincide with holidays, promotions, or even emergency events. You can also arrange for clear, quick, and efficient extensions to be introduced early in the call, and you can even offer bilingual recordings if your market benefits from them, as well. The core functions of the Auto Attendant system are all designed to make the inbound call experience as smooth and effortless as possible, all while retaining the branding and personality that best presents your company to the public. And because Auto Attendant is powered by cloud-based communications, all of its duties can be accessed and manages remotely, from anywhere there is an internet or data connection.

While the Auto Attendant can’t also chit chat about the game last night or weekend plans, yet, we are always working on improving all of our core features. You can add any recommendations to existing services and even get a glimpse of what we have on the horizon, as well, all by checking out our VirtualPBX Product Roadmap on Trello. Or, you can always fee free to let us know directly on Twitter or Facebook, too. Either way, we hope that next time you hear someone ask, “What is an Auto Attendant?” you’ll be able to point them in the right direction.

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.

Napa & Sonoma Fires Cause Calamity Close to Home for VirtualPBX

napa sonoma firesWe’ve been humbled to serve thousands of businesses in the wake of natural disasters ranging from hurricanes to earthquakes, and everything in between. But today we are facing a far more immediate threat to some of our closets friends and families right there in the Bay Area. The Napa and Sonoma fires have exploded into such a violent and fast-moving regional threat that fire crews are unable to battle the flames as they are preoccupied with live-saving measures and emergency evacuations. While we’d normally take this opportunity to extoll the value of establishing a reliable automatic business failover system or installing the free VirtualPBX Softphone App, we instead want to provide some critical resources for those affected by the fires below.

Napa & Sonoma Fires: Impact and Resources

What started as a collection of a dozen or so small fires late on Sunday night has ballooned into one of the most chaotic and destructive fires in California’s history. We’re no stranger to the destructive power of forest fires here, but these fires in Napa and Sonoma Counties are effectively like having wildfires ripping through urban and commercial environments. Fuelled by wind gusts from 50-70 mph, the fires were still 0% contained as of last night and have claimed at least 10 lives, over 1,500 homes and businesses, and have left over 100 people missing. Please note the following resources and, if you or anyone you know is caught in the effects of these fires, know that we are here to help you in any way we can, as well.

  • Report Missing Persons The Sonoma Country Sherriff’s Department is leading the effort to collect all missing persons information and to provide updates to the community on the fires’ status. Contact them directly at (707) 565-3856
  • Free Access To Wi-Fi From Comcast Comcast is opening all of their Wi-Fi hotspots in Northern California up for free to customers and non-customers alike. The program will be open through at least this coming Friday and details on how to log in can be found here.
  • Offer Shelter Support or Secure Temporary Lodging Among the many public shelters being rapidly opened for the growing thousands of displaced residents is the Petaluma People’s Services Center which is providing shelter as well as arranging host accommodations around the area. They are also accepting donations of goods to help in this effort and details on securing shelter and the list of essentials they need can be found here.

Stay Safe, Stay Smart

We want to remind everyone that, with winds expected to pick up again later this evening and overnight, these fires are still very much active, uncontrolled, and unpredictable. Therefore, we urge all people who are able to help to resign yourselves to contacting the appropriate authorities to see what it is that they need, and do not venture north to assist in person. Furthermore, all of our customers in the area should take safety as their first priority, but know that all of our servers and services are located in redundant locations and you shouldn’t experience any interruptions. If you have any challenges with your coverage whatsoever, please contact Customer Support as soon as you are in a safe place to do so and we will give your needs the attention they deserve. Also, if you have any other needs, tips, or resources you want to share, please let us know on Twitter or Facebook and we will be certain to disseminate the information as soon as possible. Thank you all for your concern as our loved ones and neighbors are in danger, and we hope that everyone remains safe through the end of these tragic fires.

Celebrate Halloween by Ceremonially Burying Your Ancient Phone

celebrate halloweenIt’s no secret that we love Halloween around here. Seriously, it’s so obvious that sometimes “love” may even be a bit conservative. As a group of fanatical Halloween aficionados are wont to do, we’ve begun our spooky preparations well before the 31th of October. Because we also wanted to help you get into the spirits, ahem, spirit of the occasion, too, we’ve decided to offer you a chance to update your office communications in a most seasonably appropriate way. From now until the end of the month, you can blow the cobwebs off of your old desk phone because we’re offering a Buy-One-Get-One Free on VoIP Phones Promotion for the month of October!

Old Isn’t Bad, But It’s Still a Bit Creepy

This BOGO deal is designed to get you to feel comfortable ditching your old technology for something new and sleek without breaking the bank. Some of our customers have been with us for the entire 20 years that we’ve been in business, and some of them are even using VoIP phones they got shortly after joining. It was then that we conducted a quick survey to see a cross-section of the average age of the telephones and on-site hardware that people were using and, to be kind, calling a few of the responses ghastly may be a bit of an understatement. That’s not to say that there’s anything wrong with an older phone, but maybe you’ve noticed, telecommunications hardware technology has improved a bit over the past two decades. Using the Halloween theme to extend this a bit further, think about the haunted house at the end of the road in every scary movie you’ve ever seen. Is it a split-level minimalist design with an open floor plan and a living roof? Or is it a dilapidated, ramshackle tenement with open sewer smells and possibly something living in the walls? All we’re trying to say is if your phone was around for the first broadcast of War of the Worlds, maybe it’s time to take advantage of this killer BOGO VoIP Phone deal. Plus, with these great options from Cisco, Polycom, and Yealink, you really shouldn’t need any more motivation to upgrade.

Yealink W52P
Polycom-VVX600
YealinkT21pE2
CiscoSPA501G
CiscoSPA525G
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The Only Thing Scarier Than Old Phones…

Is, of course, wastefulness. We don’t want you to think that just because your old phone may be half in the grave already that tossing it into the trash heap is the best way to deal with it. Just like there’s a special way to dispose of a vampire’s body to ensure it won’t rise again to wreak havoc on the countryside once more, there’s also a right way to deal with your old e-waste, too. After you’ve pulled the trigger on your new BOGO Phone Deal, make sure you use our Hardware Recycling Guide to keep the valuable metals in your old phones going to good (re)use and to keep the harmful chemicals in the rest of it from going into the environment. Plus, many times it’s as easy as dropping them off at a local electronics retailer, too, so there’re no excuses.

And, of course, this deal may be almost too good to be true, but it isn’t here forever. Just like the idyllic scenes in the beginnings of all horror movies are destined to unravel, the savings from our Buy-One-Get-One-Free VoIP Phone Deal are going to disappear at midnight on October 31st, so celebrate Halloween and act now… before it’s too late!

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