Posted on July 30, 2015 by Dan Quick
In this series of blogs we examine all topics under the information security umbrella. From corporate blunders to rogue state attacks to the occasional celebrity hack, we believe there is something for businesses and individuals to learn from any cyber security event. We also believe that, while experience is the best teacher, it’s even better to let other people make the mistakes for you.
Maybe you’ve heard by now that this whole “internet fad” doesn’t seem to be dying down anytime soon. Quite the contrary, in fact. Connectivity is an increasingly important part of our everyday lives, so much so that now companies are looking to further integrate it by networking our physical world, as well. Much like how the global introduction to the internet seemed like science fiction to many people at the time, this new endeavor of creating The Internet of Things (IoT) has people similarly awestruck. Whenever a new layer of technology is introduced in to the world, though, there seem to come with it a host of unforeseen, or unprepared-for challenges. It turns out that networking our every last possession is rife with such challenges. Color me shocked.
The Internet of Things is set to leave no area of our lives untouched by the “intelligent” label that any inanimate object can garner once it has become connected. The IoT is encompassing everything from refrigerators that can order more groceries from an AmazonFresh account to space-age end-caps for bat/club/racket sports that provide immediate data feedback and swing corrections right to your smartphone. But how does a connection for every object impact our security? Apparently, that impact is only barely beginning to be calculable, but for one company the cost is potentially crippling.
Well, maybe falling like one. This week we saw Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) hit with a record-setting $105 million fine stemming from a National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) settlement over disturbing news about some of their vehicle’s on-board computers. By exposing how two hackers can access a vehicle over its, “head unit,” or basically the car’s internet-connected brain, a Wired article set in motion the events which led to the auto giant’s troubles. But the problems don’t stop with just a simple fine. After quickly announcing a patch for the vulnerability in their cars’ head units, FCA had to hit the bargaining table with the NHTSA to very quickly find a solution to their little problem. That’s because the software update has to be manually installed with a USB (download the software update here) or by a dealership service agent. Oh, and also because the IT crusaders who exploited the weakness plan to publish portions of the code they wrote at the Def Con Hacking Conference next week. Better get moving, Detroit.
The good news, and I swear there is some, is that if you’re one of the owners of an affected Dodge or Chrysler vehicles that are at risk, then part of the settlement with the NHTSA is for FCA to also buy-back the balance of the cars not yet up-to-date with the software patch. But seriously, what kind of real sense of security does this leave you with your new car, regardless of the make or model? With more technology trickling down from luxury automobiles into all trim levels, we’re likely to only build our number of access points (read- vulnerabilities) with each new model year.
Just like Chicken Little proved to us way back in the day, things are never as bad as we initially fear they will be. Elvis Presley and The Beatles didn’t portend the End of Days, neither did the Mayan Calendar. I’m going to make a stand here and say that the IoT isn’t going to completely destroy our lives, either. What is going to happen, though, is that people are going to need to more conscientiously design systems that can bring really cool Jetson’s-caliber features into our lives but that have Skynet security clearance. Wait, maybe they shouldn’t design it just like Skynet, but you get the picture.
So go ahead, buy your fancy new spatula that knows when you’ve whipped the batter enough to start sampling it for “quality control” and don’t be afraid it will actually become sentient and poison you and empty your bank account. That’s like 99% unlikely to happen. What you should do, however, is make sure you’ve thoroughly read about the capabilities of any connected device, how they link/communicate to other devices and the internet, and perhaps most importantly, follow the manufacture on Twitter or through an RSS feed. After establishing solid password protection habits, one of the best protections for your personal or digital safety is simply staying informed. Just like FCA proved, often times these threats are ones that can’t be predicted until they’re discovered, so it’s best to be ready to act fast once and if they are.
That’s it. Good luck out there, and remember to protect ya neck!
Infographic: Softphone App
Posted on July 27, 2015 by Dan Quick
The VirtualPBX Softphone App was designed to empower employees to take their offices anywhere they wanted to go, while empowering employers to boost their overall productivity. Impacting every area of business from information security, employee workplace satisfaction, to reducing current and long-term overhead costs, the VirtualPBX Softphone App is worth every bit of praise it has received. Take a peek at this infographic and see how it can help you and your business succeed.
Posted on July 22, 2015 by Dan Quick
Imagine, if you will, the bleak and barren wasteland setting of a dystopian novel. Where there once were thriving commercial centers there has risen a new class of production, driven by the remaining few who have adapted to their unpredictable, and often hostile new landscape. Working from a seemingly endless number of different locales, this new class of traveler is part provider, part hunter/gatherer, and all nomad.
A little imagery can be fun, but it’s important to recognize the meaning behind the theatrics. This futuristic, post-apocalyptic scenario may not be too far from the truth for some businesses that are experiencing a shift in how, and more importantly where, their business is conducted. Though mobile workforces have been the choice of nimble businesses to encourage satellite operations for some time now, larger corporations are even getting into the act. Insurance giant Aetna now even claims that in the small time since they’ve introduced a flexible work-from-home program, participation has skyrocketed and nearly a third of their employees are now completely remote. This groundswell of adoption from large and small companies alike has helped to create a new subset of workers that relies totally on telecommuting.
The remote life of a working professional has often only served to provide opportunities for freelancers to earn some fast cash between travels. Now, however, with increases in home exchanges and sharing economy giants like Airbnb, traveling to and working from anywhere in the world is easier than ever and allows the nomads to hold full-time jobs if they so choose. There are also an ever-increasing list of useful technology tools that make remote work access possible, tactics on how to maintain a productive and rewarding career without ever setting foot in an office, and communities for trouble-shooting and connecting with other nomads. Be it for the practicing or aspiring nomad, the breadth and depth of the burgeoning field of permanently remote employment’s growing resources make entering into or sustaining this lifestyle more feasible.
A company needn’t break their commercial lease and shutter its doors to begin benefitting from the advantage of a nomad or two on their team. Simply by considering the pool of qualified, nomadic talent the next time there is a contract or job req that needs to be filled is a fine place to start. Businesses in expensive areas needn’t justify the cost of moving a candidate halfway around the world if he can also work from where he is. Furthermore, employing tools like the free-to-download VirtualPBX Softphone App that integrates with an existing unified communications strategy saves on additional office build-out. Many Digital Nomads are also part of the BYOD community to some extent saving businesses even more, both initially and ongoing, by deviating from the traditional, in-office approach to employment.
Getting your company started for this shift is easy if you have the right information. VirtualPBX’s award-winning Customer Support Team is always available to help discuss the challenges your company might have with its communications and how we can help you to best overcome them. And more importantly, they, unlike our other nomadic coworkers, are also located right here in San Jose so you’ll never have to worry about them zip-lining through the Amazon when you need some answers.
The Hidden Cost of Summer
Posted on July 20, 2015 by Dan Quick
For many, summer means the time to begin enjoying time off with the family. With kids out of school the opportunities for an annual trip to visit relatives or friends is often on the menu. However, for a growing number of Americans, the summer time can be a financial burden they aren’t ready for.
The modern family is not what it once was. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 59% of families with children had both parents working outside the home in 2012. Dual income families are growing increasingly common which can lead to logistical and financial challenges when the kids are home from school. The National Association of Child Care Resource & Referral Agencies estimates the national average cost of daycare in America is $1,000 a month per child. That means that the costs putting two kids into supervisory care for the summer months would cost a family of five upwards of $6,000 over the course of the summer. All of a sudden the cost of summer vacation plans to visit Grandma and Grandpa seems a little more daunting than merely braving a 20-plus hour car trip with the kids.
Giving your employees paid vacation is more than just good business, it’s a comment on your value of them as more than just workers, but as individuals. However, as we’ve seen, sometimes simply having the permission to take a break is not always the same as having the ability to do so. Don’t be that boss.
Instead of offering only paid time off but not a realistic strategy for using it, some employers are presenting the real opportunity to enjoy their kids’ time away from school. Introducing the tools to work away from the office is a meaningful benefit that actually saves the whole company time and money. With the exponential growth in adoption of hosted telecom solutions, the VoIP industry has been supercharging its offerings to teams with dispersed or satellite workforces. Flexible options like the VirtualPBX Softphone App are exactly what it takes to let the office follow an employee to anywhere he or she goes, instead of having them follow the antiquated approach of clock-punching in and out of a physical office.
Bringing your business communications systems to the front of the curve is easy, plus you’ll be bringing your HR practices along with them. Talented candidates are being courted with a variety of flexibility options in their job searches and existing employees will value the added value their introduction will bring, too. To get started with assessing your company’s capacity for a hosted telecom system, you can speak with our locally-based, expert Customer Support team who can walk you through the process. Additionally, for a very limited time, you can still save on new Office Plans as we celebrate our most recent awards, so there really hasn’t been a better time to upgrade. Plus, if you act now, you can still make sure your team has hours upon hours of Eye-Spy and 20 Questions to look forward to on their way to Grandma’s house.
VirtualPBX Softphone App 2015 Innovation Award Winner
Posted on July 16, 2015 by Dan Quick
We are excited as can be over here for our most recent award, the 2015 INTERNET TELEPHONY & TMC Innovation Award! We’ve been working hard on updating and improving our telecommunications solutions for mobile and, following a recent upgrade to the app that streamlined user experience, we were taken into consideration for this prestigious honor. Now with full compatibility with both the latest iOS and Android system configurations and the new Windows 10, winning this award is a resounding validation form the industry of what our team has put together.
All of our telecom solutions are geared towards empowering the modern workforce, and the softphone app is the culmination of our focus and the latest trends and technology available. More often, people are relying on their mobile phones for more of their daily internet access and, in fact, web searches from mobile now eclipse those from desktops for, and that trend is likely to continue.
Because employees are likely to preform better when their business tools mirror the familiarity and ease of use that personal communications tools have, the softphone app is designed to be the simplest integration of the two available. Employing the softphone app, which is free to download on iTunes App Store and Google Play, enables employees to turn any web-enabled device into a functional extension of their business telephone network. Plus, to keep mobile employees connected while still enabling them to keep their on-the-clock hours and personal time separate, the softphone app masks all outgoing calls with their business number so their private contact info stays just that- private.
Like all of our unified communications solutions, the VirtualPBX Softphone App is backed by our industry-leading, locally-based Customer Support team for free. Even though we have been recognized for our innovation with the app, we’re way behind the curve of charging for our support and that’s just how we like it. Backing our products and service with the total commitment of our team is the only way we’d have it, and our customers seem to agree.
So if you’re ready to begin increasing productivity, reducing downtime, and to actually begin enjoying your utilities instead of dreading them, give a call and our Business Communications Experts will be able to help determine the best options for your business. Plus, because we’d also like to share in the celebration of this award, for a limited time can receive a special introductory offer on all new or upgraded VirtualPBX plans, so call now and take your company to the next level.