National Cybersecurity Awareness Month

October is National Cybersecurity Awareness Month. What is cybersecurity? Google defines cybersecurity as “the state of being protected against the criminal or unauthorized use of electronic data, or the measures taken to achieve this”. The technology industry uses it as an umbrella term to cover anything from the anti-virus protection on your home computer to corporate policies that define how to respond to a data breach.

Cybersecurity Awareness Month was created by the Department of Homeland Security and the National Cyber Security Alliance in October of 2004. It was launched to help Americans to be safe on the rapidly growing Internet. Since its inception, the month has only grown more important as our lives become increasingly digitized.

So what can you do? Education is key. The most common way to be affected is through email-based scams called phishing attacks. Here are a few examples of these fake emails: You can also take advantage of a wealth of information available online such as:

  • the CBTech Support Blog (
  • KrebsOnSecurity (
  • The Verge (
  • The National Cyber Security Alliance (

Making sure you are backing up your data, and using multiple layers of security, like firewalls and anti-virus software, are other ways to minimize your risk. You should also make sure all your software is up to date; this includes Microsoft Windows, Microsoft Office, and any Adobe products.

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Outlook Search Tips

Have you ever tried to find an email in Outlook only to see no search results, or not the ones you expected? We’ve got some advanced search tips and settings for you.

Outlook Caching: Outlook is configured to cache email locally to keep performance as high as possible. This means it downloads a copy of your mail to the local computer and searches this rather than going out over the internet each time. The size of the local cache impacts performance but can also limit search results. In recent years Microsoft has changed the default setting to cache 1 year worth of email. This means when you view folders or do a search you may see a notice at the bottom of the list of emails stating “There are more items in this folder on the server. Click here to view more on Microsoft Exchange”. The good news is that clicking the link will load additional emails/search results for you almost immediately (depending on the number of emails). You can change the local cache if you don’t want to click the message when looking for older emails, but keep in mind that the larger the local cache is the slower Outlook will perform. The cache setting can be accessed by going to File, Account Settings, Account Settings, then double-clicking on your email address. It is a slider bar that can be set from All to 3 days.

Outlook Web: Many people don’t realize that Microsoft has a web version of Outlook. The advantage to using this version is that you are working directly on your email server, so there is no lag time or limit on the number of emails you see. While it is not yet as fully featured as the Outlook client you have on your computer, it is pretty close. You can access this version by going to portal[.]office[.]com and signing in. You’ll see all email available in your mailbox and your searches will be faster.

Advanced Search Criteria: Outlook has an Advanced Find feature that can be helpful when searching for email. Pressing the Ctrl, Shift, and “F” keys will bring up the Advanced Find window. On the Advanced tab you can use the Field drop down to select any field in Outlook as a search criterion, and you can layer multiple ones together. This could be useful if you’re looking for a specific email sent by someone between certain dates that you know included you as a BCC for example.

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Working from home permanently

By now most companies have decided to return to the office in some capacity, while others have decided they don’t need an office. Others are leaving it up to their employees to decide what they want to do. If you have that choice and want to stay working from home for the long run, we have some tips and suggestions for you.

The first place to start is with your desk. Do you want a sitting desk, a full standing desk, or a standing desk converter that simply moves the monitor, mouse, and keyboard? CNN and The New York Times both have articles with reviews on standing desks and converters:; The size desk you pick will depend on what you’re working on from home (more on that later), so make sure you have enough space for your full setup.

After deciding on your desk, you’ll want to decide on your computer setup. What you get for a computer really depends on how you work. A laptop is great if you need to get up and go often, but if you’re not going to be bringing a laptop with you to appointments or meetings your best bet is still a desktop. If you choose a laptop, you’ll also want to look at docking stations. A docking station will let you connect monitors and accessories like a mouse and keyboard to your laptop with only one wire, which makes it easy to take the laptop on the go without having to unplug everything.

Now it’s time to think about monitors. The good news is you can use one or more monitors with either a laptop or a desktop. Decide what size monitor makes sense for the way you work and the space you’ll have. You can always run to Staples or Best Buy to get an idea of what size will work best for you. You’ll also need to make sure that the video connections on your desktop, laptop, or docking station match what the monitor has available; if they don’t there are converters available. Something else to think about with monitors is how they’ll fit on your desk. If you get a full standing desk or a regular sitting desk you can get monitor arms that will allow you to have the monitors off the desk surface, giving you more room and usually allowing flexibility in the placement of the monitors themselves.

Lastly, you’ll want to think about accessories that you might need, like mouse and keyboard, USB hubs, web cams, power ports, speakers, etc. If you’re getting a desktop, you should have enough USB ports for your accessories but if you’ve chosen a laptop, you’ll need to make sure you have enough (either on the laptop, using a hub, or on a docking station). Laptops have built-in web cams, but they may not be convenient for actual use on a desk; it’s best to get a separate web cam if you plan on doing any video meetings or recording. For a mouse and keyboard, you may want to get a wireless set to give you freedom of movement and eliminate some of the wires.

Happy shopping!

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Tips for buying a computer for school

Can you believe it is almost time for school again?!?! Normally, schools require computers to complete classwork, homework, and research. A decent computer is necessary with the uncertainty surrounding in-person classes in the fall and the possibility of needing to attend online classes.

The question you should ask is when deciding to buy a new computer for school, or for any purpose really, is “what am I going to use it for?”. Some common answers are:

  1. browsing the internet
  2. email
  3. specific applications
  4. attending class remotely
  5. video conferencing

For 1 and 2, the specifications are not demanding. You can get by with a basic computer from almost any store. However, we would still recommend that the processor be an Intel Core i5 or i7. The RAM (or memory) used for browsing the internet will depend on how many browser tabs or windows you have open at one time. The more tabs or windows you anticipate opening the more RAM you should have in your computer. We would recommend at least 8GB.

A computer used for specific applications will need to meet the requirements of the vendor who made the application. All vendors will list minimum and recommended system requirements. You should review those requirements for each and any application you plan on using before buying the new computer. Just as with browser tabs and windows, the more applications you run at one time the more RAM you should have in the computer. Additionally, most schools will have recommended specifications for buying a computer to use at the school.

The last component that should be considered when buying a new computer is the hard drive type and size. You have two choices for type: traditional spinning drives (often referred to as SATA) or Solid State Drives (often referred to as SSD). We almost always recommend SSD drives because the performance is much better versus traditional spinning drives. The size of the hard drive all depends on how much data you plan to save on your computer. If you are using the computer to browse the internet and/or use email, then the size of your hard drive does not need to be large. However, if you are saving images or video (which are the largest file size types) then you should get a larger hard drive.

Happy shopping!

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It’s Time to Unplug (for the summer)

Now that summer is upon us and things are opening back up, it’s time to reassess the screen time habits that we’ve all had for the past 18 months. If you’re anything like us, you’ve been glued to your devices around the clock, keeping up with news, streaming TV and movies, watching sports as they came back. We thought it would be a good time for some tips on how to unplug, whether you’re taking vacation this summer or just want a day away from technology.

Tip 1: Come up with a plan. For example, decide to limit screen time to 10 minutes in the morning to catch up on the news. Check out this New York Times article for more:

Tip 2: Leave your devices at home. If you’re going outside, leave the device inside. If you’re taking a trip to the beach, leave them in the car. There are some more good examples in this Wall Street Journal article:

Tip 3: Create device-free zones. Set up areas of your house, times of day, or spaces while on vacation that you will not bring a device. This can help reduce the urge to check the device for notifications. Check out this Google article for more:

There is a plethora of articles on unplugging, so definitely take the time to search around if you want more ideas. And enjoy the summer! Sign up for our monthly Timely Tech Tips: For weekly tips like these, follow us on Facebook: LinkedIn: Twitter:

Tips for Securely Using Public WiFi

Are you ready to hang out at Starbucks again, or hop a plane to take a vacation? Both Starbucks and the airport have free public WiFi, but anyone can connect; and how do you know that the network you’re connecting to is the one being provided by Starbucks or the airport and not some scammer looking to collect your data? Here are some tips to be more secure on public WiFi.

  1. Make sure you choose the correct network
    Have you ever searched for wireless networks and come across multiple networks that look very similar but are not exactly the same. This is a man-in-the-middle attack called “WiPhishing”. Connecting to a network controlled by a malicious actor exposes all the data travelling back and forth from your device to that actor.

  2. Don’t assume a WiFi hotspot is secure
    Most hotspots don’t encrypt the information you send over the internet, which means that other devices connected to the same network could see any information from your device. Avoid accessing any sensitive information while on public WiFi.

  3. Turn off automatic connections
    Most devices by default will attempt to connect to any available wireless network. You can usually turn this off in the wireless network settings of the device, or at least have it prompt you before it connects.

  4. Use a VPN
    If you have to connect to public WiFi and access or input sensitive data, make sure you use a VPN. A VPN will ensure that all data traveling to and from your device is encrypted and cannot be viewed by anyone else on the same network. Most consumer antivirus software providers, like Norton, Bitdefender, McAfee, etc., have an add-on VPN service that you can purchase and use. Stay away from “free” VPN services.

  5. Use your own hotspot
    Avoid public WiFi altogether by using your own hotspot. With the popularity of unlimited data plans through mobile carriers, it might be better to use the mobile hotspot feature of your phone. If you don’t have an unlimited plan, or prefer not to use your phone, most carriers offer small portable hotspot devices.

Here are two good articles with additional tips:

PCMag –


Enjoy that coffee, or vacation!

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Multi-factor Authentication: What is it and why should I use it?

Multi-factor authentication (MFA) (which includes two-factor authentication (2FA)), according to Wikipedia, is a login method requiring two or more pieces of the following: knowledge (something only the user knows, like a username/password combination), possession (something only the user has, such as an app on their cell phone or a security token), inherence (something the user is, such as biometric identifiers), and geographics (somewhere the user is, such as only allowing the user to log in while located in the US). Typical scenarios would be logging in to a bank’s website where you enter your username and password, and they text you a code you need to input before allowing you access to your account; or going to the ATM and putting your bank card in the machine along with your PIN number.

So now that you know what MFA is, why would you want to use it? The simple answer is that a password is no longer enough to keep your accounts secure. There are so many different accounts that we all have, coupled with the severity and frequency of data breaches that gather usernames and passwords from all those accounts and put them out in the open for anyone to grab, that it doesn’t take much effort to break into an account. This is where MFA comes in. Let’s say that a malicious actor has your username and password for your bank’s website: without MFA in place, they can log in and have full access to your account; however, if MFA is turned on and set up they wouldn’t be able to log in without also having access to your cell phone to receive the text message code. Another example would be someone stealing your wallet with your bank card: they can go to the ATM and use your card, but without your PIN number they can’t access your account.

You can get really complex with the requirements too. For example, we can lock down a system so that you need to enter your username and password, along with allowing the login attempt through the mobile app on your phone, and then only allow the login attempt to be successful if you’re located in New Jersey. That may seem like overkill but may not be for a system that has extremely sensitive data.

The bottom line is this: if MFA is available, you should use it.

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April Fool’s Phishing: the joke’s not on you

With April Fool’s fast approaching, it seems like a good time to review some phishing email tips so the joke isn’t on you.

Email is still the number one communication method, which makes it the perfect avenue for scammers and other malicious actors looking to get the highest return on their activities. One of the simplest methods for checking an email is called “SLAM”:

  • Sender – look at the sender of the email address by hovering over the From: name. If the email address does not match the name, that is a red flag; also, are you expecting an email from this sender?
  • Links – look at any links in the email by hovering over them. Are they pointing to something different than what the text in the email says? That is another red flag.
  • Attachments – Are there any attachments, and if so, are you expecting this sender to send you a document or file?
  • Message – look at the wording of the message in the email. Does the wording make it seem like a consequence is imminent if you do not act? Is it asking you to do something and not tell anyone else? These are both red flags.

Keep in mind that world events and holidays are often good disguises for malicious actors to send out emails. That link to a funny April Fool’s prank may not be from your friend or coworker and the joke might be on you, so keep an eye out!

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Avoiding Tax Time Scams

The IRS started accepting tax filings on February 12, marking the beginning of another tax season (though accountants might argue it never really ends). This is normally a time for an influx of tax-related scams, but with the pandemic still in play it might be worse. Here is some information on what to keep an eye out for, as well as some resources from the IRS regarding tax-related scams.

Phishing email is still the biggest attack avenue, as it is cheap and easy. The usual rules of thumb apply to emails:

  1. Check the sender address
  2. Hover over any links to see if they match the text
  3. Be wary of attachments
  4. Check the body of the message. Red flags are: a sense of urgency, consequences if something isn’t immediately done, or requests for payment in odd forms

The IRS has a webpage dedicated to tax scams and consumer alerts: It is a good place to look at about common scams and how to identify them. There is also a page dedicated to helping you determine if the IRS is really on the phone or at your door:

And remember, the IRS will never:

  • Call to demand immediate payment using a specific payment method such as a prepaid debit card, gift card or wire transfer. Generally, the IRS will first mail a bill to any taxpayer who owes taxes.
  • Threaten to immediately bring in local police or other law-enforcement groups to have the taxpayer arrested for not paying.
  • Demand that taxes be paid without giving taxpayers the opportunity to question or appeal the amount owed.
  • Ask for credit or debit card numbers over the phone.
  • Call you about an unexpected refund.

(taken from their website:

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Why Should We Implement Security Awareness Training?

First, what is security awareness training? This is training, usually done on a recurring basis, that helps users understand different threats they might be exposed to during their personal and work lives, typically focusing on the digital realm. The goal of the training is to elevate users’ awareness of these threats so they can recognize them before falling victim to them.

So why should your company implement this training? In short, human nature. Without delving in to the psychological, I’ll highlight a few key points:

  1. humans are creatures of habit
  2. humans have a natural tendency to want to help
  3. humans have a natural fear of the unknown or unexpected

A quick example of each:

  1. reusing passwords across multiple sites/services
  2. a popular voice phishing (vishing) scam is for a malicious actor to call up a grandparent claiming to be a grandchild who desperately needs a bit of cash to get out of a jam
  3. popular phishing scams purporting to be the IRS or the FBI threatening legal action if money is not paid immediately

Implementing a training program that regularly teaches users about threats, tests their knowledge and offers additional training when necessary, and is concise will help your company avoid many common threats that technology alone cannot mitigate while not impacting users’ productivity. This article points out why the “human firewall” is more important than ever now:

If you have questions about implementing security awareness training in your company, contact us here:

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