Category Archives: Computer Tips

Data commute does not compute!

Look around any office today and you’re likely to see a wheeled laptop bag parked beside many of the desks.  Why the wheels?  Well, we’re all carrying more than just a laptop.  There’s likely to be a tablet and a big-screened smartphone in there too – along, perhaps, with an external hard drive, a couple of USB keys and maybe even a sandwich.

The thing is, we’re carrying so many data devices with us nowadays that we can’t… well ‘carry’ them anymore.

That set us to wondering how much data is actually being toted around by commuters every day.  And had us guessing how safe that data is too.  So much is said about the amount of data on the “Information Superhighway” but so little has been said about data on the *actual* highway.

We took on the task of finding out and, for the first time, we’re lifting the lid on the true scale of the data drain caused by laptops, smartphones, USB drives and hard drives carried by modern commuters in New York, San Francisco, London, Paris, Berlin and Munich

The results are pretty shocking:

    • The average commuter takes 470GB of company data home with them at the end of every day
    • That’s 2,500 times the amount of data they’ll move across the internet in the same timeframe
    • Every day, 1.4 exabytes of data moves through New York City alone – that’s more data than will cross the entire internet in        a day
    • As much as 33.5PB of data will travel over the Oakland Bay Bridge every day
    • As much as 49 PB of data will travel through the Lincoln Tunnel each day
    • Up to 328PB of data travels in the London Tube network every day
    • Up to 69PB of data leaves Munich’s Hauptbahnhof on a daily basis
    • The Paris Metro carries as much as 138PB of data every day
    • With 41.33% of people having lost a device that stores data in the past 12 months, huge amounts of business data is put at        risk every rush hour

The thing is, there isn’t a CIO we know who would risk sending massive volumes of data over the internet without protecting it first.  But businesses in New York alone send more data home with employees than is transmitted across the internet globally every day – and the levels of protection applied to that data can be extremely light.

A thief holding up a New York subway car at rush-hour capacity could walk away with over 100TB of data.  Though, of course, what’s more likely is that they’ll run off with a single commuter’s bag – but even that could have a big impact on the business they work for if it doesn’t have another copy of the data on their laptop.

It’s not just large volumes of data that we carry with us, it’s also the most-critical data; the edits to the contract that we’ve just worked through in today’s meeting, the presentation that we’re giving tomorrow morning, the tax forms that you’re halfway through filling in.  Losing this data can have an immediate impact on a company’s success.

The data drain from our cities at the end of the working day could be a real issue for businesses – but it doesn’t have to be.  Backing up data on mobile devices has never been easier – gone are the days of devices needing to be connected to a corporate network in order to protect them.

But many businesses still fail to prioritize endpoints in their data protection strategies because they’ve not realized the extent of the vulnerability issue that mobility has caused or the ease with which they can protect themselves.

To see more details on where the data drains from our cities, check out our heat maps.

 

Malware is one more reason to back up your data

It’s National Cyber Security Awareness Month! But it’s not only October when you need to be aware of the critical need to back up and protect your data.

We’ve seen enough security breaches this year to recognize that malware can hit just about any business at any time. Consumer credit card data has been particularly vulnerable. And based on almost daily news stories, malware will continue to attack bank accounts and corporate assets around the world in attempts to steal valuable data.

Just how pervasive are these threats to our data, be it personal, business, or even governmental? The onslaught of malware is so pervasive that one expert has described the malicious software as being almost a commodity.

“Malware, once purpose-built, is clearly becoming a flexible platform—in many respects, it is now almost a commodity,” says Trusteer CTO Amit Klein in his blog.

Klein adds, “Not surprisingly, malware is still the most dangerous threat to enterprises, end users and financial institutions.”

In its 2014 Threats Predictions Report, McAfee Labs forecasts that, among other threats, PC and server attacks will target vulnerabilities above and below the operating systems; and cloud-based corporate applications will create new attack surfaces.

Let’s take a look at those two threats as highlighted in the McAfee Labs report.

New PC and server attacks will target vulnerabilities above and below the operating system: According to McAfee Labs, although “many cybercriminal syndicates will turn their attention to mobile devices, others will continue to target PC and server platforms. The new attacks we’ll see in 2014 will, however, not simply attack the operating system, but will also exploit vulnerabilities both above and below the OS.”

Deployment of cloud-based corporate applications will create new attack surfaces that will be exploited by cybercriminals: “Cybercriminal gangs of the 21st century will target cloud-based applications and data repositories because that’s where the data is, or will be soon enough,” according to the McAfee Labs report. “This could be through business applications that have not been assessed by IT against corporate security policies. According to a recent report, more than 80% of business users use cloud applications without the knowledge or support of corporate IT.”

So, what’s the solution? What can you do to protect your data? M-O-Z-Y.

Mozy endpoint and remote office data protection delivers effective data protection and business continuity in a way that increases reliability and consistency, while at the same time the solution significantly reduces IT costs and ongoing maintenance and support efforts. Mozy’s strict security policies, military-grade encryption (including default, personal, and corporate encryption keys), and world-class data centers deliver the availability, security, privacy, and compliance needed for optimal protection of your business and personal data in the cloud.

Although most of us like to think we’re immune from data loss, the truth is that without secure backup and protection of our data, malware can be a serious problem for even the most careful individual or business. With Mozy, your information is always encrypted during the backup process and while stored in our data centers. The security of your data is Mozy’s highest priority.

Malware may be a commodity, but with Mozy you can rest assured that your data is safe, protected, and securely accessible in the Mozy cloud.

Read your Facebook EULA lately?

There’s been a huge amount of discussion in the media over the last 48 hours about Facebook’s experiment on emotional contagion and whether it was appropriate for the social media company to carry it out. Here’s one such article from the Wall Street Journal.

What a lot of people are finding frightening, as Gismodo explains, is that they didn’t realize that they had actually agreed to take part when they signed up to the company’s EULA.

No idea what a EULA is? You’re not alone.  A EULA is an end-user licensing agreement. It’s essentially the big blurb of terms and conditions that you have to tick the “I agree” box next to in order to be able to use the service.

Do you remember agreeing to taking part in Facebook experiments? No? Well, if you’re a Facebook user, the chances are that you have agreed to it. Statistically, there’s a strong possibility that you never read the EULA before you agreed to it. In a recent Mozy investigation,[1] less than 10 percent of people told us that they made a point of reading a EULA before signing up to an online service and more than 30 percent never read any of them.

If there’s one lesson to take away from this incident, it’s to carefully check the EULAs on the cloud services you’re using, both personally and at work. Can your provider view your data? Can they change the location of your data center? Who owns your data if you want to leave the service?

And it’s not just the core cloud services that your company uses that you should check over. Many companies have a huge “shadow IT” infrastructure set up by people who might not have access to legal support and are often unfamiliar with best practice in selecting IT partners. If your business lets individuals choose their own services to move large files, sync data to the cloud, outsource role-specific IT support—or anything else—make sure you have a policy for checking those EULAs. Because, if it’s not being done centrally, there’s a good chance that it’s not being done at all!

And, if you don’t know what sort of issues to be looking for in your EULAs, check out this white paper from IDC.



[1] Online poll carried out in December 2013 of Facebook users in the USA, Ireland, UK, France, Germany, and the Netherlands.

My Dog Ate My Photos; Safe Keeping for Your Pics

Protect Your Digital Photos this Holiday SeasonAngela Wijesinghe, Marketing Specialist for Professional Photographers of America has heard some unbelievable stories about how photographers have lost their digital photos. Just this year, she says, a professional wedding photographer (who shall remain nameless for obvious reasons) left the flash drive with all the photos of the ceremony on his kitchen counter, only to have his dog eat it when he went out to the store.

“We hear about things like this happening all the time,” said Wijesinghe. The organization she works for, Professional Photographers of America, is a non-profit organization that provides education, resources, and industry standards of excellence to photographers. According to Wijesinghe, digital photos are taking over the industry. Not many photographers, amateur or professional, are using film anymore. So the days of looking through old photo albums are passing us by. Now it’s an age of looking over slideshows on a computer.

“Digital cameras are just a lot more convenient for people to use,” she said. “They allow you to manipulate images easier, they can be stored easily, and they’re not overly difficult to work.”

One of the risks of using digital cameras and photos, however, is that your work can be lost in mere seconds if not secured properly, she explained.

“Digital image data loss is huge,” said Wijesinghe. Anything can happen. A storm can wipe out your hard drive. A house fire can take your computer. Freak accidents happen. Having multiple options of backup is the smartest thing to do.”

So how can the everyday photographer make sure to protect his or her wedding photos, baby pictures, and other memories captured digitally?

As Wijesinghe said, your best option for keeping your photos safe is to use several of methods, including cloud; external hard drives; flash drives; and sites like Flikr, Facebook, Shutterfly, and Snapfish. You may also consider having physical prints made, rather than just relying on the digital world.

Make sure to keep all of your devices in safe places, and, if possible, in different locations from one another, she said. That way if there’s a fire, flood, or some other unforeseen circumstances, you should still have some of them in one piece. And lastly, keep them out of the reach of babies, dogs, or other pets; you don’t want them to become a quick meal.

 

MozyHome Free - Stash

 

Scary Security Tips

Happy Halloween, muh, ha, ha, ha…! This month’s mashup of All Hallows Eve AND National Cyber Security Awareness Month has us thinking about scary new security risks, and the steps people can take to stay safe online. Here are a few tips to help you avoid being another victim of online ghouls:

Scary Security TipsThink before you link! – Remember how that character in scary movies ALWAYS opens the door that the audience knows they SHOULD.NEVER.EVER.OPEN? Clueless! Just like opening that scary door, clicking on unknown hyperlinks on your screen is one thing you should never do because it can turn your computer into a zombie! Click the wrong link and suddenly your PC or Mac is following orders from a malevolent leader, spewing out spam and out of your control. Everyone knows that phishing attacks entice you to click that evil link putting your computer on the path to zombie-land. The latest? “zpear phishing” techniques are even more sophisticated, and include enough personal information about you to make the offer look legitimate. If something doesn’t appear right, stop, think, and look before you click.

Mask your social activities – Evildoers target “spear phishing” attacks by gathering personal information about you and your contacts. Be skeptical about responding to requests for personal information in any context, even from well-known social applications like LinkedIn and Facebook. Another thing: shut down your social applications when you’re not using them. Facebook’s Open Graph can be accessed by malware and used to trick you and your friends. Even though social applications may just look like a fun place to hang out with friends, remember that there might be a monster lurking in the shadows. There are boundless horror stories that have been told about such social network exploits.

Protect your data – One way to keep yourself safe in a spooky cyberland is to encrypt your data. If you think the word encrypt sounds like it should be part of a frightful poem by Edgar Allen Poe, you need to learn about this important tool. It’s a way to lock your data in a safe place, so only people with the right “keys” can access it. Another important way to protect your data is to use strong, unique passwords. Most people already know that passwords are important for your computer, even though studies show that a good percentage don’t use sufficiently strong password protection. As more people use smartphones, it’s essential to password-protect your phone, too. Your phone is an open door to all kinds of sensitive information: business email, home addresses, photos etc. Passwords on your phone can help keep the devils from darkening your doorstep.

Scary Security TipsUpdate your software — The scary guys can get into your system by exploiting vulnerabilities in your software – especially if you do not keep it up-to-date. These spooky characters are always looking for these openings, which are like an unlocked door or window, so they can get inside and do bad things. Software vendors protect you by releasing new versions of their programs that are less vulnerable to attack – sort of like installing a “new and improved” lock on the door. At the same time, some of the updates include advanced new capabilities. It’s safer to update your software regularly.

Backup your data – You never know when goblins might manage to get into your gadgets, and a back-up plan is important. It’s essential that you back up data that is on your phone and computer, automatic online backup is the first and best backup plan. Mozy has got your back and will be there to protect you and your valuable photos, documents, records and data from and evil tricksters lurking in the shadows.

Mozy hopes you stay safe and sound on these cold dark nights!!

Brad Gobble is Sr. Manager of Information Security at Mozy.

Desktop KVM switches add convenience to using more than one computer

If you’ve got two or more computers — say, a desktop and a notebook — or perhaps two desktops and a notebook — or three notebooks — switching among them can be a nuisance.

It’s particularly a nuisance if you want to be switching back and forth among systems during over a session, like if one is your “business production” system, another is your testing platform, plus you’ve got a notebook for when you travel.

One way to do this is to use “remote desktop/remote control” software like GoToMyPC, LogMeIn, TeamViewer, VNC, or the many other offerings. These programs let you manage your computers via WiFi or Internet connections, or even from a smartphone or tablet like an iPhone or iPad.

If your computers are going to be right next to you, another option is a KVM — K for Keyboard, V for Video, M for Mouse (or other pointing device, like a trackpad or trackball) — switch.

A KVM switch is the computer equivalent of the input selection button on your television that lets you toggle between the cable, DVD player, or that old VCR.

A KVM switch lets you connect multiple computers — how many depends on the switch — and with the touch of a button, change which computer the keyboard, display and mouse are connected to. Unlike using remote desktop programs, only the computer you want to use has to be on — or you can have multiple computers on, and be switching among them like you do among windows within a given computer.

Many data centers use KVM switches to let IT admins connect to several machines from a single terminal. But KVM switches can be useful for office, home office, and home users as well.

To connect up a office/home KVM switch, you plug your keyboard, mouse, and display (some KVM switches support two displays) into the back. You then connect a KVM cable between the KVM and the computer — typically, the KVM cable includes a video cable, two USB cables, and A/V cables. Connect the KVM power supply, and, optionally, plug peripheral(s) into the KVM’s front-side USB ports — and you’re ready to go.

I’ve been using KVM switches for more than 25 years. While I typically only have one computer running at a time, KVM switches are a great convenience when I’m testing a new machine or need to access my travel notebook.

Though data-center-grade KVM switches can cost up to several thousand dollars, office/home-class KVMs are much less expensive.

KVM switches start at around $20 for two-to-four-machine switches. For example, NewEgg.com is currently listing the “IOGEAR GCS612A MiniView Micro PS/2 Audio KVM Switch with Cables” for $25.99 (MSRP $29.99). A four-to-eight port KVM that supports two video monitors and with other features may run you several hundred dollars — and would be worth it.

Don’t hesitate to bargain hunt for slightly older machines — but check the notes at the bottom of this article, and also see whether the price includes a set of cables

The KVM switch I’ve been using for the past five or more years is an IoGear MiniView Symphony.

KVM Switch

It’s got four ports, meaning it accommodates and can switch among up to four computers.

KVM Switch

It has two front-side USB ports for peripherals. Pressing a computer selector for a few seconds switches these USB ports to that computer. It also has a four-port Ethernet switch built-in.

KVM switches don’t seem to wear out, but they may not meet the requirements of your newer computers or displays. In particular:

1) Older KVMs may not connect to Windows 7 machines.

2) Older KVMs may not support the video resolution you need.

While remote-desktop software may be the wave of the future, KVM switches are an inexpensive, easy way to meet for basic needs of switching between systems.

 

MozyEnterprise

 

Bluetooth headsets, what to look for?

Bluetooth HeadsetOne of the most essential accessories for your cell phone is a Bluetooth headset — one of those little metal-bug-like things that fits in (and perhaps over) your ear, allowing you to chat without having to hold the phone up to the side of your face, or have a wire dangling between your head and one of your pockets.

Bluetooth headsets are useful for working with your mobile phone, tablet, or notebook computer and they cost anywhere from $15 to $150. Obviously, they’re not the same. So what should you be looking for, feature wise?

Based on having tried/used a dozen or so over the past several years, here’s my advice:

Staying Power

An earpiece that won’t stay on your ear won’t last long. If it’s going to fall off and get lost, it’s a bad investment. You’re moving your head around as you walk, talk, get in and out of your car. If it falls out easily, it could be minutes or miles before you even notice it’s missing.

My current favorite with this in mind are SoundID, which has a clear plastic earloop. I also like the Jawbone, but its earloop can come loose from the headset too easily. I’m partial to earloops, and to earloops that can’t detach, or at least not without some effort.

Comfort

If you’re going to be wearing this for hours at a time, it’s got to be comfortable enough, even if you wear glasses.

USB Charging Port

This isn’t as much of a problem as it was even a year or two ago, when Jawbone, Plantronics and others had proprietary, and often annoying charging ports. Thankfully, now almost all mobile vendors (other than Apple) have standardized usage of smaller USB ports, so your tech travel kit is likely to include the right cable, and if it doesn’t, you should be able to borrow or buy one easily enough.

Sound Quality at the Other End

How do you sound to whoever you’re talking to? How’s the sound cancellation — can you talk quietly in a crowded coffee shop, or as you walk by a leaf blower? You’ll need a testing-buddy to check this with, and you may want to ask a friend to wear the headset so you can hear what they sound like.

The various vendors tout a range of continually evolving noise cancellation and other audio features. Whether they make a difference — and if they do, enough to override other considerations — only you can decide.

Usability

Bluetooth headsets don’t have a lot of controls – basically, on/off, answer/end call, volume, and maybe sensitivity. Some have voice-control. Are the buttons/controls easy for you to reach up and use? Or are you making more mistakes than correct reaches?

For out-of-office use, you’ll probably also want something relatively unobtrusive — small. In the office — or if you don’t care — you may prefer a Bluetooth headset with a boom mike, either short or long, which can pick up your voice better. Similarly, you may look for one that really is a headset, meaning it has some over-the-head loop, rather than just stick-in-and-over-your-ear.

Now all you have to do is not lose the headset when you’re now wearing it…

Mozy Mobile Apps

 

Beyond “My Documents” — Organizing your files to make things more findable

Beyond My DocumentsLike the stuff in your office, closets, bookshelves, and everywhere else in your physical life, the number of data files on your computers (including cloud storage and online backups) keeps growing.

If you use your computer for business purposes — and even if you simply use it a bunch for personal reasons — that means you quickly have too many files to simply have all in one directory, just like your bills, correspondence, and other paperwork really need to be organized.

Tools like Windows 7′s built-in indexing, or the “Find” command in your file manager, may make it surprisingly easy to find a file quickly, similar to how Google (and other web search engines) help you find online stuff.

But, just like there’s no substitute for good labeling and organizing your paperwork into named folders and file drawers, that’s no substitute for good practices in naming and organizing directories and files, so that you can find things later on.

One reason is you may not remember the right keywords to search for. Another reason is you may have to look through a drive or directory using a different machine or OS — or a cloud back-up — which doesn’t have that index, or support as easy searching within files.

I’ve used two methods that since I started with computers — going back to the pre-Windows days of DOS, and working on Unix systems:

  • Giving files and directories self-explanatory names
  • Organizing my directory structure in a logical manner

A directory called STUFF, or NEW, isn’t helpful. Especially if I haven’t look at it recently. Directory and file names should tell you exactly what the file is. For example, I give directories names such as:

  • AA_WORK (current projects — I’m using the “AA_” to force these alphabetically at the top of the directory listing)
  • AA_ARCHIVES (projects I’m done with)
  • AA_PERSONAL (home, health, family, etc.)

For files, let’s work through a recent project of mine, a review of Bluetooth Keyboards. I called the finished product “Dern-TabletPubs-Review-BluetoothKeyboards.doc” and the invoice that goes with it “Dern-2012-137-TabletPubs-03-Review-BluetoothKeyboards.doc.”

Of course, there are also several files associated with the writing of this project:

_assign-TabletPubs-Review-BluetoothKeyboards.doc
_sources-TabletPubs-Review-BluetoothKeyboards.doc
notes-TabletPubs-Review-BluetoothKeyboards.doc
xcr-TabletPubs-Review-BluetoothKeyboards.doc (xrc is my shorthand for an interview transcript)

Notice that each document contains the project name (Review-BluetoothKeyboards) and the client name (TabletPubs — a pseudonym, of course).

As a freelance writer, I keep a directory for each client. Within each client, I maintain a directory for each project. Within TabletPubs, I have:

  • Feature-TabletsInEnterprise
  • Feature-Windows8-MythOrMenace
  • Review-BluetoothKeyboards
  • Review-FunAccessories

My general point: I should be able to know, or at least have a good idea, of what a file and directory are about from their names — and if for some reason I find a file in a place I don’t expect (typically because the application saved it in the wrong place) I can quickly figure out where it should go.

And, equally, I should have a good chance of finding the directory or file based on a name search, without having to search inside the files. (I’m not opposed to searching file contents, but that can often turn up way too many matches.)

Directories for active projects are in the directory AA_WORK. Once a project is finished, I move it to AA_ARCHIVES.

Anything else about my business other than projects is in AA_ADMIN, such as CONTRACTS (with a sub-directory for each client), INVOICING, RECEIPTS, TECHSUPPORT, TRIPS.

The same applies to non-business stuff, e.g. under my PERSONAL directory, I’ve got directories like CAR, DIRECTIONS, DOG, HEALTH, HOUSE.

One last tip: I also use this organizational approach to simplify and reduce my file backup requirements. Stuff I want backed up goes in one set of directories. Stuff I don’t care about, like manuals I’ve downloaded, articles I want to read, presentations I was sent for articles I was doing, vendor press kits, all go under one top-level directory like STUFF2SAVE_BUTDONTBACKUP.

Of course, I periodically rethink how I’m labeling and organizing my files — often as new topics and groups of things emerge. The same is true for my paper files, my shoeboxes of electronic doohickeys, etc. But generally, I’m able to find something quickly enough, so it must be working, at least, for me.