Email Security and Spam Filtering

In a world where no one seems to agree on anything, we can all agree that we hate spam.

For some reason, the people who send spam think it’s going to get us to buy something or switch insurance companies.

The problem is that not all spam is harmless; some spam is very malicious.

How Email Scams Work

Email that just arrives in your inbox is not harmful. In order to infect your computer or your network, you need to click something.

Because your spam program can pick up on many of these emails, it can keep you from seeing them in the first place.

There are a number of different scams. While this isn’t all of them, it’s a pretty good list of the most common types:

  • Survey – By definition, a survey online would require that you click something. The moment you do, you will either be sent to a site that has malware or will have prompted your computer to download it. Just don’t take any unsolicited surveys.
  • Imitation – This is an email from a company or a person that you know. Often, it’s an email that looks like it came from a common company, like PayPal or Microsoft. The way to know if it’s real is to look at the actual email address. The best policy is to go to their site yourself and look at your account. Don’t click anything in one of these emails.
  • Official – Scammers love to use official agencies, like the IRS or state government, to run scams. They’re hoping to panic you into clicking a button. Don’t. Again, open a tab and go to their website or look up the number and call them. The IRS doesn’t use email for official notices, ever.
  • Lottery – The lottery scam is a golden oldie. “You’ve won’t $1 million. Just click here.” No one wins a lottery they didn’t enter and no lottery will announce that you won $1 million via email.
  • Phishing – Phishing is when the scammers are looking for information. For example, they might email you posing as your email provider. It will ask you to change your password. They’ll use that to get into your account and give them access to a lot more.
  • Whaling – This is phishing designed to get to the CEO. They’re looking to hook the big fish, knowing that he or she has access to everything in the company.
  • Replacement – One common scam is to step into the middle of a transaction and reroute funds. For example, they hack a business associate to whom you’re going to send money. They send you an email saying the routing and account number have changed. Call that person. Don’t believe the email. Verify it personally with that person before you send money.
How Spam Filtering Software Works

The standard spam filter uses a combination of AI and community information to figure out what’s spam.

The artificial intelligence portion looks at how the email is written, the address it’s coming from, and the topic. It will throw that into the quarantine.

In modern solutions, the artificial intelligence will run a scan and monitor how you the user write your emails.  If it recognizes you requesting something odd, such as a change to your direct deposit, or spelling things in ways you typically wouldn’t, it will quarantine the email.

The community information is when the email or email security provider, like Google, Microsoft, or Barracuda, gets enough spam complaints from a single address. The system then sees those emails as spam.

The Next Level

There is a higher level of spam filtering that every company should have. It actively scans every email.

This software will hold all of the emails in the cloud while it not only scans everything that’s mentioned above, but it actively scans any links in the emails. The system is looking for redirects, unknown email addresses or web addresses, and other indications of fraud.

It also looks for viruses and malware embedded in the email or at any of the links. Active scanning can keep bad emails from ever showing up in your inbox.

This adds another layer of protection on your email inbox and helps you keep control of what you’re seeing, let alone clicking.

Some people complain that this can slow down emails that they’re waiting for, but in most cases, unless there’s an actual problem, it’s microseconds for the system to analyze an email.

Putting Email Protection in Place

Putting email protection systems in place will require understanding the level of information being exchanged and how the company’s email system is configured.

It’s equal parts software and human behavior.

Here are a couple the levels of protection that can be installed:

  1. Antivirus with automatic email scanning – This is the first step. Not only will the antivirus work to protect your computer or servers, but it actively scans emails as discussed above.
  2. Phishing and Internet Security – These programs protect the company from scams that are found on websites. This can include keyloggers that track every keystroke on a computer. This captures our login information everywhere you go and will go in to pretend it’s you.

In many cases, all of these functions can be found in a single piece of software.

If you have a managed IT service for your servers and workstations, your provider should have already implemented this type of software. It’s worth asking to know that your assets are actually protected.

The most important protection you can put in place is education. Whether it’s sending information, clicking a link, or downloading a bad file, almost every email hack requires that a person does something.

Round 1
An employee working from home keeping productivity high.

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed business for millions of us. Lots of our workers have been sent home to work.

This creates a new dilemma:
How do we make sure that everyone is productive even when they’re not in our offices?

In truth, it’s not hard as long as you have a plan and know how to follow up with your newly out-of-the-office staff.

What are some steps I can take?
  • Create clear goals, every day. Every day, start with an expectation of what will get done. Look at your year’s goals, then break that out to the month, then the week, then to days. There will always be changes in the plan, but that’s the best place to start.
  • Start every day with a meeting. Every morning, the whole team should be on a call to talk about the day’s plan. If your staff is too large, break out by department. The most important part is that everyone gets a chance to talk about challenges and the day’s goals. Remind everyone of the week’s goals as well.
  • Post goals on the group chat board. Put the goals up on the group chat or management boards. That gives everyone a place to go if they get sidetracked. You can also put up the future goals and the goals that were missed recently.
  • Have a Project B. There should be a second project that your team can work on if they get stuck on the main one. For example, if they’re building an app for a client and suddenly need to know something, they need to email the client (or you) and wait. Have a second project, maybe a website or another app. If you have a law office and your paralegals are at home, have a number of documents in the queue to work on. If one hits a roadblock, they can start on a different one.
  • Use the cloud. Keep documents in the cloud so everyone can access what they need, no matter where they are or when they’re working. The cloud is only as secure as your passwords, so institute a strong password policy. Make sure files are neatly organized so everyone can find everything, but the cloud is the place to work.
  • Encourage collaboration. Using Zoom, Skype, or any number of other meeting apps, your team can work together. Invite everyone to a group lunch one day a week to just grab a bite and chat. The more your people feel connected, even remotely, the better they’ll work together.
  • Everyone in. Keep everyone in the loop. No one can be left out of meetings. If it’s completely outside their purview, make sure they’re invited, but their attendance isn’t mandatory. It’s very easy to feel shunned when you’re not face-to-face. It can even make people feel paranoid. Invite everyone, but only the essential personnel to any project needs to be there.
  • Be available. Make sure that you’re available to answer questions as much as possible. Have your chat function open. Make sure your phone is on. Get email notifications. Schedule “office” hours where you’re available to help people grow and learn.
  • Assign mentors. If your team isn’t used to being remote workers, mentors can help them stay on task. Simple things, like prioritizing the day, staying focused, even setting up a desk, can seem daunting when you’ve been working in an office for decades.
  • Use video for new projects or skills. Create instructional videos that show your team new skills or introduce new projects. This will let them feel like you’re right in front of them and will give them something to look back at if they get lost.
  • Share contracts and customer documents. Letting your staff see what’s been promised to a client makes it easier for them to have buy-in. It lends clarity to their work. When they’re in an office and can simply ask the boss, it’s easier. When they’re at home, often working by themselves, seeing what the whole project is supposed to look like can help a lot. It also conveys trust.
Productivity Software

There are literally thousands of programs and web based apps to help your team work together. The big ones, like Microsoft Teams and Google G Suite, are everywhere, but any search for collaboration tools will get you endless pages of companies that have solutions for you.

The key is to look for what your team needs. If you’re dealing mostly in documents, Google is great. If you’re creating apps or doing graphic design work, you might need a specialized collaboration tool.

If you’re not sure, ask some business contacts or look in trade magazines or on trade websites. Even a Google search, like “collaboration tools for app designers”, should get you some options.

Keeping It Secure

Start right from the beginning with a strong password policy. There are lots of random password generators and vaults in the world such 1Password and LastPass, some of which have free packages. Otherwise, set down some rules and teach your team to create tough passwords.

It might be important to put everyone on a VPN, especially if they’re sending sensitive information back and forth, such as accounting data or medical office records.

Staying Organized

The most difficult part of working in an office, let alone remotely, is keeping the files, images, documents, and more all neatly organized is difficult.

Take the time to create a set of standards for creating anything. What to name files, how to date them, how to record versions, etc. should all be in your policies. Write the policies out and speak to your team about them. This way, everything is standardized and will make it much easier to find things if you’re not the person who created the original file.

A Note on “Productivity Trackers”

Some bosses like “productivity trackers.” These are programs that take a snapshot of the employee’s screen randomly, track what websites they go to, and more.

Many employees find these offensive. They are, essentially, spyware. They allow the employer to see everything that an employee does. They’re only supposed to work when the employee is “on the clock”, but many of these jobs are salaried or flat rate contracts.

From our perspective, if you distrust your staff that much, you need a new staff. If you create a list of daily goals and those goals are met, that’s really all you need to worry about. If you think that staff can get more done, add more goals.

This type of software is a very clear sign that you don’t trust your people. That’s not going to create the loyalty you need to make remote working successful.

The companies that sell this type of product will tell you how innocuous it is. Consider, do you want someone to be able to take a screenshot of your computer any time they want?

It’s easy to keep your team productive and working well together. Over-communicate, give them lots of tools, and trust they’ll do the very best they can every time.

Everound has been successfully engaging and supporting businesses to adapt to this new era of remote workers. From every facet of a company’s IT, we can assist, from employee experience to data center to cyber security and much more. If you need assistance transitioning your company to a work from home environment, we can help. Contact us today using the contact form below or by calling us at +1 717.312.5890!





Round 1
Computer Error Help Desk Support
It happened again! Your network hit some kind of glitch and the whole office is staring at frozen screens. You tried “turning it off and turning it back on again.” That didn’t help.

Your whole network is down, the guy who installed it told you it might not come back up.

So you sit there, paying people to stare at screens and wondering how this is going to get fixed.

The answer is simple: You need help desk.

What is help desk?

Help desk is a group of techs you can call when there’s something wrong with your computers or your network. They help with everything from resetting a password to rebooting the network.

The people at the help desk are there 24 hours a day or however many hours your office is open. They answer questions about everything from your desktop programs to what’s happening with your servers.

In short, they’re there to make sure that your technology keeps functioning exactly as you need it to.

Do we need help desk?

Does a small or medium-sized business need a help desk? Yes.

Every time someone can’t get their computer to start or loses a password, you’re losing money. Even if you’re the only person in your company, do you really want to spend a lot of your time figuring what’s wrong with your computers?

Very often, help desks are paired with managed IT services. Managed IT makes sure that your network is up-to-date and running smoothly. They do all the maintenance on your systems, often even physical maintenance.

By pairing managed IT and your help desk, you’ll know that you have a team answering the phone that really understands all of your systems and programs. When you call them, no matter what the questions are, they’ll know how to help you get back to work fast.

Can I afford help desk?

Yes, definitely.

IT companies, like Everound, know that not everyone needs a help desk every day. They offer a variety of packages to choose from.

  • On-call – This is one that most people think of. The company pays to have a team on call 24 hours a day. This is ideal if you have a team that works 24 hours a day. This can help prevent the boss from getting calls at 2 am on a Sunday morning. This type of service is almost always part of the larger managed IT services programs.
  • Limited Hours – You can get IT help desks that are only available during your business hours. If your company works Monday through Friday, 9 to 5, you don’t need someone to answer program questions on Saturday afternoon. Talk to your help desk provider to see if they can offer this type of assistance. It’s less expensive.
  • On-Demand – You can arrange for a help desk provider to simply bill you for whatever time they’re on the phone or fixing issues. That might be an hour one month and 10 hours the next. While this might be unpredictable, you’ll know you’re spending money when you do it.

The easiest way to find out what’s best for your needs is to schedule a call with a help desk provider. Talk about the size of your company, how often you need help, what types of systems and computer programs you have, and your budget. Together, you can come up with something that works for your company.

IT Help Desk for Customers

An IT help desk is a great investment in your customer relations, as well.

  • Ecommerce – If you have an online store, you don’t want to lose a sale because the customer is having problems with your system. A 24-hour help desk can chat or speak with your customers to help them get their orders placed. Companies that don’t offer a help desk can lose thousands of dollars every month just because a customer is not clicking a button or is confused.
  • Mobile apps – Apps can give customers fits. If you have an ecommerce app or other complex app that your customers need to navigate, you need someone there to answer questions and fix problems.
  • Ticketing and scheduling – For important things, like concerts and doctors’ offices, scheduling is important. Being able to assure someone that their appointment or seat is reserved is the difference between staying in business and losing a lot of customers.
  • Personal accounts – Any business that allows customers to have a personal account, whether it has money on it or not, needs a help desk. If a customer has information that they will need access to, you need someone there to help if there’s a problem.

In short, customers like help desks. They’re used to them. Not having someone to help quickly can mean the difference between more sales and more brand loyalty and having a lot of very angry customers.

The ROI of SMB Help Desks

Do you get a return on your investment with small- and medium-sized business help desks?

Definitely. If you choose the right plan, that one that fits your company’s needs, it will help you take better care of your staff, keep your customers happy, and reduce downtime. You’re less likely to lose sales to broken technology. Your staff will spend a lot less time looking for answers or just staring at a blank screen.

Choosing a IT Help Desk Company

It’s easy to find one of those big help desk companies. They are everywhere with their advertising and you’ve even interacted with them. But they’re often not the right choice. One-size-fits-all programs and canned answers aren’t necessarily great customer service.

The reality is that a smaller company, like Everound, provide your customers, both internal and external, with better, more personal service. A room full of help desk people reading canned answers from a screen is not the personal touch that most small- and medium-size businesses want.

In other words, choose a help desk company that’s closer to your company’s size to ensure that every interaction is as personal and professional as the ones you have with everyone.

Everound has been successfully engaging and supporting businesses to adapt to this new era of remote workers. From every facet of a company’s IT, we can assist, from employee experience to data center to cybersecurity and much more. If you need assistance transitioning your company to a work from home environment, we can help. Contact us today using the contact form below or by calling us at +1 717.312.5890!





Round 1
How to spend your IT Budget - COVID-19

COVID-19 hit, and all your employees went home to work. We all thought this would be temporary, last only a few weeks, maybe a month… Employers are now seeing remote work is possible. Users can be efficient from a spare bedroom. What does this mean for IT? How can we make sure our company is secure? How do we optimize our budget? Let’s talk.

Define what will need to be accessed by employees within the LAN.
Step 1: What and How are employees accessing work data since COVID-19?

Let’s review what will need to be accessed by employees. Commonly, file servers are still used by many small to mid-sized businesses for their low cost and easy management. While this is ideal when employees are onsite, you are now over utilizing your firewall with VPN and slowing transmission speeds from your users downloading and constantly accessing large files. Solutions such as Egnyte, Dropbox and SharePoint can offload your data to a secure cloud while retaining IT security and disaster management over the files.

Next, you have applications on local servers. Consider VDI or Remote Desktop to minimize access. By using VDI, we can narrow down VPN access to one entry point and control the traffic. VDI will also give you the ability to increase resources to the backend of the infrastructure to, you guessed it, improve your user experience!

The key to success here is to keep thinking, constantly review your environment. What do your users need access to? Ask why. Shutdown, remove or lockdown the areas that will not need to be accessed remotely.

Decide what applications can be moved to a cloud environment.
Step 2: Did COVID-19 strengthen our move to the cloud?

Can we offload old applications? How many times are we hanging onto legacy apps or databases for no reason other than lack of time or the disruption to users? Well now disruption is everyday! Now is the time to review these systems. Is there a better cloud app out there? In most cases, a couple minutes of “Googling” lands you a solution someone with the same problem decided to fix and sell.

Selling these applications to the CEO can be easy. Remind him how Joe spends 3 hours each day connecting to VPN, opening an SRSS report, running a report, exporting to CSV, formatting, and saving to PDF only to email it to 30 colleagues. This new app automatically emails the report every morning and there’s a mobile app! Sold! Another server decommissioned and more users off VPN.

Spend the time to understand what your users need to be successful. Use this knowledge to present new solutions.

Review your security and device management. Do you still have the same control?
Step 3: Review security and management since COVID-19

Are you still in control? How are you handling group policies and windows patching? The traditional SCCM build isn’t going to work if no one is connecting to VPN. Consider solutions such as Azure Admin Center, Datto, PolicyPAK, ManageEngine or VMware Workspace One. All provide many tools to help with RMM, group policies, software installs and windows patching for your remote users.

What can you reduce or remove from your internal network which is no longer useful?
Step 4: Reduce from COVID-19

Identify areas of your network that are no longer used. We’ve just looked at areas where you will need to spend money to improve the experience of your employees and also to keep them secure. Now we need to identify where we can reduce cost.

Look at your circuits, do you have empty offices or servers with less applications that can be combined. Review the use of your PRIs and VOIP platform. Finding areas to reduce cost and using that budget to optimize your infrastructure with new technology is proof of a successful IT professional.

Speak with your CEO. Understand the long-term vision
Wrap up

Key to any changes you make, is to be aligned with your company. Speak with the President, CEO or board. Understand the needs and direction they plan to take long term. Your agility to adapt to their vision will solidify the success of your department.

 

Additional reading can be found here https://www.cio.com/article/3545534/sharp-it-budget-cuts-expected-in-wake-of-covid-19.html.

Everound has been successfully engaging and supporting businesses to adapt to this new era of remote workers. From every facet of a company’s IT, we can assist, from employee experience to data center to cybersecurity and much more. If you need assistance transitioning your company to a work from home environment, we can help. Contact us today using the contact form below or by calling us at +1 717.312.5890!