Smart Things versus Privacy

Since the dawn of Internet of things, the tech giants have brought us a wave of new products that fit every nook of our homelife. Among the most revolutionary are smart speakers. Each device is activated by a wake word (“Alexa”, “Hey Siri”, “Ok Google”, “Hey Cortana”) after which it listens for a command or question: “…what’s the weather like tomorrow?” “Order more paper towels”, ” play classical radio on Apple music” “Turn on the lights” are just a few of the types of commands these virtual assistants will answer to. According to Techcrunch.com on a report by Juniper Research, 55% of U.S. households are expected to have a smart speaker. That is 70 million households with a device with microphones capable of capturing sound across a home!

Amazon brought us the Echo lineup, Google brought us Google Home, and Microsoft and Apple recently stepped into the smart speaker world with the Harmon Kardon Invoke smart speaker powered by Microsoft’s Cortana, and Apple’s recently announced HomePod powered by Apple’s Siri. The products function as speakers that can listen for commands, and execute applications and activate other smart home devices.

Amazon Echo 2 is Amazon’s hardware answer for their virtual assistant Alexa. powered by Amazon cloud services (image from Amazon.com)

With this newfound convenience there are concerns about privacy. Google recently revealed that a flaw in the design of the Google Home mini was causing it to record conversations without activation by the wake word. When privacy flaws emerge it does make the average consumer more hesitant to adopt such a powerful device. After all these are devices that were designed to control the rest of the smart things we install in our homes including smart locks, cloud security cameras, and smart thermostats.

Google Home Mini, powered by Google Assistant (Image from store.Google.com)

The concerns many people face today with smart speakers are similar to the concerns we faced at the dawn of cellular phones and in a new wave with smartphones. Suspicions of government or corporate spying on our day to day lives became a concern for some and subject of debate. Since that time, new protocols have been implemented to assure autonomy in personal phone use. Apple encrypts text message conversations in iMessage, and Snapchat launched encrypted picture communications.

 

Apple HomePod, powered by Apple’s Siri (image from Apple.com)

Based on this history, we can expect a similar evolution to occur as smart things begin to integrate more and more into our daily lives and privacy becomes a weightier concern. already, strides have been made in the programming of these devices to answer privacy concerns Microsoft’s Cortana saves personal data it collects locally to a computer rather than to the cloud in a place called Cortana’s Notebook. If a user chooses to sync data to the cloud, Microsoft provides a highly secure 2 factor authentication on personal accounts. Users can edit or remove data stored there at any time. Apple programmed Siri to hold the personal data it collects encrypted in iCloud storage, so you control what data Apple retains for use of Siri. Google’s privacy site allows you to delete your search history either by voice assistant or by text from Google’s servers at privacy.google.com, all encrypted and secured by your Google account. Amazon has made it clear they wish to prevent exploitation of their users by banning repugnant ads from the Alexa platform .

Harmon Kardon Invoke powered by Microsoft Cortana, (image from PCMag.com)

 

Every company producing Smart speakers has a strong privacy policy and each can be found below:

Apple:

https://www.apple.com/privacy/

Google:

https://privacy.google.com/

Microsoft:

https://privacy.microsoft.com/en-us/windows-10-cortana-and-privacy

Amazon:

https://www.amazon.com/gp/help/customer/display.html?nodeId=468496

 

 

 

 

Sources:

https://www.privacyrights.org/consumer-guides/privacy-age-smartphone

http://money.cnn.com/2017/10/11/technology/google-home-mini-security-flaw/index.html

Voice-enabled smart speakers to reach 55% of U.S. households by 2022, says report

 

ABS is Going Green

Automated Business Solutions is proud to announce new partnership with Goodwill Industries of Rhode Island! Goodwill Industries of Rhode Island has a proud heritage of helping those with barriers to employment find employment. This is done by providing training, education, and other services in order to enhance a persons capacity for independent living, increased quality of life and work. Donations from individuals, corporations, small businesses, educational institutions, healthcare facilities, and government agencies, help provide Goodwill Industries the revenue to continue to offer educational and training opportunities to the Rhode Island community.

At Automated Business Solutions, we believe engaging in our community is very important. Our new partnership with Goodwill Industries of Rhode Island will not only allow us to help strengthen our community involvement, but also help to protect our environment. Beginning in September, all ABS electronics and toner cartridges will now be recycled through Goodwill Industries Electronic Waste (EWASTE) Recycle Program. Used and end-of-life computers, laptops, monitors, audio and video equipment, printer and toner cartridges, and various other electronics will now be properly recycled in accordance to The Responsible Recycling Practices Standard (R2). The R2 Standard is recognized by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and designed to promote and assess responsible practices for electronics recyclers. By certifying to this Standard, used and end-of-life electronic equipment will be managed in an environmentally responsible manner, and protective of the health and safety of workers and the public. Because of this, Automated Business Solutions can proudly and confidently promote a “greener” community.

Password Security: It’s Time for a Change

 

Your favorite password probably isn’t safe. As you can see in the cartoon above, we’ve all been using passwords that are hard for us to remember and easy for computers to guess.

It’s never been more important to have strong passwords. As you likely already know, credit reporting agency Equifax has been hacked. If you haven’t already, you should take these steps to protect yourself immediately. That aside, who’s to say someone logging into your bank account with your correct information and password isn’t you? It’s imperative that we all do the best we can to protect ourselves as hacks similar to this one seem to be happening left and right.

Creating strong passwords and remembering them is a pain, but I promise it is less painful than finding out someone has stolen your identity. Just last month, a person in Russia hacked into my eBay account and purchased an iPhone and some clothing. He then tried to get the shipping address changed.


It made no difference to Viktor Petryashin that I hadn’t used my eBay account in years. He cracked my old password from middle school “Awesome7” and went on a shopping spree.

The best way to protect yourself? Use a password manager. You can check out the best here. Most will create complex passwords for you, save them for easy copy/paste and utilize browser extensions to automatically type them in for you. All you need to remember is one strong master password. Then you can let the password manager handle the rest. Once it’s set up, clear the saved passwords from your browser and never save them there again.

Remember, these common password set-ups are NOT okay.
Mykid2001
Monkey
M0nk3y
Password123

It feels less and less likely that our data is safe online. If these major companies can be hacked, what’s to stop anyone from hacking me? Our last line of defense is a strong password.

You wouldn’t install a home security system and leave the safe wide open. Protect yourself.

 

Battle of the Browsers

“The only use for Internet Explorer is to download another browser.”
It seems millions of others agree. Google Chrome surpassed Internet Explorer in 2012 and has only increased it’s share of users since then. The popular browser continues to grow as web developers optimize their websites for the browser most people are viewing their site with. The chart below shows an estimated browser market share.
It’s important to keep in mind that more people are browsing from their mobile devices than ever before. Android (developed by Google) is the most popular mobile OS worldwide. The default browser installed on Android devices is Chrome, further padding their lead ahead of Apple’s Safari.
But not everyone is happy with Chrome’s massive presence. Mozilla, the creator of Firefox, deployed a Billboard recently likening Google to Orwell’s Big Brother in 1984.
Shortly after the Billboard went up, Mozilla announced Firefox 57 which promises to be a “night and day” difference to the current Firefox 55. A new design, several significant performance increases, and potentially a new logo add to the hype around the latest release.
Not all browsers are created equal. Some of the underdogs don’t mind. Opera has developed an experimental browser based off of Chrome called Neon. Neon uses your desktop wallpaper as it’s background and displays your most visited pages in bubbles that “float” to the top the more you use them.
Though it may not matter to you which browser you use, it does matter to developers. The good news for us is that more competition in the browser market will continue to produce new features and improve overall experience across platforms.
And hey, if you like Internet Explorer, keep doing your thing.

Ransomware: The Phantom Menace

 

A disturbing global trend in recent years is the increase in popularity and potency of ransomware viruses. Ransomware is a fairly new type of virus that finds and encrypts your files and won’t decrypt until you pay a ransom to the developer. Most recently the Petya ransomware virus targeted several hospitals and government buildings taking in about $10,000 worth of payments. WannaCry developers took in around $50,000 earlier this Spring, and new copycat variations of each are popping up rapidly.
Though early forms of ransomware have been around since 1989, the first encrypted locker software to hit the web surfaced in 2013. CryptoLocker, and its primary creator are responsible for over 100 million dollars in losses according to the FBI. The Russian hacker responsible is still at large.
We all have an antivirus software installed, so how do these threats keep spreading? McAfee put together a list of the most common ways.
The best way to protect yourself is to remain vigilant when using the internet. Unfortunately, no matter how much you spend on antivirus or how often you update Windows, even the most tech-savvy user is the weakest part of a network. We must all continue to be careful when opening emails and following links, even if they come from coworkers or friends.

Office Equipment Center Joins Automated Business Solutions

Office Equipment Center joins Automated Business Solutions!

 

Automated Business Solutions is pleased to announce the acquisition of Office Equipment Center.

 

Warwick, RI (May 23, 2017) – Automated Business Solutions, a leading provider of office productivity solutions, including Office Equipment, IT infrastructure, IT support, and document management solutions, today announced that they have acquired Office Equipment Center, a company with a rich history specializing in business technology solutions.

 

“We look forward to welcoming all of the current Office Equipment Center employees into our Automated Business Solutions family. Since our corporate cultures and values were consistent, the integration of all employees within both companies has already begun to take place. Our mutual clients will be able to access more comprehensive solutions, delivered by the same familiar people and with the same high quality standards they have come to expect and deserve!” stated Alan Albergaria, President of Automated Business Solutions.

 

Office Equipment Center (OEC) began servicing Connecticut businesses, municipalities and schools in the early 1970’s. It was purchased by Michael Ardry in 1988 who has grown the business from its roots as a typewriter and calculator company into a leader in the office technology sector. With Michael’s foresight, OEC began its Information Technology division in 2000. David Wilson joined OEC in 2005 to lead the IT division bringing new technologies to their growing customer base.

 

Michael Ardry, former President of OEC said, “We are extremely excited about joining the Automated Business Solutions (ABS) team. Their additional resources throughout New England will help us to better serve both our printer/copier and IT customers.   In addition, because of ABS’s expanded product offerings, we will be able to provide exciting new technologies, products and services to our current clients.”

 

Alan went on to say, “The combined expertise of our two technology firms is outstanding. We will now be able to offer our superior line of products and services that fit the needs for companies of any size throughout CT, MA and RI!”

 

About Automated Business Solutions

Automated Business Solutions was founded in 1992 by Alan Albergaria and Robert Maceroni. Since their inception, the company has grown while maintaining the same personalized service their original customers had come to expect. Today, we have a staff of over 60 employees, which includes 17 professionally trained technicians. Utilizing the skills that these technicians bring, Automated’s client base has grown to over 4,000, covering a wide array of industries and sizes. This client base includes Start-Ups looking for a business partner they can leverage to take them to the next level as well as established industry leaders, some who have as many as 1,000 devices. We offer Document Management & Retention solutions for any sized organization. Our Information Technology Department offers monitoring support on desktops, mobile devices, servers, and networks. This includes sales, preventative maintenance and issue remediation.

 

For more information please contact:

 

Alan Albergaria, President & CEO

Automated Business Solutions

415 Kilvert Street

Warwick, RI 02886

Phone: 800-832-2729

Email: alana@ABSNE.com

DataNet Joins Automated Business Solutions

DataNet joins Automated Business Solutions!

 

Automated Business Solutions is pleased to announce the acquisition of DataNet.

 

Warwick, RI (May23, 2017) – Automated Business Solutions, a leading provider of office productivity solutions, including Office Equipment, IT infrastructure, IT support, and document management solutions, today announced that they have acquired DataNet, a company with a rich history specializing in business technology solutions.

 

“We look forward to welcoming all of the current DataNet employees into our Automated Business Solutions family. Since our corporate cultures and values were consistent, the integration of all employees within both companies has already begun to take place. Our mutual clients will be able to access more comprehensive solutions, delivered by the same familiar people and with the same high quality standards they have come to expect and deserve!” stated Alan Albergaria, President of Automated Business Solutions.

 

DataNet is a valuable acquisition for Automated Business Solutions since they are a full-service computer consulting company specializing in providing support to the small to mid-sized business market.  Founded in 1998, the DataNet team prides themselves on client satisfaction and client retention. DataNet provides professional technical services in all areas of data processing:  network planning and administration, server management, desktop support and programming. DataNet’s management team, consisting of Joe Spaziano and Kevin Major, built a successful business by taking the time to fully understand the business needs of their clients.  They kept abreast of emerging technologies and their applicability to these needs.  The majority of their clients do not have an information technology staff, so DataNet functioned as their virtual Technology Manager, providing trusted advice in all technical matters.

 

 

DataNet’s Joe Spaziano added, “We realize that every Technology client that we have also has a print management component that has grown more complex in recent years.  It really makes sense to offer our clients a one-stop support environment instead of having to deal with different technology and print vendors for each client.  It was a natural merger when we met with Automated Business Solutions to pool our skills and expertise.  ABS fit the bill as they have years of expertise, a reliable and varied product base and work culture that puts the customer satisfaction at the top of their goals list.”

 

Alan went on to say, “The combined expertise of our two technology firms is outstanding. We will now be able to offer our superior line of products and services that fit the needs for companies of any size throughout CT, MA and RI!”

 

 

 

About Automated Business Solutions

Automated Business Solutions was founded in 1992 by Alan Albergaria and Robert Maceroni. Since their inception, the company has grown while maintaining the same personalized service their original customers had come to expect. Today, we have a staff of over 60 employees, which includes 17 professionally trained technicians. Utilizing the skills that these technicians bring, Automated’s client base has grown to over 4,000, covering a wide array of industries and sizes. This client base includes Start-Ups looking for a business partner they can leverage to take them to the next level as well as established industry leaders, some who have as many as 1,000 devices. We offer Document Management & Retention solutions for any sized organization. Our Information Technology Department offers monitoring support on desktops, mobile devices, servers, and networks. This includes sales, preventative maintenance and issue remediation.

 

For more information please contact:

 

Alan Albergaria, President & CEO

Automated Business Solutions

415 Kilvert Street

Warwick, RI 02886

Phone: 800-832-2729

Email: alana@ABSNE.com

Securing My Life in 2016

Let me start by saying I’ve had my personal information compromised when large companies were hacked twice. I used my debit card to make purchases with Home Depot and with Sony shortly before they were each hacked a few years ago.

Because I think internet privacy is important, and also because I don’t intend on having my identity stolen I’ve started using a few different free, secure communication services that I’ll post here in case you also plan to prevent identity theft.

The first and maybe most important is an email provider called Proton Mail. All servers are hosted in Switzerland (who has much more stringent privacy laws than the US) under 1000 meters of rock. I’ll be using this account to replace my google account for everything connected to my bank accounts, Paypal, Venmo, etc.

Web: protonmail.com

Android: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details…

iOS: https://itunes.apple.com/…/protonmail-encrypted…/id979659905

Second I would recommend installing Signal. It’s an encrypted text messaging / calling app endorsed by Edward Snowden.

Web: whispersystems.org

Android: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details…

iOS: https://itunes.apple.com/…/signal-private-messe…/id874139669

Third, because I don’t have a company cell phone and my cell number is connected to several accounts that should be more secure, I’ve started using Sideline. It allows me to have a second phone number on the same phone that I can give out more freely or put on a business card and not worry about it being used to access my personal information.

Web: www.sideline.com/

Android: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details…

iOS: https://itunes.apple.com/…/sideline-2nd-phone…/id1012032539…

It feels like we’ll never really have the tools to maintain 100% private online lives. Hopefully by using a few of these we can make a few hacker’s jobs more difficult.

Tech Talk – October 2016 – SMTP

What is SMTP?

You may have heard this acronym once or twice when talking about scanning to an email address.

SMTP stands for Simple Mail Transfer Protocol. It’s the method of communication that moves your email across networks (like the Internet.) SMTP works with the Mail Transfer Agent (MTA) to send your information to the correct computer and email inbox. SMTP spells out and directs how your email moves from your computer’s MTA to an MTA on another computer, or several computers.

What is an SMTP Server?

Continue reading “Tech Talk – October 2016 – SMTP”