At ABS, we pride ourselves on staying ahead of the curve when it comes to technology. Monthly Tech Talk discussions include news, tips, and more.

Is 5G Worth it?

We know that 5G is fast, and the next-gen mobile connectivity standard should have higher download speeds than 4G. How much faster exactly, though? Try nearly three times, today’s report from the crowd sourced OpenSignal testing reveals. The top speed recorded on a 5G network in the US is 1.8Gbps (we assume this is on AT&T’s testing ground in Texas), while its 4G equivalent comes up to 0.7Gbps.

A recent news out of Korea stated that the country’s three main carriers already have a million 5G subscribers between them. Despite Verizon’s bragging that it managed to execute the first commercial 5G network connection with a phone(Moto Z3 with the respective Mod) – just a day before Korea said it will officially flip its 5G switch – the rollout in the US has been painstakingly slow.

The good news is that Verizon doesn’t charge extra for 5G connectivity, at least for now, but that doesn’t alter the fact that there is a million-strong 5G army in Korea ready for the countrywide 5G network speed tests. So what’s the verdict on Korea’s ubiquitous network. Try 1Gbps vs 0.6Gbps, and this is more of a real-world difference, given how many people are now using 5G in Korea.

When we take average speed, however, the difference is not so stark in Korea. The gap between a 5G phone and a top-shelf 4G one, let’s say between the S10+ and the S10 5G, is merely 48% in favor of 5G, whereas the one between mid range LTE handsets is significantly higher, but still far from the peak speeds differential.

Ransomware: Baltimore

Right now the City of Baltimore public offices are being held for ransom. Key files have been encrypted and city workers can not use their work email accounts or conduct many of their routine duties. The anonymous crooks are demanding ~$76,000 in bitcoin. As we all know by now, paying the ransom can’t guarantee the city will get all of its data back.

All four independent contractors hired to study the attack determined the ransomware variety to be EternalBlue. This exploit was developed by the NSA and leaked online in October 2017.

 

As Baltimore continues to endure it’s 5th week under siege, we need to continue to keep in mind the best practices that keep us safe online.

Here are 7 tips from Norton Antivirus

  1. Do not pay the ransom. It only encourages and funds these attackers. Even if the ransom is paid, there is no guarantee that you will be able to regain access to your files.
  2. Restore any impacted files from a known good backup. Restoration of your files from a backup is the fastest way to regain access to your data.
  3. Do not provide personal information when answering an email, unsolicited phone call, text message or instant message. Phishers will try to trick employees into installing malware, or gain intelligence for attacks by claiming to be from IT. Be sure to contact your IT department if you or your coworkers receive suspicious calls.
  4. Use reputable antivirus software and a firewall. Maintaining a strong firewall and keeping your security software up to date are critical. It’s important to use antivirus software from a reputable company because of all the fake software out there.
  5. Do employ content scanning and filtering on your mail servers. Inbound e-mails should be scanned for known threats and should block any attachment types that could pose a threat.
  6. Do make sure that all systems and software are up-to-date with relevant patches. Exploit kits hosted on compromised websites are commonly used to spread malware. Regular patching of vulnerable software is necessary to help prevent infection.
  7. If traveling, alert your IT department beforehand, especially if you’re going to be using public wireless Internet. Make sure you use a trustworthy Virtual Private Network (VPN) when accessing public Wi-Fi like Norton Secure VPN.

Ditch Internet Explorer for good!

Recently Chris Jackson, Microsoft’s worldwide lead for cybersecurity, decided to clear the air on Microsoft’s legacy Internet Explorer (IE).  Microsoft considers Internet Explorer a compatibility solution for business/enterprise customers that deal with legacy sites that aren’t updated for modern web browsers.  In fact the underlying technologies for Internet Explorer haven’t been updated since 1999.  IE should be used very selectively for internal sites that need it.

Jackson also says that Microsoft isn’t supporting new web standards for IE, so while many sites work fine, developers by and large just aren’t testing for Internet Explorer these days. They’re testing on modern browsers like Google Chrome, Firefox, and Edge.

Safely Remove USB Flash Drives? Not on Windows 10

Just about every tech “expert” you meet will tell you that it’s super important to safely eject a flash drive before pulling it out of your PC.

Well, Microsoft confirmed once and for all that – in Windows 10 – it’s no longer a thing you need to worry about. In October, Windows 10 introduced a feature called “quick removal” which lets users disconnect a drive anytime.  It’s now the default setting for each new drive you plug into Windows 10. Quick Removal keeps Windows from continuously trying to write information to the drive, which helps in the event you disconnect it.

Just another reason how Windows 10 is making the computing experience safer for everyone.

Market Share Update!

Windows 10 is officially the most used version of Windows (worldwide).

Password Change Policies – An Expired Approach to Security

Hate changing your password every 60, 90 or 120 days? So does Microsoft.

The company recently decided that it plans to drop expiring password policies in its security configuration baseline for Windows 10 & Windows Server.

“Periodic password expiration is an ancient and obsolete mitigation of very low value, and we [Microsoft] don’t believe its worthwhile for our baseline to enforce any specific value”, explains Aaron Margosis, a Microsoft principal consultant.

Organizations will not be able to pick their own password expiration date or choose not to have one at all.

Forcing users to pick a new password is a defense only against a valid password or password hash being stolen and used by an unauthorized person. The policy doesn’t offer much protection, but does create headaches for end-users.

Microsoft’s proposal follows US National Institute of Standards and Technology’s (NIST) overhaul of its guidance for password rules two years ago, which dropped periodic password changes and password complexity requirements.

It’s important to note that Microsoft isn’t changing its requirements for minimum password length, history or complexity, and still recommends administrators use tools which ban common passwords.

Support for Windows 7/ Server 2008 is ending January 2020

All good things must come to an end. Is your business ready to move on?

Even if you’re not quite ready for Windows 10, if you aren’t on top of your Windows updates, your Windows 7 PC or server running Server 2008 may no longer be supported in July 2019. A full six months sooner than the announced End Of Life date. It’s important to start thinking about the future now.

What does this mean if I continue to use Windows 7 / Server 2008?

You can continue to use Windows 7, but once support ends, your device will become more vulnerable to security risks. Windows will operate but you will stop receiving security and feature updates leaving your business open to hackers and cyber criminals.

Can I upgrade my existing PC to Windows 10?

Yes, you can upgrade compatible Windows 7 PCs with a full license. To take advantage of the latest hardware capabilities, we recommend moving to a new PCwith Windows 10.

Can I upgrade my existing server to Server 2016?

We wouldn’t recommend it. Upgrading an older server to run a newer operating system is like putting a fresh coat of paint on rotting wood.

Can I get a free upgrade to Windows 10?

Microsoft 365 Business comes with a free upgrade for users with a Windows 7, 8, or 8.1 Pro license on their device. By purchasing Microsoft 365 Business your users can upgrade all of their old Windows Pro licensed devices at no additional cost.

Are there other Microsoft products that will no longer be supported?

Yes. Office 2010, Exchange Server 2010, Sharepoint Server 2010, SQL Server 2008/R2, and Windows Server 2008/R2 will also no longer receive security updates or support.

Do you have one or more of these products installed on your network? Not sure which product you’re using or if you’re up to date? Call us. One of our IT professionals would be happy to sit down and discuss the needs for your individual business.

Major League Tech

Major League Tech

America’s pastime seems to hold out the strongest when it comes to resisting technology. Something about the game bleeds tradition. Even as it changes and adapts, baseball has remained a classic and authentic sport played by century old franchises.

Slowly, we’re going to start seeing more tech on the field. In February, Major League Baseball announced a partnership with the Atlantic League. The indie league will begin testing an automated umpire system called TrackMan. TrackMan (which is already installed in 30 Major League parks) measures speed and position of pitches to assist umpires in calling balls or strikes. It will look a lot like what we see on our televisions at home.

The MLB isn’t 100% on board with making TrackMan the final judge on pitches yet, but with umpires missing about 20% of calls right now, it may not be a bad idea to get started sooner rather than later.

Does baseball lose authenticity by bringing tech into the game? Or are we better off knowing the correct call was made at the right time? I’m sure New Orlean’s Saint’s fans wish they had some tech on their side during the NFC championship game. Does the spirit of baseball require human error?

Hanging up on Spam Calls

Hanging up on Spam Calls!

Spam calls are a nuisance. Plain and simple. According to a recent report cited in TheWashington Post, Americans received 26.3 billion robocalls in 2018. It’s safe to say that spam calls are on the rise.

Scammers have been known to prey on those who wouldn’t describe themselves as “tech savvy” and try to gain access to their computers. From there, scammers are only one browser-saved password away from full bank account access.

Luckily there is something we can do about it. Though most cellular providers can add call protection for an additional cost per month, Truecaller can do it for free. Truecaller is an app available on iOS and Android that blocks spam calls and text messages. I just installed it myself. You can download it here.

We may never be able to block all spam calls, but I’m looking forward to fewer interruptions. How will you use your new quiet time?

Facebook, I Quit!

New Years Resolution:

Quit Facebook!

Privacy breaches, data leaks, everything politics. It’s time to turn it off.

In October, the tech giant revealed a security flaw exposed up to 50 million accounts to being breached by hackers. For perspective, there are an estimated 307 million people on Facebook (about 16% of total accounts exposed.) This is just shortly after a voter profiling firm was able to access millions of user’s private data. Oh yeah, Facebook also allowed Microsoft’s Bing search engine to see the names of virtually all Facebook users’ friends without consent, and gave Netflix and Spotify the ability to read Facebook users’ private messages.

“People’s privacy and security is incredibly important, and we’re sorry this happened,” A representative of the company said.

*Insert facepalm emoji*

Doesn’t it feel like we’ve heard all of this before? Does it matter?

It does to me. I deleted the app from my phone. I still have an account I can check from a web browser. I’m not 100% ready for a cold-turkey exit, but it’s a start.

Top Tech Gifts 2018

1. Apple Watch

The New Apple Watch series 4 has the power to check your heartrate, log your stepcount, calories burned, remind you of what’s on your schedule, send email and text notifications, make calls, use walkie talkie radios, and much more with hundreds of apps available.

Apple Watch Series 4 in Space Grey

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Apple watch comes in a variety of colors that can be mixed and matched with bands and is available from $399. For budget buyers the Apple Watch Series 3 is available starting at $279

 

 

Apple Watch Series 3 in Space Grey

 

 

 

2.For Dummies books

Everyone has a little learning to do in some area. This holiday season, help a friend get an edge on their productivity by picking up a for dummies book on their technology. ‘For Dummies’ books are written by industry professionals in an easy to understand and consistent format that makes the learning curve of any topic much easier to get through. Titles include Windows 10 for Dummies, Microsoft Office 2019 for Dummies, Quickbooks 2019 for Dummies, Outlook 2019 for dummies and many more. Books usually range between $20-$35 on Amazon

3. Nintendo Switch

 

Nintendo Switch

Nintendo switch is a portable game console that enables quick and adaptable gameplay. 2 controllers are always available making multiplayer gameplay available anywhere you go. With titles such as Mario Kart, Super Smash Bros, The Legend of Zelda, and Skyrim, the Nintendo Switch is a game console that is sure to please gamers of every kind.

4. Amazon Echo

The Amazon Echo introduced a whole new category of tech less than 5 years ago and has already become a bestseller in technology and a must have for any smart home enthusists. The Amazon Echo is a speaker which intelligently answers voice commands and questions, plays music and internet radio, and can serve as the universal remote of your smart home, by changing the temperature, controlling smart lights, playing your favorite show on Netflix with an Amazon Fire TV stick and so much more.

Amazon Echo Dot 3rd gen in Heather Grey
The Amazon Echo 2nd Gen in Heather Grey

 

The Amazon Echo Plus 3rd Gen

The Amazon Echo lineup includes the Amazon Echo Dot, a small speaker that can fit anywhere currently starting at $29.99, The Amazon Echo is the standard speaker currently starting at $69.99, and the Amazon Echo Plus, with higher quality audio and a built-in Zigbee smart home hub  currently starting at $119.99

For budget shoppers, the Amazon Echo Dot 2nd gen is currently available starting at $19.99 .

5. Tile

We’ve all lost our keys on the wrong day. But with Tile, you are in luck. Tile is a small device that pairs to your phone via bluetooth that can clip on to easily lost items. If you leave an item behind, tile can show you the last location that it was close to your phone. If you are closeby, you can have the tile sound-off to make the item easier to find. Tile starts at $25 but you can currently get up to 45% off on multipacks.

 

6. Surface Go

Surface Go

Microsoft’s Surface Go is an inexpensive productivity tablet that runs every application in the Microsoft store. Paired with the surface pen it is a great gift for students, and professionals, great for reading emails, browsing the internet and using your favorite apps like Spotify, iTunes, Word, and Excel.

 

7. Password logbook

Forgotten passwords lead to wasted time following a password reset process, and if you forgot your email password, you can easily fall into a black hole of lost passwords. Today we are lucky to have password management software solutions such as Lastpass, Dashlane, Keeper, and 1Password. However, some users are simply more comfortable with traditional pen and paper. Although this is not the safest solution, as anyone who has access the written passwords can have access to your accounts, a password logbook may serve as a helpful mechanism for our forgetful friends. Amazon currently has passowrd logbooks by the Peter Pauper Press for less than $6

https://www.amazon.com/Personal-Internet-Address-Password-Book/dp/1441303251/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1544565360&sr=8-3&keywords=password+log+book

Virtual Reality and the Human Experience in Technology

There is a recent movement that has occurred in the video game world which may be attributed to developments such as virtual reality that attune to our need to connect as humans. Chris Milk, an immersive storyteller in his TED talk “How Technology can create the ultimate Empathy Machine” has been studying the cutting edge of technology use and its ability to make humans understand, feel and empathize. He cites film as the first technological medium in this evolution and later explains how VR builds on this medium by creating an environment that simulates full immersion in the story.

He concludes that Virtual Reality is the ultimate empathy machine and he uses it to tell the stories of immigrants and refugees to world policymakers.

Developments such as VR films have brought a change on how this medium and other interactive experiences such as video games can be used to help people in negative circumstances to be better understood. There has been a recent influx games and experiences that are meant to demonstrate these sorts of human situations such as with cancer, dementia, and mental illness, here are some examples.

That Dragon, Cancer is a video game that explores the story of a family and their son diagnosed with terminal cancer. The game goes through how the family went through this experience and presents poetic representations of the situation to players.

Before I Forget by UK based 3-Fold Games explores the perspective of an elderly woman suffering from dementia. In an article by Mark Serrells, author of the CNET article, “The video game that helped me understand my grandma’s dementia” Mark wrote, “I’d forgotten that people with dementia are also, in their own way, grieving.” This deep empathy is typical of these experiences, rather than watching what happens, the problems unfold as the player interacts with the environment creating a more direct connection between the player and the experience of those who suffer with this condition.

“Games are traditionally power fantasies, a medium in which players are the driving impetus. You solve problems, defeat monsters, save the day. Stripping back that power is, in some ways, a revolutionary act.” This divergence from the tradition of games draws into question whether games have a new genre to fill or are these experiences games at all? I named them empathetic simulations, but would there be a better name? The answer remains to be found should games like this continue to be produced and accepted as titles worth playing and seeing for years to come.

 

Sources:

https://www.campaignlive.com/article/tech-sympathy-vr-ultimate-emotive-storytelling-tool/1391407

https://www.cnet.com/news/these-video-games-are-telling-stories-of-immigration-anxiety/

http://www.depressionquest.com

http://www.thatdragoncancer.com/

https://www.3foldgames.uk/

https://www.ted.com/talks/chris_milk_how_virtual_reality_can_create_the_ultimate_empathy_machine?language=en

 

Tech Keynotes

Here come the new iPhones at the Apple September event! Samsung announced their new phones in August. All around us is the thrill of new devices.

It’s amazing how such small devices that didn’t exist in our lives 20 years ago now have millions of users. Year after year, a new lineup of devices is announced with day one sales, rivaling attendance of day one showings at the movies. But what makes these little devices so special?

Smartphones, tablets, and computers are infused with innovation and the latest editions are constantly stretching our idea of what is possible. With all of this popular appeal, we sometimes forget that these devices translate into innovative platforms that can also protect our data for business.

End to end encrypting by iMessage inspires encrypted email communication

Image result for imessage encryption

 

Innovative features like Face ID and Samsung Iris scanner provide us a quick way to enter a tough password.

Image result for samsung iris

 

AI s like Siri and Google Assistant introduce us to AI protection.

Image result for siri

Smartphones make innovation fun and exciting, but by learning these exciting technologies we learn new ways to protect our environments from cyber attacks and make our processes more efficient.