Tag Archives: techno advantage

Your #1 Hacking Threat Is INSIDE Your Own Organization

21 Feb 18
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Every movie portrays hackers in pretty much the same way. When it comes to crunch time, they crack their knuckles, sit down at the keyboard, and begin tapping away at lightning speed. The timer is ticking down, the music reaches its peak of tension, but the hacker remains cool as a cucumber. Within seconds, they’re in, they’ve “hacked the mainframe” and prompted high fives from their swarm of cohorts waiting in the wings with bated breath.

In reality, hackers are rarely up against some impenetrable digital fortress, digging into the passwords of a megacorporation or the US government. The vast majority of the time, they’re nothing more than a ragtag group of bored criminals up against some unassuming small business. And more often than not, netting thousands of dollars from ordinary businesses just going about their day-to-day routines requires little coding at all, and certainly no “mainframe hacking.” According to IBM’s 2016 Cyber Security Intelligence Index, 60% of the time, all it takes is an unwitting insider to accidentally leave the company’s digital front door wide open.

The Dangers Of Human Error

Cybercriminals may be experts in sniffing out the slightest vulnerability in your company’s security, but a lot of the time, the data they need practically falls into their laps. Every day, internal e-mails are mistakenly addressed to the wrong people, sensitive info is inadvertently made public and employees unknowingly click on malicious links.

As technology has progressed, the number of potential threats has increased exponentially. Average Joes simply can’t be bothered to keep up with hacking trends, and therefore are prone to opening your business up to cyber-attack by simply bumbling through their daily activities. If they’ve never been taught, how could they possibly know otherwise?

Digital Impostors

One of the easiest ways hackers can gain access to your business’s valuable data is by posing as a trusted figure within your organization. This may sound complicated, but in today’s world of social media and constant interactions through screens, it really isn’t. Hackers can use data pulled from Facebook to either hijack the e-mail accounts and identities of employees or pretend to be them outright. After that, they can send peculiar requests to other members of your team. After all, if your CEO, Controller, or Office Manager sends you an urgent e-mail, you’re probably going to open it. In many cases, by gaining access to a particular team member’s credentials, hackers can bring down barriers and decrease the effectiveness of your security network, while staying completely invisible.

Smarten Up Your Team

No matter how comprehensive and powerful your cyber security software may be, it’s not going to do much if an unsuspecting employee welcomes the bad guys into your network. With that in mind, it’s vital that we provide specific training to our teams to truly make data security a priority.

But don’t do this alone — after all, you’re not the security expert. Instead, ask us (or your current provider) to equip you and your employees with the know-how to stave off digital attacks. We provide comprehensive services for you and your team, including:

  • Giving employees a crash course on contemporary hacking strategies. You’ll likely be shocked by how many of them don’t even know what phishing is. During the training, we will provide specific examples of potential attacks – especially phishing – and how to avoid them.

 

  • Putting systems in place empowering employees to alert the organization of vulnerabilities. For example, if John in manufacturing receives a suspicious e-mail, the entire company should be on the lookout within minutes.

 

  • Teaching your employees that software updates and patches are more than just a nuisance, they’re a necessity for up to-date security. When a new patch for a key program is released, we’ll make sure your team knows it’s available and that they shouldn’t avoid installing it until later, and provide them with the tools to make it happen.

 

  • Testing your team on what they’ve learned, such as sending out false suspicious e-mails containing shady links. If anybody fails the test, there’s still work to do.

Your people are your greatest asset, but they can also be your biggest liability. In the modern world, it can feel impossible to protect yourself from data breach. Luckily, when it comes to your team, there’s one potential avenue for hackers you can fix with a little perseverance.

Business Technology Trends In 2018 To Help You Run Your Company More Efficiently

07 Feb 18
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Telecommuting is the industry standard. Today, remote working is more prevalent than ever, thanks to modern software and technology. Take advantage of this shift to reduce overhead and improve employee happiness.

Cloud services continue to dominate. Ninety-two percent of modern businesses are using one or more cloud-based programs, a number that only continues to climb. The productivity and ease-of-access fixes that the cloud offers are simply too powerful to ignore. Live video improves business-customer relations. With live chat utterly pervasive, we’ll see a shift to live video chat to further improve the customer experience. Face-to face interactions, even through the Internet, provide a level of connection impossible in years past.

HomeBusinessMag.com 9/5/2017

If You Think Your Business Is Too Small To Be Hacked…Then You’re Probably A Cybercriminal’s No. 1 Target!

23 Jan 18
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In a world of rampant cybercrime, hackers thrive on the blind faith of their targets. Despite high-profile digital security breaches showing up in the news nearly every week, most people assume they’re safe from attack.

The thinking goes that while Fortune 500 corporations like J.P. Morgan, Sony, Tesco Bank, and Target have lost millions of dollars of data breaches in recent years, my business is far too small to justify a hacker’s attention…right?

Wrong. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. According to StaySafeOnline.org, attacks on small businesses now account for over 70% of data breaches, a number that appears to be on the rise. Close to half of small businesses have been compromised, ransomware attacks alone have skyrocketed a whopping 250% since 2016, and incidents of phishing have followed suit, as reported by Media Planet.

Owners of small businesses might be excused for erroneously believing themselves safe. After all, the hundreds of little guys paying out thousands of dollars in digital ransoms each and every day are a lot less newsworthy than, say, the CIA’s recent hacking by the mysterious Shadow Brokers, or the 143 million sensitive customer records stolen in the recent Equifax fiasco. The lack of visibility of the more frequent, smaller-profile incidents plaguing the country can easily lull us into a dangerous false sense of security.

But why would a team of hackers zero in on a small-town operation when they could be targeting a giant like Google? Well, which building is a petty thief more likely to target — the bank in the center of a busy downtown, packed with security guards and high-tech theft prevention equipment, or the house in an affluent part of the city, which the owners always keep unlocked while they’re on vacation? Make no mistake — these hacker gangs aren’t boosting a couple flat screens and a box of jewelry. They’re gutting small businesses with ransoms that stretch to the very edge of their means, as much as $256,000 for a single attack, according to one TechRepublic analysis.

Of course, any small business owner will struggle to afford the security measures implemented by giant corporations. However, there is a balance to be struck between affordability and vulnerability. With just a little research, it’s actually quite easy to find an array of robust and comprehensive digital security solutions to protect your company. Such programs can turn your business from low-hanging fruit into an impenetrable fortress.

Even if you’ve somehow managed to make it through the past few years without a data breach, statistically, you can be confident that hackers will come for your business one day. With that in mind, it’s important to be prepared. Just because you haven’t had a life-threatening illness in the past two years doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have a wide reaching health insurance policy. Just because your car hasn’t broken down since you bought it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t regularly change the oil and invest in car insurance. And just like your car, your network security requires regular maintenance and upkeep to stay effective. If you grab your security software from the bargain bin, install it and forget it, you’re only marginally safer than you were before installing the barrier in the first place. Cyber security isn’t something you purchase to check off a box and give yourself an imaginary peace of mind. Instead, it’s an investment in your company’s future, the safety of your customers, and the longevity of your livelihood.

If your business isn’t too small to attract the attacks of hackers — and we guarantee it isn’t — then it’s certainly precious enough to protect. Cybercriminals will come for your business one day, but equipped with a set of up-to-date, powerful security protocols, you can rest easy knowing they’ll go away empty handed.

 

4 Sneaky Ways Cybercriminals Used Phishing In 2017

10 Jan 18
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Cybercriminals were more active in 2017 than ever before, with a staggering array of high-profile hacking incidents in the news each month. Here are four of the ways hackers used phishing to penetrate some of the most secure networks in the country last year.

Shipping Info Scam: Last July, an Internet security company called Comodo outlined a phishing strategy that was zeroing in on small businesses. Hackers sent phishing e-mails out to more than 3,000 businesses with the subject line “Shipping information.” When the recipient clicked the tracking link in the body of the e-mail, it downloaded malware to their PCs.

WannaCry: This widespread ransomware exploited a weak point in the Windows operating system to infiltrate networks across the country. Once it was in, the malware locked users out of their files and demanded a hefty ransom to retrieve their data.

The Shadow Brokers: Last April, the ominously named Shadow Brokers released a huge number of classified tools used by the NSA, including Windows exploits, which hackers then used to infect businesses throughout the world.

Google Docs Phishing: In May, hackers sent out false Google Docs editing requests to over 3 million individuals. You know how the story goes — when recipients clicked the link, phishers gained access to their entire Gmail account.

 

SmallBizTrends.com 08/29/2017

Why Hiring The Cheapest Computer Support Company Will Actually Cost You More

13 Dec 17
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As anybody working in IT will tell you, the most common question we get isn’t, “Why is my computer running so slowly?” or “Why is my Internet not working?” It’s, “What do you charge for your services?” With so many IT companies clamoring for your attention, it makes sense that you’d want to look for the most inexpensive, cost-efficient option, right?

The problem is that this question doesn’t get to the heart of the issue. Sure, any IT company can offer rock-bottom prices, but as with anything else, those savings are going to come with fewer, lower-quality IT services. Also, many cheaper services say they are inexpensive, but they typically have slow response times and nickel and dime you over everything.  Instead of asking about price right off the bat, the better question is, “What will I get for my money?”

With cheapo IT companies, the answer is not much. Maybe they’ll be there when the server breaks down or if Microsoft Word is acting weird on your computer. But you can bet they won’t help you implement IT systems that will prevent real, catastrophic issues from arising – the kinds of things that determine the success or failure of a company at the most basic level.

Today, business and technology go hand in hand. It’s an inescapable fact that good tech forms the pillars upon which successful companies stand. Many business owners still insist on cutting corners with IT, hiring cheap and inexperienced “professionals” to protect and support the most fundamental aspects of their operation.

Of course, it’s hard to fault them for doing so. Without a firm grasp of a business’s IT needs, it’s all too easy for a subpar, would-be IT partner to convince an owner they meet the company’s requirements. That’s why the question, “What will I get for my money?” is so important. IT support coverage needs to be comprehensive, addressing every potential sink-or-swim crisis before it actually happens. The integrity of your network infrastructure should support your business, rather than force you to run around putting out fires.

A downed server or temporarily unreliable network might seem like minor issues, but even the smallest of IT problems can easily snowball into an expensive nightmare that threatens your company’s very existence.

Take a company that stores all its data on a central, networked server, for example. Maybe they’re a content creation firm, with terabytes of custom-designed client marketing materials stashed away, or a large law practice with thousands of vital case documents. They were reluctant to spend much on IT support, so they went with the cheapest option available. Of course, regular server maintenance wasn’t included in their package, but they assumed their trusty hardware would keep kicking for at least a few more years. But when an employee tries to access the database, an error pops up. Upon further investigation, it turns out the outdated server has finally broken down, apparently for good. All those documents, all that data instrumental to the basic functionality of the company, is irrecoverable – thousands of hours of work (and thousands of dollars) down the drain, and all because of an issue that would easily have been caught and prevented by a team of qualified IT experts.

When technology works, it’s easy to imagine that it’ll continue working without issue. But the fact is that a computer network requires constant, behind-the-scenes monitoring and maintenance to ensure it stays up and running, not to mention secure.

From hordes of hackers waiting in the wings for you to slip up, to hardware failure, to natural disasters, rogue employees and a million other IT threats, it’s important to ensure the stability of your network before a problem comes knocking. Cheap Band-Aid solutions work great until the day they cost you thousands. It’s better to invest in a team of real IT experts, and avoid crisis altogether. It’s much cheaper to prevent something from breaking than it is to replace it altogether.

Does Your Business Need Data Breach Insurance?

29 Nov 17
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In the past few years, data breaches into small businesses by malicious hackers have climbed to an all-time high. According to data compiled by the Identity Theft Resource Center, at least 1,093 data breaches occurred in 2016, 40% more than the previous year. And this trend shows no sign of slowing down. In response to rampant cyber-attacks across the country, many small businesses have turned to data breach insurance, designed to financially protect and support victims of malicious hacking. If your system becomes infected by ransomware, the insurance can cover the cost and guide you through the process so you can mitigate damage and stress.

If your business creates and stores vast quantities of sensitive data — especially if that data is a vital asset to the company — you should at least consider protecting yourself with data breach insurance. When all else fails, it can mean the difference between shutting down for good and staying afloat in the midst of crisis.

SmallBizTrends.com 9/5/2017

Natural Disasters Can Destroy, But Your Data Is Safe If It’s In The Cloud

02 Nov 17
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This past hurricane season has brought some of the most harrowing, widespread destruction the southeastern United States has ever been forced to weather. But, despite the enormous, tragic cost of these natural disasters, the people of these communities persevere. In the wake of widespread wind damage and flooding, communities have banded together. Thousands of volunteers and neighbors are working as one to rebuild and find the way forward. There is no doubt, however, that the havoc wreaked by Hurricanes Harvey and Irma will produce aftershocks that will echo through affected areas for decades.

To anyone who turtled up in their attic in the middle of the storm or just saw a picture of the wreckage in the news after the hurricanes departed, the physical damage caused by the storm is obvious. What’s less obvious is the effect these storms have on the futures of the survivors, the reverberating impact that cuts thousands of life plans short and forces individuals to completely change their course in a cruel reversal of fate.

“Forty percent of small businesses don’t survive these events,” said Russel Honore, the previous Joint Task Force commander for Hurricane Katrina. The electrical grid is knocked out for days, and businesses are forced to close the office for what they hope is a temporary period due to flooding.

Each day that a business can’t provide service, it’s bleeding money — a cost that many businesses, especially the little guys, can’t absorb. So, they close for good, their buildings go up for lease and those who were once the heads of promising young businesses are now unemployed, in the market for a job in a city up to its neck in water.

Just as common is a business that finds its central data structures wiped out by physical damage. Following a hurricane, most businesses near the storm should have little trouble cleaning up and remodeling following nasty flooding, but if their servers, computers and network infrastructure have been wiped out, it’s a completely different story.

Oftentimes, a catastrophic loss of data will shutter a business for good. A 2010 report by technology research firm Gartner Group stated that 43 percent of businesses went belly-up almost immediately after a “major loss” of data, while 51% shut down within just two years. That leaves a measly 6% survival rate for businesses that suffer company-wide data loss.

These are scary numbers, to be sure, but there is good news: Businesses that migrate their data to the cloud are at significantly less risk of losing vital data. This is not only because your typical cloud service will back up your up-to-date data with several levels of redundancy, but because most cloud services are actually more secure than their on-site counterparts in general.

And make no mistake, businesses with on-site data are susceptible to loss far beyond physical disasters like hurricanes, flooding, earthquakes or solar flares. Don’t forget the risks disgruntled employees, freak accidents and, especially, hackers pose to your precious data. While it’s true that all of these risks still exist with cloud-based services, they’re much reduced. A 2012 Alert Logic report stated that “on-premises environment users actually suffer more [hacking] incidents” than cloud-based users, while also being subjected to “significantly more brute force attacks.” When you think about it, this makes sense. With your entire system backed up on a number of off-site locations, it’s much more difficult for hackers to encrypt the entirety of your data and hold it for ransom.

That said, not every business absolutely needs the cloud to stay secure. Certain business models need on-site structures for various reasons, and a few find it more cost-effective. Still, the cloud is definitely something that any savvy business owner needs to examine closely as a potential option. It could mean the difference between flourishing in the next fiscal quarter and going under.

Skimp On Data Protection And Pay The Price

10 Oct 17
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We’ve said it time and again: Today’s cybercriminals are using more advanced technology than ever. And those malicious tools are becoming even more sophisticated at a breakneck pace. To top it all off, new software developments are enabling these criminals to cast wider and wider nets, targeting businesses that, before, would have flown under their radar. Companies small and large, of every type, are being infiltrated by vicious cyber-attacks across the world each and every day.

Even knowing this, business owners are tempted to cut costs and corners. When you’ve never had a breach, data security can seem like a distant concern, especially for a limited budget. But regardless of which digital barriers you put in place to protect your business, you can bet on one thing: One day, your security will be tested by an attack. Whether or not the hackers punch through could mean the difference between your company shutting down for good — as 60% of small businesses do in the six months following a cyber-attack, according to the Denver Post — and remaining solvent and secure in your position.

When you’re struggling to stay afloat or simply wanting to be a savvy spender, you may think the best way to lock down your data is to put one of your staff on the task or to do it yourself.

And sure, your team can conduct hours of research searching for inexpensive security. And you’ll almost certainly find something cheap with good reviews and a decent track record. You’ll figure out how to install the software across your system, complete with firewalls, server protection, antivirus and maybe a bell and a whistle or two. Perhaps you’ll even hold a meeting to educate your staff on the do’s and don’ts of cyber security.

“Use intricately constructed passwords,” you’ll tell them. “Don’t click suspicious links in your email.”

Then, after a few days of fiddling with settings and ensuring the security software is properly in place, you’ll forget about it altogether. After all, it’s already installed, and you’ve checked to make sure there aren’t any gaps in the system. It’s not something you need to constantly monitor.

A year later, your business has — miraculously — doubled in size. You’re finally reaping profits. Best of all, a recent news story has brought your company into the public eye, and brand-new leads are contacting you every day. For the first time since the company’s inception, you can breathe easy.

Then, one Monday morning, you log into your computer. For a second, everything seems to be normal, until an innocent-looking pop-up fills your screen. “Attention!” an eerie robotic voice barks from your speakers, “Your documents, photos, databases and other important files have been encrypted!”

Thinking it’s a hoax, you click into your server drive. To your dismay, you really are locked out of everything. So, palms sweating, you read the rest of the pop-up. It provides instructions to install the deep web browser Tor as well as an address for you to visit. When you go there, you learn that in order to recover all your data, including the credit card information of your customers, you’ll need to dish out $50,000 in bitcoin.

A year ago, you couldn’t afford adequate cyber security. Can you afford $50,000 in cash today?

Identical situations are unfolding every day, with people exactly like you. Back in April, CNBC reported that across the previous 12 months, half of all small businesses had been infiltrated by malicious hackers. “Cyber security is clearly a concern that the entire business community shares, but it represents an especially pernicious threat to smaller businesses,” wrote the Securities and Exchange Commission in a 2015 report. “The reason is simple: small and midsize businesses are not just targets of cybercrime; they are its principal target.” Cheapo security solutions might be fine for a lone browser surfing the web at home, but they are shockingly inadequate resources on which to base the entire success of your company, your livelihood and the livelihood of your employees.

Frankly, it’s irresponsible to lock your data behind a flimsy $5 firewall. Invest in robust cyber security solutions and secure the future of your company.

What is VoIP Technology?

01 Sep 17
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Is it time for your business to abandon that ancient land line phone and discover the flexibility and convenience of VoIP technology? If so, you’re in luck because we’re working on a series of blog posts on this topic.  Let’s jump right in and learn the basics…

When you install VoIP technology into your home or business, you’ll have the ability to talk to others using Voice Over Internet Protocol (VoIP.)  All that means is that you’ll be able to use the phone that’s connected to the internet to make calls.

Instead of phone lines that traditionally run over the electrical or phone lines in your home already, VoIP uses your internet connection instead.

In most cases, you won’t be able to tell the difference in using VoIP over other phone technology.  It gives you the same basic results.  It sounds easy, right?  It really is that simple.

To do this, several key things will be necessary.

  1. You will need to connect your standard telephone to an adapter unit that is VoIP qualified or get a new internet ready phone unit. You may also use a microphone equipped computer to make your calls instead of a phone.
  2. When you pick up the phone to dial your friend across the ocean, the VoIP adapter realizes what you are doing and turns the voice signals you are sending into your phone into digital based signals. These are then sent across the ocean through the Internet, instead of traveling through any phone line.
  3. Your friend receives your call in the same way. He or she will pick up the phone when you call and then VoIP goes to work again.  This time it translates the digital like signals back into a standard voice transmission.  When your friend uses their phone, they hear your voice, nothing more.

As you can see, it really doesn’t make much of a difference in the experience that you have using the telephone.  You’ll be doing the same thing that you are already doing.

Here’s how it works:

Phone Call –To- Adapter- Internet – Adapter –To- Phone

Although it may seem like this process takes time, it really does not.  It will take little to no time to convert your voice into a digital signal to go over the internet service that you have and back into your voice so your friend will hear you.  In fact, the process happens so fast you may not even realize what is happening at all!

Computer Communication

Another option that you may have comes in the form of using the computer in your home or business to make your calls.

In order to do this, you will need to have a computer that has a microphone built in.  This microphone will serve as your communication tool.

When you make a call, you will simply use the software that is installed on your computer to call your friend.  When they answer, you can talk to them without any type of handset.  Instead, you’ll use the microphone to talk into.

The process is still the same.  The computer will take your voice and translate it into a digital signal which is then sent over the internet to your friend’s computer.  They can either use the phone or their own computer to talk to you.  The voice once again changes from a digital signal into an actual voice and you hear your friend, just as you would if you had dialed their phone number into your phone.

You can also do this by using a computer that is equipped with a headset that allows you to speak into it for more privacy.

As you can see, VoIP technology is quite easy to use and can help your business stay connected to your clients, suppliers and associates around the world. Techno Advantage can help you get the right equipment, ensure that your connection is optimized and maybe even save money!

If you are considering VoIP technology for your business, contact our Techno Pros here at Techno Advantage. 

Why Your Current Antivirus, Backup, And Firewall Have Been Rendered Completely USELESS (And What You Need To Do About It)

16 Aug 17
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At the end of World War I, German engineer Arthur Scherbius constructed a device that would become central in another worldwide conflict of unimaginable magnitude over 20 years later: the Enigma machine. The machines, which steadily became more complex with each iteration, consisted of a series of rotors that, by themselves, encrypted messages input via the attached typewriter. Each rotor performed a simple substitution cipher, but when run through multiple rotors, the encryption reached a staggering level of complexity.

Initially used for transmitting sensitive company secrets in the commercial sector, the technology was eagerly adopted by the German military machine prior to World War II. After war broke out across Europe once again, Enigma encoding became central to the operation of the Axis powers, used for sending vital, sensitive intelligence across the airwaves. Due to the complexity of the Enigma system, the Germans were certain that the code would not, and could not, be broken.

But the Germans were wrong. Using photographs of stolen Enigma operating manuals obtained by a German spy, the Polish General Staff’s Cipher Bureau managed to construct an Enigma machine of their own, enabling them to covertly decrypt substantial amounts of Axis intercepts. Ahead of the impending invasion of Poland, the Poles shared their knowledge with the French and British military to expedite the defeat of the Germans. A massive team at Bletchley Park in Buckinghamshire, led by code-breaking master Alan Turing, became the central location for Allied efforts to keep up with Enigma operations.

Germany, still convinced the code was fundamentally unbreakable, continued using Enigma for a wide array of communications. But even the most complicated four-rotor Enigma systems were eventually decrypted. Great pains were taken to ensure the Germans never learned their precious code had been broken, labeling any intelligence gained from Enigma as “Ultra,” keeping the significance of Bletchley Park’s operations under wraps. Ultra-intelligence was used sparingly to avoid German suspicion.

The efforts of the Polish Cipher Bureau, Alan Turing, Bletchley Park, and the hundreds of men and women who contributed to the cracking of the Enigma code were described as “decisive” in theshortening of the war, and, at the high end, are estimated to have saved over 14 million lives.

Much like the Germans who assumed Enigma was uncrackable, most business owners believe their current, potentially outdated, cyber security measures will keep their data safe. But, in the contemporary age where digital information is as precious as gold, cybercriminals are working around the clock to penetrate even the most robust security solutions. You can bet they’ve already created a workaround for your current antivirus. What was good enough before may not be good enough today. After all, it’s simply impossible that a security solution from even two years back could be equipped to defend your precious data from a cutting-edge hacking technology that didn’t even exist when it was created.

Today, companies that fail to stay abreast of the latest cyber security trends — clinging foolishly to their own Enigma — are certain to pay the price down the line. Once the lock is picked, you need a new lock, and criminals are cracking new locks each and every day.

Luckily, as your IT provider, we’re cyber security experts, and we constantly seek the latest and most robust security solutions. Don’t leave your company’s security up to a false sense of confidence. Always be looking at options to upgrade your digital security and make it a sure thing.