Are Your Freelancers Your Greatest Security Threat?

Freelance workers are a part of our modern work environment. We use freelancers in concert with employees to get the job done.

However, research shows that using freelance workers, especially in the area of IT, might actually be increasing your odds of facing a major security breach. Hire someone to help you with a web project, for instance, through a site like Freelancer or Upwork, and you might unwillingly be giving someone access to creating a backdoor. While they may look good in their profiles and receive high ratings, they can do a lot of potential damage to your company. They can:

  • Leave out crucial code that protects documents from unauthorized users
  • Create backdoors or the ability to upload a backdoor and take control over content and data easily in the future
  • Contain SQL injection flaws that allow attackers to easily manipulate both website data and customer data, taking control of whatever they choose to from your database

That’s not saying every freelancer you choose to work with has the potential for bringing damage to your company. Instead, it’s a warning that it’s important to understand who you work with, and more importantly, have checks and balances in place to ensure your data is secure at all time.

Before hiring

Even if you are working with a freelancer, do you get the impression they are the best person for the job?

Do they have experience in working with technology in a way that demonstrates they are up for the task?

Can they clearly restate your requirements before work begins?

Is there a language barrier that might prevent them from understanding you or providing you with the full requirements of the job?

Do they understand your security requirements?

During the project

Do they understand your milestones?

Do you see consistent progress that meets your expectations?

Do you have a trusted resource that can provide checks and balances along the way to ensure security is being met along the way?

After completion

Does the finished code meet certain qualifications? At a minimum, it should be scanned for vulnerabilities before final payment is made.

How critical is this application?

How will you perform security reviews in the coming months and years?

What does it take to access the code and add your updates along the way?

Freelancers can and will continue to be an important part of building successful companies. But like every aspect of business, using them comes with checks and balances, especially when working with your most critical data.

Is your IT vulnerable from using freelance help?

Edge Computing - The Next Biggest Thing Since The Cloud

Edge Computing – The Next Biggest Thing Since The Cloud

The loading circle spins and spins while you sit waiting for your content to show up. It’s frustrating at best.

Or maybe you’re on your way to dinner when suddenly your GPS system freezes, announces it’s calculating, and you pull over to the side while you wait for directions.

It’s something we all have witnessed from time to time.

Now imagine you’re in an autonomous car, making your way through rush hour traffic and it freezes, calculating, trying to figure out its next move.

Or what if during surgery, technology freezes and no longer can perform? What happens to the patient if it goes down for a minute? How about ten?

With some forms of technology, it can be downright deadly to lose connection.

The idea of edge computing isn’t a new one. It refers to the computing infrastructure that exists close to the source of the data. It enables analytics and data gathering to occur at the source of the data.

While cloud computing has been gaining in popularity over the past decade, some things about it have been changing recently. Because of the potential for speed loss between the cloud and the end user, the role is moving more to processing data for machine learning purposes, instead of taking an active role in immediate data processing needs.

That’s where edge computing comes back to popularity. Devices like drones, autonomous cars, and robots require extremely rapid processing. Sending data to the cloud and back to get answers is simply too slow for some situations.

It’s also being driven by the Internet of Things. The sheer number of computers and devices in use in the world is increasing tenfold. It’s forcing the way we think about computers to change forever. When everything is “smart,” we need things to perform to their greatest ability as we need them. Whether that’s in nanoseconds or not.

The reasons companies are moving to the edge is for speed and pure practicality.

For some devices, it ceases to be practical to send data to the cloud because of the volume involved. An autonomous car creating a constant influx of data while it moves and makes decisions is best kept in an area where it can make decisions fast. Storing isn’t as big of a deal.

It also comes down to privacy issues, where data may be considered too sensitive to flow to the cloud and be more accessible to all. If it’s contained on one device, it’s easier to secure.

What’s next? With the Internet of Things coming on strong, only time will tell what helps us grow as a society. Your job is to ensure you take full advantage of all that is offered and put the current technology to its best use. Our job is to help you keep it safe and secure.

How AI Is Changing Healthcare IT

How AI Is Changing Healthcare IT

Imagine asking for help from your hospital bed, and a robot shows up. Or imagine calling a service with a health related question and it’s answered by a computer. Not so far-fetched anymore, is it?

While robots and computers might never completely take over doctors and nurses positions, machines and AI are quickly transforming the healthcare industry. They are changing the landscape of what we consider to be the best way to stay healthy for the long term. They can improve diagnostics, predict outcomes, and help detect problems that are too small or too detailed for the average person to determine.

The biggest shifts we’ll see in the coming years are really focused in three areas.

Patient Engagement

Doctors increasingly are having to meet with patients for shorter periods of time, evaluate the situation based on small amounts of data, and attempt to catch things their patients may or may not understand they should disclose. This is where AI can excel. What this means for IT is an increasing need for mobile and wireless support, as well as application development that can integrate the Internet of Things into everything we do. Things like iWatches and FitBits are only the starting point. We’ll quickly see this in everything we use: blood pressure cuffs, scales, refrigerators, toilets, virtually every part of our daily lives can incorporate AI and give us a better picture of where our health stands every day.

Analytics

We all know that the earlier something is detected, the easier it is to treat, the better the outcome. The goal of AI in the future is to assist in making discoveries that are impossible with the human mind alone. AI can push the boundaries of taking in data and using it to predict and analyze outcomes. We’re seeing it today in imagery, because no matter how advanced monitors become, at some point the human eye can’t pick up differences. AI can distinguish patterns and anomalies that humans could never detect on their own. That means we’ll start seeing this new kind of diagnostics integrated into discovery all over the healthcare industry – from the ER to laboratories, to radiology, and more.

Genetics

We all understand that early detection means more successful outcomes. What if we could detect problems before they became a problem? That’s where AI comes to play in the genetics field. AI can help identify potential diseases and help modify DNA to cure those diseases before they occur. It’s already being performed and investigated in a variety of ways: restore muscle strength or skin transplantation, for example.

 

Success in the future will depend on staying in listening mode for opportunities to arise and ways to combat things that hold us back. The world is filled with opportunity. The only question now is how far we’re willing to go to grab it.

What The Future Of IT Looks Like

Do you remember what business looked like even a few short years ago? A lot has changed in a very short period of time. And with the current changes in technology, the future will also be changing at lightning speed. Scary? In some ways. But the shifts are coming whether we’re ready for them or not. Automation, cloud-based services, even artificial intelligence will all play a role in the way we get things done.

Routine tasks are no longer a part of our lives. We have the ability to transfer massive amounts of data and even many of our daily decisions to machines, meaning we can focus our time in other places. If you’re ready for it, the new world will be amazing.

Automation

You’ve probably experienced this in many areas of your business. Recent reports predict as much as 50 percent of the functions performed today could be automated using existing technology. Imagine what will happen as we continue to see the possibilities and reap the rewards.

The impact on IT will be widespread. As AI begins to take over and we automate most of the mundane tasks in IT, it will allow companies to dedicate more resources to moving business forward. That will accelerate the time it takes for innovating for the future.

Flexibility

It’s important to remember what machines and AI are good at. If you have a task that is narrow in focus, one that you can lay down in step-by-step format, one that is repeatable, it’s possible to release that to AI. That makes technical jobs, jobs that require you to think on the run, improvise throughout the process, ones that are unpredictable at best, those jobs are our future.

Tomorrow’s landscape will require people to think like never before. The best employees will be flexible and able to reason out complex problems. It’s about overcoming setbacks and being able to abandon ideas when they are no longer working out. Flexibility will be key.

While machines may be good at doing certain tasks, it will be people working alongside them to make them run better, more efficient, and give even more opportunity to the businesses that depend on them.

Collaboration

Remember when individual departments were set up in a business, each doing their own thing with little regard for the other departments? Sure, weekly meetings might have been necessary to steer this boats. But each department was uniquely their own.

We don’t see that as much anymore. A power shift is happening, and it requires everyone to work together towards the same end goal. That means IT functions are no longer in one department; every division has a piece of the pie.

Technology is no longer just a function that runs on the side. What happens in production impacts finance. Sales impacts the accounting department. And management on every level benefits from seeing how it all ties together. When roles are combined, and everyone sees how they fit into the jigsaw puzzle that makes up their enterprise, it runs smoother and more efficiently than ever.

Security

New technology will always introduce new problems. If there is one thing for sure, it’s that the security threat landscape will always be there, ever-growing, ever-changing. That requires experts to think on their feet, being able to identify holes as quickly as they happen, and finding the talent needed to thwart situations before they blow up.

While many IT departments in the past may have played reactor roles, they are quickly finding the landscape to be changing. Being caught shorthanded means putting a whole lot at risk; more than most business environments can handle. That means focus and talent have to come together and discover how best to move forward using whatever tools and resources they have on hand.

In all cases, businesses don’t have to go it alone. The C-suite teams that learn early on to rely on all they have available to them will succeed faster and move farther than ever before.

The only question now is: Will you be one of them?

How To Use Amazon’s Alexa For Business

How To Use Amazon’s Alexa For Business

Thinking of bringing a little help into your business environment? Thanks to artificial intelligence, smart speakers can bring over 15,000 skills to life, helping you answer questions, solve problems, control smart devices, and a whole lot more.

Amazon’s Echo was the very first smart speaker to enter the scene, and it still dominates the marketplace. The Echo lineup has grown to include the original Echo, the less expensive Echo Dot, a touchscreen-enabled Echo Show, and the newest launch the Echo Look.

The Echo connects with dozens of smart home devices, including Philips Hue, Nest, Ring, iHome Smart Plugs, iRobot Roomba Smart Vacuums, WeMo and more. It also promotes over 15,000 skills such as SiriusXM, Spotify, Pandora, Uber, Audible, NPR, and so many more.

There are three ways to enable a skill. The best option depends on what device you have on hand. You can use:

Voice – if you know what skill you want to use, you can say “Alexa, open [skill]” and it will pop to life. Of course, this needs initial data entry to work properly, but once it’s set to go, it will be the easiest way to access the skills you use most.

App – just like an app on your other mobile devices, you find the skill and tap which one you wish to use.

Website – the skills website is easy to use. Find the new skill you want, install and click on it.

Conference Manager

Echo syncs with Google Calendar to identify your next conference call and dial in at the appropriate time. It manages conference numbers and participant codes before connecting to you. All you need to say is “start my call.”

Mastermind

Mastermind is one of the most popular Alexa skills, letting you access your phone’s notification, send and get text messages, initiate phone calls, launch apps, and more. It’s a voice-activated productivity and communication powerhouse.

Order Supplies

It’s hard to argue with the ease of using Amazon to order just about everything. It becomes even easier when you have an Echo. Whether you’re running low on coffee for the office or need a new supply of pens, if it’s in your ordering history, it’s as easy as saying, “Alexa, order some coffee.”

To Do List

Echo has a simple built in to do list that can help you create day-to-day lists to stay on track. For more sophistication, you can use cross-platform apps such as Any.do or Todolist for a more robust feature set.

Ambient Music

If you are considering adding a Bluetooth speaker for a communal space or a private office, the Echo offers an excellent option. Use it with your Amazon streaming catalog, or connect with your Spotify or Pandora account for more options.

Expense Tracker

Tracking expenses is tedious for everyone in business. With Expense Tracker skill, you can manage expenses and create a financial overview. Simply create new categories to give more depth to the way you look at your business.

Order a Ride

Do you use Uber or Lyft on a regular basis? The app allows you to easily connect and reserve your ride as you’re heading out of the office.

Vacuum

Want to keep your office space clean without hiring a commercial cleaner daily? Connect to vacuums from Neato and Samsung and start their autonomous vacuums as you walk out the door.

Are you using Amazon’s Echo for your business? What skills are your favorite?

Public Cloud, Private Cloud, Hybrid Cloud: What’s The Difference?

Public Cloud, Private Cloud, Hybrid Cloud: What’s The Difference?

Running programs and storing information in the cloud is no longer a trending idea, but a standard practice for companies. Most businesses run applications or use cloud storage in some capacity in their day-to-day operations.

Just like evaluating which hardware or software your company uses, cloud storage options should also be assessed to determine the right path for you.

How important is security? Do you have special compliances to meet?

Does your business have heavy employee or customer interaction where response time is crucial?

Do you use cloud storage for backup and disaster recovery or for day to day use?

Do different departments utilize different programs? Do individual departments need individual security plus the ability to talk and share with one another?

Keep your needs in mind as you evaluate the differences between public cloud, private cloud, and hybrid cloud.

Public Cloud

This storage option is often favored by smaller businesses that have a lot of activity and not a lot of proprietary information that requires extended security. Public clouds are owned and operated by third party companies that offer solutions for specific needs. They might offer data standards for HIPAA compliance, for instance. They rent out space on their servers and charge according to the disk space, bandwidth, and special circumstances.

Public clouds will almost always be the cheapest and most cost-effective storage solution for a business, especially when you consider they take care of upkeep and upgrades themselves without requiring you to have someone on staff to handle the maintenance.

Private Cloud

As public cloud storage technology becomes more popular and offers more benefits, private cloud storage is declining. However, some companies still use private cloud storage because of the extra security.

The main difference between private and public cloud is where the server is housed. For some, they prefer to keep information on site; using a private cloud, it’s possible. In some cases, third-party solutions are willing to host your private cloud for you. They maintain a server dedicated only to your company. They house it either on-premises or at its server farm. They maintain it and modify it as needed, giving you the best of both worlds. It can be a perfect solution, especially if you have high security, high demand with the information you use every day.

Hybrid Cloud

A hybrid cloud employs both public and private cloud to host your data. It can be adapted based on your needs.

  • Different departments can use the best cloud option for their needs
  • High proprietary data on private cloud and less sensitive data on public cloud
  • Active operations on private cloud with backup on public cloud

The advantage of the hybrid cloud is you get flexibility where you need it most. You can choose cloud-based solutions built around your specific needs.

What cloud-based applications are you currently using? Is it the right choice for your business?