Spyware is software that gets installed on your computer without your consent or knowledge as a result of normal interaction with the Internet or the result of using a software application. It normally hitchhikes with pages you view, software you install, clicking on deceptive popups and opening e-mail.
These programs don’t show up on any program list. You don’t know they are there. But they secretly track and report on your online behavior and software use. The data may be sold to interested parties. It can disclose sensitive information, including entire files.
Spyware has many forms, including:
Advertiser spyware, also called adware, which automatically shows you ads based on what you do and where you go. This is where many popups come from.
Monitors, which track and report on your behavior
Hijackers include browser (reset your default page, change your settings), modem (connect you to the Internet using high-priced phone numbers) and PC (new shortcuts in your favorites, makes you into a mail relay a hidden mass spammer)
Loggers and recorders, which then send this information to unknown parties; Internet URL and screen (where and what you do, captures and sends pictures of the screens you are on), chat and e-mail (recording your keystrokes and messages), keyloggers and password recorders.
Trojans and replicators appear harmless but may copy your data, send it to others and/or destroy your information. It may replicate itself to other computers.
Just how large a problem is it? When we’ve audited clients’ computers, we have never seen an Internet-connected computer that doesn’t have spyware.
We’ve seen cases of identity theft, computers being used to generate spam to tens of thousands of other computers; users with more than 400 spyware programs installed; and a tremendous slowdown in operation one computer took more than 45 seconds to connect to the Internet; once spyware was removed, it took three seconds.
Spyware is such a concern that one state has passed a law banning it, and other states, as well as the federal government, are considering enacting laws. this won’t solve the problem, however; even with anti-spam laws, and spam continues to be sent.
Firewalls and anti-virus software don’t catch spyware and won’t stop it, but there are anti-spyware software programs. We strongly suggest you obtain a product, get frequent updates and run it consistently.
Anti-spyware software comes in three types: free software (fairly good, usually asking for a donation); desktop software (much better); and enterprise (a corporatewide solution, generally with improved control and reporting as well as automatic distribution and action).
Just as you protect your systems from viruses, you should not be without spyware protection. Ensure your privacy, improve your computer performance and avoid computer actions that frustrate you or cause you to lose productivity by stopping spyware.
Randy Wear is president of Decision Systems Plus Inc., a member of the Technology Assurance Group (TAG). DSP provides computer and telephone technology infrastructure sales and support nationwide to increase clients’ productivity and profitability. Reach him at email@example.com or (847) 544-5818.
Computer viruses are rampant. Every day, talented and misguided people create viruses designed to steal resources from your computers, disrupt your operation, report on your computer use and confuse or damage your trading partners (since they often automatically replicate or spread to people you work with or e-mail to).
No one wants to spend money on the solutions, but the harsh reality is that there really is no choice. Dealing with the problems caused by getting a virus often costs clients thousands or tens of thousands of dollars, far more than preventing the virus from infecting them in the first place.
Even if you have no exposure to the Internet, your system can still get viruses. One large client received viruses on software media sent directly from the manufacturer.
Here are some steps you can take to mitigate your risk.
* Stop viruses before they get into your network.
Run antivirus software on your e-mail server, or to filter e-mail before it gets to your e-mail server. There is no sense clogging your network with viruses, so don't rely on PCs or Macs to detect e-mail viruses. Some ISPs that host e-mail offer anti-virus scanning of the e-mail.
But be aware -- there is a difference between e-mail virus scanning and file/media virus scanning. You want both covered.
* Use a corporate or master edition of good antivirus software. This will run on a server and push the antivirus software and updated libraries to all the other systems you want covered -- and you should cover all your systems.
Symantec, Sophos, McAfee and a few others are the key, international software publishers to use. These corporate editions of the antivirus software automatically get updates and install them on each of the covered systems. This is very important. You can't rely on the users to get daily updates.
Clients who have tried having stand-alone, desktop antivirus solutions often find they have users who haven't gotten updates for a year. And they have viruses. The solution is to automatically install the updates.
* Set your antivirus servers to get updates at least daily, if not several times a day. New viruses come out daily. You want to have the new libraries to get maximum protection.
* Be on the software publisher's maintenance plan. You must be getting both software updates (to the core software) and the antivirus libraries, which contain files that identify and fix, quarantine or delete viruses.
* Set laptops up to automatically get updates, but that also have the ability to manually get updates, since they are sometimes not on your network and therefore are unable to get the pushed updates.
* Involve a qualified infrastructure technology partner to review your situation and implement solutions so that you can be protected and increase your productivity.
Viruses are here to stay. But the more proactive you are in trying to keep them out of your network, the better chance you'll have to make your company virus-free.
Randy Wear is president of Decision Systems Plus Inc., a member of the Technology Assurance Group (TAG). DSP provides computer and telephone technology infrastructure sales and support nationwide, to increase client's productivity and profitability. Reach him at (847) 544-5818 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
As individuals, we may gripe about spam. For some, spam is a huge potential time-waster. But have you stopped to consider the cost to your enterprise?
We've seen clients wasting tens of thousands of dollars of valuable business time dealing with spam. What's the impact on your company?
The amount of spam is increasing dramatically. Our firm gets four times the spam now than we did a year ago. I receive more than 500 spam messages a day. A typical user at our clients' firms is sent more than 40, each and every day. The time spent reviewing bogus and undesired e-mail messages will never be retrieved. And who wants to look at the awful pictures that are often sent?
Multiply all of the time that one person throws away by the number of people in your firm, by all the work days, by your cost of personnel, and it is enough to give your CFO a heart attack.
We can't live without e-mail and the enormous functionality it has given us to communicate. But we have to make it usable.
There are solutions. We've implemented them, and the result is that less than 2 percent of the spam that is sent to me gets to my in-box. This I can live with.
Here's what you need to do.
* At the e-mail server level (your outermost point to the Internet), before any mail goes into any mailboxes, you must have automatic rejection of e-mail coming from known spammers. This list must be frequently updated. You must keep the spam out of your network or it clogs your network. When done properly, this will reject more than 50 percent of the spam that tries to get to you.
* A second-level spam control product will further filter the e-mail. This spam control looks at content. Both at an administrative level and at a user level, rules and controls can be set which dictate what can and can't get through to your mailboxes. These rules allow you to set thresholds above which mail gets thrown into a special spam folder or rejected. Most people want, at least at the beginning, to review the mail that gets "caught" so see if the controls are too tight or if any desirable mail got caught, and make adjustments accordingly. When used effectively, this will stop 95 percent or more of the spam.
* The third level of spam control is at the user e-mail software package level. In the package that you use to retrieve and view your e-mail, you can have filters. The most recent versions of Eudora and Outlook have built-in, automatic spam/junk filters. You can also create your own.
Spam is here to stay, regardless of what the state or federal government does with regulation. Spammers keep coming up with new ways to pollute your e-mail and cost you your most precious asset: time. Don't let them.
The specific solutions vary depending on each user's products and network in use. Involve a qualified technology partner to review your situation and implement solutions so that you can lessen your frustrations and increase your profitability.
Randy Wear(email@example.com) is president of Decision Systems Plus Inc., a member of the Technology Assurance Group (TAG). It provides voice, data and convergence solutions that are based on integrated, open systems that work with a variety of organizational and technology environments and structures. Reach him at (847) 699-9960.
Now, another technology -- speech-enabled technology, commonly known as voice recognition -- has exploded into mainstream corporate America, and it will make you ask the same question.
Speech-enabled technology has improved significantly in the last few years. Previously, it was considered a business solution only utilized by large enterprises. Today, however, it is extremely popular among small to mid-sized firms.
In its simplest form, speech-enabled technology listens and reacts to human voices. The system recognizes the voice, translates commands from the individual into a computer system and responds based on the information it has received.
It also provides significant other features in real-time, such as:
* Auto-attendant answers, screens and transfers calls instantly.
* Takes voice mail messages, automatically returning, copying or forwarding calls based on name recognition.
* Finds people at any location with a "follow-me" feature.
* Automatically dials when a user identifies the person.
* Voice activates users' e-mail systems, enabling them to listen, compose and send, and copy or forward emails; create e-mail replies to individuals or large groups; and send voice mail messages into a user's e-mail in-box.
Speech-enabled technology provides the freedom to communicate and conduct business from any location -- in a car, at home, across the country or around the world. Because of that, it has seen -- and anticipates further -- rapid growth. Allied Business Intelligence (ABI) projects the market will increase from $677 million in 2002 to $5.3 billion by 2008.
A few distinct factors are driving the growth.
First is the mobile work force, as more and more people conduct business on the road. The average American rush-hour driver wastes 51 hours sitting in traffic each year. This time could be used in a more productive manner, such as responding to e-mail.
Second, many states are considering banning the use of handheld cell phones, so drivers will need to communicate hands free. This law has passed in New York, and California is close to mandating it as well.
Finally, a report by Gartner found that when comparing speech recognition versus touch-tone, respondents favored speech recognition by a factor of 6 to 1. To adapt to these environmental changes, companies and their employees have rushed to adopt speech-enabled technology.
As the cost comes down, companies are finding that speech-enabled technology is giving them a competitive advantage and increasing their profitability. Here are some ways businesses in every industry are implementing this technology to increase employee productivity:
* Mobile work forces (e.g. sales teams) can function as if they were in the office.
* Patients of medical and dental facilities are scheduling their own appointments.
* Restaurant customers are placing their own orders.
* Companies with call centers are replacing their touch-tone IVRs.
Another perfect example, which can be applied to almost any industry, exists in real estate firms. Real estate agents are out of the office 50 percent to 75 percent of the day and do not have access to e-mail, fax or voice mail unless they call in. But customers want to be connected to them without delay, especially in today's hectic real estate market.
Therefore, agents have tapped into speech-enabled technology to minimize phone tag, access e-mail via voice recognition from any location, connect to clients and reduce costs by not having to staff additional employees for administrative tasks.
Speech-enabled technology has become a real solution to the way business professionals communicate and manage their daily activities. They are seeing the value and flexibility voice recognition can bring, and will be reaping its benefits well into the future.
Randy Wear (firstname.lastname@example.org) is president of Decision Systems Plus Inc., a member of the Technology Assurance Group (TAG). It provides voice, data, and convergence solutions that are based on integrated, open systems that work with a variety of organizational and technology environments and structures. Reach him at (847)699-9960.
Sooner or later, you will live this nightmare. At some point, every digital circuit has a problem. The only questions are:
* When will it happen?
* What is the impact to your firm, your customers and your employees?
* Have you provided for failover so you can keep communicating?
* Do you want to protect yourself?
With regard to impact, you'll need to consider whether your customers will wait to reach you ... or simply call the competition. If you have a 911-type emergency, will the person involved be able to reach 911? If your phone lines are down, sometimes the person in an emergency situation can't use a cell phone or doesn't have one or it doesn't work.
Do you really want that risk? Your liability (since you can't provide for continued communication) could be hundreds of thousands of dollars, or even millions. And finally, can your employees do the work they are supposed to do without the phone lines they depend on?
The means for protection are relatively simple. They fall into two categories -- dial in and dial out.
For dial in, it is both a carrier and phone system issue. You must use a telephone carrier that can provide automatic failover to another telephone circuit or circuits. If your carrier can't do this, switch to one that can. You will need more than one phone circuit.
The second circuit (or circuits) can be regular telephone lines (call POTS) or another digital phone line. Determine what you need to continue to conduct business and what fits your budget.
If you want the best protection, you want phone lines from two different carriers -- with one carrier failing over to the second carrier. Very few carriers will do this, but a few do.
Program the phone system and make sure the provisioning is done correctly with the carriers so that the call routing that you want to use in failover mode works. That means incoming calls go where you want them to, both in normal operation and in failover mode.
Finally, test the failover. Don't wait until a problem happens to find out that the carrier and/or the phone system programming does not provide the failover protection and continued operation that you require.
For dial out, it is a phone system issue. Program your phone system to dial out on different circuits if the primary circuits don't work. If your phone system can't do that, consider changing systems.
If voice communication is absolutely critical, it is possible to have more than one phone company central office servicing your site. So even if one blows up, you still have a dial tone and can receive calls. It is quite expensive, however.
Check to see how your phone system can be made fault-tolerant and redundant, or how you can continue to take and make phone calls even if your phone system dies.
Randy Wear is president of Decision Systems Plus Inc., a member of the Technology Assurance Group (TAG). DSP provides computer and telephone technology infrastructure sales and support nationwide to increase client's productivity and profitability. Reach him at email@example.com or (847) 544-5818.
So how important is it that your WAN is functioning? Your WAN may be used for many purposes, including:
* E-mail to and from anyone outside your building
* Access to the Web sites of trading partners, for research, price checks, order status or placing orders
* File transfers
* Payroll processing
* Access to your telephone system for support or remote extensions/branches
* Access to your computer network so that branches or remote workers can run your business software (such as ERP, CRM or supply chain management)
* Remote access to your intranet
* Access to your extranet
* Electronic funds transfers
Research has shown the average hourly cost of downtime in the WAN varies widely, from $28,000 for a package shipping firm to $6.4 million for a brokerage house.
What is the impact to your firm if your staff, customers and vendors can't conduct business with you due to a failure in your WAN?
For many firms, the answers lead to the conclusion that the WAN is business-critical. If that is the case, you need to look at providing greater reliability and stability in your WAN.
Greater reliability requires you to have two or more WAN circuits (phone/data circuits) into your location from different carriers. It is best if you have two sets of terminating equipment.
You must deploy equipment that provides for automatic failover between the circuits in case of failure. You may want to also provide for automatic load sharing and balancing, which gives you faster throughput, as you are able to use all the circuits simultaneously. If desired, you can increase the level of security you have at the same time.
There are only two options for the automatic failover and load sharing -- Cisco's proprietary BGP function or a FatPipe product. BGP requires extensive and expensive work on your equipment and telephone line carriers; you have to obtain a special class C IP license, and only Cisco equipment can be used.
FatPipe is much more flexible. It works with any carrier, any type of circuit, any speed, any type of equipment and doesn't require the class C IP license. FatPipe has many patents on its technology for failover, load sharing, load balancing and security improvements. Only FatPipe can provide the degree of security enhancement. FatPipe can be deployed and implemented quickly; BGP cannot.
FatPipe products can also help your firm meet federal law requirements such as Sarbanes-Oxley, Gramm-Leach Bliley, and HIPAA. RANDY WEAR is president of Decision Systems Plus Inc., a member of the Technology Assurance Group (TAG). DSP provides computer and telephone technology infrastructure sales and support nationwide, to increase client's productivity and profitability. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or (847) 544-5818.
Companies are exposed. Most have no idea of the quantity, size and business impact of the problems their organization is having relating to e-mail, including:
* Loss of intellectual property
* Viruses and worms
* Unwanted and malicious content and attachments
* Attacks that can lead to thousands of bogus e-mail messages or network shutdown
* Network congestion
* Loss of employee productivity
* Employee frustration
* Potential legal liability
* Amount of internal and external resources (time and money) dealing with administration, updating, preventing and supporting their employees
With today's technology, a managed external e-mail defense system can reduce or eliminate these problems, for $4 or less a person a month.
Regardless of what functions you have in-house, the simple fact is that more protection is better. You should have internal anti-virus software, for instance. But multiple anti-virus engines (yours and the e-mail defense system ones) will improve your protection.
E-mail defense system (EDS) is the most effective solution because it sits outside your network, filtering e-mail in real time, with no delay, prior to it getting to your network. It stops problems before your systems even see them.
* Requires no additional hardware or software from the client
* Is easy to set up, manage and control
* Gets anti-virus updates every five minutes and automatically deploys them
* Has multiple anti-virus engines to do a better job of removing viruses and worms
* Is scalable to support tens of thousands of e-mail users
* Has no latency or security issues
* Monitors the global state of e-mail communication 24/7 to keep your network safe
The EDS can be set up in less than one hour, and the client has administrative control over rules, filters and policies. Administrative reports are available. The user has control over allowing, releasing or denying quarantined messages, as well as over if or how often they are informed of suspect messages.
The amount of spam and the number of threats continue to increase. Recent legislation against spammers has not resulted in any drop in the quantity.
Viruses are more prevalent today than ever -- at times, as many as one out of every seven messages has a virus. More than 50 percent of your employees have received pornographic, sexist, racist or other inappropriate e-mail while on the job. Attacks meant to disrupt your business are becoming commonplace. The security of your employees and of your company is increasingly threatened without your team knowing it.
The external managed e-mail defense system is your best protection. Randy Wear is president of Decision Systems Plus Inc., a member of the Technology Assurance Group (TAG). DSP provides computer and telephone technology infrastructure sales and support nationwide to increase clients' productivity and profitability. Reach him at (847) 544-5818 or email@example.com.
Consider when e-mail is down, even if only for a couple of hours. Or when a desktop screen flashes illegal operation or when printers aren't online, servers malfunction or, inexplicably, the whole system freezes.
Panic attack. And finding a fix isn't as simple as turning the system on and off, especially considering the number and complexity of software applications businesses load onto their networks. Companies rely on technology, and when things go wrong, the help desk, whether an internal IS specialist or a software provider, is in system overload.
The missing piece is an infrastructure expert to design, assemble, deploy and support the technology puzzle and to ensure that both the short-term and long-term needs are met. Information technology today is the heartbeat for any organization. Managers want assurance of a smooth-running computer and telephone system technology environment., and employees don't want to deal with productivity stop-ups such as server or wiring issues.
From a management standpoint, acquiring and supporting technology is frustrating. Infrastructure includes everything from cables to e-mail communication to Internet service providers to the server and telephone room -- the foundation for running a firm's business software application and its communication to the world.
Consider these infrastructural elements:
* Telephone system and servers
* Computer desktops and printers
* Wiring closets
* Local area networks
* Internet, data and voice circuits, security and failover
What's more, today's sophisticated business world demands remote access capabilities, another component in the technology picture. Continued Internet access is increasingly business -critical so that employees can access vendor information, sales tools, shipment tracking, e-mail and even educational tools, such as Webinars.
Simply put, computers are information hubs. And because of technology's growing complexity and its critical role in a company's overall operations, organizations require more support than a software provider can offer.
Business software is the core of a company, but the software provider should be a best of breed solution, living and breathing the company's business and fitting the software to their needs. Rarely can software providers also secure an organization's big picture technology needs. Enter the infrastructure expert.
What does an infrastructure company do? Imagine two curved hands, placed one on top of the other. The bottom hand represents the technical foundation to run software; the top hand is technology that relates to outside communication (e-mail, Internet access and phone system). That's what an infrastructure supports.
The business software is in the middle. Dealing with thousands of clients and confronting a variety of technological scenarios, specialists are current on industry changes and information solutions.
When is it time to introduce an infrastructure company to your organization? Here are some red flags.
* Do you understand all technology elements and their functions in the organization?
* Are you installing new business software?
* Have you conducted a systematic technology failure impact analysis? Are you aware of potential damage, should technology errors occur? Do you have a plan for resolving failure issues?
These scenarios are ideal times to consult an infrastructure expert, who can ensure the company's technology bundle is wired so employees are productive and the business is profitable. What's more, infrastructure specialists can manage security gaps. An ideal partner will view technology from a global perspective, double-checking that all components are operating smoothly to support a business' objectives.
Rather than waiting for accidents to happen -- and, rest assured, technology is no more perfect than the users controlling it -- consult an infrastructure specialist. Consider it technology insurance.
The more you depend on software and associated framework, the higher your risk if failure occurs. Protect yourself with a plan.
Randy Wear is president of Decision Systems Plus Inc., a member of the Technology Assurance Group (TAG). DSP provides computer and telephone technology infrastructure sales and support nationwide to increase clients' productivity and profitability. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or (847) 544-5818.
Accordingly, it will also prevent problems -- including loss of productivity -- that may result from leaving your system exposed.
While these policies should not be considered rock solid or complete for any organization, they will considerably help your battle against spam and spyware. Below is a list of practices you should consider.
* Never make a purchase from an unsolicited e-mail. If spamming weren't profitable, no one would do it. Not only could you fall prey to a false sales campaign, you potentially could have your e-mail address sold to other spam lists.
* If you don't know the sender of an e-mail, delete it. Although most spam is just text messages, some contain viruses or spyware.
* Never reply to a spam message or click on any of its links. Replying to any spam message, even to unsubscribe or be removed from the list, only confirms that your e-mail account is valid and active.
* Avoid using the preview pane in e-mail client software. Many spammers are using techniques that can track when a message is viewed, even if you don't click on the message or reply. Using the preview pane can let spammers know that you are a valid recipient.
* When sending an e-mail to multiple people, use the blind carbon copy (BCC) field to conceal e-mail addresses. This will prevent spammers from harvesting e-mail accounts.
* Never provide your e-mail address on Web sites, newsgroup lists or other online public forums. Many spammers use tools to obtain e-mail addresses from public information and forums.
* Never give your primary e-mail address to anyone or any site you don't trust. Share your address with only your close friends or colleagues.
* Consider having a secondary e-mail address. If you need to fill out a form or survey at a Web site, use the secondary address. Always look for the box regarding future information/offers and uncheck this option unless absolutely necessary.
* Delete e-mail with the following extensions -- .BAT, .VBS, .SHS, .SCR, .COM, .EXE, .CHM or .DLL. It is unlikely that you will need to receive e-mail with these extensions, and they could contain malicious software.
* Avoid get-rich-quick offers, porn or too-good-to-be-true e-mail messages.
* Do not download or install software applications without fully reading license agreements. Some software installs imply your permission for them to load spyware on your system.
* Don't download software, music, files or photos from nontrusted sources or use file-sharing applications (like Kazaa). Spyware or viruses may be attached.
* Be aware of the types of sites you're visiting. The more devious or shady the site, the more likely it will to have adware or spyware attached.
* Control browser settings to maintain secure Internet browsing.
* Don't click on pop-ups. Close them by the upper right corner X. Do not click anywhere in a pop-up window, including the YES or NO -- this may cause a spyware install in the background. A similar pop-up ploy asks you to accept a download, then won't stop popping up until you do what it wants. Use software or browsers that block pop-ups.
Randy Wear is president of Decision Systems Plus Inc., a member of the Technology Assurance Group (TAG). DSP provides computer and telephone technology infrastructure sales and support nationwide, to increase client's productivity and profitability. Reach him at email@example.com or (847) 544-5818.
The shear growth in the amount of information we interact with may have something to do with this, as does our use of e-mail and Web pages, which people are constantly printing out. Furthermore, people increasingly want printed pages containing color.
Although printers are more capable and less expensive for that capability today, for most firms, the cost of printing has gone up due to the volume of printing, the amount of printing done in color and the choice of printers being used.
Most firms have no idea what their computer printing really costs them. Acquisition costs are typically low, often buried in different department budgets, and are not capitalized, and the consumables are lumped in with office supplies.
The great news is that if you choose the right products for your needs, you can pocket thousands of dollars in operating costs.
Acquisition costs tend to be quite competitive among various manufacturers for the same type of product. But the key metric is, what is the cost per page printed?
The cost per page includes all the consumables and those things that must be replaced once you print a certain number of pages. Consumables may be different depending on the printer. For color digital (laser) printers/copiers, there are many consumables. Some firms include the service costs as well.
Inkjet printers are widely deployed because they can print in color, have a small form factor and are inexpensive. But these printers are causing you to throw money away. The cost per page can be more than $1. You get very few prints per cartridge, and the cartridges are expensive. Manufacturers have been known to give the printers away because they make so much money on the supplies you have to purchase.
The following costs are based on 10 percent ink coverage. If you print graphics/pictures, the costs are multiplied.
* Monochrome laser printers (and copiers) can vary considerably in their cost per page, from less than one-half cent to more than 6 cents.
* The cost per page with color laser printers (and copiers) can be as low as 5 cents, but are more typically 10 to 12 cents per page, and more for older generation products.
Even a moderately low usage workgroup monochrome laser printer is likely running more than 10,000 pages a month. The difference in operating costs can easily be $2,000 a year, on each printer. And, when you consider that there are many department printers doing 10,000 or more pages a month, that could mean $20,000 a printer, per year.
Many companies have replaced printers that were working fine with a lower operating cost product and saved in excess of a half-million dollars a year over and above the cost of acquisition.
Generally, the market leaders are among the most expensive printers to operate. Involve a qualified print specialist to evaluate your requirements and make recommendations. The result should be a much fatter bottom line for you.
Randy Wear is president of Decision Systems Plus Inc., a member of the Technology Assurance Group (TAG). DSP provides computer and telephone technology infrastructure sales and support nationwide, to increase client's productivity and profitability. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or (847) 544-5818.