IT Security for Working at Home

Unfortunately, due to the Coronavirus many employees have been forced to work from home, or may be working from home in the near future. If you find yourself in this situation it’s important to remember to follow the best IT security practices when working from home to not put your company at risk of an online virus or cyberattack.

Working remotely can be challenging because you likely don’t have the same security safeguards in place at home as you do in the office. In addition, most people have multiple devices connected to their home Wifi, including personal computers, smartphones, game consoles, etc. These can all offer hackers a gateway into your home Wifi which can then give them a backdoor into the corporate device you are working from. It’s up to you to implement your own layers of security controls at home to prevent your company’s data from being breached.

 

Cyber criminals love to prey on companies when they are most vulnerable, and one of the weak spots they look for is employees who are not following the best IT security practices for working remotely.

Below is a list of things you can do to prevent cyberattacks while working remotely. You should follow these guidelines whenever you are logged into a corporate laptop or phone, even if it’s just to check a few emails.

IT Security Checklist for Remote Employees

Only Use Secure Wifi

  • Avoid using Public WiFi
  • Use a VPN (Virtual Private Network)
  • Change the default Wifi router passwords to something more secure
  • Update router firmware

Protect Your Workspace

  • Don’t use your personal computer for work
  • Don’t let anyone eavesdrop on what you are working on
  • Encrypt sensitive data in emails
  • Don’t use the same passwords on work devices as you do personal devices
  • Update software for all devices that are connected to your home network (this includes personal computers, television services, game consoles, thermostats, etc.)

Secure Your Devices

  • Update firmware
  • Create strong passwords using multi-factor authentication
  • Review and follow corporate policies and procedures
  • Don’t leave your work devices unaccompanied in a vehicle
  • Keep your home or apartment securely locked

Use Common Sense

  • Don’t share your work devices with family or friends
  • Don’t post business itineraries or corporate information online. This includes posting photos that may show addresses, client information, or any other personal or business information in the background
  • Don’t let your guard down. It’s easy to feel comfortable at home but practice the same IT security best practices at home as you would at work

Report Any Security Issues Immediately

  • Don’t wait until it’s too late. If you fear your work computer has been breached contact an IT professional within your company immediately

Fill out the form below or contact PCR Business Systems if you have any questions about setting up a secure workspace for your remote employees.

 

Our SOC Audit Is Complete!

We are proud to announce that we completed our SOC 2, Type 1 Audit and are compliant with the AICPA’s Trust Service Criteria for Managed Service Providers.

An independent auditing firm did a thorough examination of PCR Business System’s security policies and procedures and concluded that we have the highest level of controls in place to protect your company’s privacy and sensitive data.

(Click here for more information about SOC Audits)

WHY THIS IS A BIG DEAL

To start, it means that you can rest assured knowing that we will keep your network and data safe from cyber-attacks. With the growing trend of managed service providers being hacked, you can’t take any chances with your Information Technology Company.

As we discussed in the article “The Wild West of IT Services,” the IT industry is unregulated. This means no one is watching over IT Service Providers and no one is keeping tabs on how they store and protect your network and data.

Therefore, you must do your homework to make sure you are working with an IT Company who has the highest security controls in place.

We chose to have the SOC Audit to reinforce that we provide the best IT services in Akron and to show our partners that we will continue to take whatever steps necessary to keep their trust.

Email us to read the full report!

How to Stop Robocalls

My phone rings at four a.m. jolting me from a peaceful dream straight into a panic. I race to answer it. Who’s calling me this early? Something terrible must have happened!

I glance at the screen and see my hometown area code. I don’t recognize the number, but that doesn’t mean it’s not the police or the hospital calling with some awful news.

I reluctantly answer the phone, expecting the worst. “Hello?”

“Your auto insurance is about to expire. Touch seven or stay on the line to speak to…”

I thumb at the hang-up phone icon with rage, not listening to the conclusion of the prerecorded message. I try and fall back to sleep but can’t. My adrenaline is pumping. My heart rate has spiked. I lie in bed wondering what kind of person or business would stoop so low as to spam fellow humans with robocalls.

Telemarketers are bad enough, but at least there’s a real person on the other end of the line that you yell at. Robocalls don’t even give you that satisfaction. Now that I can’t sleep, I lie in bed searching the internet for ways to make these calls stop for good.

Here’s what I found.

According to a call-blocking company called YouMail, approximately 48 billion robocalls were made to Americans in 2018, with even more being placed this year. In October alone, Americans were bombarded with 5.7 billion robocalls stemming from political pitches to fake IRS scams.

Complaints to the FCC and Federal Trade Commission have been pouring in for years topping the list of consumer complaints. In December, the House passed The Pallone-Thune Telephone Robocall Abuse Criminal Enforcement and Deterrence Act, aka the Traced Act— aimed to put an end to robocalls for good.

According to House leaders the new legislation “combats the robocall epidemic by ensuring every call Americans receive will be verified and can be blocked at no extra cost to consumers. It also gives the Federal Communications Commission and law enforcement the authority to quickly go after scammers.”

(Detailed information can be found here).

But will this new law stop those intrusive robocalls from waking us up at night and pestering us during our lunch breaks?

Time will tell, but I’m not going to lose more sleep waiting around to find out. Just as cyber crooks are finding new ways to hack into our networks with ransomware and viruses, the people behind the robocalls will likely do everything they can to scoot around these new regulations and continue to badger us with their scams and bogus offers.

So what can we do to proactively block robocalls and keep us from smashing our new smartphones against the wall? Here are a few tips I found that will hopefully help.

1). Add your number to the FCC’s Do Not Call list by visiting donotcall.gov. According to the FCC, once you add your number, “Telemarketers must remove your numbers from their call lists and stop calling you within 31 days from the date you register.”

This is the first step I took when doing research for this article. I entered my number on the Do Not Call list, and then waited several minutes before I received a confirmation email. Once the email I arrived I was excited to open it. Could stopping robocalls really be this simple?

Then I read the email stating that I had already registered my phone…back in 2005!

Epic fail, FCC. I must have received over a thousand calls from telemarketers in the past 15 years.   

 

2). Manually block numbers that have come from telemarketers and robocalls. All smartphones have this option. Depending on the type of phone you have the process should be simple. On my iPhone I simply click the information icon to the right of the number, and then scroll down to the bottom and click where it says “Block this Caller.”

Unfortunately, this also hasn’t seemed to stop the problem for me. It has limited it, but the calls have kept coming despite blocking over 150 numbers on my phone.

 

3) Use a third-party app and utilize your phone’s features. All four major wireless carriers offer some type of call blocking feature to their customers, and most smartphones offer some kind of special blocking tool. For example, Apple’s iOS 13 has an option to “Silence Unknown Callers” which will send unknown numbers directly to your voicemail.

To turn on Silence Unknown Callers, simply go to your iPhone Settings, then Phone, then scroll down and select “Silence Unknown Callers.” It’s that simple.

This is a great option for avoiding robocalls, but be aware, this could also cause you to miss important calls from your doctor or your child’s school. Callers will show up on your recent calls list, but if it’s an emergency, you may not realize they have called in time.

Another step you can take is to download a third-party app to block robocalls.  Hiya is a free app for Android and iOS that has received good reviews. Other popular apps you may want to research include Nomorobo (used by Verizon), YouMail, and RoboKiller, just to name a few.

4). Follow the FCC’s best practices to reduce robocalls. These are mostly common sense, but it can’t hurt to remind yourself of these simple rules:

  • Ignore calls from blocked, unknown numbers, or numbers you don’t recognize. Note: This includes “spoofed” calls that have the appearance of coming from a local number. I continue to get calls from my hometown area code even though I haven’t lived there in years.
  • If a caller or voice message asks you to hit a button to speak with a representative you should immediately hang up. Hitting a button can be a sign to scammers that you are a vulnerable target.
  • Do not respond to any questions, especially those that you would answer with a “yes.”
  • Never give out any personal information!
  • If someone claims to be affiliated with a certain company or government agency, and you have doubts, hang up and double check the number to make sure it is associated with the business or organization they claim to be with.

 (Further tips can be found on the FCC website).

5) Trust that the Traced Act will do what it claims. In practice, The TRACED Act would make it a law that phone companies block robocalls free of charge to customers, while also ensuring that calls originate from real numbers.

Let’s hope this is true. In the meantime, it can’t hurt to take a few extra steps on our own to try and stop robocalls from adding unnecessary frustration to our lives.

Building a Winning Team in Business

Last week, PCR Business Systems celebrated the work anniversary of the first employee we hired back in 2006. 13 years ago…it feels like only yesterday, while at the same time it’s crazy to think about how much has changed in the tech industry since then.

A quick search of “technology trends in 2006,” shows results that look like they’ve been pried from inside a time capsule. Hot new technologies at the time included: video on cell phones, video on demand, integrated digital media home entertainment systems, PlayStation 3, and wait for it… Twitter and Facebook (2006 was the year Facebook opened its platform to the public)!

Just imagine what things will be like 13 years from now?

As the owner of a technology solutions company I am surrounded by change. It is my job to stay up-to-date with the latest tech advancements, and to be one step ahead of cyber criminals that grow more sophisticated and more daring each day.

Yet despite working in an ever-evolving industry, one thing that has stayed relatively constant around PCR since we first opened our doors in Akron, Ohio is our team. I’m proud to say that my first hire from 2006 is still with the company today, and as a whole, PCR has had very little staff turnover since day one.

The PCR Team

Over the years I’ve learned a lot when it comes to hiring new employees and building a successful team, and I wanted to share some of these experiences with fellow small business owners looking to bring in new staff for their growing companies.

If you take one thing away from this article, I hope it’s this—the strength of your business lies in your team and their willingness to help one another, buy into your company culture and values, and excel not just for individual accomplishments but for overall team achievement.

The first thing I ask myself when hiring a new team member is “are they good with people?” There’s a misconception that tech workers spend all of their time behind screens and don’t need to be skilled in interpersonal communication.

In the managed IT industry, this just isn’t true. Our employees work directly with our partners, both on the phone and in person. It is imperative that they are easy to talk with and can form trusting relationships with our clients.

Employees must also be able to get along with their fellow co-workers. You simply cannot have any “loners” on staff looking to better themselves before bettering the team. I look for people with a past history of working well in a team environment and only hire people that I believe will fit our company culture.

I also seek out employees who are self-starters with a strong desire to grow both in life and in their careers. Is she able to perform jobs without constant direction or tasks being assigned? Is he determined to improve a process or take on responsibility without being asked to do so first?

First and foremost, NEVER overlook red flags. Past employee problems can and will become your problems eventually. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t give someone a second chance, but do your homework and be certain they have resolved any issues that might negatively impact your team or your company.

Another lesson I’ve learned is that when an employee has clearly “checked out” or is becoming a problem, move quickly to get rid of them. Firing someone is not fun— there’s no sugarcoating it. But the longer you wait, the more damage will be done. I have let employees drag things down for too long before finally letting them go. I won’t make this mistake again.

Company volunteer activities- like packing lunches for the Akron Snow Angels Mission- are great team building activities.

Hire people not just because they have the skills and abilities you are looking for, but also because they will fit into your culture. If you’re looking to expand your operation it likely means you’ve had some success already and that you have a small team in place who works well together. You don’t want to bring in new staff who will disrupt the positive “vibe” you have already established.

Specific technical skills can usually be taught, so long as the employee is a self-starter who is willing to take on new challenges and dedicate the time and effort to learn the skills. So as I mentioned previously, make sure a new hire has a strong desire to grow their career.

Another tip, or warning, is to be extremely careful when promoting from within. A great lawyer can’t always run the firm, a great surgeon can’t always run a hospital, and a great technician does not always mean a great manager.

That being said, I always try and promote someone from my team first before bringing in an outside employee. It can be difficult for new hires to come in and adapt to your company culture and immediately grasp how things are done. Your current staff are going to respond much better to someone who already “gets it” rather than someone who tries to do it “their way”.

In addition, be aware of specific technical skills that may be lacking in your hire and put a training plan in place right away to get them to where they need to be.

Finally, remember that people who are not self-starters likely will never be. They may do great in a position that requires them to do a specific task (like answering phones), but they are unlikely to excel at an expanded role that requires them to go above and beyond.

Each member of the PCR team has a clear vision of how we should interact with our customers, our staff, our vendors, and our community. Every employee shares and understands our core value which is “to make someone’s day better.” This is how we approach interaction with everyone we encounter.

Our staff values organization and team performance over the individual. We support one another, and everyone on our team is willing to help out a co-worker even if it isn’t “their job” to do so. We also provide staff training, and pay for any outside training program that an employee is willing to undertake on their own time to improve their skills.

Celebrating birthdays and work anniversaries with office parties and lunches are a great way to boost team morale.

As a business owner, it’s important to communicate what you are trying to accomplish with everyone on the team and then reward them for their outstanding efforts. At PCR, we offer a bonus program tied to our quarterly goals, and we keep team morale high by celebrating birthdays and work anniversaries with lunches and office parties.

We also have a rule that don’t work with any business, regardless of the size of the contract, that doesn’t respect our company values or our team members. Don’t let customers have a negative impact on your team.

The key to any successful business is its staff. If you are looking to bring on new employees do your homework and make sure they will fit into your company culture.

Consider all options when hiring. Staff is a huge expense. Be certain your need for staff isn’t temporary, and that you can’t pay current team members overtime or offer additional incentives instead of bringing in someone new. That being said, if you are expanding and know that you will need to bring in new employees it’s best to hire before you need them. It generally takes six to 12 months for new staff to be able to provide independent value.

Finally, pay the people that matter! If a staff member leaving will negatively impact the performances of your business do everything in your power not to let them leave. Pay them an amount they won’t find anywhere else!

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PCR Welcomes Lucas Wright

We are happy to welcome Lucas Wright to the PCR Business Systems Team. Lucas brings with him IT experience as well as enthusiasm and we’re extremely excited to have him as part of our team.

Here are a few things about Lucas to help you get to know him better:

  • Lucas recently got married!
  • He and his wife adopted a pup a few years ago. It was around Halloween and they named him “Zero” after the ghost dog from Nightmare Before Christmas which was playing at the time
  • He grew up in Tallmadge where he went to high school and was a member of the robotics club and student senate
  • He obtained a Bachelor of Arts in Anthropology from the University of Akron before shifting gears and going into IT
  • He enjoys playing PC and tabletop games
  • He recently completed Google’s IT Support Professional Program and has plans in the works to obtain several more IT certifications

Questions for Lucas:

Q: What do you usually have for breakfast?
A: Big bowl of oats

Q: What is your middle name?
A: Walter

Q: Favorite sport to watch?
A: Overwatch League (esport) and the Browns

Q: Goal you have for yourself?
A: My recent goal has been achieved in getting hired here at PCR. Next I want to accomplish getting my A + certifications, and then start working on obtaining other CompTIA certifcations (Network + & Security+) to really expand my knowledge and skillset.

Q: Pets?
A: My pup named Zero. Two cats Lily and Calvin

Q: What is your hobby?
A: PC and tabletop gaming

Q: What is your favorite restaurant?
A: Saffron Patch. It’s an Indian restaurant in the Valley.

Q: What is your favorite drink?
A: French press coffee or really any IPA

Q: What’s your favorite travel destination? (been there or want to go)
A: Cruises anywhere.

Q: What characteristics do you admire (in self or others)?
A: Definitely a good sense of humor! And a genuine sincerity in the way they talk or listen to you.

In businesses since 2004, PCR is the trusted IT provider for Akron area businesses. Learn more at pcrbusiness.com.

It’s Time to Have a Talk with your IT Company

The relationship between a business and IT team or IT person used to be so simple. Do you remember those old Saturday Night Live skits with Jimmy Fallon playing “Nick Burns: Your Company’s Computer Guy?” It was kind of like that, only with less sarcasm.

You would call up your IT Company when you had an issue with your server or a company computer, and someone would come over and fix it.

Today, things are much more complicated. Akron, OH IT Service providers are not only tasked with keeping your networks up and running, but they are also your first line of defense against cyberattacks. If they fail to adequately protect your network, or if their own system gets hacked into, your IT provider could destroy your business and everything you worked so hard for.

We meet with one or two companies every month whose business is on the brink of disaster because their IT company failed to properly secure their network or because they didn’t have a proper backup plan in place. Please, don’t let this happen to your business.

It’s OKAY to ask questions

It’s important to have an open dialogue with your in-house IT team or outsourced IT company to learn everything about what they are doing, and what they plan to do in regards to your company’s Information Technology.

Whether or not you outsource your IT or have an in-house team on staff, your IT provider is an extension of your business. You need to stay on top of what they are up to just as you would one of your employees. Often, business leaders will simply write a check and let the IT provider do “their job.”

10 questions to ask your IT Company

 

Please, have a conversation with your IT Company and ask specific questions about things like cybersecurity, backup plans, and network monitoring.

As we wrote in the article The Wild West of IT Services, there are no regulations governing IT Service Providers. It’s up to you to do your homework before hiring an IT person or team, and to continuing monitoring the work you are doing for you.

What Questions should you ask?

We have created a Cyber Security Risk Assessment that we encourage you to take. This questionnaire takes less than five minutes to complete and will give you an idea of how well your IT Service Provider is managing your network security and protecting your business against cyberattacks.

IN ADDITION, feel free to ask your IT Company any of the questions from this assessment. If there is a question you are unsure of, ASK your IT Provider for the answer. This is a great tool to help you get the conversation started.

 

Feel free to email me directly with any questions.

Pat Carroll