SMB Nation Blog

SMB Nation has been serving the Bainbridge Island area since 2001, providing IT Support such as technical helpdesk support, computer support, and consulting to small and medium-sized businesses.

The 1 Habit That Will Change Your Life

Plus the four steps to make your habit work for you.

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Lewis SchiffLewis Schiff
Contributor
Author, Executive Director The Business Owners Council, co-founder of BEN Global Mentorship

September 28, 2016

It was during a team-building exercise many years ago that I first discovered a talent I had no idea I possessed. The exercise itself was pretty run-of-the-mill -- name one special skill or talent for each person in the room. I certainly wasn’t expecting to hear anything life-changing, but I was taken aback when multiple people told me that I was very good at asking questions.

It was not really something that I had ever considered to be a personal talent. It was, and is, just something that has always come naturally to me -- something that I’ve never really had to think about. And that’s the thing. Your true talent isn’t something that you need to focus on to do it well, and it isn’t something that you will consider remarkable.

Rather, it is something that you should work on honing once you discover it, and it is definitely something that should be incorporated into your career. I’ve spent years working on turning my knack for asking good questions into a career and have helped thousands of other people do the same with their own talents.

Asking good questions and translating the answers to help other people access great insights has become what I call my “language” -- the way that I communicate with the world. One key thing that I’ve found really successful entrepreneurs have in common is that they’ve built their businesses around their own languages. They’ve identified their own innate special talents and have worked to build careers based on their ability to do what they do best. No wonder they wound up so successful!

Once you identify your own talent, you’ll know your own language, and you’ll be one step closer to building a successful career. This is such a basic, foundational insight that I call it “The First Habit.”

Why do I refer to this as a habit instead of an insight? Because knowing your talent isn’t enough. Making your talent work for you is an ongoing process, requiring you to develop it, hone it and build it into a viable career. The obvious applications for your talent probably won’t jump out at you immediately, but don’t get discouraged. It may take a few nights -- or weeks -- of brainstorming to come up with a viable business idea that really takes advantage of your skill.

 

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Ransomware? Bad news, it's getting worse

Steve Weisman, Special for USA TODAY

635981605803254358 ThinkstockPhotos 492800537I first warned you about the dangers of ransomware in early 2015,   and its increased use was one of my cybersecurity predictions for 2016.

Unfortunately, that prediction has come true, and my motto of, “Things aren’t as bad as you think — they are far worse,” has proven accurate. In fact, the FBI has recently warned that ransomware attacks against hospitals, schools, government agencies, police departments, businesses and individuals are dramatically increasing.

Ransomware is a type of malware that once installed on your computer locks and encrypts files.   The cybercriminals who send it to you then threaten to destroy your files unless you pay a ransom, generally in untraceable bitcoins.

Phishing or its more sophisticated version, "spear phishing," is often used to spread the malware. Emails lure the victim to click on a link, which downloads the ransomware.  Spear phishing targets specific victims by personalizing an email to make it appear especially legitimate.

Cybercriminals can do this by gathering information from various sources including social media accounts.  By putting too much personal information on social media, we often become our own worst enemy.

Ransomware is also spread through malvertising, which is apparently legitimate advertising, and on bona fide websites. But click on it, and you've downloaded the malware.

Yet another way cybercriminals strike is by infecting legitimate websites such that merely going to the site without clicking on anything is sufficient to infect your computer.  A newer version of ransomware called CryptXXX is being spread in this manner and was used to infect the website of American toy maker Maisto.  Fortunately, there is a free decryption tool for this particular type of ransomware, available from Kasperksy Lab.

Often the websites are infected through attacking vulnerabilities that exist in plug-ins such as Adobe Flash.  As long ago as 2010, Steve Jobs complained about this vulnerability.  Despite security patch after security patch, new problems kept coming up with this software.  It would appear that just as companies retire certain programs when it is just too difficult to continue to patch them (as with Windows XP), this may well be the time for Adobe to retire Flash. And if the company doesn’t do this, you should consider retiring it yourself and replacing it with another plug-in that performs the same function.

One of cybercrooks' newer methods is deploying ransomware against smartphones. While this tactic is less common, it is only a matter of time before the myriad of devices that make up the Internet of Things could be subject to such attacks.  Just imagine the dangers of Internet-connected medical devices such as pacemakers and insulin pumps being compromised.

Rarely is paying the ransom a good option, although in a controversial statement at a Cyber Security summit in 2015, FBI Assistant Special Agent Joseph Bonavolonta indicated that sometimes the FBI advises victims to pay up.  The FBI, as would be expected, has since backed off of this statement.

New versions of ransomware are constantly being developed by cybercriminals who often — rather than merely using the malware themselves — will sell it on a part of the Internet referred to as the Dark Web, where less technically sophisticated criminals buy and sell malware as well as stolen information, such as credit card numbers.

Cybersecurity predictions for 2016

Some cybercriminals are even taking advantage of the general awareness of ransomware to trick their victims into downloading malware that merely locks their screen while a pop-up message appears telling the victim that they have become a victim of ransomware and that they must pay a ransom or their data will be destroyed although the data has not been locked or encrypted.  Merely restarting the computer can often get rid of the pop-up and end the screen lock of these wanna-be ransomware criminals.

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IoT Possibilities in 2017

Internet of Things (IoT) is already impacting working and living environments with exciting trends. It has come a long way and 2017 looks promising for tweaked and heightened possibilities. Technology continues to make mass production cheaper, almost every electronic device is built to be wi-fi ready and IoT close to half of the world’s population now have access to the internet, compared to just 20% in 2007. As broadband internet becomes cheaper to connect and use, it is only fair to expect a tsunami of IoT from 2017. The concept of IoT is to connect every powered device to the internet; once it can be turned on and off, why not hook it up to the internet?

Imagine your alarm waking you up at 6:30 am and sending an instruction to your water heater to warm your bath water, and your coffee maker to start brewing. Imagine if your car could communicate parts which are due to be changed to a supplier and automatically schedule a date for replacement after interacting with your calendar to know when you will have the time. What about the possibility to have your printer place an order online for new supplies of paper and cartridges … the possibilities are endless. The kitchen is one area in the house where IoT can be optimize for efficiency to reduce waste and power consumption and this year will see a lot of focus accordingly.

Last year provided the opportunity for companies to build devices ready to take advantage of the IoT concept. CES 2016 showcased most of those devices; as the big companies and the known brands were flexing muscles, startups were also showcasing what the big companies were overlooking. Now there is internet and its penetration is unstoppable; let everything that can be connected be connected now! Apple and Google launched home products last year to connect lights, locks, thermostats and other home devices to the internet to enable them to be seamlessly controlled even away from home.

With the seamless connection of everyday useful items to the internet comes the concern on security and hacking. Last year, IoT took a nervous hit when reports suggested that Dyn, a cloud based internet performance management company which provides services to companies like Twitter and Netflix, was attacked. It was believed by experts that the attack was caused by Mirai bot, which scouted the internet for IoT devices with default usernames and passwords, using them for the attack. This partly prompted the release of the security framework of Industrial Internet Consortium. Hackers will not backdown on their malicious activities, but security will also be continually heightened. Nevertheless, a major security breach is probably just a click away.

IoT will not be limited to homes, offices and cars this year. Cities will also work effortlessly to have transportation, traffic, waste and energy management all coordinated with IoT. Q4 last year saw a lot of work to bring artificial intelligence to mobile. IoT will tap into those possibilities as well. Strategic alliances and collaborations will also be made by small and medium scale organizations to produce low cost items to increase patronage of IoT ready devices. This will ultimately set the right tone for a much bigger wave next year.

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Analysis: How Seattle became “Cloud City”

 Seattle is a great investment! Why? Because this city consistently reinvents itself. Follow the dots: timber to gold to aerospace to tech to cloud. I’ve enjoyed living here nearly 30 years and confirm that every time I land after a trip, realizing I’m home!
 
So what is Seattle’s secret sauce in becoming Cloud City? I’d offer competition. Both AWS and Azure were invented here. Hell even competitors like Google are now moving north to drink the water. I have a question for you before we discuss
 
the Seattle Time’s analysis.  Would you like a fall collaborative, Azure Nation, where we meet in Seattle for a multi-day event and discover what Azure is and is not. Would you like to see a shoot-out between Azure and AWS? Please join the conversation on our Facebook page so I can crowd source your interest level.
 
The Seattle Time’s article is an overview of the cloud computing sector and the customers (such as Boeing) that use cloud services. One takeaway is that Jeff Bzos, CEO of Amazon, proclaims “We got a seven-year runway. That’s almost unheard of. For years, we were kind of left alone.” True that but I’d offer he shouldn’t give up his day job as Microsoft is roaring back big time. And you know how Microsoft likes to start late and dominate even later.
 
Read the article here
 
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December is Migration Month!

Looking for a year-ender what will give you an edge on annual earnings? Consider migrations in December. There are a couple of important reasons for this.

Use it or lose it. There is a reality with your mid-sized companies on a calendar fiscal year that they need to spend baby spend in December or lose the mula. This is especially true in your government accounts but they tend to be on a non-calendar fiscal year. You get the point – call your fav “M” client today and secure the funds to complete any migrations to Office 365.

Downtime is migration time. When I was a day-to-day consultant, I likened the traditional December holiday season to a quiet time where I could actually get some real work done. From December 15 – early January was also an IT consultants dream to perform technology surgery at client sites. Heed the call to migrate your customers between Thanksgiving and New Years. Happy customer; happy life.

So what are your next steps. Download the “Enterprise PST Migration to Microsoft Office 365“ informative white paper here.

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