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DeckerWright Corporation Blog

DeckerWright Corporation has been serving the Red Bank area since 1984, providing IT Support such as technical helpdesk support, computer support, and consulting to small and medium-sized businesses.

The Facebook Scandal

I’m sure by now you’ve heard of the data use scandal involving Facebook. If not, here’s the skinny on it: a company was able to mine and use the personal data of 50 million Facebook users without their knowledge or consent. The revelation sent the internet into a tizzy and forced many users, including celebrities, to delete their Facebook accounts.

Why is this a big deal? People don’t want companies using their personal information without their consent. It’s a breach of privacy. Sure, people are okay with posting information to sites like Facebook, but only because those sites (should) control who has access to that information. If you post something to Facebook, you hope that only your friends can see it. It’s all about trust: users trust that sites will share their information with only the people they allow.

Data use is a tricky subject. On the one hand, if you don’t want companies using your data, don’t post it. Some people put fake birthdays on their social media profiles for exactly that purpose (and to find out who their real friends are). On the other hand, the sites to which you do post should have protections in place for your data so it doesn’t get misused.

The problem is that “personal” no longer means “personal”. Every major site, from Google to Amazon to Facebook, analyzes every bit of data you put online to learn more about you. They track website visits, viewed and purchased items, and web searches, among other things. To these sites you’re not a user, you’re a commodity. Personal data is the currency of the internet.

The best way to prevent your data from being shared is to minimize your digital footprint. Nowadays, though, it’s tough not to put information online. More and more devices and services are connecting to the internet. Since it’s nearly impossible to live offline in today’s connected world, the best you can do is be wary of what data you share and where you share it. If ever you’re prompted by a site to give consent for data use, take a minute or two to read through and see what they’re doing with your data. Just keep in mind that, as is the case with Facebook, you might not be getting the whole picture.

Am I going to follow suit and delete my Facebook? No. I’m not okay with what happened, but I know that events such as this are the price we pay for being online. Like it or not, this is the world we live in and this is how the internet works. As the old saying goes: if it’s free, you are the product.

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Facebook and Your Life

News broke this week that data collected on Facebook for 50 million users was used by a company to help the Trump campaign in 2016. Facebook was surprised by the revelation, but we shouldn’t be. Personal data is the currency of the internet today. What Google, Facebook, and any other website knows about each of us is a valuable commodity available for sale. All of the major websites track customers and use powerful software to draw conclusions on our future behavior. Couldn’t they use this technology for something useful like stopping school violence? When searching for something on the web, have you ever noticed similar ads popping up on seemingly unrelated web sites? Ever wonder why and how? Stop wondering: your data is everywhere almost immediately. They know you and what you want better than you do.

The false hope that somehow today’s technology companies are socially responsible and care at all about protecting our personal data was shared by a lot of naive people. Big data means big money. That’s why the most valuable companies on the planet don’t make anything except use of data about you. The more you post online, the more you do online, the more the super brain in the cloud knows about you, the more they can share that data with anyone they want. Think George Orwell on steroids. 

The house in the country with no internet is looking better all the time.

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Windows Server 2008 R2 Nearing End of Life

Microsoft has announced they will stop supporting Windows Server 2008 as of January of 2020. While this is still two years away, it is well within the planning window for most businesses. 

If your company has servers running Windows Server 2008, you should be working on plans to replace the servers, either by moving the applications and data to the cloud or by replacing the servers. A decision to move to the cloud is more than dollars and cents. In general, the long term cost of going to the cloud is higher than keeping the systems locally. This is true since most businesses keep their equipment five or more years with few updates. If you plan on running the servers until the “wheels fall off”, getting a replacement server is the right economic decision. If your business is going virtual, with employees working remotely, then a cloud solution may make sense despite the extra monthly costs. DeckerWright works with multiple cloud providers including AWS, Microsoft Azure, Green Cloud, and Tetherview. 

Many software companies offer their line-of-business applications as cloud solutions, so a company’s network architecture becomes a hybrid, with some applications running locally and some applications running in the cloud. DeckerWright’s systems are setup in a hybrid fashion. The hybrid approach has the added benefit of supporting our Business Continuity Plan should our facility become unusable. Contact DeckerWright Corporation for help in deciding the best method for replacing Windows Server 2008.

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Computers Don't Run Without Electricity

One of the greatest lessons we learned during Super Storm Sandy was that computers don’t run without electricity. That truth was revisited during the month of March when New Jersey was pounded by a series of late-season Nor’easters. The heavy, wet snow from these storms toppled trees and power lines, leaving thousands of people and businesses without power for days. Loss of power is the most common disaster businesses face. Without power to run computers and networking equipment businesses are separated from their systems and data, making it impossible to conduct business. 

Any Business Continuity Plan should include provisions for what to do if the power is out for an extended time. The system architecture should include a cloud component, with either some or all of the systems running in the cloud. If your facility is without power, the systems either need to be brought to life in the cloud through a disaster recovery solution (like DeckerWright offers), or the servers need to be moved to a location with power. Alternative facilities with backup power for hosting your data and housing your employees can help keep your doors open when the power goes out. These facilities must be identified and secured BEFORE the lights go out. 

Communications to employees, vendors, and clients need to be mapped out and tested to make sure that when the lights go out, your business doesn’t stop, too!

Click here for the FEMA Disaster Recovery Framework.

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Save-The-Date...Wednesday, April 18th

Join the DeckerWright team, our clients and friends for our annual Open House on Wednesday, April 18th from 5 - 6:30 PM.

This year we're celebrating the long awaited spring weather!

Refreshments will be served.

Please bring a friend - and be sure to RSVP to sales@deckerwright.com

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Refer a Friend to DeckerWright!

For every referral you send us...you'll receive a "sweet" gift!

Please email your referrals to sales@deckerwright.com and find out more.

Mmmm...so good!

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The Power of Peer Groups

For the past seven years, DeckerWright Corporation has been a member of the IT industry’s leading peer group, HTG.  Member companies come from across the United States and provide the same types of services.  Owners of the other company form the board of directors for DeckerWright Corporation providing feedback, ideas and accountability.  Many of the systems we have in place today to improve our service delivery and protect our client’s data have come from ideas fostered in the peer group.  At the latest meeting, we learned about new security tools and processes that we will be deploying to our clients over the next few months.  Another thing you discover in the peer group is IT problems in New Jersey look a lot like IT problems in California, Kansas and Florida.  Many of the problems someone else has seen and solved, another benefit we can pass along to our clients.

If you have an opportunity to get involved with a peer group in your industry or area, you should seriously consider it.

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Security Information and Event Management (SIEM)

DeckerWright Corporation provides consulting services to assist clients with responding to and meeting enterprise level security requirements.  These requirements are derived from HIPAA, ISO and PCI security requirements and are written into agreements many companies must agree with in order to transact business.  One of the emerging trends is for companies to maintain log files for up to a year so that in the event of a security breach.   The log files may be reviewed for clues on what happened and what may have been compromised.  An additional requirement is for the log files to be reviewed for potentially malicious activity.   A day’s worth of firewall logs could easily exceed 100,000 entries.   

The industry response to the needs has been the development of SIEM systems.  SIEM systems allow for the protected offsite storage of device (eg. Firewall and server) log files for specific periods of time.  The SIEM tools also review the log files looking for potential bad behavior and can provide alerts for further investigation, or action to resolve problems.  The latest generation of SIEM tools can “connect the dots” by linking behavior in one device to device in other devices to identify an evil pattern of behavior.  We have begun to deploy SIEM systems for our clients that must meet these security requirements.

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Should I Worry About The Intel Security Flaw?

There has been a lot in the press recently about a security problem identified in nearly every Intel processor produced over the past 20 years.  Should you be worried about the flaw?  The answer is both yes and no.  The flaw that was discovered could allow data to be pulled directly from the processor.  Since the data at risk has to be in the processor, data at rest like your documents, and spreadsheets will be unaffected unless you are working on them.  Data like logins and passwords would be prime targets for the malware.  So far, there are no known attacks that have targeted this flaw.  The degree of difficulty in writing the software to take advantage of the flaw will be difficult and will require a skill set only few programmers have.  Expect nations to invest the money to develop the code first, and criminals to have the code in 12 to 24 months.  While serious, the Intel flaw is less serious than being behind on Windows patching is for most PCs.

The Intel “patch” will involve two parts.  The first is a patch that will be released from Microsoft that will prevent the attack through the operating system.  The second “patch” will be a firmware upgrade specific to your computer.  Due to the complexity of applying firmware patches, many machines will go unpatched.  Computers older than five years old will probably never get the firmware level patch.  Since the vast majority of devices with Intel processors will never get their firmware upgraded, the Intel flaw will be a problem for many years to come.

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iPhone vs Samsung: Which is the best?

I’ve never been an Apple junkie. My first–and until recently only–Apple device was a first-gen iPod Touch that I bought way back in 2008. For phones, Android has traditionally been my style. Why did I choose to not claim a seat on the iPhone bandwagon? Because everyone else seemed to have an iPhone and I’m not a big fan of being like everyone else.

After years of ownership, Android fit like a comfy sweater. All was bliss until one day when I was on a service call and the client came to me with an iPhone issue. They handed me their iPhone and my eyes glazed over. After several more such instances I grew tired feeling like an idiot and decided that, as a tech professional and a Millennial, it was time for me to learn how to use an iPhone. So in the name of science, when my phone went up for renewal, I sprung for an iPhone 8.

I have learned many things in my few months of iPhone ownership. For example, the screen responds differently to hard touches and soft touches, something I learned while trying to remove an app (after Googling how to do it). I know I still have much to learn and that there is a myriad of features I have yet to discover. I’ll report on them as I go. For now, though, I’m happy that I can set up email and navigate the settings menus without having to consult a YouTube tutorial. I even figured out how to change Siri’s voice to British, a tweak that makes navigation far more enjoyable.

Here are some observations thus far.

Things I like:

  • It looks nice
  • It feels nice
  • It has biometric security
  • The battery lasts a long time
  • It has a whole bunch of swipe and touch features that I have yet to explore
  • I can get iPhone accessories at pretty much any store that sells things
  • I’m no longer the odd man out in group texts

Things I don’t like:

  • The keyboard doesn’t support swipe texting (I might be a Millennial but I’m a horrible texter)
  • I had to make an Apple account, but use Google for everything
  • It’s a pain to turn the location on and off
  • I can’t manually change camera settings (ISO and shutter speed)
  • I can’t clear app caches to free up space
  • There’s no headphone jack!!!

So which phone is best? Having owned both Samsung Galaxy and iPhone, I can say that you really can’t go wrong with either one. At this point in the game, they’re about equal. Apple started the smartphone ball rolling when they introduced the iPhone back in 2007. Since then, everyone else has had to play catchup, and catch up they have. Samsung’s newest Galaxies give the iPhones a run for their money. And Google’s newest Pixel 2 introduces yet another player to the which-smartphone-is-best competition. My brother just got a Pixel 2 and, I have to admit, I’m a little jealous.

Smartphones have come a long way since their ancestors first blew people’s minds 10 years ago. It’ll be exciting to see where they go from here. Android or iPhone? I’ll leave that choice up to you.

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I’m sure by now you’ve heard of the data use scandal involving Facebook. If not, here’s the skinny on it: a company was able to mine and use the personal data of 50 million Facebook users without their knowledge or consent. The revelation sent the internet into a tizzy and f...

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