On Friday, England’s National Health System was attacked by hackers using ransomware. In fact, the NHS was warned by hackers in 2011 to the very vulnerability that could be used to attack the system. Even Friday morning, the hackers gave the NHS another heads-up and opportunity to prevent the attack. The hard truth is that many of the computers that were affected could have easily been protected if users had taken basic steps to make computers less vulnerable.
1. Keep your computer operating system up to date. Updates aren’t just about functionality. They’re often about security patching. In the NHS case, hackers used a known vulnerability in the Windows operating system that Microsoft patched in March. (To be clear, the people whose computers were updated were NOT affected by the ransomware.)
2. Keep all apps up to date.
3. Older operating systems, like Windows XP which came out in 2001 and ceased to be supported in April 2014, remain vulnerable to attack. Windows Vista is another example of an unsupported operating system.
4. Email spoofing/phishing poses security threats to whole operating systems, as well as external systems including bank accounts. If someone sends you an attachment or document that you aren’t expecting (even if it’s someone you know well), verify that the attachment or document is legitimate.
Jason McClurg, Rader tech adviser, helps Rader customers solve problems. McClurg encourages customers to call when they have any questions — regardless of the size of the problem.
“It doesn’t matter, just call,” McClurg said. “If you’re having a usage issue, just call. We’re not trying to decide who gets service and why. We are here to serve.”
That customer-centric attitude has helped McClurg achieve success at Rader since he joined the team in December 2014. His approach to customer service and his ability to create and explain simple solutions to complex problems can be traced to an anything-but-typical background.
McClurg grew up in Oklahoma but graduated high school in Denver, Colorado. After he finished high school, he spent 1996-1998 hopping trains.
Yes, you read that correctly. As a teenager, he zigzagged across the country by jumping on trains.
“I was raised in Oklahoma,” McClurg said. “Grapes of Wrath, the concept of the Dustbowl mentality — all these things from my life romanticized hopping trains, seeing the country ‘on your own terms.’”
To clarify, by hopping, he means literally jumping aboard a moving train. If you’re curious about his route: First, he took the Lowline from Louisiana to California, then the Midline from California to Wyoming and, finally, the Highline from Washington to Illinois. All total, he traveled about 14,000 miles. He says Minneapolis was his favorite place.
“I appreciate any city on the Mississippi River. In Minneapolis, the generosity in people who are cooped up for six months was awesome,” he said. “I found them willing to share anything during those months when they could get outside.”
The whole trip took about a year.
“I learned you can’t trust everybody you meet and that there are still good people in the world,” he said. “The American Dream is alive and well.“
McClurg is now married and the father of two — a 6-year-old girl and a 17-month-old baby boy. His favorite movie is “The Jerk” with Steve Martin and “China Town” with Jack Nicholson.
McClurg’s depth of knowledge, technical skill set and life full of diverse experiences have earned the respect of his colleagues.
“He listens well and has a lot of empathy,” said John Ferguson, Rader’s Chief Information Officer. “Jason does a good job of putting himself in the customer’s position.”
Imagine you are walking down the street, and a complete stranger runs up to you with a clipboard and asks:
What is your name?
Do you like beans?
Who are your best friends?
What is your favorite kind of bean?
What is your favorite color?
Do you like George Wendt?
Where do you work?
What is the mean airspeed of an unladen swallow?
Other than a few answering, “African or European?” to the last question, most people would not respond at all to such unexpected, weird, and personal questions, especially when asked by a stranger. They also probably wouldn’t bring said stranger over to their friends and acquaintances to get their responses as well!
Yet millions of people do the exact same thing every day on Facebook and other social media sites, with these types of questions dressed up as friendly social quizzes. And they then willingly share their results, however they’re dressed up (“You’re a Hufflepuff!” “Your past life was a Norse blacksmith in the 8th century!” “You and George Wendt would totally enjoy the same type of beans!”) with all of their friends, acquaintances, and random connections on social sites, oftentimes with the express warning that doing so will give the quiz app access to their profile, work history, contact lists, and other personal information.
Welcome to modern day data collection, which has moved from cold, calculating, impersonal, inquiring models to more warm, calculating, personal, and voluntary methods. Those quizzes that claim some insight into your personality or the actual color of your aura are a goldmine for data-research firms, and they have been exploiting the popularity of social media for their own benefit. A British firm has used personality quizzes to build data-rich profiles of millions of users for political purposes; other websites are primed to sell any data they gather to marketers the world over.
It may seem far-fetched to think that simple quizzes can be so insidious, but their popularity and quantity-over-quality approach allow marketers and others to gather lots of tiny pieces of data from disparate sources and aggregate them. This overall data picture can then be sold to anyone interested in acquiring extremely specific targets for any manner of advertisements or commercial messaging. Privacy advocates have been issuing warnings about this for years but that hasn’t stemmed the tide of quizzes or participants.
Some people may not be overly concerned about this; after all, advertising has existed for a long time, and trading some personal privacy for access to social networks and apps is practically a fact of life. But consider this: the next time you are browsing Facebook and an ad pops up for a product that immediately appeals to you, it may very well be that an algorithm on a server halfway around the world knew you, specifically, would be predisposed to that ad because of your Hogwarts house or favorite type of bean. If you care about your privacy, think twice about filling out those Facebook quizzes.
by Jason Sikora
The beginning of the year is the perfect time for scammers to take advantage of the backbone of your company’s data flow that you might not understand — your domain and DNS. DNS stands for Domain Name System, and is basically an address book for your domain, telling the rest of the internet where your website is hosted and where your email needs to get delivered, for example.
Failing to address these basic concerns has serious consequences. If your domain isn’t renewed or your DNS isn’t configured properly, your website won’t be reachable and you and your staff won’t be able to receive email. Your hosted servers may fail to be reached and your network may fail to route data traffic.
Scammers know this, and know that you probably don’t understand how your domain relates to your data flow creating the perfect scenario for fake domain or DNS renewal forms in the mail.
Scam emails are nothing new. Rarely, however, does scam mail appear in our physical mailbox. So for many who receive this mail, they assume that it is something that needs to be paid. Chances are, it is not.
But how do you determine if a DNS renewal is a legitimate invoice? First step, read the wording very carefully. Many times it will say something like “This is not a bill” in small print or in the middle of a paragraph. Secondly, call your IT company. There are many online tools to find out where your domain is registered and where the DNS is being hosted, and your IT company is familiar with these tools.
by Sarah Green
Can working at a computer for several hours a day each week cause carpal tunnel? The answer is, maybe.
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome is described as discomfort or pain in the hand or wrist as a result of pressure on the median nerve in the wrist. The pressure is built when we repetitively bend and extend our wrists. This injury is not caused by computer usage alone, but as so many of us work in environments that require high computer usage, being mindful of this injury and taking steps to prevent personal harm is important. Ergonomics research indicates that computer users often develop poor wrist posture, which likely contributes to wrist strain or carpal tunnel.
So, what can you do?
1. Keep your form in mind. The ideal keyboard posture is met when the keyboard is placed below elbow height and the keyboard itself is tilted slightly downward in the direction opposite of you. This creates a neutral posture that minimizes static and dynamic muscle loads. To achieve this, you could attach an adjustable keyboard tray to your desk or adjust your chair height.
2. When typing, avoid using too much pressure on the keys. Instead, try to type lightly, using as little force as necessary.
3. When typing, keep your wrists elevated above the keyboard rather than resting them on your desk.
4. Proper mousing form is the same as keyboarding. Your mouse should sit below elbow height and at a slight downward tilt. The shape and design of your mouse is also more important than you might think. The mouse should fit comfortably in your hand, but the shape should be as flat as possible and symmetrical. This will reduce the chances for wrist extension. When mousing, again consider the amount of pressure you use. Instead of gripping the mouse tightly, gently move it across your desk. When you move the mouse, avoid using your wrists. Keep your wrist straight and use controlled movements from your elbow.
5. Lastly, keyboards and mice aren't the only tech devices that can cause pain in our hands and wrists. Many of us experience “text claw.” Though this isn't an official medical diagnosis, text claw is the pain that comes from texting, surfing the web, and everything else that we do on our smartphones.
To prevent any form of wrist injury, remember to give your hands and wrists frequent breaks, perform wrist stretches — and practice good posture when using your devices.
by Sam Castro
Anyone who has ever called tech support with a technology issue knows the first question asked is almost always: “Have you tried turning it off and then turning it back on?”
Unplugging and plugging in and rebooting are sometimes referred to as power cycling in the technical field. This is a common troubleshooting step when performance starts to decline in most electronics from PCs to smart phones to wireless access points. Basically, power cycling alleviates performance issues in electronics because of the way these devices allocate resources to processes.
Processes are the individual applications that run and make the device useful. Email and browsing applications on a PC are examples of processes. Processes may run in the foreground and be fully interactive for the user — or run in the background executing tasks that are never seen. All processes use the host device’s memory and CPU resources. Over time, the device gives more and more resources to the processes. Ideally, the process returns the resources to the host when its tasks are completed. However, sometimes the process holds on to the memory — which is called a memory leak when it happens in error.
The memory-leak scenario causes the host to have less memory for its other processes — and slow performance is experienced as a result. The act of power cycling causes the device to release all memory and go back to its starting point. The resources are fresh and ready for assignment to the processes. Even closing and re-opening an individual program can have a similar effect on performance. The program starts up fresh without being slowed down by all of its previous tasks — which explains why tech support often asks users when was the last time the device rebooted.
Power cycling the device is a jumping off point to further potential troubleshooting. Imagine that a specific error message is encountered. If this error can be reproduced by the same actions, even after power cycling, or restarting the application, then that error may actually be a bug in the software — and more investigation is necessary.
Restarting the program or device is the first step to rule out this common issue — and solves many issues for users before moving on to more complex troubleshooting.
Industry experts say that Delta’s Aug. 8 technology debacle that grounded all of Delta’s flights and stranded thousands of passengers is a wake-up call for the airline industry. Southwest Airlines said the July 20 computer failure that canceled more than 2,300 flights is costing the company “tens of millions” of dollars. The two incidents prompt the question: Has the time come for airlines to upgrade outdated information systems and networks?
However, for thinking executives, questions about the security and redundancies necessary to keep networks and technology operations safe shouldn’t remain theoretical and only within the airline industry. The real question is more personal: Is your company operating within an acceptable risk level?
“Companies, from large organizations like Delta to smaller ones, are realizing that as they become more reliant on technology, their IT strategy and budget must also continue to evolve to align with appropriate risk tolerance,” said Jacob Landry, president of Rader, an IT company based in Louisiana. “Some companies are operating at levels that are simply too risky. For Delta, this perfect storm of failures will likely create new and more thorough emphasis on redundancies and preventative measures in the future, but at what cost? The question to ask is: how much will downtime cost you?”
Some companies are turning to Cloud computing to offload the burden of operating fully redundant data centers.
Tim Fournet, Rader’s chief technology officer, said that the concept of moving computing infrastructure to the public cloud is still so new that most companies just aren’t ready.
“Applications may need to be rewritten, business processes need to change, and costs for outsourcing something you’ve already built are hard to justify,” Fournet said. “But to avoid potential outages and loss of businesses, some hard choices may need to be made.”
Rader helps companies make informed decisions on their technology and business continuity needs. A good place to start is a risk analysis. Rader's experience with risk analysis helps clients determine where they stand and how to get where they need to be.
If you’re interested in learning more about security audits or how Rader can help with your organizational technology needs — whether it be eliminating downtime, increasing security or protecting information storage, call us at 337-205-4652.
For an interesting look at what went wrong for Delta, check out this story from NPR:
The Rader Team is pleased to announce that Chris P. Rader, our company CEO and founder, was named on May 23 to the Board of Directors to Home Bancorp, Inc. (Nasdaq: HBCP). Home Bancorp is the parent company for Home Bank, N.A. (www.home24bank.com). Along with Rader, Kathy J. Bobbs and Donald W. Washington, both of Lafayette, were also named as new Board members.
“We are thrilled to have three exceptional leaders join our Board of Directors,” stated Michael P. Maraist, Chairman of the Board. “Each brings to us a unique set of experiences and knowledge to help us continue and broaden our success.”
“Kathy, Chris and Don have earned their impeccable reputations by leading successful businesses and high-performing teams,” added John Bordelon, President and CEO of Home Bank. “They join a Board that is fully committed to serving our customers and employees exceptionally well, and to producing superior results for our shareholders.”
Home Bank, founded in 1908 as Home Building & Loan, is the oldest financial institution headquartered in Lafayette Parish. With 30 locations across South Louisiana and Western Mississippi, Home Bank is committed to serving the needs of its communities. Personal banking has always been Home Bank’s trademark and that tradition continues as we grow, invest and serve our clients and community. For more information about Home Bank, visit www.home24bank.com.