Travel Smart: Essential Cybersecurity Practices For A Hack-Free Vacation 

Summer is a popular time for business owners and employees to step out of the office and take a well-deserved vacation. Even if their “out of office” e-mail responder is active, many people will periodically check in on work at least once while traveling. Unfortunately, studies show that working outside of the office – whether it’s a few simple check-ins on vacation, connecting to the Internet at a local coffee shop or even business travelers out on work trips – can lead to major cybersecurity issues. If you or your employees will be answering urgent e-mails from the airport or accessing network documents in the hotel lobby, it’s essential to maintain strong cybersecurity best practices to avoid exposing the company’s network to hackers preying nearby. 

In this blog post, we’ll cover what cybersecurity best practices are necessary for you to take before and during any trip to keep your network secure from hackers.  


Why Cybersecurity Matters While Traveling 

Cybersecurity might not be at the top of your vacation checklist, but ignoring it can turn your dream getaway into a horrible nightmare. Cybercriminals know summer is a prime time to attack because people are more likely to let their guard down while on vacation. For most vacationers, the focus is on enjoying time out of the office instead of ensuring they’re following cybersecurity best practices, making them an easy target for hackers. 

To minimize the risk of a cyberattack while traveling, here are a few best practices to cover with anyone on your team who might connect to the Internet while on vacation. 


Before you go: 

  1. Back up your data – If your device gets lost or ruined, you’ll want a copy of your data available to be restored. 
  2. Update your software Make sure your operating system software, web browsers and apps have all been updated to the latest version. Outdated software can impact your device’s ability to defend against malware. 
  3. Protect your devices You should always lock your device using a PIN, passcode, fingerprint or facial recognition feature, but if you don’t already, set this up before traveling. If you leave your device unattended and someone attempts to access it, they will have full access to your private information if it’s not locked. 
  4. Enable “Find My Phone” This feature will allow you to locate your device if you lose it, but it also gives you the power to remotely wipe data or disable the device if it falls into the wrong hands.

While traveling: 

  1. Use a Virtual Private Network (VPN) – A VPN encrypts your Internet connection, ensuring your data is secure even when you use public WiFi networks. Before you leave, set up a VPN on your devices and use it whenever you access the Internet.
  2. Don’t connect to public WiFi – While public WiFi offers convenience, these networks can be a hotspot for cybercriminal activity. Avoid unprotected networks whenever possible. (Yes, that means no checking your e-mail on the beach unless you have a VPN!)
  3. Manage location services – Location tools are useful for navigating new places but can also expose your location to criminals. Turn off location services when you’re not actively using that feature, and consider limiting how you share your location on social media.
  4. Enable Multifactor Authentication (MFA) – MFA adds an extra layer of security to your accounts by requiring a second verification form, such as a text message code, authenticator code or fingerprint scan. This feature should be enabled for all accounts containing sensitive information before leaving your house.
  5. Disable auto-connect features – Some devices automatically seek and connect to available wireless networks. These features can give cybercriminals access to your devices if you connect to the wrong network. Disable this option so you only connect to wireless and Bluetooth networks you know and trust. 

You should be able to relax on vacation. Taking these simple precautions can help you keep your device secure so you can enjoy your time off and don’t have to worry about dealing with cyber issues when you get back to work.  

However, it’s important to know that these steps aren’t fail-proof. To truly ensure that your company’s cybersecurity measures are up to standard, it’s important to work with a professional IT team that can monitor your network 24/7, patch any vulnerabilities that pop up (which happens regularly) and alert you if something seems suspicious. 

To help you prepare for your vacation and have peace of mind knowing your business is secure while you or your employees are working remotely, call us at 480-464-0202 or click here to schedule a FREE IT Security Risk Assessment with our cybersecurity experts today. We’ll evaluate your current cybersecurity solutions, identify potential vulnerabilities and help you implement a strategic security plan to keep your company safe. 

How To Get Out Of Overwhelm And Manage Projects Brilliantly (While Saving Money On IT) 

It’s a special kind of relentless attack all business owners and managers face: the persistent, crazy, chaotic assault on your time and attention. No one is immune, and every business deals with it.  

Some leaders handle the constant pressure on their attention brilliantly, keeping the team organized and highly productive. But most people struggle with this and feel crushed and overwhelmed by all the things they have to keep track of and do. This goes double if your business is in growth mode and not “standing still” or casually strolling through its existence.   

Add to this a remote workforce, and it can be intensely difficult to wrap your head around all the projects, to-dos, deadlines and client deliverables you and your leadership team must manage.  

While we as an IT company cannot tell you what projects are most important, we can absolutely help you and your team stay far more organized and allow you to know if the people on your team are properly aligned, prioritizing the right work and focused on the things you want them to focus on. We can also help you organize communication to lessen the chances of a dropped ball or a communication failure, which is by far the #1 reason why problems happen in business. 

One of the tools we recommend to clients wanting to get more operational control and clearer communication is Microsoft Teams. There are a lot of reasons why this is a “super tool” for productivity and organizational alignment, but as a bonus, it typically ends up saving our clients quite a bit of money on technology, because it replaces other applications, like Slack, Zoom and dozens of popular project management software, putting all of it into one lower-cost, more secure and more tightly integrated system. 

Let me share just a few of the cool features you’ll love in Teams. Keep in mind that this list is far from complete. Microsoft Teams has over 1,900 applications you can pick from to integrate into a Teams Channel to organize information, workflow, tasks, deadlines and documents.  

Posts: The “post” feature works a lot like Slack in that it will allow you to post questions, reminders and status updates to everyone on that Team regarding that project. This not only keeps ALL communication for a project in one place, but it creates a history and alerts everyone on the team to what’s going on. This feature saves a lot of money for companies using Slack since it’s native and included in Microsoft Teams. 

Tasks By Planner And To-Do: This section of Teams is one of our favorites because it allows you to create “complex” to-do lists where you can assign each item to one or more people; have a progress status, priority and due date; add documents and files; and create a checklist of all the things that need to be done. Better yet, team members who are responsible for the project can provide status updates and check off items that are completed so you know where you are with any particular project. 

Video Conferencing: While Teams is not as slick as Zoom, it does have some features that make it better for team collaboration and projects. The biggest advantage over Zoom is that you can hold a video conference, and the recording of the meeting – along with all of the notes, files and links – will remain in that Team for easy reference later on. This can be extremely helpful for people who might not have been able to attend a meeting, making it easy for them to find and watch the recording, and it also retains a record of critical conversations. Plus, it eliminates expensive Zoom licenses for all employees because it’s included in Microsoft 365.  

If you want to see a demo of Teams or do a cost analysis to see how implementing this can save your organization money on Slack, Zoom and other project management software by combining it into one application, click here to schedule a brief call. 

Why Cyber Security Compliance Doesn’t Belong In The IT Department’s Hands

What if you discovered that all of the hard work, investments and time you’ve put into growing your business is at risk due to a failure of your outsourced IT company, or possibly even your well-meaning (but overburdened) IT department? If you were exposed to that level of risk, wouldn’t you want someone to tell you about it? 

 This article is that wake-up call. 

 Over the last several years, the risks associated with cyber security attacks have grown in magnitude. They are no longer a low-probability hazard that will result in a minor inconvenience. Businesses of all sizes and types are getting hacked and losing hundreds of thousands of dollars, or even multiple millions, in addition to suffering significant reputational damage and loss of customer goodwill. For some, it’s a business-ending event. For nearly everyone else, it’s a significant financial disaster that can negatively impact profits and revenue for years.  

 Yet too many CEOs and small business owners are still abdicating critical decisions regarding risk tolerance and compliance policies to their IT company or IT department when these decisions no longer belong there. 

 For example, let’s suppose you have an employee who refuses to comply with strict data security and password policies and continually fails cyber security awareness training, putting your company at risk for a cyber-attack and compliance violation. Should your IT manager or IT company fire this employee? Reprimand them? Is it even their IT department’s job to manage employee behavior with company data and devices? If you say yes, the question is, when was the last time you met with them to specifically address this issue and direct them on how to monitor and manage it? Likely never – or once, a very long time ago. 

 Therein lies the problem. Most CEOs would agree that it’s not up to the IT department to make that call, yet many of these same CEOs leave it entirely up to the IT department (or outsourced IT company) to handle the situation and make decisions about what is allowed, what isn’t, how much risk they want to take, etc.  

 Worse yet, many CEOs aren’t even aware that they SHOULD have such policies in place to ensure your company isn’t compromised or at risk – and it’s not necessarily your IT person’s job to determine what should or shouldn’t be allowed. That’s your job as the CEO. 

 As another example, many companies have invested in cyber liability, ransomware or crime insurance policies to provide financial relief in the event of a cyber-attack and cover the exorbitant legal, IT and related costs that result when such an event occurs. Yet our experience shows that most insurance agents and brokers do not understand and cannot convey to the CEOs they are selling a policy to the IT requirements needed to secure a policy. Therefore, they never advise their client to make sure they get with their IT provider or internal IT to ENSURE the right protocols are in place, or risk having coverage denied for failure to comply with the requirements in the policy they just sold them. 

 When a cyber event occurs and the claim gets denied, whose fault is it? The insurance agent for not warning you? Your IT department or company for not putting in place protocols they weren’t even briefed on? Ultimately, it’s on you, which is why you as the CEO must make sure that decisions impacting the risk to your organization are informed ones, not decisions made by default.  

 Of course, a great IT company will bring these issues to your attention and offer guidance, but most are just keeping the “lights” on and the systems up, NOT consulting their clients on enterprise risk and legal compliance.  

 If you want to make sure your organization is actually prepared for and protected from the aftermath of a cyber-attack, click here to schedule a private consultation with one of our advisors about your concerns. It’s free of charge and may be extremely eye-opening for you. 

7 Quick Fixes To Fix SLOW Home Wi-Fi 

Nothing is more aggravating than attempting to watch a video or use your PC when the Internet is operating slower than molasses flowing uphill in winter.  

For our clients, we have many solutions to make your Internet connection faster, more reliable and secure. But what about at your home? Spotty, unreliable Wi-Fi is almost certain to happen at the most inconvenient time, like when you’re about to watch a great movie on a Friday night. 

Here are our top 7 fixes for slow home WiFi signals. 

Step 1: Make sure your Internet Service Provider (ISP) isn’t having issues. Most ISPs will have outages published on their website using your phone’s mobile network instead of your home Wi-Fi. If there are no outages or known problems, you can move on to the next steps. 

Side Note: If you haven’t talked to your ISP in over a year, you should call and see if they have new plans that will give you more bandwidth for less money. You might also shop other providers to see if they have recently upgraded their network and can offer better, faster service than your current ISP. 

Step 2: Update your router, especially if you haven’t done so in the last 2 to 3 months. This will not only reset your router with the latest (and fastest) connection speeds but also ensure you’re up-to-date with security patches and other preventative programs. You might just reboot it as well, powering it off and on again. Sometimes that’s enough to fix the problem.  

I would also suggest you get a new router if yours is over 3 years old. Aim for one with Wi-Fi 6 and dual or triple band capabilities, which allows your router to connect with multiple devices without sacrificing any speed or bandwidth.  

Step 3: Change the channel. Download the app Network Analyzer to help find the most appropriate channel for your connection. If you’re using the 2.4 GHz frequency, change to another less “noisy” channel. How you do this depends on the brand and model of your router, so refer to your router’s manufacturer for details.  

Step 4: Upgrade to a mesh Wi-Fi router. When too many devices connect, Internet speeds decline. One option is to get a mesh router like Google Mesh routers, NETGEAR’s Nighthawk Mesh, or eero Mesh from Amazon.  Unlike a traditional router which broadcasts it’s signal from a single device, a mesh router emits a signal from multiple units strategically placed around your home.  In smaller homes, upgrading to a single, more expensive router like a Nighthawk could help.  

Step 5: Turn on QoS, or Quality of Service. This is a router feature that lets you prioritize traffic and apps, such as Zoom or gaming programs. Essentially, your router will prioritize certain uses over others. Of course, how this is done varies by router, so you’ll have to check your router’s manual for details.  

Step 6: Check that you haven’t been compromised. If your Wi-Fi network is open without security or is using WEP, WPA or WPA2, change your settings immediately. Go with WPA3 encryption (which is the most secure) and disable any remote management options on your router. Viruses and hacks can suck up resources and may be the reason for your network grinding to a halt.  

Step 7: Change your router’s location. The basement might not be the best place to store your router. Try placing it up high and as close to the center of your home as possible, free from obstructions and appliances, mirrors, concrete walls and metal materials that can cause signals to bounce or be blocked. If you put your router on a wall of your house, your signal is only impacting half of your home. If you have a large house, you will probably need to invest in Wi-Fi extenders around the house to boost the signal. 

If your business Wi-Fi is slow, spotty and problematic, click here to request a free diagnostic of your office Internet connection to see what’s causing the problems you’re experiencing. Obviously, business Wi-Fi is more important than home Wi-Fi and can cost you in untold frustration and low productivity if not fixed. Contact us today!