Every now and then it is good to take a look under the hood, so to speak, of your business. At the start of the new year is the perfect to make sure you have the appropriate network security measures in place and seek out new software that might add a productivity boost to your processes. Take a listen to our podcast or read below for some helpful tips and suggestions to get your business fit for 2023!
Will Slappey: Hello, and thank you for listening to Technology Simplified, Tech Talk Everyone Can Understand. I'm your host, Will Slappey, and today I am joined by Scott Curtis. Scott serves as a virtual Chief Information Officer here at IT Voice. He is passionate about client success and using technology to help them reach all their goals. He is serious about network security and protecting businesses from holes that make them a target for cyber. Today we are going to be discussing a time-honored tradition, the New Year's Resolution, but with a tech spin. Now, likely many of our listeners out there may hear this podcast well beyond the new year, so we will be taking the approach similar to a car tune up. Join us as we consider all the important factors to check under the hood of your business.
So Scott, to get us rolling today, any fun or unique new Year's resolutions that you've got? Personal or business?
Scott Curtis: As far as personal's concerned, I am trying to hike as many trails in within the tri-state area as I can. And I did get to do one in Tullahoma, Tennessee over the weekend. Kind of rigorous for a guy my age, but it was still a lot of fun and got to see a great waterfall. So that, on personal, that and reading more books is really the two things that I'm working on very heavily. And as far as professional, just waving the banner of security for our clients.
Will Slappey: I like I like all of those goals, especially the hiking one, because. It's very productive. It's fitness, but I mean, you're accomplishing a lot there. You're creating experiences, you're having fun you're getting fit all at the same time. And really, I mean, that ties into a lot of what I want the conversation today to be about-making sure that their business is fit. You never know what's around the corner, nobody saw COVID coming, nobody saw the war on Ukraine coming. So, you just never know what could be around the corner from a macroeconomic level, or other things that just happened to your business specifically. And so having your business tuned up, having your business in shape, if you will, and ready to go is really the best practice. Right. So, as we head into the new year what are some things business owners should be mindful of if they were to set some technology goals for themselves this year, what are some things that you would say to a business owner are important to get their business fit in 2023?
Scott Curtis: I know I'm going to sound like a broken record, but security should be really the number one thing you think about as a business in probably years to come. Because the hackers are getting more sophisticated. The way they're getting in is more sophisticated. It is just one of those things that you must be ever vigilant about in order to keep your business safe. A lot of folks have antivirus, and a lot of folks have a decent firewall that does filtering, but what we're finding is that most of the attacks that are happening are because of human error within the business and we'll call that phishing. It's mostly phishing type attacks. Anything that gets people in your business to click on things or put in information that can be used against them. So, having the antivirus that's a no-brainer. You gotta have it. Having a great firewall, that's a no-brainer. You gotta have it.
But one of the things that has become more of a trend now and is extremely important is making sure that those end users within your business are trained, that they understand what a phishing attack looks like. They understand where the hackers are coming from, how they're thinking when they are trying to get your information. Or try to get you to click a link that'll put malware into your network. So actually, having a training program in place that not only will throw out like a phishing attack that is a pre-made phishing attack that you can monitor, but also have some sort of a coursework that they can actually go through and learn how this hacking works.
This is one thing I have to always remind myself of, because I look at cybersecurity stuff every day. Your employees don't, they just want to come in, use the programs that you have and do their job, and they don't want to have to worry about the cybersecurity stuff. But if they know what it is and they know what it looks like, then there is a much larger chance that they are not going to be the person who clicks on that link that gets you compromised.
Will Slappey: You're exactly right. Scott, you know, I've heard multiple statistics out there, anywhere from 70 to 90% of all attacks could have been prevented by a human. There was some sort of human element. That they, like you said, they put in the information, they clicked on the link, and that if they had not done that the attack would not have been successful. So, your employees understand that long gone are those days where, we used to all laugh at those emails you'd get that would be like, oh, it's your long loss uncle from Africa, and I've got this money, I need this. And it's, you know, all misspelled and lowercase and just sounds absurd. Now the messages that people are getting are researched. They're going to people's social media and they know that somebody's out of town and they make reference to the conference they're at, you know, and they're impersonating that person. And you read it firsthand, and you're like, oh, this sounds legit, because you think it's them, right? The attacks are getting extremely more sophisticated, and so people must be that much more on guard and better and better trained. And, from being a business owner and looking at it, to me, if I'm like, “Hey, I can, you know, eliminate 80 plus percent of compromise if the employees are trained”, I mean, that's a pretty good return in terms of the energy you put in.
Scott Curtis: Right, right. And really this is a great time to just kind of do inventory of everything that could possibly be hacked. So, you know, it's a great time to take a look at your backups. What kind of backups do you have in place? Are you certain that they are not a persistent connection? So, if you get ransomware it'll permeate the backups as well. Are there multiple copies? Can you easily do a restore, do a test, restore, and just really understand how that works so that you have a plan if something does happen.
Will Slappey: And we've kind of talked about that in some of the other podcasts, but I think if there's one thing that somebody could take away from a security perspective, it's the multi-layer approach is the best approach. You want a war strategy or something along those lines, right? You don’t want to have just one wall that somebody can breach, and if they're in, then they're in. You want to have a moat, a wall, you know, archers, anti-defenses missiles, whatever. You know, I guess I'm mix mixing eras here, but you want all of the different elements to where it would take a lot to get through everything. And even if they penetrate one defense, it gets caught by another. Right.
Tell me about some of the more up to date technology that no longer acts individualized, but now works as kind of a web together informing to be able to find those threats that are coming.
Scott Curtis: So, there's a lot of technology that is way beyond what antivirus does. There's technology that will actually watch your network for changes by looking at, okay, this is what Mary always does on her computer. She uses Excel. She uses your ERP program and email. That's pretty much what Mary does and if all of a sudden, a program that she normally doesn't use executes then there is monitoring software that will actually create a ticket that goes to a security operations center where they take a look at it and see if that software is something that is actually a useful part of the business or something harmful.
So, it's a little beyond antivirus. Antivirus is only going to block what it can block because they repackage viruses all the time just so it can get around it. It's always the same virus they just put it in a new package, so it won't be seen by the antivirus.
The new technology is built to actually look at what is going on these computers and then responding to it much quicker than you normally would. Because one of the statistics is malware will sit on your network or on a computer for six to nine months before it's ever executed.
So that's one thing. There's other technology out there that looks at the log files that all of your equipment produces. A computer produces log files, a server, a switch, a firewall, even a printer produces log files. And those log files will show everything that has happened within that computer. So, if I use a computer all day, I'm probably producing a thousand log files. So those log files go into a security operations center, and they look for the ones that are coming from bad actors. So, if something happened in your network that a bad actor sent and it's part of a piece of malware, it will actually create another ticket where human eyes take a look at it, and they go in and find out where it's at. Find it and get rid of it.
Will Slappey: Yeah. I remember it's, it has probably been a few months ago, but we were rearranging some files moving from one SharePoint to a new SharePoint we created or something along those lines. And so, we moved like a thousand files. The software triggered an event and the SOC (the Security Operations Center) looked into it. And then one of our engineer’s sent me the results of it just so I could kind of see what it looked like. It said, hang on a second. That's not normal. You shouldn't be moving a thousand files at one time. It triggered the AI to be able to say, you know, that’s not normal behavior. There was nothing malicious about, it just triggered a human to into it. The antivirus was just, did it fit the definition, yes or no? And that was all it did versus the new technology as being much more intelligent.
So, let's get off of the security soapbox because I don't want our listeners to turn us off because they're like, all y'all ever do is just talk about security, although obviously it's extremely important. But let's talk on the productivity side. So, what are some simple things that people can do to see a boost in their productivity using technology in the new year, or even in the middle of the year and just doing a tune up?
Scott Curtis: It’s a really good idea to take a look at your email first. So look at all the emails that you get and look at those ones that you subscribed to last year and they're not really relevant to you anymore. It's a really a good idea to just get those out of your life because you can unsubscribe and then you're not like accidentally clicking on it or looking to see if anything new came in. You can get a couple minutes back in your life that way. Take a look at the programs that you're using, if you've got programs on your computer that you don't use anymore, go ahead and delete 'em. There's no reason to keep programs that aren't relevant to you anymore. And really, one of the things that I have started doing that I need to dig into a little bit more is back in the email, getting everything a little bit more organized, make more folders make sure that emails get routed into those folders that are important to you.
And the other emails just go into your straight into your inbox and you can get to those when you want to. Just really getting all kinds of rules in place on your email so that you can get to it quickly and when you need to refer to it, you know exactly where it's at.
Will Slappey: No, you're exactly right. One, of the things that this last year I really tried to actually try to help the whole company do this better, was better subject lines. I've started to ask myself the question of if I'm a year from now trying to find this email or email string, like, what are we talking about here that's going to help me locate this email. Sometimes we just throw a subject line in there: updates, question, something that's just generic. Even two weeks later you're trying to find that email, in the stack of email it can be impossible. And for us with like 15 locations, put the location in the subject, right? You put a customer name. Add a little bit more into that subject line that can help you down the road versus, you know, some of the generic things. But I think the overall piece of what you were saying there, Scott, that would be my big takeaway is that taking a little bit more time on the front end to be more organized or more thoughtful about how you're doing things can have a bigger payoff. We can all get caught up in the day-to-day and just grinding through it and just kind of trying to get stuff cleared off our plate, but we're doing some of those same repetitive tasks. I love what you said about the email, you know, subscribes as well. Most all of them at the bottom have an unsubscribe button and you can just click on that and cut down and make it a little bit less busy in that inbox.
Scott Curtis: Yeah, it's really a good idea to, at the end of the day, to find out how reactive you were. Just kind of grade yourself on how reactive you were and if there's a way to be more proactive, then that's the things that you should really concentrate on as far as your day-to-day.
Will Slappey: Yeah, for sure. So, what are some steps that business owners can take this year to use technology to their full advantage of go to the next.
Scott Curtis: Really look at things that are going to lift your employees up and help them thrive. You know, get find programs. Find books. Find things that are going to really get them invested into not only what you're doing, but into their part of what they do in the company. You know, really find those things that resonate with the folks that are doing the heavy lifting at your place and get tools in their hands to help them be the best they can be.
Will Slappey: Yeah, and the one thing I would say on that point, you know, Scott, that I've seen in our business is a lot of those tools require collective engagement for them to be productive. You know, an executive out there, I mean sometimes, you know, you want to say, “Oh, this is technology. I'm gonna push that to my MSP or my internal IT, or whoever it might be, and hey, that's their world”. But if you take something like Microsoft Teams for example, or Slack or any of those types of programs, you know, if you're the one and only person using them in your company, you're going to get zero value from them. You know, and if 10%, you're still going to get extremely low value, like you've got to have 60, 70% acceptance. You know, really you need to be like a hundred percent to really get the full, you know, value from it, you know? And also like, say something like with Teams, it obviously depends on the type of business, but if appropriate, get people to have the Teams app on their cell phones so that they can use it at all times. It’s been years since we have been using teams. But I remember in the early days of using Teams where only a few people used it and it was mildly productive. But when we reached that critical mass point of people on there and all of a sudden it was like, wow, like this is far more productive form of communication for certain things.
So I guess my advice to business owners would be like, especially on those collaborative or communication type technologies, like less can be more pick one and actually embrace it and do it right, versus kind of dabbling in a lot of things that you know, may not make as big of a difference.
Scott Curtis: I really enjoy how we use teams here at IT voice because, you know, working remote, you get kind of removed from the folks you work with. It's not a big requirement, but we are suggested to have our video on. So actually knowing the person and looking at the person I'm talking to makes me feel like I'm a little bit more in an office and I actually get to know them a little better.
And the immediacy of Teams is great because in my position particularly, I work between clients and sales and purchasing sometimes, and sometimes there's an immediate question they have, they're in a meeting. They can pop me into that meeting in a minute and we can answer something that might take three emails to actually get figured out right then and there.
So you, if you really embrace it and you use it like it should be done, Teams is just fantastic.
Will Slappey: Yeah, for sure. Any other software that you would highlight? Software that that you might tell a business owner, like, “Hey, you should check in to using this and embracing this, you know, in the new year?”
Scott Curtis: Yeah, so one that comes with Microsoft Office that, and not a lot of people use is OneNote. OneNote is a great tool for not only organizing your own notes, but it can be a very great collaborative tool. You pop a OneNote on SharePoint and work through any kind of project that you're working on and it's all right there. And you can work on it side by side within SharePoint. And it's one of those tools that it takes a little bit of getting used to, but once you understand how it works, it's fantastic.
Will Slappey: I completely agree. And I use that with all my direct reports. We share a OneNote and, you know, we have our regular meetings that we connect. Both of us will go in and add things like, “Hey, you know, when we meet, here's some things we want to talk about.” And even there's a little bit of, almost like a communication because they can put their notes in and you can see, you can be collaborating on the same notes and adding stuff. And then when you get to the meeting, it can become a live evolving agenda. I think that's a great software.
That probably puts us at time for today. And really appreciate everybody tuning in and getting to hear everything we had to talk about today. I hope this helps all of our listeners to have a safer and more productive 2023. Thank you for your time today, Scott. We appreciate having you on the show. If you have any questions about today's episode, feel free to reach out, subscribe to our podcast to stay informed on the ever-changing landscape of business technology. Have a great week everyone.