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Phone Settings You Should Verify for Security | Pro-IS IT Services

Another Assault on Privacy: Phone Settings You Should Verify Now

Android and iPhone devices automatically generate unique identifiers in the form of character strings known as mobile advertising IDs (MAID). These MAIDs are used to track the activities of device users and build individual profiles on them. Companies use the profile data to send targeted ads to the devices.

Tech companies have routinely claimed that these profiles are anonymous and that, although they identify devices by their MAIDs, they do not include the personal identities of device users. But a July 2021 article published by Vice.com has revealed that MAIDs are being used by unscrupulous data brokers in conjunction with other data sources to match devices to their users’ personally identifiable information (PII). This PII data could include full names, addresses, phone numbers, email addresses, device IP information, and more. User profiles combining tracked activities with sensitive PII information are then being sold by these brokerage companies, compromising device users’ privacy and subjecting them to significant risk.

Both iPhone and Android devices now have settings that can be easily changed to prevent the tracking of your activities using MAIDs.

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The phone issue in detail

In a statement provided to Vice.com’s Motherboard affiliate during the course of its investigation, Oregon Senator Ron Wyden said that, “If shady data brokers are selling this information, it makes a mockery of advertisers’ claims that the truckloads of data about Americans that they collect and sell is anonymous.” Wyden went on to express concern that making the PII data available to foreign entities and governments could pose a risk to national security. Having this much PII information combined with tracking data also makes individuals more vulnerable to impersonation scams, identity theft, spear phishing, home title theft, and other cyber attack variants.

As part of the investigation, a Motherboard representative contacted one of these data brokers and posed as a potential customer. Per the Vice article, the brokerage’s CEO advised that the company did, in fact, link PII data to tracking information collected using MAIDs and that, in addition to name, address, email, IP information, and phone numbers, other data categories that could be included in profiles were “too numerous to list.” For more specific information about this data brokerage firm and its quoted representative, see vice.com/en/article/epnmvz/industry-unmasks-at-scale-maid-to-pii.

When explaining the scope of the issue, a researcher interviewed for the Vice article said that the PII of anyone running phone apps with ads could be collected and sold by unscrupulous entities. The researcher, Zach Edwards, also said that the risk level for members of the military, law enforcement personnel, and government officials is particularly high given the potential that they will be targeted by foreign entities.

Motherboard investigators asked Apple and Google whether they had policies relating to data brokers using MAIDs to create profiles that unmask the identities of their device users. Per the Vice article, both organizations acknowledged receiving the request for comment, but neither provided answers.

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Phone settings that disable data sharing using MAIDs

While they didn’t answer Motherboard’s question, both Apple and Google have built functionality into their phones that allow users to disable this particular type of data sharing.

Apple’s App Tracking Transparency (ATT) option allows users to opt out of receiving targeted ads. Open Settings on your iPhone, select Privacy, then scroll down and tap Apple Advertising. Move the toggle switch to the left. If you’d like to see what information your phone has already collected about you, tap View Ad Targeting Information.

In April of 2021, three months prior to the publication of the Vice.com article, Apple’s iOS update to version 14.5 significantly changed how iPhone apps can collect and share data going forward. If you’ve installed that update, your apps should already be prompting you for permission to share tracking data.

Per the Vice article, Google announced that, early in 2022, they plan to roll out functionality similar to the opt-in requirement included in Apple’s 14.5 iOS update. In the meantime, Android users can open Settings, scroll down and tap Google, then select the Ads option. Move the toggle switch to the right to Opt out of Ads Personalization. Once you’ve enabled this setting, apps attempting to share out your MAID will be provided with a string of zeroes, instead.

 

In conclusion

Data collected from phones, tablets, and PCs is being packaged and sold as a commodity by people search sites and other data brokers. The very nature of some PII data, like real property records, requires that it be publicly accessible, thus allowing it to be scanned and matched with other data sources to build extensive profiles on you, your family, your neighbors, and anyone else who accesses the Internet.

This explosion in data mining and brokerage has resulted in a dramatic increase in cyber attacks and also in the development of privacy-related applications like personal virtual private networks, anonymizing domain name services, encrypted email and messaging apps, and private browsing options. And now, perhaps a bit later than they should have, Google and Apple have decided it would be best to protect their customers by giving them the option to block the sharing of their data.

If you are concerned about your privacy and would like to make sure your phone isn’t sharing information that is being used by unscrupulous data brokers, it only takes a minute to follow the instructions in this article and verify that your privacy settings are enabled.

If you’re in Fort Collins, Loveland, Greeley, Denver, Boulder, or surrounding area and don’t have an IT Service Provider or are looking for managed IT support, cyber security, IT services, or IT coverage, contact Pro-IS for a free consultation (970) 613-0980.

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5 Phishing Scams for your Company to Watch for in Colorado

There are many Common Phishing Scams to Watch for in Colorado

Many companies in Fort Collins, Boulder, and Denver already have an established cyber-security strategy in place. However, not all are as robust as they could be. Cybercriminals know some businesses can’t keep up with their attacks — and they’re taking advantage of it.

Phishing attacks are especially dangerous because they prey on human nature. Therefore, it’s vitally important that you include other key people in your cybersecurity safety net — your employees. Because phishing attacks can cost your company a lot of money and valuable information, it’s now more important than ever for employees to be educated with phishing awareness training to spot a phish.

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What is phishing?

Phishing happens when scammers impersonate a trusted company or person to gain access to sensitive information. The goal is to steal your passwords, account numbers, identity documents (IDs), and/or financial data. Phishing scams are typically delivered via email or text message, but scammers also use phone calls and websites to trick you. The cybercriminals behind phishing campaigns carefully craft messages to appear as if they come from legitimate sources, such as an email from a coworker or a pop-up from your computer’s operating system.

When users click on a link or download an attachment in these emails, it downloads malware onto their computers (or worse). This gives the attackers access to everything on your computer or network — including potentially sensitive financial information or trade secrets. The best way to protect yourself and your business from phishing is to be informed about it.

These five proactive strategies will not only help you educate your employees, but they will also prevent them from being susceptible to a phishing attack in the first place:

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1. Look for misspellings and poor grammar in emails  

When you receive an email from a person or company you don’t know, it’s important to question the validity of that email. Even if the emails look like they are coming from people or companies you know, it’s still worth questioning whether these emails are legitimate. One way to check if an email is legitimate is to see if the message contains spelling and grammar errors. While some people may be quick to judge someone based on their spelling or grammar, hackers who send phishing emails typically aren’t too concerned with this aspect of their messages.  

This can mean that spelling errors and poor grammar can be a telltale sign that the email was sent by a hacker looking to gain access to your information and accounts. If your work account receives an email from another business but that email contains multiple spelling errors and poor grammar, it might not be an authentic message from that business. Likewise, if an unfamiliar sender sends you an email with multiple misspellings and improper use of commas, periods, or other punctuation marks, there’s a good chance they’re trying to trick you with a phishing scam.

  

2. Don’t reply to emails asking for your account numbers, passwords, or PINs

If someone asks for your email address, password, or personal identification number (PIN) number over email, you can — and should — categorically ignore the request. If an email says that your account has been hacked and you must click on a link to reset your password, ignore it. If a Nigerian prince asks for your bank account number so they can give you millions of dollars, just know that this is a scam and they’ll instead take all the money in your account. The only time you should provide those numbers is if you initiate the request yourself through an official company platform or website. Even then, be cautious!

  

3. Don’t click on a link embedded in an email unless you know who it’s from and that it’s safe

One of the most common phishing tactics is to include a link in an email, which then takes you to a malicious website that asks for personal information. Some attackers even go so far as to make the link text something benign, like “document” or “photo.” Don’t trust them! If in doubt about the sender’s identity, it’s best to call the sender directly using their actual contact information (the number from their business card or your company website listing) than risk clicking on a link that could compromise your computer and allow hackers access to sensitive data.

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4. Don’t download a file unless you know who it’s from and that it’s safe

You should never download an attachment from someone that you don’t know, or from a source that you’re suspicious about. The same applies to unsolicited emails from individuals or companies that you know but rarely receive emails from. When in doubt, confirm by calling the sender and confirming their identity and the legitimacy of the email.

Attachment files can be used to spread harmful viruses and malware to your computer, which hackers can use to infiltrate your personal data on your computer, your employer’s network (if you’re using a company device), or even access banking information if it is saved on your computer.

  

5. Be suspicious of messages that contain threats, request urgent action, or create fear

One of the most common types of phishing emails is the threatening message. These messages are designed to generate fear in the email reader so that they will take immediate action and click on a link or open an attachment. A cybercriminal might pose as a bank or other financial institution and threaten to close your account if you don’t quickly visit their site by clicking on a link provided. This threat generates fear, which encourages the recipient to click on the link.

  

Bottom Line on Phishing Scams

It’s important to understand that phishing is a real threat — it’s not just about getting your money or supporting hackers and thieves. It can also result in the loss of proprietary information or sensitive data, like customer lists and credit card numbers. Some phishing attacks are designed to install malware on your computer or network, which could lead to identity theft and fraud in the future.

If you’re in Fort Collins, Loveland, Greeley, Denver, Boulder, or surrounding area and don’t have an IT Service Provider or are looking for managed IT support, cyber security, IT services, or IT coverage, contact Pro-IS for a free consultation (970) 613-0980.

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Cyber Security: 3 Common Strategies Used by Scammers & How to Protect Yourself from Cybercrime

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Cyber Security: 3 Common Strategies Used by Scammers and How to Protect Yourself from Cybercrime


With cybercrime on the rise, keeping your personal information safe online by watching out for cybercrimes is now important than ever. As Fort Collins, Boulder, Denver, and Northern Colorado residents, we are well aware that scammers are constantly coming up with ways to hack into people’s phones, personal computers, tablets and internet accounts to get access to their personal information and money. It is therefore necessary to familiarize yourself with the strategies used by these fraudsters to so that you can protect yourself.

man reviewing internet security in boulder colorado

Here are some of the common tactics used by scammers to gain access to people’s personal information and money, and how you can protect yourself from cybercrime:

1. Phishing Scams

When scammers create fake emails or web pages that appear to be from a legitimate organization or person, it is referred to as a phishing scam. Usually, you will be asked to provide your bank account details, password, credit card number or Social Security number via that email or web page. Scammers can also contact you by phone or text message pretending to be from a genuine business like a telephone, bank or internet service provider and ask you for your personal information.

For instance, the scammer can tell you that the bank or company needs to verify customer records because of a technical error that erased customer data. Phishing messages are written in such a way that they look authentic, and usually copy the format used by the company the scammer is pretending to be from, including their logo and branding. The rule of thumb is to never give your personal information to anyone over the phone or online if you are not one hundred percent certain who they are.

If the email or phone call seems suspicious or looks off, it most likely is. And, if you make the mistake of giving the scammer your personal details, the details will be used to carry out fraudulent activities, like using your credit cards and stealing your money. So, avoid giving your personal information over the phone or online, unless you are absolutely sure who you are dealing with. 

 

2. Ransomware

Another tactic used by cybercriminals that you need to watch out for is ransomware. Ransomware is malware that cybercriminals use to freeze phones, tablets and computers in order to steal important data, demanding a ransom. Ransomware prevents you from using those gadgets or accessing particular files until you have paid the ransom. It usually encrypts your files so that you cannot open them. Examples of ransomware include CryptoLocker, CryptoWall, Reveton and Locky.

Because ransomware is distributed as malware disguised as a file that is legitimate, you may assume that it is a legitimate file and install it on your device. However, when installed, it can lock your device and display a “lock screen” with a message stating that if you want to have access to your computer, pay a ransom. You can avoid ransomware by ensuring that you do not click on links or attachments from email addresses you don’t know, and do not download or open files from untrusted websites. Also, make sure that you keep your software up to date on all your gadgets, in particular antivirus or internet security software.

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3. Charity Scams

You should also watch out for fake charities whose aim is to take advantage of your compassion and generosity for others in need. Although supporting charity organizations is a great thing to do, it is important to make sure that you do not become a victim of scammers. These fraudsters impersonate genuine charities and contact you, asking you for donations, usually after major events or a natural disaster. They can set up donation pages or send you fraudulent emails just to steal your money.

Before you donate money to charity, make sure that you do your research first. Avoid new organizations established for a particular crisis. Instead, go for those trusted organizations that have been around for some time. And watch out for charity organizations whose names are very similar to popular charities. Also, be on the lookout for phony social media accounts, emails, phone calls and crowdfunding requests, including email attachments from contacts that are familiar. Do not rush to donate your hard-earned money without properly evaluating the charity organization first.

The Bottom Line on Cyber Security

Cybercrimes are real, and some people have been victims of cybercriminals. The first thing you need to do to protect yourself from cybercrime is to familiarize yourself with the tactics used by cybercriminals to gain access to your personal details and ultimately steal your hard-earned money. Then, take the necessary steps to avoid being a victim of cybercrime.

If you’re in Fort Collins, Loveland, Greeley, Denver, Boulder, or surrounding area and don’t have an IT Service Provider or are looking for managed IT support, cyber security, IT services, or IT coverage, contact Pro-IS for a free consultation (970) 613-0980.

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Ultimate Guide to IT Support 2021 for Denver, Fort Collins, & Boulder

Technology for businesses changes overnight and this 2021 Guide to IT Support will help you understand these changes as a Colorado business owner. The same processes, software, data, and tools you used yesterday are faster, more efficient, and easier to use than ever before. However, it takes an experienced IT team to manage upgrades, security patches, new equipment, cyber threats, new practices, and the latest integrations to help your business run like a fine-tuned machine.

With a sound strategy to information technology (IT) systems and management, you can fluidly navigate the landscape of new technology for businesses while also staying compliant with security and data protocols. In this ultimate guide, we’ll provide detailed answers to new technology, managing IT support, cyber security, and outsourced IT services for Fort Collins, Boulder, Denver, and surrounding areas.

Is Managed IT Right for Your Business?

Many small to mid-level businesses need IT services, but it’s often a larger cost to incorporate a full-time, on-site IT team or hire a Chief Information Officer or Chief Technology Officer. Still, these businesses have the same challenges that other larger, international businesses do when it comes to IT and security.

IT professional services allow even the smallest startups and organizations to have an IT team that they can count on to fix their systems, process, and security challenges. This is typically done through outsourced IT services.

A managed IT service offers access to the latest technology, data security, network setup, business software solutions, and much more, but it’s for a fraction of the total cost to hire full-time IT professionals or executives.

IT support can help your business with the following:

  • Manage your IT assets
  • Setup important business systems and telephony networks
  • Provide emergency IT professional services
  • Protect your business from cyber threats
  • Prevent data breaches and DDoS attacks
  • Improve operational efficiency
  • Streamline your processes
  • Monitor and improve your security systems
  • Integrate the latest software to improve business operations and sales
  • Protect your business and customer data

Many of today’s businesses rely on a single person to handle all of their IT needs, and often that person isn’t as well-versed in the latest technology as an IT professional support firm. Despite how important IT is to small businesses, it’s an afterthought until a challenge, threat, or total catastrophe comes along.

Then, it’s time for someone with expertise in software, hardware, networks, telephony, and cyber security to fix those problems and promote maximum stability for your business.

Why Choose Managed IT

Many businesses around Denver and Boulder are startups, struggling to bring in sales while also managing websites, databases, storage, third party tools, telephony systems, and so many other software components. When something breaks, you’ll need someone who can fix those issues immediately and even prevent them from happening again.

IT management is critical to the success of any business, but if you’re a small business owner, you know it’s also difficult to manage the resources and needs of IT. This is why outsourced IT has become so popular for Fort Collins businesses.

Monitors Your Business At All Times

What if your business suffered a system-wide failure tomorrow? Who would be there to identify the problem and fix the issue? When you have an experienced team of IT professionals on your side, your system is monitored day and night. In addition, you’ll avoid reactive approaches to problems that arise by using pre-emptive and proactive approaches already implemented by your professional IT team.

Remote IT teams partner with you to solve your biggest business challenges, streamline your processes, and boost your system efficiency, in addition to amplifying your security. You shouldn’t have to worry about data breaches and cyber threats if you have a team monitoring your systems with sophisticated tools that block out even the most sophisticated hackers using backdoors and malware to find vulnerabilities in your system.

it technician in denver

No Need to Hire Dedicated Staff Members

You don’t need to spend time on hiring, training, staffing, and buying resources to support an in-house IT staff. With outsourced IT, you simply pay for the service and support from a dedicated team. Top-notch IT expert services set up your systems from afar and maintain from a remote access point, ensuring that your business stays secure 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Frees Up More Internal Resources

You probably have someone on your team who constantly handles IT problems, but is this person really the best for the job? They’re likely taking on an extra hat in order to solve immediate risks and challenges to your business. This lowers their productivity and increases their frustration, as they’re not doing the main job they’re hired to do when taking care of website security updates or server errors causing your site to crash.

With an IT team, you can support your team and business fully by sending over these tasks and emergency problems to a team of people who can fix it without dragging down your bottom line.

it service team in denver

Increases Process Efficiency and Productivity

Wouldn’t it be awesome to implement the latest technology and software to boost your business’ efficiency and productivity? Perhaps you’ve been trying to upgrade your inventory management system or you want to install a new type of point-of-sale in all of your locations. If you have the latest and most effective software in the industry, you’ll also be able to take advantage of remote management and automated processes, such as sales reports.

You can also get rid of problematic software, hardware conflicts, outdated software, ineffective tools, and productivity lag just by working with a savvy IT team. In fact, you can talk to a managed professional IT team about your business needs and goals just to get an estimate and ideas about what software capabilities could benefit your business.

Reduces Labor Costs

Do you have a plan if your system goes down or hardware breaks? You should feel confident that your system is going to work from day to day, and that any tech challenges that arise are taken care of swiftly. Your costs are always consistent when you partner with an outsourced IT team. Everything is included in your managed professional IT plan.

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Prevents and Eliminates Security Risks

How do you know that your data is backed up correctly and protected from threats? Do you know that your customer data is protected against all cyber threats? If you don’t know how your business is protected from malware, hacking, DDoS, and other cyber threats, then it’s imperative you work with a managed expert IT team if only to ensure that your business doesn’t fall victim to these malicious cyber criminals.

With managed professional IT, you can receive reports and security logs that show your data is secure and being monitored at all times. Your business is protected 24 hours a day from these kinds of threats, and when working with an outsourced IT team, your service provider also provides emergency response and backup processes to ensure that your business never goes down.

Reimagine Your Business Technology with IT

Do you want your business to run faster and more fluidly? If you find yourself constantly wondering how to update certain software or whether your security is strong enough to rebuke DDoS attacks, then you should start thinking about what it would be like to have a modern business that’s supported by 24/7 IT experts.

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Some of the ways that dedicated IT services can help your business in the long-term include:

Cloud Computing

In today’s remote business and work from home world, there are a lot of security holes due to cloud computing. Many businesses want to work from the cloud to make it easier to store and access digital data, but it’s also vulnerable to nefarious groups that look for data breaches at every business.

With cloud computing, you can easily access your business systems, monitor your inventory, collaborate with your team, access and utilize data, and run various applications integral to your business operations.

For example, some business operations and processes could be automated, freeing up resources and improving productivity. However, you’ll want a team of IT professionals to integrate these new systems seamlessly with your business operation and provide you with support so that your data is always protected.

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Cyber Security

You never know who’s watching your business and looking for vulnerable points in your system. With IT professional support, you can implement the latest security technology to prevent these threats from ever getting near your data and integral operation systems.

From malware to data breaches to DDoS attacks, your IT team monitors and prevents cyber threats from taking down your business. However, it’s also about offering a plan to quickly back up and restore your business if there’s a natural disaster or other catastrophe that tries to take down your system.

With managed expert IT services, your business has a team of tech heroes ready to fight back against these threats and ensure that your customer’s data is safe as well.

Latest Industry Technology

Is there a new POS system you’ve wanted to implement in your store because of its capabilities for efficiency and sales? Perhaps, there’s a new inventory management system or process management software that will help you lower labor costs and free up resources. An IT team could help you implement this technology to benefit your business and put you one step ahead of competitors.

Protect and Manage Your Website

Website administration is crucial to businesses running a website. Whether you have your own server or want to set up better hosting for more security and bandwidth, IT teams make it easy to implement new software and create a faster, more efficient website.

Organize Your Business Systems

You likely have thousands and thousands of files stored on your office computers. You may even have an intranet or business network that stores all of these files. Organizing and managing these files may seem like an impossible chore, but it isn’t difficult at all for IT professionals.

IT experts can help you organize any essential files and data so that you can find it exactly when you need it. You can also set up a secure system to manage and access customer data, as well as sales profiles, payment information, and many other sensitive data points.

All businesses need database management and support to survive in this digital world. Otherwise, you could leave open vulnerabilities to hackers or even your competitors.

Support Your Customer Service and Sales Teams

Your customer service and sales operations also depend on dedicated IT professionals for telephony systems, CRM integration, and technical support. Solving tech challenges for your business doesn’t have to take weeks. Instead, you can pick up the phone and talk to your managed professional IT team to resolve challenges within a fast time frame.

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Does Your Business Need a Professional IT Team?

Many organizations look at security as just the firewall located on the computer or checking the router, but there’s actually a different mindset when it comes to operating and setting up servers, networks, online applications, and security for your business.

It’s important to work with a team who can isolate and protect your data assets, while also understanding how to implement systems and security to make it easy on your employees and customers. Their data also should be constantly monitored and protected from ransomware and even internal threats.

If you lack the in-house team to update your systems and prevent security threats, then you should consider talking to IT experts that are available to help you with every type of business technology solution.

Professional, 24/7 IT technical support is available for businesses in Fort Collins, Denver, and Boulder at a fraction of the cost for a full-time, in-house team. Our IT professionals can support your business by setting up streamlined networks, implementing the latest security software, and monitoring your business 24 hours a day.