Missing IT Nation

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This week marks the annual IT Nation industry conference.  I have attended the annual IT Nation industry event for all but one time, the second year when I had a personal conflict and was unable to be there.  Back then, ConnectWise and their partner community were still small and Arnie Bellini, the CEO of ConnectWise sent me a box with all of the event content and give aways the week after, so I wouldn’t miss out on the learning opportunity.  This year will mark only the second time I have missed the event since it’s inception as the ConnectWise Partner Summit in the early 2000’s.

ConnectWise is one of the leading Professional Services Automation platforms in the IT industry.  It’s the CRM, MRP, Accounting, Procurement system and more for companies that provide IT services globally.

As this event has matured, from the ConnectWise Partner Summit to IT Nation to now IT Nation Connect this year.  From the event About page:


Connections, Opportunities & Know-How to Accelerate Your Success

IT NationIT Nation 2018 welcomes technology industry leaders and professionals from around the world to experience three impactful days of speakers, sessions, and networking focused on business best practices, thought leadership, and growth.


I will miss being there this year.  I always came back from this event with several actionable items to implement in our business to make us better and serve our clients better.  Events like this are important opportunities to not just hear from key vendors in the business, but to share best practices and learn from peers.  It’s also an opportunity to share some of our successes, to help others and to be known as a member of this business community.  Some of my closest confidants and friends in the industry were met at this event over the years.  We stay in touch throughout the year and look forward to seeing one another at one or two events like this throughout the year.

It’s not uncommon for my phone to ring several times a year and have it be a friend I met at IT Nation, checking in and catching up.

To all my industry friends, I will miss seeing you this week.  I hope you all have an amazing week at IT Nation.  And please, once you settle back in and process what you learned this week, give me a call and share.  I’d love to hear all about it and will gladly share what’s happening over here with me 🙂

Be Cyber Vigilant All Year Long

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Usernam

The following was published in yesterday’s Foster’s and Seacoast Sunday.

If you are a regular reader on my articles, you know October was National Cybersecurity Awareness Month. I have written about this for several years now and include links to resources to help you remain secure online. Now that we are in November, the hope is that these issues do not fade from the forefront.

If you’d like to review the various resources available from National Cybersecurity Awareness Month, visit https://staysafeonline.org/ncsam and review the Resources link for a wealth of information, tips and more.

Especially with election season in full swing, everyone should have a heightened awareness of cyber threats. Hopefully, you are well aware you should be suspect of just about everything you see posted on social media, even from your “friends.” Unless your “friend” is someone you know extremely well, you should be suspect of anything they post, especially links to “news.” Take the time to verify what you read online, don’t just take it for granted. Sites that seem quite legitimate may be facades for radical groups or even foreign actors looking to influence our elections and social discourse.

It’s not at all difficult to validate sites and check news for credible sources and reporting. Organizations as diverse as NPR, AARP and many, many others offer several suggestions to help you validate the source of your news. I encourage you to invest a little extra effort to verify what you read as news and be sure you are making decisions based on credible, verifiable sources. It’s more important than ever.

Hopefully, you read and took heed of some of the key themes of this year’s National Cybersecurity Awareness Month. One of the most basic themes was Lock Down Your Login. This is so easy to do, yet the most often overlooked thing to do. Simple usernames and passwords are the most used method to hack into networks and steal data and identities. These credentials are just too easy to break through. You should not be using passwords that are easy for you to remember, as if it is, it’s likely a hacker will be able to guess it or use tools to brute force their way through it and compromise your account.

Passwords should be replaced with passphrases, a sentence or collection of words that are easy for you to recall, but not easily breached. I’ve written about this a lot over the years, both here in the paper and online in my blog at https://mjshoer.com. Use a combination of letters, numbers and symbols, replacing letters in the phase with numbers and symbols where it makes sense. You should also be using multi-factor authentication everywhere it is available. Your bank, personal and corporate email and just about every online site you log into should support multi-factor authentication. Use it. Newer computers running Microsoft Windows 10 support facial recognition to login, enable it. Almost every portable computer has a finger print reader, use that. Just do it, as the famous Nike advertising campaign says.

Finally, though nothing is ever final when it comes to matters of cybersecurity, stay ever vigilant of phishing email campaigns. Don’t click links or open attachments you are not 100 percent certain of. If you get shipping documents, invoices or other attachments you are not accustomed to, don’t open them until you call the sender and verify they actually sent it. Same for links within email messages. Hover over the link and verify that the link is going to a valid domain associated with the company that sent the email. This is one of the easiest ways to spot a phish. Same for the senders email address.

Check carefully to be sure the senders name is not misspelled, even by just one letter. Check the name and check the email address attached to the name. These are simple steps that you should familiarize yourself with and regularly practice to stay safe online.

Please Use a VPN on Public WiFi

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I’m sure you’ve heard the term VPN, which stands for Virtual Private Network.  Most people are familiar with it in the context of connecting remotely to their work network.  For those that aren’t familiar with a VPN, here’s a word picture I often paint to describe what a VPN does.

VPNThink of a four lane highway as the public Internet.  All the cars traveling on this highway are equivalent to each person’s Internet traffic.  As one car passes another, you can look at or in the car and possible see some of what’s there.  This is akin to unencrypted traffic traveling across the Internet, it can be seen and watched by others.  This is why sending sensitive information across the Internet is not safe, as it may be seen by those it’s not intended for.  When you use a VPN, your Internet traffic is sent across an encrypted connection.  Think of an encrypted connection as being like those pictures you see in Car and Driver Magazine when they publish “spy” reports on the next model year of vehicles.  The vehicles are typically wrapped to conceal what they actually look like and the windows may be tinted so darkly that you can’t see inside.  This is like encrypted traffic on the Internet.  You know it’s there, but you can’t tell what it is.  When you establish a VPN, it’s even better.  It’s like putting a tunnel over one of the four lanes on the highway.  The “public” traffic is happily driving along three of the lanes, able to see one another and get where they are going.  The traffic that is being sent across the VPN is being sent in the new tunnel that has taken over one of the lanes.  You know there is traffic there, but you can’t see it or access it.  It can only be seen at it’s starting and ending points.  It’s the safest way to send data, especially sensitive data.

When you connect to a wireless hotspot in a public location like a town square, a restaurant, hotel, etc., you are connecting to a very “public” network.  You should never log in to your bank or other sensitive site over a public wireless network.  Unless you are using a VPN.  If you use a VPN when connecting to these public networks, then you can safely connect to secure sites and protect your traffic from being seen by others.  I have used a VPN for years, for this very reason.

There are many excellent VPN’s on the market, but I am very excited that a company I trust a lot, Webroot, has a VPN specifically designed for WiFi.  Webroot has been an innovator in the cybersecurity space for years.  Their anti-virus/anti-malware tool, Webroot SecureAnywhere is a leader.  They have now added Webroot WiFi Security.  If you already have an anti-virus/anti-malware solution that you are happy with, you can add any VPN easily.  If you are looking for a better anti-virus/anti-malware solution and a VPN, there is a great bundle of both available as well.

I encourage you to check out Webroot’s WiFiSecurity.  Whether you decide to use that solution or another VPN, just pick one and stick with it.  You’ll be glad you did and a whole lot safer as well.