Windows 7/Server 2008 End of Support

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Are you still running Windows 7 or Windows Server 2008 in your business?  If so, are you aware that support is coming to an end is just 12 months?

End of Support

On January 14, 2020 Microsoft will stop supporting these desktop and server operating systems.  No further security updates will be released and any organizations still running these versions after this date are at serious risk.  You can be sure that hackers will have plenty of offensive weapons ready to exploit any computer running these Windows versions once security updates and support expire.  There are ample examples of this happening with prior versions, be it Windows XP or Windows Server 2003 to name just two.

Don’t wait and think that a year is plenty of time to plan.  The time will fly by faster than you realize.  How many times do you find yourself saying, how did we get to 2019 so quickly?  I can’t believe it’s already April?  It goes on and on.  Take action now!

Make a plan, set a budget and establish a timeline to be sure that come New Year’s 2020, you no longer have any computers running Windows 7 or servers running Windows Server 2008 or 2008R2.  Be sure you are on current operating systems like Windows 10 and Windows Server 2019.

Talk with your internal IT or outsourced IT partner and start working on your plan now.  Have things in place by the end of the first quarter, to ensure that by the end of 2019, you are all set and running on the most stable and secure platforms available.  You’ll be glad you did!

What is HCM Technology?

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Simply put, it’s Human Capital Management Technology.  This is the technology used by employers to plan their workforce strategy, including attracting, hiring and managing the best talent possible.

Progressive and innovative companies leverage HCM Technology to give them a competitive advantage in a tight labor market.  It allows HR professionals and the executive teams that work with them to craft effective business and personnel strategy to reach their corporate goals.

HCM Technology is a hot and rapidly evolving field.  The technology itself continues to mature as do the product offerings available to organizations of all sizes.

HCM-3If HCM Technology is an area of interest for you, I recommend subscribing to the HCM Technology Report.  The HCM Technology Report is rapidly becoming the defacto standard in the HR industry as a comprehensive resource hub to help you keep up with news, products, technology, white papers and more.  I hope you find this a valuable resource.  I do.

Ohio’s Data Protection Act Sets A Practical Standard

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The question is, will other States and even the Federal government follow?  I hope so.

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The Ohio Data Protection Act, which became law in November of 2018, establishes a cybersecurity safe harbor for companies that adopt an applicable cybersecurity framework.

In simple terms, here is what this means.  If a business has shown good faith in putting appropriate cybersecurity defenses and protections in place, it may not be able to be held liable for any damages should they experience a data breach.  The Act does not create a standard that companies must comply with, rather it references several established cybersecurity frameworks that are compliant in the eyes of the law.  These frameworks are:

Further, this law allows business to determine which framework applies to them.  Companies are allowed to consider their size, type of information that needs to be protected and other factors in making this determination.

For small business, this is good news as this may represent the first cybersecurity law that a small business can actually comply with.  While large enterprises are complying with laws that impact them, this has been a challenge for small business.  The scope of compliance requirements, the costs of complying and the uncertainty of whether they can properly protect themselves have kept many from even trying.

By offering a safe harbor, to protect the busines as long as it can show compliance with one of the listed frameworks, this law may actually encourage businesses of all sizes to do the right thing.  This would be a great development and I’m hoping all other states follow Ohio’s lead.  We will all be safer if they do.

A Nice Quote

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QuoteI received this quote in an email subscription today and thought it was worth sharing:

The secret of joy in work is contained in one word — excellence. To know how to do something well is to enjoy it.

Pearl S. Buck, writer

Happy 2019, Here Come The Hackers

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As the holidays were in full swing and we said goodbye to 2018, hackers were busy at work putting their latest and greatest threats into the wild.

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From new phishing threats to a targeted malware attack on the newspaper industry that crippled the printing of the LA Times, NY Times, Chicago Tribune, Wall Street Journal and others.

These particular threats are not necessarily attributed to the holidays, it’s just when new of these new threats hit.  The FBI has issued the following reminders, which are worth republishing here.  If you make one New Years Resolution, be it to read and take action on these recommendations.

The FBI suggests precautionary measures to mitigate the threat, such as:

  • Conduct end user education and training on the threat of phishing emails.
  • Continue to educate employees on scrutinizing links contained in emails, and not opening attachments included in unsolicited emails.
  • Consider adding an email banner alerting when an email comes from outside your organization, so that it is easily noticed.
  • Implement application whitelisting to block execution of malware, or at least block execution of files from TEMP directories, from which most phishing malware attempts to execute.
  • Recommend stripping .iqy binary attachments from inbound email at the gateway.
  • Implement procedures to detect suspicious activity and process patterns, such as remote scripts, and block this behavior before it can download any payloads. For example, Excel attempting to launch the Command Prompt (cmd.exe) and PowerShell in an attempt to download something from the Internet.
  • Utilize threat intelligence sharing to stay informed of advanced threats.
  • Continuously monitor security industry reporting pertaining to third-party or free software used by your organization. This reporting can often identify when this software has been incorporated in a malicious scheme.

A Look Back At 2018 In Tech

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

2018 has been quite a year for technology. While mostly good, there was also some pretty bad press for technology this past year.

Data breaches, privacy concerns and infiltration of social media platforms certainlypexels-photo-273011 highlighted the bad. Facebook, Google and others have been repeatedly grilled on Capitol Hill this year, mostly for good reason. Facebook has had perhaps their worst year since their meteoric rise to the top of the social media ladder. Concerns about Facebook were worsened by revelations that nefarious influence campaigns took advantage of serious privacy shortcomings within the platform’s ecosystem.

2018 started with the revelation of the Meltdown and Spectre flaws in nearly all of the chips that power computers. While the concern was valid, the impact was quickly contained and patched. As the new year took hold, more concerns came to light about potential foreign influence across the technology industry. From the before mentioned social media issues to concerns that companies like Huawei, ZTE and others could be embedding spy technology within their products, the year was off to a rocky start for tech.

Two of the biggest tech stories of the year are the arrival of GDPR, the strict European data privacy law and the reversal of net neutrality rules by the Federal Communications Commission. Europe’s GDPR or General Data Privacy Regulation, places the most stringent requirements yet on the protection of personal information. It reaches across borders and continents so that even if a company exists outside the European Union, if they employ just one citizen of the EU, they must comply.

With the number of households cutting the cable cord and moving to online only live TV and streaming services, the repeal of net neutrality rules raised a huge red flag. The concern is that high speed Internet providers would make deals with content providers and make some content available quickly and smoothly and other content painstakingly slow to frustrate the consumer into using the preferred content. There are some real concerns that some of this may be playing out, but so far, it does not seem to be so blatant as to draw legal attention. Time will tell, but the intersection of regulation and technology is front and center.

Hands free technology improved dramatically this year. Smartphones are safer than ever, provided you take advantage of their handsfree capabilities, especially in the car. Wireless power has also come on strong this year, allowing you to charge your favorite tech just by playing it on a charging pad. Maybe the battle for the charger will finally be over.

Collaboration tools really took off in 2018. Platforms such as Slack and Microsoft Teams have redefined the collaborative workplace. The ability to communicate in real time, whether in or out of the office and share content, have never been easier or more productive.

Personal devices continued to mature this year. The Apple Watch, now in its fourth iteration, has become the smart watch of choice. The capabilities and battery life continue to get better with every release. Similarly, smartphones like the iPhone or Galaxy Note are so powerful they may be the only device you need. Smartphones, tablets, wearable and portable PC’s continue to get smaller, lighter, more powerful and more capable, allowing you to do nearly anything that you can imagine almost anywhere at any time.

With all this technology comes the need for an ever more skilled technology workforce. We need the skilled labor force to continue to design, develop and support the technologies of today and what’s yet to come. Our schools need to rethink current curriculums to be sure that we are grooming the workforce of the future before the future passes us by.

It’s been a great year for technology, despite the high-profile headlines that expose the inevitable dangers that these same technologies may bring. In my next article, I’ll look forward into what 2019 may hold for technology developments. In the meantime, my best wishes for a Happy and Healthy New Year.

Today’s Emergency Alert

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Did today’s emergency 911 alert concern you?  I hope it did.  As a result of a nationwide problem with one of the larger telecommunications and Internet providers, 911 services were down in many parts of the country.  Cell phone callers were the most impacted.

The outage effected areas from New York to California.  Washington State was hit particularly hard.  Cell phone users in many parts of the country received a government issued emergency alert today like the one below:

Key to this alert is the critical question, do you know the local 10-digit number for your police and fire department?  You should.

I have my local dispatch center number stored in my phone.  This next statement may upset some emergency officials, but several years ago, shortly after the implementation of the statewide 911 system in New Hampshire, a police officer that I know recommended that I never call 911 and instead call local dispatch.  Why?  This persons opinion was that the statewide system slowed emergency response.  When you call in to a 911 center, the operators ask information to both qualify the emergency and to offer immediate phone based help, when appropriate.  The 911 operator then calls the local dispatch center to send help.  Some feel this introduces unnecessary delays to the response.  Others say it helps avoid unnecessary dispatches and offers more immediate help, especially for health related emergencies while the caller waits for first responders to arrive.

I suspect there is a heated debate around this topic.  As it relates to todays emergency alert, I was feeling fine about it, as I have my local dispatch numbers.  If I were in an out of state location or somewhere else locally that I did not, I would need to depend on 911 and this would certainly concern me.

If you have not already, I recommend you put the local dispatch numbers for places you frequent.  Places like your home, place of work, family members you visit often, etc.  By storing them in your phone, hopefully you will never need them.  You don’t ever want to find yourself in a position of needing them and not having them.

With regard to the cause of today’s alert, the FCC is investigating the CenturyLink outage to determine why it took down one of the most important emergency communications netqorks we have.  The national 911 system was thought to be one of the most highly redundant communications systems in existence.  Today’s outage, which actually began yesterday afternoon, says otherwise.

Year End Scams – Be On Guard

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With the major December holidays behind us, the New Year is right around the corner.

With the New Year, comes the flurry of tax forms that we need in order to file our corporate and personal tax forms in March and April.  Especially with key parts of the Federal government on furlough due to the current shutdown, the scammers will be out in full force!

Over the next week and into January, you should be receiving your W-2 and other various tax forms, mostly via US Mail, though more and more organizations are moving toward electronic distribution of these tax forms.

W-2 ScamBe very weary of any email you receive with a tax form attached.  It will almost certainly be a scam, with hackers looking to compromise your account and/or identity.  Most companies will ask you to login to their secure portal to retrieve your tax forms.  I recommend you do that by going to their site manually, not clicking on any links you may receive in an email and as I said earlier, never open an attachment like that.

This applies to HR departments as well.  They need to be on the lookout for scams where company executives ask them to email them all the issued W-2’s.  Do you know an executive that would ever ask for something like that?  I hope the answer is no.  This has happened in years past, so don’t let yourself get caught this year.  Certainly any company executive who needs access to this information has access via whatever systems you use.  Ask them to login and retrieve the information they need, but don’t give them any credentials to do so.  If the request is legitimate, they will have what they need and know you are doing the right thing.

Protect your privacy and remain vigilant!  The bad guys are out there, just waiting for you to slip up.  Think of like a game of Simon Says.  Don’t do it, if you don’t hear Simon Says 🙂

Happy Holidays to All!

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I know I have not been as regular as I like to be on my blog these past couple of months.  I have had some personal and professional developments that have required my attention more than usual.  Whichever holiday you and your families celebrate this time of year, I hope it is wonderful, meaningful and peaceful for you.  Thank you for your readership and I look forward to sharing more frequently with you as we move into the new year.

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For fun, did you know that during the month of December, all of the following holidays are celebrated?

Buddhism
  • Bodhi Day: 8 December – Day of Enlightenment, celebrating the day that the historical Buddha (Shakyamuni or Siddhartha Gautama) experienced enlightenment (also known as Bodhi).
Christianity
Hinduism
  • Pancha Ganapati: a modern five-day Hindu festival celebrated from December 21 through 25 in honor of Ganesha.
Judaism
  • Hanukkah: usually falls anywhere between late November and early January. See “movable”
Paganism
  • Yule: Pagan winter festival that was celebrated by the historical Germanic people from late December to early January.
  • Yalda: 21 December – The turning point, Winter Solstice. As the longest night of the year and the beginning of the lengthening of days, Shabe Yaldā or Shabe Chelle is an Iranian festival celebrating the victory of light and goodness over darkness and evil. Shabe yalda means ‘birthday eve.’ According to Persian mythology, Mithra was born at dawn on 22 December to a virgin mother. He symbolizes light, truth, goodness, strength, and friendship. Herodotus reports that this was the most important holiday of the year for contemporary Persians. In modern times Persians celebrate Yalda by staying up late or all night, a practice known as Shab Chera meaning ‘night gazing’. Fruits and nuts are eaten, especially pomegranates and watermelons, whose red color invokes the crimson hues of dawn and symbolize Mithra.
  • Koliada: Slavic winter festival celebrated on late December with parades and singers who visit houses and receive gifts.
Secular
Unitarian Universalism

This is why Happy Holidays is a nice way to wish everyone the best of the season if you are not sure which holiday they celebrate.  If you’d like to wish someone with their specific holiday greeting, just ask.  It’s a simple and thoughtful way to recognize the diveristy of our world and to help bridge divides that really should not seperate us.

Technology Makes Traveling Easier

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

This past week, I made my last business trip of 2018. This trip involved traveling out of the country, to Latin America and I was impressed with the technology I encountered leaving and returning to the United States.

You may have read articles over the last year about some airlines and airports introducing biometric passenger verification systems to ease the boarding process. For many, boarding a flight is often the most stressful part of the trip, with hordes of people crowding the boarding area, making it difficult for some, to board at their designated time. Once you are lucky enough to get to the gate agent, many passengers fumble to unfold a crumpled boarding pass or pull up the electronic one on their phone.

jetBlue Self Boarding

Last week, at Fort Lauderdale International Airport, I encountered jetBlue’s facial recognition boarding process. While some people still insisted on crowing the entry to a very clearly defined boarding lane, the technology enabled process definitely seemed to make the boarding process flow more efficiently and it did seem to lessen the number of people crowding the boarding area.

I was impressed with how well this system worked. You walk to a predefined spot in the boarding lane and stand on a mat with your feet on the shoe outlines on the mat, much like you encounter in a TSA body scanner. You look at what seems to be a small tablet, it takes your photo and you are quickly presented with a green check mark to board or a red check mark, which directs you to the gate agent. The system performs a highly complex technical task in about the same or possibly less time than it takes the typical boarding pass scanner to scan your boarding pass. I did not encounter any delays as a result of this system. A few people were redirected to the agent and they smoothly moved over to the agent while the next person in line stepped up for their photo. My experience showed less bottleneck in the boarding line as a result.

These systems check government databases to match faces to password and other Customs and Border Protection databases to ensure the person is who they present themselves as. This is a very effective check and balance when tracking individuals who come and go from the country. I find it far more reliable that the paper forms of the current and past, which notoriously get lost and are far too manual to track effectively.

While there are benefits to the technology, it’s not without potential faults. Privacy advocates have a lot of concerns that facial and other biometric databases may be misused by law enforcement. This is certainly possible and everyone needs to consider their own feelings on this issue. With the amount of video surveillance legally in use around the world, I consider this to be a fact of modern, connected life. One can only hope that the benefits will vastly outweigh the risks. I tend to take a fairly simplistic view of this technology. Meaning, if you have nothing to hide, I don’t think this should be a concern.

The other technology I used was Global Entry, upon re-entry to the United States. Similar to facial recognition for boarding, Global Entry leverages biometric technology, again facial recognition, to take a photo of your face and look you up in the Customs and Border Protection databases to verify you identity, eligibility for entry into the United States and significantly speed your entry process. Instead of having to wait in the long serpentine immigration line, to have your passport examined by an officer, you walk up to a kiosk, have your picture taken and present the printed receipt to an immigration officer to clear your entry. Fast, efficient and reliable.

No doubt 2019 will bring even more technical innovation to the travel experience. I hope you will keep an open mind and explore taking advantage of these developments to make your travel experience more efficient and most importantly, more safe.