Keep in Touch While Social Distancing

Quarantine doesn’t have to mean you’re on your own all the time. Sure, back in the days of the plague or pox, people were stuck. But now, we have technology to let us remain connected even while social distancing. Here’s a roundup of top options for fun with family and friends.

You can’t have an actual party at your home right now, but a virtual house party could be fun.

The Houseparty app (houseparty.com) allows up to eight people to connect online in a video chat “room.” There’s no need to call people (like on FaceTime) – you get a notification when friends are online. Plus, you can switch between rooms easily. It’s like wandering from the kitchen into the backyard.

Zoom (zoom.us) is another app that lets you have a virtual get-together. Only the host needs to have a Zoom account, and the other participants follow the link to the video conference. Free meetings are capped at 40 minutes, though, for groups of three or more.

If your friends and family are on Google, you can bring up to 150 of them together in a Google Hangout (hangout.google.com). Long a go-to for international calling, Skype is another video chat option.

Social Distancing Chat

Maybe you want to catch up but really don’t need to see each other’s faces. Perhaps you don’t want to have to get dressed!

Take texting up a notch with Slack (slack.com), which can keep clubs and teams together during quarantine. You can easily share files, instant message, share gifs, and also jump on a video call.

Discord (discordapp.com) is another app that combines text chat, voice chat, video chat, and more. A favorite already with gamers, Discord offers helpful templates to get started. People also use this app to live-stream art creation, read stories, play music together, and even host digital conventions.

Nextdoor (nextdoor.com) helps you connect with your neighbors. Did you see a coyote? Want to know when garbage pickup is coming this week? Hosting a virtual garage sale? This is social media specific to your ’hood – and you don’t have to go out of doors to get caught up.

Movies with Friends

Another way to chill together online is by enjoying a movie or binge watching a TV series.

With Watch2Gether (watch2gether.com) you can create a room and invite friends and family to watch YouTube, Vimeo, Dailymotion, and SoundCloud. You could even use this app to replicate the group gym class experience. PopSugar, for instance, offers a wide range of free videos available on YouTube.

If you have a Netflix account and a Google Chrome browser, you can tune in together with Netflix Party (netflixparty.com). The app lets you chat back and forth while viewing. The best thing is that all party members are watching the video in sync. No one ruins that big moment by texting a response a few seconds early!

Other Great Options

Looking for more active virtual fun? With Rave (rave.io) you can host a virtual dance party. You can sync music videos from YouTube, Vimeo, Reddit, Google Drive, Dropbox, and Viki with friends in real-time, or create a playlist of songs, then text and video chat simultaneously.

If you’re wishing you could meet someone new, try Quarantine Together (quarantinetogether.com). This dating app starts out by asking you if you’ve washed your hands today. Then, it will match you with someone else for a text chat. After 20 minutes of texting, you’ll be sent a video chat URL.

Really, there’s no excuse for being a hermit during quarantine – unless you want to be, of course!

If you need help setting your devices up with any of these apps or the video or voice technology, our experts can help – remotely. 

How to Stay Focused Working from Home

Working from home is not for everyone – we’ve all heard that said before – but many of us worldwide are now being forced to work from home. It can be challenging, especially when you have to adapt in the midst of all the other uncertainties COVID-19 has brought. These strategies can help you stay focused when working remotely.

Reserve your office space

Set up a temporary home office. Pick a space, if you can, that is away from distractions and has a door that you can close. Try to organize this space so that you feel more as if you’re going into the office. Clear those personal bills and photo albums waiting for assembly from your desk.

Creating a distinct space can help with the mental association that you are going to work. You’ll also find it easier to focus if you dress as you would for work. Shower, and put on makeup if you normally do. Getting out of your pajamas and putting on your “game face” puts you more in work mode.

Stick with your routines

Keeping a similar schedule can help, too. If you go to the office at a certain time every day, that’s when you should show up at your home workstation. If you took breaks at consistent times when on-site, do the same at home. This helps tell your brain it’s business as usual, even when you’re working in the laundry room on a folding card table!

You may not be able to go out and grab a coffee or eat lunch out with colleagues, but you can still go have a cup in the kitchen or order lunch from a local business that’s delivering – help them to stay in business too!

If you used to write emails first thing, do that still. If your team had a weekly conference call Wednesdays at 11, try to keep that, too. You can use voice or video conferencing to stay in touch while remaining at a safe distance.

Avoid distractions

This is going to mean different things for people. Working from home with children is tough, especially as you’re now supposed to be supervising their online learning. Giving them a dedicated space for schoolwork can help to keep them motivated and away from you. You might tell younger children to expect your attention at breaks (e.g. “I’ll play three rounds of Candyland when the big hand reaches 12 and the little hand reaches 3”).

The news and social media are other traps for those working from home. No one is watching over your shoulder, and it’s easy to think, “I’ll just check …” That’s how you lose 30 minutes of productivity watching pandas wrestle on a zoo-cam.

Still struggling? You could consider setting up one operating system account for work and another for personal use creating different browser profiles. And if you’re still getting distracted, you could install a browser plug-in that forces you to stay on track.

Keep deadlines

Setting deadlines can help you stay motivated. The longer you have to get something done, the slower you’ll work – it’s inevitable. So, maintain some pressure by setting tight, but realistic targets.

Share your deadlines with other colleagues using an online task management tool. This can help with accountability.

Be patient

This is a stressful time, and you’re being asked to deal with many changes. So, you need to be patient. Working in sprints could help your motivation and attention span. You might set a timer and focus completely on work until the bell chimes. One theory is that the most productive people take a 17-minute break every 52 minutes, but you’ll want to see what works for you.

Another approach is to say you’ll do 30 minutes of good work on that thing you’re avoiding. Worst case: you get only 30 minutes of it done. At least you’re further ahead. But you might find it only takes 30 minutes to complete or that you’re so close to finishing that you keep going and get the job done.

Have the right tech

Make sure you have the right tools to do your job. Working from home is challenging enough, so make it easier with reliable internet and Wi-Fi connections, and access to the required files.

Need help with working from home? We can’t actually be there to cheer you on and keep you motivated, but our tech experts can get you set up with the most efficient home office solutions.

Steer Clear of Coronavirus Scams

With the world grappling with a health pandemic, scams are shocking. Regrettably, bad actors are everywhere, always looking for opportunities, and they’re seeing one in the coronavirus. This article outlines what you need to watch out for and how to stay cyber safe.

The last thing you want to read right now is that there’s another threat out there – sorry, but it’s true. Cybercriminals take advantage of fear. They take timely concerns and use them to target victims. Using the anxiety and upheaval around coronavirus is their mission.

So far, several coronavirus-related attempts to cyberscam people have been reported. There are examples of:

  • emails that appear to come from government health departments;
  • offering a tax refund to get people to click on malicious links;
  • memos to staff that appear to come from large employers;
  • COVID-19 test offerings from private companies;
  • fake websites promising to sell face masks or hand sanitizer;
  • soliciting donations to help fund a vaccine.

What to Watch Out For

Another concern is the number of bogus websites registered with names relating to COVID-19. The site can look legit but is set up to steal information or infect the victim’s computer with malware.

You may get an email promising the attached information offers coronavirus safety measures, or information shared by the World Health Organization (WHO) if you click on the link, or a similar email pretending to be from a reputable news source, such as the Wall Street Journal (WSJ).

In another example, an email impersonating a healthcare company’s IT team asked people to register for a seminar “about this deadly virus.” Anyone who didn’t question why IT was organizing the meeting clicked to register. By filling out the form, they gave their details to hackers.

What to Do

Be cautious. It’s understandable that you’re anxious, but don’t let that stop you from taking cyber precautions. You should still:

  • be wary of anything that tries to play on your emotions and urges immediate action;
  • question where emails are coming from – remain vigilant even if the communication appears to come from a reliable source;
  • hover over links before clicking them to see where they will take you – for example, in the WSJ example, the Web address was for the “worldstreetjournal”;
  • avoid downloading anything you didn’t ask for;
  • doubt any deals that sound too good to be true (“a mask that stops the virus 99.7% of the time!”);
  • ignore any communications requesting your personal information;
  • don’t be suckered by fraudulent pleas for charity.

Global health organizations generally do not send out emails with advice. Instead, navigate directly to that reputable health institution for real news.

If you’re still not sure about the validity of the communication, check it out. Do so by calling or using another medium to get in touch with the “source” of the received message.

While there is not yet a vaccine for COVID-19, you can put anti-virus protection on your computer. Also, make sure that you’ve applied all available security updates to keep your software safe.

We hope you’ll take care and stay healthy both physically and online in these tough times.

Need help installing security software and keeping your technology safe? Our cybersecurity experts can give your home a tech immunization. 

The biggest data breaches in Canada and their impact on businesses

Data breaches in Canada

The digital landscape is evolving faster than anyone could have predicted and so are data breaches. As newer technologies continue to emerge, hackers have steadily improved their sophistication. From the Equifax breach to the Yahoo saga, you can easily find numerous cases of data breaches on the internet.

This article offers you insights into some of the biggest data breaches in Canada so far. You can also find out how these businesses were impacted over time. You should also expect some useful tips on how you can prevent data breaches in your small business.

Top 4 data breaches in Canada

Before delving into the top data breaches in Canada, you should understand the law surrounding the issue in general. While it was legal to avoid reporting data breaches in the past, everything changed in 2018. The Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA) makes it compulsory for businesses to report breaches to the authorities.

Here are some of the top four data breaches in Canada and the impact it had on businesses.

Medicentres data breach

Founded in 1979, Medicentres Canada Inc is the largest group of clinics in the country. The company is trusted by millions of patients to provide reliable healthcare services. However, Medicentres disclosed in 2014 that some of their data had been exposed to cybercriminals. So how did this really happen?

In September 2013, a laptop belonging to a consultant who works with Medicentres was stolen. The laptop contained a database of 620,000 patients who had visited Medicentres clinics in Calgary and Edmonton. Patients were even more surprised that information about the breach only came to light about four months after in 2014.

Impact of the data breach on Medicentres

Years after the lost laptop and data breach, Medicentres continues to feel the impact of the incident. When some patients found out, a class-action lawsuit for $11 million was filed against the company. This case remained in the courts until July 2016 when a settlement was agreed upon. The courts decided that Medicentres should pay out just over $700,000 for credit repair services for those affected in 2016.

The deadline for claiming compensation from this settlement was November 2016. If you were affected by this breach, you’d be unable to make a new claim now. The damage to the healthcare provider’s reputation would remain at the forefront of patients’ minds for a long time.

Since this data breach, the government has made efforts to improve Canada’s health information act as well as its privacy law.

Desjardins Group’s credit unions’ data breach

You can generally consider the data breach against Desjardins as the biggest in Canada. The company was founded in 1900 and is the largest federation of credit unions in North America. The company announced that 4.2 million individual customers and 173,000 businesses were exposed in a data breach. This figure represented the credit union’s entire clientele base.

An employee unlawfully collected data from the company and leaked them to a third-party. When the data breach occurred, there was only one suspect – a former employee. Desjardins also confirmed that personal information like names, social insurance numbers, addresses and payment information was compromised in the breach.

The company claims that this wasn’t as a result of failure in their systems. Seeing that it was from an employee, we’ll let you be the judge.

Impact of the data breach on Desjardins Group

You’d have to be invincible to experience a data breach of this magnitude and not feel any impact. Since the breach, Desjardins has improved its identity protection and now offers all customers lifelong protection including access to Equifax. There’s also a class-action lawsuit in the works although it’s yet to be certified by a Judge. Certification by a Judge is a requirement before the case can proceed.

The increase in fraud lately has also been linked to this breach since the victims’ sensitive data were exposed. 

Lawmakers are yet to determine how to respond to this data breach. In response to the breach, some believe that more should be done and others claim that the group’s response so far has been satisfactory.

If you’re a Desjardins client, you can view the steps they’re taking to protect you and your data here. You can also find details on how you can access lifelong credit protection with Equifax there.

Capital One breach

Card services provider Capital One recently experienced a data breach that exposed sensitive information related to six million Canadians. The bank holding company disclosed the breach on July 30th, 2019 and noted that it includes one million social insurance numbers in Canada.

No login credentials were exposed during this breach. However, the kind of data compromised could be used to perpetrate havoc in the long term. The FBI subsequently caught the cybercriminal involved.

How did the data breach affect Capital One?

Apart from damage to reputation, the cost of managing the blowback from this incident would no doubt be heavy. For instance, all the customers involved have had to be notified since the breach occurred. The Card provider has also had to invest heavily in cybersecurity after the incident. 

Furthermore, there’s a class-action suit that was filed in Vancouver against Capital One. It’s still early days and the suit is yet to reach the settlement stage. If you’re a Capital One customer, you can check out all the facts related to this breach and what you can do to protect your data with them here.

TransUnion breach

Just like Equifax, TransUnion also recently experienced its own breach. The nature of the information compromised and the impact they could have on the victims’ lives in the long term are some of the reasons why this breach makes the list. TransUnion announced in October 2019 that an unauthorized party was able to access the credit information of around 37,000 Canadians.

The attacker used the login details of the Canadian Western Bank in accessing the data on TransUnion’s database. This is perhaps why you should consider stepping up your endpoint security efforts. To illustrate this, when Banks request your credit information from TransUnion or Equifax, they could potentially access your former addresses, social insurance number and even existing debt information. As a result, the type and amount of data exposed could vary greatly.

Impact of the data breach on TransUnion

While they claim the breach was not as a result of failure on the part of their systems, one can only wonder whether a firewall would have prevented the third-party from accessing the service even with genuine login credentials.

Although TransUnion continues to improve its security, there may still be some fines or penalties from the government or regulatory bodies. You can also expect their reputation to suffer greatly.

Overcoming data breaches in Canada with Abrisuite

If you own or run a small business, you’d agree that preventing data breaches is essential for your survival. With Abrisuite, you can expect cost-effective managed security services solutions that help protect your small business from data breaches. With or without an IT department, we can upgrade your security to enterprise-grade at a fraction of the cost.

Our ability to provide a security solution that includes endpoint protection and network monitoring easily sets us apart from others. Here’s an outline of some of the ways we can help you prevent data breaches in your small business.

  • Advanced firewall.
  • Intrusion detection and prevention services.
  • Endpoint protection via HIPS.
  • Security Operations Centre (SOC)
  • Network monitoring.
  • Anti-virus and Anti-malware. 

Closing thoughts

As you continue to guide your small business towards success, you’ll need to understand the importance of protecting your data. You’ll need to consciously aim to limit unauthorized exposure as well as understand the consequences of failing to do so. You’ll also need to recognize the value behind working with MSSPs to deliver a solution that’s custom-built specifically for you.

Is Your Businesses IT Ready for the Coronavirus?

The Coronavirus is spreading as fast as feared. Businesses must be ready for the worst. One priority? Protecting the health of employees. Preparing the way for remote working is one top recommendation.

News of the virus, which the WHO is now calling COVID-19, has prompted urgent interest in remote work. Business collaboration software, virtual desktops, and private networks can all help. This tech helps businesses continue as usual, even with quarantined employees.

It’s difficult to imagine you aren’t aware of the looming health pandemic. Trying to limit the contagion, we’ve already seen big business take major measures. These include:

Nike temporarily closed its European headquarters when an employee was diagnosed with the virus. After the first death in Washington state in the U.S., the company also closed its world headquarters for a deep clean of its campus.

Twitter told its roughly 4,900 employees to stay home to work.

Other businesses are weighing up the options. Furloughs? Changes to sick leave? Or encouraging work from home. The last option appeals, but how do employees work remotely? How can they continue collaborating with people they used to sit beside, meet in the office, or travel to see? Technological solutions.

The Right Technology for Remote Work

Remote workers want a centralized platform with a simplified (yet secure) login process. Business collaboration software is a great enabler of mobile, flexible work. Replace in-person meetings with voice or video conferencing. Streamline chat, voice, and video in one software platform. Tools such as Microsoft Teams, Google’s G-suite, or Slack, allow businesses to create team channels.

Business collaboration tools also simplify access to email, calendars, documents, and file sharing. Employees can use a single sign-on to access business tools and data. This supports improved efficiency and increased transparency.

Providing a virtual desktop can provide access to important business applications, as well. Virtual desktops in the cloud allow users to work separately from their personal computers. The software virtualizes the user’s unique desktop environment at any workstation. All the data and applications are stored on a central server. Users access apps, folders, and toolbars from anywhere, with a consistent, secure experience.

Using a cloud-based solution also provides peace of mind. While remote workers access the corporate network, sensitive data isn’t stored locally. So, the business needn’t worry about the loss or theft of sensitive data. Plus, cloud-based virtual desktops are easy to rapidly install outside a quarantined area.

Worried about securing those remote connections? Another option is a virtual private network (VPN). A VPN connects computers, smartphones, or tablets to a shared or public network as if connecting to a private network. These encrypted connections to the internet secure data and protect employees’ mobile activities.

Mobile Work Helps Every Day

You can hope that your employees stay healthy and your business remains unaffected, but why take that risk? Empowering remote work benefits business, even without the threat of a fatal flu.

Remote teams enjoy greater work-life balance. The workers spend less time commuting and are more productive. Empowered, they also feel trusted and more engaged.

Meanwhile, businesses can save money on physical space and hardware investments. Additionally, the hiring pool of qualified personnel expands with remote work, and the business can offer its services more globally and flexibly. All that’s true whether the coronavirus becomes an issue for your business or not.

Enabling a remote workforce takes technology. Need help installing and connecting your employees? We can help.