The Role of RAM in Computer Performance

Understanding The Role of RAM in Computer Performance

Random-access memory (RAM) plays an integral role in mobile devices and desktop computers. It determines the operating capacity of a device at any given time. A computer processes data using RAM as a digital workspace for placing programs temporarily. In turn, your computer’s processor gains access to the relevant data quickly and easily.

Larger RAM space translates to more computing power, thanks to the larger space available to active programs. The computer processes information faster than a device with less RAM. For this reason, your PC can benefit from adding more RAM. You will find it easier to interact with resource-intensive apps and programs like video editing tools.

As a result, your computer can still operate optimally, even when running two or more heavy programs. With increased RAM, the apps can function properly without competing for workspace. The operating system (OS) no longer needs to perform increased code and data swapping between the resource access memory and the hard drive. Swapping is a common cause of poor processing performance.

Also, increased RAM enhances your ability to multitask using resource-intensive apps like Photoshop and Outlook. You can switch from one program to another without the operating system resorting to the page file to write the process memory. The page file relies on a slower hard drive for data storage.

Computer RAM Performance

Key RAM Parameters

Data transfer rate is an essential component of your computer’s random access memory speed. It refers to the amount of data processed by the central processing unit (CPU). On the other hand, most random access memory is double data rate (DDR) RAM. You can determine the RAM’s generation by the number appearing after the acronym, such as DDR4.

Additionally, RAM comes with a number indicating speed in megahertz (MHz). You can find devices with RAM speeds varying between DDR4-1600 and DDR4-3200. In the latter case, the RAM is the fourth generation with a data rate speed of 3,200MHz. It is vital to install random access memory in matched memory module pairs to maximize speed.

If your device comes with single memory or mismatched modules, you can expect 50 percent less than the specified data rate. For instance, DDR4-3200 operates at just 1,600MHz.

Another key component of RAM is timing or latency rate. This aspect is more complex than the data transfer rate. Computing devices come with timing or latency rate specifications formatted as 7-8-8-24. This set of numbers indicates the time random access memory takes to handle specific computing functions. Faster RAM has smaller numbers.

How to Determine Your RAM Requirements

The nature of programs you run on your computer or smartphone determines the ideal RAM you need to maximize processing power and overall performance. Most personal computers and workstations running apps like Excel and Word can function optimally with 8 GB of system memory.

To check your PC’s status, open the Task Manager. Doing so allows you to determine whether RAM is experiencing any overload. Most computers come with RAM of between 4 and 8 GB. Depending on your day-to-day activities, you may not need 16 GB of random access memory.

If your PC slows down as you work with multiple open browser tabs or streaming video content, you should consider upgrading the device’s RAM. Forcing the computer to rely on the hard drive does not yield the best performance. Without any overload, your PC’s RAM can perform at top speed.

You can optimize performance by reducing unnecessary programs (crapware or bloatware). Also, limit the number of background apps on your desktop or laptop device. In doing so, you make room for critical programs and day-to-day functions.

If you regularly run resource-intensive programs like Final Cut Pro or Photoshop, upgrade your computer to 32 GB of RAM. Opting for 16 GB RAM limits your wiggle room. With 32 GB of RAM, you can run photo editors together, and multiple browser tabs simultaneously.

For gaming, you need to consider 16 GB of RAM. This capacity allows you to play a game without any other background programs. However, you should opt for 32 GB of RAM if you want to run other programs while playing optimized games like Grand Theft Auto V. The best part is that gaming computers are highly customizable.

Keep in mind that adding more random memory access is useful when running multiple apps simultaneously. On the other hand, increased RAM does not affect the performance of individual programs.

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Why Ransomware Attacks Are Increasing Globally

Ransomware Attacks Increase Globally

A spate of ransomware attacks aimed at United States companies, government agencies, and critical infrastructure has raised serious cybersecurity concerns. Bad actors recently attempted to attack the Republican National Committee.

A recent supply-chain attack on Kaseya’s VSA software had the potential to compromise the security of up to one million companies. This breach highlighted the need to enhance the cybersecurity capabilities of individual companies. As a result, private and public organizations are working tirelessly in collaboration with the government to find a lasting solution to the crisis.

Other attacks demonstrated the vulnerability of America’s critical infrastructure. For instance, Colonial Pipeline stalled its day-to-day operations following a ransomware attack on its systems. The event resulted in widespread panic as consumers feared imminent gas shortages throughout the United States.

Colonial Pipeline reportedly paid millions of dollars of ransom money in cryptocurrency to cybercriminals. On the upside, the federal government recovered a portion of the ransom amount.

Interventions

Several federal agencies collaborated with other stakeholders to launch new cybersecurity initiatives. These interventions resulted in the launch of a portal to help American companies and communities find effective ways to stop ransomware attacks. StopRansomware.gov provides access to comprehensive ransomware resources. By taking advantage of the portal, organizations and individuals can learn to mitigate the risks posed by ransomware attacks.

Centralized ransomware resources eliminate the need for organizations and individuals to scour the internet for information. StopRansomware.gov aggregates information drawn from a wide selection of sources, including intelligence agencies, law enforcement, and tech experts.

Practical Measures to Stop Ransomware Attacks

Robust protections are necessary when looking to prevent ransomware attacks. In addition, organizations must maintain a proactive approach to maximize cyber defenses.

Here are specific interventions that can reduce the risk of attacks.

Develop Robust Cybersecurity Policies

You need to prepare for unexpected cybersecurity events by drafting robust policies. This approach ensures that your entire team, particularly the IT department staff, understands and follows specific security protocols. In addition, an effective policy defines roles and processes that apply in the event of an attack. Notifying specific stakeholders, such as vendors and partners, is an example of an essential step.

More importantly, your organization’s cybersecurity policy should guide staff on handling high-risk situations like suspicious emails.

Hardening Endpoints

By hardening endpoints, you close gaps that may exist in your systems. Default configurations often leave a few vulnerable points. For this reason, it is vital to rely on CIS Benchmarks, allowing you to implement standard configurations. In turn, you block malicious downloads and access to risky websites. These configurations help limit your organization’s exposure to ransomware risk.

Review Port Settings

To prevent ransomware from exploiting port settings and compromising your network security, consider restricting connections to trusted hosts. Leaving port 445 (server message block (SMB)) and port 3389 (remote desktop protocol (RDP)) open creates a vulnerability. You should review port configurations for your organization’s cloud and on-premise environments. Experts recommend disabling dormant ports.

Bolster Email Security

Bad actors typically compromise security by delivering ransomware via email. To counteract the threat, you need to secure email gateways. You can protect your infrastructure using advanced solutions, including post-delivery protection technologies. These technologies leverage artificial intelligence to detect and counteract phishing attacks.

You can count on the solutions to filter email messages through attachment sandboxing and URL defenses.

User Awareness Training

A vigilant workforce provides a crucial defensive layer against ransomware attacks. With user awareness training, your staff can learn how to identify and report suspicious files, emails, or activity. Additionally, employees can stop engaging in risky activities, such as visiting unsafe websites via their workstations.

This type of training enhances user awareness, thanks to phishing simulation sessions. Your system administrators use specially designed technologies to deliver mock phishing emails to staff members. In turn, employees can practice identifying suspicious emails.

Deploy Web Filtering Technologies

Web filtering and isolation measures help protect your infrastructure by blocking access to unsafe websites. The technologies can also detect and stop malicious file downloads. In doing so, you prevent ransomware attacks, which may come in the form of viruses.

When configured properly, web or DNS filters can block malware and ads more aggressively. Another useful measure is deploying isolation technologies capable of isolating users’ browsing activity through secure servers. Isolation ensures that the content delivered to users’ workstations is safe. Malicious software executed in the secure server cannot leave the containment area, protecting your organization’s infrastructure.

This approach is undoubtedly one of the most effective ways to prevent ransomware attacks.

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A Basic Guide to the New Microsoft Teams Client (2.0) and Windows 11

Microsoft Teams and Windows 11

Microsoft recently announced the introduction of Windows 11, which comes with the MS Teams video conferencing app. The revamped operating system has a refreshing new start menu, and a user interfaces design. It can also run Android apps.

The availability of Teams provides a more convenient way for users to communicate with colleagues, friends, and family. To start chatting, users simply need to open a chat window. This new feature allows individuals to add contacts and communicate through group or individual chats.

With Teams, you can connect with people without worrying about security issues. On the other hand, the Windows 11 integration enables screen sharing, video calling, and meetings. More importantly, you can connect for free.

Microsoft Teams

Key New Microsoft Teams Client (2.0) Features

Microsoft Teams 2.0 dropped Electron and now relies on Edge Webview 2, eliminating the need for a browser address bar. Instead, you can run Teams via a separate window. These changes create a native app experience in Windows 11. The Edge browser now has limited utility in the app.

According to reports, Teams 2.0 provides a smoother, faster experience compared to the current desktop application. The improved speed and functionality are more noticeable on lower-end devices. You can enjoy optimal performance, even if you use a Core 13 (10th-gen) and 4GB of RAM,

Reduced Memory Usage

Another key improvement is the reduced memory usage by the Teams 2.0 app. It launches faster, reducing the waiting time for the loading screen to initialize. WebView 2 integration and MS Edge background processes enhance performance and taper down memory usage.

Teams 2.0 also comes with an adaptive interface to streamline app window resizing. Additionally, the video conferencing application integrates with all Windows 10 features. Integration ensures that Teams is compatible with native notifications and other features.

Improved Performance

When it comes to the new Teams client, Microsoft developers focused on performance and consumers’ needs. On the other hand, the client will stay up to date, thanks to Edge WebView. In turn, the video conferencing app remains secure with the latest updates. The client supports enhanced PowerPoint integration and multiple accounts.

Microsoft Teams 2.0 takes advantage of embedded web technologies like JavaScript, CSS, and HTML. Likewise, the app taps into the power of the Chromium rendering engine.

Connections via Teams 2.0 allow you to communicate with personal contacts, even if they have not yet downloaded and installed the app. In such cases, you can communicate via a two-way short message service (SMS)

What You Need to Know About Windows 11

With Windows 11, Microsoft has redesigned the popular operating system to enhance ease of use, creativity, and productivity. It comes with a clean, fresh appearance. Also, the design maximizes user control.

You can find Start easier, thanks to its central placement. This prominent feature also displays your recent files by connecting to the cloud and Microsoft 365. As a result, it becomes easier to access recent files, irrespective of the device or platform you use. It is also possible to access files viewed on an iOS or Android device.

Enhanced Flexibility

Another set of new features in Windows 11 include snap layouts, desktops, and snap groups. These features enhance flexibility by enabling you to multitask more efficiently. You no longer need to worry about getting lost in the maze of multiple windows. Instead, you can conveniently optimize the screen and organize multiple open windows on your device.

Windows 11 allows you to create multiple desktops to maximize flexibility and organization. Each desktop focuses on a specific professional or personal aspect. You can customize the desktops to suit your preferences or a particular theme. With multiple desktops, you can assign separate spaces for gaming, school, or work.

The best part about the redesigned operating system is that it simplifies the user experience. It eliminates the need to grapple with complex functionality and features. In turn, you can focus on boosting productivity or enjoying leisure activities.

Improved Communication With MS Teams

Integrated Microsoft Teams provides a faster, convenient way to stay in touch with colleagues, friends, and family. You can now rely on an improved Teams 2.0 app to communicate with people regardless of location. In addition, Windows 11 comes with a chat feature accessible via the taskbar. This feature connects you through video, voice, text, and chat.

You can reach out to your contacts without worrying about the device they use. MS Teams’ chat feature allows you to connect, even if your contacts use iOS or Android mobile devices. Two-way SMS connections are also possible, thanks to the power of Teams 2.0.

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How New Windows Server 2022 Features Improve Hybrid Integration and Security

How New Windows Server 2022 Features Improve Hybrid Integration and Security

Microsoft recently announced the preview of the latest Windows Server. The new release comes with several key features, such as Azure automanage (hotpatching) and virtualization-based security (VBS). Windows Server 2022 allows users to leverage the cloud to maximize uptime and keep virtual machines (VMs) up to date. It introduces enhanced security features and Azure hybrid integration and management.

Windows Server now has an Azure edition, thanks to Microsoft’s plans to promote Azure as the ideal platform for hosting the 2022 release. The integrated edition provides access to features unavailable outside of Azure Stack and the public cloud. In addition, you can also expect enhanced integration with various cloud services, such as Azure App Service. Windows Admin Center (WAC) and Azure Automanage.

Windows Server 2022

Security Enhancements

Microsoft has enrolled Windows Server 2022 into its Secured-Core program. The 2022 release derives several security benefits from the program’s features. These benefits include the secure operating system, firmware, and hardware features, which provide robust protection against sophisticated cyber attacks.

Secured-Core servers maximize security, thanks to the advanced protection measures deployed at the software and hardware layers. The security features include Windows Defender System Guard. According to Microsoft, companies can take advantage of verifiable security solutions to maintain the integrity of operating systems. These measures harden defenses against firmware attacks.

Windows Server 2022 ensures faster and secure connectivity because it enables TLS 1.3 by default. This configuration protects your organization from attacks by safeguarding HTTPS connections. On the other hand, the 2022 release comes with DNS over HTTPS (DoH) and Secure DNS.

Microsoft improved fileserver features to maximize security for connections using SMB AES-256 encryption. Likewise, internal cluster communication relies on East-West SMB encryption controls. The best part about the enhanced connection security in Windows Server 2022 is that encryption does not affect performance. This benefit is particularly true for the Remote Direct Memory Access (RDMA).

Additional Security Improvements in Windows Server 2022

  • Virtualization-based security (VBS): Leverages the hardware virtualization capabilities of Hyper-V technology to protect control flow guard (CFG) bitmap modification. VBS also verifies the validity of EV certificates.
  • Memory protection: Helps secure technologies that store sensitive data in memory while the system is operational. Malicious software in a drive plugged into a port cannot read data stored by security solutions like Bitlocker. Boot direct memory access (DMA) prevents such attacks.
  • SMB VPN for remote workers: This feature is critical for high-security organizations looking to maximize network protection for mobile users. Meanwhile, SMB over QUIC employs TLS 1.3 encrypted tunnel to avoid exposing server message block (SMB) traffic to the network. The best part is that functions like authorization and authentication work optimally inside the tunnel.

Azure Hybrid Capabilities in Windows Server 2022

The 2022 release makes it easier to expand your data centers to Azure without compromising agility and efficiency. Additional capabilities you should know about include improved admin center reporting, application compatibility, enhanced server management, and streamlined update installation.

Windows Admin Center

You can now report the state of secure-core features via the Windows admin center. It is also possible to allow some customers to activate specific features.

Azure Arc Enabled Windows Servers

With Azure Arc, the 2022 release integrates multi-cloud and on-premise Windows Servers with Azure. The integration streamlines the management experience to ensure consistency with Azure virtual machine administration. Once you connect a hybrid machine to Azure, it operates as a resource and a connected machine.

Application Platform Improvements

Microsoft improved several platform functions for Windows containers. As a result, you can expect a better experience for the container with Kubernetes and app compatibility. More importantly, the tech giant significantly reduced the image size in the Windows container. This change translates to reduced startup time and improved overall performance.

Azure Automanage – Hotpatch

Windows Server 2022 Datacenter: Azure Edition is compatible with Hotpatch, a component of Azure Automanage. This new feature eliminates the need to reboot after installing updates on the Azure Edition virtual machines (VMs).

Additional Key Features

Other notable Windows Server 2022 features include nested virtualization for AMD processors, improved storage migration service, and SMB compression. With the nested virtualization, you can operate a Hyper-V inside a virtual machine, thanks to AMD processors. This capability expands hardware options for your organization’s environments.

In addition, you can now compress server message block (SMB) files during transmission over the network. This functionality is available to users and applications; it eliminates the need to handle file compression manually.

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Everything You Need to Know About Windows 11

Everything You Need to Know About Windows 11

In the fall of 2021, Windows will be releasing its new operating system: Windows 11. Big improvements and new features are on the horizon for this new OS.

Let’s take a look at what you can expect.

Windows 11

What’s New With Windows 11?

We all know that past Windows modifications have been all too often catastrophic for users (we all remember Windows 8, right?). Certainly, many tech gurus are understandably wary of Windows 11 for this very reason.

The hopeful news, however, is that Windows’ recent “What’s Next for Windows” event got fairly good reviews. Here are some of the main changes that users can look forward to.

A Whole New Look, Including a New UI (User Interface) Design

The entire look of Windows has changed to what will hopefully be a more fluid, attractive design. Productivity is at the forefront, however, so the design will ideally fade into the background and functionality will take center stage.

One useful feature is the grid layout system, which allows you to predetermine where you want your apps to be located on the screen. A “Snap Navigator” helps you rearrange windows with ease.

Also, the Taskbar is on the move.

For what seems like time immemorial, the Taskbar has been on the bottom left of the Windows screen. We also had the live tiles, which are now gone. Now, your pinned and running apps will be moved to the middle (just as they are on Apple computers). You’ve still got “Start” over to the left, though — that hasn’t changed.

An Easier Way to Chat in Teams

Since the beginning of the pandemic, Microsoft Teams has been used by an exceedingly large population. Riding on this popularity wave, Windows has built the chat app directly into the Taskbar for ease of use. It’s simple to share pictures, videos, texts, and files with anyone, including family members, friends, and work associates. Calls can also be directly made from the Taskbar app, and there’s a handy mute button nearby when you want to turn your sound off.

Widgets Are In Again

Over the years, we’ve seen widgets come in and go out of style with both Windows interfaces and Apple computers. With Windows 11, widgets are back again, and they will use Edge for rendering as well as AI-powered personalization features. You can expand any widget to fit the entire screen and use it for tasks such as looking through Photos, scheduling on your Calendar, and organizing your to-dos.

Windows 11 Has the Touch

The overall touch experience has been enhanced with the new OS as well. Several new finger gesture options will be featured, and these will allow for faster changes between apps and easier manipulation of windows and images. Those users who make use of the Pen Workspace will be happy with the new usability improvements as well, including easy pinning of apps to the launch bar and a more fluid configuration overall.

Other Features

Here are several other features you can look forward to with Windows 11:

  • Multiple desktops
  • New docking features
  • Tablet mode more similar to desktop mode
  • New Microsoft Store, featuring Android Apps
  • Improved Settings app
  • Improved security features

To Stay or Not to Stay: Do You Really Have to Switch to Windows 11?

One of the final things we should note about Windows 11 is that you don’t actually have to upgrade to it if you don’t want to (for now anyway).

While free upgrades will be offered to some Windows 10 users in the fall during the general rollout, it’s not absolutely necessary that users upgrade until 2025, when Windows will officially drop support for Windows 10.

For some businesses, it may be fine to stick to Windows 10 if you prefer the way it operates and you have other software programs and hardware that must be used with Windows 10. As the years’ progress, however, it would probably be a good idea to switch over to Windows 11 as soon as you can. As outlined above, there are some great new features to look forward to with Windows 10. Moreover, software and hardware companies will be updating their programs and equipment to work with the new Windows operating system, and you don’t want to be left behind.

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Google Mulling Mandatory Two-Factor Authentication For All Users

Google Mulling Mandatory Two-Factor Authentication For All Users

Google plans to bolster the security of user accounts by making two-factor authentication (2FA) mandatory. This approach ensures that all user accounts require two-factor authentication by default. 2FA enhances cybersecurity by providing an additional defense barrier.

The tech giant kickstarted the process of introducing 2FA by testing the system with the help of users who already activated the feature. During the tests, Google will check the interaction between its apps and users’ smartphone prompts. Once the tests are complete, the company will automatically enroll all users into 2FA.

The implementation of mandatory two-factor will depend on insights from the testing phase. For this reason, Google plans to request users’ input to make the entire login process seamless, easier, and secure. It seeks to understand how users feel about the impending changes and consider users’ suggestions.

Google’s Mark Risher noted that the testing phase involves users who are less likely to find the change disruptive. The company intends to expand the two-factor authentication based on its findings from the test phase.

Risher, the director of product management for identity and user security, confirmed that many people previously viewed 2FA as challenging and tedious.

Many tech companies were apprehensive about implementing multifactor authentication, fearing the measure would discourage new signups. Thankfully, the situation has changed significantly, allowing most users to adopt the new security measure.

Google two Factor

Improved Security

Google is pushing towards a future without passwords as it views them as a weak link in the cyber defense ecosystem. The tech giant recently announced that up to 66 percent of US citizens still rely on the same password to access multiple websites and apps.

In doing so, users undermine account security. Cybercriminals buy and sell stolen login credentials on the dark web, allowing bad actors to gain illegitimate access to user accounts across multiple sites, including Google services like Gmail.

Google urges users to configure account security according to the recommended standards. Adhering to the minimum security requirements is a surefire way to mitigate risks posed by cyber-attacks.

With mandatory two-factor authentication, the system verifies the identity of users by dispatching codes via smartphones. These prompts become standard for all attempted logins into Google accounts. 2FA drastically reduces illegitimate access to user accounts. Identity verification via mobile device is undoubtedly a more convenient and safer authentication method.

Experts recommend using on-phone alerts than SMS messages because bad actors can intercept text messages.

Expanding Two-Step Verification Options

By making 2FA mandatory, Google demonstrates its commitment to implement the best security measures for all users. On the other hand, the company realizes the need to provide a wide selection of two-step authentication options. Doing so helps meet different users’ needs based on the accessibility of specific technologies.

According to Risher, Google is working tirelessly to ensure an equitable authentication experience. The company aims to achieve equal access by developing suitable authentication technologies. In the end, Google aims to eliminate the reliance on passwords.

Increased Adoption

Once Google makes 2FA mandatory, it hopes to influence the wider adoption of two-factor as a baseline standard for login authentication. The wider tech industry usually follows in Google’s footsteps. The tech giant continues to play a prominent role in web security transitions.

In the past, Google steered the tech industry towards sandboxing, auto-updates, and ubiquitous HTTPS encryption. When it comes to multifactor authentication, Google joins notable tech companies like Apple in introducing the security solution. In recent years, Apple started actively promoting the feature to its users.

Industry experts have praised recent efforts by leading companies to eliminate the reliance on simple credentials. These changes are highly beneficial to all account users. Financial institutions and healthcare organizations are increasingly adopting security measures that make two-factor authentication compulsory.

Increased cyber-attacks necessitate a radical shift in account security. The entire tech industry needs to complement each other’s efforts to maximize adoption levels.

Cybercriminals find it easier to compromise account security by stealing users’ passwords. Using the same password for several platforms allows bad actors to gain illegitimate access to more than one site. It is no surprise that Google considers the continued use of simple credentials like passwords as the biggest threat to cybersecurity.

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Cyber Criminals Are Actively Exploiting a WordPress Plugin Zero-Day

Cyber Criminals Are Actively Exploiting a WordPress Plugin Zero-Day

The Fancy Product Designer plugin — commonly used to configure visual products on WordPress, Shopify, and WooCommerce — has been compromised. Cybercriminals are actively looking for sites that use this plugin so as to exploit a recently-discovered vulnerability.

Wordpress Security

What Is a Zero-Day Exploit?

The term zero-day exploit, or just “zero-day” or “0-day”, refers to a type of vulnerability in computer software that the software vendor is aware of but that doesn’t yet have a patch or fix. During the space of time between when the exploit becomes known and when there is a patch or fix for it, the flaw makes the affected software extremely vulnerable to sinister activity.

Naturally, zero-day vulnerabilities are never intended. They are usually found where the software company least expected to find a problem. At the same time, it is up to the software company to alert affected users and to find a patch for the flaw as soon as possible. Keeping the public and/or private software users in the loop is the best thing a software company can do to help stave off complications such as leaked or corrupted data or other compromised resources.

What Is Fancy Product Designer?

Fancy Product Designer is a plugin. In other words, it’s a type of software that complements an already-existing software program with a unique feature.

In the case of Fancy Product Designer, the website explains that the plugin enables “you and your customers to design and customize any kind of product. Limited only by your imagination it gives you absolute freedom in deciding which products and which parts of the product can be customized.” As of early June, Fancy Product Designer had been installed on over 17,000 websites worldwide. These sites include WordPress sites, Shopify sites, and WooCommerce sites.

What Are Hackers Doing With the Exploit?

The bug in the Fancy Product Designer has made it possible for hackers to take advantage of Fancy Product Designer websites by deploying executable PHP files. This, in turn, allows them to entirely take over a website in any way they please.

As the majority of websites being exploited are selling something online — either a good or a service or both — most hackers will use this newfound power to obtain order information. The affected e-commerce sites will, of course, possess information such as personal names and addresses, credit card information, and in some cases, social security numbers and other personal data.

Zero-day exploits should be announced to the affected parties as soon as possible so that actions can be taken on the company level to deter hackers and possibly disable the vulnerable plugin entirely. Security preventions vary from company to company, so some affected businesses will already have security measures in place. However, others will not.

As for the Fancy Product Designer zero-day, the product designers announced that active exploitation had been going on since January 30th, 2021. A new, patched version of the plugin has been available since June 2nd, 2021, but it must be manually downloaded.

How Can I Avoid Running Into a Zero-Day Exploit That Affects My Company?

If you are a business owner or manager, chances are, you use at least one type of software to operate your company. Unfortunately, this means you’re at risk of being exploited by zero-day vulnerabilities.

These vulnerabilities crop up from time to time and are becoming relatively normal. As software and technology, in general, becomes an increasingly large part of daily life and business affairs, and as threat actors disappointingly become more adept at their craft, zero-day vulnerabilities will continue to be a problem.

The best way to combat these vulnerabilities is to start with prevention. Choose to work only with software vendors who prioritize cybersecurity. When software is as airtight as possible, zero-days are far less likely to be a problem.

Still, they do happen. To handle them well when they occur, choose your own top team of managed service providers. Again, you want professionals who prioritize cybersecurity and those who stay abreast of zero-days that may affect your company. Cutting off connections with infected software right away can prevent major problems down the line.

If you don’t currently have a reliable managed service provider you’re working with, start speaking with companies in your area today. The sooner you ensure your business’s cybersecurity, the sooner you can rest easy when it comes to zero-day vulnerabilities.

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Could A Colonial Pipeline-Style Cyberattack Disrupt Your Business?

Could A Colonial Pipeline-Style Cyberattack Disrupt Your Business?

The Colonial Pipeline ransomware attack garnered national headlines after hackers caused widespread gasoline shortages along the Eastern U.S. seaboard. Among the hardest hit, North Carolina saw more than two-thirds of local pumps closed, and 80 percent of fueling stations in the nation’s capital ran dry.

Images of long gas lines and the reported $4.4 million ransom paid to the criminal organization known as DarkSide highlight the fact determined cybersecurity has never been more essential to corporate survival. The question business leaders may want to consider right now is whether sophisticated cybercriminals could penetrate your defenses and disrupt operations.

Colonial Pipeline Ransomware

How Devastating Are Ransomware Attacks on Businesses?

The internet provides digital thieves a global reach, and penetrating outfits such as Colonial Pipeline represent just the tip of the spear. DarkSide reportedly forced 47 business decision-makers to hand over upwards of $90 million in Bitcoin payments on the dark web alone, according to reports. If that figure raises concern that your organization could be hit in the near future, cybercrime statistics offer no solace.

A recorded 304 million ransomware attacks were orchestrated in 2020, representing a 62 percent increase from the previous year. The average ransomware demand topped $233,000, with hackers routinely negotiating higher payoffs from more lucrative corporations. Approximately 1 out of every 5 small businesses are the focus of an attack and 80 percent of mid-sized outfits are targeted by cybercriminals in this fashion. While hacks that create widespread disruption such as the Colonial Pipeline make national news, companies often close for two weeks even if they pay the ransom. It’s also not unusual for digital business hijackers to take the cryptocurrency money and not provide the decryption code necessary to restore operations.

Although media outlets reported that DarkSide was shuttering its underworld activities after accumulating substantial wealth, business professionals have every reason to be even more afraid of what comes next. What non-cyber security experts may not be aware of is that DarkSide does not typically lead to ransomware attacks. Its group of online miscreants operates what technology experts call “ransomware as a service.”

That means they craft malicious software for others inclined to target an organization. If your business has international rivals or appears like low-hanging fruit to anyone online, they could task DarkSide or another digital mafia outfit with creating a ransomware file to upend your company.

How To Protect Your Company From Cyberattack Disruption

The Colonial Pipeline hack illustrates the fact that companies with substantial resources can fall prey to a nefarious individual if they let their guard down for a second. Ransomware attacks, like other incursions, typically stem from some type of human error. In many cases, cybercriminals target wide-reaching organizations by sending out thousands of emails laced with malware. Sophisticated hackers such as DarkSide may employ social engineering to gain the trust of someone with access to the network. Once an employee falls for the trickery, they may divulge network access information and a hack ensues. The critical point is that people too often make innocent mistakes and that’s why the following measures remain mission-critical.

  • Require employees to use strong passwords.
  • Mandate password updates on a regular basis.
  • Have a cybersecurity firm integrate multi-factor authentication technology.
  • Ensure all devices possess commercial-grade firewalls and antivirus software.
  • Implement “zero trust” network policies that limit employee access.
  • Deploy virtual private networks for remote workers.
  • Provide ongoing cybersecurity awareness training to all personnel.
  • Create a system of cyber-threat alerts for imminent dangers.
  • Back-up all digital assets to the Cloud and redundant hard drives out of hackers’ reach.
  • Conduct cybersecurity audits that include penetration testing.

Despite the splashy Colonial Pipeline headlines, many industry leaders continue to lag in cybersecurity vigilance. According to research, only 57 percent of decision-makers had a cybersecurity risk assessment conducted in 2020. That may be why nearly 80 percent reportedly lack confidence their operation could withstand a cyber assault.

Business leaders have a rare opportunity to learn from the Colonial Pipeline and avoid disruption. By enlisting the support of an experienced cybersecurity firm, the necessary defenses and employee awareness training can be implemented promptly. In a world in which an Eastern Bloc hacker can attack any company on the planet, hardened cybersecurity defenses are job one.

Could A Colonial Pipeline-Style Cyberattack Disrupt Your Business? Read More »

How to Reinstall macOS on Your Computer

How to Reinstall macOS on Your Computer

If your Mac has been having problems or behaving erratically as of late, it might be time for a fresh install of macOS using Recovery mode and Disk Utility. A new install may also be useful if you have plans to give away or sell your Mac. In this case, you’ll want to remove your personal data and conduct a factory reset before your Mac leaves your possession.

Here’s how to go about reinstalling macOS on your computer using Recovery mode and macOS Utilities.

reinstall MacOS

How Do I Reinstall macOS?

Important: Should You Back Up Your Data Before Reinstalling macOS?

Even if you’ll be keeping your computer in your possession and won’t be wiping data, it’s always a good idea to back up your Mac before reinstalling macOS. That way, in the event of an error, you can be sure your private documents, pictures, and more will remain safe. Backups can be performed using either a separate hard drive or the cloud.

Before Your Begin: Which macOS Version Do You Want Reinstalled?

The following instructions will help you reinstall the latest macOS version that’s been installed on your Mac. Please note that if you prefer to install the latest compatible version of macOS or alternatively, the first version of macOS that originally came with your Mac, you should search for those specific instructions.

Follow These Steps

Step 1: Start by entering Recovery mode on your Mac. To do this, navigate to the Apple icon in the top left corner of your screen, and click “Restart…”. This will shut down your computer and immediately start it back up again. As soon as you hear your computer start to come back on, press and hold down one of the following key combinations:

  • On Intel Macs: Command + R
  • On M1 Macs: Power button*

*Hold the power button until you see a startup window appear with options available, and click “Options” and then “Continue”.

Step 2: You’ll see the macOS Utilities window open. For those wiping their disk, navigate to “Disk Utility” and then click “Continue”. If you do not plan to wipe your disk, pause here and move on to Step 8.

Step 3: Erase the desired volume. For Macs with any operating system older than Catalina, simply delete the volume titled Macintosh HD. For Macs that have Catalina or any operating system that came after Catalina, you’ll be required to delete the following two volumes:

  • Macintosh HD
  • Macintosh HD-Data

First, delete Macintosh HD-Data. Next, delete Macintosh HD.

Step 4: If your current macOS version is Catalina, Mojave, Big Sur, or (in most cases) High Sierra, select the format APFS. If your current macOS version is older than these, select the macOS Extended (Journaled) format.

Step 5: For the Scheme, choose GUID Partition Table. Keep in mind that if you only have the volume selected, the Scheme won’t be something you have to worry choose.

Step 6: Select “Erase and wait”.

Step 7: Press Command + Q to quit. Alternatively, select “Disk Utility” and then click “Quit Disk Utility”.

Step 8: Looking at the Utilities window before you (note: if you’ve just wiped your computer following the above steps 2-7, the Utilities window will be appearing for the second time). In either case, select “Reinstall macOS” and wait until the process has completed.

Use the steps above to reinstall macOS on any Mac. Keep in mind that this process should be completed during a time in which you can devote your full attention to it. While you won’t have to stare at your screen throughout the actual reinstallation process, you should be nearby in the event that any troubleshooting is needed.

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Understanding the Role of Non-Fungible Tokens (NFTs)

Understanding the Role of Non-Fungible Tokens (NFTs)

Non-fungible tokens or NFTs are rising in popularity as more people discover their importance. These tokens come with unique metadata and identification codes, making it easier to distinguish individual tokens. Unlike digital currencies, such as Bitcoin and Ethereum, you cannot trade or exchange NFTs. They are cryptographic assets representing the value of physical items, such as artwork and real estate, on a blockchain platform.

Another significant difference between non-fungible tokens with cryptocurrencies is that the latter are identical and can be replicated. These characteristics are useful for trading and exchanging currencies. On the other hand, NFTs help enhance trading efficiency for tangible assets like artwork. By adopting tokens, blockchain platforms mitigate fraud risk.

It is possible to use non-fungible tokens to represent property rights, people’s identities, and other items. The characteristics of each token expands the possible use cases. With NFTs, users can conveniently eliminate intermediaries, and it becomes easier to connect the target audience with tangible assets.

An added benefit of using non-fungible tokens is simplifying transactions and introducing new markets.

NFT non fungible token

NFT mania

The Covid-19 health crisis played a significant role in boosting the popularity of non-fungible tokens. However, many experts attribute NFT mania to the need for asset diversification and experimentation. Artists have embraced the tokens, thanks to the ability to trace ownership and authenticity of tangible assets like artwork. Likewise, artists can boost income by monetizing their artwork.

Musicians and other digital products can combat duplication and piracy of their new releases using NFTs. They will find it more practical to achieve this objective by authenticating ownership. The empowerment of artists is essential to revolutionizing the digital art market. It is no surprise that a recent Christie’s online auction featured several NFT art pieces. This high-profile NFT auction helped propel the tokens into the limelight.

Other notable NFT transactions include The Kings Leon’s famous offer to fans. They offered vinyl records and tickets to future tours. Meanwhile, project NBA TopShots sold a wide selection of digital collectibles in a highly publicized non-fungible token transaction.

Characteristics of NFTs

The digital representation of tangible assets comes in the form of a digital footprint known as a hash. Depending on size, the representation can consist of the digital asset itself. Alternatively, it can appear as metadata, which describes the object stored in a physical location (off-chain).

Experts are exploring ways to develop technical standards that enable the interoperability of tokens across various blockchain platforms. Many non-fungible tokens use the ERC721 standard associated with the Ethereum blockchain. On the other hand, the ERC20 standard is common among Ethereum-based NFTs.

The non-fungibility of NFTs makes them non-divisible and distinguishable. They also have a characteristic uniqueness that prevents replication and interchanging or selling the tokens.

NFTs cannot serve their intended purpose outside of a blockchain system. They require this environment for transactions to take place securely. When you create or mint a non-fungible token, the blockchain system records the event. Once created, you can transact with the token via digital marketplaces and auction houses.

The records of subsequent transactions for a particular NFT appear on the same blockchain or distributed ledger. These records help link the token to an owner. Payments for the transactions come in the form of an Ethereum-based unit known as gas.

Individual platforms (digital marketplaces and auction houses) select the currency used to pay for NFT transactions. Some platforms allow payments in fiat money, stable coins, and digital currencies. Transactions using cryptos necessitate the involvement of exchanges, such as Coinbase.

Network congestion and computational power required to handle the transaction determine the amount of gas paid by users. Thus, you can expect to pay higher fees if the network is busy or the computational power requirements are higher.

Summary

Since non-fungible tokens have no clear regulatory or legal framework guiding their use, a lot depends on individual NFTs’ characteristics. Some tokens fall under the Markets in Financial Instruments Directive (MiFID). NFTs falling outside of this regulatory framework may still have links to other frameworks.

The tokens are capable of reinvesting modern finance ecosystems by representing physical assets in the digital space. Blockchain plays an integral role in boosting the importance of NFTs in today’s world. Smart contracts’ tamper resistance is vital to the integrity of NFT transactions.

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