iPhone Update: COVID-19 Face Mask Detection and Contact Tracing

iPhone Update: COVID-19 Face Mask Detection and Contact Tracing

Major tech companies are always on the lookout for ways to add new features to their products and/or services. In its recent 13.5 OS release for iPhone and iPad products, Apple incorporated a new feature designed to help users with contact tracing in the event they contract COVID-19.  In this article, we will outline how the new face mask detection and contact tracing feature works, and how to enable or disable it.

Contact Tracing with Apple

The new contact tracing features actually uses Bluetooth data sharing rather than GPS location. When the feature is enabled, Apple securely shares a random ID associated with a user’s device with the devices of nearby users, as well as collecting their IDs. After a period of 14 days, which is considered the maximum incubation period for COVID-19, any IDs collected on devices will be deleted. If an iPhone or iPad user does contract the virus, health officials now have a way to trace individuals they may have come in contact with. In addition, if the infected individual chooses to, they can anonymously share their diagnosis with those in which they came into contact. Notified individuals can then contact their own health care provider for further instructions on what to do about their exposure to the virus.

To enable the feature, one must be using the recently released 13.5 version of Apple’s operating system. To find the new feature, follow these instructions:

  1. Open the “Settings” app.
  2. Tap on “Privacy.”
  3. Under Privacy, tap on “Health”.
  4. Under Health, tap on “COVID-19 Exposure Notifications”.

The COVID-19 Exposure Notifications can be toggled on or off (enabled or disabled) in the same manner as all of Apple’s other Settings features.

Changes With Face ID

With the advent of COVID-19, many individuals are choosing to wear a mask to cover their mouth and nose to help prevent the spread of the virus. In many areas of the country, individuals are actually required to wear some type of facial covering when out in public. This presents a challenge to Apple’s Face ID feature since partially covering one’s face will make it more challenging for Face ID to recognize a user. To combat this, Apple revamped their Face ID feature to immediately prompt the user for their PIN if it fails to recognize the user’s face, rather than forcing the user to jump through multiple hoops before eventually allowing the user to enter their PIN. 

Some Caveats

In order for Apple’s new feature to fully function, users must also locate and download an app from a health authority that can actually make use of the feature. The availability of such an app, along with support of health authorities can vary depending upon which countries and states the user resides in or travels through. The health support may vary as the virus travels throughout various regions, although in general, it is likely that major metropolitan areas will have more timely access to the feature rather than areas with low population levels.

Privacy Concerns

It’s normal to have concerns about privacy when tech companies handle information, especially personal information that relates to one’s health. In their collaboration efforts with Google to help prevent the spread of the virus, Apple has taken several measures to address privacy concerns. The random IDs used to share between devices change every 10-20 minutes to help increase security. Both Google and Apple have pledged not to collect COVID-19 related data and they will not share it with any government entity, nor will they monetize any process associated with the transfer of the data. Any data collected will only be shared through apps associated with the proper health authorities. To address all privacy concerns, Apple and Google have created a FAQ page to answer any questions users may have. 

If you would like further information about Apple’s recent changes that include a COVID-19 contact tracing feature, please contact us.

6 Cyber Security Tips for Remote Workers

cyber security tips

As we transition into the #WorkFromHome life, staying safe remains our top priority. Don’t forget to consider data security and cyber threats while working remote. Viruses of a different kind can throw a wrench in productivity and compromise core systems and information. Stay safe at home with these 6 Cyber Security Tips for Remote Workers.

Best Practices for The Best Remote Office Experience

Transitions are the perfect opportunity to review best practices and ensure your company is operating at maximum efficiency. Preventing cyber attacks begins with a thorough review of your organization’s security and compliance. 

Review employee password requirements and ensure your company is following the recommended security protocol to keep your sensitive information from slipping into the wrong hands. Protect your clients and your team by requiring two-factor authentication and passwords that consistent of a phrase or sentence with capitals, numbers, and special characters.

Ensure employees have logged out of all devices aside from their designated work computer. Be clear with your team that personal devices should not be used for work purposes. These devices are unsecured and may compromise integral security. This includes transferring files with confidential information between work and personal devices.

Support your crew with sufficient resources such as tablets, work phones, and laptops for on-the-go business instead. For easy data transfer, opt for convenient and secured Cloud storage solutions.

Secure Wi-Fi Networks

Portals, email, and CRM’s aren’t the only platforms that require strong security. Remote work should always be conducted via a secured Wi-Fi network. This ensures that sensitive information is not transmitted through compromised channels. For staff that are currently working from home, offer a DIY IT workshop to get them started. 

Change the router password to meet best practice standards and consider installing firmware updates and cracking down on encryption levels. 

Protect Privacy

Cyberspace is a dangerous realm. You never know who may be viewing your information and tracking your supposedly private IP address. From advertisers to phishing scams, accessing sensitive information and demographics is surprisingly easy.

Get your team outfitted with the protection of a virtual private network or VPN. A company wide VPN supports secured browsing by masking the IP address (or digital footprint) of each user. These helpful tools encrypt internet traffic, keeping company data protected and private information secured.

Check for Updates

Good anti-virus software is only as good as its last update. Think twice before hitting the “later” button on daily or weekly updates. Although keeping software and applications in top shape can seem like an extra annoyance in your busy day, these updates contain essential information and patches for vulnerabilities.

Firewalls, anti-malware, and anti-virus software are the most critical components to prioritize. These programs are constantly adapting to capture and quarantine new, evolving threats. Ensure an automatic update schedule has been enabled. Taking a few minutes to streamline applications will save you a lot of grief in the event of a cyber attack.

Don’t Be a Victim of Cyber Crooks

There’s no better time for a company refresher on the importance of cyber safety. Phishing scams are on the rise since the increase in remote workers. These devious cyber crooks typically operate by sending scam emails, calls, or texts in order to gain personal and financial information on their target. Make your team aware of recent scams and threats while keeping each member up to speed on what they can do to prevent a data breach.

A few SOP’s for remote work might include a cheatsheet of information you should never give out via phone, text, or email, as well as helpful tips on how to spot a phishing scheme.

Be Prepared

One positive element to the ongoing COVID-19 crisis is that the current situation underscores the value of preparedness. Data loss can happen to anyone, whether by human error or cyber breach. Be sure your company is prepared with a backup plan in case the unexpected happens.

Investing in a robust Cloud storage system provides a sufficient backup in case of disaster. This simple solution is typically the most convenient and cost effective for small to mid-sized businesses. If all else fails, AETechnology Group has your back(up) with disaster recovery options for our Long Island and New York business clients.

Contact our experts today for all your remote work needs as we continue to empower businesses to prioritize safety alongside productivity.

Cloud Words – IaaS, SaaS, PaaS – What Do All These Mean?

IaaS, SaaS, PaaS - What Do All These Cloud Words Mean?

Many industries have a wide array of acronyms they employ in order to define certain industry-specific concepts, products, and services, and the field of information technology is no exception. While technology experts are typically well-versed in the meaning of the various cloud words, for the average layperson, they can present a definite challenge.

Of course, in order to determine which technology services will deliver the best results for a business, it’s important to understand all the various options available. In this post, we will discuss three acronyms used to define cloud services, specifically, IaaS, SaaS, and PaaS, to bring about a clear understanding of what these services have to offer to a variety of corporate settings.

Defining IaaS

IaaS is an acronym for “infrastructure as a service”

Companies who decide to select this type of service often do so because they don’t want to invest in substantial amounts of hardware in order to support their various software packages and apps. Instead, they invest in cloud services such as virtualization and server space to meet their needs. Buying hardware does mean more accessibility and control, however it also comes with a hefty price tag that smaller companies often find off-putting.

While IaaS provides the benefit of reduced costs and the time involved in maintaining hardware,  business owners are still responsible for maintaining their software. This means they either must have some degree of technological expertise to manage this on their own, or they need a dedicated IT person or perhaps a team to provide software support.

Defining SaaS

SaaS stands for “software as a service”

SaaS allows smaller companies to take advantage of pre-built cloud-based apps that have a defined purpose.  Rather than creating a custom software package to perform a task, smaller companies can simply incorporate third-party apps such as Dropbox for their file sharing requirements, or they can use Shopify if they need an eCommerce site platform. While outsourcing certain tasks does have certain advantages in that it may allow companies to get a certain project up and running faster, and they won’t be responsible for maintaining third party applications, there are some downsides.

Employing third-party software apps means a business will have little to no opportunity to customize the app to suit their specific needs.  They also have no control over third-party apps, which lessens their degree of control over potential security issues as well.  In addition, integration may be challenging with SaaS, since third party software may not work with a company’s current overall platform, or a new platform if they decide to change at some point in the future.

PaaS

Last but not least, PaaS stands for “platform as a service”

If a company wants customized software to meet their needs, PaaS  can provide them with the cloud-based tools they need to build their own customized software. With PaaS, developers are given access to a vast library of pre-built elements, so they don’t need to code every process from scratch. Developing, testing, and deploying all happen in one environment, making it generally faster and easier to pump out software applications.

A downside to PaaS is that it is not a good option for companies who work with confidential data, which they may be required to keep on-site by law. Also, for businesses who already have some existing frameworks they would like to keep, this may present a significant challenge when trying to integrate them into a new PaaS platform.  

We’re Here to Help

When it comes to cloud-based platforms and services, there truly isn’t one right or wrong solution. The beauty of having the options such as PaaS, SaaS, and IaaS, is that it allows companies to choose the best solution to meet their specific needs.

If you would like more information on how to select the right cloud-based services for your unique setting, please contact us.

Should I Hire An IT Guy Or An MSP?

Should I Hire An IT Guy Or An MSP?

Keeping your tech operational is key to helping your business stay on track, and it’s likely you’ve considered a traditional IT team to handle your computer problems. However, sometimes a managed service provider (MSP) can have a lot of benefits over traditional IT. Read on to see if you should hire an IT guy or an MSP.

MSP And IT: What’s The Difference?

Businesses who use traditional IT rely on a person or department within the business to handle any tech problems. Some of their main functions include installing new hardware or software, configuring networks, troubleshooting problems, solving connectivity issues, making sure computer networks are secure, and many other things that happen behind the scenes of your business. IT people are paid members of the staff. One of the main drawbacks of an IT person or team is that their knowledge and time can be limited. 

On the other hand, an MSP puts an entire team of knowledgeable experts at your fingertips. They are always there, whenever you need their services. Unlike an IT team that works on-site at your business, an MSP works remotely. While many businesses may see this as a drawback when it comes to hiring an IT guy or an MSP, but an MSP is usually only a quick phone call away. 

Benefits Of An MSP

There are plenty of benefits of hiring an MSP to handle your information technology systems. For example, they’re always there when you need them. Unlike a traditional IT team, they don’t call out sick or take vacations, which means that no matter when something goes wrong, you’ll be able to get it fixed quickly. And tech problems don’t always happen during normal working hours.  An MSP is often on call 24/7.

One of the biggest benefits of using an MSP, though, is the depth of experience and knowledge they can offer you. An MSP is comprised of professionals who all have different levels of expertise and useful skill sets. They have diverse qualifications and can collaborate whenever it’s required. A traditional IT team just doesn’t have the same level of knowledge that an MSP has. This means they can help you spot problems in your systems before they even arise. They can offer preventative measures, while an IT team may only fix problems after they happen. 

Another great thing about an MSP is that they are an extremely affordable option for many businesses. Hiring IT onto your staff means you have to pay them, even when they have downtime. In the long run, an MSP can save your business money, and they often offer a range of service options, so you can find something that fits into your budget. And as your businesses grow, you can scale up their services to meet your needs. 

MSP – The Right Choice For Your Business?

No matter what size your business is, when it comes to hiring an IT guy or an MSP, an MSP is a great choice. They offer a range of options at the right price and the reassurance that you will always have tech support on hand if something goes wrong.

An MSP can handle all your tech needs so you can worry about making sure your business keeps running smoothly. Before hiring an MSP, make sure they have the right training and certification for their team members. Read reviews online and talk with their team so that you know they’ll be a good fit.

If you’re looking to hire an MSP with the skills and expertise your business needs to be successful, contact us for more information. 

How to Conduct a Productive Online Meeting

How to Conduct a Productive Online Meeting

Effective communication is the key to keeping clients and partners happy. Fortunately, groundbreaking technological innovations have occurred in the past decade, allowing us to communicate seamlessly with people located far and near without the need to meet physically.  Learning to conduct a productive online meeting is an invaluable asset today, especially when you want to work from home or when you can’t travel to attend a meeting.

With the right digital tools, anyone can effortlessly schedule, plan, structure, manage and conduct virtual meetings with customers, clients, partners, employees, and bosses. With the correct approach, you’ll just be as involved, engaged, and productive as you are in in-person meetings. However, running an effective online meeting requires adequate preparation. Here’s how to go about it.

Pick the Right Platform

The first step you should take is choosing an ideal online meeting tool. There is a broad array of virtual programs out there. Some are meant for social connections, some for enterprise meetings, while others are a blend of the two. Typically, the right tool should allow you to set up and host a virtual meeting, invite a number of participants, and share your screen.

More advanced tools may enable you to share files, chat with participants, and record the meeting. The tool you pick will depend on the capabilities you want and the objectives of your meeting. After selecting a platform, test the system to check whether the camera, microphone, and features such as the multi-participant capability work. Testing and knowing how to operate it will save you time and embarrassments during the actual meeting.

Have a Clear and Well-Communicated Agenda

We’ve all been through meetings that had no clear agenda and seen how the conversation quickly loses track. When the purpose of the meeting is vague, the participants will definitely get confused, become less engaged, and lose sight of the important issues. Setting an agenda and notifying everyone allows each individual to come to the meeting adequately prepared, and to be on the same page. When crafting an agenda, make sure you:

  • Set the key talking points.
  • Request input from those who will attend the meeting.
  • Ensure the topics are relevant to the participants you have invited.
  • Assemble the relevant documents or research concerning the agenda.
  • Appoint a meeting moderator to bring order and control proceedings.
  • Locate time for last-minute questions, comments, and other additions.
  • Notify everyone of the items they should have, e.g., headphones, collar mic, pen, and notebook.

Prepare Your Space

How you prepare your space will make or break the success of the meeting. For official meetings, you don’t want your pets, your kids or phone competing for your attention. Such interruptions not only affect you, but they throw the whole meeting off course. To avoid such mishaps, remove anything that could cause distractions, tell everyone at home you are having a meeting, and lock the door of the room you will use. Make sure the space you use is clutter-free, quiet, has ample lighting, and has a clear background.

Apart from organizing your space, you also need to adopt virtual meeting etiquette. These include being neat and presentable, maintaining eye contact with the camera, limiting body movements, speaking clearly and concisely, refraining from snacking during the meeting, and avoiding performing other tasks such as opening emails. You should also mute your phone, turn off all notifications on the device you are using, and avoid rustling papers.

Go Slow and Steady

Virtual meetings should have a slower pace than in-person meetings. Most systems take around 3 seconds to communicate, and this lag can cause problems to the participants when you proceed to speak in the normal space. Make sure there are sufficient pauses after you finish a statement and ask questions. Pausing gives the participants the opportunity to seek clarification or ask questions without interrupting you.

Recap Before You’re Done

Before concluding the meeting, briefly go over the main points. If participants have been allocated duties, let every person recap what action item he/she is responsible for, and the time frame for delivering it. This phase provides clarity, reminds everyone what they are supposed to do, and ensures accountability.  When the meeting is over, share your notes with all participants to make sure everyone is on the same page.

Bottom Line

Although holding a virtual meeting has been made easier thanks to technological breakthroughs, you need to make adequate preparations if you want to have a fruitful meeting. Start by acquiring the right virtual meeting program, set an agenda, and prepare your space. With the right approach, your clients, partners, and boss will definitely be impressed.

If you are looking to digitally transform your business and expand your reach and communication capabilities, AE Technology Group will help you achieve your goals!