Easy Online Targets

With eBay, Craigslist, NextDoor, and Facebook Marketplace, online selling has gotten easier and offers a broader audience reach now more than ever before. With that ease comes new risks. Recently, an old phishing scam has gotten some new life.

Here is how the scam works:

1. You place your personal telephone number (mobile or landline) out in public (sales ad, dating site, etc.).

2. The scammer contacts you via text or email about your ad. They tell you some story about how they need you to prove that you are a real person, or a legitimate seller, not a bot, and that they are using Google Verification. The verification will be sent to you as an automated special code from Google. 


3. The scammer is, in reality, going through the Google Voice setup process. They tell Google Voice to call/text your personal number and provide a verification code. Google sends the code, along with a warning to not share the code with anyone. Somehow, you ignore the explicit warning and give the scammer the code number. When you do that, THEY, not you, are issued a Google Voice number, using YOUR number as the forwarding number for their account.

4. By the time you realize what has happened, if you do at all, the scammer has already removed your forwarding phone number from their account. Their goal is not to forward calls to your personal phone number, but merely to use it as an “admission ticket” to get their own Google Voice number, use it to scam others, get rid of that number and clean their trails, then repeat the scam over and over.

Now, this is normally not a scam that will cost you money or directly cause harm to you. However, it is also not something that you’d want to fall for. In most cases, the whole idea behind this scam is that the scammers would be able to get a free and fresh-new Google Voice number which they can then use in other scams and similar nefarious activities. In most cases, the end user would not get directly affected and/or involved in any of that. However, such a possibility is still present and should not be ignored. The very notion that some anonymous cyber crook is using your personal phone number for their illegal activities should be enough of a reason to take immediate action.

It is important that you be cautious of fraud when interacting with strangers on online sites. Online sites are frequent targets of scammers. Never, ever share verification codes with anyone. No legitimate business will ask for that information. When putting yourself “out there,” just be cautious and smart about what you divulge. Now, get out there and sell that velvet clown painting that’s been in your attic for the last 25 years!

Granville Loar – 9.9.19

Performance and Productivity

If you are a techie or Mac Geek that keeps up with the latest gear, this post is likely not for you. For the majority of small businesses however, performance can often be an afterthought, especially with users focused on their daily challenges. 

Flashback 10-20 years ago when the speed race was in its heyday. Workstations were introduced every year that would leapfrog the prior model. Today’s systems are marketed differently, with features and style leading the way. There are also more factors involved in performance, like internet connections, and even malware infections. 

In the Apple world there is another factor involved; system longevity. It is not unusual for us to encounter systems that are five, seven, even ten years old still in production. 

Using an underperforming system can be exhausting and, believe it or not, expensive. Consider that when you put a workstation in place it will continue to be asked to do more and more over the years with the same capability. The user slowly adapts to this to the point that no-one even realizes how much productivity is being lost. Workarounds start being enacted because the system can’t keep up.

When this happens, businesses often react by either overbuying or underbuying because the workstation has broken or is being cast aside out of frustration.

SideKick Solutions can help your small business with a technology plan that will keep your team using optimal equipment for steady performance. We don’t sell the systems so we are an unbiased advisor that can get you on a level payment and performance plan.

Dwayne Schwartz – 8.5.19

Apple ID Basics

Over the past few months we have encountered some confusion around Apple IDs, from both individuals and companies. Some customers have had been using their iCloud accounts but when prompted to enter their Apple ID on their computer they are unsure what account to use. Essentially, your Apple ID is the account name that you use to access iCloud, iTunes and the Apple Store. In other words, your Apple ID is your iCloud, or at least its credentials.

Some people have several Apple IDs, both personally and between their company, and that creates confusion. We have seen customers use their company Apple ID to manage their iCloud documents but a personal Apple ID to access their iTunes. This works well but you need to remember where you kept everything. You could even, theoretically, have a third iCloud account in which you purchased all of your apps for your computer. All three can be used on the same computer at the same time.

If you have more than one Apple ID, it is important to make sure you know what you have used each one for in the past. Personally, I have several but one in particular that I began using when I purchased my first iPod many years ago. That Apple ID is the one I have used to make all of my personal purchases from iTunes, the App Store for MacOS and the apps I have purchased for my iPhone/iPad.

To access your Apple ID account information, you can go to appleid.apple.com. From there you can access account information such as which computers the Apple ID is active on, your payment information, and password management.

To use your Apple ID to access iCloud information, go to http://icloud.com. Your documents are stored there.

For the Apple App Store, open the App Store application on your Macintosh and sign in from the Store menu. To sign into the store on you iPhone or iPad open Settings and select iTunes & App Store, then tap Sign In.

Brad Boots – 6.24.19

Mesh WiFi

One of the biggest complaints we hear people make about their home network is that their WiFi is slow. They may be paying for Gigabit speeds but when they try to watch a television show over WiFi, it constantly pauses or the picture becomes pixilated.

There are many possible reasons that your WiFi signal is poor. The most common problems are interference, weak router strength, and wall barriers. Older homes with lath and plaster walls, stucco, or office spaces with concrete wall barriers are some of the toughest places to set up a reliable WiFi network.

Mesh WiFi may be the solution to many of these problems. Mesh WiFi is commonly used in large offices or public spaces. More recently, many consumer grade solutions have become popular. 

Consumer mesh networking products typically come in a package with three to four devices that you set up throughout your work or living space. You connect the primary unit to your wired network router and then place the satellite devices in locations that act as signal repeaters. 

All of the devices communicate with each other on several radio signals at the same time so that they can send large amounts of data. They then pass that data on to your computer, phone or television on standard WiFi signals. Instead of having a single WiFi router, typically located in a non-central location of your home, you now have several devices located in optimal positions, all working together to give you a seamless WiFi experience. 

Let us know if we can help you find the WiFi solution that is right for you. We would love to help.

WiFi Planning

One of the biggest technical advances for Small Business and Home settings is WiFi service. If you look to join a wireless network it can be surprising how many networks are locally listed. There are two big things to consider when establishing a WiFi network for your office; Security and Speed.

Security is certainly critical. You really don’t want anyone or anything on your network that wasn’t invited. Most people have figured out how to put a password on their WiFi, but don’t really know what method to use. Once there is a password established it is often shared with guests without thinking of the consequences of that password now present on foreign devices. The more valuable the assets are on your network, the more important it is to apply advanced security. Many of our clients sign security disclosures with their clients and maintain a security policy. Improperly secured networks are a target and WiFi can be the weakest link.

WiFi performance is becoming a common issue. As more and more devices connect and consume larger chunks of data, speed can drop to a crawl. Things to consider when establishing and maintaining WiFi include the number and age of devices connected, speed of the internet service, signal distribution, and age of the current equipment. All of these factors must be considered to get the best performance for your team. SideKick Solutions has the expertise to get your team online at full speed and still maintain security.

IT Services for Small Businesses with Apple Technology

Small businesses and organizations face unique challenges when trying to manage their technology, especially Apple technology. While Apple products are user friendly and can be easy to keep running, it is not easy to find the time to do the things necessary for a growing team. Things like account management, security, asset management and procurement, along with maintenance are often misunderstood or neglected. Tech problems become surprises and lead to loss of productivity.

Larger organizations are able to offload IT to a dedicated staff or a vendor geared to handle larger groups. With a smaller organization, responsibility often falls on the owner, manager, or some other team member and they end up trying to juggle these skills amongst their other duties, while lacking the tools and training to do the job.

SideKick Solutions brings a fresh solution to this problem. We are able to blend industry standard IT tools and the skill set used in other settings, with a custom set of services. We are able to scale the service to the size and need of your team. Most importantly, Apple technology is our primary focus, not an afterthought like many larger IT providers.

macOS Mojave update status

We received notice that FileMaker has patched version 17 of their software to ensure compatibility with the latest version of macOS from Apple. If you’ve been holding off this macOS upgrade because of FileMaker, it should be safe now, if you are running version 17 and patch it.

SideKick Solutions will be scheduling updates for our regular support clients in the coming months. There are still apps, especially older ones that require attention and planning. If you have any questions about your system, we’re available to help.

Design Week

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Design Week is here!

 

“I strive for two things in design: simplicity and clarity. Great design is born of those two things.”  - Lindon Leader

 

SideKick is proud to be sponsoring Kansas City Design Week which kicks off this Thursday, April 12th.  

 

Design week is 8 glorious days of collaborating, learning, growing and developing multiple aspects of design with other professionals. A series of workshops led by leaders in the industry allows designers from all areas to get inspired and rejuvenated so they can get their creative juices flowing.

 

SideKick Solutions' specialty is supporting design professionals. Just like Lindon Leader, we strive for simplicity and clarity. Let us simplify all your technology so you can be at your creative best creating a product on time and under budget. We can handle all your IT needs from troubleshooting issues, recommending hardware and software, performing routine maintenance and managing software accounts. Let us clarify for you how we can make your office more efficient and trouble free!

 

We wish you all an amazing Kansas City Design Week!

Apple HomePod

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Apple has released their new HomePod speaker. If you're considering getting one, here's a short list of things it does and doesn't do.

 

It Does...

  • work with multiple iOS devices including iPhone 5S or later, iPad Pro, iPad Air, iPad mini or higher, iPod higher, and the 5th gen. iPad.
  • require Apple Music to use Siri to control your music with your voice such as requesting it to play a specific song.
  • integrate with iCloud; the account chosen will be the account HomePod is hooked to with messages, notes, and reminders as well as the Apple Music subscription. 
  • have touch controls that affect volume, Siri, play/pause, and skipping.
  • have privacy settings built in. The HomePod is designed to only listen when you say, "Hey Siri."
  • have good power efficiency.
  • yield to your iPhone when you request Siri.
  • have room sensing technology to give you the best listening experience it can.

 

It Doesn't...

  • work as a bluetooth speaker, although you can connect and play your music from Spotify if the iOS device and HomePod are on the same wifi network.
  • give you calendar notifications.
  • have Home Sharing; the ability to access and play your iTunes music that wasn't purchased through the iTunes store.
  • pair with Android devices.
  • recognize different voices.
  • have an auxiliary jack to allow connection of unsupported devices like older iPod Classics or Android devices.
  • have the ability to make dialing calls without your phone.
  • have the ability to answer obscure questions, play games or tell jokes.

 

Though it has limitations, the HomePod promises a great sound and powerful features for Apple users that have been long awaiting a smart speaker.

Feel free to contact us if you have questions or if you'd like assistance in hooking up your new HomePod!

Digital Vigilance

As the year comes to a close, we are seeing a significant uptick in rogue emails that appear to be coming from vendors and clients requesting payment, or a click to update terms etc. If you look closely though, the addresses and websites really don't match the real thing.

We suspect you will also begin to see emails that appear to be related to the new tax legislation along with a myriad of other topics that may appear legitimate.

Please be extra careful with your email right now as you work to wrap up the year, spend time with friends and family and open a new year. This is a hectic time and there are bad people that prey upon our holiday spirit and some of the confusion that accompanies this time of year.

As always, feel free to forward any suspect emails to us. We will be happy to look them over and advise.

Evernote....Endless Possibilities

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I have a student who just started her first year of Pharmacy school this past fall. Besides the huge tuition, they had an additional “small” requirement of a bright shiny new iPad. They do everything on the iPad – from note taking and filing to taking tests. Being a Certified Evernote Consultant, I initially wanted to set her up with a new Evernote account to take notes and store all her important documents.

My enthusiasm wasn’t matched by my laid back student. I researched, downloaded and tested all the best note-taking apps and how they interacted with Evernote. I wanted to get in and set up all the glorious folders and tags.  My attempts to show her everything she could do was met with a cold, “Uh-huh,” and “Whatever.” She told me she would figure it out as she went. Much to my discomfort, I had to relinquish control and let her follow her own path.

After the first day came all the questions…”How do I do this and that?” “What do I use?” followed by a “This is frustrating!”

Of course I am an hour away and couldn't access her iPad to help her navigate it. Again, I researched her questions and answered what I could and let her struggle through it. I know it is hard to believe, but I am not a control freak. However, it was still hard to dump her into the deep end to see if she could swim–-even at her age.

Then an amazing thing happened…she did swim and she left me clinging to the wall!

While she was home for the Thanksgiving holiday, she showed me how she had set up her workflow. She developed a personalized system that is working for her.

She has always been a Google Docs/Google Drive kind of student. I think it comes from having used it all through middle school and high school. She likes it better simply because she is more familiar with it.

However, Evernote was not left in the dust. 

She has been using Evernote as her note taking app….Amazing!! She prefers the way you can use the Apple Pencil and type in a single note in Evernote. She can now type some notes and draw her chemistry models all in one note! She can also use Evernote with all her devices and access it anywhere and her notes will be safely stored in a cloud-based system. After seeing her process, I commandeered the help of my SideKick team, and we dug in and figured out a simple way to export the notes into Google Drive…and… Voila! A perfect symbiotic relationship was formed.

Why tell this story? I was reminded that everyone uses Evernote very differently. It is such a flexible tool and the possibilities with Evernote are endless. How can it make your life better? I would love to help you discover the best way to implement this powerful tool. 

Let’s talk!

Your SideKick, Sara

High Sierra Security Vulnerability

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This afternoon a security flaw only in the MacOS High Sierra 10.13.1 release was pointed out to Apple by a user on Twitter. The vulnerability allows someone who has physical control of the computer to access the System Administrator without having to enter a password. With access to this user, a person can have gain control of all computer files, passwords, and accounts.

It has been confirmed by other tech news outlets. Apple has not released a patch fix at this time. Contact SideKick Solutions if you are running High Sierra on your system or if your computer has been lost. 

Stay tuned here for upcoming news as more unfolds.

KRACK Wi-Fi Vulnerability

We want to let all of our partners know that we are closely following the recently revealed Wi-Fi vulnerability known as KRACK (Key Reinstallation Attack).  This is potentially a serious security risk but we do expect Apple and other vendors to release security updates in the next few days and weeks.  We strongly encourage everyone to minimize or avoid using Wi-Fi in public places such as hotels, planes and coffee shops.  It is also a good idea to turn off your wireless networking on devices when they are not in use.  

What it is?

  • Right now it is a vulnerability, meaning a hacker could break into your wireless connection.  They could then either listen to what your doing, present to be the web site your want to access or put their information on your computer.

What can happen?

  • Sniffing - An attacker can look at the network traffic on your device and see non-encrypted traffic such as unsecured web sites.  
  •  Hijacking - This type off attack would come from very advanced hackers who would pretend to the the server you are connected to.  
  • Malware - The most common type of attack would occur where attackers try to install software on your computer to take your personal information.  
  • Internet enabled devices - Devices such are thermostats, managed lighting and appliances may be at risk.

What is NOT affected?

  • Secured web connections such as banking and Gmail.  Just look for the green lock in your web browser’s address bar. 
  • Cellular Data.  If your Wi-Fi is off, your device is not at risk.
  • Wired ethernet is not affected.

What you can do?

  • Keep your computers and phones patched and up to date.  
  • Make sure phone or iPad is running iOS 10 or newer.
  • Check your Macintosh to make sure it is running Mac OS 10.11 (El Capitan) or newer (Sierra is 10.12).
  • Avoid public Wi-Fi.  
  • Stay informed & stay tuned.  We are following this problem closely.
  • Use wired ethernet connections as often as possible.
  • Turn off your wireless when you don’t need it.

More information:

http://www.zdnet.com/article/wpa2-security-flaw-lets-hackers-attack-almost-any-wifi-device/
https://9to5mac.com/2017/10/16/wifi-wpa2-hacked/

iPhone 8 Hands On Review

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I am posting my first impressions of the new iPhone 8. This was an accidental upgrade because my iPhone 7 was "misplaced" during a recent motorcycle trip. I'm still hoping someone finds it.

First of all, I wasn't faced with the temptation of the iPhone X. An immediate replacement was necessary and the X wasn't available when I needed it. Luckily the iPhone 8 shares the same processor as the iPhone X and their speed is a noticeable improvement over the iPhone 7. 

The iPhone 7 and the iPhone 8 look nearly identical. My old case fits and that was a surprise. There is a small difference in dimensions, so this won't be true of every case on the market. 

There is a new type of glass on the 8, and it now has a glass back. This glass is supposed to be much stronger than before, though I did not test that claim. This makes the 8 a little bit heavier than the 7, but it is barely noticeable. The glass back enables the 8 to use wireless charging. I tried it, and it works, albeit a little slower.

Along with the glass, the display has been improved to include Apple's True Tone technology that adapts to the surrounding light and provides better color balance. This is subtle, but there is a pleasant difference, especially when compared to its predecessor. While the new display is not a game changer, it is nice to have.

I haven't used the camera enough to make a judgement yet. The optics on the 8 are the same as the 7, but according to published reports, the new Image Signal Processor improves the camera image and video capture.

The final item is battery life. My experience has been a longer lasting charge, but that is often true of a new phone with a new battery. I expect the battery life to be about the same as the 7. The new wired fast-charge feature is a welcome feature and is noticeable when you plug it in the car between stops.

All in all, I like the iPhone 8. If you are happy with your iPhone 7, I wouldn't say this is a "must have" upgrade. If you lose your old iPhone however, or just want the latest gear, the iPhone 8 brings a lot of improvements just beneath the hood.

Dwayne