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Holy Big Brother! Google Location History: An All Knowing Function You Probably Didn’t Know You’ve Enabled

Google Location History - IT Networks - Big Brother is Watching

Technology has changed our world forever. What’s the first thing you do before you get out of bed in the morning? Chances are it has something to do with your smartphone. These items open up worlds of possibilities but they can also bring issues and privacy conflicts with them. For this month’s IT article we bring you an article from our President and CEO Jeff Borello on the intersection of instant access (google) and user privacy (location sharing) – focusing on something called: Google Location History. Without further ado . . .

Holy Big Brother

Have you ever heard of Google Location History?

Yeah, me neither.

Let me start by saying I am not a guy that cares about intrusions on my privacy.  I don’t care if the government is listening to my phone calls or reading my Emails.  I figure I am not doing anything wrong – so if they are interested in my boring life – so be it.  Especially if it helps them catch some bad guys.

Now, with that said, even I was a little freaked out when I discovered how much Google and my Google App know about my daily movements.

These days, almost everyone has a Google login and is quite often signed into their account – especially from a mobile device.

So, let’s play a little game.  Where were you on January 17th at 4pm?  You probably don’t remember, but if you have location services enabled on your device . . . Google does.

Google Location History is a comprehensive (and by that I mean every detail imaginable) history of places you have visited as tracked and logged by your smartphone’s GPS function.  Besides being comprehensive, it also has a very long memory – like years.

Give this a try to see if Google Location History is enabled on your phone.

  • From a desktop browser, go to Maps.google.com (from your phone you need to open the Google Maps App)
  • Sign in to your Google account (if you aren’t already).  Top right-hand corner will either show a Letter (first letter of your login) or a Sign In button.
  • Click the 3-bar menu in the top left corner and select “Your Timeline”
  • If you see some bar graph data there, click the bar for a given day shown from the last month.
    • How long did it take you to get to work that day?
    • Where did you have lunch?
    • Did you walk anywhere during the day?
    • Did you take any pictures?  (Yes, those might be logged in there as well)

See a screenshot below of my recent trip to Nashville.  Yep, lunch at Monell’s (great place BTW) from 12:25 to 2:06 and dinner at 9:14 at the Peg Leg Porker BBQ

Google Location History - IT Networks - IT Quick Tips

Walking, driving, flying.  It knows and records those differently.

So, the obvious question is why on earth would you want something this invasive turned on?  The answer is convenience.  As often is the case, to gain some convenience you need to give up some privacy.

It is this information that Google uses to help you throughout your day.  It will inform you of traffic issues based on your travel habits and places you may visit often.  The more information the system has on you, the more helpful an AI-powered app (Google Assistant) can be.

Okay, I have Google Location History turned on. Now what?

The good news is you do have control over this.  If you aren’t comfortable being tracked, you can turn this feature off.  From the Timeline there is an option to Pause that feature, which in effect disables it until you turn it back on.  You can also delete your entire location history as well, or just delete individual entries if you wish.

Of course, as long as the GPS is enabled on your phone, there are still plenty of apps out there that could be tracking you.  Only truly private solution is to disable the GPS completely (which probably causes you more issues than you think) or just leave your phone at home (yeah, right).

Is Google Location History too much an invasion on your privacy?  That is for you to decide but at least now you’re aware you are under the microscope.

Happy travelling.

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3 Critical Steps You MUST Take To Avoid WannaCry And Ransomware Like It

wannacry ransomware prevention

Last month the world was hit by one of the largest cyber security attacks in history- affecting more than 200,000 organizations in 150 countries. WannaCry ransomware, the perpetrator of this attack, took advantage of outdated patches and software licenses. Infected computers and business owners risked losing critical data if they didn’t pay the ransom.

ransomware lock screen

As cyber security & prevention experts, we are happy to report that not a single client of Andromeda Technology Solutions was affected by this attack because of our security protocols and procedures. The same can’t be said for Cook County.

Industry experts predict that this ransomware attack will hit again. Tech experts remain unsure how the new approach might be deployed – in a similar fashion or with a new “2.0” virus. While the specifics of future cyber security attacks are uncertain, we know some things for sure. Proper protocol is CRITICAL for data security and the safety of your business.

Ransomware: The Numbers **

  • Almost 50% of Small Businesses have experienced some form of cyber attack
  • MORE than 70% of attacks target Small Business
  • As many as 60% of small businesses that experience a data breach go out of business within 6 months.

These numbers are scary. Cyber security demands the attention of business owners globally and the efforts of hackers/cyber criminals are only increasing. These criminals want your money and they don’t care about the damage left behind.

That being said, there is hope and there are measures you can take to prevent your business from becoming a victim of ransomware.

3 Security Protocols You MUST Implement Immediately For The Safety Of Your Data, Your Business AND Your Wallet . . .

  1. Update ALL Microsoft Licenses to Windows 7 At A Minimum & Maintain Up To Date Security Patching – Cyber criminals are no dummies. WannaCry and other viruses like it take advantage of out of date licenses. Too often, business owners sacrifice the security of their network because they don’t want to go through the grief of updating to the latest Microsoft License. Andromeda recommends updating ALL PC’s to Windows 7 at a minimum and, more importantly, make sure you perform regular patch and security updates.
  2. Test & Verify ALL Data Backups – When is the last time you tested and verified your backups? Are you backing up your data at all? How long would it take your current IT provider to get you back up in running in the event of a disaster (virtualization time)? It is a FACT . . . you will be hit by some form of ransomware, malware or virus. The real question becomes, do you have the protocols in place to defend and beat the attack? One of the most important things you can do to safeguard yourself is perform regular backups. (We recommend daily at a minimum). A cybercriminal can’t hold your data hostage if you follow this simple practice. AND – don’t accept a verbal confirmation your data continuously remains backed up as proof. Your IT partner should provide you regular, real time, proof that your data is backed up securely and that it can be visualized in an agreed upon length of time. If your IT provider can’t give these stats and proofs to you, time to find a new partner.
  3. ransomware phishing emailEducate Your Team On How These Attacks Work And Where They Come From – Every office has that one employee that will click on ANYTHING (hopefully it isn’t you). Continued education is one of the first lines of defense against these attacks. Employees should know:
    1. What to look out for
    2. What phishing scams look like
    3. What to do when they suspect an email or link is suspect
    4. NEVER to check personal email at work
    5. Etc.

Proper spam filters set by your IT group should prevent the majority of these emails from getting to your inbox. However, it only takes ONE CLICK and an entire network is infected before you know what happened.

Ransomware Prevention constantly changing, be sure to stay on top of newest trends

When all is said and done, cyber security is an everyday battle. Hackers and criminals will keep attacking until you don’t have something they want. These 3 Security protocols are only the tip of the iceberg and should be part of a multiphase approach implemented by your internal staff and your IT partner. If you have any questions, please reach out to a representative at Andromeda today.

If you’ve found this article on ransomware prevention interesting, you might also want to consider attending our upcoming Executive Lunch & Learn Seminar.

**Statistics sourced from the National Cyber Security Alliance

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Stop These 3 Hazardous File Sharing Habits Yesterday!

file sharing tips with ATS IT Managed Services

File sharing is an essential portion of any business. It is the way we get information from one person to another. BUT, it can also be the way hackers gain access to your sensitive information – files or, worst of all, confidential data.

If you’re using Dropbox, OneDrive, Google Drive, or other consumer-grade file sharing  and cloud sync applications – or if you depend on file sharing of any kind to run your business (hint . . . you do)- listen up!

Here are 3 habits you should break yourself and your staff of immediately.

Top 3 File Sharing Habits to Break

1) Using Consumer Grade Solutions . . .

Consumer grade solutions are just that . . . consumer grade. You aren’t a ‘consumer’, you’re a business owner with sensitive data to protect. With more and more employees/businesses depending on BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) as well as the ability to access files any time & any place, it is important that your file sharing system is professional grade. Look for enterprise grade security options like SSL Encrypted Transfer, Firewall Protection, Password Protection and Virus Scanning.

2) Emailing Files Without Proper Encryption . . .

You may not care if a hacker gets a hold of your grocery list or photos of the family dog, but when it comes to confidential data such as financial statements, medical records or other sensitive materials, it is safe to say you cannot afford criminals sniffing through your files. For this reason, NEVER send files via email without proper encryption. Business grade email and proper practices can nip this in the butt. You’d be amazed how many files fall into the laps of cyber criminals this way though.

3) Using Flash Drives…

You spend time and hard earned resources to protect your network from outside threats . . . only to destroy everything when you innocently plug in an infected flash drive you picked up innocuously enough at a trade show. Flash drives bypass security systems you have in place and may run automatically without being checked for infection by your antivirus solution. If you must continue using flash drives . . . at a minimum update your antivirus to prohibit autorun and mandate scans to all USB-attached devices when plugged into your PCs.