Don’t Let Your Small Business Fall Prey to Phishers, Scammers, and Credit Card Fraudsters

If you hear about identity theft in the news, it’s often in the context of individuals impersonating other individuals. But while consumers are often protected by stringent identity theft protection laws, the situation can be a lot murkier when somebody tries to impersonate your business.
 
Because they need to make themselves visible to prospective customers, businesses are compelled to share with the public a lot of information that individuals tend to keep private, such as their phone number and address. All an identity thief has to do is open up a mailbox in your shared office building, fake up some letterhead, and obtain your business license number — something many businesses are required by law to display — and they’re well on their way to opening up credit card accounts in your name, filing purchase orders, and running up bills that will eventually come to you.
 
So what can you do to prevent small business identity theft? 
  1. Review your business credit report regularly.
  2. Go over employee charge card billing statements with a fine-toothed comb before they are paid, especially if you’ve issued multiple cards for a single account.
  3. Educate employees to be on the lookout for phishers and phone and email scammers. People who would never think to open a suspicious-looking email in their personal inbox might not hesitate to turn over your Federal Tax Identification Number and names of key executives to someone posing as a vendor or a government representative. 
  4. Once an employee leaves the company, make sure you immediately cut off access to all your IT resources. Unfortunately, a lot of identity theft is still an “inside job.”
  5. Lock up your data! Install a business-class firewall, encrypt your network, assign access privileges sparingly, and perform regular updates to your security software.
According to security firm Panda Security, a shocking percentage of small businesses haven’t taken very basic steps to secure their data assets. A recent survey showed that “97 percent of U.S. SMBs have installed anti-virus and 95 percent claim their security systems are up to date. Yet 29 percent said they have no anti-spam in place, 22 percent are without anti-spyware technology and 16 percent do not have firewalls. 52 percent said they have no web filtering solution in place. 39 percent of respondents said that they have yet to be trained about IT threats.” (See this article on CIOZone for more details: http://www.ciozone.com/index.php/Security/SMBs-a-Gold-Mine-for-Identity-Thieves.html)
 
Like a lot of security trends, this one will probably get worse before it gets better. But until every state enacts small business-protection laws on par with the ones recently enacted by the state of California (http://www.businessweek.com/bwdaily/dnflash/content/jul2009/db2009079_858536.htm), vigilance and a good cybersecurity plan for your small business are absolutely key.
 
CMIT Solutions offers anti-spam, antivirus, and anti-spyware protection as part of CMIT Marathon — our suite of monitoring and maintenance services that keep your IT systems up, running, and protected, 24/7. (For more information go to www.cmitsolutions.com/marathon.php) We can also set up firewalls and perform other network security measures to make your network safer.
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Most Profitable (Recession-Proof) Products

Since I was on maternity leave in Aug/Sept, I’m behind on some of my readings.  I found a great article from Channel Insider dated 9/23/08.  We are in a good space to be servicing technology as the economic slow down (or crisis if you want to see it that way) will not drastically affect the services we provide.  This article looks at the top 10 technologies that remain high in demand and produce healthy profits.

10. Point of Sales/Commerce Applications – Go Quickbooks – The CMIT family has many certified QB POS technicians so reach out and keep the business in the family.

9.  Network Infrastructure – as Sun Microsystems said “The network is the computer.”  Small Business owners need network connectivity more than ever and we will continue to deliver.

8.  Application Development – SharePoint anyone???  My expectation is that SharePoint development will take off this year and really help the small business.

7.  Enterprise Application – SMBs are realizing that the cheap open source products they started using don’t cut it.  They are now looking to pay for feature-rich and dynamic applications that help optimize business performance.

6.  Storage Solutions – I believe storage virtualization will grow in 2009 and beyond.  For now, leverage CMIT’s great prices with Dell or a managed hosted server through our partnership at Rackspace.

5.  Business Intelligence Software – There is an opportunity for software sales but most importantly, professional services opportunities which means longer engagements and higher margins!

4.  Mobility Solutions – Small Business owners will begin to make the entire office mobile so solutions for security and management will be on the rise.

3.  Managed Services – Channel Insider describes it as “white hot”.  CMIT was one of the first solution providers to start selling managed services in Q4 of 2006.  Less than 2 short years we have realized what a game changer it is for our industry.  Dell and other big players will help educate the market that proactive management is a MUST.  CMIT Marathon will continue to be a hot seller!

2.  Software as a Service (SaaS) – The ease of management and upgrades will keep this on the top of the list.  CMIT will continue to provide solutions like CMIT Anti-spam that make SaaS a key part of our services.

1.  Security – We were right about launching CMIT Guardian as our next product line.  This solution keeps the small business protected with an onsite and offsite backup strategy.  With a 2008 profitability rating of 31%, there is no better time than to promote CMIT Guardian.

What a good article!  Click here to view it for yourself.

Webinar Review – Enabling Today’s Key IT Challenges

I listened to a great webinar hosted by Ziff Davis and Dell today.  You can hear the recording at eSeminarsLive.  Michael Vizard, SVP, Editorial Director from Ziff Davis provided the top key IT challenges we face today.  Here are the highlights as I see them.

  1. Vista migration is still a concern but needs to be overcome.  Waiting for Windows 7 will not help much since it is based on the Vista platform.  There are very few compatibility concerns now and the integrated network design has much better security over XP.  Also, there is a learning curve so end-user training is needed.  CMIT clients should be added to our help desk to answer end-user questions!
  2. Utility Computing is coming!  My understanding is that you have the buzz word, Utility Computing as the main header.  Cloud computing and Software as a Service (SaaS) are buckets under this umbrella.  Cloud Computing is hosting hardware to make the environment more dynamic.  Software as a Service (SaaS) is the software applications that are hosted in the cloud.  You are already seeing SaaS getting adopted but hardware virtualization and managed hosting of hardware will become more and more common.  I would expect to see a hybrid of on premise and cloud computing happening now with more hardware virtualization options growing over the next 12 to 36 months.  SaaS has a shorter roll-out period with no in-house maintenance.  This has caused adoption to grow and will continue as security concerns are addressed.  Small businesses use SaaS primarily for email, web conferencing, e-commerce and professional services automation.  The ability to pay as you go and use it from anywhere will keep SaaS on the top of the list in 2009.
  3. Security remains a top concern and IT challenge.  Compliance continues to drive more spending in this area but it is hard to keep up.  The economic slow down will cause more regulations so CMIT needs to continue to advance this service offering.  I see professional service fees being spent in this area to document security practices.  CMIT Guardian will protect the small business data but consulting practices needs to be added to the Guardian package.
  4. There is an IT skill shortage.  Many technicians cannot keep up with current technologies.  CMIT Marathon really adds value by outsourcing the necessary but tedious tasks like anti-virus updating and asset management.
  5. Green IT is a growing request from small businesses.  It is more about cost savings than the environment.  Energy is the main expense for IT which is why companies are seriously looking at Cloud Computing.  CMIT already helps with Green IT by provisioning about 75% of issue resolution remotely.  CMIT could also help small business recycle their hardware and consolidate their servers.  What do you think about a packaged offering for Green IT?  This would include services for paper recycling, equipment recycling, server consolidation and virtualization.  Thoughts?
  6. Business Process Improvement (BPI) is what every small business is looks for, especially with the economic crisis we face today.  It is important for IT to be at the strategic meetings.  IT goals and planning should align with the overall business goals.  CMIT Marathon frees up time, resources and money so that more IT resources can be spend planning for future growth.

Then Dean Wade, Sr. Prod Manager from Dell Global Services spoke on Dell’s Modular Services Offering.  He only spoke about Desktop services.  First off, why is Dell calling it modular services?  You would think their marketers could have come up with something that indicates proactive management to keep desktops maintained and running… something like Marathon branding perhaps.  In the Q&A section of the webinar, he said that they have been offering these services for years and can be added to any desktop purchase today.  He also said that they target businesses with 5 to 10,000 users.  Wow! That is a range if I ever saw one.  So the good news is that Dell is getting the message out that businesses need to be using managed services to streamline business.  CMIT will be there to provide the local relationship and hands-on advice.

A good white paper on this topic can be found at event.on24.com.