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February 24th, 2014

Boy was I surprised this morning when I found this “Funeral notification” in my inbox!  I wondered, who in Florida would have the foresight to tell the local funeral home to send me an email about their impending “life service celebration” to be held later this afternoon.   Being naturally skeptical of emails like this, I took a closer look at the email below and here’s what I found.

  • The email address…. @fieltorcedor.com.br – The .br at the end of the domain name means it’s that’s probably registered to a Brazilian company or a someone who lives in Brazil.  The Hubbell Funeral Home’s domain name is actually hubbellfuneralhome.com as one might expect.
  • The “link” would have taken me to a restaurant in Peru.  Probably their website has been “hacked” and is being used to spread malware.
  • The text in this email isn’t written well. “Please follow this link to get funeral invitation. Please be there to honor the memory of your friend with her closest people.” I’m not being judgmental here, but it is *supposed* to be an email from a business.  The grammar is bad and the wording is stilted.
  • I don’t want to find out that a friend died through an email from the funeral home, but if she gave you my email with instructions to tell me about the “life service celebration”, the least you can do is tell me who died!

If you did get this email and you did click on the link, your computer is probably infected with some malware or a virus now.
funeral notice
Who’s got your back when it comes to protecting your PCs and network?
If it’s not us, we should talk ASAP. Call us 203.987.4566 or email us sales@virtualdensity.com

March 20th, 2013

Security_March06_BMost people are conscious of their personal safety.  We lock the doors at night and when we leave home.  WE put on seat belts and look both ways when crossing the street.  Yet, when it comes to online security, most folks are content with a virus scanner, and do little about securing their personal data stored online.

If a grocery store clerk asks for your home address and phone number, you’d likely ask why they need it. Online however, we usually provide it without a second thought. We should be taking steps to protect our personal information instead of handing it out like candy.

Here’s three things you can do to help secure your personal data shared online.

1. Realize your online actions are risky
Read any tech related blog, or even syndicated news articles and it’s not hard to see that identity theft and cybercrime in general is not only serious, but on the rise.  As with any plan, the first step is realizing that there is a problem.  Once you’ve acknowledged that there is a problem the next step is to educate yourself about online security and what steps you should take.

2. Take matters into your own hands

Many people already know their personal information online is at risk, but there are further things you should do to minimize any dangers:

  1. Don’t rely on websites to keep you secure - Companies, online and brick and mortar, exist to make money. How do they do it? Sometimes, it’s by selling information you have given them or given them access to. Look at all the sites you have accounts with and ensure your information is secure to the level you are happy with.
  2. Provide the least amount of information possible - Think about the last time you joined a social network, or mailing list. You likely were asked to provide your name, address, birthday, etc. Often, you don’t have to provide all the information requested, just the highlighted or asterisked items are required.
  3. Think twice before signing up – It’s a good idea when signing up for a new account to think twice. Do you really need this account? Or can you get by without it?
  4. Use separate email accounts and passwords - Setting up different email accounts is a good idea. One should be for personal use, so the address is given only to people you know. Another could be for all of your online accounts, with a final one strictly for password recovery. It would be best to make the addresses as different as possible.You should have separate passwords for each account and every service. This will limit hackers from being able to gain access to multiple accounts.
  5. Secure your browsing – Almost every website that asks users to sign up for accounts offers a secure version of the site. Enter https://www. before the site address, e.g., https://www.facebook.com. https is a secure communications protocol that ensures one is communicating directly with the website – you’re actually looking at Facebook, not a phishing site designed to steal passwords.

3. Encourage others to think
It’s not enough to just take action yourself. Encouraging colleagues, friends and family to also take steps to protect their online information and identities, is worthwhile. There are many great ways to help spread the word about safety, including the National Cyber Security www.staysafeonline.org, which has even more information.

If you would like to learn about how we can help you keep your information and data safe online, please contact us today at 203.987.4566 or by email at sales@virtualdensity.com  for a comprehensive solution!

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.
March 5th, 2013

SocialMedia_Feb12_BAs a species we are social creatures, needing relationships to survive. That’s likely why social media websites are so successful. They give us a way to interact with others, even when we are physically alone. Organizations have found that social media sites are great marketing tools that can build a brand better than almost any other method. One social media use, often overlooked, is learning more about a job applicant coming for an interview.

Here’s three steps you can employ to learn a bit more about potential hires before they come in for an interview.

1. Google them
Googling yourself can be seen as an exercise in vanity, however putting a potential new hire’s name into Google Search is smart. You can enter their name along with specific queries that can help you narrow information down. One thing you can do is enter their name with double quotes around it and the city they are based in, this will help you find their presence on related social media sites. You can also input their area code or zip code to narrow down the search.

The point of this is to help you find more information about the person without having to search on individual social media sites. This will also return results like photo albums, recent account activity and maybe even some hobbies and interest groups. Searching on Google and other search engines is a good way to see if the prospective employee is legitimate.

2. Take a look on Facebook
Almost everyone and their dog are on Facebook today, so don’t forget to search for them on this popular service. And the recently announced Graph Search should make searching a lot easier too. Enter their name, along with some specific interests or information from the resume and the chances of finding this person’s profile go up.

While some would argue the ethics of doing this, you may see information or posts that conflict with information in their resume, or even paint a better picture of the applicant. For example, you can ask them about their family when they come in for an interview. It could prove to be a great ice breaker. And in terms of ethics, any information an applicant posts in public is findable and therefore fair game to use in assessing them and their fit within your organization.

3. LinkedIn
Most social media sites focus on the social aspect of people’s lives, while LinkedIn focuses on the more career and professional oriented areas. Searching for the candidate on LinkedIn can often shed more light on their history, and may even showcase common links between you and them. If you notice that the candidate worked for a previous employee or a professional contact of yours, you could contact that person to see if they have any thoughts about the candidate.

Researching your future employees and contractors is a good idea because it can help you learn more about them than you might otherwise do from just an interview. It also may give you a deeper understanding of whether they would be a good fit for the company. If you would like to learn more about how you can leverage social media in your company please contact Chris Furey or Jenn Morandi at Virtual Density today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.
September 7th, 2012

There are many different ways a company can sell their products to customers, and one of the most underutilized is selling through social media. From one-man operations to multinational corporations, social media should be an integral part of marketing strategies. For many small businesses, social media is a new frontier that they can use to push forward sales.

Using social media to advertise or sell products and services, commonly called ‘social selling’, should be an integral part of your marketing and sales promotions. Here are five reasons why your sales force should be social.

  1. Cost effective. Of the main marketing and sales pipelines, social media is by-far the most cost effective way to connect with people and build a solid marketing funnel.
  2. Level playing field. The best thing about social media is that there’s no size requirement. One man companies can benefit in exactly the same way as multinational corporations. With a well crafted and executed plan, you could see your company achieve Internet fame and increased revenue as a result.
  3. Less investment of time. Marketing and sales is a full time job, and using a website or other technical mediums requires the time of other departments as well. With social media, sales people can run campaigns themselves thereby reducing the demands on other departments.
  4. Highly trackable. Social networks like Facebook and Google+ have built in analytics making it easy to track nearly anything related to social media sales. If a mistake is made changes can be made quickly and results will show instantly.
  5. Drives loyalty and brand presence. With successful social media interactions, customers will often be more loyal as they feel a connection with the brand and will be less willing to change to buy from other companies. Social media also gives customers a chance to truly let you know how they feel, and other customers can see this. Visible comments are one of the most effective ways to build brand identity.

Using social media to encourage and support social selling is a great way for small businesses to not only grow their business but also market their brand. If you’re not using social media in your company, or would like to know more about how social media can help your business grow, please contact us. We do it every day and we’ll be happy to discuss your needs and get you off on the right foot.

June 6th, 2012

Social media, an unknown topic 10 years ago, has literally transformed the way we interact with one another. Companies now place as much, or more time, on their online presence than their physical presence. Facebook is leading the charge, and is constantly giving its users new ways to interact. A new update to its group pages now allows members to share files.

With the update, there’ll be a new files tab added to a group’s page. Members will be able to upload and share files with all members in the group. When you click on the publication box, you’ll now have the option of uploading a file to share with the group. You’ll be able to upload files up to a maximum of 25 megabytes in size. The majority of file types can be uploaded, however, music files won’t be allowed.

Groups can currently create and edit documents within the Group page, although these documents can’t be exported to a word processor or be printed. The new feature covers this hole but does not allow online editing at this time. To edit a file, users will have to download it to edit it and reupload it when they’re done. The edited file won’t replace the old version, allowing for reversal of changes if need be.

Will Facebook be the death of cloud collaboration services like Dropbox? It’s too early to tell, but, it does provide Facebook users with an enclosed sharing solution that all users will have access to. If you’d like to learn more about ways you can use Facebook in your organization, please contact us.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.
June 5th, 2012

In 2009, the video game industry recorded revenues of $60.4 billion dollars, double that of the movie industry. One of the biggest draws to games is not the story or gameplay, it’s the competition and sense of achievement one gets when they beat their friend’s score, or a hard level. Many businesses have started applying game mechanics to non-game situations.

The term to describe this trend is gamification, but what is it, and how can businesses use it?

What is gamification?
Gamification is the application of game design techniques and mechanics to non-game applications. Foursquare and its badges is a good example of this – users check in at locations to earn points, unlock badges and compete with their friends. Do they win anything? Nothing physical, but there’s something satisfying with competing with other people to be the best.

While gamification got its start with technological related operations, it has since been integrated by businesses of all sizes. Business that have adopted elements of gamification have seen improved user engagement and ROI.

How can businesses leverage gamification?
Gamification is interesting because it can be applied in a variety of different business situations. For example, here are three such uses:

  • To increase employee engagement. It can be hard at times to keep your employees engaged while they’re doing mundane tasks. One of the most common uses of gamification is deploying badges to act as a motivator to encourage employees to put effort into their job. When an employee reaches a predetermined level they are recognized for their achievement. This will go a long way in improving engagement.
  • To create brand advocates. You can use gamification to turn your customers and fans into brand advocates. Before they start singing your praises, they need to be given a reason to do so. The best way to do this is to create a points/reward system. For actions such as purchases or reviews, customers gain points that can be spent on other services. Think of it as akin to the points system used by credit card companies.
  • To generate traffic. Many SMBs are dependent on their websites for revenue but struggle to get traffic to their site. Gamification techniques can be employed to encourage people to spend more time on, and return to, your website, almost like a modern loyalty program.

There are many uses for gamification and we’ll continue to see new and innovative ways to deploy it in organizations. If you’re interested in ways you can implement aspects of gamification in your business, or would like to learn more, we are here happy to sit down with you for a chat. Please contact us.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

 

January 6th, 2012

Some companies have decided to tap into the phenomenon of social networking to create similar networks within their own organizations. While this can do wonders with the way every member of the business communicates with each other, it’s important to have proper and specific rules that pertain to its use.

With the waves created by social networking in how companies do business nowadays, many have also utilized the same principle to develop internal social networks to enhance their in-house communications as well. However, the use of this new medium of communication also requires that companies develop new policies to cover its use.

One concern that may leave you apprehensive about creating an internal social network might be the fear that it could be abused by employees. However, reports have shown that introducing an in-house social network has produced generally positive results.

As long as company policies regarding the use of internal social networks are developed and implemented properly, employees will view such a network as an extension of the workplace, and will try to put their best foot forward. Such policies must specifically tackle the use of the internal social network, and many experts recommend revising existing company rules that govern the use of email, IT resources, and even external social networks. To be on the safe side, it's a good idea to consult with a lawyer to avoid any legal problems with the policy in the future.

Who's going to be in charge? Your managers, of course. Since the social network will be for company use, it follows that department heads should be given administrative duties and permissions which they will use for moderating communications and discussions in and pertaining do their respective sections.

While an internal social network can do wonders for your in-house communications, good policies and rules pertaining to its use will be what keep it working like a well-oiled machine.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

September 1st, 2011

Have you hit the wall and feel burned out by the social networking craze? Do you have a nagging feeling like you may be overexposed with too much personal information “out there” on sites you don’t even use anymore? Just think for a moment about all the web sites that asked you to register before they’d share content with you.

Most of us don’t give it a second thought, but once you register as a user on a site, you begin to leave a trail. And you leave behind valuable personal information that you really should clean up now and then. The best way to clean up and limit your exposure, is to delete yourself from those sites and opt out for good.

Registration based sites often ask you to provide answers to secret questions. If you’ve noticed that those questions look familiar, it’s because they are. Many sites use the same method of using those secret answers to allow you access to your password if you forget it or to let you change it. So anyone who hacks those answers in one place, is certainly free try to use them against you someplace else.

When Sarah Palin’s email account was hacked, it was publicly available biographical answers (like “what was your high school mascot?”) to secret password questions on other sites that let the hacker guess the answers to her challenge questions, change her Yahoo mail password and take over her account. Smart play if you’re a hacker because we all use the same true answers for these questions. And it’s that very truth that makes you vulnerable. Personally, I instruct my clients to do as I do and use lies and misinformation that I’ve invented for just such use.

So what should YOU do? Well whether you want to opt out because you’re done with a site or service, or just want to limit your online risk, the process of removing yourself is the same. It starts by deleting your unwanted account and all the personal information that it contains.

Every site you register for gives you a method to remove yourself. But the steps you take will differ from site to site. Luckily, there’s a neat site called DeleteYourAccount that shows you step by step, in advance, exactly what you’ll need to do to remove yourself from many online sites.

DeleteYourAccount makes it easy to take control and delete unwanted accounts yourself. It has a large database of websites that require accounts. You can search for your name and locate accounts you’ve probably forgotten you created. You’ll get a direct link to that site’s account deactivation page. And instructions are provided if any special steps are required. More websites are being added to the database all the time. Check it out for yourself at http://www.deleteyouraccount.com