Cyber criminals have started targeting a new demographic within recent years: travelers. When preparing for a trip, cyber security is probably the last thing on your mind. However, not taking cyber security into account while traveling puts both vacationers and business travelers at a higher risk for a cyber attack while away from home.

Whether you find yourself waiting at an airport, working from a hotel room, or taking a road trip with your family, you should always consider the best cyber security practices for travelers. Ready to bring cyber security to the forefront of your travel plans? Follow our expert tips to help protect your data and digital devices while away from home.

Cyber Security Risks for Travelers

When people travel, they often think about everything but cyber security. You have to pack, make arrangements for house sitting, and plan for transportation, lodging, meals, activities, and more. But why isn’t device security also a top priority for travelers?

Traveling puts you in an unfamiliar environment where you often have less control over your surroundings, including your digital environment. You’re busy and distracted, and it’s easier to do what’s most convenient, even if it’s not as safe.

Not only do travelers often engage in risky behaviors, such as connecting to public Wi-Fi, but they also keep a huge amount of valuable data close at hand. Most people carry their smartphones with them wherever they go, and laptops are a necessity for today’s traveling business professionals. Travelers also often carry passports, credit card information, lodging details, and more.

Cyber criminals are taking advantage of these circumstances. Transportation was the second-highest industry for cyber attacks, according to the 2019 IBM X-Force Threat Intelligence Index.

5 Best Cyber Security Practices for Travelers

The key to maintaining cyber security is to be vigilant about both the physical and digital safety of your devices, whether you’re at home or away. With a little effort and planning, you can follow these 5 best cyber security practices for travelers.

1. Be Cautious of Public Wi-Fi

The easiest way to keep from getting hacked is to limit public access to your phone. By simply not tapping into a public Wi-Fi network, you become the first line of defense to your own resources.

While public Wi-Fi is convenient and appealing for most travelers, these networks can put users at a higher risk for a cyber attack. Be vigilant when sleuthing out an encrypted network. Don’t shy away from asking hotel management questions about their cyber security in place for guest users.

Even private Wi-Fi networks hosted by hotels and other hotspots for travelers are susceptible to cyber attacks, since hackers know that there will be many people there. Hotel News Now reports that the Marriott International and the Drury Hotel were among the many establishments to suffer a data breach in the last two years. Millions of people had their contact information and credit card numbers stolen as a result.

Take precautions when accessing any networks while you’re away from home. If you decide to use public Wi-Fi, avoid logging into personal accounts that contain private data or accessing sensitive company information. If possible, always use public Wi-Fi with a VPN for added security.

2. Keep Your Tech Locked Up

One of the best cyber security practices for travelers is actually one of the easiest: lock up your tech! This advice considers two key parts of your tech’s security: its physical safety and its digital safety.

Physical Safety for Devices

Read this infographic or continue with our blog post to learn the best cyber security practices for travelers' devices.

Make sure all of your devices are securely fastened within your luggage. Be wary of slipping your phone into a side pocket, as it’s easy for someone to reach in and grab it. While you want to be able to access your devices easily, you don’t want to put them at risk for theft or unauthorized use.

Consider placing any phones, tablets, or laptops in zipper-close, opaque pockets and purchasing a backpack lock. An electronic organizer could be beneficial for keeping all of your electronic devices in one place and keeping you from digging through your luggage in a pinch.

Digital Safety for Devices

You also need to digitally limit an unknown user’s access to your devices. A vital step in protecting your privacy is to have some form of authentication for each device, if not two-factor authentication for even greater security.

Luckily, cellphones and computers typically have built-in authentication programs. These include Apple’s Touch ID feature, as well as the facial recognition features available on iPhones and some Android devices.

Even if your devices don’t have these specific features, there are several options for digital protection. Set an alphabetic, numeric, or patterned code to limit the access to your phone or tablet. Always create strong passwords for your computers and digital accounts.

Password Tips

Here are a few tips to help you come up with stronger passwords:

  • The longer, the better. A lengthy password can better protect your device or account. If possible, the ideal password will be at least 15 characters.
  • Use a mixture of characters. Try using a combination of lowercase and uppercase letters, numbers, and symbols. Some devices or accounts require you only use certain special characters, so keep these rules in mind.
  • Don’t go the easy route. Avoid commonly used phrases, recognizable words, or any personally identifying information, such as your birthday or child’s name. Most hackers can do a quick social media search to find this information and play the guessing game when it comes to figuring out your password.
  • Consider using a password generator. This will contribute to the randomness of the password, making it more difficult to crack. Password managers often include password generator features, while also giving you a place to securely store these hard-to-remember passwords.

3. Disable Risky Features

Read this infographic or continue with our blog post to learn which features you should disable as part of the best cyber security practices for travelers.

Several of the features that may help you at home carry different risks on the road. As such, one of the best cyber security practices for travelers involves disabling these risky features during trips.

Auto Connect

Even if you decide to use public Wi-Fi, make sure you disable the auto connect capabilities on your devices. While auto connect is a convenient feature when using the internet at your house, it’s good practice to require a manual connection whenever a device has access to public Wi-Fi. This gives you the opportunity to investigate a public network before choosing whether or not to connect to it.

Bluetooth Connectivity

Disable Bluetooth Connectivity, as shown here, as part of the best cyber security practices for travelers.

Most devices have Bluetooth capabilities, yet many users are unfamiliar with exactly how Bluetooth works. While you’re thinking the Bluetooth feature is a great way to connect all of your devices together, a hacker sees it as an entryway into your phone or computer. Similar to the auto connect feature, Bluetooth connectivity is perfectly fine when you’re using all of your devices at home. However, when you’re traveling, it’s best to consider limiting Bluetooth usage and turn it off when not in use.

Location Sharing

It’s understandable that you may want your loved ones to keep tabs on you while you’re traveling. Maybe you just want to give your family and friends a peek into your on-the-road adventure. Although it is becoming commonplace to share your location through your phone or computer, it might not be the best cyber security practice while traveling.

Weigh the costs when sharing your location. This feature opens you up not only for a cyber attack, but also a physical one. Criminals can get information on where you are and where your hotel room is, leaving you vulnerable to theft or a physical attack. Limiting the amount of location sharing you do while traveling is an important step to keeping you and your belongings safe.

4. Install Antivirus Protection

This may seem like an obvious suggestion, but it can be all too easy to overlook in the hustle and bustle of preparing for a trip. Antivirus software is an added layer of defense that helps protect your device at all times, even while you’re away from home.

Evaluate the most powerful antivirus softwares on the market when making your decision. If you’ll be bringing work devices on a trip, check in with your company about providing antivirus software. Keep your devices up to date with the latest features from their antivirus software, and install any updates before leaving home.

5. Update Device Software Before You Go

No matter if you’re bringing a smartphone, tablet, or laptop, you want to keep the most current version of your software updated before heading out for your trip. Some devices are programmed to update once connected to a Wi-Fi network, which means your device would try to download new software the moment you connect to a public network outside of your home.

First, if possible, disable this feature to prevent any software updates over a public connection. This allows you to maintain more control over your device and prevent unwanted access. Next, install new versions of software at home before you leave for your trip.

If you are unable to do this, stop any software downloads before they start and wait until you return home to complete installation. A word of caution: not installing the most recent version of software onto your device might cause performance issues until the device is updated. You want your time away from home to be easy and effortless, and an update could strongly improve your experience with your devices.

Get the Best Cyber Security Anywhere with Guardian Computer

Whether your business needs IT services on premises or for remote workers, Guardian Computer is here to help. From cyber security to network configuration, cloud management, regulatory compliance, help desk support, and much more, our experts are available for one-off projects as well as ongoing management, maintenance, and support.

Get in touch with us today to learn more about the advanced protection, strategic digital transformation, and friendly IT support we provide.

Whether you’re grocery shopping, working at a coffee shop, or waiting in an airport, public WiFi is a convenient way to hop online. Unfortunately, it’s also a risky one. Hackers take advantage of the lax security and easy access that often accompanies public WiFi.

If you need to connect to public WiFi, you should take precautions to maintain the security of your device and information. A VPN, or Virtual Private Network, is one of the most common privacy measures for public WiFi usage. But many users still wonder, is it safe to use public WiFi with a VPN? Are there any risks?

While VPNs are generally considered an essential security tool for remote work and other public network usage, there are weaknesses that can still leave your work and personal data vulnerable to cybercriminals. Keep reading to learn more about using VPNs, their security benefits and shortcomings, and our expert tips for using public WiFi.

What Makes Public WiFi Risky?

On an unsecured network, hackers may be able to spy on the information you send, such as when you enter a password or credit card information on a website. They may even be able to monitor the keystrokes you make on your keyboard, allowing them to record your logins or private conversations.

Cybercriminals can also circulate malware or launch worm attacks over unsecured WiFi. Even public WiFi networks that require a password aren’t safe if that same password is readily available to anyone in the establishment, such as a coffee shop or doctor’s office.

What Is a VPN?

A VPN allows a user’s devices to connect to a private network over a public network. VPNs were created to securely connect devices within a business network to private internet servers. They allow network users to access their business network remotely from home, another office, or elsewhere using public WiFi.

How Do VPNs Work?

Is it safe to use public WiFi with a VPN? Check out our infographic or keep reading to find out.

A VPN works by connecting your computer, tablet, or smartphone to a server, so you can go online using the server’s internet connection. The public WiFi network is only used to connect your device to the server, rather than to any of the websites or applications you subsequently access.

A VPN grants you access to a private, anonymous network, which is very appealing if you handle sensitive information. VPNs use encryption to scramble your data and make it unreadable when it’s sent over a public network.

Without a VPN, an internet service provider has access to your entire browsing history, from the websites you visit to the passwords you enter. That’s because web activity is normally associated with a local IP address. A VPN allows you to funnel your own internet traffic through a private server, so your activity is associated with that server’s IP address rather than your own. This effectively masks your location and keeps your online activity and data private.

How Safe Is It to Use Public WiFi with a VPN?

A VPN app open on a smartphone and laptop, illustrating one way to more safely use public WiFi.

Both the Federal Trade Commission and Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) recommend the use of VPNs while using public WiFi. Even so, many people still wonder exactly how safe it is to use public WiFi with a VPN.

Generally, a VPN is an important security measure to have in place. But there is a vulnerability that occurs at the moment you connect to a public WiFi network.

Most public networks will allow devices to automatically connect to the WiFi. However, you must open a browser to what’s called a “captive portal.” There, you manually agree to local terms of service before actually being allowed to access any websites.

Despite being connected to the internet and having a VPN, there is a gap in coverage after you connect to WiFi but before you can turn on your VPN. This brief period leaves you vulnerable to risks associated with public, unsecured networks.

Although you face risks during this vulnerable period, it is only for a very limited amount of time. Using a VPN in public is still much safer than logging onto a public network without any additional digital protection.

Do VPNs Have Additional Security Features?

As VPNs have become more popular, VPN service providers have found other ways that their services can protect your data while in public.

Some VPN services offer a feature called an “Internet Kill Switch,” for example. In the event that your VPN connection is ever interrupted or disconnected, this feature protects your device and its data from prying eyes. It works by blocking all internet-bound traffic to your device until the connection with your VPN is reestablished.

VPN clients may offer an Internet Kill Switch at a granular application level. If you are using a VPN to access particularly sensitive applications and information, this tool is incredibly valuable. At the moment a VPN disconnects, the Kill Switch would close that sensitive application and require it to be manually reopened after reestablishing a secure connection.

For those who need an additional level of security when accessing public WiFi, finding a VPN service with an Internet Kill Switch is an excellent option.

Safety Tips for Using Public WiFi

While having a VPN can bring peace of mind while using public WiFi, there are still a number of other measures you should take to keep your data safe—no matter where you are.

  • Use strong passwords. No matter how secure your network is, a weak password leaves you vulnerable to hackers. Ensure that your passwords contain a healthy mix of case-sensitive letters, numbers, and other characters. Avoid including personal information, such as your birthdate or pet’s name, which can often be found on social media. Do not repeat passwords you have already used or reuse the same password for multiple accounts, or else a breach of one can compromise them all. Do not leave your password written on a sticky note on your desk or send it in plain text via email, instant message, or text message.
  • Don’t leave your device signed in while unattended. It’s all too easy for a smartphone to get stolen off a desk or out of a bag. If you’re working in a public space, be aware of your surroundings and your possessions. Even in your company building, you never know if a delivery person or visitor might come across your computer while you’re in the bathroom. Log off of any device whenever you are not actively using it. Keep any portable devices you aren’t currently using in a secure case or bag within your sight.
  • Turn off automatic connectivity. Some phones will automatically connect to open WiFi networks as soon as they’re in range. If your device connects to an unsecured network and you don’t immediately enable a VPN for protection, you’re leaving yourself at risk of having your information stolen.
  • Enable two-factor authentication. Two-factor authentication requires two verifications before users can log into an account. In the event that your password is compromised, two-factor authentication will keep unwanted guests from accessing your account by requiring more than just that password. If an unauthorized user fails to bypass the two-factor authentication, you will be alerted. This gives you the chance to change your password and protect your private information.
  • Beware of phishing. Even with a VPN in place, a successful phishing text or email can easily collect your sensitive information. A phishing message appears to be from a trusted company or individual, but is actually from a cybercriminal. It will usually ask you to visit a link, open an attachment, or confirm your identity or login information. Fast-paced communications and interactions, such as texting, can make people more prone to click on links, playing right into phishing schemes.

How to Set Up and Use a VPN

In addition to other cybersecurity best practices, using a VPN is a wise choice, whether for personal or business use. Setting one up for the first time isn’t as difficult as you might think. You have the option to set up a VPN for your entire home network or on individual devices.

Setting Up a VPN at Home

If you frequently work from home or want additional home protection, setting up a VPN for your entire home network is a good idea. This means that any device that connects to the internet at your home will be using a secure and protected network. However, adding this extra step can slow down web traffic, which may lead to longer loading times for all users.

When setting up a VPN at home, there are a few options that you can choose from:

  1. Get a router with VPN capabilities. Some higher end routers come with built-in VPN servers that are ready to go out of the box. If your home office is your primary office, this may be an appealing option. The process is completely automated, and your server will automatically connect all your internet devices to the VPN without the need for an additional VPN app or service. Once those devices are removed from your home network, however, they will not be protected by the VPN.
  2. See if your current router supports third-party firmware. Routers actually have their own operating systems, known as firmware. If you have some advanced technical skills under your belt, it’s also possible to replace your current router’s firmware with one that can support a VPN in order to secure your home’s WiFi network.
  3. Set up your own dedicated VPN server. To set up a dedicated VPN server, you’ll need a computer that’s on all the time, rather than a desktop you turn off when you’re done using it. This option also requires some technical ability. But if you’re a business owner, setting up a dedicated VPN server for all employees to use can be a smart choice.

Using VPN Services and Apps in Public

If you need to work at coffee shops, hotels, airports, or other public places, then VPN services and apps are a more appropriate choice for keeping your data secure. These apps download onto individual devices so that you can bring the security of a VPN with you, no matter where you are.

VPN app services are available for an annual or monthly subscription, which often varies from around $4 to $12 per month. Examples include NordVPN, TunnelBear, and ProtonVPN. These apps will typically allow a set number of devices to operate on a single VPN account, with scalable options for adding more user licenses and servers on business accounts.

Many VPN apps work with a variety of browsers and operating systems, such as Windows 10, macOS, iOS, Android, and Google Chrome. These apps offer a host of features, such as easy-to-use interfaces, good speed tests, affordability, and a number of servers located around the world for additional security.

In addition, many VPN services come with prepackaged installers. After you decide on a VPN service, setup can be relatively straightforward once the proper permissions and settings are in place.

If you own a business and are looking to get a VPN for your employees, IT professionals can set up a VPN on a variety of devices (both hard-wired and mobile) that regularly connect to your business network. Ask your IT department or managed service provider, or contact an IT company to provide this setup service.

Set Up a VPN and Improve Network Security with Guardian Computer

Guardian Computer is a full-service IT provider with over 100 years of combined experience in the tech solutions industry. We’ve worked with a wide variety of businesses to protect their data, including everything from setting up VPNs to networking services, cybersecurity, and data backup and recovery.

Our expertise means you can rest easy, knowing your IT project is professionally handled and our team is preparing your organization for potential issues before they ever become a problem. Whether you need help with a single IT project or want us to fully manage your IT, we have a wide range of services to meet your business’ unique needs. Where you see a tech headache, we see a new challenge to tackle!

Ready to talk to someone on our team? Contact us today to learn how Guardian Computer can protect your business!

Are you devoting enough resources to your organization’s cybersecurity? For many, cybersecurity is one of the most neglected areas of IT budgeting. In ISACA’s State of Cybersecurity 2019 report, 55% of respondents planned to increase their cybersecurity budget over the next year. Even more (60%) indicated their cybersecurity is underfunded.

As a healthcare professional, you know how important it is for patients to balance high-quality care with affordable healthcare costs. This balance also applies to IT services for doctors. Whether you’re streamlining HIPAA compliance with digital technology, or negotiating coverage and quality with insurance companies, you are aware of the constant juggling of cost and security in your industry.

Though often underfunded, cybersecurity is one of the most important aspects of any healthcare organization’s IT needs. When weighing IT services for doctors, physicians and surgeons need to know which security measures are indispensable in order to make the most of their budget.

When considering IT services for doctors, prioritize these 6 cybersecurity needs in your budget, outlined here in our infographic and later in our blog post.

Keep reading to learn more about the biggest security risks in healthcare today and 6 cybersecurity services and technologies to prioritize with your IT spending.

How Due Diligence Assessment and IT Services for Doctors Improve Purchasing Decisions

Attainia reports that hospitals spend an average of $93 billion per year on medical technologies and their related services, making this a major annual expense to consider. Healthcare professionals know the value of efficient, reliable equipment: it sets the pace of productivity and can help set the standard for quality service when handling patients.

Medical technology is an ever-growing field, where the phrase “the newer, the better” frequently applies. However, investing in brand-new medical equipment and software also comes at a heavy price.

Hospitals and medical practices are constantly battling the cost of their sophisticated medical equipment. Further, more advanced medical technologies also typically require more management and support from IT professionals, increasing their cost in the long term.

Not only that, but healthcare organizations also must maintain the hardware (including everything from computers to keyboards), software (such as Microsoft Windows or Mac operating systems), network, and internet connection required to run their equipment and daily operations.

Fortunately, managed IT services for doctors or a due diligence assessment can help identify your biggest tech-related risks and opportunities. By allowing technology experts to evaluate the entirety of your IT, you can gain the insight necessary to determine:

  • Is it better to invest in a new piece of equipment or upgrade your existing tech?
  • How much maintenance will any given technology require?
  • How long will this new solution last? What is its lifespan?
  • Will this technology integrate with your existing systems?
  • Does this technology meet or exceed all compliance requirements?
  • Where could IT deliver the biggest gains to your productivity, efficiency, and revenue?
  • If neglected, which of your IT systems are most likely to cause issues? Which have the potential to cause the biggest crises?

With an informed assessment of these competing concerns, you can efficiently prioritize your IT needs and spending. For many healthcare organizations, cybersecurity is a main area requiring additional investment.

Why Medical Technology and Operations Require More Cybersecurity

Across industries, cybersecurity is often a hard sell because it is an investment that doesn’t produce direct revenue in return. For healthcare organizations juggling the significant costs of medical equipment and technology, the temptation to skimp on cybersecurity is even greater.

But as cybersecurity threats to businesses grow in number and sophistication, hospitals and medical practices can no longer afford to overlook their cybersecurity. In addition to the financial, operational, and publicity risks associated with cyberattacks, healthcare organizations must also contend with potentially devastating HIPAA violations.

Not only that, but hospitals and physicians’ offices are increasingly relying on technology, from cloud-based data management systems, to compliance software, to advanced medical tech. Avoiding cyberattacks and other disruptions can help keep your institution—and the technology it depends on—running smoothly.

Stolen Healthcare Data

The creation of electronic health records has made communication between hospitals, healthcare professionals, and insurance agencies easier and more efficient. However, the quick expansion of digital recordkeeping has also produced a great threat to the healthcare industry as a whole.

Medical software contains protected health information (PHI), such as patients’ birthdates, social security numbers, home addresses, and private medical data. Given the massive amount of sensitive information they handle on a regular basis, industries like healthcare and financial services are major targets for cyberattacks.

HIPAA Violation Costs

HIPAA violation costs, as highlighted by the paperwork in this photos, are just one reason why healthcare organizations benefit from cybersecurity and IT services for doctors.

When medical facilities face a data breach, public morale isn’t the only issue they have to worry about. HIPAA has strict guidelines when it comes to network security. If found negligent or non-compliant, you could face charges up to $50,000 per violation—or, even worse, criminal legal action.

Healthcare organizations are held liable when a data breach occurs, and the resulting HIPAA fines could cost your facility millions of dollars. When patient information is compromised, lawsuits and settlements add even more to your costs.

System Shutdowns

Healthcare organizations may have to shut down their IT systems if faced with a threat to security. Without access to patient medical histories or full use of medical equipment, hospitals and physicians’ offices are left with little choice but to close until the threat is resolved and all systems are brought back online.

For smaller medical facilities, it’s not uncommon for it to take a full day to recover from a system shutdown and get operations up and running again. This leaves your facility vulnerable to theft and your patients unable to receive care, ultimately resulting in a loss of trust and business.

It only takes a single cyberattack to bring down a slew of serious consequences. As the risks continue to grow, it is critical to invest in proper cybersecurity and other IT services for doctors to protect their medical practices and healthcare organizations.

6 Cybersecurity Needs to Prioritize in Your IT Budget

When developing an IT budget for your healthcare organization, cybersecurity should be a top concern. While cybersecurity is an additional cost to consider, the many costs of falling victim to a cyberattack are much greater. To get started, there are 6 cybersecurity services and technologies we recommend factoring into your budget:

1. IT Due Diligence Assessment

Understanding your needs is vital when allocating funds. An IT due diligence assessment compounds your facility’s standards with a clear assessment of your IT infrastructure, systems, personnel, and processes.

Conducted by IT experts, this full-scale appraisal helps you evaluate the assets you have, determine what you need, and spot security vulnerabilities. With this information, you can develop informed priorities for your IT projects and spending.

2. Employee Cybersecurity Education

Employees are often the first line of defense against a cyberattack, making it always important to devote time and resources to proper cybersecurity education for everyone at your organization. In particular, if your hospital or medical practice is strapped for resources, spreading knowledge and awareness about cybersecurity throughout the entire team is an expense that has wide-ranging benefits.

Often, employees will fail victim to social engineering and expose your network to cyber threats. From simply teaching staff not to open links or attachments from strange emails, to conducting cyberattack practice drills with follow-up education for any missteps, cybersecurity training can thwart a substantial number of threats.

Cybersecurity education can also help support security practices you already have in place. For instance, even if you require longer passwords with numbers, uppercase and lowercase letters, and special characters, your employees may still unknowingly use unsecure practices. They might reuse passwords for multiple accounts, share passwords with others in plain text, leave their password on their desk written on a sticky note, or incorporate information that can easily be guessed in passwords.

Once employees understand the risks and their role in keeping your organization safe, they are much more willing and able to commit to secure practices. When everyone at your hospital or physicians’ office can share this responsibility and knowledge, you greatly increase your security.

3. Antivirus Software

The right antivirus software can make or break an organization. It helps prevent cyberattacks from bots, worms, spyware, and viruses. It fortifies your office computers against network vulnerabilities. Also, it alerts users to potential threats in real time, allowing for faster detection and response.

These capabilities make antivirus software a critical component of your threat detection capabilities, network security, and HIPAA compliance. Moreover, in a time when many employees have had to transition to working from home, antivirus software is an important security measure that can be extended to remote devices.

For medical facilities and hospitals, you want antivirus software that can support multiple users and devices while still maintaining network security. A good antivirus program should also have a recovery feature that will remove an unwanted invasion of your network. This software should have ongoing internet access and be updated regularly for best performance.

4. Database Encryption

Database encryption is an extremely useful tactic for protecting your sensitive information from unauthorized access. Any data stored in your database becomes encrypted, rendering it meaningless to any hackers who manage to access it. When cybercriminals realize your database is encrypted, it can sometimes be enough to keep them from ever trying to attack in the first place.

One way to implement database encryption is to make documents password protected, using complicated passwords to secure documents. With proper cybersecurity education, employees can make this tactic even more effective by creating strong passwords and using safe password practices.

5. Recovery Planning

When all preventative measures fail, your IT should have a recovery plan already in place and tested. Many times, organizations become so focused on stopping attacks from happening that they skip this crucial step.

Your recovery plan should include a designated budget to cover the anticipated costs of a cyberattack. This allows you to act quickly, without having to negotiate or wait for approval before receiving funding. You should also create an action plan, so everyone in your healthcare organization understands their roles and responsibilities in the event of a cyberattack and potential system shutdown.

In the meantime, regularly backing up your data is an important part of building a solid foundation for your recovery plan. This allows you to restore your data quickly, so patients have access to their medical records and you can resume your daily operations.

6. Cybersecurity Managed Services

The first rule of efficient budgeting is to maximize your fixed expenses. It’s dangerous for a budget to have too many fluctuating costs. By outsourcing IT services for doctors’ offices and healthcare facilities, you can take advantage of a fixed expense that adds specialized protection to your network while controlling costs.

Physicians, surgeons, hospital administrators, and healthcare professionals of all kinds have enough on their plates. By finding an IT and cybersecurity provider you trust, you can leave your tech issues to the experts. They should be able to provide ongoing monitoring, evaluation, and support for your systems, so they can fix vulnerabilities before they can be exploited, keep your systems protected and running smoothly, and make sure you’re prepared for the possibility of an attack.

There are many benefits to outsourcing your IT. You gain access to a wide variety of technology experts, who have the world-class tools and expertise to keep your systems secure and meet your IT goals. In addition to keeping your systems up to date, IT support is just a phone call, email, or chat away whenever you experience a tech issue or possible security threat.

Cybersecurity and IT Services for Doctors from Guardian Computer

A photo of the Guardian Computer team, ready to provide you with IT services for doctors.

It’s a tough feat to balance cost and security when assessing IT services for doctors’ offices and hospitals. Outsourcing offers a solution to the problems of unexpected IT issues and expenses, uninformed prioritizing, and overlooked or underfunded cybersecurity.

With Guardian Computer, you can trade downtime for peace of mind. Test out our services with a one-time IT due diligence assessment, so you can see what we find and make an informed decision about how to proceed. If we’re a good fit, you can hire us to complete specific IT projects or fully manage your IT. Just this year, we proudly achieved a place in the 2020 Channel Futures MSP 501 rankings for managed service providers!

Give us a call at 504-457-0005 or contact us online today to discuss a personalized IT plan that best suits the needs of your healthcare facility.

Today’s rapid technological developments have transformed the financial services industry. In particular, the expansion of FinTech and the adoption of personal banking technologies have led to many new financial services, processes, and delivery methods.

These technological expansions mean that the finance industry as a whole handles massive amounts of sensitive data on a daily basis. But with these new opportunities come new threats, making data security vital to contemporary financial operations.

However, data security has been a struggle for financial institutions both big and small. Information gathered by Boston Consulting Group indicates that financial firms and service providers are 300 times more likely to experience a cyberattack than other companies.

According to this same report, financial firms are also largely ill-prepared to handle the current digital threats against their companies and their industry as a whole. To remain competitive and avoid the considerable costs of a data breach, leaders and managers in financial services should be aware of the biggest digital threats to their industry, as well as the best cybersecurity solutions available to them.

To start, there are 3 key elements of maintaining data security in financial services to consider:

  1. Prioritize Data Security for All Employees
  2. Audit the Cybersecurity Practices of Third-Party Vendors
  3. Establish a Reliable IT Team and Infrastructure
Keep reading or check out this infographic to learn more about 3 key elements of maintaining data security in financial services.

Keep reading to learn more about these 3 tips and how to use them against top threats to the financial services industry.

Top Threats to Data Security in Financial Services

A 2019 report from Verizon found that data breaches in financial services accounted for 10% of all data breaches globally that year. Understanding the major external and internal threats to data security in your industry is the first step in building a stronger IT framework for your organization.

External Threats to Data Security

A digitized hand reaching out from a laptop screen as a concept for threats to data security in financial services.

Many leaders are unaware of the biggest computer security threats to business IT. Understanding the different types of cyberattacks that threaten data security in financial services—what they are, how they operate, and what puts you at risk—is vital to ensuring your organization’s protection.

Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) Attacks

Distributed denial of service (DDoS) cyberattacks cause a website or application to become unusable for a period of time. In a DDoS attack, a cybercriminal can target a specific network by overwhelming it with requests. This creates a service backlog that prevents real users from being able to use a site or app.

DDoS attacks can also be used to mislead cyberdefense efforts. For example, cybercriminals will sometimes launch a DDoS attack to direct attention away from their efforts to hack a company’s data system. This could help cover the tracks for the deployment of a CryptoVirus, which can spread through a company’s network and render its data useless.

In 2015, DDoS attacks were the most frequent cyberattacks aimed against financial institutions.  One reason for the recent rise in this type of cyberattack has been the increased presence of the Internet of Things across the finance industry.

The Internet of Things (IoT) describes the “smart devices” (such as voice-controlled home appliances, like the Amazon Echo) that allow companies to use consumer data and patterns to develop more customized consumer experiences. DDoS attacks exploit the weak security of the internet connections which power IoT devices. As the finance industry continues to adopt and rely on IoT technologies, DDoS attacks will remain a major threat to data security in financial services.

Backdoor Attacks

In a backdoor attack, a hacker can access a secured data system by installing a “backdoor” malware application. These applications can grant hackers undetected access to a company’s entire data system, including confidential employee and customer information that can be used for identity theft, blackmail, and other harmful purposes. With an advanced backdoor attack method called a trojan attack, a backdoor application can continuously operate once it is installed, even once the data system’s vulnerability has been fixed.

As seen in this February’s attacks against the U.S. financial sector, backdoor attacks have played a large role in threats to data security in financial services during 2020. In recent years, hackers have also administered new trojan malware to target banking institutions. With these trojan attacks, hackers steal money directly from the target company, as well as collect confidential company data that can then be sold to other cybercriminals.

These trojan attacks typically begin as phishing emails, which are sent to banking employees by hackers and are disguised to look like internal company emails. Unsuspecting employees then open email attachments with malicious coding, allowing the hackers to access the target company’s internal data systems.

Attacks Against Web Applications

Online word processing software, spreadsheet tools, and email services (such as Google Docs, Microsoft Office, and Gmail) are common across the business world. These programs and services give financial professionals easy access to communication and data organizing tools, optimizing daily business operations for an increasingly digital world.

In addition, the expansion of digital web applications across both local and global banking institutions has given consumers more direct access than ever to their monetary assets, accounts, and other services. However, financial web applications are also at risk of being exploited by hackers, as seen in the high-profile Equifax data breach in 2017.

In financial services, hackers tend to target online banking websites and applications. These tend to have weaker security infrastructure than other applications that are linked to internal data systems.

In fact, the FBI recently released a warning to mobile banking users regarding a potential increase in web application attacks against financial services. During the COVID-19 crisis especially, more consumers have relied on mobile banking and finance options, making these applications a key target for hackers.

Internal Threats to Data Security

According to a 2016 report published by IBM, 60% of all cyberattacks result from insiders within companies. Even if you feel confident that none of your employees would seek to harm your company, internal threats also include the actions of third-party vendors, as well as both malicious and accidental behavior. Maintaining data security in financial services, therefore, means preparing for the possibility of an internal threat.

Insider Attacks

IBM’s report found that a quarter of internal cybersecurity incidents were unintentional. Accidental malware downloads and employees falling for convincing phishing email scams are common ways that your IT system’s data security can be compromised.

The other 75% of internal attacks occurred with the insider’s full knowledge. Even if an employee doesn’t want to hurt your company, a hacker could blackmail or threaten them into malicious action. Low morale among staff can also lead to a more lax attitude regarding your company’s data security.

Because the financial services industry handles such large amounts of sensitive data on a daily basis, all employees should understand the role they play in maintaining their company’s data security. Boosting morale and requiring periodic cybersecurity training for all employees are important steps to take for internal data security in financial institutions.

Third-Party Vendor Vulnerabilities

The financial services industry has greatly benefited from associations with third-party vendors, who can provide recruitment management services, cloud data services, human resources, and more. However, while your own institution may have high data security standards, some third-party vendors may put your company’s information at risk without your knowledge.

In 2019, for instance, a large data leak in the U.S. banking sector left over 24 million financial records exposed to the public. The breach resulted from mistakes made by a Texas-based, third-party firm that offers data and analytics for financial institutions.

Performing cybersecurity risk assessments with potential third-party vendors before signing a service contract can help you avoid these types of internal threats to your organization.

3 Key Elements of Maintaining Data Security in Financial Services

Now that you know more about the threats facing your industry, how can you use this knowledge to improve your firm’s cybersecurity? Consider these 3 key elements of maintaining data security in financial services to get started.

1. Prioritize Data Security for All Employees

It is always important for everyone at an organization to be committed to its cybersecurity, but especially in the finance industry. Even low-level employees may handle sensitive client information on a daily basis. This is why it’s vital for employees, managers, and finance leaders alike to have solid data security protocols to follow in their daily operations.

Adding two-factor authentication to business logins, embedding digital threat-spotting techniques into all employee onboardings, and creating actionable incident response plans for potential cyberattacks are a few key steps that financial firms can take to improve data security among employees.

2. Audit the Cybersecurity Practices of Third-Party Vendors

Today, third-party vendors are involved in many aspects of financial operations. To reduce risks associated with third parties, be sure to conduct cybersecurity risk assessments on all potential vendors before any service contracts are signed.

Even if your company is currently involved with a third-party vendor, continuous risk monitoring is also important to ensuring that these service providers maintain proper data security standards.

3. Establish a Reliable IT Team and Infrastructure

The cyberthreats facing financial services today are more challenging than ever. While there are many ways to enhance a financial institution’s data security, it will be difficult to implement lasting changes without a robust and prepared IT team and infrastructure in place.

If you do not have an IT team, or if these activities fall outside the scope of your IT department, outsourcing additional IT help could be the solution. Fully managed IT service providers can supply your company with technology and cybersecurity solutions tailored to the needs of the finance industry.

Enhance Your Financial Firm’s Data Security with Guardian Computer

Members of our IT team, who can help you navigate data security in financial services.

Don’t let the challenges of data security in financial services bog you down or keep you from proper cybersecurity! For over 20 years, Guardian Computer has secured data systems and everyday tech operations for clients ranging from private equity to turnaround management. We were also recently named one of the world’s best managed service providers.

With Guardian Computer’s on-call services, our tech experts can respond quickly to any IT project or cyber emergency that comes our way. For long-term support and solutions, our fully managed IT services offer you ongoing assistance, monitoring, and protection.

Call us at 504-457-0005 or contact us online to talk to our team about what we can do for you!

Spilled water on your hard drive? Don’t despair just yet! If handled properly, information can often be recovered from a wet hard drive. Here are 7 steps to recover data from a water damaged hard drive:

  1. Tend to the water damaged hard drive immediately.
  2. Do not attempt to plug in the hard drive.
  3. Do not dry the hard drive with a hair dryer or in the sun.
  4. Leave the protective covering on the drive. 
  5. Gently rinse with clean, cool water and seal it in a Ziploc bag.
  6. Do not let your brother-in-law touch it.
  7. Give the drive to a data recovery specialist.

Hard drive water damage is a common problem for both work and home computers. You could lose important information, waste valuable time, and even have to replace your hard drive. Take the time to learn about this issue and the steps to recover a water damaged hard drive, so you stand a better chance of successfully recovering your hard drive any time it gets wet.

Review these steps to recover data from a water damaged hard drive in our infographic so you can act fast!

Avoid the mistakes in this infographic when taking steps to recover data from a water damaged hard drive.

What Does a Hard Drive Do, Exactly?

Your hard drive is the device used to store and access data on your laptop or desktop. Not only does it keep the pictures, videos, music, files, and other information you save, but also the information required for your computer to run. For example, the files for your operating system and software programs are also kept on your hard drive, making it a critical part of your computer’s functionality.

Will Water Damage a Hard Drive?

The first question you’ll want to ask after a spill is “Will water damage my hard drive?” The answer depends on the circumstances of the incident and the actions you take.

A hard drive stores data magnetically in its platters. When a hard drive gets wet, the water could potentially cause a short circuit, especially if it dries on the platters.

But water alone will not destroy a hard drive or delete its data. While water can damage a hard drive’s electronics, the data itself is stored magnetically. It will remain there on the platters, which is why professionals can still recover information from a water damaged hard drive.

Depending on the circumstances, however, the data may become more difficult or perhaps impossible to retrieve. This is because the disks of hard drives have little, fine heads that read the information stored on the platters. When the water dries, it can leave a film or residue over the platters and heads, making it much harder to recover data as the platters begin to degrade over time.

It is for this reason that none of our 7 steps to recover data from a water damaged hard drive include attempting to dry the drive. It is actually best to keep the hard drive wet! We recommend placing it in a Ziploc bag until you can get it to a professional.

Follow These Steps to Recover Data from a Water Damaged Hard Drive

Learn more about each of our 7 steps to recover data from a water damaged hard drive below to maximize your chances of successful recovery.

Tend to a water damaged hard drive like this one immediately for best results.

1. Tend to the water damaged hard drive immediately.

Acting fast is critical to reducing the likelihood of hard drive water damage. A quick response is key to a quick recovery!

The first step you should take is to immediately remove the hard drive from water. The longer your hard drive is submerged in water, the more likely it is that the dry parts of the drive could become water damaged. If the hard drive is on, power it down right away as well.

2. Do not attempt to plug in the hard drive.

It may be tempting to try to test your hard drive to see if it still works. But plugging it in and turning it on could just make things worse.

Plugging in a water damaged hard drive could not only cause further damage to the drive, but also to your computer or other devices. If a water damaged hard drive is turned on, it might become impossible for experts to retrieve your data. The water on the platters could cause the heads of the disks to rip off, leaving you without the ability to read the information stored on the drive.

3. Do not dry the hard drive with a hair dryer or in the sun.

If water can damage a hard drive, then surely you should try to dry it off, right? Wrong!

What many people don’t realize is that the water on your hard drive’s platters and heads does much more damage if it is allowed to dry. If you dry out the water, it can leave behind residue that makes it more difficult or even impossible to recover your data.

Drying a water damaged hard drive with a hair dryer, the sun, or any method involving heat is particularly dangerous. Excessive heat can damage the drive further.

4. Leave the protective covering on the drive.

The protective covering is there for a reason. It protects your hard drive from airborne dust and particles that can stick to the platters.

Don’t try to take a peek to see if water has gotten inside. Removing the protective covering could expose your hard drive to dust and particles or allow water to reach more of the drive.

5. Gently rinse with clean, cool water and seal it in a Ziploc bag.

It may not be your first thought to rinse an already wet hard drive with more water. But if the water is contaminated with any particles, they could adhere to the drive if it starts to dry out.

Gently rinse your hard drive with clean, cool water. Then store it in a Ziploc bag or other sealed container to ensure that it won’t dry. Your first impulse is probably to dry the hard drive, but it is actually best to leave it wet, as a film may form once the water dries that makes data recovery even more difficult.

6. Do not let your brother-in-law touch it.

The thought of hard drive water damage can easily send you into a panic. What will happen to your data? How much will it cost to fix this? Will you end up having to buy a new hard drive?

You might be tempted to try to fix it yourself, either to save money or to get it done faster. Maybe you have a friend, coworker, or brother-in-law who’s handy with computers. Couldn’t they fix it for you?

Unless you have professional training, experience, and equipment for dealing with water damaged hard drives, you risk causing more harm than good. If you make the problem worse, it could take more time, cost more money, and even render your data unretrievable. It’s best to take your hard drive straight to an expert!

7. Give the drive to a data recovery specialist.

Not every IT professional is capable of handling data recovery, and not every computer repair store has the state-of-the-art equipment or clean room that will give you the best results. We recommend bringing a water damaged hard drive to a data recovery specialist.

How can you find such a specialist? To start, names as the best service for hard drive recovery in 2020. offers hard drive recovery for both internal and external hard drives. You can mail your hard drive or visit one of their locations in Edwardsville, IL; Pleasanton, CA; Phoenix, AZ; or Toronto, ON Canada.

Otherwise, search for data recovery firms in your area or ones that will take your hard drive by mail. Consider the following tips to help narrow your search:

  • Look for data recovery firms that have a cleanroom where they can safely review and repair your hard drive.
  • See if you can get a price estimate and if it fits within your budget.
  • Check how quickly they work and, if needed, whether they offer rush services.
  • Find out how the extracted data will be delivered to you and if their methods fit your needs.
  • Review their cybersecurity certifications and protocols.

If possible, get your hard drive to an expert within 24 hours. This can reduce the risk of your platters degrading. If you are unable to find a suitable option locally, you can mail your hard drive overnight to a specialist instead.

Protect Yourself from Hard Drive Water Damage

Dealing with hard drive water damage is a nuisance at best and a nightmare at worst. Even if you are careful never to eat or drink around your computer, there’s always a chance you’ll get caught in the rain with your laptop or your home will flood. There’s no guaranteed way to avoid ever damaging your hard drive, but you can still protect yourself from data loss.

Regularly backing up your data is an excellent habit, both at home and at work. You can back up your data physically, such as on an external hard drive, or digitally in the cloud.

Don’t wait until it’s too late! Before another accident happens, find a data backup method that works for you and start a routine for backing up your data. Your future self will thank you!

In 2017, the number of exposed records and data breaches reached an all-time high according to Statista. The 1,579 data breaches serve as a reminder that our accounts aren’t always as safe as we think they are! The simple “username and password” log-in approach can be compromised within minutes by skilled hackers. Even with your longest and complicated passwords! Your business needs an additional security layer that addresses the vulnerabilities of a standard password-only approach.

What is Two Factor Authentication?

Two Factor Authentication, commonly abbreviated, 2FA, is a method of securing online accounts through two means of authorization. In the case of two factor authentication, you’ll need two factors (or verifications) to successfully log in. This includes something you know, usually a password, and some other method of verifying your identity. This is usually a code sent via text or email. It’s essentially an extra layer of protection designed to ensure that you’re the only person who can access your account, even if someone else knows your password.

Purpose of Two Factor Authentication

An email or any other cloud-based application hack can cost a company thousands of dollars. Hackers aren’t reading your emails for fun. They’re going in to learn how your company works. They’re waiting to see how they can utilize that information to their own gain. Hackers can look through emails for private client information like bank account numbers, or personally identifying information. Once the hacker finds the information they need, they can steal huge amounts of money.

Phishing scams, where fake but authentic-looking emails are used to steal information, are one of the easiest ways hackers can gain password information. When two factor authentication is used, it makes it considerably harder for a hacker to be successful in logging into the account.

Even if the hacker is able to crack your password, they won’t be able to log into the account without access to your second factor. Some of the benefits of two factor authentication include improved security, reduction of fraud and theft, and the increase of productivity and flexibility.

Security Solutions for You and Your Business

The easiest and most common way to implement two factor is by receiving a text message with an access code every time you log into an account. But, no solution is 100% secure. Getting two factor authentication from text messaging does have some vulnerabilities. Specifically, it leaves you exposed if someone steals your smartphone or its SIM card.

For businesses with high-security needs, hardware-based two factor authentication is the most secure option. Instead of typing in a passcode from a text message to log in, a physical security key has to be plugged into your device when prompted. This method is often used for highly sensitive systems used industries such as the financial and healthcare industries. Security keys can be found online for as low as $20 and are available for both desktop computers and mobile phones!

Our Favorite Free 2FA Applications

Many websites you use for business have some sort of two factor authentication built in such as Dropbox, Google Drive, Amazon, and Rackspace. To protect your other online accounts, there are apps specifically for providing two factor security. Our two favorite 2FA apps are Authy and Google Authenticator.

  • Authy simplifies using 2FA on your online accounts using your smartphone. It generates a code each time you open the app. You’ll have 20 seconds to log in after which Authy will generate a new code. It’s free, desktop and mobile-friendly, and available Windows, Mac, iOS, Android and Chrome.
  • Google Authenticator is a mobile-only app, so you’ll need to have your phone with you. This provides stronger security for your Google Account. A small authenticator is tied to a single device, you must manually change it in your Google settings when you switch phones.

Personal Use of Two Factor Authentication

We don’t just recommend this for businesses, it’s important to protect your personal accounts as well. Many of the social platforms that you use every day have options for enhancing security.

Facebook, Pinterest, Snapchat, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Twitter all have options for two factor authentication. Go to the settings of your account, then scroll down to security. Each application has different options including the texting feature we’ve mentioned. Utilizing two factor authentication whenever possible will help to keep you safe online!

John On Two Factor Authentication:

Two factor authentication is only one step in security. There are many ways to keep yourself protected online, such as using secure cloud storage, secure online backup, and a VPN solution. We help our clients to ensure the security covers all of their users! Let’s chat about how we can improve your business security!

There is no substitution for knowledgeable, helpful, real-human service.

Those big-box commercial IT help desks simply can’t compete with personalized customer service. When you need IT solutions, you don’t want to be a number in a queue, wait on hold four hours, or wait to be helped next Tuesday between 10 AM and 5 PM. You need effective solutions immediately, right? That’s where we come in.

Whenever You Need Us, We’re Available

Rather than going back and forth for ten or more emails, we believe that a simple five-minute phone call with a qualified and knowledgeable staff member can fix your IT problem. We pride ourselves on the fact that if you call Guardian Computer, whoever answers the phone can fix your problem.

When is the last time you talked to a team of actual experts with a commercial IT help desk? We know that saving your time and solving problems quickly can be hugely beneficial for your business.

The Personal Touch Really Does Matter

We sometimes hear that great customer service doesn’t matter so long as the problem is fixed. We wholeheartedly disagree! Having a personal relationship with our customers isn’t just nice for them, it’s helpful for us too! It helps to build up our team relationship and retain our staff.

At Guardian Computer, our employees are a big, friendly family and our clients are extensions of that family. We work hard to make sure that all of our client-business relationships are unique, by having their back with any and all IT problems.

Even when we can’t have a one-on-one, in-person conversation with a customer, we make sure they know we are still there for them. We’re just a phone call or email away! We make sure that all of our interactions with our customers are real, personal and engaging.

Our Personal Edge

We pride ourselves in knowing our clients as people, not numbers or line items. Our business is small enough to get intimately familiar with our clients’ specific needs. At Guardian Computer, we make sure that what we offer is closely aligned with our clients’ needs and aspirations.

A positive organizational culture is critical to success!

Having a close focus on the client’s work helps us to rectify their problems quickly, and to delve far more deeply into potential issues. Rather than dealing with an impersonal commercial, IT help desk call center, our clients call us, the people they know. And we are available and authentic on the other end of the line.

Over 20 Years of Expertise

We’re a close-knit team at Guardian Computer! Maintaining a positive work environment helps us to keep quality people on staff, so our clients can draw on their knowledge of their business. Our team members are cross-trained as subject matter experts, so our clients don’t get volleyed from one tech to another.

Also, all of the members of our team are empowered to act in the best interest of our clients. There are no layers of bureaucracy to get an answer or escalate a problem. We are proud to say that anyone answering the phone at Guardian Computer is empowered to solve your IT problem.

Our Flexibility Saves You Time

Small businesses tend to be more nimble than larger businesses. So, their reaction time tends to be faster than big businesses. At Guardian Computer, we can customize the services we provide to a client’s specific, individual needs. We’re also able to adjust to any unexpected changes or issues a client may have. We actively listen to all feedback and observe changing preferences.

Unique Solutions For Your Business

We all hate those impersonal hard sells that turn out to offer something unnecessary. We’re your IT company, not an infomercial!

As a small business, we are able to produce goods and services that stand out from those commercial IT help desk solutions. We understand our clients need to work within a tight budget and don’t need all the extra “fluff”. We don’t use proprietary software and we make sure to include the client in the planning and execution of their services.

Customer Satisfaction Is Always First

At GCIT, we are committed to providing extraordinary service by consistently going the extra mile to create the best experience for our clients. We make sure to deliver reliable, highly individualized, and responsive customer service to all of our clients. Our advanced network monitoring tools allow us to catch the small issues before they become big problems for our clients.

Tired of trying to work with rigid solutions offered by big commercial IT help desks? We offer customized solutions for businesses of all sizes! Let’s chat about how we can improve your business technology.

Utilizing cloud technology can make a huge impact on the bottom line of your business.

We’re talking about saving your time, your money, and staying safer in an emergency. Every business can get on board with that, right? Even though there are so many positives to using cloud technology, many businesses are hesitant to make the leap. This post is going to cover everything you’ll ever want to know about cloud computing as it relates to your business.

First Things First, What is The Cloud?

We’re sure you’ve probably heard of the cloud or cloud technology by now. Don’t worry, it’s not as intangible of a concept as it may sound. When working with tech companies, you’ll often hear the term “cloud” when talking about storing your data “in the cloud” or “working in the cloud”.

Simply put, the cloud is the software and services that you can access from the Internet rather than locally on your computer. A great example of a cloud service is Google Drive. Instead of storing files on your desktop or laptop, you can create documents on Google Drive and access them from anywhere, on any device, so long as you’re signed into your account.

The Main Uses For The Cloud

In our experience, we see three main uses for the cloud, besides as a storage solution.

  • Software-as-a-Service (SaaS). For example, using Salesforce, Box, and Office 365 all use the cloud.
  • Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS). This category includes services like Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Azure.
  • Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS). This includes services like Google App Engine, AWS PaaS, and Azure PaaS.

What Are the Benefits of Using the Cloud?

The benefits of switching to the cloud can be huge for your business! We know because we help our clients make the transition all the time. The major benefits of using the cloud break down into four categories: cost, power, recovery, and security.

Cloud Technology Cost

Using the cloud helps to remove or reduce the need for an upfront capital investment. That alone can be huge for a business! When using local servers, the costs of maintenance and management are often unpredictable. But, when you use the cloud, the cost of system upgrades, new hardware and software are usually included in cloud provider contracts. Plus, you get the option for services and storage just when you need it. This means you can pay as you go instead of investing all at once.

This last one can be a huge help for small and medium businesses: no extra staff needed. An in-house expert on staff tends to be a high salary position. For big companies, they may need help to maintain servers, storage, and backup/recovery. But, honestly, there is rarely justification for keeping such a person since it doesn’t require a full-time person for a small or medium sized business.

Capacity and Computing Power

When using an in-house solution, you would need to buy more hardware each and every time you needed to increase storage. Now, with cloud technology, businesses of any size can tap into computing resources that were once only available to large corporations.

Cloud computing allows practically unlimited data storage and processing power due to the pooling of computer resources. It provides on-demand scalability that corresponds to a company’s needs so as your applications grow, you can add as much storage, RAM and CPU capacity as needed. Cloud-based applications have the ability to automatically refresh and update, which saves you time and resources.

Backup and Recovery

Private cloud solutions include backups that offer an easier, less resource-intensive method to protecting your data. In fact, most cloud providers distribute backups between data centers to ensure access.

When critical business information is saved on the computer or a server at your office it can be damaged in an emergency situation. In these cases, there is no guarantee that your data is able to be recovered. Utilizing cloud technology solves this problem.

No matter the event, a natural disaster, power failure, or other crisis, the cloud services will provide quick data recovery. For example, having critical data stored in the cloud ensures it is backed up and protected in a secure and safe location. This allows companies to conduct business as usual, minimizing downtime and loss of productivity. When critical business information is saved on a computer or a server at your office it can be damaged in an emergency situation. In these cases, there is no guarantee that your data is able to be recovered.

Enhanced Security

Our cloud is fully managed and secure, which means your data is secure no matter where you access it from. The economies of scale which apply to computer resources also ensure that the best security measures can be put in place with high-level oversight from IT security experts.

The key to this amped-up security is the encryption of data being transmitted over networks and stored in databases. By using encryption, information is less accessible by hackers or anyone else not authorized to view your data. As an added security measure, with most cloud-based services, different security settings can be set based on the user.

How We Protect Our Clients In The Cloud

While most people know that the cloud gives you a lot of flexibility, there are some security concerns if done improperly. We’ve seen concerns such as:

  • Theft of data from cloud infrastructures or applications.
  • Lack of a plan for GDPR Compliance.
  • Cloud providers using data centers in potentially unstable countries.
  • Advanced attacks against cloud infrastructure.

At Guardian Computer, we protect the intellectual property, Protected Health Information (PHI), and sensitive data of our clients who use cloud technology. With over 50 years combined in the tech solutions industry, we bring our experience to the table. We help our clients avoid the pitfalls, know the right questions to ask a potential cloud provider, and ensure our clients have a comprehensive plan to migrate to the cloud.

Questions You Should Ask A Potential Cloud Provider

Not all cloud technology service providers are of the same caliber. We have a comprehensive list of questions you should ask before making any decisions on your cloud service provider.

Transitioning To Using The Cloud

At Guardian Computer, we help organizations understand how a migration to the cloud is different than what IT administrators are used to deploying in their legacy infrastructure environments. We want our clients to understand what they are getting into, how the process works and what they should expect.

For example, often a business’s infrastructure needs to be upgraded to handle the stress and traffic of a full-scale migration to the cloud. We help organizations develop and execute a plan for the data migration including deciding which applications and datasets need to migrate to and what tools and technologies ease the migration process.

Changing to the cloud can be challenging to start! But is more than worth it for the time and expense your business will save. Want to chat more about cloud technology? Let’s chat!

The healthcare industry is incurring a higher rate of data breaches than any other industry.

This makes HIPAA regulations of critical importance to doctors and healthcare organizations of every size. Patients (rightfully) demand it as a protection of their personal information. Not doing so, can cause a HIPAA Violation that can be exceptionally devastating to a business. Besides being an important step in protecting their patients, it’s also a great business practice to know how to keep data safe.

Some small clinics may think that because there are larger organizations to keep an eye on, they wouldn’t get investigated. But, they may be surprised by just how many investigations are initiated by a single patient complaint.

What is HIPAA Law?

HIPAA is the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act. There are 5 major rules of the act that covers: privacy, security, transactions and code sets (TCS), unique identifiers, and Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) enforcement.

This act was created to develop a national standard of how medical professionals need to protect individuals’ medical records and other personal health info. Patients now have much more control over their health information. Boundaries have been set on the use and release of their health records. HIPAA violations are investigated by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in conjunction with the Office for Civil Rights.

How Do HIPAA Violations Occur?

Many people are surprised when we tell them that the single biggest threat is from inside of a healthcare organization. According to McAfee, insiders (including doctors, and other healthcare professionals) are responsible for 43 percent of data breaches. The Information Security Forum puts that number at 54 percent.

These are not usually actions with malicious intent. Human error plays a significant role in data breaches. Here are two easily done HIPAA violations:

  • Lost or Stolen Devices – Laptops and mobile phones are easily lost or stolen. When the theft includes Protected Health Information (PHI) stored on the phone it becomes a HIPAA violation.
  • Texting Patient Information – When using standard texting software on your phone, it ’s too easy for information to be stolen by cybercriminals.

More examples of human error resulting in data breaches include improper disposal of records, sharing of photos with patients on social media, and accessing patient information on home computers or public wifi networks.

Who Does a HIPAA Violation Affect?

When a HIPAA violation occurs, it is damaging for the doctor and the patient alike. Potential attackers will specifically target healthcare providers to obtain medical records, financial records, and intellectual property. This doesn’t just threaten the patient’s security. On average, medical identity theft victims pay $13,500 to resolve the issue.

When the violation is reported and action is taken against the doctor or clinic, there is usually a significant fine. The fines are adjusted based on the severity of the violation but can range anywhere between $100 to $1.5 Million, and can even include prison time.

Besides the fines, doctors can also be impacted by potential lawsuits, a disruption of care, damage to their reputation, and loss of patient’s trust.

HIPAA Violation Fines

The fines that doctors or clinics can receive for violating regulation are significant and can be highly destructive for their business. To determine the fine, the Department of Health and Human Services have created four tiers of severity.

  • Tier 1 – The least severe violation. In this tier, the violation was unknown, and would not have been known while exercising reasonable due diligence. These violations are often covered by cyber insurance. Cyber insurance is important to have because it’s usually excluded from professional liability insurance policies. Fines can range from $100 to $50,000.
  • Tier 2 – In this tier, the violation had a reasonable cause, but was not due to willful neglect. Negligence due to “sticking your head in the sand” automatically raises the violation to Tier 2. Fines can range from $1,000 to $50,000.
  • Tier 3 – When this violation occurred, it was due to willful neglect, but it was corrected within a reasonable time period. Fines in this category can range from $10,000 to $50,000.
  • Tier 4 – The most severe violations are in tier 4. This is when the violation was due to willful negligence and no attempts were made to correct the violation. The fines in this tier range from $50,000 up to $1.5 million with a potential jail sentence.

Becoming HIPAA Compliant as Small or Medium Healthcare Organizations

It is important for small and medium-sized organizations to understand they will never reach the perfect state of 100% compliant. It would simply be cost prohibitive to do so. What we do recommend is finding the biggest risks and solving those first. From there we advocate for building a clinic culture of compliance and ongoing education.

This involves doing a full assessment, creating processes and procedures, educating employees and management, and using security applications and technology.

How We Cover HIPAA Compliance

When we start working a doctor or clinic, the first step is to do a comprehensive HIPAA security review. This is to determine their current state of compliance and any specific violations they may have already had. We tie each HIPAA rule to an assessment question, then we rank the likelihood, impact, and risk of not being in compliance with that rule.

Some of the Questions We May Ask our HIPAA Compliance Clients are:

  • Does your organization control access to electronic PHI and other health information by using encryption/decryption methods to deny access to unauthorized users?
  • Do employees ever leave an unlocked computer alone in a room with an unauthorized employee or patient?
  • Can employees identify potential ransomware? If so, do they know what to do with it?
  • Do employees know how to use their phone and computer in a HIPAA compliant manner when using public or hotel Wi-Fi?

Benefits of HIPAA Compliance Assessment

For each rule, we share with our client solutions for ensuring their compliance. Which includes improving their processes, procedures, education, and technology. This, in turn, helps a clinic to make more informed decisions on where to focus their efforts and resources with remediation.

For example, those two HIPAA violations we mentioned above both have quick fixes to prevent the violation. We would password protect and encrypt most devices like phones and laptops. Then, we would also install encryption for texting to allow safe communication of PHI.

Going through an assessment like ours can lessen the penalties associated with violations. Generally, when you have an assessment and a plan in place, you can keep a violation in tier 1, the least severe.

How to Prevent a Violation

According to the Ponemon Institute’s Annual Study on Medical Identity Theft, 68% of patients aren’t confident in the measures taken to protect their medical records. It’s important not only for the patient but the clinic too, that each and every staff member knows their role in HIPAA compliance.

With only 33 percent of healthcare providers believing they have sufficient resources to prevent a data breach, education is critical. We always advocate that our clients focus on education and training. Ensuring that the office staff understands their role in HIPAA compliance is a critical part of protecting their patients’ medical records. It takes a commitment to make internal training a priority and continuing to educate the staff of the proper processes and procedures.

Since we are considered business associates to our healthcare clients, we are required to be HIPAA compliant as well. We practice what we preach with constant HIPAA training along with reviewing and updating our processes and procedures. To make sure your business is kept safe too you must have plans set in advance.

The Five Security Tests We Use In HIPAA Compliance Audits

We always perform five tests when helping clients become HIPAA compliant. Learn more about these necessary tests!

Staying HIPAA compliant is a critical move all doctors and clinics need to do. It keeps your patient’s information safe and keeps your business safe from hefty fines. These regulations are also good business practices for ensuring every staff member is on the same page and takes their position seriously.

Interested in your company’s HIPAA compliance? Let’s chat.

You spend the majority of your week at work, which is why we believe it is so important to be in a positive work environment.

Environment and organizational culture are crucial to employee satisfaction and can have detrimental effects on the workplace no matter what industry you are in. Here at Guardian Computer, we pride ourselves in maintaining our healthy work environment and culture.

A positive organizational culture is critical to success!

Why Is Organizational Culture Important?

A work environment is the location where employees are completing their tasks, and the benefits of working at a company. The culture is the personality of the company itself.

The main reasons we believe work culture is so important are:

  • Maintaining retention, and reducing employee turnover.
  • Encouraging happier employees, which results in positive client relationships.
  • Showing appreciation to employees, which shows that their work is not done in vain.
  • Open communication and transparency, which builds trust with the staff.

For example, Southwest is one of our key role models for the ideal company culture. They value their employees above all else, and they ensure they work in a fun and casual environment. They also commit themselves to provide excellent salaries and benefits along with empowering and appreciating their employees.

Maintaining Retention

In a negative work environment, employee turnover rates can be high. But it’s not always because the employees don’t like the job they are doing. Usually, it’s because they don’t enjoy the work environment or organizational culture they are in.

Having unhappy employees on your hands isn’t great, and having a high employee turnover rate is bad for business! There can be costs when the employee leaves, the costs of hiring new employees, and the cost of training those new hires.

A positive organizational culture is critical to success!

We are proud to say that in over 20 years of business, we haven’t had one single employee quit at Guardian Computer. We don’t believe in the old mantra of “leave your problems at home”. Our office is our employees’ home away from home. Coming to work in our pajamas, bringing our children, and even bringing a puppy to the office are all a-okay!

A positive organizational culture is critical to success!

Encouraging Happy Employees

Happy employees lead to having great pride in their company. When our employees come to work, we want them to come to work feeling good about themselves and their families. Work should be a place where employees feel safe and comfortable rather than stressed or upset. No one wants to miss their child’s afternoon soccer game or not be able to take their elderly parent to a doctor’s appointment.

“We started Guardian Computer in our home because we were having trouble with daycare, and balancing our work and family life. That set the tone for our company culture of making our employees’ personal lives a priority” says our president, Jean Prejean. Employees can concentrate better at the office when they know their family comes first.

We firmly believe that if we take care of our employees, they’ll take care of our clients. Our clients are a part of our work family too, so we strive to have our organizational culture spill over into our interactions with them! We can make the client experience more pleasant with a simple explanation in plain English and a brief chat about our client’s kids. That makes a big difference.

Showing Appreciation

Recognition and appreciation motivates employees and shows them that their work is valued. According to Glassdoor, more than 80 percent of employees say they are motivated to work harder when their boss shows appreciation for their work.

Some ways to show appreciation and recognition are bonuses, raises, and promotions. Our employees appreciate knowing that everyone receives an annual raise due to their personal work performance and the company’s performance. “We never want anyone to think we haven’t noticed their performance or haven’t bothered to review their pay,” says Jean.

Building Trust

Honesty, sincerity, and transparency are the key elements to building trust within your work environment. From celebrating accomplishments to providing support during rough times, we make sure to show our employees our sincerity and commitment to them. It can be something as simple as giving someone the afternoon off if their child kept them up all night or giving a gift card for someone to take their spouse to dinner on their anniversary.

We go out of our way to be as transparent as possible. Open and honest communication helps to solve many difficulties in a positive light. For example, every six months at our team meeting we review the financials, the trends, and goals. This makes sure our employees know what’s going on within the company. Having open communication can also encourage employee feedback. Employee feedback is important because it can be valuable information that in turn helps to make the company better.

Some companies let their organizational culture define itself and it takes a backseat to balance sheets and productivity metrics. At Guardian Computer, we intentionally put our company culture and a positive work environment at the top of our priority list. We are constantly looking for ways to improve the quality of life of our people, both in and out of the office.

Want to join our work family – as an employee or a client? Let’s chat.