Important Steps to Take Before You Recycle a Mobile Phone Number

It’s not unusual to change a mobile number from time to time. For example, when you move, you may want a number that is local to the area you just moved to. Companies also may end up recycling mobile numbers throughout their staff as people come and go. 

If you don’t properly detach your mobile phone number from all the accounts it’s used with, you can leave yourself open to identity theft, credit card fraud, and other crimes. 

In a 2021 Princeton University study, it was found that 66% of mobile numbers listed as available by major mobile service providers were still connected to accounts on popular sites (Amazon, PayPal, etc.).  

So, after the former owners had turned in the number, it was available for someone else to use when signing up for mobile service. And that number was still being used on the former owner’s cloud accounts, allowing those accounts to easily be breached.  

Because our mobile numbers are connected to much of our online and offline life, it’s important to take certain steps to ensure that you don’t leave yourself at risk when recycling your phone number. 

CHANGE YOUR PHONE NUMBER FOR ONLINE ACCOUNTS

We all generally have more online accounts than we immediately remember. The average person must juggle 100 passwords, and most of those passwords will be to a website or cloud app service of some kind. 

The first thing you want to do is begin visiting your online accounts and cloud applications to update your mobile phone number. Many of these apps now use a text message to your number as a form of verification if you’ve lost your password. 

You want to ensure any password reset messages go to you and not someone that has requested your old number for the express purpose of identity theft or account compromise. 

CHANGE YOUR MOBILE NUMBER FOR SOCIAL MEDIA ACCOUNTS

Technically, a social media account is also an online account, but many people think of them as a separate entity. When a Facebook or LinkedIn account is compromised, the hacker often will send social phishing messages out to your friend connections to try to gain access to sensitive data or scam them out of money. 

Make sure to change the phone number listed in your social media accounts. If you are using WhatsApp, which is tied directly to your mobile number, make sure to follow their instructions on changing your number so your communications will remain secure. 

CHANGE YOUR MOBILE PHONE NUMBER FOR SERVICE PROVIDERS THAT SEND YOU TEXTS

Text messaging is beginning to replace email for many types of communications. This includes things like shipping notices, confirmations of payments from utility companies, appointment reminders, and sale notices from retailers. 

This puts you more at risk if you change your mobile number because the texts you receive from various service providers can be used for identity theft.  

Make sure to connect with any services you use that contact you by calling or texting your mobile number to update your information. These offline services could be a: 

  • Plumbing or HVAC company 
  • Dentist or doctor’s office 
  • Pharmacy 
  • Local retailer 
  • Utility company 

DOUBLE CHECK ALL YOUR MULTI-FACTOR AUTHENTICATION PROMPTS

One of the big dangers of having a stranger able to receive your text messages is that they could have access to your codes for multi-factor authentication (MFA). 

MFA is designed as a safeguard to help prevent an account breach, even if the perpetrator has your username and password. But if the criminal gets the MFA codes sent to your old number, they can easily get in and change your password, locking you out of your own account. 

As you go through the process to update your mobile number in your online accounts, double-check the MFA prompt for any that use this form of authentication security. You want to make sure it’s been properly changed to send a message to your new number. 

REVIEW YOUR TEXT MESSAGE HISTORY FOR ANYTHING YOU’VE MISSED

Inevitably, there will be online accounts or service providers that you’ve missed. For example, that place you always order flowers for on a loved one’s birthday every year but never visit at other times. 

Scroll through your text message history to find any other accounts that you may have forgotten to update. 

TEXT FRIENDS, FAMILY & COLLEAGUES FROM THE NEW NUMBER

Once your online security is taken care of, you want to stop friends, family, and colleagues from accidentally texting your old number. This can happen in both one-on-one and group SMS chats. 

Send a text message from your new number asking them to immediately update your contact with that number when they receive it. Then go the additional step by asking them to delete any messages that used your old phone number. This can help prevent them from accidentally grabbing that message instead of your new one when texting you in the future. 

HOW SECURE IS YOUR MOBILE DEVICE?

Mobile devices are increasingly being attacked by malware and phishing. Is your device properly secured? Don’t leave yourself at risk, request a mobile security check to protect your personal data and identity. 

 

Article used with permission from The Technology Press.  

These Google Search Tips Will Save You Tons of Time!

Over 2.4 million searches happen every minute on Google. It’s often the first stop people make when they go online. 

We search daily for both personal and work needs, and often searching out the right information can take a lot of time if you have to sift through several irrelevant results. 

One study by consulting firm, McKinsey, found that employees spend an average of 1.8 hours daily, or 9.3 hours each week, searching and gathering information. This can be a productivity sinkhole as more web results keep getting added to the internet every day. 

One way you can save time on your personal and work-related searches is to learn some “secret” Google search tips. These help you narrow down your search results and improve productivity by helping you find the information you need faster. 

SEARCH A SPECIFIC WEBSITE USING “SITE:”

Sometimes you need to find information on a specific website. For example, you might need to locate a government statistic that you know is out there but can’t seem to bring up on a general search. 

You can use Google to search keywords on a specific website by using the “site” function. 

In the search bar use the following:  site:(site url) (keyword) 

This will bring up search results only for that one specific URL. 

FIND FLIGHT INFORMATION WITHOUT LEAVING GOOGLE

When you need to access flight information, you’re often on the go. Either getting ready to head to the airport or waiting for someone to arrive. Having to load multiple site pages in your browser can take valuable time. Instead, get your flight results directly from Google. 

Just type in the flight number and the name of the airlines, and you’ll get a listing of flight information without having to click to another page. You can even tab to choose flight info for that same flight on different days. 

LOOK FOR DOCUMENT TYPES USING “FILETYPE:” 

If you’ve just been tasked with coming up with a presentation on sustainable energy, it can be helpful to see what other people have done on the same subject. 

Searching websites can give you a lot of details to sift through but searching for another PowerPoint presentation can provide you with even more insight into how others have distilled that information down into a presentation. 

Google has a search function that allows you to search on a file type, so instead of webpages showing up in your results, files of the file type you searched will appear. 

To use this function, type in the following: filetype:(type) (keyword) 

In the case of wanting to find a PowerPoint on sustainable energy, you could use the following in the search bar: filetype:ppt sustainable energy. 

All the results will be PPT presentations. 

You can also use this function for other file types, such as: 

  • DOC 
  • PDF 
  • XLS or XLSX 
  • SVG 
  • and more 

NARROW DOWN TIMEFRAME USING THE “TOOLS” LINK

One frustration is when you’re looking up something like a population or cybersecurity statistic and you end up with results that are too old to be relevant. You can spend valuable time paging through the search results, or you can tell Google what time frame you’d like to search. 

To narrow your search results by a specific timeframe, do the following: 

  • Enter your keyword and click to search. 
  • Under the search bar, click the “Tools” link. 
  • Click the “Any time” link. 
  • Choose your timeframe. 

You can choose from preset timeframes, like past hour or past year, or you can set a custom date range for your results. 

LOCATE SIMILAR SITES USING “RELATED:”

When you’re researching a topic online, it’s often helpful to find similar websites to the one you are viewing. Seeing related sites can also be used if you’re trying to find a specific product or service online and want to do some comparison shopping. 

Google can provide you with a list of related websites when you use the “related” function. 

In your search bar, type the following: related:https://website.com 

One more way that you can leverage this search tip is to look for competitors by entering your own website URL in the search. 

GET RID OF RESULTS YOU DON’T WANT USING “-(KEYWORD)”

Non-relevant results are one of the main timewasters of online searching. You have to page through results that have nothing to do with what you really want to find, just because they use a related keyword. 

For example, say you were searching the Ruby Slipper Cafe in New Orleans. But in your search results, you keep getting pages related to the movie the Wizard of Oz. You could eliminate those irrelevant results by using the negative keyword function. 

Just type: (keyword) -(keyword) 

Basically, you are just putting a minus sign in front of a keyword that you want to exclude from your search. In the example above, you would type: ruby slippers -oz. 

LOOKING FOR MORE WAYS TO BOOST PRODUCTIVITY & SAVE TIME?

IT consultants aren’t just for large projects, we can also help you boost productivity in your everyday workflow to make your life easier. Contact us if you wish to discuss further!

 

Article used with permission from The Technology Press.  

Top 5 Cybersecurity Mistakes That Leave Your Data at Risk

The global damage of cybercrime has risen to an average of $11 million USD per minute, which is a cost of $190,000 each second.  

60% of small and mid-sized companies that have a data breach end up closing their doors within six months because they can’t afford the costs. The costs of falling victim to a cyberattack can include loss of business, downtime/productivity losses, reparation costs for customers that have had data stolen, and more. 

You may think that this means investing more in cybersecurity, and it is true that you need to have appropriate IT security safeguards in place (anti-malware, firewall, etc.). However, many of the most damaging breaches are due to common cybersecurity mistakes that companies and their employees make. 

The 2021 Sophos Threat Report, which looked at thousands of global data breaches, found that what it termed “everyday threats” were some of the most dangerous. The report stated, “A lack of attention to one or more aspects of basic security hygiene has been found to be at the root cause of many of the most damaging attacks we’ve investigated.” 

Is your company making a dangerous cybersecurity mistake that is leaving you at high risk for a data breach, cloud account takeover, or ransomware infection? 

Here are several of the most common missteps when it comes to basic IT security best practices. 

NOT IMPLEMENTING MUTI-FACTOR AUTHENTICATION (MFA)

Credential theft has become the top cause of data breaches around the world, according to IBM Security. With most company processes and data now being cloud-based, login credentials hold the key to multiple types of attacks on company networks. 

Not protecting your user logins with multi-factor authentication is a common mistake and one that leaves companies at a much higher risk of falling victim to a breach. 

MFA reduces fraudulent sign-in attempts by a staggering 99.9%. 

IGNORING THE USE OF SHADOW IT  

Shadow IT is the use of cloud applications by employees for business data that haven’t been approved and may not even be known about by a company. 

Shadow IT use leaves companies at risk for several reasons: 

  • Data may be used in a non-secure application 
  • Data isn’t included in company backup strategies 
  • If the employee leaves, the data could be lost 
  • The app being used might not meet company compliance requirements 

Employees often begin using apps on their own because they’re trying to fill a gap in their workflow and are unaware of the risks involved with using an app that hasn’t been vetted by their company’s IT team. 

It’s important to have cloud use policies in place that spell out for employees the applications that can and cannot be used for work. 

THINKING YOU’RE FINE WITH ONLY AN ANTIVIRUS APPLICATION

No matter how small your business is, a simple antivirus application is not enough to keep you protected. In fact, many of today’s threats don’t use a malicious file at all. 

Phishing emails will contain commands sent to legitimate PC systems that aren’t flagged as a virus or malware. Phishing also overwhelmingly uses links these days rather than file attachments to send users to malicious sites. Those links won’t get caught by simple antivirus solutions. 

You need to have a multi-layered strategy in place that includes things like: 

  • Next-gen anti-malware (uses AI and machine learning) 
  • Next-gen firewall 
  • Email filtering 
  • DNS filtering 
  • Automated application and cloud security policies 
  • Cloud access monitoring 

NOT HAVING DEVICE MANAGEMENT IN PLACE  

A majority of companies around the world have had employees working remotely from home since the pandemic, and they’re planning to keep it that way. However, device management for those remote employee devices as well as smartphones used for business hasn’t always been put in place. 

If you’re not managing security or data access for all the endpoints (company and employee-owned) in your business, you’re at a higher risk of a data breach. 

If you don’t have one already, it’s time to put a device management application in place, like Intune in Microsoft 365. 

NOT PROVIDING ADEQUATE TRAINING TO EMPLOYEES

An astonishing 95% of cybersecurity breaches are caused by human error. Too many companies don’t take the time to continually train their employees, and thus users haven’t developed the skills needed for a culture of good cybersecurity. 

Employee IT security awareness training should be done throughout the year, not just annually or during an onboarding process. The more you keep IT security front and center, the better equipped your team will be to identify phishing attacks and follow proper data handling procedures. 

Some ways to infuse cybersecurity training into your company culture include: 

  • Short training videos 
  • IT security posters 
  • Webinars 
  • Team training sessions 
  • Cybersecurity tips in company newsletters 

 

WHEN DID YOU LAST HAVE A CYBERSECURITY CHECKUP? 

Don’t stay in the dark about your IT security vulnerabilities. Schedule a cybersecurity audit to uncover vulnerabilities so they can be fortified to reduce your risk. 

 

Article used with permission from The Technology Press.