AT Newsletter Volume 37, August 2023

Don't Leave Home Without It

I probably should have written this article before the busy summer travel season. First, let me state that I do not travel near as much as many of my friends or colleagues and I should have solicited their input for this month's article. While getting ready for two upcoming trips (one business and one pleasure) I started thinking about the technology that makes traveling easier for me. Here are my top five tech travel essentials:

  • Snapwireless PowerPack Universal - This may be one of my favorite purchases in the past few years. This powerful power bank allows you to charge multiple devices at the same time. I love that everything is self-contained within the device. The plug to charge the device flips out from the side - no extra cables to lose. The device can act as a charging pad and has built-in USB-C and Lightning cables. In addition to those cables, there is an additional USB-C and USB-A ports as well. You can charge five devices simultaneously. Besides being a great portable battery when travelling I use it as a charging station on the road. Finally, the device comes with international travel adapters allowing that to slip easily over the built-in plug (this was great when I was in Seoul this past spring).
  • iPad Mini - There are many tablet devices out there however I'm partial to the Mini. It is great when I don't want to boot up the laptop. The battery life is great and I can easily switch between taking notes in Evernote, reading a book, or catching up on the latest streaming series. For long trips, I'll typically make sure that I download a few shows and books. I recently added the latest Apple Pencil and I'm quite impressed by the handwriting recognition...especially with my penmanship.
  • Noise Cancelling Headphones - I'm guessing most other travelers have their favorite pair of headphones. Since most of my other devices are in the Apple ecosystem I've stuck with the Apple Airpods. Once again they have designed a great product. The carrying/charging case ensures that the battery will last on a long trip. The noise cancelling works great and they seamlessly switch between devices. True audiophiles will complain about the quality but my ears are just not that refined.
  • Airfly Wireless Adapter - This little Bluetooth device is great for connecting your wireless headphones to inflight entertainment. It simply plugs into a standard headphone jack and transmits the audio to your headphones. Two important things I've learned when using this device are: make sure it is charged before a trip and be sure to pair it with your headphones before you travel.
  • Timbuk2 Authority Laptop Backpack - Okay technically this isn't a tech device but I simply could not travel without it. This is my third Timbuk2 bag. These bags last forever. My first two bags have been passed down to others and still are in great shape. Besides the great quality, these bags are designed to keep all your tech efficiently organized during a long vacation or a trip to the office (if you still do that).

I would love to hear from you if something to add to my list. Time to finish packing. Wishing you safe travels on your next journey.

QR Code Invasion
Have you noticed that QR codes are everywhere? They are in commercials, restaurants, museums, retail stores, ballparks and I have even seen them on motorcycles at a dealership as a link to see full details about the bike. QR codes are powerful because they can connect you to valuable information in an instant but they can also be dangerous. They could instantly deliver malicious content to your smartphone, which has limited corporate security protections and connects to corporate data. 

The FBI has released multiple alerts regarding QR codes because they have been used in numerous successful attacks. In one scenario, a menu QR code at a restaurant was replaced by an attacker. When a customer follows the link, the webpage asks for Office 365 credentials. When the customer provides their login details and then acknowledges MFA, the attackers successfully log on to the customer’s work email account. The attacker scours the inbox for valuable data and proceeds to send out malicious emails to all the victim’s contacts. 

Recently, Several AT clients reported receiving a fraudulent email with a QR code appearing to be from Microsoft. We suspect the resulting attack would play out similarly to the restaurant example. The lessons here are two-fold: 

  • Use caution with QR codes. Examine the conditions around them, such as the sending email or if the QR code is on a sticker over a legitimate QR code. Also, never log on to corporate email to access something like a restaurant menu. 
  • Manage the risk personal devices bring to your organization. In the example above, the victim did not need to have remote access to files or email on their phone for the attack to succeed. Therefore, devices completely out of any oversight or management by the organization still present risks to the organization. 

Talk to us about managing these risks for your organization and staff's accounts. 

Don't Fall For It
AT has recently seen a slight increase in the success of social engineering. For the impacted customers, our security software prevented full-blown incidents, but there was still business interruption for individual staff and response costs to ensure a laptop was free of malware.

We wanted to take this opportunity to remind our Managed Services customers that security awareness training is included with all Managed Workstation plans. If your organization is not training new staff and retraining all staff annually, please contact us to schedule training ASAP. With just a few clicks, staff have the power to circumvent some of the security protections on their computers: empower them to avoid those pitfalls.