6 IT Projects to Tackle While Quarantined at Home

It’s spring cleaning time and since you’re sheltering in place, there is no better time than now to get your digital house in order. We have come up with 6 easy at-home IT Projects that will increase your security, organization, and quality of life.

1. Update WiFi Passwords

Updating Your Passwords - Xlingshot

You’ve got your home WiFi all set up.  You’ve connected your Alexa, your Nest thermostat, and your Ring doorbell and everything works great. Then your lazy brother-in-law comes and crashes on your couch and mooches off your Internet.  He’s got your home WiFi password and passes it on to all of his friends.  Now they’re on your network, playing online poker and emailing Nigerian princes, and they have access to all of your devices and home.  

Changing your passwords is probably the easiest way to keep your network protected. 

Maybe this isn’t your exact situation, per se, but it’s still a good idea to practice WiFi security and change your home WiFi network password, every once in a while. The first time you do this it will be pretty annoying. Changing your password will break the wifi for your Alexa, TVs, Gaming Systems, and other home devices. To avoid this hassle in the future, set up a second network just for devices. Alternatively, you can create a guest network where the password can be changed frequently.

Maybe you’re not worried about security, but what about bandwidth? By updating your WiFi password, you can ditch web squatters whose Tiger King binges are slowing down your connection. You can also reward your kids with the wifi password when they finish special COVID-19 chores.

Not sure where to start? Here’s the step-by-step process with pictures.

2. Organize Your Digital Files and Photo Library

Decluttering you office - Xlingshot

How long have you been thinking about organizing your thousands of photos and other digital files? What happens if your accounts are hacked, your phone falls in the toilet, or some other disaster happens that could wipe out your digital files? 

Now is a great time to start organizing and protecting your files, but the task may still seem daunting. Fear not, you can start your digital file organization from the couch with the photo gallery apps on your phone. For iPhone users, the Photos app has lots of options for organizing and finding your photos. Android users have similar options for managing digital photos

Once you’ve dipped a toe in the water, you may want to get fancy. There are lots of free and paid apps that can help you manage your photos and digital files. 

What is the best practice for digital organization? Who better to turn to than librarians? The Public Library Association recommends the following process for personal archiving:

  1. Identify the files
  2. Decide which files are important
  3. Organize the files
  4. Make copies and store them in different places 

Once you get started with a digital file organization, your momentum will snowball. Eventually, proper file organization, consistent naming conventions, tagging, labeling, and file backup will become easy habits that you don’t even have to think about.

3. Clear out old cables and obsolete devices

Clear out old cables and obsolete devices - Xlingshot

Everyone has that tangle of cords, cables and chargers for devices that they haven’t seen in years and probably don’t even own anymore. When it comes to the wire rat nest, there are two schools of thought. You have your boy scouts and girl scouts who think, “I’ll need one of these some day.” And you have your ostriches, who put their heads in the sand, reasoning “If I don’t think about them they’ll go away.” 

Whether you’re a scout or an ostrich, you’ll be glad when you have sorted and organized the mess. If you’re an advanced Eagle Scout, you may have already sorted your collection, so now is a good time to cull through and remove the VGA cables, Apple 30 pin chargers, and other obsolete accessories. 

Not sure where to start? Here is a quick keep/recycle list, for easy reference:

The Probably-Want-to-Keep List:

  • 2-prong and 3-prong power cords
  • 3.5 mm auxiliary
  • SATA cables
  • mini-USB
  • micro-USB
  • USB 3 Micro-B
  • Thunderbolt Port
  • Display Port

The “Probably-Safe-to-Recycle” List:

  • Coaxial Cable
  • S-Video
  • RCA/Composite
  • VGA
  • DVI (Digital Virtual Interface)
  • Apple 30 pin charger

If you need help identifying what’s what, check out this exhaustive guide of computer cables or this simple visual guide to computer cables and connectors

Once you have identified what you’re going to recycle, there are lots of places where you can donate or drop off your stuff. Colorado.gov has listed some of your local options here.

4. Clean that keyboard

Cleaning your keyword - Xlingshot

Not to gross you out or anything, but, your keyboard may have 400x more bacteria than a toilet seat. Here are 4 easy steps to clean your keyboard, you can do this for your mouse too!

  1. Shut down and unplug your computer.
  2. Gently shake your keyboard out while it is upside down to empty out crumbs and other debris. You can use a can of compressed air for this, as well. 
  3. Using a damp (not wet) Q-tip, clean in-between the keys. You can use isopropyl alcohol for this.
  4. Dampen a lint-free cloth with your favorite all-purpose cleaner or a 1:1 solution of vinegar and water for the final wipe-down.

5. Unsubscribe from SPAM

Reduce Your Spam - Xlingshot

Spam. We all get it. We all hate it. Yet – oddly – the tendency is to ignore the spam rather than dealing with it. Give yourself the gift of a manageable inbox and take some time to click unsubscribe.

The CAN-SPAM Act requires that senders of commercial emails “must include a clear and conspicuous explanation of how the recipient can opt-out of getting an email from you in the future” 

Be aware, however, that some Unsubscribe links at shady companies will use your “unsubscribe” response to simply confirm that you’re a real person. In cases such as these, you might be better off using a spam filter to block the content rather than confirming that you’re getting their emails by clicking Unsubscribe.

6. Simplify your social media

Simplify Your Social Media - Xlingshot

Social media has opened up a lot of conversations and opportunities, not to mention a wealth of funny memes and videos of animals being adorable. On the flip side, as we all know, social media can leave you feeling worse than before you logged in. 

Why not take some time to curate your social media experience? Unfollow companies, groups, and people that create stress, chaos and white noise in your life. Once the mess is cleared away, the cream will rise to the top. Here’s a to-do list to get you started on your journey to a better social media experience:

  1. List all of your social media accounts- LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram, etc.
  2. Identify your goals for each channel. Are you trying to make business contacts? Are you wanting to stay in touch with friends? Do you want to find recipes and laugh at silly videos? Are you following industry news and trends? Each channel offers differing possibilities and if you are approaching all social media with the same goals for each, you’re doing it wrong. 
  3. Weed out the connections, groups, subscriptions, follows, and likes that do not specifically serve the goals for that channel. (Alternatively, follow the KonMari trend and ask yourself, “does this spark joy?” If the answer is no, you must unfollow!)
  4. Consider setting daily social media time limits for yourself.

 

None of these projects are that challenging, it’s just finding the time to do it. Since we all have more free time on our hands due to sheltering in place, now is a great time to start. Choose the project you like most and see where the momentum takes you. Even a little progress can make a big difference.

Whether you take a stab at these projects or not, we would love to hear what you think! 

 

How to Identify a Phishing Email and What to Do about It

How to Identify a Phishing Email and What to Do about it

Security threats are everywhere. They come in all different sizes and shapes. The most common are viruses and trojans which can be accessed via email to anyone that doesn’t know what to look for to protect against a potential attack. In this article, you’ll learn three of the most common phishing techniques and how to not fall into their trap.

Deceptive Phishing

Deceptive Phishing is the most common technique hackers use to collect your information. Fraudsters copy legitimate companies like Paypal and American Express to fool users into entering their information for their monetary gain.

Phising Techniques - Xlingshot

Steps to avoid Deceptive Phishing

  1. Review the source of the email. If the email address doesn’t match the company URL (anyemail@paypal.com), you should be cautious when opening the email.
  2. Keep an eye out for bad grammar. Poor grammar is a sign of a phishing email due to the fact that big companies like Paypal hire professional writers to compose email marketing and have a quality check process in place.
  3. Review the opening line. Is your name missing from the email? Fraudsters are known to send mass emails leaving out your name. Instead, you’ll see “Hi” or Hello” with no name following the greeting.
  4. Timing is key when identifying a phishing email. When one appears in your inbox, ask yourself,” Did I sign up for Paypal?”. If the answer is no, be on the defensive and do not open the email. The Phisher’s objective is to lure you in by clicking on a button within the email. You’re prompted to fill out personal information including name, address, credit card number, and other personal information.

Spear Phishing

Spear Phishing is quite different in that it’s more personal compared to Deceptive Phishing. Social media is the medium of choice for Spear Phishing scammers. Fraudsters customize their phishing emails with the target person’s name, position, company, phone number, and other information in an effort to make to connection and transition the communication off the social media platform.

The objective is the same as Deceptive Phishing. Lure the victim into clicking on a given link or form to gain access to their information.

How to avoid Spear Phishing

Training your staff to identify a Spear Phishing message is key to protecting your companies valuable information. Security awareness training helps employees learn these different techniques hackers use to steal company data. Companies should also invest in data security measures help protect them against malicious emails and attachments.

Pharming

Pharming is another scam that is more complex than the other two covered in this article. It ’s where a fraudster installs a piece of malicious code on a personal computer or server. The malicious code redirects any clicks you make on the website to another fraudulent website with your knowledge or permission.

How to Avoid Pharming

Protecting yourself against Pharming is not as complex as Pharming itself. Be sure to log in to websites only using HTTPS. A properly installed SSL certificate helps to secure your data as you log in to a given website. Companies should also implement anti-virus software on corporate devices that employees use on a regular basis.

Hackers and fraudsters are using more complex measures to steal information about your company on a daily basis. Phishing attempts are going to happen and it’s important to stay up-to-date on the latest security measures and education to prevent a data breach.