Information Technology

Never Cross the Streams, It Would Be Bad

Just as with proton streams when battling apparitions, banshees, phantoms or poltergeists, you don’t ever want to cross your store’s wifi with your public wifi.

What’s the issue?  We have a perfectly good Internet connection that we use for our business computers, cash registers and automation systems, why not open it up to the public so that we can attract more business to our store?  Really, you’re just trying to enrich the cable companies by making us buy another Internet connection for our customers.  And the national outfit that wants the contract to install public wifi at our mall says that they can firewall the public wifi from our business cash registers without a problem.  Cross their collective hearts and hope to die, they do this all the time and they never have a problem.

The first issue is that the sales lady from that national outfit would probably throw her own mother under the bus to get you to sign the contract.  The second issue is that firewalls are software with vulnerabilities that can be hacked – firewalls are better than nothing, but it’s not something that Stirling uses to protect our corporate network from a public wifi on a shared Internet connection.

By crossing your business Internet with public wifi, the only thing you’re really accomplishing is providing a road map for someone to sit in the parking lot and hack your business.  In this bold new world of interconnectivity that we live in, it’s simply safer and easier to calculate the cost of a dedicated Internet connection for your public wifi upfront before providing public wifi in your business, store or mall.

July 27, 2015|Blog, Corporate, Information Technology|

End of Life (EOL), Have you made your plans?

Thanks to the overwhelming media hype last year, we all know by now that Windows XP went End of Life and out-of-support by Microsoft on April 8, 2014, but did you know that Microsoft Windows 2003 is going End of Life on July 14th of this year?

Do you have a file server in your office that is still running on Windows 2003?  Are any of your key control systems, hvac or other automation systems running on Windows 2000 or 2003?  Seems like every time Stirling starts managing a new property, we run into a slew of Windows XP computers and/or an old Windows 2003 Server or two.

What’s the big deal?  Why should we care if software goes End of Life?  We all see the sensationalized hacks that are publicized in the media which are sometimes just hype, what they miss is the whole industry that’s grown up around exploiting your operating systems and software.  It’s the old game of cat and mouse or whack a mole, but updated for our digital world.  Criminals find holes that they can exploit and then companies like Microsoft release a patch to fix the hole.  If you stay up-to-date with the patches, you’re in ok shape.  The problem comes when a product goes End of Life – the criminals are still finding and exploiting the security holes, but Microsoft is no longer issuing patches to fix the holes so if you’re running an Operating System or software that’s no longer supported, you’re throwing a big neon sign out to the world that says please exploit my systems.

Running an old version of Internet Explorer, Microsoft Office or some other productivity software that’s no longer supported?  Same problem, probably need to look into upgrading.

Is your automation system running an old version of Windows?  Might want to check with your vendor to find out what needs to be done to get you up-to-date.  Looking at installing a new Automation System?  If the dollars add up, ask about systems that run on proprietary hardware and software, instead of Windows.  Windows is a great general purpose operating system, but part of what makes it so versatile, also makes it a huge risk for security exploits.

We no longer live in a world where we can put systems out and forget about them.  We need to stay up-to-date on the patches, know the End of Life dates and keep your automation systems under contract so you can keep them up-to-date.

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