Cyber-Attacks

Politics have dominated the news in recent weeks. Between the daily buzz of a presidential election and now both political party’s conventions, it can feel like politics surround us. Just recently, however, the news took a turn to the techy side of things. In the past couple of weeks, some rather embarrassing hacks have been brought to light, first of the Democratic National Committee and then on Hillary Clinton’s campaign. Many believe that Russian hackers are to blame for the breach, which was leaked to the press through Wikileaks.

In a contentious political season, this is something that election officials and the FBI take very seriously. In a statement to ABC News the FBI released this statement:

“The FBI is investigating a cyber intrusion involving the DNC and are working to determine the nature and scope of the matter,” the FBI said in a statement today. “A compromise of this nature is something we take very seriously, and the FBI will continue to investigate and hold accountable those who pose a threat in cyberspace.”

Of course, hacking isn’t just a threat to the world of politics. Businesses of all sizes need to be vigilant against the threat of cyber-attacks. Here are some of the main lessons that every business should learn from these cyber scandals.

Lessons On Cyber-Attacks For The Business World

  1. All Data Has Value To Someone: Many companies assume that because they don’t deal with credit cards or financial data online, then they don’t have to worry about cyber threats. You never know, however, what hackers may find valuable. From counterfeit spammy linking to personal data stored on customers, there is a market for everything. In some cases, even email accounts become targets as a resource for phishing schemes; using a legitimate website to try to skim illegitimate data from unsuspecting victims.
  2. Hacks Come From Many Sources: Speaking of phishing schemes… Most people tend to think of cyber-attacks as a sophisticated bit of coding, done is dark rooms by people with advanced hacking skills. In truth, many hackers gain access to companies in some very mundane ways. Email phishing is still an easy way for hackers to get entry to your data, and all it takes is one employee to open the wrong email.
  3. Don’t Assume You Are Safe: The first two bullet points should highlight the biggest lesson on the list. NEVER assume when it comes to cyber security. With your IT professional, go through every vulnerability point to see where improvements can be made.
  4. Have A Plan: No matter how prepared a company may be, there is no way to prevent a cyber-attack entirely, if the adversary is determined enough. Hackers make their living staying one step ahead of the game; a tactic they exploit at the expense of honest businesses. A “hacker-preparedness” plan can be the difference between a major breach and a minor inconvenience. These include an emergency chain of contact so action can be taken swiftly, at any time. You also need back-ups for your site and a communications template to alert your customers if needed.

Does your business have a plan in place for cyber breaches? Has your company ever experienced a hack? We would love to hear your insights in the comments below.

What does Google Know About YouIt is easy to take Google for granted, isn’t it? The search engine has become so ubiquitous that it has become its own verb. In fact, for many it is hard to imagine a time when a world of information wasn’t at our fingertips; from politics to weather, shopping to entertainment and all points in between. The world feels like it is truly at our fingertips.

It is convenient to have access to so much information and Google has made it so very convenient to use its services for email, maps, and videos in addition to its search. It is estimated that there were 98.5 million smartphone users on the Google Android platform in 2015 in the United States alone. That number is expected to rise to 107.7 million users in the U.S. in 2016. Between YouTube, Android, and its search network, Google has access to a LOT of data.

Have you ever wondered what that means for you? What does Google know about you? After all, every search you make and every video you view helps to feed Google data on your habits and your likes.

Have you ever thought about your contribution to the Google data empire?

If you are like most people, chances are you haven’t thought about it at all. Some sophisticated users may realize that their search history is feeding into their ad suggestions or their video history influences their suggested videos, but most people don’t think about the data much beyond that. Google, it seems, would like to change that way of thinking. It is offering a new and improved “My Activity” page to show its users what is being collected and where.

Why would Google offer such insight? The company’s motto has always been, “Don’t Be Evil.” Under the new parent, Alphabet, the motto has evolved into, “Do The Right Thing.” In keeping with its corporate culture, it seems that Google is trying to build the best, most intuitive service provider while offering its users some control. So what does Google track exactly? The company breaks it into three major categories.

“The Things You Do”, which includes:

  • Your web searches on Google
  • The websites you visit
  • The videos you watch
  • The ads you interact with
  • Your location, both physical and your IP address and cookie data
  • Your device information (mobile, desktop or tablet)

“The Things You Create” which includes the following when put through the Google suite of services such as Gmail and Drive:

  • Your calendar events
  • Your emails
  • Your contacts
  • Photos and videos
  • Docs, sheets and slides on Drive

“The Things That Make You, You” which includes all of the information you willingly give to Google when you sign up, including:

  • Your name
  • Your email address and password
  • Your birthday
  • Your gender
  • Your phone number
  • Your country of residence

All of this can seem very overwhelming when laid out in such a manner, doesn’t it? To be fair, all of this data helps to improve the search results you receive, the videos that are suggested to you as well as countless little features we take for granted, like auto-complete. On the flip side, it also allows Google to use this data to help show targeted ads and sponsored content.

In order to help its users feel more in control with the amount of data that Google has at its fingertips, the platform is making it easier for users to access their account and their history. It is making it very simple to tell the search juggernaut what you want to be used and what you don’t. On the myactivity.google.com page, users can opt out of location tracking and delete past search history. Users can also log into their account and run a privacy check-up to ensure that each user is only sharing what they want to share.

Of course, you can also browse the web in incognito mode as well, which will prevent Chrome from saving any data at all. It may be pretty tempting to lock down your account to prevent big brother Google from scoping your search history but it is important to remember one more thing. Written into the privacy policy Google assures its users that this data that it is collecting is only used internally, and it is never sold to third parties. Cynics will be quick to point out that Google does use the data to make money through its advertising ventures, but the data is never disseminated or distilled to target a single individual or even a group of individuals. Instead, it is used to help create keyword specific ads to provide the right content to the right people at the right time.

Cynics will be quick to point out that Google does use the data to make money through its advertising ventures, but the data is never disseminated or distilled to target a single individual or even a group of individuals. Instead, it is used to help create keyword specific ads to provide the right content to the right people at the right time.

Love it or hate it, Google does have a world of data at its disposal. Data that we all hand over to them freely and typically without regard. At least now Google is trying to be as transparent as possible with their use of that data. You might say they are trying to “do the right thing.” At the very least, you can be sure that with location tracking, search result tracking and auto-complete help; ordering the perfect pizza to your door is quick and easy… As long as you don’t mind sharing a slice of the data with Google.

The term honing has become part of business lexicon. Chances are you have used it, “I’m going to hone in on the right candidate.” Or, “We are honing in on the right software for the job.” It has come to be synonymous with sharpening or refining a decision or thought. For those working at Sunnen Products Corporation, however, honing has a slighting more technical definition. They would know. After all, Joseph Sunnen perfected the technique of honing almost 100 years ago. And the rest, as they say, is history.

Sunnen Products company was founded in 1924 by Joseph Sunnen, and it ran out of the back of a 1916 Hupmobile. In 1928 Sunnen introduced their first manual cylinder honing tool, which was used as a finishing tool to perfect cylinders that had been resized through a technique called boring. This technique, briefly put, produces a precision surface on a metal workpiece by scrubbing an abrasive stone against it along a controlled path.  This new process allowed for a more precise effect, creating a very exact result in the cylinder, perfect for a burgeoning automotive industry.

Since 1928 Sunnen’s honing tools have been used in countless industrial applications, far beyond the small engine honing that first shaped the company. Honing is now used in everything from the manufacture of guns to the oil industry. Sunnen honing machines aid in the production of a myriad of gears that are used in countless machines from motorcycles, to airplanes to space exploration. Amazing, isn’t it, to think that a tool devised in 1928 helped to get us into space.

The path from a 1916 Hupmobile (a replica of which can still be found in Sunnen’s St. Louis Missouri headquarters) to space wasn’t a simple one, however. Sunnen has made its mission to continue to innovate in the world of honing; with a commitment to research and development. This has allowed the company to stay a leader in the industry, even as the field has become more crowded. This is a lesson that every industry can learn from, in terms of evolving along with technology. Those who don’t innovate are lost.

Here are some of the core principles that Sunnen had applied to allow it to grow over the past 90 plus years:

  1. They believe innovation is a way of life. As such they devote the time and capital to new ideas and technology.
  2. The encourage and reward initiative. Those with the big ideas can succeed at the company and everyone is encouraged to share their ideas.
  3. They listen to customers, employees and stakeholders need and expect. They then use this data to chart a path forward.
  4. They insist on a level of excellence that will exceed client expectations. Nothing goes to market that isn’t tried, tested and perfected.
  5. Their goal is to solve problems, rather than placing blame. They insist on accountability but offer the tools and their employees need thrive.

These are valuable lessons that can be applied not just to the manufacturing sector, but to any company that wants to stay relevant in a high-tech world. Applying the time, money and support to innovation is the first step in staying at the top of any industry; from manufacturing to tech start-ups. So what are you doing to stay up to date in your field? How does your company stay abreast of new opportunities in your industry? If you are not sure how to answer, take a look at Sunnen Products Company; a company that is rapidly approaching its centennial and still growing strong. Do you have a plan for continued innovation? What challenges have you faced in terms of growing your tech in your industry? We would love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.

white hat and black hat seo is like the wild west

For any business with a website (and that is probably all of you reading today) search engine optimization had probably crossed your mind. How do you get your site to rank higher on Google? How can you make sure that your site is being seen by the right people? What can you do to help your site on search engines? This is SEO and it is a big business. A quick Google of SEO companies will offer a myriad of options, all promising to help you get your site in front of your customers. Do you know how to choose the right company?

If the internet is the wild west then SEO companies are the cowboys, helping to wrangle their herd home. And much like cowboys, there are white hats.  If you are a fan of old westerns than maybe you know which are considered the good guys, and which aren’t. As far as Google is concerned, black hat SEO companies are the stage coach robbers of the internet, always looking for quick money or a fast return. And with Google as the sheriff in town, black hat SEO tactics can land your website in trouble faster than a firecracker on the fourth of July.

So what is the small business owner to do? Well, with a little understanding of the two “cowboys” you will have all the ammo you need to pull the trigger on the right SEO company for your business.

Understanding the Difference Between White Hat and Black Hat SEO

There are a lot of elements and tactics that differentiate white hat and black hat SEO, but it all can be whittled down to one key idea. White Hat SEO takes a slow, ethical and measured approach to building traffic to your site in a transparent and targeted way. Black hat SEO does the opposite, looking for quick, easy, and one-sized fits all solutions to SEO. White hat SEO won’t offer a quick return on your investment, but instead should be measured over time whereas black hat may offer quick results now, but can crash you site on search engines in the future.

There are a lot of pieces that go into SEO, and it can be confusing to know if the various tactics used by an SEO company are white hat or black hat. However, there are a few questions every business owner should ask before signing on an SEO company.

  1. How long will it take me to rank on Google? A black hat company will promise the world, offering fast results. Companies that are truly white hat know that search engine optimization is a long game and they communicate that to their potential clients.
  2. What is your plan for my SEO needs? Black hat companies are typically really reluctant to share their tactics. White hat companies, in contrast, will want to work in tandem with your company on your SEO journey; offering insights into the plan before work begins.
  3. How do you show your work? A legitimate SEO company should be able to offer clear deliverables on a monthly or quarterly basis. Even though SEO is the long game, a white hat SEO company will have no problem highlighting areas of success in terms of traffic, conversions or content. Black hat SEO will tend to focus strictly ranking, although can’t always be sure it is for the right keywords. (It is easy to rank for keywords that no one is searching for.)
  4. How much does it cost? SEO is one of those industries in which you get what you pay for. If the price sounds too good to be true, it is probably a black hat company. White hat SEO is a long and time-consuming process and while it can be costly, the right company should be able to provide a good return on your SEO investment in the form of quality traffic and targeted leads.

For more information on the differences between white hat and black hat SEO you may find this article from Kissmetrics to be enlightening. Have you ever worked with an SEO company? What was your experience? If you have any questions about the differences between black hat and white hat practices, let us know. We may even turn your questions into a future blog.

It’s no surprise to most businesses that trying to function without a website in this day and age is an exercise in irrelevancy. In order to compete, companies large and small have turned to the world wide web in order to capture both awareness and sales. For many of these businesses, a simple site is all they require; an online brochure to showcase their company and its abilities. Very few look to e-commerce examples for inspiration on these simple sites; much to their determent. Brochure sites can learn much from their more robust e-commerce sites in terms of driving awareness and qualified leads. The savvy businessperson would be wise to tune in.

Applying Ecommerce Methods To Drive Conversions

It is worth restating, simply because it is so important to understand, younger generations have come to rely on the internet for so much. In fact, it is estimated that people spend an average of 14% of their day interacting online. In the past 10 years, e-commerce has been chipping away at the brick and mortar shopping behemoth. E-commerce accounted for 2.6% of all retail sales in 2005.  Over the last decade that number has increased to 7.5% and is only expected to grow as younger demographics, having grown up with the internet, slowly increase their purchasing influence. This only goes to show that companies that aren’t optimizing their online presence are truly missing an opportunity.

So what can a simple website learn from its e-commerce counter parts?

  1. Less is sometimes more

It is really tempting to want to load your site down with all the reasons people need your service, but a lot of text can turn off potential customers; sending them off in search of a simpler solution. While Fitbit offers an array of fitness trackers, it keeps its home page simple and easy to navigate.  When designing your site stick to two or three main points and show them, rather than tell them.

  1. Look at things from your client’s perspective 

User experience is crucial for e-commerce. A well-designed site considers how people search for a product and offers easy ways to find exactly what they are looking for.  A savvy retailer, like ModCloth, makes it easy to search by all of these factors knowing that is what the customer wants. This brand places items in categories of style, event, season and more to guide customers to exactly what they are looking for. Screen Shot 2016-05-11 at 7.20.14 PM

This is a question that every company should ask itself as it begins to design their site, what is it that my potential customers want? Then find the simplest way to give it to them.

  1. Exude credibility

E-commerce sites have to appear credible and safe, after all, they are asking for someone’s credit card information. In the digital age, consumers are warned more and more to be careful with their personal information. In order to garner online sales e-commerce site must incorporate strategies that showcase their legitimacy. Zappos (zappos.com, should we add a pic from the site or twitter page?) does this not only with simple design and secure checkouts, they also make it very simple to contact the company with multiple options across the page. Listing their phone number at the top and offering live chat is only one way to do this. This is an option that is easily duplicated on even the simplest brochure site.

  1. Make it simple to convert.

Everyone knows the old cliché, Keep It Simple Stupid or KISS. It is a cliché, in part, because it is so true. The more barriers you put in front of consumers the less likely they are to purchase. E-commerce sites, like Diapers.com, make it very simple to purchase. The online baby products store has taken this ease of consumption one step further by allowing customers to reorder a previous order with the click of a button. No muss, no fuss. This is a lesson that every webmaster should keep in mind. While it is tempting to load your contact form with tons of options, know that these may prevent users from filling them out.

  1. Use visuals to help sell your site.

You wouldn’t buy a shirt without knowing what it looks like. Every e-commerce site use a bevy of pictures to show off their wares, enticing people to buy. A brochure site can do the same by utilizing imagery to tell their story. A few well-placed pictures will entice consumers to learn more and convert than the thousand words you would have to use instead.

These online retail sites are growing because they are answering a need in the market place. There are plenty of simple sites that are picking up on their lead. We noticed one such site, an enclosed auto transport company,  that seems to be using a lot of these elements. In addition to following the above steps, JP Logistics has taken the e-commerce example one step further; adding online scheduling and payment options for their customers.

So what lessons can your site learn from its e-commerce cousins? How can you give them the instant gratification they seek? Is it through better imagery or online scheduling? Could your site be more credible? If you want to see greater conversions on your site, take a lesson from some sites that are doing it well. You might be surprised that small changes can yield big results.

social media and hipaaWhile digital technology and marketing are vital for your brand, they can also get you in trouble under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). The news is consistently reporting data breaches from the medical community, many of which arise out of physicians’ use of social media. The key takeaway here is that most of these instances could have been avoided.

Sharing too much information on social media platforms can have devastating if the patient-specific information is shared. To better understand how social media and HIPAA violations in your medical practice should be handled, we have put together a few tips. To gather some expert insight into promoting your health practice through technology correctly we spoke with St. Louis Chiropractor, Vital Force. They gave us a few prevention tips that you will read below and stated, “The most important thing to remember is that even an innocent post on social media can get you in trouble with HIPAA, state privacy laws and state chiropractic boards.”

 

Typical examples of digital marketing HIPAA violations include:

  • Posting verbal “gossip” about a patient to unauthorized individuals, even if the name is not disclosed.
  • Sharing of photographs, or any form of PHI without written consent from a patient.
  •    A mistaken belief that posts are private or have been deleted when they are still visible to the public. Even if you have something set on private, don’t post it.
  • Sharing of seemingly innocent comments or pictures, such as a workplace photo which happens to have visible patient files in the image.

 

What You Can Do to Prevent a Social Media and HIPAA Compliance Violation:

  • Train Employees. Make sure to train all employees thoroughly on HIPPA Privacy. Even employees that don’t normally have the task of marketing or posting on social media should understand the policy. If you don’t already have a policy written, Healthcare Compliance Pros  created a sample Social Media Policy you can use that can be customized based on your organization’s specific social media guidelines.
  • Don’t post anything about patients without them knowing and allowing. If you wouldn’t say something in a packed elevator or busy lunch spot, don’t post it online.
  • Keep your personal and professional lives separate. Do not friend request patients from your personal accounts or like and comment on their posts. Have your posts set so that only your Facebook friends can view them and make sure you stay up to date on the ever-changing privacy settings.
  • Don’t share or engage with others posts that are not HIPAA compliant. Including, liking, sharing, retweeting, commenting, etc. You don’t want your name on something that could be penalized.

By providing communication and training to employees regarding potential mistakes while using online marketing, your organization will ensure technology a powerful tool for sharing information, experiences and expanding your business.

custom application developmentCustom business applications are designed to cater to your business’ needs, and to function exactly how you need them to, which can simplify your business processes. Often businesses are reluctant to applications upfront costs in terms of custom software. But, the long-term savings and functionality outweigh those initial upfront costs.

We asked expert Tom Swip, from Swip Systems about custom business applications and why they are so useful to many small businesses. “Everywhere you look, apps are changing the way we function and interact in society and in business. These apps are put to work to benefit your business,” says Swip. Custom business applications offer a range of advantages that can help your business grow and be more efficient.

Deciding whether or not your business would benefit from a custom application can be overwhelming. But, we compiled a few reasons why it can benefit from business according to the experts. Listed below are four benefits that you business can get through a custom business application.

4 Benefits of a Custom Business Application

  1. Customization

The obvious benefit is customization. A tailor-made app for your company will best serve your specific needs. “Instead of making the user adapt to the software, we make the software adapt to the user,” says Swip. With custom software, you will be guaranteed it will work perfectly for you and your customers.

  1. Security

Unique software can help protect you business against external threats. Known software is easier to attack and more susceptible to vulnerabilities. If you work with custom software, you are much less likely to be targeted

  1. Fits with Other Software

If you have custom software, it will be able to work with software you already are using. It is almost never the case that multiple off-the-shelf software packages work well with each other perfectly and without errors. With custom software, you can be confident everything will run smoothly.

  1. Lower Costs

 Sometimes the costs associated with developing custom business applications for your business are higher than purchasing a ready-made product, but sometimes they aren’t. In fact, there are many tools that can make custom apps for even less than half the cost of standard software.

The long-term benefits of investing in developing custom business applications are also far more cost saving in the long run. The development cycle is also a lot shorter for small business needs.

By using custom business applications, your business can simplify its processes and function more efficiently. Custom software might be the right choice for your business and overall, can provide an excellent foundation to build upon for the continued success of your company.

The Business Technology Blog

Businessman running over hurdle. Technology blog - Voy TechDon’t just keep up with technology – move with it!

Welcome to Voy Tech — an information resource dedicated to business, technology, news, and ideas. We put a laser sharp focus on bringing you high quality, original content that is meaningful and impactful. Our goal is to be the technology blog for small business owners and decision makers who are looking for ideas and examples of ways that technology can improve their processes. Whether it’s an app, a tool, or simply a new way of thinking, we share content on a regular basis to provide you the latest trends and ideas that others are using.

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Here’s a fun fact: Google receives over 4 million search queries per minute from billions of people worldwide, with a just as staggering amount of content that gets created on a daily basis. With so much to read through, we’re always on the lookout for fantastic technology related news and tips that can benefit business owners. If you’ve seen a great article, or have an example of how something tech related helped your business, we’d love to hear your story and consider it for our blog.

Take a visit to our contact page and let us know – we look forward to hearing from you!