technology

Digital Security: 5 Ways To Protect Yourself

Security will be top of mind in 2017. I know it has been top of mind for me lately. The increase of my credit/check card being stolen has increased tenfold within the last two years. That’s just me too. I’m just one single person amongst billions of other persons on this planet, so you can imagine how others may feel on this subject. That is why securing data will be topics of conversation for many IT professionals this year and for the foreseeable future as we continue to see the rise of internet hacking and theft. End users and technology service providers alike will look to detection and response as forerunners to wage this new battle.  According to Gartner, worldwide spending on information security is expected to reach 90 billion in 2017 with a 7.6% uptick from 2016.

Why are we seeing this trend?

swiss-cheese-analogy-1In the last few years, with the advances of mobile technology and IoT, we are now accessing the internet through many unsecured means. Think of it as Swiss cheese and there is literally a Swiss cheese model describing security, learn more here. The WiFi network at the coffee shop, the device, the application on the device, we have made ourselves vulnerable by allowing the conveniences of our technology to create gaps in our cheese. If the technological means (WiFi, device & apps) are not properly stacked, the holes in our Swiss cheese become exposed.

What you can do to protect yourself:

  1. Stay up to date on your software updates, especially on your mobile devices. This includes the applications you use on those devices as well.
  2. DO NOT save or cache your passwords for major accounts you login and use to transmit payments. And do not link your credit/check cards to those accounts for easy access later.
  3. Change your passwords frequently. Every 90-180 days is reasonable without driving yourself crazy. Don’t use the same password for multiple accounts. Example: Your email and bank account should NOT have the same password.
  4. Run AV/Malware software on your devices to prevent and detect an unwanted intrusion.
  5. Pay attention to suspicious emails with attachments. Usually you can spot a malicious email by its use of poor grammar but then again, hackers are getting smarter about it. Stay alert and check the email from addresses and double-check URLs are actually going to the site domain you are receiving the email from.

securityUnfortunately, there are a number of ways your card information can be compromised outside of email and infected computers. Card scanners are another increasing threat. What makes this rising threat frustrating is that scanners are so easy to get and even easier to use. Don’t believe me? Watch this.

Security is a constant moving target and the best way to combat it is to never lose sight of it. Stay aware of new threats as technology changes, stay up to date on your devices and apps you use, and finally, stay alert to accounts you maintain an online presence with.

 

http://www.erinalbertson.com

marketing, technology

Defining the Customer Journey

Gartner predicts by 2018, those organizations that excel in personalization will outsell companies that don’t by 20%.

In today’s information age where the Internet rules, marketers are scrambling to keep up with ways consumers can now engage with a brand. Consumers are investigating new products online, they are reading reviews in real time and are actively engaging with the brand well before making the actual purchase. To a marketing professional, these are customer touch-points. Each point is simply a step along a path that a customer will make before the purchase of something, be it a product or service.

If the brand is notable and already established, brands like McDonalds, Best Buy, Microsoft, to name a few, then consumers already have preconceived notions of what the experience should be before making the purchase. Companies competing in today’s marketplace must acknowledge expectations and introduce delightful experiences into the buyer’s journey if they want to remain competitive.

buyerjourney

How do we start?

It starts with a persona. Understanding who your buyer is and then personifying them. Personas give the company a much richer picture of their customers so that they may be able to tailor a memorable and effective experience. Personas are usually derived from a combination of the following types of data:

  • Demographic – Defined by population based on geography, income, level of education and other attributes.
  • Psychographic – Focused on values, opinions, interests, aspirations, attitudes and lifestyles.
  • Ethnographic – Information gleaned from surveys and studies conducted by watching subjects in their daily routines and capturing what isn’t explicitly reported.
  • Transactional – Insight from a customer’s history with the brand, including first and third-party purchase histories and post-sale service records.
  • Behavioral – Captured data through engagement with websites, mobile devices and other media outlets.

Once you have your persona(s) defined, take the time to carefully identify all key business moments your persona must take when interacting with your brand. List each key moment including buying decisions and begin to prioritize them. Fully flesh out any opportunities that may not exist today but could be implemented to enhance the experience. Start to design your buyer experience by mapping each moment along a timeline.

It may be helpful at this stage to create stories. Stories help paint the picture of what the persona wants. Stories can be used to find missing business moments along the way. I find it’s always insightful to share your stories with someone outside of your circle as it offers up different perspectives and could encourage innovation in your process.

In the end, your customer journey will be defined by your personas (the profile of your customer), their stories (a picture of what the customer truly wants), and a map of business moments (points where your brand will delight).

Once your journey has been defined, evangelize it to the rest of the business. This offers the awareness and transparency of customer motives. This also is a vital step in the continued success of the customer journey. Success can be achieved short term but cannot be maintained unless the customer journey grows and evolves.

http://www.erinalbertson.com

marketing, technology

Your Brand; Your Identity – 10 Tips

Brand Business ConceptTop 10 tips on how to put yourself out there:

  1. Know your audience. Who do you want to reach? Who will listen? Envision your ideal audience for your message and put yourself into their shoes. What do they want to know?  You can tell them. It’s your destiny!
  2. Build a strategy. Nothing screams success like a well formulated game plan. Take some time to think through your strategy. Build up a project plan with detailed steps necessary to reach your goals.
  3. Construct a calendar of events. Define your content and lay it out on the calendar. Situating tasks for each day to deliver your message will be an important step to stay organized and on track.
  4. Speak authentically. Be yourself when conveying your message. No one likes someone who tries too hard. Keep it real and keep it simple. If using complex vocabulary is not normally your thing, then don’t start just because you may want to sound smarter. You’ll end up only pushing your audience away because your words won’t seem natural.
  5. Weave in the personal. Emotion is a powerful source of truth and can create instant connections with people. Use it to tell your personal story and capture the hearts of your audience.
  6. Focus. This can be tough. Your message must be clear and concise. There is only so much brain space and time you have before your reader loses interest.
  7. Use powerful headlines. You have only seven seconds to make a great impression when meeting someone. Headlines work the same way. They are the bits of information we use to judge whether we want to pursue something more. Get over the hump by using inviting, captivating headlines that draw the reader in.
  8. Make your content easy to read. Your reader should be able to glance through your material and understand the main points without having to do further research. Include bullet points, headings, numbered lists, etc. to achieve this.
  9. Include a call to action. Give your reader a purpose. What do you want them to do with the information you’ve put out there? Provide additional links  for further information or offer up images, a sign up form, etc. to provide your user with another opportunity to interact with your brand.
  10. Finally, go the extra mile. Be helpful. Start by answering any possible questions you think your audience may have. Discuss your products and/or services further or even offer a feedback loop so your audience can contact you for suggestions on improvement.

http://www.erinalbertson.com

technology

NEXT-GEN DATA SECURITY

securitycommunityTo understand what next generation security may mean to us in the future, we must understand what it means today. Let’s boil the term security down.  What are we trying to secure? Data, right?  In today’s digital age, the evolution of 1’s and 0’s dominates the way we manage our lives, our finances, our businesses, and lately with the adoption of big data, we now allow the data to make decisions for us. Maintaining the integrity of the data, now ruling such a significant portion of our lives, could then be determined a top priority. We don’t want to go off making poor choices because we got the facts wrong. Ultimately, data security is simply the understanding and recognizing of the link between mastering data and protecting it.

idc-logoAccording to an IDC survey conducted, “84% of US Consumers expressed concern regarding the security of their PII (personally identifiable information) and 70% told IDC that their concern is greater today than just a few years ago.”

IDC goes on to explain just how much demographics can play a factor in preconceived notions of data security.  IDC finds that younger consumers, those aged 18-35, demonstrate a higher concern than the slightly older 36-50-year-old counterparts. So, we can see an uptick in a risk-adverse generation of users. These are the same consumers that will contribute to the adoption of new technology being pushed across all market sectors. It will be important for companies to maintain trust between those users and their data if they want to remain relevant.

iotMore devices are connected to the Internet than ever before. From our smart phones to our smart watches and fitness apps, to our smart homes, the rising phenomenon of the Internet of Things proposes security concerns alone. Per a new report from the Ponemon Institute, IBM, and Arxan, a staggering 80% of IoT applications and 71% of mobile applications are not tested for vulnerabilities raising more concerns for data security.

A new dawn is rising and the transformation of the digital landscape is changing. With new technology comes new threats, next generation data security will look to evolve from a data-centric solution to an extended, distributed networking solution which leverages many endpoints, multi-layer authentication, data tokenization, masking, and data loss prevention. We are already starting to see the expansion of this platform in financial industries with the increased adoption of Blockchain technology.

As the technology learns to advance, so will the rise of the cybersecurity professional. Job postings in the cybersecurity field have increased over the past 5 years, up 74%.

Digital transformation efforts are underway at most companies looking to deliver more value to their customers, but it does not come without the next generation costs to rise against new data security challenges presented.

http://www.erinalbertson.com

technology

BIG DATA SUCCESS STARTS FROM THE TOP DOWN

ceo-big-data-strategyWhat is big data? Big data is defined as extremely large data sets that can be analyzed to reveal patterns, trends, and associations, especially relating to human behavior and interactions.

Why is big data becoming an important factor in today’s digital business? Data by the numbers is quickly becoming the basis for competition in today’s agile marketplace. Analytics becomes a crucial way for companies leading big data initiatives to do business better by enhancing their customer experience, leverage strategies to innovate and increase the quality of products and services.

Gartner’s article, 100 Data and Analytics Predictions Through 2020, states, “By 2020, contextual predictive data streams — and the proprietary algorithms behind them — will be a top three service provider differentiator.”

Investments in big data require hefty investments not only in the technology to support it, but also the personnel resources necessary to organize and disseminate the value gathered. Companies wanting to achieve success and glean ROI, big data initiatives must warrant a strong relationship with corporate strategy. Big data leadership must start with the CEO. Top down is a proven, effective way to drive the organization to the intended vision. Think about it like this: big data is the cart and corporate strategy is the horse.

Motivation and inspiration are also the keys to success and often the CEO is the one who will advance the charge. Big data and managing business decisions based on numbers versus that good ole’ gut feeling proposes a difficult balancing act where we go against those natural instincts and trust the data instead.  This can often cause conflict with ideologies, but if the CEO is driving the vision, it will be hard to dispute. It will be imperative that the CEO is walking the walk and talking the talk. He or she must be the primary user and repeatedly show value of how analytics are supporting the corporate agenda to win business in the big data and analytics game.

http://www.erinalbertson.com

technology

BETTER BDR PLANNING IN FIVE STEPS

Multiple Wired to BackupIT systems have become increasingly critical to the business and protecting the data produced is more important than ever before. BDR (Backup Disaster Recovery) is the coordination and execution of company policy and technology architected to reduce downtime and expedite the recovery in the event of a disaster or hardware failure.

Ensuring critical data, systems and networks can be recovered in the event of acts of nature, like a flood, fire, or tornado can be a daunting task. What about if the power goes out for an extended period of time? Am I prepared for human error that leads to accidental deletion and data loss? Having a well thought out business continuity plan in place can ensure business objectives can still be achieved if an event happens.

Here are a few tips to get you started:

  1. Incorporate a solid plan. Better BDR planning takes into consideration the structural framework necessary to execute. This includes a thought out company policy that merges data retention requirements with the regulatory and compliance needs of the business. Conducting a risk assessment and/or a business impact analysis will lead to improved backup procedures and process.
  2. Fuse responsibility and accessibility. It’s imperative to identify critical IT resources and delegate ownership. In the event of an emergency, understanding the roles people play and the importance of systems and data used will be the first step in execution of BDR strategy.
  3. Audit, test and validate. Conducting regular reviews of each end point schedule, alert configuration and backup job could mean the difference between being proactive vs. reactive.
  4. Provide documentation. Keep all documents centralized. Items like backup process and schedule, off-site storage instructions, vendor contracts, training plans, etc. You will appreciate having all the pieces in one place when it comes time to assembling the puzzle. Following-up with a report that speaks to the frequency and maintenance of endpoint BDR can also be extremely impactful to management when justifying ROI.
  5. Get buy-in from management. This should go without saying but BDR planning requires money. No budget equals no plan. Failure to properly plan and obtain support from senior management will ultimately result in failed adoption. Of course trying to get funding from some management teams may be like trying to pull blood from a stone. But if all the elements are in place and your plan has taken into consideration the dollar amounts associated with the risks and threats of NOT adopting a BDR plan, this may prove more negotiable in the eyes of those responsible for keeping the lights on.

http://www.erinalbertson.com

technology

Turn Your Pictures Into Windows Desktop Themes: It’s Super Easy!

One of the features in Windows 7 that I absolutely love is desktop themes.  This is where you can set several different images as your desktop background.  You can even designate how much time elapses before flipping to the next picture.  It certainly offers up a livelier alternative to those static desktop backgrounds available in XP.

Before you create your own theme, there are a few considerations.  First, will you be sharing your theme with other people?  If so, you are going to want to map out your images by size.  This includes image resolution as well as image size.  You don’t want to use high resolution images as this will only make the size of the final file too large to share via email.  For example, I have 10 images I’d like to include and each image is 5MB each.  After the math I’m looking at a theme file size of 50+MB.  Most email servers will not accept file attachments over 10-20MB.  It can become problematic, so it requires thought.  You can choose to decrease by resolution, I recommend 72dpi.  Or by pixel size or a combination of both will help decrease file size.  Pixel limits vary upon devices being used.  I’ve found a good average to go by is 1024px.

Landscape: height =1024        Portrait: width=1024

To get started, create a new folder in your Pictures folder.  To do so, right-click in the Pictures window and select New, then Folder.  Name your Folder.  Next copy pictures you want to include in your desktop theme into that new folder.  I recommend a copy here as you would not want to lose or perhaps, misplace the original picture file.  Once the pictures have been copied into your folder, then I suggest making the image size adjustments. *if you want to decrease the file size for sharing*  This way everything is contained in that folder.  When that step has been completed, you are ready to add the folder as a desktop theme.

On your desktop, right-click and select Personalize.  At the bottom of the Personalization window look for Desktop Background and select it.  From there select the Browse button and navigate to the folder you created with your pictures. Select OK to choose.  From there you can configure your theme settings.

When you are finished, select Save Changes.  Upon saving your changes your desktop background will be set and the Personalization window still shows.  You should notice under My Themes you will have Unsaved Theme, to save the unsaved theme, simply right-click.  It’s that easy!  Share with your friends… here is mine.  Enjoy!