Which ransomware payment option is best? (Hint: none)

Picture this: Your business gets hit by a ransomware attack, and your valuable data is locked away by cyber criminals demanding a huge ransom fee.

You can’t afford to pay it. But there’s a twist – just like those “buy now, pay later” schemes, some ransomware gangs are offering victims payment extension options.

Recent research reveals that ransomware groups are getting creative with their extortion strategies. One group is even offering victims various choices when it comes to their ransom demands. These “choices” include:

Paying to delay the publication of their stolen data, with a standard fee of $10,000… or paying to have their stolen data deleted before it’s made public.

The exact amounts charged are often negotiated with victims, adding a chilling dimension to the whole ordeal.

To increase the pressure on victims, these ransomware groups have added some terrifying features to their web sites. These include countdown timers displaying how much time businesses have before their data is released, view counters, and even tags revealing the victim’s identity and description.

It’s all designed to make victims feel cornered and more likely to give in to the demands.

You might be tempted to pay that ransom to protect your business data. Not so fast. Paying is always a bad idea and here’s why…

Paying doesn’t guarantee that you’ll get your data back or that the cyber criminals won’t demand more money later.

By paying, you’re essentially funding criminal activities, encouraging them to continue their attacks on others.

Paying a ransom might even get you into legal trouble, as some governments have made it illegal to pay cyber criminals.

So, what can you do to safeguard your business from falling victim to ransomware?

  • Ensure you have regular, secure backups of your data. This way, you won’t be at the mercy of cyber criminals.
  • Educate your staff about the risks of ransomware and train them to recognize phishing emails and suspicious links.
  • Invest in robust cyber security software and keep it up to date.
  • Keep your systems and software updated with the latest security patches.
  • Segment your network to limit the spread of ransomware if one device gets infected.
  • Develop a clear incident response plan, so you know exactly what to do if you’re ever hit by a ransomware attack.

Paying cyber criminals rarely makes things better, and we’re seeing businesses that do pay become targets time and time again. Instead, invest in the proactive measures above to help you stay secure. And if we can help you with that, get in touch.

Bridging the trust gap between your employees and AI

You’ve probably been considering how to harness the potential of AI to boost your company’s efficiency and productivity.

But there’s a small problem. A recent study revealed something fascinating but not entirely surprising: A trust gap when it comes to AI in the workplace.

While you see AI as a fantastic opportunity for business transformation, your employees might be skeptical and even worried about their job security.

Here’s a snapshot of the findings:

  • 62% of C-suite executives welcome AI, but only 52% of employees share the same enthusiasm.
  • 23% of employees doubt their company’s commitment to employee interests when implementing AI.
  • However, 70% of business leaders believe that AI should include human review and intervention, showing they view AI as an assistant rather than a replacement.

Now that we understand the situation, how can you introduce AI gently and reassure your employees that their roles are safe?

Start by having open and honest conversations with your employees. Explain why you’re introducing AI and how it will benefit both the company and individual roles. Show them that AI is meant to be a helping hand, not a jobs terminator.

Invest in training that helps your people acquire the skills they need to work alongside AI. Make them feel empowered by showing that it can make their jobs more interesting and valuable.

Emphasize that your AI initiatives are designed to enhance human capabilities, not replace them. Let your team know that it will handle repetitive tasks, allowing them to focus on more creative and strategic aspects of their work.

Develop clear guidelines for responsible AI use in your business. Highlight your commitment to ethical practices and ensure that employees are aware of these policies.

Involve your employees in the implementation process. Seek their input, listen to their concerns, and make them part of the solution. This shows that you value their contributions.

Encourage a culture of continuous learning. Let your employees know that they’ll have opportunities for ongoing education and development, ensuring they stay relevant and valuable in the AI-driven workplace.

Introducing AI into your workplace doesn’t have to be a cause for concern among your employees. AI is a tool for growth and innovation, not a threat to job security.

If we can help you introduce the right AI tools in the right way, get in touch.

Don’t think your business is a target? Think again

You might think that cyber criminals are only interested in large companies or those with huge financial assets. After all, that’s where the big bucks are, right?

Think again.

Recent reports have shown that cyber criminals are casting their nets wide, targeting businesses of all sizes, from mom-and-pop stores to global enterprises. And they’re doing it with the help of something called “botnets.”

You may have heard about the rise of malicious botnets, and you’re probably wondering, “what on earth is a botnet, and why should I care?” Botnets are the secret weapons of cyber criminals. They’re armies of compromised devices, all under the control of a single, malicious puppeteer. These can be anything from your computer to your smart refrigerator. Yes, even your refrigerator can be turned into a cyber weapon.

A new report observed “massive spikes” in the activity of these botnets, with over a million devices involved in malicious activities at one point. To put it into perspective, that’s a hundred times the usual levels of botnet activity.

Usually, there are around 10,000 devices doing naughty stuff each day, with 20,000 being the highest number researchers had seen. But in December 2023, things got crazy. The number shot up to 35,144, and two weeks later, it rose even further to 43,194. That’s a lot of compromised devices.

And it didn’t stop there; the researchers saw the biggest spike yet, hitting a whopping 143,957 distinct devices being used at the same time. In fact, on January 5 and 6 there were spikes of more than a million devices!

Why are they doing this? These botnets are being used to scan the internet, searching for weaknesses in websites, servers, and even email systems.

Think of the internet as a fortress with many doors and windows. These cyber criminals are looking for unlocked doors and open windows to sneak in. They focus on specific “ports” that serve as entry points.

What can you do to protect yourself from these cyber threats?

It’s all about strengthening those doors and windows. Here are a few simple steps:

  • Keep your software, operating systems, and applications up-to-date. Regular updates often fix vulnerabilities.
  • Install a good firewall and reliable antivirus software to protect your devices.
  • Educate your employees about cyber security best practices, such as avoiding suspicious links and emails.
  • Enforce strong, unique passwords for all your accounts and devices.
  • Regularly back up your data to prevent loss in case of a cyber attack.
  • Keep an eye on your network for any unusual activity.
  • Consider hiring a cyber security expert (that’s us) to assess and enhance your security measures.

If we can help you keep your business better protected, get in touch.

If Mail Fails to Send, Try, Try Again (Instead of Changing Servers)

If Mail Fails to Send, Try, Try Again (Instead of Changing Servers)

Sometimes, something goes wrong, causing Mail on the Mac to have trouble sending a message. When it does, you may see an error like the one below, encouraging you with a default button to try another configured server. Don’t do it! Always click Try Later. If that still doesn’t work, contact your favorite tech support professional to troubleshoot the problem with the SMTP server associated with the account from which you’re sending. Attempting to send through another SMTP server is a recipe for trouble because various anti-spam checks may fail, causing your message to be filtered as spam or bounced back to you. Worse, if you select a different server and click Try With Selected Server, Mail remembers that choice going forward, so you will have to reset it manually later.

(Featured image by iStock.com/Marut Khobtakhob)

Lift Objects from Photos on the iPhone

Lift Objects from Photos on the iPhone

Have you ever wanted to extract an object from a photo for use in another context? Starting with iOS 16 on a relatively recent iPhone, you can do that with many photos. In the Photos app, touch and hold the object, and if Photos can extract it, you’ll see a highlight run around its edges. Raise your finger, and a popover lets you copy the object, look up information about it, turn it into a sticker (in iOS 17), or share it. Or you can start dragging the object, switch apps with your other hand, and drop it into another app, like Messages. With Universal Clipboard, you can even lift an object on an iPhone, copy it, switch to Preview on your Mac, and choose File > New from Clipboard. File this one under Arthur C. Clarke’s Third Law, which states, “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”

(Featured image by Adam Engst)


Use This Hidden Setting to Stop Triggering Caps Lock Accidentally

Use This Hidden Setting to Stop Triggering Caps Lock Accidentally

There’s little more annoying than accidentally touching the Caps Lock key while typing and having your text suddenly TURN INTO CAPITAL LETTERS, which we all know is seen as shouting. Unless you have some reason to type in capital letters regularly, you can prevent this mistake by disabling the Caps Lock key or remapping it to another modifier key. In macOS 13 Ventura and later, choose System Settings > Keyboard > Keyboard Shortcuts > Modifier Keys, and choose from the pop-up menu next to Caps Lock. (In earlier versions of macOS, open System Preferences > Keyboard > Modifier Keys.)

(Featured image by Adam Engst)


Locate a Featured Lock Screen Image in Photos

Locate a Featured Lock Screen Image in Photos

iOS’s Photo Shuffle wallpaper does a great job of identifying attractive photos for your Lock Screen. However, if you’re like us, you’ll sometimes wonder when or where you took a Lock Screen photo. Here’s how to figure that out. Touch and hold the Lock Screen when it’s displaying the photo in question, tap Customize, tap the Lock Screen wallpaper, tap the ••• button in the lower-right corner, and tap Show Photo in Library. Then you can swipe up to reveal more information about the photo, swipe left and right to see the photos on either side, or pinch to see it in the context of your entire photo library.

(Featured image by Apple)

Open the Mac’s Control Center with This Obscure Keyboard Shortcut

Open the Mac’s Control Center with This Obscure Keyboard Shortcut

With macOS 13 Ventura, Apple brought Control Center from iOS to the Mac, providing a unified interface for features that users need to turn on and off regularly or that receive frequent adjustments, like screen brightness and audio volume. Clicking the Control Center icon in the menu bar brings it up, but it’s a small, hard-to-hit target. For faster and easier access to Control Center from within any app, press fn-C. (All current Apple keyboards have an fn key, but if you’re using a third-party keyboard that lacks one, you’re out of luck.)

(Featured image by Adam Engst)

In Your Face App Guarantees That You Notice Appointment Alerts

In Your Face App Guarantees That You Notice Appointment Alerts

It’s easy to get caught up in what you’re doing and miss an alert for a Zoom meeting or a reminder to leave for an appointment. The Mac app In Your Face ensures that will never happen again by taking over the entire screen for notifications and requiring that you click a button to dismiss or snooze it. It can also play sounds repeatedly, lets you pick which calendars and reminder lists to use, gives you single-click access to videoconference links in events, and shows ongoing and upcoming events in the menu bar. In Your Face costs $1.99 per month or $19.99 per year, or it’s available in the $9.99 per month Setapp bundle of over 230 Mac apps.

(Featured image by Blue Banana Software)

The “Hey” Part of “Hey Siri” Is Now Optional

The “Hey” Part of “Hey Siri” Is Now Optional

If you use Siri, particularly on a HomePod, you’re probably accustomed to saying “Hey Siri” as the trigger phrase before your requests. In Apple’s new operating systems for 2023, you can now choose to invoke Siri using the traditional “Hey Siri” or just “Siri” (at least in Australia, Canada, the UK, and the US). You might appreciate being able to stop saying “Hey” every time, or you might find that using just “Siri” generates incorrect activations. (And if someone in your family’s name sounds like Siri, you may want to turn the feature off entirely!) There are four places to look:

  • iOS 17 and iPadOS 17: Settings > Siri & Search > Listen For
  • macOS 14 Sonoma: System Settings > Siri & Spotlight > Listen For
  • watchOS 10: Watch app > My Watch > Siri > Listen For
  • HomePod Software 17: Home app > long-press HomePod > Accessory Settings > Listen For “Siri” or “Hey Siri”

(Featured image based on an original by Apple)

watchOS 10.1 Brings Double Tap to the Apple Watch Series 9 and Apple Watch Ultra 2

watchOS 10.1 Brings Double Tap to the Apple Watch Series 9 and Apple Watch Ultra 2

Apple recently released watchOS 10.1, with support for the much-ballyhooed double-tap gesture that selects the primary action in many apps without requiring that you touch the screen! It’s available only on the new Apple Watch Series 9 and Apple Watch Ultra 2, where you activate it by raising your wrist and tapping your thumb and index finger together twice. On the main Apple Watch screen, a double tap opens the Smart Stack of widgets you would otherwise get by turning the Digital Crown, and subsequent double taps advance through the widgets. A double tap also activates the primary action in many apps, such as answering and ending phone calls, playing and pausing media, viewing and scrolling through messages, ending timers, stopping and resuming the stopwatch, snoozing an alarm, responding to reminders from the Workout app, and performing the primary action from notifications. Whenever you double tap, you’ll see this icon at the top of the screen. If you have a supported Apple Watch model, give it a try!

(Featured image by Adam Engst, article image by Apple)

Forget Your Just-Changed Passcode? iOS 17’s Passcode Reset Has Your Back

Forget Your Just-Changed Passcode? iOS 17’s Passcode Reset Has Your Back

The hardest time to remember your iPhone or iPad passcode is right after you’ve changed it. Generally speaking, there’s no reason to change your passcode, but if you inadvertently or intentionally shared it with someone with whom you wouldn’t trust your bank account information, changing it to something new is a good idea. We could also imagine a child who knows your passcode changing it on you as a prank. For whatever reason, if you can’t enter your new passcode, a new iOS 17 feature called Passcode Reset lets you use your old one for 72 hours. Once you’ve tried the wrong passcode five times, tap Forgot Passcode , enter your old passcode , and create a new one . If you’re certain you know the new one, you can expire the old one sooner in Settings > Face ID/Touch ID & Passcode.

(Featured image by iStock.com/NazariyKarkhut)

Faster Copying of Two-Factor Authentication Codes from Messages

Faster Copying of Two-Factor Authentication Codes from Messages

One welcome feature of Safari is its automatic detection and auto-filling of SMS-based two-factor authentication codes you receive in Messages. It allows you to complete your login quickly, without having to retrieve the code from Messages. But what if you use a different Web browser, like Google Chrome, Firefox, Brave, or Arc? Apple doesn’t allow other developers access to those codes in Messages, but Messages itself recognizes the verification code, marking it with an underline. Rather than transcribing the code manually like an animal, you can Control-click the underlined numbers and choose Copy Code. Then, switch to your Web browser and press Command-V to paste it. Not all websites accept pasted codes, but most will, even if they present a custom interface.

(Featured image by iStock.com/Galeanu Mihai)

Stay Alert! Voice Phishing Used in Recent Ransomware Attacks

Stay Alert! Voice Phishing Used in Recent Ransomware Attacks

All it took for MGM Resorts International to be compromised with ransomware was a quick phone call, which some now call “voice phishing” or “vishing.” An attacker using LinkedIn information to pose as an employee asked MGM’s help desk for a password change, after which they were able to install ransomware. MGM is now up to $52 million in lost revenues and counting. Two takeaways. First, if you call support for a manual password reset, expect to be asked for a lot of verification, such as a video call where you show your driver’s license. Second, if you receive a call at work from an unknown person asking you to do anything involving money or account credentials, hang up, verify their identity and authorization, and proceed accordingly only if they check out.

(Images by iStock.com/1550539 and HT Ganzo)

Keep a USB Keyboard and Mouse for Troubleshooting

Keep a USB Keyboard and Mouse for Troubleshooting

Steve Jobs famously railed against cable clutter, and it’s now easy to use a desktop Mac with a wireless keyboard and mouse, either from Apple or another manufacturer. That’s fine for regular usage, but Bluetooth keyboards and mice aren’t always sufficient. Batteries wear out, pairing can fail, and wireless interference can cause lags or spurious inputs. Plus, if you need to boot into macOS Recovery, wireless input devices may not work. We recommend keeping an extra USB keyboard and mouse—preferably from Apple, but any brand will work—to use in case you have problems with your wireless versions. If you don’t have a keyboard and mouse left over from an old Mac, a friend or family member may be happy to give you theirs, or you can probably find them for next to nothing at a local reuse store.

(Images by iStock.com/Jeffrey Glas and RafalStachura)

Erase Image Content in Preview with Copied Color Blocks

Erase Image Content in Preview with Copied Color Blocks

Apple’s Preview is a surprisingly capable graphics editor for making quick changes to screenshots and other illustrations, but it lacks a built-in way to delete content while leaving the background. Here’s the workaround—select a rectangle of the background color, copy it, paste it, and then move it over the undesirable content—as shown in the After screenshot below, where blue selection dots denote the pasted box. As you resize the box, press Shift to prevent it from resizing proportionally, which helps you make it the shape you want. If you need a second box of the same color, Option-drag the first box to copy it. When you save and close, your boxes will be merged into the image, permanently removing the content underneath, so make sure they’re in the right spot before moving on.

(Featured image based on an original by iStock.com/Seetwo)

Frustrated by System Settings? Use the View Menu or Search

Frustrated by System Settings? Use the View Menu or Search

In macOS 13 Ventura, Apple replaced the creaky System Preferences with System Settings, which uses a more iOS-like interface. Many people find System Settings overwhelming, partly because they had memorized where to look in System Preferences (but System Settings has many other design flaws as well—it’s not your fault). We have two recommendations to make it more easily navigable. First, for an alphabetical approach, use the View menu, which lists the panes that way, along with the top-level items in the General settings pane. Second, make heavy use of the search field at the top of the System Settings sidebar—it’s the only way to find some deeply nested settings.

(Featured image based on an original by iStock.com/rootstocks)


Beware Executive Imposter Scams Aimed at New Employees

Beware Executive Imposter Scams Aimed at New Employees

We’re hearing about new hires who receive an email or text from someone claiming to be the CEO of their new company, asking the employee to carry out some small task like sharing personal information, purchasing a gift card for a client, or wiring funds to another business. The new employee, eager to make a good impression and lacking the context of what’s reasonable, is tempted to do as asked. (The scammers seemingly gather the necessary information by scraping LinkedIn for job changes and corporate titles, then cross-referencing with email addresses and phone numbers stolen in data breaches.) To reduce the chances of such a scam succeeding, train new employees during onboarding not to trust unsolicited messages from unfamiliar addresses or numbers, be wary of unusual requests, and check with a trusted source within the company before replying in any way.

(Featured image by iStock.com/Ton Photograph)

Mac Keyboard Shortcuts Performing Unexpected Actions? Check These Settings

Mac Keyboard Shortcuts Performing Unexpected Actions? Check These Settings

Keyboard shortcuts are a productivity win, but they can cause confusion if something unexpected happens when you inadvertently press some system-wide key combination. For instance, you might be taken aback if you accidentally press Control-Option-Command-8 and all the colors on your Mac screen suddenly invert. Although Apple has pages listing shortcuts and the KeyCue utility can list them all for any app, a good way to see—and manage—what’s active on any Mac is to open System Settings > Keyboard > Keyboard Shortcuts (look in the same place in System Preferences in macOS 12 Monterey and earlier) and scan the categories. Disable shortcuts you’ll never use by deselecting their checkboxes, and redefine others so you’ll remember them.

(Featured image by iStock.com/spaxiax)

Keep Your Apple Devices Cool in the Summer Heat

Keep Your Apple Devices Cool in the Summer Heat

June 2023 was the hottest month on record for the planet, at least until July 2023. Among the many ill effects of such heat are what it does to iPhones, iPads, Macs, Apple Watches, and other digital devices. Excessive heat shortens the overall lifespan of lithium-ion batteries and increases the likelihood of both transient errors and hardware failures—iPhones warn you when they’re getting too hot because of these issues. Apple recommends using nearly all its devices in conditions no hotter than 95ºF/35ºC and storing them in locations that don’t exceed 113ºF/45ºC. (The exception is the adventurous Apple Watch Ultra, which can be worn in temperatures up to 130ºF/55ºC.) The most common place to avoid is a car parked in the sunshine on a hot day, which can easily exceed 130ºF within an hour and rise from there. So don’t leave your iPhone in the car during an afternoon at the beach!

(Featured image by iStock.com/Jorge Garcia Argazkiak)