Monthly Archives: February 2013

Unwanted Guests: How Easy Is It To Hack Into Corporate Video Conferences?

Is your video conference solution safe? It’s up to you, to set it up safe.

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History

For as long as recording technology has existed it has been used for espionage. From the ever-so-stealthy tape recorders (often hidden in books in James Bond films) all the way top the wires used by police agencies to catch a criminal in the act, there is no better way of foiling your enemy than listening to him when he doesn’t think he is being heard.

Nowadays

These days however it is not just living people you need to worry about. It is often said that your computers webcam can be accessed even when you’re not using it; a terrifying prospect for many and considering how long people have been able to listen in on phone calls, are video conferences really that safe? Video conferences are now an important and effective way for modern businesses to communicate. Instantaneous communication with anywhere else on Earth is amazing, but being able to visually gauge the reaction of the person you are talking to make it one of the most powerful tool in any company’s arsenal.

But..

But what if you are being looked in on? If someone watches in on a business deal than they can make money at your expense, work to crush your plans or even make your move before you do. So how safe are they? Hackers like HD Moore say not very! Moore, the creator of Metasploit, has managed to hack his way into the offices of law firms, courtrooms and even the boardroom of Goldman Sachs with ease, suggesting that peeping toms might have more power than previously thought. While this may seem fairly reminiscent of Back to the Future II there isn’t really too much to worry about at home. Moore says that the reasons these companies fail so spectacularly at securing their cameras is because they set them up outside of their company’s network firewalls, meaning easy access to those with prying eyes and hacking know-how. At home in fact, it is not the outside hackers you should worry about but the companies themselves.

And beyond the board room?

Skype has previously stated that it is able to gain access to cameras even when not in video call and a simple Google search can turn up thousands of programs designed purely to hack into webcams without people knowing. It’s not just the anonymous hackers you have to consider. In the early 2000s there was controversy over the US government’s plans to allow phone hacking to counter terrorism. Last year the US government set up an agency called the DCAC (Domestic Communications Assistant Centre), collaboration between the FBI, the DEA and the US Marshall’s Service which is specifically designed to enable wire-tapping on wireless and internet conversations. A court order is required to allow the agency to listen in on their targets (the same as with phones) but this time there was very little controversy at all.

Conclusion

So what conclusion can we come too? Is video conferencing safe for corporations or people at home? While there is plenty of evidence to the contrary I would say yes. If you have the right firewalls, security and managed video conferencing infrastructure then it is incredibly difficult for any peeping toms to get it and if anybody is really that determined to listen in to your conversations then video conferencing is just another tool in their box. If you learn HD Moore’s lessons and don’t underestimate the importance of online security, your company’s secrets should be safe. Are you guys convinced by Moore’s Argument?

The Not So Obvious Advantages of Telepresence Versus Chatting

Telepresence? Why not just use instant message chat? Let me tell you why..

Telepresence of Unified Communications is one of the greatest invention for the business world. In today’s society, business is no longer limited to the 4 corners of the office. The most successful businessmen and businesswomen are always looking to branch out, and this involve doing business with other people from a different city, or even a different country. Obviously, telepresence is a great way to reach out to these people. Through telepresence, it is possible to have conversations and meetings with individuals far away. However, there are some telepresence sceptics who believe that whatever conferencing may accomplish, chatting can too. Not to be argumentative, but there are many advantages to telepresence that are not covered by chatting, although they may not be so obvious.

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  1. Telepresence awkward situations made by misinterpreted statements

    We’ve all been there- gotten into an argument with someone because a text or a statement sent on chat was misinterpreted. Because chatting is flat and does not involve the use of voices, certain statements can easily be taken to mean something else. For example, the statement “get to work now” may sound harsh or motivating, depending on the speaker’s intention. However, on chat, one may not be able to tell the difference. With telepresence, it is possible to avoid misinterpretations, as the tone of one’s voice already conveys so much.

  2. Telepresence may help with possible language barriers

    We mentioned earlier that many companies deal with other businesses from other places on a daily basis. Therefore, it is possible to hold business meetings with people who may not even speak the same language as you. In cases like these, it may be very possible to hit a language barrier, especially if the other party is not fluent in your language of vice versa. Obviously, once a language barrier occurs, chat becomes pretty much useless, as the person on the other end is not able to articulate the word he wants to use. However, with telepresence, it is possible to see the other person, so it may still be possible to figure out what the person is trying to say though his body language, sign language, or what have you.

  3. Telepresence makes it so much easier to gauge a person’s mood and overall demeanour

    Chat takes so much away because even if the person on the other end is pissed or frustrated, what he says will always look and sound the same. Telepresence certainly comes in handy especially when it is sensitive business matters that are being discussed. If you see and sense, based on how he looks, as well as his tone of voice, that the person on the other end isn’t feeling too happy or pleased, then you will know how to proceed accordingly.

Although chatting and telepresence set out with the same goal- to communicate with those far away, it becomes obvious that there are more benefits to one compared to the other. For better business communication, It may be a good idea to invest in telepresence for meeting rooms as well as desktop solutions and consult a service provider for all types of organisations.

Technology Inside: Anatomy of a Good Digital Signage

Digital Signage? What is it used for?

Whether we are talking about a huge chain of stores or just a very market-oriented location, digital signage systems seem to be useful to all varieties of business. Sometimes, these systems can even be useful to entertain customers in line while they wait to purchase their goods. Of course, the main purpose is not necessarily to keep us entertained while we are waiting in line or in at the dentist.

The digital signage system is an excellent opportunity for retailers and manufacturers to focus their client’s attention on their latest products or promotions. And the thing is that, seeing how you are already in the store, the signage advertising does have the chance to be a better selling system more traditional forms of advertisement. But the secret is just in delivering the kind of content that is personally relevant to the customer in a way that compels them to take action, and a lot of that actually boils down to the quality of the system itself because, if you can actually see pixels or the image is fuzzy, you are not going to be interested in the product even if it is good.

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What the System Should Look Like

The complete system can be as complex or as simple as the store can afford to make it. Ideally, you would have a series of monitors that receive a signal from a central unit. How often that feed changes is one of the crucial aspects of how successful a signage system will be. It can be used to display ads for different products but it is really great when the store can afford to put up information that the clients will value, such as cultural attractions and weather updates.

Combining the ads with promotions going on in the store and information that is relevant to the client is essential as it will engage your audience in a more effective manner. Customers are rarely interested in knowing what new products have been brought into the store. However, if they glance at the board that is showing what new movies are playing, it may be interesting to see that bananas are on sale down the street.

How the Software Works

There are several software packages on the market that have been designed specifically for the digital signage system. The most basic software will just play whatever feed it is given and it is very little more than a fancy media player. However, there are other systems that can display two or even three sources of information at once or that deliver a secondary live feed. This live feed is extremely interesting in car shops, for example, because it allows you to see how they are working on your car and, if you are like me that is really going to make you feel very comfortable while waiting.

Other software systems also allow the operator to make actual changes to the feed. So if my mechanic finds that he needs to change more than he first anticipated on the car, he is going to ask me about it. But he is also going to feed that data into his system and I can get a live view of how my bill changes and why.

What Are the Your Basic Hardware Options?

As far as the hardware is concerned, you really can’t go too big with this system. Of course you go wrong in how you use it and never make your money back, but you can choose between foot-long LCDs, plasma or project monitors. Your choice depends on how much room you have and what kind of cash you’d like to spend. There will obviously be a digital player to provide the feed or you can use a computer and that will immensely increase your display capabilities. Finally, there are a host of cameras that can be added so the system has the live feed we’ve talked about.

The great thing about a digital signage system is that it is basically comprised of individual products that you probably already know about. So it can be a very interesting experience to research each product, especially if you are tech-oriented and enjoy learning about a technology before you use it.

Increased Productivity for You and Your Telecommuting Team


Being productive is an interesting mix of making a list and holding yourself accountable!

 


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Ways to increase productivity

To-do lists are a great way to keep your tasks straight. The problem is that they often become an unimaginable garbage can where you purge all of the things that you need or want to work on the coming century. If you make some very simple changes to how you manage that list of things to get done, you can increase productivity tenfold and stay motivated.

Create a Legitimate To-Do List

If you keep a long and bulleted list of the things you are working on, you’re not being as productive as you could. A good to-do list isn’t just about keeping running tabs on everything you need to complete today / in a week / in a month, a good to-do list will lay out those tasks in a manner that you can respond to. Your to-do list should be arranged in short lists of actionable items. This means that lists need to focus on not what you have to do, but what you can accomplish short term to reach those long term goals.

Find Better Ways to Communicate

Communication mediums like IM and email are great for interactions between one or two other people who need to speak briefly about a quick couple of changes. When it comes to assigning tasks and responsibilities, we’ve found that these are not effective ways to communicate to-do’s or updated files. Inevitable, someone will delete the message or will fail to work off the most updated spreadsheet of presentation. Sign up for a toll-free conference call provider and set up online project management services. You need to have a better way to share information and documents with your team, rather than using email as your storage system.

Have a Plan for Downtime

The fact of the matter is that technology is not completely failure proof. To make the assumption that you’ll never experience a problem with your internet connect, that your cell phone will always have service, or that you email provider will never have a server failure, is dangerous to your business. Ask yourself if you have a plan for communication when Murphy’s Law shows up. You need to consider all of the possibilities of a failure of communication services in order to minimize your collateral damage.

Getting more organized in the hopes of being productive is a great start, but if you just throw all the tasks in your head down onto pieces of paper, you’re just transferring your storage place and not taking steps to get these things done.