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Quarter 4, 2013

 

60-Second Tips to Secure Your Mobile Device

Despite the fact that the average smartphone or tablet has 100,000 times the computing power of the NASA system that landed men on the moon, we fail to protect our mobile devices. And this oversight leaves open a massive back door for hackers, identity thieves and competitive spies, especially in small and medium businesses that don't have the extra funds to invest in security.

However, securing smartphones or tablets isn't that difficult. Here are simple steps that have the potential to save a business thousands of dollars and can be taken immediately (most take less than a minute).

Enable passcode protection the correct way
Passcode protection features live in the Settings area of the device. For maximum safety, incorporate the following security measures on all smartphones and tablets that have access to Wi-Fi or a company network:
  • Use complex passcodes instead of simply using the 4-digit default. Don't use easy-to-guess codes, birthdates or a pet's name.
  • Set the auto-lock feature to no more than 2-3 minutes.
  • Enable the auto-wipe feature that erases all data on a mobile device if an incorrect passcode is entered repeatedly.

Turn on remote tracking software before the device disappears
Apple products already include remote tracking software, and can be activated through the Find My iPhone app on the device. Install third-party software like Lookout or Where's My Droid for Android devices. This technology not only makes it easy to find a lost or stolen device, it allows for the elimination of sensitive company data if necessary (see next tip).

Know how to wipe data off a stolen device from anywhere
If a smartphone, laptop or tablet goes missing, log on to the remote tracking software (see above) and delete all of the data — including emails, contacts, photos, videos, texts, apps and documents — from the device. If the password is strong, you should have time to login and delete the contents of the device before thieves can access it.

Don't let mobile carriers sell your exact location or surfing data
Hobbled by a continued decline in subscriber growth and voice calls, mobile phone companies have begun selling our valuable data (including precise real-time location) to advertisers. Several of the larger carriers provide an opportunity to opt out of Mobile Usage Data Sharing.
  • AT&T gives users the right to opt out of External Marketing & Analytics Reports and Wireless Location Characteristics.
  • Verizon users can login to their account and visit the MyPrivacy section of their website, but they only have 30 days after establishing a new phone line to opt out of Verizon's information sharing program.

Conveniently encrypt passwords that are stored on mobile devices
Instead of using the same password on every site or storing them insecurely, use a reputable data-protection app. This type of protection software provides the tools to securely and conveniently manage and protect sensitive financial data, credit card numbers, online identities, software licenses, etc., using a single, secure password.

Customize location-based tracking (GPS) settings by application
Most apps don't need location services enabled to work. Spending a few minutes examining these settings will increase your privacy and safety. Location settings are generally accessed from the Settings icon on your home page, and let you control which apps are allowed to know (and share) your location.

Utilize security software designed to detect mobile malware
There is no perfect solution to prevent malicious apps from infecting mobile devices. Utilizing mobile security software, however, could keep you ahead of the criminals. Products offered by Lookout, AVG and McAfee (among others) will scan devices, including new apps, and remove any malware indexed against its massive database of rogue applications.

Encrypt your Wi-Fi transmissions when using free hotspots
Most free Wi-Fi hotspots do little to protect the data that is transmitted over the wireless network. The most common forms of exploitation associated with hotspots are "man-in-the-middle" attacks where a spy intercepts the transmission between the mobile device and the café/airport/hotel's hotspot. There are two effective solutions to this problem:
  • Tethering. You can tether your smartphone to your laptop computer or iPad and use a cellular connection instead of Wi-Fi. Be aware that it's slower and you do use more data on your plan this way, but you're accessing the Internet and surfing over a totally protected encrypted network.
  • Anonymous Surfing/Personal VPN Software Companies like idRADAR and AnchorFree offer inexpensive apps that encrypt the data transmitted across Wi-Fi transmissions from mobile devices. Encoding the data all the way through to its destination makes it nearly impossible for hackers to access digital account numbers, emails and login information.

One final tip
Make sure that these quick tips aren't just implemented on a single, personal mobile device. In order to protect a broader network, it's important to protect every device that comes into contact with sensitive business data. Develop an "onboarding" procedure for new mobile devices that can guarantee the greatest safety of private information. You won't be sorry you spent the extra time protecting your profits and productivity.

 

7 Elements of a Successful Brand Style Guide

As your business becomes better known in the marketplace, it's important to maintain consistent branding. You can make sure your brand is always properly represented both internally and externally by creating a style guide.

So, exactly what is a style guide? It's a set of standards for the look and voice associated with your brand. It ensures consistency across your organization — no matter how large or small — and presents a clean, unified image to your market.

Putting together a brand guide doesn't have to be difficult. Here are seven elements to consider as you develop your own.

1. Business mission or essence.
Your style guide should start with a description of the essence of the business. What is it, and what does it stand for? How does it look and feel? One way to convey this is to come up with keywords that help convey that essence in a clear, crisp, visual way. For example, you might describe your brand as "modern, friendly and a trusted advisor." But be sure to be honest and explain what your business is about in clear language that's easy to understand.

2. Logo.
Your logo design is the visual heart of your company's brand identity. It establishes everything from your color choices to the overall feel of the brand. Your style guide should include several versions of your logo in different sizes and file formats, as well as any guidelines dictating how and where the logo may be used.

3. Logo limitations.
Brand style guides usually include restrictions on what can be done with the logo. Things to think about include changing the color, stretching the logo, changing its size, using the logo with specific background colors or cropping the file. Be clear on which modifications are allowed and which ones violate brand guidelines.

4. Fonts.
A brand style guide outlines which fonts and sizes are considered the company standard. Sometimes multiple options are given, and, in some cases, there may be different fonts for print and electronic applications.

5. Copy/voice.
This guideline is helpful for any copywriters or marketing professionals working with your brand. For example, a financial institution might describe its brand as "extremely formal and conservative with data-heavy copy and an academic tone." This is very different from a small business that describes itself as "a downhome brand that uses simple sentences, storytelling and country language to appeal to a rural lifestyle audience." Take the time to clarify the tone and voice of your brand copy.

6. Colors.
Brands typically have an associated color palette. These may be general ("Our colors are green and gold.") or more specific referring to standard RGB color numbers for online applications or PMS ink colors for print use. Certain colors may also be limited or prohibited ("We never use the color white in any of our materials, either as background, font color or imagery.")

7. Images.
Are there certain types of imagery that fit with your brand style? For example, if your business does work primarily in urban areas, you may want to limit the use of images of rural or suburban landscapes. Or you may want to limit (or encourage) the use of stock photography. Just be sure to provide clear guidelines to simplify the selection of photos for your creative materials.

Developing a brand style guide is an important step to establishing the consistency of your brand. Over time, this consistency builds brand recognition among your target customers and enhances trust within the market. Once you've developed your brand guide, share the final version with all your employees and revisit the document annually to see if it needs revisions or updates.