Cyber Security Protection Checklist for Remote Workers

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Amid all the COVID-19 chaos, as people get limited to their homes, the world is seeing a significant shift towards remote work culture. Although this shift helps to save people from the pandemic, it puts them under a different kind of risk.

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There are always those who’d benefit from a crisis. In this particular situation, hackers have gone in an over-drive.

The human element is the biggest risk among all IT security risks. That’s why hackers frequently trick and use credulous employees in their malware attacks.

As countless people strive to continue their careers from home, hackers use this opportunity to attack the usually inadequately protected home networks and unsuspecting remote workers.

With many personal activities being carried out online as well, like grocery or clothes shopping, more sensitive information is being shared online than ever before.

That’s why remote workers must be careful about the use of the internet as well as local apps, to avoid leaking sensitive or secret company information that hackers can use to infect an entire network and demand ransom money.

How to Protect Yourself?

Like most things, simple tips and tricks can help remote workers protect themselves against these challenges. Awareness is the key, however. If you’re aware of the threats surrounding you, you can move on to take essential measures.

Be Careful About Bringing Company Hardware to Home

You may want to bring company hardware home to facilitate working from home. But work devices are accustomed to a secure environment, that’s you might experience some vulnerabilities when you take these devices back home.

This move can result in data being lost in transit or at home. So be careful about only bringing home devices or information that you absolutely require.

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In the same vein, try not to use the same devices for personal and work use. People are usually casual and relaxed about using personal devices, which can be particularly dangerous for any company information stored on these devices. 

Similarly, don’t transfer work data to personal devices to prevent any unintended information leaks.

Use Secure Network Connections

Since you’ll be using your private network for work-from-home, remote workers must prioritize getting a secure Wi-Fi connection, so you only connect to your work network within a safe virtual environment.

You need to get a strong WLAN encryption locked using a unique and complex password. Using a VPN will further ensure your online privacy and safety by making you anonymous online. This can be critically important if your work involves exchanging sensitive information or accessing the company intranet.

Use Premium Antivirus Protection

High-quality antivirus protection is the other aspect of your online security. Premium antivirus solutions like Kaspersky and Norton offer features like personal firewalls, email filters, network security, VPN, phishing protection, ransomware protection, and many more. 

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These features are essential for the safety of remote workers. For a small monthly charge, you don’t just ensure the safety of your family and organization, but also get to enjoy a sense of mental peace by keeping digital threats at bay.

Keep Your Software Up to Date

Be it your operating system, antivirus software, or any other software you use; you must always keep them up to date. 

At home, you are sharing the same network for your personal and work-related connectivity. All personal devices and smart appliances are attached to the same router for data transmission, which increases your vulnerability.

That’s why make sure all your devices are up to date. Software companies regularly release updates that include performance or security patches that enhance the efficiency of the software.

It helps to keep your software settings set on automatic updates. But if, for any reason, you don’t want to turn on automatic updates, you must regularly check for the latest updates on your software provider’s official website and make sure all your security patches are in place.

Be Wary of Unsolicited Emails

As you probably already know, phishing emails are a common source of malicious activity. That’s why you need to be careful about unsolicited emails and email attachments.

Do not click on links or open attachments in emails you can’t confirm the source of. Even if an email is from a close friend but contains suspicious text such as unusual personal questions, it is probably malware at play.

Similarly, emails that create a sense of urgency warning you of severe consequences if you don’t take immediate action are chief candidates of phishing attempts.

In any case, you should never share personal or other sensitive information in emails or via other online channels without verifying the authenticity of a source through external means. 

If you receive an email from your service provider asking for information, you can try calling their customer service department for help. In case, the email is from a provider you’re not subscribed to, do not respond. 

Remember that legitimate companies do not ask you to divulge personal information through emails. They’ll only ever use verifiable sources in case they require any information from you.

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Avoid Phishing Websites

Many phishing websites can trick you into sharing sensitive information. Some would even download malware on your device just for being on the site.

Always check a website’s security before you visit it. Pay close attention to the website’s Uniform Resource Locator (URL). The ones that begin with “https” differentiate safe sites from the unsafe ones (http).

Furthermore, where you may have to share information, make sure the site has a padlock icon next to the URL. This symbol indicates that your information will be encrypted for security.

Use Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA)

Would you believe that 123456 is the most commonly used password? No kidding. That’s like presenting all your personal information to hackers on a golden plate.

That’s why always use unique passwords with a combination of small and capital letters, digits, and special characters. One trick is to take your favorite quotes or song lyrics and turn them into a creative password. That way, it’s easier to remember them.

Use a different password for each account so that even if one gets hacked, the others will still be safe. Also, change passwords regularly and never write them down anywhere. 

If you have difficulty coming up with unique combinations or remembering them, it’s better to use a Password Manager.

The best thing, however, is to use multi-factor authentication where possible. With MFA, the user needs to present two or more credentials to authenticate their identity. These credentials usually include a password and another evidence type, such as a secret question, mobile number, numerical codes, biometrics, etc.

MFA makes it harder for hackers to break into your account. Even if they are successful in cracking your password, they won’t be able to verify other credentials. 

Turn off Voice-Controlled Smart Appliances

Virtual assistants like Alexa and Siri listen in on everything you talk about at home and transfer this information to their providers. There’s every possibility of these recordings falling into the wrong hands.

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So, you must be careful about their presence in the same room where you work or even generally discuss important matters. You should either turn them off or remove them from the room altogether.

Also, be sure to cover the webcam on your PC when not in use and be careful about using the video function for sharing information.

Log off from your User Account when not Working

Even the most disciplined of us can get relaxed about some work rules at home. One of the most common things we do is to leave our user accounts unlocked when taking a break from work at home. 

Be careful not to do that and always lock the screen of your PC so that it isn’t accessible during your absence. As an added measure, be sure to safeguard your devices against unauthorized use and theft, as well.

Backup Important Data Regularly

Last but not least, always back up your important data. We’d recommend you save your data on a top-quality external storage device as well as to cloud storage. 

Backups come in handy if you lose your device or malware threatens to erase everything. In case of malware, you can reset your PC to factory settings and get rid of the malware, and you’ll still have all your data safely stored.

Use Trusted Sources for COVID-19 Updates

While we are on the subject of being careful online amidst COVID-19, you also need to watch out for the pandemic related scams. Don’t go to any random sites that offer the latest info stats on COVID-19. 

Consult legitimate government websites where you’ll find all the up-to-date information you need to know. 

Similarly, if you want to contribute to any charities, verify the charity’s authenticity before you make any contributions, so you don’t end up losing your money to malicious actors.

Summing Up

Awareness and caution will keep you safe in most cases. Just follow the tips we have talked about and have a safe working day at home.

If, however, you feel that you may have leaked sensitive company or financial information, report to your organization and alert them to the problem so that they can take necessary measures. 

In case of a financial information leak, contact your bank immediately and close the accounts you think may have been compromised. Keep an eye out for any unexplainable debits to your account.

If it’s passwords that may have been given away, change them immediately and watch out for signs of identity theft.

Thanks for reading and don’t forget to share this article with your friends and family.

#BeSafe  #Stayinformed, #Stayconnected.

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DON’T JUST GET A NEW PC, GET A MODERN PC

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A PC is a must-have device for most individuals and families. However, buying a PC is easier said than done. There are hundreds of things you need to know before you make your purchase. Of course, this does mean that you can usually find a device that is best suited to your needs and requirements. It doesn’t matter if you are looking for a device to edit video, basic word processing or gaming, there is bound to be a PC that is suited to your needs. However, don’t just buy a new PC, buy a modern PC. 

A modern PC is not only powerful but also lightweight. Not only that, but they also offer impressive durability and security. The infographic below should make the difference between a PC and a modern PC a bit clearer.

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Still not convinced? Let us elaborate:

THIN AND LIGHTWEIGHT

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You may have noted that modern PCs are way sleeker than before. This is especially noticeable on laptops. This has been made possible thanks to smaller and more compact components, especially SSDs. The average weight of the modern laptop has been reduced to under 2.3kg. This thin and lightweight design has allowed for more creative form factors like the convertible laptop and the 2-in-1 notebook can pull double-duty as laptops and tablets.

DURABLE

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The durability of a laptop is more than just the amount of punishment that the body can take. It is also about protecting data. This is where SSDs shine. A traditional HDD has loads of tiny little parts. When subjected to a sudden jolt, like a drop, there are lots of little pieces that can get misaligned or damaged. Since has SSD has no moving part, the chances of your data getting damaged are lessened.  

PERFORMANCE

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Features like the processor and the RAM play a very important role in determining the performance of a modern PC. But an SSD can really help you take things up a notch. SSDs typically perform much faster than traditional HDDs in terms of reading as well as writing speeds. So you tend to see snappier performance across the board, regardless of what you use that device for. 

SECURITY

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These days, safety and security just are as important as hardware and features. As such, it is a very important thing to consider when buying a new device. Modern PCs come with genuine Windows 10, the latest version of Microsoft’s long-running operating system. This OS comes with a plethora of built-in security features to ensure that your device is safe from hackers and malware. However, the company also regularly updates the OS to ensure any bugs are patched before attackers can exploit them.

BATTERY

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Of course, it’s not always about power. Sometimes, you need efficiency from your device. While this may not be very important for desktops, it is vital for laptops which depend on an internal power supply. Modern PC components have been specifically designed keeping power and efficiency in mind. Take SSDs for example, not only are they small and faster, but they also lot more energy-efficient as they don’t have many complicated moving components. In fact, laptop users can expect a 34% increase in battery life* on average.  
Also, Modern PCs with preinstalled Microsoft Office comes with a suite of applications like Word, PowerPoint and Excel, helping you be more productive. All this means that a modern PC is apt for a wide range of uses and can be used by almost anyone. This includes students who need a lightweight yet powerful device for their work, professionals who need a reliable machine, content creators who need a powerful device for rendering videos and music, and many more.  

It should be pretty clear that there is a big difference between buying a new PC and a modern PC. Modern PCs are available in a wide variety of styles and form-factors, with varying degrees of performance. So it doesn’t matter if you are a gamer, content creator or are simply looking for a compact device you can easily carry, there is bound to be a modern PC that is suited to your taste. 

To know more about the modern PC, check out Amazon or Flipkart.

#BeSafe #Stayhomeindia .

#Stayinformed, #Stayconnected.

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Hundreds of Malicious Chrome Browser Extensions With Used for Stealing User Sensitive Data – 32 Million Users Affected

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Recently, the security researchers of Awake Security have discovered 111 malicious browser extensions, that are used for stealing users’ sensitive information.

These malicious extensions could collect all credential tokens saved in cookies, and they also take screenshots, browse the content of the clipboard, and grasp the user keystrokes as well. 

Since Google Chrome is the most used web browser globally, if it’s being hacked, then definitely it’s not good news. It’s one of the massive spyware attack operations that quietly hit through 32 million downloads of malicious extensions.

Most of the free extensions indicated to warn users about suspicious websites or convert files from one setup to another. Rather, they drain off the browsing history and data that presented all credentials for access to different private business tools. 

Moreover, the reports also claim that depending on the number of downloads, this spyware attack is the most far-reaching malicious Chrome store operations till now, as we hinted earlier.

Malicious Extensions

If we talk about the extension, then the extensions that have been used in operation were created to bypass detection by antivirus software and other security software that estimates the reliability of domains on the web. The developer has provided fake contact; therefore, it’s not clear that who created these extensions.

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Well, if any user downloaded the malicious extension then, they will automatically get connected to several websites. So it can transmit all sensitive information, but, if you are working on the corporate network, then it will not transmit any data. 

The domain that are used in these operations were all purchased from a small Israeli domain registrar known as GalComm (CommuniGal Communication Ltd.). And this operation consists of nearly 15000 domains that are used in this campaign. 

This type of attack is very dangerous for Chrome, as it generally does well at maintaining compliance from complex exploits. But this type of spyware extensions can ruin the security completely. Therefore, Google always recommends that while installing an extension, users must check the permissions they are allowing to the extension. 

The domains were detected, receiving several browser-based monitoring tools and malware. And the hackers that are behind this surveillance campaign practiced various trick and techniques to evade the domains being identified as malicious.

So, what do you think about this? Share all your views and thoughts in the comment section below.

You can follow us on Linkedin, Twitter, Facebook for  IT updates.

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INDIAN INTELLIGENCE AGENCIES ASK THE GOVERNMENT TO BAN THESE 52 MOBILE APPS FOR HAVING TIES WITH CHINA

Indian Intelligence agencies issue list of mobile apps suggesting government to issue advisory. List contains names of many popular apps such as TikTok, SHAREit, Club Factory and more. Government official says the matter is under discussion.

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Indian Intelligence agencies have issued a list of mobile apps that originate from or have links to China, asking the Indian government to issue an advisory against the use of all the 52 apps in the list. The agencies have cited security and privacy concerns overuse of these Android and iOS apps in India.

According to a report published in Hindustan Times that cites “people familiar with the development”, this list of apps with links to China is supported by the National Security Council Secretariat that feels that these applications ‘could be detrimental to India’s security”.

The report also mentions a government official saying that the discussions on the list issued by intelligence agencies are ongoing which indicates that an official decision could be announced very soon. Having said that, the list contains names of many popular apps such as TikTok, SHAREit, Club Factory and more that drive the social and e-commerce business in India. Other apps from the list include games like Clash of Kings, photography apps like BeautyPlus and more.

Here’s the full list of apps issued by the Indian Intelligence agencies that have been sent to the government.

LIST OF 52 APPS ISSUED BY INDIAN INTELLIGENCE AGENCIES

The list of apps issued by the Indian intelligence agencies includes social media apps such as TikTok, Weibo, WeChat, Helo, LIKE, Kwai, Bigo Live and Vigo Video. Out of these apps, TikTok owned by Bytedance is the most popular one with over 200 million active users from India. Vigo Video, on the other hand, is also owned by Bytedance but the company recently announced that it will be discontinuing the app in India by October 31. 

TikTok has been at the receiving end of a lot of controversies in India and the latest one saw the popular short-video platform’s rating on the Play Store fall to 1.3 stars.

Xiaomi, one of the most popular and dominating companies in the Indian smartphone market pre-installs Mi Video Call, Mi Community and Mi Store apps on its phones. All these three apps have been red-flagged by the Indian agencies even though Xiaomi has migrated all its local data to datacenters based in India and has been using Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Microsoft Azure since 2018 for storing Indian users data.

The list also contains names of four browsers that have been deemed to be a security risk by the intelligence agencies. These include the UC Browser, APUS Browser, CM Browser and DU Browser. UC Browser is a fairly popular web browser for smartphones used by Indians. Similarly, Alibaba owned news aggregator UC News is also amongst the apps along with NewsDog.

Some of the e-commerce apps that have made it to the list include Club Factory, SHEIN and ROMWE. File sharing tools like SHAREit and Xender are also a part of the recommendation list with the former having over 200 million active user base.

There are several photo editing apps on the list that have been red-flagged as well. These include Beauty Plus, Photo Wonder, YouCam Makeup, Wonder Camera and SelfieCity.

Other apps including utilities and launches include Vault-Hide, VivaVideo- QU Video Inc Perfect Corp, Virus Cleaner (Hi Security Lab), DU recorder, 360 Security, DU Battery Saver, DU Browser, DU Cleaner, DU Privacy, Clean Master – Cheetah,  DU Cache Cleaner, Baidu Translate, Baidu Map, ES File Explorer, QQ International, QQ Launcher, QQ Security Centre, QQ Player, QQ Music, QQ Mail, QQ NewsFeed, WeSync, Clash of Kings, Mail Master and Parallel Space.

#Stayinformed, #Stayconnected.

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7 Stupid mistakes that led to a data breach

Even the best of us are guilty of making stupid mistakes. However, when it comes to IT, the smallest blunder could lead to a major data breach with dire consequences.

Data breaches are on the rise. Hackers continue to attack enterprises and government agencies relentlessly, and it’s only going to get worse. So there’s (absolutely) no room for any stupid mistakes.

According to the FBI, reports related to cybercrime have quadrupled during the COVID-19 pandemic. As more companies fall victim to security breaches, they risk significant regulatory fines and damage to brand reputation.

One of the primary causes of such security events is human error. In the UK, for example, 90% of data breaches were caused by people last year. In the US, Verizon’s 2019 Data Breach Investigations Report found human error to be the reason behind 21% of security breaches. 

While it’s human nature to goof-up from time to time, there’s no excuse for foolish mistakes that could have been avoided. So companies and security teams need to pay attention to these examples and take extra steps to avoid repeating these “stupid mistakes.”

1. Misconfiguration

Hackers always search for servers that haven’t been set up correctly. This was the reason behind the now-infamous Capital One data breach that exposed the sensitive personal data of more than 100 million applicants and customers. 

In this scenario, a flawed firewall implementation enabled access to the server. As the company didn’t properly encrypt the sensitive data stored on the server, the hacker was able to read it. 

This seems to be a common theme as just 4% of data breaches tracked by Gemalto’s Breach Level Index were (what we call) secure breaches where stolen data was encrypted and rendered useless to threat actors.

2. Failed to update

The Equifax data breach, which still hogs the headlines today, occurred because the IT team wasn’t proactive. Even after the company was alerted to the threat in the Spring of 2017, the consumer credit agency still failed to identify the vulnerability. 

In this scenario, encrypted traffic was exposed because of a digital certificate that expired ten months before the incident. This oversight allowed a hacker to breach the system and access sensitive information from mid-May until the end of July.

This stupid mistake led to the theft of personal data of more than 145 million US citizens and over 10 million British citizens. The incident still hogs the headlines as the company continues to pay hefty fines to settle numerous lawsuits.

3. Chose speed over security

Transportstyrelsen or the Swedish Transport Agency, outsourced its vehicle and license register to a third-party contractor to save money. In any other case, this would be standard practice for companies and government agencies looking to access top tech talent cost-effectively. 

But here’s where Transportstyrelsen dropped the ball. 

To accelerate the whole process, the Director General decided to overlook standard security procedures and best practices. Most notably, enabling seamless access to sensitive data that demanded security clearance. 

This security incident exposed the details of people with criminal records, military and police transport personnel, intelligence agents, and those in witness protection programs.

Fortunately, there’s no evidence that anyone but the subcontractors viewed this information. Neither the intelligence agents or those in witness protection came to any harm. 

But it could have been very different!

The political fallout from this security event evidenced the Swedish government’s ignorance about technology and data security. The positive outcome was the fact that it ushered in a sea change across government departments to ensure that it doesn’t happen again.

4. Weak passwords

In the current threat landscape, you would think it’s nearly impossible not to hear about a data breach almost every day. Yet, Western Australian government officials continued to use ridiculously weak passwords.

For example, the most common weak password, used by as many as 1,464 employees, was “Password123.” 

Furthermore, research showed that 26% of accounts across agencies used similar weak passwords (like abc123), significantly increasing their exposure to risk. Even worse, total access to every government system was possible with the password “Sumer123.”

But it wasn’t just the Australians, their counterparts in the United States were also found to make the same stupid mistake. 

According to a study conducted by WatchGuard, almost 50% of over 355,000 government and military email accounts had weak passwords that could be cracked within two days. 

In this scenario, the most commonly used weak passwords by government and military staff were as follows:

  • 123456
  • 12345678
  • linkedin
  • password
  • sunshine

Civilian passwords were found to be weak 52% of the time and were matched to passwords leaked in the LinkedIn data breach that occurred as far back as 2012.

5. Ease-of-use over security

The infamous data breach at Uber occurred because of weak access control to an extensive collection of data. In this scenario, threat actors were able to find credentials for an Amazon Web Services account containing user data (or 57 million records with personally identifiable information) in a private GitHub coding site.

If that wasn’t bad enough, Uber often allowed developers access to live production data without deploying proper protocols to monitor and secure this sensitive information.

As all the developers had unlimited access to user data, all the attackers had to do was compromise one individual to breach the whole system.

As developers had complete access to GitHub repositories and so much customer data was available, we can conclude that Uber made the stupid mistake of choosing “ease-of-use over security.”

Even worse, the company tried to cover it up by paying the hackers $100,000 to delete the stolen user data and keep the incident under wraps.

6. Unsecured database

French fitness tech firm, Kinomap, recently suffered a massive data breach that exposed the personally identifiable information of 42 million users (spread across 80 countries). 

Discovered by researchers at vpnMentor, the open database that was left unsecured for at least a month, revealing the following information:

  • Full names
  • Usernames
  • Email addresses
  • Home country
  • Gender
  • Timestamps for exercises
  • Kinomap account details
  • The date they joined Kinomap

All this sensitive user data wasn’t encrypted, making it easily accessible to threat actors. What makes this security incident even worse is the fact that although vpnMentor informed the French firm on March 28th, 2020, they didn’t fix the security issue for over two weeks (until April 12th, 2020).

7. Poor protection against insider threats

Marriott Hotels suffered a second major data breach within two years when two employees accessed the information of more than five million guests. 

Although this incident wasn’t as severe as the security event in 2018, it’s concerning that the hotel chain didn’t take security seriously even after the first incident. 

While this data breach is a bit complicated to be called a “stupid mistake,” it could have been avoided. If real-time monitoring and zero trust protocols were deployed, security teams would have been alerted immediately when unusual patterns in user behavior were identified.

Lessons learned
  • Always encrypt sensitive data
  • Deploy the latest patches and updates immediately
  • Engage in regular security training
  • Engage in penetration testing to identify potential vulnerabilities
  • Never compromise on cybersecurity best practices 
  • Always use unique credentials for each user and system
  • Use strong passwords 
  • Use two-factor authentication
  • Have a data breach plan ready 
  • Respond to data breaches immediately

Wherever Work Takes You, We’ll Be There!

#BeSafe #Stayhomeindia .#Stayinformed, #Stayconnected.

Enabling your remote #workforce!

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Don’t Forward Work Emails to a Personal A/c, Separate Work & Life

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Do not forward work emails to a personal email account, separate your work and private life as much as possible, use the organisation’s approved methods to share files, store work-related content on Government/Office approved services only. These are among the suggestions made by the Centre as organisations promote work from home (WFH) due to Covid19.

don-t-forward-work-emails-to-a-personal-a-c-separate-work-lifeThese have been compiled with inputs from the US homeland cyber security guidelines, officials said. “Rather than travelling to office, the employee travels via telecommunication links, keeping in touch with coworkers and employers via telephone, online chat programmes, video meetings and email. A remote attacker can compromise the security of the organisation if proper security measures are not taken,” the advisory states.

imageIt encourages using complex passwords for home Wi-Fi network and broadband router and sharing them only with trusted people. “Create a separate user profile with minimal privileges for work-only use. Close all work-related windows, applications, files, and documents when not in use. Do not use work email addresses to sign up for unauthorised, free tools. Grant access to your employees to corporate network only though a company-approved VPN with multi-factor authentication,” it adds.

For videoconferencing, the advisory suggests not to make meetings “public” unless they are intended to be open to everyone. Use password and features such as a waiting room to control the admittance of guests at private meetings. For enhanced security, randomly generated meeting codes and strong passwords have been suggested. Do not share a link to a teleconference on an unrestricted, publicly available social media post, the SOP reads.

#BeSafe #Stayhomeindia .

#Stayinformed, #Stayconnected.

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How To Enable WhatsApp Video Call For Up To Eight Participants?

WhatsApp doubles participant limit in video and audio calls to eight people. — WhatsAppThe instant messaging platform operated by Facebook has raised the number of participants in a WhatsApp Video Call from four to eight as many users have moved to different apps such as Zoom and House Party that provide video calling for more participants.

This latest restriction remains small when compared with Google Duo’s likes, which supports up to 12 users, and Messenger. But the increased cap will still be more than appropriate for most casual users who rely on WhatsApp’s video calling function to catch up with friends and family during this pandemic

How To Enable WhatsApp Video Call For Up To 8 Participants?
  • First open WhatsApp and go to the Calls section.
  • Then tap the floating Call button you see at the bottom right corner, so that your contact list will now open.
  • But before you select the contacts, you need to tap the New group call option.
  • Now proceed to select all the participants of the group call. You can select a maximum of seven contacts before the contact list is grayed out.
  • All the contacts you select will be shown at the top of the contact list.
  • Depending on whether you want to make a group video or voice call, tap the relevant button.

Note: When one of the call contacts is on an older version of WhatsApp which does not support eight people in a group call, a dialog box will pop up to remind you.

The positive thing about calling WhatsApp community is that in an ongoing call, you can also introduce a new member to a community call. Simply tap the button in the top-right corner when calling a video, and then pick the touch.

#Stayinformed, #Stayconnected.

ref. https://blog.whatsapp.com/group-video-and-voice-calls-now-support-8-participants

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Facebook takes on Zoom with ‘Messenger Rooms’

Group video calls no longer require a Facebook account.

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Facebook is challenging Zoom for video chat dominance. The social network introduced Messenger Rooms, a major shakeup to its group video calling features that make Facebook’s chat app much more competitive with Zoom.

With Messenger Rooms, Facebook users can host group calls of up to 50 people that anyone can join. Instead of inviting people individually, Facebook users can post links in their News Feed or in Groups or event pages. And unlike Messenger’s existing video chat features, participants don’t need to have the Messenger app or even a Facebook account to join a room. When a room is created, anyone can join via their browser, though hosts can opt to “lock” rooms to new guests to prevent party crashers.

There are other Zoom-like features, too. Messenger Rooms will have “immersive 360-degree backgrounds that transport you to beautiful and iconic spaces, from the beach to a luxe apartment on the water,” along with “14 new camera filters that offer ambient lighting to brighten your space and your face.” Facebook also notes that there are no time limits for video chat sessions, which can be scheduled in advance.

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Messenger Rooms is starting to roll out now, and will be live in the US “in the coming weeks.” 

The update comes as Facebook says it’s seen a massive surge in calling across its chat apps, with more than 700 million people making calls on Messenger and WhatsApp every day. And on WhatsApp, Facebook is also increasing the number of people who can join a call, doubling it from four to eight. That update is launching next week. 

Facebook also announced that it’s integrating Messenger’s video calling into Facebook Dating, so users can participate in “virtual dates” while they can’t plan IRL get-together. The update will be available “in the coming months.”

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Microsoft takes us to 2004 with new Windows 10 so you don’t mistake it for Server 2003

Windows 10 Ver 2004 (OS Build 19041.207)Microsoft crossed the streams last night as both the Fast and Slow Rings of the Windows Insider Program synchronised ahead of the final fit and finish of next year’s Windows 10.

While build 19033 was light on features, as is depressingly the norm with 20H1 these days, that watermark remained absent and, more importantly, the release hit the cautious Slow Ringers as well as the brave folk on the bleeding edge of Fast.

And because it wouldn’t be Windows without a good few ways of referring to it, 20H1 will also now be known as “2004” rather than “2003” as one might have expected, based on the previous numbering convention (1909, 1903, 1809 etc).

The reason, according to the gang, was to “eliminate confusion with any past product names” such as Windows Server 2003. Presumably Microsoft Money 2004 was not deemed risky enough.

Windows 10 Ver 2004 (OS Build 19041.207) Download link

The synchronisation also opens a brief window for Fast Ring Insiders to take a breath and spend some quality time on the Slow Ring instead of being flung further into the future by the Insider team. Teasingly, Microsoft would only say that Fast Ring fans would soon be getting builds from the RS_PRERELEASE branch of Windows 10 rather than using terms such as “20H2” or even “21H1” to give people a clue with regard to when the code would show up in the Windows Update of the general public.

As a reminder, the next version of Windows 10 is known as “20H1”. Or “2004”. Or “that thing Santa left on the lounge carpet”. We made that last one up, but you get the idea.

As has been the norm of late, the release was light on features to enliven a keynote, but heavy on fixes. We’ve been told by more than one MVP (on condition of anonymity, in order to avoid a short, sharp, defrocking) that the bulk of the changes have been “under the hood” ahead of what should be an interesting 2020 for Windows fans.

The fixes themselves included dealing with the Start Code 38 issue that had cropped up with some USB 3.0 devices, although the Start Code 10 problem still remains, as well as the Start Menu crashing if a Windows Update was pending.

Those pesky compatibility problems with anti-cheat software continue to linger, as well as the Update process occasionally hanging and optional printer drivers reappearing in Windows Update after an install.

And, of course, while it looks like Microsoft is almost finished with this release, this does remain very much preview code and should be treated with caution lest something explode messily in your face.

#Stayinformed, #Stayconnected.

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How Countries Around the World Are Helping Employees & Employers

ed_1_253The worst economic disaster in decades has seen govts in Europe, North and South America, Asia and Africa roll out special schemes to shore up employers’ capacity to pay salaries to their staff. As India waits for the next stimulus package, here’s a look at how other countries have opened their fiscal purse strings…

UK: Starting Monday for next 3 months all employers can get 80% govt funding for workers’ salaries of up to £2,500 a month.

US: Income support for families of $1,200 for each adult and $500 for children, and $250 billion to boost unemployment insurance.

Spain: Affected workers will receive full salary during lockdown. Bar on outright dismissals. Plus allowance for temporary workers and household employees.

ITALY: €5 billion top up on wage supplementation scheme for those furloughed employees. Plus one-off payments to various other categories of workers.

FRANCE: Employees receive an allowance of approx 84% of their net salary, 100% for minimum-wage workers.

GERMANY: Employees will tap a €26 billion insurance fund, which guarantees workers at least 60% of their basic pay.

JAPAN: All citizens are expected to receive a cash payout of ¥100,000 yen ($928).

DENMARK: State to pay 75% of wages for 3 months if employers do not lay off employees.

ARGENTINA: Employers are not allowed to fire workers during a period of 60 days, and required to pay part of salaries.

AUSTRALIA: Wage subsidy to businesses to the tune of A$130 bn or 6.5% of GDP).

AUSTRIA: State guarantees 90% for gross salaries below €1,700, 85% for salaries below €2,685 and 80% for salaries below €5,370, while apprentices get compensated in full.

BELGIUM: For those on temporary unemployment, benefits were raised from 65% to 70% of gross wages. Also help for self-employed.

BRAZIL: Informal workers and the unemployed will receive over 3 months a temporary new benefit of $120 per month under certain conditions.

CANADA: C$2,000 per month (for up to four months) to those who have lost income due to Covid-19.

CHINA: Temporary living allowance for migrant workers; and some benefits for jobless.

CZECH REPUBLIC: Quarantined employees to get 60% of their salaries while employees in firms that had to stop operations will be compensated in full.

GREECE: Allowance of €800 for employees of affected companies.

INDONESIA: Manufacturing workers with annual income below a threshold exempted from income tax for six months.

IRELAND: Temporary wage subsidy of 85% (raised from 70% in March) of net weekly take home pay up to €412.

KENYA: 100% tax relief for persons earning gross monthly income of up to $225 (lowincome earners).

SOUTH KOREA: Central government relief checks to households in the bottom 70% income bracket (around 14 million households), of up to $820 per household.

NETHERLANDS: Temporary compensation of company wage costs of up to 90% of wage bill.

NORWAY: Provisions for employees who are on temporary lay-off to receive full wage compensation (up to 50,000 kroner per month).

POLAND: Subsidies for employees’ salaries of up to 40% of the average statutory wage, with some conditions.

SAUDI ARABIA: Govt will cover 60% of salaries of Saudi staff in companies under stress for the next three months.

SERBIA: Payment of 50% of the net minimum wage for three months for employees in large private sector companies and for employees who are currently not working.

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Stay Home, Stay Safe, Save Others!

StayInformed, StayConnected.

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