Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Securing Your WiFi

With security breaches in the news almost once a week, business owners are beginning to realize that data security isn’t a tangential issue to business operations.  It’s a key concern, for you and your clients.  This is especially so for attorneys.

As WiFi technology becomes cheaper, more convenient, and easier to use, it becomes more and more ubiquitous, especially in high-density cities.  Just by sitting in a coffee shop in Midtown, you usually have access to more than a handful of networks.

One of the reasons why WiFi equipment is so widely used is that it’s easy for people to install. Out of the box it's typically set for being completely open and being willing to "talk" to just about every device that presents itself.

While that's good for ensuring that these devices work quickly, they are completely devoid of any security to protect you and your data.

Having an open WiFi network means that anyone who happens to be in the neighborhood can see and access not only your Internet connection, but also the other devices on your network, such as computers, printers, shared disks, etc.

The good news is that all equipment that provides WiFi service has built-in security capabilities that can help protect you.

The two primary ways to secure your WiFi connection are:

·         Password protect or hide your hotspot (figuratively speaking)
·         Encrypt your data

Every WiFi hotspot has a name, called an SSID (service set ID). A WiFi hotspot can choose to broadcast its SSID or not.  If the SSID is broadcast, everyone within range can detect that a WiFi hotspot by that name is available.  If the SSID is not broadcast, people who know it's there and know its name can still access it by telling their device to connect to a hotspot with that name.

Once a WiFi hotspot has a name, the administrator (usually you) can determine whether or not there's a password that's required access.  If not, the hotspot is considered "open."

But password protection doesn't guarantee security.  Without encryption, all of the data that's transmitted between the hotspot and the computer device is visible to people who know how to monitor this information.  These items can be emails, transactions, word processing documents, etc.

There are two major types of encryption that consumers use:  WPA (or WPA2) and the older WEP.  If available, use WPA2.  This requires the sharing of a "pass phrase" that people use when they connect to the hotspot.  It allows the hotspot and the device to encrypt the data so that only people who need to access the data can.

Another feature of some of the higher-end WiFi hotspots is a "guest" network that lets visitors have access to the Internet, but not your local network.  This way, you can give people Internet access while keeping them away from your network.  The Apple AirPort Extreme is one such example.

The bottom line is:  be sure to secure your WiFi hotspots.  Most manufacturers make it very easy to do, including Linksys (part of Cisco) that offers installation software for their products that configure everything for you so you don't have to be a tech to do it.

Keeping your network and Internet access secure is a smart and easy way to protect you and your data.

Mark Mathias is the Chief Technology Officer (CTO) of NexFirm.  He has more than 30 years of experience with large and small company technology matters.

Friday, July 8, 2011

7 Reasons to Invest in LinkedIn as Part of Your Business Development Effort

Courtesy of Guest Blogger Bruce Segall

LinkedIn has gotten a lot of press recently, between a very successful IPO and surpassing 100  Million members. 1.5 M lawyers are now on LinkedIn. But still some lawyers hesitate.  Statistics by themselves don’t justify spending precious time building a LinkedIn presence. The second annual Salary and Social Media Survey, jointly sponsored by the Law Firm Media Professionals and Hellerman Baretz Communications (April 2011), does provide some persuasive reasons. For example, one law firm marketer said:
“LinkedIn has resulted in a number of referral opportunities for a variety of our attorneys, as well as meeting requests to discuss potential client representations.”
This doesn’t often happen quickly, however, so I wanted to summarize some other reasons for including LinkedIn as part of your business development effort:
1.   It doesn’t take a lot of time. LinkedIn requires setting up your own special type of profile. With a little guidance from readily available online reasources, you can do this on your own in 60-75 minutes. With someone to help you, it could take 30-45.  Once set up, you can spend as much – or as little – time as you want, although spending more time increases chances for success.
2.   Become “smarter” about your network.  LinkedIn is especially helpful the first time you meet someone or speak on the phone.  If you are somewhat low-key like me, LinkedIn is a way to establish a common connection immediately and seem “smart” about people. Just the other day, I noticed that a connection graduated three years before my wife at the same school – in the same sorority no less!
3.   Re-connect with old colleagues. Layoffs and turnover continue in corporate America, but your clients remain loyal to you even if they have moved on. LinkedIn’s “Advanced People Search” feature enables you to find these “Client Alumni” - an invaluable source of referrals and future business. Using this feature, you can reconnect with colleagues from firms you worked for earlier in your career – another valuable referral and networking resource.
4.   Increase traffic to your firm web site.  LinkedIn provides a free distribution channel.  After you finish a new legal alert or other material, post the piece to your firm website. Then you can initiate a LinkedIn “Discussion” (LinkedIn’s equivalent to ListServs) that includes a link to the item. Called “Inbound Links,” these are a key way to increase the ranking of your website in Google search results. LinkedIn provides many other opportunities to post inbound links.
5.   Use your marketing dollars wisely. LinkedIn offers many opportunities to make yourself visible at absolutely no cost. First, “Share an Update” about your speaking engagements and CLE lectures to those who can’t attend. The bigger your network, the more people you reach. You can also use the “Events” application to spread the word. These are just two ways –there are many more.
6.   Leverage new features that LinkedIn is constantly developing. Just in the last year, LinkedIn introduced “Answers,” where LinkedIn Users post general questions on any topic, including five legal categories. Some of you may know about the option to have a firm profile in addition to your individual profile. Last November, LinkedIn gave these profiles greatly improved capabilities, including space to add video content.
7.   You can have fun with it.  I personally enjoy reconnecting with old colleagues and finding out interesting facts about people in my network. LinkedIn is career-related, but also a lighter diversion. You can spend a minute on LinkedIn as a break during the day or while watching TV on weekends.
While LinkedIn offers great benefits, you should keep in mind some of the ethical concerns governing lawyers and promotions. For example, LinkedIn recommendations are an important part of most people’s online profile. But the question of whether lawyers and clients can recommend one another generated a huge response, with no clear answer:
Some attorneys I know find LinkedIn intriguing and fun initially, but then find it taking time without producing tangible benefits.  If this happens to you, I suggest just focusing on one or two things.  Like “Sharing an Update” with your network before every speaking engagement. Or taking 10 minutes on a Sunday to look up the profiles of every person on your calendar during the coming week. Remember one of the reasons to invest in LinkedIn as part of your business development:
It doesn't take a lot of time.

Bruce Segall is a professional services marketer and President of Marketing Sense for Business LLC.