June 21, 2024
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June 21, 2024
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Is Your Email Address Older Than Your Kids?

This past week on July 6, I turned 51, and my birthday has given me time to reflect on my tech journey. Even as the director of a tech company, my birthday reminded me that I’m a “digital immigrant,” someone who didn’t grow up with the technology that Millenials/Gen Z (or “digital natives”) had access to. Despite this, both digital immigrants and natives have seen a lot of technological change in their respective places of work and education.

I remember when my role as a managed service provider could be summed up by my mother as “My son is in computers.” While this familiar phrase made for an easy explanation, it somewhat frustratingly oversimplified my role. Still, I have the utmost respect for my wonderful mom who raised me and my sisters independently and showered us with love, opened our home to guests for Shabbat, and always spoiled us with her delicious home-cooked meals. The latter wrapped up 23 years ago when I started my journey in information technology as the IT director of the Solomon Schechter School in Brooklyn.

Still, all these years later, I’d like to hope that I’ve begun to return my mom’s care and kindness through helping her achieve tech literacy and independence despite her status as a digital immigrant. Her Google Fi-powered smartphone helps us stay connected with WhatsApp video calls. Even when we were temporarily disconnected after she misplaced her phone, my mom was able to restore it after tracking her phone online, resetting it and redownloading all of her information that she had already backed up to the cloud. As far as tech fluency goes, she’s as savvy as my 16-year-old.

Most of my clients are not tech natives like my team is. We sometimes joke about how my Windows 7 predates my engineers and how lucky they are that they never had to deal with dial-up on their landlines.

I could go on, but I don’t need to tell you how much times have changed. But with these technological advancements and expanded access come new vulnerabilities and dangers, too. Just this past weekend, REvil, a Russian hacker group, took advantage of a vulnerability found in Kaseya, a managed service provider relied on by thousands of businesses. Kaseya’s clients were exposed to the attack and now their data is being held for ransom. In some instances, the hackers are demanding up to $5 million for users to access their own accounts.

This attack (along with all the others we hear about) reminds us how vulnerable we are and the necessity of taking precautions to keep our information safe. Just because we’re individuals, not companies, doesn’t mean that we’re not targets. Ransomware threatens everyone’s online identity.

I’ve written about this subject every few years or so, not because I’ve run out of things to say but because the message is so important. Our data is becoming a new form of valuable cryptocurrency that we have to take every measure to secure.

If you’re picking up that I’m being unconventionally assertive here, that would be right. I take it personally when my clients and team members tell me that someone they care about was hacked. And while we’re happy to jump on the call to help out, I’m frustrated by the fact that people don’t protect themselves more even though it’s so easy to prevent the attack in the first place.

If you’re still holding onto AOL or Hotmail, it’s time to transfer your account. It’s much harder to recover email addresses from the original providers, even for IT consultants. As so eloquently phrased by one of my senior engineers: “All I remember about AOL is AOL kids.”

Saying that “everyone already knows that email address” isn’t a good enough excuse to not upgrade your security. If you hand out a business card that refers to your “@juno.com” email address, something other than a physical business card will indicate that you’re outdated.

You’re already in a great position if you primarily use Gmail or Outlook, and if you need to switch, they’re the best free options on the market. This is because Google and Microsoft use multifactor authentication to verify that it’s actually you signing into your account through location services, emails and/or texts. While it can be annoying to verify every time you sign in, the benefits outweigh the risk of letting your personal information get out.

If you need to switch, I like to direct the people who primarily use Microsoft Office applications to Outlook and people who are more smartphone savvy to Gmail. Both are really great options. If you’re skeptical about all of your info “in the cloud,” I’m not. Google and Microsoft employ thousands of engineers that work 24/7 to make sure your account is up and running. If you’re migrating to Gmail, Google has a built-in feature that transfers inboxes from another email account to your Gmail inbox, and it stores this account under a folder with the name of your old email. We recommend changing your signature that tells those who email you that you changed your address to your new office365 email or Gmail.

Still, email is just the first step. With an Outlook or Gmail account, you get access to Microsoft OneDrive and Google Drive. You can store up to 5 GB of your files on OneDrive and 15 GB of files on Google Drive for free, but we recommend paying the subscription fee of around $20 a year for 200 GB of secure storage. Although you are incurring a minor cost, it’s much cheaper to pay now than to hire a disaster recovery group in case something goes wrong that will charge 500 times that amount.

Unfortunately, our team at Garb CG isn’t really built to service individuals, but there are so many great engineers here in Bergen County who do this kind of work. Still, from July 6 to July 26, you can email [email protected]. If we help you out, please share your experience with us and others so more people will be motivated to secure their data and prevent their own malware attacks. We are capping the free migration help at 18 customers.

My whole career started with my first email account at [email protected]. I’m sorry to say I left that account a long time ago, but I still have hakarat hatov, my sincerest gratitude, to the very first email web hosts that pushed me to where I am today.

Shneur Garb is CEO of the Garb I.T. Consulting Group LLC. This week’s Ungarbled Tech was edited and co-authored by Chaya Trapedo, summer engineer.

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