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3 Ways Technology Ignorance Can Cost You

Feb22
IT departments have to manage two very distinct types of creature: computing devices and human beings.

The first will do anything you tell them, as long as the ones, zeros, and higher-level instructions pan out.

The latter will do a variety of things depending on their needs, moods, emotions, and understanding of what is happening and acceptable and important.

When the human beings start using the technology, failure becomes a problem that must be managed. As most anyone who has had their email hacked can tell you, the weakest link in any security system is usually the humans. And sometimes the humans leave the door wide open, in part because they don’t understand how to close it, don’t care enough about closing it, or think the IT folks are just jerks for demanding it be checked so often.

How can an IT administrator prevent these damaging intersections of human error and technology obedience? How can someone who isn’t the IT person help themselves and others with the most common problems in security? A few ways.

Stop Abusing “Reply All” and the Forward button

I’ve been in the workforce for a little more than a decade. In that time, I have seen many email threads I was never supposed to know about. One involved a supervisor who inadvertently told an entire department that one staffer probably didn’t have much more of a career at that office. Another involved a boss questioning whether one person was married, based on their dress and appearance in photos. Then there was the time I personally told my editor, instead of just a coworker, my exact thoughts about the ridiculousness of the last assignment he provided. (Editor’s note – thankfully, this hasn’t happened here at WorkIntelligent.ly. Yet.) And while these examples aren’t business critical, it’s easy to imagine a situation in which the wrong people got hold of key information because of the misuse of these buttons.

A few suggestions for avoiding reply all and forwarding miscues:

Know when to use reply all versus just “Reply”: A Lifehacker feature on the rules of reply all is a good starting point.

Default to using BCC: A few years back, I decided that I would start using BCC as the default way of addressing groups of people by email (whenever I wasn’t using Basecamp, Trello, or some other collaboration technology). I don’t work in a corporate environment these days, but I know what a direct CC is for: letting others know that other people are informed as well. When you BCC everyone in an email (and address yourself or just one key person in the “to” field), nobody can reply all and hit everybody.

Install safeguards to prevent CC disasters: Some businesses are patently disabling reply all on their systems. If you’re using Gmail, head into your settings and change your “Default reply behavior” to “reply,” if it is set to “reply all.” And be sure to enable “undo” in your inbox, so you can call back accidentally far-reaching messages.

In Outlook, you have quite a few options and tools. NoReplyAll for Outlook actually keeps a toolbar on top of the email you sent when others open it, letting them know it’s not a good idea to reply all to this email. VBOffice has many similar tools. You can also set a delay timer on all your emails, so that you always have a chance to fix reply all mix-ups the moment you realize them.

In iCloud and Apple Mail, you can change a setting to always show the BCC field, rather than have to click it each time.

Protect Your Mobile Devices, Laptops and Thumb Drives

For your Android, there is Android Device Manager. For your iPhone, iPad, and MacBook, there is Apple’s “Find my iPhone” in iCloud. But what about data on USB drives and laptops not protected by a major service or corporate safeguards?

There are not as many services for laptops, but the ones that exist are helpful. Prey is perhaps the most notable for its recovery stories and aggressive feature set: remote lockdowns, webcam captures, location tracking, alerts and alarms, and lots of potentially useful data for the police. I previously wrote up a review of how to install and use Prey, along with a shorter video guide.

As for thumb drives, just go ahead and encrypt them right now, so that people who have no intention of returning your thumb drive are at least kept away from important data. After encryption, you can try these ideas in case a more benevolent soul finds your data:

  • Put a sticker on the drive, with your phone number and email (and, if you’re feeling generous, “REWARD”)
  • Change the disk name of the drive to your phone number, or email address, or the URL of where you can be reached.
  • Place a text file in the main directory of the drive with your contact information.

Secure Passwords

There is a lot of password advice on the web these days, because a lot of terrible things happen when users provide weak or easily guessed passwords, or when services fail to protect those passwords correctly. Some technology managers ask employees to change their passwords on a rotating schedule, which sometimes prompts employees to choose simple, easily remembered, weak passwords. Some even believe passwords are inherently insecure. What’s the escape plan?

Simply put, place the burden of remembering passwords on somebody else. Give yourself one password to remember, store it somewhere physically safe but accessible, and have a backup available pretty much anywhere you go.

Two leading services, LastPass and 1Password, provide this kind of one-password-for-all-of-them security. You create a strong password for those services, then install their software on your browser, desktop, phone and tablet. Over time, they collect the passwords and credit card data you use online, make them easy to plug in where they’re needed, and store them in a strongly encrypted database to which only you have the key (that is, neither service ever sees or knows what you have in your data store).

Office IT administrators may not authorize the installation of such password-stashing apps on corporate hardware, but you can keep the apps on your phone or tablet device and use them to make sure you never forget an important password, right when you need it.

That’s enough from us. What technology problems have you experienced and how were they solved? Let us know!