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039: Here’s Why Your Employees Need to Use a VPN

This is a transcript that has been modified from its original version. 

What we’re covering this week: 

In Tech News, we’ll be talking about a new kind of text message major devices will be rolling out, called RCS. How is it different from SMS? 

Tech Tip this week, do your employees need to be using a VPN when they’re not in the safe confines of your workplace wifi or their home?  We’ll be discussing VPNs – or “virtual private servers”, if you’re unfamiliar with them – for you and your employees when you’re on the road,  or just working in different locations over the holidays. 

Lastly, for Tech Gadget, we’re getting into the news recently broke about Google Maps Incognito Mode, where it turns out that your incognito mode isn’t so…. Incognito after all. If your business is using Google Maps as part of dispatch or similar, we’ve got a great alternative for you. 

Let’s get into it!

Tech Tip of the Week: Out with SMS, In with RCS

There’s a new text message service being rolled out by the bigwigs, T-Mobile, Verizon, AT&T, etc, and it’s starting in the new year, called RCS. 

RCS stands for rich communication services. The text messaging that you do on your phones right now is what’s caught in the network when phones send text messages to each other. 

This style of messaging is called SMS, which stands for Simple Messaging Protocol, sometimes also referred to as Short Message Service

By design SMS is really open, meaning there’s no security of any kind. It’s simply a basic way to communicate from mobile device to mobile device, and it runs through the cell phone provider, and resides on their servers. 

One thing to note is, there’s nothing pure about it. Your text messages live forever on those servers, and the company will they freely give it up to anybody who asks. So if you are involved in a lawsuit and someone wants your text messages, there’s nothing to get Verizon to give those up to any kind of law enforcement. Subpoenas aren’t even required. This is kind of a common security problem.

Now, let’s get into RCS. RCS stands for Rich Communication Services. And while it’s been out for about 10 or 12 years, there really hasn’t been a big splash about it. 

However, recently Google has gotten behind it.  Apple has, too. 

The services that will be pushing it more to the forefront think it’ll be better for a few reasons. 

Here are the Pros

  • There’s a longer character limit, which means text message won’t get as broken up and sent in four jumbled messages. 
  • More options for formatting, such as bolding letters and so forth. 
  • You can add a read receipt to messages
  • There’s slightly better security but not really. 
  • It’s got better, stronger technology behind i.

Cons

  • No end-to-end encryption, so the services that use it will still have access to anything you send.

This might mean you’re looking for a test messaging service that does offer better security and protection.

Likely, you’ve heard us talk about WhatsApp, which is actually an effective product. It does some fairly good encryption. 

The issue is, it’s all owned by Facebook and so it runs through the Facebook servers. This means it doesn’t have the same kind of encryption that it was originally had before Facebook bought them. 

Plus, Facebook will be rolling Whatsapp into its Facebook Messenger in the year 2020. So they’ll all be the same here in the near future. 

As Tim says in this episode, “I trust no one. And I want you to trust no one. That’s my recommendation to you. We use technology because it “works”, quote unquote. And what that means a lot of times is it works because we’ve got everything just wide open, which gives no security or any kind of protection on what could be really basic communications.”

We recommend a few different platforms that offer similar styles to text messaging but also have true end-to-end encryptions: 

  • The first of these is Signal, which offers real, bonafide end-to-end encryption. It’s funded through a variety of foundations, so there’s no profit motive needed. It’s just, frankly, rich people who have willingly put up the money because they believe in it. 
  • The next one is Telegram, which has good encryption but it runs through Telegram’s own servers, which are not open source so people can’t see what’s going on in the backend.
  • And lastly, Dust, which use o be called Cyberdust. This is Mark Cuban’s favorite form of messaging, and it also offers end-to-end encryption and it’s open source, so you can actually go in and see that it’s true what they say. 

Inside your business, it’s not needed to do all your business in an insecure mode of text message. It’s just not needed. So we recommend you do yourself a favor and switch to something, like Signal, that will protect your communications better. 

Tech Tip of the Week: Here’s Why Your Employees Should Use a VPN

Tech Tip focuses on something small business owners can use in their businesses right away. Our topic this week is all about VPNs. Should it be something that your employees need to be using when they’re on the road?

First off, VPN stands for Virtual Private Network. What that means is, a secure method of connecting to the Internet. 

If you do a site to site VPN, for example, it requires setting up firewalls to, say, have a branch office communicate back to the main office. What happens is you set up this encrypted tunnel and, which means there’s a bunch of jibberish on either end. This way, no one can access or see what you’re sending. It’s hidden in this virtual “tunnel” the VPN creates. 

All your communications go back and forth inside that virtual tunnel, which was created by the VPN.

Essentially, what a VPN does is say, “Okay, on this private network, I’m going to set up a communication from point a to point B, and it’s all going to be private.”

Then if you’re using, say, ExpressVPN, you’re connecting to their server, and then they’re routing everything through that encrypted tunnel. So people on the outside where you’re connecting to, can’t see where it came from. It’s a lot safer and you have more control.

VPNs are a big deal. We’ve used them on the commercial side for years, but this notion where you could load them up relatively cheaply and make them work relatively easily and they’re not difficult to set up, it’s been great for your everyday worker

We really recommend that you use a VPN, especially when you’re out of your office or home network. 

We also recommended for all of your staff who works outside the office, or at a conference, or using hotel or airport wifi.

You never want to trust any kind of wifi connection. That you don’t actually own and control. You just shouldn’t trust it, even if it’s quote unquote secure, because people on the same network can see what’s going on. 

Again: you want to always assume there’s a bad actor out there who wants your stuff.

In most cases for what we’re describing, you’d be using a laptop to connect to the VPN and they’re about a hundred dollars a year.

If you prefer, you can buy it just for the times you’re at a conference or on an airplane, but we don’t really recommend that, and here’s why: Any time you put up a barrier, you’re more likely to not use it. Say you’re at this conference and you think, oh shoot, I forgot. I gotta now go online and download the VPN. Am I supposed to do that on this conference?

If this is a need for you, if you work outside the office with any kind of regularity, just buy it because that’s a business expense. You’re doing it so you can provide better security. 

And that’s an important point, too, that better security. You’re providing security for you to go on to, say, corporate email. But what’s in that corporate email? It’s not just between you and your colleagues. You’re discussing stuff about your customers. You made a promise to your customers to protect their information, and that stands when you’re using your email in a network just as much as purposefully doing it elsewhere.

Two brands of VPN we really like: IPVanish, and ExpressVPN. They work really well, and they’re both in the hundred dollars per year range. 

So, if you have outbound staff, talk to your tech team and have them use it and for yourself. Get one of these for yourself, even if you’re not on the business side.

Tech Gadget of the Week: Google’s Incognito Mode Isn’t What It Seems

This week we’re going to be talking about Incognito Mode on your Google apps. Which is to say: when you turn on incognito mode on your Google Map, you don’t really go…. Incognito. Google can still see your stuff.

Here’s how and why: You may have shut off certain part of it, so it’s a little bit more difficult for do any long term tracking. They can’t tell if you use an incognito mode to get directions and go then turn off Incognito Mode after. It’ll make it more difficult to track you for them. However, they can still see where you’ve gone after you turn it back off again. So, the longterm stuff is off but the short term, that still sends info back to Google.

On the business side, that may not matter a lot. If you’re giving your staff a laptop to use out in the field and that’s all they’re supposed to use it for, you may not really care a whole lot about that. Because at the end of the day, it’s more about giving them good directions. 

But if you’re using something like Google Maps in tandem with a dispatch, say you’re sending techs to specific locations and you both use Google Maps to help with that, it’s not really your best bet. 

In these instances, we recommend a service called ServiceBridge. 

Now there’s other apps just like ServiceBridge, but we’re familiar with it and recommend it to our customers using dispatch services. They’ll even send devices to sit in your car and help assist back at the main or branch office, who can see where their techs or reps are real time on a map.

It’s a lot better than Google Maps for sending your staff to locations where you can help control where they’re going in real time. It gives you a lot more control, and you don’t have to rely on something like Google maps in order to move your team. 

Links discussed in this episode:

Goodbye SMS Hello RCS

ExpressVPN

IPVanish

ServiceBridge

How Incognito Maps Protects You – And How It Doesn’t

Give us a call with questions or feedback: 231-668-9175

Download ‘5 Things Your Tech Guy Should Be Telling you But Probably Isn’t’

 

Timestamps: 

3:12 Tech News of the Week: Goodbye SMS, Hello RCS

8:32 What we recommend you use in your business besides text messages

11:43 Tech Tip of the Week: Here’s why your employees need to be using VPN

11:56 What is a VPN and what does it stand for?

15:46 Tim’s two favorite VPN companies

17:07 How a VPN protects your data

21:08 Tech Gadget of the Week

22:40 What we recommend for dispatch instead of Google Maps

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