Author Archives: Michael Giovanniello

Get Rid of Faxes!

There are at least 10 good reasons to get rid of faxes.

1. They’re slow: Typical faxes transmit at 14.4 kbps, we’re talking up to 1 minute per page! Your typical “high-speed lite” package at home transmits at 1 Mpbs that’s 1,000 kbps. That’s almost seventy times (70x) faster! You can transmit a 1,000 page document in just a few minutes.  Think about how fast you can do it at work with a really fast connection?

2. They’re unreliable:  I’m told an industry standard acceptable error rate is about 5%.  That means 1 in 20 faxes will fail (either be cut off completely or be blurred or have solid black boxes blocking big chunks of the page). 5% error rate!  Think about it, you have a 30-page document you need to fax.  It takes say 20 minutes to send, but fails. So you have to start over and stand at the fax machine for another 20 minutes!

3. They’re 50 year-old technology for goodness sake! The first fax machine that plugged into a standard phone jack was introduced in 1966,  “…a unit that would truly set the standard for fax machines for years to come.”  The principals and the technology haven’t changed much in that time. And to be honest the transmissions speeds haven’t increased in 20+ years either!

4. They waste paper:  How many times have you typed up a Word doc, printed it, faxed it, then thrown the printout in the shredder?  Couldn’t you have just sent the original Word doc?  Not to mention the person on the other end is still likely getting a printed version.

5. Email attachment anyone?  Think about how long it takes to just send an email with an attachment, word doc, photo, PDF any combination?  Not long at all, and the recipient gets the docs in their inbox at their desk – or their mobile device these days. Seconds usually.  You can add delivery and read receipts to get confirmation that the docs arrived.

6. Telephony has moved on – so should fax:  We now have VOIP (Voice Over IP)! Phone providers and business are moving their old analog and “digital” phone systems over to VOIP. one down side – you can’t plug an ordinary fax machine into a VOIP line. Another down-side?  FOIP (Fax Over IP) is difficult to configure at the best of times and completely unreliable at the worst. The standards have not kept up with the underlying technologies and why should it?  I can email the doc way faster!

7. An electronic document is just as acceptable in a court as a printed fax:  People used to be concerned that in a court of law, only a real pen signature on a real paper document is acceptable proof of a binding contract etc.  We’ll in Canada and many other countries around the world, there is case-law to show that an electronic version of a document is perfectly acceptable.

8. They’re not secure:  While more secure than a plain unencrypted email, faxes aren’t perfect, they’re not encrypted and anyone with a fax machine and a couple alligator clips could tap your line and get the data. The only reason it’s more secure is because I have to have physical access to that phone line (I can’t snoop it from across the world over the internet).

9. They waste. A lot:  I print the document, I fax the document, your fax machine prints it, you sign it, you fax it back my fax machine prints the document. we now have 3 copies of the document printed.  That’s triple the paper and triple the toner needed. But don’t forget the power wasted on the fax machine running 24×7. What about the extra phone line(s) needed to connect that old fax hog up?

10.They’re expensive:  This goes back to the waste. Paper, Toner, Scanner bulbs, Fuser assembly, phone line monthly fees, power consumption. What did I miss?

I can show you a half-dozen ways that you can exchange documents, yes even critical and private ones, with your business partners that cost less, are more secure, are traceable, are faster, and are easier to use.

Resolved: Office 365 and Active Sync for Mobile Devices

Quick recap:

You’ll recall some time ago we had a client who was experiencing issues with Office 365 and Active Sync.  Well the issue did get worse, eventually it was affecting our own users, but less often and less severely.

The quick fixes we previously posted, were quick, but only temporary.

It took several weeks of back-and-forth, mostly because the issue was intermittent. I had to do much logging with devices and sending those logs to MS operations team for review.  Eventually they did find a reason and issued a patch to the application.  My understanding is this was a global issue and the patch was applied to everyone.

A key takeaway for us at WorkAround in this situation is communication.  We often recommend Office 365 to our clients as a robust, powerful office solution, but it’s important to remember that when the service is down, or throwing bugs, we the admins, have deferred control over the problem resolution to the upstream provider (in this case Microsoft). That said, we have less sway to achieving resolution to the problem, it’s certainly not in our direct control.  So we must communicate with the client before hand that this will be the case. Furthermore during an outage we must keep the client abreast of all we are doing, and ensure communications channels with the upstream provider are strong.

Thanks to Microsoft for working to a satisfactory resolution on this issue.

Office 365 and Active Sync for Mobile Devices

Some clients have been having issues (especially on their Blackberry’s) with getting their emails from Office 365.

The Problem

Randomly, but fairly frequently, email stops flowing to your mobile device from your Exchange Active Sync account on Office 365.  Your device will prompt you to re-enter your password.  It’s a minor nuisance to re-enter your password every couple days but as long as you get prompted it’s not a horrible issue.

The worse problem is that on BB10 devices, the prompt could take hours to come!  At the time of this writing my Android device prompted for my new password about 8 hours ago, my BB10 device has not prompted me yet!

The (Potential) Solution

I found this quick fix on a blackberry message board which seems to be working so far, but it only applies to BB10 devices.

If your mail server setting defaulted to m.outlook.com when BB ‘set up” the account,

  1. go into the email account settings (from the settings icon) open your email account,
  2. select the advanced set up icon at the bottom of the screen (beside the trash icon)
  3. scroll down to server address change it to outlook.office365.com

In early testing this seems to be causing fewer drops in connectivity.

Let me know if this works for you, and let me know if you have any other insight on these nuisance dropsies.

Note: on my  Android device the server was correctly set to outlook.office355.com and that account still drops, however my other O365 account it set to pod12345.outlook.com (where 12345 is a 5-digit number I didn’t feel like going to look up again right now) and it has not been affected with the dropsies.  I don’t recommend you change your server setting to the pod server because this is an old setting and I don’t believe it’s supported any longer.

How I Got Phished

Yes, it’s true, it happened to me.  I got phished.  In my defense, it was late at night and I wasn’t paying close attention to what I was doing. And in that moment of carelessness my password was compromised.

Wikipedia defines phishing as:

Phishing is attempting to acquire information (and sometimes, indirectly, money) such as usernames, passwords, and credit card details by masquerading as a trustworthy entity in an electronic communication. Communications purporting to be from popular social web sites, auction sites, online payment processors or IT administrators are commonly used to lure the unsuspecting public. Phishing emails may contain links to websites that are infected with malware.

Phishing scams are extremely common, and in fact spam filters stop the majority of them from even getting to our inbox.

So I took the bait late one night in the following fashion: I was online, socializing, surfing. I got an email which appeared to come from a legitimate photo sharing website (on which I have an account as do several of my friends and family) that said “someone” had shared some photos with me. Here’s clue # 1: it didn’t say who just “someone” the real site is specific about who is sharing the photos in order to prevent spam. So I clicked on the link to see the photos.  Clue #2: the log in page was very similar to the normal log in page for this website – but it was just a little different.  I actually thought to myself “hmm, I wonder why the log in page is different than usual?”

Clue #3: I proceed to enter my username and password and they failed (no biggie, sometimes late at night my fingers can’t keep up with my brain and I mistype stuff) so I tried again and the password still failed.  Now I check for Clue #4:  the website I’m on is not actually “www.photosharingsite.com” but “www.photosharingsite.com.you.are.being.phished” (actual URLs changed to protect the innocent  – but you get the picture).  So you can see how on first glance it looks like I’m on “photosharingsite.com” but I’m really not.

How to recover from a phishing attempt

So how is it I survived to write this cautionary tale for you?  So after two failed log in attempts it took me about 2.3 seconds to realize that I’d been phished.  So I closed my browser to leave that page and make sure it’s not doing more naughty things (such as collecting cookies or keystrokes), cleared my cache, including cookies, opened a new browser and went directly to the legitimate “photosharingsite.com” logged in and changed my password.  Then for the next couple of days I tested that log in and my activity to make sure the breach wasn’t exploited.

If you have been phished immediately do the following:

  1. If your password was compromised, then log in to the legitimate site and change the password right away.
  2. If you use the same password in multiple places, then change them in all those places.
  3. If you gave up financial information, notify your bank, the government and credit bureaus right away.  There are several tools that they use to prevent identity theft and fraud that will help protect you.
  4. If you gave up health info then notify your health insurance provider and your local health authority in order to prevent identity theft or medical fraud.

What did I learn from this exciting adventure?

  1. Never, never, never open a link you receive in email!  If you think that’s a bit excessive, talk to any security expert and the majority will tell you they never open a link they receive in their email (or Instant Messages for that matter).
  2. Use different passwords for all your accounts. I know this sounds crazy because I have several dozen accounts all over the web. But luckily for me the password I used at this photo sharing site was unique, so I only needed to change it once.  If it was the same password I use everywhere, then I’d have to change my password at dozens of sites.
  3. Never, never, never, give up personal information (especially health or financial information) online.  Your bank, your doctor and the government already have all that info, they don’t need it again and they won’t ask for it. So if you’re being asked, it’s likely a phishing scam.
  4. If you’re going to ignore rule #1, (but don’t because that’s how you get viruses too!)  firstly be extra sure you trust the sender (an email with your banks logo is not enough to trust).  Then, before you click, hover over the link to see the true address it links to: most browsers and mail clients it comes up at the bottom of the window.  Make sure that link goes to where it says it does.  Finally Triple check the link you end up at before entering any info.  That is, check the address bar of your browser, not just the link in the email message.

One moment of carelessness caused me about 2 hours of grief and that was just over a simple photo sharing site.  If I had given away personally identifiable information, especially financial info, I could have been in for months of grief to ensure my identity and my finances were intact.