Avoid relying on one IT person in medium to large organizations; this is an extremely inefficient method of obtaining IT assistance

In organizations with many employees, IT departments often rely on a helpdesk main phone number and a helpdesk ticketing system to:  ensure timely responses to clients, ensure issues are directed to the appropriately qualified IT staff, keeping IT work organized, building a knowledge base for future IT employees and clients, and for simply maintaining some semblance of order.

If clients and IT stray from this process frequently, the end result is inefficiency.  An example is when clients attempt to reach his or her “favorite” IT person directly instead of calling the helpdesk number or submitting a helpdesk ticket.  A “favorite” IT person is rarely going to be qualified to properly address every issue the client encounters (ex. a computer programmer in IT may not know how to fix a network router issue).  This strategy only wastes the time of the client and IT by prolonging the time it will take to route the issue to the appropriate IT personnel for resolution.  It is also often very difficult to reach a “favorite” IT person directly because many of them are on the phone addressing helpdesk call issues or are troubleshooting helpdesk ticket issues being experienced throughout a building (other offices, server rooms, conference rooms, etc.).  These inefficient scenarios can be avoided if IT and clients stick to the orderly method of using a helpdesk main phone number and a helpdesk ticketing system.

Unfortunately for IT and for clients, it may be difficult to maintain proper usage of the helpdesk main phone number and the helpdesk ticketing system, here are a few tips:

  1. Ensure proper coverage of the helpdesk main phone number.  If no one answers, then users will stop calling and go back to dealing with a favorite IT person.
  2. Ensure proper attitude.  If the employees answering the helpdesk main phone number are rude or combative, then users will stop calling and go back to dealing with a favorite IT person.
  3. Ensure proper training.  If the person(s) answering the helpdesk main number has no idea who works on what then users will stop calling and go back to dealing with a favorite IT person.
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Am I being recorded? Probably not, maybe, wait, hmmmm…

Our homes, offices, purses and cars are filled with gadgets that make life more convenient and fun.  Unfortunately, with these new devices comes risk of privacy invasion in the form of being unknowingly monitored through a camera or microphone on a device.

If you want to protect your privacy, it is up to you to read the documentation that comes with any device you bring into your home or workspace so you fully understand what features are in the device and the potential consequences of using the device.  If you do not have documentation for your device, simply perform an Internet search on the name of your device (followed by the word “documentation”).  A few suggestions on how to handle various devices are outlined below.  There are many other methods of protecting your privacy so consider these suggestions a first step toward privacy and not complete solutions.

SMART PHONES

Install updates as they are released.  Put the device in a drawer, cell phone signal blocking case, or sound proof case when not in use.  Or, review the device documentation for instructions on how to disable the camera and microphone via the interface.  Don’t forget, most smart phones allow photos to be taken from either side of the device so if the device is hacked, there is no guarantee that a phone ‘face down’ on the counter is going to protect your privacy.

LAPTOPS

Keep anti-virus software up to date.  Install Windows updates as they are released.  Shut down or close your laptop when it is not in use.  If your laptop computer has a built in web cam or microphone (read the documentation to find out if it does), cover the web cam lens with a sticker to prevent unwanted recordings when the laptop is in use.

Disabling the microphone is a little trickier.  Mute the microphone in a way that is difficult, tedious, or impossible for the hacker to manipulate (like the sticker over the camera lens strategy – unless a hacker is in your house, that sticker is not coming off of the camera lens).  One example is disabling the microphone by plugging in a dummy microphone into the microphone port of the computer and disable the microphone through the system BIOS (you get into the BIOS normally by selecting F2 or F12 during boot up to Windows).

SMART TVS

If your smart TV has a built in web cam or microphone (read the documentation to find out if it does), cover the camera lens with a sticker to prevent unwanted recordings when the smart TV is in use.   Read the documentation for your specific smart TV to determine how to disable the microphone.  If you are unable to locate instructions on how to disable the microphone, then simply hire an 80’s big hair band to stand next to you smart TV and sing night and day to drown out any confidential chatter going on in your home.

HOME

If you live in a home accessible by a person you do not know or trust (or was at one time accessible by a person you do not know or trust), change the locks when you move in.  Periodically search the interior and exterior for things like small cameras, wires, microphones or antennas (ex. pay close attention to areas around windows, behind mirrors, attics, and crawl spaces).

Use Google Maps for more than just getting from point A to point B, see the world!

I know, it is seriously creepy having every road, home, dog, mailbox, etc. photographed and uploaded to the dark abyss of the Internet because we unfortunately share the planet with a small percentage of seriously freaky people who will use the information for seedy purposes.

However, for non-freaky people, Google Maps offers something really interesting:  a tour of the world as well as ideas for landscaping, architecture or as a reminder to people of what life is like for others in far away countries.

I encourage you to visit Google Maps, if you haven’t already, to get a taste of cultures from around the world by doing the following:

  • Visit http://www.google.com/maps from a computer or laptop (avoid doing this from a small hand held device – you just won’t get the full, amazing experience that comes with a larger monitor)
  • In the search box, type in the name of a country (i.e. Italy) and hit your enter key
  • A large map will appear with the country you desire in the center of the screen
  • Zoom in two or three times (using the plus sign in the lower right corner of the screen) so some city names are visible
  • On the screen, look for a little orange icon in the shape of a human, it will either be around the top left corner of the screen or possibly in the bottom right corner of the screen, it looks like the figure circled in red in this screenshot:

Google Map

  • Once you find this orange icon of a human, click on the icon and drag it over the map of the desired country as shown in the screenshot below.  Notice in this screen shot that my orange icon is hovering over an area of a country and photos taken by people in this region may pop up as well.  Once you are over a region of interest, release the button on your mouse to reveal a street level view of the area:

Google Maps of Italy

  • Notice a photo of the region appears on the screen as seen in the screenshot below.  It is from this street level view that you will begin exploring the region.  You explore by clicking and dragging on the image, double clicking on various parts of the image or using the zoom and rotate features in the navigation (which is usually located in the upper left or lower right portions of the screen).   NOTE: exploration of roads and surrounding areas is ONLY possible if you are in “Street View” mode which is indicated in the top left corner of the screen.  Sometimes you are not in “Street View” mode but you are viewing just a photograph that someone in the region has taken, you cannot navigate through photographs that these people take, you will know if you are looking at just a photograph because the top left corner will say something like “Photosphere” mode (which you cannot navigate deeper into) instead of “Street View” mode (which you can navigate deeper into):

Google Maps

Remember as you navigate through different regions of the world, you are an uninvited guest into the personal or business space of other people in the world so maintain the highest level of respect by refraining from sharing photos of what you see on the screen with others, mocking people or places you see, etc.

Enjoy!

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