5 Smart Tips for LinkedIn Self-Promotion

Smartly executed self-promotion is the key to career advancement, and in our hyper-connected days, LinkedIn is one of the best tools to help you do this. The question isn’t whether you should be on LinkedIn, the mega-popular professional networking service, but rather, how to best take advantage of this powerful medium to separate you from the pack. After all, with more than 80 million registered LinkedIn users, standing out among your peers can be a daunting consideration.

"Not doing something with LinkedIn is like leaving money on the table," says Debra Forman, a certified executive coach in Toronto, Ontario. "You don't need to pay for the upgrade -- the free service is all you need -- but the key is getting people to land on your page."

To get the right people to view your profile and to wow them while they’re there, consider these tactics:

  1. Get connected. "The key to LinkedIn is being found and being fabulous," says Irene Koehler, a social media consultant in San Francisco. Koehler says the first step is to make relevant connections. "Understand that the number of connections you have directly impacts how easily you can be found," explains Koehler. Forman agrees but believes there should be quality along with quantity: Don’t add more connections than you can keep up with, she says.
  2. Say something. Take advantage of the "Share" tab on your profile page, which lets you share insights, a website link or other information with your community. "Draw people into whatever you're doing, and it'll go out to all of your connections," says Forman, who promotes a monthly video in this fashion. "Remember, you might only have, say, 100 people in your network, but you could reach millions because every one of those connections has connections who can see what you're up to as well." Using the "Share" tab is a good way to be proactive in the search process, as if raising a hand above the crowd. Another way to be heard is to regularly answer questions in the question/answer component of LinkedIn, establishing your expert voice.
  3. Be a joiner. Belonging to a LinkedIn group that's relevant to your expertise opens up new opportunities, says Forman. "The beauty of groups is you can promote yourself, get work and be noticed.”
  4. Be a wordsmith. "Unless you optimize your profile, which includes using good keywords, you'll be the world's best-kept secret," says Koehler. "Understand which keywords are best to use, which speak to who you are and who you're trying to attract. Use the terms employers are using, says Koehler. "For example, if you're a Web designer, you'll want to use searchable words like 'web,' 'html,' 'graphics,' 'design,' 'designer' and so on. The top key words should be in the summary section of your profile page."
  5. Show, don’t tell. Aim for compelling text on your profile page, such as, "You've only got that one moment to impress them," says Koehler. Your profile should not look like a resume with bullet points; instead, potential employers should hear your voice and understand how you approach this job differently than the next person, she adds. Include links to your work-related blog and import feeds from Twitter if you offer commentary on IT issues.

It’s not just what you have to say, however. Recommendations from others who know your work in IT are important too, says Koehler. "We all think we're fabulous, sure, but it's more powerful to have others offer their perspective."

Like this article? Connect with us @ITinsiderOnline

The Cloud: A Security Solution for Small Business

Let’s say it politely: Stuff happens.

Although natural or manmade disasters aren’t too common (we hope!), even a relatively minor disruption in your organization could grind your business to a halt if you don’t have a contingency plan in place. For a small business, this sort of stoppage can spell catastrophe.

Here’s what to do to ensure this doesn’t happen to you.

Find More Protection in the Cloud
Fortunately, cloud solutions make it easier than ever before to have a disaster recovery (DR) plan to minimize your downtime should something happen.

“Small firms are very much aware of the need to back up regularly, but it’s kind of like flossing; everyone knows they should do it, but very few do so regularly,” says Raymond Boggs, vice president of SMB Research at IDC. “Cloud-based storage and disaster recovery solutions are particularly well-suited to smaller firms, which lack budget and extensive IT resources.”

If your backup is onsite, you likely aren’t as secure as you think you are -- or as you need to be, says Boggs. “Backing up a server -- onsite -- still leaves a firm vulnerable to all kinds of disasters that have been in the news, from floods to tornadoes,” notes Boggs. “Online storage providers offer higher levels of protection than that found in a typical small or even midsized firm.”

The challenge is for a small business owner or IT manager to surrender direct control of precious data in order to make it more secure. “Many understand in their minds the cloud offers both solid value and exceptional security, but in their heart of hearts, they are often reluctant to give up personal possession of essential information,” says Boggs.

Employ a “Partly Cloudy” Solution

One of the first real-value propositions of the cloud is disaster recovery, says John D’Esposito, founder and CTO of Techout.com, an Internet performance engineering company. But the cloud offers a lot more than just data backup.

“If you can seamlessly fall onto another offsite server, with data and applications, then you’ve successfully set up your DR framework,” adds D’Esposito. “I call this concept ‘party cloudy’ because there’s a lot of value for SMBs who can’t afford a more ambitious enterprise-grade disaster plan but can still benefit from accessing data, serving up applications and seamless proximity routing from one hot data center to another

You’ll find a number of options these days, as many companies offer secure services to empower small companies, says D’Esposito. “If you’re not leveraging the cloud, then you’re not as nimble and effective as your competition, during a disaster or otherwise.”

Not availing yourself of these services could have further repercussions when it comes to your business’s long-term plans. “Without any cloud solutions, small companies who try to raise money from VCs will no doubt have trouble,” says D’Esposito.

The Concept Stays the Same

“I’m not sure that adding the cloud to the mix really changes the fundamentals of disaster-recovery planning,” says Leslie Fiering, research vice president at Gartner. “At the end of the day, it is important to know that in the event of outages, or even large disasters, critical data is stored somewhere that is safe and readily accessible in time of need.”

Doing your homework when it comes to disaster recovery in the cloud is essential. You’ll want to utilize a reputable, established company and have a good idea of how your cloud provider deals with its own potential outages. “We’re seeing a growing number of instances where the cloud providers have outages and customer data is not available for some period of time,” says Fiering. “That said, the cloud offers relatively inexpensive and simple backup options. Many smaller businesses that might not otherwise have discipline for regular backups and offsite storage may find cloud solutions a real game-changer.”

 

Are Free Public Wi-Fi Networks Safe?

You already have plenty on your plate, whether you are implementing and maintaining technology, helping to resolve technical issues or ensuring your company’s data is safe and secure. Now, you can add the proliferation of rogue free public Wi-Fi networks to that list.

Free Wi-Fi connections can be tempting for traveling employees. And hey, you can’t blame them, as one less item on an expense report can make them look better -- especially if your company is tightening its belt. But talking to them about the risks can help protect them -- and you.

How Rogue Free Public Wi-Fi Works
Tech-savvy thieves are taking advantage of users’ thirst for constant connectivity. “The basic idea is someone in vicinity has created a ‘free Wi-Fi network’ that you connect to, but in doing so, you’re allowing them to tap into your info, access your files and possibly steal your personal identity too,” says Tim Bajarin, president of Creative Strategies, a tech consultancy in Campbell, Calif.

“These ‘rogue’ networks are really individuals who have software to hack into your systems -- and because the majority of people’s laptops are not protected, they’re a lot more susceptible than they think.”

In fact, New York-based independent security consultant Dino A. Dai Zovi says he and a colleague, Shane Macaulay, authored a tool called KARMA to demonstrate the risk of unprotected wireless networks. “KARMA acts as a promiscuous access point that masquerades itself as a wireless network,” explains Dai Zovi. “It makes the victim connect to our rogue wireless network automatically.”

Rogue operators will often craft network names similar to the name of the hotel or the coffee shop where your end user is attempting to connect. One careless click and your data is exposed.

Scary stuff. So, what to do?

Tips for Safer Surfing on Free Public Wi-Fi
You’ve got your work cut out for you, and it starts with employee awareness, say the experts. Consider these steps:

  • Avoid free public Wi-Fi. Caution employees to steer clear of freebies. “When I go to hotel, I make sure they have a wired [Ethernet] connection,” says Bajarin. “And if I want to go wireless on my laptop or other devices in my hotel room, I bring an Airport Express with me,” he adds, referring to Apple’s compact wireless router.
  • Be efficient. If you or your end users can’t avoid a free public Wi-Fi network, “get on, get what you need and get off -- and don’t do any financial things until you’re back at home," cautions Bajarin.
  • Use VPN. Only use free public Wi-Fi if you have VPN (Virtual Private Network) access, says Dai Zovi. “Otherwise, everything you do can be easily monitored by anyone nearby.” Citing recent Firesheep attacks, Zovi says that even password-based networks can be attacked by malicious types. Firesheep is an extension for the Firefox browser that can grab your login credentials for sites such as Facebook and Twitter.
  • Give employees your own connection. Another option for mobile workers is to use WAN-enabled laptops, USB sticks with cellular connectivity or to create a mobile hotspot through a smartphone or tablet.
  • Use security software. Make sure all security software is updated regularly, enable firewalls and give employees a means to encrypt sensitive data.

Only through education, secured connections and some common sense can your employees keep personal and professional data safe from cyber-snoopers, waiting to attack through a free public Wi-Fi.

Like this article? Connect with us @ITinsiderOnline

Photo Credit: @iStockphoto.com/gulfix

Google Chrome OS Notebook: A Security Game Changer?

Google’s much-hyped Chrome OS notebook is just a few months away, promising to deliver a lean, minimalist approach to mobile computing. Fast startup time, long battery life thanks to lower power consumption, and a heavy emphasis on cloud computing add up to plenty of interest from businesses of all sizes.

But will this new operating system mean fewer security headaches for you as an IT professional? Yes and no, say technology experts who are familiar with Chrome OS, scheduled to power mobile computers from the likes of Samsung and Acer by the middle of this year. Here’s what you should consider.

The Google Chrome OS: Effective but Limited
Dino A. Dai Zovi, a New York City-based independent security consultant, says he has been playing around with Google’s Chrome OS notebook prototype, dubbed “Cr-48,” for more than a month. Although he thinks it’s an effective tool for Web communication, it likely won’t be his primary computer.

“I don’t see how you’d want Chrome OS as your main computer, because there isn’t support for popular Web apps, such as Skype, and it’s unclear what native clients will run on Chrome OS,” says Dai Zovi. “But Chrome OS could be useful as a secondary device, as a competitor to, say, tablets.”

Google OS Chrome Security Is Relative
Although Google OS Chrome notebook files are stored in the cloud, Dai Zovi says that doesn’t translate into bulletproof security. “One big limitation for business is no support for encrypted emails -- unless you use a third-party Web-based encryption product,” says Dai Zovi, who has co-authored the books The Art of Software Security Testing and The Mac Hacker’s Handbook.

Consider whether you’re willing to entrust your data to one entity, say the experts. “With Chrome OS, you need to ask yourself if you’re putting too much trust in the hands of Google,” says Bruce Schneier, a security tech consultant and author. “If you’re someone like my mother, who isn’t tech-savvy and is afraid of losing information, sure, you might prefer for someone else to take care of it. But if you’re talking about Citibank corporate accounts, forget it.”

Google’s cloud-based apps provide a uniform standard of security that works great for many people, but Schneier cautions it may not meet your organization’s standards if you need to adhere to policies or regulations. “If you have to ask Google where your data is being stored and if it’s leaving the country, then it’s not for you,” he says.

Weigh the Convenience vs. the Risk of Chrome OS
Your end users are likely to enjoy the convenience of Chrome OS’s cloud-centric approach, says Dai Zovi. After all, you can access files from virtually any online device in the world. You can collaborate and share documents easily, and data is protected from local damage, such as flood or fire or computer theft. However, there may not be adequate layers of protection for your organization’s online data.

“If your data is simply protected by a password and no additional layer of security, that’s simply not enough for many businesses,” says Dai Zovi.

Dai Zovi says Google may be considering expanding its two-step authentication system that is available on Google Apps, where the user receives a text message with a code to type in for access to the application, along with a password. But even a two-step security measure isn’t foolproof, says Dai Zovi, who recalls a recent Firesheep (Firefox extension) vulnerability that led to “sidejacking” attacks among Gmail, Facebook and Twitter users.

As it is, it’s not clear exactly how the system will be embraced. “It’s a new platform, so it’ll take a while to see how this can be a good fit for consumers and businesses,” says Dai Zovi.

Photo: http://www.google.com/chromeos/pilot-program-cr48.html

The Rising Threat of USB Drives

You can find them in pockets, purses and on key chains. They're on lanyards and in pens, built into some jewelry and even found alongside scissors and nail files in Swiss army knives. Teeny USB thumb drives are ubiquitous: In fact, Gartner estimates more than 222 million were sold in 2009 alone. Could such a tiny gadget bring big risks to your organization?

Your Data at Risk

Thanks to their small size, low cost, and capability of instant backup and file transportation between multiple computers, USB drives actually pose significant security threats for businesses.

For example, disgruntled employees can easily make off with sensitive company information on a USB drive. "The threat is not new, but the problem is exacerbated by tiny and cheap USB drives," says Leslie Fiering, research vice president at Gartner in San Jose, Calif. "The moment we had removable storage media -- going back to floppy disk drives -- there have been stories of janitors going onto computers after hours and downloading major amounts of information." Employees who plan on quitting a company -- or perhaps those expecting a pink slip -- can also easily copy over customer or client databases, emails, calendar appointments and contact lists in a matter of seconds, and then take this digital info with them to a competitor.

Increasingly, USB drives can also carry harmful malware, say security experts. USB keys can be used to install viruses or to serve as boot drives to erase data -- even unintentionally. An employee who uses a USB drive on a personal computer at home could carry malware back to a work computer without his or her knowledge.

USB Security: What You Can Do
You should take several precautions to minimize the risk of data theft or malware attacks via USB drives. Consider the following:

  • Implement strong security software. All company computers should have the right security software to detect and remove potential threats. "Without question, you need serious protection today that not only protects from online threats but also is capable of scanning external devices too, such as USB drives," warns Fiering.
  • Limit USB access. In extreme cases, organizations have cut off access to USB ports. Others have limited USB access to specific employees. Using encrypted USB drives is another option, as is disabling AutoRun on computers so that programs on a USB drive don’t immediately run when a drive is inserted.
  • Monitor use. Keeping track of USB access will help you note who is using the drive, on which computer and at what time of day." IT departments need to make sure their machines are secure and sensitive information protected," adds Michael Gartenberg, research director at Gartner in Stamford, Conn.
  • Focus on education. “Banning can result in users trying to bypass the ban,” cautions Santorelli. A usage policy augmented by an awareness campaign to educate end users will help mitigate the risks.

Fiering and Santorelli note that these risks are not limited to USB drives. Santorelli calls it an “erosion of the traditional network perimeter” because of the prevalence of mobile devices and the convergence of personal and work technology. “This is a problem that's not going away any time soon," says Fiering. With the right security measures, however, companies can ensure the security of their data, despite today’s increased risks.

Like this article? Connect with us @ITinsiderOnline