Blogs - Archive

Top tips from Mesmo Consultancy (and Associates) on how to save time and improve business and personal performance by ‘Taking Control of your Inbox’ and using proper business email etiquette.

Close the email backdoor to cyber crime

Tuesday November 4th, 2014, 9:59 pm

Who is the weakest link in the fight against cyber crime? It is us the user. Click here to listen to how we leak data ever day through careless use of email. Without thinking we have either opened or sent an email which opens the door to cyber crime be it hacking, stealing our identity (phishing) and giving away confidential data.

There are many ways we can manage our email behaviour to reduce the risk to ourselves and our organisation of a breach of confidentiality and improve email related security. Here are our top five tips.

Email cyber crime

Email cyber crime

  1. Be alert to unusual emails even from well know colleagues, eg – updates, especially for you, my CV, money for XYZ crisis. Sadly, emails scams often pick up on recent natural disasters such as the Ebola crisis.
  2. Make sure when you go to a website that it really is genuine, ie BBC.co.uk really is BBC.co.uk. Before clicking on the link, hover over it and check what the url is showing in the bottom left-hand corner of your browser. If it looks suspicious stop and access the website directly from the browser address bar.
  3. Use Bcc when sending an email to many people – it limits the risk of spammers getting a list of email addresses.
  4. Set strong passwords for your email and other accounts. Click here for tips.
  5. When setting up a new social media account, selectively add only those contacts that you really need. Don’t use the default option of uploading you entire address book.

Education is the key to reducing the risk of an email predicated cyber attack. For a free five minute review of your email security behaviour and how you can improve it either call Mesmo Consultancy on 01202 434340 or email us now to book an appointment.

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Password Management; which is more annoying spam or forgetting your password?

Wednesday October 15th, 2014, 9:17 pm

According to recent research from Centrify (providers of identity management services) forgetting your password is more annoying than spam email.

The cost of cyber crime has doubled in the past four years according to recent research from Ponemon.  Strong passwords is one way to prevent prying eyes but Cyber crimejust how easy is it to construct one?  Also is it good to keep changing your password?

Back in 2010 Microsoft found that changing security words often cost billions of pounds as people wasted time constructing and memorising them and then forgetting them and worse leaving them unsecured.

Centrify now estimate that poor password management costs around £130,500 per year for a business of about 500 users.  How they arrive at that figure is not clear.  What is clear is that we really are not good at the basics of identity management.  The top five mistakes being:

1. Always use the same password whenever possible.
2. Rotate through a variety of similar passwords.
3. Keep a written password in a master book of passwords.
4. Use personal information in a password.
5. Avoid using complicated symbols or combining upper and lower case.

Security management behaviour can easily be improved although it often takes a cyber attack (personal or corporate) as a wake up call.  User education is key to reducing cyber crime.  Here are our five top tips.

1.  Avoid the traps identified above.

2.  Second, use strong passwords which are really very easy to construct and remember. Take a phrase and then build a password from the first letter of each word and turn some into capitals and numerics, for example make your ‘i’ and ‘1’ and add a couple of symbols.

3.  For those with multiple accounts consider using some form of password management software such as LastPass or Keepass.

4.  Where you have a choice adopt devices which have more than just password protection for example finger and retina recognition.

5.  Be vigilant about those emails which grab your attention telling you your accounts has been hacked.  Delete them without even opening them as they are almost certainly from spammers attempting some form of identity theft.

Email is often the open backdoor for a cyber attack. For more about how we help our clients to reduce the risk of email cyber crime through email best practice contact us now.

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The Three Approaches to reducing Email Overload – Guest post by Dr Michael Einstein

Tuesday September 16th, 2014, 10:32 am

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Dr Michael Einstein

Many, business people receive 100 (or more) messages a day and spend 2 to 3 hours a day on email related activities, consuming 20 to 30% of their business day. Not surprisingly, many complain of suffering from email overload

Email, with its myriad of features, functions, and capabilities, combined with its high volumes and constant interruptions, has become one of the most frequently used yet continually challenging business applications for today’s workers to navigate.

So, what is the solution to managing email overload issues?  My research has found that the key strategies to deal with email overload fall into three broad approaches: organizationaltechnical, and behavioral.

1) Organizational approaches

Organizational approaches to reducing email overload incorporate the use of acceptable use policies as a way to set organization-wide rules for the appropriate, and inappropriate, use of email. These approaches are also referred to as email etiquette or netiquette, and focus on teaching people to use email more appropriately.

These can be employed differently depending upon the organization, ranging from being enforced as formalized policies, communicated as strongly suggested guidelines, or expressed as cultural norms of expected behavior. They establish a common set of values, expectations, and behaviors around the use of email, and work at the macro level, reducing the email overload burden for everyone.

2) Technical approaches

Technical approaches to reducing email overload leverage specific features and functionality in the email system itself as ways to reduce email overload. This approach has traditionally been the primary focus area for most email training programs with the goal on improving an individual’s fluency in the email system and thereby allowing people to use email more efficiently.

Research has found that there is often little formalized training on the use of email, as most people are (incorrectly) presumed to already be email proficient. Even those who deem themselves email savvy are often only familiar with a small fraction of their email system’s features and capabilities. A technical approach can yield significant improvements in individual email skills, resulting in large reductions in email overload.

For Outlook users, click here to check how savvy you are with your email software.

3) Behavioral approaches

Behavioral approaches to reducing email overload focus on improving the knowledge, actions, and behavior of individuals. This approach incorporates the areas of media competencies and email processing (triage) techniques and focus on teaching people to use email more effectively.

Media competencies include topics such as when email is an appropriate (or inappropriate) form of communication, how to build high-quality email subject lines, and writing structured message bodies. email processing (triage) encompasses focuses on strategies on how to best scan, analyze, and organize your messages. Behavioral approaches, the way you interact with email, are critical to reducing email overload.
Research has found that you must focus on improving skills across all three of these areas (Organizational, Technical, and Behavioral) in order to make the greatest improvements in your email skills and the largest reduction in email overload.

About the Author

Dr. Michael Einstein is a full-time business technology professional for a large multi-national corporation.
His doctoral dissertation was on the intersection of email processing skills, email overload, and technology training. He is very active in email overload research. For more information see his recently launched website which contains a wealth of resources to help others learn to better manage their inboxes and reduce their information and email overload levels.

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Improving personal productivity – September articles & blogs of note

Monday September 1st, 2014, 6:04 pm

An eclectic bunch this month.  Here are our top seven (from August) to help you improve personal and business productivity and manage the risk of cyber crime.  Some of which we email you about in August.

1.  Ten pieces of IT jargon we love to hate.  

Our favorite of the batch.  It comes with a video and will make you laugh. Next time either an email is ignored or proposal rejected, check how many of these phrases it contains. Don’t say you haven’t been warned.

Email bankruptcy.

Email bankruptcy to stop wasting time

2.  Understand your body clock to time your workouts.

Recent research suggest late afternoon optimum.  But what if we cannot take time off then?

3.  Declare email bankruptcy to avoid vacation email overload.

Is this a viable option when you come back to a mountain of email after being out of the office whether on leave or business? Yes for many time poor business people.

4.  Six ways to beat the email holiday blues.

A guest post by Dr Seeley for Zoe Amear.

5.  Here’s a radical way to end vacation email overload. 

Daimler have developed an application to stop sending emails to people on leave.  It automatically pings back a response to the sender asking them to re-send the email after the recipient returns. Novel and perhaps all part of the EU’s plans to reduce the working day to 48 hours.

6.  Are universities failing computer science graduates?

Fifteen percent of computer science graduates are still out of work six months after graduating yet industry is crying out for skilled computer staff. What is causing the gap?

7.  (Spanish )Holiday booking scam

Looks like using even the most trusty hotel booking sites you still need to be extra vigilant.

 

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September book list

Monday September 1st, 2014, 4:05 pm

This month it’s quality not quantity.  Just four on the bookshelf and in the briefcase.

September books in the briefcase

September books in the briefcase

1) H for Hawk by Helen Macdonald.  How she trained a goshawk and her relationship with Mabel (the goshawk) to overcome her grief at her father’s unexpected and sudden death.  An utterly absorbing book with many lessons about life and indeed how to change behaviour.

2) Mind Change: How Digital Technologies Are Leaving Their Mark on Our Brains by Susan Greenfield. Greenfield poses many thought provoking questions about the effect on our behaviour and society. Not surprisingly, answers are not always given, rather you are left to draw your own conclusions.  Still a very worthwhile and informative read.

3) Four Quartets by T.S Eliot.  Being a scientist reading classics were missed out of the curriculum.  Something Michael Gove might have had something to say about.  This was one and hence its arrival now on the reading list.  Magical and worth investing the time if you like me missed out in your youth.

4) Virginia Woolf – Art, Life and Vision by Frances Spalding.  This is the catalogue of magnificent and enlightening exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery.  It is a must for any Bloomsbury Group aficionado.  It also reminds you yet again of the power of pen and notebook and breath taking command of the English language.

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