The Balancing Act

The world of information technology is constantly changing. With every new day comes a new upgrade, patch or software release that could potentially impact your system performance. As a result, it is imperative in today’s business environment to have a reliable and flexible IT support team that can keep your systems up-to-date and running smoothly.

With this in mind, let me introduce you to Balancing Act, the official blog for Computer Support Specialists. The purpose of this blog is to provide frequent updates, patches and other newsworthy items from our industry that will keep you informed on the latest developments in business technology. We’ll be posting these updates on a weekly basis so be sure to check back often!

I have been a professional system administrator for over 10 years now. Working with technology on a daily basis is both very rewarding and constantly frustrating. And the frustration is not due to the software or hardware itself; it’s the constant barrage of updates and patches.

The first thing I do every morning is open my computer, check for any critical updates that were released overnight, and apply them as needed. As a system administrator, keeping a balanced environment free from security vulnerabilities is one of my main jobs. If I can’t keep up with this task, I risk losing my job.

Unfortunately, there are no set rules as to when we should expect patches and updates – they’re often haphazard and unpredictable. Some days I get nothing; some days I get several dozen items in my inbox. Usually the number of items correlates to how many times I have to reboot my computer each day: 0-1 means no reboots; 2-4 means 1 reboot; 5+ means multiple reboots throughout the day.

This is a balancing act which must be performed every day, week after week, year after year. If you work in an office environment where you rely on your computer for your livelihood (as most of us do), then you probably feel this same tension between

The software that runs the Internet is in a constant state of vulnerability. This can be largely attributed to a number of factors: large companies like Google, Yahoo and Microsoft choose to release their web products as public beta until they have found their place in the market; other companies are choosing to open-source their code and give it away for free; on top of that, Steve Jobs has launched an aggressive campaign about his new phone, the iPhone, which promises to revolutionize what we expect from wireless technology.

The result is that we are not only dealing with new technology everyday but also having to spend hours updating and patching our systems just so we can keep up with the corporate world. Every morning I wake up to find that I have a new version of Firefox or Skype I need to install. When I’m not dealing with an update, I am getting emails from people at work asking how they can get their hands on an iPhone.

I have been trying to balance the need for security with functionality. I find that after an update, something I use is not working anymore so I have to back out of the update.

I find that a lot of people are having issues after the Microsoft updates and some are even refusing to allow them to happen. As a result, eventually, their computers will be at risk as Microsoft stops supporting older systems.

Windows 10 is also forcing upgrades on people now and this seems to be leading to many issues.

Is it time for you to upgrade your hardware?

In too many cases, we have had clients come in with laptops that are 5 years old and they simply can’t upgrade the operating system because the hardware won’t support it. In other cases, they can upgrade the operating system but then their machine is so slow that it becomes unusable.

I think we all want to get our money’s worth out of our laptops but if you’re spending more money on repairs than what a new laptop will cost, maybe it’s time to consider an upgrade.

Technology is a delicate dance. Each day, we have to balance the risk of not updating our computers against the risk of letting in a virus that could destroy our data. For example, what do you do when you see this message:

“REQUIRED: Our client portal has been updated and requires a patch. Please download the attached .zip file and follow the instructions inside.”

Anything attached to an email that says “required” is scary. The email from “HR” or “” or even worse “” seems legit, but it’s not! And yet, if you don’t follow these instructions, bad things might happen.

So what are we supposed to do? We suggest that you don’t click on those links and never download attachments from people you don’t know. Instead, go directly to the company website where you got your software and look for updates there. If they don’t have one posted yet, send them an email asking when they expect it to be available. If they say right now, tell them thanks but no thanks and ignore the patch until everyone else has updated their software successfully first.

We all have that one friend who loves to tell you about the latest and greatest technology. It might be a new phone, laptop, tablet, or even an operating system. While these advances in technology are nice, it is becoming more and more difficult to keep up with them.

I had a conversation with someone recently where I asked why they did not immediately upgrade to the latest version of their smart phone once it came out. They told me that they had several apps on their existing phone which would not work on the new version of their mobile operating system, and therefore they delayed upgrading.

My friend was using older hardware and software because there were no newer versions available which supported the applications he needed to use in order to get his job done. In this case, my friend was both a consumer and a professional user of technology. He used his smart phone for both personal and professional reasons.

It is important to make sure your technology works for you instead of you working for your technology. You should be able to use your technology without worrying about whether or not you need to upgrade something or if you will lose access to a feature that you have come to depend on every day at work or at home.

New Vulnerabilities Discovered in Windows XP

A new set of vulnerabilities has come to light this week, affecting versions of Windows XP and Windows Server 2003. While these vulnerabilities were discovered in late April, they have only recently been made public. The vulnerabilities affect how the operating system parses TrueType fonts within documents. If a user opens a document containing maliciously-crafted font data, the attacker could run code on the system.

This is not a new type of attack vector – there are plenty of other examples of attacks based around embedding malicious data within documents. This is another example of attackers using the features of files for their own gains. Attackers will always look for novel ways to attack systems, but it’s important to remember that users should avoid clicking on random files and documents sent from strangers.

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