Worried About Wednesday’s Conficker Update? Here’s Help!

Small business owner’s don’t always take the time to keep their computers as updated as they should and if you’ve ever lost data, you know the trauma it can cause in your business.  Here’s information from a LinkedIN friend, James O’Connor to help keep your computer system safe:

Unless you’re living in a cave, by now you’ve heard that a worm known as Conficker (or Downadup, or Kido) has infested computer systems around the world, and that it will do something April 1st, though nobody knows exactly what. How can you be sure your computer doesn’t become a casualty? Here are eight action items—things you can do yourself to weather the potential storm.

Double-check Windows Update
The worm weasels into computer systems through a Windows vulnerability that was patched last October, and once in place it interferes with the Windows Update system, to protect itself. So, verify that your system is up to date. XP users should launch Internet Explorer (no other browser will do), visit http://www.windowsupdate.com, and click the “Review your update history” link. Vista users should launch Windows Update from the Start menu and click the “View update history” link. In particular, you want to see KB958644 in the list—that’s Conficker’s entry point. If your latest update is any older than March 2009, that’s not good. Go back to the main Windows Update page and install all critical and security updates.

Turn Off AutoRun
Sure, it’s convenient that CDs and DVDs automatically launch their programs when you put them in. You may even be happy to see the window that asks what you want to do when you insert a USB key. But Conficker and other worms subvert this handy feature to spread their infestation. Use a Conficker-tainted USB key to share pictures or music with a friend, and you’re sharing the malware, too. The feature’s convenience just isn’t worth that risk. Here are instructions to turn off AutoRun.

Update Your Protection
It goes without saying that you should always keep your security software and malware definitions up to date. Don’t just rely on automatic updates, as the worm has been known to interfere with these. Dig into your security software and manually launch an update, then watch to make sure it completes the process successfully. Now launch a full system scan.

Get a Second Opinion
Your security software can probably handle the Conficker worm, but why take a risk? Visit the Conficker Working Group’s Repair Tools page to find the latest collection of threat-specific cleanup tools. At present, this page links to tools from AhnLab, ESET, Kaspersky, F-Secure Malware Removal Tool, McAfee, Microsoft, Sophos, Symantec, and TrendMicro. Run one or more of these to verify that your system is clean.

Check Your Servers
Conficker also attacks network shares using what’s called a dictionary attack. It tries to gain Administrator access using a bunch of common passwords and often lucks out. If you’re responsible for a network, whether it’s an office or home network, check all of the network shares and make sure they’re protected with a strong password. While you’re at it, check the root folder of each drive for the presence of an AUTORUN.INF file or any unrecognized software—these are clues that Conficker is already in residence.

Back Up, Back Up, Back Up
Conficker isn’t the only possible threat to your important data: Your computer could fail; thugs could steal it; a car might drive through your office wall and flatten it. If you have a backup system in place, make sure that it’s operational and that you have a recent full backup. If not, get yourself a high-capacity USB drive and copy all your most essential files onto it. (After making sure you’ve disabled AutoRun as described above, of course.)

James O’Connor
Managed Services
Phone 800-474-7397 ext 159
Local: 760-827-5100



3 Critical Steps to Improving Your Small Business’ HR

Excellent article for small business owners who are convinced their company is too small to need an HR function; read it now at “HR Concepts for Small Business“.

Social Media ‘How to’ for Small Business

Visit the “Marketing with New Technology” blog for a must-read article on “Social Media ‘How to’ for Small Business”.  Get the tools and information you need to build your business using social media.

Government Contracting – Is it an Option for Your Firm?

While it may seem that only large corporations have a shot at profitable military contracts, the Defense Department actually awards more than half of its available contracts, or $55 billion, to small businesses. Additionally, the recently passed $787 billion stimulus plan promises to make even more money available through the Defense Department and other government agencies. 

Although the hurdles to becoming a military vendor can at times be overwhelming and frustrating, small-business owners who persevere agree that it is tremendously profitable and in times like our current economic conditions, even essential to survival. With the U.S. currently in the midst of two wars and a multitude of other security concerns, small business owners say the military is a recession-proof customer that has insulated them from the current economic downturn. Those interested in learning more about pursuing government contracts, click HERE for more information, as well as checking the Small Business Links section on this blog for additional resources that can assist you with this process.


The author, Linda Daichendt, is Founder, CEO and Managing Consultant at Strategic Growth Concepts, a consulting firm specializing in start-up, small and mid-sized businesses. She is a recognized small business expert with 20+ years experience in providing Marketing, Operations, HR, and Strategic planning services to start-up, small and mid-sized businesses. Linda can be contacted at linda@strategicgrowthconcepts.com and the company website can be viewed at www.strategicgrowthconcepts.com.

A Master Class in Web 2.0

Whatever your politics, there is one fact that is undeniable about Barack Obama, the man knows how to utilize today’s Web 2.0 technology to reach his audience and convey his message. In the following story you will learn how he utilized an interactive website to obtain citizen participation in developing questions to be answered on an Internet broadcast, and that he had them casting votes to decide the “favorite” questions (or the ones that would be most popular with his Internet audience). You will also learn about the Internet broadcast Town Hall Meeting where he utilized those questions that were voted on. What the article doesn’t tell you, but I can because I saw it, was that he publicized the whole thing (both the website question request/voting and the Internet broadcast) via Twitter, which then resulted in hundreds of retweets, and postings on both Facebook and in LinkedIN groups. As I said, whatever your politics, you have to be impressed with his ingenuity in reaching out to his potential audience – and the response number he received (as indicated in the article below) that shows it to be working.So my question to you now is – “How can you apply these same strategies to your business to help it grow?” Think about it, if your website became interactive and allowed you to obtain customer response that helped you to market your product more effectively, wouldn’t that be helpful? And, if you could drive people to your website at absolutely no cost by developing a creative “Tweet” that would cause people to retweet and to post your information on Facebook and LinkedIN to be seen by even more hundreds of thousands of people – wouldn’t you find value in that?With the country and the media saying that small business is necessary to the turnaround of the economy, and small business owners looking to Barack Obama for answers on how to help those small businesses help the economy – in my opinion, he’s already given us one of the answers. Follow his lead in the use of technology in promoting our businesses to our target customers – it costs us essentially zero dollars and the impact can be huge! So I challenge all small business owners out there – read the article below and then sit down and evaluate your business to think of ways you can utilize Web 2.0 technology to promote your business and increase sales. And if in the final analysis you decide you don’t know enough about it to come up with the ideas, then contact me – or another marketing professional – to help you make the most of this opportunity! I assure you, “our cup runneth over” with ideas we’d like to provide to clients willing to jump in to this new marketing arena and we’d love to hear from you! 
Obama wraps up first-of-its kind Internet Q&A
WASHINGTON — President Obama wrapped up a unique Internet-era town hall meeting at the White House on Thursday, pushing hard for support of his $3.6 trillion budget and asking people to be patient with the administration’s efforts to resuscitate the USA’s ailing economy.

Obama said the precedent-setting online town hall meeting was an “an important step” toward creating a broader avenue for information about his administration.

He joked at one point about the number of questions about decriminalizing marijuana, saying he did not think that was the best way to stimulate the economy.

After a brief opening statement, Obama held a microphone and walked the floor in the ornate East Room, gesturing as he answered questions in an event reminiscent of town hall meetings he conducted in person across the nation during his campaign.

Before the event, the White House had said that 92,003 people have submitted 103,395 questions and cast 3,582,670 votes.

White House spokesman Nick Shapiro said about 67,000 viewers were watching the webcast, which was also televised on some cable channels.

In advance of the event, potential questioners signed up on the White House website “Open for Questions.”

CNN reported that Obama answered seven questions submitted that way, while also taking questions from the audience in the East Room.

Questioned also about growing unemployment, Obama said creating jobs was difficult during these hard economic times, and recommended that the work of the future should be in more high-paying, high-skill areas like clean energy technology.

Many of the lost jobs in recent years, Obama said, involved work that was done by people earning low wages and with limited work skills. He said it will take some time — perhaps through the rest of the year — before vigorous hiring resumes, and that might not happen until businesses see evidence the economy is rebounding.

On the home financing crisis, the second question put to the president, he was asked how his programs helped homeowners who are not facing foreclosure but have been deeply hurt by the recession. Many homeowners, after the housing price bubble burst late last year, now owe more on their homes than the houses are worth.

Obama told his Internet audience and about 100 people assembled in the East Room that his injection of stimulus spending into the housing market now makes it possible for 40% of all homeowners to take advantage of record-low mortgage interest rates. He encouraged eligible Americans to refinance.

Political operatives say the White House’s strategy is a way to reach a demographic key to Obama’s election.

“In the new world of online media, formal press conferences are just one element or program to get the message out — to those, usually older, who watch such things on TV. The online version he is doing is an alternative way to get out the same message, in this case on the budget, targeted toward a different audience, usually younger,” said Morley Winograd, a onetime adviser to former vice president Al Gore who now runs the Institute for Communication Technology Management at the University of Southern California.

“In both cases the questioners are just props — or, in some cases, foils — for the star, Obama, to deliver his message. But in the latter case, they get to self-nominate instead of be selected by elites,” Winograd said.

In a way, it’s part campaign-style politics and part American Idol, said political strategist Simon Rosenberg.

“Barack Obama is going to reinvent the presidency the way he reinvented electoral politics,” said Rosenberg, president of the New Democrat Network and a veteran of presidential campaigns. “He is allowing everyday people to participate in a way that would’ve been impossible in the old media world.”

Yet the process lends itself to softer questions and ones the White House is eager to answer, Republicans noted.

“The president is going back to the safe confines he was always most comfortable with, in this case a friendly audience where the focus is on the sale rather than the substance,” GOP strategist Kevin Madden said.

Contributing: Richard Wolf at the White House; Steve Marshall in McLean, Va., and the Associated Press


The author, Linda Daichendt, is Founder, CEO and Managing Consultant at Strategic Growth Concepts, a consulting firm specializing in start-up, small and mid-sized businesses. She is a recognized small business expert with 20+ years experience in providing Marketing, Operations, HR, and Strategic planning services to start-up, small and mid-sized businesses. Linda can be contacted at linda@strategicgrowthconcepts.com and the company website can be viewed at www.strategicgrowthconcepts.com.

Deadline for INC 500/5000 Entries for 2009

Apply before 11:59 pm, E.S.T., THIS FRIDAY, March 27th to be entered into a drawing for two free registrations for the Inc. 500|5000 conference (September 23-25, 2009, in Washington, D.C.) and to be entered into the competition to be selected as one of this year’s INC 500.

Click here to apply: http://www.apply5000.com/

Congratulations to our recent applicant drawing winners:

Emergint Technologies
Gil Delgado, President & CEO

Backyard X-Scapes
Ray Valdez, CFO

The Inc. 500|5000 team
Inc. 500|5000 application deadline is Tuesday, March 27

Legal Aspects of Owning a Business: How to Prevent Pain & Expense in the Future

Had an excellent broadcast today on BlogTalkRadio about “The Legal Aspects of Owning a Business:  How to Prevent Pain and Expense in the Future”.  Our panel members, James Voigt an attorney with Lavelle Law, Ltd; Bernie O’Meara a partner with Principal Financial Services; and Rebecca Turner an attorney with Maddin, Hauser, Wartell, Roth & Heller, all provided excellent information that small businesses will find not only useful, but imperative for their success!

Topics covered included:  the pros and cons of various business structures for your company (including the tax implications), how to prevent your corporate veil from being pierced if you haven’t quite followed the required corporate procedures, what to do if you’ve missed a 941 tax payment, how to find extra cash in your business, and many other topics that will help to protect and grow your business now and in the future.

You can listen to, or download, the broadcast by clicking HERE.