How to Make the Most of Digital Marketing

How to Make the Most of Digital MarketingDigital marketing is not a new phenomenon. However, new realities imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic have highlighted the importance of digital marketing for businesses. Basically, digital marketing revolves around using digital channels to advertise. Such channels include mobile devices, search engines, social media, websites, email, and others to help reach consumers. The purpose is to create a relationship with potential online customers to influence their buying decisions.

Why Digital Marketing

For starters, with digital marketing, you are able to personalize your marketing and target your ideal audience. It offers the ability to target an audience based on location, age, preference, and other specific details that define the intended consumer of your product or service. In the end, you don’t waste money on audiences that might not even buy your product or service.

With the availability of artificial intelligence, it’s easy to identify trends, carry out competitor research, and accumulate data that aid quick decision making. This kind of marketing is data-led. Considering that five to 10 hours of a person’s day is spent on the internet, this creates an opportunity to familiarize consumers with your brand and create relationships that lead to sales.

What’s more, chatbots are available on business websites or social media accounts to answer customer questions even when the business is closed. This means a customer visiting your page does not leave without some information that could help in their purchasing decision.

In addition to being able to expand your reach at a lower cost, your business can enhance brand loyalty by maintaining personal contact with clients even after making sales.

The best part of digital marketing is the ability to track the results of your marketing in real-time. 

How This Can Help Grow Your Business

First, digital marketing gives all businesses a fair share of the market. Today, a business can connect with customers cheaply over posts on social media.

What this means is that a business can instantly communicate with customers to inform them of their products or services and get instant feedback.       

Don’t ignore the fact that people today get information from the internet. A lot of purchase decisions start with an online search. A potential customer expects to find information regarding your products on a website, social media, or from reviews by other users.

Customers also want to determine if your business and products are a good fit for their needs.

In the event that they cannot locate your business, you will lose a potential client to a competitor.

A good online presence can help potential clients find you and possibly even become customers.

How to Get the Best of Digital Marketing

The good thing about digital marketing is that it will exist as long as people are using technology. The trick is to use strategies that help you stay ahead of the competition.

Digital marketing has been proven to be the best strategy to acquire new customers as well as maintain a relationship with existing customers.

One of the hard and fast rules about digital marketing is that no one strategy fits all businesses. Digital marketing is constantly changing – meaning that businesses have to make frequent changes to their strategies.

In order to stay ahead of the competition, you can take advantage of referral traffic as it gives credibility to your brand. This is possible by connecting with industry leaders in your niche.

You can’t afford to ignore analytics. Analytics help you discover what is working and what is not working.

Use high-quality content to draw the interest of potential customers. Sacrificing quality for volume can cost you potential leads.

Select social media platforms where your potential customers are likely to be. Understanding your target market will help you reduce the time and cost spent on digital marketing, as you will be able to follow your clients where they hang out.

Digital Marketing is the Way to Go

As long as the internet continues to grow, businesses have little choice but to get involved in digital marketing. Gone are the days when social media was considered merely a place to pass the time.

For some business owners, it might be challenging to know where and how to start, considering that digital marketing is quite an extensive field. The most important thing is to establish a goal for what you want to achieve. If not well done, it can cost your business a lot of unnecessary expense.

Robotics Carves Out Niche in Various Businesses

Away from the movies, robots are becoming a reality in everyday life.

Robots have played a major role in manufacturing industries to perform basic tasks that are either dangerous or laborious for humans. As technology becomes relatively cheaper – through the availability of components such as processors, sensors, batteries and cameras – robots are now making an entrance in industries apart from manufacturing, such as in marketing, inventory, telecommunications and entertainment.

Why Robotics in Business?

To avoid confusion, it’s important to mention at this point that robotics often refers to software configured to carry out tasks done by humans, so it’s not always about physical robots.

Businesses are under endless pressure to be more efficient and reduce costs. As a result, many are turning to robotic process automation (RPA) to take up repetitive and routine tasks that don’t require frequent updates. RPA has been useful to take care of things such as call center operations, help desks, customer service chatbots, expense management, data entry, onboarding employees and scheduling systems, among other tasks that are repetitive, rule-based and structured.

This is important for businesses as it frees employees from mundane tasks so they can focus on high-value work.

The unexpected COVID-19 pandemic cannot be ignored as an accelerator for robotics in the business environment. Consider businesses such as restaurants, retail stores and all others seeking alternatives that will withstand disruptions and at the same time are durable and adhere to hygienic operations.

An Exciting Yet Worrying Phenomena to Some

Many people accept the use of intelligent systems and small robots such as robotic vacuum cleaners. But when it comes to the workplace, employees often don’t accept such systems as they are considered threats to their jobs. However, there is little difference between the robot used for household aid and the intelligent production system.

Financial institutions have been on the frontline in implementing robotic process automation. This has enabled them to automate and build platforms for front office, back office and support functions. For a business, this means reduced costs while achieving efficiency and accuracy.

Another interesting concept is: robot as a service (RaaS). This is aimed at enabling small- and medium-sized businesses to enjoy the benefits of robotic process automation when they lease the services of a robot rather than incur the cost of purchasing one and handling maintenance for the system. It also helps businesses experiment with different robotic solutions.

With such innovations, businesses have no option but to adapt to the technological advances. As a matter of fact, the possibility of robots taking up full process tasks is feasible with big names such as Bill Gates voicing support for a robot tax (a levy on work done by robots in a bid to replace tax that collected from work done by humans).

Be Prepared

So how do businesses handle this trend? Both employees and employers have no option but to be prepared. For an employer considering robotics, this should be done gradually with clear guidelines that the systems are only to assist and not replace the employees. At the same time, employees should be involved in the early stages of developing the new systems so they get accustomed to the format and avoid later resistance.

As businesses seek to improve their processes, employees should be ready to learn new skills as some duties are replaced by robots. It also goes way back to the education system, where students should be encouraged to take up subjects that will help enhance their digital competence. It will also prepare them for new job structures.

A Word of Caution

RPA has enabled business processes to evolve. Its results provide better accuracy, lower cost, efficiency and high productivity. However, entrepreneurs should not rush to implement the robotic process automation without proper research. Although it is praised to reduce labor costs and other benefits already mentioned, the implementation – if not well done – will fail.

A big mistake would be to assume that the installation of robotic systems is easy. This is especially true when a business concentrates on ROI rather than solving actual problems.

Robotics for businesses involves time, cost and complexity. It is not about moving processes into RPA as they are; only with lean techniques can this be successful.

Fileless Malware Poses New Threat to Computer Users

With increased cyber threats, there is great awareness of malware that comes attached in files.  Individuals and businesses invest in security solutions to protect against malware. In fact, there are often company policies regarding opening attachments on emails; yet there is an increase in a type of threat (though not new), known as the fileless malware.

What is Fileless Malware?

A fileless malware attack is a type of threat that doesn’t involve executable files. Instead, these attacks include scripts that run on browsers, command prompts, Windows PowerShell, Windows Management Instrumentation, VBScripts, or Linux (Python, PERL).

In other words, fileless malware is a form of cyberattack carried out through software that already exists on your device, in your authorized protocols and in applications that you have allowed on your device.

As such, fileless malware is becoming a favorite of cybercriminals because they don’t have to look for ways to install malicious files in your device – they only need to take advantage of built-in tools.

Reported examples of fileless malware include PowerGhost, which has been used in crypto-mining and DDoS attacks.

How It Works

First, note that these attacks are termed fileless because they are not file-based; instead, they hide in computer memory.

The malware launches an attack in various ways. For instance, a malicious code is injected in an application already installed or a user clicks on a legitimate-looking link that loads a remote script.

Another scenario exists within a legitimate-looking website that a user visits; the attackers exploit vulnerabilities in the Flash plugin; and a malicious code runs in the browser memory of the user’s computer.

While file-based malware uses executable files, the fileless type hides in areas where it can’t easily be detected, such as the memory. It is then written directly to the RAM (and not the disk), where it carries out a series of events.

Once in your system, the malware piggybacks on legitimate scripts and executes malicious activities while the legitimate program runs. At this point, it performs malicious activities such as payload delivery, escalating admin privileges, and reconnaissance, among others.

Since it works in-memory (RAM), its operations end when you reboot your system. This makes it more challenging to trace attacks. The fileless malware also may work in cohorts with other attack vectors, such as ransomware.

Detection and prevention

Various security vendors claim to have products that can detect fileless threats, as well as protect endpoint systems.

Successful security solutions need to be able to put in place technologies that enable them to inspect different kinds of operating systems storage, as well as analyze in real-time the execution of patterns of processes in a system.

But even so, one thing is certain: traditional anti-malware software will not detect fileless malware because they are not file-based and they do not they leave footprints. Here are some tips that will help mitigate against fileless attacks:

  • Regularly update the software on your devices (especially Microsoft applications) to protect against attacks propagated through PowerShell.
  • Apply an integrated approach that addresses the entire full threat lifecycle. This is possible when you use a multilayered defense mechanism.  
  • Use security solutions that can detect malicious attacks against command prompt (CMD), PowerShell, and whitelisted application scripts.
  • Use anti-malware tools that include machine learning, as this will limit scripts from creating new polymorphic malware within your environment.
  • Practice behavior monitoring to help lookout for unusual patterns.
  • Use memory scanning to help detect patterns of known threats.
  • Be on the lookout for high CPU usage by legitimate processes and suspicious error messages that appear for no clear reason.
  • Disable PowerShell and Windows Management Instrumentation (WMI) if you are not utilizing them.
  • Avoid using macros that have no digital signatures or turn off macros if not being used.
  • Use endpoint detection and response tools.

Final Thoughts

The cyber threat landscape keeps evolving. Every day, there are more sophisticated threats as criminals keep advancing to take on countermeasures that have been implemented.

Invest in security solutions that mitigate varying classes of threats, especially machine learning technologies. This will help protect against the latest and emerging threats. Also, keep your Windows OS and other installed software up-to-date to reduce the chances of fileless malware attacks.

Despite taking the mentioned measures, it’s important to stay informed of the latest threats and take necessary precautions.

How IT Spending Will Change When Business Resumes

Most states are starting to relax stay-at-home restrictions. As such, businesses are developing plans for bringing employees back to work. Many businesses are already affected by the pandemic and their future looks grim. Specifically, we are going to look at the IT sector and examine what spending might look like in a post-lockdown economy.

Disruption

The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in an unprecedented disruption in businesses. As a result, management has tried to reduce costs to survive or risk shutting down. IT departments have suffered the most with major budget cuts due to a reduction in revenue. As a result, non-urgent purchases have been eliminated; initiatives have been suspended; and employees have been terminated.

Of course, technology also has been playing a great role in supporting businesses during the pandemic, especially by enabling work at home and keeping in touch with clients. But there are expectations for major challenges when businesses get back to normal. For instance, the post-coronavirus business world expects travel restrictions, office distancing, business continuity, and pandemic regulations. As for onsite work in the office, challenges will include distributed collaboration, endpoint data protection, scalable administration, and secure access to corporate data.

It also appears that the impact will vary from industry to industry. Companies that depend on face-to-face contact are in danger of lost income and bankruptcy. At the same time, other businesses are thriving.

Consider digital marketing industries. With more businesses moving online, there will be a rise in the purchase of IT-related expenditures such as software. The entertainment sector has found solace in digital platforms, while there is an increase in the work-at-home trend.

The Future

Despite the uncertainties, some predictions can be made.

One thing that is certain is that the impact on IT spending will vary depending on the IT stack. While the infrastructure, branch networking, middleware, and enterprise apps might see a drop, areas such as communication/collaboration, cloud storage, security, and compliance will likely see an increase in spending as more people work remotely.

While the impact on the IT industry will definitely vary, we could see a lot of new innovations. Such innovations might include customer-facing and worker productivity apps. Some companies may increase spending on new innovations to help outperform their competition.

Another factor affecting IT spending is the size of a business. While big businesses may get back to normal after a few months, small businesses have to tread carefully. As such, IT spending for different-sized businesses will not be similar.

A decision to have employees continue working at home means that IT expenditures will take a different shape. While there will be less need for office equipment, there will be an increase in spending to enable offsite work.

There could also be more spending by businesses investing in continuity strategies such as more remote locations, new training in information and communications technology (ICT) and automation of processes.

This also will depend on business operations. Consider a business that had already migrated to the cloud before the COVID-19 pandemic. Such businesses did not suffer much disruption compared to those still using on-premise applications and proprietary data centers. Thus, IT spending for both types of businesses will vary in the future.

Lastly, businesses will want to invest in projects that are likely to provide a return on investment faster.

Conclusion

The disruption to businesses by the COVID-19 pandemic is like none previously encountered. One thing is certain: Things will not bounce back to the known normal. Rather, we should expect a new normal. And, as we have seen through the examination of certain IT expenditures, the success of each industry is dependent on various factors.

Heightened Hacking as Corona Pandemic Worsens; How to Avoid Being a Victim

Hacking as Corona Pandemic Worsens, Avoid Being a Victim ScamSince the escalation of COVID-19 cases, malicious activity from cybercriminals is also on the rise.

Hackers are taking advantage of the coronavirus fear to carry out attacks. This is done by creating websites that claim to have cures for the virus or by spreading emails that contain links to malware.

Consider this research by Check Point, where they found an increase in coronavirus domain name registration. Most of these scam websites allege to be selling vaccines against the virus.

At the beginning of this year, one of the reported cases was the Emotet malware that was used in a coronavirus-themed campaign in Japan. Phishing victims received an email purporting to report locations where the infection was spreading. Because the email appeared to be an official communication from the government, victims were likely to open it to find out more about the information. However, an attempt to open a .docx document will download the Emotet malware to the victim’s computer.

Apart from a .docx, the attachment could be a .pdf or an .mp4 claiming to have instructions on how to protect against the virus or other related updates.

The case in Japan is among the first attacks on the public domain that came with the rise of the COVID-19. Since then as the coronavirus continued to spread, more data breach cases have been reported. According to Malwarebytes Labs director Jerome Segura, there is an increase in campaigns that use the coronavirus situation to trick victims. Segura reports that in March alone, there was a 26 percent increase in online credit card skimming as people did online shopping from the safety of their homes.

Even the World Health Organization has not been spared, as they recently reported a fivefold increase in cyberattacks. The attacks have increased such that there was a joint alert sent out by the United States Department of Homeland Security, the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, and the United Kingdom’s National Cyber Security Centre.

Unfortunately, the fact is it won’t get any better as more cybersecurity firms report an increase in attacks relating to the coronavirus outbreak. This is because attacks that are based on important events or occurrences such as the COVID-19 pandemic become effective as they leverage on the public’s need to know.

In matters of life and death, people tend to be less careful; and in an attempt to stay informed, they end up becoming victims of cybercriminals.

Apart from malware, there are fears that work-at-home directives also have led to an increase in data breaches. If you have a business, you probably have policies to help guard against cyberattacks. However, since the work-at-home situation was largely unplanned and employees are having to work from home, data can be easily leaked from the devices they use to connect to the office network.

It’s important to keep in mind that hackers love to take advantage of current events to trick their victims. Because of this, it’s expected that these attacks will increase in frequency – and this calls for users to be vigilant.

Although security systems might already be in place, none of them have the ability to deal with ever-increasing threats that have grown in sophistication. Email security remains one of the hardest challenges for employers. However, taking precautionary measures will help reduce the possibility of successful attacks.

Here are 10 ways to keep safe:

  1. Avoid clicking on promotional links in emails.
  2. Be careful when you receive emails with subject lines that include coronavirus or COVID-19 and have a call to action.
  3. Be careful when clicking on pages with special offers, especially pages claiming to sell or know about the cure for the coronavirus.
  4. Check domain names to verify their validity.
  5. Be careful about clicking on links found on SMS that claim to come from institutions such as your credit company or bank; such links could activate the malware.
  6. Make sure to use a virtual private network (VPN) – especially when working with sensitive data.
  7. If you have a business and your employees are using corporate devices, enable remote wipe in case devices to get compromised or lost.
  8. Limit the number of times you enter your credit card details online and confirm that the domain where you enter personal information is legitimate.
  9. Hackers will continue to adjust their tactics; therefore, use trusted resources such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for information on the coronavirus.
  10. Use strong passwords.

New to Remote Working? Here are Some Tips for Staying Productive

Remote Working, Work From Home, RDP WorkThe COVID-19 pandemic has seen a rise in remote working. Even organizations that have always been against it have their employees working from home. With some areas experiencing complete lockdowns, this means you find yourself in an unfamiliar work environment.

Remote working means that you have to work outside a traditional office environment. Although some people already have experience working remotely, there are a good number of workers who might have a hard time getting anything done from home. This is particularly true for those  with a family that includes young children.

But with the current epidemic, many don’t have much choice other than to agree with the concept that work doesn’t have to be done in a specific place to be performed successfully. Your employer may have already set a work-at-home policy, but how do you ensure you are productive? Here are a few tips to help you retain your employment.

Create a Workspace

If you don’t already have a home office, then it’s time to be resourceful and create a workspace. Unfortunately, since this is unplanned, you might not have an ergonomically friendly work area. This means you could hurt yourself while working; for example, sitting too long in an uncomfortable position. But think outside the box and utilize what you have, such as using pillows to create a comfortable posture. Also, ensure you take frequent breaks.

Don’t forget to choose a space with minimal distractions.

Establish a Routine and Stick to It

The fact that you no longer have to wake up early to get to the office might tempt you to sleep more. It is important to have a work mindset. To achieve a sense of normalcy that you were used to in the office, you need to plan a schedule for your work hours and stick to it. Failure to create a work routine may find you wasting work hours.

Remember, if you live with family or friends, let them know your work hours and have them respect that.

Be Flexible

It’s important that you be flexible, especially if you have kids in the house. This makes it hard to work a 9 to 5 job. A lockdown means you probably do not have someone to come over and help with chores or childcare. The way out is to experiment with different plans. Try working late at night, early in the morning or when your children take a nap.

Use Time Management Apps

Your employer already set goals and roles for you. But achieving them while working at home is challenging. Use time management apps to track the amount spent working on tasks. Such apps, whether web or mobile-based, can help minimize distractions.

Avoid Social Media

There is so much information on the coronavirus pandemic and there is a need to stay updated. But this can turn out to be a distraction that causes you to miss out on work time. Set a time to check such updates and stick to it.

Informal Communication Groups

Apart from official online meetings or discussions, it’s good to keep in touch with colleagues. If your company did not set up such meetings, then you should. There are many communication tools available today that you can use. Keep in mind, isolation can lead to depression, especially if you live alone and are used to an active social life.

Work-Life Balance

Don’t spend all of your day working. Set daily tasks and stick with them. Set a time to exercise; it’s good for productivity and helps you avoid getting sore, which will generally affect your health. Log off from your work and do a different activity.

Use Secure Connections

Cybercriminals are now more likely to target remote workers. There are already reported cases of coronavirus ransomware and malware. This not only affects your work but can put your company at risk. Ensure that you use a secure wifi and virtual private network (VPN). Most importantly, don’t ignore your company’s security policies just because you are working from home.

Final Thoughts

There is a lot of debate surrounding remote working. Employers may see the benefit of remote working and adopt it more. Whether this will be the case, only time will tell. But we should brace for unexpected changes in the workplace when things finally get back to normal.

The most important thing right now is to keep in mind that your productivity will depend on your self-discipline, time-management skills, technology skills (to use new apps) and adaptability.