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United Systems has been serving the Oklahoma City area since 1984, providing IT Support such as technical helpdesk support, computer support, and consulting to small and medium-sized businesses.
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Forget Backdoors, Hackers Can Now Infiltrate Garage Doors

Forget Backdoors, Hackers Can Now Infiltrate Garage Doors

Hackers have proven that they will do whatever it takes to get to your valuable assets, even if it means taking advantage of physical objects that work alongside a specific frequency. As it turns out, this is exactly how hacking a garage door works, and all it takes is a decade-old communications device to capture the frequency and unlock any garage door that utilizes it.


The contraption used to hack garage doors is built from a discontinued Mattel toy from 2007: the IM ME. The IM ME is a supposedly secure wireless instant messaging system that works similar to a mobile phone. It was meant to be a kid-friendly, secure alternative to a mobile phone for texting. The IM ME stores an address book for other users of IM ME, and used an Internet connection to communicate with each other. If you look at it now, you wouldn't be surprised to hear that it’s no longer supported and that it has no place in today’s computing world. Smartphones are largely more efficient and dynamic as communication tools.

Just last year, it was discovered that the IM ME could be turned into a device that can hack into any garage door that’s using an unsecured fixed code transmitted from a remote, rather than one which uses a “rolling code” that changes with every button press. This flaw was discovered by Samy Kamkar, an independent developer and technology consultant, who then proceeded to exploit the flaw to demonstrate its danger. He built the device using the IM ME as a base model, then added a simple antennae and open-source hardware attachment.

Kamkar, calling his device OpenSesame, explains that his device works differently from what are called “code grabbers.” An ordinary code grabber will snatch the code from the garage door button when it’s pressed, and reuse it to open the door at a later time. This requires the hacker to be present when the button is pressed (similar code grabbers also exist for automobile key fobs, which is a pretty scary concept on its own). OpenSesame can accomplish this same goal without being near the user, which makes it much more dangerous.

The most dangerous part of this hacking experiment is the fact that any hacker can walk up to a vulnerable garage door and have it open in around eight seconds. As reported by WIRED:

Using a straightforward cracking technique, it still would have taken Kamkar’s program 29 minutes to try every possible code. But Kamkar improved his attack by taking out wait periods between code guesses, removing redundant transmissions, and finally using a clever optimization that transmitted overlapped codes, what’s known as a De Bruijn sequence. With all those tweaks, he was able to reduce the attack time from 1,771 seconds to a mere eight seconds.

If you’re curious about how Kamkar’s device works, you can watch this video to see the device in action. Furthermore, if you want to see if your own garage door is vulnerable, you can view this video where he goes into detail about which doors are vulnerable, and why.

This more than proves the fact that hackers engage in some dangerous and unpredictable acts, and that the Internet of Things continues to be a major reason for this. With so many more devices connecting to the Internet and communicating with each other with near-field communications and Bluetooth, the situation could very quickly turn into a nightmare scenario for your business. If your network isn’t prepared to handle the dangers and threats that come from unregulated Internet of Things devices, it’s a very real possibility that your organization could suffer a data breach or worse. It’s your responsibility to ensure that you aren’t putting your district or business at risk.

United Systems can give your district or business a quality network assessment that can help your team accomplish its security-oriented goals. To learn more, give us a call at (405) 523-2162.

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Alert: A New Malware to Worry About for PC Gamers Using Steam

Alert: A New Malware to Worry About for PC Gamers Using Steam

Hackers have always gone after industries that are profitable, or hold sensitive information that can be lucrative when sold under the table. As such, retailers that accumulate financial credentials are often hit by hacks. The entertainment industry is no different, and hackers continue to grow craftier in their pursuit of wealth and power. Not even Steam, the PC gamer’s most valuable software solution, is safe from the dangers of hacking attacks.


Steam is a widely-used web-based distribution platform developed by Valve Corporation that’s used for online multiplayer gaming, as well as many other video game-related situations. It’s actually relatively similar to cloud computing. Steam is one of the biggest online gaming retailers with over 140 million users. In October 2013, it was estimated that 75 percent of all games purchased online were through Steam. If nothing else, Steam is a valid online computing outlet that hackers want to take advantage of.

As anyone who has a hobby will understand, a gamer’s collection of games, virtual items, or online currency, will accrue a self-perceived value of sorts. While this might seem like a worthless asset to compromise, it’s introducing a new type of hacker to the online environment. People who want to steal games, achievements, and other in-game assets are capable of doing so with a new malware called Steam Stealer. Perhaps the most terrifying thing about Steam Stealer is the fact that it’s so easy to use. If hackers find that they can get away with stealing seemingly benign in-game items, they might find that they want to go for something with a little more practical use, like credit card numbers. This presents a unique situation which could provide amateur hackers with the skills and confidence they need to attempt more risky and detrimental hacks.

Since Steam Stealer is easy to use and afford, even the average citizen can experience the bittersweet taste of hacking. With included instructions, user manuals, APIs, and a price tag of $15, people with no knowledge of malware can easily use Steam Stealer. Compared to other Malware as a Service offerings, Steam Stealer is a small price to pay and is relatively simple to use. Once people experience the adrenaline of using malware to steal fellow gamers’ in-game objects, what’s stopping them from pursuing the rush even further?

The end result could very well be hackers who won’t be satisfied until they’ve hit the motherload; financial information and other products purchased through Steam’s online interface. Unsurprisingly, Steam experiences quite a large amount of takeovers -- around 77,000 accounts suffer from breaches each month. There’s a definite precedent for this type of hack, and criminals obviously see the potential for profits.

The best way to keep your Steam account safe from hackers is for users to practice a combination of two-factor authentication, and to always keep an eye out for potential phishing scams. Changing passwords regularly is an ideal way to keep hackers from accessing accounts, and closely monitoring URLs that are sent through chats will keep you from visiting potentially malicious sites.

These tips probably sound familiar; for good reason. They’re valuable tips that help you stay safe whether you’re working on important work, or you’re on a quest to “slay the goblin lord.” Even if Steam is an online gaming platform, there are still valuable lessons that can be learned from it. While a business owner might see their data as an immensely valuable asset, gamers view their libraries in a similar way.

If you want to know how to best protect your district's business’s data, reach out to us at (405) 523-2162

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Use Google Chromecast for These 5 Functions

b2ap3_thumbnail_chromecast_icon_400.jpgThe Google Chromecast is a great device that makes displaying media on different screens easier than ever before. Gone are the days of running AV wires through walls and ceilings. Now you can easily transmit your media over your WiFi network with the push of a button. Google refers to this wireless process as “Chromecasting,” and once you’ve “casted,” it’s hard to imagine life without it (a quality for which Google excels at replicating).


Probably the most attractive feature of Google Chromecast is that it essentially turns any compatible screen into a smart TV, allowing you to utilize popular apps via your smartphone or desktop that’s equipped with Chromecast capabilities. Here are five of the best Google Chromecast features that new users will want to take advantage of.

  • Stream music: If you’re already using popular music streaming apps like Spotify and Pandora, then you’re going to love having the ability to cast your favorite songs on the big screen. What’s more, if your television is equipped with a rockin’ sound system, then you can get rid of that bulky CD and record player and replace them both with Google Chromecast.
  • Stream video: The video watching options for Google Chromecast are as vast as there are ways to digitally watch a video. Some of the more popular uses for watching video via Chromecast are by utilizing apps like YouTube, Hulu, and Netflix. Basically, if your computer can play a video, you can cast it on your TV.
  • View pictures: With Chromecast, you can turn your TV into a screensaver that cycles through HD photos. This is a sure way to enhance any room. Google Chrome actually has an app specifically designed for this purpose which taps into thousands of photo libraries ranging from NASA, 500x, and even your own!
  • Mirror your device’s browser: With Chromecast, whatever is going on in Chrome can easily be casted to your TV. This feature has the potential to really enhance office presentations. Additionally, it’s easy for multiple users to take control of the big screen by casting what’s on their device, which can help someone explain their point at an office meeting.
  • Use VideoStream: One handy app made for Chromecast is VideoStream. This is a super easy way to drag video files to your Chrome browser and play them on your Chromecast-connected TV. Every serious Chromecast user will want to download this free app.

Actually, these five Google Chromecast features are just the beginning of what this little device can do. There are several apps designed specifically for it and they’re worth exploring if you get the chance. Do you use Google Chromecast? What are your favorite uses for this fantastic product? Sound off in the comments.

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The 4 Most Pressing IT Issues You Have to Be Aware Of

The 4 Most Pressing IT Issues You Have to Be  Aware Of

Regardless of how your didtrict's business’s administration is set up, you should be aware that anyone in a position of authority must have a basic understanding of how IT, and its related responsibilities, functions for your district or business. Here are four ways that you can learn more about how IT works within your organization.


Know Who to Contact for Support
As a leader within your organization, you need to lead by example. You should be aware of who to contact within your company for any IT-related issues, and this contact information should be shared with other employees within your organization. By cooperating with IT, your district or business can improve operations so that you don’t encounter a roadblock when it comes time to upgrade to more recent technology, or perform maintenance on critical hardware and software.

Working with Vendors
Dealing with vendors is part of doing business with technology. Your organization likely has several different vendors for your various hardware and software solutions. Knowing how to communicate with them is key to getting the most from your products. In other words, you should at least be privy to information concerning your organization’s relationship with its vendors.

Basic Security Best Practices
This is a part of business that all of your employees should be familiar with. Data security is one of the most crucial parts of running a district or a business, and your team needs to understand this if you want to ensure maximum security. Examples of basic security best practices include the following:

  • Employees should use long, complex passwords.
  • Employees should use two-factor authentication.
  • Employees should be able to identify potential online scams.

Managing Laptops and Mobile Devices
If your employees bring their own devices (BYOD) to the workplace for use on your company network, you have a responsibility to ensure that they’re following proper protocol. Do you have a BYOD policy? If not, you should consider setting one up. You need to have some sort of oversight in regards to what data is being used and accessed on what devices. The idea is to restrict the flow of data through permissions so that you can know how it’s being used, and to limit its exposure to threats.

This might seem like a lot to take in, but you don’t have anything to worry about. Most of these issues can be resolved simply by having an IT technician on-hand to consult in times of need. If you don’t have an in-house IT department, this might seem like an impossible task. Thankfully, United Systems makes it easy for your district or business to keep your technology functioning properly and running without incident; all thanks to outsourced managed IT services.

United Systems can handle the everyday management and maintenance of your IT systems, and act as a consultant, helping you make educated decisions about the future of your technology systems. For more information, give us a call at (405) 523-2162

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How to Make Your Network Ideal for Telecommuters and Remote Workers

b2ap3_thumbnail_mobile_friendly_network_400.jpgMany businesses see the value in allowing their team to work remotely, which sounds great on paper. Workers don’t have to be at the office to get work done, so long as they have an Internet connection. Most important of all, though, is how much money a business can save by allowing its workers to work remotely. Thus, the primary objective should be to make it as easy as possible for remote workers to perform their jobs.


Most of the benefits of working remotely come in the form of reduced expenses. For example, you don’t have to purchase as much hardware, and your energy costs will dramatically decrease. Considering how much energy it takes to heat or air condition your office, and the amount of electricity the average workstation eats up, you could be looking at significant savings. Plus, giving your employees the choice of where to work can be empowering, pushing them to work harder and improve the quality of work.

Granted, this can only happen if your team is equipped with the technology to handle their daily workload. Here are three technologies that your team needs if you want to ensure that they can perform to your specifications.

Virtual Private Networks (VPN)
One major pain point for remote employees is that they have trouble accessing files and applications stored locally on your company’s network. Since these employees work off-site, rather than in your business’s office, they’ll have trouble accessing files through the traditional method. Being unable to access critical files can be troublesome, but it’s not incapable of being resolved. Using a VPN allows remote employees to securely access files and applications that are stored in an online company network, which promotes productivity without sacrificing security. Another huge plus is that you control the access to files, preventing critical company data from being spread across on your employees’ personal devices.

Cloud-Based Applications and Virtualization
If you share your business’s data in the cloud, you can deploy files, information, and applications directly through the Internet. This helps employees access information that would otherwise be difficult to access. The cloud in general is great for minimizing your IT footprint, and with improved data deployment, you can let your team work from anywhere in the world. Even if they’re on business trips or traveling, as long as they have an Internet connection, they’ll have access to data that they need to do their jobs.

Voice over Internet Protocol
Communication is critical while in the office, but it’s even more so for your remote workers. If your team is constantly making outbound calls, you need a solution that will allow them to do so while retaining your business’s phone number. Furthermore, if you’re ever in a position where you need to contact them directly, you should be able to do so through email, instant messaging, or a phone call. While email and IM are easy enough to accomplish through a PC, phone calls are a bit trickier. With a VoIP solution, you can transfer your voice over the Internet, which makes instantaneous communication even easier for both voice and video chat.

If you’re going to let your team work remotely, it’s your responsibility to ensure that they have the tools to do so. To find out how you can make this vision a reality, contact United Systems at (405) 523-2162 today.

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How a Small Bottleneck Issue Can Significantly Hinder Network Performance

b2ap3_thumbnail_bottlenecking_network_400.jpgIf you shell out for brand new office equipment, you’ll naturally expect it to perform better than your older machines. Sometimes the age of your network hardware isn’t the only problem affecting your network’s performance. More often than not, network bottlenecking could be the issue at hand.

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