Lately, we've noticed an increase in a specific type of spam worth mentioning, in the hopes of preventing a few headaches for our clients and friends.  We're all familiar with spam, but trust us... they are well-aware that you've been schooled to avoid rogue messages and random email attachments.

The next generation of spam is a close, personal experience.  This is NOT as pleasant as it sounds.  It begins innocently enough... an email from your boss, employee, bank, utility company... the list goes on.  A quick message from an actual acquaintance that you recognize, or perhaps a PDF attachment emailed from your company's Xerox machine.  But wait... the copier isn't even a Xerox... and you just double clicked the attachment.  SH**.... The issue here is the relative ease in faking the "from" address of an email.  This can be done as easily as hand-writing an envelope and putting "The North Pole" in the top left corner.

Fortunately, most email providers can recognize the attempted forgery and divert this to your spam folder.  On occasion, something may slip through, or maybe you were clearing out the spam folder and noticed an important invoice that "somehow" ended up in there.

Whatever the case, when receiving an "invoice" or any file attachment, especially an unexpected one (no matter the "from" address), approach with caution.  Verify with the sender, possibly even verbally, to confirm the legitimacy of the message.

Back to that PDF from the "Xerox" machine that your company doesn't even have... once infected, the trend of close-and-personal continues.  Viruses and malware come in many forms, but lately, a large percentage have been the "crypto" form.  You may have heard of these in the news.  Specifically, and most recently, when the entire IT infrastructure at the Los Angles Presbyterian Hospital was held hostage for ransom. 

Ransom-ware is a type of malware that, once installed, quickly scans your hard drive or network for any document of personal value.  Think about your pictures, office documents, PDFs, or any file that would most likely contain something a user put time and effort into.  The rogue parties here are targeting the real value of your computer, and hoping to extort a sum of money to release that data back to you.

Prevention of this type of malware requires covering multiple bases.  Antivirus alone cannot always stop this type of malware, nor can good surfing habits.  One of the more recent attack avenues had been the compromise of an advertising agency that supplied ads to MSN, BBC, CNN,, and others.  For a short period of time, browsing to these sites became a game of roulette as the advertisements loaded on the users screen.  Some ads did contain ransom-ware similar to Crypto Locker.  Quite a few were infected.

These viruses don't actually "infect" a system the way we are accustomed to in the past (scripts that replace system files, and root themselves deep into Windows), it becomes more difficult for antivirus to actually catch them.  A cat-and-mouse game of sorts.  These programs function much like any other legitimate Windows program, performing a simple task, though with undesired results.  Some of these "simple" crypto programs actually delete themselves in the process, leaving only your locked files and a set of instructions for paying the ransom.

Information is one of the best forms of prevention.  Our goal is to keep our clients and friends informed, to help keep them safe.  Of course it goes without saying... backups, backups, backups.  Along with that phrase that we as IT people drone on about regularly, we'll add: updates, updates, updates!  Up to date systems are less prone to the security holes that allow this software to run in the first place.  Still though.. proper backups can bring the damage inflicted by these crypto-style ransom viruses to near-zero.

If you have any questions or concerns, feel free to give us a call at 302-645-4549.  We're happy to review your backup policy and assist with any changes required to take the risk as close to zero as possible.  For now though, don't trust that from address when receiving an attachment.  Take a good second look.

Surely you’ve heard, “You only get one chance to make a first impression.” Usually that refers to personal introductions, but it’s also true when people meet your business. And these days, that’s likely to be on the web. If so, that first impression will be overwhelmingly visual and the element that will have the greatest initial punch will not be shapes, words, or photographs. It will be color. And research tells us that initial judgement will occur without your customers even being aware of it. This is how it works.

At Fine Line, the man responsible for ensuring the color you choose creates a positive and appropriate impression is veteran graphic design artist Tom Brown.

“Studies show people tend to make a subconscious judgment about a person, environment, or product within 90 seconds of initial viewing, and that between 65% and 90% of that assessment is based on color alone,” Tom says.

That’s why he often kicks off design meetings by asking clients for their favorite color. He follows that up with an explanation of how most people interpret specific colors and why. Fortunately, what different colors mean to people is pretty universal which is why you don’t see a lot of hardware stores branding themselves with pink.

Typically, says Tom, here is how most people interpret popular colors:

Green is comfortable. It implies health and tranquility while symbolizing money and nature. It falls into the most visible color range to the human eye and is mostly associated with relaxation and healing.

Blue implies clean, calm, and peaceful. It’s not hard to understand why. Blue is the color of the sky and the ocean (at least in the Caribbean.) And those are associated with weightless floating, fluffy clouds and leisure. Blue has also been found to increase productivity, make people feel cooler and curb appetite.

Black is seen as a practical and timeless color, suggesting serious, final and absolute.

Red is probably the most unambiguous color with the most obvious association. Red is the color of blood and is universally associated with an emergency and danger. It evokes strong emotion, increases heart rate and ramps up appetite. Used by a business it instantly signals a sale, as in “Red Tag Sale.”

Yellow is cheerful, warm and encourages communication, maybe why it is a popular color for kitchens.

Yellow tends to be associated with youth and draws attention. Though yellow stimulates thinking, it can also cause eyestrain.

Purple suggests royalty, wealth, success, and wisdom. It is often used to soothe or calm. In commercial design, it represents a creative or imaginative brand.

Current thinking is that our earliest color associations come from what researchers are calling a semantic vacuum. That’s when we learn something new but have nothing already in memory with which to associate it. Among our first stored anchors are colors, so with little else to choose from, infants use that to register information coming in from not just their eyes, but all of their senses. In that way colors are integrated into our whole network of information and language.

Though only a theory, it’s easy to imagine that happening in an infant. More surprising is the claim that it occurs to us all throughout life. Anchors increase exponentially, but it seems color is always among them. These original associations linger, though usually out of conscious awareness, even after we develop stronger associations. But some people retain unusually powerful connections between color and unexpected sensory input. For instance, they might hear or taste a color. This is called synesthesia and it occurs in about four percent of the population.

So though synesthetes are rare, the impact of color on our judgement is universal. For your business, that means the color you choose for branding your business is a critical choice.

“My favorite example is when Apple in the late 1990s introduced colored computers into the beige PC world and got a huge jump in sales and brand awareness,” said Tom. “Another example would be iPhones that come in a variety of colors even though almost all will end up being covered by cases. During the initial sale, people are drawn to specific colors.”

How important is color? “Marketers can point to statistics claiming 85% of consumers say color is the primary reason they purchase one particular product over another,” says Tom. And though he thinks 85 percent is a little high, it leaves little doubt that color is at least one of the top influencers in a client’s decision to buy.