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Latest News

Cybersecurity Safety

When we hear about a rise in infections, we gather information about the disease and take every recommended precaution. We wash our hands more, use hand sanitizer, we avoid noted infected areas, and load up on recommended vitamins. However, even if you have followed the steps to protect yourself there is still a chance you will still become infected. If that happens you will go see the doctor and follow their treatment plan so you can battle the infection and get back to being healthy.

Computer viruses and infections are much the same way. When there is a threat of a computer virus or ransomware, we should educate everyone in our office on how to stay protected, what the symptoms are of the infection and what the treatment plan just in case they do get infected.

Here are some general guidelines to help get the conversations started in your office.

Protective Measures

  • Update to use the latest operating systems
    • An outdated machine connecting to the internet is vulnerable and can be an open invitation to hackers.
    • Every computer should be running Windows 10. If you are running Windows 7 please note that support will end in January 2020. Microsoft will no longer provide any future security updates for these machines, leaving them vulnerable to security breaches or attacks.
  • Regularly run Windows updates
    • It is important to make sure that every computer in your office gets regular Windows updates to stay protected from known vulnerabilities.
    • If you are a BIS IT Maintenances client, we run updates Tuesdays overnight. On the days that the updates are pushed we send a reminder pop up on each workstation, so the end user knows to leave their PC on that night to receive the update.
  • Use antivirus and antimalware programs
    • Verify that you have a reliable antivirus program installed on ALL machines in your office and your subscription is up to date.
    • If you are a BIS IT Maintenance or you’ve purchased our antivirus solution, we manage your subscription for you.
  • Always back up your data
    • Verify that you have good backups that are encrypted and in more than one location. It’s always good to have a local backup and an offsite one as well.
    • BIS Automated Backups clients, we manage your backups for you.
  • Verify that you are using updated browsers and plug ins
    • The annoying Flash or Java updates in your browser can make a world of difference when it comes to malware and ransomware. Clicking on an ad can seem harmless enough but it could land you on an infected site and while you’re trying to hit the back button it’s working hard to drop files on your machine.
  • Insist that all third-party remote access software is using two factor authentication
    • It is very common for your vendors to need access to your computers from a remote location. Make sure that they are doing everything in their power to keep your computers protected by requiring them to utilize two factor authentication for these programs. Some of the most common types are ConnectWise Control, LogMeIn, and TeamViewer.
    • At BIS we use ConnectWise Control with two factor authentication.
  • Don’t click on anything that is questionable in an email.
    • Business Email Compromise is one of the most common means of attack. The simple act of opening an attachment in an email has opened the door to some of the costliest ransomware attacks out there. Here are a few best practices to follow:
      • Delete suspicious emails without opening.
      • If an email looks odd but it’s from someone you know call them to verify.
      • Don’t click on links within an email. Hover over the link and look at the URL that shows up in the bottom of your screen. If it doesn’t look right – don’t click.
      • Make sure you use spam filtering.
      • Do not open attachments unless you are 100% positive they are safe
  • Protect your office network
    • Setup a guest wi-fi for using personal and mobile devices. This way they can access your Wi-Fi without compromising the security of the office network.
    • Verify that your firewall is up to date.
    • As a BIS IT Maintenance client we maintain your firewall for you and will setup your guest Wi-Fi at your request.

 

 

Signs You May Be Infected

This is not a complete list, but these are some signs that you should alert your IT team about.

  • Your computer is running very slow – this is not always a sign of infection, but it should be checked.
  • Unwanted pop-up windows in your browser.
  • Your browser homepage has changed.
  • You have new and unfamiliar icons on your desktop.
  • A pop-up appears on your desktop telling you that you have a virus with steps to “resolve”.
  • Suspicious hard drive activity
  • Unusual messages or programs that start automatically

 

Treatment Plan

It is important to provide an action plan for everyone in your office to make sure each person understands what to do if they think the computer has been compromised. Here are some recommended steps:

  • Unplug the internet cable or turn the Wi-Fi off to disconnect the machine from the network.
  • Disconnect external hard drives.
  • Report the issue immediately to the IT department for your office.

 

Our IT team is always looking for ways to improve and keep your data safe. There are new group policies in place, new authentication methods we are adding to protect from email spoofing and new password policies. The truth is that even with all these things in place we will be more successful with your help in educating your team on how to avoid, recognize and treat an attack.

For more resources on cybersecurity please visit https://staysafeonline.org/ which is powered by the National Cyber Security Alliance and works in conjunction with the Department of Homeland Security.

If you have any questions or concerns, please reach out to our IT team at 1-800-247-9045.

Email Spoofing 101

Wait? Is that genuine?

Have you ever received a call from somebody, and they tell you that your email has been hacked, because they have received an email claiming to be from you but it really wasn’t? Working in our industry, the chances are that you have had this call, and, your email wasn’t really hacked. Instead your email was spoofed.

Today, I’m writing about spoofing. “Hacking” and “spoofing” are not words we normally drop into polite conversation, and many people confuse the two terms. When your email account is spoofed, this means that somebody has received a message that looks like it’s from you, but it’s not really. When your email is hacked, this means that your account has been compromised and the bad guy has control.

Some of the easy ways to spoof an email address is to change the FROM, REPLY-TO, and RETURN name and address. The best way to check is to look at the email address sent from and what you might reply to.

Back in April I received an email from Britt Martin, Co-CEO and Company Founder. This is what I see:

Seems legit, right? No. Look again at the very top line. The email name and address shows “Britt Martin <text@verizonwireless4g.com>” and not Britt’s BIS email address. This is also a suspicious email; Britt will absolutely find ways to surprise the team here, but this isn’t something he would email me about.

In this case, I checked in with the real Britt Martin – this is the golden rule: communicate using other means. Usually, this means calling.

If the fake Britt had sent me an attachment, I shouldn’t click on it. Imagine if Britt had sent me what looked like an Excel spreadsheet and asked me to check what gift cards I could buy from the list? It is difficult not to click on email attachments – many of us open email attachments several times a day. Unfortunately, email attachments can contain malware or a virus. If you do click on something you shouldn’t, call the BIS Consulting IT team at 800 247 9045 or email us and we can help.

Microsoft Windows Critical Security Vulnerability

 

There were unhappy faces all around on May 14 as Microsoft published a critical security vulnerability article detailing a flaw in the Remote Desktop Services, or RDP, part of older versions of Windows. The vulnerability could potentially allow malicious code to run on a susceptible computer without any involvement from the user. In plain English: an unprotected system is vulnerable to an invisible hacking attack.

The vulnerability exists in Microsoft Windows 7, Microsoft Server 2008 and older version of the popular Microsoft Windows operating system. The flaw is so severe that Microsoft has taken the unusual step of writing a security patch for Microsoft Windows XP, although users need to manually download the software to their computer. Microsoft Windows 8, Windows Server 2012, and later versions of Windows (including Windows 10) are already protected against the vulnerability.

What Should You Do?

BIS Consulting already lock down the RDP connection away from the Internet, which means customers enjoying our IT Maintenance plans will be protected.

If you are not one of our IT Maintenance clients CONTACT US anyway. You have enough on your plate without having to worry about extra IT issues. Let our IT pros give you a no-cost security assessment and determine a plan of action to keep you protected.

If you have someone on staff that handles your IT, we strongly recommend they immediately install the security patch using Microsoft Windows Update. We also recommend they check that your firewall has locked down the RDP connection port.

 

Still Using Windows XP, Server 2003, Windows 7, or Server 2008?

If you have machines running the older version of Microsoft Windows, we encourage you to retire the obsolete Windows operating system or even the computer. For a free, no obligation estimate of any costs involved, please email or call David Steele.

BIS Welcomes New Team Members

We are rolling into 2019 with a few new faces at the office so we wanted to introduce you. Please welcome Dan, Alex, Deanne and Brian to BIS!

Dan Fasteen, Ph.D. is the Director of Special Projects for BIS consulting where he coordinates, designs, and implements analytical services and solutions for GIS and mass appraisal. He has been in the property valuation profession since 2010 working for local government jurisdictions in North Dakota and Minnesota. His primary areas of expertise include the design and application of spatial automated valuation models (AVM’s) to mass valuation problems, and the integration of GIS and CAMA systems technology. Dan has a Master’s degree in Geography and a Ph.D. in Research Methodologies and applied Statistics, both from the University of North Dakota. He has presented papers at numerous conferences and international research symposiums, currently serves on the editorial review board of the Journal of Property Tax Assessment & Administration, and is a former Chair of the IAAO Research Subcommittee. Dan also coauthored the book, “GIS for Property Tax and Assessment Professionals” available on the Amazon market place.

Alex Sanders joins the BIS team as the new lead technical GIS analyst. Alex is a proud alumnus from Southwest Texas State University (for some reason they are calling it Texas State these days) with a degree in Geography. After college, Alex worked a few years for private Engineering firms before joining the State of Texas with the General Land Office. He is excited to bring his many years of experience of working with GIS systems for the State of Texas and his continued focus on customer support to BIS Consulting. Alex lives with his family in Georgetown and enjoys the plethora of outdoor activities that central Texas provides.

 

 

 

 

Deanne Gonzalez is joining our fast growing deed processing team as a Deed Processor II. She worked at Travis CAD as a GIS Tech and also at Kerr CAD as an Ag Appraiser. Deanne was born and raised in Austin and moved to Boerne Texas 6 years ago. She enjoys riding her horses, mountain biking, fishing, working out and watching sunsets with a glass of wine and her husband.

 

 

 

Brian Noble is our new Chief Financial Officer. He has 20 years of experience guiding start-ups from content to market in varied industries and has a deep knowledge of financial reporting and accounting. Brian has been in the C suite for more than 20 years holding titles such as CEO, CFO, and COO. He has a certificate in General Management Distinguished, Darden School of Business – University of Virginia, Charlottesville, VA and he holds a Bachelor’s of Science from Missouri State University.

 

 

The entire BIS team is looking forward to serving you in 2019!

Windows 7 End of Life

Goodbye Old Friend

Microsoft Windows 7 was made available to most customers in October 2009, and it replaced Microsoft Windows Vista. Compared with previous versions of Windows, it offered improved performance, a better user interface, and several additional features such as libraries. Nine years later, Windows 7 is approaching obsolescence: Microsoft announced that free extended software support ends in January 2020, although paid-for software support will continue until 2023.

Software Support

Microsoft, like many software companies, regularly updates their products. We know this as “patching,” and as it implies, it means covering up an area of weakness. These weaknesses are known as “critical software vulnerabilities,” by which a malicious application could hack your computer and access sensitive areas. For those customers benefiting from BIS’s IT Maintenance service, your computers are patched on Tuesday evenings. Microsoft patches critical software vulnerabilities to make it much harder for hackers to gain access to your computer, but this only happens during the support period.

What does this mean?

2020 is months away, right? It is, but for those customers with computers still running Windows 7, in order to keep your computer as protected as possible, you should plan to upgrade from Windows 7 to Windows 10 in 2019.

If you have a particularly old computer, perhaps one that was originally running an older version of Microsoft Windows, you might want to consider upgrading and replacing the whole box. Older computers can still run Windows 10, but computers are like any other machine and they eventually wear out and break down. If it’s time to upgrade your aging computers, or if you just want to upgrade your version of Windows, give David Steele a call at (800) 247-9045 or email at dsteele@bisconsultants.com, and he’ll be happy to help.

We made the Inc. 5000 list!

Really Big News!!!

We have some REALLY BIG NEWS to share with you! BIS wouldn't be who we are without all of you – thank you for being a part of our BIS family! #takingcareofBISness #inc5000 #grateful #honored #blessed

Posted by BIS Consulting on Wednesday, August 15, 2018

2018 Inc. 5000 – Press Release
NEW YORK, August 15, 2018 – Inc. magazine today revealed that BIS Consulting is No. 2714 on its 37th annual Inc. 5000, the most prestigious ranking of the nation’s fastest-growing private companies. The list represents a unique look at the most successful companies within the American economy’s most dynamic segment—its independent small businesses. Microsoft, Dell, Domino’s Pizza, Pandora, Timberland, LinkedIn, Yelp, Zillow, and many other well-known names gained their first national exposure as honorees on the Inc. 5000.

“If you’re not happy, it’s your fault.”

Not only have the companies on the 2018 Inc. 5000 (which are listed online at Inc.com, with the top 500 companies featured in the September issue of Inc., available on newsstands August 15) been very competitive within their markets, but the list as a whole shows staggering growth compared with prior lists. The 2018 Inc. 5000 achieved an astounding three-year average growth of 538.2 percent, and a median rate of 171.8 percent. The Inc. 5000’s aggregate revenue was $206.1 billion in 2017, accounting for 664,095 jobs over the past three years.

Complete results of the Inc. 5000, including company profiles and an interactive database that can be sorted by industry, region, and other criteria, can be found at www.inc.com/inc5000.

“If your company is on the Inc. 5000, its unparalleled recognition of your years of hard work and sacrifice,” says Inc. editor in chief James Ledbetter. “The lines of business may come and go, or come and stay. What doesn’t change is the way entrepreneurs create and accelerate the forces that shape our lives.”

The annual Inc. 5000 event honoring the companies on the list will be held October 17 to 19, 2018, at the JW Marriott San Antonio Hill Country Resort, in San Antonio, Texas. As always, speakers include some of the greatest innovators and business leaders of our generation.

BIS Consulting’s mission is to revolutionize government technology and redefine customer service. We are a full range technology partner offering solutions in IT, GIS, and Website Applications such as Online Forms, Online Protest, Property Search, and GIS Interactive Maps to support local government entities. We pride ourselves in delivering exemplary customer service to all office sizes and budgets.

CONTACT: Britt Martin bmartin@bisconsultants.com or Brandon Kay bkay@bisconsultants.com, 1-800-247-9045

More about Inc. and the Inc. 5000

Methodology

The 2018 Inc. 5000 is ranked according to percentage revenue growth when comparing 2014 and 2018. To qualify, companies must have been founded and generating revenue by March 31, 2014. They had to be U.S.-based, privately held, for profit, and independent—not subsidiaries or divisions of other companies—as of December 31, 2017. (Since then, a number of companies on the list have gone public or been acquired.) The minimum revenue required for 2014 is $100,000; the minimum for 2017 is $2 million. As always, Inc. reserves the right to decline applicants for subjective reasons. Companies on the Inc. 500 are featured in Inc.’s September issue. They represent the top tier of the Inc. 5000, which can be found at http://www.inc.com/inc5000.

About Inc. Media

Founded in 1979 and acquired in 2005 by Mansueto Ventures, Inc. is the only major brand dedicated exclusively to owners and managers of growing private companies, with the aim to deliver real solutions for today’s innovative company builders. Inc. took home the National Magazine Award for General Excellence in both 2014 and 2012. The total monthly audience reach for the brand has been growing significantly, from 2,000,000 in 2010 to more than 18,000,000 today. For more information, visit www.inc.com.

The Inc. 5000 is a list of the fastest-growing private companies in the nation. Started in 1982, this prestigious list has become the hallmark of entrepreneurial success. The Inc. 5000 Conference & Awards Ceremony is an annual event that celebrates the remarkable achievements of these companies. The event also offers informative workshops, celebrated keynote speakers, and evening functions.

For more information on Inc. and the Inc. 5000 Conference, visit http://conference.inc.com/.

For more information contact:
Inc. Media
Drew Kerr
212-849-8250
dkerr@mansueto.com

Visit BIS Consulting At TAAD 2018!


BIS Consulting will be present at the 2018 TAAD conference, which is being held from February 25 through to February 28 at the Worthington Renaissance Hotel, Fort Worth, Texas. At the conference, we will be joining chief appraisers, appraisal office personnel, district directors, review board members, elected officials of taxing units, and others. The TAAD conference is billed as the ideal place to introduce and demonstrate new products and services to the market, as well as keep up with existing clients.

For 2018, the TAAD conference has a number of interesting items on the agenda with the keynote speech delivered by ex-Dallas Cowboys and veteran, Chad Hennings. There will also be classes based around topics including “Big-Box Valuation Methodology… Shaken, Not Stirred,” “Recovering from Professional Burn Out,” “The Six Estates in Land,” “How to Value Them,” and many others.

BIS will also be presenting a classroom session on maintaining and updating your website at the TAAD conference on Monday, February 26. We will be running the class to help you prepare for the 2018-19 MAP Review for Taxpayer Assistance. The class is free of charge for anybody at the conference and participants will quality for one TDLR Continuing Education Units for Property Tax Professionals for the Appraisal Standards and Methodology. If you are interested in the course, you can find out more information here, noting that we are provider number 2010, running course 18016.

As well as providing an informative class, BIS will also be providing a special drop in service at their booth – visit for more information and to be serviced by our expert technicians! We are also offering clients the opportunity to ‘get rowdy’ at Billy Bob’s in conjunction with Thomas Y. Pickett, Certified Payments, Asset Drone, Eagle Appraisal, and Tyler Technologies on Monday evening, where we welcome all TAAD attendees to an evening of dinner and line dancing with an open bar. Actually: if you are reading this, you are invited to Billy Bob’s on the Monday night, and please RSVP here.

We hope to see you there!

Navarro CAD’s Property Owners Now File Their State Forms Online!


Navarro Central Appraisal District is the first office to go live this year with our new Online Forms system. They are now rocking all of the BIS Website Suite services: Online Forms, Online Protest, Property Search, and GIS Interactive Map.

Having these services on the new BIS Website theme allows their office to provide a seamless transition with effortless navigation for their website users. The mobile version also handles a straightforward user interface with quick access to these frequently used services.

Check out Navarro CAD’s stunning and dynamic website at: http://www.navarrocad.com/

Intel Spectre/Meltdown Response Notice


Intel recently announced a security flaw with all Intel chips found in servers, workstations, and Mac products. Microsoft will be deploying a patch to address and correct the flaw on Tuesday, January 9, 2018.

BIS will deploy this patch to all clients and machines that are currently under our IT Maintenance services. If you are not covered by a BIS maintenance plan and would like assistance, please call us and we’ll be happy to help. (800)247-9045

BIS’s First Deed Training Class in Dallas Receives Recognition!


BIS Consulting successfully held a Deed Training class at the Hilton Dallas Lincoln Center on November 9, 2017 with an overwhelming attendance of fifty appraisal and property tax professionals from all across Texas! The event initially was planned to be held at the BIS offices for a smaller crowd but as word spread that BIS was offering a 6 TDLR continuing education unit deed specific course, plans quickly changed and a more extensive off-site event was arranged with sponsorship assistance from Thomas Y. Pickett.

TYP, an industry expert at complex appraisal and trusted partner of BIS, helped to provide transportation and lunch for the attendees. Guests were treated to Saltgrass Steakhouse for a decadent plate of garlic mashed potatoes and their choice of the top sirloin & shrimp, rib-eye, or Laredo chicken. Much thanks and gratitude to Brian Lipka of TYP for the generosity of providing such a great lunch for our attendees.

The Deed Training class was highly reviewed by the post-event survey which reports that 100% of the respondents enjoyed the class and 88% received the deed content they were expecting. In addition to the positive reviews, the City of Brookshire honored BIS with an article in their local newspaper, The Times Tribune. The article details the class’s content and discussion topics. Click the button below to read the full article.

With the success of the event, BIS plans to hold more training classes in the future and welcomes all course suggestions. Our goal is to better serve the appraisal and property tax community whether it be affordable technology or training for all staff levels.

Course suggestions can be emailed to us at nahmed@bisconsultants.com or feel free to call us at (800)247-9045.

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