Importance of Patch Management

UpdateThe security of today’s information systems go far beyond the general protection measures that were once considered to provide ample security against intrusion. For many companies that are implementing new technologies one of the top priorities in today’s world is security. There are many different aspects that define the overall security of a company’s infrastructure, one of which is patch management.

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Distributed Denial of Service Attacks and Protection

You might have heard of a Distributed Denial of Service (DDOS) attack in the news.  It is a very common attack method used by hackers today.  In a sense, nobody is really “hacking” your network.  No data is stolen, and you don’t need to report it to the authorities, but it is an attack on your network.  What a DDOS attack does is flood your Internet bandwidth so legitimate traffic cannot get to your site.

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Persistent Group Chat – The Journey to Microsoft Teams


Microsoft has recently announced a new vision centered around Microsoft Teams.

In Microsoft’s FAQ for this, it defines Intelligent Communication Vision as:

What is Microsoft’s new vision for Intelligent Communications?

We’ve enjoyed great success across Office 365 with over 100M monthly commercial active users counting on Office 365 every day to get their work done. We are now aiming to bring the capabilities of Skype for Business in the cloud into Teams to deliver a single hub for teamwork, with built-in, fully integrated voice and video. By tightly weaving communications into the apps teams use to collaborate every day, alongside AI, Microsoft Graph, LinkedIn, and other data and cognitive services, we will enable Intelligent Communications, revolutionizing calling and meeting experiences.

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What is your Security Plan? Part 4 of 4

Have you taken a step back to look at what you and your organization are doing to address IT security today?  In the first of this four-part series, we highlighted a few things you should be concentrating on regarding email security and training your end users to know what is and what is not a phishing attempt, while also keeping your machines fully patched.  In the second part of the series, we focused on Next Generation FireWalls(NGFW), Web Application Firewalls(WAF), and Denial of Service(DoS).  In the third part, we focused on Advanced Endpoint Protection.  In this final part of the series, we will dig into how you can work Security Information and Events Management (SIEM) and Security Operation Center (SOC) into your security plan.

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Thrive Expands Presence to Maine with BizCompass

Foxborough, MA – April 12, 2018– Thrive, a leading provider of next generation managed services, proudly announces today that they’ve completed a merger transaction with BizCompass, a highly respected and fast growing managed services provider (MSP) serving the greater Portland, Maine area. Led by CEO Tony Correale and CTO John Burghardt, BizCompass has grown to become a well-respected and recognized MSP in Maine and the surrounding northern New England region.  The BizCompass focus upon superior customer service, private cloud hosting and technical expertise is a natural fit for Thrive as they continue to expand their geographic and service delivery coverage.

“Thrive is pleased to welcome BizCompass, their customers and employees to our growing portfolio of MSP partnerships in the Northeast United States.  This transaction is another win-win for both companies and most importantly, our customers, as BizCompass will become the technical operations center for Thrive’s Northern New England region,” said Rob Stephenson, Thrive CEO.

“On behalf of everyone at BizCompass, John and I are very excited about this opportunity to join one of the largest and most respected technology service firms,” said Tony Correale, CEO at BizCompass.  “The engineering depth, vast amount of technical and financial resources and advanced Cloud and Cyber Security capabilities that Thrive will be able to offer our customers are the driving factors for Tony and I to join this winning team,” said John Burghardt, CTO at BizCompass.

Mr. Burghardt will join Thrive as a corporate executive with responsibilities for Northern New England technical operations and working on Thrive’s five national data center and Cloud footprints.  Tony Correale will continue as the leading business development executive in Northern New England and he will be joined by Rob Nevins, a Maine technology veteran of more than 18 years.  BizCompass now becomes the fourth member to join the Thrive platform within the past eighteen months and they will be the new operational center for Northern New England.

“Thrive continues to successfully execute on their acquisition strategy.  The BizCompass deal solidifies their status as an industry leader by introducing the Thrive portfolio of Cloud, Networking and Cyber Security next generation managed services to Northern New England,” said Gillis Cashman, Thrive Chairman and Managing Partner at M/C Partners.

 

About BizCompass

BizCompass is one of the most advanced and fastest-growing IT support companies in Maine. Offering proactive and evasive monitoring and prevention services for all your technology devices, BizCompass is leading the way in becoming a truly customer focused source for IT services. Our programs provide complete protection of Windows-based servers, Windows-based PCs, network hardware, and supported peripherals. BizCompass solutions are engineered to evade costly repairs through a smart response technology that will take evasive action while contacting us for follow through resolution. This helps avoid downtime, and allows for fixed budget technology solutions. BizCompass maximizes productivity while our technology reduces system downtime. At BizCompass all of our managed offerings monitor your systems 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and 365 days a year.

About M/C Partners

M/C Partners is a private equity firm focused exclusively on the communications, media, and information technology sectors. The firm has invested over $2.2 billion of capital into nearly 100 companies in those sectors. Companies M/C has backed include Cavalier Telephone, Denovo, Ensono, Everstream, Fusepoint, ICG Communications, Involta, Legendary Pictures, Lightower, MetroPCS, NuVox, and Zayo Group. The firm has strong institutional backing from the nation’s leading pension funds and endowments as well as a long track record of success. M/C Partners has offices in Boston and San Francisco. For more information, visit www.mcpartners.com.

 

For media inquiries, please contact:

Brian J. Hawthorne, VP of Marketing

bhawthorne@thrivenetworks.com

617-952-0242

Thrive Acquires New England MSP BizCompass

Thrive, a Top 100 Vertical Market MSP backed by private equity, has acquired BizCompass, a managed services provider in Portland, Maine area that supports customers across northern New England.

Online Privacy

With Mark Zuckerberg testifying in front of Congress, it makes sense to go into some basic dos and don’ts when surfing the Internet.  Once connected to the Internet, a majority of the sites are primarily free.  Although, most of these websites are not there just to help you out, they are there to make money.  A blogger, if they get enough viewers to their site, can sell ads that help pay them to write.  Home Depot’s site is there to educate you on what they sell and get you to go to the store.  Facebook and Google are there operate to make money off advertisements.

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Microsoft Bot Framework: Integrating Microsoft Teams, Graph API and SharePoint

Have you ever come across a time where you’ve needed to take information from Microsoft Teams, Skype for Business or another Office 365 Communication Application and copy it onto other Office 365 products for safekeeping or collaboration? The process of manually taking this information and putting it into a list in SharePoint or copying into an Excel file can be very tedious but the process can be optimized and streamlined using the Microsoft Bot Framework. The Bot Framework gives us the ability to create intelligent bots that can be triggered to take information from systems like Microsoft Teams or Skype For Business and publish it into other Office 365 platforms, such as SharePoint, for us.

Getting Started on the Microsoft Bot Framework

We can get started with creating our first bot on the framework by navigating to the Microsoft Bot Framework Developer platform, which can be found here. Once here, we can follow the prompt triggered by the “Create a Bot” button. This will then redirect you to your Azure portal to select between three types of bot templates (if you do not have an Azure subscription, you can sign up for a trial here and receive $200 in credit to utilize).

Please note that provisioning a Microsoft Bot, Azure Active Directory Application, App Service and other Azure resources will result in associated costs. In order to fully understand the associated costs that may incur from following this guide, please refer to the Azure Pricing Calculator which can be found here.

In this instance, we will want to select the “Web App Bot” template and select “Create”. You will be brought to a screen as shown below.

Web App Bot

Once here, proceed to fill in all the required information for the bot. Feel free to create a new resource group or Azure storage blob or use existing instances if you have them. This guide will be using Node.JS so please select Node.JS Basic as the Bot template option.

Once all the information has been filled in, click on “Create” and wait for Azure to provision all necessary resources. When all resources have been successfully provisioned, navigate to your new Web App Bot resource. The management of this bot is very similar to managing other applications in Azure.

Enable the Bot for Microsoft Teams

In this guide, we will be integrating the bot with Teams to allow for messages to be posted to a SharePoint list from Teams by means of the bot.

To enable the Teams channel, proceed to the “Channels” section of the bot and select the Microsoft Teams icon. If the channel was successfully configured, you should see the screen below.

Configure MS Teams

Preparing our Bot for Microsoft Graph API and SharePoint Integration

Considering that we want our bot to communicate with the Microsoft Graph API and can read and post information to and from a SharePoint list, we will need to provision an Azure Active Directory Application.

To do so, navigate to the Azure Active Directory section of the portal, select App registrations and then “New Application Registration”, as shown below.

New Application Registration

 

We need to fill in the required fields which are the name of the app, its application type, and the Sign-on URL. In this instance, we want the application type to be Web app / API and the sign-on URL can be pretty much anything.

For example, you can use something along the lines of https://contoso.com as your sign-on URL. We aren’t creating an Azure web application that requires authentication redirect, so this URL won’t be used in our bot. Once created, we need to assign the bot a few permissions. Select the “Required Permissions” option and click on Add. We will now add the required API access for Microsoft Graph (most of these permissions require that you be a Global Administrator to add them).

Select the following permissions: Read and write files in all site collections, read files in all site collections and create, edit and delete items and lists in all site collections (as shown below).

API AccessOnce the permissions have been delegated, we will now need to generate a secret application key that will be used in our bot’s code to authenticate with the application.

Click on the “Keys” button and under the “Passwords” section, give the key a name and duration.

When you click save the key will be generated. Please copy and save the key to a safe place for now as we will need it later. Also, while we are here, copy and save the Application ID as this is our client public key that we will also need later.

Settings

Starting to Code and Build our Bot

For simplicities sake, we will be using the online code editor for editing code in our bot.

Alternatively, you can download a .zip package of the bot to use a local IDE of your choosing and set up a deployment option for deploying updated code to Azure from your local development environment. Before we jump right into the code, we will want to add our Azure Active Directory App Client ID and Secret Key we copied earlier to the environment variables.

Adding these to the environment variables as opposed to in the code itself ensures that the keys aren’t stored in plain text in the code.

Navigate to “Application Settings” and under “App Settings” we will add the two keys. The first key will be named “ClientID” and have the value of your Application ID you copied earlier. The second key will be named “AppSecret” and have the value of the Secret Key you copied earlier.

Now that we’ve done that, navigate to “Build” then “Open online code editor”.

In here, our main application code is found under the app.js file. A standard project comes with three npm packages: restify, botbuilder and botbuilder_azure. In order to connect to the Microsoft Graph API and make post requests to SharePoint, we will be using the adal-node npm package.

This guide won’t be going too in-depth on using Node.JS or breaking down how Node.JS works but will give you a base understanding of the code works so no previous knowledge of Node.JS is necessary to make everything function.

First, we are going to need to install the adal-node package. To do so, click on the console icon (sixth icon on the left-hand side of the screen), type ‘npm install adal-node –save’ without quotes and press enter.

When the install is complete, we will need to require the package in our app.js. Add the following code below the botbuilder_azure line at the top.

var adal = require(‘adal-node’);

 Next, we will have to the same thing for another package from Microsoft that integrates with Teams. Head back to the console and run ‘npm install botbuilder-teams –save’. Once the package has installed, add the following line under the adal line we just added.

var teams = require(“botbuilder-teams”);

Finally, there is one last package we need to install which is the Microsoft Graph Node.JS package. Navigate to your console and type in ‘npm install @microsoft/microsoft-graph-client –save’. When the package has finished installing, add the following line under the teams line added previously.

const MicrosoftGraph = require(“@microsoft/microsoft-graph-client”);

Now we are going to add the core of the code. First, we will want to remove all lines from the code after the connector was configured (var connector) while leaving in the server.post(‘/api/messages’, connector.listen()); line.

At the time of writing this, these would be lines 27 to 43. This will leave the following line as the last line of our code now.

server.post(‘/api/messages’, connector.listen());

Next, we will add the code below and talk a bit about what it is doing.


First, we are committing our ClientID and Secret Key to a variable for use in authentication using ADAL later on in the code. We then initiate the builder.UniversalBot function which takes the connector and a function that passes the session as arguments.

The connector.fetchChannelList is technically optional here. This function was put here to show you how you might go about fetching specific channel information in case you wanted to post what channel the information came from to the SharePoint list.

Next, we are setting up the ADAL package, so we can authenticate with Microsoft Graph API and start to utilize its functionality. The application ID is our Azure Active Directory App Application ID and the Client Secret is the key we generated earlier. These are both currently stored in our application’s environment variables.

Using the ADAL package, we can then generate an authenticated context token that has all of the permissions we assigned to it earlier. Next, we are initializing the Microsoft Graph client and passing it the authenticated access token. We can then use this instance to build our Graph Query that posts information sent to the bot to a specified list of our choosing in SharePoint.

In the following line you will need to replace the two variables being queried with your root SharePoint URL (in the format of xxxx.sharepoint.com), the GUID of the site that contains the list we want to post information to (this GUID can be found by using the Microsoft Graph explorer to query all of your sites or even by using the SharePoint REST API) and the title of the list we are posting to.

.api(‘https://graph.microsoft.com/beta/sites/contoso.com,SITE-GUID-TO-POST-TO/lists/LIST-TITLE/items/’)

We are then defining the fields of the list item that is going to be posted. Here, I’m using the messageText variable to set the Title of the object. The messageText variable is being provided by the user when they call our bot. Their message will be what is stored under ‘session.message.text’.

Finally, we post the request and resolve the promise using a .then() statement. If the promise resolves successfully then we let the user in Microsoft Teams know that their content has been published to SharePoint.

Testing our Bot using Microsoft Teams

Now that the code has been implemented, we can test our bot before deploying it to a team. To do so, navigate to your bot application in Azure and select “Channels” and then “Microsoft Teams”.

Connect channelsThis will ask you if you’d like to open your Microsoft Teams client or open Teams in the web. You can pick whichever platform you’d like to test this out. Once the application opens, you should be automatically directed to the bot conversation window. Test the bot by sending any message to it. If everything goes as planned, you should see the screen below.

SalesBot

You can also check the SharePoint list you specified in the Graph API call earlier for the new list item.

Knowledge Items

Packaging and Deploying your Bot
In order for your bot to be deployed to your instance of Microsoft Teams, you need to create a package. The package is essentially 3 separate files: Color Icon, Outline Icon, and your manifest.json.

The Color Icon is used throughout Microsoft Teams and should be an icon of 192×192 pixels. The Outline Icon is used as the smaller app tray icon and should be 32×32 pixels. These icons are required and can be made in most design programs. Stock icons may be available online as well. The manifest.json file contains all of the information needed to deploy the bot.

The Bot Framework actually handles the task of gathering the bot from Azure and you merely need to supply the Application/Bot ID in the manifest.json. There are many settings and customizations that can be configured in this file. We won’t cover them in this guide but if you’d like to learn more you can view the current Manifest Schema for Microsoft Teams here.

We will begin by creating a folder that will become our .zip package. Inside the folder, create a file named `manifest.json`, and populate it with the information below. Also, add your outline.png and color.png to the folder.

As you may notice, you will need to populate your specific Bot Application ID in the botId parameter. Otherwise, the other information can remain the same or if you choose, you can customize it. When you have completed this, you should have three files in your folder. Proceed to packaging that folder into a .zip.

** Be careful as sometimes you end up having a root folder in the zip with the files inside the root folder. If this happens, you may want to use a program like WinRAR to manually add the three files to the .zip. They should be at the absolute root of the .zip package and be the only files there. **

When the package has been created, we can now work on deploying the package in our Teams client. Open the Microsoft Teams application, choose a channel, select the ellipsis and then navigate to “Manage Team”, as shown below.

From here, navigate to “Apps” and then select the option to upload a custom app in the bottom right-hand corner (we have uploaded this same custom bot with the name SalesBot).

Once the package has been uploaded, you should now be able to call the bot from the team you added the app to using @BotName where the BotName is whatever you defined it to be in the manifest.json. At this point, you have successfully created, provisioned and deployed a Microsoft Framework Bot that communicates with Microsoft Teams, Graph API, and SharePoint Online.


On-premise Exchange vs. Office 365 – What’s Right for Your Business?

Cloud

In today’s cloud driven world, organizations are continually faced with the decision to keep their email solution in-house, or utilize a public cloud solution like Office 365. The standard for years has been an on-premise Microsoft Exchange server. This solution still works for many deployment scenarios, but moving your email and calendar solutions to Office 365 is a growing trend. In a recent study by Barracuda, over 63% of respondents indicated they are currently using Office 365.

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Final Preparation for the new GDPR Requirements

On May 25, 2018, the Global Data Protection Regulations (GDPR) will be law throughout the European Union. This means that if you do business in the EU, and subsequently store or otherwise process data about EU citizens, you are subject to the new regulations, and the significant fines associated with noncompliance. If you’re in that category, I hope this is not the first time you’re hearing of this news. If so, let this be just the tip of the iceberg of research and consultation you will undertake, rather quickly, to ensure compliance.

 

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