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Cloudstar Launches New Website

We are pleased to announce the launch of our new website. After two months of hard work and dedication, we are excited to officially announce the launch is complete (but with a little more to come so check back frequently as we continue to import more blog articles and content).

Our goal with this new website is to provide our visitors with a simple way to learn about Cloudstar’s services and solutions. Users benefit from additional resources, downloads, and industry specific content. Cloudstar specializes in regulated industries such as:

 

Existing customers will enjoy our new customer portal, live status pages and easier access to information. For more information, please call us at 800-340-5780

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American Bar Association Tech Show 2018

Save the Date! March 7-10 at the Hyatt Regency Chicago

Join Cloudstar at the ABA Techshow 2018 at the exhibit hall for our one of a kind demo experience.  We will be demoing several new product lines in addition to our Citrix hosted applications and desktop.  Cloudstar hosts all major legal software and looks forward to seeing many of our existing clients.

 

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Cloudstar Launches New Customer Portal

In 2017, data is everything.  Customers are demanding more and more insight as to how their end users are interacting with our support department. How many tickets are being opened?  What is the average resolution time?  Which technician is working on which ticket?  Often times, it is important to report on just how many times a particular individual is calling in over the weekend, or at one o’clock in the morning.

With our new customer portal, Business Owners, IT Managers and CIOs gain valuable insight into how their organization utilizes our support resources.  In addition, more complex tasks can be tracked in real time such as migration projects, equipment shipping and infrastructure builds.

On the end user side, once an account is created, new work orders, projects and tickets can also be created by logging onto the customer portal, or the old fashioned way, by simply emailing support at: [email protected]

The new portal also powers our ticketing system as well.  Existing customers will now notice a new, “more polished” look and feel to their tickets when interacting with their support team.

To begin using the new portal, simply locate the RESOURCES tab on the top the Cloudstar homepage, and then click CUSTOMER PORTAL.  If you have any questions, or need an account, please call us at 800-340-5780.  We are always happy to help.

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Cloudstar to Host Client Appreciation Dinner With ResWare & Signature

On Wednesday night, June 7th, we will again be hosting a dinner with ResWare and Signature at the National Settlement Summit in San Antonio. This year, we’ve booked a private room at The Chart House atop The Tower of the Americas with a view overlooking downtown San Antonio. The location is less than 1/2 of a mile from the convention hotels. Dinner will begin at 7:00 PM CST.

We wanted to extend our thanks and appreciation to our existing client, and look forward to meeting new friends at the event.  As always, we thank the folks at ResWare and Signature for their partnership for what always turns out to be a great event.

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See You At NS3 2017

Be sure to stop by and visit Cloudstar at NS3 this year in San Antonio.

“The premier annual destination for title agents, underwriters, attorneys, settlement services providers, mortgage lenders, and technology solution providers to come together for unrivaled networking and learning. The 2017 NS3 Summit will be held in San Antonio, T.X., June 7-9.

Now in its 13th year, the Summit expects to attract more than 750 professionals from across the country, featuring a roster of expert speakers and noted industry veterans who take the stage for three days of educational presentations, dynamic panel discussions and instructional breakout sessions. Attendees return year after year to learn and to discuss the most important issues impacting their businesses. The Summit’s agenda blends both business and regulatory content to provide attendees with innovative strategies for remaining profitable and compliant.”

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Is Your Disaster Recovery Plan Leaving You Stranded?

We hear about them all the time, Disaster Recovery plans. We’re told we need them, those with whom we conduct business may ask to review them. Certain regulatory compliance frameworks require them, as do best practice guidelines.

Some companies throw together some quick guidelines as to “what they will do” in the event of a disaster, while others toil for hours trying to get every detail and contingency correct. Many even contract with outside consultants to obtain the perfect plan realizing the future of their business may depend on it.

If you’re like most, you may not have actually thought too much as to the impact of the word, “DISASTER”. You may think a disaster to you would mean a minor inconvenience, a momentary power outage, a snow storm, or a localized flood. In some cases, they those situations would in fact call for the implementation of your disaster recovery plan, or your business continuity plan, so as to keep the wheels of your company spinning and avoid disruption.

What about the real disasters that have been taking place throughout the country? The one’s that are more than a minor inconvenience. The ones that could potentially wipe out your company, or cause your vendors or customers to take a second guess as to your preparedness after the dust settles?

  • 976 tornados in the US in the year 2016
  • Hurricane Matthew, 49 fatalities, 2016
  • Louisiana Flooding, 13 fatalities, 2016
  • West Virginia Flooding, 23 fatalities, 2016
  • Mid-Atlantic, Northeast Blizzard 55 fatalities, 2016

The list goes on. California wildfires, mudslides, storms, etc.

Many will think, if disasters of this magnitude strike, I’ll be more worried about myself and my family than anything else. Local and regional business will stop all together. That may be correct. You’d also be correct if you’re thinking that the odds are in your favor that you will not have power, and that cellular phone service will either be interupted, degraded, or eventually cease once the generators that power the cell sites stop working.

At some point you will need to activate your companies Disaster Recovery Plan – or – Business Continuity Plan. You may even want to contact a family member, son, daughter, elderly parent, emergency worker, or out of state relative.

What good is all of this planning, if you cannot activate your plan? There you are, the chips are down. Perhaps flooding, fire, no heat, it’s dark, no phone service, and there’s no way to activate that plan you spent countless hours and dollars working on, and you cannot even contact your family. What’s the one thing you wish you had most, other than 3 wishes and a genie in a bottle? A satellite phone.

Satellite phones, are able make and receive phone calls to any other phone. They can also send and receive text messages. You have the ability to call land lines, cell phones, and other satellite phones. You’ll have peace of mind that loved ones are okay and can contact key managers within your organization shortly after the disaster to plan your next steps, provide help, and assess the state of your business.

This is why key first respondents, FEMA, the national guard, and some military assets utilize satellite phones during disasters and national emergencies. The good news is, you can too, and should.

At our company, all key managers, have a satellite phone. The phone is just slightly larger than a cell phone and has global coverage meaning it will work anywhere from the top of the North Pole, to the bottom of the South Pole. The phone is outfitted in a carrying case with an extra battery and a small solar charging panel as well. Because we have offices throughout the country, should we experience a regionalized disaster, we can communicate back to an office outside of the affected area, and coordinate a response.

Not all satellite phones are created equal. A good setup will make cell phone quality calls, and will have “always on” availability. While some service plans require expensive long term contact, others allow for month-to-month contracts with pricing less than a typical cell phone. With that in mind, the solution is an extremely cost conscious insurance policy against what could happen during a serious emergency.

If your organization would like to know more about emergency satellite communications, or would like to purchase a satellite phone and calling plan, please contact us at [email protected]

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Obama & Trump Agree – Cloud First

The date was May 11th 2017, and Deputy Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee took to the podium in the White House briefing room to address a gallery stacked with members of the press. Before she started in earnest, she introduced Homeland Security Adviser Tom Bossert to explain President Trump’s new executive order on Cyber-Security.

Before we get into partisan politics it might be useful to quickly review just how ubiquitous financially cyber-crime has actually become. Nichole Hong from the Wall Street Journal reported that the street gang the Crips is engaging in check fraud as found in a 32 page indictment. Meanwhile, famous rapper “Willie D” from the Geto Boys was recently sentenced to 366 days in Federal prison for wire fraud. No matter where you turn, from white collar criminals, to street gangs, to famous recording artists, everyone is getting in on the cyber-crime action.

With regards to President Trump’s executive order, Homeland Security Adviser Bossert addressed the audience explaining the details of America’s latest attempt to fight cyber-crime stating “Our first priority is to protect federal networks”. “We have to move to the cloud and protect ourselves” added Bossert explaining that shared services and centralization of IT assets offer the best level of managed IT security.

Of course, being that I watched this presser on YouTube, there were numerous partisan comments left by those that disagree with Mr. Trump’s policies. “The Cloud isn’t secure” exclaimed one social media commentator. And, of course, what followed were more politically charged comments, slurs, name calling, and other things that you’d expect to see on the wall of a public restroom.

But what if we finally had an issue where President Trump, and President Obama where in full agreement?

What if the Cloud First approach was initiated by President Obama? Well, it was actually….under the Obama Administration’s 25 point plan to reform information technology. This plan mandated that each federal agency CIO identify and move at least 3 services to the cloud. On December 9th 2010, then Federal CIO Vivek Kundra spoke about cloud first policy portion of the plan noting it is an important aspect of government reform and citing its ability to cut costs by 50%.

Marjorie Censer from The Washington Times reported on December 5th 2005:

“The Obama administration has said that cloud computing will allow more people to share a common infrastructure, cutting technology and support costs.”

Bringing us back to 2017, it appears that now President Donald Trump’s executive order is a reiteration of previous policy in addition to calling for additional strengthening of Federal systems and networks; something we can all rally behind.

What can we learn from this?

Both President’s Obama and Trump are obviously very different people, yet they’re both for a Cloud First policy. The reasons are:

  • Centralized Security
  • Ease of Management
  • Standardization, and Adherence to a Unified Framework
  • Cost Reduction
  • Modernizing Our Nation’s Technology

With this all said, I think we should all take a long hard look at how we think about our own technology. If two Presidents, from two drastically different ideologies can agree on one thing, in a polarized nation… fighting… torn…. and divided against itself, then perhaps the Cloud can be the one thing that unifies us all and brings us together in healing.

Nah – that sounds absolutely ridiculous. I’m not sure even the Cloud can do that. As far as the U.S Government is concerned, it is now a mandate. It may soon be a mandate in your world as well. If not, it might be a good time to consider making the move if you haven’t already.

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Doing This Will Help Stop Fraud

Aoccdrnig to a rscheearch at Cmabrigde Uinervtisy, it deosn’t mttaer in waht oredr the ltteers in a wrod are, the olny iprmoetnt tihng is taht the frist and lsat ltteer be at the rghit pclae. The rset can be a toatl mses and you can sitll raed it wouthit porbelm. Tihs is bcuseae the huamn mnid deos not raed ervey lteter by istlef, but the wrod as a wlohe.

I’m sure we’ve all seen the above example before. The idea is very simple. As we all go about our day, our eyes glance over the text before us and we see what we want to see. Cyber Criminals and would be wire transfer thieves know this as well. As you’ll soon learn, they take advantage of this all too often.

One of the most common tricks that criminals use is to purchase a domain name very similar to yours, but with a letter or two changed. Then, they can start emailing your customers, employees, or contacts back and forth without always being noticed. Here’s one of the most common examples:

[email protected] does business using the ABCtitle.com domain. Meanwhile the wire transfer thief purchased the domain name ABCtit1e.com for $9.99 and he is off and running. The difference? Rather than spelling the word title with the letter “L”, the thief replaces the letter “L” with the number “1” (one). The word title also contains the letter “I” in title. The letter “I” also is easily substituted with the number 1. Depending on your domain name, there are many opportunities for deception.

Here is an example substituting the letter “L” with the number “One”. Look closely: 1l1l1l1l1l

Do you think that your customers could spot the difference? Remember what the opening paragraph of this article says.

HOW CAN YOU PROTECT YOURSELF?

Stay ahead of the criminals. If your domain is ABCtitle.com, invest the $9.99 and purchase ABCt1tle.com and ABCtit1e.com. If YOU own them, the thieves cannot purchase them. Maybe your name is SuperMegaOneTitle? Then you’ll want to purchase SuperMega0NeTitle.com, replacing the letter “O” with a “zero”. As you can imagine, there are many ways criminals purchase bogus domain names. Adding additional letters is another one, such as: ABCtittle.com. In this example, there is an extra letter “t” in title.

In closing, it’s not always possible to stop all fraud, or purchase every imaginable combination of your domain. BUT, with a little forethought and creativity, you can take the first step. You can make it harder for the bad guys to impersonal your business.

ONE LAST THING.

On a personal level, we have seen these tricks used in action many times. As a service provider, we have criminals email us quite often pretending to be our customers using the very tricks mentioned above. It is worth noting that it’s not just the bad guy trying to pose as you in order to write your customers. Criminals often pretend to be other industry vendors, partners, or employees, in an attempt to send viruses, malware or to obtain sensitive information.

Stay safe.

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An Open Letter to Title Agents

As I was driving into the office yesterday, I pulled into the local gas station to fill up and grab a coffee. Sure it’s “gas station coffee” but when you’re in a hurry, you take whatever you can get. As society transitions from cash to credit cards, it makes you wonder just how little cash a gas station has on hand. As I opened the door, fumbling to hold the hot coffee in one hand while putting away the credit card with the other, I could hear the sound of a low rumbling diesel. Upon looking up from my caffeinated goodness, I couldn’t help but notice this beastly dual axle armored truck which had just stormed into the parking lot. With it, there were two armed men wearing bullet proof vests; one sitting behind the wheel keeping a watchful eye while the other went inside, gun in holster, to retrieve the gas station’s money. I wondered to myself as I drove away, just how much money justifies sending in a team of armed men? It turns out, some gas stations have less than $10,000.00 in cash per pickup. $10,000.00 in cash for all that security. Wow.

Somewhere, at that very same time, Stacy and her family just moved into town and are in the process of purchasing a new home. She can’t wait to close because she’s staying at her in-law’s house with her husband and 2 children- to say it’s cramped is an understatement! By all accounts they’re an American success story. Stacey is a nurse, and her husband David is a dentist. Their two children are in the 3rd and 5th grades and look forward to playing soccer in the spacious back yard of a new suburban home. Having received the proceeds from the sale of their prior home, and with pre-approval letter in hand, they just made an offer on the home of their dreams. Everything is going perfect for them. Little do they know, something is about to go horribly wrong.

Luckily, their lender has taken all of the necessary steps to protect their non-public personal information. After all, they have to. With so much on the line, so much to lose, and the CFPB breathing down their neck, their lender is a model for data security and best practices and their staff are well trained. The lender has all the correct policies and procedures, the latest encryption software, encrypted email, and the best money can buy in the areas of IT, firewalls, and security.

Their title company is also top notch. They’ve taken the Best Practices very seriously. Sure they don’t have the big lender budget, but they’ve trained their staff to be very security conscious. They encrypt their email, lock their computers when not in use, employ a clean desk policy, passed several underwriter and third party audits and received a fancy attestation certificate. All-in-all the title company and the lender all work very hard to protect the consumer’s privacy, identity, and non-public personal information. They also know to be VERY careful about phishing scams, wire fraud, and social engineering.

Stacey and David have been receiving multiple encrypted emails with regards to the transaction. These emails contain status updates, an occasional request for information, and wiring information. But not to worry, both the lender, title company, and surprisingly the real estate agent, are all following proper cyber security procedures. It is important to note that the chain of security up until this point is very strong. Unfortunately, the title company sent an email, off into the unknown- the buyer’s computer. The title company had NO knowledge of the state or condition of the buyers computer. In this case, the buyers computer was running Windows 2000. It was 12 years old. It had no anti-virus software, and it had roughly 82 active viruses and malware on it. It was also actively being monitored by what we will call “bad guys” or, more accurately, cyber-criminals.

The lender, real estate agent, and the title company had no way of knowing, controlling, or otherwise affecting or improving the level of security on the buyer’s computer, yet they all chose to email (even through secure email) the buyer. Once this happened the chain of security was broken. What happened after was very sad for Stacy and David. The “bad guys”, having all of the necessary information concerning the transaction, were very easily able to trick Stacey and David into wiring the money to another account by calling them from a telephone number made to appear as if it originated from the Title Company.

Stacey and David lost all of their money and their dream of purchasing the new home. The money was never recovered, and to this day the family is forced to remain living with their in-laws.

What can we learn from this?

a) The chain of security is only as strong as its weakest link. The buyers computer was the weakest link.

b) Banks, Lenders, and Title Companies are regulated and must have security in place. John and Jane Doe’s home computers are subject to no such regulation.

c) Why would a Title Company ever even think of sending something that exists within their controlled, audited, and protected environment, out to a buyer’s computer when they have absolutely no knowledge that the buyer has any form of security? *

*and guess who the buyer will blame when the money is stolen?

What is the answer?

Computers are tools, and there are times when they shouldn’t be used. If it can ruin someone’s life, if it can bankrupt someone, it shouldn’t used. Be a leader, don’t just educate your buyers, people may not remember. WRITE DOWN wiring instructions on a card and physically hand it to them – then follow up. There’s a saying “somethings are better left unspoken”. There’s another saying “somethings are better left off a computer”. It’s your company, it’s your reputation, it’s your liability, and it’s your decision.

Finally, I’d like to close with this one question. If a gas station feels it necessary to send an armored truck, with bullet proof glass, and two gun toting men, for what usually amounts to a small amount of cash, why would anyone send wiring instructions to a random buyers computer with the push of a button?

Isn’t it time that we re-think how we ask our customers to transfer what is almost always their life savings?

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HOUSINGWIRE: Cloudstar Hosted Desktops Increase Workplace Productivity

With cloud services, clients can use existing software from any location

“Cloudstar, which offers business, compliance and technology solutions for the real estate, land title, insurance and financial industries, is committed to developing solutions that deliver compliance, security and efficiency.

Gregory McDonald, the founder and CEO of Cloudstar states, “Cloudstar is unique because we specialize in meeting the security and compliance guidelines for regulated industries and have extensive experience working with the various software products used by land title, legal, real estate and mortgage companies.”

With the emergence of cloud computing as an attractive alternative to purchasing and maintaining on-premise servers, Cloudstar saw an opportunity to offer its clients a less expensive, more secure way of operating their business.”

Read more at HOUSINGWIRE

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