Why worry about Accreditations?

I do a lot of work for an IT support company in Bristol – Bristol IT Company – and at the bottom of their website is a list of badges, icons and logos, there’s a couple of ISO related ones and the rest come from well known (and less well known) brands in the IT sector but why are they there and why should you be concerned?

Bristol IT Company accreditationsWell, ISO’s easy, it’s a way of demonstrating a certain credibility by being assessed every year to ensure that we remain up to scratch. A lot of businesses have ISO9001 which is a quality management certification that demonstrates their commitment to consistently provide products and services that meet the needs of our clients. ISO27001 is an information security standard that demonstrates commitment to information security, both their own and that of clients.

The other accreditations come from manufacturers such as Cisco, Microsoft, Dell, Aruba, Cyberoam, VMWare and Veeam and demonstrate that the Bristol IT Company has the necessary skills to not only supply their equipment but to ensure that it is properly installed, configured and supported.

Why is this important
Let’s take a look at the security of your network – they have 2 vendors that are accredited with in this area, Cisco and Sophos. You can buy some Cisco & Sophos equipment on Amazon at competitive prices, have it delivered pretty much the next day and get it up and running very quickly. This might make you feel secure, after all Cisco are a market leader in networking and security – right?

Is this the right way to do things?
Probably not! Even assuming that you order the most appropriate device for your needs, installing equipment using the default settings could cause you a whole heap of pain.

Most hackers worth their salt know, and understand, these default settings making it really easy for them to penetrate your business’s network. It’s almost like advertising that you’ve installed the best locks in the world but have left a key under the doormat.

Not only that but the default settings are a “one size fits all” option that are unlikely to be best suited to the way your business works and could actually slow your network, and internet connectivity, down if left untouched.

You could probably find hundreds of internet forums where people discuss the settings but which ones are the best for your particular needs? Which ones speed things up without compromising security and which ones increase security without compromising speed and which ones are actually posted by hackers looking to lure you into making your network even more insecure?

Accreditation
That’s where accreditation comes into play. By buying your equipment from an accredited supplier, Bristol IT Company will first of all advise you on the correct product that most closely matches your existing and future needs, possibly saving you money – certainly saving you pain.

They then ensure that your network is made as secure as possible by changing default settings to something much more secure and applying their training, experience and skill to ensure that your network is as secure as it can be by optimising the setup and performance of your kit.

Still think accreditation’s just an icon on a website? Well, give them a call on 01173 700 777 or email andy.poulton@bristolitcompany.com to find out that there’s much more to it than a pretty picture

How clean is your phone?

It’s with us up to 24 hours How clean is your phonea day but have you ever given any thought to mobile phone hygiene?

Just think about everything you touch during the course of an average day, keys, door handles, keyboards, pens, credit/debit cards, cash and so on. How many other people have touched those things? How hygienic are they? Have you ever checked your phone in a bathroom or public toilet? Don’t worry, you’re not alone if you have, apparently most people have checked their phone in a bathroom which goes someway towards explaining why 1 in 6 phones have faecal matter on them.

Ugly bacteriaAccording to research, the average mobile phone has 18x more harmful bacteria than the handle on the door of a public toilet.

Se we go to the loo and then use our phone and pop it into our pocket or handbag, somewhere that’s nice and warm, in other words an ideal breeding ground for bacteria.

A little later, we take our phone out of it’s bacterial breeding ground and hold it to our face to use it. Some of the bacteria transfer to our hands, some to our face where it can cause acne, some of the bacteria is now on our hands so we can transfer it to others when we shake hands, touch money or other door handles

Because few of us bother to really clean our phones (wiping the screen doesn’t count) the germs keep building up and they include E-Coli (great for upset tums), influenza and MRSA (causes rashes and skin infections)

So, the next time you have a spot or rash on your face or go down with an upset tummy or the flu, don’t look at who you’ve been in contact recently, take a long hard look at your mobile phone

So, what should we do? Well, you can buy anti-bacterial wipes specifically designed for electronic devices, or you could use standard rubbing alcohol and a soft cloth or paper towel. Use cotton buds to get in to those nooks and crannies and, finally, don’t forget to take your cover off and clean that too.

Has Anti-Virus software reached its “Best Before” date?

CrowbarFor many years, the security mantra has been

  • Mac good – invulnerable to viruses and hacking.
  • Windows bad – very vulnerable to viruses and hacking

 The reason was two-fold, whilst it’s true that the Apple operating system IS harder to infect with a virus, the main reason was popularity (or lack thereof). When 97% of the world was using Windows, why bother writing viruses and other malware for the extreme minority.

The traditional Windows solution was to install an anti-virus program from one of the many vendors and, for real “belt and braces” safety, protect your internet connection with a firewall. Hopefully all would be well and good, so long as you paid your annual anti-virus subscriptions and ensured that the virus definitions were regularly updated so your anti-virus program could identify the threats and keep you safe. (Free anti-virus programs for home users did a similar job, again provided they were kept up to date)

Crypto-LockerSignificantly Increased Risk of Infection

However, the upsurge in Apple popularity over recent years means that Apple devices are also targets of the cyber-criminals. And it’s not just Apple computers and iDevices that are at risk, the virus writers are also targeting Android devices, Microsoft phones and tablets and devices running Linux devices.

Anti-Virus is dead!

Brian DyeLast year, Brian Dye, Senior Vice-President for Information Security at Symantec (the company behind Norton Anti-Virus solutions) said, in an interview with The Wall Street Journal, that “Anti-Virus is dead”. What he meant was that cyber criminals were now able to write malicious software faster than Norton could be updated.

Whilst Norton, and all the other anti-virus programs, are not yet ready for the scrapheap they only detect around 45% of all attacks. As well as that rather disturbing stat, research by FireEye (A cyber-security provider)  indicated that 82% of malware detected by their security solutions stays active for just one hour and 70% of threats surface just once before disappearing and being re-written to avoid detection by the AV companies.

So, what should you be doing?

Security-padlockWell, I’ve said it before, but it’s always worth reiterating, security starts with education. Then you add as many layers of additional protection as you feel necessary, depending on how you use your devices and the level risk you feel you are faced with.

  • Never open an attachment unless you are expecting one and you know, and trust, where it came from.
  • Keep your Anti-Virus software up to date and continue to renew your subscriptions, it may only block 45% but that’s nearly half of all threats stopped before they have a chance to install.
  • Install a security App on your phone and tablet
  • Explore the new offerings from the traditional anti-virus vendors that look to protect your web browsing and protect you against spam, phishing attacks and other cyber crime threats.
  • Be alert for anything that doesn’t feel “right” and if something looks too good to be true – that offer of a full version of Microsoft Office on CD for £50.00 for example – remember, it probably is!
  • Use a different, complex, password for each website that you have to log in to. An App such as LastPass will help you create passwords, securely store them and “auto complete” the log-ins when you log in to those websites. (other password tools are available)
  • Ensure your Social Media accounts privacy settings are set to an appropriate level
  • Look at Bitdefender Safego,a free anti-scam service for Facebook and Twitter
  • Remain cautious when using any internet connected device

The Google “Red screen of Doom”

I had a telephone call from a former client  a month or so ago. He was in a bit of a panic because we was suffering from the Google “red screen of doom”. Having been in IT for a while, I’ve been familiar with Microsoft’s “blue screen of death” but this was something that was new to me, or so I thought and so I asked for more information.

He asked me to do a search for his company on Google – which I did – and his company came top of the search results, which was good. What was less good – much less good – was the stark warning, inserted by Google, that “This site may harm your computer” .

This site may harm your computerAha, Google was warning that the website had been hacked and was now serving malware to visitors.

I switched to my Chromebook – which is impervious to all known computer malware – and clicked through to the website – only to be blocked by the “Google red screen of doom”

Google's red screen of doomAlthough there was nothing to buy on my client’s site, it did host a range of technical papers and specification sheets that were vital for his clients’ and this attack was already having an impact on his business. Action was desperately needed.

The site was originally built 7 years ago and nothing much had changed, including the access data required to log-in to the host. So, I logged in and saw that a number of .js files had newer dates on them than the rest of the content, confirming that the site had been hacked and a small number of files altered so that they could be used to force malware downloads on to the computers of unsuspecting visitors.

The next step was to delete all of the website files, just to be on the safe side, and create a new, simple, home page with contact details and links to the most popular PDFs so that clients would be able to access the information they required.

Next was to see what Google had found by logging in to the Google Webmaster Toolkit account for the website- www.google.com/webmaster.

There were a number of warnings  relating to suspicious activity on the site that had gone unread, simply because my client had changed email addresses, was unable to access the original email account and had not updated his Webmaster Tools account with the new address.

Webmaster Tools advised of the type of threat that had been set up on the site and provided other, valuable, information along with a reporting tool that enabled me to advise Google of the actions taken to remove the threat.

Clicking “Send” was quickly followed by a confirmation message from Google that they would look at my message within 18 hours – a time frame that I thought was commendably fast. They were as good as their word and within 18 hours had checked the website to make sure it was clean and had removed all warnings and “red screens of doom” – my client was back up and running.

However, we didn’t leave it there. The original site was old, used old code and the web hosts weren’t the most responsive – telephone calls to their support line either went unanswered or, when answered, were as much use as the proverbial chocolate teapot and so the decision was made to move the hosting to a more secure provider and to work on a plan to develop a new website.

The moral of this tale is simple. Make sure that you use the Google Webmaster Toolkit!

It’s the only way to let Google know what you’ve done should your site fall victim to an attack, keep your Toolkit account up to date and only use a web host that you know provides good security and a decent level of support.

And please don’t think that you’re immune – small businesses are the most targeted, the presumption being that their security is weaker than measures put in place by larger organisations and there are a number of websites that I keep an eye on that are attacked many times a day. However, being hosted on a secure platform with monitoring in place means that I am kept aware of the threats and can take remedial action, if required, very quickly.

To date, none has been required.

If you are worried by the security of your website, or your IT systems, please give me a call on 01793 238020 or email me, andy@enterprise-oms.co.uk for a confidential, impartial, and free chat about your security concerns

How much did your last cup of coffee cost?

HOW MUCH DID YOUR LAST CUP OF COFFEE COST?

By  on May 27, 2014

Coffee - how much did your last one cost?Imagine the scene, you’re between meetings and decide to drop in to your favourite coffee shop for a steaming hot cup of your favourite coffee, a cake and to tap into their Wi-Fi to read your emails, refresh your knowledge in time for your next meeting or simply to surf the web.

Then the urge hits, you look around and see that everybody seems respectable enough so you you head off to the toilet thinking that your laptop is safe on the table. After all, nobody would lift it in sight of all those customers, staff and CCTV cameras would they?

Laptop tracking service provider, Prey, found that areas offering free Wi-Fi were the second most common target for opportunistic laptop thefts – the only riskier place being left  in a visible place in your car.

If stolen, it’s not only the inconvenience of re Laptopplacing the laptop, re-installing your applications and copying back your data [you do back-up your data don’t you?] it’s the additional costs that aren’t covered by your insurance.

The Ponemon Institute, a US cyber crime consultancy, put the real cost of the loss of a laptop and it’s data at nearly £31,000. This was broken down in to £4,000 for the loss of Intellectual Property, forensics and legal bills adding around £1,500 with a staggering £24,500 attributable to the loss of income, customers and competitive advantage associated with a data breach

SPOOF HOTSPOT
When you sit down and try to log-on to the Wi-Fi there’s often a selection of hotspots to choose from. How do you know which is the free service provided by the venue and which is a spoof.

It’s very easy to set up a Wi-Fi hotspot using a mobile phone, Mi-Fi type of device or laptop and allow other users to connect through this free connection. However, all of the traffic can then be intercepted by the person providing the spoof account – what sort of important information is passed from your laptop through this connection? It could be your details to access your online banking, the log-in to your company network or the necessary information required to access your corporate email account.

So, the next time you stop off for a cup of coffee and decide to log-on using their free Wi-Fi, just make sure you know which network that you’re connecting to and that you don’t leave your laptop unattended.

Are you being held to ransom by your computer?

There’s a new strain of Windows malware that’s doing the rounds and it’s pretty nasty.

Ransomware has been around for a while now, the concept is that you are convinced to click on a link in an email which ends up with the installation of a piece of software on your machine that stops you from working unless you hand over some money.

A Ransomware Scree

The most common variant flashes a message on your screen from the Metropolitan Police warning you that illegal activity has been detected and that your computer is now locked – until you pay the “fine”.

Although worrying to see, these types of attacks are relatively easy to cure. However there’s a new kid in town, it’s far more malicious and cannot be easily solved – it’s called CryptoLocker and its bad news.

You get the infection by either clicking on a link in a phishing email or by visiting an infected website. Either way, the CryptoLocker software is installed on your PC without your knowledge. Some of the phishing emails reported so far look as if they’ve come from Companies House or as a supposed customer complaint.

CryptoLocker ScreenOnce it’s been installed it starts to encrypt your data using an almost unbreakable form of encryption. If you back up your data across a network or to an external hard drive and it’s connected then CryptoLocker will also encrypt your back-up.

Once it’s finished your PC will flash up a ransom message on your screen demanding a payment of $300 within 3-4 days with payment to be made through one of the anonymous cash services such as MoneyPak, Ukash or through the BitCoin digital currency.

If you fail to pay up the de-cryption key is destroyed immediately and your data is lost!

Although the software itself can be removed fairly easily from your computers your data remains encrypted so there’s no way to get your data back without paying the ransom and hoping that the criminal minds behind this scheme are good enough to share the decryption key with you – without actually demanding more money.

Even experienced anti-virus company, Sophos, have been unable to find a way to decrypt the files without the decryption key.

So, how do you protect yourself?

  1. Make sure that your anti-virus software is always up to date, all of the good ones will do this automatically provided nobody has disabled it in the hope that it will make their computer run a little faster.
  2. Be highly suspicious of any hyperlinks in emails – hover your mouse over the link before clicking to see the actual web address the link goes to and if it bears no resemblance to what it should be then don’t click.
  3. And just use common sense when browsing the internet.

If you’re not sure about any of this, please don’t hesitate to give me a call on 01793 238020 or email me andy@enterprise-oms.co.uk

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