How To Avoid Dry, Sore, And Itchy Eyes

Dry, sore, and itchy eyes are not just due to hay fever.  They can also be caused by prolonged exposure to screens.

Today, many of us spend hours in front of computer screens. With technology such an integral part of our daily lives, our eyes are taking a battering, more so than ever before.

Away from work, you probably spend many hours looking at your smartphone, tablet, and TV, so your eyes never get a break.

So what can you do to prevent or at least reduce the problem?

Give your dry, sore, and itchy eyes a break

When staring at a screen for hours and long periods, your blink frequency and can lead to dry, sore and itchy eyes. It doesn’t sound like a major problem, but it is annoying and unpleasant.

To remedy the situation, make sure you drink plenty of water to help keep mucus membranes hydrated and use eye drops for short-term relief.

Another great bit of advice is to stick to the 20/20/20 rule.

For every 20 minutes you spend looking at a screen you should look 20 feet away for 20 seconds.

You see, it’s the small things that make the difference.

MPM Computer Consultancy provides IT Services, Support and Training to sole traders and small businesses in Ipswich, Bury St Edmunds, and surrounding villages.  

Watch Out For Malicious PDF Attachments

Malicious PDFs are another hacker’s favourite. Over the past few weeks, we’ve been looking at ways you can be vigilant in the fight against hackers. So far, we’ve looked at two-factor authentication, encryption, and avoiding public WiFi.

This time we’re going to look at PDFs attached to emails.

Why PDF attachments can be bad news

Hackers are sneaky by nature.

On the face of it, a PDF looks quite an innocuous document. After all, you open them every day during your regular working practices. However, there is a darker side to the humble PDF.

Its called steganography – derived from the Greek language meaning ‘covered writing’, where a data file or malicious code can be hidden within another file.

A PDF file is a perfect vessel for hackers because they’re generally thought to be safe. However, if you receive one that contains malicious code, opening it will drop the code on to your device in a similar manner to clicking on a malicious link on a website.

How to stay safe from malicious PDFs

They are challenging to catch and check. That’s why it’s best that whatever PDF reader you use, your anti-virus or endpoint protection is up to date and that your email servers are running current and updated filters.

Software is also available that can test the PDF file before allowing it through to the intended user.

Be vigilant. Stay safe.

MPM Computer Consultancy provides IT Services, Support and Training to sole traders and small businesses in Ipswich, Bury St Edmunds, and surrounding villages.  

Why You Should Avoid Using Public WiFi

Using public WiFi is a no-no unless you want to hand your private data over to hackers.

This is another example of how to fight hackers. We’ve already looked at two-factor authentication and encryption.

Public WiFi might seem like the perfect way to make your monthly-allocated data usage go further, but it’s fraught with dangers.

Public WiFi opens the door to hackers

When you’re out and about, your smartphone will detect many WiFi networks. Some will be locked, requiring a password to log on. Others will purport to be public access, free services.

However, the thing you have to remember is that these free, public access networks are also insecure.

What does that mean?

It means that when you use them, everything you type is in clear text and can be read, accessed, recorded or taken over by anyone with the correct equipment.

Can you make public WiFi safe?

If you rely on these public WiFi services, there is a solution to remove, or at least reduce the risk of hacking.

The solution is to use a Virtual Private Network (VPN), which scrambles your communications making them unreadable.

If a VPN isn’t provided by a business firewall, you can buy applications for about £3 a month. These will scramble all communications through insecure connections.  Once a VPN is being used, there’s no way the ISP or anyone else can read or record what you’re browsing.

The moral of this post

If you have to use public WiFi when you’re out and about, make sure you use a virtual private network. If you don’t you run the risk of losing your privacy and, possibly, your data.

MPM Computer Consultancy provides IT Services, Support and Training to sole traders and small businesses in Ipswich, Bury St Edmunds, and surrounding villages.  

 

How Encryption Will Prevent Hackers From Cracking Your Device

Despite what you might think, encryption isn’t just for spooks and confidential files.

Instead, it’s another tool you can use in your armoury against hackers. Just like two-factor authentication that we talked about in an earlier post.

What does encryption do?

The whole point of using an encryption product is to keep your data safe from prying eyes. It scrambles your data and asks for a unique key to be entered before allowing your device to be booted up.

If your device was hacked and you weren’t using encryption, your data would be clear and readily available to the hacker. However, using it makes your data completely useless and inaccessible.

Should you use a free service?

In a word, no – the encryption services that come free with your operating system or that are downloadable from the internet are free for a reason; they are no good.

That’s why it’s best to use a paid service. You can find them online for as little as £15.

However, having said, don’t use the free ones, there is an exception. Apple devices have encryption built into their operating system, which is rather good, so make sure you switch it on.

MPM Computer Consultancy provides IT Services, Support and Training to sole traders and small businesses in Ipswich, Bury St Edmunds, and surrounding villages.  

Two-Factor Authentication Helps Fight Hackers

Two-factor authentication can help you stop hackers exploit any weakness in your online armoury.

One of the biggest mistakes people make, that could allow hackers to crack their devices, is their password choice.

It’s a pain having to have so many different passwords that are not easily guessable, but it’s also essential in the fight against hackers.

Two-factor authentication banishes the password blues

Passwords have been the go-to security measure for anyone wanting to access and manage the data on their devices.

Despite attempts at creating complex un-breakable passwords, the simplicity of their form makes them easily exposed and simple to hack.

As recent news reports have shown, these hacked passwords can then be sold on the dark web. The problem is exacerbated by the tendency of people to use the same or similar simple passwords across many different accounts.

So how can you sole the password problem?

The solution is to use another additional level of security alongside the usual user ID and password. This is a system called two-factor authentication, and is freely available on Google, PayPal, Amazon and most other common applications.

Generally, it involved a password and then a random code generated by an app or sent by text. This additional security layer makes it almost impossible for hackers to gain access to your data, and therefore helps you stay safe and secure online.

 

MPM Computer Consultancy provides IT Services, Support and Training to sole traders and small businesses in Ipswich, Bury St Edmunds, and surrounding villages. 

 

 

Windows 7 Support Is Stopping – Time For A New PC?

A refurbished PC could be just what you need with Windows 7 support stopping.

Microsoft announced that January 14th2020 is D-day.

Being one of the tech giants more popular operating systems, a recent report from Netmarketshare suggests that Windows 7 is still being used on 39% of all PCs.

If the thought of running a PC for which there is to be no support should things go wrong, terrifies you, perhaps it’s time to think about time investing in a new PC.

Finding the right refurbished PC

A stroll around PC World or any other large electronics retail outlet will show you there are a vast number of machines to choose from. They each seem to offer the world to the un-techie user, so how can you be sure you get the right PC for you?

You could opt for the prettiest, cheapest, or the one with the flashiest marketing hype, or you could do the sensible thing and get yourself a refurbished one for a fraction of the price of a new one.

Of course, the cost isn’t the only benefit.

  • Buying a second-hand machine means you can probably afford a higher spec in terms of memory, screen quality, and processor speed
  • The reason for it being refurbished could be something as simple as replacing a touchpad or something equally superficial
  • Fully refurbished computers generally come with a decent warranty period
  • You’ll be helping the environment by buying second-hand rather than brand new

If you need to upgrade due to the Windows 7 support issue, think about purchasing a refurbished model before splashing out something brand new.

MPM can offer a competitive range of refurbished PCs and Laptops with a good warranty period. 

You just let us know:

  • Your budget,
  • What you use your computer for, for example; only internet and email, or photo’s, or family tree stuff, or to access our works server etc.
  • What connections your monitor has if you require a PC, so you don’t have to replace that as well

Then we will get to work to find the best fit for you.  Call on 1449 770704 for a competitive quote.

MPM Computer Consultancy provides IT Services, Support and Training to sole traders and small businesses in Ipswich, Bury St Edmunds, and surrounding villages.   

How to Avoid Back, Neck, and Shoulder Pain

Back, neck and shoulder pain is fast becoming accepted as part of everyday life.

With so many of us office-based and sat in front of computers, in meetings, in aeroplanes or cars most of the day, it’s no wonder we’re dogged by aches and pains.

Years ago, before the onset of technology, we were far more active. However, today’s sedentary lifestyles and working environments are the root cause of our growing ailments.

Technology is to blame for our back, neck, and shoulder pain

Technology has been a fabulous time-saver in the workplace. It has enabled us to do things we never before dreamed of. In light of our growing awareness of climate change, it’s allowed businesses to reduce travel times. Instead of flying halfway around the world for a meeting, video conferencing is cutting costs and emissions.

However, on the downside, technology encourages us to sit for hours. However, our bodies aren’t designed to do that.  But the problem isn’t purely down to the computer. It comes down to our posture.

Improving your posture will reduce aches and pains

The plus side of this is that something can be done about it – and it doesn’t take massive changes to make a difference.

Never sit longer than 40 minutes without getting up and walking around to stretch your legs.

Think about your posture while you’re seated. The correct desk posture is feet on the floor, your bottom and shoulder blades pushed into the back of the chair.  Ideally, use a chair with armrests, so your arms are bent at 90 degrees and are flat on the desk.  Your eyes should be level with the top of the screen.

If you use a laptop, you’re always looking down, forcing your neck muscles to support the weight of your head.  Get a stand with a mobile keyboard and mouse and always rest your laptop on a table, not on your lap.

Small changes like these can make a big difference to your general health and wellbeing. Give them a go and say goodbye to neck, shoulder, and back pain.

MPM Computer Consultancy provides IT Services, Support and Training to sole traders and small businesses in Ipswich, Bury St Edmunds, and surrounding villages.  

The End Of EBooks Bought From Microsoft

Microsoft ebooks are coming to an end. If you bought ebooks through Microsoft’s online store, you’re losing (or have already lost) your library.

The service was first launched back in 2017 and relied on the use of a web browser rather than a dedicated app. Sadly, it failed to build a significant audience. Therefore, in April, Microsoft warned customers about this after giving up any ambitions of making its Surface computers a popular choice on which to read novels and textbooks.

Microsoft ebooks couldn’t dethrone Amazon’s Kindle

You may not know this, but Microsoft predates Amazon in this industry by a whopping seven years.

The MSReader format was launched in 2000. It was part of an alliance with the retailer Barnes and Noble. But along with rival efforts by Palm and the French firm Mobipocket, there was little interest.

Undeterred, it tried to get back into the market again in 2012 as part of a second tie-up with B&N. However, that also struggled, and the partnership came to an end in 2014.

You may not be aware Microsoft made a third run at the industry. However, experts say the cut-off serves as a reminder that you do not own a copy of most digital purchases outright. Instead, you have purchased a licence that can expire.

“The fact is that you don’t own e-books when you buy them with DRM [digital rights management] from Amazon or anywhere else,” commented Jim Killock, executive director of the Open Rights Group.

“Technical controls through DRM are said to reduce unauthorised copying, but what they are really for is putting Amazon or Microsoft in charge of the e-book ecosystem.” An organisation called Defective by Design, however, maintains a list of ways to buy or otherwise legally download content that is not bound by such restrictions.

What does this mean for Microsoft customers?

What does it mean for all those titles you bought through Microsoft? Well, any purchases or titles offered for free will no longer be available.  However, out-of-pocket users are offered refunds, including a $25 (£20) credit if they made highlights or notes, which will also be lost.

MPM Computer Consultancy provides IT Services, Support and Training to sole traders and small businesses in Ipswich, Bury St Edmunds, and surrounding villages.  

Source: BBC

Phishing Link Clicks – What Is The Potential Cost?

Phishing link click and their associated costs are big news. If you remember, last week we brought you a story from BullGuard about European banks and their need for better phishing protection.

To put the potential costs involved into perspective, here’s another story that highlights what a phishing attack can equate to in hard earned cash. It’s quite an eye-opener.

Ransomware has slipped off the mainstream media radar of late but it’s still out there causing havoc.

BullGuard reported the latest victims, which are two townships in Florida, US:

  • The town of Riviera Beach, 80 miles from Miami, paid US $600,000 worth of Bitcoins to a cybercrook who had locked its IT systems with ransomware
  • Lake City, a small town in Northern Florida, paid $460,000-worth of Bitcoin to hackers to regain control of its email systems and servers

In both cases the ransomware infections appear to be the result of users mistakenly clicking on malicious links in their emails, which then released the ransomware into the wider IT systems.

  • Riviera Beach lost access to its email, IT systems were knocked offline and 911 emergency services were disrupted
  • Lake City local government departments had to resort to pen and paper and residents were told to monitor the Lake City Police Department’s Facebook page for any critical updates

These attacks are the latest in an on going trend in which cyber criminals target the US public sector with crippling ransomware attacks.

  • So far in 2019 there have been 22 known attacks on US public-sector organisations including Baltimore and New York’s state capital, Albany
  • Two of the most destructive ransomware attacks were in Atlanta and Newark with more than $6 million extorted in ransoms. The US Department of Justice said these two attacks alone caused more than $30 million in damage

The cyber villains launching these attacks come from disparate backgrounds ranging from Iranian hackers to suspects in Romania and Hungary.

The one thing they have in common is the recognition that the US public sector is vulnerable to ransomware attacks and often willing to pay to have their systems unlocked.

What does this mean for you?

As a home user (or small business), you’re hardly presenting the same ‘half a million dollar’ opportunity that US public sector organisation are. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t become a target, especially when ransomware crooks decide to launch a mass phishing mail campaign.

To keep yourself safe, always use layered security software designed to identify new types of malware, including ransomware. And, always back up your data whether it’s to cloud-based storage or a stand-alone device.

MPM Computer Consultancy provides IT Services, Support and Training to sole traders and small businesses in Ipswich, Bury St Edmunds, and surrounding villages.  

 

Source: BullGuard

European Banks Need Better Phishing Protection

Phishing scams are big business, which is why we were shocked to read an article on BullGuard’s website.

It would appear as though European banks – those monoliths that we believe to be impenetrable to cyber-attacks and scams – are not doing enough to protect is from phishing scams.

We’ll let BullGuard fill you in:

Phishing scams and European banks

Up to a quarter of major European banks are not providing best practise phishing protection to their customers according to a survey from Sectigo, a cybersecurity analyst firm.

The firm looked at banking websites and rated them based on the presence of SSL certificate verifications provided by a Certificate Authority (CA), which confirm that a website is authentic and legitimate.

  • Each bank’s website was rated according to the type of certificate used to secure the home and login pages for the bank’s online banking service.
  • Full marks were awarded for the presence of Extended Validation (EV) SSL certificates and the maximum level of identity verification on the home and login pages.
  • Websites without an EV certificate on the home and/or login pages received a lesser rating.

An Extended Validation Certificate (EV) is a certificate used for HTTPS websites and software that proves the organisation that provides the sites/software are who they claim to be.

In Europe, 25% of banks did not receive the highest rating, but thankfully, there wasn’t one single bank that warranted a ‘not secure’ status.

What does this mean in practice? 

Cybercriminals often create counterfeit websites to trick people into unknowingly providing valuable information such as account logins, credit card numbers and personally identifiable information that can be used for identity theft.

  • A website using an EV SSL Certificate displays security indicators directly in the browser address bar, such as a padlock, HTTPS, and the verified company name and country.
  • A website that doesn’t display these signs suggests it’s a counterfeit website or as the Sectigo survey shows, a bank that isn’t paying full attention to its online presence.

User advice

Given the widespread use of phishing campaigns and counterfeit web pages it’s recommended that you check the following points when logging onto a site in which you might make a payment or enter sensitive data:

  • Look for the full company name at the left of the address bar to ensure the site is legitimate.
  • Don’t enter credit card numbers, personal information, logins, or other sensitive data on any web page that is not secured with a certificate that is, displaying a padlock in the browser bar.
  • Avoid clicking on links in emails that you weren’t expecting and which attempt to get you to enter personal information. These are typically phishing emails.

MPM Computer Consultancy provides IT Services, Support and Training to sole traders and small businesses in Ipswich, Bury St Edmunds, and surrounding villages.