Keeping Your Online Gadgets Safe

A wide range of household gadgets are being targeted by hackers, now that a gap in their security has been revealed. It is vital that for your own safety and security that you know how easy it is to keep your gadgets free from hacking by burglars and other criminals, so I shall outline very easy ways to enable this safety.

Gadgets that are being targeted include televisions, kids’ toys, smart thermostats, smart speakers, baby monitors and smart cameras. Most experts within this field have stated that the security of these devices is very good, but devices that use wireless technology is a criminal’s path straight into your own home, as they can easily be hacked. Similarly, Bluetooth connections between gadgets is another method of access into your own private life within your home. These have all come about due to the passwords attached to the gadgets being easily predicted, and not changed by house owners, leaving them vulnerable to hacking by burglars. Below, we look at the gadgets listed above, and advise you with some very easy steps to make them much safer and resilient to hackers.

Televisions:

Televisions come with cameras, microphones and web connection, all of which are accessible for hackers, potentially being able to use these means to broadcast inappropriate videos directly onto your TV. To resist this from happening, put some black tape over the top of the camera on your TV, and tweak your security settings to make it harder for hackers to get through (reset password etc.).

Kids’ Toys

Your children could be contacted by perverts through their gadgets where offensive images, videos or voices could be broadcast to them. Which? Has stated that karaoke machines, robots and walkie talkies all had security flaws, and 3 of the 7 toys tested could allow strangers to be in contact with the user. To improve the security of these gadgets, alter the PIN numbers and passwords, and turn the gadgets off when not in use by the children.

Smart Thermostats

The altering of your heating in your house could leave clues to hackers and burglars as to whether or not you are home, where if the heating is off for a long period, it would suggest to them that you are not in your house, leaving it vulnerable to burglary. To avoid your thermostat being hacked, again alter your password to something strong, and potentially allow two-step authentication, making your gadget more resilient and less likely to be hacked.

Smart Speakers

One of the best speakers in the market is Amazon’s Alexa, a gadget found in within most families now-a-days. However, there are some security fears that hackers are listening or even watching your daily activities through the cameras that some of the products are equipped with. Look for cameras on the product, and cover these up. There is also an option to opt out of being listened to, and manually programme instructions to Alexa through a tablet, being more secure, if strong passwords are set up between the two devices.

Baby Monitors and Smart Cameras

Some video cameras that can be bought cheaply on online shopping markets such as amazon have been tested to have security flaws, making it easier for hackers to access your gadgets. Weak passwords and remote access for strangers were noticed as key factors that meant hackers could easily use the cameras to investigate your homes. Before you buy a product such as this, use products that are well-known such as Arlo and Nest, which all have a high level of security.

If you require any help or advise whilst setting up your gadgets please get in touch with us here https://www.mpmit.co.uk/contact-mpm-it-computer-support-services/

The MPMIT Team, offering local IT support in byte sized chunks to Micro businesses and Sole Traders in the Ipswich, Bury St Edmunds, Stowmarket and the surrounding areas.

World Backup Day – without data where would we be now?

Covid-19, and the subsequent lockdowns, has proven just how data-dependent we are. Millions of people are now working from home and if it wasn’t for the internet and data, economies the world over would crash spectacularly.

Data allows us to withdraw cash from ATMs, make remote payments and buy things in shops even as high streets are shuttered up. We can remotely communicate with friends, families, and colleagues and keep things ticking as the world limps along.

Of course, we don’t think of data as enabling us to work from home, it’s all about the internet and broadband speeds but without data where we would be now? We’d be in a world of filing cabinets, mountains of paper, clickety-clack typewriters, and clipboards.

As such the current situation drives home the importance of this week’s World Backup Day, which was on the 31st March.

Your data is more valuable than your smartphone, laptop, and Mac

Believe it or not, hardware is cheap compared to your files. Lose your smartphone or laptop and you can replace them. Lose your data and you’re in trouble if it’s not backed up.

Think of all those tunes, videos, films, contact numbers, letters, photos, work, research, work projects and anything else you hold valuable – they’re all gone.

Maybe you can put a financial value on them; perhaps you’ve spent lots of money on music and videos, perhaps you’ve spent endless hours on work and personal projects, maybe you’ve been gathering photos over the years?

It’s hard to put a price on these personal, and often precious, things.

What do you do?

You back everything up that you hold valuable and don’t want to lose.

It’s a simple thing to do. You’re making a second copy of everything that would result in a lot of weeping and wailing if you lost it.

If something happens to the original files you can restore the backups to your computer, smartphone, tablet or laptop.

Why should you back up?

There are some very common situations in which people lose their data. Your smartphone is lost or stolen, a hard drive crashes, you leave a laptop on a train, plane or bus, your device is infected with malware that locks up your files or you accidentally delete important files.

Backup options

Simply put a backup refers to any piece of data that exists in two places. It’s essentially a recovery plan and as such it’s common to keep backups offsite such as in the cloud or at the very least on an external or storage device.

Using a cloud backup service is the easiest, most economical and most effective way of keeping your important data safe.

BullGuard Premium Protection and BullGuard Internet Security both have integrated cloud backup for DropBox, Google Drive and OneDrive, and external storage such as standalone hard drive or USB.

You simply create a profile then decide what you want to back up, where you want to back it up and when. It’s as simple as that. And all your invaluable data is safe. What better than that on World Backup Day to make a plan for backing up your data?

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

 

 

Malware – There’s A New One In Town

A powerful malware is spreading through phishing campaigns using a Microsoft Word attachment.

It’s called Smoke Loader, and, according to Bullguard, has several components:

  • It can download browser plug-ins for Firefox, Internet Explorer, Chrome, Opera, QQ Browser browsers and Thunderbird and Outlook email clients
  • These plug-ins steal stored credentials, such as passwords, and also sensitive information transferred over a browser
  • The malware is injected into applications like TeamViewer, an application that allows users to remotely view others desktops

Although it’s been around for some years, it has become increasingly sophisticated.

Its creators have recently added anti-analysis techniques to make forensics difficult. As a result, it’s harder to trace the source of the servers. Plus new runtime AV scanners, tracing, and debugging features to confound researchers who try and find out more about it.

Keep your eyes peeled

The best way to guard against phishing campaigns, other than using good security software, is to be on your guard.

Phishing emails contain some form of bait message, such as an invoice, a parcel for collection or a PDF requiring downloading.

You can protect yourself by:

  • Casting a healthily suspicious eye on an unexpected email promising something
  • Questioning emails from apparently legitimate organisations with which you have had no dealing. Cybercrooks are good at mocking up emails that appear to be legitimate
  • Looking out for spelling or syntax errors; these are often clues that the email is not what it claims to be
  • Never revealing your personal information such as passwords, bank account numbers and card information even if the mail appears to be from your bank. If in doubt call your bank and speak to someone in the fraud department

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

Look Out, There’s SMS Phishing About

SMS Phishing scam

 

SMS Phishing is fast becoming one of the most common forms of threat – even more so than fake apps.

You might think that in the scale of things, SMS scams as a cyber threat is a bit old school, but that’s what makes them so darn clever. You are constantly reminded about looking out for fake apps, dodgy emails and unsecured websites but what happens if you get a text telling you you’ve won a product?

The chances are because it’s not an email, you would be drawn in. The fake URL contained within the message proves too tempting, and you click – after all, what harm could it do? It’s only a text.

The problem is that one click will unleash malware on your smartphone.

Don’t get caught out

It pays to be vigilant whether using your PC, tablet or phone. To help you stay safe here are a few things to watch out for, courtesy of BullGuard:

  • Don’t click on messages from unknown sources that contain links
  • Don’t reply to any messages that ask about your finances
  • If the text demands a quick reply, ignore it, it’s probably a smishing attempt
  • Don’t call back a number associated with a text that has arrived ‘out of the blue’
  • If the message starts: “Dear user, congratulations, you have won” (or something along those lines) it’s a scam
  • If the message purports to be from a long lost friend, it’s a scam

To be on the safe side, here at MPM we recommend you protect your devices with a product like BullGuard (others are available).

Above all, stay vigilant and 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.

Source: BullGuard

It’s The Season of Giving But That Doesn’t Mean You Should Give a Stranger Access to Your Computer

Scammers and hackers

 

It’s The Season of the Hacker

We first published this blog post back in June of last year to warn you about hackers. However, considering the number of clients we’ve been trying to rescue from scams recently, it’s about time we posted it again.

Regardless of whether you get a phone call purporting to be from your phone company or a software giant, hang up. Just today we were called by ‘BT’ telling us that someone had hacked our router and could see all our internet searches and purchases. All we had to do was go to Google and open a site…we put the phone down at that point. And that’s what you should be doing.

Now and then the scam phone calls start.

They come out of the blue to catch you unawares.

As you go about your business, someone informs you there’s a problem with your computer – what do you do?

Before I answer that take a look at these questions:

  • Would you give a total stranger the keys to your house?
  • Would you give a total stranger the keys to your car?
  • Would you tell a total stranger how to access your financial banking system?

I’m guessing you answered no to all of those. So how come people give a total stranger (i.e. a hacker) access to their computer?

On the strength of one unsolicited call, people allow remote access to their computers – and that means their files, photos and everything else they hold dear.

Yes, the caller is probably very polite, they will even try to make you believe they are doing you a favour and have called just in the nick of time.

But answer me this – how do they know what’s on your computer? There is no way they can tell what software you’re running, programmes or anything else for that matter, so there is no way they’ll know whether you have a virus on your machine or not.

No one from a multinational billion dollar turnover company (i.e. Microsoft) is going to phone a residential customer to resolve an issue on their PC or laptop.

When you get one of these bogus calls – and you will – do yourself a favour and hang up on them. If you want, call a trusted local company, like MPM IT and get them to check over your PC for you for your peace of mind.

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 Think Twice Before Sharing Your Location Online

don't share your location

 

It’s good to share – at least that’s what many of today’s apps would like you to believe.

Foursquare, Facebook, Swarm and Twitter encourage you to check-in everywhere you go. Now, for most of us, that’s not a big deal. However, if you’re one of those people with hundreds and thousands of followers, are you sure sharing is safe?

The potential harm

You might think this is a fuss over nothing and, to be honest, 90% of the time sharing your location is completely harmless. But, the potential for crime is real.

There have been instances where burglars have monitored social media so the can target houses of those posting idyllic photos of their beach holiday.

Sharing your location can lead to unwanted visitors – how about a jealous ex turning up unannounced? OK, this in all likelihood is rare, but it could happen.

Sharing safely

We don’t want to be a party pooper, and you can enjoy these apps safely. The key is to make sure you know who you’re sharing your location information with. Rather than broadcasting your location publicly, think about who you want to see where you are.

Panda Security offers these tips:

Apple

Tools like Apple’s iMessage allow you to send pinpoint locations to specific contacts for instance – perfect when you’re trying to organise a meeting, or when one of your friends gets lost on the way. Find My Friends, another Apple app, allows family members and close friends to keep tabs on each other all the time – so long as they agree to sharing their location first.

Android

For Android users, Panda Mobile Security limits sharing personal information through the Privacy Auditor. It shows the permissions required by the apps installed on your device (access to contacts, bank account data, photos, your location, etc.). With a quick look you’ll decide which apps can have access to your location.

Google Maps offers similar functionality – but to maintain your privacy you must set a time limit for sharing. This means your contacts will only see where you are for a few hours or days, reducing the risk of someone you don’t want following you around.

So there are ways you can share your location safely.

Above all:

  • Don’t share your location blindly to everyone
  • Regularly check your sharing permissions
  • use privacy-based apps like iMessage, Find My Friends and Google Maps

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

Source: Panda Security

Please, Please, Backup Your Data

backup

Have you noticed how many ‘experts’ have sprung up recently?

They’re everywhere.

They’re always telling you to eat healthier, drink less, do more exercise – basically stating what should be obvious. Of course, that doesn’t mean you take any notice of their advice. After all, if you did everything they told you to do life would be pretty boring.

The problem is you shouldn’t ignore all their advice. Listen to it and take on board the things that will make a difference to you.

If you do ignore all the advice you are given, you could regret it.

Take a new client of ours.

The other day, we a small business that had tried to self-manage its computer and fix a problem itself.

The fix resulted in the loss of emails. After much head scratching, the team decided to call MPMIT.

Of course, the first thing we did was to ask if they had a backup, to which they replied:

‘What’s that? Not sure how I go about doing that.’

After a visit to their site, we managed to retrieve their emails and get their systems back up and working again.

After explaining what help MPMIT can provide for small businesses they have agreed to come onboard with our 6 monthly maintenance scheme.

The maintenance scheme consists of regular site visits primarily to make sure that everything is clean and dust free, that all the software is behaving itself and is up to date, and to make sure you have a backup of all your data external to the machines in your business.

The moral of this story is, if you haven’t already done so, make sure you have a maintenance plan sorted? If you don’t, you could end up doing a lot of damage to your business.

 

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

Beware Fake Apps

Fake apps

 

Yes, there really are fake apps out there masquerading as the real deal.

They can be used to implant trojans onto your device that can, for instance, be used to steal banking credentials, spyware and adware.

Last year, two new types of mobile malware were found that planted adware and spyware:

  • LevelDropper – discovered in the Google Play Store it first rooted devices and then went on to install applications on the victim’s device such as adware and malicious spyware.
  • Shedun – masqueraded as legitimate apps such as Facebook, Twitter and WhatsApp and then planted adware

How to spot the fakes

A recent article on Bullguard.com offers some handy tips on how you can spot fake apps:

  • Many fake apps are clones of popular established apps. If in doubt as to the legitimacy of an app you are about to download back pedal a little bit and do a bit of research.

  • Read reviews about the app. If they are short and a bit bland it could well be a scam. Also look out for reviews from users who have been duped; they’ll let you know in no uncertain terms if it’s a scam.

  • However, also keep in mind that an app with few reviews or few downloads might be from a developer who is just starting out.

  • To establish a developer’s legitimacy see if they have a website. If they are genuine they will likely have website  that showcases their apps.

  • You can also check the app details. If it’s genuine it will likely be well designed with lots of clear instructions. If it’s a scam its likely to be poorly designed so much so it could be actually quite jarring.

Here at MPMIT, we recommend you use BullGuard to protect your devices.

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

Tips From the Pros to Help You Find the Right Cybersecurity Product For Your Business

keep data safe

 

Making sure you find the right Cybersecurity product for your business is essential but with so many companies out there vying for your cash, how can you be sure you pick the right one?

A recent article on pcworld.com includes some top tips from actual buyers of enterprise security products. Here’s a summary of what they said:

  • Do your research by looking at customer recommendations instead of relying on what the vendors say

  • Test the security product in house

  • “Great security companies are concentrating not just on selling, but they’re interested in supporting your enterprise, and providing consulting [and] best security practices” – Damian Finol, security technical program manager at a major internet firm

  • Approach your product search with a firm plan – “identify what your success criteria is and tell that to the vendor. And then bake that into the service contract” – Quentin Taylor, director of information security at Canon EMEA

  • “Bad vendors tend to use scare tactics, while good vendors listen to your needs and try to help secure your business, even if that means offering free advice” – Jonathan Chow, a CISO at an entertainment focused company

  •  “Be wary of vendors that can’t offer any customer references, or that only offer product demos under strict test conditions” – Brian Honan, CEO of BH Consulting

You can see the full article here.

All sound advice.

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