New Computer? Here’s Our Security Advice

Don't fall for viruses

 

Getting a new computer is exciting.

Come on, admit it. It doesn’t matter how many you’ve owned in the past; you always get a buzz when unpacking a new one.

You look forward to a long and happy life together. However, the only way you can make sure that happens is to protect it from all the cyber nasties that are out there just waiting for their chance to bring your online world crashing down.

Whether you’re an old hand at owning computers, or this is your first foray into the world of the internet, here are a few gentle reminders to help you stay safe:

  • Your computer is sturdy but not indestructible
  • It likes to be clean
  • It doesn’t like liquids or food of any kind
  • Nothing is forever; just because you save a document doesn’t mean it’s there for posterity
  • Start off not trusting anything that comes from the internet until it’s proven safe
  • Saving is NOT automatic. If in doubt, save it again
  • The internet is public, and anything you put on it should be treated as though it were broadcast to the world
  • If in doubt, HANDS OFF and call someone who understands computer stuff
  • If “Microsoft” call you, hang up (it’s not them)
  • Get paid antivirus
  • Set a strong admin password (not ‘password’) and use a normal user (non-admin) account for everyday use
  • If it sounds too good to be true, it is
  • IF IN DOUBT ABOUT ANYTHING SPEAK TO SOMEONE BEFORE ACTING

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

 

Beware – Technical Support From Your ISP Could Be a Scam

ISP pop up scam

 

A recent article in Transcendit caught our eye, so we wanted to bring its content to your attention.

It’s to do with pop-up ads.

You might think the reign of the pop-up scam was now over, but sadly not. The latest hacking scam is a pop-up advert that pretends to be from your Internet Service Provider (ISP) and the worrying thing is just how authentic it looks.

It gives you a phone number and the message: ‘Our system scans have detected malicious software on your computer. Your personal photos, credit card information and passwords may be at risk. Contact our certified technicians for immediate assistance.’

The most convincing part is that it looks as if it’s come straight from whoever provides your internet.

The scam works because these legitimate-looking ads persuade potential victims to call the hackers directly, rather than the other way round. Then it only takes a little social engineering to convince victims that something on their computer is causing trouble, and encourage them to install something to ‘fix’ the problem.

What should you do if you get a pop-up?

If you get one of these and are worried that your computer may have been infected, run your own scan for viruses and malware using Windows Defender, or your own security program.

If you do get an alert informing you that your computer has been hacked, look up the number for your ISP and contact them directly, without using the number on the pop up.

If you’re still concerned, give MPMIT a call on 01449 770704 and give our IT support team a look. They’re happy to talk your through ways to secure your computer against viruses and malware.

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

The Internet Explorer Fights Back

boxerThe last post about Malware may have caused you a few sleepless nights. But you’ll be pleased to here the IT world isn’t all doom and gloom – because it’s fighting back.

Internet Explorer 9 is capable of blocking 99% of all socially-engineered malware.

What’s socially engineered malware?

It is designed to exploit the user rather than actual security flaws in your system. So it’s the scenario when you’re given an incentive of some sort to take an action. Of course, this then backfires on you and your computer is infected with cyber nasties.

No software in the universe can prevent the user from falling for these tricks but IE9 provides a security barrier which, in most cases, protects us (the user) from our own stupidity.

 Just 1% of social engineering attacks bypass IE9, with the browser blocking or warning customers for the rest of 99% of socially-engineered malware. Huge compared to Opera 10 for example, which lets all attacks pass.

According to NSS Labs (a security research and testing organization), “with a unique URL blocking score of 94% and over-time protection rating of 99%, Internet Explorer 9 was by far the best at protecting users against socially-engineered malware.”

This power comes from IE9’s SmartScreen technology which helps protect customers by detecting and blocking websites that distribute socially-engineered malware and phishing attacks.

It effectively adds an additional layer of protection by warning users when they attempt to download a higher risk application.

So if you want to stay safe online use IE9 – it could protect you from yourself!

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

WiFi – How Vulnerable Are You?

Three cheers for WiFi – now we can work almost anywhere, we don’t need as many wires as we used to and it gives us much more freedom.

But with freedom comes risk.

If you are on a wireless network (at home or at work), how secure are you?

I’m not talking about locks or physical security here but rather network security/

Does your WiFi network require a password?

Hopefully the answer is yes, but if it’s no you’re using an open WiFi network and potential at risk.

“That’s OK, our network is secured by using a WEP protocol key.”

That’s great but did you know these networks can also be vulnerable since WEP encryption is quite easy to crack (if you know what you’re doing).  Once an attacker has gained access to your network they will be able to view all the traffic on it in the same way as they could on an open network.

There’s food for thought.

But don’t panic. Using a WPA secured network makes it much harder for attackers to deal with. This is because traffic to each user is secured separately so an attacker would have to decrypt each packet they captured before they could exploit the vulnerability. Quite frankly, for most people, that’s far too much like hard work so they won’t bother.

So at the end of the day, if you’re going to use any kind of public WiFi network, you could be putting yourself and your data at risk.

Author: 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 Losing Important Server Data

lose

It can happen to the best of us.

Lost data is inconvenient, annoying and can be down right expensive.

So how can you made sure you don’t fall foul of the data gremlins that love to cause chaos?

Well, before we get to that, here are a few sobering statistics to think about:

  • 60% of businesses close down within 6 months of losing their data
  • You could be fined up to £500,000 under the amended Data Protection Act if you’re found to have recklessly lost confidential data
  • 45% of business still have insufficient back-up procedures in place to protect their data

Sounds scary when you look at it like that, doesn’t it?

If you are one of the 45% read on (in fact even if you think you have sufficient procedures in place it would be a good idea to keep reading) because this blog post could save you time, money and your reputation.

9 Ways to reduce the risk of losing your data

1. Back-up system

We’ll start with the most obvious. If you don’t already have one, set up a back-up system both on and off site. You also need to test them regularly and should consider having a disaster recovery package.

By having an off site back-up you’ll help protect yourself from possible disasters such as fire or burglary.

2. Maintain your network

Set yourself up an early warning system. Using anti virus and keeping your patches up to date will help you maintain your network and hardware. This will help show up any devices that could potentially cause problems before they arise.

3. Keep an eye on your data

Understanding what data you store, where it’s stored and who has access to it will help you make sure it’s safe at all times. You should also regularly review your IT risk assessment and IT security policy.

4. Keep it secret

Wireless networks can run the risk of being hacked into because you don’t need a physical connection to access the data. To boost your security use a complicated password or hide the name of the network to stop potential intruders being aware of its existence.

5. USB

It’s a good idea to restrict the usage of USB memory sticks. This will prevent data being copied to unsecure devices and so reduce the risk of malware being introduced to your network.

6. Encrypt

If you have data going off site make sure it’s encrypted. You should also secure remote access to prevent data being stolen from mobile hardware.

7. Training

Make sure all your staff are trained in the importance of IT security (such as the use of passwords) and give them their own space on the service to save their documents.

8. Be up to date

Keep your asset register and user accounts up to date.

9. Keep it clean

Wipe data before disposing of old hardware or make sure recyclers do this for you.

By following these simple steps you will help prevent your company becoming yet another statistic.

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

Data Storage – NAS Drives

NAS Drives

We all know the benefits of backing-up our computer files.

Whether you opt for an external hard drive, USB stick, or other method, it pays to have your documents, pictures and music backed up in case of computer failure.

But there is a way of backing up all your family’s files so anyone in your household can access the files.

An external hard drive will allow you to backup the files from the PC it is attached to. But a NAS (Network Attached Storage) Drive plugs directly into a computer network. This therefore allows other devices on the network to access the information stored on the drive.

Because all your PCs, laptops, games consoles, televisions, media players and sound systems can all access it, the NAS Drive is becoming increasingly popular with home users. Plus many NAS Drives come with built in RAID which allows a number of discs to appear as one. Therefore if one of the disks fails it can continue to operate. Once the faulty disk is replaces, the drive is immediately back to full status without any loss of data.

4 reasons to try a NAS Drive

1. Shared storage

Because a NAS Drive connects to the network (unlike a conventional USB drive), it is simultaneously accessible through all connected Mac and Window computers. Therefore anyone in your network has access to the data.

2. Access anywhere

You can even access the content anywhere over the internet. If you have a broadband internet connection and home router, your NAS Drive can easily be configured to provide secure access to its stored files remotely via the internet.

3. Optional ‘spare’ hard drive

To add an extra layer of safety, an optional second hard disk drive can also be installed. Should the worse happen and the first hard drive fails, the second retains an extra copy of all your data and instantly takes over.

4. Supports most file types

Utilising advanced media streaming support, a NAS Drive can directly serve media (with no PC required) to devices such as Sonos® Digital Music System, Logitech SqueezeboxTM , Apple iTunes®, Sony Playstation® and Xbox 360®.

Therefore the NAS Drive offers a great alternative to traditional external hard drives. Its greater flexibility enables all network users to access the same data anywhere in a safe and secure environment.

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

More About Staying Safe Online

stay safe online In an earlier post I talked about staying safe online and being careful about what personal details you publish on social networking sites.

But what about professional sites such as LinkedIn – do you still have to be careful about what you write there?

The simple answer is yes.

Completing your full CV online isn’t a good idea. This information could be used by identity thieves when completing bogus loan applications or even worm their way into a company’s network if they have the know-how. So make sure you limit your work history.

At times you might be using sites like these in your job hunting activities. If that is the case, widen your scope of information only while job hunting. Once you have a position cut it back again leaving just information there to entice potential new employers in the future.

Just like Facebook, LinkedIn does offer you the ability to restrict the amount of information people have access to. For example you can close off access to others to your network of contacts. This can be very valuable especially if your network is sensitive to your job (e.g. as a sales professional or recruitment consultant).

Are you genuine?

Of course, staying safe online isn’t just about being careful about the information you give away. How can you be sure the person wanting to contact you is genuine? Are they really who they say they are?

There are a lot of reasons why someone would want to set up a fake profile – and most of them are bad. They could be looking to defame someone, embarrass someone by impersonating them or stealing their identity for fraudulent purposes. What’s more, their Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn accounts could be sending out links to malicious sites.

So how can you be sure the page/profile belongs to the person you think it does?

Well the best way is to stay watchful. If you know the person well, you’ll probably know their style and the type of things they are likely to post. If anything unusual appears email or call your friend to find out if it is legit or not.

Why do you need to know this?

Simply because the only way to crack down on fraudulent users is for us all to stay alert. By making sure you don’t reveal too much information about yourself and keeping watchful for fake accounts, we can all work together to rain on the ‘hoaxers’ parade!

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

How Much Information Are You Giving The Web?

information on the web Would you leave a note on your front door saying:

“We are away for the whole weekend…won’t be back until 10pm Sunday night.”

I should hope not.

So why do you write things like that on your social media status updates? OK, they might not be quite so blatant as that example, but you’d be surprised how many people leave personal information scattered around the web like that.

Applications like Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn with their ‘what are you doing now?’ facilities encourage people to let details slip that they wouldn’t normally tell their friends – yet alone strangers.

If someone out there is intent on doing you harm (e.g. through ID theft etc.), if you leave personal information on social networking sites, over time they will be able to piece together a picture of you. They’ll get to know about you, your family and your habits.

With the advent of mobile technology it is all too easy to make updates when your blood alcohol level is a bit on  the high side – i.e. at parties – which tends to blur the lines between what should be said and what should not. If you’re not careful you could lose a lot more than just friends.

Another favourite is updating people on your travel stories, normally while you’re travelling. It doesn’t take Einstein to work out that if you’re whinging about the appalling train service, you’re not at home, leaving your personal belongings unguarded.

So make sure you think before you Tweet – don’t divulge too much information.

Social networking at work

I bet, at one time or another, you’ve tweeted from work or at the very least, added something to Facebook.

Using social media at work may be OK by your boss, but again be careful about what you write.

For example, playing hookie and then tweeting about what you’ve been up to isn’t the smartest thing in  the world to do and will probably get you sacked. But it can go much further than that. Leaking information about customers (on purpose or accidentally), making inappropriate statements about your company or workmates, harassing people can all lead to reprimand or dismissal.

That is why many companies today are instigating policies for the use of social media. You would do well to seek out and heed your company’s so you don’t fall foul of it.

How do others see you?

It’s a really good idea to, once in a while, Google your name.

No, it’s not because you’re on an ego trip, but rather it gives you the opportunity to see yourself online as others see you on social networking sites.

This is a great way to see what information is available about you so you can adjust your profile and habits accordingly.

Using Google Alerts is a great way to monitor information about you. Simply set one up in  your name and then, when anything is published on the web about you, you’ll receive an email notification.

Staying safe online is vital and the best way to do that is by controlling the information you place ‘out there’ for all to see. If in doubt, don’t publish it.

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

Stay Safe With Social Media

social media Never before has it been so easy to gather information. Gone are the days when researching a subject for homework meant heading off to your local library before someone else grabbed the book you needed. Oh no, today’s kids just have to fire up Google to find out anything they want to know.

But at times too much information can be a very dangerous thing.

Social media has changed the way you work and interact with other people. Why pick up the phone when you can poke someone on Facebook, Tweet them or anything else you’d care to mention. All of these sites allow you to add your personal information online to complete your profile. But too much information is bad.

You’ve heard the news stories about creeps grooming kids on Facebook and all the other horrific stories of identity theft. If you use these sites you need to stay safe. And that means being careful about how much information you give about yourself.

Information you shouldn’t share

Protecting yourself online and not giving away too much information is something we should all be doing as a matter of course. And yet people still complete every field imaginable when completing an online profile.

The first thing to remember is that you don’t have to complete a box because it’s there. Only give information you are happy people knowing – and no, just because you haven’t given a certain piece of info doesn’t mean your friends will think you’re trying to hide something.

Never, ever share:

  • Your national insurance number (why would you?)
  • Your date of birth
  • Your home address
  • Your home phone number

All of these can be used for identity fraud.

Exercise your privacy rights

More and more social networking sites are offering their users more control over privacy settings. So don’t just settle for the default settings.

Take a good look at the settings  and set them according to what you want:

facebook privacy settings

These are Facebook’s settings. They allow you to determine whether no one, friends, friends and networks or everyone can see your basic information, photos, personal information, friends etc.

Why you need to know this

The internet has revolutionised the way we gather our information. Today you can access all sorts of data that would never before have been possible. But this added freedom does bring dangers. There will always be people out there looking to exploit honest people. If you use social media, stay safe and make sure your information is protected.

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