Archive for Business – Page 2

Business Email – Best Practice Tips

Business email Tips

If you Google a search term such as “emails not getting delivered” you will get a huge range of reasons why this can happen, but businesses need to try to minimise the chances of it happening, where they can.

For example, most people know that email companies have lists of addresses to automatically block, to try to prevent spam and other undesirable emails getting to customer Inboxes. What many people do not know is that email servers do not just rely on those lists – they use a whole range of tools to constantly filter out possible spam, including setting their own rules for what email is or is not to be stopped, and it is this range of tools that can cause problems.

It has been estimated that up to 10% of emails blocked by email servers can be genuine emails – yet they are still quarantined, put into the server ‘Junk’ folder or marked as Spam for a number of reasons.

This is one of the most common reasons for non-deliverability of emails.

Businesses need to use best practice to minimise the risk of the other party’s email servers treating their genuine emails as Junk and this includes reducing the reasons why email servers wrongly block legitimate emails.

Here are a few tips that may help: –

Do not attach dangerous file extensions to your emails

There are a number of attachments that when opened, can execute viruses or other malware and as such can be automatically blocked by some email services – even when attached to genuine emails. There are a number of such attachments but the most common are .doc and .docx, .exe, .vbs, .msi, .com and many more. Unfortunately, Office files that run what is called ‘Macros’ can also be potentially dangerous, such as .xlxm and .pptm, although this is getting less common.

So apart from being extremely careful if you receive any of the above attachments yourself, to avoid your email getting quarantined by attachment blocking, do not attach them to your emails wherever possible.

Also do bear in mind that if you have previously sent these attachments, those email servers may automatically continue to ‘distrust’ your email address until they are told otherwise by someone at their end recipients.

PDFs are a good way of emailing documents as they cannot execute malicious code and should not be blocked. Alternatively email a link to a cloud-based storage file which can be downloaded instead, such as Dropbox, Google Drive, etc.

Do not email large files

Programs like Outlook can take fairly large file attachments but some servers may operate different rules and when dealing with large files (particularly when over 150MB) then you should be using a cloud solution such as Dropbox. By emailing a link to a particular file so that the recipient can download it themselves, you can avoid any attachment size rules as well as keeping your own email storage under control.

Bounce back error messages are good!

If you get an error message giving a reason why an email has not been delivered, don’t panic – because it is there to help troubleshooting. For example if a persons email account is full, you having misspelled the address or their server has queued the email, this helps to diagnose why you have got a phone call saying “I haven’t received it”.

Unfortunately many servers do not send bounce back error messages at all these days, to try to evade spammers, so in many cases you will not get any error message even when their email service refuses or blocks your email for whatever reason.

Enable DKIM and SPF to authenticate your email

If anyone sends emails on your behalf, they should be included in what is called your SPF record, which tells the recipient email server that they are authorised on your behalf.

DKIM signs your emails with an encrypted key and the other half of that key is provided by your domain. When the keys match, there is a higher likelihood that the emails will accepted as they have been verified as authentic.

Check your email doesn’t have ‘spammy’ characteristics

Email services use many ways to decide whether or not an email is spam and therefore be blocked or discarded. One of these is to treat any email with a ‘spammy’ subject address as suspect. For example, try to make the subject line relevant and readable. Subject lines with just “Invoice” or letters and numbers will trigger suspicion straight away.

Avoid using terms such as “stuff”, “hello”, “help” and use appropriate capitalization. Also avoid formatting in an email where possible.

Beware of the recipient!

There are times when the recipient of an email has not checked their Junk folder, or have marked an email as spam (which can tell their email service to treat emails as spam from then on) – or they can just be mistaken. Sometimes they may even be avoiding telling the truth!

The bottom line is even though 99.99% of emails get through without incident, there are so many reasons why emails can get held up at the other end that you have to try to avoid these blocks if you can. With the global email system set up as it is, everyone is at the mercy of how good (or bad) your recipients email servers are set up.

The important thing is when you have an undelivered email issue, get your email server logs checked as well as asking the recipient to check their Junk mail folder. They also need to check their own email service – it may be held up there, just not getting to the person that you sent it to. If their email service has deleted it for whatever reason, that fact should be in their logs.

Why Spam is a Small Business Nightmare

Why Spam is a Small Business Nightmare

15 years after the world united to crack down on spam emails, we’re still struggling with overloaded Inboxes and estimates of the extent of global spam, range from 60% to over 80% of email traffic. All that unwanted email continues to flood the internet, much of it targeted towards small businesses, and the impact goes wider than you might think.

Here’s the full breakdown of how modern spam works and how it’s hurting your business.

What is spam?

Generally speaking, spam is any unwanted message that lands in your email, comes via text, social media messaging, or other communication platform. It might be sent to your main business account, eg your ‘contact us’ email, or direct to your employees. Most of the time, spam is annoying but relatively innocent messages from another business inviting you to buy/do/see something. They’re newsletters, reminders, invitations, sales pitches, etc. You may know the sender and have a previous relationship with them, or they might be a complete stranger.

Occasionally, spam may even be part of a cyber attack.

Why you’re getting spammed.

Maybe you or your employee signed up for a newsletter or bought a raffle ticket to win a car. Perhaps you got onto the mailing list accidentally after enquiring about a product, not knowing that simply getting a brochure sent through would trigger a spam-avalanche. Often there’s fine print that says they’ll not only use your details to send you their marketing, but they’ll share your details with 3rd parties so they can send you messages too. That single email address can be passed around the internet like wildfire, and before you know it, you’re buried under spam.

Sometimes, and more than we’d like to think, your details are found illicitly, perhaps through a hacked website for example, like the recent LinkedIn leak. More often though, your email is simply collected by a computer ‘scraping’ the internet – scouring forums and websites for plain text or linked emails and selling them as prime spam targets. It’s easy to see how individual office employees receive an average of 120 emails daily, over half of which are spam!

Spam is not just annoying.

We all know spam is annoying, but did you know it’s also resource hungry? Your employees are spending hours each week sorting their email, assessing each one for relevance and deleting the spam. Too often, legitimate emails from clients and customers get caught up and are accidentally deleted. Add in the temptation to read the more interesting spam emails and productivity drops to zero.

On the other side of the business, your email server might be dedicating storage and processing power to spam emails, occasionally to the point where inboxes get full and real mail is bouncing out. While most spam is simply an unwanted newsletter or sale notice, there’s also the risk that any links may be a cyber-attack in disguise. After all, one click is all it takes to open the door to viruses, ransomware, phishing or other security emergencies.

How to reduce the spam.

Normally, spam is filtered out locally by your antivirus security software (depending on your choice of software of course) and all email servers have the capacity to use in-built filtering software before you get it – one of the most common software packages being called ‘SpamAssassin’. On top of that, there are third-party anti-spam companies which you can use to add further filtering, where typically the third party gets all your emails first and processes their filtering on them, before it even gets to your server.

Also the 2003 Can Spam Act is a global set of anti-spam laws that was set up that requires all marketers to follow certain rules, like not adding people to mailing lists without their permission, and always including an ‘unsubscribe’ link. This why many companies send you an email to confirm that you want to be added to their mailing lists, even when you have asked for it in the first place.

So firstly, make sure you’re not accidentally giving people permission to email you – check the fine print or privacy policy. Next, look for the unsubscribe link at the bottom of the email. Unfortunately, not all of them include the link, or they hide it somewhere impossible to see.

The worst spammers use that ‘unsubscribe’ click to confirm that your email address is valid/active and then sell it on, so don’t automatically go for the ‘unsubscribe’ link – look at the email first and decide before clicking.

If you need help with your anti-spam protection, call us on 01455 209505.

Spectre and Meltdown – What They Mean for You

Modern computers contain processors (CPUs) which do the heavy calculations that make your device work – the better the CPU, the faster your device. These computer chips are used in devices made by computer manufacturers all over the world, as well as Microsoft, Apple, Google and are in servers everywhere.

‘Spectre’ and ‘Meltdown’

Severe design flaws were recently discovered in CPUs, and these vulnerabilities were called ‘Spectre’ and ‘Meltdown’. Essentially these vulnerabilities can allow hackers to take advantage of the fact that whilst it is not being fully used, modern CPUs can do something called ‘speculative execution’. This is a techy way of saying that they take notice of what tasks you do often, and try to do those tasks for you in the background and store the data for you, so that it is quicker for you then next time you choose to do that task.

It’s a bit like going to the same coffee shop every day and one day you find that they have your cup ready for you. Except in this case instead of coffee its data – at times very important data – and that’s the problem. This data is held in something called a ‘cache’ and just sits there until it is told to clear itself.

The ‘Spectre’ vulnerability allows attackers to trick the processor into performing these speculative operations and ‘Meltdown’ can collect the data that is created. To date there have been no reports of attacks but as this has been known in the IT community for a while it is only a matter of time, especially given the fact that these vulnerabilities exist in CPUs made over very many years – so there are plenty of them to attack.

It is serious enough that CPU makers and makers of Operating Systems are rushing to get security fixes out to users. Intel are issuing updates for their processors to fix the vulnerability and AMD are working on a patch. Microsoft have issued updates for Windows 7, 8.1 and 10, with Apple have released updates for iOS11.2, MacOS 10.13.2 and tvOS 11.2. Google, Amazon etc. are also looking at the issue.

What does it actually mean for you?

The fixes that are being issued make changes to the way CPUs speed up your work – in effect the fixes are putting the brakes on the CPU to an extent and potentially reducing its performance. Some people may see a minimal impact but some may see a significant slowdown in the performance of their device after the fixes have been applied.

At the present time, it is believed that Windows 10 with newer CPUs will see a negligible impact but with older CPUs there may be a noticeable decrease in performance. Most noticeable decrease in performance are Windows 7 and 8 machines with older CPUs and according to Microsoft, fixes for Windows Servers will have a “significant impact” on performance after the updates.

It may be that over time, these updates may be refined and the impact may be reduced, but for the time being if you see a marked decrease in the performance of your device, it may well be that fixes for CPU flaws are causing it or contributing to it.

Whilst it may be unwelcome news, it is vital that you do keep all your updates current, no matter what device you are using.

If you would like help please call us on 01455 209505.

Backup up the Right Way for Businesses

The 31st of March is World Backup day and it’s a great time to put a backup in place. Businesses are losing large amounts of data every day, purely because ‘backing up’ is stuck at the bottom of their to-do list.

But how? What’s the easiest, most effective way for your business to backup?

You’ve probably heard of file backup by a number of names: Cloud Sync, Cloud Backup or Cloud Storage. They’re all similar enough to be confusing and meaningless enough to be anything, so here’s what they mean and which one you need today.

Cloud Sync

Google Drive, Dropbox, iCloud, etc. are services that sync up with a single folder on your computer. They mirror it. When a file changes in one, the sync service rushes to change it on your computer too, so they are always the same. Cloud Sync services are hugely flexible for remote employees, or even those squeezing in a few quick tasks while riding the train to work.

They’re easy to use, require no training, and the free tiers are enough for most individuals. Accidentally deleting a file means it disappears from the Cloud Sync drive – almost immediately – and overwriting a file does the same thing, so if an employee makes edits to the wrong file, then those edits take place. Having said that, if disaster strikes and the wrong file is overwritten or deleted, or your local copy becomes corrupted (or ransomed), even though the corruption is uploaded too, the good news is that some Cloud Sync services offer a 30 day backup option that can be used to replace deleted or ransomed files.

So when choosing which Cloud Sync to use, make sure that this is offered.

Cloud Storage

Amazon S3, Microsoft Azure, etc. are massive data centres full of storage drives that work just like your local hard drive, except that you access them securely via the internet. In fact, when you use a cloud sync app like Dropbox, they’re actually sending your data to one of these locations, but with a difference.

While the Sync services have a constant back and forth connection between the storage centre and your folder, Storage services do not – you store a backup that you instigate.

You can access cloud storage on a per/GB basis yourself and upload your entire backup as desired and even though it won’t update with changes on your local network, it will be safe from disaster. When you need to retrieve a file, you simply login and download it.

Your backed up data is secure, protected against disaster, and always available to you. However, because it relies on you/your employee to handle the backup plan and manually take care of the uploads, this is a higher-risk solution. Unless your employee is scouring your network each day/week/month for changes to files and uploading them with fervent dedication, chances are this plan won’t work.

Cloud Backup

Carbonite, Backblaze backup, Crashplan, etc. might not be names you’ve heard before, but they work in the background to monitor changes to files on your computer or network and make sure you’re backed up. You can roll back individual files or whole drives, and even select from earlier backups, not just one. Like sync services, they use cloud storage centres with extra-high security and redundancy so that your data is always there when you need it. Even better, neither you nor your employees need to worry about when it was last done.

The One You Need

Let’s talk planning. We recommend starting with the 3-2-1 strategy. This means having 3 copies in total, 2 of them locally such as on your computer and an external drive, and another offsite in the cloud. Using this strategy keeps your business operating when data disasters occur and is an investment in your uptime.

We can help get you set up with the 3-2-1 method, including selecting the best cloud service for your needs.

Need help with your backup? 3-2-1… Call us on 01455 209505.

Top 5 Cloud Advantages for Small Businesses

Business cloud backup

Cloud technology has created a revolution for small business, changing the way you store, share and backup files. While ‘the cloud’ is often hard to understand because it’s neither in the sky or in a single location, there’s no arguing that it’s improving business storage across the board.

Storage concerns can be a thing of the past as small businesses can benefit from the flexibility, cost savings and protections of cloud solutions. We’ve done the research for you and identified 5 ways small business in particular benefits from making the move.

It’s Cheaper

Budget is always a limiting factor for businesses, many of which are further constrained by pressure from higher up. Some regard investing in cloud solutions as a large expense that can be put off indefinitely. In most cases though, making the switch to cloud storage costs a fraction of the price.

Compared to maintaining and powering servers, scaling to keep up, and repairing in emergencies, cloud storage offers extraordinary savings. With one decision, you get access to high-end infrastructure and dedicated support, plus a healthier bottom line. Cloud solutions were specifically created to meet your needs, which means you only pay for what you use.

Costs remain capped while the benefits continue to rise, a clear advantage for the budget-conscious business.

It’s Secure

A lot of people like having their data where they can see it. But that’s not always the safest option. Natural disasters can happen, break-ins are a worry, and employees are always losing laptops and phones, or have them stolen.

More often though, someone simply makes a mistake and deletes important files, or accidentally infects the system with malware. Cloud storage mitigates every single one of these risks, with storage in ultra-secure locations, protected against disasters, and committed to robust backup systems.

In recent times particularly, we’ve seen many small businesses survive ransomware attacks purely because their critical data was secure in the cloud with clean backups available.

It’s Compliant

We know medical businesses and services need to follow certain regulations when it comes to patient data. This includes security as well as data integrity, plus backups and auditing. Many cloud providers acknowledged this need early on and made sure to offer compliance guarantees. They therefore keep abreast of changing regulations, often implementing new requirements before you’ve even heard about them. With cloud storage systems, you essentially slash your compliance workload and let your provider do the worrying.

It’s Portable

One of the key benefits of cloud storage is your ability to collaborate remotely. In the past, this would have involved multiple file copies that need to be merged back together, often confusing employees as to which is the ‘right’ file. With cloud storage, your staff can work on the same file, using the same interface and real-time updates.

Even having different versions of software is no longer an issue. Employees can work on a file in the office and then securely access the same file from their smartphone, laptop or other location, without needing to buy additional software or worry about version corruption. Sharing and collaborating becomes easier, more desirable and more secure.

It’s Easy to Migrate

One of the biggest concerns we hear is that it will be too disruptive to migrate to cloud solutions all at once. That’s okay. You don’t have to do it all in one day, it can be migrated in stages.

Talk to us about your cloud options by calling us on 01455 209505.

4 Reasons to use Anti Spam Filtering in your Business

Anti Spam for your emails

Remember when spam was obvious and it was easy to identify and ignore? Those were the days! The impact on your business would have been minimal, as spam was more an annoyance than anything else.

Spam has matured into an aggressive threat, marked by sophisticated attacks and rapidly evolving techniques. It’s not just random electronic junk mail anymore and it’s putting a costly strain on your business resources, as well as global resources as spam email accounted for a whopping 85% of all email in January 2018 (source: Cisco Talos).

Unfortunately built-in spam filtering from your server or security software may not be enough to fight the spam threat effectively.

How Spam Impacts Your Business

Spam now contains malware, with hackers sending cleverly disguised emails to your business. Once clicked by an employee, it infects your computer system (virus) or steals your private data (phishing) or even both. The malware can then spread across the entire computer network and beyond, including to your clients and vendors.

The very fact that your employees must pause and examine every single link and attachment adds hours of lost productivity and occasionally, spam is so convincing that only an expert would be able to visually identify it. Employees are also more likely to miss an important email, either not seeing it arrive at the same time as a spam attack or becoming overwhelmed with the sheer number of emails.

How Anti-Spam Filtering Can Save Your Business

1. Block threats:

The spam filter’s purpose is to block the spam from ever reaching your employees’ screens. The threat is automatically identified and either held securely or immediately deleted. This is the best way to avoid activating spam malware, as it’s so easy to click through links in an email that seems authentic and important. The effects of that one spam click may be instantaneous or may lie hidden for months. Removing the email before it becomes a risk is a much better option.

You should get a spam filtering solution that provides you with your own control panel, which allows you to identify any spam that gets through as well as being able to check for any false positives (although this should be minimal with a good filtering system).

2. Filter legitimate emails:

Real mail needs to be able to stand out and avoid the trash. Anti-spam filtering has sophisticated recognition abilities which block spam only and allow real mail to land safely in mailboxes.

3. Meet data regulations:

Many businesses are subject to strict privacy and data storage regulations, some more so than others. To continue operation, they have to meet conditions including always using spam filtering to reduce the risk of data breach.

4. Protect your business reputation:

You can see how uncomfortable CEOs are when they hold press conferences to admit a breach. They must acknowledge that they failed to protect client data, or that users may be infected with a virus. Not only do they then face financial loss, their business reputation takes a nosedive. Anti-spam filtering can help to prevent these types of scenarios from happening to you.

Filtering has come a long way in recent years, with complex algorithms identifying and catching spam before it becomes a risk to your business. Real emails can now pass safely through without the classic cry of ‘check the spam folder’, and businesses can work with greater productivity and safety than ever before.

You need email, but you definitely don’t need spam or the chaos it brings to your business.

We can block spam and keep your legitimate emails flowing. Call us on 01455 209505.

Desktop v Laptop – Which is right for You?

Want to choose between a desktop and a laptop?

Thinking of buying a new computer? Laptops have become the go-to choice for many people in the market as they’re sleek, portable and heavily advertised. But are they the best choice for your needs?

Before you buy your next computer, unless you have a specific need for a laptop, take a look at these considerations – you may discover you’ve been dreaming of a desktop all along!

How portable do you need it to be?

Hands down, laptops are easier to move around than a desktop. You can pick them up, pop them into a backpack or case and away you go. That doesn’t mean desktops are bolted to the floor, just that they’re not designed to go with you. With that portability though, comes a trade-off: thin and light means your computer performance takes a hit unless you spend a lot of money on higher-end kit.

The more powerful your laptop, the bigger and heavier it is, and you won’t enjoy lugging that weight around all day. If that’s got you leaning towards an ultra-portable, consider this: The smaller and lighter your laptop is, generally the weaker it is. Fortunately, when you do choose a desktop, cloud technology means your data is mobile, even if your main computer isn’t.

What balance of power and price do you need?

The bottom line here is that a desktop will always give you more power for less money. Their larger cases allow for bigger and better components, with more effective systems to avoid overheating. Even the most powerful laptop is going to be hotter than its desktop equivalent, and much noisier too.

If you’re using power-hungry software like games or video editing, we recommend choosing a desktop – the heat control alone is worth it as frequently overheated laptops don’t survive long.

In terms of power versus cost, desktops win in this category.

Desired screen size

As laptops are designed to be portable, screen sizes are usually around 11”- 15.6”. Larger, more powerful laptops go up to around 17” and are generally called ‘desktop replacements’ as they tend to be heavier and are less likely to be carried around – as well as being more expensive.

Desktop monitors today however, start at 17” and the average is 22”. These larger sizes give you more space to work in, options to tile your applications and multi-task, and even sit back and watch an HD (or even 4K) movie. They also allow for nice big text and images, with a better ability to choose the visual experience that suits your needs.

Admittedly you can connect many (not all) laptops to a separate Monitor, but who wants to spend the money for an additional screen when you have one in the laptop?

Your working comfort

Many people buy a laptop only to get home and find it’s a pain in the neck – literally! The traditional laptop design means you’re always looking down at the screen which can put a strain on your neck. You can try to raise the screen by placing the laptop on a stand, but then the keyboard can be out of easy reach. The smaller keyboards and touchpad designs may also leave you more prone to repetitive strain injuries.

Many people do end up connecting their laptops to external monitors, keyboards and mice, simply so they can work in comfort. Desktop computers on the other hand, allow you to create the perfect working environment for your needs and even cater for other family members. Monitors are usually height adjustable, keyboards and mice are wireless, and you’re able to place the desktop on the floor out of the way or under the monitor depending on the model you have.

If you’re on your computer for more than short bursts, your body will appreciate you choosing a desktop.

Are you looking for flexibility?

When you choose a laptop computer, it’s like ordering from a set menu. You get this brand, in this design, with these specifications. Changing out parts for repair or upgrade can be difficult and expensive as there’s not a spare inch of space. Some parts are extremely hard to get to, which can turn a simple swap into a dealbreaker.

The extra space inside a desktop gives infinite flexibility for upgrades over time and fast repairs. This means you’re able to easily pop in more powerful components for a fraction of the price and extend the life of your computer by years.

Talk to us about your next computer and we’ll find the right one for you. Call us on 01455 209505.

Is it Worth Having Your Email Server On-Premises?

Is it worth having your own in-house server?

There’s not a business around who doesn’t use email on a daily basis. Whether for sending internal memos or communicating with clients and customers, email is a core necessity of any modern business.

What many modern businesses are doing though, is dropping the in-house email server and moving to a cloud solution. Here’s why you should do the same.

Reduced network problems

Your network operates in a delicate balance, and when one piece breaks chaos soon follows. Connected systems and processes tend to fail, dropping productivity as all focus shifts away from normal activities and onto rectifying the fault. It becomes a mad scramble to get the network up again, especially the email servers.

The last thing you want is for all your client/customer emails to bounce back or not get sent at all!

While it’s good to have confidence in your on-site administrator, the assumption that any crashes will always happen during business hours has caused many regrets and out of hours panicked phone calls that could be avoided. When you move to a cloud solution, you’re able to say goodbye to onsite servers and all the accompanying drama, making your remaining infrastructure easier to maintain.

Lower hardware and maintenance costs

Maintaining your own Exchange servers is no doubt costing a tidy sum from initial purchase, hardware repairs, maintenance and license fees. Add in the cost of scaling your server to keep up with your business growth, and suddenly keeping your email in-house starts to make less financial sense.

Instead, consider what it would be like to have predictable costs for your email hosting that covers everything, including the latest technology and round the clock administration. Many solutions offer on-demand plans, so you only pay for the options you want.

You’re still in control

One of the main arguments for keeping your own Exchange server is to make sure you have complete control over your email; you’re able to limit physical access, no 3rd party has access to your critical data, and you always know where your data is.

While control may have been the deciding factor in the past, the fact is cloud solutions have evolved so much that these arguments are void. Physical security at data farms, for example, goes far beyond that of your locked server room and digital access is strictly limited to those you specify.

Greater protections

Cloud solutions provide automatic protection against many threats, including fire, power outages, burglary, viruses and flood. While your own in-house server has anti-virus running and a backup plan, it’s still incredibly vulnerable.

Backups get forgotten, virus definitions don’t get updated in time, and you’re very lucky if your own server can survive fire or flood intact. Moving your email hosting to a cloud solution removes all that risk, with inbuilt regular backups and usually with an uptime guarantee that lets your business get on with essential tasks.

Having a cloud email service takes all the hassle away from you and puts it onto the email company.

As email is a critical tool for your business, isolating your systems from risk may be one of the best decisions you make all year.

We can help you with your email server needs, call us today on 01455 209505.

3 Tech New Year Resolutions to Keep

Tech New Year Resolutions to keep

If your typical New Year’s resolutions lasted about 30 seconds, you’re not alone. Pledges to eat better, start running and learn how to juggle can be rebooted again next year easy enough. This year, we challenge you to think about your tech health with some resolutions you’ll want to keep.

1. No More Junk Mail

Whether you checked a box agreeing to get newsletters, or you have no idea how you got on that list, it’s time to say goodbye. Start by emptying your mailbox to zero unread messages – no you don’t have to read spam – you have permission to delete it unread, but after marking it as spam so it can be filtered out in future. Let’s face it, if you were going to read it, you would have done so already.

Now that you’re starting with a clean slate and a huge feeling of accomplishment, resolve this: Each day, unsubscribe from 5 lists. Keep an eagle eye out for that ‘unsubscribe’ link and click it with confidence. You don’t even need to give a reason if it redirects to a survey page. Before too long, your inbox will be a refreshing place filled only with people and businesses you look forward to hearing from.

2. Go Password Pro

With all these password leaks from LinkedIn, Myspace, and goodness knows who hasn’t come forward yet, now’s the time to get smart with your passwords. Because most people use the same passwords on every site, a single breach can be the hack that keeps on giving to the bad guys. You know how important it is to use different passwords for each site, but that’s a LOT of passwords to remember!

Instead of writing them down, we recommend using a password manager like LastPass. It remembers all your various passwords for you, so all you need to know is the super-protected master password. Master passwords are kept encrypted on your system, not theirs, and 2-factor authentication checks with you via text for all big changes.

There are other PasswordManagers out there – please see previous post.

3. Backup. No Really, Backup.

“I’ve been meaning to backup” is the cry of someone who just lost all their photos. Good intentions don’t count AT ALL in data security, because once the data is gone, it’s gone.

With new cloud backup options, there’s no reason to put this off, because backup apps are now easier and more accessible than ever before. You can also backup to local drives, but this will take a little extra remembering on your part, as you’ll want to have at least one drive that stays disconnected in case of viruses.

With cloud storage such as Dropbox, it’s so easy to back up and you don’t have to do anything that you don’t already do – just save in that Dropbox folder and it’s all done for you.

There you have it. Three New Year’s resolutions you can easily keep, and that will make a real difference to your year. Opening your email will be a pleasure, you’ll be a spectator only in any future password leaks, and your precious files will be safe against all manner of disaster.

Feels better than any diet, doesn’t it?

Stuck with any of this? Call us on 01455 209505.

Stop your Business becoming a victim of Social Engineering

Social Engineering is a danger to your business

You can have top-notch security in place in your business, but there is still one danger – ‘social engineering’. Most people have never heard of it but perhaps the more familiar term is ‘con’: the art of manipulating people to take certain actions or divulge private information.

Social engineers are a special type of hacker who skip the hassle of writing code and go straight for the weakest link in your security defences – people. A phone call, a cheap disguise or casual email may be all it takes to gain access, despite having solid tech protections in place.

Here are just a few examples of how social engineers work:-

Email

Pretending to be a co-worker or customer who ‘just quickly’ needs a certain piece of information. It could be a shipping address, login, contact or personal detail that they pretend they already know, but simply don’t have in front of them. The email may even tell you where to get the data from.

The hacker may also create a sense of urgency or indicate fear that they’ll get in trouble without this information. Your employee is naturally inclined to help and quickly sends a reply.

Phone

Posing as IT support, a government Official or customer, the hacker plausibly and quickly manipulates someone into changing a password or giving out information. These attacks are harder to identify and the hacker can be very persuasive, even using background sound effects like a crying baby or call-centre noise to trigger empathy or trust.

In person

A delivery man in uniform gets past most people without question, as does a repairman. The social engineer can then quickly move into areas of your business that may have sensitive information. Once inside, they essentially become invisible, free to install network listening software or devices, read a note with a password on it, or tamper with your business in other ways.

For example, if your Wi-Fi code is visible (and we see this all the time on ‘post-it’ notes and written signs) then the hacker can get access to your network simply by sitting in a car outside your building and connecting to your network with that password.

Then, with the right knowledge and software, they can cause all sorts of issues.

It’s impossible to predict when and where (or how) a social engineer will strike. The above attacks aren’t particularly sophisticated, but they are extremely effective. Staff naturally try to be helpful, but this can also be a weakness.

Not just in Businesses either – remember that there are regular reports of people being conned by plausible sounding phone calls out of the blue, from people pretending to be from your broadband company or Microsoft – just wanting to get connected to your computer.

So what can you do to protect your Business? First, recognize that not all of your employees have the same level of interaction with people, the front desk clerk taking calls all day would be at higher risk than the factory worker, for example.

We recommend that there should be awareness of the possibility of a security breach – you don’t need formal cyber-security training for each member of staff but the level of risk needs to be identified, focusing on the types of scenarios staff might find themselves in.

Social engineering is too dangerous to take lightly, and unfortunately far too common.

Talk to us about your cyber security options today. Call us at 01455 209505.