Archive for Internet

Protecting Your Customers and Your Business Too

Protecting your Customers Information

Security and privacy are at the very top of priorities when considering business IT. Major data leaks are in mainstream news on a near-daily basis and hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of customers are impacted every time they happen. The goal should be to make sure our businesses are kept out of danger.

Major institutions, such as multi-national banks and credit card companies, are expected to handle your data well. Unfortunately, less secured businesses require access to our data too.

Even just booking into a hotel often requires you to leave personal details. These few pieces of information are often more than enough to steal your identity, start a line of credit, and access many of your vital services. You can often only hope your chosen hotel handles your information as well as your bank does.

Securing Your Business with Smarter Thinking

There is no way to change how your favourite hotel service operates, but you can affect your own business to improve its security for your customers.

You don’t need the manpower or funding of a major banking chain to handle data securely. With simple tweaks and powerful changes, you can minimize the chances of your business suffering a data breach big enough close your doors for good.

By stepping up IT security to meet modern threats, you can help to limit your liability, put customer’s minds at ease and give your firm a competitive advantage.

Limit Your Data Collection

The single most important thing to consider when securing your business is how much data do you really need to hold anyway? Carefully consider the value of every piece of personal information you collect in any given transaction. Do you have a use for everything you ask for?

Emails, addresses, and contact numbers are useful for receipts and marketing, but additional data many firms collect is often useless and wasteful. Each piece of unnecessary data you hold represents additional value to hackers and thieves. While you may be unable to use your own stored data, hackers will find great value in gathering more personal information. This increases your liability without adding any extra value.

Clearly, the recent GDPR regulations also apply, so it isn’t just good practice to run through the details that you keep.

Consider Your Access Requirements

Think carefully about who has access to information within your business and precisely why they need to access it. Often security problems begin when employees have blanket privileges to access everything within the firm.

Access restrictions should be specific to the company structure. Employees should be limited to only what is strictly required for their role. Managers, for example, are likely to need systems that their junior staff cannot access.

Physical access restrictions are critical too. Unattended computers and mobile devices should require a password or identity verification to log on – preferably without other people knowing the password or leaving the password on a post-it note!

Treating Data with Care

The way you treat your data in day-to-day business reflects the impact hackers or IT disaster will have on your business when it is lost. Do you know where your backups are, and when they were last tested?

Firms often first know they are in trouble when they realize all their data is stored on a business laptop or device that could be easily lost or stolen. Some firms maintain backups on USB drives or shuttle a portable hard drive between home and work.

Protecting your customers and your business is all about the smart application of IT knowledge in a cost-effective and efficient way.

We can help you to protect the most valuable assets your business owns – data. Call us on 01455 209505.

OK Google, How Safe Are You Really?

OK Google, How Safe Are You Really?

Are you prompting Siri, Google, or Alexa? When you talk a home assistant, you join a growing number of smart homes.

Smart home assistants search online, start phone calls, order groceries, play music, turn lights on. All with a single spoken command.

Research into how people use Google or Alexa demonstrates the core features. Listening to music ranked first. Checking weather and asking for general information rounded out the top three. Setting timers and reminders, asking for the news or jokes (perhaps to make up for the news?) are also common.

Yet, the question remains, just how safe are these virtual assistants? After all, having a smart speaker in your home means there is always an open microphone in your house.

Smart Speaker and Home Assistant Safety Concerns

The convenience of the speaker demands that it always be on, ready and waiting for you to say “Hey Siri” or “OK Google.” Once triggered the device records the command, sends the data to servers for processing, and figures out its response.

Smart speaker users can log in to view the history of queries on their accounts. This prompts some concerns that these mega-companies will use the information for financial gain. For example, those talking about an overseas holiday might start seeing related ads on their computers.

Someone hacking into the home assistant to gain access to your personal information is another concern. Those who set smart speakers as a hub for many devices also create more points of vulnerability.

It’s difficult to anticipate all the ways the assistant could prove to be too good a listener. In one case, a voice assistant recorded a private conversation and sent it to the couple’s contacts list.

Steps to Stay Secure with a Smart Speaker

That candid conversation aside, few big privacy issues or personal data breaches have been reported – so far. Nevertheless, if taking advantage of Alexa, Siri, or Google helper, keep these strategies in mind.

1. Clear your history. Don’t leave everything you’ve ever asked it stored on the company server. The assistant will relearn your commands quickly.
2. Connect with caution. It’s great to be able to turn on the TV and dim the lights without leaving the comfort of your sofa. Be wary of connecting security or surveillance devices to your home assistant.
3. Mute the microphone. Yes, it undermines your ability to call from the closet “OK, Google, what’s the weather like today?” But, turning off the mic when it’s not in use stops recording without you knowing about it. Yes, the microphone may still be powered up, but you can expressly mute it.
4. Secure your network. Home assistants do their work by connecting to the Internet using your network. Ensure they are accessing a password protected network. They should use devices (e.g. routers) changed from default password settings – unfortunately, most people just use that default setting and it leaves your network open to outsiders with the knowledge to be able to get into it.
With a little effort you can gain convenience without worry.

Want more questions answered about setting up a smart speaker to be safe and reliable? We’re here to help. Give us a call on 01455 209505.

Is There A Safe Way to Use the Cloud?

Is There A Safe Way to Use the Cloud

Cloud technology has grown to new heights in recent years. Ten years ago ‘the cloud’ was jargon almost nobody was aware of, today it is a phrase used almost daily – after all its available even on your smartphone. More and more homes and businesses today are taking advantage of the huge benefits cloud services have to offer.

The sudden and widespread adoption of this new technology has raised questions too. Some want to fully understand what the cloud is before committing their vital data to it. Most want to find out what the cloud can do for them. Everyone wants to know, is it safe?

What Is The Cloud?

The Cloud is an abstract name for an engineering principle that allows you to store, retrieve, and work on your data without worrying about the specifics of having and maintaining it on your premises. Storing your data on the cloud essentially means saving it on a secure server without worrying about the fine details or costs.

Your data may be stored on a single computer, or distributed across multiple servers held at secure data centres all around the world. Most often it’s stored across one or more data centres as close as possible to your physical location.

From the perspective of the end user, the big idea behind the cloud is that where data is stored ultimately doesn’t matter to you. Your cloud server takes care of retrieving your data as quickly and efficiently as possible, whilst keeping it safe and secure.

With cloud technology, you are free to forget about the specifics and worry only about the bigger picture.

Security In The Cloud

Many people are concerned by the idea of their confidential data being distributed somewhere else. Often, people imagine small unguarded computers being responsible for vital company information. In a cloud setting, almost nothing could be further from the truth.

A modern data centre is many times more secure than an office server in your own building. The difference could be compared to storing your cash in a highly secured bank vault versus a locked box on your desk.

The reality is more like many hundreds, or thousands, of computers are stacked up multiple stories in height. Data centres make storing and securing data their entire business, meaning they employ high-level cybersecurity and back it up with top of the line physical security too, including Bio-Security measures.

Today, digital assets are treated with security previously used only for cash, or precious metals such as silver and gold. Walled compounds, security gates, guards, and CCTV protect physical servers from unwanted access. Redundant power supplies even protect services against unplanned power outages.

State of the art digital security encrypts data, secures transmission, and monitors services for intrusion too.

Cloud Convenience

Storing data in the cloud means having easy access and very regular backups. People can work on documents at the same time, save files, and transfer documents without worrying about redundant copies and saving over previous versions.

The cloud acts as the ultimate productivity and security tool. Many firms haven’t known they needed it until they started using it.

User Security

The most significant threat to your cloud security comes from the users. Creating a weak password or reusing an old one to access your cloud services, opens up your data to easy access by hackers.

Falling for a phishing scam, or accidentally installing malicious software on your computer gives attackers the single opportunity they need to strike.

And of course, keeping your password on a post-it note is unfortunately an all too common thing.

Attacking a fortified, secure data centre is almost impossible. Targetting a user with common attacks and weak passwords is comparatively simple. These issues can be guarded against and prevented with training, awareness, and simple security tools. A simple password manager can guard against a large number of the biggest threats to your data.

Protection from Ransomware

Some cloud providers give added protection by having multiple backups of your data. Not only does this make sure that your data is always available, it also allows some providers to simply delete any ransomware-infected data and replace it with clean data – so you don’t have to pay hundreds of pounds to get your data unencrypted.

In today’s modern tech environment, the cloud is not only safe, it’s very likely the safest, most reliable, and most secure way to store your critical data.

We offer a variety of cloud services to help you, whether at home or a business. Give us a call on 01455 209505.

Has Your Email Been Hijacked?

Has Your Email been Hijacked?

A common problem found by some customers in recent months has been spam emails appearing to come from their own accounts.  Despite not knowing why, there are reports of friends, family, and contacts receiving spam email that appears to come from them and this has understandably worried many people.

Some have had their accounts suspended or shut down by their service providers as a result.  For many, this experience can be highly disruptive as well as worrying. It’s a problem that can cause many issues in both your professional and personal life.

The key to defence is learning how these attacks happen, and figuring out what you can do to protect yourself and your contacts against them.

Hackers Using Your Email Against You

Scammers that send out spam messages are continually looking for ways to make the process faster, cheaper, and more efficient. It’s the best way in which they can make more money every day by scamming unsuspecting victims for even more cash.

One of the most efficient ways they do this is by hijacking ready-made, trusted email accounts like your own. Hackers have several tools at their disposal to attempt to hijack your accounts.

Unfortunately some of the things which make emailing fast and easy to use, means that details such as those in the ‘From’ field, are easy to fake. A hacker might change the ‘From’ information to make it appear as if the email comes from anyone, simply by creating an account in that name in an email program – the details of the real sender are usually hidden away in something called an email header.

Defending yourself against this kind of misuse is difficult but you can help yourself by being cautious and if you believe something to be out of place, such as a strange ‘Subject’ title or attachment, you can try to verify that an email, even one you expect to receive, does come from the person that you believe it to be from. If you have any doubt, give them a quick call to verify – if their emails have been hacked, then they will appreciate the warning.

If your email provider flags up an incoming email as ‘suspicious’, or ‘untrustworthy’, it may well be.

Stolen Credentials

Hackers often buy large bundles of email addresses and passwords from the dark web. Leaked emails are often put up for sale following hacks of major companies and service providers (for example see previous Blog post here).

The value of these details comes from the fact that most passwords are unlikely to have been changed, the details attached to them are trusted, and often get hackers access to additional services too.

It is unlikely that you will know about every single hack incident that happens to a company that you use, so change passwords regularly.

How To Detect an Email Intrusion

It can take a long time before you’re aware that malicious hackers are using your details. You might even be the last person in your contacts to know.

The first sign to look out for is a large number of unexpected emails in your Inbox. These are likely to be replies to emails you never sent in the first place. Out of office, automatic responses, people complaining about spam, and people responding to the email as if it were genuine may all come to you first.

Keep a close eye on unexpected emails appearing suddenly in your Outbox. A hacker may be ‘spear-phishing’ (pretending to be from a trusted source) to someone that you do business with or trust. By acting as you, using your address and details, they may be able to divert payments or confidential information to their accounts instead.

A typical example is a business that receives an email from another business, stating that their bank details have changed and to make payments using the new bank details. Whenever you get an email like this, then always verify with the sender.

Do bear in mind that extra emails in your Inbox or Outbox do not happen every time, so the absence of these emails does not mean that you can relax your cautious approach.

Protecting Yourself Against Hackers, Attackers, And Hijackers

Sometimes your computer might have been compromised to give hackers access to your services, or malicious software may have infected your machine to steal data and infect your contacts. So in the first instance, use a good (and preferably not just a free version) of an Internet Security program.

Take extra care to change your passwords if you believe your email has or may have been accessed by hacker. Use a different, more secure password for your email than you do for every other service, such as using a mixture of capitals, numbers and special characters. Your email account is often the key to accessing many of the services you use most, so you need to protect it as much as you can.

Run a virus scan and maintain security updates. If you think your computer could have been infected, have your machine and services looked at by a professional if you believe there is a risk that your data is being used.

Business Email Users can Authenticate their own Email

If you have your own email service, you can enable various email authentication methods such as SPF, DKIM and DMARC which are ways that your genuine emails can verify that they are genuine – helping to make it more difficult for someone to pretend that they are you. It also has the added benefit that it helps you pass through spam filtering.

Unfortunately, some email services (especially at the cheaper end of the market) don’t check for these authentications, so you do need to be a little bit choosy about which email service you use.

If you think your email could have been hijacked, or your details used elsewhere, give us a call on 01455 209505.

Don’t Fall Victim to Webcam Blackmail

Don't fall Victim to Webcam Blackmail

Many customers have reported recent scam messages from individuals claiming to have intercepted their username and password. These messages often state they have been watching your screen activity and webcam while you have been unaware.

Typically, attackers threaten to broadcast footage and your web browsing details to your contacts, colleagues, or social media channels. Demanding payment in Bitcoin payments, malicious hackers blackmail their victims to keep confidential information private.

Where Have the Attacks Come From?

In many cases where hackers have claimed to have a victims’ password, this has turned out to be true, but usually its not because you have been hacked – but rather that a company you have had dealings with has.

In the last few years alone, many large websites have suffered enormous hacks which have released confidential details on many of their users. LinkedIn, Yahoo, Myspace and TalkTalk all suffered massive and devastating hacks. Some users of these services are still feeling the consequences today.

The details leaked from these sites, and others facing the same issues, are sold online for years after the initial breach. Hackers buy username and password combinations in the hopes of reusing them to access services, steal money, or blackmail their owners.

How to Respond if You get One of these Emails

If you have been contacted by one of these hackers, it is a scary reality that they could have access to your credentials, data, and online services. That said, accounts that share the same password should be changed immediately. Security on additional services you use should be updated too.

The only thing you can do in response to this type of email is to ignore it. This “we recorded you” email is a scam made much more believable because they probably do have one of your real passwords gained from a site hack, but that does not mean that they have access to your computer or Webcam.

Self Defence On the Web

When using online services, a unique password for every site is your number one defence. A good password manager program makes this practical and straightforward too.

Using a different password for each site you use means that hackers can only gain access to one site at a time. A hack in one place should never compromise your other accounts by revealing the single password you use everywhere – unfortunately we still do come across customers that only use one password for everything.

Often, people think that maintaining many passwords is hard work or even impossible to do. In truth, it’s almost always easier to keep tabs with a password manager than it is to use the system you have in place today.

A high quality and secure password manager such as LastPass, or 1Password, can keep track of all your logins efficiently and securely. They often offer the chance to improve your security by generating random and strong passwords that hackers will have a tougher time cracking.

Password management services offer a host of features that help you log in, remind you to refresh your security, and make your safety a number one priority. After using a manager for just a short time, you can be forgiven for wondering how you managed without it.

If you think you might have been hacked already, or want to prevent it from ever happening, give us a call on 01455 209505 to help update your security.

CSH Computer Services is a local business providing PC and Laptop repair and I.T. support services to Homes and Businesses. We are based near Lutterworth, Hinckley and Broughton Astley in Leicestershire and provide a full range of services, from PC and Laptop repairs, PC and Laptop upgrades, sales of new computers and workstations plus business network support. We also provide Virus and Malware disinfection, Broadband installation and troubleshooting, data recovery, Wireless networking and troubleshooting, plus much more. We work in and around the whole Leicestershire area and can be seen daily in Lutterworth, Hinckley, Broughton Astley, Market Harborough, Nuneaton, Rugby, Leicester and surrounding areas too.

Invest Well in your IT Security

Invest Well in your Business IT Security

“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” is a common rule for many business owners.  It serves to protect your business against unnecessary costs and unneeded downtime – but it can pose an outright threat when it comes to IT security.  

Security threats to your firm move so fast that your IT should be working just as hard as your company just to keep up.  Every day, hundreds of thousands of new malware threats are released.  Falling even hours behind means any one of these attacks can threaten your business.

The single most dangerous thing IT security can do is stand still.  Keeping up with the latest advice, technology, and updates the security industry offers is vital to keep your business safe.  This makes up much of the unseen job of IT professionals.  Hackers never stop looking for new ways into your system, which means your security can’t stop looking for ways to keep them out.

Modern Systems for Modern Business

One of the most common security threats a business opens itself to is using an outdated operating system or software package.  Many firms are scared to upgrade, update, or renew their IT over fears of breaking legacy systems.  Many rely heavily on old software and are afraid to make a large change themselves.  Some businesses today still run machines on Windows XP, an operating system first released back in 2001.

Old operating systems such as Windows XP, Vista and from next year Windows 7, stop receiving security updates and patches that protect against newly released attacks.  These systems become very vulnerable, presenting a large target for knowledgeable hackers.  This happens many years after newer versions have been released, giving knowing IT firms a chance to migrate safely.

Hackers are always on the lookout for businesses that run IT equipment outside of its suggested service life.  A server, desktop computer, or peripheral is a golden opportunity for criminals to enter and threaten a business.

Hackers purchase their attacks on the dark web, safe in the knowledge that old systems won’t be patched.  These attacks can then be used to attack unguarded firms to steal or compromise vital company data.

An unpatched old machine is like a valuable security door left propped open overnight.

Smart Budgets

Budgeting for business is a difficult task.  We aim to make the most of everything we spend and reduce spending as much as we can and IT security can easily fall very far down the list of priorities.

IT can seem like an easy way to cut costs.  It’s a department that the customer doesn’t always benefit from directly, and when it’s working well, it might not be on the radar at all. Despite working largely behind the scenes, successful IT is one of the critical components of every highly successful firm.

Even businesses far removed from the IT world, typically uses payment machines, ordering systems, and inventory.  Even restaurants and retail stores rely on computers to operate.  Downtime for any critical system can be a complete disaster.  A business can be unable to trade, and costs can mount up fast.

When vital IT components are used by the customer, a sales website, or an automated booking system for example, the problem can multiply tenfold.

Keep On Top Of The Essentials

Good IT isn’t built on high peaks and deep troughs in the yearly budget.  The kind of IT that makes your business and helps it to grow is built by smart financing and careful planning.

Maintaining steady updates, keeping pace with the latest security, and building your IT as you build your business keeps you in the driving seat when it matters most.

When IT is planned and issues are solved before they appear, security becomes cheaper, easier, and many times more effective.  System upgrades can be planned out months, if not years in advance so you are never caught unawares.

Don’t let your IT be broken before you take steps to fix it.  Move ahead of the curve and give us a call on 01455 209505.

Keeping Tabs on Childrens App Purchases

How to Keep Tabs on Childrens App Purchases

Children today have grown up surrounded by technology their entire lives. Since before they are old enough to read, they can pick up a tablet or smartphone and swipe at apps and games with ease. Modern kids have an intuitive understanding and ability with technology that older generations did not. The abundance of technology, however, comes with a price.

Easy access to any marketplace can be a double-edged sword. Convenience and ease of use is a boost to those of us needing a quick app, but accidental purchases can cause a lot of headaches. One-click online shopping was once one of the biggest dangers our bank account faced. Now, many of us carry multiple devices, each with their own marketplace and app stores.

With modern tech, mobile applications, whether on iOS (Apple) or Android devices, are easier than ever to buy and download. So simple in fact, that a child could do it.

Designed to Appeal

Children love to download mobile applications that feature their favourite characters, cartoons and TV shows. Advertisements are aimed specifically for children in ways that will invite them to click a link and instantly download a game.

These games are typically free, meaning they don’t require authentication by default before downloading. A new game can be downloaded, installed, and ready to run seconds from clicking an ad.

Developers commonly use, what is known in the business as, a ‘freemium‘ model. This means that the game is free to download and start, but inserts paid ‘upgrades’ designed to make the player part with cash.

Freemium Games

Upgrades to games may unlock more levels, purchase an in-game currency, or outfit a character with special attributes, e.g. weapons or game ‘health’. Competitive online games commonly employ a strategy that gives paying players an unfair advantage over ones who don’t pay – this is often referred to as ‘pay-to-win’ and entices players to spend more to get on the same level.

Many mobile-based games are designed purely to encourage in-app purchasing. Some deliberately design a deceptive or tricky user-interface that makes it easy to miss-click or make purchases by accident.

There are regular stories in the news featuring children spending thousands on in-app purchases for virtual characters. In some cases, children can use real-world money to buy items thinking they are spending in-game currency.

Apps to Help

Of course, it’s unfair to give all applications a bad name. Many deserve it, but not all apps are guilty of behaving badly. There are fitness apps, productivity apps, and educational apps that can act as useful tools to help enhance your day. Children can get a lot from high-quality applications in the same way educational software for the computer can be a huge classroom boost.

Getting the most out of your phone or tablet is about keeping your device safe against applications designed merely to take your money.

Secure Your Device

The best step you can take to prevent running up enormous app bills is to disable in-app purchases on your devices. This prevents apps from being able to take funds for digital items. The process to do this is simple, takes less than 2 minutes, and can save you huge amounts.

On iOS: Enter the settings screen, tap on ‘General’. Then tap on ‘Restrictions’ and tap the ‘Enable restrictions’ option. Make sure to turn “In-App Purchases” off.

On Android: Inside the Google Play App: press the phone menu button and go to Settings. Scroll down to “User Controls”, tap on the “Set or Change Pin” option and set a pin that only you will know.

In the “User Controls” menu check the option to “Use Pin for purchases”. Newer phones may label this pin as a password instead.

Safe Apps

With these options enabled, whether using an iOS or Android device, your phone or tablet is safe from app purchases in any hands.

Common Malware to Watch Out For

Common Types of Malware Infection

The term “virus” is often used to describe many different types of infection a computer might have and can describe any number of potential computer programs. What these programs have in common are they are typically used to cause damage, steal data, or spread across the network but they are usually designed for a malicious or criminal intent right from the start.

Malware (‘malicious software’) is any software used for negative purposes on a personal computer  and can actually be legitimate software, but which is being deliberately misused.

Adware

Short for ‘advertising-supported software’, adware is a type of malware that delivers advertisements to your computer.  These advertisements are often intrusive, irritating, and often designed to trick you into clicking something that you don’t want. A common example of malware is pop-up ads that appear on many websites and mobile applications.

Adware often comes bundled with “free” versions of software that uses these intrusive advertising to make up costs.  Commonly it is installed without the user’s knowledge and may be made excessively difficult to remove.

Spyware

‘Spyware’ is designed to spy on the user’s activity without their knowledge or consent.  Often installed in the background, spyware can collect keyboard input, harvest data from the computer, monitor web activity and more.

Spyware typically requires installation to the computer. This is commonly done by tricking users into installing spyware themselves instead of the software or application that they thought they were getting. Victims of spyware are often be completely unaware of its presence until the data stolen is acted on in the form of fraudulent bank transactions or stolen online accounts.

Virus

A typical virus may install a keylogger to capture passwords, logins, and bank information from the keyboard.  It might steal data, interrupt programs, and cause the computer to crash but  more commonly, includes a ‘ransomware’ package – see below.

Modern virus programs commonly use your computers processing power and internet bandwidth to perform tasks remotely for hackers – the first sign of this can be when the computer sounds like it is doing a lot of work when no programs should be running.

A computer virus is often spread through installing unknown software or downloading attachments that contain more than they seem but perhaps the most common is by links in emails.

Ransomware

A particularly malicious variety of malware, known as ransomware, prevents the user from accessing their own files until a ransom is paid.  Files within the system are often encrypted with a password that won’t be revealed to the user until the full ransom is paid.

Instead of accessing the computer as normal, the user is presented with a screen which details the contact and payment information required to access their data again.

Ransomware is typically downloaded through malicious file attachments, email, or a vulnerability in the computer system. This si the type of infection that seriously affected NHS machines not too long ago.

Worm

Among the most common type of malware today is the computer ‘worm’.  Worms spread across computer networks by exploiting vulnerabilities within the operating system.  Often these programs cause harm to their host networks by consuming large amounts of network bandwidth, overloading computers, and using up all the available resources.

One of the key differences between worms and a regular virus is its ability to make copies of itself and spread independently.  A virus must rely on human activity to run a program or open a malicious attachment; worms can simply spread over the network without human intervention.

No need to be paranoid!

So with all these types of infections, it would be easy to be put off using computers altogether and we have certainly met people that do the minimum possible with theirs, due to infection worries.

The fact is that we have found that the typical number of calls for traditional computer virus infections has gone down over recent times and that more often than not, infections today are the result of scams or insufficient security protection.

If you use common sense, a good security package (preferably paid for as opposed to a free version) and are cautious with what you do online and download, then you can reduce the chances of infection – but you must remain vigilant.

If you would like us to help  keep your systems safe from malware, give us a call on 01455 209505.

Storage Struggles? How to keep up with the Data explosion

Storage Struggles? How to keep up with the data explosion

Even though many businesses and home users have already embraced the benefits of going fully digital, the digital boom also presents brand new problems too. By moving all our files into a digital space, the amount of storage we need to maintain has grown larger and larger just to keep up.

Moving to digital has allowed us to do more than ever before. It can save both time and money iterating over work drafts and emails as well as saving a ton of space too, eliminating the need for stacks of filing cabinets in every office. For home users, many people now have over 100GB of important data (such as irreplaceable photos), on their computers and other devices.

As digital technology has improved, the resolution, clarity, and size of the digital files we create has exploded. Items such as Xrays, which used to be printed on film are now digital files transferred by computer. As a result of the increase in both the number of digital files we use and their ever-growing size, the size of the data we need to store has exploded exponentially.

There are a number of ways in which we can tackle our ever-growing storage problem.

Local Server or Network Attached Storage (NAS)

A local server is a machine physically located within your own office or building. These are typically designed to serve many files to multiple clients at one time from locally held storage.

The primary advantage that a local network server has is that all your vital data is available to all users in one central location. This means that everyone across the network can access all the resources made available. These machines can serve files at the speed of the local network, transferring large projects, files, and documents from a central position within the network with ease.

The downside of having your own server is the costs of purchase and ongoing maintenance, as well as its vulnerability, for example if the server goes wrong, is stolen or offline for some other reason, everything stops.

A NAS has many of the same network properties, typically packaged as a smaller profile, low powered computer but at a reduced cost compared to a server. A NAS is specifically designed to enable network file sharing in a more compact package and can be available in units small enough to fit in a cupboard nook but still provide staggering storage capacity, on only a small amount of power.

Both a local server and NAS device allow for large amounts of storage space to be added to the local network. These units are often expanded with more and more storage over time. As an organization grows over time, so do its data storage requirements.

Cloud Storage

Sometimes the best option for storage is to move your ever-expanding data outside of the business or home completely. Often, offloading the costs of hardware and IT management can work out to be an intelligent business decision and one that provides freedom and flexibility in your data storage needs.

The major advantage of cloud storage comes from the ability to expand and contract your data as needed without the unnecessary overhead of adding and maintaining new hardware. Plus, they usually have multiple copies, so your data is protected to a far greater extent than if you had your own server or NAS.

By moving storage to the cloud, data can be accessed from anywhere in the world provided you have the login details. The flexibility provided by cloud storage allows limitless expansion to any number of devices, locations, and offices. Being able to access data from many locations at a single time can often provide a valuables boost to productivity that can help to speed projects along.

Not only that, cloud services such as Dropbox also provide ransomware protection as they can replace infected files with clean copies where necessary.

The main drawback of cloud storage comes from factors that may be outside of the control of the user – the main one being that not all internet connections are found to be up to the task of handling large amounts of data to and from the cloud. In some cases, the infrastructure is quite simply not in place yet to support it.

IT security regulations or other concerns can also prove to be a barrier to enabling storage in the cloud too. Some regulations either prohibit the feature entirely or you simply may not want certain types of data in an offsite location.

The Right Choice for your data

Whatever your situation, whether a small NAS, local Server or Cloud setup is best to protect your important data, we can advise on your best choices.

Give us a call on 01455 209505 to allow us to use our expertise to make the right choice for your data.

How to Tell if You Have Been Hacked

How to Tell if You Have Been Hacked

Being hacked is the single biggest fear of most computer users. Many believe that the first sign of strange behaviour or errors on their PC is a sign that hackers have taken control. But are hackers really inside your machine, stealing your information? Or should we be on the lookout for more subtle signs? What does being hacked really look like?

There is an important distinction to make between being hacked by a person and being infected with a virus or malware. Virus software and malware are automated processes designed to damage your system, steal your data, or both. There are of course ways that we can defeat these processes, but what if we are instead hacked by an individual?

Remote Connections

Our previous blog posts have warned people about not allowing strangers to remotely access their computers unless they are 100% sure that they are genuine.

Remote Support technology is a very useful tool but if you allow the wrong people to remotely connect, they can be doing things in the background that you may not be aware of. For example, whilst speaking to you they can be downloading software that they can then use to convince you that your computer has a problem – i.e. displaying fake error messages. Needless to say, they can also be gathering information from your computer too.

They can also leave software on your machine which in many cases is very difficult to spot. You should only allow people to connect when you have approached them – never from a phone call or email coming to you out of the blue, no matter how believable or what they appear to know about you.

Logins not working

One of the first steps a hacker might take would be to change the computers passwords. By doing so, not only do they ensure future access to the account, they prevent you from accessing the system to stop them. For the hacker, this is a crucial step that keeps them in control.

Being hacked is not the only reason why you may not be able to login, but it is a possible symptom that you need to bear in mind. We always need to make sure to keep on top of our own login details and how often we change them.

Security Emails or SMS’s from online services

Many services track which device and location you logged into your account from last. If your account is accessed from a new device or a different country it might trigger an automated email or SMS to ask if this new login is your own.

If you have logged in using a new computer, tablet, or phone; an email that asks “hey, is this you?” need not be cause for alarm. If you haven’t, it may be time to investigate further. This service is an important part of information security and may be a key first step to identify someone else gaining access to your account.

Bank accounts – strange transactions

Most commonly today, hackers commit crimes to steal money. The end goal for hackers is typically to profit from their crimes by taking money from people online. Obviously it pays to keep a regular eye on your financial transactions to make sure you know what money is coming and going from your account, especially when doing online banking.

Whilst you may see a large sum missing where hackers have attempted to take as much as they can in a single transaction, this is not always the case. Alternatively small, hard to notice transactions may sometimes appear. These often account for small purchases where attackers have tested the details that they have, to make sure they work. Hackers may even wait months before attempting a transaction.

Either way, the sooner you spot unusual or unrecognized transactions, the better.

Sudden loss of cellular connectivity

Mobile network interruption is a symptom that few people expect but occurs commonly when hackers attack. Many banks and online services use a security feature known as Two-factor authentication. To do this they send a short code to your phone or app when you log in. Two-factor authentication is ideal in most cases and is a great boost to security.

Determined hackers can try to work around this by calling your mobile service provider to report your phone as lost or stolen. During this call, they will request your phone number be transferred to a new sim card that they control. When your bank sends its regular two-factor authentication code to the number registered, it goes instead to the hacker who may be able to log in. From your perspective the phone service will simply stop working.

Unusual or unrecognized icons

In many cases hacking software tries to be stealthy and not be seen, but there are some that do not hide themselves so much because the hackers believe that it may not be noticed. A common one is remote connection software that can only be seen as a tiny icon in the bottom right-hand corner of a Windows computer, which automatically starts up every time you switch the computer on. It is hiding amongst all the other small icons and is frequently overlooked.

Similarly there may be an icon appearing on the Desktop which you do not recognize or remember installing, or your normal search engine changes to something else – if a virus or malware has caused this, what else is going on?

Keeping vigilant and maintaining security

These are only some of the modern techniques that hackers can try to use to gain access to your accounts. You don’t need to be paranoid but it pays to be extra vigilant and pay close attention to the signs and signals that indicate you may have been hacked.

Also, make sure that you have a good security product installed – it makes it that much harder for hackers.

If you suspect that you might have been hacked, or would like help to prevent hackers in future, give us a call on 01455 209505 and we’ll help improve your security.