Archive for Internet – Page 2

The Internet of Things

Internet of Things

Not too long ago, when you watched a TV programme or film that showed someone talking to a computer (and the computer answered back) it was just science fiction. Now it’s fact, just take Amazon Echo for example – one of a number of little gadgets just waiting for you to talk to it. Now, you can ‘talk’ to and control aspects of your home, wherever you are.

What is Internet of Things?

The I.T. world loves its jargon and you may have heard of the phrase ‘Internet of Things’ – this means an interconnected system of everyday devices controllable over the internet.

You arrive at home and the door unlocks because it knows who you are, sensing the key in your pocket. The lights switch themselves on and your favourite music begins to stream through the living area. The home is already the perfect temperature because you switched on the heating using your smartphone, and as you head for the fridge you notice an alert on the screen congratulating you on meeting your exercise goal today and suggesting a tasty snack.

This is actually reality today thanks to the Internet of Things (IoT), for example the ‘Hive’ service from the well-known energy company British Gas uses IoT technology. Almost anything that can be turned on or off is now able to be connected to the internet and an entire industry has popped up to help users create a custom experience designed around their unique needs.  Electronic locks, lights, healthcare wearables and household appliances are just the beginning.

Adapters can transform even the most random appliance into a connected gadget, as well as add new layers of functionality. Millions of people are wearing a Fitbit, Jawbone or other wearable fitness trackers to track steps and calories, while others are letting their fridge order groceries!

The practical applications are almost endless, including: GPS trackers on pets, home security via webcam, patient monitoring of blood pressure/heart rate, weather monitoring, and remote power points. No more worrying all day if you left the iron on, just push a button on your phone and know for sure it’s turned off.

Not everyone wants this interconnectivity, (such as their fridge telling them when to order milk – they may want it to be just a fridge) but the technology is there and is going to be built into more and more devices that you buy from the shops from now on.

With all this connectivity comes risks.

If your home devices are connected over the internet, they are open to internet risks just like everything else. While the idea of having your toaster hacked is a bit mind-boggling, technology connected to the internet is open to exploitation. The webcam that allows you to monitor your pets may also allow other people to glimpse inside your home, but only if it’s not secured properly. Unfortunately, it only takes one small gap for a cyber-attack to get through, and once in, all connected devices are at risk.

Having your lights taken over by a far-away prankster may seem like a small risk, but gaps allow them into your computers, phones and tablets too. That’s the part the movies skip over – the networking protections that exist in the background, shielding against attacks.

Taking the time to properly secure your IoT device is essential to making sure you get the whole, happy future-tech experience.

Got an IoT device? Give us a call at 01455 209505 to help you set it up securely.

Browser HTTP – HTTPS warnings and what they mean

HTTPS secure connection in browser

There are two common ways that you can access the internet using an internet browser like Firefox, Chrome, Safari, etc. and they are called HTTP and HTTPS. Some of the main browsers may now start displaying warnings that they didn’t before and this will explain why and what they mean.

HTTP is the standard method of accessing websites and you can see it in the address bar of your browser, when you see a website address such as

HTTPS is more secure because it creates an encrypted connection between you and your online bank, or a website that you are ordering something from – a website that you may be giving your credit card details to. This is achieved by websites using special security certificates that the browser can verify as secure and you can tell this by seeing the green padlock where the website address is. In some cases, there is a padlock (as the picture above) or the whole website address may be shown in green in your browser.

HTTPS is becoming the preferred choice

Until recently, the main use of HTTPS was to protect financial transactions or personal information from being intercepted. This is now changing because there are many benefits in making all websites use it, even when not doing those transactions. For example, if you are logging into something like Facebook, a membership website or forum, it is better to have your login details protected if possible rather than going over the internet unencrypted.

Also, it makes it more difficult for those people who create malicious websites that imitate a genuine website, in order to get you to hand over personal information.

Browsers are highlighting HTTP/HTTPS

Google Chrome announced a while ago that starting this year, they are changing the way the browser shows websites, in that Chrome will start to identify any website that isn’t using HTTPS – whether the website is a financial one or not.

So if you login to something or enter important information, you may now see: –

Chrome security warnings

Similarly, Firefox is now flagging non-HTTPS websites and when there is a website with a login, this warning is displayed advising you that the connection is not secure, that is not using HTTPS.

Address bar not secure

If you are entering login details, you may also see this: –

Insecure login warning

Eventually, all websites will go the HTTPS route, but at the moment there is generally a cost implication for website owners for the security certificates and setup, so the speed of the take-up of HTTPS will be gradual.

In the meantime, if you see any of the above warnings and you have to enter login details, credit card or other personal information, you now know what they mean and can make an informed choice about what you do next.

Search Engines – use with care

Search engine - use with care

In previous articles we’ve mentioned that as well as watching out for computer viruses, you need to watch out for ‘Potentially Unwanted Programs’- technically legal software used maliciously which may install a program without your permission, change your search engine, tracks what you are doing or many other things.

The people behind this malware are getting more clever in finding ways to get their software onto your computer and are even using search engines to help them – search engines that everyone uses every day.

Unfortunately we still find customers that have been misled when searching and have unwittingly gone to the wrong kind of website to download something from.

Check the actual website address

It may sound obvious, but when reading the search results, check the website address itself and not just the title or wording. You would be surprised how many people only look at the title or briefly read the paragraph under it and it is common that people have searched for something on a search engine, (such as printer software drivers for example) and some of the results are not genuine websites. The website addresses may be very similar, such as ‘’ instead of the correct ‘’ but they will not be the website that you want.

Some of these ‘almost’ websites are genuine, but many are not and when downloading from them, they can add unwanted programs (or worse) to what you download. As a lot of these unwanted programs are not illegal as such, they can sometimes be missed by antivirus software.

How do you avoid going to the wrong search result?

The important thing to remember is that you should not automatically assume that all the results of any search are genuine. You need to be careful what you click on, as well as what you download.

As well as being extra careful if you see the website address is not what you expect, many antivirus programs automatically check to see if a website has been reported as a potential danger and if so, will warn you. Sometimes the search engine itself may warn you too, but you cannot rely on being warned every time.

Antivirus programs may show a green icon alongside the website entry in the search list, telling you that the website is ok, which is useful – but that doesn’t mean that you must avoid any results which do not have the green icon. Many people are not aware that a website that does not have the green icon, may still be alright to visit – the fact that they do not have a green icon may just mean that they have not been added to the antivirus program ‘green’ list yet.

Stick to the original websites where possible.

If you are looking for software drivers for your computer, stick to the manufacturer website – this will ensure that you have the most up to date and malware-free download.

If you do not go to a manufacturer website to download something, try not to download drivers or programs from third party sites unless you have to and then only when they are well-known sites.

So called ‘Peer to Peer’ (file sharing) sites can be particularly problematic and again, you need to be choosy where you download from.

So long as you treat search engine results with as much caution as anything else on the web, you will be adding to your computer security. You don’t have to be paranoid – just be careful!

Too many toolbars

Popular internet browsers

A ‘Toolbar’ is an extra piece of software which inserts itself into the top of an internet browser and looks a part of it.

These toolbars can add search functions, links to various programs, online services and much more. They are easily available, usually free and are made to sound as though they are things that you cannot do without.

The thing is, you can do without them and we recommend that you avoid them if possible – even if they are from well-known companies.

There are a number of reasons for this. One is that every time you start up your browser (Internet Explorer, Firefox, Chrome etc.)  the toolbar will also load and install itself into the browser. This can not only slow the loading of the browser in the first place but can also slow down the loading of websites, as some toolbars monitor the content of each web page and that information needs to be processed in the background- which slows things down.

This monitoring is another reason to avoid them – usually deep down in the terms and conditions (that no-one reads) is a clause that says that you give the toolbar permission to track what you are doing on the internet and send this information to a third party, either for adverts or something else.

Another practical reason to avoid them is that some are just badly designed and written. They can interfere with legitimate uses of your internet browsers and can even stop them functioning at all in some cases.

In extreme cases, we have seen multiple toolbars in customer internet browsers and this can not only slow the browser down, but also the computer itself.

When you can bookmark your favourite sites, you may want to look at your toolbars, to see if you really need them.