Ransomware

Ransomware is currently the subject of the hour.  Attacks are happening more frequently and are costing users time and money to resolve.  Often the simplest solution is to pay the ransom to give you access to your documents again.

We at UA Technology Services believe that prevention is better than cure.  A robust backup strategy that is both offsite and incorporates versioning will allow you to recover your documents without needing to pay the perpetrators.

A new website Fight Ransomware has been launched to try and bring together news and information about the subject, to help users be aware about the current state of play and to inform them about what can be done to combat this malware.

A few Statistics about Ransomware to give you an idea about the size of the problem

$445 Billion

The amount cybercrime will cost the global economy in 2016. The primary driver of loss will be ransomware.

+300%

The increase in ransomware attacks from Q1 of 2016 compared to Q1 2015. That’s as many as 4,000 ransomware attacks per day.

60 Seconds

The time it takes a hacker to compromise a computer with ransomware.

Contact Us to book an appointment or to discuss your needs further.

Free Microsoft EBooks

Last year I posted about a great Microsoft Free Ebook giveaway.

Well it’s happening again! I have updated the script that can download all the books for you. There seemed little point in changing the instructions as they are the same as before and so below this short intro you will find a link to last years posting that has full instructions.

Free Microsoft EBooks

Eric Ligman – Microsoft Senior Sales Excellence Manager – puts his collection of Microsoft books online for anyone to download. These are PDF’s of the full books that would cost a small fortune to purchase.

This is from an official Microsoft Blog and is sanctioned by Microsoft.

No tricks, no catches.

Click here for instructions how to get the books

Contact Us to book an appointment or to discuss your needs further.

Building a WordPress Website

We are often asked to build websites for our clients and friends.  Though we are more than happy to do so we felt it was only fair to life the vail on how simple this can really be using tools such as WordPress.

Websites can be extremely complicated (Facebook, Google, Pinterest) or extremely simple (http://www.graftonbespoke.com). But most fall somewhere in between and so today I will be showing you how to go down that road. Do remember that simple websites can get complex very quickly and there is often a great deal going on in the background to make things look simple.

There are several different ways of building a website:

  1. Manually code it: Time consuming.  Needs a lot of skill.  Need to know HTML, CSS and PHP or J# et al.  VERY flexible.
  2. Use a site builder. Wix, 1&1:  Very simple.  Very limited in what you can do. Restrictive.
  3. Use a CMS (Content Management System): Slightly more complex than site builders, but much more flexible. Look and feel can be changed very easily. Many free templates available.

There are a whole load of other ways of doing this, including buying a canned “White label” website.  That is a system (often very complex) that you install and then customize to your needs (time entry, CRM…).

What are we going to do today?

As it says in the title, today we are going to start to build a WordPress website.  Building a whole website takes quite some time.  I am hoping to get you started and point you in the direction that you need to go

  1. Open a web browser and goto https://wordpress.com
  2. Click “Create Website”
  3. Chose what your website is about
  4. This will offer you a range of canned templates
  5. Choose one you like the look of. Don’t worry about it too much.  The beauty of this way of working is that you can change it at will
  6. Think of an a domain name you want to use (fred.wordpress.com, haggis.wordpress.com)
  7. It will let you know If your name is available and will offer some alternatives. It will also let you attach your own domain name (if you have one)
  8. Choose one of the free options
  9. Click on “Select Free Plan”
  10. Put in your email address, a user name (use the one it suggests) and a password (make a simple one up for now, although it is best to use a strong one (Tips for creating a Strong Password).
  11. Hit “Create Account”.
  12. Well done. You have created a website.
  13. You will receive an email to confirm your email address. Click on “Confirm Now”
  14. Log in to the page that comes up.
  15. Select “Settings”
  16. Give your site a title and tagline – Remember to hit “Save Settings”

Take a look at https://haggisweb.wordpress.com/ (If it still exists) I created it this morning while preparing for this session.  As you can see it is full of place holders.  They need replacing with real information.

Remember that WordPress was originally a blogging platform, so it tends to display as such.  It is not hard to make it a “normal” website.  Once you know what to look for you will be amazed the sites that are based on WordPress.

One of the great things about WordPress is the staggering amount of plugins that are available (many for free). Plugins add features (sometimes very complex ones) to your site, without you needing to code.  Take a look at “Infinite Scroll” and “Essential SEO”.

If you find this interface a little restrictive add “wp-admin” to the end of your address (http://haggisweb.wordpress.com/wp-admin) and you will have access to the full WordPress dashboard.

From here it is up to your imagination.

One more thing, as Steve Jobs liked saying…

Having a website is pointless unless you now that people are actually looking at it.  Select “Analytics” from the settings menu.  Here you can put in a Google Analytics Tracking ID.  To get this go to http://www.google.com/analytics/ log in with a Google account (create one if you do not have one).  You can then add your new site and you will be given an ID.  Enter that ID into your new website. It will take a little time, but eventually you will be able to see who is looking at your site, where are they from, what are they looking at and loads more info.

Have a play.  See what effects you can have.  It is hard to break it and even if you do break it it is not hard to reset.

There is obviously a lot more that goes in to a website in terms of connecting it to social media and other services, but remember CONTENT IS KING.  Make it interesting, show your passion and the followers will come.

Here are some websites that we have built for our clients.

Contact Us to book an appointment or to discuss your needs further.

Phishing/Scam emails

Scam Emails

Watch out for this sort of message.

They say that they are from Linkedin (nice job on the format copying) but they come from a GMail account (that has the same name as our company!).

Looking at my Linkedin account this message does not exist.

Just hit the Delete button.  Never try an unsubscribe, it just confirms your email address.

To my knowledge we have no contacts in India, but we do have a few people that say the work for us down there (that Linkedin will not remove).

 

scam 1

 

Contact Us to book an appointment or to discuss your needs further.

Disk failure and what to do about it

I have recently read a posting by someone that gave “10 Things You Should Not Do To a Failed or Failing Hard Drive”. Unfortunately 8 out of the 10 things suggested were bunk and were intended to point the poor owner of a damaged disk towards the recovery services offered by his company.

This has spurred me on to give some better advice.

The best thing you can do if you have a disk failure is to plan for it in advance and be prepared!

Dead Disk

I have recently swapped the spinning disk in my laptop for a Solid State Disk (SSD), this is essentially a box filled with non-volatile memory that replaces the existing disk.  It is very fast, uses less power and is more tolerant of knocks (which is good as it goes on the back of my motorbike).  The downside of an SSD is that they can sometimes just die.  No warning, no funny noises, no apparent reason.

Disk failure is not a problem as I have planned for it in advance.  “How?”, I hear you ask.  Simple, I shall now explain…

  1. I have taken an image of the hard disk, which I keep in a safe place.  If I ever need to use it it will be badly out of date and I will need to spend some time updating it and making any tweaks I have done after the image was taken, but it will still be quicker than starting from scratch.
  2. I have copies, in a known location, of all the software I have installed.  All the disks that came with the machine and recovery disks that I had to create along with another disk containing additional software and Licence information.  I am sure there are one or two small programs that may be missing by now, but all the important line of business stuff, such as MS Office are secured.
  3. Now we talk about the important stuff that cannot simply be regenerated, namely, YOUR DATA. All my data is protected using a “belt and braces” approach, this is because I have lost data in the past and really do not want to do it again (if you have lost data you will understand).  My method is a hybrid of the 3-2-1 approach that I have talked about in the past.  I use Carbonite to give me a continuous back up of ALL the live data on my machine (Full disclosure – we are Carbonite resellers, please substitute the name of any offsite-online backup company you prefer).  As long as I am internet connected, or as soon as I become internet connected, my data is off to a bunker in the US somewhere.  I also use BOTH Cubby and MS Onedrive (both free) to replicate my most important business and personal information, this serves the triple purpose of a, giving me 2 more backups, b, allowing me to get to my data when I am away from my laptop and c, allows me to share my data with my business partner.  Lastly I do also take backups to a local disk but, as with most normal people, this is not done as often as it should be.

I do run regular disk maintenance and manage my laptop to the nth degree, but I am a techie and I am not suggesting that you need to do the same.

With all these measures in place a disk failure is more of a nuisance than a tragedy. All I have to do is acquire a replacement disk, restore the image I took, update it and restore my data (which is always available, even with my machine down).  Now I am not saying that this is the work of 5 minutes.  It will still take a couple of days to get back to a fully operational state, but at least I do not have to worry that I have lost all the information for that major invoice I was about to send to my important client.

As a slight aside, I have recently read an article that talks about Google.  They have, not surprisingly, a massive amount of hard disks to store all the data about us.  They early on realised that disks, even expensive specialist server disks, fail.  They buy cheap consumer level disks and bank on approximately a 10% failure rate (that was a while ago and this figure may have changed).  They then design their systems so that any individual disk failure is not an issue.

The elephant in the room

What I have not told you is what to do if you do suffer from disk failure, and do not have a backup.

The simple answer is, if you know what you are doing, attempt to take an image of the disk, if you can, BEFORE doing anything else.  If you are not sure about how to do this then locate someone that knows what they are doing (preferably NOT your neighbours 12 year old).  Much like Schrodinger’s cat, your data is there and is not there.  A few wrong moves and your data will be damaged and then you will need a specialist company to recover it (= Expensive).

Any experienced IT professional should be able to image a disk for you.  If it will not read at all then you are in the hands of specialist companies.  At this point you need to decide how much the data is worth to you and exactly what you need recovering.

Remember…

While we can’t all be set up like Google, we can be set up to expect hardware failure and be ready to recover with minimal loss.  A stitch in time saves nine.

Contact Us to book an appointment or to discuss your needs further.

Barclays wants to give you some security advice….

Unfortunately it is not very good….

Always check…
• a website is secure before entering account or card details. Look for the ‘https’ in the web address and the padlock or unbroken key icon at the top of the page.

This is no good as any domain can have an HTTPS address and a padlock. All it tells you is that the site has paid for a certificate. You need to check that the address you are seeing in the address bar is actually what you think it should be. i.e. paypal.com NOT paypa1.com

Never share…
• your personal or security information on a website you’ve clicked to from a link in an email or text. We will never email or text you a link that takes you straight to the Online Banking page.

WRONG!! Never click on link in email or text in the first place. It is trivial to hide the real address that a link is taking you too (in an email or even on a website). If you want to go to a site obtained from an email, type the address YOURSELF. That way you know it is what it says it is.

Act with care…
• by keeping your internet security software up to date. Help protect yourself with our free* Kaspersky™ security software at barclays.co.uk/kaspersky

OK, this last one is fair comment. But don’t assume that the scanner will save your bacon. You need to take care where you go and what you click on.

Look here Keeping safe on the internet for more tips.  If you move your mouse over that link, and look in the bottom left of your browser window, you will see where it is taking you.

Contact Us to book an appointment or to discuss your needs further.

 

Huge collection of Free Microsoft eBooks

Eric Ligman – Microsoft Senior Sales Excellence Manager – puts his collection of Microsoft books online for anyone to download.  These are PDF’s of the full books that would cost a small fortune to purchase.

This is from an official Microsoft Blog and is sanctioned by Microsoft.

No tricks, no catches.

Just go to this link and fill your boots 🙂

Huge collection of Free Microsoft eBooks

The link on this page lets you download the books individually or download a file with links to each book.  This is a bit of a pain as there are over 200 of them, so I have written a script (nothing clever just a bunch of wgets) that will download the whole lot (one by one).

The script is available here http://www.uatechserv.com/downloads/DownloadMSFTEbooks.cmd.txt

Right click on this link and select “Save as”.  Make sure the name you save it as ends in .CMD NOT .TXT (Just remove the .TXT I have added).

You will need to either use a machine (Linux or Mac??)  that already has wget or install it on your Windows PC (it is actually a really useful tool).

You can get wget from here…
http://gnuwin32.sourceforge.net/packages/wget.htm
Or here
http://www.uatechserv.com/downloads/wget-1.11.4-1-setup.exe

Once it is installed make sure that you have the location of the wget.exe in your machines search path and then create a new folder.  Put my script in it and then click on it.  It will open a Dos box up and start to download the files one, by one.  Depending on your internet speed this may take some time.

It is not a clever script and so, if you stop it and re-run it, don’t be surprised if you get the odd error, because files already exist.  Also you may find that the Microsoft server may say that you already have a connection (just leave it for a while and try again).

If you have any issues, drop me an email.  But this really is as simple as it looks.

Contact Us to book an appointment or to discuss your needs further.

Lastpass Security

I have been a very busy person over the last few months, so I have not really had time to post.  But I do feel that the following warrants some time.

I have repeatedly recommended Lastpass to my friends, family and customers as a great way of storing your passwords.  Unfortunately, as was bound to happen, they have suffered a security breach.

Fortunately their internal architecture was well designed (unlike some others (Sony!  I’m looking at you)) and so the impact is minimal.

The Lastpass Blog gives full report from Lastpass themselves.

In Essence…

  1. There is nothing to worry about
  2. Change your Lastpass password
  3. Change the password of any sites that you have used the same password (bad idea anyway)

Don’t have nightmares 🙂

Contact Us to book an appointment or to discuss your needs further.