Common Types of Malware to Watch Out For

Infected SystemsWhat is a virus and is it the same as malware?

Malware describes software designed to act maliciously on a computer. The name ‘malware’ is a shorthand for ‘malicious software’ and describes exactly what it is. A computer virus is a single type of malware that can cause harm to your PC, but it is only one of many. Other types of malware are listed below.

Adware

Short for advertising-supported software, adware is a type of malware that delivers adverts to your computer. These advertisements often pop-up and are intrusive, irritating and  designed to trick you into clicking something 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 money. Commonly it is installed without the user’s knowledge and are purposely made to be difficult to remove.

Spyware

Spyware is designed to spy on the user’s activity without their consent or knowledge. Spyware is often installed in the background, collects keyboard input and can 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 the spyware themselves instead of a software application that they thought they were getting. Victims of spyware are often be completely unaware of its presence until the stolen data is used elsewhere (ie in a fraudulent bank transactions or stolen online accounts).

Virus

A computer virus is a form of malware that is installed inadvertently, causing damage to the computer and / or user. A typical virus may install a keylogger to capture passwords, logins and bank information from the keyboard or it might steal or delete data, interrupt programs or cause the computer to crash.

Modern virus programs commonly use your computers processing power and internet bandwidth to perform illegal 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 are running. A computer virus is often spread through installing unknown software or downloading attachments that contain more than they seem.

Ransomware

Ransomware is a very malicious variety of malware that prevents the user from accessing their own files and data until a ransom is paid. Files within the system are often encrypted with a password that won’t be revealed to the user until they receive money usually in the form of bitcoin.

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 through a vulnerability in the computer system.

Worm

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

While similar to a virus a worm is able to both copies of itself and spread independently. A virus must rely on human activity to run a program or open a malicious attachment while worms can simply spread over the network without human intervention.

If you would like to make your business secure from malware, give us a call at 08 8326 4364 or via email on support@dpcomputing.com.au.

4 Ways To Protect Your Firm Against Unknown Threats

Unknown threatsProtecting your business against the latest IT threats should always be a top priority. Updating your antivirus and keeping your operating system and applications up to date is a great way to start. What happens though, when a threat appears at your door before security firms have had a chance to catch it?

A security threat that exploits a previously undiscovered vulnerability is known as a zero-day threat. The name “zero-day” is designed to show how long since the vulnerability was discovered and also indicates that system developers have had zero days to fix it.

A newly discovered attack might be included in a computer virus or worm. This will allow it to spread far and wide, while inflicting the maximum amount of damage possible. When spread successfully, a new exploit has the potential to reach hundreds of thousands of computers before an operating system or anti-virus update can even be issued.

Here are 4 ways to help protect your business or lessen the damage from an unknown or  zero-day attack.

1. Preventative security

The number one way to mitigate the damage from any attack is to prevent it from happening in the first place. Maintaining a good firewall and up-to-date security system is the best way you can take to ensure the security of your system.

A firewall, which monitors traffic in and out of your network, reduces unauthorised entries and exits over the network. Even without knowing the exact nature of the attack, suspicious activity can be stopped.

The same is true of modern security software. Even when it can’t identify the specific zero-day threat from its virus database; it can often identify malicious intent from learned behaviour in the system.

2. A Locked Down Network

Should a zero-day threat make it into your network, our next goal is to limit its effects. By restricting user access to only essential files and systems we can limit the damage done to the smallest area. Good security policy dictates that each account should only have full access to the systems needed to complete the user’s job. For example, users from the accounts department shouldn’t have access to sales department databases – see our blog article here on this area of security.

In this way, the damage of a single compromised account is limited to only the network area it has permissions to. Limiting the impact makes it easier to recover if the worst happens.

3. Good Data backup

Whether your entire network has been exploited or only a small area has been affected; good data backups are a must and are your protection against major long term damage. Having a good backup means having the procedures in place to create regular backup copies and also regularly test those backups to make sure they can be restored at a later date.

Reliable and well tested backups are worth their weight in gold. They allow you to sleep well at night knowing your data is safe and your system can be recovered.

4. Intrusion Protection

While the precise methods of a zero-day exploit can’t be known in advance, a network intrusion protection system (NIPS) can monitor your firms network for unusual activity.

The advantage of NIPS over a traditional firewall and traditional antivirus software is that it does not rely on checking software against a known database of threats. This means it does not need updates or patches to learn about the latest attacks. NIPS works by learning the day-to-day patterns of network activity across the network.

When traffic or something out of the ordinary is detected, action can be taken to alert system administrators and lock down the network.

NIPS protects against threats introduced to the network from both external and internal sources.

Full Cover Protection

Used in combination these techniques can prevent, protect, and mitigate against the kinds of threats that even the top security firms don’t even know of yet.

If you could use help protect your business against security threats and are in Adelaide or South Australia, then give us a call today at 08 8326 4364 or via email at support@dpcomputing.com.au.

Increase Your Productivity with Multiple Monitors

Dual Monitor SetupConventional wisdom says that messy work spaces lead to a disorganised mind. Mess prevents productivity and begins to hamper your professionalism. Shouldn’t that also apply to the computer desktop?

The easiest way to clean and organise your digital desktop is to add more space and the simplest way to do this is by adding another screen. This doubles the available room and makes organisation a breeze.

Getting work done with a single-monitor involves wasted time switching between windows and distracts from the work being done. Stacking windows together, side-by-side, or top and bottom on a single monitor wastes valuable screen real estate. The resulting clutter of windows also makes it hard to focus on what is important.

While tasks can be tackled feasibly with a single monitor; two or more monitors makes the same tasks faster, simpler, and much more enjoyable.

Two Monitors, Many Uses

Data entry with two monitors is far easier than data entry with one. Having source data on one screen, laid out in large type, and the destination on another makes the job a breeze. By eliminating the need to scroll tiny windows means that the same job can be done in a fraction of the time.

Graphic design, image manipulation, and picture editing are key areas that make the most of a multiple screen setup.

Stacking one image on each screen allows you to make quick comparisons to make sure your work is going in the right direction. Organising your editing space is made simple too. Stacking your tools, menus, and options on one monitor with your image maximised on the other helps to stay focused and finish the task much more easily.

Beyond Just Two

You can have tasks such as those below on a second or third screen, while keeping your main monitor free to focus on your immediate work:

  • A team chat window to keep on top of collaboration
  • Status updates for business-critical services
  • Latest stock prices
  • Emails

It is not uncommon for stock traders or financial analysts to maintain 6 or more screens!
Many uses this to track various stocks or indices so they don’t miss any changes.

Setup How You Like It

Multiple monitors can be arranged in many different configurations. While traditionally positioned in landscape orientation, second, third, or fourth monitors can also be rotated 90 degrees to portrait orientation.

This portrait orientation is commonly used often by software engineers, editors and other users who need to review a large amount of text. The lengthwise orientation allows multiple pages to be read from the screen at any one time.

Multi-screen setups behave the same as if all the monitors were just a single screen, no matter how they are arranged. The mouse moves seamlessly from one monitor to another as if there was no difference between them. From the user’s perspective, there is no difference as to how they interact at all.

A Boost to Productivity

A survey by Jon Peddie research found that adding an extra monitor boosted a user’s output by as much as 20 to 30 percent! A productivity advantage of even 10 percent is prized and very hard to come by in the business world. Receiving a productivity reward of over 20 percent for just the cost of adding a second monitor is something few firms can afford to pass up.

So if you are in Adelaide, South Australia, give us a call to add a second or third monitor to your current setup – 08 8326 4364 or support@dpcomputing.com.au.

Is Your Laptop Running Loud and Hot?

Laptop computers commonly heat up in normal operation. Electronic components, including large capacity batteries, become warm in use but your laptop should never become too hot to handle.

When a laptop turns hot to the touch or starts to sound like a jet engine, it’s likely something is wrong.

Modern laptops use nearly silent fans to cool components and keep the system safe to use. For the majority of users the sound the computer makes is the best tool you have to diagnose its running condition. Excessive heat causes the fans to work harder and faster to help cool the system down. This jet engine sound is one of the first clues you have to indicate all may not be well.

Why So Hot

Due to their compact size and portability, laptop computers are particularly prone to overheating. Their tiny size means electronic parts are closer together and there is less room for cooling vents.

Most laptops have small fans that suck in cool air, passing it over metal fins to exchange heat from the system. The resulting hot air exhaust is expelled through vents back into the room. This helps prevent heat building up inside the machine. The constant air cycle is designed to keep the laptop running cool no matter the workload placed on it.

The process though, can be disrupted by any number of factors during operation. As well as cool air, computer fans also suck in dust, stray hairs and even cigarette smoke. Smoke in particular contains thick tar which coats the fins, fan blades, and internal components.

This foreign debris inside the machine prevents components from working at their best. Tar, dust and hair slows down the internal fan and coats the heat generating components and cooling fins. This coating prevents air exchange and keeps components warm as if they were under a blanket.

Causes of Overheating

Sometimes the way a laptop is used can cause it to overheat. Resting a laptop on thick carpets, blankets, or soft furnishings can block vents, preventing the fans from sucking cold air in or blowing the hot air out.

Leaving the machine running on carpet or furnishings, particularly for extended periods of time causes overheating issues and introduces extra dust into the components too.

The best place for a laptop is on a hard surface such as a desk, table or lap tray. This allows air to access the vents and helps prevent dust and hairs getting inside the machine.

Overheating Result

As the computer starts running hotter, the fan will attempt to compensate by running faster and more often. This results in the “jet engine” noise many users report when their computer is struggling to keep up.

Once dust, hair or tar has found its way into the machine it is notoriously difficult to clean out. The only way to properly clean the system is to disassemble the unit and clean out its components.

Much like a car engine, computer components have a designed temperature range in which they can safely and reliably operate. Extended periods of running above the temperature they are designed for causes damage, sudden failures and drastically reduces the lifespan of the computer.

Unlikely Cause

Often random blue screen computer crashes can be traced back to components that have been overheating inside the computer. As heat builds up, vulnerable components start to fail or behave strangely and can cause a range of issues.

When the systems has cooled down and restarted the issue is seemingly resolved. Back in operation, the computer heats up once more and subsequently crashes again. These irregular crashes are highly inconvenient and can cause data loss.

However, these symptoms are minor compared to a completely dead laptop. For some users, the first sign that the machine is too hot is when the motherboard is burnt out or their data storage has been irreparably lost.

If your laptop is running hot to the touch or has started to make loud sounds, bring it to us for a thorough clean out. You can also call us at 08 8326 4364 or support@dpcomputing.com.au.

Protecting A Business from Internal Threats

When considering IT threats to your business many articles focus on external sources such as hackers. While these dangers are real, in many cases, the largest threat to a firm comes from inside the business itself.

Staff often have trusted access and a detailed working knowledge of the organisation from the inside. Employees therefore deserve the largest security consideration when designing a safe and secure business system.

It is important to first distinguish the type of employee we want to defend against. For this article we do not mean a model employee accidentally opening a malicious email or attachment (that relates to a different kind of threat). Rather, a disgruntled employee seeking to do damage to your business. An employee who may wish to destroy services or steal clients and files from your firm.

Security Policy

A lot of firms grant employees system-wide permissions. While this can make things appear simple, it is opening the business to future risks.

Private and confidential information relating to the business should be restricted. Many types of files need to remain confidential, often as a legal or privacy requirement. Human resource files, salary information, and employee documents should be limited to only a select few employees. Yet many businesses keep confidential information in public places on the network.

Granting system-wide read and write access can appear to save time in the short term. It is, however, opening up your business for potentially legal troubles in the future.

The Principle of Least Privilege

The principle of least privilege is a vital tool in helping you to handle internal IT security. It defines a security policy which ensures your staff can access only the resources, systems and data they require to carry out their job.

The policy protects the business from many different types of threats. Even where malicious attachments have been opened by accident, the damage is limited only to the areas that employee has access to. This results in contained damage, less time needed for data restoration and reduced downtime for the firm.

Along with limiting accidental damage, employees looking to destroy or steal data are limited. With restricted access, an employee with a grudge or profit motivation can only damage or steal from their own area of operation. This helps to ensure that no single employee can damage the entire firm’s operations.

Security Policy In Practice

A member of staff within Human Resources, for example, may have access to the employee database (as it relates to their job). This will likely include payroll information and other sensitive data. But this same member of staff would have no need to access sensitive client data, such as sales information in normal working conditions.

Likewise, a staff member from the sales department should have no need for accessing sensitive HR records.

Using the principle of least privilege, each employee will only have full access to systems that are directly related to their role. Similarly, some systems may be visible to a wider group of staff members even if they can only be edited or deleted by one or two people.

In some cases, a security policy may be defined by finer details than a person’s role within the business. For example an HR employee should not be able to edit their own file to change salary information. An employee file might only be edited by their superiors in such a case.

Additional parameters can be used to assign privileges to enable the business hierarchy to work within the IT network. Seniority, physical location, and time are all examples of factors that can restrict access to critical systems and secure data.

We can tailor your network to your business, locking down your data to ensure data is only accessed on an “as needed” basis. Contact us now on 08 8326 4364 or support@dpcomputing.com.au.

5 Questions To Ask Before Choosing A Proactive Technical Support Provider

5 Questions To Ask Before Choose Proactive echnical Support Service eBookConsidering a new technical support service? Find out why you should choose a tech support service that is proactive instead of reactive, what it should look like in the context of your business and how you can make an informed decision.

Click here to subscribe to our monthly newsletter and access your copy of this book – don’t worry we won’t share your details and you can unsubscribe at anytime.

If you are already a subscriber and would like a copy please email david@dpcomputing.com.au.

You will also receive a free copy of our other great eBooks including the following so sign up now!

  • 5 Reasons Your Business Needs Office365 Today!
  • Eliminate IT Distractions In Your Business.
  • DIY IT, It May Cost More Than You Think.
  • Is Your Old Tech Dragging You Down?
  • Spectre and Meltdown: How you’ll be affected.
  • 10 Tips to Stay Safe Online
  • Digital Transformation – What’s In It For You?

As always, if you want to talk about Proactive IT Support and how it can help you, please give us a call on 08 8326 4364 or support@dpcomputing.com.au.

Tools to Take Your Business To The Cloud

Tools to move to the cloudBeing engaged in business used to mean staying wired in at the office eight to twelve hours a day. In today’s world this is completely untrue as often the most efficient workplace is one that is spread far and wide and always on the go.

With todays technology you can free yourself from your desk with just a laptop computer and 4G modem (or just tether it to your mobile phone). This freedom to work out of the office is a huge advantage to modern businesses.

The Right Tools for the Job

The most important parts of working out of the office is to ensure you don’t lose touch with your team. Maintaining total collaboration between team members can be tricky but their are tools to help you to stay on top of your team communication.

One such tool is Microsoft Office 365, this provides the traditional tools (Word, Excel, Outlook, OneNote etc) and also adds remote team collaboration and a cloud based file server. Files can be saved into the cloud, worked on and accessed anywhere. At one time, remote working meant taking a copy of a file somewhere else to work. Changes to the original weren’t reflected in the remote copy and at least one version was destined to be lost forever.

Software packages such as OneDrive and SharePoint allow the entire team to work on a single centralised file saved to the cloud. Whether you are in the office, on a beach, plane, or train; the file is the same version for everyone.

Collaborative Working

The key to remote working is the ability to collaborate in the cloud with everyone at once. Modern software such as Office 365 allows all team members to be working on a single document at the same time.

Whether the project calls for spreadsheets, documents or a presentation; everyone can work together without missing a beat.

Even when you’re not working out of the office or busy on the road, collaborative software can help to power your team working in the office too.

Admin Done Remotely

Modern software has impacted the way in which we do our finances and simplify your bookkeeping.

Today, cloud computing has opened up ways to speed up business in ways we couldn’t have imagined. Cloud-based accounting packages such as Xero, MYOB or Quickbooks allow for your accounts to be done in the cloud.

Make your Finances Work for You

Maintaining your finances is as simple as logging into a single portal. This tool allows you to take both your admin and your work out of the office and keep it on the go.

By the time your accounts are due, your accountant simply has to log in remotely and pick up where you left off. By the time taxes are due the work is done and you can get on with other important things in your business.

Getting work done out of the office and on the go is a huge boost to productivity. Modern technology and software enables you to keep up to speed, continue collaborating and even stay on top of your accounts from anywhere in the world.

Give us a call today on 08 8326 4364 or support@dpcomputing.com.au to talk about how we can help you move to the cloud.

Eliminate IT Distractions In Your Business

Eliminate IT Distractions in Your Business

IT distractions can cause business a lot of time and money.  In our latest eBook, we talk about some of the top IT distractions that impact businesses and what we can do to solve them.

Click here to subscribe to our monthly newsletter and access your copy of this book – don’t worry we won’t share your details and you can unsubscribe at anytime.

If you are already a subscriber and would like a copy please email david@dpcomputing.com.au.

You will also receive a free copy of our other great eBooks including the following so sign up now!

  • 5 Reasons Your Business Needs Office365 Today!
  • Eliminate IT Distractions In Your Business.
  • DIY IT, It May Cost More Than You Think.
  • Is Your Old Tech Dragging You Down?
  • Spectre and Meltdown: How you’ll be affected.
  • 10 Tips to Stay Safe Online
  • Digital Transformation – What’s In It For You?

As always, if you want to talk about ways to eliminate distractions, give us a call on 08 8326 4364 or support@dpcomputing.com.au.