Six Tips to Protect Your Business Data

Protect Business Data

More and more hacking attacks and data leaks are being reported and the perpetrators are exposing or selling customer data files in record numbers. But just like with any business threat, there are actions you can take to minimize the risk and ensure your business retains a positive reputation with customers.

Here are some suggestions on how to protect your valuable data:

1. Stop using the same password everywhere. Set a policy for all staff that passwords must be unique for each user and for your workplace. That means it can’t be like the one on their home PC, tablet or online banking. Passwords are hacked more than ever, so consider using a pass phrase that isn’t as easily hacked. If remembering them is an issue consider using a password management tool.

2. Go on a shredding spree. How much sensitive data do you just throw out in the bin? People often easily take valuable customer data straight out of the bins of small businesses and quickly sell or publish it. It only take 5 seconds to run documents through the shredder or if you have a large amount of document consider using a secure shredding company.

3. Ditch the accounting spreadsheets. Still using an Excel doc for all your financial calculations? As well as making your accountant’s job harder (and more expensive for you), you are opening your business to a massive range of vulnerabilities. Even password protected spreadsheets aren’t designed to safeguard your financials or those of your clients. Contact your accountant to assist you to upgrade to a proper accounting solution with built-in customer data protections and security guarantees.

4. Train staff explicitly. Don’t just rely on common sense because what you think is a given is an unknown to someone else. It is recommended to hold special data-safety training sessions once or twice a year as a reminder and don’t forget to train new staff into the way things are done.

5. Limit access to data. Just like the guard at your local bank, you can limit who accesses your data. Revoke employee access as soon as they leave your business and set rules around who can access what – and when. Do they need access to sensitive information while working from home? Should they be able to edit files or only view them? Do they really need access to that folder?

6. Keep your software updated. Having out-dated software can be an open invitation for cyber-criminals. They look for known weaknesses in business software and walk right in. While the nagging pop-ups and reminders to update software can feel like a selling ploy, they’re actually helping your business to stay in safe. Updated software closes off those holes and gives you protection against new viruses, hacking techniques and known weaknesses.

If you would like to make sure your business is secure from data breaches, give us a call at 08 8326 4364 or at support@dpcomputing.com.au.

WannaCry Ransomware Explained: Is Your Business At Risk?


With all the media attention last week you would be hard-pressed to not of heard about the WannaCry cyber-attack. Businesses of all sizes and even hospitals and police departments found themselves crippled with out warning.

Here in Australia we looked to have missed a large part of the attack due to the time zone differences and the fact that a kill switch was found for the malware. We shouldn’t rely on these factors going forward though. This articles details what the malware is, why it caused so much damage and how to protect ourselves moving forward.

What is WannaCry?

The WannaCry cyber-attack was a type of malware (the collective name for malicious software which includes viruses, worms and spyware) called ‘ransomware’. Just like the name suggests, it actually demands money from the owners of the computers infected. Like all ransomware attacks, WannaCry encrypts your files and holds them hostage until payment is made –  in this case, the price was set at $300 payable with the internet currency Bitcoin (and you had 3 days to pay before it doubled). If you don’t pay the ransomware threatens to permanently delete all your files. It is not yet known how much money the WannaCry hackers have earned with their latest attack – but you can be sure that plenty of people have paid the ransom. Even the FBI recommends paying the ransom – especially if the ransomed files are of a sensitive nature or weren’t backed up.

How It Spread So Fast

WannaCry self-replicates and spreads. So far, no common trigger has been identified, as is normally the case with phishing links (a phishing attack needs to be activated – usually with a click). WannaCry moved rapidly from system to system, spreading out through the entire network, including all connected backups and storage devices. At the same time it infected other networks, who then spread it further and further. Given the nature of the internet it had spread widely within hours.

Why Some Businesses Were Safe

WannaCry took advantage of a specific vulnerability in Windows of which Microsoft patched months ago. Thus only systems that have fallen 2 months behind in their Windows updates were infected. Without that patch, the ransomware could waltz right past the firewall, past the anti-virus and directly into the system (the NHS were reportedly running Windows XP – which is no longer supported by Microsoft). Those running Windows 10 or a fully patched, recent version of Windows were completely unaffected as the virus literally had no way in

This outbreak shows the importance of staying up to date with security patches on your systems. We haven’t yet seen a second spike in WannaCry attacks yet, but that doesn’t mean there won’t be one. A quick Windows update could protect your business from weeks of downtime and lost revenue making attacks like this a non-issue.

With our regular maintenance plans we can make sure you stay up to date and protected. Give us a call today at 08 8326 4364 to discuss ways we can help your business stay safe.

When and Why You Should Use Remote Support?

Remote Support

 

So much of todays business is computer based and it can be a stressful time when you have computer issues. With computer repair you generally have 3 options:

  1. Have a computer technician come to your site.
  2. Take the computer to a computer repair shop.
  3. Allow a technician to remotely connect to your machine.

Some people can be a bit unsure of allowing remote access so we have put together some pros and cons of remote access.

Benefits of Remote Support

Speed: If remote repair is a possibility, your technician can connect via the Internet and fix your issues in no time. If the issues is only minor you may choose to just leave your computer turned on overnight allowing the technician to fix the issue overnight. Without a remote option you need to juggle time in your diary to drop the system off at a store or work with  a technician to find a suitable time for them to come onsite.

Convenience: Rather than waiting on a tech to arrive at your site or having to lug your computer to a store having a technician quickly and easily remote in to your computer is a god send.

Negatives of Remote Support

Limited repair options: A remote connection can only repair certain software problems, and not hardware issues. It is not possible for the technician to swap out a failed part remotely, and unless you are confident in your own repair skills, guided physical repair isn’t very viable.

Sometimes the problem is caused by a device connected to the computer. The technician may be able to walk you through correcting some of these minor problems yourself but most invariably require a physical call-out or taking your computer in-store.

Connection speed: A slow or unstable Internet connection makes a remote repair take longer and increases the difficulty of the task. The extended time impacts the cost for the call, and in extreme cases, can negate any benefits of skipping the physical inspection. Your connection needs to provide a close to real time experience to see responses as if they were sitting at the computer.

Accessibility: If your Internet is down or the computer has trouble connecting to the Internet a remote technician can’t log in at all. This includes issues such as a ‘blue screen of death’, boot failure and Windows load failure. As much remote support is a great idea being able to log in to the computer is vital in the remote repair process.

For a fast response remote support is ideal but sometimes an issue can’t be solved remotely. In the event the remote repair is unsuccessful the technician now has a better idea of the problem and can speed up any on-site or in-store repairs. Remote support is the best option for many repairs and can get your computer working again with minimal disruption.

Remote access can be used on a case by case basis with users initiating the connection or an agent can be installed on your machine allowing the remote technician access without any interaction from you. We provide both types of access, please contact us on 08 8326 4364 or support@dpcomputing.com.au for further information.

Merry Christmas and All The Best For 2017

To all our clients, Facebook friends, Youtube subscribers and blog readers we wish you all a very Merry Christmas and all the best for the New Year.

Instead of sending cards this year we have made a donation to the Hutt St Centre in Adelaide and have made the video below for you all to enjoy and hopefully have a laugh. 🙂

Over the Christmas / New Year period we will be on a skeleton staff so please contact us
ASAP if you require any type of work during this period.

Once again if we don’t see you before then all the best for Christmas and the New Year and we hope to see you again in 2017!

How To Become A Google-Fu Master

What’s one thing all teens can do better than adults, and it’s not Snapchat? They are experts at quickly locating information on the internet.

That’s Google-Fu – the ability to use search engines to research and find answers faster than a contestant on a tv game show.

googlefu

Level 1 Mastery: Tell It What You Need

googlefu2Google is smart and can understand “conversational searches”. Let’s say you came across a great recipe online, but the measurements were imperial. Google has you covered. Simply tell it what you want to convert, and what you want to convert it into.

[number] [unit] into [unit]

Say you want to convert ounces into cups, then type into Google “6 ounces into cups”…and hit enter. Google presents the answer, already calculated – AND it includes a handy drop down to change those measurements for your next ingredient.

Other popular shortcuts are:

  • Release dates: [movie/game] release date
  • Fast facts: [name of person] death
  • Stats: [city] population

Level 2 Mastery: Limiting Result Type

With one click, you can tell Google that you only want images, videos news articles, maps, shopping, books or apps. Your initial results are listed as a combination of all types – you can see the ALL tab highlighted up the top. Just click one of the other tabs to refine your search.

Level 3 Mastery: Using Drop Downs.

One of the most popular Google-Fu moves is to limit results to sites from a particular country. This is great for finding local businesses or results from a specific country. Click SEARCH TOOLS to drop down a second menu. You’ll see the option to limit Country and even Time. Two extra clicks and my search is now limited to my home country and items from the past 7 days only.

Level 3 Mastery: Mastery: Using Operators.

Your final level of mastery, often used as a last resort when you’re just beginning to doubt whether the internet has the answer you’re seeking.

Enclosing your search terms in “quotation marks” binds the term together so Google can’t break it up. E.G. “Project Management”

Try other methods and soon your Google-Fu will be very strong.

Don’t Fall For Phishing Scams

PhishingWhat is a Phishing Attack

Phishing is an attempt to trick you in giving out personal information such as bank accounts, passwords and credit card numbers.

They work by someone contacting you pretending they are from a legitimate business. They then ask you to provide or confirm certain confidential information.This contact can come in a variety of formats such as email, social media, phone call or text message. The messages are designed to look genuine and often use copied logos and branding from the legitimate company.

Once the scammer has this information they can then use this to carry out fraudulent activities such as emptying your bank account or using your credit cards.

How to Avoid a Phishing Attack

Some tips to help you avoid a phishing attack are:

  • Don’t reply to any suspicious looking emails or messages that ask you to confirm or update any information about your account whether they are from a coworker, finance company, friend, bank etc.
  • Don’t click or visit any links contained in suspicious emails or messages. Even if the website looks legit it will most likely infect your computer or do something worse.
  • Legitimate businesses, organisations and government departments will never send you a message to ask for your login information or sensitive personal information. If in doubt ring the organisation in question but don’t ring any numbers listed in the suspicious message.
  • Ignore emails that try to convey a sense of urgency and / or are requesting you to “Verify your account” right away due to ‘security issues’, ‘suspicious activity’ or ‘failed login attempt’ or the like.
  • Do not copy website links from suspicious messages and paste them into your web browser.
  • Never open or save any documents or attachments that come from possible spam and / or virus mails.
  • Never send confidential information about any of your accounts in an email.
  • If you’re unsure or suspicious about an email from a ‘friend’ or ‘colleague, call them  (ie don’t respond to the suspicious email) to see if that really was a legitimate message.

Further information is provided at the Australian Government’s Scam Watch website – http://www.scamwatch.gov.au/

Windows 10 – Should You Upgrade?

Many of you may be aware of the fact that Microsoft will be releasing the latest version of their operating system later this month. There are some great new features in Windows 10, however you may want to wait, or at least be very careful, before you make the jump. This article discusses some things that you need to be aware of before you make the move.  

Windows 10 Upgrade Windows

Windows 10 Upgrade Windows

 What’s Great About Windows 10?

While no computer program or operating system is perfect, Microsoft is getting a lot of things right with Windows 10.  Some of the highlights include:

  • The return of the Start menu (well, sort of).  Many of the folks who experienced the previous operating system, Windows 8, were very put off by the Start screen, which highlighted “metro-style” apps and live tiles. In Windows 10 Microsoft have brought back a more familiar style start menu in the lower left corner of the screen.  It’s a bit of a hybrid between the Windows 7 start menu and the Windows 8 app-driven start screen. It is highly customisable and makes it easy to access most things you need on a daily basis. If you love the start screen though don’t despair as Microsoft gives users the option of using the new start menu or the Windows 8 style start screen. 
  • Cortana, Microsoft’s digital assistant.  Cortana is a bit like Siri, Apple’s voice-driven assistant.  In Windows 10, Cortana will be available on every device – phone, tablet, desktop and laptop.  You can essentially talk to your computer to perform searches or access information on your computer. Cortana learns about you and will start to use what she knows to offer increasingly relevant information when you ask for it.  For example, you will be able to ask/tell Cortana, “find me pictures from last month,” and she will present you with all pictures on your computer (or in OneDrive) from the past 30 days.  Or you can say something like, “Is my flight going to leave on time today” and she will be able to give you a fairly accurate answer, based on current airline schedules.  
  • Microsoft Edge, the new web browser.  A big change for users in Windows 10 will be that Internet Explorer will no longer be the default program to browse web pages on the Internet.  Instead, Edge will be the new, streamlined browser experience.  Edge will be very minimalist compared to Internet Explorer.  There will be no toolbars, icons and settings to get in the way of viewing various web pages.  However, Internet Explorer will still be installed in Windows 10 for users who must use it for compatibility reasons. Keep in mind, though, that you are free to install other web browsers, like Google Chrome or Firefox.  
  • Virtual desktops – Users will be able to set up multiple desktops on their Windows 10 computers.  For example, you can set up a desktop with all of your work-related icons and a separate desktop for all of your personal items.  Another use might be to set up a different desktop for each user in your home, rather than separate accounts for each user.  
  • Free upgrade for the first year.  For users who are running Windows 7 (service pack 1) or Windows 8.1, Windows 10 will be available as a free upgrade for the first year after it is released.  If you don’t upgrade within that year you will have to buy the operating system.  A few weeks back Microsoft began pushing out this offer for the free upgrade by installing an update on Windows 7 & 8 machines.  You may have seen a small Windows flag in the lower-right hand corner of your screen encouraging you to sign up for the free upgrade.

Should You Upgrade to Windows 10?

While I believe that Windows 10 will be successful for Microsoft, I would strongly advise you not to upgrade straight away once it is released. The initial release may still have some bugs to work out which may cause issues on your computer.  It may be better to wait a few months for these to be worked out.  
When you do decide that you want to upgrade, here are some things that you will need to do first:

  • Make a complete backup of everything on your system.  If something goes wrong during the upgrade process, you want to have a way to restore your computer to the way it was before the upgrade.  The easiest way to do this is to use the built-in tools with Windows 7 or 8 to create a system image on an external hard drive.  
  • Install all of the latest updates on your operating system.  It would be best to run Windows updates on your system prior to an upgrade to be sure that you have the latest security and system patches.
  • Make sure that your current software and hardware is compatible with Windows 10.  Everything may run just fine on your current system but it may not run smoothly on Window 10.  Microsoft will release a compatibility tool which will inform you if your hardware and software will work with Windows 10.  We recommend that you install the latest device drivers for your computer (particularly video and network devices) prior to upgrading.  
  • Be sure to back up your data.  In addition to a full system upgrade, it would be wise to create a separate copy of your critical data (documents, pictures, music, videos, etc.) prior to upgrading. You should be doing this on a regular basis anyway.

Upgrading your operating system is a daunting task for most users.  If you are in Adelaide South Australia and feel that this is beyond your technical ability, we encourage you to give us a call. We will be offering a special Windows 10 upgrade service to our customers beginning in early August.

Why Does My Laptop Overheat?

With laptops becoming more and more popular they are also causing issues such as  overheating to become a common problem. Symptoms of an overheated laptop include:

  • The laptop is extremely hot to the touch, especially around the fan area.
  • The fan seems to be running constantly, and at high speed making it noisy.
  • The laptop shuts off by itself when doing nothing.
  • The laptop shuts off when doing intensive work such as playing games or movies.
  • Overheating or shutdown problems become worse over time, and happen more often.

So what causes the overheating?

Some of the key parts of any computer get hot as they operate, in particular the Central Processor (CPU) that does most of the work, and the Graphics Processor (GPU) that displays the picture on the screen.  In a laptop everything is packed into a small space and this causes issues getting rid of this heat. The laptop has inside a fan and some metal grilles, called Heatsink Grilla heatsink, designed to draw cold air from outside the case, over the hot metal grilles and blow the heat out of the vents. You can usually see the copper or silver coloured metal grilles through the vents in the side, rear or underneath your laptop.

When the laptop is new, the fan blows air easily through the heatsink, it efficiently cools the hot parts of the laptop, and everything works well. Unfortunately over time the heatsink becomes blocked by dust, fluff, pet hair etc. Now the fan cannot blow air through the gaps in the heatsink properly and isn’t able to cool the laptop as it should. Eventually the temperature inside the laptop gets higher and higher, reaching unacceptable levels and the laptop will shut itself down to prevent damage. Here are some pictures inside a laptop of a typical heatsink (left hand column) and fan (right hand column) covered in dust –

heatsink1 fan1
heatsink2 fan2

This dust is usually not visible from outside as the fan sucks air in from underneath the laptop and out through the heatsink, so the dust ends up stuck inside as you can see in the left hand picture.

Where you use the laptop can be just as important a cause of overheating. Most laptops draw cold air in through slots or vents underneath the base, and the feet are designed to keep a gap of a few millimetres from the surface that the laptop is sitting on so that air can circulate easily. If you put the laptop on a soft surface like a bed, carpet, your laptop or a sofa cushion these slots can become blocked and cool air cannot enter and the laptop gets hotter and hotter.

What you are doing can be important too. Just writing a document, checking your email or Facebook for example doesn’t make the laptop work very hard, so it doesn’t heat up very much. On the other hand, playing games or videos generates much more heat and this is often when you first start to experience overheating problems.

Can it be repaired?

Yes it certainly can be and the solution is relatively straightforward – the fan and heatsink assembly just needs a through clean to remove the dust and dirt. Just blowing compressed air through the grill just pushes the dust further into the laptop causing more issues. You need to disassemble the unit as the heat sink and fan are often buried deep inside the laptop, it does take experience and the right tools to take it all apart and reassemble it without causing other problems along the way. We do this kind of work all the time and can clean the fan and heatsink so that it will work at maximum efficiency and cool the laptop just as it did when new.

How can I avoid overheating?

Probably the most important advice is to avoid using the laptop on any kind of soft surface – the carpet, the sofa, the bed for example. Not only are these wonderful sources of the dust and fluff which causes the problem in the first place, but as mentioned above, they block the vents underneath the laptop through which the cooling air is drawn. Always try to use the laptop on a hard surface like a table, a desk, or if you are on the sofa or other soft surface, put it on a tray. This will ensure that there is a gap under the laptop to allow air into the vents so that the fan and heatsink can do their job and keep things at an even temperature .

If you have any questions please contact us at support@dpcomputing.com.au. and we’ll be happy to help.

Thank you to Neil Harrison of Tekwise on which this article was based.

Smartphone Survives A Swim

A few days ago I knocked my Galaxy S3 Smartphone into the toilet. This blog describes the steps I then took to try and save the phone. Remember time is of essence and you need to perform these steps ASAP!

Samsung Galaxy SIIIFirst off the standard disclaimer – perform the steps at your own risk. They worked for me but they may not necessarily work for you (as it will depend upon your phone and how much water managed to get inside you phone). 

After quickly retrieving the phone from the water I removed the outer case and then the battery cover to take out the battery. You need to remove the battery source ASAP and don’t worry about properly shutting down the phone. Once the battery is out also remove the SIM card.

I then dried off any water that I could see. Try not to shake or tilt the phone as this may cause the water to seep further into the phone. NOTE: Some people actually recommend that you shake the phone to help remove the water so I’ll leave it up to you as to whether you shake it or not.

I then placed the phone inside a snap lock bag full of uncooked rice. The rice is used to help soak up  any residual water. Leave the phone in the bag at least 36 hours – the longer the better and it will depend upon how much water seeped into your phone. I left my phone in for approx. 44 hours but the actual temperature outside was a hot 40 degrees celsius which also helped dry the phone out.

After 36 hours or longer remove the phone and examine it for any remaining water in all its nooks and crannys. If you can’t see any remaining water insert the battery (leave the SIM card out for the time being) and turn it on. If luck is on your side it should hopefully turn on all ok. If you hear any weird noises or see anything else out of the ordinary turn off the phone immediately and seek help from a professional.

If it doesn’t turn on return the phone to the rice bag for 12 or more hours and try again. If still no luck plug in your battery charger and / or go and see a professional repairer.

A video of me turning the phone back on again is viewable at:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q0CMZlcewqY&feature=youtu.be

Things not to do include:

  • putting your phone in a microwave.
  • using a hairdryer or other heat source to dry out the phone.
  • leaving the battery in the phone while drying it out.

If you have any questions please leave them below.

 

 

Ever wondered what the inside of a hard drive looks like?

All of us use computers but very few of us have seen the inside of a computer hard drive – which is where all our data is stored. One of the reasons is that once a hard disk drive is opened the data on the drive is lost). So I’ve created some videos showing what the inside of a computers disk drive looks like.

Below are two videos showing the insides of both a 3.5″ (desktop) and 2.5″ (laptop) hard drive.

Seagate Barracuda 3.5″ SATA desktop hard drive
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gypw_Nz1HSY 

Toshiba 2.5″ SATA laptop hard drive
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a-Im7ZIrgWQ

Warning: If you follow the steps in these video ALL you data will be lost. If you need to recover data off a hard drive please consult a data recovery expert.