The best way to avoid a computer virus is by using common sense, but that doesn’t mean you’ll be safe from attack. Even the most careful user can find themselves infected in an instant and spreading the virus faster than a sneeze in flu season. It’s why antivirus software is still the first package we install on all systems – because you never know when you’ll be attacked. But should you choose free or paid antivirus?

Advertising: Much like a free app making its fortune with in-app purchases, the free antivirus software will push for payment. Expect popup boxes pestering you to sign up to the paid version at least daily. Some free options will also try to change your browser home page and default search engine, an inconvenience you may be stuck with. Paid options are more respectful and largely invisible unless they’ve detected a problem.

Effectiveness: It’s fair to expect your antivirus to detect malware, and testing showed that in a head-to-head battle free and paid are about equal at catching known infections. And therein lies the kicker: generally speaking, free antivirus needs to have recorded a virus to its library before it can detect it. Paid antivirus is more likely to identify and stop a new virus. It essentially bases the detection on suspicious behavior, source and attributes, a far more effective method of detection.

Features: Free antivirus options are usually created from the paid version, taking out everything except the bare minimum. In your paid version, you can expect advanced features like spam filters, firewalls, parental controls and secure web browsing. Some paid antivirus will also update your other software packages, forming a more secure protection against attacks. For example, you might view a malicious image file that takes advantage of an exploit in your PDF software. Unfortunately, hackers have advanced beyond simple tactics and it’s not just about avoiding email attachments anymore.

Support: Free antivirus options are the most popular choice because they’re… free. Obviously. This also means there’s generally no support available. If there’s a problem or conflict with another program, you may find yourself without protection until it can be resolved. Paid antivirus options usually include telephone support, ready to help with problems ranging from installation to system diagnostics.

Ease of use: Depending on what you use your computer for, this may be an important concern. Free antivirus options are easy to install and use, but are very limited in their flexibility. They come as-is, meaning you can’t pick and choose what it monitors or how it reacts. For example, users occasionally find it necessary to disable ALL protections in order to install a network game. Paid versions are more likely to allow you to adapt the way it runs, switching features on and off as required.

Free antivirus is fine for very basic protection, those on a budget or those with an older PC. In these cases, something is always better than nothing. But we generally recommend you go with a paid antivirus to defend you from the new attacks that are released daily, and to ensure you’ve got solid protection that will make a real difference to your digital safety.

Talk to us about upgrading to a paid antivirus.

Finding the balance between Facebook privacy and Facebook fun can be challenging. It’s a double-edged sword that allows us to connect with friends no matter where they live, but it also publicly shares information that just a few years ago, we’d never dream of putting online. You can search for people based on where they went to school, town they live in, clubs they belong to, who they’re related to…but when is it too much?

Your birthday is the first piece of info collected when you sign up, and it’s great getting birthday wishes from friends and family when it appears in their newsfeed. But while Facebook is sending you balloons and funny memes, your birthday is now public knowledge. It seems harmless, but when you call your bank or other institution, what’s the first question they ask to verify your identity? Your birthday! Some password recovery systems even ask questions like ‘which high school did you go to?’ assuming this is knowledge that only you would know. Except… you’ve just publicly shared it on Facebook. Whoops!

We’ve all heard stories of people who’ve lost their jobs after less-than-wholesome pictures or statements have gone public. If you have a reputation to keep, you definitely don’t want pictures from last weekend’s private party showing up, especially if you really let your hair down. While you can’t control what others do with photos they take of you, you can control whether or not you’re tagged in them.

Fortunately, there are settings in Facebook that allow you to control who sees what information and what happens when you’re tagged. Despite what you may have heard or seen floating around in a Facebook share hoax, you do have complete control over your Facebook privacy, and it’s easy to adjust.

How to Check and Adjust Your Facebook Privacy Settings

See what your account looks like to an outsider

From your Facebook homepage, click your name on the blue bar at the top of the page. Click the three dots next to ‘View Activity Log’ and then select ‘View as…’

Run a quick privacy checkup

Click the question mark in the top right corner and choose ‘privacy checkup’.

Think about what you really need to share – do people need to know the YEAR of your birth or just your birthday? Your friends will still get the notification, and you’ll still get the balloons.

Edit advanced privacy

While the checkup covers the most obvious info, you can go much deeper. Click the V-shaped dropdown to the right of the question mark. Go to settings and choose privacy.

Adjust timeline and tagging

In the privacy settings, you can explicitly control who can tag you, who can see or share the tagged content, and what shows up on your newsfeed.

Tightening your Facebook privacy only takes a few minutes, but it can save you a whole lot of trouble in the future. If you need help with this, just give us a call at 07 4767 7202.

Have you ever thought about how much your data is worth? Information is possibly the most valuable part of your business – there’s your client database, accounting software and inventory management, and of course, any intellectual property you may own. When the ransomware, WannaCry, tore through the world recently, many businesses were suddenly forced to re-assess the value of their data: was it worth saving, and what would be the deeper cost of the attack?

Most ransomware attacks cost $150-$600 to get your files released, but that’s only IF the cyber-criminals honor the payment and actually give you the decryption key. Meanwhile, new client calls are still coming in and you may find yourself unable to operate with your systems down. Paying the ransom or restoring from an unaffected backup seems like a quick fix, but it doesn’t end there. There’s still the downtime involved to restore all your data – possibly days – and that’s a lot of lost productivity. Plus, if word gets out that your data has been compromised, you may find confidence in your business plummets and your existing clients head elsewhere. That $150 ransom may end up costing well over $150,000!

Prevent Ransomware Attacks on your Business

Keep your systems up to date: WannaCry took advantage of a flaw in older versions of Windows, one that was since patched by Microsoft. But to be protected, businesses had to be up to date with their patches AND be running a supported version of Windows. Delaying patches and updates puts your business at risk – we can help you update automatically.

Lock down employee computers: Very few staff will require full administrator access to your business network. The higher their level of permissions, the more damage a person can do – either accidentally with a whoopsie click, or by inadvertently installing malware. By locking down your employee computers, you have a better chance of containing a malware attack to non-vital systems. Our experts can design an access management plan that gives you best of both worlds: flexibility PLUS security.

Educate your workplace: Most employees believe they’re being cyber-safe but the reality is quite different. Many malicious links and embedded malware have become hard to spot in an instant – which is all it takes to click and regret. We can work with your staff to establish procedures around checking links for authenticity before clicking, awareness around verifying the source of attachments, and the importance of anti-virus scanning. We’ll help get the message through!

Have a solid backup plan: When ransomware hits, a connected backup = infected backup. Unfortunately, synced options such as Dropbox immediately clone the infected files, rendering them useless. The only safe backups will be the ones both physically and electronically disconnected, with systems designed to protect against attacks like this. Our experts can set you up with a backup system that makes recovery a breeze.

Be proactive: The best way to avoid the financial cost of a ransomware attack is to prevent it from happening in the first place. Remember, many businesses were able to watch WannaCry from the sidelines, completely unaffected and seizing opportunities while their competitors were down.

Our managed services can help protect your business against the next cyber-attack.

Call us today on 07 4767 7202.

You’d be hard-pressed to miss May’s biggest headline, the WannaCry cyber-attack sent shockwaves around the globe. Businesses of all sizes and even police departments found themselves crippled without warning.

Among the most prominent victims were many NHS hospitals in the UK, affecting up to 70,000 individual devices such as essential MRI scanners and blood storage refrigerators. But by the time it hit the news, it was too late – either your system was protected, or it was infected. Here’s how it all went so wrong.

What is WannaCry?

The WannaCry cyber-attack was a type of malware (the collective name for computer viruses & bad juju) called ‘ransomware’. Just like the name suggests, it’s actually a demand for money. Like all ransomware attacks, WannaCry encrypts your files and holds them hostage until you pay. In this case, the price was set at $300, payable with internet currency Bitcoin, and you had 3 days to pay before it doubled. If you didn’t pay, the ransomware threatened to delete your files permanently. It’s yet unknown how much money the WannaCry hackers have earned with their latest attack, but you can be sure 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

It seems WannaCry may be a ‘computer worm’ that self-replicates and spreads, rather than a phishing attack that needs to be activated with a click. So far, no common trigger has been identified, as is normally the case with phishing links. 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 spread out to infect other networks, who then spread it further, and so on. Given the nature of the internet, it was everywhere within hours.

Why Some Businesses Were Safe

WannaCry could ONLY infect systems that have fallen 2 months behind in their Windows updates. This is because it was created to take advantage of a specific vulnerability in Windows, one which Microsoft patched months ago. 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 – no longer supported). Those running Windows 10 or a fully patched, recent version of Windows were completely unaffected – the virus literally had no way in

It just goes to show the importance of staying up to date. We haven’t seen a second spike in WannaCry attacks yet, but that doesn’t mean there won’t be one. A quick update could protect your business from weeks of downtime and lost revenue, making attacks like this a non-issue.

With our managed services, we can make sure you stay up to date – and protected. Give us a call today at 07 4767 7202.

Working from anywhere is now as simple as accessing the internet on your device. Managers, owners, and employees are all embracing the flexibility of working while traveling, making it the new global norm. But while you were in the office, you were protected by professionally designed firewalls, security infrastructure, and robust software. As soon as you step away from the building, those protections disappear, leaving your device and the data inside at great risk.

Cyber attackers love to collect any data they can obtain, often preferring to hack first, assess value later. It doesn’t help that almost all data can be sold, including your personal details, those of your clients and suppliers, as well as your proprietary business data. These days, the information stored on your device is usually worth much more than the device itself.

Here are 3 ways a hacker will attack:

Flaunting Opportunity: Whether your employee left their laptop at a café or a thief stole the phone from their pocket, the outcome is the same – that device is gone. Hackers will take advantage of any opportunity to gain access to a device, including taking them from hotel rooms and even asking to ‘borrow’ them for a few minutes to install spyware, before handing it back.

Spoofing a Wi-Fi Hotspot: We’ve all come to expect free Wi-Fi networks wherever we go. Hackers will take advantage of this trust to create their own free, unsecured network, just waiting for a traveler to check a quick email.

Intercepting an Unsecure Network: Hackers don’t need to own the Wi-Fi network to steal content from it. Data traveling across an unsecured network is visible and available to anyone with the right software.

It’s okay, you don’t need to lock all employees inside the building or cancel all travel plans. Taking these four precautions will increase cyber safety and help protect your business data while on the go.

  1. Make a backup before you travel: In the event your device is lost or damaged, you’ll be able to replace the device with a new one and quickly restore all the data from a backup, all with minimal downtime.
  2. Don’t use public Wi-Fi: Wait until you have access to a secure network before going online – even just to check email.
  3. Use passwords and encryption: At a minimum, make sure you have a password on your device, or even better, have full drive encryption. That way, even if your data storage is removed from the device, the contents are inaccessible.
  4. Act fast after loss: If your device is lost or stolen, immediately notify the appropriate people. This might include your IT provider so they can change passwords, your bank so they can lock down accounts, and any staff who need to be aware of the breach so they aren’t tricked into allowing further breaches.

Need help with mobile cyber security? Call us at 07 4767 7202

Remember when spam was obvious, and unless you desperately needed a special blue pill, it was easy to identify and ignore? Those were the days! The impact on your business would have been minimal, as spam was more an annoyance than anything else. Unfortunately, spam has matured into an aggressive threat, marked by sophisticated attacks and rapidly evolving techniques. It’s not just random electronic junk mail anymore and it’s putting a costly strain on your business resources.

How Spam Impacts Your Business

Spam now contains malware, with hackers sending cleverly disguised emails to your business. Once clicked by an employee, it infects your computer system (virus) or steals your private data (phishing). The malware can then spread across the entire computer network and beyond, including to your clients and vendors. The very fact that your employees must pause and examine every single link and attachment adds hours of lost productivity. Occasionally, spam is so convincing that only an expert would be able to visually identify it. Employees are also more likely to miss an important email, either not seeing it arrive at the same time as a spam attack or becoming overwhelmed with the sheer number of emails.

How Anti-Spam Can Save Your Business

  1. Block threats: The spam filter’s purpose is to block the spam from ever reaching your employees’ screens. The threat is automatically identified and either held securely or immediately deleted. This is the best way to avoid activating spam malware, as it’s so easy to click through links in an email that seems authentic and important. The effects of that one spam click may be instantaneous or may lie hidden for months. Removing the email before it becomes a risk is a much better option.
  2. Filter legitimate emails: Real mail needs to be able to stand out and avoid the trash. Anti-spam filtering has sophisticated recognition abilities which block spam only and allow real mail to land safely in mailboxes.
  3. Meet data regulations: Many businesses are subject to strict privacy and data storage regulations, some more so than others. To continue operation, they have to meet conditions including always using spam filtering to reduce the risk of data breach.
  4. Protect your business reputation: You can see how uncomfortable CEOs are when they hold press conferences to admit a breach. They must acknowledge that they failed to protect client data, or that users may be infected with a virus. Not only do they then face financial loss, their business reputation takes a nosedive. Anti-spam filtering can ensure these types of scenarios don’t happen to you.

Filtering has come a long way in recent years, with complex algorithms identifying and catching spam before it becomes a risk to your business. Real emails can now pass safely through without the classic catch cry of ‘check the spam folder’, and businesses can work with greater productivity and safety than ever before. You need email, but you definitely don’t need spam or the chaos it brings to your business.

We can block spam and keep your legitimate emails flowing. Call us at 07 4767 7202 today!

You may not be storing military secrets or running a billion-dollar empire, but your business is still an attractive target for hackers. You need a firewall – a guard standing at the door of your network to stop the bad guys from getting in while still letting your staff come and go without interruption.

A surprising number of businesses are operating without a firewall, or with one unsuitable to the requirements of a business network. For most, it’s a risk they don’t know they’re taking because they assume all systems have built-in protections. Unfortunately, by the time the lack is discovered, it’s far too late.

A firewall is actually a special type of hardware or software that acts as a protective shield between the computers on your network and assorted cyber dangers. Data is constantly passed through at lightning fast speeds, invisible to the user experience.

Filtering: A strong firewall actively looks for known viruses, phishing emails and spam, and then blocks them before they can get in the door. Its internal knowledge of threats is updated regularly and search patterns quickly adjusted. Business firewalls also monitor data in both directions. When a computer goes online, all the data coming in and out is inspected to see whether it’s safe or not. If it doesn’t pass the test, the firewall instantly blocks it and records the details in a log.

Performance: You can use your firewall to set network traffic priorities. For example, it can make sure a Skype call gets all the resources it needs to allow for flawless video and voice quality, while someone watching YouTube videos at the same time will receive reduced resources. Rules can be set to allow certain applications to be treated as a higher priority than others, certain departments or even users. You can tailor your network performance to meet your unique business needs.

Management: Business firewalls allow you to see who’s doing what and when over your network. You can create rules for specific users, devices and times. For example, you might allow your employees to access Facebook during lunch breaks only, while at the same time keeping it completely unblocked for you or your marketing team. Thorough logs are kept automatically and can be used to troubleshoot problems. For example, your firewall logs might show that a computer inside your network connects to a third world country at 3am each night, which would certainly be worth investigating.

Connection: A strong firewall allows your remote workforce to access your servers with ease and security, while at the same time keeping cyber-attacks out. Remote work arrangements are growing in popularity and necessity, often requiring server access at a moment’s notice. You can set your firewall to authenticate the identity of users before allowing access, and create a virtual private network (VPN) that keeps any transferred data safe from interception.

We can install, configure and manage your business firewall – Call us at 07 4767 7202 to start protecting your network today.

Ransomware has undeniably been the biggest security threat of 2016. No-one was safe. Hackers targeted everyone and everything, including home PCs – and they were astoundingly successful – earning themselves upwards of $846 million from US reported incidents alone. Business is booming for hackers, with thousands of attacks each day bringing in an average of $640 per target. Perhaps even more alarmingly, the financial cost of each individual attack is on the rise – the more ransomware proves to be an easy earner for them, the more they demand each time.

For a quick payday, some hackers offer to ‘rescue’ you from immediate danger – for a fee. One method is to trick you into thinking you have a virus that will spread if you don’t pay money to remove it immediately. Another much scarier method is to pretend to be the FBI and say your computer was involved in a crime (anything from money laundering to child pornography) and you can avoid going to prison by paying a few hundred dollars.

Thousands of regular people are also waking up every day to discover they’ve been locked out of their own files. Entire music and video libraries, digital photos from the past 5 years, personal budget files and even their secret novel draft …all held hostage until the user pays a ransom. The encryption is so strong and unbreakable that paying the ransom often becomes the only solution.

The way ransomware gets onto your computer is deviously simple. Generally, the hackers convince you to click an email attachment/link or pop-up. With both approaches, the hacker usually offers helpful information, for example:

  • Tracking an unclaimed parcel
  • Alerting that a virus was found and needs to be removed
  • Advising details of a recent traffic fine

It’s so tempting to click through for more details and that’s what the hackers count on. Their messages and pop-ups aren’t obvious threats and so slip easily under our radar. Unfortunately, they’re not the most trustworthy bunch so paying may not actually unlock your files, and one payment can quickly become several.

To make matters worse, they can encrypt any backups connected to your computer too, like a USB drive. Having a backup is super important in any situation, but in cases like this, the right backup is needed. Not only one stored separate from your network, but one created recently with all the files you can’t bear to lose. Before restoring your backup, however, you’ll need to make sure the malware isn’t lurking in the background, ready to not just re-infect your restored files but also the backup drive itself.

To avoid finding yourself up to the waist in ransom demands or sending hackers money each month, we recommend being wary of email attachments, even from friends and family. If you’re not sure what the file is, don’t click it. They may not have sent that email intentionally; their infected system may be auto-emailing everyone in the address book. You should also be careful with any popups that appear out of place, especially ones that try to make you panic. If it doesn’t sound right or look right, don’t click it. Ransomware is just too dangerous to risk.

Call us to set your computer up with protections against ransomware, and put backups in place that will keep your important files safe.

Anti-virus programs don’t catch viruses when they’re not running. Yes, it’s blatantly obvious, but what’s not always clear is how often your staff are disabling your anti-virus programs so they can squeeze in a little playtime. Maybe download and install a game, free app or get through the block to a suspicious website. It happens in businesses across the country, and more often than you think. It’s just human nature to see a problem and work around it, because surely their computer won’t be infected, those things only happen to other people.

Unfortunately, the biggest threat to your data and network security is your staff. Fantastic, loyal, hardworking people, who make occasional silly decisions. Even the innocent ones, like ignoring the virus software update that keeps popping up, requesting to download the latest protections. Your staff aren’t intentionally putting your systems at risk, but they are creating a weak link that exposes your business to attacks that may cost you thousands.

That’s the key difference between free anti-virus and managed anti-virus. Free solutions were created for home use, where self-induced breaches aren’t such a big deal. The license on free solutions is usually in fact only for home usage. This is because in a business setting, even the slightest gap in your digital walls can lead to lost revenue, delays and even lawsuits. With a managed anti-virus solution, your staff can’t do those things. They literally can’t disable the protections or uninstall it, and updates happen automatically.

With the benefit of human oversight, we’re able to see when machines aren’t fully protected or have already become infected. Managed anti-virus means just that – we manage it for you – so that we know when there’s an issue and can take the necessary actions. Often working invisibly to your employees, we can remotely fix small problems before they become big problems, which leaves your employees feeling trusted while your business remains secure.

Managed anti-virus gives your business protection on a much higher level, because let’s face it, the stakes are much bigger. It takes software control out of the end users hands and puts your system security in the hands of an expert. The program can’t be disabled without a password, nor can it be uninstalled by anyone without the highest permissions. When updates are released they are downloaded and applied automatically. No delays, no putting it off until later, no gaps in your digital walls.

When to switch: This is around the size where it becomes impossible to monitor each computer individually without a full-time IT technician on your team. Users may be spread out across the network and you’re way too busy to stand watch over them while they work.

During school holidays, children have all the time in the world to spend with their best friend: Technology.

Waking early to sneak in a couple hours of Minecraft, Roblox, YouTube or Xbox…grabbing their ‘educational’ iPad and Facetiming a friend…sending emails and texts…it’s open season during school holidays!

Not just the younger children, but teenagers too.

To be honest, as an adult, we really have no idea what’s cool or what they’ve been introduced to at school. They’re digital natives and use it in ways we would never dream of.

All we know is that they’re going to using their devices and we won’t be able to watch them every second of the day. Plus of course, no matter how many Cyber-Safety talks they’ve had, how many times they can parrot the rules back, they’re children and they don’t always stop to think.

  • They don’t realize certain search terms might not be such a great idea
  • They trust they are messaging other children
  • And they would rather not limit themselves to 2 hours per day

Protect your Children with Parental Control Software

A Parental Control Software (PCS) package is essentially an internet filter for children. It takes all the icky, inappropriate things online and blocks your child from accessing them, seeing them or even knowing they exist.

Adults can override and disable the software easily, so their own experience is unchanged and unmonitored.

As an added bonus, Parental Control Software can also be used to put time limits on internet usage, or even log all online activity. While you may not feel the need to review the logs on a daily basis, they can be vital in identifying cyberbullying, sexting, or inappropriate relationships. Parents around the world credit these logs with saving their child’s mental health, and occasionally, their life.

The best time to install Parental Control Software is now, before your children become comfortable with unrestricted access, and before they see things they shouldn’t.

Give us a call to set your computer up with Parental Control Software today.