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Smarter email handling

There’s a lot you can do with Outlook email, whether its on your own server or Hosted Exchange like Office 365. (We can provide several flavours of both.)

outlook

It doesn’t have to be the simple option of one mailbox and one email address. You can add multiple email addresses to one copy of Outlook. Then add some rules to change how they process. For instance you might be responsible for emails sent to [email protected] and [email protected] For some of our clients we setup ‘info’ and ‘sales’ so that emails go into separate folders. Its still the same Outlook account, but it makes it a lot easier to process, plus you can identify priorities better, eg sales are a lot more important than info enquiries!

But why not flip that round, have a mailbox with one email address and multiple people, eg [email protected] for processing the administration and then let all the admin team have access to it. As its one mailbox they can easily see which enquiries have been processed and which are outstanding. Maybe add a bit of colour coding to show enquiry status.

If you have a brochure request form on your website, send the request through to one of these accounts but route it into a subfolder. That way it can be left until later in the day or when someone has time, aiming to post the brochure requests all in one go just before the post is collected.

Outlook is about a lot more than just receiving emails, make sure its working efficiently for you.

Protect your WordPress website

We see a lot of attempted attacks against WordPress websites, due to its popularity and have also been called in when attacks have been successful. There are a number of measures that you can take to help protect yourself.

  1. Don’t use obvious usernames or passwords – they need to be difficult to guess. eg if your website is called Redleg IT then don’t make the username redleg !
  2. Make sure you have the Wordfence plugin running, it will block repeated failed logins – we see plenty of those from all over the world, particularly from the Ukraine at the moment. Wordfence has a lot of security features that are essential and its free (you just pay if you want the Premium features).
  3. wordpressEven though you’ve got obscure usernames, there is still something called an enumerated attack that is an attempt to break your password with a guess at a login ID of 1, or other obvious low number. The solution is a bit technical, but you can login to the MySQL database behind the scenes and run the commands described at www.wpwhitesecurity.com/wordpress-security/change-wordpress-administrator-id (Don’t hesitate to call if you want a hand with this)
  4. Another important layer of security that you can add is CloudFlare. Again the basic service is free. They will attempt to mitigate any DDOS attacks or unusual connections that are detected, whilst maintaining a normal service for legitimate website visitors. If you come under attack, this service works almost like magic!
  5. Update, update, update – WordPress regularly issue security updates. Make sure you load those updates and the plugin updates ASAP. We do this as a matter of course for all our clients.

Common Passwords, Popular PINs

top 20 PIN numbersFollowing on from our re-tweeted ‘Do Not Use These Passwords’ list, we now bring you the most popular 4 digit PIN codes list.

DO NOT USE any of the entries on either of these lists, they’re so popular that its the first thing someone will guess at, to break into your account.

In fact looking at the percentages of how popular these are (eg 1234 is used 10% of the time!), we can work out how successful they will be at unlocking an iPhone.

You get 10 attempts at unlocking an iPhone, so using the top 10 PINs listed you’d be able to unlock every 5th iPhone you tried, on average.

That assumes the iPhone is locked with a 4 digit code – now that’s a great hint to immediately move to 6 digits, or better still characters, for your lock code … but whatever you do, don’t choose 123456 or 111111 !

Thanks to DataGenetics for the initial analysis, there’s a lot more detail in their blog.

How to fix a cryptovirus like Locky, Cryptolocker, Torrentlocker

“Your Backup Plan never survives first contact with a cryptovirus”. Its the most likely security incident that will test how well thought out your backup strategy is.

On 17th Feb at 2.07pm a receptionist opened an email attachment that looked like a legitimate invoice. At 2.08pm a download called eiaus11.exe arrived in the temp directory and launched. By 4pm it had encrypted nearly 91,000 files – all the Word documents, Excel documents, PowerPoint presentations, databases, images, x-rays, patient info. The ransom for the decrypt password was £300. That’s an absolute last resort – Don’t pay the ransom! You will go on a mailing list for a lot of future attacks.

Its almost not worth wasting the time trying to find a way round the encryption. Most of them are pretty slick now, hiding the decryption key somewhere on the internet, untraceable Bitcoin payment, even offering tech support. Just occasionally a fix turns up but months after the event.

The only other cure is to fire up the backup and restore to the previous evening. However some of the cryptoviruses are now targeting backups, in an effort to maximise ransom payment. Dropbox, Onedrive and similar file sync tools are not actually backups – encrypted files will be synchronised to the data centre and then to your mobile devices. Shadow file copy (a handy Windows file recovery mechanism) is deleted. A backup drive on a server that is shared will be attacked and encrypted.

Make sure your backup and security is multi-layered and comprehensive – on-site backup, off-site backup, email filtering, desktop anti-virus. Make sure its a full backup. Make sure it is tested regularly. You don’t want the first test to be when you’re staring at 91,000 inaccessible files with the business stopped dead in its tracks.

On the 18th Feb at 9.30am, the online backup completed the restore of the appointment database and all the related customer info. The receptionist logged back in and everyone breathed a sigh of relief, a little greyer, a little wiser.

The biggest issue encountered wasn’t the encryption or being unable to work, it was the fact that the broadband service was a limited package, with an almost used up allowance that wouldn’t allow for a full download from the backup service. As they say, your plan never survives first contact with the enemy. Use our experience to revise your plan.

Emailing documents securely

This applies especially to IFAs, accountants, insurance, educational specialists, schools, medical, etc. You may have a Word or Excel document with sensitive information (personal details) that you want to email to someone outside your organisation. However once the email leaves your server its insecure and anyone intercepting it could view the document. Treat email just like sending a postcard – anyone that handles it can read it.

Encrypted email PDFOne answer is to use the Word Save as PDF function (you need Word 2010 or newer). As you create the PDF, click on Options and tick the bottom box that says ‘Encrypt the document with a password’. You’ll get a password prompt before saving the PDF. Now simply email that person the PDF. You’ll need to let them know the password too, but don’t use email! We recommend phoning or txting, or pre-arrange a PDF password when you meet first time.

This works well for occasional use, however if you regularly need to email personal information, ask about the secure email service we offer. Its got high security and encryption and works just like the systems you’ve probably seen from the big insurance companies. It offers better tracking, password management and is easier to see the history if sending multiple documents.

Improve your broadband and wireless speed

Ofcom have just put out a useful article about improving your broadband speed. One of the not so obvious tips hidden away in there, is to raise the height of your broadband router or wireless box. We’ve found at times that this will make a massive difference on wireless range.

speedOne specific location we looked at couldn’t even receive wifi in the adjacent rooms, until we spotted that the internet box (one of the BT hub models) was on the floor behind a set of drawers in the furthest corner We relocated it onto a shelf, 2m higher and the wireless speed improved and the range extended out to all the adjacent rooms.

We’ve moved other routers up much higher and had similar success. Sometimes there are cheap, quick solutions and you don’t need expensive equipment upgrades. However wireless is one of those unpredictable technologies that you often need to check properly in situ, we have a selection of equipment that can be loaned out for testing purposes.

Practical tips for improving your broadband speed

The best business-to-business networking

I’ve been out of breakfast networking for a little while – recovering from BNI burnout! I finally decided last month it was time to get back out there and see what was new, what had changed, who was networking. I headed round a few events met some interesting people, had a few early morning flashbacks and some boring meetings – the ones where you wonder how any business ever gets done.

Lets Do Business

Then I got an invite to an independent business networking meeting at Dantes, between Chorley and Preston, and I was really impressed – good bunch of helpful, friendly people, some great contacts, business referrals being done every week, social events, proper breakfast. More importantly they seemed to have worked out a good balance between some rules to make the meeting run and create new business opportunities, some excellent business support sessions, all without being too militant. Very refreshing.

Come and visit.

BT say this takes a week to repair

What happens when a car hits the street cabinet supplying your broadband and it looks like this …

Car crash broadband

BT Openreach advise this will take a week to repair. How well can your company survive without broadband and phones – make sure you have a plan B in place, ready to go. Its better that we have a discussion now and work out a recovery plan and priorities. That way we can kick it into action when the unexpected happens.

Windows 10 – this might take a while

Installing Windows 10

We’ve already started loading Windows 10 free upgrades and not seen any major issues yet, but its still early days. If you’ve got business PCs or gaming PCs we’d advise to hold off for the minute. There will be problems in the early days and it always takes time for applications to get updates, to make sure they’re compatible. Come and speak to us for the latest info and to check whether your key programs are ready for Windows 10.

Parish Council websites for Transparency Code

Much Hoole Parish Council[July: Just heard there’s Government funding on the way for new websites, for parishes meeting certain criteria.]

You might have heard that the government has brought in a transparency code requirement for parish councils to publish certain information and financial details on their website. We already provide suitable websites for councils. Have a look at Much Hoole or Bretherton, for example.

Using a similar template, we can setup your council’s website quickly and cheaply. The system used is well-known for providing good security. We look after backups and making sure the server is online and available. You get an easy to use system, allowing you to upload documents, information, notices, agendas, etc. You can do this from your own computer, someone else’s computer, at the library, or even on an iPad or tablet – live from the meeting itself!

Lancashire Association of Local Councils use the same template. Bretherton Parish CouncilTake a look at their website for a slightly different layout idea, plus separate logins.

You can also have a domain name registered for your parish, eg muchhoolepc.org.uk. So that there’s a www.yourparish.org.uk address for the website and your emails can then be [email protected]yourparish.org.uk (either forwarded to your regular email address or as a separate mailbox)

Please use the contact page to get in touch and Mike will discuss what you want to do – no techie talk or acronyms, we promise!

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