Business Focused IT Support

Cyberscams & how to stay cybersafe

by Nicki Dowsett in cybercrime, Industry News, IT Support, Password Security, Ransomware

Cyberscams affect people in many walks of life.  We have all seen the stories in the news of large corporations that have been hacked such as the recent NHS attack or Talk Talk in recent years.  Companies of all sizes are at risk to being hacked or cyberscams,  SME’s are targeted just as often, we just dont see it reported as much.  Even in your personal life you can be at risk for cyberscams, through social media or email.  The cyber criminals are getting sharper and also now send text messages as well as emails to trick people.  Everyone no matter their age can be at risk.

Cyberscams can be devastating, with criminals asking you to click on a link to confirm your details and taking you to a dummy site that looks very real.  They can also access your systems and monitor your activity, create ghost accounts that make you think you are dealing with a supplier you deal with all the time when in fact they are scammers looking to steal your data and money.

Whilst as a company MPR IT, often given advice and have written a number of blogs on this subject, we have recently come across these two books written by Thames Valley and Metropolitan Police.  We feel these are extremely useful and would strongly suggest that you take the time to read and digest.  Obviously if you have any questions or require any additional support regarding this subject our team will be pleased to help.

big book of scams

The Little Book of Big Scams

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Disaster Management for IT Systems

by Nicki Dowsett in Disaster Planning, Disaster Recovery, DNS Web Hosting, Engineers, Helpdesk, Hosted phone, Industry News, IT Support, IT Systems, Uncategorised

Disaster Management Plans

Over the weekend, the big story in the news was all about the IT system failure at British Airways.  The CEO of BA has released a statement that the systems crashed due to a short power surge knocking out the main servers, unfortunately for the company the back-up systems then failed to take over.  This resulted in over 75,000 customers being affected and flights grounded around the world.

BA Plane

When the story first broke, BA did not release much information to the public, no doubt as the Directors were scrambling to find out what had gone so badly wrong.  However, this resulted in various speculation such as systems being hacked, no back up servers in place or that this was due to cost cutting by out sourcing IT Support.  It would appear, that none of these were the case.

Many people in the IT industry are watching this story closely to understand how this situation happened.  With many questions being asked, including:

  • Why did the back-up servers not take over?
  • Are the back-up systems in the same location as the main servers?
  • Are the communication systems such as website and mobile app in the same location?
  • What was the Disaster Management Plan?

Irrespective of your IT Support being in house or outsourced these questions should not be being asked.  Here at MPR IT, we support a wide range of customers for IT, on both a daily basis and, also with larger projects such as server/network installations and server hosting.  With all our customers, we hold the same approach, no matter the size of your company – you need to be prepared for any eventuality.  Whilst we have not had to deal with an incident the size of BA’s problems at the weekend we have had to deal with various situations where a company server has gone off line.  These include a flood in an office, or a system hack.  Essentially the plan is the same – get the company back up and running in the shortest time possible and preferably without their customers ever knowing there was an issue and with the least cost involved.  I think we can quite safely say this is going to be very expensive for BA.

Disaster Management Recovery plans are one of the most important things that your business can put in place.  The aim of a DMR is to ensure that your business continues smoothly with little or no disruption, and your company needs will differ from that of any other company.  The main points that you need to consider are:

  • Is your data/server backed up daily?
  • Is this back up stored in a secure separate location to the main server?
  • Can your customers still contact you?
  • Can your staff continue to carry out their duties?
  • Can your operation continue and will your customers be affected?

We have written blogs in the past about important it is to have a Disaster Management Plan in place, however the events this weekend have shown that it is not just in the case of fire, flood or bad weather that your company needs to plan, in advance for.  In the case of BA it was apparently due to a power surge, that the systems failed.  Not as many speculated in the first few hours, that it was due to out sourced IT Support or being hacked with a virus.  If you and your company would like to discuss your current Disaster Management Plans please do not hesitate to contact us.

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Wanna Cry Cyber attack

by Nicki Dowsett in cybercrime, Disaster Planning, Helpdesk, Industry News, IT Support, IT Systems, Microsoft, Password Security, Ransomware, Uncategorised, Windows 10

Wanna Cry Cyber Attack – Over the last couple of years, I have spent several hours if not days reading articles on cyber crime and hacking as part of my role here at MPR IT.  If you follow us on social media you will also see how this is a hot topic for us and we quite often post news stories of hacks and how you can protect yourselves, I have also written a few blogs on the subject (all of which can be found on our website).  So, the breaking news on Friday and all over the weekend of the hack affecting over 150 countries around the world, with some 200,000 machines affected this wasn’t entirely a shock for me.  All too often I see stories of both large corporations and small one person business being hit by hacking or ransomware.

Map of Wanna Cry affected countries

Extent of countries affected by Wanna Cry in Red

As a company that takes pride in providing the best support and advice to our customers, our priority is prevention rather than cure, although we do unfortunately have experience on the cure as well.  Our key guidelines for protecting your systems are pretty simple:

  • Ensure you Operating System is the most current and up to date – Microsoft release patches and updates regularly. This particularly virus is targeted towards out of date, older systems.  Please ensure your system is fully up to date.  If you have any concerns please contact us and we can check this for you.
  • Many virus’s are spread through email attachments – NEVER open anything from someone you don’t know or aren’t expecting. If you are unsure about an email or attachment, call MPR IT or the company where the attachment has come from and enquire as to whether it is legitimate.
  • Ensure you permanently delete any emails with attachments that you do not need, or where you don’t know the sender.
  • Make sure that you have an up to date Anti Virus – MPR IT can check this for you if you are unsure how up to date this is or if you don’t have anti-virus we can provide anti virus software to your company.
  • NEVER share passwords with anyone and make sure that passwords you do have are always different. PASSWORD1 is surprisingly still a popular choice – it’s not a good idea as very easy to guess.
  • Back up your data daily and store a copy off site securely as well on site. The worst that can happen if data is backed up is that you lose one days’ work, and not everything.

The virus ‘Wanna Cry’ that hit the world on Friday, and spread over the weekend is mainly targeted at Government departments.  Where systems are older and the networks are very large, this allows it to spread so quickly, we are therefore not expecting for this to affect many of our customers, however please be assured that our team are prepared and ready to deal with any issues that you may experience.

To our customers with a contract that includes workstation monitoring, we have already rolled out emergency patches to any potentially affected machines.   If you do not have a contract that includes workstation monitoring please contact us and we can look to update any patches or we can review your contract to include workstation monitoring should you wish.

Please take this simple advice and pass to your colleagues and get the message out on how to avoid potential cybecrime hacks and viruses.  Hopefully one day soon I won’t be spending so much of my time reading articles on cybercrime.

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Emergencies & out of hours IT Support

by Nicki Dowsett in Disaster Planning, Disaster Recovery, Engineers, Helpdesk, IT Support, Office 365, Uncategorised

Emergencies can happen in any office, as one of our clients found out one weekend.

One of our long standing clients, Russell Laboratories, has been receiving support from MPR IT for a number of years now.  The package we provide includes our fully inclusive Server Support package, as well as a number of larger projects including server replacements, network cabling and CCTV.  MPR IT and Russell Laboratories have a close working relationship and as with all our customers we meet regularly to discuss the support we provide, and help to identify any areas that require attention.

Russell Laboratories are a leading provider of advanced plating and finishing services to the electronics, aerospace and allied industries.  Based locally in Ashford the company has been in operation for 40 years.  The decision to outsource IT support was made to allow the existing staff, at Russell Laboratories to concentrate on their own main roles within the business.  As well as having the knowledge of a fixed price contract for ongoing daily support and security that any additional work required would be carried out by experienced engineers who fully understand the network.

As part of the inclusive server support, our systems monitor the servers on site 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, alerting our team to any issues with the systems.  This means that even at weekends or over holiday periods, Russell Laboratories are safe in the knowledge that should emergencies happen they have no costly invoices for out of hour’s support.

One Saturday morning, our out of hour’s team were alerted to an issue with the server at Russell Laboratories.  Our on call engineer contacted them to discuss this and it was then discovered that a water leak had occurred and the server had been damaged by water.  With the knowledge and expertise of our engineer, within a short period of time we were able to transfer email access to Office 365 enabling the flow of email to continue uninterrupted.  After a quick site visit to identify the equipment affected, new hardware was ordered to arrive the next working day ready for installation.  As part of the support package we provide, Servers are backed up daily by MPR IT and with the data from the Friday night incident it meant that no data had been lost.  The team at Russell Laboratories lost no data and they were able to continue working, with access to their emails and the total downtime from the first notification of the incident was 48 hours over the weekend.

Water Damage

Water Damage

Damaged Server

Damaged Server

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Network malware attack

by Nicki Dowsett in Engineers, General, Helpdesk, IT Support, Password Security, Ransomware, Uncategorised

Canterbury Archaeological Trust, one of the UK most famous Archaeology firms based in Kent, turned to MPR IT over 5 years ago looking for an outsourced IT company.  They required a reliable company to provide day to day support, Office 365, Anti-virus and also support on any larger projects that may require IT services.

Included in the support that we offer to the Trust is an all-inclusive server support and AVG anti-virus software.   Ensuring the charity is safe in the knowledge that the systems are monitored and support available 365 days a year, all for a set cost per month.  No unexpected bills for when something goes awry on a weekend or holiday period.

This support became invaluable one weekend when something went wrong on the network.  As 24 hours support was in place,  an out of hour’s call was made to MPR IT.  With the ability to remotely look at the network our engineer quickly identified that malware had in fact infiltrated the system, and he quickly made the decision to make his way to the site.

Within an hour of the initial call out the network on site had been shut down and all machines physically unplugged to avoid any further damage occurring.  This is key with any malware attack, the sooner the network is detached from the outside world the quicker it will stop from spreading.  Over the next few hours, the infected file was identified and removed whilst the remaining files were scanned.  The network is backed up on a regular basis,which is something we recommend to all our clients.  This meant that when restoring the network it was easy to revert to the most recent back up and limited data lost, especially as this occurred out of hours meaning that there had been limited access since the back up the previous evening.

What Canterbury Archaeological Trust have to say about MPR IT

Just a quick note to thank you and the team – and especially David and Mitch – for the fantastic response to the weekend viral attack on our computer systems, and for your sound advice in the first place which resulted in building such a resilient set-up. From your first response on Monday, which limited the damage, to the speedy and efficient disaster recovery, we could not have asked for more. Several of our staff have commented on their amazement at the speed with which you got us back up and running. Brilliant job, well done!

Personally, I can’t help contrasting it with what happened a few years back when the Raid Array blew, that really was a disaster. We’ve come a very long way since then, thanks to MPR-IT.

John Hammond

Commercial Operations Director

Canterbury Archaeological Trust

For more information on how we can support your business please do not hesitate to contact us and discuss your requirements.

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Rural Broadband in 2017

by Nicki Dowsett in broadband, cabinets, Engineers, fibre optics, networking, point to point wirless, rural broadand

Government pledge to improve rural broadband

The government has made a pledge that by the end of 2020 every home and business in the UK will have the right to demand a minimum of 10mgb broadband.  It has also promised that by the end of this year (2017) 90% of the UK will have a mobile signal.  Some rural parts are still cut off from the internet and mobile signal in 2017.  I was shocked when I discovered that 1.4million homes and business in the UK still receive nowhere near this level of service.  Are you one of the people that, in some parts of the country are still subjected to dial up connection?  I vaguely remember the sound when connecting to the internet of high pitch squealing & it sends shivers down my spine. Living in an urban area I can safely say that I get super fast broadband at 70mgb, & 4G service on my mobile.

Broadband in our daily life

As a mother, and someone that works fro home my life would be so much different without fast broadband.  For example I would not be able to work from home to suit my childcare needs.  Or be able to help my son do his homework.   I often try to explain to my 5yr old that he doesn’t know how good he has it.  When I was child we had 4 channels and if we were good, we got a trip to the video shop at the weekend. We didn’t have the option to flick through the latest films or TV shows  available to download.  So many people still don’t have this luxury, that I and many others take for granted.

Urban V Rural Life

If you are reading this and think well that can’t possibly be the case, you will be surprised as I was.  One of our directors lives only 10 miles from Ashford, Kent.  He has fibre broadband in his house, for all the good that means.  Due to the distance from the local cabinet he gets 2mgb speed.  He doesn’t have the option to stream TV content simply because his broadband is not quick enough, and struggles with checking emails or working from home.

With more and more people looking for a different lifestyle and commuting to work in towns and cities this is becoming more of an issue. We all know that many are already struggling with the issues on train travel in the South East.   Many of these commuters quite often don’t have the option to work from home on the days when the trains aren’t running.  So whilst the idea of working in a city and living in the country was for a better work/home balance this isn’t always the case.

It’s not just homeowners in rural areas that are suffering

Small businesses are also struggling, unable to compete against larger corporations.  In this day and age you should be able to run a business from anywhere in the country no matter your skills or trade.  Many people run businesses from home offices or  a unit on a farm, whether it’s making furniture or running a virtual office assistant, broadband speed is paramount – customers want to look at websites and make contact by email, not pick up a phone. It’s just the way people expect to communicate today.

It is also affecting the younger generation as well.  I am really impressed with the ICT set up in my son’s school.  It’s surprising how much the internet can play a part in the school day.  If he was at a school in a rural area would he get the same benefits as a town school?  It’s very possible that some schools in rural areas have very limited connection.  So if we look at the future this lack of broadband in rural areas is also affecting our future workforce, as technology is everywhere in the workplace.

Working with Rural businesses

Here at MPR IT this is something we take extremely seriously, and hope that it doesn’t take another 3 almost 4 years for the government pledge to be completed.   Many of our customers are based in rural areas, and we have worked with a number to improve their broadband speed and connectivity to help their business. With our experienced and qualified engineers in fibre optic cabling and point to point wireless, MPR IT will ensure that we can evaluate the best possible solution for you.  See our case studies on point to point wireless and fibre optic cabling for more information on work we have carried out.  If you are suffering slow connection, don’t sit and wait for the government pledge by 2020 contact us to see how we can help you now & discuss your options to improve your business & home connections.

BBC’s Countryfile

BBC’s Countryfile recently included a report on how many parts of the country that do not have broadband.  A farmer trying to complete his tax returns or get the latest farming news from the Government was struggling with 42kb speed and as the phone lines where he lived were not always reliable even this couldn’t be relied on.  Meaning that after a frustrating 45 mins he still could not check emails for the camping side of his business.  This meant that he missed out on potential bookings and enquiries for people to pay and stay at his farm in the summer months.  I looked into this further and found another clip also by Countryfile from 2013 highlighting the same issues.  In the earlier clip it showed very similar stories and how peoples live were affected.  With rural high street banks and post offices closing, it is expected that people will use the internet for these services, when in fact these are the areas that don’t have the broadband to support these services. Nothing has changed much in the intervening years.

Both episodes, it highlighted how people living in these rural areas were trying to overcome the issues. In one a cop-operative of farmers were digging trenches in their own fields to have cables laid and cabinets installed to connect their properties and businesses, in the other it showed how the installation of point to point wireless portals could be installed on the side of a property to collect the radio waves from a radio mast 6 miles away.  In principal this is the best option without the need to lay cables and install cabinets, however there can be environmental factors which can affect your choice of how to improve your internet connection.

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HP Notebook Battery Recall

by Nicki Dowsett in General, Helpdesk, HP Battery recall

Hewlett Packard Logo

Do you own a Hewlett Packard notebook or laptop? It has recently been announced by HP,  that a number of their batteries need to be recalled.  This is part of a worldwide project and follows an earlier recall notice in June 2016.  You are advised to to check your battery as a matter of urgency.  Even if you checked your battery last year you must still check again following the expansion of batteries being recalled.

If you have an affected battery you must stop using this IMMEDIATELY.  You can still use your notebook but you must connect your notebook to a main power source. Once logged with HP, you will be sent a replacement battery.

We also strongly advise that your files and documents held on your notebook are backed up in the event of the battery overheating.

Please see the HP page with details on how to check your battery.  You can either check this manually or you have the option to run a utility.exe to establish if you are affected.

Alternatively, for option B, you will need your notebook and battery serial number to input into the site.   You will need to switch off your device to obtain this information, please follow this link.

If you are still uncertain if you are affected by this please contact our help team as a matter of urgency 0800 030 20 30.

 

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Authorised Re-seller of Microsoft Surface

by Nicki Dowsett in General, IT Support, IT Systems, Microsoft, MPR, Surface, Windows 10

Pleased to announce MPR IT have been approved to be an authorised seller for Microsoft Surface

Microsoft Surface Authorised Reseller

Microsoft Authorised Reseller

As with many of the Microsoft products, they will only recommend these are sold through authorised sellers and MPR IT are pleased to announce that following a lengthy process we are now accredited to re-sell the Surface line up. The new accreditation allows us to resell the full range of Microsoft Surface devices and accessories to new and existing customers. As one of the few companies in the South East with this accreditation you can rest assured that MPR IT are your first choice to discuss the options available in the Surface range. The Microsoft Authorised Device Reseller (ADR) program was created to empower partners to resell Surface devices to commercial customers as part of their overall customer solution offering.
Microsoft ADRs are an innovative partner ecosystem that sell Surface devices and accessories to commercial customers of all sizes.

The Surface is the new innovation in laptops.   Microsoft have designed the Surface to be used as either a tablet or laptop making this one of the most desirable pieces of equipment to have.

If you haven’t seen or heard of the Surface yet then you are missing out with versatility, performance, innovation and advanced technology as well as the expected functions of a normal laptop.

Laptop V Tablet

The Surface Laptop V Tablet

Versatility

The Surface goes from laptop to tablet easily and simply, the Surface can work anywhere that your day takes you, connecting seamlessly to your other devices. With multiple ports and the very best digital pen experience, Surface will redefine what it means to be productive in the office, studio or café.

Performance

Each Surface is built with the power of a fully functioning laptop. Whether you’re taking notes in school with Surface 3, docking your Surface Pro 4 at your desk in the office, or sketching a graphic novel in your studio with Surface Book, you will have the power you need in your hands.

Innovation & Advanced Technology

Surface devices are meticulously crafted by Microsoft using the most advanced technology. PixelSense™ displays with image quality that rivals real life, incredibly powerful 6th Gen Intel® Core™ processors.  The Surface Pen makes each member of the Surface family into a category redefining device.

Accessories

The Surface also offers you the opportunity to add a range of accessories to make your life even easier depending on how you wish to use it.  We are also able to offer you the option to add Surface pens and pen tips for the more creative people, docking stations for your desk, & a Blue tooth Mouse, additional power supply cables and of course protective cases.


We are so pleased to be able to finally sell the Surface range of devices. They are truly ground breaking and innovative. One device really can replace your Desktop PC, Laptop and Tablet in one swoop. I have personally been using a Surface Pro 3 for well over a year and cannot shout about how good it is enough. The Surface 4 and Surface Book take things to a new level with faster CPUs more memory and greater storage. The best single device on the market? I believe it is!!

Director, Andy Ransley


Contact us today to discuss any of your IT needs including the new Microsoft Surface.

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Ransomware will the battle ever be won?

by Nicki Dowsett in cybercrime, Helpdesk, Industry News, IT Support, Password Security, Ransomware

Ransomware, cryptolocker and cybercrime seem to be the most popular topics in the news this year.  I look after the social media here at MPR IT and a large chunk of my role is to review numerous websites looking for news that may be of interest to not only our customers but also to our team.  By keeping on top of the news means we can be one step ahead of new technology coming out, and also what to watch out for.

Most of the news seems to be about cybercrime and hackers lately.  Companies are attacked daily, from small websites through to the American government.  Utility companies, dating sites, children’s toys they have all been in the news and not for the best reasons.  Just this week it was reported that train companies in the UK had been hacked.  With more and more companies relying on technology to run it, I sadly fear it won’t be long till some unscrupulous organisation will try a major attack to infrastructure.

Example of a ransomware screen alert

Ransomware & Cryptolocker

Whilst reviewing news sites this week, I was extremely pleased to see a report on a University in Florida.  They are one small step closer to helping the world combat cybercrime, by designing a technique called Crypto Drop. The report showed that by monitoring activity on targeted files, it was possible to block ransomware when only a tiny percentage had been encrypted. Whilst it is not fail safe, it is a new approach against hackers.  The technique includes countermeasures which are triggered once ransomware infiltrates the network.  This technique relies on three indicators of ransomware activity:

  • Bulk modification of file types
  • Dissimilarity – plain text looks nothing like encrypted file
  • Entropy – encryption produces high entropy

Whilst running the demonstration it was proven that Crypto Drop can contain the action of malware.  Only 0.2% of files were encrypted. In essence this is an early warning system as opposed to a fail safe solution.  Ransomware will still be on your network, and action should still be taken to clean the network, however only a small percentage of files will be lost as opposed to the network.  This will not be an automated piece of software and will require your network administrator to run the software to help distinguish between expected and unexpected activity.

As we all know the people behind cybercrime are equally as clever and constantly coming up with new ways to infiltrate our systems and come up with new scams, once a program such as this is developed fully and launched they will no doubt be looking at ways to break through Crypto Drop.

So there is a little light at the end of the tunnel in the war against cybercrime.  In the meantime please ensure you review your network security and business practises to ensure you do not become a victim to cybercrime.  We have blogged before about the best ways to stay ahead of hackers and this technique will be no excuse to not continue ensuring your systems are secure and backed up regularly.  If you require any assistance on making sure your network is secure at all times please contact us at MPR IT Solutions.

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Office move with MPR IT

by Nicki Dowsett in MPR, Office Move, Strcutured cabling, Wireless networks

Are you considering an office move or expansion?

One of the most important things to consider is how to ensure minimal disruption for your staff and customers.  Your business should run seamlessly and in the best scenario staff should leave work on a Friday night and return on a Monday morning at the new location and work should carry on as usual.  MPR IT have supported a large number of customers over the years to ensure this is the case.

Once you have decided on a new location, we can start to work with you immediately.  MPR IT can offer consultation on a multitude of areas to ensure you get the best use of space,  and the office is able to cope with modern day technology.  We have vast experience with structured cabling, wireless networks, server installation, point to point wireless, telephone systems and business internet connections, all of which should be considered with an office move or expansion.

Many new offices these days are open plan and so it is critical to ensure that floor points are put in strategically to make the best use of an office.  When a company is considering a new office or layout the engineers at MPR can offer consultation on how best to position cabling and power points before the flooring is chosen.   Even if it is a solid concrete floor we can get the project done for you, ensuring your staff are safe from trip hazards of cables across the office floor.

Office move - got a concrete floor - not a problem for our team

Office Move – got a concrete floor – not a problem for our team

If you are considering an office move or expansion please contact MPR IT to discuss how to get the best from your new office space.  Please also see our IT Services pages, all of which should be considered when making and office move.

 

 

 

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