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Bogus Email and Internet Campaigns

by Nicki Dowsett in Anti-virus software, cybercrime, General, Helpdesk, Industry News, IT Support, IT Systems, MPR, Ransomware, Training, Uncategorised

The National Cyber Security Agency is reporting an increase of bogus email and internet campaigns to users. With the current global pandemic and many people now working from home the criminals are taking full advantage of more people relying on email as a form of communication.

Virus detected image

Over the years, MPR, have unfortunately dealt with a number of situations involving email and Internet campaigns and virus attachments. Now more than ever we ask that you be extra vigilant for any attachments that you receive.

If you do not know the sender – DO NOT OPEN ANY ATTACHMENT, the chances are it is a cyber crime campaign.

If you do know the sender – CHECK THIS IS AN ATTACHMENT YOU ARE EXPECTING, additionally take a close look at the email address. Often criminals will use an almost identical email address to trick people into opening files for example: support@mpr-lt.co.uk as opposed to the correct email support@mpr-it.co.uk.

If you are unsure of any attachment from a known sender please contact the sender by phone to confirm they have in fact sent you an email.

With many of our customer now working from home, on either a personal computer or one provided by their employer – it is vital that all users ensure that anti-virus software is up to date. MPR IT strongly recommends Webroot as being the best on the current market. If you would like more information on Webroot please contact our sales team on 0800 030 20 30 option 1.

Our helpdesk team are committed to answering all queries as fast as we can and we appreciate your patience at this time.  We would also like to thank each and everyone of our customers for their support during this busy time and we wish everyone well.

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NOVEL CORONAVIRUS (COVID-19) SERVICE CONTINUITY PLAN

by Nicki Dowsett in Disaster Recovery, Engineers, General, Helpdesk, Hosted phone, Industry News, IT Support, IT Systems, MPR, MPR IT Work

We know your business depends on our ability to provide reliable, uninterrupted service, so in light of the recent developments around Coronavirus disease (COVID-19), we would like to share with you the measures we are taking to ensure service continuity.

MPR continues to monitor the Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) developments with a primary focus on ensuring the health and safety of our staff while mitigating business impacts. In support of this, we are convening regular meetings with teams across the business and regularly sharing information about the virus and how to prevent the spread of illness.

Risk assessments will be undertaken for all off-site work, meetings etc. to determine if this can be postponed or carried out remotely.

We will act according to the instructions and recommendations of the relevant authorities and in a manner that safeguards our staff. As always, consistent, timely communications with all our stakeholders are critical, and we will communicate any relevant information, when possible.

We have made investments in our technology infrastructure and business continuity planning to ensure we can operate all our systems and processes remotely to provide you with seamless service should any of our staff need to work remotely (e.g., due to self-isolation, school closures, etc.) or should we decide to close the offices and/or switch to a remote working model. We continue to test our business continuity strategies to confirm we can provide ‘business as usual’ should our entire workforce need to work remotely. In the event of this happening, we would operate as follows

  1. Desk phones would revert to soft phones, allowing continuous phone access to our teams, and ensuring all skill groups would continue to work seamlessly.
  2. Microsoft Teams would be used internally for productive collaboration and content sharing.
  3. Meetings, events and training would be switched to virtual environments.

As always, we remain committed to supporting your business with an unparalleled level of service and will continue to monitor the situation, providing you with updates appropriately and promptly.

For further information visit https://www.gov.uk/guidance/coronavirus-covid-19-information-for-thepublic

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Covid-19: Disaster Management Plans

by Nicki Dowsett in Disaster Planning, Disaster Recovery, General, Helpdesk, Hosted phone, Industry News, IT Support, IT Systems, Microsoft, MPR, Office 365

Covid-19 has fast become the hot topic in the media and conversations around the world. Whilst there is still much uncertainty as to how it will affect us as individuals and businesses, it is not something to completely dismiss.

The spread of Covid-19 is likely to increase over the coming weeks. With schools and businesses expected to be affected, be it due to members of staff/pupils becoming unwell or simply due to an external connection to someone that is affected.

This morning (Tuesday 3rd March 2020), Downing Street released a statement detailing various plans for the worst case scenario. Including a prediction that up to a fifth of the UK workforce potentially being unable to work due to Covid-19.

Disaster Management plans have traditionally been put in place for the scenarios where offices are inaccessible. With consideration made due to fire, flood or bad weather. It is unlikely that the current situation of a global contagion has been taken into consideration. Now is the time to consider and review your disaster management plan.

Catch it, Kill it, Bin it!

This phrase, and the recommendation of regular hand washing is promoted widely. Here at MPR IT, we are ensuring that this message is clear to all our staff members, whether they are office based or engineers visiting clients offices. We have also instructed all team members that should they be concerned they may have come into contact with someone suffering with Coronavirus symptoms, they should inform management and seek medical advise whilst self isolating.

Flexible Home Working

In line with the Disaster Management Plan already in place for MPR IT, all staff members have the ability to work from home and continue to support our clients with no loss of service. This is part of a plan that has been in place for many years. The main purpose of this plan is to ensure that our business can continue no matter what.

Office 365 and Cloud Computing

Software packages such as Office 365, and cloud based CRM’s are becoming more common place. Giving access to email and Microsoft applications such as Word, Excel, Powerpoint and Teams, from any location with Internet connectivity. Giving the ability to create and share documents with chosen individuals.

Telephone Systems

Along with access to documents and files, it is also vital for your business phone lines to be managed. With Hosted Telephone Systems your customers are still able to contact you. Without even having to know you are not physically in the office.

With a range of options and packages to suit businesses of all sizes, we strongly recommend that if you wish to consider the options available to your business, now is the time to contact and discuss with our team on 0800 030 20 30.

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Domain Ownership – Protecting your brand

by Nicki Dowsett in DNS Web Hosting, Domain Registration, General, Helpdesk, Industry News, IT Support, Uncategorised, Web Hosting, Websites

Domain Registration and Web Hosting

Many businesses have an online presence, without one your business can go unnoticed. When a potential customer is looking for a new supplier or product the first place they will turn to now is most likely the internet.

Many of our clients register their domain names through MPR IT Solutions, and it is becoming increasingly commonplace to register a variety of different domain names for websites such as: .co.uk, .uk, .com, .net and .co.

In addition to registering Domain names, MPR IT Solutions also host many of our client websites.

Whilst you only need one website to promote your business, it is possible to have more than one domain name directed to that website.  There are many reasons for this, the most common reason being the ability to secure your brand. By owning the different variations it means that no one else can buy these and create fake platforms.  This can prove detrimental to your business profile.

With the registration of a variety of domain names you cannot only help to avoid scams but also increase your on-line presence. You are more likely to appear higher in google searches if you have more options for your website to redirect to. Ensuring any potential customers looking for your company can find it more easily.

Protecting your brand

A story from BBC News highlights the importance of retaining domain name ownership, where it has once been linked to your business and how your brand can be seriously affected. In this case a domain name was no longer required by Surrey County Council and released. However it is still referenced by a number of third party websites relating to Special Needs education. The domain, after being released was purchased by a company promoting adult content.

There is nothing that Surrey County Council can do to remove the adult content from this domain as they no longer have ownership of the domain name and therefore no rights to it. Additionally, it is very difficult to monitor which third party websites reference your domain names and this example shows exactly how this could be detrimental to your business brand.

Contact us today on 0800 030 20 30 or sales@mpr-it.co.uk to discuss the Domain registration and Web Hosting options we offer.

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Microsoft Support Ending

by Nicki Dowsett in General, Hardware, Helpdesk, Industry News, IT Systems, Microsoft, Office 2007, Office 365, Uncategorised, Windows 10, Windows 7

Microsoft will be ending support and updates for two of their platforms in 2020. If you are currently using either Office 2010 or Windows 7, it is important to consider your options now.

Microsoft have recently announced that support for Office 2010 will be ending on 13th October 2020. This means that from this date there will be no further extension of updates on this package.

Whilst Office 2010 will still continue to function it does mean that you will be at risk of potentially harmful and serious security risks. We recommend that you look to upgrading to Microsoft Office 365 as a replacement.

MPR IT Solutions are an official Microsoft Cloud Accelerate Partner and Small Business Specialist. This means we are trained in a number of Microsoft Competencies that directly relate to implementing, migrating and configuring your Office 365 solution. We have vast experience in migrating businesses over to Office 365 and ensure minimal disruption to your daily tasks.

Secondly support will be ending on 14 January 2020 for the operating system Windows 7. Available since 2009, there have been a number of updates since the launch, with the current recommended version Windows 10 now on the market. Please see our earlier blog explaining this.

If you are using Windows 7, either on a personal computer or at your business, now is the time to consider upgrading to Windows 10.  However, before you make the move, it is imperative that you consider any 3rd party software programme installed on your pc/laptop and hardware such as printers, scanners etc. as these may not be compatible.  You will also need to consider the hardware resources available, as Windows 10 is a powerful operating system and therefore requires a large amount of RAM installed.

Our team of experts can audit all of your software packages (e.g Sage) and hardware (e.g RAM, printers and scanners) to ensure these are compatible and where they may not be.  To upgrade without taking this into consideration, you may find that it becomes time consuming and more costly to rectify the issues.

For more information and to discuss your options to upgrade either of these Microsoft products please contact our team on 0800 030 20 30 or email sales@mpr-it.co.uk

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Email Security & Cybercrime

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

Email security and cybercrime –  Almost daily there is a story that covers this subject in the news, whether it’s a large global corporation or an elderly retired person.  So many people are still unaware of the risks that can be faced with email security.

Here at MPR IT, we have sadly gained a considerable amount of experience in dealing with these threats.  We would therefore like to remind our customers of some simple guidelines that you should ensure your staff follow for email security.  These include recommendations from the Government Cyber Essentials Scheme.  We also strongly advise if you or any employee is concerned they have an affected PC/Laptop – call us asap

  • Email Attachments – Never open an email or attachment if you don’t know the sender.  If you are not expecting an attachment from a known sender – call them and check they did send you something
  • Check email addresses – criminals will set up accounts with very similar email addresses making it easy to trick you into thinking you know the sender  joe@bloggs.com or joe@bloggs.co
  • Malware Protection – do you have a robust malware in place? This will stop viruses and ransomware from getting through to your emails and employees
  • Access Control – encourage your staff to choose passwords that would be hard to guess and not simply change the number on the end each time it needs to be Password or 123456 are not ever going to be good choices.  Also ensure that admin passwords are only given out to members of staff that should have access to these.
  • Firewalls – investing in a high end firewall can prevent hackers from gaining access to your systems and to make certain there are no leaks.
  • Secure configuration – Is your system configured to ensure security for your organisation. Are all laptops, PC’s and phones password protected? Do files need to be password protected?
  • Patch Management – the likes of Microsoft and other operating systems regularly release new updates to their software. Ensure you are fully up to date as these updates will often include patches to ensure your systems are more secure.  As hackers become more clever the software providers work hard to identify areas to increase security.

We also recommend you view the following websites

Whilst the majority of news stories cover ransomware and data being lost or damaged, we have known criminals to spend months watching systems, gathering information and general daily routines.  Then with a simple email, that looks to have come from a sender you know they have managed to gain access to your bank accounts and emptied them before anyone has realised.   Either way it is extremely costly to your business.  Please ensure your staff are fully briefed on email security and the types of scams and crimes that can & have happened.  If any doubt or you would like more information please contact us to discuss.

 

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End of Life – Office 2007

by Nicki Dowsett in General, Industry News, IT Support, IT Systems, Microsoft, Office 2007, Office 365, Outlook 2007

Office 2007 was launched a decade ago, and included the Microsoft products – Excel,Word, Outlook, Powerpoint, and One Note.  Since its launch there have been significant advancements in connectivity and productivity for many companies.   This means that the majority of companies have left Office 2007 behind, and moved to Office 2016 or more likely to Office 365, however there are a few companies still using Office 2007.

Most Microsoft packages are only supported for 10 years and therefore it is the turn of Office 2007, to receive the end of life treatment.  Meaning by the end of October 2017 there will be no further:

  • Technical support
  • Bug fixes for issues identified
  • Security fixes for vulnerabilities released

In addition to the end of life support coming to an end, it is important to note Outlook 2007, will no longer connect to Office 365 mailboxes.  Therefore users of Outlook 2007 will not be able to receive or send emails.

Microsoft are now urging users of the 2007 version to consider upgrading to the latest offerings.  There are a number of advantages to this, not least the fact that support will be ending in a few months time.  During  2017, there has been a number of global cyber attacks.  People using packages that are no longer supported by Microsoft are at greater risk.

Earlier this year, in an unusual step Microsoft were pressured into releasing a fix for the Wanna Cry virus on Windows 2000.   Despite having stopped supporting the package in 2010, they still had a larger number of users, who were subsequently affected by the virus.  It is highly unlikely that they will make this move again in the future and are already publicising the end of life for 2007 package, with recommendations to urgently update software.  The most popular choice for businesses these days is Office 365.  Please see our page on Office 365 for full details on this product.

 

 

MPR IT Solutions has a wealth of knowledge and expertise in supporting companies in making the change to Office 365.  We have worked with a number of companies to ensure the transition is smooth, & there is minimum disruption to staff.  Please do not hesitate to contact us to discuss your options to migrate to Office 365 – whether you are currently using 2007 or another version of the Office Suite.

 

 

 

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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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