by Nicki Dowsett in Audio Systems, CCTV, Engineers, fibre optics, Fire Alarms, Hardware, Helpdesk, Hosted phone, IT Support, IT Systems, Microsoft, MPR, Office Move, point to point wirless, Server cabinet, Software, SQL Server, Structured Cabling, TV Distribution, Web Hosting, Websites, Wireless networks
Early in 2008, three friends – Alex, Richard and Andy became disenchanted by the way IT Support was provided to businesses in Kent and the South East. They felt that customer service and relationships were not a priority and it would result in many businesses bouncing around support companies on a regular basis.
After many discussions the three friends took the decision to start a new IT Support business offering a more pro-active relationship with customers, with the aim “To never sacrifice our high level of customer service for growth, we hope and believe that through good customer service our business will become the market leader in Kent.”
In the late spring of 2008, MPR IT Solutions was born in a small garden office with Alex, Andy and Richard utilising their individual skills to provide daily support and installation of network infrastructure.
With a strong belief that building relationships with customers, understanding the requirements of the business and employees it would give a clearer idea as to how technology can support and help customers to grow their own business. By offering impartial advice in simple terms and by not being tied to any one supplier means that MPR IT Solutions can ensure that the hardware and software required is the best to meet the individual needs.
11 Years on from the start
Over the last 11 years the business has grown substantially with an annual turnover of £1.4million, employing 24 people and supporting over 250 businesses across the South East. With a customer base comprising of a wide variety of customers from small home run businesses to large multi-office business throughout the UK and everything and anything in between.
The team handle over a thousand support tickets each month with 97% closed within an hour. To ensure that the level of service doesn’t reduce in any way we regularly ask for feedback and are immensely proud that we score 5/5 in 99% of our surveys. A large proportion of customers have been with MPR IT for many years and are happy to recommend our services to other business, it is clear, that the vision initially formed has proved to be a success.
Moving to Henwood Industrial Estate
Since the time spent in the garden office, MPR IT have moved several times to keep up with the on-going growth of the business and need to expand.
It was agreed at the end of 2018 that MPR IT would need to consider another move, and so we have recently relocated to the Henwood Estate. Using our own team of Engineers, we could guarantee the task of fitting out our new home would meet all the requirements we need today and pre-empting any future expansions. The project to refit the office took about 3 months and involved using our own knowledge, experience and skills. Once the initial building work was completed the team set about refitting the office from scratch using the skills and services that we offer to our own customers.
With so many changes in technology since MPR IT Solutions was first conceived, it was clear from the onset that our skills and offerings would need to become more and more diverse. No longer just offering daily IT Support, MPR IT now offers a wide range of services and products, including installation of Structured Cabling Networks, Server Infrastructure, Wireless networks, Point to Point Wireless, Fire Alarm, CCTV and Door Entry/Security systems along with Audio Visual installations.
Training & Encouraging the Team
Since the start of MPR IT Solutions we have employed 7 apprentices supporting local people to learn and qualify within the IT Industry. We strongly believe that young people should be given the opportunity to learn new skills and the chance to have a career and always open to take on more in the future. Many of our apprentices have gone on to stay with us and once qualified have become valued field engineers within MPR IT Solutions. Support is provided for any team member that would like to further their knowledge or qualifications.Read more
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.
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.Read more
Office 365 – allowing flexible working approach in the modern day
Having spent most of my working life in an office environment with onsite servers and personal PC’s and shared drives, I now work from home on a laptop with little option for back up. When I first took on this role at MPR IT I was little concerned as to how I would connect easily with the office and what would happen if my laptop died on me. I had taken a break from my career for 2 years after having my son and so had lost touch with some of the new ways that software and technology had moved on in what I thought was a relatively short period of time. When the team almost laughed at me hysterically I was a little surprised – “Office 365 Nicki, it’s so simple even you can use it.” Charming I thought. So 2 years later working with MPR IT, I have no worries at all about how safe my documents and emails are should my laptop decided it has had enough, and whether I am working at home or visiting the office I have access to all my documents and emails with ease. I can easily share a file with a colleague, and they can edit the document as required without having to email it back and forth, same as when I was office based with shared drives on the servers. I can also share documents with a customer should the need arise. When sharing files the recipient will only have access to the information I allow and not all my files.
No matter where I am in the world (though the days of travelling are pretty limited now), as long as I have access to the internet I can access all my files and emails by simply logging on Office 365 website. In the couple of years that I took out it seems the whole style of working for many organisations has changed and become a lot more flexible. We no longer need to be in the office and at a PC, we can use our phones, tablets and laptops wherever we are even on a train with WiFi. It means no more working late in the office because you have been out at meetings all day, with Office 365, you can log in and catch up at a location more convenient to your needs.
Office 365 is a cloud based service, so depending on your business needs there is no need for large servers taking up valuable office space. The data is stored off site at a data centre or “in the cloud” and you are safe in the knowledge that everything is secure and easily accessible for you.
Please see our Office 365 web page for for full details, case studies and a guideline of some of the package prices we can offer, however MPR IT can offer a wide range of options. Whether you are a sole trader or a large corporation we will discuss your needs and priorities, and ensure you have the package that suits your requirements. Migration from your current set up is simple and can be timed to ensure minimal disruption for your business, with no loss of historical data and the knowledge that our team are highly experienced in this field you too will soon be able to access your documents from your smartphone, tablet or laptop anywhere with an internet connection.
Cybercrime and you
The hot topic for the first half of 2016 has been all about cybercrime, hacking and ransomware. It seems that no company no matter the size is safe from attack. In this blog we will talk about some of the companies that have been attacked and how this can ultimately affect you. We will also talk about the steps you need to take to ensure your systems and network are secure.
Can you name a well-known organisation that has been attacked? Here are just a few that you will know and possibly use:
Talk Talk – 57,000 customer personal details accessed and 15,600 customer bank details taken. This caused uncertainty for many customers as to what had happened to their bank details and at what cost to them. This attack cost the company upwards of £35million in compensation and loss of customers. 4 people were subsequently arrested in connection to the attack.
Vtech – Over 5 million customers affected by this attack on children’s manufacturer. Accounts set up online to allow children to play games were hacked, leaving them vulnerable. Whilst it did not store any bank or credit card details, it did store personal contact information. The company were not even aware of the attack until contacted by a journalist. A 21 year old was arrested, he had carried out this attack from his home in Berkshire.
BBC News, The New York Times, MSN – One of the more recent occurrence. These news sites were unwitting victims to malicious adverts on their sites or malvertising. Tens of thousands of people were exposed to these adverts, which could deliver malware to your device, encrypting your files. This was a large attack on well-known news outlets and if they had been successful could have been devastating for millions of people, however all ads were removed quickly.
Ashley Madison – The chances are you don’t know the company by name, but will have heard this story. The company are an on-line site encouraging extra-marital affairs. The site was hacked and user details stolen. The information was then leaked on-line causing many spouses to be very unhappy. We can all guess how that ended up for many people.
FBI – Slightly concerning that the Federal Government of America are also at risk. The same hackers also accessed the CIA director’s personal email. Having accessed the FBI Portal the hackers were then able to view records on arrested suspects. These details were then leaked on-line.
Donald Trump – Now no matter your view on the Presidential candidate for the US, it is surprising that even businesses owned by one of the most successful businessman at are risk. Malware was put into the Trump Systems and stole credit card details from hotels across the US. It is not known how many people were affected by this, but expected to be in the thousands. The hacktivists Anonymous have also recently announced they are declaring war on Trump.
Now for some of the lesser known companies, some of which are in our own region, just to show you that it is not just the large companies in the world that can be vulnerable. Do not have a false sense of security that this cannot happen to you. Sadly everyone is at risk.
Solar UK – Based in Battle, East Sussex, this small business of just 11 people were hacked by the current largest terrorist organisation, ISIS. The company website was vulnerable to attack and unbeknown to them, the website had been taken off line. Anyone searching for them, would be horrified to see CCA or the Caliphate Cyber Army videos. This hack was apparently in revenge for a drone strike in Syria. It is believed that the company was targeted by a search Robot trawling through the internet to find unsecure websites.
Chatham Town FC – In January of 2015, this small part time football club had its page hacked and in place of the usual content an image was put up supporting the perpetrators of the Charlie Hebdo attack in Paris. Luckily all the content of the Football website was backed up and was back up and running after a couple of days with no data lost.
The list seems to go on and on of varying different business types that are vulnerable, we highly recommend that you review all your network and personal security. The Government Cyber Essentials scheme backed by the FSB is key to help win any government contracts and is good practices for all businesses. It is no longer something that businesses should think it would be nice to have in place, it is essential. The risks are extremely high, not just for your customer’s details, but also your business as a whole. If you are unfortunate enough to be attacked, it will be costly both in monetary value for custom, but also in getting it fixed and downtime for your staff.
These are the 5 key points on the Government Cyber Essentials scheme
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 updated. 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 national cybercrime website or if you have any concerns about any of the issues raised in this blog – please contact MPR IT to discuss the current state of your network and if there is anything else we can help you with to improve security.Read more
Many new customers that join MPR IT require an IT Audit review – we can offer this to any company irrespective of you coming on board with MPR for full support. For many businesses the new financial year is April and so now is the time to identify the needs of your business going forward. We can help direct you to the most cost effective and efficient technology to suit your business needs. An IT audit review has 3 aims:
- Provide an objective and independent review of an organisations, policies, information systems and controls.
- Provide reasonable assurance that appropriate and effective IT controls are in place.
- Provide audit recommendations for both corrective actions and improvements to controls.
With technology and security changing so quickly, it is surprising how out dated your equipment can become and unable to cope with the daily demands of the current operating systems. I have recently experienced this with my own hardware such as my Kindle and IPad. Despite them both having up to date operating systems and only being approximately 4 years old, they are both increasingly becoming slow and unable to cope with some of the latest apps. I was then faced with the minefield of different versions of Kindle and IPad to review and decide which suited mine and my family needs. Did we need both now that the Kindle has advanced in terms of what it can be used for or could we manage with just one tablet. As you can imagine in this day it is highly unlikely that one item will serve the family without constant squabbles as to who can use what and when.
Office hardware is just as easily affected. When you have an office with even just 5 members of staff it can become very expensive to renew all the hardware such as PC’s, printers and laptops all in one go and many businesses do not have the budget to replace these all at once. Not to mention servers that store all of your important data. Security is also changing so quickly to keep up with the ever increasing threat of hacking and new variations of viruses. How do you decide which PC is the first to be updated – from my experience when working in large companies it was always the director that got the latest tech. Very annoying for the poor admin person that is on an old PC that crashes every hour and spends more time in the day screaming at the computer than actually working. Meanwhile the Director was at yet another lunch meeting and the brand new PC was collecting dust. This means that your staff are not working efficiently and actually costing you more money than you might think.
It is surprising how many businesses are not aware of the most vital IT hardware in their office – for example if you are an internet based business such as an E-bay shop, it is actually your internet that is most vital. If you cannot connect to the internet you cannot see your orders. This could be viewed on a smart phone, tablet or PC. So your PC is not necessarily the most vital piece of equipment. Or if you are a printing firm – without the best printer you cannot satisfy your customers. The list can go on but I am sure you get the picture.
MPR IT can offer IT audits for all companies, our trained and experienced team have knowledge of all the most up to date and efficient hardware and software available on the market. One of our team can spend time to listen and understand the needs of the staff and identify where and when new hardware should be procured if necessary. Today there are so many options for both hardware and software, we can help identify the most efficient options for your business.
MPR IT are completely independent of any one hardware supplier and so are able to offer you the best price on the equipment needed for your business. Our staff regularly review the latest tech on the market and so can offer an informed view of how your business can continue to run cost effectively without any hassle from outdated systems. Please contact us if you would like to us to review and audit your companies’ IT equipment in advance of the new financial year, with the right information and direction we can assist your business in identifying where your IT budget is best spent to support you through the future.Read more
How Secure is your data?
I spoke to my friend this morning, her Facebook account has been hacked. She is experiencing strange statuses being posted on her account. My instructions to her – change your password asap. She doesn’t know her password it is stored on her devices so whenever she wants to go on to her social media she just loads the page or app. However someone out there knows her password. I asked if this was the same password for her email account, online shopping accounts and anything else. Her response – probably!! I could not stress enough to her to get on line as soon as she went home to get it all changed, and don’t save passwords on devices.
You may think well it’s only social media they can get into – that’s just the start. We are becoming increasingly aware of the number of people and business that are being hacked. Here at MPR IT we have been made aware through speaking to contacts within the industry and also our customers that more and more people are being hacked. I personally have read an article that in parts of the world there are crime organisations that employ computer experts solely with the intention to hack accounts. It starts with just £1 being taken from a bank account with amounts increasing. The bank sees that you have paid the recipient previously so aren’t concerned. Then sometime later you notice a considerable amount missing from your account and its too late. The money cannot be retrieved. We have previously written a blog about Ransonware such as Crypto locker, it is reported that over the last year over £1.5 Billion was made through this software.
My dad is forever calling me with “I got an email today from a bank that I have never had an account with saying I need to reconfirm my details”. Every time I say the same thing, ”Dad, don’t even bother opening these emails, delete them immediately”. Yet he still questions it time and again. These people that hack our computers and accounts are relentless. They will bombard thousands of people with these type of emails. If they get one person that responds it is still a result for them.
If you get such an email and you think it could be from an account you have such as Paypal or Itunes, please disregard the email. The chances are it is not from Paypal or itunes. These companies will never ask you to reconfirm any information. If you do happen to click on the link you will be taken to a website that looks identical to the true page. If you are in doubt the best thing is to close down your browser completely and then open a new one, go to the true site and check your details.
We have come across incidents where hackers have accessed the network and monitor the goings on within your internal emails or emails to customers. They use the information of how you work and replicate this. One example we have come across is that a company has emailed Joe Bloggs a customer the bank details to pay an invoice. 5 minutes later Joe Bloggs got an email saying sorry I gave you the wrong account. Please make payment to this account. That second email did not come from you but Joe thinks it did. 2 months later you are chasing him for payment and he is adamant he paid. He did – to the hackers. Now both companies have lost a considerable amount of money – never to be seen again. The banks and Police are powerless as this money has been spread across multiple accounts throughout the world.
We recommend that you follow our simple rules and change some small ways in which you work – follow up emails concerning payments or bank transfers with a quick call. Did you get my email? If anything changes I will call you. Any time you think your PC is behaving weirdly – close everything down, disconnect the internet, turn your router & switch off. It won’t just be your PC but the whole office affected. Then contact MPR immediately to get assistance. The longer you leave the network connected the more damage can be done. Not only will they steal money but to hide any trace of the hack they will wipe everything and I mean wipe everything from your systems, we have seen blank laptops with not even an operating system left. This is more money lost as it will be costly and time consuming to rectify and keep your business running. Another rule is to make a regular back up of your data daily. This means only 1 day of work is lost and not an entire business.
Please also see http://www.nationalcrimeagency.gov.uk/crime-threats/cyber-crime/online-threats-to-consumers for any further information.
The Password Rules
The hackers are becoming more sophisticated – we have heard many stories, whether you think they are urban myths or not they need to be taken seriously. We cannot stress strongly enough the following rules:
Never write down or store a note on your PC with your passwords.
Make sure every password is different for each log in you have.
Change your passwords regularly, and randomly not – on the first of every month.
Choose a password that is not obvious – your birthday or PASSWORD is not & never will be secure
Never ever open an email from unknown address
Never ever open attachments from an unknown address.
Back up your systems daily
Ensure you have a reliable anti-virus and malware system in place this will help to slow them down
Any sign of anything untoward shut down PC, and Internet Router and switch
Call MPR IT for immediate assistance.Read more