Technology News from the LIS Helpdesk
Virtual private networks (VPNs) are great for securing your connection when you’re using public Wi-Fi. However, they can also be put to work in your home. You might use a VPN at work, however do you need a VPN at home?
When you use a VPN, you’re adding a layer of protection to your online activities by building an encrypted tunnel between your traffic and anyone who tries to spy on you. VPNs are great for when you’re out and about, using Wi-Fi networks that aren’t your own. But at home, a VPN can help protect you from other threats and may let you access streaming content that would be otherwise unavailable.
In a recent article aksing written by Darren Allan for msn.com he explores the benefits of having a VPN at home.
What is a VPN?
A VPN gives you online privacy and anonymity by creating a private network from a public internet connection. VPNs mask your internet protocol (IP) address so your online actions are virtually untraceable. Most important, VPN services establish secure and encrypted connections to provide greater privacy than even a secured Wi-Fi hotspot.
The Threats Abroad
Outside your home, it’s hard to tell which networks you encounter are safe. If you’re at a coffee shop, for example, how can you tell which Wi-Fi network is legitimate? Unless the SSID is posted somewhere, you’re just going to have to guess. Clever bad guys will set up access points with familiar names, hoping to trick people into connecting. Once victims are online, the bad guy does a man-in-the-middle attack, intercepting all the information victims send and receive. This includes a lot of mundane stuff, to be sure, but it can also include bank accounts, login information, and worse.
An attacker doesn’t even need to trick you, they just need to trick your phone or computer. Most devices are configured to reconnect to familiar networks by default. But if an attacker uses the same name of a popular Wi-Fi network, your devices may automatically connect, even without your knowledge.
Both of those attacks require a lot of guesswork, but a good attacker won’t bother with that. Instead, they’ll configure their evil access point to switch SSIDs to match the ones devices are asking for. For example, at the Black Hat conference a few years ago, a security vendor detected an evil access point that had changed its SSID 1,047 times, tricking 35,000 devices into connecting.
These are situation in which you definitely need a VPN. The encrypted tunnel it creates blocks anyone on the same network as you—even the person managing the network—from seeing what you’re up to.
The Threats at Home
It’s very unlikely that a bad guy broke in to your home, replaced your router, and then waited for the good stuff to roll in. For one thing, that’s just too much work. But for another, attackers need more than one successful hit to make an attack worthwhile. They’ll want to rack up as much information from as many victims as possible. Unless you live above an airport, it’s unlikely that there’s enough foot traffic in your home to justify an attack.
VPNs can be fun
At least half of all VPN use isn’t for personal protection. It’s for streaming video. That might seem odd considering the negative effect that VPNs have on your upload and download speeds, but it makes sense.
That’s where VPNs come in. You can use your VPN to tunnel to a distant server and access content that is restricted in your home country. While Netflix is very good at blocking VPNs, this trick is also useful for sports fans.
Trouble at Home
VPNs are all about securing your traffic from prying eyes, and that’s sometimes a problem when you want your traffic to be seen. If you live in an especially smart home, you’re likely to encounter some problems with using a VPN.
A great example is Chromecast, Google’s dead-simple method for getting content from your phone or computer on to your TV. When you try to use Chromecast with a VPN, all your data is shuffled off your devices through an encrypted tunnel and can’t reach other devices on your local network. You’ll have to switch off your VPN if you want to use this feature, or others like it.
One solution to this problem is to simply raise the level of your VPN and install it on your router. That way, all the data on your local network is funnelled through the VPN, giving you all the protection without causing any of the fuss on the local level. Configuring your router to use a VPN can sound daunting, but some VPN companies will sell you a pre-configured router if you want to give it a try. Still, I think this solution is not for everyone and perhaps best left to people with a determined DIY sensibility.
While many people are using VPNs to stream online content, many (if not most) streaming services are very good at blocking VPN usage. One possible solution is purchasing a static IP address from your VPN provider. These “clean” addresses aren’t associated with VPNs, giving you a better chance of slipping past attempts to block your access.
Speed will always be an issue with VPNs. When a VPN connection is active, your web traffic is going through more machines and more fibre. As a result, this increases latency and slower transfer speeds. Not all VPNs are the same in how much they affect your connection, but you will see some impact.
Do you need a VPN at home?
In truth, the answer to the question of whether you “need” a VPN in your house is going to come down to your own preferences. There are lots of good reasons why a home VPN might be a valuable addition to your security arsenal, but what’s most important is whether you will use it. If you find yourself too frustrated with reduced internet speeds, or juggling streaming devices, don’t use a VPN at home. An unused security feature isn’t useful to anyone.
As more of us are working from home, it may be a good idea to explore your options. Contact the LIS Help Desk and talk to one of our friendly team to see how we can help you.
LIS DIGITAL – SECURING YOUR DIGITAL WORLD
#VPN #AddedSecurity #ExtraPrivacy
Microsoft Teams is perfect for video calls. Have you been using Zoom for your video calls? Microsoft Teams is a better business solution and keeps all your activity with your staff in one place. Here’s our round-up of the latest video call features added to Teams.
Joel Khalili from TechRader asks what is Microsoft Teams? How it works, latest features and top alternatives.
8 reasons your business should be using Microsoft Teams
It enables effective communication
One of the key features of Microsoft Teams is its threaded conversations. Microsoft Teams allows group and private messaging with threaded and persistent conversations.
Users are able to create different channels to organise their communications by topic. This real-time chat function allows you to store brainstorming sessions, conference calls, and other meetings into one, easy-to-find place.
- You can also integrate audio and video chats
- You can @mention individuals to bring important messages to their attention
- Group conversations are visible to the whole team to view, like, share and add to
- Newly added members can easily get up to speed as everything is archived
Microsoft Teams can be used anywhere, anytime, on any device
As a Cloud-based platform, Microsoft Teams is accessed anywhere via the desktop or mobile application and is supported on Windows, Mac, as well as iOS and Android. All you need is a connection to the internet.
Your productivity is increased
If you use traditional email to work on a project, you can often lose crucial information in ever-multiplying email threads. With Microsoft Teams everyone receives the same message at the same time. As a result, people can collaborate and keep the discussion flowing, helping you reach solutions faster. If a new team member joins, they can access prior conversations with instant access to all project-related files.
It’s fully integrated to Microsoft Office 365
Microsoft Teams is fully integrated to Microsoft Office 365. This includes Word, Excel, Skype for Business, SharePoint and PowerPoint as well as newer tools such as OneNote, Planner, Power BI, Yammer, and Sway.
Your meetings are synced
Microsoft Teams syncs with your calendar and pulls in all your existing appointments. It suggests times when all the other attendees are free. It gives you the option to choose if the meeting is private or open (particularly useful if you are hosting voluntary training or brainstorming sessions). Once created, attendees can post about the meeting in a separate chat thread, set agendas and upload relevant documents. You can also schedule and join meetings using Skype for Business with HD video, VOIP and additional dial-in audio options.
Work better together
With Microsoft Teams everyone can work on the same document at the same time. You can all view the same Word document; edit the same Excel spreadsheet; collaborate on the same PowerPoint presentation while logging persistent chat around that content. It combines chat, meetings, notes, and attachments allowing teams to seamlessly interact with each other wherever they are. Calendars, files and emails can also be shared. The scalability means it is easy to add new users as your business grows.
Customise your workspace with Microsoft Teams
Microsoft Teams allows you to integrate third-party tools as well as your favourite Microsoft apps. If Twitter updates are just as important to your marketing team as a message from the Director, you can customise your workspace to reflect this.
Microsoft Teams lets you speed through common tasks faster and share files easier with a helpful set of slash commands.
Want to get Microsoft Teams for your business?
Lodge Information Services is an accredited Microsoft Partner and can advise you on Office 365 and Microsoft 365 subscriptions. We will find the best solution for your business needs, licence it and install it. Our friendly support technicians are always happy to help. Contact the LIS Help Desk.
LIS – SECURING YOUR DIGITAL YOUR WORLD
#MicrosoftTeams #NewFeatures #MoreProductiveMeetings
Who would of thought, one year ago, that an app reliant on QR code usage would get 12.4 million UK consumer downloads in just four days. The app has helped QR codes go mainstream. The app in question is, of course, the NHS Covid-19 track and trace app.
The coronavirus pandemic has brought about many changes to the way we live, work and play. Among all those remarkable changes, the acceptance of the previously much-maligned QR code is being used to great effect.
Although the NHS app has had its criticisms, it has suffered from the usual launch bug fixes. There have been several challenges caused by handset OS upgrades. As well as, millions of people who have never used a QR code before. Many users have never installed a QR code reader. They arrive at venues, pointing their camera phones at the QR code and are amazed at the immediate recognition of where they have just ‘checked-in’.
Opening up opportunities as QR codes go mainstream
The same users are also surprised that without even needing to use a specially downloaded app, pointing their camera at a QR code can immediately bring up the menu for the pub or restaurant they have visited. Of course, some of those hospitality venues take the process beyond the instant menu delivery – allowing you to order and pay for your food and drink order without leaving the table. An entire process triggered by a simple QR code working in combination with a smartphone camera.
The upsurge in QR code awareness and availability caused by the pandemic has seen many more people become comfortable with their usage. Businesses recognise the flexibility and scope of QR technology to make online interactions and transactions quicker, simpler and more secure.
James Cook and Matthew Field from The Telegraph, explore QR codes: What are they and how do you use them?
Space comes with a price when you invest in printed marketing materials like brochures, catalogues, adverts and signage. QR codes are a simple means to direct an audience to more information about a product, service or promotion while ensuring you don’t waste valuable print space on unnecessary details.
Track audience response with ease
You can assign and track any number of QR codes based on your specific objectives (and there are plenty of online tools that allow you to do so for free).
These are some benefits of QR codes to take into consideration:
- Easily generated
- Can be custom sized to fit promotional items
- A cost-effective way to segment your audience
- Provide insight into audience interest over multiple campaigns
The cons as QR codes go mainstream
QR codes were originally designed as a shortcut: The customer snaps a photo of the QR code with a mobile device, which theoretically takes him/her directly to relevant and more detailed information. However, QR codes require a hurdle that businesses must ensure they have accounted for before they will provide a benefit.
For example, the user must already download the necessary app to support the reading of the code. With so many different types of mobile devices supported on different platforms, it can be tough for business owners to predict which apps the customer has likely downloaded, to ensure the QR code works easily.
How can we help your business?
Implementing QR Codes for your business can be beneficial. Especially when it comes to promoting the services you offer to get new clients. Make sure your systems are secure and up to date. Contact the LIS Help Desk to speak to one of our support technicians. We offer a FREE IT audit and can discuss your requirements to help your business. You can improve the efficiency of your team and client experience.
LIS – SECURING YOUR DIGTIAL WORLD
#QRcodes #Covid-19 #Technology #ITsupport
The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) receives over a quarter of a million malicious daily email attacks, according to official figures.
This data revealed under the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act by the Parliament Street think tank’s cyber security team. It showed 283,597 malicious emails were blocked by the organization every day over the first eight months of 2020.
The scale of daily email attacks
The data shows that the BBC receives an average of 6,704,188 monthly hostile emails classed as scam or spam. Additionally, an average of 18,662 malware attacks such as viruses, ransomware and spyware are blocked. From January to August 2020, a total of 51,898,393 infected emails were blocked by the BBCs systems.
The highest month of daily email attacks was July with a huge total of 6,801,227 incidents recorded. Of these 6,787,635 were spam and 13,592 were malware. The second highest month was March, when the COVID-19 outbreak was at its worst in the UK. The BBC received 6,768,632 spam attempts and 14,089 malware attempts, totalling 6,782,721.
Multiple cyber-attack incidents
In the past the BBC has experienced multiple incidents when it comes to cyber attempts and potential breaches. In 2013 the BBC twitter feed was subject to a phishing hack. It appeared to be sympathizers of Syrian President Bashar Assad. The BBC said the “phishing” emails contained what appeared to be links to The Guardian newspaper or Human Rights Watch online and brought users to a fake web mail portal.
In 2016 there was another hack. An anti-Isis hacking group claimed responsibility for downing BBC websites and services on New Year’s Eve.
Additionally, there were daily email attacks in December 2015, when the BBC’s websites were unavailable because of a large web attack. However, it is believed that a web attack technique known as a “distributed denial of service” was causing the patchy response. This aims to knock a site offline by swamping it with more traffic than it can handle.
A ripe opportunity for hackers
The data suggests that it is an ongoing struggle for the BBC to obstruct these malware, phishing and spam attempts.
According to Tim Sadler, CEO at Tessian, “The global pandemic has become a ripe opportunity for hackers’ phishing scams. We can clearly see that in reflected in the spike of malicious attacks on the BBC. In the wake of the outbreak, journalists and employees would have been busier and more distracted than usual.
“Using clever social engineering techniques, cyber-criminals’ prey on people’s desire for information during uncertain times. They bank on the fact that busy, distracted and stressed employees may miss the signs of a phishing email. As a result, they fall for their scams. Organizations, therefore, must have security measures in place to automatically predict such email threats and warn people before they click or download an attachment.”
What do these daily email attacks means for business?
The various malware, phishing and cyber-attacks on the BBC acts as a warning for all businesses. Criminals will never let a good crisis go to waste. Employees are now connecting to their organizations from home in large numbers. This allows cyber criminals to target businesses in many more ways. These tactics have always existed. Therefore, as Tim Sadler advises, organizations must have the security measures to detect such email threats.
At LIS our clients benefit from the latest anti-spam and anti-virus solutions. They also take advantage of our Office 365 Security Package. This allows them to stop advanced threats and stay compliant. As well as being productive and keeping their data safe. Contact the LIS Help Desk to make sure your business is safe and secure.
LIS – SECURING YOUR DIGITAL WORLD
#Security #Emails #CyberCrime #ITsupport
Ever wondered what attacks from ransomware are? You’ve heard about it at the office or read about it in the news. Maybe you’ve got a pop-up on your computer screen right now warning of a ransomware infection. Well, if you’re curious to learn all there is to know about ransomware, you’ve come to the right place.
Download our new guide and know how to keep your business safe.
What is ransomware?
Ransom malware, or ransomware, is a type of malware that prevents users from accessing their system or personal files. The cyber-criminal will demand a payment in order to regain access. Developed in the late 1980s, ransom payments were sent via snail mail. Today, ransomware authors want to recieve payment in cryptocurrency or by credit card.
How does a ransomware attack happen?
After your home gets broken into, it may be obvious the intruder came in through a window or smashed down a door. Shattered glass and forced entry are signs that lead you to conclude that there has been a burglary. In the cyber world, these signals might not be as evident. Your first clue might be a pop up saying please pay money to regain access to your computer.
What went wrong?
Attacks from ransomware happen to a business when they fail to follow common cyber security 101, such as:
- Choosing strong passwords
- Enforcing access management controls
- Security awareness training for employees
- Using EDR (Endpoint Detection and Response) or antivirus software
- Updating operating systems and hardware
Cyber criminals use several methods to access your network by exploiting vulnerabilities. However, to prevent attacks from ransomware, businesses need to understand them and be proactive with stronger cyber security.
How can I prevent them?
Follow the advice in our guide. Address the security threats for your business and educate your colleagues. Protect your business from ransomware with effective cyber security solutions and avoid disruption to your business!
However, if you would like to save some time, we can analyse the risks for you, develop a security strategy to enable your business to dig a moat and pull up the drawbridge.
Would you like to learn more about how we can help protect you from ransomware and emerging cyber threats? Contact the LIS Help Desk and one of our friendly and experienced technicians will be able to help you.
LIS – SECURING YOUR DIGITAL WORLD
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