Blog Posts from the Helpdesk

Bleeping Computers!

Can you hear your staff shouting at their computers all day? Don’t let them suffer. We can help. Let’s have a no obligation chat and get your business back on an even keel!

Bleeping Computers! Frustrated with your IT support?

Does your IT support make you feel like this?

#ITexperts #fastercomputers #nosweat

Critical RDP Vulnerability

Critical Vulnerability in Microsoft RDP

Details of a critical rdp vulnerability in Microsoft’s remote desktop software were made public yesterday. Microsoft even released patches for old operating systems going back as far as Windows XP which has been out of maintenance for many years! This issue is being taken very seriously!

Sample exploit code has been available to buy on the Dark Web. We have it, it does work and is easy and reliable to use.  And there are credible reports that we should expect a substantial attack over the coming few days.  If computers are not patched in time it is possible that this could cause damage and disruption similar to that caused by WannaCry . Statistics suggest that some 8% of all machines are at risk, the majority being in small businesses which have not yet upgraded to more modern operating systems. Please contact us urgently if your business is still running older OS machines. It is time to upgrade!

How does the exploit work and how critical is it?

Vulnerable server operating systems includes: Windows Server 2003, Windows Server 2008, Windows Server 2008 R2

The list for PCs includes: Windows XP and Windows 7

By exploiting a remote execution bug in RDP the hacker can run code on machines without having to sign in. Once an attacker breaks into a computer this way, they have full control over the machine. No login credentials are needed!

Just running RDP on an old OS means your system is wide open to anyone that wants to use it.

For example, this vulnerability could allow access to deploy worms.  These could replicate themselves across your network infecting machines which would not otherwise be at risk. Alternatively, ransomware encryption viruses could be deployed or your data stolen.  The opportunities for theft, extortion and disruption are only limited by the creativity of the hacker!

The WannaCry ransomware worm spread around the globe in 24 hours. It infected around 300 million computers in 150 countries at an alarming pace. The National Health Service was amongst those badly affected. It is quite possible for this to be a repeat event.

How to mitigate the RDP vulnerability

Patch, patch patch!

We recommend that you apply these security measures as quickly as possible.

1 Patch all systems NOW.

2 Implement IP restrictions if possible to prevent unauthorised traffic.

3 Enable NLA if available. Network Level Authentication is another possible lock in front of RDP traffic.

4 Enforce VPN routing for RDP as this requires authentication.

5 Disable RDP on all systems if not used.

All this is technical so contact your IT company for help if it does not mean anything to you. If they are not aware of the problem then ditch them and contact LIS for help!

LIS Clients are Protected

All LIS clients on our managed services or network support plans are fully protected already. We have patched or scheduled all client machines that have our support software installed whether in contract or not. If you are not already supported by a pro-active IT support company like LIS then please contact us. We can help.

The 2020 problem

This should be a reminder to progress your upgrade plans. Remove all old machines from your networks by the end of this year. The 2020 time bomb is a serious matter and should not be ignored.

In light of Microsoft’s rare legacy OS patch for RDP services, Securonix?s Head explains the likely reasons for the disclosure and its critical nature, as well as how to secure the RDP endpoints.

 

Office 365 or Office 2019

Office 365 or Office 2019

What’s the difference between Office 365 and Office 2019? Microsoft explains it quite well.

In general, the different ways you can buy the Office suite from Microsoft are what we might politely call confusing. The devil is in the detail. Do you need the online and/or offline access, software and/or services, multiple devices or just office pcs, rights to use older versions for compatibility, additional cloud storage and so on. If you want professional unbiased advice talk to LIS . For immediate support click on the green chat phone icon.

Learn about the differences between an Office 365 subscription, Office 2016, and the free Office Online apps.

 

#tech #IT #software #microsoft #office365 #office2019

 

 

Hardware Security

Hardware security risks happen obviously. But we all trust our phones, tablets, PCs and laptops to be fundamentally secure. Built that way. Right?

Well maybe mainly hardware is secure but some recent news does beg the question as to whether we are right to assume all is well. Perhaps we are reaching the point where we need some mechanism to check and warrant and continually prove that we are secure and not open to unexpected risk. Recently we have had 2 big cases where fears have been raised but there is precious little fact to go on.

Huawei

The first is the Huawei issue. Essentially, cutting through the technobabble, this boils down to political risk. If the Chinese Government put pressure on the company would they and could they use their power as a supplier to do something we would not want. All this is masked in “are there backdoors” or exploits they could use. These are technical questions but largely irrelevant. The products could be squeaky clean today and tomorrow a new driver update might change all that. So the fundamental question is do we trust the company and can we prove nothing underhand has been done?

Some countries are blocking the use of telecoms network equipment from the Chinese firm.

Intel

The second recent issue is the Intel VISA bug. This is nothing to do with a well know credit card company by the way! The key facts here are that Intel buried a little monitoring and debugging tool into their chips so they could run internal tests. Unfortunately whether by accident or design they left it turned on in production systems. The result is that someone could plug a USB stick into many current PCs servers and laptops and gain access to just about everything. It wouldn’t be simple but it would be possible. Interestingly it is quite a hard problem to fix because, well, it is in the hardware! The only saving grace for this fiasco is that physical access is required to exploit the bug. As far as we know any way!

Can We Trust Manufacturers?

What both these cases have in common is that we live in a very complicated technical world. The average user cannot be expected to even understand the hardware security risks let alone mitigate them. So we have to rely on trust. Trust that we are safe. But trust is built on the premise that someone is checking to make sure that no-one is trying to be naughty. And that someone can put it right if abuse is found.

But is anyone actually looking?  Well, Intel  have a department whose only job is to deal with this stuff. Not sure they are sufficient protection for us given that the VISA bug slipped out. Huawei offer all the assurances in the world but Mr Trump is not falling for that one (allegedly). A cynic might suggest that this is more to do with trade wars with China than any technical concern!

But surely any manufacturer supplying the military or 5G infrastructure or your phone is just as much of a risk? Do we trust Cisco or any of the other big players? Just because the political risk is this side of the fence does that make it less risky? Just because AMD hasn’t fallen victim yet does that mean a bug isn’t there latent in the hardware.

Is there anything to be done. Well yes, its not actually that complicated to solve hardware security risks but it does require political will, technical knowledge and worldwide agreement. Does that seem likely in these fractured political times? In a word, No! So it’s time to keep your fingers crossed, backup like mad and make sure you encrypt everything that leaves your sight. Right? Ok, but then there’s the Whatsapp bug. Even encryption isn’t perfect!

Might be the right time to find a nice warm sandy beach and dig a head shaped hole and pretend nothing is wrong for a year or two! If that’s you and you need someone to keep an eye on your IT security the do contact LIS. It’s what we do!

 

Article 13 – Brave New World?

This could change the Internet forever… What you need to know about Article 13 (“the meme ban”), the new copyright directive and Article 11 (“the link tax”).

MEPs approved Article 13 in a vote in the European Parliament. This went unnoticed by many camouflaged by the Brexit excitement. However this is no minor issue, it is going to be a sea change for the Internet. Now the vote has been passed, the next step is for the laws of individual European countries to be changed to enact the new rules. Countries are free to interpret it and legislate as they see fit. So the only certainty right now is that there is going to be a lot of heat generated. Small businesses, bloggers and all users of the web are likely to be caught in the fall out one way or the other. You do need to be aware if you publish or link to content online. Who doesn’t?

If your business is going to be affected start planning now and contact LIS to assist.

#copyright #internet #business #brexit #memeban #linktax #article13 #article11

What is Article 13? The EU's divisive new copyright plan explained 

Article 13 of the EU’s new copyright directive has sparked huge controversy online, with YouTube campaigning strongly against the proposal. We explain why

 

Building a Business

Building a business that people want to work for

8 lessons on building a business that people enjoy working for: a TED Talk from Patty McCord. She created the culture at Netflix.

Getting the tech right is key whether you are a one man band or a budding world player. Nothing is more frustrating than “the system” stopping you from delivering your vision. Contact LIS to help get the tech right and keep your people happy.

#tedtalks #business #netflix

Most companies operate on a set of policies: mandated vacation days, travel guidelines, standard work hours, annual goals. But what happens when a company looks less to control and more to trust? Patty McCord, the iconic former chief talent officer at Netflix, shares the key insights that led her to toss the handbook out the window.

 

How Viruses Work

Coughs and sneezes spread diseases … and so does poor internal cyber security. Find out about how computer viruses work in this handy article, and then talk to us about keeping your systems secure. Our managed antivirus system with a managed firewall, managed antispam and managed DNS keeps you as safe as it is possible to be. Oh and then backup, backup , backup! Contact LIS for more information.

#cybercrime #viruses #computers #IT

Computer viruses range from pesky to outright dangerous. Some just display a message, while others erase your entire hard disk. Clicking on what looks like a harmless e-mail message can lead to hours of recovery efforts, if not irreparable damage.

 

Business Boom or Bust?

Boom or bust? The evidence is at best unclear!

UK business hits the brakes: 2019’s first quarterly report from the Chambers of Commerce.

PS we refuse to take part in a recession. Business is booming here 👍

Confused? Well yes!

How do you fix the 2020 problem without breaking the bank? Are we facing a massive recession? Is Brexit a cloud with a silver or maybe even gold lining? Are we just putting a brave face on things as we rearrange the deck chairs on the titanic? Is it boom or bust?

With all this going on companies are expected to managed the phasing out of old technology and take on increased business obligations with all the associated costs and risks. To make your tech decisions easier, LIS has finance options which can spread the costs over many years, including hardware, maintenance, support and setup. We can increase business efficiency through automation and systems integration. If you need to look at ways to improve your IT without monster cost then contact LIS and we will give honest, realistic, professional advice.

#business #finance #brexit #commerce #2020

 

The British Chambers of Commerce?s quarterly economic survey ? the largest private sector survey of business sentiment and leading indicator of UK GDP growth ? found that key indicators of UK economic health weakened considerably in the first quarter of 2019. The balance of services firms reporting a rise in export sales at its lowest level in a decade The balance of firms reporting improved cashflow turned negative for the first time since 2012 Investment intentions in both manufacturing and services sectors at lowest level for eight years Against a backdrop of a slowing global economy, escalating Brexit uncertainty, and rises in business costs as the UK enters a new tax year, the latest results from the survey of over 7,000 businesses ? employing around one million people ? reflect a deterioration in many gauges of the UK?s economic strength. In the services sector, the percentage balance of firms reporting an increase in export sales stood at zero, its weakest level since 2009 and the orders balance turned negative (more firms reporting that orders have decreased than those reporting an increase) for the first time in eight years. The balance of firms reporting improved domestic sales and orders also weakened significantly in the quarter. Among manufacturers, the percentage of firms reporting an increase in domestic and export sales and orders dropped back to their 2016 levels. The balance of firms reporting improved cashflow ? a key indicator of business health ? and which has been declining over recent years, has now gone into negative territory for the first time since 2012. The lack of clarity over the UK?s future relationship with the EU is continuing to weigh on investment intentions in both the manufacturing and services sectors. The balance of firms who looked to invest in either plant and machinery or training dropped in both sectors to their lowest level in eight years. Business confidence in profitability and turnover also deteriorated sharply in the quarter. The leading business group has been calling for an end to the relentless uncertainty, which as the latest results from the long-standing business survey highlight, has damaged the confidence and investment plans of business communities. Westminster must ensure that a messy and disorderly exit is avoided and provide firms with certainty on future conditions to prevent further declines. To kickstart strong growth in the economy, government must return its attention and energy to removing barriers to growth in the domestic environment. Ill-timed increases in business costs ? including compliance with Making Tax Digital, higher business rates for some firms, increased employer pension contribution requirements, and more ? are also raising costs pressures for companies across the UK at a time when government should be looking to reduce rather than increase burdens. Suren Thiru, Head of Economics at the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC), said: ?Our latest survey suggests that UK growth nearly ground to a halt in the first quarter of 2019, with increasing anxiety over Brexit and weakening global economic conditions driving a significant deterioration in almost all the key indicators in the quarter. ?The services sector suffered the more substantial loss of momentum in the first quarter with both domestic and international activity slowing sharply in the quarter. The manufacturing sector continues to struggle amid tougher global and domestic trading conditions and rising cost pressures. The marked decline in the export indicators in both sectors suggests that net trade is likely to have been a drag on UK GDP growth in Q1. The deterioration in cash flow is concerning as it can leave firms more vulnerable to external shocks, including disruptions to supply chains. ?The forward-looking indicators are disappointingly downbeat with weakening orders, confidence and investment intentions pointing to precious little growth over the coming quarters, unless substantial action is taken.? Reacting to the Q1 results, Dr Adam Marshall, Director General of the British Chambers of Commerce, said: ?Our findings should serve as a clear warning that the ongoing impasse at Westminster is contributing to a sharp slowdown in the real economy across the UK. Business is hitting the brakes ? hard. ?These are some of the weakest figures we?ve seen in nearly a decade, and that?s no coincidence. The prospect of a messy and disorderly exit from the EU is weighing heavily on the UK economy, and must still be avoided. The unwanted prospect of a disorderly ?no deal? exit, and the serious damage and dislocation it would bring, is still just days away unless Parliament acts to avoid it. ?At the same time that firms are having to enact costly contingency plans, the cost of doing business here in the UK continues to rise. This week seesa new tax year with a number of changes adding to the upfront cost of doing business in the UK, including the introduction of Making Tax Digital and changes to auto-enrolment, leaving many firms facing more bureaucracy and new expenses. It beggars belief that ministers are piling on more and more costly obligations at a time that businesses are already having to cope with Brexit and uncertainty. ?For too long Brexit tunnel-vision has distracted government from fixing the fundamentals to support growth here in the UK. We need to see an increased focus on creating the conditions for business success here at home ? including concerted efforts to plug growing labour shortages, delivering an immigration policy that works for business and speeding up physical and digital infrastructure projects.? Key findings in the Q1 2019 survey: Manufacturing sector: The balance of firms reporting increased domestic sales fell six points to +15, while those reporting improved domestic orders also fell from +16 to +9 ? both are at their weakest level since Q4 2016 The balance of firms reporting improved export sales fell from +20 to +14, and the balance of firms reporting improved export orders dropped from +18 to +10 ? both their weakest since 2016 The balance of firms reporting improved cashflow dropped into negative territory for the first time since Q3 2012, standing at -1 (down from +10) The percentage of firms attempting to recruit fell from 67% to 62%, the weakest since Q1 2012. Of those, 79% reported recruitment difficulties, close to its record high The balance of firms increasing investment in plant/machinery fell in the quarter from +18 to +6, the weakest since Q4 2011, and investment in training from +19 and +14, weakest since Q3 2012 The balance of firms confident that turnover and profitability will increase in the next 12 months fell, from +41 to +26 for turnover and +27 to +13 for profitability ? both are at their weakest since Q4 2011 Services sector: The balance of firms reporting increased domestic sales fell from +18 to +10, the weakest since Q3 2016. Those reporting improved domestic orders fell from +14 to +5, the lowest since Q3 2012 The balance of firms reporting improved export sales fell from +14 to +0, the weakest since Q2 2009. Those reporting improved export orders dropped from +9 to -2, reaching negative territory for the first time since Q4 2011 The balance of firms reporting improved cashflow dropped in negative territory for the first time since Q4 2012, falling from +6 to -1 The percentage of firms looking to recruit fell slightly to 48%. Of those, 70% had recruitment difficulties ? the same as in the previous quarter, close to its record high The balance of firms looking to increase investment in plant and machinery fell from +10 to +1 (weakest since Q3 2011), and from +15 to +10 in training (lowest since Q3 2012) The balance of firms confident that turnover and profitability will improve over the next year fell slightly, from +37 to +26 for turnover (lowest since Q4 2011) and +28 to +19 in profitability (weakest since Q3 2016). Ends Notes to editors: Spokespeople are available for interview and a full QES is available from the press office. The BCC Q1 2019 QES is made up of responses from more than 7,000 businesses across the UK employing around one million people and is the largest independent business survey in the country. 1744 are manufacturers (25% of the overall sample), 5340 are service firms (75% of the overall sample)and 94% of respondents are SMEs (firms with fewer than 250 employees).Firms were questioned between 18 February and 11 March 2019 on a wide range of business issues, including: domestic sales and orders; export sales and orders; employment prospects; investment prospects; recruitment difficulties; cashflow; confidence; and price pressures. How are balances calculated? QES results are generally presented as balance figures – the percentage of firms that reported an increase minus the percentage that reported a decrease. If the figure is a plus it indicates expansion of activity and if the figure is a minus it indicates contraction of activity. A figure above 0 indicates growth, while a figure below 0 indicates contraction. For example, if 50% of firms told us their sales grew and 18% said they decreased the balance for the quarter is +32% (an expansion). If 32% told us their sales grew and 33% said they fell the balance is -1% (a contraction).

 

Office 365 Teams

If you don’t know about Office 365 Teams, this quick video from Microsoft will get you up to speed.

And if you want to really see it in action, contact us for a free, no-obligation demo today. book a call or contact LIS 01245-323900

Office 365 Teams is a great solution for small and large work groups, for adhoc projects or permanent working parties.

#office365 #productivity #teamwork #business #microsoft

Training: Learn how to get up and productive quickly with this Microsoft Teams Quick Start. Sign in to Teams, select Teams and Channels, reply to conversation threads, @mention someone, use emojis and stickers, and ask T-Bot questions.

 

Apple Recall – Plug Safety

We have been made aware that not all our clients have seen the following Apple recall notice.  Apple users please do check whether you are impacted. Better safe than sorry.

At LIS we sit mainly on the Android side of the fence so it would be easy to be smug but then…Samsung Galaxy. Can’t win really!

#apple #recall

Risk of electric shock from broken plugs forced recall from Apple.

 

Support Posts from the Helpdesk

Service Status – No April Fool

It’s the first of April and past noon….so we can safely post again and be believed!

In March our antispam service peaked at 200,000 blocked email per day. 0 false positives.

Our antivirus service peaked at a heady 0 virus outbreaks (plenty blocked though!).

All systems running normally as we head into uncharted Brexit waters.

Happy Birthday LIS

LIS is 23 today!  We have been looking after IT Support for businesses in Essex and London for all that time and we have still have a core of clients from those early days. Many thanks to all we have worked with as clients, suppliers, staff (and in some cases all three) over the years. Your patience, tolerance and support has been appreciated.

The good news is the the LIS product range and client base are wider and stronger today than they have ever been. Our helpdesk is providing a first rate service for clients with 99% of all calls responded to immediately and most issues resolved within 1h. Our remote monitoring and management tools are keeping managed service clients protected 24/7/365 and our managed antivirus and antispam products are rock solid defences. Telecoms, broadband, mobile data and mobile voice are growth areas for LIS with highly competitive offerings.

So here’s to another 23 years!  Happy Birthday LIS.

LIS Antispam Service Report

Its been a quiet day at LIS for the Antispam service. In the last 24 hours we processed 30 thousand email of which 20 thousand were immediately blocked and 10 thousand allowed through to clients. No requests to release incorrectly blocked messages were received. Just how we like it!

Blue chip spam filter for business. Protect your domain whether you run a single mailbox or have hundreds of users on a dedicated server. Your own technical staff can have access to a domain wide control panel so your business can retain control of email without dependence on any outside agency