Blog Posts from the Helpdesk

Driving test website

Driving test website for England and Wales crashes shortly after reopening. DVSA portal had almost 7 million visits in 12 hours when it reopened after several months of suspension.

Driving test website crashes

The BBC reported millions of people were unable to access the site at all or losing their booking part way through the process.

Learner drivers will be unable to book a driving test until Wednesday. Urgent maintenance has started on the website after it crashed at a time of unprecedented demand.

Driving test website

The DVSA said 210,000 driving tests had been cancelled as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. Credit: Alamy

The Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) said its driving test booking service had almost 7m visits in 12 hours. It reopened after several months of suspension during the coronavirus lockdown.

It said on Saturday that it had taken the service offline until 8am on Wednesday. Increased demand on the site led to essential maintenance to keep the site running.

Gareth Llewellyn, the DVSA’s chief executive, said: “Coronavirus has severely impacted our business-as-usual operations, including by stopping driving tests in March. Since then DVSA have only been dealing with applications for emergency driving tests for critical workers.

“Following unprecedented demand for the driving test booking system with almost 7m attempts to book a test when it opened, we need to carry out urgent maintenance so people can book tests. DVSA have closed the booking service until Wednesday 26 August and are sorry for any inconvenience.”

When will the driving test website re-open?

The DVSA driving test booking service for England and Wales reopened again at 8am on Friday after being closed since 20 March. The service received 7 million visits by 8pm. This left candidates unable to complete their bookings. Users received an error message when attempting to access the bookings page.

210,000 tests had been cancelled and tens of thousands more were delayed because of Covid-19, said the DVSA. Learners whose tests were cancelled during lockdown were first invited to rebook in July.

Driving tests in Scotland are due to restart from 14 September, but people are not yet able to book a slot.

IT does not have to drive you mad

Don’t let your IT system drive you mad. We are the IT recovery service for when your website crashes and/or you experience computer problems. Contact the LIS Help Desk today and our friendly team will be glad to offer you assistance.

We can fix your problems, suggest upgrades and manage your back up solutions. With a monthly IT contract, the benefits are endless. Can you afford not to work with an efficient, reliable and knowledgeable IT company. We are only one click or a phone call away. With our help you can drive towards your goals without tests getting in the way.

LIS – SECURING YOUR DIGITAL WORLD

#Websites #Internet #ITSupport #Security

Realistic robotic pets

The realistic robotic pets are designed to give seniors some companionship, without all the responsibility of an actual animal. Your elderly parents can comfort, cuddle and care for these lifelike cats and dogs. The realistic robotic pets help the elderly battle with loneliness, dementia and mental wellbeing.

Realistic robotic pets

Thanks to built-in sensor technology, the robotic pet responds to petting and motion much like the cats you know and love.

Realistic robotic pets comfort the elderly

Without a doubt, the hardest thing about getting older is watching the people you love get older, too. Your aging parents or loved ones deserve to spend their remaining years with as much love and warmth as possible, especially if they are battling an illness.

That’s why, over the last few years, pet companions have become so popular, particularly for older adults who are feeling lonely or have dementia. In fact, a 2017 study revealed that the interaction between aging adults and animals — whether real or robotic — can help lower blood pressure, ease anxiety, reduce feelings of loneliness, and improve overall quality of life. Some nursing homes even offer pet therapy for dementia patients to ease any unintended agitation and aggression.

For these very reasons, more than 1,300 Amazon shoppers have left five-star reviews for Ageless Innovation’s Joy for All Companion Pets. Perfect for dog or cat lovers, these plush animals have built-in sensors, “vibra purr” or “bark back” technology, and brushable fur, making them surprisingly realistic. In other words, they look, feel, and sound exactly like the pets that your loved ones grew up with (minus the litter box or backyard clean up). Insert four batteries, and the cats, which come in four different shades to mimic real breeds, can open and close their eyes, lift their paws, and move their head and body. If you pet them in the right spot — like on their belly or back side — they’ll let out a “purr.”

If your loved one is more of a dog person, you can also buy a stuffed golden puppy, accessorized with a red bandana, that will bark if he’s feeling happy, sad, or needy. At only four pounds, the stuffed pup is easy to play with and won’t weigh down even the most fragile frame.

Is it worth the price?

The price of Ageless Innovation’s toy is steeper than other stuffed animals on the market. Glowing reviews prove that these lifelike robotic pets are worth every penny, especially when gifting them to a loved one. “My family recently had to place my mum in a nursing home for long term care. She has dementia and my 88-year-old father could no longer care for her. We worried about the time she would spend there when no one was visiting. Because of this, I got her one of these cats. I am happy to say that this was one of the best purchases I have ever made. It is truly remarkable what this cat can do. It is very lifelike and although my mother knows it isn’t real, she enjoys it nonetheless,” one Amazon shopper wrote.

One reviewer who has a wife with dementia shared a similar sentiment. “My wife of 72 years has been diagnosed with rapid onset moderate dementia. She always wanted a dog. However, I knew that in our situation a real dog would demand more than we would be able to provide. When searching for robotic dogs as a novelty gift, I came across this companion pet and purchased it, if for no other reason than its realistic appearance. She has since spent hours with it every day since. “It has a heart” she says, reacting to the beating mechanism inside. Anything that can bring such joy and happiness is something to be truly grateful for.”

A company with a human touch

Here at LIS we can guarantee you will not have to deal with robots or automated telephone systems. When you contact the LIS Help Desk you get to speak to an experienced and friendly IT Technician. We are able to help with security issues, cloud-based back-up solutions, upgrades, IT support and telecoms. Call today to arrange your IT audit. It is FREE and there are no obligations to buy.

Realistic robotic pets are perfect for older people in need of companionship. As well as anyone who wants a cat but can’t be bothered with litter trays and tins of cat food. So why not work with an IT company than can give you peace of mind. Allowing yourself more time to focus on your business!

LIS – SECURING YOUR DIGITAL WORLD

#Robotics #Pets #ITSupport #Security

Accessible tech revolution

The Coronavirus has been around for several months and has started an accessible tech revolution. Many people have changed the way they work during the Coronavirus pandemic, but for some disabled people this has brought some specific challenges.

Improvements in accessible technology has seen artificial intelligence software provide real-time, on-screen transcriptions of what someone is saying in video calls, but there are concerns that some video calling platforms and apps are not as accessible as they could be. BBC Click’s Paul Carter find out more.

The accessible tech revolution begins…

Accessible tech revolution

Business are now staying in touch with their teams and clients through video conferencing. How accessible is the technology to the disabled community? An accessible tech revolution is beginning.

What is The Social Model of Disability?

The Coronavirus crisis means that many of us are now working remotely and using videoconferencing platforms and tools. But how do we use them in an accessible way?

Drake Music have been researching and learning about accessibility in video conferencing/ online meetings/ remote music sessions. Here are some of the solutions to assist businesses with the accessible tech revolution.

PACE

A group conversation can move rapidly. This can be inaccessible to some people. In video calls there can also be an overwhelming amount of information to process (audio, visual, chat text etc). Check in with your group as to their requirements.

Some suggestions to support accessible conversations would be:

  • Assign a moderator who checks in on people’s understanding and reiterates key points at regular intervals.
  • Ask participants to speak one at a time.
  • For large groups consider controlling participants’ audio to allow them to chat to everyone, or just the host. (Note: in Zoom there is a ‘raise hand’ function to allow participants to signal that they wish to comment/ask a question.)
  • Use the chat function to record key points, giving each a title to separate key info out from general chat.
  • Record the meeting and share it afterwards to let people listen to important sections again.
  • Offer an option for people to switch off cameras.
  • Offer to record the meeting and send the video and a transcript of the chat to participants after.
  • If you/your participants are new to video-conferencing here is a useful guide to Zoom from Copronet Wales

Audio

A large meeting may be noisy and hard to follow. This will make it more inaccessible. Some suggestions to improve the experience for the end user could be:

  • Ask everyone to mute their mics when not speaking to limit extraneous noise.
  • Consider using an external mic if you are hosting a meeting, to improve sound quality.
  • Use a video conferencing system which supports Subtitles/Captioning – this can be beneficial for everyone and is especially important if you are using screen sharing and participants can’t see you while you are speaking.
    1. Skype – Automatic captions, not always 100% accurate, but helpful. Multi-videos can crash more.
    2. Zoom – Captions can be enabled, but someone has to be assigned to type them.
    3. Google Hangouts – Automatic captions/subtitles, we haven’t tested these yet.
    4. Gotomeeting – Offers transcriptions after the meeting, but possibly not live. Caption info for
    5. Teams – Microsoft’s service offers automatic captions/subtitles. We haven’t tested it yet.
  • For captions, speak clearly, slowly and into the mic. Limit background noise and try to avoid everyone speaking at the same time. Also allow for extra time to transfer captioners into breakout rooms, or to get set up at the start of an event.
  • If you are using slides consider sharing your speaker notes alongside them, so that people can read along if needed.
  • If you share videos, ensure they are captioned.
  • Headphones may be useful

Please note: Automatic captions may work reasonably well for smaller conversations and one-to-one discussions, but that for training, livestreaming or bigger group meetings it is not always the best option.

Sign Language

When hosting a remote meeting which involves sign language there are specific considerations needed in order to ensure it is accessible – e.g. turn-taking, the visibility of the speaker to the interpreter, the tiring nature of watching signing in 2D.

There is an excellent post on The Limping Chicken blog by Jo Wootton which covers this topic in depth and which we recommend reading.

Access to Work support can be used to pay for a captioning service or BSL interpreters if the video-conference is for work and that support is required to allow you to fully participate in meetings.

Stay accessible within your business

We understand the challenging times facing business at present. It is not easy to have some of your team working from home and some in the office. A company must make sure that they supply all the right equipment to all their staff. This will make sure no employee is disadvantaged when doing their job.

Contact the LIS Help Desk to discuss your concerns and/or requirements, Our experienced team will be able to advise you on the correct software, hardware and systems to assist your employees. Take advantage of our security and back up solutions. As well as the latest telecoms and video conferencing systems to enable you clients and team to stay in regular contact.

LIS – SECURING YOUR DIGITAL WORLD

Twitter accounts hacked

The news broke recently that major US Twitter accounts were hacked in a Bitcoin scam.

The Twitter accounts of notable billionaires were hacked, on Wednesday afternoon. These included Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, Tesla founder Elon Musk, rapper Kanye West, Microsoft founder Bill Gates, and former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Politicians’ accounts, including Joe Biden and Barack Obama, were also affected soon after. “I am giving back to the community,” the tweets read. “All Bitcoin sent to the address below will be sent back doubled!”. The link to the Bitcoin wallet is consistent throughout all the tweets, suggesting a cryptocurrency scam.

The bulk of the messages have been deleted, though screenshots remain of several affected accounts:

Twitter has acknowledged the problem, but we are still very short on detail. The Biden campaign stated that the platform locked his account immediately after the breach, and removed the tweet. As part of the Twitter’s effort to solve the problem, verified accounts were restricted from tweeting for several periods on Wednesday night. The internet was alive to rumours of the removal of the verification badge.

Twitter accounts hacked

What’s the scam?

Hackers broke into the high-profile Twitter accounts and sent fake tweets offering $2,000 for every $1,000 sent to an anonymous Bitcoin address.

For instance, the message sent from  Elon Musk’s account said, “All bitcoins sent to my address below will be sent back double the amount. If you send $1,000, I will send back $2,000.” Likewise, information spread from Bill Gates’ Twitter handle said: “Everyone is asking me to give back, and now is the time.”

How did they do it?

Whilst there has been no official announcement of the method the hackers used, there are strong and consistent rumours originating from those who should know the truth. It appears that high level administration accounts were compromised, possibly through some form of social engineering, phishing or some say an ex-employee. Doubtless the truth will out. Either way this is a timely remind to lockdown your admin accounts!

Lessons for us from Twitter accounts hacked

There are no free lunches and no easy money. As an investor, you should always doubt information or schemes that offer to you an opportunity to make quick money in a very short period. The financial victims were just greedy. The other victim is the end user who places their trust in a large organization that we should be able to be rely upon to secure our data.

“Hackers had complete access to Twitter. They could post anything from any account. But they chose to seek bitcoins through false promises. People should be more careful. Most crypto giveaways that ask for contributions are scams. We hope this brings awareness, and Twitter users do not fall for these kinds of scams again,” said Arjun Vijay, Co-Founder and COO, Giottus Cryptocurrency Exchange.

Emergency response

Twitter earlier had to take the extraordinary step of stopping many verified accounts marked with blue ticks from tweeting altogether. Password reset requests were also being denied and some other “account functions” disabled. You may be sure that behind closed doors the Twitter investigation with the assistance of the FBI will be exhaustive. The reputational damage from the Twitter accounts hacked can not be over estimated.

Does your business also need an emergency response?

We would strongly urge you to review who has adminstrator rights to your world. Are you immune to this cyber threat? At the end of the day Twitter suffered from poor house keeping by a large corporate.

Protect your business with LIS

With immediate effect, we will add our Office 365 Security package to all our customers, at no cost. Amongst other benefits this gives you a monthly review of all users with administrator access and alert/approval for any changes that may occur. Irrespective of whether the change came about through staff action, hacking or some form of social engineering. We would offer it to Twitter but that horse has bolted 😀.

A strong defence against cyber-crime is essential for your business. Protect your business data and sensitive information as it flows across your organisation. Our solutions enable us to understand where you are vulnerable. We can take proactive steps to help prevent and respond to threats, in order to reduce the potential risk to your business.

Contact the LIS Help Desk to migrate to Office 365 if you don’t already subscribe. Take advantage of our Office 365 Security Package special offer. Make sure your data and email are fully protected.

Our Office 365 Security Package is a bundle of software tools, that includes:

Finally, if you need them our managed anti-virus and anti-spam protection services can be deployed within minutes. LIS provides essential protection for your business, defending you from email viruses, spam and malware.

Do not gamble with your business security – we give you peace of mind!

Digital Trends for 2020

Digital is changing everything. The way your customers behave. The expectations they set. The speed at which they act. We take a look at the latest digital trends for 2020. You just have to look around you in a café, on the train, on the street… life is going mobile. This is just the start of a whole new era.

Winning in the new digital landscape is all about creating and continually optimizing flawless user experiences. That means staying on top of ever-changing trends. There are a ton of useful stats about internet usage here. Even though we knew it was huge, it’s still surprising to see some of the numbers. Trying to engage with your customers online? Then read this article.

Digital Trends for 2020

The rise of digital is one of the biggest revolutions in human history. It’s often easy to overlook how advanced digital technology has become in recent years, especially when the first mobile phones only got released less than 40 years ago in 1984.

Top five digital trends for 2020 and projections on the horizon

Video Marketing is King

Only 20 years ago, the presence of a camcorder was enough to clear a room. Now? Every person with a monile phone has a video camera. The universal shyness about videos is altogether a behaviour of yesteryear. People love videos and businesses are picking up on it.

In fact, 85% of marketers use video marketing for business, helped 72% of brands increase their conversion rates, according to a study by Wyzowl.

How can you harness the power of videos to market your business? People watch videos to get information and learn. Your first step as a small business marketer is to outline what relevant information you can share that will help your target customer. Then you can start creating compelling, informative videos.

Use Schema Mark-ups and Rich Snippets

SEO (Search Engine Optimization) should be a core component of your marketing strategy. While trends change from year to year, organic search is consistently one of the top drivers of B2B website traffic.

Keyword research, high-quality content, and on-page SEO form the foundation. From there, the projection for 2020 is cantered on schema mark-ups and rich snippets. Focusing on these expands your potential to grow web traffic, increase brand awareness, and convert new visitors into loyal customers. What are they and how can they bolster your marketing efforts?

  • Schema mark-up is a webpage snippet that’s been optimized into a rich snippet.
  • A rich snippet contains all the pertinent details to an optimized page, including images, pricing, ratings, descriptions, etc.

Share Bite-Sized and Informational Content

Just as it’s powerful to share informative videos with your target audience, the same principle applies to other visual content you create. You don’t need to produce Tolstoy-length articles and blog posts to garner credibility and results. In fact, people often favour short, insightful and digestible information. Perfect example? Infographics are educational, concise, and easy to digest.

The Future is A.I., and it Wants to Chat

Artificial Intelligence isn’t a robot in an action film or a digital nucleus overthrowing humanity: it’s simply a dynamic marketing tool that makes managing a small business more efficient. While it’s not as glamorous (or scary!) as in the movies, it’s much more effective. That’s likely why in 2020, 80% of companies will use A.I. to increase sales, according to Single Grain.

The New Facebook Ad Marketing Trend For 2020

Facebook has encountered peaks and valleys, but the platform is still relevant and even necessary for many marketers. Regardless of privacy concerns and other issues, Facebook still has billions of users, and they like to shop. That’s why 67% of social media marketers rely on Facebook as their primary platform.

While it remains an effective strategy, Facebook marketing will change in 2020. Paid ads are a must. Organic reach on Facebook is perhaps 6% of page likes. But with Facebook ads, you have the potential to reach 2.45 billion active monthly users.

There are several ways to use Facebook ads to market your business in 2020, but one of them reigns supreme: Stories ads. Facebook rolled out its Stories feature in March of 2017, and now 500 million users watch Stories every day.

Instead of spending all your budget on newsfeed ads, allocate part of your funds to Facebook Stories ads. Incorporate video in your Stories ads to inspire viewers to take action.

How are we able to help your business?

We do not have a crystal ball and are unable to predict future digital trends for 2020. However, one thing is for sure, the digital age is not going away. Businesses need to compete and make sure they have the latest technology. This will ensure market presence and hopefully increase sales.

Contact the LIS Help Desk to discuss your requirements. Our team will advise you on the most appropriate system for your business. Whether you require, IT equipment and support, software and security, networking or telecoms – we are here to help. Giving you peace of mind to allow you to concentrate on what your good at.

#Digital #Internet #BigNumbers

Virtual Pub Quizzes

Lockdown virtual pub quizzes have surged in popularity. Thanks to technology, family and friends are able to take part in virtual pub quizzes from around the world.

It’s nearly the weekend, why not brush up your general knowledge with a virtual pub quiz?

We are reliant on technology for everything from exercise classes to speaking to loved ones. To help metal wellbeing, it is also been key in keeping one British tradition going – the pub quiz. Fire up your PC or device for House Party, Google Hangouts, Zoom or Messenger and test yourself.

We are all using technology a lot more right now- see how much you really know about it!

https://www.techradar.com/news/join-us-and-play-the-techradar-quiz-on-facebook-and-youtube-today

Virtual Pub Quizzes

Starting to feel like the old grey cells are getting rusty? There are virtual pub quizzes for everyday of the week.

History of the pub quiz

Renowned the world over, the great British pub is not just a place to drink beer, wine, cider or even something a little bit stronger. It is also a unique social centre, very often the focus of community life in villages, towns and cities throughout the length and breadth of the country.

Yet it appears that the great British pub actually started life as a great Italian wine bar, and dates back almost 2,000 years. For more information visit The Great British Pub article published in History Magazine.

An article in The Times 15th December 1990 mentioned “The quiz has been part of pub life for many years. Tetley’s, the Leeds brewery, has run a league for 22 years.” This suggests organised pub quiz leagues since 1968. Tetley are now part of Carlsberg and to be honest it is a tricky to Google as each search term brings up lots of pubs with quiz leagues.

The Times article also mentions “Burns and Porter, Britain’s biggest quiz organisation, runs 600 leagues for 16 breweries, supplying questions for 6,000 teams. After 14 years in the business, the company has just celebrated its two millionth quiz night”. Burns and Porter are much better documented and this is strong evidence that organized pub leagues were around since at least 1976.

Would you like any help to set up you next social or business online idea? Having trouble with your IT systems? Then contact us and we will be glad to help. Happy quizzing!

#YouTubeQuiz #Technology

Technology supports NHS

AUS-based Starship Technologies believe their robots will change food and package deliveries. They offer people a convenient new service that improves everyday life. The technology supports NHS workers who can have supplies delivered by robots using Starship’s mobile app.

Did you know that automated delivery robots are a common sight on the streets of Milton Keynes?
Technolohy supports NHS

Takeaways benefiting from contactless deliveries and make use of technology.

Starship Technologies have completed over 100,000 deliveries and NHS workers can use them for free. This is also available to the general public  and has proved popular with residents that are having to isolate and social distance during the virus.

Henry Harris-Burland, VP of Marketing at Starship Technologies, commented. “We want to make life a little bit easier for people in these stressful times. NHS staff work 80 hour weeks and they don’t have time to go to the local grocery store. So, they use our robots for their shopping and we are honoured that we can be part of that solution.”

He added: “The residents have been reaching out to us online asking us to deliver to their neighbourhood. We are doing everything we can as quickly as possible. We want to expand and offer this service to more people, especially at this really important time.”

Starship Technologies have been operating robots in the Milton Keynes area since 2018. The company have been trialling the use of its robots with Tesco and Co-op to deliver grocery orders to its customers.

https://news.sky.com/story/coronavirus-robots-in-milton-keynes-deliver-shopping-to-nhs-workers-11978670

Technology supports NHS

Co-op deliveries in Milton Keynes are now being made each week using the delivery robots.

The Mayor of Milton Keynes, Councillor Sam Crooks, said. “The robots have become an iconic sight in the town. Everyone’s excited at the prospect of them delivering in the town centre. The technology supports NHS staff and for the 180,000 people who work in the centre of Milton Keynes. This new technology can deliver lunch easily and save time during their working day.”

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

 

Support Posts from the Helpdesk

LIS Woodham – Planned Outage

Our helpdesk and support office will be closed for essential electrical work on Wednesday 16th September from 6pm to 8pm.  This is to improve reliability of our office supply.  Our email and phone systems will not be available during this time.  No client systems will be affected except offsite backups to our Woodham data centre. These are fully self recovering once the connection is restored.

In the event of an emergency our normal out of hours mobile support will be available to contract customers.  Any non-emergency messages should be submitted by email to support@lisltd.co.uk in the usual way. No email will be lost during this process.

Apologies for any disruption this may cause. Please contact us if you need more information.

 

Phone Lines Down

Currently all lines in to LIS Woodham are down. The fault is due to a failure in the BT exchange presumably due to the heat. Engineers are investigating.

We have routed outbound calls through our fall back circuits but inbound calls have not yet failed over. Engineers are investigating that too!

Please contact the helpdesk by email to support@lisltd.co.uk while we work to resolve the situation. Many apologies for the inconvenience.

Power Failure

Following an earlier power failure at our Woodham office, calls to our helpdesk have been failing. We are now back online and apologise for the interruption to service.

Networking Problem – Resolved

We are receiving reports of network issues affecting some broadband and leased line customers. Engineers are investigating and we will update this notice when we have more information.

Apologies for any disruption.

The issue was related to LINX (the London Internet Exchange), which has now been resolved and would have potentially affected several Internet providers in the UK. We are awaiting a full RFO from them to confirm the cause.