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Windows 10 Wi-Fi Sense is not Microsoft’s best idea

Been reading a couple of Windows 10 articles over the last couple of days to catch up on what to expect when it arrives later this month.  One of the things I came across is Wi-Fi Sense which in an ideal world would be very helpful but in the real world could be a security nightmare.

You see Wi-Fi Sense allows you to share your network key with your contacts – whether they are in Outlook or even Facebook!!! Now to me this is just plain stupid especially since Wi-Fi Sense is turned on by default. Microsoft has stated that your contact would only be able to use the internet connection and not access every other device on the network but I can’t see how they will enforce this.  A determined hacker once on a network will find a way to access anything they want.

Imagine the scenario where two people are Facebook friends but work for competing companies. You share the network key via Wi-Fi sense and the second person can sit in the corporate carpark and get onto your network without doing anything.  One silver lining is that your contact can’t share your network key with their contacts which is something I suppose.

There are two ways around this either turn Wi-Fi Sense off (it is on by default as mentioned earlier) or add _optout to the SSID (the name of your network) to prevent it from working with Wi-Fi Sense.

Remember this if you buy a nice shiny Windows 10 system.

About the Author

P1020114

Hi I’m Chris Wakefield the owner of ComTech IT Support. I provide Cisco, Windows, OS X and Linux based IT Support to small businesses throughout Scotland.

Follow @Comtech247 on Twitter

 

Passwords – where do you store yours?

Today I am going to talk about passwords.  Passwords these days are required for most things (eg emails, online banking, making purchases and even withdrawing money from a cashpoint). With all these passwords floating around it is no wonder that people can’t remember them all. This is where password management comes in.

Unless you have a fantastic memory (or use the same password for everything) then you are going to need to write them all down somewhere and store them safely away from prying eyes. The problem is how do you do it?

This is where different people will have different ways of accomplishing the same thing.  I have my own way of dealing with this (which I am not going to mention here for obvious reasons) which will probably be different from you.  I have met people who use a password “bible” into which they write all their passwords and then hide the “bible” somewhere within their homes.  Other people write passwords on postit notes and stick them to the underside of a laptop.  This approach does work but I could not recommend it, again for obvious reasons!!

One way to remember your passwords in a secure manner is to use an online password manager. You access the portal through a website and can update and store your passwords there.  The benefit of this approach is that no passwords are stored on your PC, laptop, tablet or within your premises but the obvious downside is that you are trusting someone else to store your passwords securely.  This will always be a personal choice but a lot of people have issues with this.

Whatever your approach to password management there are two defining things which must happen. The first is that you need to remember them all and the second is that they must be stored securely. What is the point of storing them all in one place if it is very easy for someone to find them?

About the Author

P1020114

Hi I’m Chris Wakefield the owner of ComTech IT Support. I provide Cisco, Windows, OS X and Linux based IT Support to small businesses throughout Scotland.

Follow @Comtech247 on Twitter

Technology has made our lives easier but has it made it better?

Technology these days is great. You can purchase items from your phone via an app, we have cars that make travelling vast distances easy and we can even talk to people on the other side of the world using software like Skype.  The possibilities are endless so no argument then that technology has made our lives easier but has it made it better?

The reason I ask is due to a conversation I had with a client last week regarding Facebook. He has thousands of “friends” on Facebook and thinks nothing better than sharing his daily life with them.  He has got to the point that his entire life revolves around Facebook (i.e interacting with his “friends”) with little human contact with most of them whatsoever.  Even though I am a regular user of Facebook (and yes I do share pictures on it too) I consider myself old fashioned in that I still phone my friends up and speak to them.  The lack of social contact would worry me but to a lot of people this is now their life. Same goes for Twitter and to a lesser extent LinkedIN (not used Google+ so can’t comment on it).

Then there are calculators.  Lovely things that add and subtract numbers quickly so we don’t have to think.  Be honest when did you last do long multiplication or division?  I know so many people who basically can’t add up in their heads (my wife for example) and rely on calculators to do it for them.

These are just two examples of technology making our lives easier and to be honest I could write a list.

Technology makes things easier – yes

Technology makes things better – not so convinced (medical research not included)

I am very interested in everyone’s opinions on this so please feel free to agree or disagree with me.

About the Author

P1020114

Hi I’m Chris Wakefield the owner of ComTech IT Support. I provide Cisco, Windows, OS X and Linux based IT Support to small businesses throughout Scotland.

Follow @Comtech247 on Twitter

Is Android really that insecure?

I was speaking to a friend last week who is coming to the end of their mobile phone contract.  They currently use a Blackberry but wanted to upgrade to either an iPhone or Android but were unsure which way to go.  My personal choice is Android as I like the interface and “freedom” of the operating system but when I suggested this I was met with “but what about security and viruses?”.

Android has a nasty reputation for being insecure. Yes there is malware that can run on it but ask yourself this, do you actually know of anyone who has ever got malware on either an Android tablet or phone? The answer is probably no and there is a good reason for this. Google (and Apple) both do a good job of keeping malware out of their respective app stores.  Unless you decide to root your phone or download an app from a website rather than the official store chances are very slim that you will ever encounter malware in any form.

As for the device itself you can use a pin to lock the screen and certain apps (eg Dropbox) allow you to lock the app itself.  You can install antivirus if you so wish (I do as I tend to deal with documents that might be opened on a Windows PC). I run BitDefender Mobile Security on all my devices as you get the ability to track your device using GPS if you lose it and wipe if remotely if needs be.

Permissions is another issue altogether.  Google is attempting to address this in its Android M update which should hopefully curb the permissions that developers require for their apps.  If you get sleepless nights because “Big Brother” is watching you then you might be better off with an iPhone.

As with security in general the device is usually only as secure as the person who uses it.  Use a common sense approach and you should be fine with Android.

About the Author

P1020114

Hi I’m Chris Wakefield the owner of ComTech IT Support. I provide Cisco, Windows, OS X and Linux based IT Support to small businesses throughout Scotland.

Follow @Comtech247 on Twitter

 

 

My mobile working strategy review

Anyone who follows my usual ramblings will know that I cover all of Scotland for work.  Most of the jobs outside of the central belt tend to be in “rural” locations (aka sheep and mountains for company) which means access to the internet can be limited.  This provides a challenge when it comes to supporting my regular clients who tend to work in the cities and towns in the central belt.  For this reason I purchased mobile broadband (myfi) through T-Mobile 18 months ago and it has worked pretty well.  18 months is a long time in IT though so I thought it was time for a little review.

The network with the largest coverage in Scotland at the moment is EE so it would be daft not to have mobile broadband through them. I scoured the internet and found some cracking deals on 24 month contracts and opted for 15GB for £15 per month.  The device can connect 10 simultaneous devices too which is nice.  One problem though is backup.  What happens when EE has no coverage in a certain area?  In the past I would rely on my HTC One X which runs on O2 but even so I would like a third option.

Back to the internet and checking coverage maps.  Vodafone was out as their coverage in Scotland is appalling.  I install a lot of GSM modems which are tethered to Vodafone and a lot of the time the signal is so bad they basically don’t work.  This leaves Three which I have had bad coverage with in the past, however after checking their coverage maps they seam to be a lot better so I purchased 5GB for £15 per month.

So I now have EE, O2 and Three as my mobile broadband options which should cover most bases but what to use them with?

My trusty 10 inch Lenovo Android tablet is still going strong and allows me to use Teamviewer to remote into into my clients systems easily.  I firmly believe in “If it isn’t broke don’t fix it” and since the tablet still has 9 hours of battery life I see no reason to change it.

Speaking of battery life I also have an Ankar portable battery pack which holds enough charge to charge my phone and tablet twice or the phone 4 times.  Since my phone battery is appalling this comes in very handy!!

So that is the networks in place, the device to use and power in place but even with all this there will still be times when I have no signal whatsoever.  When that happens I ring a nice man who sits next to a PC who remotes in for me!!

About the Author

P1020114

Hi I’m Chris Wakefield the owner of ComTech IT Support. I provide Cisco, Windows, OS X and Linux based IT Support to small businesses throughout Scotland.

Follow @Comtech247 on Twitter

 

 

You don’t understand how important something is until its gone

“You don’t understand how important something is until its gone”.  These words were spoken to me once by one of my parents and at the time I thought they were talking rubbish but as a client found out recently that one sentence is sooooooooo true.

I had a call a couple of weeks back from a client in a right panic.  They had turned on their laptop first thing in the morning to be greeted by a blank screen, no cursor, no windows login screen, nothing.  I duly jumped in the car to take a look.  On arrival it soon became apparent that said laptop was in pretty bad shape and after carrying out some diagnostic tests I diagnosed a faulty hard drive – namely a completely dead one.

“But it can’t be dead it was working yesterday” my client said in utter panic. “All my files and emails are on there and we don’t have any backups!!!!!!” “You don’t have any backups whatsoever?” I asked.  I was told that they used to have backups about 3 years ago but since they had never needed them they decided to stop taking them.

The only thing I could suggest to the client was sending the hard drive off to a lab in the hope they could retrieve something.  This they did and I haven’t heard back from them since.

Moral of the story – DO YOUR BACKUPS!!!

About the Author

P1020114

Hi I’m Chris Wakefield the owner of ComTech IT Support. I provide Cisco, Windows, OS X and Linux based IT Support to small businesses throughout Scotland.

Follow @Comtech247 on Twitter

 

Backups, backups where art thou backups?

I am cursed!! Weeks go by without a glitch and then out of nowhere I have 3 clients who have either lost data, misplaced data or have hardware issues with no backups in place.  Boy do I love backups!!

I can’t stress highly enough the need for a good backup strategy but more important than that is actually checking your backup works.  There is no point taking backups on a regular basis and hoping they will be good when (and it is always when) the time comes to use them.  Too many businesses (and people in general) fall foul of this.

The client who lost data this week had accidentally deleted folders containing emails.  Since they were using Imap the changes got synced straight away.  Luckily for them all their emails are backed up to Dropbox every night so it was a case of importing the old pst file and restoring the folders (20 mins tops). This could have been much worse.

The client who misplaced data (they had somehow managed to delete files and then empty the recycle bin without even knowing) backed up their data to a NAS box so again it was a case of finding the “old” files and restoring them.  Again this could have been much worse.

As for the client with the failing hard drive they were very lucky!! I was able to retrieve their files and transferred them across to a new laptop (inc emails) just before the hard drive gave up the ghost and died. The old laptop contained all their business files and emails from the last 6 years which were not backed up. Needless to say this client got a nasty shock and is now taking backups more seriously!!

So just to round up.  Backups are your best friend because they will always be there when you need them so long as you check them every so often.

About the Author

P1020114

Hi I’m Chris Wakefield the owner of ComTech IT Support. I provide Cisco, Windows, OS X and Linux based IT Support to small businesses throughout Scotland.

Follow @Comtech247 on Twitter

 

IT and humans – not a good combination

We like to think that humans are top of the tree.  Our brains make us superior to animals (sometimes I do wonder) and allow us to accomplish some truely amazing things.  This ability can also be a liability – especially when it comes to IT.

Let me explain what I am rambling on about. We live in the digital age where technology is advancing so fast that a lot of us struggle to keep up with recent developments (myself included).  Most of us have mobile phones more powerful than the computers on the Apollo Missions or tablets which look like something out of Star Trek but not all of us know how to work them.  Into this arena come the people who have some knowledge about technology but not as much as they think.

I met such a person recently.  They were having issues with a laptop running Windows 7 which they used for their home business.  It had been getting progressively slower with frequent crashes over the last month and they had been told by a friend that this was possibly due to a virus.  So after reading up about viruses they went about installing three antivirus programs to find it (they were running nothing to start with).  After much swearing and still no virus they decided to reinstall from scratch without thinking about backups. They thought that if they did a factory reset it would only effect Windows and not their data.  Needless to say they had a shock when Windows started and all their data had been lost.

It turned out that the client had a faulty hard drive and not a virus but because they hadn’t thought through the consequences of their actions all their data was lost.  Guess who got the blame when I couldn’t retrieve it!!

About the Author

P1020114

Hi I’m Chris Wakefield the owner of ComTech IT Support. I provide Cisco, Windows, OS X and Linux based IT Support to small businesses throughout Scotland.

Follow @Comtech247 on Twitter

Just how secure is secure?

Mention security these days and the response you will probably get is things take longer (getting through an airport for example). Everyone hates it but like it or not it has become part of our daily lives. But how secure can you actually make something?

This is the question I was asked by a client last week.  We were talking about possible upgrades to their network along with checking the measures they already had in place.  I did the usual – check password strength, permissions on the server, antivirus, firewalls etc and as is the norm they wanted security but not the hassle it brings.  “We need things to just work and not worry about these security things” to which I replied “You can have security or connivence but rarely can you have both”.

Lets start with good practice. Don’t use easy passwords and don’t write them on posit notes stuck to the PC either!!!! Use one vendor for antivirus on all the systems as this allows easier troubleshooting if something happens. I did read an article yesterday suggesting you use two as any holes found in one product is unlikely to be in the second.  I can understand this logic to a point but this makes troubleshooting a lot more difficult.  I try to explain to clients they are better to standardise their software across all their PC’s for this reason.  Finally only give users the permission they need not what they want.

Now onto Firewalls.  A good firewall will stop attackers getting onto your network in the first place (or at the very least telling you someone is trying) and there are endless vendors like SonicWall or Cisco who supply excellent products.  The problem is the cost, or more accurately the perception of cost. Most of the clients I deal with are small home businesses who can’t justify the cost of installing a third party firewall and instead rely on the BT Home HuB (or similar).  These type of routers contain a basic firewall which is robust for the most part (you can configure ssh access for example) but don’t have the feature set of the more expensive models from the likes of Cisco.

The biggest problem with security though is us.  Humans are well known for always being the weakest link in IT.  If we see security as getting in the way then we get annoyed and turn it off.  My antivirus is slowing down emails coming in – turn it off.  You want me to remember how many passwords – don’t think so!! You get the picture!!

So back to the the original question – how secure is secure? The answer is nothing is ever gong to be 100% secure (especially with humans involved) but we can get close.  The problem is where do you draw the line with regards to security affecting users ability to do their job?  Too much security and nothing gets done while too little and you will get serious issues.

I will leave answering that question upto you.

About the Author

P1020114

Hi I’m Chris Wakefield the owner of ComTech IT Support. I provide Cisco, Windows, OS X and Linux based IT Support to small businesses throughout Scotland.

Follow @Comtech247 on Twitter

 

Who will actually buy the new MacBook?

I have always had a love / hate relationship with Apple.  I can appreciate the design and the fact for the most part Apple devices “just work” but the cost of any Apple device is just so steep.  The cost of new devices is why I have kept hold of my 2009 MacBook for so long.  It works fine and I can’t justify the cost at the moment, plus there hasn’t been a replacement model in some time.

Until now. I was browsing the internet yesterday and found out that Apple is bringing out a new MacBook.  Could this finally be the device that makes me part with some hard earned? Nope I don’t think so.

The design is beautiful and the MacBook is soooooo light but if you look at the pictures you would think it is a MacBook Air which is a beautiful device in itself. The MacBook Air is also cheaper, more powerful and has more ports.  The only thing that is better about the new MacBook is the amount of RAM available and yes while 8GB is definitely better than the 4GB found on the MacBook Air running OS X on 4GB RAM is hardly a chore for the majority of us.  The major downside for me is that the processor is a dual core which is the same as the one in my 6 year old MacBook!!!

I can’t help thinking that Apple brought out this device because they could not because they should. Most of my customers who use Mac’s have either an iMac or MacBook Pro which again are fantastic devices with more than enough processing power to get things done.  When you are parting with £1049 (UK prices for base model) you would expect fantastic specs and for me the new MacBook just doesn’t cut it.

About the Author

P1020114

Hi I’m Chris Wakefield the owner of ComTech IT Support. I provide Cisco, Windows, OS X and Linux based IT Support to small businesses throughout Scotland.

Follow @Comtech247 on Twitter

 

 

 

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