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Is it possible to have too much security on your systems?

Just going to throw this one out there today. Yes we all know that having security on our systems is a good thing but is it possible to have too much?

The reason I ask is that I came across a situation recently where a client had so much security on their systems that it impacted on the daily running of their business and actually made them less secure.

Let me explain. The client in question has a server environment with multiple group policies running and no IT support. The office manager was the onsite “help”. These group policies cover everything from which wallpaper you can have on your desktop to how long your passwords must be and how complex. The problem was there were too many of them and they were conflicting which meant that some users could do one thing whilst others couldn’t. The allowed passwords were so complex that the users had to write them down to remember them (security breach waiting to happen) and when they forgot the manager would be called on to reset them which in some cases could be multiple times per week!!

The owner was obsessed with securing their data and systems to the point they had forgotten one major rule – if you tighten your security that much users won’t be able to do anything!!!

I am all for securing data and client systems but I won’t ever secure them to the point of where my clients are unable to use them effectively. If the client can’t use them to run their business efficiently whilst still being secure then I aren’t doing my job right. There has to be a compromise.

So what do you think dear reader? Can you have to much security on your systems?

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

Securing your data starts with the basics

How secure is it? Will anybody be able to get at my data? You would be surprised how many times I have heard these words over the last couple of years. I am finding people (and businesses) are beginning to think seriously about what might happen if they get hacked or someone gets full access to their data. Chances are most businesses will never get hit (aren’t statistics great!!) but more and more people are thinking about the consequences of it happening.

One problem though. Security starts with getting the basics right and most people simply don’t. Lets take a look at some of the basics.

Passwords

1. Use them!!

2. Don’t use easy passwords that people are likely to guess (eg Password123 is not very secure)

3. Store them in a safe place

4. Don’t give people login details to your accounts

OK number 1 should be obvious.  Over the last two weeks alone I have seen 5 systems with absolutely no passwords to login.  If the system gets stolen then all the thief needs to do is switch it on to gain access to all your documents.

If you do have a password then make sure it is not an easy one to guess. Pets, children’s names, birthdays etc are all no go areas and whatever you do don’t use the same one for all your accounts.

Where should you store them? A lot of people have a “bible” with all their passwords in which is stored in a safe place.  This is a good idea and much better than notes around the desk.  Better still is using an online password manager like Lastpass which allow you to access all your passwords from anywhere.

Lastly don’t give people login details for your accounts.  You share files not accounts!!

Giving people access to your documents

1. Only give people the access they need and no more

The less access people have to your files the better.  I know of a woman who gave a client full access to her Dropbox account which included personal pictures.  I know of a business who worked closely with another firm and decided to join their Office 365 account not realising that both firms now had access to their client files and emails.

Of course we all have to share files. A traditional server can be set up to only give people access to what they need and NOT WHAT THEY WANT. Cloud based services like OneDrive and Dropbox allow you to share individual folders which means you don’t have to give people the login details for the account.

Working while out and about

More and more of us are doing this and this brings with it it’s own set of challenges.  Be very careful what you decide to do using free wifi as these are very inscure.  For example I would always advise people never do your internet banking on free wifi.  Then there is the problem of securing the devices themselves.  All smartphones and tablets should have a pin set whilst all laptops should ideally have encryption.  Some apps like Dropbox allow you to set a pin on the individual app itself which adds another layer if security.

This is only a quick overview of some of the basic security considerations you should look at.  It is not meant to be a HOW TO guide as there are already loads of those on the internet.

Comments are welcome as always!!

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 your data?

We all have data.  Some of us have pictures, videos and maybe some documents while others have databases, emails and so forth.  But there is one thing which everyone must do and that is to secure it.  How you do this is a matter of debate as some security features which work for me might not be suitable for the next business but there are a set of ‘ground rules’ which everyone can follow no matter what size business you are.


Physical Security

1. When you are the last person out of the office lock the door so no one can get in.  Sounds simple but you would be horrified by the number of people who go for lunch and don’t. Leave the door open and someone WILL get in.

2. If your business has a server your best bet is a server room however for a lot of smaller companies this is not an option.  In this case position your server OUT OF SIGHT.  If people don’t know you have one then they can’t take it.  I know of one company who positions their server in front of the windows in the front office.  All it takes is for someone to walk past, smash the glass and the server is gone.

3. Don’t allow people to wander into your office unchallenged.  When I first started out I went to see a client to do some work on their server.  I went in the main door and turned into the first office thinking it was the reception.  It wasn’t it was the room they kept their server in and it was empty.  I could easily have walked upto their server unchallenged and started playing.  I could have caused havoc!!

Software related security

1. Use passwords.  The first line of defence when someone has access to your system is your password.  Pick a password that you can remember and DO NOT write it on a postit note and then stick it on the monitor!! It should be a mixture of letters and numbers.  This point also works on tablets and smartphones.  Use passwords to lock them during startup.

2. Encryption. There are loads of options if you are looking to encrypt your files.  Three of the main ones I have come across are BitLocker, TrueCrtypt and DesLock.  All offer full disk encryption and require a password to unlock the drive (BitLocker can also use a TPM chip on the motherboard).  The only downside to using encryption is that if you lose the password (encryption key) you can’t access your data – PERIOD.

3. Wireless encryption. All of us will have used wireless at some point but how many people know how to check the level of your wireless encryption? Almost all wireless access points, by default, come with no encryption and the user is required to set it up (routers from ISP’s will).  Leave your network open and anyone can access it and your data suddenly becomes very tempting.

4. When leaving your laptop unattended lock the screen.  This way no one passing can access your laptop and have a sneak preview of all your files.

Backups

1.Take some!! If you don’t and the hard drive in your laptop or server dies (unless you have RAID) you could lose the lot.  Once you have backed up your data that is not the end of it. You still need to address where are you going to store it? I always tell clients that the backup must be stored in a different location to the computer it was taken from.  For example don’t backup your server to an external hard drive and then the hard drive ontop of the server!!

2. Consider using online backups.  The main advantage of online backups is that all your data is automatically backed up off site.  Be careful though who you go with and check out the security features they offer as part of the deal.  I tend to go with Dropbox for small businesses but some other people prefer Box. Whoever you go with check out their security policies first after all they will be looking after your data.

Data policies

Implement a data policy specifically stating what users can do with your data and more importantly what they can’t.  Get everyone to sign it and review it on a regular basis.  If everyone is ‘singing from the same hymm sheet’ with regards to data security it makes securing your data much easier.

Can you think of anything I have missed? If so please let me know!!

About the Author

P1020114

Hi I’m Chris Wakefield the owner of ComTech IT Support. I provide Windows, Mac and Linux based IT Support to small businesses in Stirling, Alloa and Falkirk.

Follow @Comtech247 on Twitter

 

 

How critical is your data?

I was talking to a guy last week about general techie stuff when he said “We don’t bother with backing up our data as we do everything on paper”  You can imagine my surprise when he said this especially since he worked for a law firm!!


This got me thinking.  How long would my business survive if I lost all my data? I am not talking about software but rather all my client data, invoices emails etc.  All the stuff that a small business uses on a daily basis.  The answer is not very long.

I had a customer yesterday who had a faulty hard drive.  When I gave him the price to install a new one, recover his files and reinstall Windows Vista he went white (it wasn’t that high by the way).  When I explained he could lose all his data if his hard drive completely failed or if he was lucky he would be able to retrieve some of it back by sending it off to lab (costing hundreds) I thought he would faint.  His data was critical to him but he had never considered how much.

So if all this data is critical why don’t people or businesses better protect it by backing it up. The answer in my experience is lazyiness.  People generally don’t think about it as they have never had it happen to them.  I had a client once who said that “Their systems had never gone down so why would they start now” (I am not joking!!).  I tried to point out that if the hard drive in any on the systems on the network failed they could lose data (no backup system in place).  I was met with “Never happened before”.  People will only start to listen when they have to dig deep into their pockets to rectify a situation that should never have happened in the first place.

My data is critical so I will keep backing it up (and checking it too!!) but how critical is your data?

About the Author

P1020114

Hi I’m Chris Wakefield the owner of ComTech IT Support. I provide Windows, Mac and Linux based IT Support to small businesses in Stirling, Alloa and Falkirk.

Follow @Comtech247 on Twitter

 

How to increase the size of your hard drive without losing any data


Finally got round to it.  I have managed to increase the size of my hard drive without losing any data.  This was accomplished by using Clonezilla and a newer 160Gb hard drive to replace my old 40Gb hard drive (remember those).  The way my system is set up is that the operating system (Linux Mint 12) sits on a nice little 40 Gb hard drive while all my files are located on a second 500 Gb hard drive.

The Plan

1. Change hard drives over to the bigger 160 Gb drive.

2. Do not lose any settings or programs (All my files are on the second hard drive and are safe)

3. Repartition the new drive to take into account the bigger size.

What happened?

1. I connected up the new 160 Gb hard drive while leaving the old one in place (it will be removed later).

2. The best tool I have come across to take an image is Clonezilla so I decided to use it. The existing Linux Mint 12 image on the 40 Gb hard drive was caught and saved on the 500 Gb drive (10 mins to image a 40Gb hard drive).  You can use this tutorial on how to use Clonezilla to take a system image.

3. I booted the system with the Clonzilla Live CD and restored the Linux Mint 12 image onto the new 160 Gb hard drive.  I then restarted the system and voila everything is there.  All my programs and settings have been copied across to the new hard drive.

4.  All that is left to do is use a Linux Mint Live CD to boot the system and use GParted to  repartition the new drive taking into account the extra space.  Now I had to delete the swap partition (remember the size) resize the system file partition and then recreate the swap partition again.

5. I now have my Linux Mint 12 operating system , with all my programs and settings, running on the new 160 Gb hard drive.  Lovely!!

About the Author

Hi I am Chris Wakefield the owner of ComTech IT Support. I provide Windows and Linux based IT Support, laptop repairs and computer repairs to both business and personal clients in and around Stirling.

For a list of what I can offer you why not visit my website www.comtech247.net where you will find a list of my services, testimonials, blog and much more.

Recovering lost data

Imagine the scenario, your computer will not boot and all your data (which you haven’t backed up) is still on the hard drive but you can’t access it.  What do you do now?  Today we will discuss three ways to retrieve your data.

Boot the system with a Linux live CD

These can easily be downloaded off the internet and burned to a disk.  The data recovery procedure is as follows

1. Load a live CD and wait until the desktop environment is visible.

2. Open up a terminal and type sudo fdisk -l.  Write down where your partition is installed e.g /dev/sda1.

3. Next type sudo mkdir realroot.  This will make a directory on the desktop allowing you access to your files.


4. Next type sudo mount /dev/sda1 realroot (replace /dev/sda1 with the ID of your device obtained in No 1 above).  You should now be able to see your hard drive on the desktop.

5. Browse your hard drive and save all relevant data to an external hard drive.

 

Remove the hard drive from the system and install into an external housing

As the title says open up the computer and remove the hard drive.  Buy an external housing (use the internet) and insert the hard drive into it.  You can then plug the housing into another computer and access all your files.  Word of warning here though, check the interface on your hard drive.  Older hard drives will use the ATA interface (connected by a ribbon cable) while newer hard drives use the SATA interface.  You can buy housings for either just make sure you buy the right one.

 

Use Data Recovery Software

If neither of the above methods work then you will have to try using data recovery software.  There are loads on the market but here at ComTech we use Digital Rescue.  The choice is yours so pick one that satisfies your needs.

So there you have it.  You can now access your files when the computer won’t start.  However one thought for you.  If you had backed up your files in the first place you would never have needed this tutorial.

About the Author

P1020114

Hi I’m Chris Wakefield the owner of ComTech IT Support. I provide Windows, Mac and Linux based IT Support to small businesses in Stirling, Alloa and Falkirk.

Follow @Comtech247 on Twitter

 

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