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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

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

Passwords People!!

Passwords. Everyone uses them and everyone hates using them but like it or not they are essential to protecting your data (offline or online).  I had a customer earlier this week who learnt this the hard way.


Said customer had a brand new Windows 8 laptop  which he used for both work and home.  He had set up a login password which he wrote down on a postit note and stuck in his desk draw in his study (he said he could never remember them).

I got the call this week to try and recover some files off his laptop as someone had reset it back to factory settings.  It turns out that one of his kids was playing around on the system and inadvertently set the laptop back to factory settings hence wiping all the data. When I asked him how they gained access, the culprit popped their head around the door and said “Dad always uses password for his password”.  I had to try really hard not to smile.

Luckily my client had a backup of his data stored at his works premises which he had forgotten about and the file he was looking for was still on it.

You need passwords to protect your data but just as important is your password must be something that is not easily guessed. And what ever happens do not store it in your desk. My client was very lucky, you may not be!!

About the Author

P1020114

Hi I’m 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 Stirling, Falkirk and Perth.

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 to stop kids running up huge bills on your smartphone

I was speaking to my wife this week (yes it does happen) when she said “I found this website earlier today that explains how easy it is for kids to run up huge bills on your mobile phone by downloading apps, you might want to take a look”

So I did and what I found was shocking!! Read the full article at your leisure.


Basically a 6 year old kid spent £3200 on playing an iphone game where you purchase food for farm animals in order to feed them. Scary hey!!

It is not only iphones that have this problem though.  If you read on the article states that Blackberry keeps you logged in for 20 minutes after purchasing an app, while Google will take your money without you entering a pin when you have set up your details on Google Play.  Sounds like a childs playground to me!!

So how do you stop kids racking up huge bills.  Hopefully this advise will help:

  • Actually use passwords!!!!!

The amount of people who don’t use passwords is shocking.  If there is no password you are giving your children free roam over you device which is not a good idea.

  • Use passwords your kids can’t guess

Kids are very smart so don’t use passwords that they can guess and don’t let them watch when you enter the password.

  • Ask your mobile provider to cap your bills

You can cap your bills at any amount above your normal bill so you don’t get any nasty surprises.

  • Supervise your children

I am as guilty as the next person when it comes to this.  My 2 year old daughter uses my Playbook most days and a lot of the time she does without me watching her.

  • Restrict App purchases

Apple

Go to settings – General – Restrictions and then decide if you want your password entered every time you make a purchase or not.

Android

Set up a PIN with your Google Play account.  This is not the default on most Android phones.

Blackberry

At the moment there is no way to disable the 20 minute login after app purchases.  Come on Blackberry get this sorted!!

Windows

Windows has a great feature called ‘Kids Corner’ which allows your child their own phone area on the handset.  It comes with restricted access to your device and also certain apps/websites/services etc.  This is not set up by default.

Remember you may think you are pretty smart but believe me kids are smarter so lock down your phone!!

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

 

10 things your average IT user should know


So what should your average IT user know when they are using their computer? How about how to switch it on and off safely or how to use Word and Excel? I have constructed a list below of the 10 most important things your average IT user should know.

1. Backups

People need to know what a backup is and how you should go about taking one.  I have met too many people (and companies) who are so blasé about backups it is unreal. How would you feel if you lost all your family pictures or all your company financial records? I am guessing not very good!! This tutorial will show you how to take a backup in Windows while this one will show you how to do it in Linux.

2. Antivirus Software

Next up we have viruses.  If you run a Windows system you need antivirus protection (Linux users you may now start smiling – you don’t need antivirus) .  The best way to avoid infection is to install an antivirus program and make sure that it updates regularly to get the latest virus definitions.  For a home PC I recommend Avast Free Home Edition and for Business use either Norton 2011 Small Business Pack or Avast Internet Security Suite.  Either way get some!!

3. Firewall

A firewall is a piece of software that acts as the front door to your system.  When it is activated the door is closed (and locked) but when it is off your system is wide open. Most modern operating systems come with a firewall installed by default and chances are your router should have one as well, however you do need to check periodically.

4. Internet Explorer and Google are not the internet

A lot of people think that Internet Explorer is the internet.  Same goes for Google.  If one of them is not working then “my internet is broken!!”  Internet Explorer is a web browser which is a program for accessing the internet.  There are loads of web browsers on the market.  For example you could choose Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, Apple Safari or Opera.  The choice is yours which one you use as they all allow you to access the internet.

As for Google, it is a search engine which allows you to find things on the internet nothing more.  There are different types of search engines available, for example Ask, Yahoo, Bing etc.  Choose whichever one suits you.

5. Passwords

This one is simple – use them!! A lot of users don’t bother or use easily cracked passwords (using password offers very little protection).  Use a combination of letters and numbers and don’t write them on a postit and place it on your monitor!!!

6. Emails

This links nicely with passwords as most people use easily cracked passwords for their email accounts.  You should also note that you should never open any attachments from anyone you don’t know as these may carry viruses.  Another thing to note is that you will never receive emails from the HMRC or your bank.  If you do these will be fraudulent and do not enter any financial details or give them your bank details!!!

7. Do not delete anything on your system unless you know what it is

I see this a lot.  People try to clean up their systems by deleting things they think they don’t need.  Upon rebooting the system nothing works.  Unless you know exactly what a file or program is for do not touch it.

8. Downloads

This is another one I see a lot of.  Unless you know the website be very careful when you are downloading software.  I recommend people stay away from bit torrent and file sharing sites as yes you will get the software but chances are it will be riddled full of viruses.

9. Wireless Settings

Write down your encryption key and put it in a secure place.  I have had people change their wireless key and then forget what it is or even better didn’t know they had one!! You also need to make sure that you have the highest form of encryption available on your router.  Use this tutorial to check yours.

10. You can make secure payments over the internet

Yes you can make secure payments over the internet but you do need to check that the website starts with https://. If it does then it means all communication between your system and the website is secure and encrypted meaning no one can get access your details.

If you think I have left any obvious ones out 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 to configure basic passwords and a hostname on a Cisco switch


Today I will show you how to configure basic passwords and a hostname on a Cisco switch.  For this tutorial you are going to have to open up a console session to your switch.

First we need to set an enable password:

Switch>enable

Switch#configure terminal

Switch(config)#enable secret c7ed2bd92a (sets enable password)

 

Now we need to set the hostname of the switch:

Switch(config)#hostname Comtech1 (sets the switch hostname to Comtech1)

 

Next we need to configure console access:

Comtech1(config)#line console 0

Comtech1(config-line)#password bob2 (sets console password to bob2)

Comtech1(config-line)#login

Comtech1(config-line)exit

 

We will now set passwords for ssh and telent access to the switch:

Comtech1(config)#line vty 0 15

Comtech1(config-line)#password BigBlue (sets ssh and telnet password to BigBlue)

Comtech1(config-line)#login

Comtech1(config-line)#exit

Comtech1(config)#exit

For the changes to take effect we have to save them in the startup-config file so:

Comtech1#copy running-config startup-config

And that’s it.  Next time you connect to your switch either through a console, shh or telnet session you will be asked for the relevant passwords.

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

 

 

Staying safe online


We all use the internet but how many of us really know how to stay safe online? Today we shall outline 10 of the most important ‘must do’s’ when using the internet.

1. Antivirus.  You must have antivirus installed and it must be upto date when using the internet.  If not you will be leaving yourself open to a heap of problems.  I would recommend BitDefender for both home and business clients.

2. Firewall.  Again this is a must.  Most modern operating systems come with a firewall installed but you must make sure it is turned on.

3. Passwords.  These should be complex and not stored on your computer.  Do not use password123.

4. Email.  Be wary of opening any email from people you don’t know, especially if they contain attachments.  This is a common way of infecting systems with a virus.  Banks will never contact you by email.

5. Credit cards.  If you use credit cards online make sure the website address starts with https.  If it doesn’t then anyone can intercept your card details and use then online.

6. Do not store bank details on your computer.  If someone gains access to your system then you will just have handed them access to all your money.

7. Dodgy websites.  Be careful which websites you access.  If it looks a bit dodgy then leave the site.

8. Downloads.  If possible do not download torrents.  Torrent sites are usually where most of the viruses are located.  Also be careful when downloading free trials to ‘fix your computer problems’.  These types of software will always find something wrong with your system even if it is working flawlessly.

9. Emailing passwords and usernames.  This is not a good idea but if you have to send passwords and usernames use separate emails.

10. Updates.  Make sure that your operating system is fully updated.  That way known vulnerabilities will be taken care of.

I hope that these tips will be of value.  Just remember them and you should be safe while using the internet.

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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