Have you had your electronic ID stolen?

In other words, have you been pwned*. There have been millions of email addresses and passwords stolen in hack attacks and millions more that have been left exposed by incompetent website owners. However, it’s not just your email address that’s been stolen, your name will have gone with it, possibly your address and maybe even credit card (and other) data.

The stolen information is then made available for sale on the dark web and here’s a sample of the prices it can fetch

  • Credit/debit card number – $5-$11
  • With the CVV (3 digit) security code – + $5
  • “Fullz” (card, CVV, name, address, date of birth etc.) – $30
  • Bank account access – 10% of the credit balance in the account
  • Online Payment Services, such as PayPal – $20-$200

But how do you know whether your information is “out there” just waiting to be abused by cyber criminals? Well, I don’t know but I know a man who does, and he’s set up a rather useful website

Have I been Pwned?

There’s a website called Have I Been Pwned. This has been created by Troy Hunt, a Microsoft Regional Director & MVP (Microsoft Most Valuable Person for developer security). After data from a major cyber incident was “found” on the Dark Web Troy decided to put a database together – in his own time & at his own cost – as a way of allowing people to check whether their data was amongst stolen information and to “keep his hand in” from a programming perspective.

The site is now a comprehensive source of information about data hacks and data loss and is simple to use. All you have to do is enter your email address to see whether you have been “pwned”

And if you have been, as shown in the image above, it will also tell you which data breach (breaches) your email address has been found in.

Not every data breach leads to passwords being available. Some databases have encrypted passwords, making them worthless to the cyber criminal. However, many don’t and, like email addresses, there are millions (over 550) of passwords available on the Dark Web.

As he’s done with email addresses, Troy has now gathered all the stolen passwords that he can find and has created another searchable database dedicated to stolen passwords.

Why it’s important to know whether your passwords are available to cyber criminals.

At this point, all the criminals have is a list of emails and and another list of passwords. They may not know which ones go together and they also don’t know which websites these email addresses and passwords relate to.

But, from our perspective, there’s a significant weakness. This comes in to play because a lot of people use the same password for many websites simply because it’s easier to remember one password than many. This use of the same password makes things a lot easier for the cyber criminals to put our data to fraudulent use.

Let’s say, for example, that the criminals target Amazon. You might have your credit card details already stored against your account so if a cyber criminal can gain access, all they have to do is change a delivery address and Bob’s their uncle.

They’ll use a “Credential Stuffing Attack” which means that they’ll load all the email addresses in to one database and the passwords in to another and start the attack. First they pick their target (Amazon in my example) and use software that will add an email address to the log-in box. They’ll then turn to different software to try all the passwords in the password database to see whether there’s a match.

And once they’ve tried one email address they’ll automatically move on the next one. Once they’ve tried all combinations, and flagged those that work, they’ll move on to another site.

This sounds like a long, slow process but they’ll probably use a “Botnet” – a network of tens, hundreds or possibly thousands of hacked computers around the world that they have control over.

So, you should check “Have I Been Pwned” for both email addresses and passwords and if you’ve got a compromised password you should find the sites you use it on and change it – remembering to use a different one for each site.

Top 10 Passwords of 1018

Different, not similar – Password, PassWord, PAssword1960 and Pa55W0rd are NOT different to a cyber criminal. Criminals will also use these, and other variants of the world’s most popular passwords (2018’s shown in the image to the right) in their attempts to hack your accounts.

If you are concerned about your digital security, or need some help with your website, SEO or anything else online then just drop me an email, andy@enterprise-oms.co.uk , or give me a call on 01793 238020 for a free, no obligation conversation about your requirements

*Pwned – When a map designer in the online game called Warcraft beat another player he wanted to say “Player x has been owned”. Unfortunately, he mis-typed and actually said “Played x has been Pwned”. This is now a “thing”

The Deep Web and Dark Web. What are they?

Browser Address bar

The Deep Dark Web

The “Dark Web” has been in the press frequently over the past couple of years, associated with tales of hacking, the sale of personal information, credit card data, drugs, weapons and other illicit items. However,  there’s been very little by way of explanation as to what the dark web is and how you go there and this item looks to answer that, purely for research purposes of course.

A number of news stories have also referred to the “Deep Web” which has lead to a degree of confusion, as if the media consider the two to be interchangeable.

So, just to clear up any confusion here’s an explanation of the differences between the Deep and the Dark Web.

Let’s start at the top

The “Surface Web” is the web we all know and love, the websites we visit and the sites/pages that we find using Google/Bing/Yahoo and other search engines. And there’s the key, it’s only the parts of the internet that the search engines know about.

Just visit any website and click a few links, you’ll be doing the same thing that the search engines do, visiting websites and following links to find pages that they can present to you when you’re looking for things.

Steps leading down to represent the Deep Web

What is The Deep Web

Simply put, the Deep Web is just the area of the internet that is beyond the reach of the major search engines.

As an example, just go to www.britishairways.comand try to find a holiday to the Nautic Hotel between 7th and 14th October in Mallorca without using the search facilities.

It’s not that easy, in fact it you might find it confusing/difficult/impossible. You’re not alone, the search engines do to because they can’t get much further down than the first 3-4 layers. At least this is getting better because Google, Bing and the like are always looking to improve the way they manage such challenges but it’s still a struggle for them. 

Websites can use code, called robots.txt, to actually block the search engines from certain pages so that they are difficult to find, deliberately. Websites with members only pages may choose to do this, for example.

As you can see, the Deep Web is neither illicit nor scary, it’s just out of reach of the major search engines.

What is the Dark Web

This is where things get really interesting. The Dark Web is a small portion of the web that is intentionally hidden and encrypted and which cannot be accessed through your typical web browser.

TOR logo representing the Dark Web

To access the Dark Web you need a specialised web browser that enables you to tap into the the TOR network. TOR, short for ‘The Onion Router’, so called because it uses many layers to both encrypt the data that moves around and to make it almost impossible for the authorities to trace internet activity back to a particular user and location. Great for security and anonymity which is why TOR was originally designed by US Intelligence agencies to enable American spies to securely communicate with their parent organisation and not reveal their location and identity. 

The code was officially released to the public in 2004, and it’s still used by human rights groups and the like in repressive and unsafe countries to communicate with the outside world, but like almost everything it has also been subverted by those with criminal tendencies and put to a darker use.

You might recall that a couple of years ago the media was full of stories about a Dark Web website called Silk Road. This was like an eBay for criminals, a place where you could buy illegal items such as drugs & weapons and engage criminals to carry out illegal activities on your behalf, hacking for example.

The Silk Road was eventually closed down by the authorities but similar sites still exist if you know where to look and how to access them.

The first step is to download the TOR software, it’s free and pretty easy to find. However there’s no Dark Web version of Google – you have to know your way around if you want to find the illegal stuff – I don’t and wouldn’t broadcast it even if I did know.

I may not be able to help with your journey to the Dark Web but if your Surface Web needs improving or your Deep Web needs surfacing to make it easy to find, then get in touch, andy@enterprise-oms.co.uk or give me a call- 01793 238020 and I’ll dive in and see what I can do.

Do you use a .EU domain?

MAshup of Union and EU flags, Image result for brexit

Brexit was always going to have problems and issues for businesses but none expected it to have an impact on business domain names.

Well, until Easter 2018 anyway, which was when a major problem for businesses was announced in well known and respected technology news site, The Register.

You probably chose your .EU domain for a really good reason, you want the world to know that either you are an EU-based business or your market is the EU, for example.

Brexit and the .EU domain

However, as a result of Brexit, the EU has announced that all .EU domains registered by UK businesses (and individuals) will be revoked on B-Day (Brexit Day) 31st March 2018

What this means is that if you are one of the 300,000 UK organisations or individuals who has registered a .EU domain you might well see your website disappear overnight.

Obviously, continental domain registrars may well take advantage of this, offering to take on your domain and “fix” the problem for a (presumably large) fee, but that also has issues. The European Commission has hinted it is unhappy with that arrangement too; they will no longer allow you to own an .eu domain (that’s their whole point), so you are putting yourself at some commercial risk (similar to not owning IP in any products you make), and the EU is legally bound to prefer “the good of the EU” in any contractual dispute. Thankfully though, there are alternatives:

What’s in a (domain) name?

It’s not just your web site that could be affected, your email system, security certificates for encryption and e-commerce, and possibly even remote access to company assets for sales staff might be impacted too.

It will vary, obviously, depending on how you are set up, but checking this now is very sensible.

Perhaps the best approach is to do two things

  1. Immediately register a suitable .UK domain, and
  2. Point your .EU web traffic to it as soon as possible.

You have a choice of .uk domain name, and you can still represent your EU connection in it, if that’s crucial. For example,

bloggs-transport.eu

might change to,

bloggs-transport-eu.uk

We realise this isn’t ideal, but the second name is safe as it can’t be affected by any disruption the EU Commission might cause. You would have normal rights to the name, under English law, and, if it’s done right, there’s almost a whole year for your clients to get used to your new URL. Thus the risk is minimised, and it becomes one aspect of Brexit that can’t hurt you further commercially.

If this change goes ahead—and this is much more likely than unlikely in our opinion—you have less than a year for clients to become used to the change. This isn’t something to hesitate over: the implication is that no redirection will be possible after 31st March 2019, so at that point your site will simply vanish off the internet. People may even think you’ve gone bust!

Right now, you have enough time for this NOT to become an expensive issue. The longer you leave this one, the more electronic business disruption is likely to cost you come Brexit day.

If you have a .eu domain and you are worried, please get in touch: 01793 238020 andy@enterprise-oms.co.uk, the fixes are mostly straightforward and inexpensive to implement (without disruption, if you act quickly enough).

007 in ‘For your GDPR Only’

MI6 headquartersWhen “M” has finished spymastering for the day, or pops out for a cheeky Nandos, we always see M locking the “Top Secret” files away in the office  safe. We know that’s so that no secrets will be discovered, even if an enemy spy (or the tea person) manages to gain access to the empty office.

In business, we need to be like “M”.

In a previous post I looked at Data Protection and the forthcoming General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR). However, I didn’t make it clear that the regulations don’t just apply to digital data stored on your IT systems and network but also apply to paper records too.

Anything that contains personal data, whether paper or digital, falls under the auspices of the Act, including the recordings from your CCTV cameras, phone systems (think “this call may be recorded for training purposes”) and biometric data – such as fingerprint or iris recognition systems used to unlock systems or grant access.

Keyboard with the word 'Privacy' overlaid

This means the files on your desk, the files in your filing cabinet, your paper archives as well as your electronic records, anything that includes personal data.

To start with, you need to ask yourself

  • Who has overall responsibility for the data you have and/or use?
  • What data are you holding, why are you holding it and where is it held?
  • Are your Privacy and Data Use Policies as good as they need to be?
  • How long do you need to keep data & how will you securely destroy it when you no longer need to keep it?
  • Who has legitimate access to it and who else can access it?
  • How secure is your building, your paper records and IT systems?
  • What happens out of normal business hours?
  • Can data be exported and removed without authorisation (to a USB key for example)?
  • Is your network connected to the internet and how secure is your connection?
  • Can your network be accessed remotely – is this secure?
  • Is your electronic data encrypted so, in the event of a breach, data cannot be accessed and used?
  • Can your network prevent unauthorised intrusion (hacking)?
  • How do you manage Subject Access Requests, (when someone requests to see the data you hold about them)?
  • How will you manage a data breach, whether it’s a hack, unauthorised file copy or unauthorised removal of paper records?

So, how can I help?

I can put you in touch with reliable IT companies and trusted partners 

  • Blob figure staring, "James Bond like" down the barrel of a gunthat will be able to inventory all of your IT and data assets.
  • who’ll test your network to see how secure it is and whether hackers are likely to be able to gain access
  • who will secure your network from external threats (hacking) and ensure that your remote access requirements are reliable, easy to use and secure.
  • who will help you secure your data inside the organisation and set things up so that only appropriately authorised employees can access the data they need to do their job and no more.
  • who will secure your network so that it’s almost impossible for data to be copied onto a USB key or external hard drive and removed from the organisation
  • who will put transparent encryption in place which means that it doesn’t slow anything down but is so strong that only GCHQ or the NSA would be likely to crack it.

Take the first step now, by giving me a call on 01793 238020 or emailing andy@enterprise-oms.co.uk to find out how I can help mitigate data security risks and start preparing for GDPR guidelines.

WannaCry, Ransomware and Bitcoin

The recent “WannaCry” Ransomware attack that hit the NHS (and more than 200,000 other victims across 150 countries) has focused attention on the CryptoCurrency called Bitcoin.

There have been numerous calls to outlaw Bitcoin and other CryptoCurrencies but there’s a lot of mis-understanding and a belief that they are only used to fund criminal activities.

In fact, over the last couple of years there have been numerous articles in the mainstream media about Bitcoin. Most have focused on their use by the criminal fraternity, whether for the payment of Ransomware ransoms to decrypt company data through to the purchasing of illegal weapons and drugs on the Dark Web, including The Silk Road, a dark web site where drugs, weapons and illegal services were traded online – before the site was taken down by the FBI in 2014.

However, Bitcoin, and other digital currencies, are now experiencing a significant uplift in their use for legitimate purposes and we thought that this is an ideal time to send out an explanatory email so that you can be better informed.

We’ll be looking at

  • What is a digital/virtual currency?
  • What is a Bitcoin?
  • What is Distributed Ledger Technology / Blockchain?
  • How do I get digital money?
  • How can I spend digital money?
  • Where do I keep my Bitcoin?
  • How safe/secure is my digital money bank?

What is a digital/virtual currency?

A virtual currency is simply a digital form of money for online transactions. Virtual currencies only exist electronically, there’s no bank notes or coins and no bank deposits, hence their description as a Virtual Currency.

Virtual Currencies bring innovation and benefits to more traditional forms of banking and financial systems. Transactions are much cheaper and faster with international payments being much simplified due to freedom from exchange rate worries and bank transfer fees.

This means there are no currency exchange barriers, digital currencies are genuinely international, unaffected by national boundaries and traditional currency issues and associated exchange rate issues – until you want to exchange them for traditional cash.

The most well known Virtual Currency is Bitcoin although other examples include Dogecoin, Ether, Dash, Litecoin and Stellar.

In the early days, Virtual Currencies were seen as a way to pay for online transactions but these days you can use them as a form of payment in physical stores. There are even Bitcoin ATMs where you can buy and sell Bitcoins from your account – there are 20 in London alone and a total of 60 across the UK

What is a Bitcoin

All digital currencies only exist in the virtual form, being recorded in a public Distributed Ledger which is basically a secure database of digital currencies and which holds a record of every Bitcoin transaction

Bitcoins were one of the earliest forms of virtual currency, first introduced in 2008. In 2013 Bloomberg effectively endorsed the legitimacy of Bitcoin by testing Bitcoin on its trading terminals and later that year the US Federal Reserve gave their apparent blessing, stating that Bitcoin “may hold long-term promise, particularly if the innovations promote a faster, more secure and more efficient payment system” and is the most well known form of Digital Currency.

In 2014 our own HMRC classifies Bitcoin as assets or private money which means that no VAT will be charged on the mining of, or exchange of Bitcoin.

Later that year, Microsoft started accepting payment made by Bitcoin and a 2015 HMRC report on digital currencies further marked the acceptance of Virtual Currencies by mainstream financial services.

What is the Blockchain

The Blockchain is a database that records all Bitcoin transactions. It’s basically a distributed database, is totally separate from the banking industry and free from central interference.

Transactions are recorded in the form of payer x sends y bitcoins to payee z and payments are verified and validated and added to the Blockchain

How do I get digital money

Bitcoin Mining in IcelandBelieve it or not, it’s possible to make your own, legitimate, Bitcoin through a technique called “mining” which uses high performance computers to carry out sophisticated cryptological processing to effectively make new currency that’s then added to the Blockchain.

However, it’s not as easy at it sounds and most people simply buy their Bitcoins, and other virtual currencies, through more traditional routes – including the Bitcoin ATMs mentioned earlier in this article

How can I spend digital money

You can use Bitcoins to purchase traditional currencies, products and services and you can acquire Bitcoins in a similar manner.

Small amounts of Bitcoin can be traded. They are the millibitcoin (0.001 bitcoin), microbitcoin (0.0000001 bitcoin) and the satoshi which is the smallest amount and named after the inventor (0.00000001 bitcoin)

As noted earlier, transactions follow payer x sends y bitcoins to payee z formatAlthough transactions on the Blockchain are open to inspectionthe reason why Bitcoin is so attractive to criminals is that transactions are pseudonymous. This means that “payer x” is only identified by his or her Bitcoin address.

In 2014, Bitcoin Payment Service Provider (A PayPal for Bitcoin) started accepting Bitcoin payments for tickets and concession sales at the St. Petersburg Bowl in the USA and in 2015 Barclays started to accept Bitcoin, the first UK high street bank to do so. Over 100,000 establishments were accepting payment by Bitcoin by the end of 2015.

You can buy technology from Aria and Dell, pre-owned technology, media and games from CeX around the UK, you can sign up for language courses, buy a beer and a meal in a pub, book theatre tickets, accommodation, home and garden furniture, new windows and much more – full list of UK companies accepting Bitcoin here.

In 2013 a Bitcoin was worth $13 and at the time of writing a Bitcoin would cost $1,033.43 ( £830.81) having peaked in 2017 at $1216.73.

The downside is the lack of protection because virtual currencies lien outside of the established banking regulations, Bitcoin users are not protected by refund rights or chargebacks and transactions are non-reversible.

Where do I keep my Bitcoin?

Your Digital Wallet stores all the information required to transact bitcoins. Although they’re frequently described as a place to hold, or store your Bitcoins, the reality is that Bitcoins ONLY exist in the Blockchain and your Digital Wallet simply stores your credentials to access your Bitcoin holdings.

It’s similar to the way your debit card doesn’t store your money but allows you to access your account and arrange for the transfer for funds from your account to that of the seller.

How safe/secure is my digital money bank

Because your Virtual Currency is held centrally, there’s actually nothing to steal, in the conventional sense.

However, your Wallet needs to be secured. You need to use a strong password – and don’t forget it because there’s no password recovery routine. Lose your password and you lose your Bitcoin. You should keep your Wallet backed up, preferably in a number of locations, online, USB etc. Just as you would for your other computer data

Is traditional money dead?

Far from it, and it’s probably a long way from dying simply because each country likes to have it’s own currency regulations in place and the fear associated with the disruption that Virtual Currencies will cause.

As a result, banks are making it easier for customers to spend their traditional money. We say the introduction of cheques – now on the decline.

Credit and payment cards that facilitate the easy transfer of money. Internet banking, making it easier to manage our own funds.

Contactless payments speeding up transactions, Apple and Android Pay., facilitating payment by simply tapping your phone on a payment terminal and the migration of these services to Smart Watches.

Soon, you’ll have contactless payment capability added to pieces of jewellery (A payment wedding ring anyone?) followed by the embedding of a suitable chip under the skin of a fingertip.


However, as world governments become more centralised, the benefits of Virtual Currencies may begin to outweigh the pressures (and costs involved) to maintain more traditional Fiat based monetary systems and all we can suggest is that you watch this space.

And if you want some help, than give me a call on 01793 238020 or send an email to andy@enterprise-oms.co.uk and I’ll do everything I can to help/

How much did your last cup of coffee cost?

Cybercrime is everywhere these days, in 2016 the cost to the UK was over £1bn with more than 5.5m cyber offences taking place in the UK every year. That’s almost 50% of ALL UK crime.

Cup of coffee and coffee beansThere’s lots of advice on passwords, I regularly write about them, and other security measures that you can take but did you know that even a trip to your favourite coffee shop could end up being far more expensive than the price you pay for your Triple Grande Decaf Soy Latte Macchiato and blueberry muffin.

Imagine the scene, you’re between meetings and decide to drop into your favourite coffee shop for a cup of coffee, a cake and to tap into their Wi-Fi to read your emails, refresh your knowledge in time for your next meeting or simply to surf the web.

Spoof Wi-Fi Hotspot


Sign fro free wifi hotspot
When you sit down and try to log-on to the Wi-Fi there’s frequently a selection of hot-spots to choose from. How do you know which is the free service provided by the venue and which is a spoof.

It’s very easy to set up a Wi-Fi hot-spot using a mobile phone, Mi-Fi type of device or laptop and allow other users to connect through this free connection. This means that all of the traffic can then be intercepted by the person providing the spoof account. What sort of important information is passed from your laptop through this connection? It could be your details to access your online banking, the log-in to your company network or the necessary information required to access your corporate email account.

Time for a comfort break

Laptop and cup of coffeeThen the urge hits, you look around and see that everybody seems respectable enough so you head off to the toilet thinking that your laptop is safe on the table. After all, nobody would nick in sight of all those customers, staff and CCTV cameras would they?

You’d be wrong. Laptop tracking service provider, Prey, found that areas offering free Wi-Fi were the second most common target for  opportunistic laptop thefts, the only riskier place being left in a visible place in your car.

If stolen, it’s not only the inconvenience of replacing the laptop, reinstalling your applications and copying back your data [you do back-up your data don’t you?] it’s the additional costs that aren’t covered by your insurance.

The Ponemon Institute, a US cyber crime consultancy, put the real cost of the loss of a laptop and it’s data at nearly £31,000. This was broken down into £4,000 for the loss of Intellectual Property, forensics and legal bills adding around £1,500 with a staggering £24,500 attributable to the loss of income, customers and competitive advantage associated with a data breach

So, the next time you stop off for a cup of coffee and decide to log-on using their free Wi-Fi, just make sure you know which network that you’re connecting to and that you don’t leave your laptop unattended.

And if you want to talk about your cyber security, just give me a call on 01793 238020 or drop an email to andy@enterprise-oms.co.uk

Bluetooth Beacons

Belisha BeaconThe most well known type of beacon is probably the Belisha, the orange ball, containing a flashing light mounted on a striped pole and drawing attention to a zebra crossing.

Well, there’s a new type of beacon in town – the Bluetooth Beacon and businesses can use them in interesting and exciting ways.

What is a Bluetooth Beacon?

Basically, a Bluetooth Beacon is a low energy device (using button batteries that last for up to a year), that can be fixed almost anywhere and which transmits data and/or information to nearby portable electronic devices within 40-100 mtrs. Mobile phones and tablets in other words.

Major retail stores are starting to use Beacons to track customers as they move through the store. The Beacon can push marketing messages as customers get within range of relevant displays. Your iPhone may use a beacon to determine what section of a grocery store you’re in, see if anything on your shopping list is in that area, so you don’t forget it, and even push a discount voucher to encourage you to buy a particular brand.

Your Android phone could use a beacon to show on a map where you are and provide directions to where you want to go – in your language.

It’s not just for retail outlets though. If you are in business to business you could use a Beacon to push a message out to visitors offering a subscription to your newsletter or encourage a visitor to install your App. Museums could use Beacons to trigger pictures, audio tracks or videos as you walk past particular displays and exhibits.

You can even use Beacons to provide keyless access, your phone could use a beacon in your car to know it’s your vehicle and send an unlock signal to it, for example.

How do you use a Bluetooth Beacon

The first thing you need to do is decide what you are looking to achieve. You could

  • Push deals and offers
  • Share news
  • Encourage Newsletter Subscriptions
  • Drive engagement at events and shows
  • Help blind people explore locations
  • Push visitor information
  • Unlock doors

Use is only limited by your imagination!

At a trade show, for example – simply place your Beacon on your stand and push your message to any attendee who comes within range of your Beacon.

What’s the likely cost

Avvel X BeaconBeacons can be pretty inexpensive – the Avvel X Beacon (left) for example – 

  • runs off a CR2477 button cell which lasts for up to 30 months,
  • has a range up to 100m,
  • is waterproof,
  • is easily programmable
  • 42mm square and 13.4mm thick
  • From £20.00 + VAT


The Next Step

Well, I’ve just ordered one of the Avvel X Beacons to see how it works and what can be done and as soon as I’ve learned how to get the most from it, I’ll post an update here.

In the meantime, if you need any help – get in touch. Give me a call on 01793 238020 or drop me a line, andy@enterprise-oms.co.uk

And remember.

Beacons just send out information, they don’t know who you are, don’t connect to your device, can’t harvest mobile phone numbers and don’t steal any data

Worries with WordPress and what happens if you don’t keep up with updates

WordPress LogoYou might have a website that’s been build using WordPress. No one will blame you, after all it’s free and has become probably the most used Content Management Systems (CMS) out there.

You might have built the site yourself or paid a developer to design and build it for you. You might not even know that your site has been built using WordPress.

It’s popular because it’s free and pretty easy to use – well it is when compared to some of the alternatives out there anyway. Although popular and free, it may not be the best and although it It is OK it does have a number of issues.

WordPress Editing ScreenBecause it’s so popular it’s become a top target for hackers. This means that the people behind WordPress have to be on their toes, always on the lookout for weaknesses & flaws that the hackers can exploit to break into a website and create mayhem. When the WordPress developers come across such a flaw they create a patch and release a new version of WordPress. As an example, the current version is 4.7. However within the next couple of weeks there will probably be a new version. 4.7.1 and then 4.7.2 and so on and so on and so on, releasing updates as and when flaws are discovered.

You and your web developer need to be on top of this by making sure that you’re running the latest version of WordPress. The newer versions,  if setup properly, should update themselves automatically but you need to keep an eye on things “just in case”. Older versions had to updated manually, by clicking the “Update Now” link so it all seems pretty straightforward. But it’s not!

Why things may not be as easy as they seem

A WordPress menuMost websites using WordPress use a number of “Plug-Ins”, small pieces of software that add extra functionality to the website and make it easier to manage. However, you need to exercise caution when updating – especially if you use a lot of plugins to manage different elements of your site because some of the plug-ins may not have been updated to work with the latest version of WordPress. This means that hitting the “WordPress Update” link might cause a plugin to stop working and this could break your website.

But what happens if you don’t update WordPress?

Well, you might find that your website gets hacked and will start to do things that you wouldn’t want to be associated with. It could start to download malware to the computers of all the people who visit your site – malware that could monitor their keystrokes and pass banking details back to criminals in Eastern Europe or China, for example.

Or you could find – as one news website found out to their embarrassment at the end of November – a lot of unsavoury spam being inserted into the first paragraph of every news story on their website.

How did this happen?
The company were very lax – their site was built using WordPress and was last updated in June 2012. Since then, there have been 114 updates to WordPress, some to improve performance and some to improve security.

By failing to keep up to date this gave the hackers and “easy in”. The hackers were able to use automated tools to find websites using WordPress and to find out which version was being used. From there, it would have been simple for the hackers to target a known weak spot and break in. From there, it would have been the work of moments to install their own spammy code.

What should the website do?
It’s easy to cure – all they have to do is identify and delete the malicious software and then update to the latest version of WordPress, although they are so behind with their updates that they might find their site gets broken by the update so they might be caught between a rock and a hard place.

If you are worried about WordPress, then don’t hesitate to get in touch. Give me a call on 01793 238020 or drop an email to andy@enterprise-oms.co.uk for a free, confidential and obligation free chat.

Why worry about Accreditations?

I do a lot of work for an IT support company in Bristol – Bristol IT Company – and at the bottom of their website is a list of badges, icons and logos, there’s a couple of ISO related ones and the rest come from well known (and less well known) brands in the IT sector but why are they there and why should you be concerned?

Bristol IT Company accreditationsWell, ISO’s easy, it’s a way of demonstrating a certain credibility by being assessed every year to ensure that we remain up to scratch. A lot of businesses have ISO9001. This is a quality management certification that demonstrates commitment to consistently provide products and services that meet the needs ofclients. ISO27001 is an information security standard that demonstrates commitment to information security, both their own and that of clients.

The other accreditations come from manufacturers such as Cisco, Microsoft, Dell, Aruba, Cyberoam, VMWare and Veeam and demonstrate that the Bristol IT Company has the necessary skills to not only supply their equipment but to ensure that it is properly installed, configured and supported.

Why is this important

Let’s take a look at the security of your network – Bristol IT Company have 2 vendors that are accredited with in this area, Cisco and Sophos. You can buy some Cisco & Sophos equipment on Amazon at competitive prices, have it delivered pretty much the next day and get it up and running very quickly. This might make you feel secure, after all Cisco are a market leader in networking and security – right?

Is this the right way to do things?

Probably not! Even assuming that you order the most appropriate device for your needs, installing equipment using the default settings could cause you a whole heap of pain.

Most hackers worth their salt know, and understand, these default settings making it really easy for them to penetrate your business’ network. It’s almost like advertising that you’ve installed the best locks in the world but have left a key under the doormat.

Not only that but the default settings are a one-size-fits-all option that are unlikely to be best suited to the way your business works and could actually slow your network, and internet connectivity, down if left untouched.

You could probably find hundreds of internet forums where people discuss the settings but which ones are the best for your particular needs? Which ones speed things up without compromising security and which ones increase security without compromising speed and which ones are actually posted by hackers looking to lure you into making your network even more insecure?

Accreditation

That,s where accreditation comes into play. By buying your equipment from an accredited supplier, Bristol IT Company will advise you on the correct product that most closely matches your existing and future needs, possibly saving you money – certainly saving you pain.

They then ensure that your network is made as secure as possible by changing default settings to something much more secure and applying their training, experience and skill to ensure that your network is as secure as it can be by optimising the set-up and performance of your kit.

Still think accreditation’s just an icon on a website? Well, give me a call on 01793 238020 or email andy@enterprise-oms.co.uk to find out that there’s much more to it than a pretty picture

When “Now” is too late

Last week saw an underground fire in Holborn, London, lead to the cancellation of a number of West End shows, costing theatres thousands in lost revenue.

More than 1,900 homes and businesses were left without electricity when the power had to be cut for safety reasons, directly affecting around 5,000 people who were forced out of their homes and offices whilst the underground fire was brought under control.

A small number of larger businesses were able to continue functioning because they had suitable contingency plans in place to cover precisely this type of eventuality. These were the ones that had back-up generators to ensure a continuity of electricity supply which enabled them to continue their activities whilst all around ground to a halt.

A small explosionSo what provisions have you made for business continuity in the event of an incident that leads to you having to vacate your offices?

Remember, this fire, although disruptive, was not classed as a “major” incident and similar issues could happen almost anywhere, at any time. Would your business cope, could it survive should you have to be evacuated, without warning.

What would be the impact on your business if you couldn’t access your office for hours, days or even weeks?

How do you manage the data and documents that are critical to the survival of your business?

Would your business be able to move seamlessly to a different location, would your key staff be able to work from home or elsewhere?

How do you manage and store the documents that are essential to the running of your business? Are they stored on your laptop/PC, on a server, back-up, in the cloud or a USB stick?

Are your clients and business contacts in a Customer Relationship Management application, on a spreadsheet, on your phone or in your head?

How about your financial records, are they saved in Excel or a dedicated software application?

Bits and BytesThere are many ways to store and manage your essential data, you just have to be sure that you can access the business critical information from a location away from your office.

Companies most reliant on data may have back-up locations, complete with computers and data connectivity that they can move key personnel to, ensuring that service and continuity continues with the shortest of interruptions.

Smaller businesses might have file servers storing their data attached to their network with back-up devices regularly creating copies with the back-ups being taken off-site.

Micro-businesses and sole traders could make effective use external hard-drives, whether attached by USB or shared on a network, automatically cloned to one of the numerous, and inexpensive, cloud data services.

Remember, it’s too late to do anything about business resilience once an incident has started so give me a call for a free chat – 01793 238020 or send an email to andy@enterprise-oms.co.uk.