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Dixons Carphone hack

After a relatively quiet few months, data theft is back in the news. Retail giant Dixons Carphone has admitted that it had a huge data breach that took place last year involving 10 million of its customers, up from the original estimate of just over one million. Will the Dixons Carphone hack affect you?

Dixons Carphone Hack – Should you be worried?

The company, which operates as Carphone Warehouse and Currys PC World, has been investigating the hack since June. Personal information, including names, addresses and email addresses may have been accessed by the hackers, but bank details were not taken and so far there are no reports of fraud linked to the information theft. The hackers accessed to records of 6 million stored payment cards, but most were protected by chip and pin.

Dixons has been working with cybersecurity experts and has increased its security measures. The National Crime Agency is investigating the breach, along with the National Cyber Security Centre, the Financial Conduct Authority and the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO).

Dixons Carphone hack

An ICO spokesperson said: “Our investigation into the incident is ongoing and we will take the time to assess this new information. We expect the company to alert all those affected in the UK and to take all steps necessary to reduce any potential harm.”

Dixons Carphone chief executive Alex Baldock said: “Since our data security review uncovered last year’s breach, we’ve been working around the clock to put it right. As a precaution, we’re now also contacting all our customers to apologise and advise on the steps they can take to protect themselves.”

No Business is Safe from Hackers

How would your company cope if hackers accessed your company’s customer data? Even if your business is far smaller than Dixons Carphone and located in Hull, East Yorkshire or Lincolnshire doesn’t mean your data is safe from theft. If hackers steal your data it can affect your reputation, and you risk a fine from the Information Commissioner’s Office under the new GDPR rules.

Digitalquill – Experts in IT Security

At Digitalquill we help businesses across Hull, and the East Riding keep their customers’ data safe from criminals. Whether you need help securing a wireless network, setting up the proper PCI-DSS compliant processes for handling credit card data, backing up your files or writing a security policy for your East Yorkshire business – we can help. For more information call us on 01482 424402 or email office@digitalquill.co.uk.

Free software Hull

Free software HullThe recent revelations about Facebook selling on data about its users will come as no surprise to most IT security professionals, but it is extremely common for end-users to think that there is such a thing as a free online service. The old adage goes “if you are not paying for it, then you are the product” and never has this been more true than for free online services. Whether it’s antivirus, email, social media or storage services – free software has a price.

Why Free Online Services and Businesses Don’t Mix

It is simply not safe for your business to rely on software and services  that are offered for free, such as Yahoo, Gmail and Dropbox. These services are rarely intended to be used for business purposes and they pose a security risk. There have been many hacks where data has been stolen from these free services. It is far safer to invest in affordable email or cloud storage services from a Hull IT support provider that is designed to be bespoke to the needs of your business.

Do Free Services Really Save Money?

You may think that you are saving money and protecting the bottom line by using free services for business use. After all, licenses for email, cloud storage and antivirus software can be expensive. But think twice: there are a lot of very reasons why free services are not suitable for business usage.

Free services are not really free

Google, Microsoft and the like are not charities, and they use their free software for a number of purposes. They want to draw you into their ecosystem and to make you reliant on their products – so they have a captive audience. Their business models often rely on drawing you in for free and then charging a subscription fee later. Or – more worryingly – your data could be sold on to the highest bidder. The only way to be sure you are in control is to use a professional IT company so you know exactly what you are paying for.

Free Services are not suitable for business use

There are two main reasons that free services are not suitable for business use. The first is in the terms and conditions of the services. Most free software is not permitted to be used in profit-making enterprises and paying business users often subsidise the free offering. Legal action could be taken against you if you misuse the software, and you’ll have no technical support when things start to go wrong.

The second reason is IT security: Free services rarely meet the security standards expected of businesses – especially those dealing with personal data or credit card transactions – and you will not have guaranteed up-time or compensation if the service fails or the company ceases to trade.

Free Services are targets for hackers

Yahoo, Dropbox and many other free services have been hacked in the last few years. The passwords that were stolen were shared freely on the internet or sold on. The Dropbox hack was done by thieves using a user-name and password that had been stolen from elsewhere and was shared between services. Imagine if your staff – despite security advice – use the same passwords on your free email service as your main business server! You could be handing the burglars a set of keys to your house – just to try to save a few pence!

Digitalquill – Hull IT Support Experts

Digitalquill offer secure versions most of the free online services for your Hull or East Riding business. For more information call us on 01482 424402 or email office@digitalquill.co.uk.

 

Cyber-criminals have netted more than $25m from ransomware over the last two years, according to research published by Google. The research was carried out by two Google employees, who said: “It’s become a very, very profitable market and is here to stay.”

Google Study says Ransomware is “Here to Stay”

The online search company created thousands of virtual victims of ransomware in order to expose the extent of ransomware payments. The majority of the money was made in 2016 – with two types of ransomware called Locky and Cerber making most of it. By analysing Bitcoin payments, the researchers found that those two strains also made the most money over the last year, with Locky collecting about $8m and Cerber $7m.

What is Ransomware?

Ransomware is a type of malicious software that infects a machine and encrypts its files so they can no longer read. In order to decrypt the files, the victim is instructed to pay a ransom, typically with an untraceable virtual currency such as Bitcoin.

How to avoid Ransomware attack

Back-up your files! Invest in a recovery system so a ransomware infection won’t destroy your data forever. Always have your Hull IT support business create two back-up copies: one stored in the cloud and one stored physically away from your primary site.

Use antivirus software to protect your system from ransomware. Do not switch off the protection under any circumstances.

Keep your computer software up to date. Whenever your operating system or applications release a new version, immediately install it. Never ignore update reminders.

Trust no one. Any computer account can be compromised and malicious links can come from accounts of friends or colleagues.  Never open email attachments from someone you don’t know.

If you get a ransomware warning on your screen, disconnect the computer from the internet immediately to prevent the infection from spreading, and call a Hull IT support expert like Digitalquill.

Digitalquill – Experts in Ransomware

Even if you have not been unlucky and suffered an attack from ransomware, you must still take steps to stay safe. We can check that your malware prevention tools are up to date and effective – and we can provide business grade AVG virus protection. We also conduct system security audits and make sure you have the safety measures you need. Call us on 01482 424402 for advice.

 

Phishing

A report from Wombat Security has revealed the biggest Phishing scams of 2017.

Have you fallen for any of these phishing scams?

Three-quarters of Information Security professionals who responded to the survey said their companies had been subjected to phishing attacks, but people were less likely to click on malicious links in emails thanks to a better understanding of the risks involved.

What are the most common Phishing emails?

Most phishing messages fall into one of four categories:

Consumer: These are the types of phishing messages aimed at the average person gets. E.g., false notifications from social networks, emails purporting to be from Paypal or banks and so on.

Corporate: These look like official communications: false invoices, email quarantine messages and the like.

Commercial: These are non-specific business-related emails such as shipment notifications, or requests for wire transfers.

Cloud: These emails contain links claiming to be from Dropbox or similar cloud sites, tricking users into downloading malicious files.

Almost half of all phishing attacks fall into the consumer or corporate category.

How successful are Phishing attacks?

The click rates on the most successful phishing emails will alarm business owners and IT security professionals. Wombat sent false messages to users to test whether they would click on a well-crafted email phishing attempt.

They found, that although on average, users will click one in 10 phishing emails – but in some categories, the likelihood of a user clicking on a malicious link is:

  • 86% of users will click on “online shopping security update” messages
  • 86% of users click on corporate “voicemail from unknown” scam messages
  • 89% will click on a “corporate email improvement” message

This is not the worst: if a phishing email gets through your spam filters, then an email entitled “Database password reset alert” and “building evacuation plans” will be clicked on almost every time! Of course, in a simulated attack, many of the tell-tale signs of a phishing email were removed, such as poor English and obviously faked “from” addresses, but as phishers become more sophisticated it is more and more likely that they will improve their game as they work out what emails users will open and click on.

How to avoid phishing

  • Set an information security policy – and stick to it
  • Educate your people about the risks of phishing
  • Do not allow work accounts to be used for personal purposes, such as shopping or banking
  • Hire a Hull IT Support company to secure your networks

Digitalquill – Experts in IT Security

For Hull IT security advice for small businesses, call Digitalquill on 01482 424402.

Equifax hack

Equifax hackJust when we thought we had heard the last of the massive Equifax hack last year, the embattled company has announced that it has identified even more victims of the cyber-theft.

Equifax Hack – Even More Victims Identified

Back in September last year, Equifax announced that 145 million of its customers in the USA may have had their personal information stolen. Its full investigation into the breach has now begun, and analysis of the stolen data has revealed that the personal details of another 2.4 million of its customers was stolen than it had originally estimated.

In a statement, Equifax said that it: “will notify these newly identified consumers directly, and offer them identity-theft protection and credit-file monitoring services at no cost.”

The announcement was made on the same day that Equifax reported its full-year earnings. The breach cost it more than $114 million, after insurance payouts, but profits still remained healthy, thanks to a strong performance in its international business and tax cuts in the USA.

Equifax Hack

In 2017, Equifax revealed that they had found signs of unauthorised access being made to its data. It included names, addresses and social security numbers. The company set up a website so people could learn if they were victims – but they were criticised for not doing more. Their then chief executive was forced to make a  public apology for the company’s failure to protect its information – and for the amount of time it took to let the victims know about the data breach. He, and several other senior executives, subsequently left the company as a result.

Keep Your Business Safe from Hackers

Just because your company is smaller than Equifax and located in Hull, East Yorkshire or Lincolnshire does not mean that your data is not at risk. If hackers succeed in taking data then it affects your reputation, can harm your customers, and you may be fined by the Information Commissioner if you cannot prove you took reasonable steps to keep the data secure.

Digitalquill – Experts in IT Security

At Digitalquill we help businesses across the East Riding keep their customer data safe from prying eyes. Whether it is securing a wireless router, protecting confidential data, setting up a backup regime or maybe you need help to be compliant with the rules around credit card processing – we can help you. For more information call us on 01482 424402 or email office@digitalquill.co.uk.

 

Equifax

Cyber criminalsThe BBC recently completed a research experiment to discover the true risk to online servers of the type used by many UK businesses. They found that cyber criminals commenced an attack just one hour after they were switched on. Is it time you boosted your IT security?

Is your business at risk from cyber criminals?

The servers were set up in an experiment by a security company, designed to ascertain the scale of cyber-attacks on UK business every single day. After about 71 minutes online, the servers were visited by automated tools that scanned them for weaknesses. As soon as the machines had been discovered by the bots, a constant assault took place on them.

Honeypots show weakness in cyber-security

The “honeypot” servers, designed to attract hackers, were only accessible for about 170 hours, according to Cybereason, the company who performed the test. The servers were set up with real IP addresses, and they were configured to resemble a legitimate server. For example one accepted requests for webpages, files and networking connections.

Hackers using advanced automated tools

Online attack bots are set up t constantly look for known weaknesses in widely used applications. A whole range of attack bots probed the servers and most of the vulnerabilities they were looking for have been known for months – but still remain unpatched on many servers.

Of the attack bots:

  • 17% were “scrapers” that sucked up web content
  • 37% looked for known vulnerabilities or tried default admin passwords
  • 10% were looking for loopholes in web applications on the servers
  • 29% used “brute force attacks” to try to access user accounts with common passwords
  • 7% looked for vulnerabilities in the servers’ operating systems

The Risk From Phishing

The researchers also performed research to discover how phishing gangs target new employees at businesses. They added false email addresses under their control to a hundred legitimate email marketing lists. Within 21 hours, phishing gangs had started to send booby-trapped messages to the fake employees.

15% of the emails they received included links to compromised webpages that would launch an attack if they were visited. The rest had malicious file attachments including Microsoft Office documents, PDFs and executable files – all containing malware.

Stay Safe from Cyber Crime

These tests show that however small your business, it is still at risk from cybercrime. The techniques that the bots used are a good guide to what your organisation should be doing to avoid becoming a victim of cybercrime. You should “target-harden” your servers by updating software, controlling admin access, and enforce a policy for strong passwords. All of this can be done by a Hull IT Support Company like Digitalquill.

Digitalquill – Experts in IT Security

If you are not sure how to upgrade your software or hardware, or your computer needs replacement, call our Hull business IT Support Team today to find out more about our affordable Hull IT Support solutions. If you need help formulating an IT security policy, or would like a team of experts to give your systems a once-over then call us today on 01482 424402.

Meltdown and Spectre

Meltdown and SpectreWe have been covering the Meltdown and Spectre vulnerabilities since they came to light a couple of weeks ago. These bugs, present in almost every computer processor, arise from the way they use predictive “out of order” instructions. Most processors from Intel, AMD and ARM have the faults – and Intel seems to be worst affected.

Meltdown and Spectre Update

The spectre and meltdown vulnerabilities enable attackers to steal information from within memory which is being used by other programs or the operating system itself. For example, malicious code in one web page could collect information, such as passwords, from another website in another browser tab.

There are in fact three separate vulnerabilities.

  • The first, called “bounds check bypass” (CVE-2017-5753), needs a firmware update to mitigate the risk.
  • Spectre, The second vulnerability, “branch target injection” (CVE-2017-5715) can be fixed with a firmware update or mitigated in software.
  • Meltdown, “rogue data cache load” (CVE-2017-5754) needs an operating system patch.

Meltdown and Spectre: Are you vulnerable?

By now, most PCs will have been updated with patches to protect them. If you are not sure whether or not your PC is vulnerable, software is available to check. Your Hull IT Support company will be able to check all of your business PCs to ensure you are safe. Some PCs need their antivirus software updating first, as it blocks the software update to patch the meltdown and spectre vulnerabilities.

As a rule of thumb, the older your machines, the more vulnerable they are likely to be – combined with the performance hit associated with the patches, it may be time to upgrade your business PCs. Contact a Hull IT support company to get a price for bespoke business computers.

Is My Web Browser at Risk?

The most likely way for a Spectre or Meltdown attack is via your web browser, and so browser companies are updating their software. It’s always important to keep your browser up to date, especially now. You could ask your Hull IT Support provider to enable “site isolation” if you use the Chrome browser. It offers a second line of defence against such attacks. It keeps pages from different websites in different “sandboxed” processes.

How Much Risk is There, Really?

The initial reports of Meltdown and Spectre were apocalyptic, but because the bugs were secretly disclosed in June, patching is now well under way. Most careful users of modern PCs should not have much to worry about… but the risk of Spectre malware cannot be underestimated.

Digitalquill – Experts in IT Security

If you are not sure how to upgrade your software or hardware, or your computer needs replacement, call our Hull business IT Support Team today to find out more about our affordable Hull IT Support solutions.

meltdown and spectre

meltdown and spectreIf you use modern PCs, they should have been patched against the Meltdown and Spectre security flaws by now.  Many businesses, however, still use older computers which, while running Windows 10, have not yet had a BIOS update to protect them from the newly found flaws.

How to protect PCs from Meltdown and Spectre

Many clients have asked if there are risks with continuing to run their older PCs with this known critical vulnerability unpatched? Is there an alternative way to mitigate it? Or must they replace their computers with new ones?

In all honesty, it is still too soon to say. Remember that there are still no known exploits for the Meltdown and Spectre vulnerabilities, so the current risk level is low. In the long run, every PC and computing devices will eventually need to be replaced. That would be the case even if Spectre and Meltdown had not been discovered. So, if your devices are approaching the end of their life, it may make sense to replace them sooner rather than later and remove the risk entirely.

What to do to protect against Meltdown and Spectre

Intel says that it has issued firmware updates for nine out of ten of its CPUs from the past five years, but they acknowledge there is more work to do, and there have been reports of strange behaviour in patched PCs, such as a drop in performance and spontaneous reboots.

We recommend that you:

  • update your operating system, web browsers and other software with the latest security patches to defend against threats.
  • If an update is available, update your PC’s BIOS or UEFI.

Only if these are not possible should you consult with your Hull IT Support provider to see if you need to replace your processors or motherboards – or if it is more cost effective to buy new custom-built business PCs.

Digitalquill – Experts in IT Security

If you are not sure how to upgrade your software or hardware, or your computer needs replacement, call our Hull business IT Support Team today to find out more about our affordable Hull IT Support solutions.

Password Security

Just days after inadvertently triggering a public emergency system that announced a missile was heading towards the US state, officials in Hawaii have been left red-faced a second time after a photograph was released by the state emergency office which clearly showed the password for their system on a Post It note! Find out why password security is so important.

Password Security

Password Security: Dos and Don’ts

Passwords are only as strong as you  make them, and even if you follow all of the best practice advice to keep your password secure it is worthless if you write it down! We are amazed at how many people store the passwords to access encrypted laptops in the same bag as the machine – completely defeating the point of the security!

  • Create unique passwords with a combination of words, numbers, symbols, and upper- and lower-case letters.
  • Never use your username as your password.
  • Don’t use easy to guess passwords, such as “password” or “1234”
  • Do not choose passwords based upon personal details like your birth date, phone number, or names of children.
  • Don’t use words from the dictionary. Password-cracking tools often use dictionary lists to try thousands of words.
  • Don’t use adjacent keyboard combinations: “qwerty” and “asdzxc” and “123456” are trivial for a hacker to guess.
  • Avoid using the same password for multiple logins.
  • Don’t store your passwords on your computer in plain text – maybe write a clue only you will know if you do need your memory jogged from time to time.
  • Change passwords regularly to make life harder for anyone attempting to steal your data.

Most important of all, never share your computer login details with anyone else – even family or co-workers. If you do so your password is no longer secure, and most companies consider password sharing to be a serious disciplinary offence – not to mention you will be held responsible for any computer misuse if you shared your password!

Digitalquill – Experts in Cyber Security

For more information on keeping your business data secure, call us on 01482 424402 or email office@digitalquill.co.uk.

 

 

malware

A clearer picture is merging of the effect of the Spectre/Meltdown vulnerability patches on PCs.

meltdownWhat are Meltdown and Spectre?

Meltdown and Spectre are two security flaws that exploit critical vulnerabilities in almost all modern processors. These vulnerabilities in the hardware potentially allow malicious programs to steal data that is being processed by the computer. While programs are normally not permitted to read such data, a malicious program could exploit the Meltdown or Spectre vulnerabilities to acquire information stored in the memory by other programs. This could include passwords (even from a password manager). Meltdown and Spectre affect personal computers, tablets and mobile phones, and some cloud services.

Meltdown

Meltdown breaks down the fundamental isolation between “user applications” and the basic operating system functions. The attack allows a program to gain access to the memory, and thus also the data, of other programs and even the operating system itself.

If your PC has a vulnerable processor and is not patched with the latest operating system and hardware updates, it is unsafe to work with sensitive information – you could have the information stolen. This applies personal computers and also cloud infrastructure. Software patches against Meltdown have been written and pushed out to computers in the past few weeks.

Spectre

Spectre, like Meltdown breaks the isolation between processes the computer is running – this time between applications. It allows a potential attacker to trick programs into leaking their secrets – even those that have been written with best-practice security practices. In fact, the safety checks of the best practices actually increase the potential for attack.

Spectre is far harder to than Meltdown to exploit, but also harder to mitigate against. It is possible to prevent specific exploits through software patches.

How Will the Meltdown and Spectre Patches affect my Computer’s Speed?

After being patched, Windows PCs take a performance hit in some operations: PC World US’s Gordon Mah Ung performed some tests and saw storage throughput speed drop on his Surface Book after the firmware patches were in place.

“Sequential read and write performance doesn’t change much, But 4K performance ain’t pretty. While read performance was similar, the 4k write performance dropped by about 26 percent. 4K read and write  operations with high queue depth took a performance hit of 40 percent.”

–PC World, “Here’s how much the Meltdown and Spectre fix hurt my Surface Book performance” January 13, 2018

Frequent reboots issue:

Another potential problem, not related to performance, has been found. Intel said that both Haswell and Broadwell chips have had issues with reboots: “We have received reports from customers of higher system reboots after firmware updates. Specifically, these systems run Intel Broadwell and Haswell CPUs.”

 

Digitalquill – Experts in IT Security

No matter if you are concerned about a performance drop after installing the Spectre and Meltdown updates, one thing is certain: YOU MUST UPDATE YOUR SECURITY SOFTWARE AND INSTALLE ALL OPERATING SYSTEM SECURITY PATCHES. Do not delay this action, as now the vulnerabilities are known, hackers will be working to exploit them. If you are not sure how to upgrade your software, of your computer is now too slow and needs attention, call our Hull IT Support Team today to find out how to sign up for our affordable IT Support solutions.