Read this to avoid phishing scams

Phishing scams are one of the biggest security threats to your business right now.

A massive 83% of organisations said they suffered successful attacks last year. And with just under a third of phishing emails being opened, the chances that someone in your business will be fooled are high.

But to make matters more difficult, cyber criminals have borrowed a technique from ransomware groups that is designed to panic people into taking action and giving away their login details.

This new kind of phishing attack begins like most others.

You get an email alerting you to potentially suspicious activity on your account. It might say someone is trying to login from a different location or device and the attempt has been blocked.

You’re then asked to click a link to verify your email address and password.

That’s worrying enough, right?

But what makes this phishing attack even more dangerous, is the countdown timer that appears on screen.

Typically, it’s set at one hour, and you’re asked to confirm your details before the countdown ends, otherwise your account will be deleted.

Yes, deleted! That catches a lot of people’s attention.

This is a powerful manipulation tactic designed to scare people into taking immediate action – and think later.

In reality, if that countdown hits zero nothing will happen. But watching the seconds count down can give you a sense of urgency that makes you forget to check whether an email is the real deal or not.

The page you’re entering your details on is fake. Criminals will steal your details and login to your real account. That’s a major problem you don’t ever want your business to face.

You’ll be at risk of data theft, financial loss, or malware, as well as potentially putting other accounts at risk (if you’ve reused your password).

Your login details may even be sold on the dark web, giving other cyber criminals the opportunity to break into your account.

Here are some basic phishing protections for you and your team.

Look at the email address the email was sent from. Make sure the spelling and grammar are both correct, and hover over links to see what website address they are trying to send you to.

If you think you’ve fallen for this kind of scam, it’s important you change your login details immediately. Don’t click a link in an email – type in the website address in your browser.

We’d also recommend using a password manager. This is software that creates long and strong random passwords that are impossible to guess for every account you have.

It will store these passwords for you. And autofill login boxes to save you time (yes, password managers detect when they’re being asked to fill in details on a different page, such as a fake phishing page).

Share this article with your whole team right now. And if anyone ever clicks a link they’re not sure about, ask us how to keep your business safe.

Windows 10 is getting a very useful Windows 11 feature


There’s no denying the Windows 11 has a lot of really cool new features.

If you haven’t made the move from Windows 10 yet, you’re missing out.

But there’s good news. To make the (eventual) move from Windows 10 to 11 a little easier, Microsoft is sharing a couple of 11’s most useful features.

The first should make printing a little easier. We can hear your cheers from here! Anything that makes printing easier is OK in our book too. Printers don’t have a terrible reputation for nothing…

This feature makes printing PIN-protected. That means when you want to print a document, you’ll send it off to the printer – but it’ll only print when you’ve reached the printer and entered your PIN.

This removes the risk of you printing something confidential and leaving it on the printer for everyone to see.

Or accidentally printing several copies of the same document. Yes, this will reduce paper waste.

And that’s not all…

There’s a second really useful feature coming over to Windows 10. It’s called Focus Assist and works alongside do not disturb.

Switching on do not disturb is great when you want a little uninterrupted time to finish a task or do some research. But if you use it a lot, you might miss a notification that you really needed to see.

Focus Assist stops that from happening. You use it alongside do not disturb and it still allows important and time-sensitive notifications and messages to reach you.

These features have been in testing since June this year. There’s still no date for when they’ll be released to everyone with Windows 10. But they’re on their way.

If you can’t wait to try more of the time saving and productivity boosting features that Windows 11 has to offer, give us a call to see how we can help you make the switch.

Is working from home really good for your business?


Working from home. Or remote working, as it’s now called.

It’s the big thing in business, isn’t it? And some people love it.

They’re happier working where they want, and when they want. And that makes them more productive and less likely to leave.

But have you stopped to consider the downside to remote working? The negative elements for your business and your people?

While many employees are happy to work from home using video calls and collaborative software to stay connected, there’s a small percentage who find the whole experience isolating.

And when that happens, it can quickly lead to a drop in motivation and happiness. It can even change the culture within your business.

In turn, this can lead to performance issues which may be trickier to spot.

At the other extreme, some employees will become more susceptible to burnout as they struggle to draw a line between work and personal time. That change in environment can be so important for some.

And while you want your team to be happy and fulfilled in their roles, there are also some practical considerations you need to make for your business.

Such as the cost of remote working. Does everyone have the right tools for the job – laptops, phones, office equipment? Maybe even a desk and chair, or an internet upgrade?

Do you need to spend twice – giving them an at home setup and investing in hot desks in the office?

Most importantly, you must put in place full cyber security protection wherever someone is working.

Here’s how we can help you stay safe and potentially save money.

Would you like us to audit your current setup and suggest some options? This is what we do every day. Just get in touch.

Microsoft’s taking a responsible leadership position on AI


Microsoft’s decided to retire and rework an AI tool that could not only recognise our facial features, but also identify our mood.

Azure Face is an emotion recognition tool. These are highly criticised by experts who believe they violate human rights.

Microsoft has just published the updated version of its Responsible AI Standard.

It wants AI to be a positive force in the world, and says it recognised Azure Face has the potential to be misused.

It seems like it’s not goodbye for good for the AI facial recognition technology though. Although the public won’t be able to access it, Microsoft sees the value of controlled access for specific needs, such as assistance for the visually impaired.

One thing that has been cut is the AI’s ability to recognise individuals based on their gender, age, hair, and even facial expression. The concern is that the feature could be used by cyber criminals to impersonate individuals and commit fraud.

On top of the Azure Face change, Microsoft’s also limiting which businesses can access its Custom Neural Voice service. This is a text to speech app that’s said to be very lifelike.

In other related news, it’s not the only new step that Microsoft is taking right now to help protect us from fraud and threats.

It’s also adding new features to its email service in Microsoft 365, that improve how something called Tenant Allow Block List works.

Previously, this was a feature that allowed people to block contacts. If a blocked contact tried to email you, the email wouldn’t reach you.

Now, Microsoft is previewing an additional control which also allows you to stop emails being sent to these blocked contacts, too.

It means the threat of being caught out by a phishing scam is reduced, giving you another layer of security as part and parcel of your Microsoft 365 subscription.

With phishing scams becoming increasingly more dangerous, it’s not a moment too soon in our view.

The feature should go into preview soon, and is expected to be available by the end of the month. In the meantime, if you’re concerned about your business’s email security, get in touch.

Ever wondered if your apps are spying on you?


It’s no secret that some applications are a little too interested in us and what we’re doing.

We’ve all had this experience. You might be talking to a friend about a new product that you’d like to try. Or perhaps you’ve discussed somewhere you’d like to visit.

Then the next time you go online you see adverts for the exact things you were talking about.

It’s more than a coincidence, surely???

Until recently, we haven’t had a lot of control over what information our apps are gathering about us.

Android and iOS first stepped up to give us more power over our online privacy. We were given the ability to control which apps could access our data, and sensitive things like our camera and microphone.

But while it’s easy to think of this only being an issue with phones… laptops have the same problems.

So, here’s some great news. Microsoft’s testing a new feature in Windows 11 to put the power back in our hands.

It’s currently testing a new feature – called Privacy Auditing – which allows you to see which applications have been accessing sensitive hardware, like your webcam and microphone.

You’ll also be able to see if your screenshots, messages, and even your contacts and location data have been accessed. And there’s a log of which apps accessed this info, and when.

When launched, the feature will be available in your Privacy & Security menu, under App Permissions.

There you’ll be able to see a full list of what’s been accessed, by which app, and when. It should become your first port of call if you suspect any suspicious activity is taking place on your device.

When the feature is released, it will be a great tool to check periodically to help you avoid malicious activity and to make sure your sensitive data remains in the right hands.

In the meantime, if you’d like someone to look over the data permissions on your business’s devices, get in touch.

Your business is losing hundreds of hours to spam every year


Spam emails. Everyone hates them.

It’s not just the emotional pain of clearing spam from your inbox. Having to do that is a real productivity killer, too.

A recent report found that each one of your employees could be losing up to 80 hours each year, thanks to filtering and deleting spam emails.

That’s a LOT of lost productivity.

Anywhere between 45% and 85% of emails generated each day are spam emails. And worryingly, that also includes malicious emails and those hoping to infect you with malware.

Although we don’t all receive the same number of emails every day, the hours lost to filtering them out adds up.

If one of your employees gets 30 external emails a day, they’d get around 30 spam emails each week. That would work out to around 5 hours each year wasted on sorting through and deleting them.

For an employee who gets up to 60 emails a day, it would be an average of 11 hours a year wasted.

And for someone who gets more than 100 emails each day, you’re looking at around 80 hours of productivity lost to filtering emails each year.

Now add that up for each one of your team and you could be looking at a big number.

Not only that, but since a proportion of these emails will be phishing attempts (that’s where the sender wants you to take an action that will secretly give them access to sensitive data), it’s also a big risk to your data security too.

Of course, there are a few things you can do to cut down the time spent on dealing with spam emails. The first is to make use of the spam and junk email filters available from your email service.

You may also consider bringing in dedicated anti-spam and anti-phishing tools.

Finally, you can make your people aware of the risks of spam, how to spot spam emails, and the best way to deal with it to save time and minimise the risk of malware or a data breach.

If that kind of training is something you’d like some help with, get in touch.

Google Chrome’s going to block disruptive notifications

When you’re browsing it can feel like you’re being bombarded with things other people want you to see.

Not only do we have to click on permissions for cookies and tracking, but now a lot of websites ask for our permission to send us notifications.

And while many of these notifications are harmless – news updates, latest recipes, product releases – sometimes they can be outright spam.

It’s distracting, it’s making us less productive at work, and it’s just really annoying.

It’s called ‘notification spam’ and it’s becoming a problem. In fact, Google says it’s one of the top complaint reports from people using its Chrome browser.

So now the tech giant has decided to do more about it.

Back in October 2020, Google first acted on harmful notifications by exposing websites that misled people into giving permission. It created its own prompts to warn people the website may have malicious intent.

Now, Google intends to take things a step further if it feels the website is ‘abusive’ or ‘disruptive’. It’ll revoke a website’s permission to send notifications, and even block attempts to request permission.

Even if you’ve accidentally allowed a malicious site to send notifications, Chrome will be able to step in and block the alerts.

While it’s not yet clear how Google will define websites as ‘abusive’ or ‘disruptive’, it feels like a good move towards reducing the amount of spam we’re exposed to.

Google has explained that this new feature works to strengthen its ‘Developer Terms of Service’ that pledge not to use the company’s API to send any form of spam. It shouldn’t affect the majority of websites, but instead should go some way to keeping your Chrome notifications spam-free.

Development on Chrome’s notification spam block protection has only just started, so we don’t yet have a release date for the new feature.

As always, if you’d like any further advice on protecting yourself from spam and other productivity killers, get in touch.

Published with permission from Your Tech Updates.

 

Unapproved apps are a security risk for your business

It’s likely a lot of the applications and software tools you’re using now are different from the ones your business used before the pandemic.

That’s because we’ve all had to make big adjustments to the way we communicate and collaborate.

And to begin with, it may have been hit and miss. It’s possible in the first few weeks and months that your employees had to use whatever tools they had available to them.

Now that we’ve settled into permanent new ways of working, we can pick the software tools that best suit our businesses.

Unfortunately, your employees might not like your choice of which apps should be used within the company. And some of them may continue to use the ones they prefer, despite the security risk that comes with that.

A recent survey found a massive 92% of employees want more control over the software, collaboration tools, and applications they use. And 51% continue to use apps that have been banned by IT departments.

It’s putting business owners in a difficult position.

Blocking apps and software may lead to employees feeling untrusted. This can lead to frustration and lack of motivation. It can really have a negative impact on your business.

But ignoring the issue can be just as bad. Unvetted apps can be a big security risk, leaving your data open to theft and your systems vulnerable to malware.

So, what’s the answer?

We’d always suggest having open conversations with your people. It’s a good idea to invite feedback on the software you want to use. After all, your people are the ones using it day-in, day-out.

Take their suggestions on alternatives if the consensus is you’re using the wrong solutions and commit to looking into their viability.

It’s also a very good idea to make sure your people fully understand the risks that come with using unapproved apps, and the impact that can have on a business.

Even in cases where your team are all sticking to approved tools, keeping them educated on the latest cyber security initiatives is a smart move.

Can we help you find the most suitable communication and productivity tools for your business? We’ve helped lots of business owners do this. Get in touch.

Published with permission from Your Tech Updates.

Ways to reduce security threats for remote employees


Remote and hybrid working is now normal for a lot of people.

But a recent survey has found that, despite it being more than two years since many of us were forced to work from home, too many businesses still don’t have the right cyber security measures in place for those away from the office.

The survey was originally intended to learn about spending plans from now into next year. However, the results highlighted just how few businesses have the right cyber security protections.

And it’s a worry.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, cyber security incidents – like malware, ransomware, and data breaches – have risen sharply. Cyber criminals began by taking advantage of the panic, and have since developed increasingly sophisticated tactics.

It’s costing businesses around the world billions, plus causing excessive downtime.

While the survey did show that around two thirds of businesses have good web security measures in place, like malware filters, some of the results were more disappointing.

Just 50% of companies have cloud-based cyber security systems in place right now (another 15% are exploring their options).

Cloud security gives businesses multiple layers of protection across their network and infrastructure that helps to keep data better protected against breaches or attacks.

Not only is it a good defense, but it also identifies threats before they become an issue.

The survey also highlighted that 10% of businesses plan to implement access management, which ensures only the right people can access the right systems.

A further 9% intend to prioritize VPNs (Virtual Private Networks) to allow secure network access for remote workers.

They’re also looking at zero-trust solutions where your network assumes every device or connection is a threat, until proven otherwise.

Of course, our advice is that you should already have these security solutions in place – especially if you have remote or hybrid workers.

If not, this is something to act on quickly. All you need to do is pick up the phone or send us an email. We can help.

Published with permission from Your Tech Updates.

How the chip shortage affects your business


For the past couple of years, the tech world has been struggling with a huge shortage of chips.

But it’s not just tech businesses that are feeling the impact.

So many of the things we use every day contain a chip. Laptops and desktops, sure. But also household appliances, even our cars. It’s hard to find an electric device without a chip.

This shortage has the potential to disrupt our modern lives.

Did you know, it’s been ongoing since 2020 (ah, that year really was a gift, wasn’t it)?

It started during the pandemic as production fell while demand went up.

Other events since have made it worse, including extreme weather, the Ukraine war and a factory fire.

We’re told that increasing chip production isn’t easy. It can take years to build a new factory because of the unique production demands.

Of course, all of this is someone else’s problem. Let’s make it real to you – what does this actually mean for your business?

Essentially it means you need to plan ahead more.

Some of the technology you need to run your business may be in short supply.

As an example, getting large numbers of the same laptop might be difficult, compared to getting just 2 or 3.

And some of the essential devices you rarely think about as they’re in the background, such as network switches, are currently much harder to get.

As you push your business towards increased growth it means planning ahead more than ever before.

Industry experts expect the shortage to last into next year… and it could be even longer.

Would you like to run your growth plans by us, so we can advise what might need to be ordered, when? Get in touch.