The little things that make a big difference

Microsoft’s latest Windows 11 update has dropped, and it’s got a small change that could make a big difference to you and your team.

Microsoft has given Copilot, its handy AI assistant, a new place on the taskbar. No more hunting around for the button. Now it sits on the far right of the taskbar, in what we tech folks call the ‘system tray area’.

If Copilot isn’t your thing, no worries. You can easily remove it from the taskbar altogether. But having an AI assistant at your fingertips can be a real boost for productivity, so we’d recommend you give it a chance before giving it the boot.

Before you rush to check if your Copilot button has relocated, let’s talk details.

First off, this update has been rolling out over the last few weeks.

It’s known as Patch KB5034765 (catchy name) and isn’t just about moving buttons around. It’s also packed with important security and bug fixes, including a crucial one for Explorer.exe. This was causing some PCs to freeze up when restarting with a game controller attached.

Probably not an issue in your business, but you never know…

There was also a problem with slow announcements from Narrator, the screen reading tool. That’s been fixed.

While this Windows 11 update may seem like small fry, it’s these little tweaks that can really streamline your workflow and stop your team from being interrupted by problems while they work.

Has your business switched over to Windows 11 yet? Our team can look at your setup and advise whether you’d benefit from upgrading, or you should stay on Windows 10.

Get in touch and ask us for a tech audit.

And the award for most common phishing scam goes to…

 

If there’s one thing that’s 100% certain when it comes to protecting your business data, it’s that you need to be aware of phishing emails.

First things first, what exactly is a phishing email? Picture it as a wolf in sheep’s clothing, posing as a legitimate communication to deceive unsuspecting recipients. These emails often contain malicious links, attachments, or requests for sensitive data, all disguised as a business or person you already know and trust.

And you know what they say: Knowledge is power. One of the best ways to stay safe is to stay informed. We can do that by looking at the most common phishing emails of last year.

There are three main categories of phishing themes: Major, moderate, and minor.

Major themes

 The biggest category is finance-related phishing emails, making up a huge 54% of attacks. These emails often contain pretend invoices or payment requests, aiming to lure recipients into giving away financial information.

Following closely are notification phishing emails, making up 35% of attacks. These emails prey on urgency, claiming your password is about to expire or you must take some urgent action.

Moderate themes

Document and voicemail scams take center stage here, accounting for 38% and 25% of attacks respectively. These tactics involve deceptive files or messages designed to trick you into compromising your security.

Minor themes

While less common, minor phishing themes still pose a risk to people who don’t know what to look out for. These include emails related to benefits, taxes, job applications, and property.

Why should you be concerned about phishing emails? Falling victim to these scams can have serious consequences, including financial loss, data breaches, and damage to your company’s reputation. It’s essential to educate your employees about the dangers of phishing and put in place robust cyber security measures to protect your business.

Awareness and vigilance are your best defenses against phishing attacks. By staying informed, training your employees, and using strong security protocols, you can safeguard your company’s valuable assets from cyber threats.

We help businesses like yours stay safe. If you’re not 100% sure you’re fully protected… let’s talk.

Before you replace your slow PCs…

You rely on your team to be efficient and productive. But slow and sluggish computers can make it difficult for them to do their work – and could affect you personally too. Which impacts your business’s overall performance.

Before you jump to the (expensive) conclusion that you need to replace your PCs, there are several ways you can increase computer performance on Windows 10 and 11.

Here are just a few…

Restart your computer

Yes, it might be our favorite advice as IT support professionals, but a basic shutdown and restart can work wonders. Restarting your computer clears background processes, applications, and memory data. This often resolves common performance issues, especially if your computer has been running for a while.

Manage startup apps

Many apps register themselves to start automatically with Windows 11, and this can slow down your computer’s startup process. To regain some speed, consider disabling unnecessary startup apps:

— Open Settings
— Click on Apps
— Select the Startup page
— Sort apps by their “Startup impact”
— Turn off the toggle switch for any unnecessary apps
— Restart your computer

This will prevent these apps from launching automatically during startup and save valuable system resources.

Disable restartable apps

Windows 11 has a feature that saves and restarts certain applications when you reboot your computer. While it can be convenient, it may not be ideal for performance. To turn off this feature:

— Open Settings
— Click on Accounts
— Go to the Sign-in options page
— Turn off the “Automatically save my restartable apps and restart them when I sign back in” toggle switch

Disabling this feature can help improve your computer’s speed, especially if you have many applications that you don’t use regularly.

Uninstall unnecessary apps

Unused or unnecessary apps can clutter your system and slow it down. To remove them:

— Open Settings
— Click on Apps
— Select the Installed apps page
— Choose the app you want to uninstall and click the Uninstall option
— Follow the on-screen directions if necessary

By removing apps you don’t need, you’ll free up space and resources for better performance.

Always be cautious about what software you install on your computer. Poorly designed or outdated applications can have a negative impact on performance. Stick to reputable apps (preferably those available in the Microsoft Store) because they have thorough reviews for both security and performance.

Before installing any software, do some online research to check for user experiences and potential issues. Trustworthy sources and well-known companies are your best bet.

Take the time to optimize your existing Windows computers before you consider upgrading your devices. Of course, rather than doing all of this yourself, why not get our team to do it for you. They can check every aspect of your computers and network to look for other hidden problems. Get in touch.

Which ransomware payment option is best? (Hint: none)


Picture this: Your business gets hit by a ransomware attack, and your valuable data is locked away by cyber criminals demanding a huge ransom fee.

You can’t afford to pay it. But there’s a twist – just like those “buy now, pay later” schemes, some ransomware gangs are offering victims payment extension options.

Recent research reveals that ransomware groups are getting creative with their extortion strategies. One group is even offering victims various choices when it comes to their ransom demands. These “choices” include:

Paying to delay the publication of their stolen data, with a standard fee of $10,000… or paying to have their stolen data deleted before it’s made public.

The exact amounts charged are often negotiated with victims, adding a chilling dimension to the whole ordeal.

To increase the pressure on victims, these ransomware groups have added some terrifying features to their web sites. These include countdown timers displaying how much time businesses have before their data is released, view counters, and even tags revealing the victim’s identity and description.

It’s all designed to make victims feel cornered and more likely to give in to the demands.

You might be tempted to pay that ransom to protect your business data. Not so fast. Paying is always a bad idea and here’s why…

Paying doesn’t guarantee that you’ll get your data back or that the cyber criminals won’t demand more money later.

By paying, you’re essentially funding criminal activities, encouraging them to continue their attacks on others.

Paying a ransom might even get you into legal trouble, as some governments have made it illegal to pay cyber criminals.

So, what can you do to safeguard your business from falling victim to ransomware?

  • Ensure you have regular, secure backups of your data. This way, you won’t be at the mercy of cyber criminals.
  • Educate your staff about the risks of ransomware and train them to recognize phishing emails and suspicious links.
  • Invest in robust cyber security software and keep it up to date.
  • Keep your systems and software updated with the latest security patches.
  • Segment your network to limit the spread of ransomware if one device gets infected.
  • Develop a clear incident response plan, so you know exactly what to do if you’re ever hit by a ransomware attack.

Paying cyber criminals rarely makes things better, and we’re seeing businesses that do pay become targets time and time again. Instead, invest in the proactive measures above to help you stay secure. And if we can help you with that, get in touch.

Bridging the trust gap between your employees and AI

You’ve probably been considering how to harness the potential of AI to boost your company’s efficiency and productivity.

But there’s a small problem. A recent study revealed something fascinating but not entirely surprising: A trust gap when it comes to AI in the workplace.

While you see AI as a fantastic opportunity for business transformation, your employees might be skeptical and even worried about their job security.

Here’s a snapshot of the findings:

62% of C-suite executives welcome AI, but only 52% of employees share the same enthusiasm.
23% of employees doubt their company’s commitment to employee interests when implementing AI.
However, 70% of business leaders believe that AI should include human review and intervention, showing they view AI as an assistant rather than a replacement.
Now that we understand the situation, how can you introduce AI gently and reassure your employees that their roles are safe?

Start by having open and honest conversations with your employees. Explain why you’re introducing AI and how it will benefit both the company and individual roles. Show them that AI is meant to be a helping hand, not a jobs terminator.

Invest in training that helps your people acquire the skills they need to work alongside AI. Make them feel empowered by showing that it can make their jobs more interesting and valuable.

Emphasize that your AI initiatives are designed to enhance human capabilities, not replace them. Let your team know that it will handle repetitive tasks, allowing them to focus on more creative and strategic aspects of their work.

Develop clear guidelines for responsible AI use in your business. Highlight your commitment to ethical practices and ensure that employees are aware of these policies.

Involve your employees in the implementation process. Seek their input, listen to their concerns, and make them part of the solution. This shows that you value their contributions.

Encourage a culture of continuous learning. Let your employees know that they’ll have opportunities for ongoing education and development, ensuring they stay relevant and valuable in the AI-driven workplace.

Introducing AI into your workplace doesn’t have to be a cause for concern among your employees. AI is a tool for growth and innovation, not a threat to job security.

If we can help you introduce the right AI tools in the right way, get in touch.

Don’t think your business is a target? Think again

You might think that cyber criminals are only interested in large companies or those with huge financial assets. After all, that’s where the big bucks are, right?

Think again.

Recent reports have shown that cyber criminals are casting their nets wide, targeting businesses of all sizes, from mom-and-pop stores to global enterprises. And they’re doing it with the help of something called “botnets.”

You may have heard about the rise of malicious botnets, and you’re probably wondering, “what on earth is a botnet, and why should I care?” Botnets are the secret weapons of cyber criminals. They’re armies of compromised devices, all under the control of a single, malicious puppeteer. These can be anything from your computer to your smart refrigerator. Yes, even your refrigerator can be turned into a cyber weapon.

A new report observed “massive spikes” in the activity of these botnets, with over a million devices involved in malicious activities at one point. To put it into perspective, that’s a hundred times the usual levels of botnet activity.

Usually, there are around 10,000 devices doing naughty stuff each day, with 20,000 being the highest number researchers had seen. But in December 2023, things got crazy. The number shot up to 35,144, and two weeks later, it rose even further to 43,194. That’s a lot of compromised devices.

And it didn’t stop there; the researchers saw the biggest spike yet, hitting a whopping 143,957 distinct devices being used at the same time. In fact, on January 5 and 6 there were spikes of more than a million devices!

Why are they doing this? These botnets are being used to scan the internet, searching for weaknesses in websites, servers, and even email systems.

Think of the internet as a fortress with many doors and windows. These cyber criminals are looking for unlocked doors and open windows to sneak in. They focus on specific “ports” that serve as entry points.

What can you do to protect yourself from these cyber threats?

It’s all about strengthening those doors and windows. Here are a few simple steps:

-Keep your software, operating systems, and applications up-to-date. Regular updates often fix vulnerabilities.
-Install a good firewall and reliable antivirus software to protect your devices.
-Educate your employees about cyber security best practices, such as avoiding suspicious links and emails.
-Enforce strong, unique passwords for all your accounts and devices.
-Regularly back up your data to prevent loss in case of a cyber attack.
-Keep an eye on your network for any unusual activity.
-Consider hiring a cyber security expert (that’s us) to assess and enhance your security measures.

If we can help you keep your business better protected, get in touch.

This new search feature in Edge is a revolution

Microsoft’s at it again, presenting us with new features week after week. This time it’s all about making our online searches smarter and more efficient in the Edge browser. If you’ve been on the fence about switching to it, this might just be the push you need.

Edge has a cool new feature, as revealed by Mikhail Parakhin, CEO of Advertising and Web Services at Microsoft. Imagine this: you’re searching for something important for your business – maybe it’s market research or the latest trends in your industry. You type in your query, and you get results from not one but two search engines at the same time.

How does it work?

Let’s break it down. Say Bing is your default search engine. Now, when you hit the search icon, you won’t just see Bing’s results, you’ll also get a peek at what Google (or your alternative search engine of choice) has to offer. This dual view works both ways, ensuring you’re not missing out on any valuable information.

In business, information is gold. Having access to comprehensive search results means you’re more likely to find the most relevant, diverse, and valuable information. No more switching between browsers or tabs to compare search results – Edge now does that for you in a single view.

Some people have raised concerns about potential visual clutter from combining two engines’ results. It’s a valid point, and thankfully, Microsoft is listening. Parakhin hinted at the possibility of customizing your ‘backup’ search engine to streamline the experience. While the sidebar’s width is currently fixed, there’s an openness to explore deeper customization options soon.

This feature in Edge is quite a lure. It simplifies the task of searching, making research quicker and more effective. You get the best of both worlds without the hassle of juggling multiple windows.

And it’s more than just a convenience; it’s a step towards smarter, more efficient browsing, especially for us in the business community. It demonstrates Microsoft’s commitment to improving user experience and staying competitive in the browser game.

For current Edge fans, this is an exciting upgrade. For everyone else, it’s a compelling reason to consider making the switch.

Need a hand finding time-saving tools for your business? Get in touch.

Here’s what’s in store for the last ever Windows ‘Moments’ update

Microsoft is soon going to release its latest update for Windows 11, known as “Moment 5” or the “February 24 Moment.” This update is expected to start rolling out in the next few weeks and it comes with some noteworthy changes that you’ll want to keep an eye on.

But first, let’s address one thing: After this update, Microsoft is going back to its roots with annual updates for Windows 11.

What does that mean for you? Well, it means you can expect more stability and fewer major overhauls to your operating system. It’s time to bid farewell to those frequent “moment” updates and embrace a more predictable schedule.

Now, let’s dive into what Moment 5 has in store for us…

One of the standout features of this update is the enhancement of Windows 11’s built-in accessibility features. Microsoft is improving the user experience for those who rely on these.

Voice Access now supports multiple monitors and additional languages. It introduces “voice shortcuts” for custom voice-activated commands. Narrator gains the ability to preview new natural voices and works alongside voice access for various tasks.

One notable change is the ability to write directly into text boxes using a stylus across the operating system. This feature streamlines the use of digital pens, eliminating the need for a dedicated handwriting panel.

For the first time ever, Microsoft is making some in-box apps uninstallable. Apps like Edge, Camera, and Photos can be removed if you don’t intend to use them.

Microsoft is also making the Windows Search pane more flexible. This update allows third-party search providers like Google or Yahoo to create plugins for the Windows Search pane. So, if you prefer another search engine over Bing (and let’s face it, many of us do), you’ll have the option to switch.

The Nearby Share feature (it’s like Apple’s AirDrop) gets a boost with “friendly name” support. You can give your PC a more readable name, making file sharing more user-friendly. Additionally, Windows Spotlight, which displays Bing’s background of the day, will become the default wallpaper setting.

Copilot is getting better. It can now be “undocked,” making it more versatile and accessible. You’ll also find the Copilot interface in the Windows ALT+TAB menu for quick and easy access.

And Microsoft is making changes to the Widgets Board. You’ll be able to disable Microsoft News integration, allowing for a widget-only layout if you prefer not to have news headlines in your Widgets Board. Plus, third-party news services can build plugins to integrate with the Widgets Board, providing more options for users.

Notepad will include a character count feature and an “Edit with Notepad” shortcut in context menus for select file types.

In a nutshell, Moment 5 brings a host of improvements and enhancements to Windows 11, making it more accessible, user-friendly, and versatile.

For business owners, these updates can improve productivity and streamline workflows for you and your team. If you haven’t already made the move to Windows 11, now’s the time! We can help you with that – get in touch.

Microsoft wants you to pay for updates

Microsoft has announced that starting on October 14, 2025, they will no longer provide free support and security updates for Windows 10.

While the idea of paying for updates might raise some eyebrows, let’s put this into perspective. By 2025, Windows 10 will be a decade old, and Microsoft is likely to have introduced Windows 12. And as we know, Windows 11 is available today.

Supporting multiple old operating systems can be quite a handful, even for a tech giant like Microsoft.

2025 may seem like a way off, but it’s a good idea to start weighing up your options now. Here they are:

Option 1: Upgrade to Windows 11

Microsoft’s preferred option is for you to switch to Windows 11. It’s got some fantastic features and free updates until its end of life.

Option 2: Stick with Windows 10 and pay

You can choose to stay with Windows 10, but you’ll need to pay for security updates (no new features, though). The exact cost isn’t known yet. It’ll likely be a subscription for monthly updates.

Option 3: Stick with Windows 10 and don’t update it

Sure, you can continue using Windows 10 without paying, but this isn’t advisable. Without updates, your business’s PCs will become vulnerable to threats and security issues. And without Microsoft’s support to fix problems, even tech experts like us have nowhere to go for help. Please don’t take this option!

You’ve got until October 2025 to decide, so there’s no rush. But if you want your business to thrive this year, we’d highly recommend upgrading to Windows 11 sooner than later. You’ll immediately benefit from some features that could improve your processes and make your team’s jobs easier.

If you’re considering the move to Windows 11, or exploring other options, we’re here to help make the transition smooth and hassle-free. Get in touch.

Are you ready for next-gen email security? (YES!)

Google has unleashed a powerful new tool to make your Gmail inbox a safer and spam-free haven, and it’s called RETVec.

But what exactly is RETVec?

Well, let’s break it down in simple terms. RETVec stands for Resilient and Efficient Text Vectorizer. Fancy. In plain English, it’s a tool that makes Gmail even better at spotting annoying spam emails that try to sneak into your inbox.

Did you know that the people behind spam emails can be very smart to try to avoid detection? Some use invisible characters, something called LEET substitution (like “3xpl4in3d” instead of “explained”), and intentional typos to get past our defenses. But RETVec is trained to be resilient against all these tricks.

Google explains it as mapping words or phrases to real numbers and then using these numbers for further analysis, predictions, and figuring out word similarities. In short, it’s like giving Gmail a supercharged spam radar.

How does this benefit you? Gmail’s spam detection rate shot up by an impressive 38% with RETVec on the scene. Plus, Gmail’s false positive rate dropped by nearly a fifth (that’s 19.4% fewer false alarms).

I know that some of you might be wondering if there’s a catch. Well, there’s a tiny caveat you should be aware of, especially if your business sends promotional emails.

With RETVec’s increased vigilance, some legitimate emails might get caught in the crossfire. It’s a good idea to keep an eye on your email analytics to ensure your messages reach their intended recipients.

RETVec isn’t just about better security. It’s more efficient too. Google reports that the Tensor Processing Unit (TPU) usage of the model dropped by a whopping 83%. Smaller models mean reduced computational costs and faster delivery, which is a game-changer for large-scale applications and on-device models. So, it’s a win-win situation.

Spam is a go-to weapon for cyber criminals and now RETVec can help keep us better protected. It blocks malicious emails, keeping our data safe and our inboxes clutter-free.

If you don’t use Gmail, don’t feel too left out. It’s likely we’ll see other email providers including Microsoft bringing similar protection in the future.

In the meantime, if you’d like us to review your business’s email security, get in touch.