About Rob Lucas MSc MBCS GDPR(F)

Has been working as a consultant in IT for over 20 years and worked as a software developer, managing networks and providing IT Support and a lecturer in computer science.

Latest Email Scam – Sextortion

We have received many reports from customers who have received emails claiming that a cyber criminal has hacked their PC and gained footage from their webcam of explicit sexual acts. They threaten that unless they pay $xxxx (usually in Bitcoin currency) that they will leak this video onto the Internet and activate malware that they have installed on their PC.

Furthermore, In the email subject line you may also note that they have included a previously used password from a website that the user has accessed, this is to further strengthen your belief that this is real and solidify their attack on you.

First, we want to reassure everyone these are hoax, Phishing emails, designed to get you to part with your cash and create fear to make you engage in a knee-jerk reaction to what seems to be a terrifying attack on your privacy.

How to stay safe

Here are a few tips on what to do:

  • Never pay anyone in Bitcoin or react (or interact) with a scammer.
  • Never click a link or open an attachment to scam emails demanding a ransom.
  • Always use complex passwords for the sites you use, especially ones with personal identifiable and sensitive information (i.e. Social Media, Banks, Shopping Sites, etc.)
  • Only access sites that are secure (with the padlock and starting with https://)
  • Never reply to a scam email.
  • If you think your password has been compromised in anyway, change it.
  • If you have gone too far and divulged your bank or card details to a scam email or rogue website, then you must inform the bank immediately.

If you want to know more about how to stay safe online please visit https://takefive-stopfraud.org.uk/

If you have been a victim of fraud then report it to Action Fraud by calling 0300 123 2040 or visit https://www.actionfraud.police.uk/reporting-fraud-and-cyber-crime

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Our GDPR Compliance Project

The General Data Protection Regulations is coming - are you ready?

Protecting our customers’ data is a high priority for us here at RLS Computer Services. With the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) coming into effect in May 2018, we see this as an opportunity to strengthen our commitment in the area of data security.

What is the GDPR?

In the UK, the Data Protection Act 1998 (DPA) is a law introduced to protect personal data stored on computers or in an organisation filing systems. Its purpose was to control the way information is handled and gave people “Data Subjects” legal rights over the purpose, lawfulness, accuracy, period and what information was held about them.

Since the birth of the DPA, technology has moved on dramatically. Social media, Internet presence, mobile technology and CCTV have all emerged and grown and the act is long overdue an overhaul.

Enter, The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which comes into force 25 May 2018, the new law applies to data processing carried out by organisations operating within the European Union (EU), It also applies to organisations outside the EU that offer goods or services to individuals in the EU. The government has already decided that “Brexit”, will not affect the commencement of the new law, in fact we “may” also see introduced on the same day the UK’s Data Protection Bill, as the Data Protection Act 2018, effectively implementing the GDPR into UK law.

So simply put, GDPR, and the forthcoming Data Protection Act 2018, expand the privacy rights granted to data subjects (EU/EEA individuals) and place greater obligations on organisations who handle personal data of those individuals (data controllers and processors), wherever those organisations are based.

What we’re doing to comply with GDPR?

The task of compliance can be long and complex, so we have taken steps to make changes to our policies, procedures and systems to ensure that we comply with the Regulation and continue to put data protection first.

Some of the steps we have taken and are taking include:

  • mapping all data handled by us and our suppliers
  • analysing GDPR requirements against our current processes and policies
  • making changes to our policies and procedures in line with requirements
  • making appropriate changes to our software tools and services
  • making sure our suppliers (“Processors”) are also compliant
  • reviewing and updating contracts, as and where appropriate
  • training all staff on the requirements of GDPR and our data privacy procedures.

But be assured, Organisations must ensure that they are compliant with the provisions of the new regulations when it comes into force, however the requirement to be compliant doesn’t end on 25 May. While there are a tick list of things to be done, our approach is not only to become compliant, but also reach beyond and gain certification in cyber security which will in turn assure our customers of compliance with our implementation to “Privacy by design and default”. This means we will implement technical and organisational measures to provide customers assurance of our security standards .

We hope to have all our policies and procedures in place before the 25 May and will keep you posted on our developments.

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CyberSecurity – Top Tips

We at RLS Computer Services take cyber-security very seriously and don’t wish our customers to be a victim of fraud.

To help keep yourself safe from fraudsters by reducing their chances of getting hold of your information, we have put together some top tips for you.

  • When using Internet banking or any online service, never share  One Time Passcode (OTP), passwords, security codes or any other form of security information with another person. Not even an employee of that company.
  • Never download software or let anyone log on to your computer or other devices remotely following or during a cold call.
  • Never enter your Internet banking details after clicking on a link in an email or text message.
  • Never follow a telephone instruction asking you to press keys on your keyboard, or run any programmes from a cold caller.
  • Never visit a website given to you by a cold caller, it might contain malware.
  • If you are ever unsure, we urge you to take your time, don’t be rushed. A genuine organisation will never rush you to take action on your account.

To illustrate the point of security and fraud please take the time to watch this witty but to the point video.

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Intel, ARM and AMD CPU Security Issue

Nearly all computers worldwide – and many other devices – have been exposed to security flaws which leave them vulnerable to attacks by hackers.

As such we felt it important to warn customers that updates will be rolled out to our business customers computers as soon as they are made available. Home users are advised to contact us to update their computers.

Please be advised, this applies NOT just to Windows computer devices but also Apple iPad, iPhones, etc.; Android tablets & phones as well as some other devices like set-top TV boxes.

You can read more here on this BBC article (posted: 4th January 2018) http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-42562303 you can also watch this video explainer to help you get a better picture of the overall problem.

 

 

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SMS Messages Not Opening in Outlook 2016

If you are use to opening SMS messages in Outlook and find them not working, this post will explain why.

If you have switched the facility on in your email app on your Android phone to sync SMS messages so that you can open them in Outlook then suddenly found you can’t, this is because Microsoft have removed the facility of opening them in Outlook 2016. You can still see the text but not open them, as a workaround you can open them in OWA (Outlook Web Access), if you absolutely need too.

Our advice is, as you can see/read the text and see the number that sent them, I wouldn’t worry about it too much and this should be enough for most users.

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Data Retention Policies

What is a Backup Retention Policy?

A Backup Retention Policy governs the time that you keep backed up data, with it you would also consider the archive rules, format, method of storage, access policy and encryption. All of which must be documented for legal and privacy reasons under the DPA (including the new GDPR).

The most common retention policy used by most IT professionals is the Grandfather–Father–Son method for maintaining a period of tiered restore points. This method is a rotation scheme whereby a daily backup (the son), a weekly backup (the father) and a monthly backup (the grandfather) are created to maintain a good backup strategy.

Simply put, each week the backup from the last 7-days (daily backup) is aggregated into 1 backup called the son and is held as the weekly backup. Each 4-weekly is then aggregated from a son to a father and is held as the monthly backup and finally the last 6 months is then aggregated from a father into a grandfather and becomes the last 6-months backup. This process can vary depending on your retention policy, your legal requirements for completing data backups and how often you implement a backup (i.e. hourly vs. daily or monthly vs. 6-monthly).

For legal purposes in building your retention policy you need to consider what the impact would be if you needed to recover lost data and over what period. If for example your backup policy was:

  • Daily backups – 7 days
  • Weekly backups – 4 weeks
  • Monthly backups – 6 Months

This would mean that for an initial loss of data that was immediately recognised by a user you would resort back to the previous day, if however, the mistake wasn’t immediately acknowledged, and it was a couple of weeks later you would resort to looking through weekly logs for the missing file and if the issue didn’t manifest a good few months later you would have to restore to searching in the last 6-months log for the file. However, you now need to consider if this is both acceptable for your business and for the data subject. It could be that the impact on business might have a financial cost or it could be that a data subject has put in a SAR (Subject Access Request) which must be complied with within 30-days (under GDPR) and you don’t have the information at hand. Therefore, a policy needs to be clearly drafted considering all scenarios considering the worst-case scenario’s

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OneDrive – Archive vs. Sync Mode

OneDrive is an amazing tool to allow users to access the same files from multiple devices. However, what if you don’t want to sync files to all of these devices but instead you just want to archive a bunch of files off your computer for safe keeping.

This article explains how you can use OneDrive to do just that.

What is OneDrive?

OneDrive is a cloud platform that provides storage space to save photos or documents and then be able to access them from any device, anywhere. You can use your phone, tablet or PC to view, edit and save documents or photos and then be able to continue on from any other device. These files can also be shared with other users and especially users who have Office 365 which can provide a rich real-time collaboration in editing documents very handy if you are working on a joint project.

What is Syncing?

Syncing is the process of uploaded files into the cloud and then have them sync to any other device you have like a phone, PC or tablet. The advantage of this is that your files are always accessible from any device anytime and from anywhere. When you alter, add or delete a file then the same process is echoed to all other devices connected to the cloud service.

 

 

What is Archiving

Archiving is the process of uploading files to your cloud storage service but not enabling synchronisation for that particular folder. The advantage of this is that certain files that you don’t want to be available on all your devices are only kept in the cloud which is handy for large files (i.e. video or audio) and means you have created a nice simple place to store files you want to keep (i.e. legal documents, old photographs)

 

Conclusion

Depending on your requirements you can use OneDrive either as a sync service to provide continuous access to files on all your devices or switch off syncronisation for particular folders that you don’t and instead use those folders as an archive. Remember if you want to access files and folders that you have setup to be “archive” or “Cloud Only” you won’t see them on your PC but instead you would have to login to the cloud service to access them.

See Also:

OneDrive Placeholders is Back!!!

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OneDrive Placeholders is Back!!!

Back in the day of Windows 8 Microsoft introduced a cool feature that allowed users to keep their files stored in the cloud and use the built-in file explorer to see these files and access them without taking up precious storage space. However, when Microsoft released Windows 10 the feature simply disappeared.

Now after a very long wait Microsoft are releasing the Fall Creators Update (Due for worldwide release 17th, October 2017 and officially version 1709 build number 16299) which will include the return of placeholders under the new name “Files On-Demand”.

Placeholders, are a simple concept of storing all your files in the cloud instead of on the device, thus saving storage space on new devices like tablets and mobile devices that utilise small SSD (Solid State Disk) storage that typically hold only gigabytes of data. When the user opens a file it is simply downloaded from the cloud and opened in the appropriate application.

Previously, if you wanted to access your cloud files you had to choose which folders to “sync” to your PC this meant that not all the files you had could be accessed without logging-in to OneDrive web access.

With the new File On-Demand service, you now have three different methods of keeping your files.

Online-only files don’t take up space on your computer. You see a cloud icon for each online-only file in File Explorer, but the file doesn’t download to your device until you open it. You can’t open online-only files when your device isn’t connected to the Internet.

 

When you open an online-only file, it downloads to your device and becomes a locally available file. You can open a locally available file anytime, even without Internet access. If you need more space, you can change the file back to online only. Just right-click the file and select “Free up space.”

Only files that you mark as “Always keep on this device” have the green circle with the white check mark. These files download to your device and take up space, but they’re always there for you even when you’re offline.

 

The new feature has been long awaited for many users of tablets, hybrid tablets and mobiles. You can read more information on the Microsoft website. You can also read more about the Windows 10 Fall Creators Update here.

See Also:

OneDrive – Archive vs. Sync Mode

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What is a Microsoft Account?

Customer’s frequently ask me, “What is my Microsoft Account?”. So I thought I would explain with this simple little post.

A Microsoft Account is the generic name given to ALL Microsoft’s services and is used to access thsose services, so if you have OneDrive, Office365, Hotmail, Microsoft Live, Outllook.com, Skype, or Xbox Live then you have a Microsoft Account.

Now we have got that out of the way, I would like to disperse a few myths about a Microsoft Account:

  • You don’t need to setup a new email address to have a Microsoft Account you can use your own pre-existing email address.
  • The same email address will be used to access all these services, you don’t need to create different account details.
  • Yes Microsoft bought out Skype Inc. So if you have an old Skype account you can merge this with your Microsoft Account and then use your Microsoft Account to login to Skype but you do get to keep your Skype name.

Now for some top tips

  • Always set your security info with a telephone number preferably a mobile so that you can easily unlock your account if you forget your password.
  • Login to https://account.live.com to access your account details, security info, billing, subscriptions, etc.
  • If you own a smartphone consider installing the Microsoft Account Authenticator [Google Play] [Apple App Store]. This app lets you quickly and securely verify your identity online, this way more easier and very simple to setup (see video below)

If you have any questions about how to setup a Microsoft Account or securing it, then comment in the box below.

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Cyber Attacks – What To Do?

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Cyber-attacks are on the rise; so, what can we do to protect our identity and keep our information safe? Read my action To-Do-List to keep yourself safe online and out and about.

it was only last week when Northern Lincolnshire and Goole NHS Foundation Trust suffered a major incident after systems were infected by a computer virus and now this week Tesco Bank suffered a sophisticated attack which saw monies taken from 20,000 of its customers’ accounts.

Here are my recommendations to keeping you safe online and out and about.

General Rules

  • Use a quality anti-virus solution and keep it up to date. There is no point scrimping on security here, an anti-virus application will provide several security benefits including malware protection, firewall and browsing protection.
  • Always use a strong password, which is a critical factor of preventing access to your  information. It doesn’t have to be overly complicated either, simply take this famous pangram “The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog” and ask yourself how many ways can you write just part of this sentence (i.e. “TheQuickBrownFox”, “Th3Qu1ckBr0wnF0x”, or “Th3QBF0x”)? You can use your own sentence and create your own short versions to create your password, there is literally endless possibilities and combinations.
  • Password protect your PC and lock it when you step away, even if you are just visiting the loo.

Safe Browsing

One of the biggest concerns most people have is with safe browsing, but what does that mean? I define it as visiting known websites or searching for information on the Internet. To safely surf the Internet you should follow these simple rules:

  • Never search for a website that you know the address for, always type the fully URL of the website instead of just the name. For example when visiting the BBC website don’t just type “bbc” into a search engine as you are then presented with a mountain of responses to choose from and the first one isn’t always the correct one, instead type “www.bbc.co.uk” which will take you straight to the site.
  • Always use bookmarks for regularly visited websites (i.e. Bank, shopping sites, etc.)
  • Never install browser add-ons, toolbars and extentions when you don’t know what they do, this is one of the major causes of browser hijacking to date.
  • Turn on Pop-up blocker to stop ads and unwanted browser activity and selectively allow only those sites who need them (i.e. your bank might sometimes pop-up a window to present your latest bank statement).

Out and About

Cyber security isn’t just about what you do at home and work on your computers, it is also about what you do when you are out shopping, visiting friends and using your mobile devices. Here are my recommendations to reducing your chances of being cyber attacked when you’re out and about.

  • Check that cash machines haven’t been tampered with, credit card fraud can happen if a criminal has skimmed your card directly from a machine that has been altered to read your card and capture your PIN.
  • Always make sure no one can see your PIN number when typing it in, this should always be observed in shops and cash machines. Don’t be afraid to ask people to step back if they are too close.
  • Lock you mobile devices with a PIN in case you loose it and enable track and trace.
  • Don’t keep PIN numbers written down and if you absolutely have to don’t keep them in the same place as your cards.
  • Never let your card out of your sight, even at your friendly supermarket
  • If someone asks to use your mobile phone in an emergency just ask for the name of the person they want to call and the number and call it yourself, only handover the handset once you are assured you are dialling a legitimate number and talking to real person.

My last piece of advice I want to share with you is this, DATA is KING, after all cyber crimes are not just about stealing your money, it’s about stealing your information and the more detailed the information the better. So we must back it up and back it up with a quality backup solution. It is admiral to watch someone backup their data to a USB pen drive or external hard drive only to then loose it or break it. If you get hit with ransomware, lose your mobile device or simply delete your data (accidentally or by malware) the chances of recovery has been increased significantly when correctly backing up your data.

Further Reading

For more help with securing your IT systems, why don’t you give us a call on 0844 334 2020 or email support@rlscomputers.co.uk

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