Cyber criminals are increasingly using pictures for phishing

Cyber criminals are luring victims to click on images rather than downloading malicious files or clicking on suspicious links.

When you click on it, you don’t go to the real website, instead it is a fake site that is designed to steal your personal information.

Watch out for unexpected emails, particularly for bad spelling and grammar. Also watch out for emails from someone you don’t know and so-called offers that are too good to be true.

Faked branding that isn’t somehow quite right is another giveaway.

To protect your business from these types of scams make sure your staff are up to date on security protection and the latest scams.

Keep your IT and protection measures up to date.

Use strong passwords and limit them only to those who really need to know them.

Regularly back up data.


What is a circular economy?

If you are concerned about the environment and the effects of your business on the planet there is an interesting experiment being carried out in Amsterdam.

It is called the Circular Economy and its aim is to break the link between economic activity and using up the earth’s resources.

Currently being tried out in the clothing industry, where fast fashion has made it one of the most wasteful sectors, it involves reusing, repairing, and sharing materials and products.

Other industries that could become circular are food and organic waste streams, consumer goods, and the built environment.

In seven years’ time Amsterdam plans to have halved its use of new raw materials. By 2050, the ambition is to be fully circular – relying only on used and recycled materials.

It is an ambitious target but definitely one to watch.


Looking for a new laptop?

We came across this review in the Guardian for what looks to be a relatively affordable new laptop.

The Framework Laptop 13 is fixable and upgradeable and installed with Windows 11.

According to the review “the new parts are compatible with older machines. The laptop is thin, light and made of recycled aluminium. It looks and feels premium.”

Its screen has a matt, rather than a gloss, finish, reducing glare and reflections.

“The fixable and upgradeable premium Framework Laptop 13 has been improved all round for 2023 and is packed with small changes that are backwards compatible with older models.”

It has modular ports allowing the user to swap between any combination of USB-4/Thunderbolt 4, USB-A, HDMI, DisplayPort, ethernet, microSD and expandable storage drives.

It also runs cooler and has a higher-capacity battery that stores 11% more energy in the same physical size.

The Framework Laptop 13 is available as a pre-built, ready-to-use machine or in a DIY edition.

According to the reviewer it is “an excellent, adaptable and upgradable marvel suitable for more than just PC enthusiasts.”


January saw a huge collection of security updates

Security patches were issued for patches for iOS, Chrome, Windows, Apple, Firefox and more.

Here’s a short summary but you can find out more on this in Wired here

Apple has released iOS 16.3 along with a new feature that allows you to use security keys as an extra layer of protection for your Apple ID.

Google Chrome has fixed 17 vulnerabilities in the browser and Google Android has posted a number of patches for Android devices in its Android Security Bulletin. It also has fixes for Pixel and Samsung Galaxy devices.

Microsoft has also issued 98 security patches and Software firm Mozilla has released important updates for its Firefox browser, the most serious of which have been the subject of a warning by the US Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA).

There are many more fixes and updates included in the article and for the sake of your business security it is worth doing  thorough review of whatever systems you use.


It is not bosses but in-demand staff who dictate employment conditions

Raj Choudhury, an economist from Harvard Business School, is quoted in a Wired article as arguing that the most sought-after job candidates who end up shaping what our jobs look like.

His most recent deduction is that staff now demand much greater flexibility than ever before.

That means employers will need to be open to the options of hybrid working, remote working and variants and will no longer be able to insist on staff being present in the office at all times if they want to retain them.

While working from home became the norm during the Covid pandemic, staff have noticed the benefits and the desire to continue in this way has therefore not gone away.

The article suggests that “established firms will be presented with the decision of whether to hang on to expensive real estate and slow-to-evolve managers, or to just dash to chase the new trend”.

For more on this:


Very Happy Christmas

..and if you are a small business or sole trader who hasn’t yet tried our support services, why not get in touch in the New Year.

Our tailored support packages will ensure all your IT needs are met and your equipment runs smoothly.

We always provide practical advice that utilises both existing technology and newer developments, so you can make informed decisions and all in plain English.

With a range of investment options from telephone and remote support included in a monthly package giving you a ‘virtual’ IT department, to Pay-as-you-go support for a one off problem or issue, you can be confident in having the right commercial option to give you peace of mind.

Hope to hear from you in the New Year.


Why is sustainability important to your business?

Obviously sustainability is important to the future of the planet but why is it equally important for businesses to demonstrate?

Sustainability in business refers to more than just the environment.  According to the Harvard business school it covers “: the effect a business has on the environment, and the effect a business has on society, with the goal of sustainable practice being to have a positive impact on at least one of those areas “.

The reason it is important for a business to demonstrate its commitment to sustainability is in essence about its ability to recruit.

There has been a good deal of publicity recently about the shortage of suitable candidates.

One of the most important criteria potential candidates are citing when they are looking at businesses and jobs, according to Adobe, is whether and how far the business prioritised sustainability.

Adobe has found that “almost a third of people said they would only work for an employer that prioritised sustainability” while 43% said it would positively impact on productivity.

Clearly if a business is to attract the best candidates, it needs to not simply promote itself as sustainable, it needs to demonstrate how it does this.


Measuring productivity and why it is important

In the current difficult economic climate how well a business is performing may be crucial to survival.

Measuring its productivity is therefore important.

Productivity is the measure of production against efficiency, and it is especially important in an era of remote or flexible working patterns.

According to Opus Energy, 86% of UK SMEs believe productivity is an issue, yet one in five (22%) businesses are not measuring productivity at all.

Measuring productivity is not a straightforward calculation of the numbers of items produced, the cost of production and the number of staff producing the item. That may be relatively straightforward for the manufacture of a product.

However, as an example, “One hour spent on the phone resolving a query from an unhappy customer could be worth a lot more than one new sales call. Why? An unhappy customer can do more damage to your business.

The key to measuring productivity is to set a number of benchmarks against which performance can be assessed.

This includes identifying expected work outputs for each position, defining and measuring tasks not hours worked, setting clear goals for staff and placing values on the quality of work.

There is a useful guide to assessing productivity for SMEs here.


Will the mini budget help your business?

There were several items in the mini budget that the Government claims will help businesses.

They include:

  • 45% higher rate of income tax abolished for England, Wales and Northern Ireland taxpayers
  • One single higher rate of income tax of 40% from April next year
  • Reverse recent rise in National Insurance (NI) from 6 November
  • Cancel UK-wide rise in corporation tax which was due to increase from 19% to 25% in April 2023
  • IR35 rules – the rules which govern off-payroll working – to be simplified
  • Annual investment allowance, the amount companies can invest tax free, remains at £1m indefinitely
  • New and start-up companies able to raise up to £250,000 under scheme giving tax relief to investors
  • Setting up investment zones with 38 local areas in England

It has been argued that most of these measures will help those at the top end of the economy, but the government expects the benefits to “trickle down” to the rest of the economy.

Only time will tell whether it will work.


Use of spyware has been rocketing across Europe

Commercially produced spyware has been used increasingly to target businesses and organisations across Europe.

That is not to say that UK businesses are safe, especially those that trade within Europe.

It is used to gain access to phones, emails and records for a variety of purposes from targeting individuals to gaining access to sensitive business or political information.

It makes sense to ensure all security protocols are up to date and to limit access to information on phones and in emails.

Using two factor authentication for passwords and keeping sensitive information offline are obvious precautionary measures.

Making sure employees are trained in staying safe online is also crucial and keeping them regularly updated on new scams is crucial.