Ransomware is becoming big business during the pandemic

Ransomware is becoming big business during the pandemic
New variations on the ransomware extortion technique have been emerging, targeting both large businesses and SMEs.
The latest is Egregor Ransomware.

It is a variant of Ransom. Sekhmet and not only does it demand a payment to unlock the systems it has attacked, but then it fails to decrypt, instead providing recommendations for securing the network that has been attacked.

It is thought to gain access via a remote Trojan and then search for system weaknesses.
Businesses need to protect themselves by:

1. Patching and updating their systems’ software and checking for and addressing any potential vulnerabilities.
2. Carrying out regular security audits of current IT infrastructure and security products.
3. Ensuring they have a comprehensive data backup plan, including secure offsite backup.
4. Using a third party mail security filter that can detect, block, and analyse malicious emails.
5. Ensuring Multifactor Authentication on all users to stop an intruder (even with a correct password).
6. Ensuring all employees are trained in cybersecurity best practices, especially regarding common access techniques such as email and compromised websites.

GDPR and remote working

GDPR and remote working

GDPR and remote working

Many businesses have been operating during the Coronavirus lockdown by asking their employees to work remotely from home.

It may be that if this has been successful and there is no need for them to be present in their former offices every day, that this way of working will become the new norm.

However, there are implications under the GDPR (General Data Protection Regulations) that require databases containing clients’ and customers’ personal details to be kept secure.

Remote workers are advised to:

  1. Ensure that security software installed at a device level is up to date. This includes not only company databases but also encryption, firewalls and web filtering.
  2. Install the latest anti-virus and anti-malware software.
  3. Keep mobiles and laptops safe, preferably locked away when not in use and never left in a vehicle that is unattended.
  4. Ensure that family members, especially children, do not use work-supplied devices.
  5. Install password protection, if it has not already been done.
  6. Ensure removable devices such as USBs are malware free and kept securely locked away when not in use.
  7. Lock away any personal data in a storage unit when not in use.
  8. Wherever possible avoid downloading sensitive data to a laptop, instead access it only via the company’s intranet when needed.

Call to report scam emails

According to the Governments GCHQ Cyber Crime security centre, there has been a significant rise in phishing scams since the onset of the pandemic lockdown and it is asking members of the public to report them here:

As more and more people are using tech alternatives to keep in touch with family and to work remotely the organisation has removed more than 2000 such online scams in the last month.

They include:

  • 471 fake online shops selling fraudulent coronavirus-related items
  • 555 malware distribution sites set up to cause significant damage to visitors
  • 200 phishing sites seeking personal information such as passwords and credit card details
  • 832 advance-fee frauds where a large sum of money is promised in return for a set-up payment

They also report a number of fake job solicitations and warn that users of videoconferencing software such as Zoom should beware of attacks by pranksters muscling on conversations.

Zoom has introduced new measures, including meeting urls, passwords and waiting rooms to help combat this.



Tips for productive video conferencing

As more and more people are working from home because of the Covid-19 pandemic, there will still be times when a company boss or manager needs to be in touch with their team.

Similarly, it can be important for keeping in touch with customers and clients.

However, such meetings can descend into chaos without some “rules of engagement”.

Firstly, preparation is essential. It can be helpful before the proposed meeting to email a clear agenda of the points to be discussed with some notes as to the main issues and to set a date for the conference that gives people time to prepare.

You should also tell people in advance which video conferencing platform will be used – usually Skype or Zoom, both of which are free to use, although there is a 40-minute time limit on the Zoom free option, but there are plenty of others.

Secondly, if several people are involved, there should be a chairman, to co-ordinate the discussion and to ensure everyone gets their turn to speak.  It is much more difficult to pick up visual and social clues in a video conference.

The chairman should ensure that everything is set up correctly, such as headphones and microphone and participants should message the chairman if they are having any technical issues.

Participants should focus on the call and do their best to eliminate distractions and background noise. Muting the line when you’re not speaking can be critical on video calls, particularly as most tools for group video conferencing prioritise the visual feed of the person speaking.

Video conferencing is a very useful alternative to having to physically travel to attend meetings and as such is more environmentally friendly as well as helping to keep business overheads under control, but it does require people to observe courtesy and disciplined behaviour to work at its best.

Improve work productivity

How to improve your work productivity

How to improve your work productivity

Finding enough hours in the day to get everything done can be a challenge for SME owners.

There are endless stories and articles about famous entrepreneurs who get up at 5am, perhaps start their day with a yoga or gym session or employ any number of variations on the starting the day theme that they argue makes them productive.

But what works well for one individual may not be appropriate for another. Some people need eight hours of sleep while others are happy with just four or five hours.

Some people are more effective and productive at some point in the morning, for others it may be in the middle of the afternoon.

The secret to being more productive at work, according to researchers, is to start the day with a plan, and to target your most productive part of the day to prioritise urgent, difficult or important tasks.

According to Christopher Barnes, associate professor of management at the University of Washington’s Foster School of Business “people take a few hours from when they wake up to reach peak mental acuity”.

So, if you know where that point comes for you, you should incorporate it into your plan for the day. Perhaps start the day with simple admin tasks, prioritising the in-tray, checking the e-mail and dealing with internal memos until you are at your most alert.

You can also set time limits for these routine tasks to ensure you are not swamped by non-essentials.

It is also important in planning to limit the number of goals you may want to set for the day.

Productivity coach Jeff Sanders recommends setting no more than one or two main goals per day. He also argues that your morning sets the tone for the rest of the day, so suggests ““The best way to start is that intentional practice of saying, I’m not going to let the day distract me. I’m going to have my goals, my priorities” and that this helps stop you from becoming distracted by other things as the day progresses.


End of Support for Windows 7

End of Support for Windows 7 – what to do

In an ideal world when Microsoft ends its support for a piece of software, users should upgrade to a new version.

But for SMEs this can be a headache, especially if their current PC or laptop does not have the capacity to cope smoothly with Windows 10, which is much more space hungry than Windows 7.

Plus, if you buy a new machine there is the problem of transferring crucial documents and other data, especially if it is material that is being used all the time.

Obviously, it is important to have back-ups of data, preferably in more than one location such as in cloud storage and on an external hard drive.

It may be possible to increase the capacity of existing machines by having a SSD (Solid State Drive) installed to replace the current Hard Drive.

But if cash flow or time issues mean you either can’t spare the machine or replace it there are some ways to stay at least reasonably safe in the short term. It will still run.

However, without the regular Windows 7 security updates, cyber experts advise your machine will be more vulnerable to hackers.

They advise that you do not use internet banking or send emails on Windows 7 machines and try to use other, more secure devices.

Businesses with large numbers of computers can, however, buy Windows 7 Extended Security Updates (ESS), which will be available for Windows 7 Professional or Windows 7 Enterprise at £19 per device for the first year, doubling each year thereafter until the end date of 2023.

The ESS is not available to smaller businesses with only a few devices, however, so while you may be able to take the risk of continuing to use existing Windows 7 devices for a while ultimately upgrading is the only solution.


GDPR is looming – is your business ready?

It is reported that many small businesses are still either unaware of or unready for the new data protection regime, GDPR, that comes into force in May this year.

Businesses will have to ensure that any information they keep on their customers is stored securely, and this applies to both online and paper-based records.

They must also be able to remove any personal information if the customer requests it.

If any services are outsourced to another provider, they too must be GDPR compliant, and both will need to appoint a data operations manager to be responsible for security and compliance.

The new regulations will apply to even the smallest businesses if they keep customer records and there is plenty of advice on what they need to do on the ICO (Information Commissioners Office) website.  This is the best source for information as the ICO will be regulating compliance and has the power to issue fines for non-compliance.

Two particularly helpful guides are the 12 steps to take now downloadable PDF and the checklists on the website, one for data controllers and the other for data processors, available here

At Colchester IT, we can assure our customers that we have already put systems in place to ensure everything is secure.

All websites are stored on third party software to ensure security and all data is now held on a separate server, not accessible to outsiders nor wifi enabled. Everything is also password protected.

In any event we only hold on to data for a maximum of 30 days.

We have also taken steps to ensure that any third party suppliers we use are GDPR compliant and of course, we ask for permission before we send customers any e-newsletters and updates.

We also ensure paper-based records are regularly shredded.


All About Windows 10

All about Windows 10

Windows 10 boasts a ton of fantastic new features that make using your laptop or PC easier and more enjoyable. Whether you use your computer for work or play, here is a roundup of new Windows 10 features that we know you will love!

Say hello

Windows Hello is a new way to connect to your device. This makes it possible to sign in using your face or fingerprint instead of the traditional password. A great additional security feature which will help protect your personal files and data.

Get off to the right Start

Windows 10 has reintroduced the start bar we all know and love, but now it is bigger and better than ever before. You can organise and personalise the start bar features to suit your own requirements.

Your most used apps will be highlighted on the left, while the All Apps tab will be your gateway to everything else on your PC such as files and settings.

More media

Windows 10 includes a brilliant new store which gives you access to music, games, apps, videos and more at your fingertips. The store packs in plenty of free content as well as paid-for items, and you can always preview before you purchase. Download an app and it will work across all your Windows 10 devices including phones, laptops, PCs and even the Xbox.

To get going, you will need a Microsoft account and an internet connection. Simply browse through the trending top charts or search for the type of media you’re looking for. Create custom lists collections to meet your needs.


Cortana is the Windows 10 personal assistant. She will help you co-ordinate as much or as little as you need. For example, get Cortana to send an email, add a calendar event, search the web and more.

Use the search box to make Cortana get to work, or simply speak to her through your computer’s microphone or a headset. If you just want a laugh, get Cortana to tell you a joke!

Doodling is a doddle

Microsoft’s new browser, Edge allows you to customise any web page with drawings, doodles, highlighting and more. Your doodles aren’t just limited to the world wide web though, you can also use your finger, tablet pen or mouse to draw your way through any place you can normally write, for example OneNote. Just make sure your boss isn’t watching!

All your photos in one place

The new photo app in Windows 10 collates all your photos and videos in one place. It takes all your snaps from your PC and laptop, phone and OneDrive and organises them into shareable albums.

Upgrade to Windows 10 without the hassle

If you like the sound of Windows 10 and would like to use it on your PC or laptop, but are a bit unsure of how to get started, then we can help you.

ColchesterIT will take the hassle out of upgrading your PC or laptop to Windows 10 for just £29! Pop in to see us for more information, or use our contact form here to book an appointment.



Get the most out of your new smartphone

Get the most out of your new smartphone

If you were the lucky recipient of a shiny new smartphone this Christmas, let us help you set it up for ultimate enjoyment.

1) Connect to wifi

You don’t want to drain your data allowance before you’ve even set your phone up! Connect to your wifi to make sure you stay well within limits.

2) Sign up

Smartphones generally require users to have an account for backing up apps, settings and data. Make sure you have the relevant logins – either Microsoft, Google or Apple. You can choose how much access you want your logins to give you, from simple phone management, to email, app store and other functions.

If you already have an account from an existing smartphone, you can restore as much or as little of your old data and settings as you want.

3) Protect your data

Implement passcodes and fingerprint recognition where possible to keep intruders (and relatives!) away from your personal files and photos.

4) Turn on location services

Should you ever misplace your smartphone, it is easy to prevent your personal information from falling into the wrong hands and also reunite yourself with your device.

To do this, you need to make sure that your location settings are activated to “Find Phone” as this shows your device location on a remotely accessed map and makes it possible for you to wipe the lost phone.

Make sure you also activate the backup service so you can regain access to your stuff. If you have loads of photos and music, it is worth investing in some cloud storage.


5) Install apps

Most of smartphone fun comes from the huge selection of apps you can have. From games to news, and social media – there’s something for everyone. Top apps include –

  • Facebook: Update your status and connect with friends on the go!
  • Twitter: Engage with people and brands using those all important 140 characters.
  • Whatsapp: Chat with friends and send multimedia messages quickly and easily for free.
  • Instagram: Share your favourite photos with your followers.
  • News: All the latest affairs at your fingertips.

Be careful as many apps are free but some do need to be paid for. Also, quite a few apps (especially games) might require payment once in use.

5) Sort out the notifications

After installing those great apps, you might notice your phone just doesn’t stop pinging and flashing as they try to keep you constantly updated. This can be very annoying, particularly if you are trying to work or sleep!

Make sure you take a few minutes to sort through the notification settings so that you only get alerts for a chosen few.

6) Get a case

Smartphones are very powerful and can do thousands of cool things, but they are also very fragile and can break easily if mishandled or dropped.

Choose a suitable protective phone case for your device to help take on some of the impact if dropped- there are thousands of styles and designs available so you can really express your personality too.

7) Get help if you need it

Here at ColchesterIT, we are experienced in fixing iPhone screens at an affordable price. So if your new device gets damaged, rest assured we can help you get it back up and running in no time at all.

We are also able to help with a wide range of mobile phone issues, so if you’re unsure about something on your new smartphone, just pop in and see us, we are happy to help.