Microsoft cautions against SMS 2FA

Microsoft have announced they will direct users away from SMS 2FA (‘text-based’ two-factor authentication) for security reasons.

Instead, the company will promote multi-factor authentication methods they consider to be more secure – including biometrics and secure authentication apps such as Microsoft Authenticator – for logging into Microsoft services such as Microsoft 365 and Azure.

SMS-based two-factor authentication, where the user typically receives a passcode text message to their smartphone that acts as a secondary confirmation of who they are, has been a staple of online banking and many other secure online services needing two-factor authentication (2FA) for over a decade.

However many now believes even SMS can be intercepted, and would rather sign users onto authenticator apps or issue secure keys with encoded passcode generation.

Official Microsoft statistics state that users who enable Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA) on their accounts to verify identity block 99.9% of all automated account breaches. Using SMS-based two-factor authentication should not ‘stop’ doing so (despite the flaws of SMS, any 2FA is better than none) but users should consider swapping to other methods.

We’ve talked before about the often-predicted ‘death of passwords’ – and possible scenarios for their phasing out, but in recent years a number of big tech firms, including Apple, Google and Microsoft have all suggested their long-term plans that seek to replace passwords with biometric or other forms of login.

However this modification to Microsoft’s advice will see more of a driving force behind MFA as specifically biometric, authenticator app or secure-key based, rather than relying on mobile networks for one-time passcodes.

 

For cybersecurity expertise and support, please contact out IT team today.


Keeping Things Moving

As businesses and their staff begin to adapt to the UK’s Covid-19 lockdown, we take a closer look at how IT Support requirements have shifted.

After two weeks of IT Support call volumes to Lineal rising significantly, queries have begun stabilising as the organisations and companies we support, and their employees, become more accustomed to working from home.

You can find answers to Frequently Asked Questions in our lockdown FAQs article here.

In parallel, the nature of IT tickets we commonly address has also altered, with a majority of support queries involving either virtual private network (VPN) or remote access assistance – even overtaking email in the short term.

We’ve seen renewed interest in cloud-based services, including Microsoft Office 365 tools, Gamma Horizon hosted telephony, and Azure-based computing, as well as portable hardware shortages – with major distributors keeping things moving but reporting limited availability of new laptops, headsets and power cables.

In-house, Lineal’s own use of Microsoft Teams has increased noticeably as staff work remotely. Following an initial lockdown practice drill in early March,  activity graphs show three weeks of increased Teams collaboration between staff – including audio/video conference calls, chats and screen-sharing.

lineal teams usage graph

We’re keeping things moving and continuing to support all our clients fully throughout the the Covid-19 lockdown; if you have any feedback or ways we can improve our service, please let us know.

 

For IT Support and technical expertise, please contact Lineal today.


Keep calm and carry on

As more and more of us are starting to accept remote working as the new norm, it may still feel unnatural and difficult for those who have not experienced this before. Keep calm and carry on – Lineal are here to help.

Remote working out of the office or from home has increased by nearly a quarter of a million over a decade, according to the office of National Statistics.

We may have lost the face-to-face daily contact with our colleagues and friends, but this does not mean we cannot stay in touch easily and efficiently;

  • Through phone calls
  • Messaging
  • Video calls
  • Business platforms such as Teams

With the current global crisis, for most of us we may feel like we are in uncharted waters.   A lot of people have had to adapt to working from home, with no planning and little time to prepare for the change. There are many questions:

  • How do you set up a space where you can focus?
  • How do you stay connected when you can’t meet face-to-face?
  • Why does it feel like it’s never the right moment to take a break?

It’s inevitable that some employees will have questions and may struggle adapt.

 

So what have we learnt so far?  

Microsoft’s article – Making the switch to remote work – is an interesting read, with 5 lessons on how they have approached working from home, and ideas of how best to overcome common hurdles.  The current situation has compelled Microsoft to take a new look at everything from scheduling meetings to the way teams are managed.

In particular, protecting your employers and employees mental health is very important:

  • Check in regularly with your team members
  • Colleagues
  • Customers
  • Suppliers

Also check out: https://www.forbes.com/sites/onemind/2020/03/17/when-home-becomes-the-workplace-mental-health-and-remote-work/ to see what some of the experts in the industry highlight could be the key concerns and how to manage them.

 

So how do we make the most of working from home?

Routine is Key:

  • Wake up at your normal time, but enjoy a little longer to get ready.
  • Have some breakfast an extra cup of coffee, as you don’t have to face the stress of the daily commute – No traffic jams, public transport or queuing, bonus!
  • Then structure your day like you would if you were in the office.
  • Organise meetings, speak to your colleagues, call your customers and suppliers, adapt your ways of working.

Be productive and proactive, there are many solutions available to you, and Lineal are here to help, if you need us.

There are also various positives for remote working, both for the employee and the employer:

  • Increased productivity – working remotely increases productivity work that needs focus by 16 per cent
  • Higher morale – a study showed that those who work from home love their job more than those who work in an office.
  • Higher employee retention
  • Less stress – one in five employees say that juggling their work and personal lives is the main cause of stress
  • Some of us may be lucky enough to have some four-legged furry colleagues keeping us company instead on a day to day basis.

Keep calm and carry on, and if you have any IT concerns please contact the Team here at Lineal Software Solutions Ltd.


We’re with you

At a challenging time for many businesses and organisations, Lineal’s top priority is your business continuity.

We’re supporting a wide range of clients with some very similar queries – here’s what that looks like:

 

  • Will our staff still be supported?

Yes – all Lineal’s remote support will continue as normal, and on-site engineer visits to workplaces as scheduled, pending further guidance by the UK Government. We’ve successfully completed practice drills of our business continuity plan, and you can learn more about our preparations here.

As always, please contact [email protected] and 01271 375999.

 

  • Help! We need to work from home!

OK – don’t panic: try and make a quick list of everything you commonly need to work in the office. Then contact our IT support teams via [email protected] and 01271 375999

Cloud-based services such as Microsoft Office 365, G-suite and Dropbox should still work via your web browser as normal (but please ask if you run into difficulties.) However, if you have systems that are based at your workplace, you might need to ask Lineal for a VPN in order to gain remote access (see below.)

Check out our tips for happy remote-working here, and some great deals for remote workers here.

If you have a Gamma Horizon phone system, we’re offering several months of free Gamma Collaborate licensing to extend your phone system to mobile/desktop devices – to support remote working. Please let us know here.

 

  • Can you help me set up a VPN?

Yes – as you might expect, this is currently our most requested support ticket type! Please speak to your support team via [email protected] or 01271375999.

 

  • How do I access ___[system]___ or line-of-business applications.

The answer to this will vary depending on the system, the security permissions at your company, and where it’s hosted – please speak to your support team via [email protected] or 01271375999.

 

  • Are Lineal extra busy?

Yes – our call and support ticket volumes have increased around 30% over the past two weeks, however these are still at perfectly manageable levels.

 

  • How do I set up my desktop PC at home?

We can walk you through ‘which-cable-goes-where’ if you’re unsure, but if your work-now-home-PC isn’t configured how it normally is in the office, please just speak to our support teams for remote assistance: [email protected] or 01271 375999.

 

  • Why might I need a ‘VPN’?

A Virtual Private Network gives direct access to your workplace network from home. If you have technology which is only available in the office (eg: an accounting database or CRM system based on your own server) these won’t be accessible outside without first connecting via a VPN.

If you have cloud-based services such as Microsoft Office 365, Dropbox, G-suite, webmail, Salesforce or other online services, these should be available through your browser as normal.

 

  • Help! I can’t buy ___[hardware item]___ anywhere!

You’re not alone: we’ve seen stocks of laptops, convertibles, power cables and others run low from many UK suppliers. If you’re having trouble sourcing something, please contact us via [email protected] for a quote, and we’ll do our best to find your request direct via distributors.

 

  • I think ____[service]____ is down, but maybe I’m just confused. How do I tell?

It’s first worth heading over to DownDetector.com to see if there are issues reported with major UK providers, such as mobile networks, cloud services and broadband ISPs. If you’re unsure, please speak to our support teams.

 

  • Will the internet/service_x fail due to high demand?

No, but we do all need to act responsibly. Much like with supply chains and emergency hotlines, capacity needs to be used sensibly by everyone.

Please don’t stream 4K or High Definition video unless it’s really necessary, and expect some of the bigger cloud computing providers, like Microsoft and Google, to dial down the responsiveness of some connectivity-intensive bonus features to help accommodate the extra computing demand around the world.

 

  • How do I use my work phone system remotely/from home?

Depending on who maintains your phone system, you might need to speak with your provider for either remote access or call re-directs.

If you have a Gamma Horizon phone system provided by Lineal, we’re offering several months of free Gamma Collaborate licensing to extend your phone system to mobile/desktop devices – to support remote working. Please let us know here

 

For IT Support & technical expertise, please contact our team today.


7 Great Deals for Remote Working

With growing numbers of employees out of the office in response to Coronavirus, we’ve assembled some great deals, discounts and freebies available online for home-workers, remote-workers, and many others.

 

  • Discounted ESET Antivirus

You’ve started using your home laptop or PC for work so you can keep away from the office? You’re not alone.

Lineal are offering a special 15% discount to those who need ESET antivirus cover on their home desktop or laptop (both PC & Mac.) As your home computer becomes your work computer, it’s important it has the same level of antivirus protection.

 

  • Free Microsoft Teams

For companies that don’t have Office 365 collaboration software already, Microsoft are offering a 6-month free trial of the freemium version of Microsoft Teams – permitting audio/video conferencing, document sharing, instant message and more across PC/Mac, tablet and smartphone.

Perfect for working from home, the freemium version does include low data limits (10GB shared, 2GB personal) but Microsoft have temporarily lifted the user-limits to accommodate more businesses.

 

macbook air

 

  • Discounted MacBook Air

This past week Apple have cut the price of their ultra-portable, highly popular MacBook Air model to £999 inc VAT.

Famously small enough to fit inside a Manila envelope and perfect for taking home, the latest lightweight model is made from 100% recycled aluminium, comes with a 13-inch Retina display, and boasts a 256GB solid-state hard-drive – twice the previous storage capacity. Extra discount is also now available for Education customers.

 

gamma collaborate

  • Free Gamma Collaborate

For businesses and organisations using Gamma Horizon phone systems with us, Lineal are offering a minimum of two-months free trial of Gamma Collaborate for all users.

Gamma Collaborate extends your deskphone to the Horizon app on your mobile, PC or Mac, and includes instant-message, audio/video conferencing, screenshare, presence notification, extension dialling and more. If you have call-handling settings like hunt groups or number presentation set up, this will work automatically from the new devices.

To enrol your users in this promotion – fill in our form here.

 

  • Audible Stories

As of last Thursday, audiobook giant Audible.com have launched a free service called ‘Stories’ to introduce free audiobooks to children (and indeed, re-introduce much-loved classics to adults.)

Available in multiple languages, you can discover Audible stories here.

 

  • Adobe Creative Cloud for Students

Adobe are making Adobe Creative Cloud apps available to all existing higher education students and educators users free of charge, until at least 31st May 2020. Registered institutions must enrol for access beyond their existing campus desktop apps, but you can learn more about the opportunity here.

 

  • Peloton

For the restless, exercise app company Peloton has extended its free trial to 90-days – the infamously expensive Peloton bike itself is not required, and classes incorporate yoga and other kinds of work-outs to take advantage of throughout the shutdown.

 

For technology assistance and IT support: please contact Lineal’s team today.