As things re-open from Covid-19 lockdown measures, Lineal are taking some important steps to help keep everyone safe while we care for your technology.
Regular Staff Testing
This Spring we introduced regular Covid testing, with Lineal staff receiving Innova SARS-CoV-2 antigen rapid lateral flow self-testing kits.
All results are received within 30 minutes and are submitted twice weekly via the GOV.UK Covid-19 test reporting service.
Maintained Social Distancing
Although staff have returned to the office, we’ve maintained flexible remote and home-based working for many, with around three-quarters of staff working at least two-days per week remotely. Staff hot-desking is discouraged – a measure we’ll review over time.
A new set of fragmentation vulnerabilities have been discovered which have the capacity to affect all WiFi enabled devices dating back to 1997.
There have been 12 identified separate vulnerabilities discovered by New York University Abu Dhabi researcher Mathy Vanhoef, named FragAttacks (fragmentation and aggression attacks) which have a dangerous data exfiltration potential to gather information about the owner of a WiFi enabled device and export it to a within-range attacker or to run malicious code to compromise the device; bypassing WEP and WPA security protocols.
Vanhoef announced that more than 75 tested Wi-Fi devices are affected by at least one of the FragAttacks vulnerabilities, but a majority of the devices are impacted by multiple CVEs. These tested devices included Huawei, Google, Samsung and Apple for mobile devices; computers from Dell, Apple and MSI; Xiaomi and Canon IoT devices; Asus, Linksys and D-Link routers; and Aruba, Lancom and Cisco access points.
Furthermore, the identified CVEs had the capacity to erroneously reassemble fragments encrypted under different keys, process fragmented as full frames and not clear fragments from memory when (re)connecting to a network. These vulnerabilities are named ‘FragAttacks’ due to the issues on how the WiFi network dissipates and then reorders data for easier transmission before reassembly at the receiving endpoint device.
Despite the existence of these unearthed vulnerabilities, WiFi Alliance released a statement saying that “There is no evidence of these vulnerabilities being used against WiFi users maliciously” and suggests protection methods to users through downloading “routine device updates that enable the detection of suspect transmissions or improve adherence to security implementations”
The video below demonstrates how the 12 discovered vulnerabilities can be used as a stepping stone to launch advanced malware attacks:
Apple has released important security updates under macOS 11.3, in response to a serious gatekeeper vulnerability discovered by security researcher Cedric Owens.
The weakness, found in Apple’s ‘Gatekeeper’ tool which normally blocks unrecognised apps from being installed by default, allows a dangerous file to be rigged so as to not trigger the operating system’s inbuilt safeguards.
Writing in a Medium Post entitled ‘Gatekeeper Bypass: 2021 Edition’, Owens demonstrates a terrifying method by which an attacker can ‘very easily craft a macOS payload that is not checked by Gatekeeper.’
Once launched, no warning prompts prevent the user from installing just about any dangerous application, which can also communicate with external servers without even triggering App Transport Security (ATS).
The simplicity of the hack, which leverages the fact that scripts placed in Contents / macOS / directory are not checked, has been described by Objective-See as ‘massively bad’ and ‘a doozy’ of a blog post.
GateKeeper itself was originally introduced in 2012 as part of an effort to stop the spread of malware in Mac OS X ‘Lion’ v10.7.5, and was followed by enforced application notarisation in 2020 under macOS 10.15 ‘Catalina’, as Apple required software developers to have apps officially cleared for authorised use.
In response to the discovery, Apple have released macOS Big Sur 11.3 update with ‘improved state management’ that prevents the ‘bypass’ of Gatekeeper checks, and are urging macOS users to install the upgrade.
For Cybersecurity expertise and support, please contact our team today.
Facebook and LinkedIn have both suffered massive data breaches, exposing the details of more than 533 million and 500 million user accounts respectively, it has been revealed.
Extensive leaked data from Facebook was reportedly found online by security researcher Alon Gal – including the personal information of 11 million UK users such as phone numbers, locations, birth dates and many email addresses.
It’s believed that the ‘hack’ may relate to a bug in Facebook’s friend-adding ‘Contact Importer’ tool which was fixed in September 2019. Previous breaches in 2017 fell before the introduction of GDPR, which Facebook argues absolved it of responsibility to notify users.
Questions still hover over the LinkedIn breach in particular, with the company claiming much of their data appears to have been aggregated from other sources, or (like Facebook) were perhaps not technically ‘hacked’ at all – but scraped in bulk from publicly visible parts of the popular professional website.
The huge cache of Linkedin data was thought to be on sale, after security researches found a 2 million user ‘sample’ advertised online.
A Facebook spokesperson told Reuters the social media platform will not inform users if their accounts were part of the breach, and Linkedin are yet to issue a statement on this point – although given that LinkedIn has around 740 million accounts in total, a clear majority of its users are likely affected.
Users of both platforms can check if their email addresses (and now phone numbers) were likely breached via either platform over at: https://haveibeenpwned.com/ – and are advised to update passwords as a precaution.
For IT Support and cybersecurity expertise, please contact our team today.
Microsoft have urged the system admins of on-premise Exchange email servers to upgrade in response to new breaches from state-sponsored hackers.
The Chinese group, known as ‘HAFNIUM’, are believed to have exploited previously undiscovered zero-day vulnerabilities in Microsoft Exchange Server 2013, 2016 and 2019 via compromised US-based servers. Microsoft Exchange Online or related services (such as Microsoft 365) are not affected.
CVE-2021-26855, CVE-2021-26857, CVE-2021-26858 and CVE-2021-27065 create a ‘perfect storm’ under which the attacker makes an untrusted connection to the targeted Exchange Server on port 443, and connects appearing to be someone with authorised access to add a web shell that grants a backdoor for future access.
HAFNIUM has previously been accused of industrial espionage and attempts to breach the technology of important private, public and national security organisations, including defence contractors.
As of 4th March, the Department of Homeland Security has also issued an emergency directive to all US federal agencies to urgently patch any on-premises Exchange servers by midday on 5th March.
For Cybersecurity advice and expertise, please contact our team today.
The UK National Cyber Security Centre have launched a new online Cyber Aware ‘Cyber Security Self-Assessment Tool’ to help small businesses.
Free to use, and aimed at organisations with fewer than ten staff, the short online questionnaire generates a handy to-do list of actionable cybersecurity recommendations and points to check, with guidance for each – depending on the answers submitted.
Questions are branching depending on the circumstances of each small business, but covers topics including backups, passwords, technology lifecycle management and more. Small business owners are also directed to useful plain-English resources to address each point highlighted.
Cyber Aware is a campaign launched by the UK National Cyber Security Centre (the public-facing arm of GCHQ) designed to provide simple guidance for individuals and small businesses to use technology more safely.
“New malware found on 30,000 Macs has security Pros stumped” – ARS Technica
“So Alex could just call Tony Abbott’s cell phone directly to report this, or send him a DM on Insta.”
Why shouldn’t you post a picture of your boarding pass on social media? A cybersecurity technician ends up talking to the former Prime Minister of Australia, after discovering you don’t necessarily need any hacking skills to breach a major international airline.
“Ep.84 – Jet Setters” – Dark Net Diaries
“What seems like a big win for privacy may, ultimately, only serve to tighten Google’s grip on the advertising industry and web as a whole.”
“Facebook Apologises for Flagging Plymouth Hoe as offensive term” – Evening Standard
“Chrome OS became the second-most popular OS..”
Driven largely by education sales, Chrome OS has officially become the world’s second-most popular operating system, taking new market share from Microsoft Windows and pushing Apple’s MacOS into third place.
“The world’s second-most popular desktop operating system isn’t macOS anymore.” – ARS Technica
For IT expertise and support, please contact our team today.
Edge was originally released in 2015 as a direct replacement and refresh for Internet Explorer, which was rapidly losing market share among the world’s most popular web browsers. Edge Legacy, which used EdgeHTML, was a programming fork of Microsoft’s ‘Trident’ engine that had been used in Internet Explorer 11.
The new Edge, released in 2020 and based on the same Chromium ‘Blink’ browser engine as Google Chrome, has proved more popular – and as of January 2021 looks set to overtake Firefox as the world’s third biggest web browser.
Enterprise organisations still provisioning the legacy version as standard are advised to plan their deployment of the new Microsoft Edge with the following set of steps.
Lineal are Microsoft Gold Partner – for IT expertise and support, please contact us today.
Chinese tech giant Xiaomi have debuted a new, longer-range, wireless ‘air charging’ technology.
Mi Air Charge allows a special charging beacon in the home to detect a device, such as a smartphone, and directionally provide up to 5W of wireless charging at a distance.
The company claims this is the first ‘truly’ wireless charging technology that doesn’t require a device to be physically placed at a base station for induction charging.
144 antennas comprising a phase control array allows the beacon to direct millimetre-wide charging waves via beamforming to a special rectifier circuit on a Xiaomi smartphone handset that recharges the device battery. The company believes similar technology will eventually be available for smartwatches, smart speakers and other home devices.
It’s not yet clear how far a user will be able to roam from the beacon, although Xiaomi claim the charging will work at ‘several meters’ distance.
Although the device is largely a marketing prototype at this stage, Xiaomi are expected develop it into a viable consumer product. The corporation has been officially listed on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange since 2018, and is focusing on ‘Internet-of-Things’ (IoT) devices and supporting technology.
For IT support and expertise, contact our team today.
The feature has been a popular request among Education users, as successive Covid-19 lockdowns forces more academic institutions to adopt remote-teaching.
Teams supports up to fifty simultaneous breakout rooms with custom names, assigning individuals to specific rooms, organiser announcements across rooms, and automatic closing of rooms back into the meeting.
The additional control is still marked as ‘Preview’ while the feature is being rolled out to PC and Mac users.
Lineal are a certified Microsoft Gold Partner – for Microsoft 365 expertise and support, please contact our team today.
Approximately 50,000 UK customers have had .eu domains suspended, following Brexit.
The .eu domain registrar EURid has formally suspended 81,000 such domains as of 1st January 2021, following the decision that .eu ownership requires the owner to be resident in a country that holds membership of the European Union.
Many internationally trading UK companies hold foreign domain versions of their websites to assist trading overseas, support multiple languages, improve web performance in other territories and develop export markets.
Numerous IT services, including email, websites, directories and more are often also tied to domains which represent a key pillar of many companies’ authentication technology.
Many British domain holders cancelled their domains as the transition period approached – over 200,000 .eu domains held by UK customers were cancelled between 2018 and 2021, with registrars contacting customers multiple times to alert them to the changes.
Although the remaining 81,000 have not been not cancelled outright, UK customers have no way to recover these domains without being able to prove the owner holds citizenship of an EU member state, and provide a suitable registered address.
Britain’s exit from the EU also begins a countdown for these customers – who must either have an EU company representative to renew on their behalf, or face their domains put back up for sale again by 2022.
A number of major UK internet service providers (ISPs) have announced above-inflation broadband price rises for 2021.
Virgin Media says an average customer will face a 4% rise this year – announcing that the increase is part of a plan to invest £1 billion in its network infrastructure.
BT, EE and Plusnet have also amended their terms of service, and are expected to publish above-inflation price rises over 4% shortly. Sky have already raised prices, with some customers seeing increases of up to 10%.
Ofcom figures suggest market rates for broadband have remained broadly consistent over the course of the last decade prior to 2020 – driven in part by more of the UK being brought on-stream under Openreach’s superfast fibre roll-out.
Although network investment is likely to be welcomed, many customers will no doubt suspect ISPs are raising profits at a time that the UK is particularly dependent on home use of connectivity.
Where investment also supports fibre-to-the-premises (FTTP) rollouts, the increase may also represent a regressive step – charging customers in less well-connected parts of the country with slower broadband to fund upgrades in already better-connected areas.
Approximately 41% of broadband customers are not in contract, and the best deals are gained by those who look for options rather than renewing automatically. New Ofcom rules mean that price rises from an ISP allow escape from contract terms, giving customers other options.
Contact Lineal – Placing your connectivity with a trusted IT provider can be both more organised, and sometimes better value. Contact us today!
Microsoft have previewed the Windows 10 October 2020 update with a partial re-design aimed at making the display clearer and enhancing security options.
Windows 10 updates are free of charge and are now issued to over a billion devices on a twice yearly update cycle.
Among the changes recently revealed on the Windows Experience Blog were:
“A refreshing Start. The Start menu has a more streamlined design. A uniform, partially transparent background to the tiles creates a beautiful stage for the redesigned app icons like Calculator, Mail and Calendar. This refined Start design looks great in both dark and light themes, but if you’re looking for a splash of color, first make sure to turn on Windows dark theme and then toggle “Show accent color on the following surfaces” for “Start, taskbar, and action center” under Settings > Personalization > Color to elegantly apply your accent color to the Start frame and tiles.”
Ease of use has also driven other improvements, such as more natural support for Windows 10 on convertible devices:
“2 in 1 toast elimination. 2-in-1 devices now naturally switch by default to the new tablet experience without the notification toast asking you to switch into the tablet mode when you detach the keyboard, helping to keep you in your flow.”
“A Taskbar tuned to your liking. Getting a new Windows PC? You will enjoy a cleaner, more personalized, out-of-box experience featuring a taskbar specifically curated for you—less clutter and more content that you’ll love. (This experience is limited to new account creation or first logon scenarios.)”
In addition the new version includes security enhancements – including an updated version of Windows Hello3 single-sign-on & multi-factor authentication technology:
“Simpler device management. Mobile Device Management (MDM)1 now includes a Local Users and Groups policy that gives administrators the same options as on-premises Group Policy.”
“More secure biometric sign on. With enhanced sign-in security2, Windows Hello3 now offers added support for virtualization-based security for certain fingerprint and face sensors, which protects, isolates and secures a user’s biometric authentication data.”
“Stronger app protection. Windows Defender Application Guard (WDAG)4 now helps protect Microsoft 3655 as well as Microsoft Edge with a unique hardware isolation strategy. WDAG keeps enterprise data protected by opening sites and Office files from untrusted sources in a virtualized container.”
Lineal are a Microsoft Gold Partner – for IT support and solution expertise, please contact our team today.
Password managers help users remember all their passwords – but can be a much more powerful tool for dramatically limiting the damage in the event of a single account being compromised.
Criminals increasingly use credential-stuffing attacks where automated tools use previously-breached account details to gain access to the user’s other accounts.
A good password manager ensures you can use a strong, randomly generated and distinct password across each of your accounts to prevent any single breach putting other data at risk.
Keeper can also notify users when breached passwords are identified online, integrate with single sign on tools such as Active Directory, and enforce multi-factor authentication – all important considerations for organisations needing to maintain cybersecurity standards across large teams.
For added convenience, Keeper is available via the web, Windows/MacOS desktop clients, browser extension and Android/iOS mobile app.
For Cybersecurity advice and expertise, please contact our team today.
AI lent a helping hand to one of our technical support teams last week to help Lineal save a local business from an email hack.
At 07:40 GMT on a seemingly normal week day, Barracuda Sentinel issued an alert to Lineal to say an account had been accessed from a suspicious location. It seemed a malicious actor, appearing to be from Nigeria, compromised one of a client’s finance department email accounts, and created a forwarding/delete rule in the inbox.
Barracuda Sentinel’s AI email protection caught the account takeover attempt, and as a result, we were able to mitigate and resolve a significant threat to one of our customers. Barracuda Sentinel detects both account takeover attempts and attacks launched from compromised accounts.
Corporate account takeover presents a significant new threat to business. Hackers gain access to email accounts and use them as tools to launch subsequent targeted attacks, internally and against external targets – who themselves fall victim.
Account takeover or attacks that originate from these accounts are almost impossible to detect as they don’t use the usual impersonation techniques—they come from a legitimate account and appear to be from a trusted source, allowing the attacker to initiate sophisticated financial scams.
Lineal automatically picked up the alert & create an incident in Barracuda Sentinel. Sentinel remediated the issue with an immediate password reset, disconnecting all active logon sessions for the user and deletion of any rules created during the incident time. Within 40 minutes this potentially disastrous event was avoided.
Barracuda’s worldwide threat protection network automatically gathers intelligence from inboxes around the world to deliver award-winning security, checking both inbound and outbound email to stop the spread of cyber-threats and malicious communications. To find out more visit our Barracuda Email Security page on our website.
This risk could have easily been mitigated by using any of Lineal’s services, such as:
Using Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA) on the account,
Barracuda Sentinel-type tools to alert/remediate on compromise,
Having Azure P1/P2 licensing to allow the use of conditional access to prevent sign-ins from risky locations, untrusted countries, etc.
If you would like to find out more about Cybersecurity and how Lineal can help protect your business please contact us.
This year’s Lineal Client Survey 2020 saw hugely positive feedback, and record customer satisfaction results for our staff – thank you to all who took part.
2020 has been a turbulent year so far, but our positive improvement in the quality of our technical services continues from similar results during recent years. (Past Client Survey Results: 2019, 2018, 2017, 2016)
A record high number of you (76%) felt we “understand your questions and/or problems” “Extremely Well”. This is the most people who have ever awarded us the top grade, and represents long-term progress: over double the quality score we received back in 2015.
We asked an important supplementary question this year: how did you feel our IT Teams supported you during the Covid-19 lockdown specifically? Respondents graded us strongly, with a mean average of 4.45 stars out of 5.
For the first time, more than 70% of respondents considered our overall customer support “Great” – also the highest grade available, and twice our score from five years ago.
We also continued to make steady progress on our speed of responsiveness: more than 50% of you now feel we respond ‘Quicker’ than expected, and for the first time more than 20% of you considered us to be “Much Quicker” than expected – again: a rating we’ve doubled in recent years.
Lineal’s Net Promoter Score – an industry wide metric for good customer service which asks whether respondents with consider referring our services to a friend or colleague, rose to +56 this year, our best score to date.
Your feedback helps us identify areas of weakness where we still have room to improve: and to focus training and other resources on ensuring our clients receive the best service possible. In this coming year, we’ll be looking at ways to track our progress more steadily over time.
“Staff show an understanding of the issues and are dedicated to resolving them and formulating a constructive outcome cost effectively. It is not so much about a quick response and service, it’s more the fact that the staff take ownership of the problems.’
“We love Lineal. So helpful and understanding of our needs. No other company matches up to the efficiency of them. Big thanks to Paul and Hugo!”
“When we moved from Outlook 365 Home to Business we could not have had more support.”
“Fantastic service! They helped me find a replacement iMac when mine died, and the service they give is exemplary! Highly recommended! 10/10.”
For expert IT Support and technical services, please contact us today.
Users are advised to update to 5.4.1 to avoid the issue, although this will not restore lost photos. As always: please, please, please maintain an independent backup of all data you can’t afford to lose.
For IT Support and business continuity assistance, please contact our team today.
Qualifying businesses in many rural parts of the UK are eligible for a Voucher worth up to £3,500 to help get new leased-line fibre broadband installed under the UK Gigabit Voucher scheme.
The Government recently urged SMEs to apply, with Digital Minister Matt Warman MP arguing the £70m pot is “still there for the taking.”
But what is the Gigabit voucher scheme, and how does it work?
How fast is gigabit?
Gigabit broadband is 1,000 megabits/per second (around twenty-times the download speed of a normal domestic FTTC connection) and unlike conventional broadband, supports a ‘symmetrical’ upload rate that is equally as fast as the download.
In most cases however, SMEs will deliberately opt for a more limited connection speed on a gigabit ‘bearer’ (eg: 200Mbit/s up and down) to keep costs manageable, while retaining the capacity and option of regrading up to a maximum of 1,000 Mbit/s at a later date if needed.
What does the voucher get used for?
Most connectivity providers charge an installation cost on new Leased Line installations – normally based on the length of fibre cabling that must be ‘dug in’ to connect the business. The voucher is a refund to help offset this upfront cost. Businesses must pay the ongoing monthly connectivity charges as normal, but the voucher is intended to help firms overcome the initial barrier-to-entry.
I’d like £3,500 please.
Quite! Although the the voucher is paid direct to your chosen supplier. Once your business has applied and been deemed eligible, your supplier will submit your voucher with your details when you place the initial order for your leased line. After your fibre is dug-in and connected, the scheme will check that your service is live before paying your supplier the due amount.
If your install is less than £3,500 you are likely to only be awarded the relevant cost, rather than the full amount. In most cases businesses will be signing a leased-line term with their provider for the ongoing cost of connectivity – normally between one and five years.
Can I use my voucher via Lineal?
Yes! We use Gamma Telecom Ltd for fibre leased-line connectivity, who are an approved supplier under the Gigabit Voucher Scheme.
Why is this funding being offered?
Successive Governments have reasoned that investing in better broadband is good for UK business growth, but the logistics of physically digging in fibre cabling is left to third-parties such as Openreach. Those providers insist ‘hard-to-reach’ properties are not economic to connect under the regional FTTC and FTTP broadband roll-outs because of the upfront cost of this installation work, or that gigabit fibre to the entire country is only achievable over the long term. For the best return on investment, the Government wants to prioritise upgrading businesses that already suffer slow speeds.
Gigabit fibre installations to commercial properties are also a capital project – the physical fibre, once ‘dug-in’ to a business premises, may end up being used for years to come by future businesses who take over the site, allowing more companies to benefit from widespread upgrades to the existing infrastructure.
What are other businesses doing?
To date around £90m worth of vouchers have been awarded so far, and around 29,000 connections have already gone live. The Government’s election pledge during 2019 was for gigabit fibre for the whole of the UK by 2025, a target which is widely expected to be missed.
This leaves rural businesses dependant on inclusion in their regional fibre-to-the-cabinet broadband roll-out as a stopgap, hoping to be included in an early tranche of Openreach’s future FTTP roll-out, or looking to fund the upgrade to a leased lined themselves.
Help! We really are out in the sticks!
If the cost of your install is still too large, there are other options: such as pooling your vouchers with neighbouring eligible businesses, accessing faster connections via 4G or point-to-point link. Speak to us to learn more.
Lineal Software Solutions are excited to announced the public release of our next generation of SQLWorks software.
Version 10 of our flagship business management suite harnesses more advanced manufacturing capabilities for the first time – introducing brand new material resource planning (MRP) capabilities into our existing integrated accounting, CRM & stock control platform.
Automation is critical to productivity. SQLWorks MRP allows businesses to instantly gauge future demand for stock items & materials based on a flexible time horizon and existing stock availability, automatically generate purchase orders for approved suppliers, automatically roll-up part and cost changes through bills of material, and automatically create works orders for production centres on the factory floor.
“… We are clear that the faster adoption of technology will result in greater investment and in more manufacturing taking place in the UK.”
UK Gov ‘Made Smarter’ Manufacturing Review
These hotly-anticipated new features will help drive real business benefits, especially among manufacturing and logistics companies: including more intelligent and cost-effective purchasing, optimised stock holding, and coordinated forward planning of production.
Factory managers can now backflush manufactured items, auto-attach engineering documents, optionally roll-up updated part-costings from purchasing through the relevant kits, and even import new assemblies from popular engineering CAD software via drag-and-drop.
“… British manufacturing needs a factory reset.”
Mike Matthews, Lineal Software Solutions
MRP is an immensely powerful tool for running a business – and we’ve given users the ability to drill-right down into purchasing and production recommendations – finding the exact source of demand from potentially thousands of orders, to line level, with a simple double-click.
SQLWorks manufacturing abilities integrate seamlessly with other business processes across accounting, CRM and stock control – and we’re planning further extensions to functionality for release later in 2020: including detailed capacity planning, support for ‘Just-In-Time’ (JIT) style manufacturing, and more complex ad-hoc report building.
We’ve also made some updates to the visual identity of SQLWorks with this iteration to help make our software feel smoother and more accessible to new users, and expanded Lineal’s UK Software Development Team of Omnis developers to hasten our development cycle.
Mike Matthews, Lineal’s Managing Director, explained: “This is a terrific new leap forward for our SQLWorks software. The new release is our most advanced ever, and introduces powerful new manufacturing and logistical control to our existing business management tools.”
Measurable Business Benefits
One, fully-integrated platform
Heightened financial visibility
Hours of work duplication saved by automation
Greater manufacturing control
Optimised spending & stock holding
Genuine support for business continuity
“We believe the ability for industry to automatically complete important engineering tasks – like importing newly-designed assemblies, production planning, updating part costs and forecasting future operations – will prove a popular choice among manufacturers.”
“Post-lockdown many firms will be doing some serious soul-searching about whether their systems are really up to scratch. British manufacturing needs a factory reset. If you can’t innovate then you’re at a dead end, and modernisation will be an important part of the UK’s economic recovery.”
Lineal’s Mike Matthews and Huma Mahmood-Khan recently featured on the Tech South West Podcast (‘Tribe Tech’) – to discuss the post-lockdown recovery, women in tech, and Lineal’s new SQLWorks MRP software.
Tech South West exists to champion the area’s growing number of technology businesses, showcase innovation and suport STEM skills across the wider South West region – partnering with a number of more local Tech Business Groups to advocate for the sector.
July 14th: as Microsoft flag a ‘Critical’ Level-10 DNS vulnerability on Domain Name System (DNS) servers worldwide, Lineal engineers rush to patch the infrastructure of dozens of organisations overnight.
The Microsoft Security Response Center recently released details of CVE-2020-135, a ‘Critical Remote Code Execution’ weakness deemed ‘wormable’ (potentially spreading between devices automatically) affecting all Windows Server versions.
A grade of 10.0 is the highest possible severity level that can be assigned under the Common Vulnerability Scoring System Calculator. For comparison the WannaCry attack, which temporarily crippled the NHS in 2017, had a CVSS rating of 8.5.
Lineal staff use remote monitoring software to administer large numbers of client servers and devices, monitor hardware health and deploy patches more rapidly – and were quickly on the case overnight to patch the vulnerability as a special emergency.
Within 8 hours we’d patched a large number of DNS servers – applying both an initial fix and further scheduled updates.
DNS is a naming technology which translates the identities of computers, servers and other networked devices into the IP addresses used for connecting on private and public IT networks.
For this reason, DNS servers often have massive reach, and must be carefully protected to mitigate the risk of compromising an organisation’s technology on a huge scale – even across the globe.
Israeli IT security firm Checkpoint Software Technologies, who discovered the 17-year old hidden bug and reported it to Microsoft, argue ‘this is not just another vulnerability’ and risks handing an attacker ‘complete control of your IT’ if IT admins fail to address the issue urgently.
For IT expertise and support, please contact our team today.
A default Sharepoint tenant of 1TB could now store up to ten 100GB files – allowing Microsoft 365 users greater flexibility to store or backup longer videos, CAD designs and other typically large filetypes used by specialist software.
This also applies to Microsoft 365 products which use Sharepoint as their underlying technology behind the scenes – such as OneDrive, Stream and Microsoft Teams.
macOS 11.0 Big Sur, unveiled in June 2020 at WWDC, is the newest version of macOS, set to be released this Autumn.
macOS Big Sur elevates the most advanced desktop operating system in the world to a new level of power and beauty. Delivering their biggest design upgrade since the introduction of Mac OS X. Experience and enjoy Mac to the fullest, with a refined new design and the biggest Safari update ever. Discover new features for Maps and Messages and get even more transparent around your privacy.
Mac OS X is finally finished, with Apple confirming that it’s officially moving to macOS 11 after almost 20 years of OS X (or macOS 10). This fall, users will finally be upgrading from the 10.X versions that Apple has been using for nearly two decades to version 11.0. It’s ‘MacOS’ from now on, much like ‘iOS’ and ‘iPadOS’.
Safari is packed with new features, including a customisable start page, elegantly designed and more powerful tabs, quick and easy translation, and a new Privacy Report. A new weekly Privacy Report on your start page shows how Safari protects your browsing across all the websites you visit. Users can choose when and which websites a Safari extension can work with, and tools like data breach password monitoring never reveal your password information — not even to Apple.
In the biggest update to Safari since its original launch in 2003, the world’s fastest browser is even faster, providing industry-leading speed and battery life. Tabs have been entirely redesigned to make navigating with Safari faster and more powerful by showing more tabs onscreen. Displaying favicons by default to easily identify open tabs, and giving users a quick preview of a page by simply hovering over the tab.
Other newly Updated features
The updated Messages app lets Mac users send and receive more personal and expressive messages, and easily keep track of and interact within group messages. Maps also offers an all-new experience with immersive features for exploring and navigating the world.
macOS Big Sur delivers a spacious new design that makes navigation easier, while putting more controls at users’ fingertips. Overhauling everything from the curvature of window corners to colours and dock icon designs. A refreshed Dock displays thoughtfully designed icons that are both uniform and consistent in shape to match others in the Apple ecosystem. Buttons and controls for apps appear when needed, and disappear when not in use. The entire experience feels more focused, fresh, and familiar, reducing visual complexity and bringing users’ content front and centre.
The customisable menu bar features a new Control Centre, delivering instant access to the controls used most, from the desktop. And a new design for core apps brings more organisation to multiple open windows and makes interacting with apps even easier.
macOS Big Sur is available to developers, with Apple planning to make a public beta available to public beta testers next month. When it launches in the fall, macOS Big Sur will be a free update for all compatible Mac models.
For Apple device expertise and IT Support, please contact our team today.
Free public Wi-Fi is a popular service for retail, events and hospitality providers to offer, and increasingly becoming an expected service among the public.
This needs careful thought: not least technical considerations like how to keep public networks isolated from work networks, and providing strong enough connectivity to support the user environment.
But most importantly: how should a businesses or organisation to gain value back from providing free Wi-Fi? We take a closer look at some of the best techniques.
Authentication & Audience Participation
Most public Wi-Fi networks expect connecting users to ‘authenticate’ by providing details such as their email address or name, and often accepting some terms and conditions of use.
This can be a fantastic marketing opportunity to gather email subscribers, demographic data, survey product popularity, or simply count customers.
Alternatively, commercial quality systems like Cisco Meraki also offer hidden gems like Facebook Authentication – in which the user has to ‘Like’ the business brand or page to gain access. This kind of authentication is superb way of increasing your visibility online by leveraging value from public Wi-Fi – effectively asking the public to become your marketeers via social media.
Physical signage and other real-world marketing can also encourage visitors to share their experience of your venue or event online while their complimentary connectivity is available.
‘Splash’ Pages loaded on the User’s device when they first connect are customisable on many business Wi-Fi platforms, and this creates a perfect opportunity to brand the experience.
Treating this like a regular webpage offers the chance to advertise offers that are time-sensitive, updated seasonally, or promoting key products.
Alternatively, if your audience is large or targeted enough, then this space can be treated like digital real-estate, and sold on as advertising space to others looking to reach an audience.
By combining signal strengths from different access points and triangulating the direction, enterprise systems like Meraki are able to produce animated ‘heatmaps’ of footfall around a site or venue over time.
This is valuable information it itself for public-spaces and retail centres – who rely on being able to control or exploit human travel to maximise sales, minimise costs or optimise the flow of people.
Prompt for Reviews
You’ll never get a more geographically targeted audience than this – so why not ask the key question when it counts?
To online brands in particular, digital reviews are worth serious investment, and smartphone connections direct with the customer is a perfect opportunity to prompt via the web for useful feedback or survey customer satisfaction.
Alternatively ask publicly: and gather Google Reviews, Facebook Ratings, Trustpilot Stars, or any other feedback that is of value to your organisation en masse.
For Wi-Fi guidance and networking expertise, please contact our team today
Flash is being retired for cybersecurity reasons: the same technology which can easily load web-based games or other client-side content is especially vulnerable to exploitation by hackers to run malicious scripts on a user’s device.
Adobe state in an update on their website that all security updates, and the availability of all version downloads, will cease from this date.
Flash-based content will also cease working – leading technical experts to suggest Adobe have recently programmed a ‘time-bomb’ into the code of Flash Player to render it useless after the supported date. This should help prevent users seeking out third-party versions, and represents one of the strictest policies towards end-of-life enacted by a major software developer.
For Cybersecurity and IT expertise, contact our team today.
To complete the challenge, he must run at least six kilometres every day throughout June, to exceed his one-marathon-a-week target.
Kevin decided to raise money for his chosen charities after wife Debbie, a nurse, was diagnosed with cancer herself twice during the past decade – and praised the support provided by FORCE cancer support centres across Devon.
The couple benefitted from counselling sessions, a breast-reconstruction support group, a course on life after cancer, pampering sessions and even travel insurance advice.
Debbie explained: “At the time I was first diagnosed there was nothing like this in North Devon. I found FORCE very helpful. At times it can feel like you are in the middle of nowhere not knowing where to turn. FORCE helped me to put things into perspective.”
Kevin has returned to running himself as part of a recovery: shedding five stone in weight since 2018. His fundraising target for the June challenge is £250 – but he hopes to exceed this at a time when many local charities will be struggling to fundraise.
On behalf of the whole team at Lineal: well done Kevin – keep going!
Two years ago ASUS first previewed an experimental dual-screen laptop. Dubbed ‘ProjectPrCog’, the unusual concept creation effectively doubled the available screen size to both the top and bottom case of the laptop.
In 2020, ASUS have (sort-of) finally taken the plunge with the ZenBook Duo. An intriguing new design, this ‘one-and-a-half-screen’, $1499 version includes a secondary rectangular monitor in the lower half of the case for extra display room.
Among the theoretical advantages of a dual-screen laptop are the ability to hold communications apps like email or instant messaging on the lower screen while working on the upper, and the ability to stream video from the top while controlling the stream itself lower down. A powerful Intel i7 processor included as standard ensures the extra screen space isn’t wasted, and it’s easy to imagine the Duo becoming a cult-hit with graphic designers and similar.
The overall design is not quite as futuristic as ProjectPrCog – ASUS have shied away from a full touchscreen keyboard, favouring a cut-down version of conventional laptop keys, and a touchpad mouse/numberpad combination.
Conceptually though a dual-screen laptop still poses some challenges: a cramped keyboard close to the edge makes it quite difficult to type on top of er… one’s lap. At 1.5kg the model sits around average for laptop weight, but dual displays is likely to impact the battery life considerably compared with single-screen models.
A highly commendable effort from ASUS and undoubtedly interesting. World-changing? Probably not yet.
For IT Support and expertise, please contact out team today.
Cloud storage giant Dropbox is beta-testing a new password manager app – ‘Dropbox Passwords’ – by invitation only.
Password managers allow the user to generate and store encrypted, complex passwords for many user accounts inside a single piece of locked software and autofill them into websites and applications – making it easier to use diverse, complex passwords across all of your IT.
Password managers are measure increasingly recommended by respected cybersecurity authorities – including the UK National Cyber Security Centre. Options like 1Password, Lastpass and others are already well established, although Dropbox is likely to have significant reach to business customers considering using a password manager for the first time.
Unlike bigger rivals such as Microsoft’s Office 365 and Google’s G-suite, Dropbox do not offer workplace document editing apps – leading the company to explore new avenues for branching out beyond file-sharing and cloud-storage.
These plans have included Dropbox Paper (a collaboration and project management tool), integrations to other growing challenger-platforms such as Slack and Zoom, and now password management.
Principally a cloud-storage company that helped establish file-sharing in the minds of those who had never used it before, only time will tell if Dropbox can establish a broader brand for securing a cloud-first IT business world.
The combined NHS Digital Taskforce, NHSX, recently beta tested the new UK Covid-19 contact tracing app on the Isle of Wight, and have released code to the cyber security community to review.
The app logs interactions with other bluetooth-enabled smartphones each day, and allows the NHS to notify users who have been in contact with self-reporting Covid-19 cases that they should re-enter isolation as a precaution.
A recent blog post by the UK National Cyber Security Centre identified a number of areas for improvement, with the contact tracing app itself expected to be officially released in June 2020.
The Pairing Problem
NHS servers ping the app every 8 seconds to confirm active connections, and the app itself records received signal strength indicators (RSSI) via Bluetooth to gauge where users have been in contact with each other. Users then upload their records if they experience symptoms.
Any attacker with access to this upload traffic, (which does not include the user ID but is unencrypted) could begin comparing submissions via start/end times and signal strength readings, and would theoretically be able to pair these users together.
This problem of uniquely identifiable pairs potentially compromises the identity of the individuals using the app, as well as their location history relative to each other.
The NCSC have confirmed that in the release version, even ‘anonymised’ RSSI data will itself be encrypted, to stop any third-parties attempting to ‘re-identify’ either or both of the users.
Intercepting the Public Key
In beta testing, the Authority’s Public Key was not transferred to the user’s phone via TLS encryption (like a secured web-page) raising the possibility that although the app could be downloaded successfully, this important piece of information used for submitting data could be compromised.
This would be akin to a kind of ‘man-in-the-middle’ attack, where a user’s encrypted uploads could be (even if not unencrypted) sabotaged or withheld during transmission back to NHS systems.
Security researchers have suggested that since this key is not secret, it should be wrapped into the installation of the app itself.
The NCSC have since confirmed that intermediate certificate pinning has been used to reduce the risk of this happening, and that this limitation will be fixed once the Isle of Wight trial ends.
Bluetooth Broadcast Values
The app operates via broadcast values with change every 24 hours to prevent a device being tracked by Bluetooth over longer periods of time. This is significantly longer than the industry standard 15 minutes.
However, more controversially, a predictable ‘KeepAlive’ counter is used to connect old and new broadcast values, raising the potential for an attacker to re-identify the user beyond the 24-hour limit.
The NCSC defends the longer-term tracing as necessary to establish social interactions more accurately, but has resolved to randomise the counter to stop broadcast values being easily matched or the user re-identified endlessly.
Under beta testing, the app’s original policy documentation contained the line: “You may not publicly disclose any details of the vulnerability [that you’re reporting] without consent from NHSX.”
This would have run counter to the NCSC’s own vulnerability disclosure policy, which suggests that members of the technology community should be encouraged to highlight system weaknesses (particularly during public consultation beta-tests) for correction.
This line is to be removed from the public release version.
For cybersecurity support & IT expertise, please contact our team today.
Microsoft have announced Reply All email storm protection for Exchange Online – designed to prevent crushing organisational reply all email chains.
By default, the feature will detect ten reply all emails to over 5,000 recipients within 60 minutes, (what IT admins jokingly call a ‘reply-allpocalypse’) and will block further sending to prevent the problem escalating.
A particular problem in large organisations, email storms begin when large numbers of recipients click ‘reply-all’ either to respond or ask to be removed from the chain – massively multiplying the overall number of emails passing through Exchange servers.
If you find yourself stuck in a big reply all email storm, the guidance is simple: Do nothing. Do not reply to the email. Replying only makes the problem worse for everyone in the email chain, including you.
Reply all email storms have plagued large organisations. The NHS was infamously struck by a server-crushing 500 million emails in less than two hours on 14th November 2016, after an IT contractor accidentally sent a test email to everyone with an NHSmail email address – approximately 840,000 people.
Microsoft itself became one of the first test cases during the “Bedlam DL3” incident of 1997, when a user emailed 13,000 company addresses. Other users unaware of how many replies they were sending asked to be removed, and by the time the storm had subsided a terrifying 15 million emails had been sent – far beyond the capacity of late-90s email servers.
Microsoft Teams will soon gain the ability to display video-call participants in a 3×3 (9-person) grid, among other new Teams features.
The new teams features improve on the current limit of a 2×2 (4-person) grid – one notable limitation when compared with popular rivals such as Zoom.
Other features being added include custom-backgrounds, a ‘raise-hand’ feature similar to that used in Citrix GoToMeeting webinars, audio-sharing and call recording for 1-1 direct calls. The iOS version on mobile/tablet will also gain Teams’ background blur feature used to obscure the caller’s surroundings.
Recognising perhaps that Teams is still new to many workplace settings there has been a revised focus on hardware for new teams features: ‘Teams Certified’ audio/conferencing devices are now available, and the new Teams push-to-talk ‘walkie-talkie’ mode designed for field workers is currently in preview.
Playing catchup with Teams’ dramatic surge in popularity – to over 44m daily users and 1000% more calls during lockdown across the globe – Microsoft are also overhauling the Teams Admin centre to give admin users more visibility and control over meetings, usage and group policies.
Lineal are a certified Microsoft Gold Partner. Learn more about Microsoft Teams, or contact us today.
Common scams include pretending to represent Government, law enforcement or medical authorities to obtain information or financial payment, blackmailing users with threat of infection, donation requests for fake organisations, and malware distribution – including one new ransomware even dubbed ‘Coronavirus.’
In a joint statement published in April, the UK National Crime Cyber Security Centre and US CISA (Dept. of Homeland Security) notes the sudden rise in Covid-19 scams, and even highlight instances of SMS text-messaging phishing attempts mimicking UK Government text alerts.
In the example cited, a fake compensation payment is offered to entice the user to hand over details via an imitation UK Government website.
There has also been a growth in online hackers and trolls targeting Zoom and other video conferencing platforms. Users unfamiliar with this kind of software in particular may prove an easy target for cyber criminals.
Phishing scams are part of a larger trend of online Covid-19 themed fraud. In March, the NCSC removed around 500 fake online shops claiming to be selling fraudulent virus-related items over the internet.
Google currently estimate that Gmail filtering is blocking over 100 million phishing emails each day, and that almost 20% of online email scams now refer to Coronavirus (around 18 million) – likely to be the largest phishing ‘theme’ in history.
For cybersecurity expertise and assistance, please contact Lineal today.
Apple have launched a new mid-market iPhone, the iPhone SE, to popular aclaim.
Similar to the iPhone 7 in appearance, this more baseline model of iPhone is designed to broaden the user-base of Apple’s popular iPhone range into the territory of more budget Android smartphone alternatives.
Not that Apple have scrimped on the technology – even the more basic SE includes an A13 Chip, 4.7-inch Retina HD display, and the ‘best single camera’ system on an iPhone ever (as opposed to the multi-lens affairs on more premium iPhones.)
In a nod to the World’s current Coronavirus difficulties, the SE also contains the original TouchID fingerprint sensor, so that users can still unlock the screen without removing facemasks.
Like it’s experimental predecessor, the 2nd-generation SE will also be available at more affordable prices: including £10.99 a month, or £279 upfront via Apple trade-in, suggesting there will soon be some very cost-effective deals reaching customers on the high street. To thin Apple’s extensive iPhone range, the iPhone 8 will also be discontinued.
Apple’s physical high-street stores remain closed due to Covid-19 lockdown – however online preorder begins from Friday 17th April, starting at £419.
For technical expertise and business mobile, please contact Lineal today.
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.
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.
The world is on lockdown, but not all is doom and gloom – as people unite during a period that can only be described as one of the most challenging times we have faced in decades. Our ways of life have been put on pause, travel and holidays are no more; our freedom of movement halted.
But this is only temporary and there will be an end to this crisis. There is a global rise of togetherness and tough times don’t last – but tough companies do.
What good can come out of this chaos and uncertainty? There is hope: here’s some good news stories you might have missed:
Social media users sharing details of home schooling ideas, new hobbies, fitness programmes, baking tips, and virtual tours streaming of galleries, museums, and zoos.
Remote working, although daunting and perhaps challenging at first isn’t too bad after all, no travelling, productivity levels high with less distractions, contact is still possible and chat on Microsoft Teams or Zoom is the new normal.
Time is the greatest healer and as we have the time to reflect, appreciate the smaller things in life. Spend time with your children, your pets, your significant other – you may be with just them, for a little while. Take some time out to look out the window, if you go for a walk notice how spring is arriving.
One thing we don’t know is how long this will all last, all we do know is there will be an end – we’ll get through this and Lineal’s team are here for you when you need us.
Automated Zoom conference meeting finder ‘zWarDial’ discovers ~100 meetings per hour that aren’t protected by passwords. The tool also has prompted Zoom to investigate whether its password-by-default approach might be malfunctioning https://t.co/dXNq6KUYb3pic.twitter.com/h0vB1Cp9Tb
Cyber security experts have also highlighted the availability of automated Zoom-call hacking tools in the darker corners of the web – able to seek out conference calls without passwords for trolls to exploit.
Most experts believe Zoombombing intruders can be avoided with routine security precautions which should be taken by the host (and co-hosts) of any Zoom meeting.
In particular Zoom meeting hosts have been cautioned to:
Set a unique, complex password for every Zoom meeting
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
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:
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.
Members of Lineal’s Software Development Team were recently invited to join the Omnis Software Engineering Team for a special 2-day visit focusing on development work regarding web features within SQLWorks.
Software engineers from both companies focused the dedicated day on the implementation and deployment of Lineal’s recent online work including business-to-business (B2B) trade ordering portals and online user survey systems.
The SQLWorks Team at Lineal wanted to thank the staff at Omnis for being excellent hosts and helping to craft an extremely useful and informative visit.
Omnis technology has underpinned Lineal’s SQLWorks Business Management Software (integrating accounting, stock control, CRM and manufacturing) since the early 1980s. Lineal’s Managing Director Mike Matthews is a part of the international Omnis Technical Committee, and Lineal staff regularly help coordinate and take part in EurOmnis, the international Omnis software developer conference.
For Software development advice and expertise today, please contact our team today.
We recently attended the 2020 Gamma Communications Roadshow at Stamford Bridge – hearing the latest business telecoms and technology trends from across the UK. But what do businesses need to be aware of?
Clock Ticking for ISDN
BT will officially turn off all ISDN services by 2025, with the ‘stop-sell’ order coming as early as 2023.
With UK businesses just getting used to putting ‘2020’ on paperwork, this is no longer a drill – if your phone system uses ISDN, your business needs to begin preparing to switch to a digital services such as SIP or better still, a hosted VOIP platform.
There are perhaps as many as 1.5 million ISDN channels still in use by businesses across the UK. Gulp.
Ultrafast Fibre Rollout Gathers Pace
Superfast broadband (‘Fibre to the Cabinet’ or FTTC) prices are falling all the time, but the big story of the decade is likely to be the steady roll-out of ultrafast ‘Fibre to the Premise’ to many more businesses – to around 40% availability over the next few years.
Interested in fibre for your area? Perhaps you should speak to your friendly neighbourhood IT provider…
Not all 5G is born equal
We’ve known for a while how the smallest of the UK’s four mobile networks (Three Mobile) is arguably in the best position to deliver data, although it’s now becoming clear Three has an enviable technical advantage over some of the other major providers – and is even using the cheeky marketing slogan: ‘If it’s Not Three, It’s Not Real 5G’.
The reserved spectrum range favours Three to such an extent that EE/BT, O2 and Vodafone have all submitted strongly worded complaints over preferential access. Gulp.
Microsoft Teams Telecoms Emerges
Among Gamma’s most exciting news was the announcement of a Direct Call Routing service for Microsoft Teams – which effectively plugs into the back of Teams and Microsoft’s ‘Phone System’ PBX add-on, to turn your Microsoft Teams software into a fully fledged business phone system.
Until now Microsoft’s Teams platform has been a strong option for video/audio conferencing, screenshare, instant messaging and collaboration – but have always lacked the more robust business call-handling feature-set of true phone systems, or suffered from a shortage of physical handsets. With both of those challenges solved by Gamma and the Teams app available on a variety of devices, it’s easy to imagine Teams phones appearing on desks.
Direct Routing for Teams is expected from April 2020. The final pricing is likely to be somewhere in the region of between £15-25 a month per user (including Microsoft Office licensing) – finally unifying telecoms under the same single user account as Microsoft Office 365 hosted email, files storage, office apps and collaboration software. Watch this space.
For communications services and expertise, please contact our team today.
Edit: This article was originally published a few weeks before the first national UK COVID lockdown, 2020 – and has been left in its original form.
“All Staff Meeting” it said in the diary, and that was unusual. While both Lineal’s technical and non-technical teams meet regularly, it is rare that they are all required to gather at once on a Monday. Something was up.
“Tomorrow…” announced Mike, “… you’re all going to work from home. Lockdown: you have two hours to prepare.”
Tuesday 10th March would be a complete quarantine drill day. Staff would attempt to replicate everything Lineal does while working remotely – from home in most cases, but in physical isolation from each other. The scenario would be a practice run for either a coronavirus isolation scenario, or a catastrophic on-site evacuation incident such as severe flooding.
We would be permitted to visit clients if required, make preparations for home working, and to remove any equipment we might need from Commercial House in advance – providing we did so within the 2 hour advance warning period.
The business operations of our clients would remain critical throughout, so everything would need to operate as normal, with the quarantine remaining effectively ‘secret’.
(Lineal staff first begin finding out about the quarantine drill. Approx. 1430hrs Monday.)
The problem with working in a technology business is that you rely on a lot of technology. Two hours isn’t a long time to coordinate twenty-six people, so putting Lineal’s Business Continuity Plan into practice isn’t as easy as asking if everyone has memorised the document.
First: untether from the desk. Staff without laptops would need to be issued them quickly, and everyone remove their device from the building. Fears of a burgeoning black market in charging cables proved unfounded, and by late afternoon everybody had what they needed.
“.. those who have had close contact will be asked to self-isolate at home for 14 days from the last time they had contact with the confirmed case ..”
(Gov.uk, “COVID-19 Guidance for Employers and Businesses”)
Web-based and other cloud services such as Microsoft Office 365 would be accessed over home broadband connections, with the same security controls as staff normally use while remote working.
Good luck everyone!
As always, IT Support engineers would depend on remote assistance software to help end-users, and need to ensure good communication at all times. Throughout the process, staff were encouraged to note their experience of the experiment and highlight issues for review.
Secure access to Lineal’s internal networks, and all the systems that sit behind it, would be granted to our team via a secure Virtual Private Network (VPN).
Top tip #1: Familiarise yourself with the mobile hotspot on your smartphone, because the 4G connection is a useful way to test that your VPN will connect successfully, before actually leaving your place of work.
Everyone was connected remotely to all our business continuity systems, which granted access to Lineal’s in-house telephony, shared workspaces in Microsoft Teams, and SQLWorks business management software.
Without a physical desk phone at home, staff would instead use a desktop softphone on their PC, continuing to handle and transfer calls exactly as before – relying on status indicators to gauge each other’s availability, similar to how they would with their existing desk phone.
Microsoft Teams would permit instant message and document sharing – and facilitate video conference calls and screen-sharing with clients who were often otherwise unaware that Lineal’s offices had gone dark for the day. Teams rapidly became the preferred method of quick communication between individuals or small groups – with a rapid problem-solving chatter sitting below the level of email.
Incoming and outbound call volumes were actually slightly higher than usual, as staff continued not just taking customer calls, but calling each other more regularly due to the lack of physical proximity. The relative ease through which individuals would usually interact was replaced through Teams, and more conference calls, later reflected in higher Teams user activity.
Lineal Microsoft Teams User Activity: 3rd – 10th March
Top Tip #2: To enable full home-working, you need not just a unified communications tool, but more call volume ‘capacity’ than normal.
Full remote-working is an interesting exercise because it forces your team to reconsider elements of the operation everyone takes for granted. For example, our teams regularly make use of meeting rooms and spaces at the Lineal office in order to work on projects and meet with customers.
In a geographically distributed “virtual” world, these meetings need to take place in different ways. Generally, tools like Teams make an excellent substitute and the result is a far more focussed experience which achieves the shared aims of the meeting, but with slightly less social interaction than you would expect when meeting face to face.
(Business as usual, with rising call volumes)
Although the practice of full home-working is dramatically easier than it once was, and potentially hugely cost-saving, several staff reported feeling a little isolated. We’ll be incorporating all our staff’s feedback into our Business Continuity planning, and continue to make improvements.
How to Plan:
Have a Plan Saved in your email drafts – detailing what needs to happen in the event that a significant number of staff need to be sent home. Worry about things in this order:
1. Basic Connectivity & Communication
How will your staff connect to your IT remotely, and how will they communicate with each other. The checklist runs as follows: hardware, cables, broadband and communications tools. These are the most fundamental tools for both work, and circumventing any other problems your team encounters.
2. Access to Work Files
In the short term, staff otherwise isolated from systems can still process documents productively – If you’ve moved to Office 365, G-suite or cloud-storage platforms like OneDrive or Dropbox, this should be easiest workplace task to provide access for.
3. Access to Databases
Operating cloud-based? That will help. However, remotely connecting to non-cloud, ‘on-site’ systems such as accounting, stock control and other vital software will rely on external access to your network – for example via VPN.
This is likely to be unfamiliar to many end users used to working from the office – start with the users that most need it for the continued operation of the business, such as mission-critical staff or more senior accounting managers.
4. External Permissions
What systems do you need access to that are operated by third-parties. Remote equipment? Agency resources? Supplier portals? If these are web-based they may be accessible from anywhere, but make sure this is the case. To dramatically simplify this one, don’t run an IT company!
5. Support Structure
If you’ve never worked entirely from home before, it can feel strangely isolating. Guidance from NHS England currently states coronavirus self-isolation should last as long as two weeks, so check regularly that your team are coping OK. Encouraging emails, chat channels, funny gifs, team calls and the like are more important than you might think.
***This page will be updated with links to new guidance, as required.***
For business continuity technology and expertise, please contact Lineal today.
Lineal’s Managing Director Mike Matthews recently spoke to more than a hundred business leaders who gathered in Tiverton and at Haldon racecourse near Exeter for ‘Purple’ disability employer conferences.
Organised by Be Ready Employer Hub, the event focused on the business benefits of employing hidden talents staff and those with disabilities or long-term health conditions.
Lineal benefits from the contribution of our hidden talents staff and were asked to talk about their work, our experience of both mistakes and successes, and the importance of building a supportive working environment.
Invited as a guest-speaker, Mike’s case study included the story of Lineal Software Developer Reuben Winsor, who won the 2016 Pluss SouthWest ‘Achiever of the Year’ award for his progress.
Ready Devon is supported by Devon County Council and the Department for Work & Pensions – providing disability awareness training, guidance for employers, networking and access to partnership organisations.
The technology in the world has advanced that a new supercomputer has been built to forecast, the clement and the weather for airports to see when incoming storms are coming in. It’ll collect mass amount of data to help predict storms, floods and changes to the global climate.
With the government saying it’s the year to change the world and of climate action with this new supercomputer, they’ll be able to make a change to the world and make it better for everyone stopping floods and storms without any preparation. The government will be making even more upgrades to the computer at the end of 2022.
With technology over the last 30 years getting better, it’s easier to measure the weather forecast as the capacity of data being transferred faster and more at a time. It’ll also be better for the UK as its going to increase the capability of the UK data storage and transfer speed, this will increase broadband therefore faster Wi-Fi.
Entry-level Broadband routers from many major providers are locked to a single Internet Service Provider (ISP), which often causes spare routers to pile up in cupboards when customers switch broadband supplier.
The move follows a pattern of UK companies trying to bolster their green credentials, in the wake of Extinction Rebellion and other environmental movements gathering increased public support.
As subsidiaries, the BBC reports that the scheme will also ‘eventually’ apply to EE and Plusnet broadband customers.
Increasing numbers of local councils in the UK now offer direct recycling of small electrical items, reflecting a noticeable rise in the value of copper and other useful materials – giving home users few excuses not to attempt to recycle their old router.
For IT support & expertise – please contact our team today.
Lineal Software Solutions Ltd. recently welcomed Chancellor of the Exchequer Sajid Javid MP to Lineal’s Barnstaple Offices to tour our operations and see our technical work.
Visiting with North Devon’s new MP Selaine Saxby, Mr Javid toured Lineal’s different departments and had chance to meet technical staff in a number of different roles (and enjoy a cream tea!)
Considered one of the most senior Cabinet positions, the Chancellor is responsible for financial and economic matters at the Treasury. A former Managing Director at Deutsche Bank, MP for Bromsgrove, Culture Secretary and then Business Secretary, Javid is the first British Asian to hold one of the Great Offices of State.
For IT Support and technical expertise, please contact our team today.
The US Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency have advised all Mozilla Firefox users to urgently update their browser versions, following discovery of a vulnerability that grants potential access to the operating system.
The unusual warning comes after Mozilla itself admitted being aware of ‘targeted attacks in the wild abusing this flaw.’
Lineal Software Solutions Ltd recently won a Tech SW award at the 2019 Tech South West Awards.
Held at the Exeter Mercure Rougemont Hotel,the Tech South West Awards recognise technology excellence across the wider South West region of Bath, Bristol, Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly, Devon, Dorset, Gloucestershire, Somerset and Wiltshire. Awards celebrate talent, creativity, business success, education, leadership, diversity and more.
Each ‘Cluster’ Award celebrates fantastic organisations and technical initiatives across different parts of the South West. This could be a company achieving fantastic growth, an organisation or partnership delivering a big positive difference to their community, a learning initiative, innovative programmes, novel ways of encouraging and celebrating tech heroes, diversity, best practice or local tech successes.
This year Lineal won North Devon’s Cluster Award, and also narrowly missed out on winning ‘Tech Company of the Year (Revenue under £5m)’.
Managing Director Mike Matthews and Naomi Williams (Business Development) were proud to collect our Tech SW award, and our glass trophy now enjoys pride of place in our office!
“We were honoured to be the recipient of one of the first Tech SW awards” explained Mike: “It’s a real endorsement of our team’s hard work and our commitment to delivering brilliant technology solutions for businesses and organisations across the South West.”
How secure is your password?… One of the biggest reasons for security breaches is weak passwords. People often choose passwords that are too short. Regardless of how tedious it seems, make it a point to update your passwords regularly; use upper and lower case letters along with symbols and numbers.
The key measurement of password security is entropy. This, in computer science terms, is a measurement of how unpredictable a password is, based on how long it would take an attacker to work it out by making a guess at each character. As a standard, longer passwords are by definition more secure and harder to crack. In the table below you can see how shorter/easier passwords, are quicker to crack.
What should a password look like
Strong, secure passwords have a lot in common; they are usually long, unique, random and involve a mixture of lowercase and uppercase letters as well as special characters and numbers. Trying to create passwords that comprised of all of these aspects, can sometimes be challenging.
Most insecure passwords are the result of our human behaviour. People do a lot of very predictable things and in general find it difficult to be random, especially when they are actively trying to be. For instance putting special characters only at the beginning or end rather than mixing them up in the middle, or using common phrases and keyboard patterns. So that we can remember we often try to use memorable pieces of information but we should always, where possible, avoid clues and references to our personal lives.
Where can I go for advice
There are many articles online to help assist with what a strong password looks like. At a recent event Lineal ran with the South West Police Regional Cyber Crime Unit, which focused on cyber security, password strength was highlighted as a high risk for many businesses and individuals.
To find out more, or if you require any help with ways to help protect your business, please contact the IT support team at Lineal.
Local businesses recently gathered at Barnstaple Library for a special cybersecurity workshop organised by the South West Police Regional Cyber Crime Unit and Lineal Software Solutions Ltd.
Thirty participants from firms across the South West took part in a series of lego-based group exercises highlighting key concepts in cybersecurity, as they sought to protect a fictional utilities company from attack by common real-world cyber crime.
The winning team defended their company by spending their budget on the correct countermeasures at each stage of the exercise, and strategically limiting the damage from any breaches in security.
The South West Regional Organised Crime Unit (SW ROCU) is one of nine regional units across England and Wales that delivers specialist capabilities to target and disrupt serious and organised crime. Designed to raise awareness of coordinated digital threats, the cybersecurity workshop session is part of a new educational initiative being run by the Police right across the region.
Group exercises were followed by a short Q&A including advice for businesses on related topics including network best-practice, password policy, physical security, and the Government’s new Cyber Essentials certification.
Lineal’s Head of Technical Services, Matt Norris, explained: “We were to delighted to be able to organise the Cyber Crime Unit to run this very special workshop for local companies: we see cyber attacks becoming ever more sophisticated, and the SWRCCU takes a really positive and constructive approach to educating business owners about how to protect their organisations and employees.”
“Many businesses struggle to grapple with cybersecurity, but help and expertise is accessible.”
You can learn more about the South West Police Regional Cyber Crime Unit’s and their educational work across the South West online here.
For IT support and cybersecurity expertise, please contact Lineal today.
Email remains a, if not the, key threat vector for protecting organisations from cyber crime – with around 90% of cyber attacks beginning by compromising an unsuspecting user via email.
Today we take a closer look at some of the clever tricks of Barracuda’s email filtering & security service, and why the small investment to protect your inbox is worth it:
In addition to profiling every email which passes through its live email filtering service in seconds, Barracuda scans each email attachment for signs that the contents might be malicious.
As cyber criminals begin to use more sophisticated means, it’s worth implementing this to prevent macro-enabled office documents, infected PDFs and similar file download tricks from catching out users who might be curious to open a dangerous attachment.
Barracuda email filtering scans not just incoming, but outgoing emails from your hosted mail service or mail server, ensuring not only that your clients are protected from suspect emails, but that staff cannot circulate threats further within your organisation.
Anybody familiar with being caught in a reply-all ’email storm’ knows how quickly bad email can spread internally – be part of the solution yourself, not the problem.
In the event that your email service falters, clients quickly begin receiving bounce-backs, which leave a poor impression of customer service.
This is avoidable – routing via Barracuda’s email servers, emails will temporarily ‘spool’ like planes stacking over an airport, ensuring onward delivery later when the service comes back online. This ensures any unfortunate interruption to communications is not immediately visible to your clients.
Long Term Recovery
Hosting your email in the cloud with Microsoft Office 365? Everything is backed up in the cloud, correct? Not quite – even Office 365 has a 30-day recovery period on deleted email, and emails can ultimately only be restored individually.
This retention period can be longer, or even unlimited, with Barracuda email backups, making sure that emails can be recovered long after staff have deleted them, accidentally or otherwise.
This extra silo of automated email backup protects not just against employee negligence or malpractice, but also common digital breaches such as compromised accounts.
For cyber-security and IT expertise – please contact our team today.
Apple have released MacOS Catalina, 2019’s update to the Mac’s leading operating system.
Catalina introduces a number of new features, including ’Sidecar’ dual display, new media systems, Mac Catalyst for developers and Screen Time activity monitoring.
Although we say it every year, the endless march towards a unified Mac/iPad operating system feels another step closer: macOS Catalina introduces ‘Sidecar’ – which allows an iPad to be the secondary monitor for your MacBook. In addition to being a smart productivity trick for those needing extra screen space, the iPad is able to perform new functions such as an extra high-resolution display for those with impaired vision.
MacOS Catalyst, released in the latest version, also makes it easier for app developers to publish their apps across both MacOS and iPadOS operating systems, with the implication being that Apple see the devices as very much part of the same software universe.
Apple have shuffled their media services options around this year – replacing iTunes with new services named Apple Music, Apple Podcasts and Apple TV. In addition, the new Apple Arcade gaming subscription service has been launched, with a fixed-subscription service for an unlimited package of games.
Screen Time introduces activity monitoring, with either productivity or parental control clearly in Apple’s sights. Downtime allows users to share time away from the screen, categories or individual apps, and includes shared visibility across multiple apple devices.
As always, it’s worth waiting a short time for others to discover any early release-bugs in the new operating system update, before updating promptly.
For Apple device expertise and IT Support, please contact our team today.
Microsoft are offering an initial ten free Charity Microsoft 365 licenses for Nonprofit organisations.
Microsoft 365 allows users across an organisation to work more flexibly, collaborate on shared work and maintain an ‘always-up-to-date’ software base across a charitable organisation.
The flagship ‘Microsoft 365 Business’ cloud IT bundle, which normally retails at £15.10+VAT per user per month (Or £3.80+VAT per month for NonProfits) includes everyone’s favourite Microsoft Office 365 apps such as Word, Excel, Powerpoint, Outlook and more. 50GB of Exchange Online email hosting per user is also included as standard, with 1TB of cloud OneDrive storage, and Windows 10 Pro licensing for each user’s device, packaged with a host of organisational security features.
Lineal’s Head of Technical Services Matt Norris explained: “This is a super offer which we’re expecting to do some real good in the Charitable sector especially – and hopefully nonprofits will snap up their free Charity Microsoft 365 licensing while it’s available. Office 365 makes flexible working and collaborative projects much easier, advantages that we know are a key concern for many in the voluntary sector.”
Mike Matthews, Lineal’s Managing Director explained: “We’re delighted to be shortlisted for the Tech South West awards – it’s a real recognition of our team’s hard work, creativity and dedication to be ranked among the best in the region.”
“2018-19 has been really quite something for Lineal. We’ve opened new premises, taken on bigger projects than ever before, expanded our product offering to new areas, and signed a diverse range of new clients.”
“It’s fantastic to make it through to the final round of this prestigious award.”
Tech South West exists to champion excellence among tech companies, and make the South West a hub for technology and innovation.
The awards will be presented in a special ceremony at Exeter Castle on Wednesday 27th November – a full shortlist of nominees and categories has been published on Tech South West’s website, here.
Microsoft have announced dark mode for Microsoft Office 365.
Dark mode will extend muted and low-light colour schemes across Microsoft’s suite of Office 365 apps, and across Office.com, beyond the Outlook dark theme introduced last Summer. The improvement comes just in time for the newest releases of iOS and Android smartphone operating systems.
Adding low-light themes has become a popular addition for the major tech players in recent years – with Apple and Microsoft making significant strides in adapting their operating systems to be easier to use after-hours.
Office 365’s development team point to the changing nature of work: that office users increasingly use battery-dependent devices (such as laptops, tablets and smartphones) that need to conserve power, over desktop PCs with fixed power connections.
Today’s workforce is much more mobile, often working from home at night, in shared office spaces or even darkened aeroplanes – and are more aware of the health dangers of eye-strain and sleep deprivation that can be caused by unnaturally bright screens.
Instead the focus is on a more ‘relaxed’ viewing of Office 365, with Outlook even able to automatically able to switch to dark-mode depending on the hour and date dynamically, or when the user has enabled battery-saver.
Dark Mode is expected to roll-out to Office 365’s 200-million users in coming weeks.
Lineal are certified Microsoft Gold Partner – for Office 365 expertise, licensing and support, please contact us today.
Rumours circulating online suggest Apple may be planning multiple iPhone 11 models – with square multi-lens camera clusters and glassy coloured casings, photos of the materials or which were leaked online in May.
Remaining releases are likely to be mainly iterative, including iOS 13 for iPhone, iPadOS and even WatchOS 6. MacOS 10.15 Catalina is also expected to be a key part of Apple’s showcase.
The tech giant is likely to see the iPhone 11 announcement as a chance to help reverse hardware sales trends – which Apple now curiously no longer publishes in full, asserting that devices sold is ‘less relevant today than it was in the past’ a likely marker of the iPhone market slowing down as consumers hang on to their devices for a longer replacement cycle.
Apple is also expected to launch it’s own gaming service, dubbed Apple Arcade, as an online subscription service akin to an iTunes for gaming – just one example of how the company is increasingly re-focusing its efforts on premium service offerings, rather than luxury hardware.
For Apple hardware, expertise, accessories and support – please contact our team today.
But is it true; are passwords doomed? Enter the FIDO2 Project – a fascinating effort to ‘Move the World Beyond Passwords’ led by the FIDO Alliance industry association and World Wide Web Consortium.
Headlines aside, FIDO2’s aims are ambitious: to replace passwords with a flexible device-based authentication standard that allows users to log in via biometrics or temporary security keys.
Unique to each website, not stored centrally and not transmitted, FIDO2 argue this standard naturally scuppers phishing, password theft and replay attacks – and introduces some privacy advantages sure to woo even ardent digital rights activists: such as the inability to track users between sites.
While still technically possible, cheating biometrics requires the kind of preparation not common to everyday opportunistic cyber-criminals.
Password keeper apps (such as the excellent 1Password) have become an interesting half-way house to a more secure password future – where the password manager retains a set of passwords behind a strong keycode, in an encrypted form. The password manager may also perform other useful functions, such as warning the user where passwords overlap, allocating different password access permissions to different people within a business or organisation, or auto-filling in common web browsers.
The adoption of password managers may reflect a coming time where users continue to ‘use’ passwords, but without engaging in the process of recalling or typing the password. It may not be passwords that are doomed, but the user’s traditional interaction with passwords.
Are passwords doomed? A few potential futures emerge: one where passwords exist but are used less directly by users, where passwords are relegated to a secondary security measure of questionable usefulness, or most radically, where passwords are replaced entirely.
For cybersecurity and IT expertise, please contact our team today.
Office 365’s Microsoft Teams has grown and grown to become far more than a simple work chat or video conferencing app.
As new features are added to the collaboration suite all the time, you could easily miss the best of the new updates – so we’ve collated some of the most interesting cool tricks for Teams:
Homeworking? Taking an important video call with a less than formal background? Unless you want to end up in a viral video clip like BBC commentator Professor Robert Kelly, Teams has got you covered with simple controls to mask your immediate surroundings from a video call.
With a simple toggle, Microsoft Teams will detect your face in the foreground and blur the remainder of the screen, to spare everyone the embarrassment of your favourite coffee shop or messy home office.
Screenshare to Mobile
Teams has had the ability to optionally share your screen with other attendees in the same meeting for some time, choosing to show either the whole Windows desktop or restricted to a single window (such as a presentation.)
However, Microsoft have also recently added this feature for iOS/Android, allowing attendees to enjoy the full Teams experience on the move.
Viewing a desktop on a mobile can be an eyesight challenge, although it’s especially handy to be able to view a shared Powerpoint presentation in Private mode – and skip back through slides without interrupting everyone else’s flow.
Join by proximity
Join by proximity allows Teams to detect meeting that’s physically located nearby. This seems like a peculiar idea to begin with, but is actually designed for more open ‘meeting’ situations – such as conference venues or hotdesking environments: making individuals’ screen space as collaborative as the room itself, or extending a spontaneous group meeting into a virtual one.
Teams will prompt within the meeting room lobby if any existing rooms are available nearby via Bluetooth, allowing the user to apply to join the meeting with audio muted, and without an original Teams invite. The meeting room organiser must accept via a Meeting Room control unit for security reasons, to ensure only welcome attendees join the meeting room.
Proximity join is available from May 2019, including on mobile versions of Teams.
Integrate Interactive Tabs
One of the best untapped features of teams is the ability to add custom tabs (click ‘+’) into each chat channel which allows for the creation of something entirely custom.
Of course, Channel admins can also add from a category simply marked ‘website’ – via which any responsive web service with a valid SSL certificate can be deployed neatly through teams for the look-and-feel of a more integrated desktop.
Get Notified of Availability
Status indicators mean its easy to tell if a contact is unavailable to chat, but right-clicking on a contact now offers a handy ‘Notify When Available’ option which performs the basic requirement of call back – allowing Teams to prompt you of contact availability the best time.
Microsoft Teams is available with Microsoft Office 365 Business Essentials licensing and above.
Lineal are a Gold Microsoft Partner – for Microsoft Office 365 support, licensing and expertise, please contact our team today.
Apple have issued a silent update for video conferencing software Zoom, following discovery of a major webcam security vulnerability affecting Mac users.
Zoom issued an emergency patch for the problem two days ago – in a rapid response Apple was still concerned might not reach enough users.
The controversial web server installation – originally designed to save Mac-based Safari web browser users from additional clicks and make video conferencing easier to use, was shown to create a potentially serious vulnerability whereby Zoom calls could be launched from any website with the camera turned on.
Believed to put at risk more than 4 million webcams globally, the zero-day exploit was discovered by security researcher Jonathan Leitschuh – who originally gave Zoom 90-days to resolve the issue prior to publication.
Leitschuh has since praised Zoom’s willingness to do a public ‘about face’ with the emergency patch, and Zoom’s CEO taking direct video calls to discuss the problem.
Nevertheless, Apple’s decision to step in to protect Mac users remains an embarrassment for the previously very successful video conferencing solution.
Additional problems include Mac versions of video conferencing software which use Zoom’s underlying services for white-labeled video calling – such as Ringcentral.
Instead of patching the problem, Zoom’s permission to turn on the webcam can also be disabled manually, via Settings > Video > ‘Turn Off My Video When Joining a Meeting.’
For software expertise and support, please contact Lineal today.
Due out this Autumn (2019) is macOS Catalina – Apple’s latest new operating system for the Mac range.
MacOS Catalina is currently in Beta, so it’s unclear exactly how the final update will look. However it appears once again that Apple are increasingly blurring the boundary between Mac and iPad, as well as doubling-down on a rich media experience:
“…MacOS Catalina gives you more of everything you love about Mac. Experience music, TV and podcasts in three all-new Mac apps. Enjoy your favourite iPad apps now on your Mac. Extend your workspace and expand your creativity with iPad and Apple Pencil. Discover smart new features in the apps you use every day. You can now take everything you do above and beyond.With macOS Catalina, the apps you love are now more beautiful and intelligent making your everyday tasks easier than ever.”
Apple’s decision to replace iTunes also receives its own sales pitch as part of the new operating system’s roll-out:
“… iTunes forever changed the way people experienced music, films, TV programmes and podcasts. It all changes again with three all-new, dedicated apps — Music, Apple TV and Apple Podcasts — each designed from the ground up to be the best way to enjoy entertainment on your Mac. And rest assured: everything you had in your iTunes library is still accessible in each app. iCloud seamlessly syncs everything across your devices — or you can back up, restore and sync by connecting the device directly to your Mac.”
“… macOS Catalina brings all your favourite Screen Time features to Mac, giving you greater insight into how you’re spending your time. Monitor usage, schedule downtime, and set limits for both apps and websites across all your devices. Enhanced security features better protect macOS against tampering, helping to ensure that the apps you use are safe, giving you greater control over access to your data, and it’s even easier to find your Mac if it’s lost or stolen.”
Apple is expected to release macOS Catalina free of charge to all users, and is currently in a testing phase. We do not recommend Apple users seek to move to Catalina just yet, as final version bugs may still be identified during the public beta.
For Apple hardware, expertise and support, contact Lineal today
Communications giant Poly (nee ‘Polycom’) have launched their new VVX450 series phone handsets – and our team at Lineal have taken it for a test drive.
On first impression, the new handset is exceptionally eye-catching – the square design certainly feels modern and cutting-edge, if a little serious. All the controls will feel very familiar to users of the very successful VVX410 and VVX411 handsets, but the phone’s 4.3″ full colour screen is the most dramatic improvement – with a wider display and higher definition that appear much sharper.
Much like the VVX411, the menus and buttons are simple and intuitive – continuing the same focus on ease-of-use that has seen Poly sell VVX phones in the hundreds of thousands across the UK, into a very diverse array of business sectors.
We were particularly impressed by the speakerphone. Polycom have cranked the in-built speaker up to eleven, and the Polycom VVX450 could easily be used as a capable conference phone for a typical meeting room.
Someone may have been slightly over-ambitious with the phone’s size: desks may include less paper these days, but the handset feels large and space might be an issue in more traditional working environments. As before, the VVX450 supports single-cable (‘POE’) network and power, PC pass-through, headsets and more, but is noticeably larger than the VVX411 predecessor, itself a substantial handset. Overall, the impression is that the new model may look more naturally at-home on the desk of an executive, rather than an occasional phone user.
It’s been disclosed a bug has caused a portion of G Suite users to have their passwords stored in plain text. The bug has been around since 2005, but there is no evidence that anybody’s password was improperly accessed. They’re resetting any passwords that might be affected and letting G Suite administrators know about the issue.
It’s unclear exactly how many users have been affected, Google would only say that it relates to a “subset of G Suite” customers. G Suite is the corporate version of Gmail and Google’s other apps, the bug came about in this product because of a feature designed specifically for companies. The issue has been fixed and there is no evidence of improper access to or misuse of the affected passwords. No consumer Google accounts were impacted.
The company typically stores passwords on its servers in a cryptographically scrambled state known as a hash. But a bug in G Suite’s password recovery feature for administrators caused unprotected passwords to be stored in the infrastructure of an admin control panel. Google has confirmed even though the passwords were stored in plain text, they were at least stored in plain text inside Google’s servers. This therefore would have been harder to get to, than if they were just out on the open internet.
Although Google didn’t say so explicitly, it seems they want to ensure people don’t associate this issue with other plain text password problems.
Facebook, Twitter and GitHub have all admitted storing user passwords in plaintext over the past year or so. In Facebook’s case, hundreds of millions of users are thought to have been affected.
Growing our business with the youth of today, Lineal support Apprenticeship Recruitment. Creating opportunities with one of the region’s largest privately-owned IT companies, offering the first step to a career working in IT.
Staff at Lineal attended Petroc’s annual Apprenticeship Fair last Tuesday the 7th May. At this year’s event a small team attended, two of whom are currently employed Apprentices at Lineal Software Solutions. Talking to students about the company and sharing their experiences of studying and working, being paid to earn as you learn.
Attending these events is vital to aid the growth of local businesses and apprenticeship recruitment, above all it allows students to meet with local companies. Since 2014 we have been working closely with our local College Petroc to take on candidates who we feel have a talent for working within the industry. Being an apprentice offers hands on work experience in a multi-disciplinary IT company to suit a variety of skills and expertise.
The current Mac Pro computer debuted back in June 2013 with an upgrade consequently in the winds. Reports suggest that a fresh model may finally see the light of day in the first week of June. According to sources, Apple will be revealing its new Mac Pro at the World Wide Developers Conference.
Given that the Pro targets demanding pro-users, like Architects and Developers, it makes sense for the new Mac to be revealed here.With super fast processors, more maximum RAM, better GPUs, and a slew of other improvements, almost certainly make this the most powerful and capable Mac Pro Apple have ever launched.
The new design will better accommodate future upgrades and higher-end hardware. Apple says the design of the current high-end device has restricted the company’s ability to upgrade it, necessitating a total redesign.Internal expansion and dual-processor options are key aspects on the wish list of improvements. The actual capabilities of the most recent creation are however still a mystery.
Aside from a revised Pro, there are rumours that Apple is developing a high-end high-throughput modular system. This will facilitate regular upgrades to meet the needs of Apple’s pro user base. It will ship alongside an upcoming Apple-branded pro display, which rumours suggest will be 31.6 inches with a 6K resolution. With “outstanding picture quality” enabled through a new Mini LED-like backlighting design.
Online rumours about the release of iOS 13 have suggested Apple may be about to add a number of ‘Mac’ style features to their touchscreen-based operating system.
Among the improvements hinted at exclusively by 9to5Mac for release at Apple’s Worldwide Developer Conference in June, iOS 13 looks set to include system-wide dark-mode and high-contract display versions, a less intrusive volume control, new font management, desktop-version website priority and new ‘Undo’ controls.
Most importantly, iOS 13 is rumoured to include a kind of panel-based app container system, allowing users to more easily control screen space and switch between applications smoothly.
If true, the move will be seen by many as the first confirmation of a long suspected plan by Apple to begin merging their two main operating systems, iOS (for iPhone and iPad) and MacOS (for MacBook, iMac and Mac mini ranges) for a more common experience across Apple’s range of devices.
Numerous concept images of what the proposed iOS might to look like have appeared online, although Apple aficionados may note that dark-mode would display very differently on OLED devices to non-OLED ones.
Recent iPad Pro advertising, which asks ‘What’s a computer?’ suggests that much like Microsoft, Apple is preparing for more capable tablets to increasingly replace traditional laptops for work computing.
For Apple equipment and expertise, contact our team today.
Google Plus is to be shut down, following a data leak which put almost half a million user accounts at risk.
The tech giant announced on Monday that the consumer social media platform would be retired by the end of August 2019.
Launched in 2011, Google Plus has had a rocky history – spawning a comedic sub-genre focused around it’s slow adoption, weirdly vocal support from Google employees, and failure to compete with larger social media rivals such as Facebook.
Google’s own statement acknowledges this in harsh terms:
More controversial however have been recent security problems. This month the Wall Street Journal published details of a bug in the Google+ API which had allowed app developers to access user data without permission via their friends, (an almost identical vulnerability to that underlying 2018’s Facebook/Cambridge Analytica scandal which resulted in Facebook executives testifying before Congress – in Google’s case potentially exposing 496,951 Google+ user accounts.) Google estimate around 400 application developers would have had access to private profile data as a result of the bug.
First discovered in March shortly prior to GDPR coming into effect in the EU, Google was not legally bound to report the breach to all European users, but would now be required to do so within 72 hours from discovery under ICO rules, if a similar breach were to re-occur.
News outlets have linked Google’s failure to disclose the leak with the final decision to close the platform, despite Google’s insistence that widely known low user-engagement is behind the move. Existing Google+ users may choose to restrict security permissions or remove content, although the platform’s lack of success suggests many will allow ‘phantom’ accounts to be disregarded.
In overlapping new coverage, Google is expected to launch the newest version of its flagship android Pixel smartphone in just a few hours time.
For IT and security expertise, contact Lineal today.
Lineal Software Solutions Ltd. has become the only current VMware Enterprise Partner across Devon, Cornwall and Somerset.
Enterprise Partners can both provide and implement the most advanced and specialised VMware solutions to the market – including cloud infrastructure and mobile device management solutions alongside datacentre products.
Previously one of the South West’s few VMware Professional Solution Providers, Lineal achieved the coveted status of Enterprise Solution Partner after engineers and other staff successfully passed an extensive series of examinations to qualify for the highly sought-after industry accreditation. VMware Partners are expected to maintain current subject knowledge and the 2018 series of assessments are particularly challenging, requiring considerable experience and understanding to achieve the high standards set by VMware.
Lineal’s Managing Director Mike Matthews explained: “VMware’s virtualisation solutions are renowned as some of the world’s most sophisticated, most demanded, and most secure technology.”
“The ability to manage virtualised computing, network infrastructure, storage and more has made VMware the worldwide market-leader for cloud-based computing and software-defined data centres.”
“In particular, we’re very excited to be offering VMware Mobile Device Management (MDM) solutions built on the latest Workspace ONE platform to organisations that need device security and compliance assurance measures in place.”
“This is an emerging requirement for more and more organisations of all sizes, and as a VMware partner in Devon, we look forward to delivering real innovation using VMWare to build the next generation of datacentre, MDM and application delivery platforms for our clients.”
For VMWare expertise and support, contact our IT Support team today.
Apple have announced the iPhone XS, iPhone XR and fourth series of Apple Watch as part of 2018’s Apple Keynote Address at the Steve Jobs Theatre.
The iPhone XS, currently available for £999 pre-order for the 5.8” version, or as a ‘Max’ 6.5″ version at an eye-watering £1,099, will include an A12 Bionic chip powered by longer life batteries and driving the highest quality screen currently available on a smartphone.
Interestingly, Apple will also be debuting a more mid-range iPhone XR, with a range of colours, a new liquid retina screen positioned in a similar corner-to-corner style, and the same headline A12 Bionic chip specification. Updated 12MP camera technology allows each iPhone to introduce accurate depth of field in portrait mode, and Apple have continued their glass-first theme to ensure all three versions of the latest flagship iPhones are waterproof.
For Apple Watch Series 4, Apple’s design team have rounded the edges to create a less square device, and re-oriented the more customisable watch face to make better use of the screen corners. The re-designed device will also include some new tricks: including electrodes able to take an electrocardiogram, and fall-detection should the wearer suffer an accident.
Each new product also corresponds to a drop in price of previous generations of Apple technology – including the Apple Watch Series 3 being reduced to a more affordable £279.
While the quality of Apple’s touchscreen products never fails to impress, Team Lineal were left wondering whether the Mac range will ever receive a new release. Predictions of a new Mac Mini, a new Mac Pro, and even the widely rumored new Macbook Air, were revealed to be unfounded.
Apple’s reliance on new iPhone sales is well-documented, with the popularity of the high-quality public-oriented product line pushing the tech giant to become the world’s first trillion-dollar company over the Summer. For at least another year, Apple’s focus has remained ‘business as usual.’
This year Lineal Software Solutions Ltd. was an official Sponsor of the 51st North Devon Show, and launched (maybe) the show’s first ever Space Invaders Championship.
The retro arcade pub-classic, in which the player holds out against descending ranks of tiny pixelated aliens was first released in 1978, making the game 40 years old this year (yes, really.)
Mike Matthews, Lineal’s managing director explained: “We wanted to make this year’s show fun with something both young people (and the young at heart) would recognise instantly and enjoy.”
“For those of us er… more advanced in years… the memories flooding back! Lineal was first founded in the 1980s, and it’s astonishing to think how far technology has developed.”
Fortunately so has Lineal, and visitors to our stall could learn more about Lineal IT support, cybersecurity, business software, cloud services, phone systems and much, much more.”
Lineal, which recently moved to new premises in central Barnstaple, was also an official Sponsor for this year’s North Devon Show, and presented the prizes to winners of the ‘Hacks and Riding Horses’ class.
However, much like IT support, battling aliens also seems to be a matter of experience – with parents often achieving much higher scores than children on our Space Invaders High Scores board.
After 2017’s Show was unfortunately cancelled due to poor weather, 2018 was a huge success and a fantastic day out for locals and visitors alike. Next year? We’ll be planning something even bigger…
Mike explained: “The North Devon Show is always a highlight of the calendar, and the array of businesses, charities, livestock, rural groups, crafts and all-round entertainment is a showcase for the community in this part of the world. We’re always proud to be able to support it.”
See you next year!
For IT Support and expertise, contact Lineal today.
The Wi-Fi Alliance has formally announced the introduction of the WPA3 security protocol, the next generation of wireless security to protect routers and networks.
The new security standard follows hot on the heels of last year’s breach of the existing WPA2 standard, which has been in use since 2004.
WPA3, released in both ‘personal’ and ‘enterprise’ with extra protections, is expected to fix a number of deficiencies in the older WiFi protocol, including:
Captured encrypted data cannot be decrypted by a later breach of the password – in order to access data, a hacker must have both the password and data at point of transmission.
Encryption of data will be individualised, such that snooping on other devices across less secure Wi-Fi networks will be made more difficult.
Extra protections against password brute-forcing and ‘dictionary’ style attacks, dramatically increasingly the time cost of bulk guessing a password successfully.
Smart devices with no screen, including many Internet-of-things (IoT) technologies, will be administered via a smartphone screen during Wi-Fi setup.
To most end-users, the experience of entering a Wi-Fi key will feel virtually identical. WPA3 isn’t expected to actually be implemented until 2019, and is predicted to gradually replace the existing WPA2 standard on all Wi-Fi certified devices. WPA2 will continue to function, but will be steadily phased out.
Nevertheless, expect to see major manufacturers rushing to ensure their own products are stamped with the very latest security ‘WPA3 Ready’ branding.
For networking and cybersecurity expertise, please contact Lineal today.
At time of writing, Lineal technical support staff are currently updating DrayTek Vigor firmware for all clients with known DrayTek equipment.
Enterprise Router provider DrayTek has called for urgent firmware updates, following discovery of a security vulnerability.
20 different business router models from DrayTek’s Vigor range are known to be affected by the security flaw, known as DNS hijacking, which may allow a third-party to alter DNS settings by issuing commands to a dormant session of the web-based DrayTek router control interface.
The unwelcome news marks the first major security flaw to befall the acclaimed networking equipment brand for some time – and comes less than a year since DrayTek won PC PRO’s ‘Best Router Brand Award’ for 2017.
A Vigor router showing IP number 18.104.22.168 is reported to be a likely indicator of compromise, and affected routers may exhibit unusual network behaviours.
DrayTek’s official guidance warns that this is likely to be only a preparatory ‘phase 1’ of any like cyber-attack by criminals, preparing re-direction of web traffic to compromised web pages which might capture unsuspecting users’ passwords or other sensitive information.
As a general security precaution, it’s always worth logging out of web-portals and other accounts not being used (including your email, social media, bank account and device itself… or indeed your router’s configuration panel.)
If you have a DrayTek Vigor router not covered by a Lineal Support Agreement with us, please get in touch for guidance.
The future of Lineal is nearly ready – the long awaited Project X (Lineal’s new home) is entering the final project stages.
Managing Director Mike Matthews explained: “Lineal’s new offices will be a significant leap forwards for us, and allow us to much better support our clients. Higher quality connectivity will make Lineal more contactable and reliable than ever, and we’re installing new server hardware and other infrastructure to expand and improve our capacity for cloud-based and hosting services.”
“Our staff will also have access to new and improved training facilities, an important part of our planning for future years. As our IT team expands to take on larger projects, and our SQLWorks software team expands to support the release of Version 8, we’ll be needing the space!”
Formerly Commercial House, Lineal’s new location on Barnstaple’s Strand is a two-story period building which will be the working headquarters of around twenty staff. New solar panels will help contribute to our efforts to make Lineal a more environmentally responsible business.
Although Lineal’s address will ultimately change on official paperwork, all key services (including phone numbers and support channels) will remain as they are currently.
Lineal will begin to move frontline staff in stages between:
Wednesday 23rd – Friday 25th of May
All Lineal clients will receive additional information regarding schedules for infrastructure switchover where applicable. We anticipate no disruption of service during normal working hours.
Many of the big names in software, including Microsoft’s Office 365, Google’s G-Suite and other popular products such as ESET’s antivirus range, have been offered with significant discounts for the education sector through partner resellers, in the hope of capturing the next generation of technology users early, and contributing to wider learning.
In each case, the gesture is undoubtedly a worthy public relations boost, with Adobe also pledging to support workshop schemes to show educators how to teach with Adobe’s suite of creative apps in the classroom.
In both cases early access is especially important for Adobe Creative Cloud, which includes Photoshop, Lightroom, InDesign and many other leading creative apps, because of the very high high barrier to entry: both creatively and by cost – despite the software brand being simply unrivaled across the creative sector.
Adobe clearly hopes the dramatically reduced Adobe discount pricing will wet the appetite of larger organisations, and introduce high quality design apps to a much wider audience at an earlier age.
***Latest Update to the Hall of Shame – 8th February 2019***
At Lineal our IT team review a lot of dodgy emails. The criminal scam known as phishing (sending fraudulent emails to trick end users into divulging sensitive information or downloading dangerous files) is a widespread threat, and we’re constantly on the lookout for dangerous new scams appearing on the internet.
It’s estimated that around 90% of organisational security threats are caused by a mistaken click in an email, making it by far the most common way businesses are breached by ransomware, viruses or individuals with malicious intent.
However, some human intuition and alertness is always required. With this in mind, we take a look at some examples of the most devious phishing scams we’ve ever seen:
The ‘Delivery Note’
Phishing emails are from fake ‘banks’ or enterprising Nigerian oil ministers, right? Wrong. This fairly innocuous email is the digital form of one of those ‘sorry we missed you’ cards you might receive through the letterbox for undelivered packages.
If you didn’t notice the suspicious sending address, accurate branding could lead you to believe this was really from a major logistics company, and divulge various personal details before realising there isn’t really a package to collect.
The Card-Payment Conundrum
Oh dear! My recurring card-payment for my TV license has expired – time to key my new card details into a dodgy website.
The growth of recurring payment systems for everyday things (like TV licensing) has meant users are familiar with being prompted to update card details, but stay alert: just because the request is mundane doesn’t mean it’s innocent. This is a nasty phishing email which scammed viewers out of thousands of pounds – even hitting national headlines.
The ‘File Share’
A proliferation of easy file-sharing platforms mean that we’re all more familiar with receiving large files via sharing links.
Curiosity about what this file is, and why your contact is emailing it to you (via a pretend ‘Dropbox’ email) might cause you actually to hand over your email address details. This trick is very simple, and persuasive – only the vaguely mail-merged ‘Hi info’ should suggest this is not really something you want in your inbox.
The (Convincing) ‘Fake Bank’
Forget semi-literate Russian hackers and the like, the quality of this fake Natwest email is in a different class. Spelling corrections, clumsy phrasing or dodgy branding can often give away an email scam, but criminals are becoming increasingly sophisticated at imitation. Anyone who falls for this email would be handing over their online banking login details.
Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, and for the unwary email user, likely to be the most expensive.
The Government Request
Uh Oh. An official demand from Companies House. Better respond quickly. Bad luck – you’ve been scammed.
Don’t let the impeccable branding or the dull subject matter catch you out: look at the email address and the link. .ink is not a normal public-sector domain, so that should ring alarm bells.
The Domain Scam
Much like the delivery note scam above, this clever phishing scam we recently witnessed is based on the user not realising there’s anything sensitive about their domain details.
Hovering your mouse over the buttons reveal URLs that are not from this organisation, and should not be trusted.
The ‘Email Recovery’
This crafty scam invites you to ‘Recover (email) Messages’ that your email service held back due to a sync error – which should be your first clue that this is suspicious. Genuine email filtering tools (such as the excellent Barracuda) are very transparent about exactly what has been quarantined, or (as with Microsoft Office 365) expects an admin user to review the email separately.
Suffice to say you should NOT click ‘Recover Messages’.
The Fake Order
A sales enquiry from a University for a high value item – how promising! Except no, ‘Daniel’ isn’t a Procurement Manager, and if dispatched on credit terms, you’ll never see this item again. Worst of all, when you invoice the real University of Nottingham, they’ll think you’re an email scammer trying their luck. How ironic.
As before, the email address should give this away: real universities use valid .ac.uk (academic) domains, not free gmail accounts with a ‘.ac’ dumped somewhere in the address by a criminal.
For IT Security expertise and support – contact Lineal today.
Be honest, you’ve read some truly useless things online about GDPR. We all have.
The problem isn’t one of enthusiasm: more and more companies are recognising the impending deadline of the new data protection regulations and acting to implement best practice.
There is, of course, a growing industry of consulting firms and data protection advisers trading on businesses’ lack of expertise and frequently, fear of being left behind. Most organisations begin preparing with a spot of Googling, some light reading, and a bit of browsing online GDPR help articles written by experts.
However, the real experts can’t divulge too much free advice (otherwise why contract their services?) thus much of the available articles and blog posts are deliberately vague. The conundrum has already spawned some unfortunate attempts at humour, but doesn’t really help companies attempting to put in place GDPR compliant policy.
All is not lost: there really is some genuinely useful guidance out there – here are our pick for some of the best GDPR resources:
ICO: Eight Practical Steps
The Information Commissioner’s Office original ‘eight practical steps’ presentation is a series of slides that are exceptionally clear, and can be worked through in stages. A more recent, formal ’12-step’ version also exists, for a more conceptual understanding of the new regulations.
GDPR Readiness Assessment from Microsoft
A little technical at times, this quick quiz is a useful way of thinking further about protection policy, particularly around access control. For further information on how Microsoft can assist with GDPR in the cloud, look for the blue button in the top right hand corner.
The ICO has a little known helpline via which small businesses and charities can consult a member of ICO staff for extra advice – details of which can be found above.
IT Governance Compliance Gap Assessment Tool
Always a strong source of IT expertise and policy, IT Governance have developed a range of ‘Toolkits’ to assist data protection officers and those implementing GDPR within their organisations. These range from the simple £60 compliance gap assessment tool (a handy Excel Spreadsheet you can work through) to more expensive implementation packs and data flow mapping tools.
The award was presented by VP of Finance and Resources, Bill Blythe, in a ceremony at the Barnstaple Hotel to congratulate prize winners from across the Higher Education college’s student body.
Lewis is one of Petroc’s few Degree Apprentices, studying for University undergraduate degree level qualifications whilst also working as part of Lineal’s frontline IT support team. Lewis takes a keen interest in cybersecurity, and has demonstrated advanced security skills in addition to educating employees of Lineal clients on how to use technology safely.
Writing on Twitter, Mr Blythe praised all the winners, many of whom are beginning careers training with some of Devon’s best known companies across diverse sectors including accounting, computing, construction and engineering.
Lineal’s Head of Technical Services Matt Norris congratulated Lewis on his professional development:
“Lewis’ progress and contribution as part of our team has been fantastic – we expect this won’t be the last time Lewis wins an award. Training in partnership with Petroc helps us add important skills, and some exemplary individuals, to our team”
Team Lineal have raised £250 for North Devon Hospice, after hosting a fundraising buffet for staff and visitors.
The donations were collected by the IT Support firm as part of the local charity’s ‘Pitch in a Pound’ day, held each year in support of the hospice by North Devon businesses, schools and community groups.
Managing Director Mike Matthews explained: “It’s hard to find anyone in North Devon who doesn’t have a friend or family member who has been cared for by this terrific local charity, and it’s important every business does its bit for worthy causes.”
“That’s why I agreed I would match whatever my team raised on the day. Well done to all involved!”
North Devon hospice, which covers more than 800 sq. miles of Northern Devon, supports and cares for more than 3000 patients with life-limiting illness each year.
Lineal staff cooked, baked and sold a variety of sweet and savory food, including curry, pastries, chilli, samosas, dips, and a whole variety of different cakes and sweet treats.
Learn more about ‘Pitch in a Pound’ day on North Devon Hospice’s website by clicking here.
USB drives are a security nightmare. From losing files, to sharing them inadvertently, or accidentally installing something malicious, these tiny handheld digital storage grenades are a data-protection disaster waiting to happen.
Many people can’t help themselves. Sometimes it’s just so useful to be able to move a file to a separate computer, or carry a copy of that file on a handy keyring.
It’s true that too many operating systems auto-run memory sticks. As users we could perhaps be more careful though – find a USB and it’s tempting to plug it in… a 2016 University study suggested roughly half of those who find a memory stick on the ground will plug it in without thinking.
In particularly data-sensitive environments options are available to either disable PC USB ports, or remove them from a PC entirely. At the very least, businesses preparing for this summer’s new GDPR regulations need to take some sensible USB security precautions:
1. Be strict.
Ask yourself whether it’s entirely necessary to put this file on a memory stick, and be harsh about what files you copy. Memory sticks now hold terabytes of data, and are too easy to drop, or leave on the train.
GDPR is naturally concerned with sensitive personal data, and not your supermarket shopping list. Nobody ever intends to lose a file full of personal data, so you should think twice before putting the former on a USB drive, while the latter is probably OK.
The best antivirus softwares (for example Lineal’s recommended ESET antivirus) automatically offer to scan a newly connected memory stick for malicious software, before the user accesses the files. This only takes a few seconds, but it’s strongly advised to let your antivirus act as gatekeeper for a USB stick, as you would your emails or web browsing.
3. Sharing is not caring
Sharing files via memory sticks is not sensible, not least because you’re forced to share the whole contents, including the ability to duplicate files.
You can’t be certain what any given person will do with the USB drive or its data, or what the person giving you a memory stick might have done with it previously, so it’s safer to confine USB drives to a specific individual.
4. Get something better
The world of IT is full of better solutions, including Apple’s useful ‘Airdrop’ function which allows direct, localised file sharing over WiFi. For company-wide systems, numerous excellent cloud-based file storage and sharing platforms are available. Microsoft’s excellent OneDrive platform is easy to use from any device, and allows businesses to share files online via the cloud, with customisable permissions to control who has access to the data at any time.
A USB drive should not be necessary to complete routine IT tasks. Thank goodness.
Microsoft is seeking student UK technology developers to enter the 2018 Imagine Cup – with a chance to win $100,000.
The prestigious technology trophy, awarded every year to a team of three young people who develop a groundbreaking technology idea, are currently accepting entries for 2018’s Imagine Cup UK finals.
UK finalists are expected to be chosen in March (top prize $5000) with global finalists travelling to Redmond, Virginia (the home of Microsoft) for 2018’s worldwide finals, and a chance at a grand prize of $100,000.
The winning entry must be an original technology project, created from an initial idea to implementation and run from the Microsoft Azure cloud platform. Entries can be on any theme, although recent competitions have been dominated by inventions designed to not only demonstrate innovation, but contribute to human well-being.
Entries from the UK will be judged by an expert panel, including Clare Barclay Chief Operating Office of Microsoft UK; Haiyan Zhang, Innovation Director at Microsoft Research; Michael Wignall, National Technology Office at Microsoft UK; and Rob Fraser, Commercial Software Engineering Lead at Microsoft UK.
Microsoft’s insistence on the final solution operating via Microsoft Azure no doubt reflects their ‘cloud-first’ business approach, in addition to a recognition that the ‘global’ finalist’s winning idea should be a truly global possibility.
Winning Imagine Cup entries from previous years include a solution to help those with diabetes manage symptoms, a charity donation app that embeds into news articles, and the ‘Emma Watch’ – recently featured on the BBC for assisting those with Parkinson’s in reducing limb tremors.
Teams can learn more, and enter the competition, here.
Lineal are a certified Microsoft Gold Partner – learn more.
Google search is by far the world’s biggest search engine (sorry Bing), but some of its more hidden Google games, apps and tools are lesser known – a reward for a lucky few.
Got a few minutes to kill? Here’s some of our favourites:
Google’s Chrome browser contains an offline game for when your browser can’t connect to the internet: T-Rex run charts the journey of a pixelated dinosaur in her/his quest to reach the right hand-side of the screen.
Press space bar to begin, jump over obstacles and try to set a new high score. Perfect for killing a couple of minutes when your router is re-starting.
Like Google Earth, Google Sky allows you to explore the heavens with useful overlays for learning the constellations, and zooming into high quality NASA photography of distant galaxies where available.
For extra wonder, search out the ‘Ultra Deep Field’ image, captured by the Hubble Space Telescope in 1995 – the furthest optical point humanity has ever seen.
For the creative-type, Google added this guitar widget to its hidden Google games in 2011. Move your mouse over the strings to compose a musical masterpiece, and record your jamming session with a handy record function.
Google Doodle Pacman
Google’s doodles have become an almost daily feature – celebrating everything from the World Cup, the birthdays of famous inventors and the anniversary of beloved 1980s classics.
The doodles normally link to a relevant search term intended to educate, but just occasionally games – such as a wonderful ‘Google-themed’ Pacman widget from 2010.
Lineal Software Solutions have become a Triple Gold Microsoft Partner, after having been awarded a third Microsoft Gold competency.
Our IT team was formerly awarded Microsoft’s Gold ‘Windows and Devices’ certification by Microsoft’s Partner Centre earlier this week.
“We were thrilled to qualify as one of the South West’s few Microsoft Gold Partners back in 2016” explained Head of Technical Services Matt Norris, “but for our team to show sufficient expertise and skill to obtain three Gold competencies is a truly groundbreaking achievement.”
The additional gold certification is added to Lineal’s existing double-status, ‘Gold Small and Midmarket Cloud Solutions’ and ‘Gold Hosting’, in addition to ‘Silver Application Integration.’
To achieve the additional gold certification, several members of Lineal’s team were required to pass a series of challenging exams demonstrating a high level of knowledge in larger scale Windows device roll-outs, and ongoing device management best practice.
“Lineal greatly value staff training and development, for the invaluable extra skills Triple Gold Microsoft Partner know-how delivers to our IT support helpdesk. Our clients can be confident that a Lineal engineer will have excellent Microsoft system knowledge when resolving technical queries and assisting with longer-term IT strategy..
“Well done to our IT support team for all their hard work.”
For Microsoft expertise and support, please contact our team today.
This year Lineal’s SQLWorks Team traveled to Arnhem, The Netherlands, for the 4-day European Omnis Developers Conference – EurOmnis 2017.
Conference workshops offer the opportunity for developers from more than a dozen countries to exhibit their latest work, seek advice from other programmers and share best practice. A primarily educational event, EurOmnis brings together the brightest and best to further develop software projects and draw on a wider pool of knowledge.
Members of the Omnis Executive Team also attended to discuss the very latest developments of the platform, explain new features (such as remote debugging technology working live from the developer console) and gather valuable feedback from the wider Omnis developer community.
Managing Director of Lineal Software Solutions, Mike Matthews explained: “Over the many years during which we’ve helped organise EurOmnis, both the software itself and the Omnis Developers Group (ODEV) have gone from strength the strength.”
“This year’s conference studied some exciting breakthroughs in web development, mobile/tablet-friendly user interfaces, internet-of-things (IOT) examples, future API technology, and much, much more.”
“SQLWorks is designed to be a highly flexible business management software, and we greatly value contributions from the extraordinarily diverse range of industry sectors, creative skills and technical knowledge represented each year at EurOmnis.”
In addition to coding, EurOmnis 2017 attendees had the chance to visit and dine at the Kasteel Doorwerth, a medieval chateaux dating from before the 13th Century, and literary home of the Beaulieu restaurant, where Erik Hazelhoff Roelfzema wrote Soldier of Orange.
See you next year!
Lineal are Omnis and business software development specialists – learn more here.
Perhaps no industry moves faster than the world of telecoms, with traditional business PBX phone systems looking increasingly ancient on the wall.
At Lineal we’ve been impressed at just how quickly technology has advanced to support far greater user mobility, more flexible deployments, wider integration and dramatically lower costs.
Businesses (and other organisations) have more choices open to them than ever before – we look at 3 of our favourite options that make much more sense than struggling on indefinitely with prehistoric communications.
ShoreTel’s on-site phone systems have been some of the best for years, and their Connect platform continues to impress.
Connect is available as either a feature-rich and scalable ‘on-site’ system (more familiar to a normal enterprise workplace), or in the cloud (an option increasingly popular with the sub-25 user smaller business market looking to avoid heavier upfront expense or where users are split across multiple offices.)
The Californian company’s handsets are simply the best we’ve ever seen, durable and well-built with clear and effective controls. The noise cancellation built into every handset is so effective it has to be experienced to be believed.
Yet it is ShoreTel’s software (intellectual property so well regarded that telecoms behemoth Mitel has spent several years manoeuvring to purchase the entire company) where the real innovation lies.
A cross-platform, smartphone friendly, cloud-based collaboration and instant messaging unified solution more akin to Slack, Basecamp or Microsoft Teams, ShoreTel takes everything to a whole new level of integration. The onscreen client for Windows/Mac is already a superbly intuitive piece of design, but is increasingly becoming part of a bigger software offering that feels identical across lots of devices and screen sizes.
For maximum flexibility and features at competitive pricing, look no further than one of the UK’s fastest growing business telecoms providers.
Gamma Horizon replaces your boxy on-site PBX with subscriptions to a virtual equivalent in a UK data centre, with VOIP handsets that operate over the internet. 4000 minutes a month are included as standard per phone, sufficient for even the most talkative callers using the cloud-based system.
This brings some major advantages: the phones themselves should work anywhere with an internet connection and power supply (router permitting) allowing one cohesive ‘system’ to cover multiple sites or home offices. The number of subscriptions can be increased or decreased to balance requirements against cost, or to fit with seasonal businesses. More complex features such as advanced call-routing, auto-attendant, smart-phone apps and scheduling are also available, and all the phones in a system will obey the configuration set in the online web portal, wherever they’re located.
Handsets connected to Horizon look and feel like any traditional phone systems in use, with Polycom’s business-like HD Voice hardware our recommendation (portable DECT and conference phones are also available.)
Calls between Gamma phones are free of charge, with other special deals available to Gamma broadband customers. The UK small/medium business sector appears to love the flexibility of Gamma Horizon, so it’s little wonder there are already more than a quarter of a million endpoints out there.
Skype for Business
Why pay for a phone on your desk? Sure, we all find something very reassuring about the heft of a piece of well-manufactured plastic, but when we so many people use laptops and carry smartphones anyway, many businesses will correctly reason that the extra expense is not *actually* mandatory.
Internal calls between users and instant messaging are free, and integration with Microsoft Exchange allows your Outlook calendar meetings to sync up with the on-screen client. Video conferencing is (surprisingly) smooth and reliable, even on low bandwidth connections, and with handy options for screen sharing and group meetings also available – again at no extra cost.
Add PSTN licensing however (for a fraction of a normal call plan), and Skype’s business version allows you to dial outside Skype for Business to any phone, becoming a fully fledged unified communications solutions and replacement for traditional phone systems.
Skype for Business is brilliant for dispersed teams, mobile-workers and anyone seeking a low cost collaboration solution. More advanced call-routing and auto-attendant options are still being developed, leaving Skype for Business still some way short of an enterprise phone system in the cloud for now, but for businesses looking for a cost-effective next-generation digital transformation, such an option could be ground-breaking.
… and for those who still find a soft-phone a step too far, Skype for Business can still be ‘plugged-in’ to many SIP desk phones or conference phones, for a more familiar call experience.
SQLWorks is changing: Lineal will be launching a new major version of our flagship business software in 2017.
Version 8 will bring a host of new features to our flagship business management software, as well as provide existing SQLWorks customers a greatly improved user-experience.
Managing Director of Lineal Mike Matthews explained: “We were determined to release a major new version of SQLWorks this year, and wanted to implement the customer feedback we’ve been gathering in recent months.”
“By changing to the StudioWorks 8 framework, SQLWorks Version 8 will allow us to update the technology behind our business software – modernising the visual ‘look-and-feel’ to be more intuitive, adding greater flexibility, and offering more options for integration.”
In a surprise move, Eugene Kaspersky has publicly offered to give the US Government access to the source code of its security software in a bid for transparency.
The offer is the latest development in an ongoing dance between the Russian IT security company and the US Government, after the Senate Armed Services Committee threatened to ‘blacklist’ the software company from applying for US defence contracts over the risk of influence from the Russian Government.
In a sensationalist piece released by Bloomberg, journalists claim the Moscow-based firm hold regular meetings with Russian Ministry of Defence and FSB agents, and that Eugene Kaspersky has even personally met with Russian intelligence officials in a ‘banya’ sauna.
Kaspersky argues the headlines are part of a ‘witch-hunt’ by Washington; industry analysts have acknowledged the heightened scrutiny of Kaspersky by US authorities has closely followed their recent uncovering of NSA ‘Equation’ hacking tools as a part of work against recent ransomware outbreaks, but may also represent the beginnings of a smear campaign by domestic US security providers.
Speaking to the Associated Press, the security provider implied it had already rejected government requests to undertake offensive cyberattacks rather than defensive software development – not necessarily requested by the Russian government.
Against the background of press-interest in alleged Russian hacking stories, it appears the dramatic feud has some distance left to run.
For IT security advice and expertise – contact Lineal’s team today.
Lineal are proud of our role investing in skills and people, and our growing office now includes two talented new apprentices looking to develop their technical know-how.
Apprenticeships provide a vital way for trainee staff to develop specialist industry skills, highly-sought after by employers, at an early age.
In the second of our recent ‘new faces’ features, we welcome these two new valuable members of our IT Support team:
Lewis joins our IT support team from Petroc as our first ‘Degree Apprentice’, pursuing education and training in tandem. He’ll join our main IT support team on the frontline to help resolve customers’ IT queries and help improve their system security.
Focused on security in particular, Lewis has even demonstrated Lineal’s ability track email fraudsters, and aims to become a cyber-security specialist.
Luke joins us an Apprentice to support Lineal’s workshop – expanding our ability to turn around repairs more quickly, and deliver more ambitious hardware and cabling projects, both in-house and on-site.
Always hands-on with technology, Luke previously worked for one of North Devon’s best known retail companies before pursuing a new career with Lineal.
Several major PC manufacturers have disclosed a new rental PC payment model to dramatically slash the cost of upgrading your PC.
Dell, HP, Lenovo and Microsoft have all recently announced new ‘PC-as-a-service’ schemes whereby rental PCs will be available to businesses entirely under a pay-monthly model rather than an upfront purchase.
Software services, particularly popular cloud-based offerings like Microsoft’s Office 365, have been increasingly moving to a subscription model for some time, offering both consistent cash flow for software developers and all the advantages of low-entry costs to their user base.
A rental PC arrangement obviously poses a risk to the technology giants – accepting that the dominant future model for sales may be one where they still carry significant financial risk for devices already ‘in-use’ across the business market.
Microsoft in particular took a big step in this direction with their ‘Surface-as-a-Service’ last year – offering subscription based premium touchscreen devices to business customers in the US (although these are subject to credit checks and other lending precautions.)
For Dell, HP and Lenovo, by far the world’s three biggest PC manufacturers, to take the same step represents a huge volume increase in this kind of approach, significantly cutting upfront costs for businesses investing in physical hardware.
Your PC won’t be the last you pay for, but it could be the last you ever ‘buy’ in the sense we now understand it.
Lineal’s been growing recently, and we’re pleased to be able to welcome some new faces onto our team to help better support our customers:
Sarah joined Lineal earlier this year from a well-known North Devon electronic engineering company, and has quickly become an invaluable member of our team.
Her responsibilities include managing communication with our customers, coordinating our engineers’ busy schedules, and ensuring that Lineal’s offices run smoothly.
Kieran became part of Lineal’s SQLWorks team a few weeks ago for work experience. So far, he has been assisting with more complex data tasks, and helps maintain our IT Support Team’s Lineal Active Monitoring Process (LAMP): a proactive series of hardware maintenance checks performed every day on our clients servers- a job that favours a methodical approach and a keen eye for the early warning signs of server problems.
Continuing our recent series on email phishing trickery including fake invoices and Apple ID theft, this week we discovered a new scam involving a fake communication claiming to be from the Driver & Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA).
You haven’t sent them your vehicle details: but never fear, enter them below and avoid a hefty ‘1000 GBP’ fine. Never mind that your garage should have organised a V5 document for you, just click the link and type in your details. This couldn’t be a scam? Right?
We set Lineal’s security trainee Lewis on the fake DVLA emails case – who found that the email links to a private (non Gov.uk) web-page with a extensive bit of PHP code running in the background. A classic Trojan, this webpage invited you to download your casefile – and likely something dangerous along with it.
Despite poor grammar, the format matched a GOV.UK page quite closely and the ‘official’ nature of the styling might easily have tricked unsuspecting motorists.
Avoiding the page itself, Lewis completed an HTTPS lookup on the domain hosting the fake web page – but found two servers running the same scam. The email itself appeared to be routed via the USA, in an effort to mask the attacker(s) identity.
Tracing both IPs seperately led back to the same address in Germany, registered under two different names which could either be part of an organisation (or more likely) both assumed identities stolen from others fallen victim to the scam.
German privacy law prevents Google StreetView from being completed across most of the country, so an aerial view of an unknown industrial building on the outskirts of Lippstadt was a close as we could get to sourcing the suspicious email itself.
Clearly a sophisticated operation, fake DVLA emails like this highlight the growing technical ability of online scammers and the need for solid IT security precautions.
For IT Security advice and support, contact Lineal today: 01271 375999
Last week our security trainee from Petroc, Lewis, received a fairly typical ‘Phishing’ email – designed to look like an official request for information in order to trick recipients into handing over personal details. Keyboard at the ready, he decided to go on an investigation – hunting down email scammers.
‘Your Apple ID has been suspended’ read the headline, but never fear, you can reset your account by typing in your private details via ‘Appl.e.com’. It may sound like an obvious scam, but the written quality of the email was high, and Verizon estimates that more than 25% of Phishing emails are not only opened, but clicked on by unsuspecting victims.
The email link itself looked suspicious so Lewis stripped the exact page link back to it’s original domain as our first clue. A quick HTTP lookup found the IP address of a Linux based Server with several open ports.
The scammers themselves were careful – expanding the email header shows an encrypted code in place of an email reference.
Online tools like GeoTool suggested the server sending the email had been French (although mapping this an imprecise science – suggesting the Parisian machine was sat at the bottom of the river Seine.) Nevertheless this gave us a country of origin and also a more accurate address.
Here we hit a problem: the address listed related to a French cloud hosting provider’s company office building in Roubaix, near the city of Lille on the border between France and Belgium. The company itself appears entirely legitimate, so it’s likely a server there has been hijacked or otherwise used inappropriately by a customer of the provider.
A reverse DNS lookup via an online US Security tool suggested the hosted domain name’s registered contact person was based in an apartment building in district 56121, Thessaloniki, Greece, and even listed a gmail address and phone number for the named contact (redacted.)
Had we wanted to, there’s an opportunity here for mischief, but here we decided to end our search – with sufficiently detailed information to report to customer services of the French hosting provider whose server had been misused to distribute the email.
Although it’s likely the original source had been found, it’s possible the Greek client registering the domain name was themselves a victim of the Phishing email or a similar scam.
As a case study, Lewis’ virtual chase across Europe hunting down email scammers highlights how every business is at risk from a globalised world of threats – anyone can be struck by a dangerous email from anywhere, and even the most local businesses need to take precautions.
Who’s watching you? The nagging feeling that your webcam might be spying on you is not paranoia: someone may be.
For plugin webcams and microphones, it’s best to unplug when not in use, as once hacked these can become a dangerous weapon in the hands of cyber criminals.
‘Built in’ integrated webcams, like those found on laptops and other portable devices are more difficult to secure, as many do not even include a safety light displaying when the camera is recording, and there’s no guarantee this will indeed light if your webcam is hacked anyway.
The obvious solution (if you don’t intend to use your webcam or microphone) is to place a small piece of electrical tape over it (Mark Zuckerberg Style) and block the view of any potential snoopers. For a slightly neater solution, Ebay will sell you a correctly sized Webcam Sticker for around £3.
However if you actually need to use your webcam, this will quickly become inconvenient and messy.
If you instead wish to Monitor your webcam against intrusion, ESET security sofware for Windows is a smart purchase. Newer versions, such as the excellent ESET Internet Security, include webcam security, allow you to set rules for when your webcam can be accessed and notifying you if a program attempts to access it.
For Mac Users, a free webcam and microphone monitoring tool named Oversight can be a useful free addition. This handy software is one of Objective-See’s set of Mac security products aimed at giving users visibility over what processes their Mac is running.
As we’ve noted before, smartphones bring a huge number of security risks, including both a personal microphone which is constantly listening on Android and iOS, GPS tracking of your location, frequent connection to public WiFi networks and often both front and rear-facing cameras.
The safest bets here are the obvious ones: invest in a smartphone antivirus software, keep your phone’s contents locked behind a PIN code, don’t install unknown apps and don’t connect to any unknown WiFi networks which might give hackers an access route for your microphone or camera(s.)
On Android you can also review your phone’s audio recordings and GPS tracking of your location for Google via Google My Activity and Google Location History.
Skype is probably the only brand name in video calling successful enough to have become synonymous with its purpose (try offering ‘Citrix’ to somebody and you’ll get confused looks.) It’s perhaps unsurprising therefore that Microsoft have taken their former Lync communications platform, and given it both an upgrade, new features, and a name with a better pedigree.
Enter Skype for Business, Microsoft’s newest unified communications offering for Windows, Mac and Android – available as a downloadable client or via a web browser. On the face of it, the potential in Skype for Business is enormous: calls, group meetings, directory lookups and instant messages between Skype for Business users are free-of-charge, making it a perfect internal communications platform in the cloud.
Skype for Business is already available to those using Microsoft Office 365 Business Premium as a free download. Users can connect, make audio/video calls and collaborate from anywhere in the world. VOIP packages are also available to allow calling ‘out’ to conventional phone numbers, presenting an affordable alternative to your old phone system.
We’ve found the video and sound quality to be exceptional (even on some poorer broadband connections.) For those on the move, a designated app is also available for your smartphone and tablet which, operating over your Wi-Fi or 4G connection, also extends the platform into the wider world.
Most reassuringly, Skype for Business need not just be a ‘soft-phone’ on screen but can connected to a traditional, physical, AudioCodes or Polycom VOIP handset on your desk.
That’s not to say that there are no shortcomings. Calling outside Skype requires the additional PSTN licensing which is likely to confuse those unfamiliar with Microsoft licensing. Skype’s website is not particularly helpful in this respect, with it sometimes being unclear when links refer to Skype, or Skype for Business.
Certain features that Microsoft originally advertised (such as the ability to take polls in group meetings) are also still in testing on some platforms at the time of writing, although screen sharing and scheduled meetings already work smoothly and are very intuitive. Focusing on collaboration, these are sure to be fixed as Microsoft reviews Skype for Business.
The minimalist design is smarter and more formal than the original Skype and, whilst a little unfamiliar to begin with, the general ‘look’ of the platform is a noticeable improvement on both Lync and traditional Skype.
Skype for Business is not quite ready to take over the world just yet, but it’s certainly one to watch for 2017.
With Apple’s latest OS, Sierra, now available for download and already receiving it’s first update (10.12.1) what do our team think of the latest version – and what are our favourite additions? If El-Capitan’s endless prompt messages haven’t already tempted you, we review some of the best below.
Siri makes her (or his? Different voices are available in your mac’s system preferences case this is the kind of thing that bothers you…) debut on Apple’s machines, with all the normal features available on iOS iPhones and iPads: web searches, booking diary appointments, starting calls, messages and more, all by asking Siri.
It’s surprisingly innovative too. We can launch our SQLWorks software by instructing Siri to do so, although it requires us to enunciate S-Q-L Works quite carefully.
Many applications can now be run in a tabbed view much like a web browser. This is very useful if you need multiple documents, maps, virtual machines or remote access windows running at once, without constantly moving things around to free up screen space.
Copy from your Mac, paste on your iPhone or vice versa. If you own multiple Apple devices signed in to your iCloud account, this can be really useful. This feature is overdue on Apple devices, so it’s good to see it introduced in Sierra.
iCloud will now look through your files to check for files that are used very infrequently and will archive them automatically to prevent them taking up space. If you use iCloud a lot, this will help do some essential housekeeping for you.
Despite all these features, the usual warnings apply of course: no one can guarantee that older versions of software will be compatible on Sierra (indeed Microsoft Exchange bugs involving non-syncing email were hurredly fixed in Sierra’s first update) so it’s best to let someone else take the risk first, and wait a little while for any bugs to be fixed – before updating from El Capitan to the best MacOS yet.
Pity the traditional tower PC, it doesn’t get much love these days. How can fixed hardware continue long into the future, when all consumers seem interested in is impossibly thin laptops and ever more powerful smartphones?
HP may be offering one solution: making the desktop PC part of the furniture. The Pavilion Wave (pictured) is their latest experiment: a curious triangular desktop PC with a fabric surround, resembling a speaker.
In addition to 6th Generation Intel Core i7 quad-core processors, up to 2TB of storage and up to 16GB of memory, the Wave can support two 4K displays and is therfore, by normal standards: a desktop PC. Yet the large central speaker, deflecting sound off the triangular lid also maintains the illusion that your HP device is nothing so dull as a desktop PC, but part of a household sound system.
For a more unusual re-imagining, look to Acer, who continue to develop the magnetically attached small-form modular ‘Revo Build’, built from any number of optional blocks that add storage, extra graphics performance and more. HP have attempted something similar with the ‘Elite Slice Desktop’ – an artistic small form desktop workstation which can connect optional modules for extra storage or more powerful audio.
Both show a recognition of the way desktops have had to adapt: giving users more flexibility, and including a wireless charging loop for your smartphone on the top of the external casing, so that your phone can be charged whilst you sit at your desk.
Will the traditional desktop PC live on? If it does, it may look quite different.
We increasingly live in a mobile dominated world in which Smartphone sales have skyrocketed whilst traditional PC sales have stalled. With portable devices likely to be the future of many people’s IT use – we’ve put together a few of the main smartphone security threats you need to be aware of.
Mobile Phishing & Fake Apps
Phishing websites which pretend to be your bank in order to get your personal or financial details have been around for many years, but for few people imagine that this is also a big risk on their smartphone.
Don’t attempt to download an anticipated app before it’s official release date, as it’s likely you’ll be downloading a fake. Avoid downloading apps from unknown third-party websites, check the comments for warnings from other users, and invest in mobile antivirus to intercept downloaded threats to your smartphone security.
In addition to fitting in your pocket, your phone contains a staggering amount of personal information about you which makes theft a real danger – everything including your personal details and those of friends/family, your emails, GPS coordinates of places you regularly visit and more: all stored on the device.
In addition to setting numeric pin codes on every device to prevent the danger of theft, tracking and lifesaving wiping tools like are strongly advised.
Public Wi-Fi Networks
With the proliferation of portable devices, many businesses, particularly in retail, offer public Wi-Fi hotspots to customers.
The problem with this is that you’re sharing a network with… whom? Terrifying free tools like [Redacted – obviously] and [Redacted] allow anyone on a shared public network to view insecure websites you visit, and snoop on any keystroke you type.
Not every public Wi-Fi network is a security nightmare, but it’s sensible to avoid using public Wi-Fi to do anything sensitive, such as online banking. A 4G data connection or simple telephone banking is the easiest alternative if you’re on a mobile phone, and likely to be more secure than a public Wi-Fi Network.
It should probably go without saying that you shouldn’t connect to entirely unrecognised, unsecured or unknown Wi-Fi networks either. For obvious reasons.
Being Personally Targeted
The problem with the wider shift to portable devices is that we carry our workplace into the outside world. Many of us expect complete access to our business data on our smartphone (as we would on our PC) wherever we are.
But carrying your work phone outside work means you’re also outside the protection of in-house IT security software and firewalls.
A simple phishing email can easily be targeted to you outside working hours when you’re ‘off-guard’, and the potential loss of confidential company data could be devastating.
You attempt to can send the email again by going to the outbox, selecting the message with the red [!] warning icon, and touch the send command to attempt to re-send the message. If your connection dropped whilst sending, this can be used to prompt a successful second attempt when the connection is restored.
If your outgoing email still remains stubbornly unsent, it may be best to delete the un-sent email and re-draft (some artful copy-pasting can alleviate this frustration considerably) by selecting the failed email in the outbox, choosing ‘edit’ and choosing ‘trash.’
Should your device remain uncooperative, putting it into ‘Airplane Mode’ should turn off wireless connection searching – which can help Mail stop searching for a way to send the email, and give you the chance to ‘trash’ the offending draft.
This week’s IT security alert from Lineal – fake invoices which ask users to run a dangerous piece of code.
The example above comes from a fake Word document emailed with a typical text line, such as ‘Please check this invoice’ or ‘Double check my numbers for me’, to an unsuspecting user.
Upon opening, the document appears to load a popup from Office 2016 prompting the user to ‘Enable Content’ for compatibility purposes, before they can view the detail of the ‘invoice.’
In fact, the display is just an image within the word file, and the ‘Enable Content’ content button instead runs a piece of Visual Basic code downloading unknown malware from the internet.
The scam relies on users’ curiosity at the unusual $1999.00 charge, and upon reaching a user still running an outdated version of Microsoft Office.
Several measures can be taken to prevent this kind of attack:
Don’t click any popup that doesn’t visibly pop ‘open’ in Microsoft and don’t ‘Enable Content’ you can’t see in a document.
Consider an email filtering service like Barracuda – in the above example, Barracuda had recognised this email as malicious and stripped the code from the document before placing it in the correct email inbox for the intended recipient.
It’s that time of year again – when we ask you how we’ve been doing, and what Lineal can do to improve the quality of our technical support.
Firstly, a big thank you to those of you with kind words to say about members of our IT help desk. Our team found your kind comments to be enormously supportive and it’s good to know that so many of our customers value the contribution of their account manager so highly.
83% of you felt we met the technology needs of small to medium size businesses ‘Well’ or ‘Very Well’, and 89% felt we understood your IT queries ‘Very Well’ or ‘Extremely Well.’ Overall, 85% of you rated our customer support ‘Good’ or ‘Great.’
We weren’t perfect however – some of you felt we’d been slower to respond to certain emails and call-backs recently, and we’re putting in place new measures to address this: we’ll be adding to our team in coming weeks to help manage our responsibilities to our ever-growing number of IT support clients, and to ensure clearer communication between our team and customers during ongoing project work.
Your comments included an insightful mix of both praise and constructive criticism which we’re reviewing carefully – but here were a few of our favourites:
“A good “local” company. Always on hand.”
“As a small organisation of mainly non IT literate users Lineal staff always respond to queries in language we understand and without making us feel stupid!”
“Would like to thank Martyn especially, and dealing with mostly one person simplifies things.”
Thank you to everyone who gave us their feedback, it will inform our future decision making and help us provide a high quality of customer support.
Yesterday Lineal’s team successfully rescued a client from a new ‘zero-day’ Cryptolocker Virus which nearly destroyed many of their files.
The dangerous variation of the ‘Zepto’ cryptolocker, only identified online during the last 24 hours, is believed to be a brand new threat originally derived from ‘Locky’ ransomware.
An employee at one of Lineal’s IT support clients recently opened an email containing an infected file – a malicious piece of obfuscated code written in Visual Basic scripting language. The installed Zepto cryptolocker began encrypting the company’s files, readying to demand a heavy ransom.
In a coordinated attack, an outside user also forced access to our client’s server, instructing it to begin sending fake Barclays ‘phishing’ emails, attempting to criminally capture banking details.
Our team caught both threats early, forcefully locking out the intruder in mid-session, identifying the employee who introduced the threat, and quarantining the infection with ESET’s business endpoint security.
Lineal then notified ESET about Zepto to help with future identification, having avoided the need to restore all the clients files from backup at great disruption.
The landscape of online security threats is rapidly changing, and Cryptolocker variants have spread quickly in recent months.
In this case Lineal’s rapidly responding team and professional security software helped our client dodge the huge potential losses from the security breach – and highlighted how vital it is that organisations of all sizes take proactive steps to protect their IT from hostile intrusion.
Longstanding Apple fans will note that the re-branded name, ‘macOS’ returns Apple’s OS X operating system to it’s original desktop computing name.
One major shift will be the release of the new ‘Apple File System’, which Apple have advertised through developer preview will permit multiple file systems to share a storage block, and includes a cloning system which writes changes to file copies to limit demanding data synchronisation.
Evidence has also surfaced that iOS will soon include a ‘dark mode’ optimised for night-time use – a feature so far restricted to Apple Maps used when driving – but potentially extended to overall iPhone/iPad use.
As always, Lineal advises Apple users to wait for early operating system issues to be ironed out this Autumn, before making the jump to macOS Sierra themselves.
For Apple expertise and IT support: please contact Lineal today – [email protected] or 01271 375999
Edit – 14:15 25.05.16: Following customer feedback, Microsoft have now added an additional pop-up which confirms update scheduling time to give users an additional chance to opt-out of the update.
A Microsoft ‘trick’ which prompts an automatic upgrade to Windows 10 has been condemned as misleading by PC users.
Microsoft’s Windows 10 update prompt was recently changed so that the ‘X’ close button, instead of closing the prompt, schedules an automatic update. PC World declared the change a ‘trick’ and Windows users who preferred older operating systems took to social media to complain.
Instead, users must specify to cancel the scheduled upgrade by clicking a small link in the fourth line of text which reads “Click here to change upgrade schedule or cancel scheduled upgrade.”
Escalating measures to push users towards upgrading demonstrate Microsoft’s drive to reach its stated target of one billion users running Windows 10 by the start of its 2018 fiscal year (beginning around October 2017).
The controversy surrounding a automatic Windows 10 upgrade is likely to only draw more attention to Microsoft’s Windows 10 upcoming upgrade deadline – the free Windows 10 upgrade will cease to be available to PC users after the 29th of July.
Cryptolocker Warning: in the past fortnight we’ve seen an increasing number of companies hit by sophisticated cryptolocker viruses.
These dangerous programs, often installed by accident, lock your files over time, encrypting data and eventually demanding victims pay a ransom to retrieve their irreplaceable data.
In all of these cases, security products were installed but they did not protect against the threat. In our experience the only product that is reliably detecting these new threats and offering sufficient protection at this time is ESET. Older, less effective or out of date security products are offering little or no protection against these new cryptolocker variants.
Once affected by a cryptolocker, there is no way to de-encrypt scrambled files without paying the ransom, and users must remove the trojan before recovering recent versions of a file from their backups – highlighting the importance of a regular backup plan for data.
Congratulations to Lineal’s George Ward, who has won a Petroc award, in recognition of his improvement over the past year.
Apprentice George will become 2014-15 academic year’s proud recipient of the local higher education college’s ‘Most Improved Student’ award from the Department of Leadership and Higher Technical Skills Awards Evening, sponsored by North Devon Orthodontic Centre.
The prize-giving ceremony was held on Wednesday 23rd March at the Barnstaple Hotel.
Smartphone manufacturer Ringing Bells has launched a £2.50 Smartphone, the Freedom 251, aimed at bringing mobile access to rural parts of India.
The Freedom 251, which costs only 251 rupees, runs on Android and features a 1.3Ghz quad-core processor, 8GB of memory, with front and rear facing cameras.
As the second largest mobile phone market in the world, India is already estimated to have around 236 million mobile users – but this is expected to grow to a staggering 317 million during 2017.
Part of that growth includes tailoring the system to the needs of users in rural India – the Freedom 251 will include software aimed at farmers and fishermen, elderly users needing medical assistance, and even includes an app for ‘women safety’.
Wider connectivity is not only expected to bring economic benefits for Indian consumers, but also to third parties – with the £2.50 price reflecting an already heavy subsidy from interested companies looking to be the first to reach India’s newest smartphone customer base
A smartphone for less than the cost of a cup of tea? Welcome to the future.
For business IT Support, contact Lineal IT today: 01271 375999 or email: [email protected]
Google and Apple’s respective CEOs have joined forces over the issue of customer privacy, with Apple CEO Tim Cook publicly refusing the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) ‘backdoor’ access to iPhone software.
Google CEO Sundar Pichai backed Apple’s decision on Twitter, arguing that assisting the FBI to gain such access to a private individual’s smartphone would be a ’troubling precedent.’
The mobile phone privacy dispute with the FBI over encryption comes 2 months after Farook and Tashfeen Malik killed 14 people in a mass shooting in San Bernadino, California, with investigators demanding that Apple now assist the authorities in accessing Farook Malik’s iPhone 5C.
Both Apple and Google argue that ‘backdoor’ decryption would put the privacy of millions of ordinary smartphone users at risk from Government intrusion, with Tim Cook famously arguing that ‘You can’t have a back door that’s only for the good guys’. In theory, each iPhone’s encryption method is unique, and Apple argue that there should be no possible method for accessing a given user’s data.
On Tuesday however a Federal Judge ordered Apple to disable Farook Malik’s suspected phone setting which enforces usage delays or wipes the iPhone in the event of multiple incorrect password attempts, giving the FBI the opportunity to automatically test millions of possible passwords without penalty.
Both companies’ actions are being driven by the issue of reputation: giving law enforcement authorities the ability to access an individual’s data would utterly undermine smartphone manufacturers’ advertisement of user security.
With neither side willing to back down, expect the dispute to go to the courts, with the key issue being whether Apple can control permitted access to this iPhone, and this iPhone only.
For specialist IT Support, contact Lineal today: 01271 375999 or email: [email protected]
An unfortunate hoax is catching out iPhone users this week, Lineal have learned, after many users discovered resetting the date will completely destroy their iPhone.
Despite what a website may promise you – DO NOT reset the clock on any iOS device to January 1st 1970 under any circumstances. This will permanently break (or ‘brick’) your device.
A device broken in this way will simply display the Apple iOS loading screen forever, permanently stuck. The bug, which prevents the phone counting Unix time (a count of seconds since 00:00 01.01.1970) if the clock is set ‘before’ this using local time (UTC-1), is impossible to fix without hardware support from Apple to remove the battery.
You have been warned!
For expert apple support from Lineal, contact us today: 01271 375999 or click here.
Lineal Software Solutions recently merged with another local IT company, Active Computing & Telecoms Ltd, based in South Molton.
Active Computing formally joined with Lineal as of December, and will continue to offer quality business IT services across Devon as part of Lineal’s IT support division.
Nick Hews, Managing Director of Active explained: “I’m very pleased to see Active joining with Lineal: like Active, Lineal began right here in North Devon, and places a very special importance on listening to their customers’ needs – which was very important to us before moving ahead.”
Managing Director of Lineal and former branch chairman of the North Devon FSB, Mike Matthews said: “We’re delighted to be taking on Active Computing. Between us we can now offer the widest possible range of business IT & telephone systems, technical support and business accounting software.”
Following the Lineal Active merger, the two partners have recently launched their new website (www.lineal.co.uk) for 2016.
Former staff members from Active now work at the premises of Lineal, and added together the two companies have more than 50 years’ experience trading across the wider North Devon area and beyond.
Over Christmas 2015/16, Lineal launched a technical trial to provide free, public-access Wifi across Barnstaple Town Centre.
The pilot scheme, which took place during the busiest shopping period of the year, saw our team solve a number of technical challenges: scoping sites for Wifi access points, installing suitable hardware and managing network connectivity for shoppers and visitors to the town.
With generous support from Barnstaple Town Centre Management (BTCM), North Devon Council and M&E Alarms, we delivered a free wifi network connected to by more than 400 people each day at peak usage.
To build the network itself, we used Cisco Meraki MR-66 ruggedised outdoor routers, fixing a ‘mesh’ grid of interconnected access points high on selected buildings owned by local businesses who agreed to take part. Visitors to the town could connect from any smartphone or other wirelessely enabled device, via a special ‘splash’ page.
Managing Director of Lineal, Mike Matthews, explained: “We wanted to attempt an ambitious project which would benefit our local area. Wider connectivity opens up new ways for people to find out information about upcoming events, for local businesses to advertise, and for visitors to our town to share their enjoyment of Barnstaple with friends and family over social media. There are many possibilities.”
Throughout the trial period each access point also collected anonymised location data in real-time. With as many as 20,000 wirelessly enabled devices moving within Barnstaple town centre during a 24 hour period, the free Wifi Project was also successfully used to measure footfall patterns in public places, which could one day be used to help local authorities plan for busy periods.
Although the pilot project has now ended, team members from Lineal presented the initial findings to the Barnstaple Town Centre Management, North Devon Council and Devon County Council in February 2016, with a view to launching the network as a more permanent asset for the town in the near future.
For more information on cabling & network infrastructure services from Lineal: click here or call us today on 01271 375999
Apple have finally announced that iOS 9.3 will included special support for schools and colleges.
Using iOS 9.3, each student can be given a unique Apple ID that is compatible with any iPad in a classroom, allowing for the use of any device from a pool of shared school iPads. The Apple education package ID’s themselves are maintained through Apple School Manager, a web based control panel giving admins control over the system.
Apple’s new ‘Classroom’ App allows teachers to launch any app on every shared device in a room at once, and guide students through educational materials. A ‘Screen View’ function keeps an eye on what’s on every student’s screen, allowing teachers to prevent distractions from learning.
For students assigned the same tablet each day, a caching system holds work and resources, and gives a photo login procedure so that each child can find their usual device easily.
More than 70% of UK primary and secondary schools now use tablet computers as part of their ICT tools – including ‘Bring Your Own Device’ (BYOD) schemes. So far however, schools have had to find a good reason to justify the extra expense for Apple’s high-quality iPad devices over cheaper rivals.
By offering cleverly designed software support for the classroom environment, Apple may have just provided that justification.
Learn more about IT support for the education sector – contact Lineal today: 01271 375999.
Lineal recently showcased ShoreTel Connect Telephone systems at the first Blue Frog Business Group Show at Cedars Inn, Barnstaple.
ShoreTel’s cloud telephony operate over a business’s internet connection making the system more flexible for mobile working, more cost effective, and more accessible to small businesses.
Head of Technical Support services Matt Norris explained: “We were delighted to get the chance to exhibit ShoreTel at the North Devon business show. ShoreTel is a phone system designed for small teams looking to grow, or for those whose workplace is not a single location – so we knew it would be of great interest to small businesses at the show.”
The business group, run by Blue Frog Media, are planning for the trade show to be the first of many in the region.
Managing Director Mike Matthews praised the show, adding: “It was fantastic to see so many firms from the wider North Devon area represented in one place and doing business.”
“We’re hoping Lineal can contribute even more to the group in the near future.”
To learn more about how ShoreTel can transform your business communications, get in touch with us today: email [email protected] or call 01271 375999
Lineal are pleased to announce the launch of our new website for 2016.
The new website comes with additional features, and has been carefully designed to improve the user experience of our technical support customers and new users.
Managing Director Mike Matthews added: “We wanted the new website to give a fast, stress-free experience for those needing IT help, and to simplify the process of finding information on Lineal’s eight product areas.”
As ever more of our customers are taking up mobile working through their mobile or tablet device, the new website has been designed to be responsive to different screen sizes.
Web designer & developer Stephen Stanbury explained: “Downtime costs money, so Lineal needs to deliver IT solutions quickly. Our challenge was to build a website which was convenient and clear, to help all our users find what they need easily.”
“We’ll be adding new features in the near future, so please get in touch with us if you have any suggestions.”
Lineal’s flagship business management software SQLWorks is also set to relaunch a fresh website in the new year.
For help and assistance with all your IT needs, please contact Lineal today: 01271 375999 or [email protected]
With ‘Windows 10.1’ now barely a month old, and the Microsoft operating system already running on over 12 million business PCs, how fares Microsoft’s free updates strategy?
Windows 10.1 update was released with relatively little fanfare (be honest, you didn’t notice) adds features that, understandably with hindsight, might have been a distraction at the main Windows 10 release back in July.
Packaged within were mainly performance and security upgrades – Windows 10.1 will now boot almost 30% faster than an old Windows 7 system on the same device, the Cortana virtual assistant has some new handwriting recognition skills and there are new enterprise tools for mobile devices. Microsoft Edge runs smoother too, offering previews of tabs before viewing and syncing favourites across devices.
Most importantly, after recent corporate data breaches in the news, Microsoft have added a range of new security safeguards. These including ‘Windows Hello’, supporting enterprise grade biometrics including fingerprint and facial recognition – sadly currently only available for US users.
Aside from controversy surrounding user privacy then (if you didn’t notice your Windows 10.1 update, that’s maybe because Microsoft installed it automatically on your device without asking you) the first free update went ahead with relevant additions and limited fuss.
Starting free updates officially moves Microsoft into line with Apple’s OS X business model that has become the industry standard. Yet limited promotion of Windows 10’s ongoing development risks downplaying Microsoft’s progress.
Which would be unfair, because Microsoft is plainly taking extra care to develop the business security of their product range, including the excellent Office365, Microsoft Azure and now Windows 10.1. Microsoft is clearly listening to business’ fears, and businesses should welcome it.
AirDrop must be prompted to recognise older Apple devices
Apple’s AirDrop tool has been a much praised addition to Apple’s software lineup – allowing Mac users to wirelessly transfer files from one Apple device to another in close proximity.
However users often report that their new Mac is unable to ‘see’ adjacent Mac devices, preventing them from using AirDrop.
The solution is surprisingly simple: look to the bottom of the AirDrop window on the newest manufactured device, where a small link reads “Don’t see who you’re looking for?” clicking this opens a new option “Search for an older Mac”, which widens the search to older devices running OS X or iOS.
There’s been no explanation from Apple as to why Airdrop is set up in this way, but enabling ‘Search for an older Mac’ allows a 2015 Macbook to find a previously invisible 2011 Macbook with ease, allowing you to begin transferring files.
Lineal have over 20 years of Apple expertise: contact us today via 01271 375999 or email [email protected]