The Haunting of ‘PrintNightmare’ – Windows patches released

Microsoft have delivered emergency out-of-band patches for the PrintNightmare zero day print spooler vulnerability with more on the horizon.

The bug, CVE-2021-34527, is existent in all versions of Windows and exploits a remote code execution vulnerability where the Windows Print Spooler service improperly performs privileged file operations.

This vulnerability means that a cyber attacker could run arbitrary code leading to instilling programs; view, change or delete data and even go so far as to create new accounts with full user system rights for exploitative purposes on the system.

A cautionary Microsoft statement released outlined the situation with “the security updates released on and after July 6, 2021 contain protections for CVE-2021-1675 and the additional remote code execution exploit in the Windows Print Spooler service known as ‘PrintNightmare’, documented in CVE-2021-34527.”

Patches released are available for Windows Server 2019, Windows Server 2012 R2, Windows Server 2008, Windows 8.1, Windows RT 8.1, a variety of supported versions of Windows 10 and the no longer supported Windows 7.

However, Microsoft announced that security updates are not currently available for Windows 10 version 1607, Windows Server 2012 or 2016 and urges prompt installation of its patches to deter any attacks via the domain controller when made available in due course. Microsoft also offer workarounds to those unable to download the July patches including the shutting down of the Print Spooler Service and the disabling of inbound remote printing through group policy.

The proof of concept (PoC) was accidentally released by Chinese technology group Sangfor on GitHub, but was cloned and cached before the researchers realised their mistake and took down the PoC. The group were under the impression that the exploit had already been patched as part of Microsoft’s CVE-2021-1675 patch – a patch that Microsoft confirmed was distinct about a different attack vector and vulnerability issue associated with RpcAddPrinterEx.

The situation is continually updating and the latest news on Windows patch releases can be found here.


Gartner survey concludes that 1-in-5 workers think of themselves as an expert in IT.

According to a survey conducted by Gartner at the end of 2020, nearly one in five workers consider themselves to be digital technology ‘experts’ since COVID-19 – and over half consider themselves proficient.

Researchers suggest the increase in confidence (or overconfidence) is perhaps due to the increased reliance on collaboration tools such as Teams and Zoom and a lack of in-person IT support while working remotely – but found more than half (55%) of those surveyed were using personal devices for access to work systems/data, or privately obtained ‘shadow IT’ applications not sanctioned by their employer, at least some of the time.

The sample group, spread across US, Europe and Asia-Pacific regions among around 10,000 full-time employees at organisations with 100 or more employees in November and December 2020, analysed workers’ technological and workplace experiences.

Whit Andrews, distinguished research vice president at Gartner, argued: “Workers seized on the crisis” adopting “a wide range of technologies and applications in the space of a few months.”

Workers Shift Device Preferences

The Gartner survey found that digital workers increased their reliance on portable devices during 2020. Workers reported an 11% increase in the proportion of their work time spent on laptops, smartphones or tablets. The proportion of their time spent on desktops declined by 8%.

The findings also showed a rise in the number of workers using personal technology for work purposes. Over half of respondents reported that they use applications or web services that they personally obtained – most of which are not employer-sanctioned – for collaborating with other workers. The same proportion (55%) are using personally owned devices for their work at least some of the time.

“When organisations were forced to go remote in early 2020, workers started to rely on their own devices or programs they discovered themselves to make up for their employers’ technology shortcomings,” said Mr. Andrews. “In 2021, organisations can embrace this trend by expanding the choice of devices and software programs that workers can use with little or no friction.”

Flexible Work Supports Increased Productivity

One of the main questions lingering among executives regarding the impacts of the last year is remote work’s effect on productivity.

According to the Gartner survey, among employees whose work-from-home time increased since January 2020, 36% reported an increase in productivity, while 35% reported no change. Flexibility in working hours was the most cited factor enabling greater productivity, selected by 43% of respondents.

A quarter of workers surveyed did report that their productivity fell. Connectivity issues and technology changes were among the top reasons cited for decreased productivity.

“Digital proficiency becomes even more essential for productivity when working remotely,” said Mr. Andrews. “CIOs should extend worker-to-worker lateral mentoring and training to ensure that no employees are left behind as technology mastery becomes the expectation.”

 

For IT Support expertise, please contact Lineal today.


Green IT Tips to Help Save the Planet

Getting your technology right can help reduce energy use, cut CO2 emissions, and limit the amount of waste going to landfill.

Not that saving the planet is as easy as it sounds: Google famously changed its homepage dark for Earth Hour in 2008, saving no electricity whatsoever.

You can do better.

 

  • Try out Ecosia.org

Ecosia is a German not-for-profit search engine that plants trees with the advertising revenue it generates from search results.

For transparency, the carbon-negative organisation publishes a regular easy-to-follow report into its environmental activity and finances on the Ecosia blog.

At time of writing, around 83 million trees have been planted worldwide across at least 16 countries – and assuming you don’t clear your browser settings, Ecosia also keeps a total count of your personal searches. Supported by Microsoft Bing, Ecosia’s searching is encrypted, results are not stored, and data is not sold to any third-party advertisers.

Around 45 searches equates to one new tree – so get searching!

ecosia

 

  • Video Conference, Don’t Travel

Business travel, especially air travel, isn’t as necessary as it used to be, and it’s increasingly difficult to justify time spent sat in traffic.

Clever video-conferencing software that includes screen-share, meeting record and web-based guest access – such as Microsoft Teams or Gamma Collaborate – make it easier to hold meetings remotely, at a tiny fraction of the CO2 output.

microsoft teams

Video conferencing was once a bit of a standing joke, but with responsive video quality, devices with in-built microphones/cameras/speakers, and better internet connectivity, the technology is much more practical than was once the case.

For an easy way to gauge the costs involved, add up mileage expenses for a week, month or year, and ask which meetings really had to be conducted by travelling. If that expense could be saved, so could the planet.

 

  • Use an Eco Button (Or Don’t)

There are a number of gadgets available that prompt office workers to turn off their screens, most famously the ‘Eco-button’ – a bright green light-up USB button which you hit to switch your PC into sleep mode. On startup, a small application praises your efforts by displaying your CO2 and cost saving to date.

ecobutton

Unfortunately this is arguably an example of greenwashing. The plastic device (probably shipped from China) isn’t actually necessary to enable device sleep settings – Windows 10 already has handy power-saving options available, so aside from the software recording your savings, the button mainly serves only to raise awareness and act as a fun reminder.

Hopefully each eco-button might one day have saved enough CO2 to justify its own manufacture… maybe. But with a little vigilance, this ought to be achievable without quite so much plastic.

 

  • Return your old Router

Switching broadband services often means a new router, which isn’t ideal for cutting plastic waste.

Some ISP’s allow users to voluntarily return a redundant router for recycling, in an effort to cut down on routers being piled up in cupboards, and ensure fewer of their devices ultimately end up in landfill.

BT recently announced this scheme will soon be compulsory, and new customers who fail to return their BT router for recycling at the end of the contract using a pre-paid return envelope will face an extra charge of up to £50.

Alternatively, many local councils now allow the recycling small electrical items with household recycling, so there’s little excuse for throwing out this kind of equipment.


5 Articles We Wish We’d Written

It’s 2020! Looking back at recent years, we thought we’d share articles we wish we’d written – some of the most fascinating and most thought-provoking technology pieces from across the internet.

 


1. “… Close to a fifth of the entire world’s shipping capacity, was dead in the water”

NotPetya – The story of how Ransomware nearly destroyed Maersk Shipping – WIRED


2. “… The Millennium Bug was Real.”

The Millenium Bug was Real, and 20 years later we face the same threats – Guardian


3. “… Microsoft was never really sure if it wanted to beat the iPhone, Android, or both.”

Windows Phone was a Glorious Failure – The Verge


4. “… everyone has different lifestyles and levels of paranoia”

How to set your Google Data to Self-Destruct – NY Times


5. “… I stared at the cursor. Eventually, I typed “nytimes.com” and hit enter. Like a freaking dad.”

I Dont Know How to Waste Time on the Internet any more – NY Times Mag.


 

For IT Support and technical expertise, please contact our team today


$100,000 top prize pledged for 2018 Imagine Cup

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.


Apple iPhone 6S “3D Touch” Screen can measure ingredients

3D Touch

3D Touch technology shows potential

Apple’s iPhone 6S pressure sensitive 3D Touch screen can even be used to weigh small quantities of materials using a third-party application, users have discovered.

An iPhone 6S screen can be used to hold a measuring container, re-calibrated to zero with a tare function via a web app, and set to display the mass of ingredients placed in the container by measuring the downforce they exert on the 3D Touch screen.

An interesting proof of concept, expect to see this useful bit of technology spread beyond Apple’s iPhone – rumours have been circulating online that Samsung’s next flagship smartphone will also have a pressure sensitive screen.

For now the technology is not necessarily practical for actual cooking (unfortunately illegal uses might be entirely possible) because the maximum accurate weight is only 385 grams.

Expect to see more sensitive screens and wider measurement ranges in future iterations of the 3D Touch, and similar screens from rival smartphone makers as a new standard feature.

Now if only it could mix the ingredients too!

 

With over 25 years of experience – contact Lineal today for Apple IT Support: 01271 375999 or [email protected]


Why your AirDrop isn’t working (and how to fix it)

Airdrop

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.

Happy AirDropping!

 

Lineal have over 20 years of Apple expertise: contact us today via 01271 375999 or email [email protected]


Bloxx announces discontinuation of products

bloxx

Bloxx to become part of Akamai Technologies

Web filtering provider Bloxx have announced that they will be ceasing support for their products and services, following a shock email from the company’s Chief Executive.

The move comes as part of a cash deal takeover bid by cloud services firm Akamai Technologies, announced on 2nd November 2015, and will see an end to the sale of all Bloxx products.

Bloxx has a good reputation in the UK and beyond for delivering a strong feature set in their appliances that are used to filter online content delivered in sensitive environments. Their products are commonly implemented by educators, healthcare providers, local authorities and businesses.

Although existing contracts will be honoured, those who have invested in physical Bloxx hardware may well find the lifespans are now limited, with little indication of whether Akamai will offer suitable replacements.

Bloxx’s impressive record has drawn the attention of national media before, with the Edinburgh based-company receiving hate mail from teenagers unable to access restricted websites on school computers even with a range of proxies.

With online security stories dominating the news in recent weeks, wider awareness of the need for web, social media and email monitoring is likely to only increase demand for such products. It remains to be seen whether interested parties will consider a cloud-based offering from Akamai to be sufficient, especially when it comes to security and bandwidth management.

Need help with online content filtering and network security for your organisation? Speak to Lineal today: call 01271 375999 or email [email protected]


Personal Computing with Mac just became less personal

iMac

Here at Lineal we’ve generally been impressed with the release of OS X El Capitan – but the release of Apple’s latest operating system has not come entirely without pitfalls.

Some of our own staff experienced printing problems for the Mac version of Microsoft Office 2016 – these have fortunately already been rectified in update version 10.11.1 by a humbly apologetic Apple.

One of the most notable surprises however was the outright removal of functionality that long-time Mac users have had from the earlier days of personal computing.

Apple’s Disk Utility app update has removed the ability to verify and repair disk permissions on your Mac, leaving users with no way to verify incorrectly installed programs with the correct disk permissions to read/write to their hard drive.

At Lineal we’ve always advised users to verify and repair disk permissions after major updates, and even some Apple software regularly flags up as in need of verification.

Apple has made two sweeping generalisations: firstly, that Mac users only need to run software that immediately cooperates with their hardware (a big assumption) and secondly that users will be content to let Apple worry about the details of their computer maintenance.

Personal computing today feels a little less personal. Mac users have become used to the idea that Mac updates are very reliable, and worthwhile installing promptly – yet the sudden removal of longstanding features puts this in doubt for the first time.

Should we all trust manufacturers? A question for Volkswagen.

Lineal can offer Tech Support for a range of Apple devices: get in touch with us today via 01271 375999 or contact us online. 

Flickr: M Dreibelbis

Punching above its weight – how ShoreTel helps SMBs outclass the competition.

sobs

SMBs & ShoreTel

Presenting a professional face to the world relies upon efficient customer service, but if you’re just one small business starting out, how do you keep up?

ShoreTel’s Cloud Phone systems are a perfect example of how technology can be a force multiplier for SMBs allowing your small team to take on much bigger competition – and win.

Your goal should be to make dealing with your business stress-free and more convenient than bigger rivals. It’s no surprise that the UK Which? ‘Worst Customer Service’ Survey 2015 is topped by utility and telecoms companies – those with typically slow, large scale, poor quality interaction with customers over the phone.

A cloud-based phone system allows users to cleverly route incoming calls to the right place, by any method you choose – service level, skill matching, customer identity, caller location or simple priority. By deploying a smart call routing system to direct calls to the right person you can ensure that the customer spends as little time as possible holding on the line and gets their query answered.

In order to better serve customers when they call, ShoreTel’s unified communications platform can be configured to give members of your team the relevant details at their fingertips – such as simple screen pop-up containing a customer’s information. This helps your customer service team deal with queries faster, and in a more informed manner.

Being away from the phone need not be a barrier to SMBs either: voicemail and fax can also be routed onwards into transcribed email, so mobile working won’t hold you back from interacting with customers promptly. ShoreTel’s data also integrates with common CRM systems, seamlessly stitching the different strands of your business’ existing work flow together. Operating a business with a small staff, on the move, or across multiple locations? ShoreTel is made for you.

ShoreTel Connect’s Contact Centre is based around a monthly subscription service rather than a big hardware investment – a much more cost effective option for smaller businesses and ensuring a faster return on investment (ROI). Yet the true investment is in your reputation as a company – as a trusted business that is efficient and responsive to your customers’ needs.

Don’t get stuck holding: explore ShoreTel today.

To learn more, speak to somebody from Lineal today – call us on 01271 375999

More from Lineal News


Cyber Crime hits the headlines

16844922351_ec30a1b111_z

Cyber crime is finally set to become the UK’s most common crime type, following inclusion in the latest crime figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

This re-classification comes only days after news headlines emerged that an Eastern European crime group successfully used ‘Dridex’ malware to steal over £20m from UK bank accounts via thousands of infected PCs in the UK.

Cyber criminals are increasingly mounting more organised attacks on businesses, small and large – last year even U.S banking giant J.P Morgan suffered unfortunate press and a sudden plunge in its share price when digital thieves stole the personal information and contact details of more than 76 million customers.

The 2015 National Strategic Assessment from the National Crime Agency estimates that losses due to cyber crime in the UK now amount to a staggering £16 billion annually. The NCA also asserted that the theft of large amounts of private companies’ data still faces ‘considerable under reporting.’

Nowhere is this more threatening than for those in the financial services industry, where both reputations for reliability and access to funds make IT security of paramount importance, requiring compliance with the strictest procedures for identity validation, network safety and fraud detection.

All businesses need to be prepared for the future, where cyber crime is likely to become more sophisticated and UK companies may be expected to demonstrate greater data protection measures. This week Microsoft promoted it’s Financial Services Compliance program in connection with Office 365 – making assurances (aimed squarely at businesses in the financial sector) of direct access to staff and resources to ensure that Microsoft Office cloud services comply with financial security regulations.

Greater awareness of cyber crime amongst Government figures, the media and the public can only be a good thing, but ultimately it still remains very much up to the individual to ensure their IT systems are secure – before the worst happens.

 

More than 70% of businesses fail after significant data loss. Lineal can install a range of security measures to safeguard your business IT systems and data – enquire today via: http://www.lineal.co.uk/contact/

 

More from Lineal News

Flickr: GotCredit

View from the top: Lineal Reviews OS X El Capitan

Screen Shot 2015-09-30 at 17.19.12

Apple launched the new OS X 10.11 El Capitan to Mac users yesterday, in the latest free update of its trademark operating system.

The new offering is not a revolution, but an evolution of Apple’s OS X Yosemite released last year, with the newest version including a host of tweaks to improve performance and ease of use.

Having test-driven the software, Lineal staff had the following initial verdicts on El Capitan:

  1. Immediate downloads are for die hard fans – even with 60+ Mbps download speeds, it took us several hours to download the full version today, less than one day after release. Conversely, some of our team managed to download it hours after release in under 20 minutes. Early download performance seems very inconsistent, presumably due to global load on Apple’s servers. For a more user-friendly experience, be patient and download over the weekend.
  1. We liked the new multitasking tools, including the Split View window management system highly reminiscent of Microsoft Windows 10, but even more useful on Apple’s smaller screen MacBooks.
  1. El Capitan improves performance behind the scenes, loading a test PDF file around 50% faster, and improving battery life in the process. Finder also shows a greater initiative, intelligently understanding ‘edited yesterday’ and similar phrases to speed up searching for your files.
  1. Safari finally gets a refresh that includes pinned tabs, allowing for a more efficient way to keep persistent information open. This has been possible in Chrome and Firefox for some time so it’s good to see improvements to Safari to complete the user experience compared to the rivals.
  1. Several of Apple’s most basic apps have received an overdue refresh – for example Notes, where users will find they can now add hitherto excluded images and video if needed, along with a few basic formatting options. Shake your mouse cursor and it will swell in size so that you can find it easily. Apple hasn’t changed – these are thoughtful touches.

Overall OS X El Capitan is a solid, if somewhat modest, revision to Apple’s software range, which clearly has not been rushed to release. The new features have been developed with care and the real draw is increased performance. Both are worth waiting a day or two for though, giving other users time to test the new system, and yourself a less stressful update.

Lineal can offer support and expertise for a range of systems, including various Mac devices – get in touch with us today via: http://www.lineal.co.uk/contact/

 


Smarter working: why you need Office 2016

10.-Office-365-Planner-Charts-View

Microsoft Office 2016 is here: the staple of word processing, spreadsheets and presentation work everywhere is now available for single purchase on Windows 10 and Mac OS X.

Office 2016’s apps will look very familiar to existing customers – but Office 2016 is undoubtedly ‘smarter’ than any previous version of Office, with its most impressive new features aimed at boosting productivity for both home and business customers.

Take Microsoft’s new ‘Smart Lookup’ function for example – click a single word in a document and Office will web search that term (via Bing) within the window, allowing instant research.

Cleverly, Office 2016 will even infer from the context of the surrounding paragraph the exact meaning of the word being searched for, preventing irrelevant homonyms clouding your search results. A neat trick certainly, but also an important one for certain sectors – for instance helping children do school work with protection against loading inappropriate search results based on words with double-meanings.

It is a similar case with 2016’s new ‘Tell me’ function. Gone are the clunky help menus or cartoon paperclips – ‘Tell’ Word for a tool like ‘mail merge’ or ‘footnotes’ and the Office 2016 apps will not load search results, but immediately take you to the exact menu and function needed.

The latest version allows for collaborative working (finally catching up with rival Google Drive) with multiple users able to edit documents in real time with a visible tracked changes function, from remote locations if needed. As an added bonus, Office is integrated with Skype, aimed at making the process of collaborative working more easily communicated.

Part of productivity is personal though, so Office 2016 also introduces ‘Office 365 Planner’, an app aimed at time and project management. Even Outlook will attempt to shave a few minutes off your day by linking attachments from cloud-based OneDrive and introducing ‘Clutter’, an automated email filtering service which avoids distractions by pushing less relevant emails into a separate folder, helping you to best utilise your time. Office 2016 knows that time is worth money, and for some may be a very smart investment indeed.

 

Need advice on software for your business, or help migrating to Microsoft Office 365 services? Lineal can help – contact us today: http://www.lineal.co.uk/contact/

 


Lineal Expands with new Premises

Lineal is pleased to announce its successful move from Loxhore to its new offices in Unit 7, Riverside Court, Barnstaple, North Devon. The new offices add increased capacity and will provide our customers with significantly more reliable connectivity for remote-access cloud services.

“Our new office is a step up for us” explained Head of Support Matt Norris, “We’re especially pleased that the new premises give us greater scope to interact directly with customers, to offer a wider range of services and equipment, and to invest in a larger team of staff for Lineal’s future.”

LinealOffice

In addition to private meeting rooms and equipment workshop, the Riverside Court site includes an enlarged staff working room and our Pearson VUE -authorised test centre. The new work space supports a team of ten, with a range of specialised disciplines crossing software development of our SQWLWorks software, technical support, consultancy, marketing and administration. With the move also come new products: Lineal now offers businesses the unified Communications platform Shortel, Office 365, and disaster recovery services.

Just off Castle Street, Barnstaple, contact details and directions to Lineal’s new offices at Riverside Court can be found on our website here.

We’re currently recruiting staff to join our growing team – you can learn more about our newest vancancies by clicking here.


Hot stuff: Amazon releases £50 Fire Tablet

AmazonFire

Online shopping giant Amazon have announced they will sell a budget tablet computer, the Fire Tablet, at an advertised price of just £50 from the end of September.

In possibly a promotional world first, Amazon will sell the Fire Tablet in a ‘six-pack’ for the cost of five tablets. Take note education sector; for under £1500 an entire class of 30 children could have personal access to this basic tablet computer.

Nor are there any indications that the Fire Tablet will be poor quality. Like many tablets the Fire will burn on a standard Android system, with the technical specs boasting a 1.3Ghz processor, 8GB of storage space, a 7-inch (171 ppi / 1024 x 600) screen and 7 hours of battery life, all fairly standard for the lower end of the tablet market.

Of course Amazon’s pitch is more strategic than it may first appear – the bargain handheld device allows the massive retail conglomerate another way to promote Amazon video streaming services, Amazon Prime, Kindle Books and other online shopping services.

But commercial clients too could benefit from working with low-cost handheld and mobile devices like the Fire Tablet – here at Lineal we’ve long argued that technology needs to suit your business, not vice versa. Portable access and low outlay means that these tablets allow your digital information to spread into less static or safe working environments – out of private offices and studios, into public places, onto construction sites, factory floors, classrooms, or the remotest of small businesses.

The cost of the device may even ignite interest among some users reluctant to risk moving to a tablet, encouraging them to finally give it a try.

Lineal can help match your tech needs to your business. Learn more here: http://www.lineal.co.uk/contact/

More from Lineal News


Keeping your business IT secure – What’s the perfect password?

IT-Security

How to keep your IT Secure

Data breaches can lead to a massive loss of trust among customers, so how do you ensure your IT remains secure?

Despite what many online sign-up forms would suggest, the ‘strongest’ password is not necessarily long and complicated. Whilst complexity makes a password harder to guess or crack with a ‘brute force’ testing of combinations, most security breaches occur from stolen passwords, either physically or by malware attacks.

Very complex passwords do not help in this respect: users still need other IT security, such as antivirus software, errors are more common when typing (particularly on handheld devices) and employees may find complex passwords harder to remember – undermining data security by writing down their login details. The ubiquitous sticky note attached to the monitor is still a trusted solution to working with complex password policies in some organisations!

Routine password changes are a sensible precaution for most businesses, but can make it harder for employees to remember their passwords, leading to the same problem in which users are locked out of work accounts, copy passwords across accounts, or write passwords down at risk of theft.

Phrases can help avoid this problem by making passwords easier to recall: ‘Lineal15theB3st’ is preferable to a 15-digit numeral because a touch of personality adds memorability. Beware profanity though – just imagine trying to explain it to technical support later on!

Here at Lineal we’d also advise against ‘Remember Me’ automated sign-in functions, as well as Windows 10’s new Wi-Fi password sharing ‘Wi-Fi Sense’ Feature, as these make your chosen password redundant.

If you want to see where the future of online security is going, follow the money: most online banking incorporates a two-stage authentication process, requiring both a password and a unique alert code texted to the customer’s mobile phone for identification. This is already a free optional setting for Google, Facebook, Twitter and other popular websites.

Lineal’s advice is to stick to the following basics:

Avoid physical theft:

  • Don’t write your passwords down on a post-it note on your desk! Microsoft has a practical tip: if you absolutely must write a password down, do so in a safe place, without labeling it as a password or to which account it refers. Substitute words should also be used to hide the true password, for example writing ‘Fruit8£’ could refer to a password of ‘Apple8£’.
  • Don’t use an easily guessed word, such as your name, your company’s name, 1234, the name of something on your desk, the word ‘password’, or anything similarly obvious.
  • Never tell anyone your password, and change your password if you suspect it has been compromised.

Ease of Access:

  • If you struggle to remember your passwords, use a password storage program to store some of them. Remember to use a secure password for the program.
  • Mitigate against your own forgetfulness by setting up alternate password recovery options, allowing you to choose more varied, difficult passwords.
  • Consider where users will need to log in from – take full advantage of using numbers and special characters ( ! , £, %, * etc.) for keyboard users.

Preventing digital theft:

  • Use different passwords for your most important accounts, such as online banking.
  • Use two-stage authentication.
  • Maintain up to date anti-virus security software and firewalls on your work desktops, and don’t download untrusted software or open suspicious emails which could be phishing or contain password stealing malware.
  • Consult IT specialists to ensure office networks are protected from outside attacks.

Your security should always be strong enough to give peace of mind. Lineal can provide expert advice and support for securing your IT systems: why not get in contact with us here?

More from Lineal News

Flikr: Jason Baker

iPhone 6S, 6S Plus and iPad Pro Release: Apple stays ahead of the pack

iPhone6s-RoseGold-BackFront-HeroFish-PR-PRINT

Screen Shot 2015-09-10 at 14.07.36

This week saw the hotly anticipated release of the iPhone 6S and 6S Plus, Apple Inc’s flagship smartphone announced in their annual product release that has become as inevitable as the tides.

With the iPhone now accounting for something close to 70% of Apple’s revenue, the 6S and 6S Plus were the main attraction. The new design fixes old durability problems with a stronger case and tougher screen, but added features include the obligatory faster processor, a new rose gold colour choice, and an upgraded 12MP camera – all aimed at keeping ahead of the competition, at least when it comes to performance.

‘3D Touch’ is Apple’s newest technical innovation, making the screen of the company’s newest devices pressure sensitive. This gives users the illusion of screen depth by accurately judging the strength of the screen press, allowing for new capabilities like a ‘peek’ at an app with a gentle touch, and giving Apple another technical edge with which to play the long game.

Not that Apple’s thinking hasn’t been questioned: commercial clients may find the power to shoot high resolution 4k video enticing, but will likely be sceptical at how practical it is to save such high-quality video files on a smartphone.

Screen Shot 2015-09-10 at 14.08.06

iPadPro_Pencil_Lifestyle2-PRINTIndeed, for a company whose founder’s dislike of the stylus is well documented, releasing a large tablet with a stylus appears an open invitation for criticism. Nevertheless this is exactly what Apple have now done, introducing the new iPad Pro, a 12.9 inch tablet, ostensibly optimised for creative use by designers, illustrators and other editors needing a larger screen.

The demonstration of the iPad Pro included the new $99 (£65) stylus, the Apple ‘Pencil’ effortlessly photoshopping a woman’s smile on screen, an illustrative but perhaps ill-chosen example that somehow made it through Apple’s press office without ringing media alarm bells. Appropriate use aside, the technology is nevertheless impressive: the Apple pencil combined with 3D Touch allows pressure sensitive brush strokes on screen drawn with great precision.

This year’s releases represent Apple maturing a little, yet still relying on groundbreaking technical features to stay ahead of the curve.  Apple Inc. shares actually slid two percent to close lower on Wednesday, with investors holding their breath to see whether the new products were enough to really ‘impress’ customers. The tech giant has arguably sacrificed some of the flamboyance of previous years’ releases to concentrate on the innovation needed to outpace rivals, and open more important doors for its own future, including in the form of its renewed invasion into our living rooms with the new Apple TV and tvOS complete with the long heralded AppStore.

Lineal has over 20 years of business experience with Apple Mac, including connecting your mobile devices for working on the move – why not get in touch with us today? http://www.lineal.co.uk/contact/

 


Facebook 'Pages' Function opens up shop to the World

Screen Shot 2015-09-09 at 12.27.37

Facebook have announced that Facebook Pages will soon allow online sales, in a move expected to be welcomed by online businesses.

The popular social media website could potentially offer organisations access to the largest marketplace in the world, after Facebook recently made headlines for over 1 billion active users in the space of 24 hours. The competition is also likely to be fierce however, with over 45 million pages already in existence vying for attention.

Facebook pages currently include an option for a ‘Call to Action’ button like this one, allowing visitors to ‘Contact Us’, ‘Sign Up’, with similar ‘Donate’ options for non-profits, which will all receive a redesign.

Over the next month however, Pages will be granted access to new ‘Shopping’ and ‘Services’ sections, allowing a business to showcase their products for purchase or a range of professional services for hire. Additionally, Facebook are understood to be testing a voice-activated AI ‘assistant’ service, ‘M’, for both Facebook and the Facebook Messenger App, keeping pace with similar offerings from other giants of the tech world.

It would be a brave business which moved to Facebook sales alone, although some startups may attempt just that, eventually processing all payments through social media as a replacement for a traditional website.

But as the old saying goes: ‘Where there’s crowds, there’s business.’ A conventional internet banner advert is clicked-on merely 0.1% of the time, or one in a thousand views, perhaps tempting internet savvy companies to move more of their efforts to Facebook, a website millions of users log into (willingly) each day.

If you need technology to drive sales for your business, why not get in touch with Lineal? Contact us here: http://www.lineal.co.uk/contact/


Why your next desktop computer will fit in your wallet

201509022047069827

ASUS have announced their latest new desktop computer, the tiny ASUS Vivo Stick: a PC little bigger than a pocket highlighter.

Smaller businesses take note: it’s easy to imagine commercial clients making good use of such practical technology. At under 14cm long, the tiny Vivo stick resembles a USB memory stick and can be easily moved between hot-desks by mobile employees, or into premises too small for even the smallest of small-form desktop PC towers.

The Vivo Stick will run Microsoft’s new Windows 10 operating system via an Intel Cherry Trail Atom Processor, and can be plugged directly into any screen with an HDMI port. In addition to a micro USB port for power, Wi-fi and Bluetooth are combined with 2 spare USB ports and an audio socket to give the Stick the basic connections needed for everyday external devices: a mouse, keyboard and speakers.

Don’t expect performance miracles at this stage. Marginally superior to Intel’s lacklustre ‘ComputeStick’ offering back in April – the Vivo Stick incorporates only 2GB of memory and 32GB eMMC flash storage, although both Asus and Intel must correctly suspect that many users will find this more than sufficient for ordinary work tasks – email, word processing and other admin.

The low price will also help ensure market interest. Retailing at around only $129 in the US (around £85) ASUS’ Vivo Stick will likely be a cost-effective and portable option for entry-level personal computing, new startups, small businesses, and even presents a competitively priced alternative for computer labs and classrooms in the education market – any sector needing to equip users without ‘fixed’ workstations for basic IT needs.

If your business has some unconventional IT challenges – Lineal can help. Why not get in touch with us by clicking here: http://www.lineal.co.uk/contact/

 


Skylake processors begin new era for Intel

4th_Generation_Intel_Core_Close_Intel

Intel have announced the release of their new Skylake processors – their sixth generation of processor chips using multiple cores to combine greater processing power with lower energy consumption.

The new chips will boast around a 60% performance increase for a standard PC, with overclocking capabilities and other features clearly aimed at capturing the higher end of the gaming market and similar. There are also more rudimentary improvements behind the scenes: for example supporting multiple 4k displays, and optimising for new connections expected on the next generation of laptops, including USB Type-C and Thunderbolt 3.

Skylake’s greatest asset however will be remarkably more efficient power-use. Intel believe superior energy efficiency (and less overheating) will allow more devices to operate without the need for internal fans, saving device weight, size, manufacturing costs, environmental costs, maintenance on moving parts, and prices for consumers. Their smaller models, Core m3, m5 and m7, will also help corner the market on more portable devices, saving weight and critical battery life in the tablets and smartphones of the future.

Intel must realise their market is changing and that it will be harder to keep selling new processors. Both Microsoft and Apple now offer constant upgrades to their Windows 10 and OS X Yosemite operating systems via free downloads – such that users are no longer forced to buy a new computer or package when they wish to upgrade. The IDC estimated last November that new tablet sales were also slower than the industry expected, as users hold on to older, well-built devices longer than expected rather than purchasing newer models. Hard drive capacities, in devices of all sizes, will only increase.

This all leaves Intel with a sales challenge – how to sell computer hardware to a world that doesn’t necessarily need or covet new devices as regularly? Skylake must provide new opportunities to manufacturers to push the boundaries of what can be achieved with a better chip to drive fresh sales across the industry.

Expect to see Skylake processors become available by the end of 2015, with the PC market picking up the range fully in the New Year.

If you’d like to take advantage of Lineal’s advice and expertise, you can contact us online easily by clicking here: http://www.Lineal.co.uk/contact/

 


Protptype AeroMobil 3.0 flying car has its maiden flight

A prototype of the world’s most advanced flying car has taken to the skies. AeroMobil 3.0 which features a high-tech cockpit and wings that can fold in behind the cabin, was unveiled at an innovations conference in Vienna.  AeroMobil’s chief executive Juraj Vaculik said it could “change personal transport on a global scale”.

The AeroMobil 3.0 is pictured during its world premiere at Hofburg Palace in Vienna. Continue reading…


Lineal Director escorts PM David Cameron around FSB show tent

FSB Chairman for North Devon, Mike Matthews, spent 25 minutes with Prime Minister David Cameron, Agricultural Minister Owen Patterson and PPC Peter Heaton-Jones, guiding them around the FSB tent at the North Devon Show on Wednesday 7th August.  They discussed problems for small business owners and the role of the Federation of Small Businesses.

David Cameron and Mike Matthews can be seen talking to Grace Rodgers at her table displaying products from her Bideford company – On The Horizon.

The FSB show tent was one of 2 chosen by the Prime Minister at the North Devon show yesterday.  Mike Matthews, who is Managing Director of IT company Lineal Software Solutions, had organised the tent to showcase a variety of North Devon Businesses and their products / services.  Mike took the PM and other VIPs around the displays, introducing them to the FSB members and highlighting the problems faced by small businesses in North Devon today.

Mike Matthews said “It has been 25 years since I first set up Lineal so that I could concentrate on the development of my business software SQLWorks.  The rural location of North Devon has its benefits, but manufacturing problems, increasing employment issues and the slow roll out of superfast broadband have all been seen as barriers to growth by the FSB members.”

At his party’s spring conference, David Cameron said “There’s only one strategy for growth we can have now and that is rolling up our sleeves and doing everything possible to make it easier for businesses to grow, to invest, to take people on….Back small firms. Boost enterprise. Be on the side of everyone in this country who wants to create jobs, and wealth and opportunity.”

Agricultural Minister, Owen Patterson, also accompanied David Cameron and Mike Matthews.  His interest was in the rural location and nature of many local businesses.  They discussed the obstacles presented to them, and how they are overcome with help from organisations such as the Federation of Small Businesses.