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14Jan 2016

Terms like cryptolocker and Gameover Zeus have been appearing in news reports recently. What are they and what can do you about it?

The combination of them both is known as malware, malicious software designed to steal and destroy data on a PC. The software typically gets onto a PC by infected attachments on emails. Unwitting users run the attachments and infect their PC’s with viruses or software that allows back-door access to hackers. This software in turn means that personal and financial information can be stolen, and in some cases documents and photos can be encrypted unless money is paid to release the files. In the worst case if the ransom is not paid, the information is destroyed or rendered completely useless.

These emails containing the malware are known as ‘phishing’ emails. These appear as legitimate messages from banks, building societies, delivery companies or even friends. The email is usually worded to explain there’s a problem with an account or delivery, and that the user should download and run the attachment to either fill in a form or fix the problem. Once the attachment is run the PC is infected with the back-door access for the hackers, leaving it open for further attacks.

The malware in use has been around for a while, but the terms have been appearing prominently in the news recently as a computer hacker has been arrested and accused of running one of the major hacker groups that perpetrate this crime. The National Crime Agency (or NCA) have announced that PC users have a two week window to ensure that PC’s are clean of the malware before they feel attacks will continue.

This means that while the 14 day window is open, users that have been infected with the malware in the meantime still have time to clean the infection from their PC. It is possible to be infected with the software and not even know, so it’s better to be safe than sorry.

Please get in touch if you feel that your PC is at risk and you need further help or assistance. At the same time follow these tips to ensure your PC is kept as secure as possible:

  • Keep your PC up to date with the latest security and Windows Updates.
  • Consider purchasing an anti virus program or install a free tool such as Microsoft Security Essentials
  • Do not open attachments from sources you do not recognise, especially attachments that end in .zip
  • Make regular backups of important data away from your PC
  • Use software (such as malwarebytes) to check whether a PC is infected, if so disconnect from the internet and seek professional help as soon as possible.
  • If you believe your PC has been infected, change your online account passwords on a clean PC and use a secure method
  • Back up, back up back up! Half an hour spent backing up can save years worth of family photos.
14Aug 2015

Cybercrime is one of the fastest growing crimes of our time. Viruses are written to infect, threaten and wreak havoc, often holding companies to ransom putting their data and with it, their entire business at risk. Your company data is your lifeblood, and you need to protect it. So here are our top ten tips to keeping your IT systems secure.

  1. Pay for your AV Install a good anti-virus product from a reputable provider, and pay for it. Free AV software will not keep you protected. BitDefender, F-Secure and Norton are all recommended, but none of these will protect you efficiently unless you keep them updated. As computer viruses mutate, protection companies adapt their products to maintain levels of defence. Think of it as new antibiotics being developed to fight a mutating virus. If you take the old medicine, you won’t get better. If you’re running an old version of your anti-virus software, your systems won’t be protected.
  2. Strong password policy, – create a company-wide password policy and enforce it. Ideal passwords are at least 14 characters long, alphanumeric and changed regularly. Different passwords should be used for different systems – otherwise you risk a mass security breach if a password is hacked or stolen. Passwords should never be shared and never be written down.
  3. Firewalls first – ensure that you have a firewall installed, and if you’re not sure, check with your IT provider. And NEVER turn it off. A firewall works to protect your IT systems from unauthorised access and basically acts as a barrier between your business and the World Wide Web. Turning it off, even for a few minutes, can expose your business to significant risk.
  4. Beware the USB drive Never borrow or share USB drives from unknown sources and be wary at all times. An infected drive used on your network will expose your business to viruses, potentially distributing through your company systems in minutes. If you use USB drives for sensitive data, always encrypt them.
  5. Watch what you click – be careful what you click on. Even the most sophisticated of security systems will fail if you open the door and let the viruses in. Be wary of email attachments, downloads and links and check they’re from a reputable source. It can often be difficult to judge, but if in doubt, delete.
  6. Browse sensibly – similarly, be careful what you browse. An infected website will pass viruses to your computer which could in turn spread through your entire network. As will an infected app. Keep to brands you know when downloading apps and stay off dodgy websites. Don’t click on pop-up adverts, particularly from obscure companies you’ve never heard of.
  7. Employee loyalty Can you trust your staff? All of them? We certainly hope so, but be conscious of any discrepancies that may be occurring which could pose the potential for a member of staff to want to steal or damage your intellectual property. It’s not nice, and nobody likes to think about it, but it does happen. So, one to be mindful of.
  8. Keep your software updated Make sure you’re not running old versions of your software. These are often unsupported by the manufacturers, leaving your systems open and vulnerable to attack. Windows XP, for example, is no longer supported by Microsoft meaning the firm does not now roll out software updates or security patches for this product. So it’s open to attack and will leave holes in your systems.
  9. Know the signs know how to spot a computer virus and look out for the signs. If your computer starts running slowly or freezing, reboots itself, and printer access disappears, you could have a problem. Look out for strange looking error messages, additional toolbars appearing in your web browser and a loss of access to certain drives. One or more of these things could indicate an infection, so be vigilant and if you think your systems may have been compromised, contact your IT support company immediately.
  10. Employee education of course, there is always the risk that human error can let in a virus. So educate your staff, and refresh any security training regularly. Keep up to date with any new strains of viruses that become particularly prevalent at any time so you know what to look out for – your IT support company should provide you with this information whenever necessary.

For more information, guidance and for any advice please contact us on 03333 231 115 or email helpdesk@belogicalltd.co.uk

31Jul 2015

Greater Manchester’s Business Growth Hub supports growing and ambitious businesses, delivering a wide range of business support services from expert public and private sector partners. Recently the Business Growth Hub released the following story on the success and growth of BeLogical.

BeLogical, a specialist telecommunications agency has received support from the Greater Manchester Business Growth Hub’s Executive Development Programme allowing the firm to grow its product range and look at further acquisitions.

The Astley-based business provides a range of business telecommunication services including broadband, landlines, IT support services, as well as graphic design and websites. The company, which is in its third year of operation, is aiming to hit £1m turnover this year and currently employs 9 members of staff.

The Executive Development Programme, which was launched by Greater Manchester’s Business Growth Hub, aims to provide training to senior members of businesses who often forgo development due to them being caught up in the day to day running of their businesses.

Lyn Clement, owner and director of BeLogical worked with the programme which has allowed her to focus on the firm’s expansion through both organic growth and through acquisition, with the company acquiring Bradford-based Aura Communications back in 2014. Lyn has also ensured that all her team develop through introducing BeLogicals own internal staff training programme.

Lyn Clement, owner and director of BeLogical, said: “As a business owner it is very easy to slip into simply running the business day-to-day and not to take a step back to think of the overall strategy of my company. The Executive Development Programme was a fantastic learning experience for me, it has allowed me to work on the business rather than in the business, with the aim to adopt a buy-and-build strategy of like minded businesses, as well as enhancing the services and savings that we provide to our existing customer base.

“Dawn managed the training very well around me and I would highly recommend any business owner to give it a try as it changed my business.”

Dawn Duggan, executive development manager, added: “Our programme allows business owners to continually develop as a business leader and to improve the overall strategy of the company. With three months still to go with the programme there is more to be done to ensure that Greater Manchester business leaders are receiving the training necessary to improve their bottom line.”

19Jun 2014

The government announced that, on June 13th 2014, the rules on how companies use non-geographic phone numbers (such as 084, 087 and 09 numbers) are changing.

Customers should not be made to pay extra for attempting to rectify problems that are not their fault, or for making an enquiry regarding an existing product or service they have.

What’s changing?

From the 13th, customers must have access to basic rate phone numbers for any after-sales support or service, rather than being forced into using a 084, 087 or 09 number.

The changes only apply to after-sales phone numbers in B2C relationships. If you work with consumers rather than businesses, you must provide a basic rate phone number (such as 01, 02 or 03 numbers) for any form of after-sales support or service. A consumer is defined as “an individual acting for purposes which are wholly or mainly outside that individual’s trade, business, craft or profession”.

What do I need to do?

If you currently use a number starting with 084, 087 or 09 for your after-sales support you must ensure that callers pay no more than the basic rate on any such call. The most straightforward way of doing this is to provide customers with a phone number for these services starting with 01, 02 or 03.

You could still use 084/087 numbers after June 2014, so long as they’re advertised with an alternative ‘basic rate’ number.

If you would like to talk with us about any issue related to this news story just get in touch, call our friendly customer services team on 0800 002 9040 or use our contact form.

What is the basic rate?

The basic rate is the amount you pay on calls to 01, 02 and 03 numbers. For mobile phone calls, it is the amount you would pay on a number beginning with 07.

Does the change affect all phone numbers?

No, only the post-sales phone numbers are affected. You are still allowed to use the numbers mentioned above as your sales numbers.

How about 0800 and 0808 numbers?

0800 and 0808 numbers are free from landlines, and are therefore unaffected by these changes.

Are there any exceptions?

Some businesses are exempt from these changes, including residential lettings, package travel agents and construction companies.

Businesses types excluded from the regulation

• Gambling as covered by the Gambling Act 2005;
• Construction and sale of immovable property including building of new properties;
• Residential letting contracts;
• Package travel contracts;
• Timeshare contracts;
• Supply of consumables by regular rounds, such as milkmen;
• Purchases from vending machines;
• Single telecom connections (for example, payphones and café internet connection);
• Financial services are generally exempt although warranties, credit agreements and insurance which are offered in conjunction with the sale of a non-financial goods or services, will still need to meet the requirements for cancellation of ancillary contracts and additional payments not being a default option.

Contracts only partially covered by the regulation

• Passenger transport contracts are exempt from cancellation rights and from most of the information requirements;
• Low value off-premises contracts (value less than £42) are exempt from the information and cancellation provisions of the regulations but subject to those on additional payments and charges and delivery and risk;
• Items dispensed on prescription are exempt from the information and cancellation provisions of the regulations.

What are the benefits?

A key objective of the change is to provide clarity for consumers and businesses on their respective rights and obligations.

Providing a number, which customers can call at basic rates, brings improved customer satisfaction. “If something goes wrong with a cooker or commuters want a refund on their season ticket, they will now pay the same to phone a helpline as they do to call friends or family,” said Consumer Minister Jo Swinson.

The government have considered the benefits for consumers and businesses; details can be found on page 20 of their Impact Assessment report.

What can BeLogical do to help?

We can discuss the regulatory changes with you and provide clarity and support you in areas of uncertainty. If you need support reviewing your existing numbers, we can help you reserve and set up new numbers. If you would like any more information please  call our friendly customer services team on 0800 002 9040 or use our contact form.

This information in intended as a guide only. If you have any concerns we recommend that you seek legal advice.