At Loyal I.T. Solutions, all staff are encouraged to get involved with our local community. It is one of the core values in our Code of Honour, and we have many initiatives for staff to dedicate time or resources to help support the community that supports us. Some of our initiatives include:
Every quarter, a number of staff on our team head down to the local Red Cross to donate blood or plasma. Plasma can be used in 18 different treatments, some of which are relied upon by the friends and family of staff at Loyal I.T. Solutions. This year we've gone hard on the plasma donations and already saved 15 lives with our efforts. Since our Business Development Manager Naomi McCahon started this initiative in 2016, the team has made 44 total donations of blood and plasma, saving over 130 lives.
The Million Star Sleepout is a one-night campout on a cold, starry night, to help raise funds and awareness for homelessness on the Central Coast. In 2018 we had six members of our team sleeping out at Glenworth Valley and we raised over $11,000 for Coast Shelter - all thanks to our generous clients, partners, and loved ones.
Once every month, we'll swap the collared shirts for hoodies and have casual Friday at the Loyal I.T. office. For staff to participate, they must donate a canned or non-perishable item to an ever-growing pile residing in our kitchen. Once there's a decent stockpile, we make the trek a few doors up and pass over all the goods to local housing organisation Coast Shelter for distribution.
Something you may not know about those who work in I.T. - we drink a LOT of Coca Cola! After seeing the large amount of cans and bottles making their way to the Loyal I.T. recycling bins, our technician Brendan Lewis saw the perfect opportunity to give back to our community. Brendan has set up multiple tubs in our staff kitchen to gather empty cans and bottles, and when full he drops them to a local Return & Earn collection point. The vouchers we receive from Return & Earn are then passed over to local homelessness organisation Coast Shelter. Since implementing this more than a year ago, we have raised over $180 in vouchers - which is a lot of Coke!
Domestic violence is unfortunately an all-too-common reality for many women here on the Central Coast, and those escaping violent situations may do so only with the clothes on their back. The Marilyn Project is a clothing drive arranged by the ladies at Loyal I.T. to pass on business-appropriate clothing to the women in our community who need it most. Whether it's for an interview, ongoing employment, or a rental inspection - The Marilyn Project empowers women with the right clothes for the job.
Loyal I.T. Solutions is happy to host a number of work experience students throughout the year, to help high school students gain an insight on what a career in I.T. is like. We partner with Youth Connections to coordinate Central Coast students to come and join Loyal I.T. for a week, working alongside our onsite technicians to get field experience and have a first-hand look at technical careers.
|Posted in: Team News Misc IT Community|
With more than 800 million users, the Windows 10 operating system has had a faster adoption rate than any other version of Windows. It has also recently been crowned as the most popular operating system for desktops, running on 44% of all computers across the globe.
Windows 10 has kept the familiarity of a classic Windows interface, while achieving major improvements in terms of security, efficiency, and performance. Market research company Forrester has put these claims to the test and discovered the following results:
With Windows 7 becoming end-of-life in January 2020, Microsoft recommend that any Windows 7 devices be replaced with Windows 10 machines in order to avoid security risks and other issues. As PCs originally built with Windows 7 are now running 10-year-old technology, Microsoft advise against installing the Windows 10 software onto these devices, as it can produce significant performance and/or compatability issues.
For more information regarding this announcement from Microsoft, please visit their information guide and FAQ.
You can also read our fact sheet to find out more about the potential risks involved with using Windows 7 devices past January 2020:
|Posted in: IT IT Consulting Networking Security Computer Software|
It's time to upgrade your Windows 2008 and/or 2011 servers. After years of declining support from Microsoft, there is now an official date of when these server operating systems will be classed as "end of life" and will no longer receive support.
Less than a year away, Microsoft are urging all businesses using these servers to upgrade to newer software (such as Windows Server 2019) by January 14, 2020. The following server operating systems will be affected by this change, and need to be upgraded before the January 2020 deadline:
Even if you have recently bought a new physical server, your business may still be affected, as your I.T. infrastructure could be relying on virtual servers that are running the 2008 and 2011 operating systems.
When operating systems are classed as end of life, security vulnerabilities and software bugs are no longer patched by Microsoft - which could leave your systems insecure, glitchy, and incompatible with many modern software programs.
Let's look at the risks your business could face by continuing to use an operating system once it has become end of life.
You may also like to read our other fact flyer sheets:
|Posted in: Security IT IT Consulting Networking Security|
As the saying goes, all good things must come to an end. Over the recent years, Microsoft has slowly been scaling back support for the Windows 7 operating system, but in January next year support will officially come to a close.
When Windows 7 becomes end of life on January 14 2020, security vulnerabilities and software bugs will no longer be patched by Microsoft - which could leave your machine insecure, glitchy, and incompatible with many modern software programs.
The easy answer is to upgrade to a Windows 10 machine. A great deal of individuals and enterprises on the Central Coast have already upgraded and are using Windows 10 like they knew nothing else ever existed. However, Net Applications reports that 37% of people are still hanging on to their Windows 7 machines, despite being surpassed by Windows 10 almost four years ago.
Does your desktop look like the above? If so, you could be running Windows 7.
While familiarity with your Windows 7 device can be hard to break, staying with the ten-year-old platform is not worth the risks it could bring in to your home or business.
Let's look at the risks involved when Windows 7 becomes end of life in January.
Windows 10 is a cleaner, modern version of the Windows 7 user interface albeit with more features.
The start menu follows the same logical sequence and has that familiarity, but there are added features such as the search bar which will activate a search across your hard drive files, control panel, and the Internet, helping you find what you need quickly.
Windows 10 has less inherent vulnerabilities than Windows 7, and the up-to-date support will keep you and your data protected. The Windows 10 software has improved stability and performance over Windows 7, and also has the Windows App Store, allowing you to download apps onto your PC, laptop, or Surface tablet just like you would on a smartphone.
Windows 10 comes pre-installed on nearly all new workstations and laptops, and has twice-annual updates that bring new features to the platform.
You may also like to read our fact flyer sheets:
|Posted in: Security IT IT Consulting Networking Security|
Unfortunately, a business was harmed in the making of this true story.
"Your files have been encrypted. Please submit payment within 48 hours to restore your data."
Can you imagine turning on your computer tomorrow and finding all of your business data inaccessible? Could you continue trading, or would your business come to a halt? This is the precise scenario a small business was recently faced with.
The business owners in this article, like many people, relished in the ability to complete work remotely from the comfort of home. But without the right security in place, their open connection to the network was like an unlocked door, and it was all too easy for hackers to gain access to the company's files.
So who are these hackers? Anyone with an internet connected computer is capable of attacking you. With anonymous cryptocurrencies and the ability to attack victims across the globe, cybercrime is virtually untraceable.
What are they after? Your data and information because it is not only extremely valuable to you, but is also a valuable commodity on the dark web. Your business data is like currency. Even in a small to medium business, data is just as attractive to hackers as a corner store cash register.
Hackers have two options with your data.
The situation faced by the business I alluded to in the first paragraph is an example of how hackers make money from Ransomware. Through inadequate security measures, a hacker gained access to their server, encrypted all of their files, and then issued a ransom note for 0.8 Bitcoins (at time of attack - approximately A$7,500.00). The files were largely worthless to the hacker, BUT the files were the currency and life blood for the business. Bitcoin is a digital tender and can be used to buy and sell items anonymously on the internet meaning hackers have a way of being anonymously paid.
The challenge for any hacker is to gain access to your data storage (your laptop, server etc). There are many vectors for infection (the placing of malicious software in your system) and many methods where you can be tricked into letting the infection in including spam, social engineering and malicious advertising. Other ways that hackers can break in include website hacking and exploiting insecure remote access, insecure communications, aging equipment, and vulnerabilities in your software and/or equipment.
In the example of the Business mentioned earlier in this article, it was all too easy for a hacker to break in via the remote access.
But why this business? Well, it wasn't personal. It was simply a random leveraging of opportunity and high vulnerability increases opportunity. A hacker can go on any number of public websites that lists every device open to the internet and can apply his or her automation tools to choose targets to attempt to hack into. If you are reading this on your computer right now and you're online, your IP address is one of millions around the world that may come up in such a search.
Hackers utilise products such as Shodan (like a 'Google for hackers') and Masscan, meaning they can scan all four billion internet IP addresses, looking for vulnerabilities in less than six minutes. If a vulnerability or insecure practice is found, the hacker will look to leverage this into an attack. They don't necessarily know you, they just know your IP address is vulnerable and they will try to exploit it to see if they can earn some money.
Vulnerabilities are found in devices daily. They can take the shape of mistakes in programming, insecure policies by the device manufacturer or the deliberate inclusion of backdoor access in programming. But most vulnerabilities are just human error, with programmers often working under a lot of pressure to deliver a product this is why so many updates to Windows and Mac operating systems are pushed out each month.
So, the hackers have an easy way to scan the internet, they can access the known and published vulnerabilities, they have developed toolkits which will automate the entire process, they have tools to break in (a common example is automated password guessing-or brute force password hacking) and they can make untraceable money.
With these hacker strategies in mind, what happened with the small business in this article? The hackers, via their search engine and automation tools, were able to isolate a venerable IP address, which in this case it was the remote connection at the server. The hacker easily found their way to the server and started a brute force password attack. This sort of attack is not flagged by Windows and can only be determined by checking the event logs of the server. The hackers eventually guessed the right password which allowed them into the server. They deployed their ransomware software which encrypted all their data and then issued the ransom.
This catastrophe could have been avoided. If you are storing your data on a server at your business and accessing it remotely, there are three key ways to prevent hacking.
Without the VPN, a remote connection opens a portal into your server that is visible and easily accessed by anyone else. A VPN reduces the 'visibility' of the remote connection and provides the security to prevent any unauthorised entry.
If the business in this article had a bullet proof 3-2-1 back-up solution in place; then at least they could have ignored the ransom, purged the server, installed the necessary VPN and endpoint security and then loaded their back-up data.
Lastly, with an appropriate password management regime, maybe the hackers would not have been able to crack this Business's password.
So, how did this story end for the Business in this article? Not too well I am afraid. The ransom was paid but then the hackers went quiet. There has been no contact since. They did not deliver the decryption key nor the program to decrypt the data. They had to downsize their operation significantly.
The moral to this story is this: regular security audits should be implemented on business networks to ensure best practices are being adhered to and when issues are found, it is always best to action them with urgency.
You may also like to read these fact sheets:
|Posted in: Security IT IT Consulting Networking Security|