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VIRUS ALERT! Cryptolocker – UK targeted in mass ransomware spamming event

Virus Alert

We’ve talked about cybercrime and in particular, Cryptolocker, quite a lot on the blog over the past few months. And here it is again. Following an increase in the number of businesses affected by the virus, here’s another warning. So what is it and what do you need to look out for?

Cryptolocker is a type of computer virus known as ramsomware. It works by disguising itself as an email attachment – usually a ZIP file – and it will usually claim to have been sent by a financial institution – bank, HMRC or sometimes a utility company. When a user receives the email and clicks to open the attachment Cryptolocker immediately encrypts all data on the user’s machine, along with any data on the local network it is attached to. So, if an office worker opens an infected file the data estate of the entire company can be locked down in minutes. Not only that, but if you’re using an online backup solution that’s connected to your local network then your backup could also be infected.

Next, a countdown timer will appear on the screen of the infected machine along with a demand for cash – usually around £500 – in return for the decryption key.

But of course, these are criminals you’re dealing with. So coming up with the ransom money doesn’t guarantee you’ll ever see your data again.

And when a business loses its data….well, you know how devastating that can be. Imagine if all of your company files, folders, documents, contacts, financials – gone.  Years of work, gone in minutes.

According to our security partner F-Secure, 87% of SMEs have suffered some sort of security breach in the last 12 months and according to the Contingency Planning Research and Strategic Research Corporation 43% of companies experiencing disasters never re‐open, and 29% close within 2 years.

So what can you do?

- DO NOT OPEN any email attachments (particularly ZIP files) that you are not expecting to receive. If you receive such an email, delete it immediately.
- Remember that banks, building societies and HMRC will not send you unsolicited emails with attachments – if in doubt call your bank or tax office first to check whether they have sent the email.
- Keep anti virus software and operating systems updated.
- Backup your data routinely, off the network, and test your backups regularly.

If you think you may have been infected by ransomware then contact your IT support company immediately.

Further information on how to spot and avoid computer viruses can be found on our blog here and if you have any questions or concerns please call us on 01625 837800 for advice.



Pleased to welcome Tarmac Building Products on board


Handshake of businesspeople

We’re pleased to announce that we have won the business of the UK’s leading heavy building materials producer – Tarmac Building Products.

In a three year deal, Axon has designed and deployed a complete new infrastructure for Tarmac and will now provide technical support for 600 users across 60 sites around the UK.

Using our specialism as a Microsoft cloud computing partner, we have provided Tarmac with a hybrid cloud solution incorporating Microsoft Office 365 – the latest cloud computing offering from Microsoft – and Axon data centre services utilising virtualisation technologies, which has reduced the Tarmac server estate by 50%. We also provided a full desktop refresh, Windows smartphones and Windows Intune asset management.

We will now provide ongoing technical helpdesk and end user support for Tarmac which will benefit from increased flexibility, a reduction in the cost of ownership and improved business continuity as a result of the new solution.

Mark Skidmore, IT Infrastructure Manager for Tarmac Building Products commented: “With sites across the UK we needed an up-to-date, reliable and robust solution that would enable all employees to communicate and share data efficiently wherever they were. We’re pleased with both the solution and service provided by Axon and look forward to working with the team over the coming years.”

The past 12 months has seen a significant increase in the number of Axon’s customers moving to cloud solutions as businesses opt for a more flexible and scalable approach to IT. In turn, we have experienced significant growth since becoming a cloud computing specialist in 2011 and we’re delighted to welcome Tarmac Building Products on board.



Virus warning – Cryptolocker via email attachments

After writing about this in December last year, I have noticed that there has since been a rise in the number of unsolicited email that have .zip file attachments being delivered to user’s Mailboxes. This will usually purport to come from a bank, but have in the past pretended to be from courier companies, software companies, HMRC or utility companies. The one common strand in this is that there will be a zip attachment that you are encouraged to open. The hook for this is that you will be told that the zip file contains an attachment you must see – it may claim to be an invoice, delivery note or tax rebate.

These emails seem to be able to get past most anti-virus and anti-spam scanners – we have seen infections of machines protected by different brands of AV and received by different methods of email delivery.

The attached zip file actually contains a virus, and these can be very nasty ones. The worst one would seem to be a variant of the Cryptolocker. This virus will encrypt your documents and sometimes those on mapped network drives, and then demands a ransom be paid via credit card or by Bitcoin to decrypt them. There is time limit to pay within, usually 72 or 100 hours; otherwise Cryptolocker claims the files can never be decrypted. There is a good description of how the virus operates on Wikipedia.

So, how can you stop this virus getting onto your machine? As the spread of this virus can only happen if the zip attachment is opened, do not open the zip attachment.

Remember that banks, HMRC, sage and other companies never send out these types of emails. If you receive them, delete them straight away. Do not, under any circumstances, open attachments on emails that arrive unexpectedly, however good the provenance of the send may claim to be.

Also, make sure you take regular backups of your documents. Make sure you monitor the backup to ensure it works as and when it should.  Have the restore procedure tested – a backup is no good if it cannot be restored. Speak to your IT specialist if you have any reason to think you may have been infected, as speed is essential in dealing with this.


Bring your own device – the security risks

Man working with modern devices

How many of your staff have personal smartphones? How many have tablet computers? Loads of them I’ll bet. How many of those employees can access their work emails from those devices? How many can access corporate information through them? Files, folders, documents?

And voila, the bring your own device trend is born. And it’s so trendy, it even has its own acronym.


It’s great, right? Because it means your employees are responsive outside of work hours. It means they can keep up to date on work matters while they’re out and about at meetings, conferences and other events. It boosts their productivity, increases flexibility and gives you a mobile workforce. *whispers* and you didn’t even have to fork out for the devices.

And that really is great, but what does it mean in terms of security? Allowing a whole host of devices access to your precious company data could easily result in a security breach. It could leave you open to security failures and data leaks. What if the device is lost or stolen? How many people have access to that device? Do friends and family members of your employees use those devices at home? Could they access your data? Ultimately, BYOD could actually cause big problems for you.

So what should you do?

Well you should encourage BYOD, for sure. We encourage it here at Axon, and it really does have its benefits. But take heed of a few serious security points. You’ll need a clear and well enforced BYOD policy that includes acceptable use and underlines the accountability of behaviour.

Think about including rules such as…

-       All BYOD devices must carry company-approved anti-virus software.

-       Devices must be password protected and auto locked after a period of inactivity.

-       Enforce a strong password policy (8-10 characters long, alphanumeric, upper case and lower case and changed regularly).

-       Think about using encryption to store any data that is kept on the device.

-       Use password or PIN control access to ensure only authorised users can get to company data and emails.

-       Be aware of devices with removable storage such as micro or mini SD cards that could make data theft both easy and discreet. Do you want to allow these types of devices to be used?

-       Think about where your data is centrally stored. Are you on a cloud network? How secure is the data in transit? Consider forcing all traffic through a VPN, HTTPS or another encrypted channel.

-       Consider asking users to switch off blue-tooth and Wi-Fi interfaces that could present a hacking risk.

You’ll need to monitor your policy to make sure that it’s being adhered to, but remember, these are personal devices so you’ll need to find a fair balance. Ultimately it will come down to your company culture and current security polices but a bit of common sense should help ensure that BYOD is a safe option for your business.

The Information Commissioner’s Office has published a comprehensive guide to BYOD which you can find here and it includes information on how closely you can legally monitor employees online behaviour in the employment practices code, which you can find here.

Do you encourage BYOD in your business? Let us know how it works for you….


Say hello to Abi and Nicholas

Nicholas and Abi

We’re very happy to welcome Abi and Nicholas to the Axon gang. They’ve joined us this week and are making themselves right at home.

Abi is our new Administration Assistant and Nicholas will be helping out the helpdesk team as Support Assistant.

Give them a wave….



Unable to delete files and folders in OneDrive for Business

If you are unable to delete files and/or folders in OneDrive For Business due to long file lengths or the 5000 limit, the only way to solve this at present is to delete the whole site.

This is only possible with a little bit of a “fudge” in the users OneDrive account.

Click on the cog and go to Site Settings, then delete the data in the URL bar until just the following is showing:

Then add deleteweb.aspx at the end as per the below; /_layouts/15/deleteweb.aspx 

Next, go back to OneDrive For Business and this will re-build the users OneDrive back to its original format before any data was added.


Challenge Graham – an update on our charity fundraising

photo 3 - blog

We’ve been busy raising money for our chosen charity for 2014 – Macclesfield Neonatal Unit via East Cheshire NHS Trust’s ECHO Charity and to date, we’ve got £203.50 in the pot for this for this fantastic cause.

And now, our Graham is stepping it up a notch by signing up to a whole host of events throughout the year which to be honest, make me tired just reading about them.

Here goes…

On 6th April he’ll be taking part in the Manchester Marathon.
On 18th April he’ll be taking part in the Manchester 10K.
On 15th June he’ll be taking part in the Buxton Triathlon.
On 13th July he’ll be taking part in the Chatsworth Triathlon.
On 14th September he’ll be taking part in an Ironman competition in Wales.

After that, I think he’ll need a lie down.

I’m sure you’ll agree, that this is pretty impressive stuff.  So while we’re stocking up on bananas and protein bars for him, or whatever it is that athletes are fuelled by, if you’d like to sponsor Graham for these amazing challenges all in aid of Macclesfield Neonatal unit, you can follow the link here to make a donation.

Good luck Graham! And stay tuned for updates on his achievements.


Is VoIP right for your business?

woman with tin can

If you’re considering VoIP, you’ll need to be sure it’s right for your business. So what is it, and how can it benefit you?

Well, VoIP is a method of making phone calls that uses a data connection rather than a traditional telephone line. In other words, your calls are made over the internet. What VoIP does is translate voice traffic into data and sends it over your data connection in the same way that any other data is transferred.

So what’s the point in that then?

Well VoIP outdoes traditional phone lines in three main ways. Cost, flexibility and manageability.

As a general rule, your phone calls are cheaper through VoIP than they are with a traditional system. Usually, calls via VoIP – either within your network or externally to VoIP users on other networks – are free and calls to traditional networks often carry a lower call rate. Your provider will route your calls as far as is possible using the internet, meaning that many long distance calls made will most likely be cheaper than they would have been over PSTN (public switched telephone network).

If you’re familiar with the mobility benefits of cloud computing, then the flexibility brought by VoIP is much the same. Because basically, VoIP is cloud computing for your telecoms. If you have, or require, a mobile workforce – homeworkers, engineers or sales people out on site, workers in satellite offices or workers abroad, then VoIP is a far better solution that a traditional comms system. All you need is an IP enabled configured phone, or a headset compatible with your laptop with softphone software and a data connection and you’re away.  Think of it as plug-and-play. And no matter where in the world you plug that phone in, all calls made to your usual business line will ring out on your phone. Business as usual – and the customer knows no different.

If your business is expanding, then VoIP is scalable and far easier to manage than a traditional system. Generally, VoIP is managed and maintained by IT companies, so no need to incur expensive telecoms engineering costs when you need to make a change to your system. Adding extensions, voice mailboxes, moving lines etc. can all be done easily by an IT engineer and usually at no additional cost.

So, is VoIP right for your business? You should certainly consider VoIP if…

-       Your business is expanding

-       Your communications costs are increasing and/or too high

-       You have a mobile workforce or could benefit from increased flexibility

You will need…

-       A business-grade internet connection

-       IP enabled handsets or softphone and headsets

The crucial thing to bear in mind, is that with VoIP, your system is only as reliable as your internet. A broadband outage would signal a telecoms outage. So you’ll need contingency plans in place such as backup failover lines or alternative premises. Or it could even just be as simple as sending everyone to work from home. The flip side of this is that VoIP actually helps form a part of your business continuity planning because if your offices become rendered out of action for whatever reason – fire or flood for example – then the continuation of your voice comms is pretty seamless and you can be back up and running in the time it takes for staff to drive home.

So is VoIP right for your business? Most businesses – SME to enterprise – do benefit. So if you think you fit the bill and could benefit from a switch to VoIP, get in touch for more information and find out exactly how VoIP could work for you.


Why should I move to Microsoft Office 365?

Office365 - blog

If you’re wondering whether you should move your business over to Office 365, check out our top reasons to make the change…

1)     Access anywhere – Work from anywhere with an internet connection, at any time, and on any device. Ultimate flexibility and increased business mobility.

2)     Spread the cost – Turn your IT investment into a running cost. No capital expenditure and a predictable monthly operating expense. Plus flexible pricing to meet your requirements.

3)     Keep up-to-date – All upgrades, patches and software maintenance handled by Microsoft.

4)     Ramp it up – Fully scalable, Office 365 grows with your business. And can just as easily be scaled back if your business needs change.

5)     Communicate – Keep in touch through instant messaging, video conferencing and online meetings with Microsoft Lync.

6)     Stay safe – Enterprise-class multi-layered security with your data safely backed up in Microsoft’s cloud data centres which are geographically dispersed and fully redundant in line with ISO 27001 standards.

7)     Business continuity – Reassurance that if the worst happens and your business premises are affected by fire, flood, theft or similar, you can pick up, move to any location with an internet connection and it’s business as usual.

8)     Peace of mind – Office 365 comes with a 99.9% financially-backed service level agreement guarantee, meaning Microsoft guarantees that your data will always be available.

If you’d like to try Office 365 for yourself, take a look at our free 30 day trial or give us a call on 01625 837800.


‘shared with me’ not showing shared files in Microsoft OneDrive

If you find that ‘shared with me’ is not showing shared files in OneDrive, try the following fix to show files again:

1. Log onto file sharer
2. Locate the file being shared out
3. Click on it
4. Go to the Library tab at the top of the page
5. Go to Library Settings
6. Click on Advanced Settings
7. Click on Re-index Library
8. Press OK at the bottom of the page

It could take around six hours to come back, but this should solve the problem.

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