Security – three simple steps

Security: complex technical issue or good habits?

Security – online, in the office, out and about – is a major worry for most companies. SMEs in particular can present a tempting opportunity for the bad guys (here’s an article we wrote about that a while ago). Obviously security is both a complex technical issue and a matter of best practice, but the good news is there’s plenty you can do for yourself to improve your computing security.

We’re giving a talk on security to the Inspire business group on Wednesday 13th May.  Ahead of that talk we’re presenting three simple security measures you can act on today. They’re free and require no technical expertise whatsoever, but are more about developing good habits.

Log out of services to increase security

Log in – log out. Simples.

Log out and step away
Do you routinely leave services logged-in? Logging out of online services in particular when you’ve finished with them will minimise your exposure. Log out of LinkedIn, webmail (eg Hotmail, Yahoo and any other email account that you access through a browser), Twitter, Facebook etc when you aren’t using them. Tread with care as some accounts need to be logged in to provide background functions, but get into the habit of logging out of anything that you just don’t need running in the background.

Turn off wifi
Your smartphone leaks data constantly when you’re out and about (that’s a whole other blog post). If you’d rather preserve a modicum of privacy and don’t particularly need constant updates on the journey home, in the supermarket or in the playground, get into the habit of flicking off wifi when you travel. For greater privacy activate airplane mode, but do that only if you’re sure you can go incommunicado without causing a furore.

Don’t re-use passwords
So obvious, isn’t it? But a lot of people do it and massively jeopardise their security. Think of the logic: if a cracker gains access to your Facebook account, they’re going to run the same password through your banking access, your email and any other accounts they can find. Don’t hand it to them on a plate.

NameCheap

NameCheap security issues

You may well have heard about the recent NameCheap hack. CyberVor, a group of Russian hackers, obtained username and password information from other raids (up to 1.2bn sets of info, according to this CSO article) and used it to attempt to gain access to NameCheap accounts. NameCheap is an American company that registers domain names and hosts websites. So do we, but this blog post isn’t about why you should come to us rather than them. This blog post is about something far more important.

Advice to account holders

Inevitably, after the hack attempt NameCheap rushed out a statement. It includes advice and reassurance, but also this rather eye-popping line:

Our early investigation shows that those users who use the same password for their Namecheap account that are used on other websites are the ones who are vulnerable.

No, er, surprise, Sherlock? This is one of the most basic points of maintaining the security of your information on the internet. Use different passwords for different websites, otherwise anyone who gets their mucky paws on your password for one site can really go to town on the others. As that same CSO article says:

Data breaches at websites are often a source for usernames and passwords, and hackers have long been collecting lists of credentials that they hope will unlock other Web services. Security experts advise people to not reuse passwords for this reason.

Users ignoring advice

What really shocked us was that the company actually felt the need to spell this one out. Clearly it’s prevalent practice, still, even after years of hacks and advice and company password policies. No matter how sophisticated encryption techniques and how brain-meltingly clever log-ins become, ultimately user behaviour is a massively influential factor in the security of any system. When designing the security of your company’s systems, overlook that one at your peril.

Windows to Ubuntu

Why go from Windows to Ubuntu?

Image courtesy of Pedrosimoes7 via Photopin

photo credit: pedrosimoes7 via photopin cc

Windows: widely used, widely derided – often by those very users – “a pain in the neck” “two user interface paradigms nailed together badly”.

Yet people continue to use it, despite issues such as having to buy a new printer to work with a new version of Windows (told to us just a couple of weeks ago by the poor victim), Word documents not working between different version of Windows and the changes between some versions of Windows being easily as great as the differences between Windows to Ubuntu or Mac OS.

Why cling to Windows?

Why do people continue to cling to an operating system that causes them such hassle and chagrin? Reasons vary. Of course there are those Windows users who find everything works just as they want it to across desktop, cloud and mobile – great, this article isn’t about them. This article isn’t either about those who use Windows because that’s what their employer provides them with, or because other hardware or software will stop working if they dare to stray from the prescribed path, or because they simply wouldn’t know how to go about making changes.

Why Nigel James went from Windows to Ubuntu

This article is about an article by and about Nigel James, a lifelong Windows user who found himself needing a new improved system – he chose Ubuntu on a DELL box. What we love about this migration from Windows to Ubuntu is that it was made in response to requirements and on the merits of Ubuntu. This is what software choices should always be about – what do I need to achieve? Which system offers me the wherewithal to achieve it? Off I go. Software choices should never be based on license fee price or fear/threat of reduced interoperability.

Nigel James lists out what he likes about Ubuntu, with a nod to the lovely powerful machine it’s running on, and it’s well worth reading. This is our favourite snippet:

The performance is awesome
This is perhaps down to Dell and the face that I have all the memory and SSD that I do but to be up and running from a cold start in 30 seconds is fantastic. My old clunky creaking Windows machine was literally come back after you have made your second coffee.

Occasionally we have the joy of working on a Windows machine, never out of choice, and we think second coffee is conservative. How about making the dough for the croissants to go with it? We love Ubuntu and all the open source software we work with and that makes our lives easier. We’re always happy to advise on switching from Windows to Ubuntu or any other non-Windows system, or about switching away some programs from proprietary to open source. Please get in touch if you’d like to talk it over.

photo credit: pedrosimoes7 via photopin cc