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Keeping your passwords strong and secure

Your data is only as secure as your passwords. But how do you choose strong ones?

Good passwords are vital for good data security. That’s true whether you store data in the cloud, on your local network, on a laptop or on a USB drive.

Yet one of the most common passwords in the world is: password. Some variations on this theme include pa55word, passw0rd and pa55w0rd. If you think those are all weak, insecure and easy to guess, you’re right. But they aren’t the only ones. Thinking up a good password is harder than you might expect.

It helps to think about what you’re trying to protect. A good password is the key that opens the door to your data. You want that key to be as effective and secure as possible. That means it has to be unguessable.

The problem is, it’s not just people who are attempting to guess your passwords. Hackers use computers with word-lists that allow them to guess thousands of different passwords every second. A good IT system will shut down any such attack very quickly, but sometimes not fast enough – and not all systems are so proactive.

So your passwords have to be robust. Forget about choosing the name of your pet and replacing some of the letters with numbers, for example. Fido might have been your dog’s name, but f1d0 is a lousy password.

If you really want a secure password, the ideal is a random sequence of letters, numbers and (if permitted) non-alphanumeric characters. For example, “hd78n32efjtr432.?q” is a pretty good password. It’s long, it’s not based on any real word and it contains a mixture of different types of character. It would be extremely hard to guess.

Unfortunately it would also be extremely hard to remember! If that was the password for your daily login you might find it hard to get much work done.

An alternative approach is to use more memorable passwords but maintain the level of difficulty in guessing them. Such an approach is shown by the cartoon here:

That combination of words is hard to guess so it would take a hacker an incredibly long time to discover it by trial and error. Security experts have argued about the actual strength of such a password, but one thing’s for sure: it’s a long better than pa55w0rd or f1d0.

The important point to remember is to keep passwords long and hard-to-guess. They shouldn’t relate to you, so no kids’ names or passwords based on your date of birth. They should be unguessable but simple enough for you to remember, so you don’t have to write them down – because that’s also a security risk.

If all this sounds like a lot of trouble to go to, remember what’s at stake. Imagine giving your password to a hacker. What damage could they do? What could they steal? Would your business actually survive such a compromise of its data? With an easy-to-guess password you’re effectively leaving the door wide open to hackers.

This is why it’s not just your password that’s important. All your employees need secure passwords too.

Some cloud-based services now strength-test passwords as they are entered, giving a sliding scale from ‘unsafe’ to ‘safe’ or ‘weak’ to ‘strong’ so you and your employees know that their passwords are up to the job. And for really secure access, services from Microsoft Azure offer two-factor authentication. This means that a password on its own is not enough: you may also have to type in a security code sent to your phone, for example.

It’s important to take passwords seriously. They are your first – and sometimes only – line of defence against hackers. They’re what stands between you and the loss of your data; potentially even the loss of your business. Keep them strong and secure.

Apple iPad and iPhone software update

Apple iPad and iPhone are getting a big software Update.. what does it mean for you

iOS11 (Apples new mobile Operating System) is on its way and it could mean some big new changes for you. Firstly, some devices will no longer be supported. This doesn’t mean that they will stop working but it does mean that they will no longer receive updates, and the same may go for the apps you use.

iOS11 will only support iPhone 5s and up and the iPad 4th Gen and Mini 2 and up. So if you have anything older you’re out of luck… and support.

For those of us that still have a supported device this is what we can expect to see in the last quarter of the year when iOS11 is released:

  • The App store has been redesigned, you’ll get daily listed around particular themes. There will also be tutorials explaining how to do things with new apps.
  • Control Centre, the Lock screen and Notifications also get a makeover.
  • The lock screen and notifications will now share the same screen and control centre has more slicers and some customisation options available.
  • The Message app is getting updated to include the ability to use Apple Pay to pay others via the messenger app.
  • There will also be new QuickType keyboard which will make typing with 1 hand better on iPhone and allow you to swipe up on a letter to get the corresponding number or symbol on that “key”
  • Siri will sound more natural in both the male and female voice and will be able to translate what you say in to German, French, Spanish and Chinese with more languages coming.
  • Siri will become more intelligent with “on-device” learning, meaning Siri will be able to do things like understand what you’re searching for in safari allowing it to suggest related words in other apps like mail etc
  • The camera will get a built in QR code scanner and other improvements.
  • Maps will get some great improvements including Speed notifications, and lane navigation. You’ll also get a new function called “Do Not Disturb While Driving”. When activated it will send people trying to contact you a note to say that youll see the message when you’ve finished driving.

The iPad is going to get its own improvements as well:

  • Better multitasking will allow you drag and drop pretty much anything between apps.
  • The new Dock will be accessible from any screen and will allow files to be pinned to it.
  • There is going to be a new Files app that will allow you to keep all your files in 1 easy to access location.

There are some awesome improvements coming so make sure you’re ready.. , come and talk to us about upgrading your iPad and for recommendations on your iPhone upgrade.

Go and see all the details here https://www.apple.com/nz/ios/ios-11-preview/

Two Factor Authentication

What is Two-Factor Authentication?

Ok to start with we thought we should explain the word “factor”, when we use the word “Factor” it means piece of information. So if a system requires two “factor” authentication it requires two pieces of information in order for you to access that system. An everyday example of two-factor authentication is EFTPOS: it has a PIN, and a card.

Most of the time the single factor would be a password, when you have other factors these could be a pin code, your fingerprint, or other biometric aspects such as your signature or a physical item such as a key, or a chipcard. Each additional factor makes it harder for someone to guess their way in.

Why would I implement this ..?

Some people are duped via email into typing their email username and password into webpages in order to allow them access to some sort of attachment… If a user enters their username and password into one of these “phishing” sites they will generally find that their email will be compromised and potentially used by hackers to spread all manner nasties to all of their contacts and more.

This is where 2 factor authentication comes in to save the day… If this user (the one that had entered their username and password in the Phishing page) had 2 factor authentication the “hacker” would require the other “factor” in order to access their email etc. As they would not have that, their email would still be safe and the hackers would get nothing!

How does it impact me when I am logging on ?

Once setup you won’t be bothered by your phone or by your desktop email software every time you open your email to read it.. we don’t want you getting frustrated by the process and if hackers have your phone or desktop computer you have far more serious issues to deal with..

It will only be when you access your email via a webpage or with a new device (the same way the hackers will be trying to get into your email) that the 2 factor authentication will kick in..

Why should you use it?

You’re already using it, every day, why not extend it to your personal and business data? At IT Engine, all staff are required to use two-factor authentication because we need to protect our data, our assets, and the data of our clients.

How can I implement this?

If your email is with Microsoft in office365 then this “2 factor authentication” can be setup by your IT team to be both effective and minimally intrusive.

Talk to us, chances are most of your systems have the capability to use two-factor authentication. It just needs to be turned on, and accompanied by some training to ensure a smooth transition.

Five sensible ideas for employee mobile phone use

Mobile phones can be good for business, but they also present challenges. These include security risks, inappropriate use and questions over data ownership. With a sensible policy you can mitigate the risks and reap the rewards.

Mobile management of staff is a complex area, since it combines business and personal issues. Mobile phones are highly personal devices. Studies have shown that some users would rather lose a partner than their phone! Yet phones are also useful, and sometimes essential, in the workplace.

If you provide work phones for your staff, or allow them to use their personal phones when at work, you need a clear policy on their use. Otherwise, each phone represents a huge risk and a big hole in your IT security strategy. Here are some ideas to get you started.

1. Make security a top priority. Explain the risks to your staff. Tell them what could happen if their phones are lost or compromised. Loss of company data, hacking, perhaps legal repercussions – all of these are possible. Ensure that all phones are PIN-protected at all times. Phones must not be jailbroken or rooted (hacked to run unauthorised apps). Explain that phones are powerful, portable computers that connect your central IT system to the outside world. They must be kept secure.

2. Use mobile management software. There are tools available that will let you see – and control – what users install on their phones. This is important because some apps contain malware that could compromise your entire network. Other mobile management tools allow you to locate stolen or missing phones. Remote wiping is also an option to prevent data being compromised.

3. Protect your investment. Phone cases are cheap but effective. Yes, a shiny new iPhone might be pretty to look at, but it’s not so pretty with a cracked screen! Phones are far more likely to be damaged without a case or cover to protect them. Think about insurance too: if a phone is lost or broken, who’s responsible? Who pays? This must all be decided in advance to avoid confusion.

4. Enforce phone etiquette. It’s not just about politeness, but data security too. Employees should leave meetings if they have to take a call or respond to texts. There should be restrictions on backing up personal data to work computers (30GB of iTunes content is an unnecessary network burden). Sometimes common sense is also a legal requirement – no employee should be using a phone while driving, for example.

5. Retain access to your firm’s data. If an employee leaves your company under a cloud, what happens to the data on their phone? Can you retrieve it? What if they were using their phone for company work? Who owns the data then? You need plans for these unfortunate possibilities.

Delia Gill of Wellington-based IT Engine advises companies to set out clear rules from the start. “Have a mobile phone policy, and make sure it covers all the bases,” she says. “Every employee should read it and sign that they accept its terms. Mobile phones are useful business tools, but only if they’re properly managed.”

If you don’t have a mobile phone policy, ask your IT provider for help in creating one. The sooner you act, the better.

The Difference’s between Window 10 s and Windows 10 Pro worth noting

You may or may not have heard about Microsoft’s game changing new entry into the operating system market. The introduction of Windows10s could signal a major step forward in speed and security and help the push the removal of physical servers required for the running of corporate networks.
This will also help businesses move to a greater cloud environment where staff could work from anywhere in the event of a disaster.

Microsoft says “Windows 10 S was inspired by students and teachers and it’s the best Windows ever for schools. It’s also a great choice for any Windows customer looking for consistent performance and advanced security. By limiting apps to those in the Windows Store, Windows 10 S is ideal for people who have everything they need in the Windows Store and prefer the peace of mind that comes with removing the risk of downloading apps from other places”.

However it does address some other issues as well (namely locking down the ability to download anything that Microsoft has not approved, so that it is less susceptible to virus’s and ransomware).

Here are some quick differences for you to consider.

  • You can only install 64Bit software on a Windows 10 S (W10S) device
  • You cannot connect a W10S device to a on premise domain, this could affect some businesses trying to use the device. However it will connect to an Office365 domain (Azure AD) (we will write another blog on this)
  • You can only download apps that are on the Windows store, this of course includes the likes of Office but you won’t be able to load unapproved software. This is a major step forward for Microsoft because it means that this version of software is going to be far less susceptible to virus’s and ransomware (very relevant with the Wannacry scare that we just had)
  • If you are a business that only uses the likes of Office and is totally cloud based then this is a very good device for you to look at.
  • If you do purchase a W10S device with the intention of upgrading it to Windows Pro, don’t hesitate to ask us to check the hardware requirements of Windows Pro first.

Over all we think this is a good step forward for Microsoft, and if you are a smaller business or Not for Profit that needs to keep their costs down (and has simple IT requirements) then this could be the device for you. At the moment Microsoft have the Surface Laptop coming out (start at $1700 NZ) with W10S however there will be more devices from other players coming out soon… Watch this space.

Link to Microsoft windows10s FAQ:
https://support.microsoft.com/en-nz/help/4020089/windows-10-s-faq

Link to the NZ Microsoft Store:
https://www.microsoft.com/en-nz/store/d/surface-laptop/90FC23DV6SNZ/20TL?icid=HP-NavLink1–Surface_Laptop-052317-MSNZ