How Windows XP is gambling with your security

 

Windows Xp Cover

Microsoft has announced that support for Windows XP will finish by April 8th 2014. After this date all XP users will be prone to an increased risk of viruses and other hacker attacks. According to a survey conducted by Net Applications, nearly 40% of global desktops still use Windows XP, only slightly fewer than those using Windows 7, which has 45% market penetration.

Do you really need to worry about this?

It’s true that your XP machine won’t suddenly die on the 8th, but its days are still numbered. The problem is that you may not be able to continue using XP with the same confidence as just now where Microsoft automatically send out automatic software updates and security patches to all XP machines which ensures reliability and security. On the 8th April this year these automatic updates will CEASE.

After 8th April 2014, when (not if) the bad guys detect a security hole that lets them take over an XP machine without the owner’s knowledge, they may be able to monitor your activity, read your emails and pick up sensitive corporate and personal data (e.g. online banking security, personnel data etc.).

Plan ahead to avoid the disaster

If you’re using Windows XP and your PC is connected to the Internet; you need to make plans some time before security becomes an issue in April 2014. The solution will be to move onto a later version of

MS Windows (7 or 8), but not all computers currently running XP will perform adequately with these newer operating systems. Another consideration is purchasing new licences can be relatively expensive when compared with new PC & licence price.

You need to think about all the programs that you use and if they can run on the new operating system. Many organisations run applications that are not provided by Microsoft, such as accounting packages or engineering drawing and planning. These need to be checked for compliance with any proposed changes. What happens if it all goes wrong? Do you have a disaster recovery and business continuity plan that’s more substantial than simply backing up your data?

How to implement?

Whether you are moving one machine from Windows XP, or more, it’s worth developing action plan now. Below are some suggestions on items to consider:

  • Start with the obvious: check to see which desktops and laptops are still running Windows XP.
  • Rank your machines in two ways: importance and urgency. Systems that score highly in both measures need an action plan soon. Unusual or specialist software, or machines you run accounts on, for example, should get higher ratings: they may need special attention.
  • Complete backup of data including emails and any special program data that is not held within the documents area.
  • List the programs that you require setting up on the new computer.
  • Get hold of all the discs, licence keys, user names and passwords as appropriate.
  • Find all the drivers required for new operating system.
  • Plan time to migrate – it will probably take 3-4 hours per computer. Also note that there is no automatic way to migrate from Windows XP to Windows 7 or 8.
  • Plan which machines must go first if you have many machines to migrate.

Complex Situations

Complex situations will require detailed planning and testing prior to migration. It will pay dividends to seek the help of an experienced IT support company to ensure that you have a trouble free migration.

How many Windows XP machines have you got running and what is your action plan to deal with this? Give us your comments here.

Guest Blogger for this article was

David Shuster of Managed IT Experts
david@manageditexperts.co.uk
http://www.manageditexperts.co.uk

Do I use Protection?

passwords

Password protection of course.

In this post, we are looking at passwords – and what people do or don’t do with them. It was inspired by a recent report online about the most common passwords of 2013. It scares me when I see what is being used. Strong passwords are one of those things we know we need, and should be using, but tend to put little to no effort into. Then we tend to be the first to shout ‘my details were taken’ when things go wrong.

So what are the rules then? Different camps will give you different instructions, and some will claim a password is strong when in fact it isn’t.

Let’s look at the most common methods:

  1. Use Different passwords everywhere.
    Why should we have to do this when it is so easy to use our pets name at every password prompt? Well it’s simple really. If someone guesses your pets name, and believe me they will, then they have access to every site you use. A study by an online company, called BitDefender, showed that 75% of people will use the same password for their email and Facebook. If that is then also your PayPal password, and it’s discovered, say goodbye to some funds and your friends.
  2. Remember the Underwear Meme
    Seemingly the saying goes like this: Passwords are like underwear. You should change them often, maybe not every day of course. Don’t share them. Don’t leave them out for others to see. (No Post Its). They should also be mysterious and a secret to others. So make them something that they can’t guess.
  3. Avoid Common Passwords
    If the word can be found in a dictionary, it is not a strong password. If you use numbers and letter as they appear on the keyboard, it’s not a strong password. Relatives names and pets names, NO. Even if you follow them with a number. Birthdays and anniversaries are just as bad sadly. Hackers will try all these things first. They actually run programs to check all these kinds of passwords, and for the love of all that’s techie, if you use “password” as your password, please just sign off the Internet right now. SplashData has been listing the 25 worst passwords for some years now, and “password” has always topped the list as the most common password. This year it was deposed by the long-time second worst password: “123456.” No, really!

So what are you tips I hear you cry!

Don’t cry, here is some advice.

Strong Password Solutions

How to Build Strength

To create a strong password, it is suggested you should use a string of text that mixes numbers, letters that are both lowercase and uppercase, and special characters. It should be eight characters, but preferably many more. A lot more. The characters should be random, and not include words, flow alphabetically, or be from your keyboard layout.

So how do you make such a password?

1) Spell a word backwards. (Example: Turn “New York” into “kroywen.”)

2) Use l33t speak: Substitute numbers for certain letters. (Example: Turn “kroywen” into “kr0yw3n.”)

3) Randomly throw in some capital letters. (Example: Turn “kr0yw3n” into “Kr0yw3n.”)

4) Don’t forget the special character. (Example: Turn “Kr0yw3n” into “Kr0yw3^.”)

You don’t have to go for the obvious and use “0” for “o,” or “@” for “a,” or “3” for “e,” either. As long as your replacement makes sense to you, that’s all that matters. A “^” for an “n” makes sense to me.

The suggested best form today seems to be creating a sentence and type it in, including spaces. It takes algorithms much longer to crack something like that than it does just for straight words – even if you have changed the letters for symbols and numbers. (Example: “I love yellow trousers”). This believe it or not is quite secure, and has the added advantage of being easier to remember. Of course, I could also swap numbers for letters and include symbols as well.

Well I hope you got the point and the Protection is definitely needed.

To finish, here is last year’s list of the 25 most commonly used passwords. I expect to hear the cries of despair as you recognise yours. It also shows their change in rank from the year before, and includes some newcomers for this year as well.

1. 123456 (Up 1)

2. password (Down 1)

3. 12345678 (Unchanged)

4. qwerty (Up 1)

5. abc123 (Down 1)

6. 123456789 (New)

7. 111111 ( Up 2)

8. 1234567 (Up 5)

9. iloveyou (Up 2)

10. adobe123 (New)

11. 123123 (Up 5)

12. admin (New)

13. 1234567890 (New)

14. letmein (Down 7)

15. photoshop (New)

16. 1234 (New)

17. monkey (Down 11)

18. shadow (Unchanged)

19. sunshine (Down 5)

20. 12345 (New)

21. password1 (up 4)

22. princess (New)

23. azerty (New)

24. trustno1 (Down12)

25. 000000 (New)

Let us know what you think, and how you cope with remembering all the various passwords you use.

Flexible screens, a touch of the future?

 

The rumours and sneak previews of flexible screens by Samsung and other manufacturers has caught our eye and intrigued is. So here we are going to give you some gleaned info from the net.
But first let us ask you a question. What usage would you see flexible screens having and would they be better than what we have just now?
We picked our brains and thought of some of the following: –

Wrist devices.
Jackets or waist coats.
Wall mounted devices that follow the contours of the wall.
But what else?

Anyhow, onto what we have gleaned from the web.
We have viewed over the last 8 to 10 months the videos that have been going around demoing the flexible screen, or OLED manufacture. This new revolution has made manufacturers like Samsung go into overdrive with concept devices and then create videos demoing what they might look like. Here is one we have seen a few times and gets you thinking.

Samsung showed this at their CES talk this year. A brief potential view of where this technology maybe taking us. Again it will be down to the patent race and who gets the patents in first. Watch this space.
This next video shows the durability of the new screen technology, WARNING it does hurt to watch the screens we love today being pounded by a hammer…..

Ouch, that’s just not nice. But what about the OLED screen, durability at its core, flexible and will take abuse. There is definitely a market for that.
How about a touch window in your house. You get up in the morning and draw the curtains and the blinds are built into the window. Then you call up all sorts of touch screen info about weather and driving conditions etc. You are kidding me Ian surely I hear you cry….Well no.

Isn’t that amazing? Come on, it had you excited…..
So it looks like we will be able to wear the flexible units with Samsung already having launched their wrist device that is curved. We will also be able to drop then of a building by the look of it and then our houses will be equipped with the latest tech and info.
I just can’t wait!
Samsung are not the only manufacturer by the way, it is just they are at this time shouting the loudest about it with videos and promotions.

What are your thoughts on all this new Flexible screens and tech, does it excite you or bore you?

Ian Thomson
Consultant
IT Turning Point

 

Online or Offline

training and consultancy

Well the debate has heightened again about the use of Online to purchase goods and services. With the closure last month of Jessops, Blockbuster, Comet and HMV where do we stand with regard to keeping a healthy shopping and retail sector and the use of the Internet.

Initially when the Internet came around the speeds were too slow, major companies did not adopt the Internet quickly so choices were limited to what you could purchase. The security element was also a major concern.

However nowadays this has all been overcome and the Internet has flourished into a massive repository of all things. There is very little you cannot find somewhere on the Internet and usually cheaper than in the high street stores. There of course is still the area of security with a customer leak of details almost monthly from somewhere. The sellers are not all major companies and this can lead to failed promises and customers being let down and finally there is the aspect of dealing with someone who is not there face to face.

When we purchase from a shop and have problems we can usually juts go right back there and see someone face to face who will take ownership of the issue and get it resolved. (With some exceptions and horror stories of course). I can relate to the online scenario  having had a problem with a TV I purchased and the manufacturer wanted nothing to do with the faulty unit and the retailer online I had dealt with said there was nothing wrong with it. I was frustrated and felt I had nowhere to go.

So what is the reason we are going over to online so much. Well as you can probably imagine there are various reasons and here are a few I am sure you can identify with: –

  • Convenience of being able to shop from your own home at any time.
  • More and more traffic on the Internet nowadays is via mobile devices and it makes it so convenient to shop.
  • Things can usually be purchased and delivered cheaper than in the local store.
  • The Internet has become of age and is more acceptable to this generation.
  • Media is moving mostly to digital, films, music, etc.
  • And more.

This list is not exhaustible, but it is our fear that we will lose so much by going this way completely. I am a self-confessed GEEK and love where technology is going and the flexibility of the way we can do things. But, I am also sometimes of the opinion that it would be good to go and see and feel some products before we purchase them and also to chat to someone who knows something about them. I also believe in the local market and the local business owners making a living.

What are your thoughts and opinions? Is this move a good thing or a bad thing?

How can business adapt to this and keep them afloat and busy?

Ian Thomson
Founder/Senior Trainer/Consultant
IT Turning Point