WannaCry Ransomware

Aaaand we’re back! No prizes for guessing the topic of our latest blog entry! The NHS has been targeted by a piece of ‘Ransomware’ known as WannaCry. The centrepiece of this attack is the encryption of all their data. The actual virus is fairly easy to remove, but the damage is done by way of encrypting any data on an infected machine with an encryption key held only by the designers of the ransomware. A ransom is then sought for the encrypted data. Microsoft Windows operating systems are currently only affected, but it is worth keeping all operating systems updated. Modern Windows operating systems are protected by way of security updates. Windows XP, which most, if not all, of the NHS runs on, is no longer supported by Microsoft. Therefore, if you are running Windows XP, you are putting yourself at risk, and we advise that you upgrade your computer to a later operating system as soon as possible

Malicious Software

The internet is a dangerous place. There is no denying it. However, at the same time, it is a wonderful source of information. In order to stay safe on the internet, it is important to not click, or install, any software that can compromise your computer.

While researching for this post, I found a video on YouTube from Jim Browning. In this short film, he explains how a particular piece of software, known as ‘System Diagnostic Tool’ defrauds it’s customers. The ‘program’ in question, reports to remove, or clean, your PC of infections and junk. In reality, it does nothing. The video is well worth a watch.

System Diagnostic Tool is a product of Sparksgen Limited, retailing through http://www.safeapzz.com, who are both well known within the IT industry as fraudsters. Please do not install this, or any of their software mentioned in the video. Should you have already installed this, or any of their software, please remove it immediately and run an antivirus/anti-malware scan of your computer.

Microsoft shows off new Windows 10

Tech giant Microsoft has released screenshots of the upcoming updates to the user interface (UI) of Windows 10, to be released later this year.

Windows Central reported that Microsoft have released the images of ‘Project NEON’ during a developer stream earlier today.

Many of the screenshots seem to be inline with the sneak preview released last month, and show fairly minor tweaks to the look and feel of the OS. However, there is a stronger emphasis on animations and blurring elements within apps. In addition, NEON will focus on 3D features.

More updates are expected in May this year, when Microsoft hosts the ‘Build’ developer conference.

New WhatsApp features!

The popular messaging app, WhatsApp, has added in some pretty cool features into their latest build.

Recently seen on Android (version 2.16.399) and iOS (version 2.17.3.28), users can track the location, real time, of their contacts. It seems, however, that it only works with a conversation group. The feature will be disabled by default, but can be re-enabled manually in the settings for the app. This is most likely, due to privacy concerns.

Also seen is the ability to recall your messages. I is worth remembering though, that this feature is only available if the message hasn’t been read.

There is also a ‘Contact Us’ option, giving the user the option to report messages to WhatsApp as spam. This is done by shaking your phone in the middle of a chat. The jury is out, however, as to how well this will work!

Our Favourite To-Do List App

If you’re anything like me, being organised is paramount to having an efficient life. For many years, people have been making to-do lists on scraps of paper, or notebooks. But, as society is becoming more and more ‘paperless’, is it a good idea to move those scraps of paper to our phones and computers? Plus, is it a better option than the traditional way of things? In this blog entry, we’ll be taking a look at the to-do list apps available.

First, there is a distinction to be made. To-do list apps are generally simplistic, and easy to use.

There are many apps that fit into this niche. But the standout app for me is Wunderlist. Not only is it clear and simplistic, it’s multi-platformed. In my opinion, it is important to have the ability to use the same app on all my devices. I have used the app for a number of years, and use it to organise my work and personal lives. Wunderlist also has the feature of calendar integration, which is fantastically useful. I use it in conjunction with the alerts, allowing me to distinguish between regular events that don’t require an alert, but still need a gentle reminder, and more urgent tasks (urgent phone calls etc) where I need a more obvious push.

Added into the basic functions of list making, you can also create folders. I have folders for work, personal, home and car related topics. Plus natural language support is included, meaning you can write ‘ Call Paul 29/01’ and it will create an entry for the 29th January, both in your calendar (if you’ve configured it), and an alert on your device.

Grab it on the App Store or Play Store!

The one app you should never use…

Edward Snowden, the former CIA employee and NSA whistleblower, has just given Google’s new messaging app, Allo, a damning review.

“Free for download today: Google Mail, Google Maps, and Google Surveillance,” he wrote on Twitter. “That’s #Allo. Don’t use Allo.”

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Google Allo is the new ‘smart’ messaging app, and bears similar features to the likes of WhatsApp or Facebook Messenger. It also offers the added help of Google smart assistant, just add the @google chat bot to your conversation and it’ll interact with you like a real personal assistant.

But, there is one significant downside; privacy. As you probably guessed. The default setting in the app is for Google to collect all of your conversations, forever. Google initially stated that they would only access your messages on an ‘ad-hoc’ basis, to improve the Google AI. Now, it seems, Google have changed their position. On launching Allo, Google now collects all your conversations, unless you start a conversation in incognito mode. This, for Snowden, is a big problem.

In his tweet, he goes on to say; “Thinking about #Allo? Last year, our secret court approved 100 per cent of requests for surveillance. They would cover Allo.”

Snowden is basically saying that it gives the U.S. Government 100% access to your messages. There isn’t any news, or opinion, on how this relates to us in the UK, and Europe. Snowden advises to play it safe and use a secure client, such as Tor or Signal, which send encrypted messages that are stored only on the recipients device.

 

Facebook – Keep it secret, keep it safe

In today’s world, your data is worth more than gold to companies large and small. It is also of high value to the more unscrupulous persons of the world. While Facebook pushes you to add more and more personal data, most people are unaware of how Facebook uses that data. In this blog, we will outline seven things you should remove from your Facebook profile.

1. Your phone number

 

If your Facebook profile isn’t set to be private (and it should be), and you’ve added your phone number, then your number can be ‘skimmed’ by the aforementioned unscrupulous members of society to be sold on to cold callers, among others. There really is no need to have your number listed on your profile, and is akin to shouting it from the rooftops, given the number of users Facebook has (1.79 billion)!

2. Remove those ‘funny’ drunk photos

Even though it seemed like a great idea at the time (like most things when you’ve had one too many!), drunken pictures are not only embarrassing, but can affect your career. Social media checks are now standard for would-be employers, and seeing you with your head in a bucket, does not give a good impression.

3. Your date of birth

Along with your phone number and address, your date of birth is something that identifies you personally on the internet. Using your date of birth, identity thieves can impersonate you to do no good. Surely not having your identity compromised is more important than your Facebook ‘friends’ knowing when to copy and paste their generic birthday wishes, right?

4. Your location

Adding your address is pointless. All you’re doing is giving away where you live and, as we’ve already seen, that’s just one of the bits needed to give away your identity.

Along with the above, there are plenty of other places you shouldn’t be tagging yourself either. Dropping the kids off at school, for example. It’s not the best idea to let everyone know where your kids go to school.

5. Your holiday snaps

It’s very tempting to share pictures of your tan when you’re away in an attempt to make your friends stuck in the cold and rain, jealous. We’ve all done it (me included!), but it is smart to wait until you some home. Unless, that is, you want the 756 ‘friends’ (how many do you really know) to know when your house is empty!

6. Your boss

Managed to get that job you’re after? Maybe even your dream job? Well, adding them on Facebook, especially if our advice on drunk photos hasn’t been heeded, is not advisable. There have been multiple instances of Facebook users losing their jobs for views and opinions they have expressed. Plus, when your friends tag you in photos of that day out at the beach when you called in sick, you’re going to get rumbled. It’s a no brainer really.

7. Being tagged in inappropriate posts

We’ve all got that one friend. The one who still thinks it’s hilarious to tag you in questionable memes and straight up inappropriate images. Well, there’s a solution to this problem. It’s called ‘Timeline Review’ and can be enabled by going to: Settings > Timeline and Tagging > Who can add things to my timeline and switch the ‘review posts’ option to ‘on’. This way you’ll get a notification to approve posts your tagged in. Yes, it’s a bit more hassle for the majority of posts your tagged in, but it can be useful for the ones that are not so innocent.

 

ISP’s Targeting Torrent Users

The MEN (Manchester Evening News) has published an article today warning that people ‘who share copyrighted material’ are about to receive a letter from their ISP (Virgin Media, TalkTalk, Sky and BT currently).

The letter reads: “Get it Right is a government-backed campaign acting for copyright owners who think their content’s been shared without their permission.

“It looks like someone has been using your broadband to share copyrighted material (that means things like music, films, sport or books).

“And as your broadband provider, we have to let you know when this happens”

The letter basically outlines where to go to stream content legally, rather than whether any specific action will be taken by your ISP. It isn’t clear that if you ignore this letter, and further letters, that you will, or won’t have criminal action taken against you.

This news comes on the back of a potentially landmark case involving Teesside trader Brian Thompson, relating to the sale of Android or Kodi boxes which are mainly used for streaming TV and films illegally.

With a pre-hearing in January and a two to three-day trial pencilled in for May, Brian has vowed to fight his corner. Should he loose however, it could spark the end of Android and/or Kodi boxes.

WhatsApp Scam

A quick post this Sunday morning. I have just received a WhatsApp message from a friend, offering a £250 voucher for M&S. The message reads: ‘Hey, have you seen this? http://www.marksandspencer.co.uk-gift.com/ Free gift cards from Marks & Spencer. They are giving away £250 gift cards to celebrate the new shopping season. It’s a limited offer so you better claim one while it lasts. I got mine’

There has been a similar message sent, with Sainsbury’s as the company mentioned. Sainsbury’s have tweeted this:

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It goes without saying; its a scam. Do not click on the link, and delete it straight away.