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5 top tips for keeping your children safe online

December 5th, 2018 Posted by Latest News, Tech Talk

With Christmas just around the corner, many children are sure to be waking up to new tech from Santa on the big day, be it a new computer, smartphone, laptop or games console.   With all computers and gadgets now having the ability to connect online, it’s extremely important that we educate ourselves and our children on how to not only set up our tech safely, but also how to remain safe when doing anything online.  We can’t escape the digital world that our children are growing up in and we certainly don’t want to scare them, so it’s about working with them to give yourself peace of mind whilst allowing them to enjoy their new gadget! 

Here’s 5 tips for keeping kids safe online this Christmas 

Personal information
When setting up user names, it’s best practice to go for something that doesn’t involve any part of your child’s name.  Your child should remain as anonymous as possible online and this would include a unique username, as well as no other info that can identify them, such as DOB, address or telephone number.      

Images and videos 
It’s a good idea to talk with your child about the importance of what they post 
on social media.  Whilst teenagers may not be too worried about what they’re putting out there, as a 
parent you are all too aware of the potential consequences that can occur when information is posted online, especially photos and videos.  For instance, a person’s online profile might affect their chances of getting a job or applying for a course.  

Work with your child to explore different games, apps and social media channels and choose the right  privacy settings for each.   Them about what kinds of images and videos are acceptable to post online.  
Explain that once they’re out there, they’re out there and can be very difficult, if not impossible to  retract completely. Things can be deleted, but it’s still possible that somebody may have downloaded  an image/video already.   

Adding parental controls to devices is one of the easiest ways to keep children safe on line

Not everybody is who they say they are 
Remember, it’s easy for people to pretend to be somebody else when they’re behind a keyboard.  To stay safe, the rule of thumb for your children is, if they don’t know them, don’t interact with them.  And If somebody tries to befriend them or asks to meet up in person, they need to leave that site, app or game and tell an adult straight away.   

Parental controls
If you have younger children, one of the easiest ways to ensure the kind of content  they see online is to set up parental controls.  This can be done on most devices and allows parents to set filters, so their children can only view suitable content.    An innocent search by your child on You Tube for instance, could throw up some less-than-innocent results, if parental controls aren’t in place.  

Restrictions
Make sure you put restrictions in place on relevant games, shops and apps so children aren’t able to spend your money willy-nilly.  Most games and apps encourage in-app spending to buy extra lives or to enhance characters and some shops allow purchases at the click of a button, so be sure to logout and  Keep your password safe!  You can also add restrictions to your internet browser so you can block your  children from particular websites. 

Talk with your child about what games and apps are appropriate for them

And finally…

We believe one of the best ways of keeping your child safe online is to talk with them openly and regularly.   You might find it easier to approach the subject as a family, discussing in general what’s appropriate and  what’s not.   If you think something needs addressing specifically, you can talk to your child on a one to one basis regarding a particular topic.  They may argue that their friends are using particular apps or games, so be ready to discuss your reasons why you don’t want them to engage in the same content, but also listen to your child’s reasons why they think it’s ok.  A good discussion views the topic from all angles, but ultimately you should do what you think is appropriate in keeping your child safe.  

 

Latest News

November 20th, 2018 Posted by Latest News

Our Five Top Tips to Keep Your Data Safe 

Data safety has been in the news a lot recently with high profile businesses such as Facebook and Google falling victim to data hackers.  As a result,  around 30 million account holder details were accessed because of flaws in Facebook’s code and a bug in Google+ API

Check Out Our Top Five Tips on Data Safety

October 30th, 2018 Posted by Latest News, Uncategorized

Our Five Top Tips to Keep Your Data Safe 

Data safety has been in the news a lot recently with high profile businesses such as Facebook and Google falling victim to data hackers.  As a result,  around 30 million account holder details were accessed because of flaws in Facebook’s code and a bug in Google+ API.  This meant that third party app developers were able to access data of not only users, but also their friends. 

So how can you protect your data from not only being accessed and harvested, but also from cyber viruses which can be devastating to your business? 

 

Here’s our top five tips to keep your data safe on and offline.  

 

1.Schedule regular backups using the 3-2-1 backup rule.  This is a great start to securing your data and backing up your files. 

  • Make 3 copies of data.  Keep the original file and make 2 extra copies. 
  • Use 2 different types of media.  It’s a good idea to store one on a hard drive and the others on external storage systems, such as a removeable data stick. 
  • Store 1 offsite.   There’s still a risk of more than one copy being wiped out if they are stored in the same place.  Therefore, it’s good practice to store a third copy in an offsite location, like the cloud.   

 

2. Security Applications 

  • Antivirus:  As the name suggests, a computer virus ‘infects’ computers with software designed to replicate itself by amending other computer programmes and inserting its own malicious coding. This can bring down systems and destroy or distort data by spreading from one computer to another.   To prevent this from happening, we strongly advise that you install antivirus software on your computer and choose one that will continually scan for viruses (as they can attack at any time), rather than one that requires you to manually scan. 
  • AntiMalware:  Malware is also malicious software, but encompasses more than a virus because it also includes, computer worms, spyware, adware, ransomware, trojan horses, keyloggers and other malicious software.  Malware is intentionally designed to cause damage to a computer, server or a network.  Anti-malware software prevents, detects and repairs programming of such attacks.   There is different anti-malware software available, but Malwarebytes is a next-generation for Windows antivirus replacement and the first of its kind for home users.  It includes four independent technology modules:  anti-malware, anti-rasomware, anti-exploit and malicious and fraudulent website protection. 
  • Updates to your servers and clients:  Ensure that your servers and clients are updated to aid further protection against cyber attacks.  Regular updates mean better security.  

 

3. Secure your perimeter:  Simply put, don’t let anybody access your data who shouldn’t be able to!  You can ensure your cyber safety which includes network security, wifi security and multi-factor authentication, by working with a company like WatchGuard.

 

4. Redundant Systems 

  • Duplicate servers – cloud or physical 

Do you have a have a system ready to go in the event of a disaster?  If not, we highly recommend that you do so if the worst happens, business will run as usual.  A physical server could be located on your site or replicated elsewhere (subject to bandwidth and other’s requirements). A cloud server could be serviced through Microsoft Azure or located at Microcomms and leased.  Not sure where to begin?  Just give us a call and we’d be happy to talk it through with you.  

 

 5.Testing, Testing, Testing 

  • Regular testing of disaster recovery (DR) plans to ensure they work as expected  

To ensure that you can recover as expected from a disaster, it is critical to test the plans and processes that have been put in place.   By testing the DR setup regularly, you can test everything is working, should you ever need to use it.  If you don’t have a DR plan in place, your data safety could be it risk.  Microcomms can help you plan, set up and test your DR plan, ensuring you understand what processes to follow if/when the need arises.  

If you have none or only some of the above in place, it’s definitely time to review your cyber safety and we can help you with that.  Give us a call to discuss implementing regular health checks on your computers and systems by one of our skillful engineers.  What’s more, book by end of November and we’ll do it for FREE (up to 5 systems), and we’ll include a recommendation of improvements to be carried out in December.   

Don’t delay…get cyber safe today!  Give us a call on 03300 020 000. 

 

 

 

 

Microcomms ongoing commitment to support mental health in the workplace

August 28th, 2018 Posted by Latest News, News

Here at Microcomms, we believe that the biggest asset of our business is our staff, so it’s important that we continue to value them and create an inclusive environment which supports their mental health in the workplace. 

 

We continually train and develop our people and strive to provide them with the best working environment we can. Whether it’s a ping pong table for a board table or crossfit for all staff twice a week; we are committed to healthy bodies, healthy minds and the wellbeing of our staff and their families.

 

The Health and Safety Executive’s Health Priority Plan

This is in line with the Health and Safety Executive’s Health Priority Plan which includes work related stress as one of the three key focal areas that need attention.   This represents 37% of all work- related ill health issues, and is the second most commonly reported cause of occupational ill health in Great Britain.  It accounts for 45% of all working days lost due to ill health.   Mental health in the workplace is important! 

 

Through their priority plan, the Health and Safety Executive are looking to see an increase in the number of employers taking a proactive stance to manage work related stress, through the management standards approach and improve mental health in the workplace. 

 

Our commitment to employee wellbeing

As a proactive employer, with a genuine interest and concern in our staff’s wellbeing, we manage work related stress through the Management Standards approach.   We have trained some of our staff through the Adult Mental Health First Aid two-day training. 

 

Our Operations Manager, Janet Reed recently attended the internationally recognised Mental Health First Aid training course, delivered by Healthy Cornwall. Head of Operations, Paul Hodgson is also planning on attending the course.  The course covers important topics such as identifying signs of issues, how to offer and provide initial help and how to guide someone towards appropriate treatment.  It also helps attendees to better understand the stigma that exists around mental health, help stop ill mental health from getting worse, preserve life where a person may be at risk of harm and promote recovery of good mental health.

 

With staff on hand to recognise any early symptoms of mental illness amongst our employees, it’s hoped that we can prevent a downward spiral of ill health and support our staff in regaining their mental health. 

 

Get relevant and engaging content in front of your audience from as little as £9 per month

August 14th, 2018 Posted by A/V, education, hospitality, IT Services, Latest News, retail

SeenSpire is a fantastic new digital product which can add value to your digital signage with an endless supply of exciting, insightful and attention-grabbing Infotainment content.

This digital signage content subscription service allows you to attract and keep viewers’ attention where they work, wait or buy.

As much as 80% of your content playlist can be automated, which means once it’s uploaded, you can get on with the business of running your business, whilst your audience’s attention is driven to your screens, where you can display relevant content.

SeenSpire is perfect for any location. Keep employees ‘in the know’ and engaged in the workplace, let potential customers know of any offers on the shop floor or provide useful information in waiting rooms.

The content platform is offered at a simple and reasonable price-per-screen model and there are two ways in which you can subscribe. Sign up to the Infotainment application and you’ll be granted access to an entire content library with over 300 content feeds ranging from news and weather, to sports, lifestyle and many more.

If you’re active on social media then engage your audience via the social media app which enables you to repurpose your existing social media content for your digital signage and huminaze your brands. Run competitions in real time and encourage engagement through the use of hashtags.

Or subscribe to both and cover all angles.

All content can be personalised with your company’s logo to ensure brand consistency whilst maintaining recognition and confidence with your audience.

And setting it up couldn’t be easier either. A member of our team can show you the basics, but with it’s intuitive and simplistic drag and drop menus, you will have content uploaded and displaying in no time at all.

If this sounds like something your company or organisation will benefit from, then give us a call on
+44 (0) 3300 020 000 for more details or sign up for a FREE 30 day trial now

GDPR: how to email data securely to comply with the new regulations

April 5th, 2018 Posted by Industry Focus, IT Services

The European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which comes into force on May 25, will govern the storage and processing of data rather than its collection. It also includes some very important consumer rights. The most important are the right to be informed, the right of access, the right to correct errors, the right to erase data, the right to restrict processing, and the right take it elsewhere (data portability). How useful these will be in practice remains to be seen.

Emails are like plain text postcards because they can, in theory, be read at any of the many servers through which they pass, or by someone tapping a line. Of course, “read by” is unlikely to mean “read by a human being.” However, software can look for things like passwords and credit card numbers.

A more likely problem is sending emails to the wrong address, either because users have got their own email addresses wrong (this happens surprisingly often), or through human error. Pick the wrong address from a list of auto-complete suggestions and you could send personal data to the wrong recipient. This would be a data breach that might have to be reported.

It would obviously be good thing if all emails were encrypted by default so that only the intended recipient could read them. Three decades of history says this isn’t going to happen soon, if at all. Public key encryption is too hard for people who just want to send normal emails.

Some large organisations do have encrypted email services, such as the NHS, but that doesn’t help the rest of us.

Some people do choose secure email services, such as ProtonMail in Switzerland and Tutanota in Germany. However, you also have to send external recipients a password – for example, in an SMS text message – to decrypt the email.

Tutanota users get an email that says “you have an encrypted email” and you click a link to read it, and reply to it, in a browser. You have to export the email if you want to keep a copy.

There are also plug-ins for Gmail and the Microsoft Outlook email program that provide secure email services. If one of your employers is using a secure system, they might let you join in.

If there’s no other alternative, you should encrypt and password-protect your images and documents before sending them as email attachments. Again, you must send the password separately, either via a different messaging service or in the post.

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Online storage locations

It’s a good idea to upload attachments and then send people a link. However, bear in mind that you are uploading documents to the company that probably runs the biggest surveillance operation on the planet. Encrypt your documents before you upload them.

Encryption protects data if an online storage service is compromised – it has happened – or if your email is hacked.

Unfortunately, using Google Drive brings up an extra complication. If you are using Gmail, then you can assume that your data is being held in, or passing through by arizona bus company, or accessible from the USA.

GDPR does not oblige users to store data on servers inside the EU. However, there are extra requirements if servers are outside the EU. First, you need to have a legitimate reason for transferring personal data outside the EU. Second, you must have the consent of the person whose data is being exported. Third, you must give that person the option to opt out.

In another post, the aforementioned Liz Henderson explains how to create a GDPR Privacy Notice, and you could adapt her sample to cover Gmail storage outside the EU.

You could switch to using an email service that operates wholly within the EU (see above), if only for any people who opt out, or you could upgrade to Google’s paid-for service.

Google claims that its G Suite and Google Cloud Platform (GCP) services are fully compliant with GDPR, because it offers to sign EU Model Contract Clauses and a Data Processing Amendment. The fine print notes that “the parties acknowledge and agree that Non-European Data Protection Legislation may also apply to the processing of Customer Personal Data” and that “Google will not process Customer Personal Data for Advertising purposes or serve Advertising in the Services”.

 

Your next activity tracker could be a pair of glasses

February 23rd, 2018 Posted by Latest News, News

If wearing a Fitbit on your wrist is too difficult, maybe you should consider a fitness tracker on your face. Eye insurance provider VSP Global is launching a pair of smart glasses today called Level that keep track of a wearer’s movement. They pair over Bluetooth to a companion iOS / Android app. A frame costs $270, which doesn’t include lenses.

The inside of the glasses is relatively simple and what you’d expect. There’s an accelerometer, gyroscope, and magnetometer that work together to track steps, distance, calories burned, and total activity time. It charges over a magnetic connector and should last about five days on a single charge. There are three different frame styles available in four different colors: black, tortoise, slate, and grey tortoise.

VSP has also added gamified the experience: if wearers reach daily step goals, they earn points that translate to care for people who need help affording vision care. So 50 points provides an eye exam and eyewear to someone in need, which is nice! But strangely, users can qualify their donations so that they only go to one specific group, including veterans, children, the elderly, or people who are homeless. 

As far as the product goes, activity-tracking glasses seem useful. Most spectacle wearers wear their glasses every day. However the challenge may come when keeping them charged, charging will have to happen at night when wearers are sleeping. If that’s forgotten then the lenses won’t be ready to track fitness as wearers will need to wear them during the day not charge them!

Samsung launches modular TV called The Wall

January 10th, 2018 Posted by A/V, News

Samsung has announced a giant 146in (396cm) TV called The Wall at the CES tech show in Las Vegas.

The TV features a micro-LED display, which is pitched as a superior alternative to OLED because it offers both deep blacks and bright highlights.

Samsung also says its modular technology will allow for TVs of customised sizes to be ordered.

This is because the display is actually composed of many smaller modules that can be arranged to form unusual dimensions – one example that was squat and super-wide was briefly shown at the presentation.

‘Millions’ of LEDs

The micro-LED display, thanks to its self-emitting LEDs, should allow for a bright picture without the need for a backlight.

Backlights normally make it hard to produce deep blacks on screen because their illumination spills beyond the pixels they are targeted at.

Sony tried to produce TVs made from the same basic technology back in 2012 but they proved too expensive to make en masse.

Samsung’s decision to bet on micro-LED puts it in direct competition with rivals that have opted to go with OLED displays. Micro-LED screens are difficult to manufacture because the LEDs need to be individually placed onto a layer by machines, explained analyst Paul Gray at IHS Technology. “You have millions for a single display,” he said.”But maybe Samsung has made some breakthroughs on multiple placement [at once].”

Mr Gray added that, although Samsung was pitching the technology as a “consumer” product, it would likely only appear in very expensive devices.

Samsung has not yet revealed details on pricing itself.

Samsung modular TV in an elongated rectangular formatThe modular technology allows for TVs of unusual shapes and sizes to be made, according to Samsung

Other options for giant TV displays have been shown off at CES this year.

Hisense unveiled a 150in 4K TV projector system that can beam a picture onto its owner’s wall.

The firm did not announce a price for the product, though a 100in version costs $10,000 (£7,300).

And there were TVs with improved brains, too.

Samsung promised that its next generation of smart TVs would be more intelligent than ever before, thanks to the inclusion of the firm’s voice-activated assistant Bixby.

Users can even ask Bixby to display the inside of their fridge on screen – if they have a compatible Samsung smart fridge with internal camera.

AI assistants have cropped up several smart TV’s at CES this year, including Philips’ 7703 Series 24in Android TV, which comes perched on a Bluetooth speaker and is designed for kitchen worktops.

Voice is the future

January 5th, 2018 Posted by Voice

Intelligent Services will not only learn to talk with us, but also to recognise emotion so they can truly engage with our lives.

For years we have interacted with machines by touch – using a keyboard, screen or mouse. But this is not the natural way for humans to communicate. As humans, we prefer voice. In 2018, we’ll see more machines communicate the way humans do, with the potential for technology to become more ingrained into our lives than ever.

We’re at the beginning of a voice-fuelled technology transformation where new types of devices and services, such as the Echo and Alexa, allow us to communicate more naturally. They are being embedded into everything from cars to home automation services to the factory floor.

Ford, for example, has integrated Alexa into its vehicles, allowing its customers to engage in a more intuitive way with its cars. Drivers can speak to their car and ask it to play their favourite audiobooks. They can do their shopping and get directions. They can connect to all sorts of services outside of the vehicle, being able to manipulate lights and doors in their smart home. From home, customers can communicate with their car by remote starting, locking or unlocking doors and obtaining vehicle information.

At AstraZeneca, Alexa is being used by manufacturing teams to ask about standard operating procedures and to find out what to do next. At Nasa, rather than rearranging a conference room for different mission meetings, they speak to Alexa and the building does the rest. For many, voice computing is already here, and the potential is limitless.

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The International Rice Research Institute, just outside Manila in the Philippines, has built a digital system to help farmers find the right amount of fertiliser to apply to their land at a particular time. To increase engagement, they opted for a natural interface for the farmers, building it as a voice-based system in the cloud. Farmers simply take the village phone, call the service, select from a variety of dialects and describe the patch of land. The service, using machine learning, provides advice on the amount of fertiliser they need to use and when they should plant their crops.

UK-based Inhealthcare is another voice example. One of its core tools is using automated telephony as a communication channel to deploy digital health services at scale. For many older people, the telephone is a piece of technology they are comfortable and confident using, and nearly everyone can access it, even if they don’t have access to the internet or a smartphone. Using Amazon Polly, Inhealthcare can deliver medication reminders, health advice and help with treatment. A phone call could last anywhere from a few seconds to minutes depending on the complexity of its nature, but with the low latency they can achieve, patients can have a natural conversation, meaning they feel comfortable with the advice they receive and don’t hang up.

Are you integrating voice in to your digital strategy and the way you work?

‘Dolphin’ attacks fool Amazon, Google voice assistants

September 8th, 2017 Posted by Latest News

Voice-controlled assistants by Amazon, Apple and Google could be hijacked by ultrasonic audio commands that humans cannot hear, research suggests.

Two teams said the assistants responded to commands broadcast at high frequencies that can be heard by dolphins but are inaudible to humans. They were able to make smartphones dial phone numbers and visit rogue websites. Many smartphones feature a voice-controlled assistant that can be set up to constantly listen for a “wake word”.

Google’s assistant starts taking orders when a person says “ok Google”, while Apple’s responds to “hey Siri” and Amazon’s to “Alexa”.

Researchers in China set up a loudspeaker to broadcast voice commands that had been shifted into ultrasonic frequencies. They said they were able to activate the voice-controlled assistant on a range of Apple and Android devices and smart home speakers from several feet away. A US team was also able to activate the Amazon Echo smart speaker in the same way. The US researchers said the attack worked because the target microphone processed the audio and interpreted it as human speech.

“After processing this ultrasound, the microphone’s recording… is quite similar to the normal voice,” they said.

The Chinese researchers suggested an attacker could embed hidden ultrasonic commands in online videos, or broadcast them in public while near a victim.

In tests they were able to make calls, visit websites, take photographs and activate a phone’s airplane mode. However, the attack would not work on systems that had been trained to respond to only one person’s voice, which Google offers on its assistant.

Apple’s Siri requires a smartphone to be unlocked by the user before allowing any sensitive activity such as visiting a website.

Apple and Google both allow their “wake words” to be switched off so the assistants cannot be activated without permission.

“Although the devices are not designed to handle ultrasound, if you put something just outside the range of human hearing, the assistant can still receive it so it’s certainly possible,” said Dr Steven Murdoch, a cyber-security researcher at University College London.

“Whether it’s realistic is another question. At the moment there’s not a great deal of harm that could be caused by the attack. Smart speakers are designed not to do harmful things. “I would expect the smart speaker vendors will be able to do something about it and ignore the higher frequencies.”

The Chinese team said smart speakers could use microphones designed to filter out sounds above 20 kilohertz to prevent the attack.

A Google spokesman said: “We take user privacy and security very seriously at Google, and we’re reviewing the claims made.”

Amazon said in a statement: “We take privacy and security very seriously at Amazon and are reviewing the paper issued by the researchers.”