Posts in Latest News

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

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!

‘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.”

Ransomeware ‘here to stay’, warns Google study

August 22nd, 2017 Posted by Latest News, Subjects, Tech Talk

Cyber-thieves have made at least $25m (£19m) from ransomware in the last two years, suggests research by Google.

The search giant created thousands of virtual victims of ransomware to expose the payment ecosystem surrounding the malware type.

Most of the money was made in 2016 as gangs realised how lucrative it was, revealed a talk at Black Hat.

Two types of ransomware made most of the money, it said, but other variants are starting to emerge.

Track and trace

“It’s become a very, very profitable market and is here to stay,” said Elie Bursztein from Google who, along with colleagues Kylie McRoberts and Luca Invernizzi, carried out the research.

Ransomware is malicious software that infects a machine and then encrypts or scrambles files so they can no longer be used or read. The files are only decrypted when a victim pays a ransom. Payments typically have to be made using the Bitcoin virtual currency.

Mr Bursztein said Google used several different methods to work out how much cash was flowing towards ransomware creators. As well as drawing on reports from people who had paid a ransom, it sought out the files used to infect machines and then ran those on lots of virtual machines to generate “synthetic victims”. It then monitored the network traffic generated by these victims to work out to where money would be transferred. The data gathered in this stage was also used to find more variants of ransomware and the 300,000 files it found broke down into 34 of them.

The most popular strains were the Locky and Cerber families.

Payment analysis of the Bitcoin blockchain, which logs all transactions made using the e-currency, revealed that those two strains also made the most money over the last year, with Locky collecting about $7.8m (£5.9m) and Cerber $6.9m (£5.2m).

The research project also revealed where the cash flowed and accumulated in the Bitcoin network and where it was converted back into cash. More than 95% of Bitcoin payments for ransomware were cashed out via Russia’s BTC-e exchange, found Google.

On 26 July, one of the founders of BTC-e, Alexander Vinnik, was arrested by Greek police on money laundering charges. The police were acting on a US warrant and his extradition to America is being sought.

The gangs behind the ransomware explosion were not likely to stop soon, said Mr Bursztein, although established strains are facing competition from newer ones.

“Ransomware is a fast-moving market,” he said. “There’s aggressive competition coming from variants such as SamSam and Spora.”

Novel variants were expanding quickly and many were encouraging fast expansion by paying affiliates more if they placed the malware on to large numbers of machines. The ransomware as a service model was already proving popular, he warned.

“It’s no longer a game reserved for tech-savvy criminals,” he said. “It’s for almost anyone.”

Microcomms can help you with cyber security protection. Please contact us for advice and information.

 

Nureva Brainstorming Tech

The future of good ideas – Nureva, brainstorming tech that works!

October 21st, 2016 Posted by A/V, Latest News, News, Subjects, Tech Talk

Most of us have had the experience of being called into a ‘brainstorming session’. You and your work mates sit about chewing the fat around a particular concept, problem or idea. Generally, results are patchy to say the least. Why is that? Surely great minds working together should produce exceptional results?

Life is simply too short for bad brainstorming.

That is why here at Microcomms we’ve teamed up with market leaders and technology veterans David Martin and Nancy Knowlton (the brains behind the SMART Board™) to bring you their latest business solution – the Nureva.

 The Nureva ensures agile thinking – and helps you overcome the pitfalls of traditional brainstorming. Tricia Whenham, from the Nureva blog suggest solutions to 5 of the most common problems:

1. Just the usual suspects

Next time you’re in a collaborative session, scan the room. If everyone looks like you, or works in the same functional area, or gets information from the same sources, you may be in trouble. Same old perspectives will just lead to same old results.

SOLUTION: If you’re trying to think differently, make sure at least one new person is present. Don’t be limited by geography – the Nureva makes your remote contributors feel like they’re in the room with you.

2. Ill-designed spaces

Many meeting spaces are designed for information consumption, not creation. If you’re gathering your team in a sterile boardroom, you may be stifling the creativity you want to cultivate.

SOLUTION: Design your meeting rooms – and ad hoc working spaces – with creativity and collaboration in mind. If you’re looking for ideas:

Designing_for_collaboration.jpg

3. Uneven participation

At least one-third of the population are introverts, so you’re guaranteed to work with at least a few of them. Do you provide opportunities for these people to contribute  – even if it’s not verbally?

SOLUTION: Let people contribute with digital sticky notes.

4. Facilitator over-steering

Facilitators can play a key role in keeping brainstorming sessions on track. But if you place too much power in their hands, they may be skewing the results more than you (or they) think. Next time you’re in a session, pay attention to which ideas get written down fully and which don’t. Which ideas get expanded on, and which are neglected.

SOLUTION: Let everyone use the same working canvas (physical or virtual) to contribute and organize ideas. Don’t make one person the arbiter of what really counts.brainstorming-session-meeting-space.jpg

5. Session interrupted

We’ve all been there. Everyone’s warmed up, the ideas are starting to flow – and then there’s a knock on the door signaling time is up. So everyone scrambles to put an artificial end to the discussion while snapping photos of the scrawls on the board or rushing around picking up oversized pieces of paper. By the time the group gets together again, the momentum is lost.

SOLUTION: Choose a cloud-based solution, such as Span software, that lets everyone continue to generate ideas after the group work is done. With this type of solution, it’s also easier to pick things up in another space if you get booted from your meeting room early.

To find out how you could generate exciting ideas within your company please get in touch with John Darling, director of AV at Microcomms and we’ll invite you over to see our Nureva in action!

School Bell Demo

Ringing the changes: Hybrid School Bell Demo

October 17th, 2016 Posted by A/V, Case Study, education, Industry Focus, Latest News, News, Subjects

John Darling, Microcomms Director of AV and Joslyn Bellamy, Business Development Manager had the pleasure of demonstrating a new bell system at a leading Independent School in Truro last week.

Barix Extream School Bell Utilising Barix Exstreamer technology the system is scalable, robust and exceptionally good value. Originally the School had been looking at IP speakers for their bell system, however John Darling was able to explain the pitfalls of IP technology and the benefits of the Barix system.

IP Systems versus Hybrid Systems

– IP Speakers are expensive, individual units cost £200 and each speaker has to be wired back to an amplifier.

– The technology we recommend is a hybrid system utilising 100v line standard High Impedence Speakers and the site wide networked audio distribution offered by the Barix Unit. A concurrent network is created with speakers ‘daisy-chained’ together removing the need for wiring to run from each speaker back to an amplifier.

– Standard speakers also offer a school friendly replacement price with individual units running from £20-£30, taking away the financial penalty if a child/member of staff accidently damage a speaker.

Unusual school bell

School’s Out!

– We recommend Bellcommander software which interfaces with end users through an incredibly simple Windows based calendar system which uses MP3s for sound. It comes with several standard bell sounds but can be customised to your own preference (Imagine ending term to the refrain of ‘Schools Out’ by Alice Cooper!)

– Bellcommander enables up to 200 bells a day and offers the ability to link with school PA systems and can be used for playing ambient sound as well as bells – ideal for a parent’s evening with soothing classical music being played in the background.

So….what did the client think?

The School’s Senior Management team were really impressed with the demo – praising the simple format of the user interface and the scalability of the overall network concept.

If you’d like to talk to us about School Bells or any other AV needs please do drop us a line!
Joslyn.bellamy@microcomms.co.uk / john.darling@microcomms.co.uk