[This a guest blog post from my colleague & dear friend, Rauf]
Understanding why Online Security is important
I could dive into the usual do’s and don’ts of security but within 5 minutes most of you would have switched off or started to think about what to watch on YouTube so let’s try a different approach.
How many of you have a front door? Pretty much all of you, in fact some of you will have more than one if you live in flats or apartment complexes. You wouldn’t leave your front door open and expose yourself and your family to an increased level of risk now would you?
So what about your mobile assets? Many of you drive cars and again, you wouldn’t leave your nice expensive car unlocked, or even your beaten up little runabout for that matter if it had your SatNav, your laptop, phone etc. in it, would you?
These attitudes to our own and our family’s personal safety are not in built into us at birth. For many of our grandparents security was not as big a priority as it is for us. We’ve all heard, even if anecdotally, that there was a time when people used to leave their doors open and unlocked. I’m
sure there are still places in the world like that but they are the exception and are becoming rarer every day. The world has changed, dramatically, as we move more and more of our lives online we are creating a wealth of personal capital there as well. We are still learning that we need locks in our digital world in the same way as our physical.
For those of us who have been there since the early days of the internet it was a time of freedom and exploration, but those days are gone and there are many people and organisations out there who are ready, willing and eager to take and exploit our personal information. We have not yet realised the value of our digital lives and possessions and they do have a value. Data is constantly being traded by companies and organisations (both legitimate and not) around the world. That data is not a bunch of abstract ones and zeros, it’s information about you and I, when we were born, are we married, where we shop, etc. We don’t realise how valuable this information is in much the same way we don’t realise how valuable our TV’s and laptops are until we lose them or have to insure them.
Obviously some information is more important but have we really thought about how important all our information is. We would not walk around with our bank account number inked on our arm or leave the key to our safety deposit box lying around on our desk at work. They may not be enough to let some-one walk away with our life savings but why take the risk, yet we do the online equivalent every day, sometimes every single time we go online. We leave digital trails whenever we wonder through the internet, we give websites permission to track our movements, scripts run and gather information from our computers malware potentially lurks on any unfamiliar website (and sometimes on the familiar ones). For the most part we are unaware of these things happening in the background.
But how many of us run up to date anti-virus, and anti-spyware?
How many of us protect our browsers where we spend most of our online time?
Let me leave you with this thought, our online security is every bit as important as our physical security and increasingly more so. If your car was stolen you can replace it fairly quickly, if your identity is stolen and your credit record trashed it could take you years to rebuild it.
It wouldn’t be fair to encourage you to improve your online security without providing a few links to some tools to help you do that. There are many anti-virus applications out there, some free, some commercial. In some countries the larger banks will provide their online users with free anti-virus so worth checking.
There are fewer anti-spyware apps and even less programs that provide complete protection, this is an area where a little research and preparation can pay dividends in the long run.
In no particular order you can try the following (these are not personal recommendations, just a few of the more well known applications that you may wish to try out). Remember that some applications may not play nice with each other, for example running 2 anti-virus programs can cause problems and will make your computer run much slower.
‘Skype for Business‘ is here. After Microsoft’s acquisition of Skype 4 years ago this month they have been (slowly) integrating it with their own live communications offering Lync (previously ‘Live Communications Server’) as well as with their Outlook online mail client and with the upcoming Windows 10 (watch those EU legal hawks circle around this one, much like IE integration with Windows this may be deemed to be abusing a monopoly too against the likes of Google Hangouts etc.)
I only noticed it while downloading some ISOs via my technet subscription, so bye bye Lync and hello Skype.
The end user client will look more like Skype as it will take on some of the blue branding elements. Although administrators on either on-premise or Office 365 can change the skin to match the previous Lync client thereby reducing end user chaos during any transition.
Here’s the l(y)nc for more info:
I’ll probably run a lab migration and a blog post will hopefully follow.
…when those things are idiotic!
One of those days. It started well, plenty of time to head down the M40 and get to Staines. Google Maps kindly estimated my ETA as 08:47, it wasn’t too far off and traffic generally gets worse as the morning moves along.
For 95% of my journey I was travelling over 60. The last 5 miles was just a crawl.
However once I was a simple 1.4 miles from my destination, at precisely 08:56, I made the first mistake…I got stuck in the far left lane having just come of Junction 13 of the M25. I took the left exit and was then treated to a wonderful detour trough Staines town centre to get to my destination.
So after ringing my colleague to get some idea of where to park I did arrive at my destination. The time was 09:11. However there was no parking at all and I wasn’t allocated to any of the few precious visitor spots. I went to the barrier to buzz the security chap and ask for alternative parking. First he asked me to try the already full ‘main’ zig zag of a car park. I told him it was full, so he told me to head to the other building a mere 0.3 miles away along the main road I had just come.
There was a security chap in a high viz jacket standing outside there (HighViz1) monitoring incomings/outgoings, and he immediately asked me what I wanted as I pulled in right. He asked me to pull over so we could chat. I enquired about parking, first he told me to go back and park where I originally went (no spaces, remember?!), I repeatedly and firmly told him they were full. He was adamant I couldn’t park anywhere on the site he was ‘guarding’. Then finally he pointed to a car park across the road and slightly to the right and said “park there then”. As I 360’d and pulled towards the main road he shouted “u can’t turn right, you have to go left and turn around”. Absurd.
So I practically drove almost back to the original office just so I could turn around, then I drove back past HighViz1 before turning left into the wonderous sight of a car park with free SPACES. Result. So I quickly parked the car, got my bag out/jacket on/locked the car and made to walk to the office. A loud voice behind me “Hey you can’t park like that”, errrm “Excuse me?” I say to HighViz2withNoHair, he sternly replies “You MUST reverse park you car, your not allowed to park it like that”. Flabbergasted I blurt out a reply “Are you serious?”. “Yes, please reverse park. It is company policy. We get many accidents”.
I was taken aback. I hurriedly jumped back in my car and merely drove it straight forward 20 feet into a free spot which would satisfy HighViz2withNoHair. He then told me to wait for a shuttle bus to take me to the main office. It was 09:44. I waited until 09:56 and had had enough, HighViz2withNoHair had gone AWOL and there was no sign of the magical minibus. I walked out of the car park and across the road to ask HighViz1, he promptly pointed me to a minibus and said “There it is, it will take you where you want to go”. As I proceeded to head diagonally toward it I heard a booming voice from behind. It was HighViz1 “Hey, you must use the pedestrian walkway. Health and safety, you have to walk around”.
This time I stood my ground and decided to ignore him. Living in inner city Birmingham I never did learn how to cross a road properly, did I? I quickly headed to the minibus, only to realise neither of the 2 parked white minibuses were going anywhere. Then I spotted a nearby magical bus ‘stop’ with a timetable printed onto it in font size -8. Next bus @10:05. It was now 10:08. There was a lady waiting, I enquired “Are you heading to the main office”, she was and she also queried the status of the late minibus.
But then, like a phoenix rising a brown mini-van appeared. Yay. Praise be to mini-vans. WE (3 of us) hopped on and 5 minutes later we were finally at the office. A hop off and short walk to Reception. Official arrival time? 10:21.
Walking time from my parked car to Reception? 00:08 minutes. Yup. 8 lousy minutes. IF I had walked at 09:44 I would have got to the office at 09:52. In fact I would have saved a lot more time if I had parked directly there in the first instance. In fact, I would have been in Reception at 09:15 (estimated). A full 1 hour and 6 minutes earlier. Go figure.
Birmingham. The UK’s 2nd City. Home to 1 Million people. More than half of whom are female.
It’s election time, although the attention is on seats in the House of Commons I prefer to focus on more local matters. There are a number of council seats up for re-election within Birmingham. For those of you doubting who to vote for – vote for a woman. Why? Simply put we need more of them in that council chamber. See the glorious infographic below for an answer as to why I say that (click for larger version):
Of course, if you already have an awesome councillor who truly works hard on behalf of the people in your Ward then sure – vote for them regardless of their gender. This is simply a message for those are undecided and who may take a stab in the dark (although one should always make a serious, considered & balanced decision when choosing whom to vote for).
The reason the city is in such financial disarray, selling off prized assets to raise cash? An equal pay claim dating back many years, where women were paid less then men for doing the same job. That and central goverment cuts to local budgets are killing Brum financially.
[be nice, it’s my first ever Infographic so a little rough around the edges]
[Statistics correct as of end of 2013, sources: Birmingham City Council, ONS]
You might be surprised to hear there are a fair number of people out there who were/are very happy with Windows 8. You will be even more surprised to know that some of them are not using a touchscreen or tablet interface, yes indeed they are happy with just the good old keyboard and mouse.
However the majority were not. I believe it was a bit of arrogance from Microsoft in making large assumptions about what people wanted in Windows 8. Maybe they should have learned from the Vista failure, perhaps they did as that was a different problem related to speed (or lack of) and reliability and driver issues.
There is no denying that Windows 8 is fast and relatively stable but the biggest mistake was assuming user would have a touch biased interface available across all systems – particularly among Desktop PCs and non-touchscreen Laptops. As an IT professional when I first came across Window 8 I had it setup in virtual environment to ‘test drive’ it, that initial test drive put me off Windows 8 almost permanently. The frustration at the wholesale changes and inability to intuitively do what I needed was enough for me to tell all and sundry to avoid Windows 8. The culture shock with the UI was that significant.
It was inevitable however that newer PCs would eventually drop support for Windows 7 drivers, becoming Windows 8.0 only and then 8.1. Once they did so it forced the OS upon people as opposed to being a consumer choice. I suspect Linux, Apple and Google (ChromeOS) reaped some of that frustration.
So what now for Windows 10 and what advice to those thinking of buying a new Windows device, should they wait for Windows 10 General Release?
I have been using Windows 10 Technical Preview for a few months now and I have to say I love it. It is a natural progression from Windows 7, with the speed and – as development continues hopefully – the reliability of Windows 8. There are plenty of changes but it really does feel like a true successor to Windows 7 rather than 8 or 8.1.
Now the interesting part, when will Windows 10 be ready and available? There are no firm dates as it’s too early but end of 2015 or early 2016 is probably a good guess. Sales of PCs have been relatively flat in recent years and a release of a desirable new OS from Microsoft can often provide a boost to PC manufacturers such as Dell, HP or Acer. There is rumour that licenses may actually be free for specific versions of Windows 10, however I doubt very much if Microsoft will try to levy a subscription charge instead. That would be a fatal mistake for consumers.
What about Business and Enterprise users?
The good news rumour of free licenses for Windows 10 will not apply to business users at all. In fact the cost to business may be the winning formula for Microsoft in terms of its share price and profit forecast!
The bad news however is your business applications. Most large companies I know and have worked within are either already using or migrating to Windows 7. Huge efforts have been made to rewrite & redeploy these important applications to work with Windows 7. Sadly Microsoft will probably only support applications written for or that work on Windows 8.1.
The move to Windows 10 is inevitable, so I strongly urge you to dig out the ‘Windows 8.1 Upgrade Assistant’ and run it in your environment today. That will go some way in telling you if your Windows 7 apps will work with 10. Starting early means less headache later. Good Luck.
Sales of the Windows Operating System and its close cousin the Office Suite continue to be a huge revenue stream for Microsoft with little sign of it shifting significantly over the next 3-5 years. Often the lock-in is due to corporate IT strategy based around a Windows client and the Office suite, which extends to influence users to seek the same familiarity on their personal devices.
It is still hard for me to use an on-screen keyboard as well as I can the traditional mechanical clunk, click. I’m getting there and Google Apps are immense in providing ease of use via multiple devices. I suspect the traditional PC will still be around as the workhorse for corporate and fixed domestic use, however mobile tablet and cellular devices will allow easier and more expansive capability and multi-device working. Enabling that seamlessly and securely is the key, so Windows 10 with OneDrive is a move in the right direction as is Office 365.
Windows 10 will complement those products and enhance mobility, it will be the true client Cloud OS just as Server 2012 R2 is touted as the server Cloud OS! People will take to it, corporate decision makers may decide to try flavour of the month but most will stick to tried, tested and invested. I expect Windows 10 to be as successful as Windows 7.
Since I drafted this blog post Microsoft have basically said anyone with Windows 7, 8 or 8.1 will get a free upgrade option to Windows 10 in the first year. Talk about kick-starting early adoption, a great move in my opinion – might stop me waiting for the first major service pack before upgrading to a newer OS. But hey habits are hard to break!
Right, another year gone. Another already started.
First I’d like to thank all those who have visited my blog, and especially those who have commented or provided feedback. I really do appreciate it, my stats have been steadily trending upwards which encourages me to share more.
Here I quickly outline my blogging plans for the new year:
More car stuff – by far the most popular post on my blog (by hits/month) is my post on the engine pump failure on my Vauxhall back in 2008. The blog post is here and was posted back in late 2010. I still have said Vauxhall and also have a Zafira, i’ve done bits of work on both and will post updates soon.
More technical stuff – this is both my job and passion, so expect lots more. Hopefully I’m aiming to restart my beginners Server 2008 courses, for Server 2012 of course – both online and classroom based. I’ll be covering AD, Exchange, SharePoint, SQL and PowerShell in lots more detail. Oh and lots on Windows 10 as I march on with my Technical Preview.
Birmingham – the city I live in. There is a tonne of stuff I wish to share, from activities through to infographics. What’s good, what could be better and in the words of Oliver Queen I must do what i can to “save my city” in these years of budgetary crises.
Personal Computing – the prevalence of the internet, gadgets, storage and phones means everyone is creating and using data. This is critical data (photos, tax information, licensing, bills, banking, passwords) and I’d like to share how I both store it (with resilience) and secure it (with confidence). This is domestic technology, not corporate.
Trading & Economics – another passion of mine. I will start to share my trading strategy, my actual trades and advice & tips on how to get started and crucially how to create the correct mindset for this. Mental toughness required. Although I concentrate on Forex i’ll be dipping into wider issues such as banking and personal finance where relevant.
CVs/Resumes, Job Hunting, Scam Hunting – as per usual I’ll continue along this path, the 2nd most popular blog post on my site is the CV site one found here. Exposing scams and helping people in their efforts to better their future prospects is something I love doing.
Islam – as my faith is currently under constant attack I believe it a responsiblity to add my input as and when I feel it may improve someones knowledge on an issue. I often find the basis of prejudice is lack of knowledge, educating people and doing it the right way counters bigotry.
There you go, some simple plans for 2015. The good Lord willing I hope to accomplish all of these.
[7 is my lucky number!]