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You may have enjoyed a trouble free relationship with Microsoft Office 2007, but support for the suite has now ended. So what does this mean for you?

Well, the truth is that when support ends for a piece of software, you can continue using it almost exactly as you did before. It’s not going to stop working, in fact it will continue working for many years to come. However, without support, the software is effectively out there on its own without any help or protection. Security flaws are no longer closed and any bugs you discover will remain for good. And this isn’t particularly great for a business which wants to remain competitive.

Therefore, you need to make sure that you know how to move forwards from Microsoft Office 2007 and why you have to do this.

The End of Support for Office 2007

Support for Microsoft Office 2007 officially ended on 10th October 2017 as this was the point that Microsoft decided that it wasn’t viable to continue supporting it. It’s common practice for developers to do this, but when it’s a piece of software which includes Microsoft Word, Excel and PowerPoint, it’s kind of a big deal due to the number of people using these applications on a daily basis.

As mentioned previously, you can continue to use Office 2007 but you’re putting yourself at a huge risk of being hacked. You see, hackers see unsupported software as one of the easiest targets out there and, if they find a security flaw, they’re going to exploit it safe in the knowledge that it’s never going to get patched and these legacy attacks can cause major issues. There are also certain features which will no longer be supported e.g. Outlook 2007 can no longer use Office 365 to access Exchange Online mailboxes and this could create huge communication issues for a business.

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What Do You Need to Do?

Quite simply, you need to upgrade and you need to upgrade quickly due to the potential issues we’ve already outlined. Upgrading ensures that your version of Microsoft Office is not only secure, but can also operate in the way your business needs it to. There’s also the added bonus of new features which were never present in Office 2007.

It’s all a matter of cost, of course, but there are several options available when it comes to upgrades. Office 2010 is the next step up, but you have to bear in mind that Microsoft only ever grant their office suites a 10 year lifespan. Therefore, support for Office 2010 is due to be retired in just three years and means that a further upgrade would be needed relatively soon. This doesn’t make for great economics, so, to give yourself the best experience with Office it may be best to look at going straight in for Microsoft Office 2016.

With its lifespan barely started, Office 2016 promises to provide better security and a better work environment for your organization to operate in.

For more ways to secure and optimize your business technology, contact your local IT professionals.

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Due to changes in the way we communicate, microphones and webcams are now important business tools, but did you know that they can be hacked?

And, in particular, did you know that the CIA is keen to utilize this type of hack for its own surveillance activities and to corrupt recordings? This news has recently been leaked by WikiLeaks and, although it’s not surprising that the CIA use such tools, it’s a real concern as we’ve seen in the past that security agencies hacking arsenals aren’t completely secure.

How do microphones and webcams get hacked though? Well, seeing as so many organizations use them for video conferencing these days, it’s probably best that we take a quick look.

What is Dumbo?

The main objective of Dumbo is to provide a route into a monitoring capability of a PC that home security systems are not capable of detecting. Now, what’s interesting about Dumbo is that it can’t, at present, be transmitted through email; instead, for a PC to be hacked with Dumbo, the hacker would need direct access to the PC to connect a USB drive. Once this is installed and activated, it begins searching for webcams and microphones and, once identified, Dumbo can disable or mute the devices.

Dumbo also identifies any files that these devices are currently writing to and gives Dumbo the opportunity to delete or corrupt these files. With capabilities such as this, Dumbo has the potential to delete audio-visual evidence or, if necessary, create fake evidence. For all of this to take place, however, the USB drive needs to remain plugged in at all times, so this creates a situation where a hacker would need to work very quickly and be directly at the system they’re hacking.

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The Dark Side of Dumbo

The CIA, of course, have certain regulations that they have to adhere to and are only working in the interests of national security, so Dumbo isn’t something that the average organization shouldn’t have to worry about. However, as we saw with the NSA hacking tools leak, anything is possible in this day and age. And just imagine what would happen if this type of malicious software fell into the wrong hands.

Not only could the security of your communications become highly compromised, but even security of your physical building could be at risk as many organizations use webcams for security monitoring. The one limitation of Dumbo is that it needs to be actively executed in-situ, so this makes it a difficult hack to pull off. However, this doesn’t mean that the hacker has to step foot in your premises. As we’ve shown in the past, hackers have several ways that they can get a USB stick into an organization and it can often be down to a curious employee finding a USB stick in a car park.

Being aware of your employees’ activities doesn’t mean that you can completely extinguish the threat of a hack – such as Dumbo – taking place, so it’s always important that you regularly monitor hardware for any unusual activity. And it doesn’t have to be a webcam or microphone, it could easily be a printer. Therefore, if a piece of hardware starts acting suspiciously, then it’s highly recommended that you isolate it from your network before investigating it.

As we get deeper into the 21st century, it would appear that the digital landscape is becoming less and less secure, but the truth is that the best way to defeat hackers is by vigilance. If you can ensure that hackers attempts are thwarted and monitored then you should find your PCs are safer than ever.

For more ways to secure and optimize your business technology, contact your local IT professionals.

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Your modem provides a gateway to the internet, but this entry point is highly vulnerable to hackers as 60,000 customers of BSNL have discovered.

Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL) is an ISP based in New Delhi, India with around 93 million customers, but even with these customer numbers they have been struggling in recent years due to the increased competition in the Asia telecommunications sector. And they now have an embarrassing malware incident on their hands, so these are certainly tough times for BSNL.

The attack which has affected BSNL is almost ridiculous in its simplicity, but it has the potential to cause huge damage for BSNL and its customers. It also carries an important lesson that every PC user can benefit from, so let’s take a look.

Hacking BSNL Modems

Using botnet attacks, the hackers were able to breach the National Internet Backbone (essentially a huge network making up the backbone of the internet in India) of BSNL and gain access to their internal modems and recently installed customer modems. From BSNL’s end, this meant that their broadband service was severely compromised with around 45% of internet connections suffering disruption. For customers using the recently installed modems, however, matters got much worse.

The malware affecting BSNL was able to change the passwords of BSNL broadband customers who had made the fatal mistake of not changing the modem’s default password of “admin”. As a result, around 60,000 customers have found themselves at risk of having their broadband connection compromised as their modem would not be able to log into the BSNL system. Affected users have reported a lack of internet access and the modems ‘red error’ LED switching on to indicate a fault.

Whilst BSNL were able to manually change the password details for their internal modems and stop any further changes to their customers’ details, they were unable to reset passwords for customers who had fallen victim to the malware. Instead, these users have to manually reset their modems and enter a new password, a task which isn’t particularly simple for your average PC user.

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The Importance of Password Changes

BSNL are rightly embarrassed about the breach that their systems have experienced and there’s still no mention of the attack on their official website. And the fact that this attack stemmed from a simple password flaw is astonishing, but not completely surprising. Many, many organizations still use the age old login name/password of Admin/Admin for gaining access to the administration side of computer systems; it’s easy to remember and provides quick access, but the problem is that every hacker knows this and will always try these login details early on in an attack.

It’s absolutely crucial that you protect your networks (and even your modems) by practicing good password security. It only takes a few moments to think of a new password and just as long to change your old one, so there really shouldn’t be any excuse. And that’s why you should always change default system passwords as soon as you’re given the chance. Otherwise, you’re at risk from being hacked and will only have yourself to blame.

For more ways to secure and optimize your business technology, contact your local IT professionals.

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Necurs

Personal financial information is always highly private, so if this is compromised it’s a real invasion of privacy. Sadly, US banks are now under attack from malware.

Driven by the infamous Necurs hacking botnet, Trickbot is a form of malware that is currently carrying out sustained spam campaigns against US banks. It’s a cyber-attack which has been targeting financial organizations for around a year now, but it’s only recently that these attacks have been focusing on US banks.

Now, the majority of adults in the US use online banking services, so this is the kind of attack which needs to be brought to the attention of the masses. And, not only is there a security lesson for consumers to be found within this attack, but there’s also plenty for organizations to learn about good security practices.

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Tricky Trickbot

Trickbot utilizes, as its name suggests, trickery to achieve its nefarious needs and, in particular, it embraces a redirection scheme. Usually, when you’re transferred from one webpage to another then you can clearly see that the URL changes in your browser to demonstrate where you’re heading to. However, when being redirected by malware, the victim is first sent to an alternate website on a completely different server. As a live connection is kept with the intended website – in this instance an online banking service – this remains displayed with the user’s browser.

And lurking on these alternate websites is the malware’s malicious payload. In the case of Trickbot, these websites use webinjection to infect the victims with JavaScript and HTML coding which go on to steal login details and financial coding from affected users. Naturally, with this sort of sensitive data, hackers can go on to cause widespread damage to individuals finances, but how do people fall foul of these malware scams?

According to the security experts at Flashpoint, Trickbot is spreading its reach through the use of huge spam email campaigns. An example of this was seen in a spam email which claimed to be a bill from an Australian telecommunications organization, but actually contained JavaScript code which activated the Trickbot loader and compromised browsers in what is known as a man-in-the-browser attack.

Trickbot, however, is not a new, unique threat and Flashpoint believes that Trickbot is related to the Dyre banking Trojan which was last active in 2015. The build of both Trickbot and Dyre, so it would appear that either source code is being recycled or members of the same team are involved.

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How to Beat Trickbot

The key to beating Trickbot and not falling victim to its trickery is by simply verifying the emails in your inbox. And the most important checks to make are:

  • Do you recognize the sender of the email? If it’s an unusual or unknown sender name then just ignore it and, if it comes complete with an attachment, definitely ignore it.
  • What is the email asking for? Financial organizations, for example, will never email you to request sensitive data or to head online and enter this data into websites.
  • Are there any links in the email? If they have an unusual address you don’t recognize then don’t click on them as they could be sending you anywhere. And, even if the link reads as a genuine URL, this could still be disguising an alternate URL – hover over the link with your mouse to reveal the true direction of the link.

For more ways to secure and optimize your business technology, contact your local IT professionals.

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Customer details such as passwords need to be stored in databases, but what happens when these get hacked? 8Tracks radio service recently found out.

Following a breach of the security around their user data, 8Tracks had the rather unenviable task of announcing a major password security alert. And, seeing as this had the potential to affect 18 million users who are signed up to the service, it demonstrated the fragility of cyber security when it’s not enforced to the letter – as Tumblr found out last year.

The reasons behind this breach are incredibly simple, but the impact of such a breach has the potential to cause major damage for millions of users. It’s a cautionary tale and one which can provide an important lesson to learn.

How were 8Tracks Users Hacked?

8Tracks suspect that their databases were breached following a cyber-attack on one of their employee’s Github accounts – an online storage facility for open source programming code. Github offers two-factor authentication, but, in this instance, the 8Tracks employee didn’t activate this which left them at a slight disadvantage to hackers. And, following an alert from Github that this account had been subject to an unauthorized password change, it became clear that access to 8Tracks networks had also been compromised.

It’s believed that access to prime databases and production servers were not at risk as they were protected by SSH keys which involve sophisticated cryptography and challenge-response authentication. However, the backdoor left open by the 8Tracks employee did expose back up databases which contained email addresses and passwords for 8Tracks users. The passwords, thankfully, were encrypted using salt and hash methods – these techniques make passwords very hard (but not impossible) to crack.

Although it would be highly difficult to hack these salted and hashed passwords through brute force techniques, the very small chance of success was a major headache for 8Tracks. As a result, they had to advise all their customers who had signed up with an email address – those signed up through Facebook and Google authentication were not affected – that they had to change their password immediately. 8Tracks themselves then had to secure their employee’s Github account, change passwords for their own backup systems and restrict access to their repositories.

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What’s the Impact of the 8Tracks Hack?

It may seem as though the 8Tracks hack is all done and dusted now that users have been advised to change their passwords and the 8Tracks system secured accordingly, but there’s a further problem. For the 18 million users affected, it’s more than likely that a large number of them use the same email address and password to sign into countless services such as Facebook, online banking and even to access their organizations systems, so these are now at risk from unauthorized access.

And this is why it’s so important that password security is taken seriously. Many organizations are now turning to online password storage facilities such as LastPass which provide highly encrypted systems to store the many passwords that your employees may need on a day to day basis. Not only should you consider using systems such as this, but if you’re offered the chance of using two-factor authentication, it should be a no-brainer that you activate this immediately to create stronger defenses for your data.

For more ways to secure and optimize your business technology, contact your local IT professionals.

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