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What does Cloud53 really mean?

 

What is Cloud53?

Why do businesses choose their name? Do they put thought and meaning into choosing one or is it simply the first thing that came to mind? This blog post will tell you why and how Cloud53 became Cloud53 so keep reading!

Lost in the cloud

Firstly, the cloud in our name is obvious isn’t it? We are a cloud computing business that offer a range of cloud services. You might be thinking “what is this cloud everyone’s talking about” but we’ll save that for another blog post. So if the cloud part of our name is clear, why is the 53 there and what does it mean?

Image result for herbieWhy the 53?

Number 1 on our list of reasons is that the Cloud53 head office is based in the city of Manchester, the heart of all our operations. Manchester is located along the 53rd degree of latitude. This is what sparked the initial idea for the 53.

Reason number 2 for the 53 is slightly more technical and appropriate to our business. The DNS (Domain Name Server) port is 53 and fundamental to the internet. DNS ensures the internet is not only user-friendly, but also works smoothly. This is another reason why 53 is such an important part of our name.

Not only did we choose to have the 53 in our name, there are also some coincidences that we have come across along the way. For example, our office happens to be located along the bus route of bus 53. Although this may not be a coincidence, it’s still a fun fact that one of our directors only puts £53.53 litres of fuel in his car. There’s also a C53 hidden in the green cloud icon of our logo and have you ever noticed the 53’s in our telephone number? As you can see, our name isn’t just a name to us. To us, our name is what we’re all about and we hope you enjoyed another blog post with an insight into what our business is about.

Don’t forget to check out our other latest blog posts on our website and don’t hesitate to get in touch if you think we could help your business run smoother! You can reach us on 0333 444 5353 or email [email protected]

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Day in the life of a technical support engineer

Day in the life of a technical support engineer

IT support is at the heart of what we do here at Cloud53. So we thought we’d let you in on what a day in the life as a technical support engineer is like…


We thought it would be great to give you an insight in to what goes on behind the scenes when you call for IT support, and who better to ask than Brad one of our longest working technicians.

What does a technical support engineer do?

“To start my day off in the morning, I focus on our proactive monitoring; I ensure all backups have ran successfully throughout the night and check if any machines on our network are identifying any possible issues. Potential issues can range from unsuccessful virus scans to hard drive failures. Once these tasks are dealt with, I can begin to work on any internal projects that we are currently working on. At the moment, most of my effort is spent on our new network monitoring software. I have been adding required servers and putting in place active checks which run around the clock. This is designed to let us know as soon as a problem has occurred before it becomes serious or could affect our customer’s productivity.

As well as this, each day I take multiple calls and queries from our customers who actively report any IT issues they are experiencing. At this point, I take as much information as I can regarding the issue and then create a ticket which details the problem that has been reported.”

How do you help our customers?

“I try to go the extra mile for all of our customers, no problem reported is too big or too small! During any support I provide, I ensure the customer is kept up to date regularly as I’m dealing with their issue. Once the problem is resolved, I explain what the issue was and how I resolved it, without all the technical jargon. I always check if there’s anything else I can help or support with to make sure the customer is satisfied with the result of the service!”

What is office life like a Cloud53?

“I’ve been with Cloud53 for just over two years, we all work together to create a relaxed but professional office environment. I enjoy working here for multiple reasons; I am able to work with a wide range of technology and there is always something new to learn. Not to mention the free fruit all week and cups of tea on demand, oh and a day off on your birthday! I think I can speak for everyone here when I say it’s a rewarding job and a great company to work for.”

Brad Roberts – Technical support engineer

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Password security 101

Do you know how strong your passwords are?

They’re probably not as strong as you think. Why wait until the one day a year where everyone talks about the subject? World Password Day is an annual celebration to promote safer password habits. It takes place on the first Thursday of May each year, but why wait another 10 months to tighten up your password security?

While passwords are a common form of authentication on the Internet, they’re more often than not the only line of defence between hackers and your personal information. Our helpful team at Cloud53 HQ would be happy to talk things through with anyone who is concerned about their security and anyone who wants better defences. In the meantime, the information below may give you some quick pointers!image

What is Password Security?

Password security, though often overlooked, plays an extremely important role when it comes to protecting your identity on the Internet. After all, it keeps unauthorised users from breaking into your online accounts and stealing your personal information for their nefarious purposes like impersonating you to commit crimes in your name.

You can free yourself from risk by resetting your old, weak passwords to long, un-crackable ones and remind your friends, family and colleagues to do the same. With identity theft and other cyber-crimes at an all-time high, setting robust passwords is crucial and we’re going to show you exactly how to go about that.

How Hackers Can Steal Your Passwords?

Have you ever wondered how hackers go about cracking your passwords? Well, here are some of the most common ways through which they can steal your passwords, and ultimately, your personal information:

1. Brute force attack

One of the most common password cracking techniques out there, a brute-force attack involves checking all possible key combinations until the right one is found. Since hackers use complex algorithms to try multiple combinations at super-fast speeds, rest assured that your short passwords will be cracked in no time!

2. Password sniffing attack 

A password sniffing attack is a technique used by hackers to collect your credentials on unencrypted connections. By using a combination of easily available tools on the Internet, they monitor all incoming and outgoing traffic on a network so they can intercept your usernames and passwords as they’re being transmitted.

3. Phishing attack 

Even though phishing is an old trick in the hacker’s playbook, it’s still going strong and doesn’t seem to be going away anytime soon. Typically, it entails sending an email to the victim by impersonating a legitimate entity and requesting that they provide sensitive information like usernames, passwords, and even credit card details.

4. Social engineering attack 

A social engineering attack requires little technical knowledge and relies on human error, tricking otherwise unwary employees or users into performing certain actions or revealing confidential information such as passwords or bank account details.

5. Dictionary attack 

In a dictionary attack, a hacker tries hundreds – or sometimes even millions – of likely possibilities derived from a predefined list of words or dictionary in order to defeat an authentication mechanism like passwords.

6. Keystroke logging

Keystroke logging, also known as keylogging, is a technique that involves the use of a program to record or log every keystroke so they can obtain confidential information like passwords without the knowledge of the unsuspecting user.

So how do I make a secure Password?

Now that you know the common password security mistakes you need to avoid, let’s discuss how to create strong passwords. The following are some password tips to prevent hackers from accessing your online accounts:

 1. The longer your passwords, the better.

The passwords you decide to use should be at least 12 characters in length so that they’re difficult to break. The longer a password is, the more combinations a hacker would need to try in order to successfully crack it.

2. Aim for complexity.

Password length and complexity go hand-in-hand in the quest to creating strong passwords, so make sure you include lower-case and upper-case letters along with numbers and symbols. Mix them up like you mix your cocktails on a Friday night!

3. Unpredictability is key.

Unpredictability is key when it comes to password strength. Avoid predictable words, passwords based on dictionary words, as well as any references to your personal life or popular TV shows, video games, and movies.

4. Unique is the way forward. 

We’ve already highlighted this before, but its importance can’t be emphasised enough: Only use one password for one account.

Hopefully you are now equipped with the knowledge and ready to update your passwords. However, if you are still feeling uncertain and would like some more advice, don’t hesitate to give one of our friendly staff a call on 0333 444 5353 or drop us an email at [email protected] and we’ll be in touch with some more helpful tips!

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Windows 7 – is this the end?

Windows 7

Windows 7, as an operating system (OS), is probably the most popular OS in history, XP was good in its day but Windows 7 beat it. It was released in 2009 and in its first year sold 240 million copies, that’s 7 copies every second! It has become the staple business Operating System and it was only at the end of 2018 that Windows 10 became more popular. As of April 2019 Windows 10 accounts for 44%* of Operating systems on Desktops/Laptops with Windows 7 still having 36%* of the market. Windows XP that went end of life 5 years ago still has 3.5%*.

Nobody knows the exact number of computers in use worldwide but in 2015 it was estimated to be around 2 Billion, if we take that as todays figure then there are around 720 million Windows 7 PC’s in use worldwide! One hell of a successful OS for the last 10 years!

BUT in January 2020 Windows 7 is officially retired and in Microsoft terms is ‘end of life’! What does that mean? Well simply it will continue to work as it always has done, in much the same way Windows XP still works however there will be security risks which may be acceptable for a home computer but typically is going to be a major risk for business computers. Furthermore the latest applications and/or updates may not work on Windows 7.

Microsoft releases critical and security patches regularly for all operating systems as and when potential threats or vulnerabilities are found, the numbers per month vary but typically there are around 20 per month from Microsoft, from January 2020 these will not be released from Microsoft for Windows 7.

Options?

  1. Carry on as you are using Windows 7 and accept the risks.
  2. Upgrade your Windows 7 to Windows 10 subject to the computer hardware meeting Windows 10 requirements.
  3. Purchase a new computer which comes with Windows 10.

 

Essentially if you are a Windows 7 user Microsoft have effectively backed you into a corner, it is a major risk to continue using Windows 7 and the longer it is used after January 2020 the larger the risk becomes. The best advice, to be safe, is to move to Windows 10 however this will come at a cost.

Remember the WannaCry Ransomware attack on the NHS last year? This is estimated to have cost the NHS £92m and affected most XP machines within the NHS that were powered on at the time, the hack happened due to a vulnerability within the OS as no updates for XP had been released for 4 years. Something similar is a very serious threat to Windows 7 after January 2020.

Cloud53 would be happy to discuss the options with any company concerned about their OS strategy ready for the next decade.

*figures from netmarketshare April 2019

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Windows Sandbox – Coming Soon!

A new feature coming to Windows 10, for Pro and Enterprise users and it is called Windows Sandbox. Windows Sandbox is software that allows you to create a temporary isolated environment which can then be used to run a potentially suspicious app or just for testing.

Sandbox will come as part of Windows Pro/Enterprise and will be shown as a feature ready to be installed

This implementation makes it easily accessible and less work than creating a Hyper-V session for a quick test.

sand

The set up for Sandbox is very simple, once opened it’s effectively a clean and new installation of Windows, no need for a complicated set up as with other virtual environments. It has the host’s diagnostic data settings and all other privacy settings are set to the default values, totally secure and away from your network. Each time a new session is closed all settings revert to default so every session is new and fresh.

This is a very convenient security measure to have in place. You will be able to witness first-hand what an application does when run, therefore if it is harmful you can remove it from your PC without ever opening it and exposing it to your files/network as the sandbox is ring-fenced.

The reason it does not affect your PC is because it uses hardware based virtualisation for the kernel isolation. That is done by relying on Microsoft’s hypervisor (Hyper-V) to have Sandbox separate from the host.

It is in the early stages but requires Windows 10 build 18305. Obviously as this is still in beta there could be compatibility issues and performance issues.

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Cloud53 Sponsor Swinton Swimming Club

Swinton Swimming Club, who this year have a team of swimmers ranging from the ages of 8 years old to senior swimmers, have been participating in a 2- day gala which is held at Cappenberg in Lünen, Germany, which is Swinton’s twin-town, for almost every two years since the year 2000 to try and bring home the trophies.

In previous visits to this gala the club have won many medals for individual and team events and their trophies are displayed proudly in their trophy cabinet at their home in the Pendlebury Leisure Centre

SCC is a self-funded club via quiz nights and raffles, and although it does not receive any grants, this year we at Cloud53 have sponsored the club and supplied the team with their stylish polo shirts.

Cloud53 wish the Swinton Swimming Club the best of luck when they fly out on the 4th of July and hope they can bring home more trophies to add to their collection!
SwimmingClub

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An Alexa Issue

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Living in a world where people are always wanting the most up to date technological advances, there can be a darker side to these new products, an example of this has just recently been reported in the news.

The ‘Amazon Alexa’, a voice operated device which is referred to as a virtual home assistant which has a variety of different functions to allow you to say a certain phrase and the device will respond accordingly, has apparently been listening in on private conversations from its customers, when the device has not been triggered to be listening, and sent the recorded conversation to one of the people in the customer’s contacts list.

This goes to show that not every new device on the market is perfect and if we ever are in range of one of these voice operated products we should be careful on what we say, because you never know if something could go wrong and the conversation being unknowingly recorded, and possibly sent, is not just a harmless one about hardwood floors as this couple from Portland, Oregon experienced.

 

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Remote Access Warning

remote-access-laptop-hacker-security-300x300

About a month and a half ago, there were some reports surfacing of some TeamViewer users being hijacked. This mostly surfaced around 30-05-2016 to 02-06-2016, although there are some reports dating back to mid-June. The logs note that most of these computers were accessed through TeamViewer, with IP Addresses originating from a Chinese VPN, using a method known as “Custom Password”. TeamViewer has refused to explain what method is used for that to appear in the logs. The computers that were hijacked, had the saved passwords stolen, then they opened Chrome/Internet Explorer to attempt to send coupons or vouchers to China through Amazon, PayPal, or abusing any of the saved  passwords while logged into their machines.

Only a few of these computers were accessed by simple dictionary attacks due to the default 4-number password, which could be accessed in 23 hours of brute forcing. Due to the nature of TeamViewer, this password only resets when the application is restarted. Which isn’t that often…

A decent number of the intrusions also appear to coincide with the 01-06-2016 Denial of Service Attack on TeamViewer’s Authentication servers. TeamViewer declines any knowledge of a security issue, and has held their stance at it being the user’s fault for the issues that have been experienced. TeamViewer’s legal team has forced some article publishers to alter the statements about TeamViewer to cover up.

Most of these reports are unverified in a sense – as they are posted on a potentially anonymous forum, claims that cannot be verified. However, they are in such a high volume that some potential truth can be gleaned from the info.

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This as a Service (TaaS), What as a Service (WaaS)???

It seems in IT everything is as a Service (aaS) yet given the amount of questions we at Cloud53 receive about this element of managed services, clearly it is a much misunderstood way of doing things to those non IT people.

The diagram below should hopefully make this much simpler to understand using something as a Service that we all understand.

car as a service2

 

If interested in any IT services as a Service (aaS) then please do give Cloud53 a call

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Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS)

ddos

Recently it seems that every week we hear of a major website being unavailable due to a DDoS attack but what is it and why is it becoming so common?

A DDoS attack occurs when multiple systems flood the bandwidth or resources of a targeted system, usually one or more web servers. Such an attack is often the result of multiple compromised systems (for example a botnet) flooding the targeted system with traffic.

It appears that along with these attacks becoming more common, they are also becoming more serious in the sheer bandwidth that is being used. Speaking to a recent victim they saw over 80Gbps being used against their IP’s, very few providers could sustain that bandwidth. To put this into perspective in Q4 of 2013 the average DDoS attack was using an average of 2.14 Gbps.

In recent months major names have been attacked such as the BBC (reportedly over 600Gbps), Sony PlayStation network, TalkTalk, Carphone warehouse and many more but why?

It would seem that essentially the groups doing this wish to extort money from their victims, using blackmail with the threat that if they do not pay then attacks will continue. However could you trust a black mailer not to do it again after payment? This is why it is generally reported that companies do not pay, however it seems reasonable to assume that some companies do pay as these sort of attacks cost money to implement and so they must be worthwhile to the criminals?

The type of payment is the issue in these ransom situations as payment is always instructed to be made in bitcoins and so is totally untraceable (if you know what you are doing). It is also thought that money gained in this way often finds its way to support worldwide illegal activity.

You don’t have to be a large company to suffer a DDoS attack but the attackers do go to where they believe ransom money is available, however if you do become a victim of a DDoS attack and subsequent blackmail it is best to treat it as an exercise to bolster your security and potentially test your DR strategy, it is not advised to meet the demands of the cyber criminals.

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