Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Has my email address been stolen?

We hear about email addresses and passwords being lost all of the time. Quite often they are stolen by hackers who have managed to breach the lax security of some of the larger, and possibly more trusted, companies in the online world.

Personal and financial details, such as names, addresses, dates of birth and credit card information, are often lost along with website usernames and passwords.

One of the more infamous such breaches was of the Sony PlayStation databases, back in April 2011, in which 77 million user accounts were stolen, (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/PlayStation_Network_outage)

In a more recent hack the huge software company Adobe are reported to have lost data on 150 million accounts! To discover if your email address was one of those lost by Adobe go to the website https://lastpass.com/adobe/ and enter your email address(es).

Even if your email address hasn't ended up in the hands of the hackers you should take the opportunity to change all of your passwords for more secure and complex pa$3-WOrd!

There is another website at https://haveibeenpwned.com/ which can check against a lot of other hacked databases to see if your email address may have been compromised.

But, you should also ensure that you use different passwords on each and every website where you open an account, so if one is hacked you do not risk having all of your website accounts hacked. Not so easy though! Or is it?


Ideally you need to use "complex" passwords of about 8 characters, and have a different password for each website that you deal with. A complex password is built up with CAPITAL letters, lower-case letters, numb3rs and pun&tuat!on marks, such as P4s$w0rD!  But, how would you ever remember several such passwords?

Here's a simple solution. Decide on a random word which will form the basis of all of your passwords. But that word shouldn't be a real word or name which is associated with you in any way, or able to be guessed. So, let's put that into practise.

At school I really liked a girl called Carol, (although I never dared to tell her so!) So the basis of my randomly generated passwords shall be "arol".

I'll now add both punctuation and a number  - arol9!

To make it unique, to each and every web site that I use, I shall add the first 2 letters of the name of the company operating that web site to the front of my new password in Capital Letters.

So, if I am dealing with Amazon, I would create the unique password of AMarol9!
Ebay is given EBarol9!
Marks and Spencer gets MAarol9!
The IT Dept = THarol9!

I have quickly and simply created an infinite number of exceptionally strong passwords which are extremely memorable.


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© Michael Donkin 2014

Friday, 5 September 2014

Cost - Quality - Time - A Business Challenge

This Blog isn't about IT, or computers, which may make it more palatable to most folks! (Although we try to write our IT Blogs in English, we do realise that we don't always fully succeed.)

I had a 1-2-1 meeting with Amanda Jackson of TigerFish PR earlier today. They're a great PR company for the logistics market. If you make it or move it, let TigerFish PR it!

During a wide ranging and fun discussion Amanda mentioned an issue that many businesses will come across, based on a triangle of often competing business staples. 

Here at The IT Dept we are always striving to offer a quality service, within a declared time frame, at a known cost. As Amanda put it, a client can have any 2 of the 3, but achieving all 3 can be impossible.




We regularly have competing factors at play, especially when scoping work within the IT sector for clients. We often don't know exactly how long a job will take, but we do know that the client will expect a high quality job, and we need to charge for the work. 

The client, of course, wants to know how much the job is likely to cost, as well as how long it will take. They may well assume that a high quality service is to be taken for granted.

We try very hard not to skimp on the quality of our services. Which can lead to us taking longer to carry out work than some of our competitors. Obviously this may clash with the budget that a client has set for the work.

Fortunately, my meeting with Amanda followed directly on from a seminar run by Michael Finnigan, of i2i (Impossible to Inevitable).

Michael is great at explaining to his clients how they must believe that they can achieve the impossible. With such beliefs the dream becomes inevitable.

We shall endeavour to marry all three of the factors above into our proposals for clients in the future: To spend sufficient time on the work; To offer the highest quality; At a cost acceptable to both parties. The results should be inevitable.

And, on the subject of marriage - Congratulations and Good Luck to Andy and Ruth of Eat My Logo on todays nuptials! 


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The IT Dept offers computer support services in Lancashire, including Monthly On-Site or Remote Support Contracts; Secure Online Data Backup; Domain Hosting; Server and Desktop Sales; Software Supply & Installation. We cover all of Lancashire, including Chorley, Preston, Blackburn, Darwen, Bolton, Wigan, Blackpool, etc.
© Michael Donkin 2014

Wednesday, 3 September 2014

Is your iCloud data safe?

Following the recent revelations that a number of celebrities have had nude photos of themselves hacked, seemingly from within their iCloud accounts, what does this mean for you?


Do you have an iCloud account?

Probably. If you have ever bought music from the iTunes Store, or if you have ever owned an iPhone or iPad, then the chances are very high that you have set up an iCloud account.

What is an iCloud account?

It is storage for your data provided to you, for free, by Apple on the internet (i.e. in the "Cloud"). Ostensibly this allows much easier use of your Apple devices as all stored data can be shared by all of your devices. So, if you have iTunes on one device you can listen to the same music on your other Apple devices. Photos you take on an iPhone can also be viewed on your iPad.

Why is this free?

Clearly the supply and maintenance of iCloud Servers costs Apple quite a lot of money. It could be argued that they are simply giving something back, given the very high price of iPhones and iPads compared to equivalent devices from other manufacturers. But, it could also be useful for Apple to know how and why people use their phones and tablets, for market research purposes.

But I don't need that functionality

Maybe not. But your Apple device may be set to store backups of your data in the iCloud. Useful, of course, if you ever lose your iPhone with all of the precious photos on it.

Nobody wants my photos!

Obviously not, but that won't stop them looking around. You may think there isn't much in your house worth stealing, but you lock the door every time you leave.

How do they get into my account?

Apple's iCloud service is protected by email address, password and the answers to 2 out of 3 security questions. 

Your email address is, of course, public knowledge. 

These hackers seem to have used a "Dictionary" attack on the passwords, whereby software is set up to simply scroll through every word in the dictionary until it finds a match. (It will also substitute letters for numbers to try common pa55w0rd5.)

The security questions can be fairly easy to guess if you can access sufficient information about someone. For celebs this comes from Hello magazine interviews. For you and I, Facebook, Twitter or Linked In are the main sources of personal information.

But, I use 2-Step Verification

Good! 2-Step Verification sends a one-off code to your mobile phone when you try to access an online account. So, to access the account you have to know the username, the password, the answers to security questions and the one-off code. This makes life much more secure and you should use it whenever possible.

But! Apple's iCloud data is not protected in this way. Only the actual account is, to prevent hackers changing your password or answers to your security questions. If they are able to guess these then they have access to the data anyway.

What can I do to protect myself?

Even though you don't believe that you have anything worth stealing, people feel very vulnerable after suffering an intrusion into their personal space.

1. Just as you use a different key for every lock, so you should use a different, and complex, password for every website. Using a one word password, (such as password), is simply inviting trouble. Make your pa$5-WOrd£ hard to crack. See our Blog at goo.gl/occvS to learn how to do this very easily.

2. Remove or mask all personal data from Facebook, Linked In, Google+, etc.
  • Set up a free email address and use that for logging in to Social Media. (You only need to use the email address occasionally, to verify that you have access to it the first time you use it for each site.)
  • Change your date of birth (not just the year.) Your real friends know your real birthday anyway.
  • Don't be tempted by the "Find Your Friends" features of such sites. This is simply a way for them to collect your address book, so they can target your friends.
3. Set up 2-Step Verification whenever you can.

4. Use obscure answers to security questions, such as "Fantastic" for Mother's Maiden Name, or "Keyboard" for First Car, etc.

5. Don't trust companies to keep your data secure, no matter who they are or how big they are. The bigger they are, the less control they have over all of their Servers.

6. Delete your iCloud account. On your iOS device’s Home screen, go to Settings > iCloud, then at the bottom of the screen, tap Delete Account.


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The IT Dept offers computer support services in Lancashire, including Monthly On-Site or Remote Support Contracts; Secure Online Data Backup; Domain Hosting; Server and Desktop Sales; Software Supply & Installation. We cover all of Lancashire, including Chorley, Preston, Blackburn, Darwen, Bolton, Wigan, Blackpool, etc.
© Michael Donkin 2014

Tuesday, 3 June 2014

Viruses in the news again. What to do about CryptoLocker, GameOverZeus etc?

You may well have seen the recent news articles about the work of international law enforcement agencies in taking down the networks of computers that run some exceptionally malicious viruses, with names such as CryptoLocker, P2PZeuS, GameOverZeus, etc.

What does it all mean for you and what should you now do?

Here in the UK the National Crime Agency (NCA) have warned users that they have 2 weeks to protect themselves (see http://goo.gl/sPf39B). They don't seem to have made it very clear why you only have two weeks and they seem to only be suggesting that you should run good anti-virus software and to install any waiting Windows Updates. This is, of course, solid advice at any time and not just now.

It appears that the damage the NCA, along with the FBI, Interpol etc, have managed to inflict upon the main servers running these viruses is what has given us a "2 week window". The suggestion is that the "Command and Control" Servers which run these global virus operations are expected to be back up and running soon, i.e. within 2 weeks.

These Servers rely on millions of innocent computers doing the majority of their work, whilst also allowing the virus writers to hide behind many smokescreens.

Your computer may be one of those infected and running as part of this "BotNet" without you knowing about it. The point of updating anti-virus software and keeping Windows up to date is to reduce the chances of your own computer remaining infected in this way.

Internet Service Providers can spot when PCs are participating in a malicious BotNet, by the amount and type of internet traffic that is passed. To date, in the UK, they have never warned anyone that they may be infected, but there are suggestions that they may do so now.

CryptoLocker is a very effective virus which will encrypt and lock all of the data on your computer. You will then see a message on-screen, telling you that this has happened and explaining how to pay a ransom in order to buy a key that will decrypt the data. That ransom apparently varies between £250 and £400. There is no other way to decrypt the locked data.

Any data which can be seen on your network will become locked, once the virus has successfully infected any one computer on the network. This includes data held on Servers and backups held on external hard drives, which are left connected to the PC.

There are several steps that you should take to avoid infection:
1. Use off-site or online backup. This is very unlikely to become encrypted even if you do contract the virus. You simply clean the virus, restore the data from backup and continue.

2. Use a solid anti-virus. We recommend and resell WebRoot. Others are available, but some are less effective than others. Most of the "free" products are not licensed for business use.

3. Run "Windows Updates" regularly, and preferably automatically.

4. Ask us about our "CryptoPrevent" software, which attempts to stop or to disrupt such viruses from running in the first place. This is free to our own clients.

5. Most importantly. Use your own common sense! The vast majority of viruses come through Zip attachments in emails. Does anyone ever send you a Zip attachment? Probably not. If not then do not be tempted to open such an attachment, no matter who it appears to have come from.

Call us for free advice on avoiding virus infections. If you are based in Lancashire and you believe that your computer may be infected, switch it off and ask us to visit as soon as possible.


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The IT Dept offers computer support services in Lancashire, including Monthly On-Site or Remote Support Contracts; Secure Online Data Backup; Domain Hosting; Server and Desktop Sales; Software Supply & Installation. We cover all of Lancashire, including Chorley, Preston, Blackburn, Darwen, Bolton, Wigan, Blackpool, etc.
© Michael Donkin 2014

Friday, 2 May 2014

Upgrading from Windows 8 to 8.1

Whenever we can we dissuade our business clients from using Windows 8. This is because it is designed with Home Users and social media at the very forefront of the entire operating system. It is clunky to use and difficult to navigate, and really needs a touch screen to get the most out of it. Windows 8 is also part of Microsoft's long-term intentions to move everyone to the "Cloud", which may not be the ideal scenario for business users.

The concept behind Windows 8 was to have the same operating system on your phone, tablet and computer. Except that all 3 devices are used for very different purposes. Oops.

We supply Windows 7 Pro as the operating system of choice for our computers. This is an excellent version of Windows, and by far the best yet offered by Microsoft. Many of our clients who buy their own computers will find that they have bought Windows 8, so they ask us to move them to Windows 7 instead. (Microsoft refers to this as a "downgrade", whereas we prefer to think of it as an "upgrade") 

This is a free upgrade if they bought Windows 8 Pro, but this is rarely offered unless requested. Most computers ship just with Windows 8 - which is different to Windows 8 Pro. Not very obvious, is it? Again, this is fine for home users, but not so for business users.

Windows 8 Pro comes with the upgrade rights to use Windows 7 Pro instead. Windows 8 does not, so you would have to buy an additional Windows 7 licence, at approx £100. Officially, since Oct 2013, this is no longer possible.

With Windows 7 we have always, as per best practice, moved the User Data from the C: drive of the computer to a secondary D: drive. The C: drive is then used exclusively for Windows and other programmes, (such as Office, etc.) This helps to protect the user's data in the event of failure of the Windows operating system and is a much more efficient use of the hard drive in a computer. It also makes data backup much simpler.

Microsoft's own take on this practice is, 
"For Windows, the most common reasons are as follows:

  • It is easier to back up data from a single drive & from a drive that contains only user files.
  • It is easier to rebuild the operating system drive on a user’s computer if user data is located on a separate volume. In this case, the drive that contains the Windows directory can be formatted, and Windows can be reinstalled without having to worry about how to remove user data."

However, it will eventually be the case that we will no longer be able to supply Windows 7. Microsoft originally said this would be in late 2014, but have since changed this to a date "to be determined". They have already stopped selling Windows 7 as an off-the-shelf product, as mentioned above.

So we will be forced to supply Windows 8, or its successor, whether or not that is good for our business clients. Which is all in the name of progress, of course. Or is it?

A Windows 8 computer will still allow us to move the User Data folders to the secondary partition, or D: drive. Indeed, this is becoming a vital necessity as we are starting to see relatively small SSD (Solid State Drives) being used for the operating system, (as they are very fast indeed), with more normal, larger hard drives used for the User Data, (as they are very cheap).

All well and good. Until we decide that we wish to upgrade the awful Windows 8 to the slightly less appalling Windows 8.1. In that case we can spend many hours downloading the Windows 8.1 upgrade, only to then see a message on screen saying, "Sorry, it looks like this PC can't run Windows 8.1. This might be because the Users or Program Files folder is being redirected to another partition.."

The reasoning behind this is very unclear indeed and is very much a backward step by Microsoft, especially in the face of SSD drives becoming more widely used.

The way around this problem is to manually move each user's data folders, one at a time, to the D: drive, but to leave that user's "profile" on the C: drive. This is a poor compromise which goes against Microsoft's own reasoning for moving the user profile completely, as shown above.

Microsoft says, "By changing the default location of the user profile directories or program data folders to a volume other than the system volume, you cannot service your Windows installation. Any updates, fixes, or service packs cannot be applied to the installation. We recommend that you do not change the location of the user profile directories or program data folders."

This means that, in one Microsoft article on this very issue, they recommend keeping the operating system and user data separate, and then tell us that we cannot do this! (see http://support.microsoft.com/kb/949977)


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The IT Dept offers computer support services in Lancashire, including Monthly On-Site or Remote Support Contracts; Secure Online Data Backup; Domain Hosting; Server and Desktop Sales; Software Supply & Installation. We cover all of Lancashire, including Chorley, Preston, Blackburn, Darwen, Bolton, Wigan, Blackpool, etc.
© Michael Donkin 2014

Tuesday, 15 April 2014

HeartBleed - what do I need to do?

The HeartBleed "Bug" is not a virus which may infect your computer. It is a flaw, or vulnerability, in the software which protects some "Secure" websites.

If you see HTTPS at the start of a web address, the letter "S" stands for Secure, which gives you peace of mind when sharing sensitive information with that website.

Except that some sites may not have been so secure as we'd once thought!

Effectively this bug could have allowed attackers to read the memory of affected web servers. That memory may have included information such as your username and password, etc. 

No-one knows for sure whether, or not, this flaw was ever exploited by any hackers. It has been present in the affected software for about 2 years and the world has yet to stop, so my own suspicion is that it hasn't been used against any Web Servers so far.

A fix for the flaw has been issued and almost all affected web servers will have been patched by now.

So, that's OK, panic over then. Phew!

But, and there's always a but, because we don't know too much about whether or not this flaw was ever exploited, the recommendation now is to change all of your internet passwords anyway.

Why bother? Because it is very good safe-surfing practice to change your passwords every 6 months or so, and why not do it now?

You should use complex passwords, which are different for every web site that you visit. A complex password is built up with CAPITAL letters, lower-case letters, numb3rs and pun&tuat!on marks, such as P4ssw0rD!  But, how would you ever remember several such passwords?

Here's a simple solution. Decide on a random word which will form the basis of all of your passwords. But that word shouldn't be a real word or name which is associated with you in any way, or able to be guessed. Let's put that into practice.

At school I really liked a girl called Carol, (although I never dared tell her so!) So the basis of my randomly generated passwords shall be "arol".

I'll now add both punctuation and a number  - arol9!

That is the core of all my new passwords.


To make it unique, wherever I may need a password, I shall add the first 2 letters of the name of the company I am dealing with to the front of my new password in Capital Letters.

So, if I am dealing with Amazon, I would create the unique password of AMarol9!
Ebay is given EBarol9!
Marks and Spencer gets MAarol9!
The IT Dept = THarol9!

I have quickly and simply created an infinite number of exceptionally strong passwords which are extremely memorable.



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The IT Dept offers computer support services in Lancashire, including Monthly On-Site or Remote Support Contracts; Secure Online Data Backup; Domain Hosting; Server and Desktop Sales; Software Supply & Installation. We cover all of Lancashire, including Chorley, Preston, Blackburn, Darwen, Bolton, Wigan, Blackpool, etc.
© Michael Donkin 2014

Tuesday, 25 March 2014

Windows XP goes “End of Life” on 8th April 2014

Q. End of Life? What does that mean? 

A. Microsoft’s most popular operating system ever, Windows XP has been with us since Oct 2001. It is still installed on almost 30% of computers. Microsoft bring out newer, more secure, operating systems every 3 years or so and they are now retiring Windows XP, so that they can stop having to support it.

Q. How does that affect me?

A. After 8th April Microsoft will no longer release security patches for Windows XP. Hackers are forever attempting to discover new vulnerabilities in the operating system of your computer, which could allow them to gain control. If you are still using Windows XP then the chances of a successful hack, or virus infection, of your system will quickly grow over the next few weeks.

Q. How do I know if I have Windows XP?

A. Click the “Start” button. You should see either “Run” or a blank white box. Type “winver” and hit the Enter key. This should bring up a box showing information on the version of Windows that you have. Also, if you do have Windows XP you’ve probably had annoying pop-up messages from Microsoft, warning you of its end-of-life status.

Q. Why should I care? There’s nothing worth stealing on my computer!

A. Don’t be so sure. All of your banking details? All of those photos you’d rather keep private? All of your friends email addresses? Your Facebook log-in details? Also, any new hardware or software will probably not work with Windows XP.

Q. What do I need to do then?

A. You need to upgrade from Windows XP to a newer operating system, with the choice currently being either Windows 7 or Windows 8.

Q. Is this a free upgrade?

A. No. Microsoft isn’t one of the world’s most profitable companies for nothing. You either need to buy a new computer, which will come with a new operating system, or you could buy a Windows 7 or 8 licence and upgrade your PC from DVD.

Q. So, what will it cost?

A. A new computer can cost anywhere from £350, but for a decent spec, business-grade PC, expect to pay more like £450. A copy of Windows 7 or 8 on DVD can be bought for £85 or so.

Q. The new licence sounds a cheaper option. Is that best?

A. Probably not. A computer running Windows XP is almost certainly too “old” in computer terms anyway. You would not find that upgrading it would suddenly make it run any better. In fact, the reverse may well be true; and it is possible that the computer simply won’t accept the upgrade. This isn’t for the faint-hearted though, so seek advice first!

Q. Will Microsoft offer any advice or support on upgrading?

A. The effective answer is “no”. You can find material on Microsoft’s websites, but this tends to be factual information regarding the cut-off dates and why they are doing this. You should contact your IT Support Company or a local, independent computer shop for serious advice.

Q. April 8th? That doesn’t leave me much time, does it?

A. No, but “Don’t Panic”. We recommend upgrading as soon as possible, not only because your computer will become more vulnerable, but because the very fact that it is running on Windows XP means that an upgrade is well overdue anyway. We would definitely advise making the move before May 31st 2014, which gives you some planning time without taking too many risks with your PC.

Q. OK, I’m willing to upgrade, but should I go with Windows 7 or Windows 8?

A. This really depends on what you use the computer for. The two operating systems are much the same “under the bonnet”, but they look very different in use. (Microsoft would tell us that Windows 8 has much greater security built in, which is true, but not of great importance to businesses with good IT support). In our opinion, Windows 7 is more suited to business users, whereas Windows 8 is better for home users, especially those with a touch screen computer.

Windows 7 looks more like Windows XP, so the inevitable learning curve is much less onerous for a normal computer user than is the case with Windows 8.

Windows 8 is also targeted more at “social” use, rather than business use.

Q. What if my business critical software will only run on Windows XP?

A. You could run a “virtual” instance of Windows XP within your new computer. Or, could you keep one or two PCs separate from the rest of the network, just for running that software? But, your best option is to accept that the time has come to also upgrade that software, which has to happen sooner or later.

Q. Wow. This is more involved than I thought. What do I do next?


A. Speak to The IT Dept about your best options, as there may be different solutions for different people. As Microsoft Partners we are very well placed to offer you the right advice, with the minimum of confusion.

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The IT Dept offers computer support services in Lancashire, including Monthly On-Site or Remote Support Contracts; Secure Online Data Backup; Domain Hosting; Server and Desktop Sales; Software Supply & Installation. We cover all of Lancashire, including Chorley, Preston, Blackburn, Darwen, Bolton, Wigan, Blackpool, etc.
© Michael Donkin 2014

Wednesday, 26 February 2014

Unable to send emails through a BT Broadband account

Almost all of our clients have their own domain names, which they use for their own websites and email addresses. Many of those clients have set up their email system at home to check their work email accounts. 

Those who have a residential BT Broadband line, as opposed to a business line, may find that they are suddenly unable to send emails from their own domain from home. This may be the case even though they have successfully used their own domain to do just this for some time.

You may see an error message pointing you to a web address similar to http://www.spamhaus.org/query/bl?ip=xx.xx.xx.xx (where xx.xx.xx.xx shows your computers "IP Address". Going to that link shows that your IP Address is blocked. Going further into the SpamHaus pages gives an explanation (See http://www.spamhaus.org/pbl/query/PBL231589)

That page explains that BT Retail do not allow unauthenticated emails through their system. That is different to refusing to allow emails sent from authenticated domains other than BT Internet, of course, but let's skip over that issue.

Why they do not allow you to send emails from your own, authenticated, domain is hard to fathom, although BT claim this is an anti-spam measure.

The way round this would appear to be that you need to add your own domain email address as an additional account within your BT Mail system. 

When I sought help on this issue from BT, 3 different Techies spent some time telling me that they had no idea what I was talking about, but one of them did eventually send me a Help Document - see http://bt.custhelp.com/app/answers/detail/a_id/10903 - which shows the solution, (although this is for their email system when it was linked with Yahoo!, so the pictures are different, but the principle is the same.)

I then discovered that you do not get a BT email address by default when you sign up to their broadband system. Why not, when you aren't allowed to use any other email addresses? (They obviously expect everyone to use a Web based email service, which would work.)

So, you have to contact BT Sales to ask for an email address to be set up on your account.

You then have to log on to your BT Portal, at http://www.bt.com, and choose the Email tab. Once in there look for Settings, Accounts and add a new account.

You need to know the settings for your own domain's email accounts, but once configured everything works again! Magic.

I have no idea why this is such a difficult proposition for BT, or why their Techies have never before encountered the problem. Even my old Dad has his own domain and unique email address!


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The IT Dept offers computer support services in Lancashire, including Monthly On-Site or Remote Support Contracts; Secure Online Data Backup; Domain Hosting; Server and Desktop Sales; Software Supply & Installation. We cover all of Lancashire, including Chorley, Preston, Blackburn, Darwen, Bolton, Wigan, Blackpool, etc.
© Michael Donkin 2014

Tuesday, 18 February 2014

Costs of an old, slow computer

Many of our clients, when faced with the prospect of upgrading their old computers, tell us, "We can't afford it right now". But, can they afford not to?

Just as older cars start to become more expensive to run than a newer car, the same is true of computers. However, the costs of slow computers are more hidden.

We believe that most decent spec, business grade computers should last about 4 to 5 years. After that they become less efficient for many technical reasons and the cost of upgrading becomes greater than the cost of replacement.

As a very rough guide, the computers we sell generally cost around the £400 mark. Add £100 for the configuration, installation, delivery and set up in your office. Then add another £100 for a nice new monitor, if you need one, to get an estimated overall price of £600 (+ VAT).

If that computer lasts only 4 years then the annual cost is around £150.

If an employee earning £10 an hour has a slow computer, which loses them only 20 minutes per day, that is costing your business £3.33 per day purely in staff costs, (ignoring the higher power costs of old equipment). That is equivalent to £765.90 per year (of 230 working days).

Upgrading your computers can save you money, as well as reducing frustration and annoyance, giving you a much happier and more productive workforce.
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The IT Dept offers computer support services in Lancashire, including Monthly On-Site or Remote Support Contracts; Secure Online Data Backup; Domain Hosting; Server and Desktop Sales; Software Supply & Installation. We cover all of Lancashire, including Chorley, Preston, Blackburn, Darwen, Bolton, Wigan, Blackpool, etc.
© Michael Donkin 2014

Saturday, 18 January 2014

Emails from "ICANN" asking to verify the WHOIS contact information

The organisation responsible for domain names across the internet is called ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers).

They have determined that many people who have registered domain names have used false email addresses to do so. The reasoning behind people wishing to do this is likely to be in order to reduce spam, as ICANN happily publish those email addresses to all and sundry.

For reasons which remain unclear, and without any publicity that we are aware of,  ICANN now wish any Registrant of a domain name with suffixes such as ".com", ".org" and ".net" to verify that they actually have access to the email address held on the ICANN database. I couldn't find any definitive information on this unexpected move on ICANN's own website at http://www.icann.org/ 

However, we have clients who have reported to us that their domain has been suspended, following receipt of an email from ICANN asking them to click a link to verify their email address. That this email has every appearance of a phishing scam seems to have passed ICANN by in their rush to enforce the rule that domain names must be registered to people with legitimate email addresses.

Had I received this email I would have deleted it without a second thought as it screams "SCAM!"

The body of the email being sent out reads:

Please be advised that as of the 1st January 2014 it has now become a mandatory requirement from the Internet Corporation for Assigned Name and Numbers (ICANN) that all ICANN accredited registrars verify the WHOIS contact information for all new domain registrations, domain transfers and registrant contact modifications.

You have received this email as you have recently transferred one or more domains to Your domain services provider with the following registrant details:

Name: Xxxxx Xxxxxxx
Email Address: xxxx@xxxxxxx.com

Under the changes requested by ICANN you need to verify your registrant email address. Please click on the link below to verify this email address.

https://www.verify-whois.com/?DW%2bXxjsfv7sldjfvsdnfv;kjsd6bsadcflkj7slkdjfcv

You have 15 days from the time the transfer completed to verify your email address.  If your email address is not verified within these 15 days the domain name(s) will be suspended until the email address is verified.

Once the link above is clicked this email address and the domains listed below will be instantly verified.

Please note this email is not a phishing email and is being sent to you following the change outlined above from the 1st January 2014 by ICANN.

Whilst this email is genuine, and clicking on the link did indeed verify the email address with ICANN, you can expect to see similarly worded emails being sent out by malicious scammers.

How do you tell the difference between the real email and a scam?

If your domain is registered through us then you will be the "Registrant", or legal holder, of the domain name and so you will receive the email from ICANN. We won't be aware of this as, unlike many domain registration companies, we do not register the domain name in our own name, as it is your domain and not ours.


You can forward any such emails to us for checking if you wish. This service is free of charge if the domain name has been registered through ourselves, of course.

UPDATED: 05 March 2014

As we said above, "you can expect to see similarly worded emails being sent out by malicious scammers". Today we saw the first such email, which was pretending to be from Microsoft, starting with the line, "New Regulations from Microsoft Corporation and your email host, now require that email account holders must verify their email account information."

As suspected that email isn't genuine and clicking the "Verification Link" would take you to a malicious website which would install viruses on to your computer.

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The IT Dept offers computer support services in Lancashire, including Monthly On-Site or Remote Support Contracts; Secure Online Data Backup; Domain Hosting; Server and Desktop Sales; Software Supply & Installation. We cover all of Lancashire, including Chorley, Preston, Blackburn, Darwen, Bolton, Wigan, Blackpool, etc.
© Michael Donkin 2014