Christmas is coming, don’t let the hackers get fat

Christmas is nearly here, people are beginning the big “wind down” and it would be so easy to let your guard down too.

Andy, checking out websites as part of his work

Well, let me tell you, the hackers and cyber criminals won’t – it anything they’ll be ratcheting up their activity because they know that our minds will be on other things.

You know, things like Christmas parties, gifts, food, television and everything else that’s associated with the season of goodwill.

So, vigilance must remain high, both in the office and when working from home. Keep your eyes open for suspicious looking emails, especially those coming from unexpected quarters, with messages that promise much, such as tax refunds or deliveries of items you don’t remember ordering. Also beware of emails with links to websites that look OK but in reality will do harm.

It’s also a good idea to take a fresh look at your password security. SplashData have just released their ninth annual “Worst Passwords of the Year” list which has been compiled from more than 5m passwords that have ended up on the Dark Web after being purloined by hackers.

Unfortunately, not a lot has changed over previous lists

  1. 123456 (same place as 2018)
  2. 123456789 (up 1 place)
  3. qwerty (a return to the top 5 for this old favourite)
  4. password (slips two places)
  5. 1234567 (up 2)
  6. 12345678 (falls out of the top 5)
  7. 12345 (falls by 2 places)
  8. iloveyou (this perennial is up 2 places from 10 in 2018)
  9. 111111 (yes, people do use this although it’s fallen 3 places from last year)
  10. abc123 (up 7 and breaking in to the top 10)

You can see passwords from 11 to 25 here.

SplashData estimates that at least 1 in 10 people have used at least one of these poor passwords.

Data breaches are inevitable but by using strong, unique passwords for each individual account that you have makes the theft of one password much less of a disaster than if you use the same (or close variant) across all of your accounts.

3 simple tips to make your digital life more secure

  1. Use passphrases (random word combinations) of 12 characters or more with mixed character types
  2. Use a different password for each of your log-ins so if you loose one password you haven’t lost all of the keys to your digital empire
  3. Use a password manager to secure your digital assets, to generate random password combinations, store them securely and make them available across all of your devices

And PLEASE, if this applies to to you – STOP USING PASSWORD or 12345678 and use one of these instead

Top Password Managers (in no particular order)

Have a great Christmas, a happy new year and I look forward to communicating with you in the new year. If you need any help, please, just ask. You can reach me by phone – 01793 238020 – email – andy@enterprise-oms.co.uk or just hunt me down on Social Media.

However, I hope to enjoy Christmas too so may be slower than normal in responding to your requests. I’ll be back in the office on January 2nd.

Yes, it’s “Password Madness” time

USer name and password box

Government Communications Head Quarters (GCHQ)- where the UK spooks provide signals intelligence to the UK’s government, military and Military Intelligence and the Department for Digital, Media and Sport (DCMS) carried out their first UK Cyber Survey and the results didn’t make for great reading.

Apparently

  • 42% of us Brits expect to lose money to on-line fraud
  • 23.2 million worldwide victims of cyber breaches used 123456 as their password
  • 15% say they know how to properly protect themselves from harmful on-line activity
  • 33% rely on friends and family for help with their cyber security
  • Young people are the most likely to be cyber aware, privacy concious and careful of the details they share on-line
  • 61% of internet users check Social Media daily, 21% say they never look at it
  • More than 50% use the same password for their email that they use elsewhere
Hacker Inside

Dr Ian Levy, NCSC Technical Director said “Using hard-to-guess passwords is a strong first step and we recommend combining three random but memorable words. Be creative and use words memorable to you, so people can’t guess your password.” whilst Margot James, DMCS Minister said “We shouldn’t make their (cyber criminals) lives easy so choosing a strong and separate password for your email account is a great practical step. “

Most Regularly Used Passwords

RankPasswordTimes Used PasswordTimes Used
1.123456 23.2m ashley432,276
2.1237567897.7m michael425,291
3.qwerty3.8m daniel368,227
4.password3.6m jessica324,125
5.11111113.1m charlie308,939

It’s a shame that the top password list hasn’t really changed for at least 10 years – it shows how complacent a lot of us are with our on-line security.

I used to have 3 passwords, a simple one that I used really casually for newspaper sign-ups etc – name123 (not my real passwords, merely examples) a medium security one that I used on shopping sites, n@m3123 and a more secure one, used for banking etc – c3ler0n! (and all of the ones that I used feature on the Have I Been Pwned list).

About 5 or more years ago I switched to a Password Manager. I have 801 log-ins and 801 different passwords. All of them are at least 16 random characters long and comprise upper & lower case letters, numbers and symbols (where permitted).

Logging On

My Password database is stored securely in the cloud and is replicated on my PC, Phone and Tablet and accessible from my Chromebook too. I use LastPass but others exist and here’s a review of some of the top ones.

As you can see, I do my best to stay on top of my security but if you feel adrift, or need some help, just give me a call on 01793 238020 or email andy@enterprise-oms.co.uk for a free chat.

What the FA is 2FA and do you need it?

Let’s answer the easy question first, “do you need 2FA”? The simple answer is “yes”, you do need Two Factor Authentication (2FA). Now read on to learn more about what it is, how it works and how it can secure your data and online activity

I’ve written in previous posts about passwords, hacking, identity theft and the threat to our privacy, data and businesses from cyber criminals. As you might imagine, the number of attacks is increasing, as is the sophistication.

Why are Cyber Attacks increasing

Simple! The number of websites that we log-in to continues to increase and many people use one password across many websites. As you can see from the list on the right a lot of people use passwords that are less than ideal. The cyber criminals know this which makes it a gift for them.

Some people think they are safe because they have 3 passwords. A simple one for common sites where they don’t see a threat (posting comments to newspaper websites for example), a medium one that they use for on-line shopping and Cloud storage sites (DropBox for example) and a really complicated one for their “secure” sites, such as bank access etc. 

After all, just trying to remember pWa#eeAS7uNggK49 is a challenge but if you have to remember a different one for every single website it becomes a real challenge. You might jot them down in a notebook or diary but what happens if you loose your book, or just leave it on a train. Not only have you been frozen out of your accounts (until you work your way through all those “forgotten password” routines) but your security has been seriously compromised.

Some people, like me for example, use password manager. These apps create a secure password for ever site that you log in to and make it available across desk-tops, lap-tops, phones and tablets and don’t cost very much at all. But even if you use one how secure are you, actually?

chocolate teapot

If a site that you use your super strong password on is penetrated and data stolen, your strong password is about as much use (from a security perspective) as the infamous chocolate teapot.

And if you have used this super-strong password on more than one site you are at an even greater risk of becoming a victim of data theft. With more than 6,474m email addresses in the wild for cyber criminals to use and 551m passwords stolen in security hacks the criminals job gets ever easier.

Use the Have I been Pwned website to see whether your passwords have been stolen by cyber criminals or nabbed in a data breach and read more about the risk, and how the criminals use this stolen data in a previous post.

What’s the Solution

It’s actually fairly simple. It’s called two factor authentication [2FA] or multi-factor authentication. This is where another layer of authentication is required, beyond your user name and password.

In the early days of 2FA sites would send you a text with an access code so you could only log-in if you had your phone with you [and had a mobile signal]. This extra layer of security hit the cyber-criminals hard, until they realised that intercepting text messages was not particularly difficult if you were tech-savvy so something else was required.

Image result for hsbc internet banking device

The banks solved this problem by providing you with a device like the one to the right, this one’s from HSBC. At the website you enter your user-name and pass-code as normal, enter a PIN in the device and then enter the displayed number from the device in to your banks website. It may feel like a pain but it really does have a positive effect on the security of your on-line banking. A criminal needs a your user name/password, access to a device as well as your device PIN

Microsoft Authenticator

Having a device for every website is pretty clunky so Microsoft and Google released authentication apps for Android and iPhones. The way they work is they generate a six digit code, as can be seen in the image on the right, and the website that you are looking to access requests this code after you have entered your user-name and password – as demonstrated in this screen-shot of my LastPass password manager.

Two Factor Authentiaction

All I have to do is launch my Authenticator App and enter the six digit password. For additional security, the code changes every 30 seconds or so

Hardware Security

Hardware 2FA security solution

The final security solution is the physical “Key” such as this one from Yubikey. This is a USB device that simply plugs in to a USB port on your computer and allows you access to secured sites – or even your computer itself.

If you are worried by your security, or need any help with your internet activity, from a new website through social media and on to other online marketing opportunities then just send me an email – andy@enterprise-oms.co.uk or give me a call on 01793 238020

 

Have you had your electronic ID stolen?

In other words, have you been pwned*. There have been millions of email addresses and passwords stolen in hack attacks and millions more that have been left exposed by incompetent website owners. However, it’s not just your email address that’s been stolen, your name will have gone with it, possibly your address and maybe even credit card (and other) data.

The stolen information is then made available for sale on the dark web and here’s a sample of the prices it can fetch

  • Credit/debit card number – $5-$11
  • With the CVV (3 digit) security code – + $5
  • “Fullz” (card, CVV, name, address, date of birth etc.) – $30
  • Bank account access – 10% of the credit balance in the account
  • Online Payment Services, such as PayPal – $20-$200

But how do you know whether your information is “out there” just waiting to be abused by cyber criminals? Well, I don’t know but I know a man who does, and he’s set up a rather useful website

Have I been Pwned?

There’s a website called Have I Been Pwned. This has been created by Troy Hunt, a Microsoft Regional Director & MVP (Microsoft Most Valuable Person for developer security). After data from a major cyber incident was “found” on the Dark Web Troy decided to put a database together – in his own time & at his own cost – as a way of allowing people to check whether their data was amongst stolen information and to “keep his hand in” from a programming perspective.

The site is now a comprehensive source of information about data hacks and data loss and is simple to use. All you have to do is enter your email address to see whether you have been “pwned”

And if you have been, as shown in the image above, it will also tell you which data breach (breaches) your email address has been found in.

Not every data breach leads to passwords being available. Some databases have encrypted passwords, making them worthless to the cyber criminal. However, many don’t and, like email addresses, there are millions (over 550) of passwords available on the Dark Web.

As he’s done with email addresses, Troy has now gathered all the stolen passwords that he can find and has created another searchable database dedicated to stolen passwords.

Why it’s important to know whether your passwords are available to cyber criminals.

At this point, all the criminals have is a list of emails and and another list of passwords. They may not know which ones go together and they also don’t know which websites these email addresses and passwords relate to.

But, from our perspective, there’s a significant weakness. This comes in to play because a lot of people use the same password for many websites simply because it’s easier to remember one password than many. This use of the same password makes things a lot easier for the cyber criminals to put our data to fraudulent use.

Let’s say, for example, that the criminals target Amazon. You might have your credit card details already stored against your account so if a cyber criminal can gain access, all they have to do is change a delivery address and Bob’s their uncle.

They’ll use a “Credential Stuffing Attack” which means that they’ll load all the email addresses in to one database and the passwords in to another and start the attack. First they pick their target (Amazon in my example) and use software that will add an email address to the log-in box. They’ll then turn to different software to try all the passwords in the password database to see whether there’s a match.

And once they’ve tried one email address they’ll automatically move on the next one. Once they’ve tried all combinations, and flagged those that work, they’ll move on to another site.

This sounds like a long, slow process but they’ll probably use a “Botnet” – a network of tens, hundreds or possibly thousands of hacked computers around the world that they have control over.

So, you should check “Have I Been Pwned” for both email addresses and passwords and if you’ve got a compromised password you should find the sites you use it on and change it – remembering to use a different one for each site.

Top 10 Passwords of 1018

Different, not similar – Password, PassWord, PAssword1960 and Pa55W0rd are NOT different to a cyber criminal. Criminals will also use these, and other variants of the world’s most popular passwords (2018’s shown in the image to the right) in their attempts to hack your accounts.

If you are concerned about your digital security, or need some help with your website, SEO or anything else online then just drop me an email, andy@enterprise-oms.co.uk , or give me a call on 01793 238020 for a free, no obligation conversation about your requirements

*Pwned – When a map designer in the online game called Warcraft beat another player he wanted to say “Player x has been owned”. Unfortunately, he mis-typed and actually said “Played x has been Pwned”. This is now a “thing”

Worries with WordPress, or what happens if you don’t keep up with updates

WordPress Logo

You might have a website that’s been build using WordPress. No one will blame you, after all it’s free and has become probably the most used Content Management Systems (CMS) out there. In fact, in 2018 around one third of all websites were built on WordPress.

You might have built the site yourself or paid a developer to design and build it for you. You might not even know that your site has been built using WordPress.

It’s popular because it’s free and pretty easy to use – well it is when compared to some of the alternatives out there anyway. Although popular and free, it may not be the best and although it It is OK it does have a number of issues.

WordPress Editing screen

Because it’s so popular it’s become a top target for hackers. This means that the people behind WordPress have to be on their toes, always on the lookout for weaknesses & flaws that the hackers can exploit to break into a website and create mayhem.

When the WordPress developers come across such a flaw they create a patch and release a new version of WordPress. As an example, the current version is 4.7. However within the next couple of weeks there will probably be a new version. 4.7.1 and then 4.7.2 and so on and so on and so on, releasing updates as and when flaws are discovered.

You and your web developer need to be on top of this by making sure that you’re running the latest version of WordPress. The newer versions, if set-up properly, should update themselves automatically but you need to keep an eye on things just in case. Older versions had to updated manually, by clicking the ‘Update Now’ link so it all seems pretty straightforward. But it’s not!

Why things may not be as easy as they seem

WordPress Menu

Most websites using WordPress use a number of Plug-Ins, small pieces of software that add extra functionality to the website and make it easier to manage.

However, you need to exercise caution when updating – especially if you use a lot of plugins to manage different elements of your site because some of the plug-ins may not have been updated to work with the latest version of WordPress.

This means that hitting the WordPress Update link might cause a plugin to stop working and this could break your website.

But what happens if you don’t update WordPress?

Well, you might find that your website gets hacked and will start to do things that you would’t want to be associated with. It could start to download malware to the computers of all the people who visit your site – software that could monitor their keystrokes and pass banking details back to criminals in Eastern Europe or China, for example.

Or you could find – as one news website found out to their embarrassment – a lot of unsavoury spam being inserted into the first paragraph of every news story on their website.

Hacked WordPress page
How did this happen?

The company were very lax – their site was built using WordPress and was last updated in June 2012. Since then, there have been 114 updates to WordPress, some to improve performance and some to improve security.

By failing to keep up to date this gave the hackers and “easy in”. The hackers were able to use automated tools to find websites using WordPress and to find out which version was being used. From there, it would have been simple for the hackers to target a known weak spot and break in. From there, it would have been the work of moments to install their own spammy code.

What should their website manager do?

It’s easy to cure – all they have to do is identify and delete the malicious software and then update to the latest version of WordPress, although they are so behind with their updates that they might find their site gets broken by the update so they might be caught between a rock and a hard place.

If you are worried about WordPress, then don’t hesitate to get in touch. Give me a call on 01793 238020 or drop an email to andy@enterprise-oms.co.uk for a free, confidential and obligation free chat.

The Deep Web and Dark Web. What are they?

Browser Address bar

The Deep Dark Web

The “Dark Web” has been in the press frequently over the past couple of years, associated with tales of hacking, the sale of personal information, credit card data, drugs, weapons and other illicit items. However,  there’s been very little by way of explanation as to what the dark web is and how you go there and this item looks to answer that, purely for research purposes of course.

A number of news stories have also referred to the “Deep Web” which has lead to a degree of confusion, as if the media consider the two to be interchangeable.

So, just to clear up any confusion here’s an explanation of the differences between the Deep and the Dark Web.

Let’s start at the top

The “Surface Web” is the web we all know and love, the websites we visit and the sites/pages that we find using Google/Bing/Yahoo and other search engines. And there’s the key, it’s only the parts of the internet that the search engines know about.

Just visit any website and click a few links, you’ll be doing the same thing that the search engines do, visiting websites and following links to find pages that they can present to you when you’re looking for things.

Steps leading down to represent the Deep Web

What is The Deep Web

Simply put, the Deep Web is just the area of the internet that is beyond the reach of the major search engines.

As an example, just go to www.britishairways.comand try to find a holiday to the Nautic Hotel between 7th and 14th October in Mallorca without using the search facilities.

It’s not that easy, in fact it you might find it confusing/difficult/impossible. You’re not alone, the search engines do to because they can’t get much further down than the first 3-4 layers. At least this is getting better because Google, Bing and the like are always looking to improve the way they manage such challenges but it’s still a struggle for them. 

Websites can use code, called robots.txt, to actually block the search engines from certain pages so that they are difficult to find, deliberately. Websites with members only pages may choose to do this, for example.

As you can see, the Deep Web is neither illicit nor scary, it’s just out of reach of the major search engines.

What is the Dark Web

This is where things get really interesting. The Dark Web is a small portion of the web that is intentionally hidden and encrypted and which cannot be accessed through your typical web browser.

TOR logo representing the Dark Web

To access the Dark Web you need a specialised web browser that enables you to tap into the the TOR network. TOR, short for ‘The Onion Router’, so called because it uses many layers to both encrypt the data that moves around and to make it almost impossible for the authorities to trace internet activity back to a particular user and location. Great for security and anonymity which is why TOR was originally designed by US Intelligence agencies to enable American spies to securely communicate with their parent organisation and not reveal their location and identity. 

The code was officially released to the public in 2004, and it’s still used by human rights groups and the like in repressive and unsafe countries to communicate with the outside world, but like almost everything it has also been subverted by those with criminal tendencies and put to a darker use.

You might recall that a couple of years ago the media was full of stories about a Dark Web website called Silk Road. This was like an eBay for criminals, a place where you could buy illegal items such as drugs & weapons and engage criminals to carry out illegal activities on your behalf, hacking for example.

The Silk Road was eventually closed down by the authorities but similar sites still exist if you know where to look and how to access them.

The first step is to download the TOR software, it’s free and pretty easy to find. However there’s no Dark Web version of Google – you have to know your way around if you want to find the illegal stuff – I don’t and wouldn’t broadcast it even if I did know.

I may not be able to help with your journey to the Dark Web but if your Surface Web needs improving or your Deep Web needs surfacing to make it easy to find, then get in touch, andy@enterprise-oms.co.uk or give me a call- 01793 238020 and I’ll dive in and see what I can do.

007 in ‘For your GDPR Only’

MI6 headquartersWhen “M” has finished spymastering for the day, or pops out for a cheeky Nandos, we always see M locking the “Top Secret” files away in the office  safe. We know that’s so that no secrets will be discovered, even if an enemy spy (or the tea person) manages to gain access to the empty office.

In business, we need to be like “M”.

In a previous post I looked at Data Protection and the forthcoming General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR). However, I didn’t make it clear that the regulations don’t just apply to digital data stored on your IT systems and network but also apply to paper records too.

Anything that contains personal data, whether paper or digital, falls under the auspices of the Act, including the recordings from your CCTV cameras, phone systems (think “this call may be recorded for training purposes”) and biometric data – such as fingerprint or iris recognition systems used to unlock systems or grant access.

Keyboard with the word 'Privacy' overlaid

This means the files on your desk, the files in your filing cabinet, your paper archives as well as your electronic records, anything that includes personal data.

To start with, you need to ask yourself

  • Who has overall responsibility for the data you have and/or use?
  • What data are you holding, why are you holding it and where is it held?
  • Are your Privacy and Data Use Policies as good as they need to be?
  • How long do you need to keep data & how will you securely destroy it when you no longer need to keep it?
  • Who has legitimate access to it and who else can access it?
  • How secure is your building, your paper records and IT systems?
  • What happens out of normal business hours?
  • Can data be exported and removed without authorisation (to a USB key for example)?
  • Is your network connected to the internet and how secure is your connection?
  • Can your network be accessed remotely – is this secure?
  • Is your electronic data encrypted so, in the event of a breach, data cannot be accessed and used?
  • Can your network prevent unauthorised intrusion (hacking)?
  • How do you manage Subject Access Requests, (when someone requests to see the data you hold about them)?
  • How will you manage a data breach, whether it’s a hack, unauthorised file copy or unauthorised removal of paper records?

So, how can I help?

I can put you in touch with reliable IT companies and trusted partners

  • Blob figure staring, "James Bond like" down the barrel of a gunthat will be able to inventory all of your IT and data assets.
  • who’ll test your network to see how secure it is and whether hackers are likely to be able to gain access
  • who will secure your network from external threats (hacking) and ensure that your remote access requirements are reliable, easy to use and secure.
  • who will help you secure your data inside the organisation and set things up so that only appropriately authorised employees can access the data they need to do their job and no more.
  • who will secure your network so that it’s almost impossible for data to be copied onto a USB key or external hard drive and removed from the organisation
  • who will put transparent encryption in place which means that it doesn’t slow anything down but is so strong that only GCHQ or the NSA would be likely to crack it.

Take the first step now, by giving me a call on 01793 238020 or emailing andy@enterprise-oms.co.uk to find out how I can help mitigate data security risks and start preparing for GDPR guidelines.

How much did your last cup of coffee cost?

Cybercrime is everywhere these days, in 2016 the cost to the UK was over £1bn with more than 5.5m cyber offences taking place in the UK every year. That’s almost 50% of ALL UK crime.

Cup of coffee and coffee beansThere’s lots of advice on passwords, I regularly write about them, and other security measures that you can take but did you know that even a trip to your favourite coffee shop could end up being far more expensive than the price you pay for your Triple Grande Decaf Soy Latte Macchiato and blueberry muffin.

Imagine the scene, you’re between meetings and decide to drop into your favourite coffee shop for a cup of coffee, a cake and to tap into their Wi-Fi to read your emails, refresh your knowledge in time for your next meeting or simply to surf the web.

Spoof Wi-Fi Hotspot


Sign fro free wifi hotspot
When you sit down and try to log-on to the Wi-Fi there’s frequently a selection of hot-spots to choose from. How do you know which is the free service provided by the venue and which is a spoof.

It’s very easy to set up a Wi-Fi hot-spot using a mobile phone, Mi-Fi type of device or laptop and allow other users to connect through this free connection. This means that all of the traffic can then be intercepted by the person providing the spoof account. What sort of important information is passed from your laptop through this connection? It could be your details to access your online banking, the log-in to your company network or the necessary information required to access your corporate email account.

Time for a comfort break

Laptop and cup of coffeeThen the urge hits, you look around and see that everybody seems respectable enough so you head off to the toilet thinking that your laptop is safe on the table. After all, nobody would nick in sight of all those customers, staff and CCTV cameras would they?

You’d be wrong. Laptop tracking service provider, Prey, found that areas offering free Wi-Fi were the second most common target for  opportunistic laptop thefts, the only riskier place being left in a visible place in your car.

If stolen, it’s not only the inconvenience of replacing the laptop, reinstalling your applications and copying back your data [you do back-up your data don’t you?] it’s the additional costs that aren’t covered by your insurance.

The Ponemon Institute, a US cyber crime consultancy, put the real cost of the loss of a laptop and it’s data at nearly £31,000. This was broken down into £4,000 for the loss of Intellectual Property, forensics and legal bills adding around £1,500 with a staggering £24,500 attributable to the loss of income, customers and competitive advantage associated with a data breach

So, the next time you stop off for a cup of coffee and decide to log-on using their free Wi-Fi, just make sure you know which network that you’re connecting to and that you don’t leave your laptop unattended.

And if you want to talk about your cyber security, just give me a call on 01793 238020 or drop an email to andy@enterprise-oms.co.uk

Why worry about Accreditations?

I do a lot of work for an IT support company in Bristol – Bristol IT Company – and at the bottom of their website is a list of badges, icons and logos, there’s a couple of ISO related ones and the rest come from well known (and less well known) brands in the IT sector but why are they there and why should you be concerned?

Bristol IT Company accreditationsWell, ISO’s easy, it’s a way of demonstrating a certain credibility by being assessed every year to ensure that we remain up to scratch. A lot of businesses have ISO9001. This is a quality management certification that demonstrates commitment to consistently provide products and services that meet the needs ofclients. ISO27001 is an information security standard that demonstrates commitment to information security, both their own and that of clients.

The other accreditations come from manufacturers such as Cisco, Microsoft, Dell, Aruba, Cyberoam, VMWare and Veeam and demonstrate that the Bristol IT Company has the necessary skills to not only supply their equipment but to ensure that it is properly installed, configured and supported.

Why is this important

Let’s take a look at the security of your network – Bristol IT Company have 2 vendors that are accredited with in this area, Cisco and Sophos. You can buy some Cisco & Sophos equipment on Amazon at competitive prices, have it delivered pretty much the next day and get it up and running very quickly. This might make you feel secure, after all Cisco are a market leader in networking and security – right?

Is this the right way to do things?

Probably not! Even assuming that you order the most appropriate device for your needs, installing equipment using the default settings could cause you a whole heap of pain.

Most hackers worth their salt know, and understand, these default settings making it really easy for them to penetrate your business’ network. It’s almost like advertising that you’ve installed the best locks in the world but have left a key under the doormat.

Not only that but the default settings are a one-size-fits-all option that are unlikely to be best suited to the way your business works and could actually slow your network, and internet connectivity, down if left untouched.

You could probably find hundreds of internet forums where people discuss the settings but which ones are the best for your particular needs? Which ones speed things up without compromising security and which ones increase security without compromising speed and which ones are actually posted by hackers looking to lure you into making your network even more insecure?

Accreditation

That,s where accreditation comes into play. By buying your equipment from an accredited supplier, Bristol IT Company will advise you on the correct product that most closely matches your existing and future needs, possibly saving you money – certainly saving you pain.

They then ensure that your network is made as secure as possible by changing default settings to something much more secure and applying their training, experience and skill to ensure that your network is as secure as it can be by optimising the set-up and performance of your kit.

Still think accreditation’s just an icon on a website? Well, give me a call on 01793 238020 or email andy@enterprise-oms.co.uk to find out that there’s much more to it than a pretty picture

What is “Negative SEO” and how could it affect my business?

Negative SEO

Most of us with a website are aware of the term SEO, AKA Search Engine Optimisation – the “stuff” that you have to do to, and with, your website in order to appear as high up in the Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs) as possible, and ideally on Page 1.

In fact SEO forms a major part of my business – helping your business be easily found online.

What you might not be so familiar with is “Negative SEO” but you should be – Negative SEO is something that your competitors could do to your website, and the worst case scenario is that your site is deleted from Google’s database, which would make your internet presence virtually invisible.

So, what is “negative SEO”?
Backlinks leading to your websiteOne of key ways that Google judges the importance of your website, and where it appears on the SERPs, is based on the number of websites that link to your site and the quality of those originating sites that have published the links.

In a simplistic way, Google sees each link as a “vote” for your site and the more “votes” you have, the more popular your site must be and so it must be deserving of a higher position on Google’s results pages.

However, if any of these links come from sites that are of poor quality, are totally irrelevant or Google doesn’t like then Google will apply a penalty to your site.

Negative SEO hurts your rankingsA minor indiscretion could see any changes to your site ignored by Google, meaning that your site will slowly drift down the results as other businesses improve their sites.

An “intermediate” issue could see Google apply an active penalty – pushing your site down by 5 pages or more.

For something far more serious, such as buying links from a Link Farm (a website that sells nothing but links purely for the purpose of improving your search results) is likely to see your website deleted from Google – buying links in general, and buying from a Link Farm specifically are SEO tactics that Google simply hates.


How do I know whether I’ve been penalised
There are two key ways to know whether you’ve been penalised – the “Locking the stable door after the horse has bolted” method is simply the realisation that the inquiries that you had become used to receiving from your site have dwindled away to nothing, or that you can no longer find your website in the Google results – no matter how many results pages you look at.

Manual ActionsThis is too late, the smarter site owner/manager will be regularly logging in to the Google Search Console to check, among other things, the “Manual Actions” tab that can be found in the “Search Traffic” section. This is where Google will post notifications of any forthcoming penalties and also provides an opportunity for the site owner to take action and notify Google of that action

What should I be doing?
Webmaster ToolkitThe smart website owner will be regularly logging in to their Google Search Console and will be keeping an eye on the latest links report that can be found by navigating to “Search Traffic/Links to your Site”, clicking on the “More” option in the “Who links most” section and downloading the “Latest Links” to make sure that there’s nothing that they are unhappy with.

To be extra safe, they’ll also carry out a full Link Audit using the full list of sites which have back-links leading to their site, contacting any that are suspicious looking and asking for them to be removed. In Google Land it’s far far better to have fewer high quality links than loads of low quality links.

Alternatively, you can drop me an email, andy@enterprise-oms.co.uk or give me a call on 01793 238020 and I’ll lift all of the worry of Negative SEO from your shoulders.