Author Archives: Josh Ross

If only I had time…

Category : Tech news


Well, there it is. The world is officially on pause until further notice. I never thought I would see the day when time stopped. Yes, technically the clocks are still ticking, the world is still spinning, and the re-runs of antiques roadshow are still being played. However, politically, economically and the rest of our own human constructs have been seized by nature in an epic twist in the tale of human existence. So, what does this mean for us?

We could sit around baking in the sun, drinking whiskey and listening to the songs of yesteryear, now that I mention it, that does sound rather appealing. Or we instead finally take the time to do the jobs we have been intending on doing for a while now that always fell under the label of “If only I had time”.

For me personally this is burning through the various courses I have on Udemy and general admin/maintenance tasks in order to benefit us here at Genius. In turn that benefits you!

From a technology perspective, this could be general health checks of your systems whether that is in a home or business environment. Consider upgrading business critical systems while they are not in use. The main one I want you to consider is moving to newer, more reliable and feature rich services. Here are some examples:

  • Migrating your old, outdated email system to Office 365 (Gives you access to some excellent collaboration tools such as Teams and SharePoint).
  • Moving your shared storage solution to a cloud service like Azure, Dropbox, OneDrive etc. For a lower cost, more available and risk-free storage space (no more accidently deleting those important files).
  • Starting your post lockdown business endeavours with a nice and shiny new website!

It is much easier for us to setup and implement new solutions like these in this situation due to the demand for continuous service being lower than normal. This means we can iron out issues and set it up exactly as needed ready for the workforce to come back in full swing.

It is crucial that when we are back, we are back better than ever.

Whatever it is you need; we want to help. It is a difficult time but more than ever we need to stay productive and motivated.


COVID-19: Security, VPN’s and Remote Desktop

Category : Tech news

Person Using Laptop

How do we keep our company running while working from home and under lockdown?

The main tools we’ve implemented for clients are VPN’s and Remote Desktop applications. A VPN (Virtual Private Network) will essentially transfer your network connection into the office allowing you to access onsite file servers and any other onsite resources needed for day to day operations. Remote Desktop tools allow you to remotely access your in-office desktop making it easy to navigate and perform tasks exactly as you would in office. This also means higher spec systems can still be utilised for intense use such as rendering, editing and any other program requiring significant resources.

What else do we need to be looking out for when home working?

With all the panic setting in we’ve noticed many companies having less than ideal solutions for home workers. This may leave you completely open to attacks from malicious users. Some types of VPN’s are more secure than others and some remote desktop solutions are also weaker than others.

This means while you and your staff can easily get into the office virtually, others most likely can too.  

Midnight Black Samsung Galaxy S9

What do we do?

First, if you’re using PTPP VPN. Stop. As this expert put it, “At this point nobody who cares in the least about the communications they intend to protect should be using [PPTP].” This is because PTPP itself dates back to Windows 95; the encryption can be brute forced in a matter of hours. Consider L2TP/IPSec, OpenVPN or SSL VPN protocols. These are just as easy to configure and provide much better encryption methods.

Regarding remote desktop solutions, consider one of the popular applications such as TeamViewer and Chrome remote desktop. These both offer 2FA via the account associated with it. Don’t start opening RDP up to the external network without first whitelisting IP addresses and locking it down thoroughly. An easier way to do this, if you insist on using RDP, is utilising the VPN connection first then users can RDP internally.

If you’re unsure about anything in this article and wish to learn more about securing your remote working infrastructure, get in touch. We’re always on hand to help and wish you all the best in these uncertain times.

Stay in, stay safe, have a productive week guys!   


The what and why of pen testing (no, not the bic ones)

Category : Business

Example of a port scan using nmap on the Kali Linux OS

Do you ever lock your door but still try open it after “just to make sure it’s definitely locked?” We as people are paranoid and clumsy beyond belief. We constantly check if we’ve done something right or that everything is how it should be. Penetration testing is exactly that.

When you set up a new computer or configure a network, there are bound to be flaws somewhere. This is increasingly true the larger the network is. A penetration tester or ‘Ethical hacker’ aims to exploit those flaws to see what kind of damage could be done if a malicious hacker did the same. This usually leads to many shocked faces when you have screenshots full of company accounts and HR data. The key is, we got to the data first, now we can fix it.

Once a penetration test is carried out, we have a decently sized report of any potential or impending risks to your company. It may take some time and money to work our way through these problems depending on what was found, what the solution is and how much downtime there will be. However, this will always be cheaper than recovering from a real security breach (the average cost of which is around £3 million according to a 2018 study).

Some industry standards also require you to regularly perform pen tests to be compliant. Some examples are PCI DSS, HIPAA and ISO 27001. Having compliance to these standards are crucial to set yourself apart from the competition and ensuring client data is safe and secure.

In conclusion, it’s worth making sure your IT door is locked. Get in touch if you’d like to learn more on the penetration testing process and what options there are for you.


Windows 7 EOL – What!?

Category : Tech news

So, you may have seen a flurry of posts and articles warning you of the fact Windows 7 has come to its end. It is no longer being supported by Microsoft. What does this mean for you?

Don’t panic, your PC isn’t going to shut down or explode or anything. End-Of-Life (EOL) just means that the manufacturer will no longer be pushing out updates and security patches for this product (Yes, those same annoying updates that take forever and randomly install at the most inconvenient of times).

“Yay!” you may be thinking, “no more annoying updates, phew.” Be warned though reader, this comes with many dark consequences.

Without those updates, without those ever so important security patches, Windows 7 will be vulnerable. Soon there will be a rising amount of easy to use exploits developed to attack Windows 7 machines and because Microsoft won’t be releasing patches, they will work on every single Windows 7 device.

The “too long, didn’t read” of all this is you need to do two things:

  1. Remove all sensitive data from Windows 7 machines and move them to a secure machine (updated, patched and still supported).
  2. Decommission the Windows 7 machine or upgrade to Windows 10. There are many ways to do this so if you’re unsure please do get in touch.

For businesses this may be a tricky job, you may have hundreds of users on Windows 7 and don’t know where to start. This is where we, or a similar service provider come into play.

We can upgrade all machines out of hours and re-install the business-critical apps needed for everyday operations. This is a much cleaner and pain-free solution compared to trying to walk everyone through the upgrade individually.

IF you decide all this is too much hassle and “everything is still working so it’s fine” then be prepared to be targeted by hackers and other nefarious individuals that want your data and now have an easy way to get it.

Don’t leave it too late, get in touch, keep yourself safe and have a lovely week!


You need a cloud solution, here’s why.

Category : Business

In recent years we have seen an increase in the amount of cloud utilisation by small to medium businesses. With constant growth and a need to ‘keep up with the times’ it is not uncommon to see these small local businesses throwing out their old hardware and moving to a mostly cloud based solution. This is because of three main reasons:

  • Scalability
  • Flexibility
  • Affordability

With cloud services, it is quick and easy to set up storage, archiving, emails and many other features that a growing company needs. Traditionally, you would buy hardware to improve onsite systems to meet the demands of your workforce. With cloud systems this is not the case. You pay monthly and can easily scale hardware as and when you require. Running out of storage space on your main file server? Now you can easily increase the storage limit in minutes. This will raise your monthly cost. However, this can be easier to manage than paying out a large sum for all these upgrades at once (in this case the cost of buying X amount of hard drives).

With the classical workplace era slowly coming to an end (An office and a desk from 9am-5pm) in favour of working remotely and via your own devices, the utilisation of cloud services has followed. Whether these cloud solutions have directly caused this shift in the working environment or have merely been a product of its demand I’m unsure of, but we can implement them regardless. Employees can now complete tasks at home or onsite, the number of workstations needed in the office are reduced and productivity skyrockets due to this increased flexibility. From a management perspective this saves costs even further.

There are several other reasons making the switch to a purely cloud infrastructure is beneficial even if it is just for your storage. Files stored in a correctly configured cloud are more secure due to the physical data centres they are kept in. These contain highly sophisticated hardware with increased levels of redundancy and security.

I hope this helps you understand a few of the reasons we recommend the big move over to a cloud system. There are many different options out there and they are all designed to accommodate to a different type of business. Get in touch if you wish to learn more.


Phishing Attacks (More Advanced Than Ever)

Category : Tech news

Typically we recommend checking the domain names within suspicious emails (@example.co.uk), but there is a new, more advanced type of phishing email spreading.

The phishing email uses spoofing to make it look as if it comes from a valid domain. It then supplies the victim with a .zip file containing the Remcos RAT.

These are typically emails from banks with an attached .ZIP or .TXT file. Please get in touch if you suspect one of these emails.

You may not be hit with this email attack but it’s just something we want to make our clients aware of.

Remos software page
The Remcos Surveillance Software

What is Remcos?

The Remcos remote access trojan first emerged on underground forums in 2016 and has received a number of updates over the course of the last few years.

Available to crooks for as little as £30, the malware is an information stealer and surveillance tool, using capabilities including keylogging, taking screenshots and stealing clipboard contents to secretly take usernames and passwords from infected victims.

Now researchers at Fortinet have uncovered a new Remcos campaign – with the new variant titled “2.5.0 Pro” according to hard coded strings in the malicious code which was compiled in September – indicating the freshness of this variant.

These attacks begin with an attempt to trick the victim into opening a malicious ZIP file under the pretence of payments being made into a bank account. The .ZIP file is a gateway to a .TXT extension which runs a PowerShell script when activated, executing the installation of the malware onto the victim’s Windows machine.

When the malware is running, it records all information entered in the web browser, providing information on what websites the user is visiting and what they enter into the site – enabling the attacker to see and steal usernames and passwords.

Researchers have detailed the full capabilities of the new version of Remcos along with its Indicators of Compromise in their analysis of the malware.