Ransomware is used by cyber criminals to hack a device and encrypt the files.  They then ask you for a payment to decrypt the files if you are lucky and they do give you the key.  Unlike other computer viruses where they can usually be removed after infecting your device, the only way to resolve a ransomware is to have the key to decrypt the encryption, which usually only comes from paying the ransom.  Ransomware is a costly cyber crime, with WannaCry estimated to have caused losses of $4 billion and NotPetya upwards of $1.2 billion.  It is not something to be taken lightly and the best form of protection is prevention and preparation for what to do in the event of a ransomware attack.  Anti-virus and anti-malware software is no longer enough to protect against these attacks, you need robust layered security measures, procedures and protocols, training on how to deal with suspicious emails and never postpone or cancel updates on your devices.

Several key points to ensure that you protect yourself from ransomware are:

  • Always use robust antivirus/antimalware software
  • Always purchase legitimate software where updates are regularly available to keep it secure
  • Use layered security such as firewalls & device/network monitoring systems
  • Backup your data regularly and ensure the backup you use detects ransomware attacks & protects your data accordingly
  • Keep your device security and software up to date
  • Use a password manager, they are very well priced and can make life so much easier for you.

The best way to protect yourself from a ransomware attack is to avoid and prevent, due to it being highly unlikely you will decrypt the files without the key from the hackers.  This explains why we always recommend installing anti-virus and anti-malware software and why we encourage you not to postpone or cancel updates on your devices.  This also highlights the importance of a good back up system, so that if you do get attacked by ransomware, you can restore from the last clean back up and at most lose a couple of hours to a day’s work.

We have a couple of previous articles on these points which go into more detail on Windows updates here and on back up systems here  and here.

When trying to reduce your chances of downloading ransomware onto your devices practising good online habits such as using complex passphrases and changing them frequently, avoid suspicious websites or downloading files from unverified sources will also help prevent a ransomware attack.  If you have any concerns about your device or network security in relation to ransomware please don’t hesitate to get in touch with the team here at MJD.  Lets make IT work for YOU.

This week we look at another piece of hardware which sometimes is part of the build on your PC or laptop.  The graphics card is the piece of hardware responsible for producing the image which is displayed on your monitor or screen.  It translates the data into a form which your monitor can understand to display the correct image for you.  The better the graphics card the higher quality the image produced.

There are two types of graphics card: integrated and discrete.  Integrated graphics cards are built into your motherboard and this is found on most standard PC and laptop specs.  As it’s inbuilt they cannot be easily upgraded.  Discrete graphics cards are pieces of hardware which can be installed at a later date as an extra component.  This makes them ideal for upgrading at a later date.  The average user who browses the internet and carries out office work, the onboard graphics will be sufficient.  If you intend to carry out gaming or video editing, a discrete graphics card is recommended.

When reading about graphics cards previously you may have heard of GPU, this stands for Graphics Processing Unit.  Much like the CPU, this is the brain of the graphics card.  It acts as the translator turning the signals into a recognisable format for your monitor.  Sometimes a graphics card is needed to allow your PC to display dual screens through the outputs offered on a graphics card.

Modern graphics cards also have their own dedicated RAM onboard, which is the same as the RAM in your PC, however, is just for the use of the graphics card to process the data it is being given to send to the display. If you have any questions or are interested in installing a graphics card to your device please don’t hesitate to get in touch with the team here at MJD.

Over the past year we’ve probably all had to deal with one of these three connections to get a monitor setup in our home office but ever wondered what the difference is between each one?  Lets dive right in and explain.

Let’s start with the abbreviations:

VGA = Video Graphics Array

DVI = Digital Visual Interface

HDMI = High Definition Multimedia Interface

VGA is the oldest connection out of these three, it was first developed by IBM in 1987 and it allows for the display of 356 colours on monitors. DVI was designed by Digital Display Working Group in 1999 with the aim of replacing VGA to allow monitors to display a true-colour palette.  HDMI first began development in 2002 by few different companies and made the previous two connections obsolete.  It allows for the transmission of high-definition audio/video, along with 8-channel audio transmission.

VGA being the oldest technology is slowly being phased out of new devices and when converting VGA to newer technology through adapters it can result in lower quality video as the signal goes from analogue to digital.  VGA also can only provide a maximum of 640 x 480 resolution whereas DVI can go up to 1920 x 1200 for single link and 2560 x 1600 for dual-link connections.  However, HDMI is now the most preferred connection as it can transmit both sound and video and can support 4k.

If you have any questions on your connections to your monitors in your work place or home office setup please don’t hesitate to get in touch with the team here at MJD.

This week we are going to demystify what an Operating System is.  The term is sometimes shortened to OS as well.  Our mobile phones, laptops, PCs and servers all have operating systems to be able to run the applications and carry out the tasks we require of them on a day to day basis.

So, what is an operating system?  It is the primary software installed on a device that manages and coordinates the hardware and software installed on the device.  It provides us as the user with an easier way to interact with the device.  It manages all devices which provide input to the device and sends information to output devices.  It does this with software called drivers which are written by the hardware creators to allow it to communicate with other devices.  Common examples of Operating System are Windows, Mac OS X, Linux, Android, iOS.

To explain how this works, lets run through an example of a task many of us carry out on a frequent basis: printing a document in Microsoft Word on a Windows machine.

 

This means that your software programmes do not have to worry about all the different input and output devices that might be used, it just passes the instruction to the Operating System to deal with it.  Without an Operating System you could not run many of the programmes you use day to day as they would not be able to communicate with the hardware connected to your device.  It is a very important piece of software in our IT setup that often gets overlooked, but not today in our blog!

 

The shortage of computer chips was an initial effect of lockdowns and factory shutdowns because of COVID-19 last year, and production is now back to normal.  However, the way in which we use IT and the fundamental way we all now work has changed and looks likely to stay in some form in our future.  The increase in demand for laptops and devices to help us work from home has therefore increased the number of chips required to produce these products and currently demand is higher than the supply.

What we are seeing here at MJD is common IT networking components are going out of stock and the incoming stock’s lead time is much longer than what we would usually have seen.  To the point where the lead times can be a couple of months.

What does this mean for you?  The more advance warning of IT requirements that you can give us the better chance we have of successfully achieving the desired outcome ready for when you need it.  Because our usual options may be low stock or a long lead time it will mean we need to review and work with the stock available to ensure that we can still provide you with a fit for purpose and effective IT solution.  It also means that IT components which need chips will increase in price, so again this means it is important to involve us from the beginning of your plans so we can give you current prices to allow you to determine the total cost of the project for budgeting requirements.

You may be thinking, as restrictions ease and we all get setup with the IT hardware we require to work in our “new normal” patterns that this will ease and become okay.  However, the chip industry is advising that this problem could take them a few years to resolve completely due to the time taken to expand through building new factories and getting these tested and qualified for production to begin.  This is why we wanted to warn our clients and to help you understand that any major IT projects you wish to carry out, consider getting in touch with us as early as possible so that we can plan with you and advise any components lead times at that point so we can make your IT work for YOU.

We’ve all been there, your device can connect to the wifi, but has no Internet connection?  It can be incredibly frustrating, so lets go why this may happen to you.  Your Internet connection is provided by your Internet Service Provider whether this is by phone line, fibre, 4G or satellite connection.  Your wireless signal is provided by either your router or an access point.  Therefore, if your internet connection is down and cannot provide your wireless network with connection to the internet, you will still be able to connect to your wireless network.  This is because your router or access points will still be able to generate a wireless signal to connect to your network within your office/home but just won’t have an internet connection to transmit through the wireless network.  Let’s give you some basic troubleshooting steps to help you determine when ask for IT assistance to resolve the issue.

First point of call should always be to check with your Internet Service Provider (ISP) that there isn’t an outage in your area.  Most ISPs have a page on their website dedicated to current outages or even a search by post code or area code.  By checking this first, you know whether it is worth spending additional time troubleshooting your issue within your own network.

Next if we have determined that there are no outages with your ISP, it’s time to start narrowing your search for the issue down by checking if any other devices or users are able to get an internet connection on your wifi.  By checking this, you can determine if you need to investigate the singular device you are currently working on or if it is experienced by multiple users and different devices then there maybe an issue with the router or any devices providing your wireless signal such as access points.

At this point, if you have narrowed down the problem to all devices have no internet then the first thing to do is reboot the router (leave it switched off for at least 5 minutes), however, if you narrowed it down to a singular device or to being part of your wireless network, there could be a variety of issues happening to these devices to cause them to either be unable to connect to the Internet signal or to be unable to send out your wireless Internet connection.  It is time to get in touch with your Managed Service Provider or IT department to carry out technical troubleshooting on the device/system in question.  The team here at MJD would be more than happy to help troubleshoot any issues and get you connected to the Internet again, so please don’t hesitate to get in touch and lets make IT work for YOU.

We all work with the cloud every day, but do we all understand what it means and where the cloud is?  Today we are going to demystify the term “The Cloud”!

The Cloud is a network of servers which are located across the globe which store the data and software which we operate in cloud services.  It facilitates the internet to allow you to access data and software from any internet connected device at any geographic location that you have an internet connection.  The Cloud will find your data or services through its network of servers and deliver it when you need it.  A few examples of cloud services are Google Drive, Microsoft OneDrive, Apple iCloud and Netflix.

Using cloud computing allows us to lower the specification needs of our devices as they do not run the software and services directly.  It also means its very easy to increase your storage limits with cloud based, without having to upgrade your devices HDD and then requiring to carry out reinstalls and data transfers.

However, there are disadvantages to the cloud, being that without an internet connection you have no access to your data or services/software.  So, when considering a cloud-based solution, you need to evaluate the quality of your internet connection and whether you need to upgrade this to cope with a cloud system.  The other consideration is that there can be a risk to store your data online but no worse than the risk locally if your security is not up to standard, with sufficient security and procedures in place the cloud is as secure as locally stored, depending on your provider of services some can be more secure.  While all cloud services have security measures in place, it is always worth considering what data you want to store online and what data you keep on your own device.

You may be wondering why the term “The Cloud”?  It is likely that it developed from the use of a cloud-like shape to denote a network on telephony diagrams.  This was used when the specifics of how endpoints, your computers and/or devices within your network, were connected was not relevant to the diagram.

If you are interested in discussing the merits of cloud-based services within your organisation and IT network please don’t hesitate to get in touch with the team here at MJD.