Spring is here!

And with a lousy joke to welcome it, we’ve completely re-written our site, taking advantage of the many components now available for the common open-source (i.e. free to use) Content Management Systems. more “Spring is here!”

PC Security – WannaCry

The latest virus to hit the headlines shocked the PC world last week. WannaCry, which started to sweep round the globe last Friday and so far has infected more than 300,000 computers in 150 nations.

What is it?

Also known as Wanna Decryptor or wcry its modus operandi is to infect PCs and threaten to lock out and delete files of victims who do not pay a sum of $300 to $600 (£230 to £460) within one week of infection. Small businesses are constantly being urged to take precautionary measures to protect their businesses online. It is similar to Cryptolocker of a few years ago.

How is it installed?

The virus is usually invisibly installed on to computers by being hidden within deceptive-looking emails containing links, which users are tricked into opening. Once opened, the malware can install on to a system without the user’s knowledge.

What does it do?

Once opened, the virus is able to encrypt files and block user access to them, displaying a pop-up window on-screen telling users they have been blocked, and demanding payment – often via a digital currency such as Bitcoin.

Can you remove it without paying?

Yes, by using advanced anti-malware software. The malware can also be removed manually with a computer in “safe mode”, but this isn’t a ‘user’ technique as important system files need to be edited in order to find and isolate files created by the Wanna Decryptor software. Disinfection opportunities are reduced if the system is rebooted, so if an infection is suspected, power-down and contact an expert.

The harm of this latest attack is the ease and speed with which it spread, and the vulnerable systems that it exploited. Many NHS systems received the greatest publicity, as they were using old systems, not because of ‘budget cuts’, but because the older systems that they supported were still within useful life. Microsoft had issued a patch well in advance of widespread infection, but unfortunately many systems administrators had failed to implement this.

Businesses and individuals should make sure their internet security is up to date and in use, view emails with attachments sent from unknown senders with suspicion, avoid storing passwords on computers and make sure that backups are in place.

Get Safe Online, offers free expert advice on online security matters and they have created a great detailed post on how to protect your computer , finances and your identity against this new global online threat.

Online phishing attacks have become more and more common over the past five years as more businesses have moved online, and it presents dangers for consumers and opportunities for criminals. That is why today it is vital that businesses understand such risks.

We also recommend the use of a Password Manager such as LastPass to generate and encrypt complex passwords

Google ‘My Business’

Google My BusinessBye-Bye, ‘Places’; hello, ‘My Business’

Google has today launched a brand new function (well, re-hashed Google ‘Places’) known as Google ‘My Business’. It might be a surprise to existing users, but it looks to have great features and advantages. Here’s a quick summary:

You access My Business by logging into Google via your business account. The new feature is currently accessible for page owners via Places or Google+, but more log in options are likely to come along. Here is a handy guide to the new Google My Business hub:

The Home Page has changed:

Before the changes, finding the Dashboard for your business page meant using the menu on the left. Now your homepage has all the main Google business functions in one place by default.

You now have a Google+ Status share box, Google+ Insights and at last, Google Analytics and Google Hangouts/YouTube all in quick start menus.

Google+ Analytics
Social media managers: you now have some sensible Google+ page analytics that you can actually use to tailor your campaigns

We can now see segmented data showing page views and how they are split, engagement with your posts and Audience (or follower) growth. You can track data from the last 7 days, 30 days or 90 days.

While Google+ analytics data still some development needed, this is a great step forward and one that Google+ sceptics will certainly be happy about. Though it doesn’t quite address the ‘point’ of Google+.

Analytics and Hangouts at your fingertips.

If you co-manage a Google account for a client, this overview feature means that your clients can log into their accounts and view a snapshot of their performance. This means they can quickly access the data that’s important to themto help planning. You might find that it keeps you on your toes!

Additionally, you can launch a hangout from the main menu which is great for those using Hangouts for internal meetings with their team and external catch ups with clients. Hangouts have many possibilities for businesses that stretch beyond the traditional ‘webinar’ set up, so we love this function.

The Google+ status box is a bit of a hinderance, but overall, we think its a great step forward (© Google Product manual 😉 )

Need some help with this? Give us a call

Google Checkout

google_checkout_crashUsing Google Checkout? What to do when it ‘retires’.

You may not be aware, but Google is ceasing support for online payments using Google Checkout. Ostensibly this is to improve support for the Google Wallet payments system, but I’ve a sneaky suspicion that it is also a move to reduce UK tax liabilities, as it stops UK-based transactions. (Author’s opinion may be rubbish – Ed).

Anyhoo. If you do currently use Google Checkout, the recommendations from Google are to migrate to other online Payment systems such as Braintree & Shopify. To save you the bother, we’ve done some preliminary investigations, and although we can’t speak for their quality, their payment structure is far closer to other Merchanting services with a monthly fee and minimum monthly transactions. This would make it far more costly for the small-scale user than the ‘per transaction’ commission levy of Google Checkout.

The primary alternative then is Paypal, either the Web Payments Standard account, or Paypal Professional. Web Payments is a per-transaction fee, and your customers would be making purchases from a Web page. The transaction itself is offsite, on the Paypal system, so while it is very secure, branding and customisation opportunities are limited. Paypal Professional will also allow offline payments through a console, so gives a flexible merchanting service, but with a monthly subscription feel, as well as the Paypal ‘commission’. Professional also requires a SSL certified server, as the owners website manages the credit card information, but at least this keeps the customer on-site for the shopping experience.

There is more information on Paypal, Web Payments Standard and Paypal Professional here:

An alternative is the Brit ‘Nochex’ system, which can be found here: There are 2 types of account, but probably most businesses will want the, account. A setup form is here:

The Author has no connection with Paypal, its affiliates, and is not recompensed for this article. More’s the pity.

Whither Twitter?

Dead_TwitterWhat’s happened to the Twitter feed on my website?

Ah yes – the deafening question from millions of frustrated website owners. The simple (maybe a bit harsh) answer is that Twitter gone broke it. They’ve changed the authorisation needed to collect the Twitter timeline feed, such that the simple method previously employed not longer works. Feeling geeky? There’s more technical information here:

Grrr! What do I do about it

Ok. The answer to that is there is now the need to build an ‘App’ to access your Twitter feed, using a number of authorisation ‘keys’ Frankly this is all a bit of a pain, since the timeline is public access anyway, but, “their house, their rules”, so we’re stuck with it. Yet more geeky information here:

The simplest solution, really, is get us to fix it for you. This would be an ideal opportunity to look at the wider opportunity to check your website maintenance arrangements, since there are going to be changes out of your control such as this cropping up frequently. The more connected we are, the more those connections can fail on us.