If Trump has his way, we’ll all lose some freedom

This article is from Issue 28 of Modern Law Magazine, to read the full issue click here or visit modernlawmagazine.com

If you’ve read the news at all recently, it is likely you will have heard about President Trump’s executive orders because in his first week and a half he has signed thirteen. In the hubbub surrounding order number thirteen, the ‘Muslim ban’, another order has slipped past the scrutiny of the mainstream press – and it is an order that could rob EU citizens of their online privacy.

The focus is on Section 14 of the ‘Enhancing Public Safety in the Interior of the United States’ order, which states: “Agencies shall, to the extent consistent with applicable law, ensure that their privacy policies exclude persons who are not United States citizens or lawful permanent residents from the protections of the Privacy Act regarding personally identifiable information.”

The EU-US “privacy shield” provides EU citizens with the promise that their data, should it ever be processed in the U.S, is protected with ‘essentially equivalent’ privacy protection once it gets there. The deal is only six months old but with one stroke of his pen, Trump may have wiped it out.

The European Commission has already responded to the order, stating that the privacy shield “does not rely on the protections under the U.S. Privacy Act” but also that they will “continue to monitor” the situation. Given that Mr. Trump has previously voiced opposition to cyber privacy – most notably when he called on his supporters to boycott Apple after their much publicised case with the FBI – all of us should be concerned that our freedoms could be eroded under the Trump administration.

U.S. based companies dominate our working lives. Microsoft’s Office 365 is expected to surpass 100 million users worldwide in 2017 and Apple’s iCloud has over 782 million users. If President Trump encourages U.S. tech companies to share customer data with law enforcement, the privacy of EU citizens is in real jeopardy.

It’s time to act. Technology, particularly cloud technology, is not going away and it is impractical to suggest we revert to storing data in ring binders and filing cabinets. It is practical, however, to suggest we store our files & data in the UK or EU countries. EU privacy law is far stronger than its U.S. counterpart and will afford the citizen far more protection. Invest some time in studying your technology partners, do they store data overseas? Is your data subject to EU data protection laws?

Are you a legal firm relying on Office 365 email to handle your sensitive communications…?

President Trump has already shown how tough he is prepared to be when cracking down on security and has hinted he has little regard for cyber privacy. It is the responsibility of those who are privy to sensitive information to ensure it is protected. Are you doing all you can to protect your client data?

Grab a tin foil hat, your TV is watching you.

The opinions expressed in this article reflect those of the author, Tom Dodd, and not entrustIT

In the past, if you claimed that the Government was listening into your conversations through your TV, you might be placed in a straitjacket and carted off to the nearest mental health facility. Unfortunately, thanks to a huge data release by WikiLeaks this week, your claims would be entirely justified.

As a consumer, you may have heard of the “internet of things”. Perhaps you scoffed at the thought that your fridge needs an internet connection. The principle is that the internet of things allows us the ability to control aspects of our appliances from our smartphones. Modern appliances are becoming internet enabled and we are each being pushed to embrace a ‘smart home’, whereby our computers, televisions, lights, heating and even door locks can be controlled via apps on our smartphones. The theory sounds great, but the reality may be far darker.

WikiLeaks creates more headaches for the Government

On 7th March, WikiLeaks issued a press release codenamed “Vault 7”. In it are details of the CIA’s cyber-weapons programme, called ‘zero day’. These include malware, viruses and Trojans. The several hundred million lines of code included in zero day give the possessor the entire hacking capacity of the CIA. The leak even reveals a tool to listen in on conversations using smartphone or smart TV microphones. What’s more, the CIA (and GCHQ) appear to have been extremely irresponsible with the handling of these tools.

After the Edward Snowden leaks, the Obama administration promised that security vulnerabilities discovered by intelligence services would be released to the US based tech manufacturers on an ongoing basis. The Vault 7 leak shows that the CIA has instead been hoarding discovered vulnerabilities – presumably since they wanted them to remain open. The trouble is, if US intelligence agencies are aware of these flaws, is it not reasonable to assume that other agencies are too? Or that they will be in the future?

By discovering these flaws (in popular operating systems such as Windows, iOS, MacOS and Android) and opting not to inform the developers, they remain open to exploitation – including by those who seek to do harm. Specific CIA malware revealed in the leak is even able to penetrate both iPhone and Android software running presidential Twitter accounts. Given President Trump’s love affair with Twitter, and that one tweet from his account has the power to send stock prices plummeting, or worse still, potentially start a war, how valuable is that malware to a dangerous hacker?

Edward Snowden has had his say on the leaks

A difficult balancing act

Balancing public safety with public freedom is a difficult process. You may feel entirely relaxed about the intelligence agencies’ ability to hack into your TV if it means that you don’t become a victim of terrorism. However, in an effort to protect the public from violent terrorism, the CIA has left the public open to cyber terrorism. Some would argue that cyber weapons have the potential to deal more damage than conventional weapons. Once malicious code is out there, it is relatively easy to copy and extremely difficult to control. The very fact that this latest leak has been released indicates that the CIA and NSA cannot keep control of their sensitive data.

To be concerned about dangerous hacking tools falling into the wrong hands, or the possibility that you could be spied on in your own home is no longer a paranoid delusion. The threat is very real. The agencies that exist to protect us have left us vulnerable as a result of their recklessness.

The Bottom Line

Vault 7 is a goldmine of information – and it is damning for the agencies involved. Not only have intelligence agencies been working hard to discover vulnerabilities to spy on citizens, they have kept them to themselves – leaving them open to be exploited by hackers and terrorists. Whilst it is entirely justified to monitor terrorists, who determines who is a terrorist? How broad is that definition? We must be careful that we do not let intelligence agencies abuse the threat of terror to justify robbing us of our freedom.

In the short term, we can expect to see major tech companies patching the vulnerabilities exposed in Vault 7. Yet, we now have an idea of the lengths major intelligence agencies will go to in order to harvest information. More vulnerabilities will be found, and likely hoarded, until they are again exposed. The public should not sit by and accept that this a reality of modern life. These agencies must be held accountable for their failings.

The press release of Vault 7 can be found here. If you have an interest in cyber security – it is worth reading.

New entrust CT website launched!

old to new

The old… and the new

Your new home for IT Support and services in Hampshire, Dorset and the South of England.

entrustIT is pleased to announce the release of a completely revamped website for our sister company, entrust Creative Technology. The new website refreshes the dated design of the previous site and brings it a clean, modern feel.

entrust Creative Technology is an IT partner for SMEs in Hampshire, Dorset and the South, providing IT Support, IT Consultancy, Office 365 and Managed Wireless for companies across the South of England, particularly in main towns and cities such as Southampton, Bournemouth, Portsmouth and Winchester – to name a few.

“The new website is the culmination of months of work.” comments Tom Dodd, of the marketing team at entrustIT. “Initial feedback is positive. The aim of the website is to be as clear and concise as possible, and I think it achieves that.”

entrust Creative Technology (formally MLJ Creative Technology) was enquired by entrustIT in 2009 and has over 20 years of experience providing IT support and consulting to businesses in Hampshire and Dorset. Following on from success at the parent company, entrustIT, the team at entrust Creative Technology are looking to increase their presence in the local area. The new website is just one of the many ways in which the team is looking to achieve that goal.

entrust Creative Technology offer IT Support contracts, where a member of the team will fix IT issues whenever they arise – which is perfect for SMEs that can’t justify a full-time IT manager. The team also provides professional IT consultancy from technicians with decades of IT experience, as well as enterprise grade Wireless Networking solutions, which help you get the best possible speeds out of your internet line and Office 365 support and implementation, Microsoft’s own brand cloud solution for business. For the majority of every day IT issues, you’ll find a solution at entrust Creative Technology.

Visit www.entrustct.co.uk or call 0330 002 0045

Microsoft increase price of Surface tablets by 15%

Mountain View, CA, USA - Sept. 4, 2016: Microsoft Silicon Valley Center. Microsoft SVC is the software giant's presence in the Silicon Valley of California.

Following on from their raising of the price of cloud products on January 1st, Microsoft have announced that the price of their flagship Windows devices, the surface tablets, will also rise by up to 15.1%.

Microsoft cite the cause for this price increase as the falling value of the pound since the EU referendum. Since 23rd June, sterling has fallen by 16% against the dollar.

“In response to a recent review we are adjusting the British pound prices of some of our hardware and consumer software in order to align to market dynamics,” it said in a statement.

“These changes only affect products and services purchased by individuals, or organisations without volume licensing contracts.”

This means that the price of the 1TB Surface Book, the top of the range Surface model, has risen to an eye-watering £3,049.00, while the cheapest Surface Book is now £1,449.00.

Microsoft is not the first tech company to raise prices in the UK, with companies such as Apple, Dell and HP also raising prices since the EU referendum.

Microsoft Calls Time on Windows Vista

Close-up part of young man using his laptop while sitting at his working place

Microsoft has officially announced that it will end support for Windows Vista on April 11, 2017. This follows on from the end of support for the popular Windows XP in 2014. End of support means that from April 11, 2017, Microsoft will no longer release regular updates and security patches for Windows Vista.

What does this mean?

Without any security patches, Windows Vista will be vulnerable to cyber attack and it will therefore be unsafe to use after April 11, particularly if you use your PC for banking or internet shopping. If you own a PC running Windows Vista, now is a good time to think about updating it.

What options are there for me?

Windows 10 is Microsoft’s current Windows platform, and it is here to stay. In fact, Microsoft have a major update in the pipeline. This update will focus more emphasis on animations and visual effects, with the goal of creating a more aesthetically pleasing user experience. The new update, called Project Neon, is set to be debuted in May and released later this year.

If your PC is not currently running Windows 10, unfortunately you have missed the free update offer. However, depending on the hardware specification of your PC, it might be a better option to upgrade the machine entirely. Microsoft cite Windows 10’s minimum requirements as a 1GHz processor or faster, coupled with 2GB of RAM and 16GB of free hard disk space. Remember, these are minimum system requirements. If you would like a PC that runs fairly quickly, my recommendation would be that you at least double the minimum requirements. That means 2GHz processor or faster and 4GB of RAM or more.

How do I check my PC specification?

It’s actually really easy to do. On a Windows 7/Vista PC, click start > control panel > system and your specifications will be listed in the window. If you do own Windows 10 but feel your computer is a bit slow, the process is slightly different. Click Start > settings > system > about.

Your cyber security is so important

As was common around the Windows XP support deadline, some users do not feel the need to update or upgrade a PC that has served them faithfully for a number of years. Vista was a less popular operating system than XP and many of its users moved on to Windows 7 at its release. However, for those that are still running Windows Vista, it is crucial that they upgrade before April 11. A study by PwC in 2013 found that 63 percent of SMEs were attacked by an outsider in that year. Why make it easy for those outsiders to attack you?

Don’t leave yourself vulnerable – upgrade your Vista PC before April 11.

Reflecting on a good year

10 year anniversary - Building a successful businessAs we look back over the last 12 months, there is a lot for our company to be proud of

2016 was a year that started with much optimism. We were founded in 2006 so 2016 is our tenth year of trading. We survived the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression and have come out the other end thriving, nearly doubling our turnover in 2015 alone.

This year we exhibited at a number of business shows, including the British Legal Technology forum and Legalex. Reception at these shows has been positive, even if the cloud is still met with scepticism by lawyers.

We acquired two new members of staff. Tom and Paul are settling into our support team well and have already resolved more than 1000 support tickets between them. Our support team has also been bolstered by Mat, who finished his apprenticeship this year and is now a qualified support technician. The new office unit we acquired last year is already filling up and we expect to continue to grow in 2017.

After a new software release by Citrix in late 2015, we developed our 3D Design Desktop. Built for architects and designers, who have been a major part of our customer base for a number of years, 3D Design Desktop augments a hosted desktop with virtualised high-performance graphics cards, allowing 3D CAD rendering to be performed anywhere, at any time, on almost any device. This level of work freedom was simply not possible before and our customers have no shortage of positive comments about the product. 3D Design Desktop has also led us to finalist nominations in three business awards – one of which is hosted by the British Computer Society.

After the Brexit vote, much has been said about the future of the UK economy. Some positive, some not. Fortunately, we are well positioned to deal with fluctuations in the currency market and uncertainty in the economy. To echo the words of Sally Taylor MBE speaking at the Solent Business Awards “business is alive and well in the Solent region” – the area in which we are based. This is certainly our experience as we have travelled across the country this year for shows, expos, networking and awards – business is still thriving across the country. Whatever happens in the next few months and years, I am confident we will withstand anything that is thrown at us.

On the non-business front, our team claimed victory in two Go-Karting championships against other technology companies in the South, and a golf tournament against other businesses in our region. Our staff proudly display their trophies on their desks and these events have certainly improved team cohesion!

As we look back over this year, our 10th year, there is a lot for us to be proud of. A successful business is only as strong its people and our team has worked immensely hard this year, despite increasing workloads, to ensure that we continue to provide a secure, resilient and useful cloud service to our customers. As we continue into 2017 that optimism is still there, but the bar has been raised. An exciting year awaits.

Does technological progress really benefit us?

blue tone city scape and network connection concept

 

I recently spent some time in a Tesla Model X at the Goodwood Festival of Speed. The salesman on the stand at the show excitedly walked me through some of the technology on the vehicle and told me about the car’s ability to drive and park itself. I came away from that stand with newfound respect for Tesla cars – the technology on display really is a snapshot of the future of motoring. A car that is able to drive you down the motorway at 70mph in heavy traffic without any input from the driver is likely to dramatically cut the number of road deaths each year. After all, a study by Stanford University found that 90% of road traffic accidents are caused, at least in part, by human error. With Google, Uber and others working on driverless car technology, we can fairly safely assume that driverless cars will become the norm in a few years’ time.

Motoring

However, not everyone is happy about this new driverless car technology. Those who rely on driving to make a living look set to see their job opportunities dry up in the future. Taxi and lorry drivers are particularly worried about the new developments. “What of the millions more whose livelihoods depend on the truckers coming up and down the country, stopping for food, drinks and sleep? “It’s going to be a huge problem,” says Andy Stern, the former president of the Service Employees International Union. There are around 3.5 million truckers in the United States alone – which means 3.5 million people are at risk of losing their jobs in the future and will almost certainly need to change their career entirely.

The motoring industry is not the only victim of technological progress.

Communication

Many of us use social applications such as Facebook, Twitter and WhatsApp to communicate. Every day, 30 billion messages are sent on WhatsApp alone. In response to pressure from consumers, WhatsApp added end-to-end encryption for messaging on their service, meaning that only the sender and the receiver of messages can know what they say. They cannot be intercepted by hackers. This is a major victory for privacy, but a catastrophic problem for law enforcement. Encrypted messages give criminals and terrorists a way to communicate and co-ordinate without any danger of being caught by law-enforcement. Whether encryption will result in more terror attacks and more crime remains to be seen, but it is a concern.

Mental Health

Furthermore, there are a number of studies which suggest that the rise of social media has also led to a rise in mental health problems, particularly among teenagers. Rates of depression and anxiety in teenagers have risen by 75% in the last 25 years. People who post to social media naturally cherry pick the best bits of their lives to show to the world. This gives people a warped perception of how beautiful a person is and how good their lives are. Airbrushed magazine covers and exciting Instagram profiles lead some people to feel they cannot compete and gives them a sense of worthlessness.

Mental health has become such a problem that the UK government pledged a record £11.7bn to mental health services in the NHS, but many feel that this is not even close to what is required to tackle the problem.

But is it all bad news?

Not at all. Going back to driverless cars, since 2012, the self-driving cars tested by Google, Delphi and Audi have logged more than a million miles on public roads, and have been involved in 11 accidents. That’s one accident every 91,000 miles – hardly a regular occurrence. As the technology improves, the number of accidents will be cut further. It is not unreasonable to expect that driverless cars will stop all accidents at some point. Given that nearly 1.3 million people die on the roads across the world annually, driverless technology is ultimately hugely beneficial.

The progression of cloud technology has allowed people to transfer information amongst each other securely and instantly. Scientists can collaborate on research in real-time, colleagues can communicate with each other across the world instantly and students can find out about that important subject for their essays without trundling through stacks of books.

Technological progress helps us to live longer, communicate better and provides us with more spare time to do the things we love, rather than tedious tasks.

The benefits of technology mean that there isn’t really a good reason to put the brakes on technological growth.

How can we make technology work for all of us?

Not all of us will benefit from technological advancement. Improvements to transportation in the 20th century killed off industrial jobs in the west, as globalisation led to cheaper, foreign industry out-competing the more expensive western industry products such as coal and steel. These communities still haven’t recovered as former miners and steel workers have been unable to find new work.

Technology works best when it augments the skills of a worker, not removes the need for one. Technology that empowers people to be more efficient benefits the workers, the employers and society. Focus on improving efficiency rather than removing labour means that wealth is spread out among society and not just concentrated at the top – removing the need for human workers depresses wages while those in power grow their wealth exponentially.

Cloud technology is a great example of this. With its focus on improving communication between workers, advancing information flows and providing the freedom to work anywhere – the cloud seeks to augment workers rather than replace them.

There is a certain inevitability that technological progress will replace workers in some sectors. For those unfortunate ones, it is important that investment in re-education occurs in order to return these workers to the labour market. That way we can avoid the depression of whole communities across the west and can make technological progress work for all of us.

The New Forest is a great place to do business – Our thoughts after the NFBP Business Awards

nfbp-finalist

On the evening of November 30th, some of the brightest and best businesses and business people congregated together at the Carey’s Manor hotel in Brockenhurst for the NFBP Brilliance in Business Awards. In its 11th year, the awards commemorate the success of businesses in the New Forest national park.

We at entrustIT have been operating out of the New Forest for all of our 10 years of trading. Our offices in Ringwood serve as a base for our operations which spread out across the country, and the continent. In ten years we have progressed from operating out of a house in Brockenhurst with only a handful of local customers, to providing services across the UK and Europe and in the USA via our office in Boston, with thousands of users accessing our servers daily and customers including Bath Store and the BBC – and all of this success has occurred in the New Forest.

As a result, we feel, as a company, a certain fondness for the area. It is our area or operations, it is our scenery on our commute and for many of our staff, it is our home. It was only natural, then, that we felt honoured to be selected as finalists for the ExxonMobil award for innovation and entrepreneurship at the New Forest Business Awards.

The evening itself was very professionally organised and although we weren’t winners on the night, we are still proud to be ambassadors of the New Forest. The evening did bring one fact into focus for us though:

The New Forest is a great place to do business.

Looking around on the night, there were plenty of exciting and varied businesses and business people. From solar-powered cameras, to haircare products and even a ‘chocolate messaging’ company – there was something for everyone at the awards.

A talk by Di Roberts from Brockenhurst College highlighted the great work the college is doing providing all these local businesses with the next generation of talent. With thousands of students and adult learners, there will certainly be plenty of skilled workers to propel the local economy forward in the years to come.

The New Forest has around 8,000 businesses within it. This is more than in Southampton or Portsmouth. It is clear to see that this is a great place to do business and so many businesses do thrive here. Furthermore, this is a great place to live and work.

We are extremely proud to be ambassadors for the New Forest. We have had a great ten years of business here and are looking forward to many more. With uncertain economic times ahead, it is clear to see that the New Forest is well positioned to continue with stable growth for many years.

entrustIT at the BCS UK IT Industry Awards 2016

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On 16th November 2016, IT professionals from across the country descended on Battersea Park for the UK IT Industry Awards, hosted by the British Computer Society. This was described by the editor of Computing Magazine as an event for the “brightest and best minds and businesses that the UK IT industry has to offer.”

The awards celebrated the work done by the IT industry in the last 12 months and kicked off in style with fireworks and a stand-up set performed by Josh Widdicombe, star of Mock the Week and Live at the Apollo.

We were up for the Cloud Innovation Provider of the Year award for our 3D Design Desktop. Unfortunately, we were not winners on the night but are still proud to be selected in the 10 name shortlist for this nationwide award, the most prestigious event in the IT calendar.

Commenting on the result, Jeff Dodd, Managing Director of entrustIT said: “This is one of the biggest events in the UK IT Industry and to be selected as a finalist is a fantastic achievement. 3D Design Desktop continues to be very exciting for us and these awards reiterate that. Our team has worked extremely hard this year and they can be very proud of the work they’ve done.”

Join in the conversation using the hashtag #UKITAWARDS

Dropbox hack highlights security risks

Hand holding smart phone with online privacy concept on screen. All screen content is designed by me

In September Dropbox  emailed 68 million users to inform them that the next time they logged in to their accounts they would be prompted to change their passwords. The users in question were those who had not changed their passwords since mid-2012. When asked why Dropbox were  suddenly taking action against those users – Dropbox made their reasoning clear.

“We recently learned about an old set of Dropbox user credentials (email addresses and passwords) that we believe were obtained in 2012.”

This means that for four years, all 68 million users affected by that hack will have had their accounts open to unauthorised entry. Dropbox is often used to store sensitive information and personal photos. How catastrophic could that be in the wrong hands? Not only that, but one can assume that a username and password combination  unchanged for 4 years will have been used in other places too.

Dropbox started life as a consumer application. It is not designed with the same levels of security that a B2B  application would require. And yet, it is still used by many businesses  to store sensitive data.

For those using Dropbox, it is important that you update your password regularly  make sure that it is particularly difficult to guess – using capital letters, numbers and symbols in your passwords will help. However, for most business users, Dropbox simply isn’t secure enough to handle their company and client data securely.

That is where Citrix ShareFile comes in.

ShareFile is a secure, versatile cloud based storage application – designed for businesses. ShareFile is highly customisable so can be moulded to fit any business and offers good value for business, but most importantly it was  designed from the ground up with enterprise security requirements in mind.

An interesting option is Hosted ShareFile, which allows a third party vendor to provide and host the ShareFile application. Partnering with a good cloud vendor will mean you benefit from 24/7 support of your application, allowing you to get on with your job and let technical issues be resolved by people who understand IT.

Remember, data breaches do not only incur financial losses. They also incur reputation losses, which are more difficult to put a price on. Some firms simply cannot survive a major loss of reputation. It’s not worth the risk.

For more information on entrust SharePoint solutions, call 0330 002 0045