iCloud Security

Two-factor verification for Apple iCloud

Following the iCloud hack scandal with photo leaks affecting numerous celebrities, Apple has revived the two-factor verification for its iCloud.

Two-factor verification brings increased security to iCloud by allowing users to tie in a verified SMS number or connected device, making it harder for an unauthorised user to hack an iCloud account even if they have your password or log-in credentials.

How to enable two-factor verification

In order to enable two-step verification, you must have a current password that meets Apple’s minimum standards of 8 characters complete with at least 1 number and 1 capital letter. If you have to change your current password in order to meet this standard, you’ll have a short waiting period before you can enable two-step verification.

  1. Go to appleid.apple.com from the browser on your Mac or PC.
  2. Sign in to the Apple ID you’d like to enable two-step verification for.
  3. Click on Password & Security in the left hand navigation.
  4. Answer the secret questions you’ve previously set up and click on Continue — if you don’t remember them, you can reset them if you have a backup email on file.
  5. Click on Get Started… under the Two-Step Verification section.
  6. As long as you have a device linked to your iCloud account on hand, click Continue on the next screen.
  7. Read the next two screens about two-step verification.
  8. Once finished, click Get Started on the second screen.
  9. Add your current phone number to start the verification process.
  10. Check your phone for a text message and then enter the 4-digit verification code.
  11. After your phone number is verified, a list of connected devices you can verify should appear.
  12. Click on Verify next to the devices you’d like to trust in case you need to use them for two-step verification in the future.
  13. Once you’re done verifying all your devices, click Continue.
  14. The next page gives you your Recovery Key which you’ll need to either print out or write down.
  15. Once you’ve gotten the code written down or printed, click Continue and then verify it by typing it out on the next screen. You won’t be able to continue until you confirm you know the code.
  16. Click Confirm in order to continue.
  17. Click the checkbox to confirm you understand what you’ll need in order to complete two-step verification should you forget your password.
  18. Click Enable two-step verification.
  19. You’ll receive a confirmation that two-step verification has been enabled. Click Done.

For more FAQs about two-factor verification, see the Apple website (here).

Don't let legacy systems hold you back

Don’t let legacy systems hold you back

If you remember the complexity, time and effort it involved to implement the system that your company currently uses , you’d probably be tempted to not change a thing. Especially if it is all still working fine, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” right?

What if we tell you that the benefits by far outweigh the negatives?

While your legacy application may be working now, one cannot ignore the immense benefits of cloud adoption, especially the fact that it prepares for the day when your application no longer works.

As previously discussed, the cloud brings about many benefits, including:

  • Cost reduction – shifting large capex to lower predictable operating expenses
  • Utilisation of the latest technologies
  • Facilitation of seamless growth
  • More benefits detailed here

We understand how daunting it is to imagine reconfiguring everything, so we have identified some common legacy issues and put together the following, which explains how the cloud works to address these issues:

How do I know that the cloud is suitable for our business?

The cloud offers scalability, ubiquity and centricity, making it accessible for everyone. The key is to determine exactly where cloud can deliver the greatest value for your business, and devise a unique solution that best fits your situation. It may help to seek advice from a professional IT consulting firm who is experienced in assisting other businesses with cloud deployments.

Your cloud deployment can be performed in two ways:

  1. Keep your legacy business processes largely intact by re-hosting to a low-cost, updated environment
  2. Break your application into separate components with application re-architecture

Moving to the cloud takes advantage of the greater economies of scale that it provides, giving your business greater agility and resilience.

If we suddenly switch everything over how do we know it all works?

The great thing about the cloud is that you can adopt it gradually. Think of it as a process, and start by moving parts that would perform better and are easier to manage in the cloud. Once you are familiar with the environment you can begin to move other parts of the systems over. Cloud is relatively inexpensive to adopt and allows for quick deployment and testing, so your business is able to try it out for different parts of your system to determine what works best.

How do we know it’s safe?

Reliable cloud service providers are able to offer secure data centres with uptime guarantees. Moreover, the cloud offers security that cannot be achieved within your premises in the event of disasters, such as a fire or theft. By moving your applications and data offsite, cloud allows for disaster recovery and business continuity.

But we have so much stuff in our system!

Yes, legacy systems cannot just be removed overnight, however you can remap certain processes to start making use of the cloud.

For example, you can implement a cloud solution that pulls and processes data from your legacy system when required, providing results of an advanced IT system. Another use is utilising the cloud’s infinite processing power to analyse large volumes of  big data held within legacy systems, allowing businesses to promptly identify opportunities and react faster to changes in their market.

Our legacy application is what our staff are used to!

If you choose to deploy with a trusted managed cloud provider, they can assist in providing user training and familiarising your staff with the new systems to maximise the working relationship on all sides. Moreover, with the involvement of a professional software development team, your cloud applications can be custom designed to look and function exactly like your on-premise counterparts.

We don’t want to move the application outside its life cycle.

While this may be a legitimate reason to delay adoption, if you wait until the end of life for applications that may hang around for a decade, that is a decade’s worth of savings and productivity that your business is losing out on. Your competitors may already be moving to more efficient systems that allow them to be more agile in responding to market changes, giving them a competitive advantage over your business.

Cloud adoption allows for implementation of new agile practices that will keep your business from falling behind your competition. It is important that businesses start exploring the components of their business that are more suitable in the cloud, and eliminate the risk of being left behind with stale legacy systems.

Cloud Changing Lives

How the cloud is changing life as we know it

The cloud has opened up a plethora of opportunities to improve our way of living, in ways that we could only dream of a decade ago. Apps and devices are now readily available to keep track of daily activities, compare our habits to the rest of the world through analysis of big data, and raise alerts when something out of the ordinary occurs.

Think of something as simple as leaving for work in the morning. You know that D’oh! moment when you’re driving out of the driveway, and you see that you left your lights on. Or even worse, getting to work and panicking about whether you locked your door or not. Now there are products to help, such as SmartThings, which allows you to remotely monitor and perform tasks around the house such as locking your doors. Aside from security uses, it can assist with lifestyle improvements as well. Nothing better than going home to a preheated house on a cold winter night.

Keeping track of finances is now easier than ever. Gone are the days of writing down expenses and typing them back into your budgeting spreadsheet when you get home. Apps such as YNAB allow users to enter expenses as they occur through their mobile devices, and these are synced with their accounts through cloud and can be accessed on any other devices signed into the account. Super handy for those with goldfish memory!

The cloud is also dramatically changing the lives of the elderly, helping them live longer, healthier and more fulfilling lives. Car monitoring apps like Automatic are available to assess driving ability by keeping track of the speed, acceleration time, number of hard stops, swerves, etc, as well as monitoring the state of the car and triggering built-in emergency-response features. Cloud-based programs such as medication reminders, Personal Emergency Response Systems (PERS) and GPS tools ensure the safety and general well-being of seniors living on their own. Cloud-connected refridgerators notify the owner when foods are in low supply by sending a message to you or anyone else informing them that it’s time to go shopping.

Advancement in medical research has seen an increase in the use of cloud services as well. The Michael J. Fox Foundations (MJFF) recently announced a new partnership with Intel to better understand the disease. The chipmaker has built an open-source big data analytics platform utilising the cloud which allows researchers to analyse patient data collected by wearable technology. This assists with overcoming current challenges with battling the disease due to the “variability in the type of people who can get it, the wide-ranging symptoms and how it progresses”, as stated by chief executive of the MJFF, Todd Sherer, “Parkinson’s can be variable, subjective and episodic.”

It is evidently clear that the cloud has enabled technology advancements in a much broader scale than before, helping the world come together and improving lives across the globe.

What cloud technology are you using to assist with everyday tasks? Let us know!

Unlocking the Cryptolocker

Unlocking the CryptoLocker

For those who have not heard of CryptoLocker, thank your lucky stars that you were not one of the estimated 500,000 victims that were affected by this ransomware. As for those who were unfortunately affected, or those who are simply curious to find out how to decrypt it, read on.

What is CryptoLocker?

CryptoLocker is a ransomware trojan which targets computers running Microsoft Windows. A CryptoLocker attack may come from various sources; one such is disguised as a legitimate email attachment. Once it worms its way into your system, it encrypts all of your files using strong AES-256-bit cryptography, which can only be unlocked by a private key.

What happened if someone fell victim to an attack?

The attacker demanded Bitcoins equating to around $300 USD in exchange for the key, or else the files stayed encrypted forever. According to BBC, 1.3 percent of victims paid to retrieve their files, totaling approximately $3 million USD before the criminal network was smashed by authorities and security researchers in May.

The solution is here – for free!

Researchers from FireEye and Fox-IT have managed to recover the private encryption keys used by CryptoLocker’s authors, as well as reverse-engineer the code powering the malware itself. Together they have launched the DecryptCryptoLocker – a free tool to assist victims of the CryptoLocker ransomware.

Use DecryptCryptoLocker here

However, FireEye warns that some data might not be recoverable, particularly if you’ve been infected by a CryptoLocker variant rather than CryptoLocker itself. “While these variants do appear similar to CryptoLocker, this tool may not be successful in all decryption processes because of code and functionality variances.”

How can I protect myself and my business from such attacks?

There are various preventative measures you can take from changes to your daily routines to restructuring of your IT systems. Here are a few we recommend:

  • If you receive an email with a suspicious attachment, do not click on it – this is especially so for files with .exe extensions (or .zip files containing .exe files)
  • Ask your IT department or service provider to block above mentioned file types from emails
  • Install or upgrade your email security to filter out spam more effectively
  • Show hidden file extensions – in the case of CryptoLocker, it frequently arrived in a file that is named with the extension “.PDF.EXE” – enable your computer’s ability to see the full file-extension to spot suspicious files easier
  • Backup your data regularly
  • Utilise external services to store backups on the cloud – ransomware such as CryptoLocker also affect files that are on mapped drives, so backing up to a cloud server ensures that your files are protected from such attacks
    (Learn more on protecting your business in the cloud from our previous post)

In a world where we rely heavily on technology for both work and personal uses, we must be prepared for the worst and protect ourselves at all times from attacks and other disasters. Speak to your managed services provider today to learn more about protecting your valuable business assets.

Application Hosting

What is Application Hosting (and how do we do it?)

“Moving to the cloud” is the latest business trend, and this is not surprising considering the many benefits of doing so. There are various aspects of the business that can be moved, one of which is the applications you and your team use on a daily basis. Let’s explore what application hosting involves, and how your business can take full advantage of the benefits it offers.

What is Application Hosting?

Application Hosting refers to the ability of businesses to remotely access and use, off the shelf or tailored applications, hosted in a cloud infrastructure. Users can access that application through any device with an Internet connection. This service is also referred to as Software as a Service (SaaS).

How can my business benefit from it?

  • Reduces complexity and costs through centralising applications in the cloud and automating the process of delivering or updating applications
  • Test ideas more cost effectively and go to market faster
  • Ensure seamless growth with an elastic cloud infrastructure
  • Flexibility with enhanced security – Hosted Applications are securely accessible from a multitude of devices using encrypted gateways
  • Familiar working environment – Hosted Applications look and function exactly like their on-premise counterparts
  • Backup your data on the cloud with access of backups from anywhere at anytime

How can I implement it for my business?

There are many considerations and steps to take to ensure a successful and effective implementation of Application Hosting. Here is a handy checklist compiled by SmartCompany:

  1. Figure out what applications your business has in use
  2. Figure out which of them can be migrated or not
  3. Of those that can be migrated, which will we choose to move?
  4. Prepare a budget for each project
  5. Do a cost-benefit analysis
  6. Make a decision and commit funds to action
  7. Plan projects
  8. Take action
  9. Test all aspects in User Acceptance Testing (UAT) before deploying
  10. Deploy the change
  11. Train your team in how to use the tools even if they have not changed much
  12. Start again

One important thing to remember is that the main objective to move your business to the cloud is not to follow a trend, but to improve business processes, reduce costs, take advantage of the latest technologies and facilitate growth. It is a vital strategic move for your business and must therefore be carefully executed. With the help of a trusted cloud service provider, you will be guided along the way from planning to implementation to ongoing support, and be able to securely leverage the benefits that application hosting and other cloud services provide.

Nobody Understands the Cloud

Nobody understands the cloud

I recently watched a movie in which the male lead character frustratedly stated, “Nobody understands the cloud, it’s a ******* mystery!” The frustration stemmed from an encounter with the cloud whereby a very personal file was shared with a large group of people, and due to a lack of knowledge of how it all worked, he was unable to remove everyone’s access to this file.

Cloud computing has certainly become a popular buzzword, appearing more than 48 million times on the internet. As we mentioned in a previous post, it is defined by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) as “a model for enabling ubiquitous, convenient, on-demand network access to a shared pool of configurable computing resources (e.g., networks, servers, storage, applications, and services) that can be rapidly provisioned and released with minimal management effort or service provider interaction.”

What does that even mean?

As a constantly evolving concept, there has not been one definitive answer to this question yet. In fact, the NIST even states that “cloud computing can and does mean different things to different people”. However, below are a few simple approaches that may assist you with a better grasp of the technology.


So what is cloud computing, in plain English?

In the simplest terms, cloud computing means storing and accessing data and programs over the Internet instead of your computer’s hard drive. The cloud is just a metaphor for the Internet.” – PC Mag

Say what?

Let’s think back a couple of decades. If you had files stored in your computer at home that you needed for work, it was common sense to store these files onto a Floppy Disk and bring it to work. As technology moved forward, these were then replaced with Zip Drives, CDs and USB Flash Drives. Fast forward to now, we are taking the next step to the idea of bringing our data with us everywhere. However, rather than having a need to carry a physical storage device with us, we can now store our files in a remote location hosted by a cloud provider, and these can be accessed anywhere via the internet.

Where is the cloud?

Depending on the provider you are with, the location of the cloud you are using would vary based on the location of their servers.

How big is the cloud?

According to a recent research by Nasuni, there is over 1 Exabyte of data stored in the cloud – or 1024 petabytes, or 1,073,741,824 gigabytes… you get the idea.

How do I start using the cloud?

Chances are you’re already using it. Do you use Gmail for your emails? Or have your iPhone photos stored on the iCloud? Or files stored on Microsoft’s OneDrive? Or ever used Dropbox? These are some of the most common cloud-based systems, which a lot of us are already familiar with and are often pre-installed on your new phones or tablets. The Australian Communications and Media Authority recently released a report which found that nearly 14 million people in Australia aged 18 years and older had actively used cloud computer services in the past six months. That’s about 80 per cent of the adult population.

In a business environment, you are able to contact your cloud service provider to find out how your business can make the move to the cloud. How much you move over is your choice, depending on your service level agreement, and you will also have the choice of whether you want to manage your own system or opt for packages that also manage your servers for you. The benefit of the cloud is that it is customisable and scalable, so solutions are tailor made to your business needs and budget, facilitating business agility and seamless growth.

Who is going to see what I put on the cloud?

Put simply, anyone with granted access. Think about your Gmail, iCloud or Dropbox account. You need a login and password to access the data that is in there, however you also have the option to share particular items with your friends or colleagues should you wish to do so.

When you utilise the cloud with your cloud service provider, they should be able to assure you that your important business data is stored in secure data centres. Permissions can also be set up to ensure that only approved personnel are able to access your files, with various levels of access for different people.


Hopefully the above points have assisted in your understanding of this big “mystery”. And for those who have watched the same movie as I have, the main takeaway is that if you are unsure of how it works, it probably is best to seek assistance from someone who is more familiar with the technology, such as your cloud service provider. In the case of the male lead character, he went through a series of tiring and somewhat horrific adventures to physically delete his file from each device, only to find out at the end that he could have done so remotely in the click of a button.

For further explanations in more technical detail and tips on choosing a service provider, see our previous post on What is Cloud Computing.

Unified communications key to collaboration

Did you know that the Blue Whale is one of the loudest animals in the world? Its call reaches levels up to 188 decibels, which can be heard for hundreds of miles underwater. Unfortunately as humans we don’t have this extraordinary ability, however that does not stop us from extending our communications worldwide.

With the rise of cloud computing and strong fibre optic technologies, businesses now enjoy the luxury of fast and easy access to a variety of communication methods through the use of Unified Communications systems. This has greatly enhanced communication processes for businesses, both internally and with external stakeholders, bringing collaboration and productivity to an all new level.

What is Unified Communications (UC)?

It is an integration of your communications systems including phone, video conferencing, instant messaging and email on both desktop and mobile devices. This allows for the consistent collaboration between your staff, clients and suppliers. Such a unified approach also enables instant information sharing and interactions, giving your business the competitive edge of reaching your audience and providing their product solutions quicker.

A report by Frost & Sullivan titled Enterprise Communications Research – 2012, Australian Unified Communications Market says 71 percent of Australian business and technology leaders believe an efficient UC platform increases employee productivity and makes an organisation more competitive.

Benefits of UC

  • Connect co-workers, partners, vendors, and customers with the information and expertise they need
  • Access and share video on the desktop, on mobile devices, and on demand, as easily as making a phone call
  • Facilitate better team interactions, dynamically bringing together individuals, virtual workgroups, and teams
  • Make mobile devices extensions of the corporate network so workers can be productive anywhere
  • Integrate collaboration and communications into applications and business processes

What improved collaboration means for your business

According to the Collaborative Economy report from Deloitte commissioned by Google Australia, improved workforce collaboration could add $46 billion to Australia’s national economy. The report is based on a survey of 1000 Australian employees and business managers conducted in June 2014 comparing collaborative work to individual work. Companies that prioritise collaboration are five times more likely to experience a considerable increase in employment, twice as likely to be profitable, and twice as likely to outgrow competitors.

Collaboration, whether it be one-on-one conversations or video conferencing with multiple participants from different locations, can all be conducted through the use of Unified Communications systems. With a wide range of products and services that are now available, gaining access to UC has not been easier.

Speak to your IT or Telecoms service provider to find out how you can leverage the benefits of UC for your business today.

Protect your business in the Cloud

Remember playing with building blocks as a child? Spending hours of effort and concentration, carefully placing each piece into their perfect spots… and VOILA! It’s the best tower you’ve ever built. You spend every waking moment protecting this masterpiece, ensuring that it is safe and kept away from all possible harms.

Only for it to be knocked over by mum’s vacuum cleaner, shattered into a million pieces and impossible to be restored to its initial perfection. You felt angry, distressed, and a great sense of loss. How could this have happened?

Now fast-forward to today, and this time it is not the tower that has been destroyed. It is your valuable business data and information, which you have spent years of hard work to create and build. In the blink of an eye everything you need for your business to run is gone – what do you do now?

Protect Your Business In The Cloud

Disaster can strike at any moment, whether it be theft, a natural disaster or simple human error. With cloud computing, you can add reliable security measures to protect what’s important to your business.

By storing your data remotely either in a hosted server or managed server, housed in a secure data centre, your business is protected against physical theft of data. It also protects your information from system failures or natural disasters, such as a fire or flooding which may destroy all your physical data on-site.

Further to moving to a cloud storage, businesses are also able to use backup and disaster recovery methods to ensure further protection of valuable data and business continuity. Cloud storage provides peace of mind while still allowing flexible access to data for you and your employees, with access available anywhere via the internet.

Take Action Now

Another day without protection is another day your business is exposed to risks. Amongst its many benefits, cloud computing has certainly paved a new path for businesses security – speak to the Interlinked team today to learn more.

What is Cloud Computing?

Everyone in business is talking about the Cloud. But despite its popularity, it is a challenge for vendors to provide a clear-cut definition of the Cloud considering its different characteristics and deployment models.

The main characteristic of Cloud Computing is the ability to provide on-demand multiple access to shared and scalable hardware and software resources. The National institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) defines the cloud as follows:

“Cloud computing is a model for enabling ubiquitous, convenient, on-demand network access to a shared pool of configurable computing resources (e.g., networks, servers, storage, applications, and services) that can be rapidly provisioned and released with minimal management effort or service provider interaction.”

An example is an email service such as Outlook or Gmail. These are cloud applications hosted remotely and accessed through any device with an Internet connection. Such applications are shared by millions of users. Each user can configure settings in the cloud and the configuration is implemented across all their devices. These types of applications are referred to as SAAS (software as a service), running on an IAAS (infrastructure as a service). The “as a service” model refers to running these applications over the Internet.


Cloud implementation

Cloud implementation models fall under these three main categories:

Public Cloud: A service provider offers servers, applications and storage usually as a pay per user model. The hosting is done remotely in a data center.

Private Cloud: This refers to a Cloud infrastructure being owned and operated by one organisation and hosted on its premises.

Hybrid Cloud: As the name implies, the Hybrid Cloud combines both Public and Private Clouds. One scenario of Hybrid Cloud implementation is hosting critical data onsite with the option of scaling to a Public cloud during traffic spikes.

 

Benefits of Cloud Computing:

Progressive businesses understand that leveraging the Cloud allows them to:

Reduce costs and free up resources:
Businesses can replace capital expenditure on IT infrastructure with predictable monthly payments and allow IT personnel to focus on profit generating projects rather than maintenance tasks.

Ensure Seamless growth:
Cloud infrastructure is elastic with extensive range of hardware and software resources to accommodate any expansion quickly.

Customise IT environment:
The cloud is a highly-customisable environment which is quickly and efficiently adaptable as business needs change.

Deploy and test applications quickly:
Cloud servers make it fast and easy to build, test, deploy and scale applications.

Utilise the latest technology:
Cloud infrastructure is continuously monitored and regularly undergoes security assessments and software updates.

Backup data:
Cloud backup is completely automated with flexible storage that grows with your business. Cloud backups are accessible 24/7 from anywhere.

Access Support:
Managed Cloud Solutions mean that the provider ensures availability with regular maintenance and support.

Answers to common Cloud Computing concerns:

1- Possible Downtime:

No business can afford downtime, and hosting remotely does not increase downtime probability beyond the existing risks of hosting onsite (electricity outages, natural disasters, theft, etc.…). For peace of mind choose a Cloud provider that offers uptime guarantees and a fallback option.

2- Security:

Reliable Cloud Computing vendors have the resources that allow them to offer advanced data security systems. Data centers also have very strict guidelines and policies for physical access to their sites. The average small business will find it hard to match this level of security.

3- Cost:

While one advantage of Cloud computing is being able to pay for resources as you use them, some businesses prefer a predictable payment to avoid surprise bills and hidden costs. To overcome this, businesses can approach vendors that offer a fixed cost service with the option to scale up usage when required.

Contact Interlinked for a free consultation which outlines the benefits of Cloud Computing to your particular business.