Why do you need a Disaster Recovery plan?

Whether your business is in retail, manufacturing or healthcare, companies have never been more connected, or vulnerable.

Many businesses fail to put a strong Disaster Recovery plan in place. Whether at the hands of natural disasters, cyber-attacks or human error – data loss is costly and risky. A strong DR plan would help mitigate common business risks, including:

The impact of cyber attacks

Disaster RecoveryAs cloud computing grows and more business data is migrated online, cyber criminals are increasing their efforts to breach business defences. Over the last five years there has been a massive surge in malware and phishing attempts, such as CryptoLocker, which have been solely focused on businesses.

Natural disaster protection

From floods, fires and tornadoes, all over the world there are a number of uncontrollable circumstances which can ultimately destroy business data and cause your business to experience downtime and lose money.

A Disaster Recovery plan won’t prevent the natural disaster from occurring, but it can ensure that the business is back up and running again as soon as possible.

IT disaster

Unfortunately, no matter how much time you invest in putting together a secure, always available solution, there is no guarantee it will work 100% of the time. From employee mistakes to disk failure, your business needs to have a strong Disaster Recovery solution in place to mitigate any business downtime.

For example, if you own a retail business and an employee damages a server, would your business still be able to complete shop transactions? If there’s no Disaster Recovery solution in place, the stores could be closed for days. With a Disaster Recovery solution the systems could be back up and running within minutes.

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Protecting Yorkshire against Cybercrime

Richard May is speaking at the first ever ‘Yorkshire Cyber Security Event’ on Thursday 12th May.

YCCCThe free educational event is open to businesses of all sizes, providing a starting point to protecting and preventing data loss in organisations. Taking place at 3M Buckley Innovation Centre in Huddersfield, Richard will be holding a seminar on how organisations can retrieve and protect data should an IT incident occur.

With roundtable discussions and a 1:1 advice drop-in centre on offer throughout the day, attendees will be able to utilise the knowledge of some of the region’s finest minds in cyber security. Seminars will talk through fundamental information security topics such as cloud security, human error breaches, immediate protections and much more.

Melanie Oldham, the Chair of the Yorkshire Cyber Security Cluster said: “We are incredibly excited to have Richard May speaking at the Yorkshire Cyber Security Event. His expertise in disaster recovery will be vital to the delegates because while we hope to avoid all data breaches, it is important for organisations to know what to do if disaster strikes.”

To sign up to the even visit http://cybersecurityevent2016.eventbrite.co.uk/

About virtualDCS

As the world’s first VMware Enterprise Service Provider, virtualDCS has pioneered the development of the cloud computing industry since its conception.

Specialising in highly secure Disaster Recovery, Software as a Service and Infrastructure as a Service solutions, virtualDCS’ approach is to ethically work in partnership with clients, ensuring that their infrastructure is ready to exceed the service levels demanded by their business.

For further information on virtualDCS call +44 (0) 3453 888 327 or email enquiries@virtualdcs.co.uk.

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DeepMind gains access to UK patient records

DeepMind, Google’s artificial intelligence division, has now been given access to an estimated 1.6 million NHS patient records as part of its research.

Google has stated it will use the data in order to develop an early warning system application, called Stream, for patients who are at risk of developing acute kidney injuries. According to NHS reports, acute Kidney injuries contribute up to 20% of emergency hospital admissions. DeepMind intends to use this information to alert doctors when someone is at risk of developing the condition.

DeepmindMany people are concerned that the data sharing agreement includes full names, along with patient medical history. ‘New Scientist’ stated “The agreement gives DeepMind access to a wide range of healthcare data on the 1.6 million patients who pass through three London hospitals run by the Royal Free NHS Trust – Barnet, Chase Far, and the Royal Free – each year.

This will include information about people who are HIV-positive, for instance, as well as details of drug overdoses and abortions. The agreement also includes access to patient data from the last five years.”

Critics have also questioned why Google needs the data of all patients to create the application. “The big question is why they want it. This a very rich data set. If you are someone who went to the A&E department, why is your data in this?” Asked Sam Smith, a co-ordinator of patient data campaign group MedConfidential.

Google says that since there is no separate dataset for people with kidney conditions, it needs access to all of the data in order to run Streams effectively. In a statement, the Royal Free NHS Trust says that it “provides DeepMind with NHS patient data in accordance with strict information governance rules and for the purpose of direct clinical care only.”

It is currently believed that doctors at the Royal Free approached Google about developing the system. Google has not ruled out the use of data for other purposes, but has stated that it will only be used for improving healthcare needs and will never be linked to other Google accounts or products.

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Online software can help Florists blossom

At this stage in the cloud computing timeline, it’s clear that Software as a Service (SaaS) technology is a vital computing and business tool for organisations across a number of industries.

In light of recent statistics, it’s safe to say that SaaS is here to stay. With an estimated growth rate of 18.3%, IDC predicts that the cloud software market will surpass $112.8bn by 2019.

One growing business sector that is rarely mentioned in cooperation with cloud technology is Floristry, when in fact this area is one which could benefit from accessing software online the most.

So, why SaaS for Florists?

FloristIt’s hard to think of any business where its employees would not benefit from having access to universal information at anytime, anywhere. When delivering orders or visiting a supplier, a Florist would benefit from being able to have up to date information on what products need ordering and the status of each order. If everything is stored in one location, the company never has to take anything to chance. Gone are the days of writing gift card messages down on paper. Everyone has access to the latest information all stored in one place.

Does your flower shop do any marketing? As information is stored and accessed through the application, it’s simple to generate customer databases for marketing purposes. For example, the flower shop could easily send out a promotion on Valentines Day Roses to every existing customer by generating a list of all their emails.

These benefits above have been condensed from some of the few existing SaaS applications on the market. However, many Florists have created their own internal software applications to combat these requirements.

If you are one of these businesses and would like to make money while sharing your application with other Florists, then contact a member of virtualDCS.

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123-reg deletes customer websites

The website hosting firm 123-reg, which currently supports 1.7 million websites throughout the UK, has accidentally deleted a number of its customers’ websites while undergoing server maintenance.

According to reports it’s not yet clear how many websites have been deleted during the incident, with the firm stating that: “We can conclude that the issues faced have resulted in some data loss for some customers,” the firm admitted and that the fault was limited to 67 servers out of 115,000 across Europe.

123-reg123-reg has now started a recovery process, however it is still advising customers, which are lucky enough to have their own backup data, to rebuild their own websites. The company exclusively told the BBC that it did not have a backup copy of all its customers’ data, but was working with a data recovery specialist to “manage the process of restoration”.

“Our VPS product is an unmanaged service and we always recommend that customers implement backups to safeguard against unexpected issues,” the company said.

“Customers who had purchased 123-reg backups can be online now. Many of our customers keep their own backups.”

Meanwhile, many of 123-Reg’s customers have taken to social media to vent their frustrations and express concerns about the long term damage this issue would have on their business.

Incidents like these highlight the importance of having a comprehensive Disaster Recovery plan in place.

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Google apologises for latest cloud outage

On Monday, Google’s cloud services went offline, leaving customers unable to access services for 18 minutes.

Google has now announced that it will refund its affected customers in credits for the problem, after investigations confirmed that the issue was caused by Google engineers performing a network update to their systems.

googleIn the recent company statement, Benjamin Treynor Sloss, Vice President of Engineering for the corporation, stated that the issue was not at risk of being repeated, explaining that:

“[I]nbound internet traffic to Compute Engine instances was not routed correctly, resulting in dropped connections and an inability to reconnect.

The loss of inbound traffic caused services depending on this network path to fail as well, including VPNs and L3 network load balancers. Additionally, the Cloud VPN offering in the asia-east1 region experienced the same traffic loss starting at an earlier time of 18:14 Pacific Time but the same end time of 19:27.”

The issue didn’t affect the Google App engine, Cloud storage and other Cloud platform products. The statement continued:

“It is our intent to enumerate all the lessons we can learn from this event, and then to implement all of the changes which appear useful. As of the time of this writing in the evening of 12 April, there are already 14 distinct engineering changes planned spanning prevention, detection and mitigation, and that number will increase as our engineering teams review the incident with other senior engineers across Google in the coming week.”

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New Ransomware scam uncovered

A new widely distributed scam email, that quotes recipient’s postal address, has now been linked to a dangerous form of Ransomware called Maktub.

RansomwareAndrew Brandt from the security firm Blue Coat, exclusively contacted the BBC to discuss his findings after listening to a Radio 4 programme discussing the phishing scam. After investigating the scam further, he confirmed that the emails were linked to form of Ransomware.

Ransomware is a type of malware which encrypts victim’s files, demanding a ransom to be paid before they can be unlocked and retrieved once more.

Phishing

The original phishing email told the recipients that they owed money to UK businesses, when opening the invoice file attached the Ransomware was then installed on the system. Unlike other Ransomware on the market, Maktub increases the fee due to be paid as time proceeds.

“It’s incredibly fast and by the time the warning message had appeared on the screen it had already encrypted everything of value on the hard drive – it happens in seconds,” Mr Brandt told the BBC.

“This is the desktop version of a smash and grab – they want a quick payoff.”

Personal information

One uncommon and worrying feature within the scam email was the fact that cyber criminals managed to include the victim’s name and postal address. Experts believe that the information could have come from a number of leaked sources, but it adds legitimacy to the original claim of the recipient owing money.

This shows the importance of having a strong Disaster recovery plan in place, as cyber criminals find new and innovative ways to trick recipients into revealing data, more businesses are at risk each day.

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WhatsApp adds end to end encryption

The instant messaging service has announced that it will now use end to end encryption for all its user data, making it unreadable if intercepted by criminals.

The company, which is owned by Facebook, claims that protecting private communication is one of its core beliefs. Investing in end to end encryption scrambles the data as it leaves the sender’s device and can then only be decrypted by the recipient’s device.


Encryption
WhatsApp has also stated that file transfers and voice calls would also be encrypted. Users will be notified of the new update on Tuesday, where the encryption feature will be enabled as standard.

WhatsApp said: “The idea is simple: when you send a message, the only person who can read it is the person or group chat that you send that message to. No one can see inside that message. Not cybercriminals. Not hackers. Not oppressive regimes. Not even us.”

Amnesty International called the move a “huge victory” for free speech.

“WhatsApp’s roll out of the Signal Protocol, providing end to end encryption for its one billion users worldwide, is a major boost for people’s ability to express themselves and communicate without fear,” the organisation said in a statement.

“This is a huge victory for privacy and free speech, especially for activists and journalists who depend on strong and trustworthy communications to carry out their work without putting their lives at greater risk.”

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Cloud Computing estimates for 2016

As Quarter 1 has now come to a close, there has been a flurry of new market predictions and estimates coming to light.

This blog recaps a few of the latest, most intriguing Cloud Computing predictions for the rest of 2016 and beyond.

Microsoft

Microsoft’s Cloud landscape update anticipates that Worldwide Public IT Cloud services for 2018 will reach $127bn. They also predict that managed services alone will reach $256bn. The company foresees that emerging markets, such as Africa, will grow 1.8 times faster than developed markets and will account for 21.3% of Public Cloud opportunities in 2017.

Microsoft

TBR

TBR has also predicted that worldwide Public Cloud revenue will increase from $80bn in 2015 to $167bn by 2020. Research by the company also showed that 49% of the market believed that Public Cloud solutions were just as, or more secure than, Private Cloud solutions.

Looking into overall trends within the industry, TBR uncovered that the most important factors in cloud decision making include: Security (51%), Strong TCO proposition (27%), Speed of implementation (26%), Support/Managed services (26%) and User experience (25%).

TBR

IDC

IDC has predicted that Cloud IT infrastructure spending will grow to $53.1bn by 2019. The group continues to estimate that by 2019, 46% of total expenditures will be on enterprise IT infrastructure. Spending on Private Cloud IT infrastructure in 2015 will grow by 15.8% year over year to $12.1 billion, while spending on Public Cloud IT infrastructure will increase by 29.6% to $20.5 billion.

ID

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Apple v FBI

In a six week legal clash, the US government has now declared that it has “successfully accessed the data stored on Farook’s iPhone and no longer requires” assistance from Apple.

AppleAt this moment in time, the FBI has not released information on how the handset was accessed, although sources state that Apple is pushing hard to find out.

Apple’s lawyers have already requested that if this evidence is used in trial, then details of the technique must be made public. However, this information could still remain unknown as there is scope within US law for authorities to withhold the source of information to protect sensitive intelligence-gathering methodologies.

Can the US government now work out anyone’s iPhone passcode?

According to the BBC:

“The court order originally obtained by the FBI had instructed Apple to come up with a special version of its operating system that would have prevented Farook’s iPhone from deleting its data or imposing long lockout periods if too many incorrect passcode guesses were made.

However, the latest court filings do not say that someone else has now done this, but merely that some data stored on the device has been obtained.”

It is possible that alternative methods of getting data off the iPhone were used, including de-capping memory chips or bypassing passcode locks. Until a statement is released people are simply left to speculate.

What does this mean for the UK?

In order to pass the Investigatory Powers bill, home secretary Theresa May has said that technology firms don’t have to hand over encryption keys or build backdoors into their platforms.

However, the law still mentions equipment interference warrants that “could be used to force Apple and others to insert new code into a device in order to help the authorities extract data, in a similar manner to the FBI’s earlier order.”

Continuing US cases

It has also been reported that there are around another dozen undisclosed cases around the country where the US Justice Department is pursuing court orders to force Apple to help its investigators.

The highest profile of these was in Brooklyn, New York where the FBI requested access to an iPhone belonging to an individual who had already pleaded guilty for drug dealing. In this specific case the request to invoke the All Writs Act was rejected by the federal judge.

At the moment it is unclear how the FBI retrieved the information but what is clear is that the US government will continue to put pressure on Apple in the upcoming months and only time will tell if the tech company crumbles to demands.

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