Author Archives: MarkCharleton

microsoft

Originally posted by Mary Jo Foley for All About Microsoft on ZDNet

Microsoft is kicking off the rollout of Office 2016 for Windows on September 22, and is adding a new branch updating scheme, similar to the one available for Windows 10.

It's not a big surprise given recent leaks, but Microsoft officials are confirming that the Office 2016 for Windows rollout will begin on September 22.

September 22 is the date when the next version of Office for Windows desktops will be generally available. Office 365 Personal and Home users will be able to start manually installing Office 2016 apps for Windows on September 22 from Office.com. Microsoft will begin pushing out the new Office 2016 apps via automatic updates in October 2015. Those with volume-licensing contracts will be able to download Office 2016 starting October 1 from the Volume Licensing Centre.

Office 2016 for Windows desktops is the full-featured set of Office apps and the successor to Office 2013. Microsoft released an IT/pro preview of Office 2016 for Windows in March and a public preview in May 2015. The new Office suite runs on Windows 7, 8 and 10 PCs, laptops and tablets.

As part of the rollout, Microsoft is making some changes to the Office update model.

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Those with Office 365 ProPlus subscriptions will be able to continue getting monthly feature and security updates. Taking a page from the Windows 10 playbook, Microsoft is calling this monthly updated release the "Current Branch." The next Current Branch release will be September 22 and will include all the new Office 2016 app updates, according to a September 10 blog post explaining Microsoft's rollout plans.

There also will be a new Office 365 Pro Plus Current Branch for Business updating option. This is for business customers and IT pros who may prefer to wait a few months before rolling out new versions or updates to Office for testing purposes.

Similar to Microsoft's new Current Branch for Business updating path for Windows, the Office Current Branch for Business will provide users with "three cumulative feature updates per year," plus monthly security updates, officials said. That means the next Current Branch for Business build of Office 2016 -- which will include the same feature set as the September 22 release, plus four additional months of security updates -- will be out in February 2016, according to today's blog post.

There are relatively few new features in Office 2016 for Windows. Data loss prevention comes to the Office apps with this release. There also are additional document co-authoring capabilities, new "Tell Me" navigation support, integration with Power BI, and more lockdown/rights management capabilities in the new version of Office for Windows.

Microsoft made the Mac version of Office 2016 available to Office 365 subscribers in July. Later this month, Microsoft plans to offer Office 2016 for Mac available to those who prefer to buy a single copy outright.

Microsoft delivers first public preview of Office 2016 for Mac

Microsoft delivers first public preview of Office 2016 for MacMicrosoft has released the first public preview of Office 2016 for Mac, its updated Office suite for Mac OS 10.10 users, which is due out this summer.

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Update: A few more reader questions and answers about Office 2016 for Windows' coming rollout (delivered via a Microsoft spokesperson):

Q: Will Office 365 Business Premium -- and not just Office 365 users with ProPlus -- automatically get these updates and be serviced via branches?

A: Yes, Business customers will also receive the 2016 apps and will default to the Current Branch. Business Premium customers can choose to move to the Current Branch for Business if they choose to at any time, once available.

Q: Is there going to be an equivalent to Windows 10's Long Term Servicing branch for O365 users who don't ever want to see new features between Office releases?

A: We recommend using the Office 2016 Volume Licensing (MSI) version for customers who want to have Office installed on specialty systems that do not require feature update but can continue to get security update and bug fixes.

Q: If you are an O365 Pro Plus subscriber right now, are you already getting three buckets of updates to the Office apps annually?

A: Current Office 365 ProPlus customers are on the Current Branch today. We will, however, move all ProPlus customers to the thrice-yearly update schedule by moving them to the Current Branch for Business. Customers can choose to remain on the current branch. All updates are delivered via the Office CDN or deployed via the organization's administrator (not Windows Update).

Q: If you are on Current Branch Office 365, are the thrice-yearly updates forced/mandatory -- the way Current Branch updates are on Windows 10?

A: Current Branch can contain feature, security and non-security fixes on a monthly basis. Customers have a choice to stay on a build as long as they choose to but we recommend they update to the latest version in order to take advantage of any new feature and security fixes.

Q: Can those running Office 2016 for Windows preview upgrade directly to RTM version?

A: It depends on how a customer has accessed the Office 2016 Preview.

Commercial Office 365 customers who have accessed the Office 2016 Preview through the First Release program will continue to get the latest updates across their Office 365 workloads, including Office client. If they would like to revert to the production release of Office 2016 when it becomes available, they can uninstall the Office 2016 Preview from programs and features and download the production version of Office 2016 from their My Software page.

Office 2016 Preview for IT Pros and Developers will continue to get the latest updates across their Office 365 workloads, including Office client. If they would like to revert to the production release of Office 2016 when it becomes available, they can uninstall the Office 2016 Preview from programs and features and download the production version of Office 2016 from their My Software page.

Office 365 Consumer Subscribers: If a customer joined the Office 2016 Preview through their Office 365 My Accounts page, they can simply uninstall the Office 2016 Preview from Windows Programs and Features and install the production release of Office 2016 from their My Accounts page. Office 2016 Preview (no Office 365 subscription):

The Office 2016 Preview will expire at Fall 2015 and will enter a reduced functionality mode. Customers will have the option to convert to a paid Office 365 subscription or they may choose uninstall the Office 2016 Preview from Windows and re-install any licensed version of Office that they have.

 

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We are pleased to announce that we’ve expanded our team and have recently welcomed the following people to Blue Solutions:

  • Lee Walker has joined us as our LabTech Software Specialist. He is responsible for recruiting new LabTech Channel partners and managing the existing partners using the Remote Monitoring and Management solution.
  • Danni Sparkes has joined our team as a new Internal Sales Co-ordinator.  Her role will involve producing quotes for customers and responding to sales queries in a timely and effective manner.
  • Michael Smith and Zoe Hepper have both joined us as Business Development Executives, supporting new business revenue growth by recruiting new channel partners.

A big welcome to our new team members.

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Originally published on the LabTech Blog - Author Josh Preston

As an MSP, you have two choices. You can be your own boss, be passionate about the work you do and work hard for your success. Sound good? Option two is even better. With the right preparation and foundation, you can have a business that runs so smoothly and effortlessly that you can finally take a real vacation.

Running your business with an eye on growth means changing your mindset and your business focus. Continuous growth is the goal, since it means expanding profits and staying a step (or several) ahead of your competitors. The market changes fast, but the more proactive you can be, the more you’ll be able to offer your clients. The more they depend on your services, the faster you’ll see growth in your company and your bottom line.

Here are a few big game changers to help you jump start your business growth:

1. Stay Safe
Security continues to top the list of your clients’ biggest concerns, so find a strong security platform that keeps them protected without risk. Find the perfect balance between mitigating risk and hindering productivity.

2. User First
How many devices do you have? Chances are you’ve got more than one, and so does every end user you support. Enter the shift to by user management instead of by device. Make sure you’re staying ahead of the game by supporting multiple devices.

3. Connect Everything
Data, devices and people are quickly intertwining, giving MSPs the chance to offer a number of ‘smart’ devices and opportunities. The market opportunity for the Internet of Things (IoT) is huge, so watch this one grow in the next few years and see how you can get on the bandwagon.

4. One-Stop Access
In a nutshell, virtualization allows multiple operating systems to run on one physical piece of hardware. This cost-saving trend will easily catch clients’ attention, so be sure to stay informed of what it offers.

5. Keep Compliant
Regulation and compliance requirements are an important and challenging task for many organizations. Wrap your head around the details for a few relevant verticals, and start reaching out to offer this vital service to new and current compliance-reliant clients.

Keep a close eye on these trends as they come to life, and be ready to answer any questions your clients might have about them. The more you know, the faster you establish your place as a trusted advisor—and the more your clients will thank you.

Windows10

Article originally published on the Malwarebytes website

It’s that time again, a new operating system emerges from the Microsoft incubator! While many of you might not get to experience Windows 10 just yet or even in the foreseeable future, we want you to know that when you decide to use it, Malwarebytes has got your back.

The latest versions of our Malwarebytes products supports Windows 10! And that includes:

  • Malwarebytes Anti-Malware Free
  • Malwarebytes Anti-Malware Premium
  • Malwarebytes Anti-Exploit Free
  • Malwarebytes Anti-Exploit Premium
  • Malwarebytes Anti-Malware for Business
  • Malwarebytes Anti-Exploit for Business
  • Malwarebytes Anti-Malware Remediation Tool

So one of the first things you should do after setting up your new operating system is to download Malwarebytes Anti-Malware. Trust me, the cyber criminals won’t wait until everyone is comfortable with Windows 10 to start targeting folks using it.

To download the latest Malwarebytes Anti-Malware on your new Win 10 system, click here.

Find out more about Malwarebytes at www.bluesolutions.co.uk/malwarebytes/. Call our sales team today on 0118 9898 222 for a free trial or demo.

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Originally published on the Malwarebytes Security Blog

May 6 marked the 15 year anniversary of the infamous ILOVEYOU (Love Letter) email virus. The virus is regarded as the first major virus spread by email.

ILOVEYOU reportedly infected tens of millions of computers worldwide, and cost billions of dollars in damage.

Once a machine was infected with ILOVEYOU, the virus scanned the Windows Address Book and subsequently sent copies of itself to every contact within the list. Using the public’s lack of email security to its advantage, the virus was able to masquerade as a legitimate attachment sent by a known acquaintance.

This simple social engineering tactic allowed the virus to propagate world-wide quickly and efficiently.

In the years since ILOVEYOU, we’ve all learned lots regarding email security and ‘best practices’ to use when downloading attachments. There have been numerous articles, write-ups, warnings, and suggestions advising users to be wary when opening attachments that come via email – even when from a trusted source.

Despite more than a decade and a half of these warnings, email is still a primary vector for the installation of malicious software.

The M3AAWG Email Metrics Report, released Q2 of 2014, indicates that over a three-month tracking period, a whopping 987 billion “abusive” emails were identified as being successfully delivered.

While this pales in comparison to the other 9+ trillion emails blocked by the mail providers, this number demonstrates just how successful  a vector email is for malicious actors to use to compromise their victims.

While the M3AAWG report doesn’t distinguish between emails with malicious attachments and other types of abusive emails such as phishing emails, it’s reasonable to assume that at least a significant percentage of the abusive emails did indeed contain a malicious attachment.

As indicated by the report, the vast majority of these messages are blocked by large email providers such as Microsoft and Google, but despite the best efforts of these companies, many messages still find their way through the filters.  Here is an example of a malicious email I received to my personal email account just the other day.

MalSpam1

The success of these malware campaigns relies in numbers. With an estimated 205 billion emails sent each day, it seems to be a herculean, if not almost impossible task to prevent each and every malicious email from being delivered.

We would all be quite peeved if that important document from our boss wasn’t delivered to our email box, or if that emergency change in insurance wasn’t received from HR.

The big email providers know this, so they are forced to tread lightly when determining if an attachment is malicious or not. The problem is malicious actors know this too.  So for them, it’s just a numbers game.

If one address gets blocked, use another. If one message is blocked, send one more – better yet, send a million more. And there in-lies the issue that we in the security field face when it comes to preventing you from seeing (and in the case of malware – blocking) this sort of garbage all together.

A small portion of over-all attempted deliveries and an even smaller percentage of successful installs is all that’s needed to claim success.

Malware authors utilise a dizzying array of tools, services, and botnets to facilitate delivery of malicious email. Email addresses are spoofed. The subject and body can be dynamically generated using unique information to help provide a sense of legitimacy to the email. Most attachments are randomized both in name and MD5’s to thwart detection.

Geo-location is used to send emails to users of a particular region, city, or post code. And the subject matter of emails constantly changes to play into the fears, desires, and dreams of every potential person.

MalSpam2

Attachments are not limited to .zips either. Attachments have been seen to arrive in .exe format (although rare with large email providers), .scr, .pdf, .com, .js, or a variety of others. Here we can see how some attachments attempt to appear legitimate.  Take notice of the large spaces between filenames and the .exe extension on a few of the attachments.

MalSpam3

Remember, it only takes a small portion of sent emails, and an even smaller percentage of those to be clicked, in order for a malware author to claim a particular spam-run successful.

The reality is, these people wouldn’t use email as an attack vector if it didn’t work – but it does.

The only reason it does is because a small percentage of us still click such attachments thinking there may be some legitimacy to the content.

Despite 15 years of warnings, billions of dollars in damages, and countless attacks attributed to email, we have yet to learn the dangers of downloading unsolicited attachments.

So for the sake of humanity (a bit dire, I know) please quit clicking attachments from people you don’t know, or from contacts where the content appears suspicious.

If there is a question if the email is legitimate, contact the sender and inquire.

If you didn’t order anything online, don’t click the Word document advising you of your recent purchase.

If you haven’t done so already, configure Windows to always show file extensions. That way, if you do download and extract a malicious attachment, you can hopefully see if any trickery is being played with spaces between the visible filename and the extension.

And most importantly, educate someone you know who would never read this (or any) security blog as to hopefully help them from succumbing to the ever-changing tactics of malware spam.

Blue Solutions is now a distributor for Malwarebytes- read the press release here. Call our team on 0118 9898 222 and they'll help with any questions or arrange a free trial.

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Originally published by CensorNet

The poor old IT department, if there were ever an Olympic sport where you could count the moments between suggesting that technology could change the world and then having it bite you on the backside by an unruly mob, well, they’d be gold medallists.

Naturally, an IT team is predisposed to focus on the challenges and risks that a BYOD culture can bring, which is not a bad thing.  In the IT world, BYOD makes the world a more complex place rather than a simpler one. A fixed desktop located on an internal network is always going to be simpler to deploy, easier to manage, easier to secure and much easier to monitor. The risks can be easily identified and mitigated.

The problem with Browsers

With a few exceptions, the main browsers tend to be Chrome, Internet Explorer, Firefox & Safari. The problem arises when every user’s personal device needs its browser software up to date. Take your fixed, standardised, controlled infrastructure away and it’s not quite as easy. Some applications will simply not work on older browser versions or even with specific browsers. The quality of user experience may be compromised if the right browser is not selected. It can be a fickle, inconsistent way of working.

More importantly, not keeping a browser up to date may expose security flaws that place the device and its content at risk. Many have learned that particular lesson the hard way.

Our old nemesis ‘Malware and spyware infection’

The natural by-product of an increasing tech savvy world is that the bad guys are getting smarter and the users are more ‘click-happy’, particularly on mobile devices.

Users are seldom intentionally malicious, although clearly it happens. However it is often more a case of due diligence when time is a constraint. Not all will adopt sensible security protocols to ensure they are free of Trojans and other malicious autobots that might be hiding within what, at the time, looked like a cool free widget or an article containing a part of Kim Kardashian that broke the internet.

In 2013, a study by Alcatel-lucent in 2013 estimated that 11.6 million devices were infected; a number that is simply likely to grow. The fastest growing infection rates was on Android with Windows and Android being the primary operating systems likely to be targeted.

In Wi-Fi we (Don’t) trust

All mobile devices will invariably hop on and off Wi-Fi with reasonable regularity. The bandwidth and access point will play a role in mitigating the risk of contamination. Using unsecured hotspots increases the risk, not only to the user but potentially the corporate network. The bad guys are smart and unsecure access channels are a happy hunting ground. An experiment by Jonny Milliken, Valerio Selis and Professor Alan Marshall proved that an airborne virus could be transmitted via WiFi from router to router and hence from one device to another. The attempts to access precious data are unrelenting on the increase.

Even on-premise WiFi can be problematic. The strength of any WiFi and available bandwidth may well dictate how usable a commercial application is on any given mobile device. It should be remembered that not all devices have the same capabilities when it comes to transmission and reception.

Authentication

The mechanism of accessing corporate applications, network and resources requires a method of authenticating that the user is who they say they are. Inadequate mechanisms open the door to abuse.

Legal constraints

It may not immediately spring to mind, but a business cannot control the peccadillos of its employees. A personal laptop that has been used for social activities that cross legal boundaries is one that can compromise the integrity of the business and all that could entail. Reputation is as much a protected treasure as any other business asset, as is consumer confidence in who they are buying from.

Data loss

The most precious asset of any organisation is data. Sales prospects, agreements, policies, goals, strategies, Financial Information, Shareholder reports, whatever information an organisation has must be kept secure. The ramifications of data loss can be severe. A user’s device can compromise data in a variety of ways and not just from pernicious access. How much and where on a device is corporate data going to reside? What degree of sensitive data can be trusted to be on a specific users’ device? What about access codes? Is a user storing key account details in plain text somewhere? What happens if a device is lost or stolen, can data leakage truly be prevented?

Device control

If the device belongs to a user, do they have complete administration rights over their device? The owner tends to know how to use their device and how to change configurations. One potentially  damaging scenario is if a user decides to jailbreak their own device so they can access areas that companies like Apple would rather they did not. Android also has its challenges, although not exactly open source, it naturally lends itself to modification and user changes, given its Linux roots. There is an ever-growing community that seeks to either legitimately change code or simply break it because it can be broken and compromised.

Application conflict

What a user downloads onto their own device is by and large a matter for them. Some applications however, particularly apps for smartphones and tablets, can interfere with commercial applications. There is no way that an IT department can track and recommend, from the hundreds of thousands of apps available, which ones are suitable or which could cause cross-application contamination i.e. result in sub-optimal performance or use.

Human error

No matter what technology is used, there is no way of avoiding simple stupidity or oversight by human beings. A human interface is a flawed one simply because we make mistakes and because the users own their devices; mistakes will inevitably happen. Human error will always be the one true constant why there is no such state as 100% secure.

From an IT standpoint, BYOD presents a raft of obstacles. They are challenges that can be met but the solutions are not fool proof and an element of risk will always remain.

Blue Solutions GoTo logo

We are pleased to announce, we have several new team members at Blue Solutions:

Vip Hammil has joined our Sales Team as a Business Development Manager. He is responsible for delivering new business revenue growth through the identifying and recruiting of channel partners, interested in expanding their security portfolio with emerging and best of breed technology.

Our new Trend Micro Product Manager is Israel Azumara. Israel is responsible for managing the Trend Micro relationship and helping our Resellers and MSPs engage with these anti-malware solutions.

Luke Bennett is our new Marketing Apprentice. He joined us after completing his A-levels and is providing valuable support creating marketing and sales material and publishing social media messages.

Kate Clarkson has joined our team as our new Internal Sales Co-ordinator.  Kate’s role will involve supporting the sales team and responding to customer queries in a timely and effective manner.

A big welcome to our new team members!

AppRiver logo largerversion

What is your plan to stay protected?

In December of 2012, Microsoft announced changes to the roadmaps of some of its security solutions. Those changes included an announcement of the end of life for Forefront Protection 2010 for Exchange Server (FPE). Microsoft stopped offering the FPE product in 2012, but committed to supporting FPE subscriptions through December 31, 2015. Subscriptions expiring before December 31, 2015 will not be renewed. That means virus updates and signatures will not be made available after this date and the service will end. Are you ready?

AppRiver SecureTide as an alternative to Forefront

We recommend every company currently using Forefront on an Exchange server to review their licenses to find out when they expire. Then contact our Phenomenal Care team at AppRiver and discuss SecureTide™ spam and virus filtering as an alternative solution for your company. Our team will review every case and provide multiple migration options, from buy-out programs to migration support. We will make the transition as seamless and painless as possible for your users.

Switch now to AppRiver SecureTide and benefit from:

  • Real-time protection from today's IT threats
  • Simple implementation
  • No hardware or software installation
  • Inbound and outbound email protection
  • Daily Held Spam Reports
  • Disaster email recovery service included*
  • 99-percent effectiveness in blocking spam and viruses
  • Phenomenal Care™, 24 hours a day, every day

Want to know more about AppRiver solutions? Contact our sales team today on 0118 9898 222 and they’ll help with your queries or arrange a free trial.

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Cloud web security across all devices – be protected anywhere and anytime

We recently signed a new vendor, CensorNet the next generation cloud security company, to offer UK SMB customers enterprise-class web security solutions.

As more organisations move to the cloud, Resellers and MSPs need to offer advanced security solutions that help clients to monitor and control employee activities online. CensorNet deliver on premise and cloud solutions that help companies have visibility and control over internet and application access across all devices, regardless of whether employees are in the office or mobile.

Want to learn more about CensorNet? Join our upcoming webinars on Wednesday 1st July and hear about:

Visit our website to learn more about CensorNet web security solutions.   The webinars will be hosted by Deane Mallinson (Blue Solutions Sales Engineer) and David Tregurtha (CensorNet Sales Engineer).

We look forward to you joining our webinars. Reserve your place today:

register

 


 

Hybrid cloud solution maximises security and performance with minimised cost

We recently signed a new partnership agreement with CensorNet, the next generation cloud security company, to offer UK SMB customers enterprise-class web security solutions. With over 500 customers in the demanding enterprise and education sectors, CensorNet deliver on premise and cloud solutions that offer flexibility, mobility, scale and security to customers.

What are the other benefits for your business?

  • It will help you to expand existing security offerings to cover a mobile workforce and BYOD.
  • The secure web gateway provides real-time visibility and control of web access and cloud application use across all devices.

With this offering, you can win customers with cloud application control, maximising its effectiveness whilst minimising risk.

Want to learn more about CensorNet? If you’re going to Cloud World Forum, some of our team will be at the Cumberland Arms pub (just around the corner from the London Olympia), on 24th June from 12pm -5pm. Join Ben Vadgama and Vip Hammill for a drink and some nibbles, while they answer your questions and tell you how Blue Solutions can make it simple to integrate CensorNet into your existing security portfolio.

Space is limited, so please register today.

Can’t make it to the Cumberland Pub?  Call Ben on 07756 612592  or Vip on  07773 6026247 and they’ll arrange a time with you that’s convenient to discuss CensorNet solutions.