Bugs & Hackers – Top Targets in 2015

It’s estimated that 96% of all corporations have been hacked – and the list includes a surprising number of well-known names. Here’s our round-up of famous firms (and faces) who have been targeted by the career cybercriminals this year:


British Airways, Merseyside Police, Wirral Council, The Conservative Party, Crimestoppers (and 300 others) – all forced offline by just one hacker, Ian Sullivan, who was sentenced to eight months in jail this year for his wild spree of cyberchaos.

British Gas – even with tight security, cybercriminals can still find a way in. Over 2000 customers had personal details published online by hackers earlier this year.

JD Wetherspoon – it was recently revealed that a case of hacking led to data theft at the popular pub chain.

Washington State Department of Correction – resulting in the early release of prisoners!

V-Tech – even toymakers aren’t immune. Hackers stole data on 200,000 preschoolers in this sting.

The US Prison Service – the information from 70 million phone calls from inmates went astray, and a lot of it ended up in the hands of journalists.

CIA – Their director  John Brennan discovered hackers had broken into his private email account.

FBI – The CIA hackers also managed to get into a law enforcement portal here.

Donald Trump – Some people might admire their cheek – hackers fed malware into the wannabee US President’s hotel chain and stole all kinds of credit card data.

Patreon – Crowdfunding is big business and don’t the hackers know it. Patreon’s whole database was breached – and made public – by hackers this year.

Ashley Madison – 37 million patrons of the cheater’s website  were mortified to find their data had been exposed. You can only imagine the hackers feeling as if they had the moral high ground here!

Hacking Team – Ironically, this Italian security and surveillance company had its whole network breached and posted online by – yes – hackers.

CVS – The huge US pharmacy chain was hit by hackers who are thought to have got in through its photo-processing website.

TalkTalk – several times, and most famously by teenagers…

T-Mobile – …a similar problem was experienced by TalkTalk’s  fellow telecoms giant…

Carphone Warehouse – …and the attack on this cellphone retailer was UK’s biggest breach of 2015. 2.4million customers had data stolen, including 90,000 cases of encrypted credit card data theft.


… and finally…

someone tried to pay Raspberry Pi to spread malware; very sensibly the Pi’s response to that was a huge cyber-raspberry…

Cybersecurity over the Festive Season: Ten Top Tips

If you’re looking forward to the Christmas holidays, the hackers are too. And while you’re relaxing or on the work from home tick-over roster, they’re rubbing their hands in glee at what is considered a cyber version of open season: there is usually a sharp rise in hacker attacks around Christmas and New Year when there’s a lot going on elsewhere.

Here are a few ideas to help ward off the opportunists this Christmas:

  • Most hacks begin with an email or SMS, with a link or a document that once opened, lets in malware. If you don’t trust something – bin it.
  • Businesses considering an IT refresh in 2016 take notice – it’s a good idea to buy devices that allow you to reinstall the operating system as this is what the miscreants like to target.
  • Passwords – you’ve heard it before and we’ll tell you again – make them complex, keep them secret, change them regularly. If you have very sensitive data, it is well worth ensuring that this is protected on a higher level: not just by the usual username and password method.
  • A hacker might be able to use a USB stick to instal malware. Guard your device and encrypt your hard drive to help deter anyone cheeky enough to make a physical attack.
  • Being tracked is a burden of the modern age, but you can use a browser with a private mode. Again, it isn’t watertight but its scrutiny might not be as focused as that of others.
  • Encryption is great but even this is not watertight any more – try for encryption that is known to be tough, like Advanced Encryption Standard (AES).
  • If you use physical, USB recovery keys, lock them up somewhere safe and certainly never clip tem to your key-ring!
  • There’s no end to the “inventive” ways a hacker can upload their grubby codes – as several big brands and areas of the public sector will tell you. Be aware that they can insert code into web forms and embedded adverts.
  • As we said earlier, the hackers are constantly developing ways of getting into anything to spread chaos or steal data. So update your virus checker and operating system on a regular basis – do this before checking emails or visiting any kind of financial website.
  • If in doubt about anything regarding cybersecurity – ask the experts. We are here to help and we would rather arrest a problem in its tracks than see you try something that doesn’t work and have to give you that bad news that you have lost your data – or worse.


We Love Essex – Chelmsford

We’re loving Chelmsford at the moment – and as we find out more about the business community, we find ourselves hearing a lot of interesting facts about the town and its history…

  • Chelmsford is deemed to be the birthplace of radio: inventor Guglielmo Marconi opened the world’s first wireless factory there in 1899. Chelmsford was also the venue for Britain’s first public radio broadcast – in June 1920, Australian opera star Dame Nellie Melba took part in the show, which was apparently received as far afield as the east coast of Canada.
  • The first witch trial happened in Chelmsford in 1566. In the dock was Elizabeth Francis, who described hearing voices from her cat encouraging her to curse people. The cat bore the worst possible pet’s name for that era – Satan. Elizabeth got a year in jail after telling the court that she had given the cat away – but thirteen years later she was executed on a different count of witchcraft. As it happened, Elizabeth had actually swapped Satan the cat for a cake, the baker of which was also executed as an alleged witch.
  • Crompton of Chelmsford manufactured and developed electric light components, many of which were installed in Buckingham Palace and Windsor Castle.
  • Danbury Common, near Chelmsford, is home of the largest adder population in Britain. As if poisonous snakes weren’t enough, European Scorpions have apparently been sighted near the station in Ongar, sixteen miles down the road.
  • We love Chelmsford, but novelist Charles Dickens would disagree. In 1835, he grumbled to a friend that the town was “the dullest and most stupid spot on the face of the Earth.”

We Love Essex – Buckhurst Hill

Not just a great place to do business (and a bit of shopping…), Bucky-H is a very historical place in its own right. Here are some of the little-known facts we’ve discovered about one of our favourite towns in the district:

Buckhurst Hill

  • Dick Turpin had a short period of “going straight” before he became a professional thief – he spent 1733-4 working as a butcher in Buckhurst Hill.
  • Turpin and his cohorts were such a menace that security-minded residents of this area invented anti-burglar devices called ‘Turpin traps’, – wooden trapdoors positioned over a stairhead and fixed by a pole wedged against the upstairs ceiling.
  • Buckhurst Hillwas originally known as “La Bocherste”, and later “Bucket Hill.” The meaning of the name is “hill of beech trees”
  • In neighbouring Chigwell, Ye Olde King’s Head, which was run as a pub until 2011, is said to have been the inspiration for the Maypole Inn inCharles Dickens‘ Barnaby Rudge
  • Chigwell School numbers among its former pupils Ben Shepherd, Ian Holm, Ken Campbell and William Penn who founded the American state of Pennsylvania – and the music for the hymn Abide with Me was written by WH Monk who once taught there.

Bill and Ben versus the workplace biohazards

It’s official – your workplace can be hazardous to your health.

No, we’re not referring to dodgy sandwiches or the practical jokes that went down at the last office party (though these could make a very unnerving article in their own right). What we’re bringing to light is the fact that your IT equipment, the materials it’s made from and packaged in, the furnishings and fittings and even the stuff everything gets cleaned with can produce toxic chemicals that can have unpleasant effects on the workforce’s health.

These amounts of chemicals such as xylene, styrene, toluene, benzene, carbon monoxide emitted in the office environment are small  – but they can be enough to cause sore throats, itchy eyes, headaches and respiratory and  sinus problems.

Offices are well insulated and draught-proofed too – which is great for saving money and keeping everyone comfortable, but not so great for ventilating the harmful gases out of peoples’ workspaces. The symptoms caused by noxious chemicals can be noticed especially on a Monday morning , when the gases have backed up over the weekend  without the general people-flow of the working day which would otherwise help a little to diffuse them.

There’s no need to go to work in a gas mask (though it’s worth pointing out that when these were originally made during World War I, they came with an inbuilt asbestos filter!) – the chemicals can be kept at bay by the humble houseplant.

Many businesses have used plants as living décor, without realising how useful they can be as a health asset. The plants – including ivy, ferns, rubber plants, money plants, spider plants and aloe vera – absorb the noxious compounds, recycle them into nutrients in their roots and release oxygen back into the air – and they are very efficient at it too. According to NASA, one spider plant can reduce the amount of carbon monoxide in a room by 96% over 24 hours.

Here’s our quick guide to the green line of defence against everyday chemical warfare:

The chemical culpritsWhere they come fromBest plants to combat them
XyleneMonitors & printersAreca palm, Boston fern
TrichloroethenePaint & cleaning materialsDragon tree, Money plant
FormaldehydeCarpets, MDF furniture, insulationBoston fern, Monstera
BenzenePaint, detergents, glue, vehicles, cigarette smokeIvy, Asparagus fern
AmmoniaCleaning  materialsPeace lily
StyrenePlastics, resins, packaging, insulationSpider plant
TolueneMonitors & printers, glue, correction fluidsMother in law’s tongue, Bamboo palm
Carbon MonoxideVehicles, stoves, cookersAloe vera, Rubber plant