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What Is Social Engineering?

Some online criminals find it easier to exploit human nature than to take advantage of security holes in their computer systems. We’ve all received a telephone call from someone telling us that our computer has all sorts of problems with it, or an e-mail message from someone claiming to be a distant relative and urgently asking for assistance in the form of monetary donations. But how do you know whether those calls and e-mails are legitimate?

Social engineering is a type of information technology crime that involves manipulating people to perform certain actions that break normal security procedures. Criminals rely on the natural helpfulness of people to gain access to their computers, gather confidential information and/or commit fraud. Tricks – such as e-mail hoaxes and false telephone calls – are performed to secretly install malicious software on people’s computers or to manipulate them into revealing their passwords or other sensitive personal information.

Last year, callers posing as Microsoft representatives attempted to scam Canadian consumers by offering “technical support” for non-existent computer problems. They milked unsuspecting victims out of hundreds, and sometimes thousands of dollars by telling them that their computers would crash if they didn’t hand them over to “tech support”. The scammers often sought credit card information by asking the user to visit a certain website, where the information could be “securely” entered. Other times, the user was asked to purchase something, or for remote access to his/her computer to fix “urgent technical problems”. According to Microsoft Canada, nearly 80% of Canadians who received a phony Microsoft call fell victim in some way, and approximately one in three recipients experienced computer problems after the call.

So, what can you do to protect yourself and your organization from social engineering? Be wary! Never trust any unsolicited calls or e-mails from people offering support for computer problems or asking you to perform a certain action. Never follow the caller or sender’s instructions by visiting a certain website, purchasing or installing software, sending money, or divulging any of your personal information. Educate your employees on the issue of social engineering to protect your organization from attacks. Many scammers tend to pose as vendors or CEOs of companies in an attempt to give an employee at their targeted organization an immediate reason to trust them. If you’re suspicious of a certain caller, it can pay to ask questions to verify his/her identity. Similarly, avoid clicking on links that you receive in unsolicited e-mails, hover over links to see their full URLs, and manually enter website addresses to protect yourself from falling victim to e-mail attacks.

What Is a Class 1.5 CMMS?

A class 1.5 CMMS is a special type of Computerized Maintenance Management System that is defined by the following general list of features:

  • Cloud-based only
  • Completely user-configurable
  • Non-modular software
  • Limited vendor support
  • Active user-to-user support through on line communities
  • No customization (but request of new features may be done through user community portals)
  • On line training materials only
  • Recurring payments (usually per month)

This type of CMMS was first described in an article featured on the Feb/ Mar 2014 issue of uptime magazine. The article further describes that this type of solution is specifically aimed at small to medium sized companies that have the need for a robust CMMS solution that is as low cost as possible.

The only way to not sacrifice advanced functionality and still keep costs low is to have limited vendor-to-user support and replace that with a dynamic community where users help each other directly. This way vendors can lower operating costs due to not having the need for large user support departments and can pass those savings along to their clients.

It is very interesting to note that those user communities become very active and rapidly key users from each industry start to emerge. Those key users adapt the system to a particular market making it work better to the benefit of all.

Although no software customization is a basic requirement of a class 1.5 CMMS, what actually happens is that new functionalities (or adjustments to existing program features) are voted on through the user community. This results on a more focused and usable system that users truly feel as their own since they have a clear channel to contribute to how the system should be developed.

A class 1.5 CMMS is not for everyone. Users need to be prepared to provide at least minimal input in the community and that implies that some time needs to be spent on the configuration/ usage of the system. If you are a very large company this may not be feasible and you may be better off paying for those services from an external consultancy firm. It’s basically a question of available capital versus available time.

There’s no doubt in the industry at this moment in time that most of the CMMS installations that will happen in the near future will be of class 1.5 systems. All companies that deal with maintenance (either internally to maintain their own equipment or externally as maintenance service providers) will run with the assistance of a CMMS, the only question is what type will the CMMS be?

Apple IMessage Is Slow

The bug in Apple’s iMessage text system has caused annoyance and frustration to many, many users, so has it been fixed with the iOS 7.1 software update?

Introduced at Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference in 2011 the Apple iMessage feature was intended to be a great way of keeping in contact with family, friends or business associates for free using WiFi or 3G – free of charge providing both the sending and receiving devices are Apple devices. If the receiving device is a non Apple device then the message will be sent as a normal SMS (text), Apple has cleverly differentiated between the two and iMessages are colored blue whilst SMS are colored green.

Unfortunately the iMessage system has been plagued by problems since the iOS 7 software update with users reporting flaws such as messages being delivered very late, not being sent at all with the sender receiving an alert saying “message not sent” with an exclamation point! Other glitches to come to light include iMessage just stops functioning completely or that the time out function fails resulting in sent messages appearing to just hang in limbo, neither sent or not sent, just remaining forever in the state of “send”. A temporary fix for this was often to switch off the device and switch it back on again, but this was found to be very temporary with the problem coming back again in time for the next iMessage attempt. Apple were well aware of the problem, intending to fix the bug with a software update to iOS 7, this statement was released to the Wall Street Journal:

We are aware of an issue that affects a fraction of a percent of our iMessage users, and we will have a fix available in an upcoming software update,” Apple said in a statement. “In the meantime, we encourage any users having problems to reference our troubleshooting documents or contact AppleCare to help resolve their issue. We apologize for any inconvenience this causes impacted users.

Unfortunately users were still reporting problems after updating their operating system to iOS 7.03 so there were many hopeful Apple device owners waiting for the arrival of iOS 7.1 in the hope that this time the iMessage bug fix would work for them.

iOS 7.1 arrived in March 2014 and we are pleased to tell you that, in our experience, it has fixed the flaws in the iMessage system. Other than the fact that we needed to re-activate iMessage, we have had no issues with it at all, however there are still reports of users suffering the same kind of problems mentioned prior to iOS 7.1 – although it should be said that at the time of writing these reports seem to be few and far between. If you are still experiencing problems with the iMessage system it might help if you give some of the following steps a try:

Turn iMessage off and on again

Go to Settings > Messages > turn iMessage switch to off (white), wait for a minute or so then turn iMessage switch to on (green). iMessage should now re-activate

Reset your iPad

Depress and hold the Home Button and the Sleep/Wake Button simultaneously until your device switches off then hold the Power Button until it switches back on again

Reset Network Settings

Go to General > Reset > Reset Network Settings