Thursday, 18 December 2014

Nuisance Calls - Aaaarrrrh!!!

Did you know that around 85% of the population receive nuisance calls and yet only a fifth of us actually do anything about it?

Furthermore and very worrying is that a staggering 40% of calls received by the elderly are nuisance calls. 

The Government's Nuisance Calls Task Force was formed following a petition by "Which"  and is infact chaired by their Executive Director Richard Lloyd. They will be reviewing the way businesses obtain and use consumers' consent to be contacted by phone and text for direct marketing.

As reported by Rob Goodman in "Moneywise" the taskforce is recommending that businesses improve their direct marketing practises and make it easier for people to stop companies from pestering them.  Senior Executives will be held to account for the way their company behaves in this direction.  Fines have already been increased (now up to £500,000) and  hopefully it will become easier for the Information Commissioner to take action against companies who break the law.

By following the link below you can report a call or text where:-
  • You received a call where a person spoke to you
  • You received a silent or abandoned call
  • You received a recorded marketing message
  • You received an SMS text message or text alert
http://www.which.co.uk/campaigns/nuisance-calls-and-texts/


From the link below there are further informative articles on how to deal with cold callers:-
http://www.moneywise.co.uk/news/2014-12-08/company-bosses-should-be-fined-nuisance-calls





Friday, 12 December 2014

Two Factor Authentication

We take security issues very seriously at Merlin and always ready to pass on helpful articles and information so that you keep up to date and informed.

We particularly applaud the article written by John Shief for Naked Security on the subject of Two Factor Authentication (2FA) as it covers the basics of; one time passwords via SMS, authenticator apps, login verification and true two factor verification.  Not only does the article explain how each system works, but gives the pros and cons of using them.

As a google apps user myself, if I need to access my e-mails via another computer, I am asked for my user name and password and once I OK this, Google ask for my verification code.  At this point, I receive an SMS message from Google with a 6 digit code and I'm there.  Easy and secure.

Clearly no system is infalible, but this does add an extra layer of protection. 

https://nakedsecurity.sophos.com/2014/11/14/understanding-the-options-2fa/

Merlin


Wednesday, 10 December 2014

Plants are the way to go!

We love to share interesting articles with our readers, so here is something a little different and light hearted, found on "Lifehacker" on the benefits of having plants in the office.

It appears that a few well chosen plants can create magical effects in the workplace; from reducing stress, cleaning the air and increasing productivity.  The article cleverly advises which is the best plant for what location.

So, if you are off to the garden centre to pick up your Christmas tree, grab a few plants for the office as well!  Make great secret santa gifts too!!

http://lifehacker.com/pick-the-right-office-plant-for-your-environment-with-t-1640904768

Merlin

Tuesday, 2 December 2014

Do you want Twitter to know what apps you use?

We spotted a very interesting article from Naked Security and thought we would share this with you.

Twitter are going to have access to the apps you have installed on your devices, via their instant timeline feature, in order to promote content that they think you will find interesting.

Entry on the the new tracking system is by opt-in by default although Twitter have said they will alert users when the new feature is turned on!

Surely the default should be opted out and opt in if you really want Twitter to have access to this information?!

If you don't want Twitter to capture this personal information about you then  follow the link from Naked Security who talk you through how to turn it off:-

https://nakedsecurity.sophos.com/2014/11/27/twitter-to-start-snooping-at-which-apps-you-have-installed-heres-how-to-opt-out/


Thursday, 27 November 2014

Phone Scam Warning!!!

Lincolnshire Police are advising that "070" numbers have featured in more than 2,600 frauds over the last year. This was highlighted in an article by Grantham Journal this week.

If you are presented with a "070" number to dial, please to aware this could well be a scam. 

The fraudsters employ several devious methods to scam their victims:-
  • Placing an advert for a job on an online shopping or auction site.  The victim will phone for more details and invariably end up giving them all their personal details.  
  • A message is sent to the victim's phone.  The victim then calls back and is connected to a premium rate number
  • The victim is selling goods on a shopping website and fraudster sends fake Paypal emails requesting a shipping fee to be paid via Western Union before payment can be sent to the victim.  The fraudster provides a "070" number causing further charges if they try and contact the fraudster.  These personal numbers are programmed to forward calls to VoIP numbers as the offenders are often based overseas.
Please be aware that such calls can be charged at up to 65p per minute and £1.50 per minute from mobiles. 

There have been cases where victims have received bills for thousands of pounds as a result of calling these numbers. 

If you feel you have been scammed - then report it immediately to Action Fraud by calling 0300 123 2040 or check out  www.actionfraud.police.uk

To read the full story in the Grantham  Journal



Wednesday, 26 November 2014

VoIP and working from home

More and more companies are listening to their customers who are saying they are sick of talking to overseas representatives in noisy call centre "sweatshops".   This backlash means a huge growth in working from home for many Brits.   The advantages of working from home are many.  For the employee; flexible hours, no travel (so more environmentally friendly), being on hand for sick children, fitting in the school runs and being home for the holidays are the main bonuses.  Also great to be able to dash out into the garden to take in the washing and be at home for deliveries and for when the gas man attends the broken boiler!

Employees are loving the fact that such flexibility offers a better lifestyle, so will work harder to maintain their jobs.  The customer experience is very much improved and with  less cost for the employer, it seems very much a  win win situation. The qualified professional employee can be based miles away from the main office, so good staff can be sourced further afield.

VoIP telephony and remote access to systems is very much a part of this flexible way of working.  By making calls via a broadband connection, it really is as simple as plugging in your VoIP enabled phone at home and off you go.  For the employer, there is often a saving in call costs when making calls this way, versus traditional land lines. Also, because the phone systems are purchased on a monthly per seat basis, extensions can be added or deleted to cater for expansion or a decrease in business.

With VoIP telephony you can set up a conference call with a whole team communicating at the same time. Great for home workers and employers alike.  Average call handing time can be monitored closely by the employer and coaching carried out following the playing back of recorded calls.

VoIP telephone system options are really invaluable for every size and type of  business.  With a phone system being the lifeblood of a company it is definately worth looking into, especially as initial set up and management of  the phone system  is incredibly easy, with excellent call quality and cost savings to be had.

What's not to love!

Monday, 10 November 2014

VoIP - Why It’s The Most Cost Effective, Flexible, Scalable Solution of All…..


From start-ups, consultants, SME’s to established multi-site, multi-user businesses, there are many options to consider when choosing the best phone solutions. Ideally, you want to choose a system with a combination of features that not only make communication really simple, but also offer efficiency, scale, flexibility and value. In referencing a recent article at Voxilla, a recent study shows that comparing all of these criteria, hosted VoIP comes out on top.

“Cloud” or “virtual” PBX-based VoIP calling is the fastest growing phone system format as it provides so many advantages. Commissioning a hosted PBX phone system has a number of benefits that make it perfect for small businesses and startups looking to expand beyond their handful of handsets. Voxilla goes into depth about a number of these benefits.

First, it says that hosted VoIP systems are cheap. For start-ups especially, that can be great because in the early days of a company there is often no spare cash.  Even small savings can go a long way.

Of course if
a business needs to grow beyond it's current capabilities, this can be easily achieved by  adding additional handsets and features. This is the second benefit and perhaps the most important for companies that are growing quickly. Hosted voice products are scalable – some almost infinitely. Businesses can make changes to their accounts as they see fit; some setups may even allow them to pay only for the features they use in a given month and will let the service automatically scale with their demand.


Those features tend to be the same as they would receive with premises based phone systems. They can include voicemail, call forwarding, greetings, presence, syncing options with desk and mobile phones, voicemail to email transfer, and even text alerts. It is through these features that businesses will begin to look professional and like their phone systems have kept pace with their growing size and their ambitions.
 


High-profile clients, for instance, do not want to receive a personal voicemail; they want to hear a professional greeting and they can receive such greetings when start-ups begin to separate their personal lives from their working lives.

A big part of that separation includes the adoption of advanced business calling systems such as hosted VoIP. In addition, the professionalism will come with the ability to stay connected and the features of VoIP systems will make it easier than ever for start-up officials to make sure they never miss a connection with important clients and can have access to their business information no matter where they are located.

info@merlin-telecom.co.uk

0800 877 8810

Friday, 31 October 2014

4 Reasons you should consider Mobile VoIP for your Business

At Merlin Telecom, we follow and share expert opinion from around the industry. This article extract originated by Susan J Campbell explains why VOiP can be the ideal solution for a mobile workforce and an increasingly data-hungry business environment.

If you pay attention to the communications industry at all, you know there are cost benefits to be had making the move from a traditional landline to Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP). Still, a number of businesses haven’t made the move to this more economical deployment strategy as they try and figure out a way to support an increasingly mobile employee base, as well as a heavier reliance on data intensive activities.
 
Believe it or not, these two trends are key reasons to support a move to VoIP. When you do so internally, you can extend support to those employees in the field through mobile VoIP. As a result, you can deliver better access and support, while also enhancing overall productivity.

A recent Which VoIP piece highlighted the top benefits of VoIP as they relate to this productivity. We’re going to put a slightly different spin on it, looking at it through the concept of mobile VoIP.

Mobile device on One Extension – one of the best things about mobile VoIP is that it gives your employees the appearance of being in the office, even if they’re out on the road. This means they can be reached with just one number. If a voicemail must be left, it is easily accessible, regardless of the device.

Call Recording – you likely already know the benefits afforded with call recording. When you can extend this capability via mobile VoIP, employees can still be in compliance regardless of location. This is important whether it’s a sales rep on the move or a virtual call center agent working from home.

Conferencing – getting everybody on one call is a mess when you’re trying to include multiple landlines, mobile lines and even VoIP extensions. When you have business VoIP in place and extend out from this single platform, it integrates well for all users, supporting mobile VoIP as necessary. Participants no longer have to worry about the technology – only the call.


Voicemail to Email  – the employee always on the go may not have time to call in and get messages. Mobile VoIP, when supported with the corporate VoIP system can enable this activity. Employees can receive the voicemail via text or email, easily checking in on messages as needed.

The benefits afforded the company seeking to support the mobile employee extend far beyond this list, but you get the idea that it’s worth considering. The cost benefits are clear, so too are the benefits associated with the mobile base. If you’re ready to drive performance for all employees, it’s time to consider support for mobile VoIP.

Ask us how this can work in your business and we’ll give you a totally objective, no-
obligation professional opinion and a Usage Audit that will show you exactly where
your opportunities are for achieving better value and optimising performance and
efficiency.


Contact us on info@merlin-telecom.co.uk
0800 877 8810

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

The hazards of "unsubscribing" from e-mails - think before you click!

When you are bombarded with unwanted e-mails what do you do?

A great many of us simply tick the "unsubscribe" button at the bottom hoping that will be the end of them, but according to Alan Zeichick of Naked Security  we should exercise a little more caution!

Clicking the "unsubscribe" button may seem the obvious solution, but sadly you may be sending back all manner of useful information to a "spammer".  Of course, you may know the sender is trustworthy and think it safe to unsubscribe, but it is almost impossible to know if the e-mail is fake or genuine.

The only way of being sure you don't receive unwanted e-mail is to mark it as spam.  This will then send the message to your junk folder to be deleted later. Your anti-virus software will then detect these in the future. Making sure your anti-virus software is up to date is cruicial.

The following link spells out 5 very good reasons why  clicking the "unsubscribe"  button is not such a good idea!



Tuesday, 2 September 2014

Is your router safe?

A very interesting and rather scary article by Jon Fingas from Engadget.uk.  A flaw has been been discovered in some router chipsets letting hackers bypass the WPS or WiFi Protected Setup, by using one guess calculated on a series of offline calculations.  One second is all it takes to get in!

The message is clear -  turn off WPS and don't take the easy route, set up your wireless access and device connections manully.

http://www.engadget.com/2014/08/31/wifi-protected-setup-flaw/

Wednesday, 27 August 2014

BT to increase phone bills - another reason to change your phone provider?

BT made a shocking announcement over the weekend that they will be increasing phone bills by 6.5%  from December this year with broadband prices increasing by up to 6.49%. 

This means that line rental for direct debit customers will be £16.99 per month and the rate for calling UK landlines will increase by 6.44%. A massive increase over the current rate of inflation at 1.6%.

BT are however ensuring that less well off customers are not affected by leaving BT basic at £5.10 per month. 

Sky are also due to increase some of their tariffs from September this year. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-28902300

There are plenty of providers out there who are NOT increasing their fees and who do not tie you into long contracts.  The best providers only work on a 30 day rolling contract, so you are free to move if their service is not up to scratch.

With this in mind we wanted to point out just how easy it is to move phone line and broadband to another provider, but first:-
  • Shop around before committing yourself
  • Ensure you are not trapped into a lengthy contract
  • Make sure you find a provider who has a great service record and are even personally recommended to you by another customer
  • Check to see if you will incur any penalties with your current provider for early termination
Then to shift your broad band-
  1. Ask your current provider for your MAC (migration access code) 
  2. Give this to your new provider
  3. The transfer should take approximately five days
  4. Sit back and enjoy the  savings!
To move your land line-

  1. Simply ask your new provider to move the line. You will need to give them your name, address and current telephone number.  You may be asked for a copy of your latest telephone bill
  2. This should take approximately 10 days.
  3. Sit back and enjoy the savings!




Monday, 18 August 2014

So you think your broadband is slow?

It seems that  the 512K bug may well cause data disruption over the next few weeks.  Interesting information provided by Omar Santos from Cisco regarding  internet growing pains.

Apparently the amount of entries on the global routing table have exceeded 524,000 entries.  This means there could well  be problems with routers that hit their  memory limit causing them to crash, lose data or slow down, resulting in slow or non existing internet.

 http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-28786954

http://blogs.cisco.com/sp/global-internet-routing-table-reaches-512k-milestone/



Wednesday, 13 August 2014

How secure is your password?

Did the recent news about the Russian crime ring stealing 1.2 billion usernames and passwords leave you with an uncomfortable feeling?

I am sure an instant reaction would be to change all passwords used for online shopping sites and if you do, here are some tips to help you create much more robust passwords for the future.
  • Avoid using obvious ones such as “Password” and “000000” or “1,2,3,4,5,6,”. You would be amazed just how many people rely on these standard passwords!
  • Don’t use words that can be guessed easily i.e. your own name, or family member names, pet names, parts of your address or birthdates as these can easily be looked up.
  • Best to make your passwords long and use a combination of letters and numbers, upper and lower case letters and symbols. However some websites have a limit on the number of characters, so if this is the case, make them as complex as possible.
  • Use symbols or numbers instead of letters i.e $ instead of S, 0 instead of o, 3 instead of E.
  • Also good to think of a phrase such as “you get what you pay for” and take the first letter of each word YgWyP4!
  • Choose a word and add numbers i.e. COMPUTER = C12O34M56P78T9ER
  • Never use the same password for several sites. Okay I hear you say, but how do I remember them all??? Easy. A good solution is to download some encryption software such as KeePass. I am a great fan. Not only is this a totally free open source (OSI certified) password manager, but you can put all your passwords in one database which is locked with one master key. The databases are encrypted using the best and most secure algorithms currently known.
Check out the link above and read the features page - well worth it!

Thursday, 7 August 2014

Free Wi-Fi - but it'll cost you your privacy!

At Merlin Telecom, we aim to share the very latest developments in telecoms industry updates with you - to protect your business, help improve your efficiency and also make you aware of risks that might not be widely shared.

The following article references a recent post by Naked Security about the commercial benefits of providers putting free WiFi in place, but it also raises a key issue of what you have to give in order to get it. It truly seems that “nothing is for free”!

The UK city of York is currently rolling out, citywide, the sweet, sweet candy of free Wi-Fi.

All you have to do to get it is to roll over and expose your personal data.

Roy Grant, CIO for the City of York Council, told the BBC that the free service has already enabled his team to ascertain such choice data nuggets as:
  • Who's using the Wi-Fi;
  • Where they're coming from, in terms of origin; and
  • Where they're going.
Businesses are already getting a better insight into footfall, he said - as in, how much time they spend browsing certain products and where do you go for your lunch or stop for a coffee?

How does it work? Well, your mobile device carries a MAC addresses - or Media Access Control address, which is unique and connects you to networks. They can be altered via software, but generally they're not and are stable enough to be considered as a permanent ID that lasts for the lifetime of the device.

When your phone has Wi-Fi switched on, it will search for Wi-Fi networks: a process that involves sending a wireless broadcast that includes the device's MAC address.

This all happens even if you don't actually join a WiFi network.

The collection of anonymous data through MAC addresses is legal in the UK, though it exists in a grey area.

That's because the UK and the EU have strict laws about mining personal data using cookies - small bits of data sent from a website that can be used to uniquely identify people and then monitor their behaviour across different websites.

Under UK and EU law, companies that want to use cookies to track us in the virtual world must gain our consent to do so. However, no such consent is required by UK and EU law to track us in the real world using our devices' MAC addresses.

As far as the US goes, October 2013 saw the emergence of a "code of conduct" (PDF) for mobile marketing firms which they themselves agreed to (note, however, that the retailers who want to use data for marketing purposes didn't actually show up at the code's unveiling).

The code of conduct stipulates that shoppers should clearly know when they're being tracked through their phones in stores and will receive instructions for opting out.

If you don't want to share that data - either by opting in to the free Wi-Fi or having it sucked out of your phone as you wander by - here are some privacy tips shared by Naked Security.

Wi-Fi privacy tips:
  • Turn off Wi-Fi and Bluetooth when you're not using it. You can also use "flight mode" (although you won't be able to receive calls in flight mode).
  • Apps such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram use geo-tagging. Turn geo-tagging off if you don't want to give away your location.
  • Don't accept prompts to remember Wi-Fi networks - if you automatically connect to networks, you could leave yourself vulnerable to Wi-Fi sniffers, including marketing location analytics firms but also spies or criminals, who can see who you are and track you. An attacker could also create a network with the same name and use it to launch a Man-in-the-Middle attack.
  • Encrypt your devices and data. You should always use a VPN (virtual private network) for a secure connection when you sign on to an open Wi-Fi network.
  • Make sure you're using WPA2 encryption on your wireless networks. Don't use the outdated WEP or WPA encryption protocols.
  • Download the free Sophos UTM Home Edition. It comes with a VPN for both iOS and Android.
If you have any concerns or would like guidance on how best to manage your data security, mobile telephony and business telecommunications, you can call us on 0800 877 8810 or email us via sales@merlin-telecom.co.uk. We’re here to help you get the best service, with the best support and the best value.

Wednesday, 30 April 2014

New to VoIP? Here’s How it Makes Disaster Recovery Easy

We all pretty much think “it wont happen to me”, but when a disaster strikes - it can result in systems and communications failures, or network outages that affect part or all of a business's  resources.

Even severe weather phenomena have been known to cause power problems for facilities. What would you if this happened and suddenly shutdown your organisation? Or you had no access and use of data files on a PC, and/or a congestion of message traffic piling up in a network?

Do you have a plan that provides for recovery and restoration of data and systems?

Knowing that catastrophic events associated with flooding or extreme weather conditions can overwhelm communications grids and occur at any time, it makes sense to have a smart disaster preparedness plan, which includes a VoIP system. In such cases, having a disaster recovery plan (DRP) or back up-plan in place for IT-related infrastructure recovery, can really make the difference.

Having a backup solution ensures continuation of operations. Even power protection (to keep data and applications running smoothly) should really be part of that planning process.

Migrating to a Hosted VoIP-based system is usually extremely beneficial to a workplace for supporting converged or unified communications. Having a well-defined disaster recovery service with your service vendor can minimise system downtime and provide automatic recovery by automatically transferring over to another server. To facilitate recovery, the VoIP equipment carrier maintains backup copies of the system and database in secure areas. Not only are service providers able to ensure business continuity while another’s system is being recovered, their VoIP services can also help protect against threats from outside and inside the organisation as well.

It can be very easy to set up a DRP which then gives you complete peace of mind in the event of  something untoward happening.

Not only does VoIP provide DRP, but it signifies for businesses cheaper calling costs; provide for flexible working with employees being able to work from home, if they like, with colleagues being able to contact each other and share information and instructions even after disaster strikes.

Tuesday, 29 April 2014

Millions of broadband routers 'open to attack'

If you’re operating an SME business using domestic-grade equipment such as routers, then take heed, you may be vulnerable to attacks called Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) , as a result of not upgrading your hardware or updating security.

We’re sharing an article we found useful recently, published by USwitch.

A study carried out by IT analysts Nominum suggests that 24 million home broadband routers could be exposing both users and broadband providers to potentially participating in the attacks. Many of these routers form part of small businesses or practices.

In February alone, the analyst calculated that 5.3 million routers were used to generate attack traffic  - a figure it expects to continue increasing as older hardware is exploited.

DDoS attacks work by overloading a target server such as a website  with huge numbers of data requests from multiple internet connected computers. These are usually computers infected with Trojans or viruses that then become part of a botnet, but cybercriminals have recently begun  targeting home broadband routers, particularly older ones that are in need of upgrading, or which have insufficient security.

Due to the way in which hackers operate, it is possible to exploit routers without even hacking them, by imitating their target's IP address and receiving data from vulnerable devices, explained Sanjay Kapoor, Nominum’s CMO and SVP of Strategy.

He explained: "Existing in-place DDoS defenses do not work against today’s amplification attacks, which can be launched by any criminal who wants to achieve maximum damage with minimum effort. Even if ISPs employ best practices to protect their networks, they can still become victims, thanks to the inherent vulnerability in open DNS proxies."

As such, broadband providers need more effective protections built-in to DNS servers, claims Mr Kapoor, who pointed out that modern DNS servers can precisely target attack traffic without any impact on legitimate DNS traffic.

It comes as a report published by the Guardian indicated that 800,000 home routers belonging to UK customers such as BT and Virgin Media could be vulnerable to such an attack, though this figure is far lower than Nominum's estimations.

If you have any concerns of would like advice or guidance, then please get in touch with our team on 0800 877 8810.

Tuesday, 4 February 2014

The Quid Pro Quo They Don’t Tell You About



In our bid to keep you up to date with changes in the telecoms industry, we’re sharing with you an extract from a recent article in The Register.

At last more protection for UK mobile phone users. For years we’ve lamented the hypocrisy and sharp-practice in the industry over contacts and pricing, where consumers get caught up in the small print and then are at the mercy… Past “quid” savings have often meant “pro quo” hikes during contracts.

Well it’s now set to come to an end. Communications watchdog Ofcom has taken a stance on this to protect users who are locked into lengthy landline, broadband and mobile contracts and have created a system to provide greater protection.

The regulator said that it had improved protection for consumers after it discovered that many subscribers misunderstood locked-in contracts as being set at a fixed price. Ofcom said that "customers should be given at least one month's notice of the increase and be allowed to exit the contract without penalty."

Providers are expected to be more upfront about such price rises by adhering to a revised set of rules laid out by the watchdog in October last year.

Source: The Register