Stay safe online with our top Cyber Security tips

We recently interviewed our colleague John Scotford, IT engineer here at Farmplan.  John has over 25 years of experience and is passionate about all things cyber security. Here, he shares his top tips for staying safe online.

So, John, thank you for taking the time to chat to us about this topic. Firstly, could you explain what cyber security is?

Basically, it is protecting yourself and others from ‘attacks’ carried out primarily with a computer. No computer is safe – including mine or yours. Every system has a security vulnerability. The more secure and aware you are, the less of a target you are.

Criminals are more likely to target less secure machines and systems. They will always look for a weakness. But don’t worry, there are simple steps you can take to protect yourself.

Who is most likely to be a target to hackers?

I should start by saying that the most harmful thought you can have is “it won’t happen to me”. We all think we are safe, and our virus software is there to protect us. Unfortunately, we are all at risk and the stakes are high, so we must all do our bit to protect our personal data.

How safe are links?

Clicking without thinking is dangerous! Just because you can click on a link does not mean you should. I would always recommend checking these are from a trusted source and never click on or download anything you are unfamiliar with.  Especially as certain websites can automatically install malware onto your PC.

What are Phishing scams?

Phishing scams are designed to trick people into clicking links or responding to emails, and they can be carried out in a variety of ways including via email, text, phone calls and even on your social platforms. These are often very convincing, so it is crucial not to share any personal or financial information if you are suspicious.

Should I invest in anti-virus software?

Absolutely! There are ‘free’ protection services out there, but they will not offer the same amount of protection as a paid subscription will.

  • Paid for anti-virus provides a broader range of protection compared to free anti-virus.
  • Free anti-virus software rarely includes technical or telephone support. You’re often at the mercy of FAQ pages or user forums to solve any issue you’re having.
  • If your business stores customer details, you’ll then have to account for varying levels of technical aptitude, safe browsing and downloading habits among staff, making a more comprehensive protection system even more vital.

How about passwords? There are so many to remember….

We all have too many passwords to remember and it is tempting to take shortcuts, sometimes using one familiar password for more than one place. Try and use a more user-friendly option like opting for at least 8 characters. Try and change your passwords once a year or more frequently and use a different password for each of your accounts.

Can I make it safer in any other way?

Yes! Aside from a strong password it’s even more important to use two-factor or multi-factor authentication. This service adds an additional layer of security. This could be a personal identification number (PIN), additional password or fingerprint.

How important are computer updates?

It is critical that your computer is running on the latest version of updates, installing them as soon as they are available. I recommend that you turn on your automatic updates from your operating system to help alert you to these.

How safe is public Wi-Fi?

Firstly, it’s important to understand that there are two types of Wi-Fi – secured and unsecured.

An unsecured network can be connected to without any type of security feature such as a password, whereas a secure network will almost certainly ask you to agree to legal terms, register an account or type in a password before you are able to connect. Keep this in mind when intending to shop online for example. Turn off your auto- connect function and always check if your Bluetooth function is turned off. This is often overlooked and easy access for hackers. Always use public Wi-Fi with caution.

Let’s talk about data back-up

My advice is to always make more than one back-up, such as to an external hard drive or cloud storage. You can never have enough back-up. If you become a victim of ransomware or malware, the safest way to restore your data is to erase your systems and restore with a recently performed backup.

What is ‘Digital Footprint’?

This is your activity on your devices. It is important to keep track by monitoring your accounts. Not just your bank accounts but also your social media accounts. I also recommend you delete accounts you are no longer using and remember to set strong passwords.

As well as anti-virus, we also offer a range of cloud services that can help small and large businesses alike with their day-to-day activities.

To find out how our cloud services can help you and your business contact us on 01594 545033 or click here to find out more.

All good things must come to an end, even Windows 7

Windows 7 was one of Microsoft’s best-loved computing operating systems with many still using it even though it is now 10 years old.

Like all operating systems before it, Windows 7 will very soon reach the end of its lifecycle. Microsoft will end support for Windows 7 on 14th January 2020.

Once an operating system ends support it is no longer safe to use, as Microsoft will cease patching any security threats and will not add any new features. Third party software will begin to stop supporting the operating system and many financial websites such as online banking will become unsafe to use.

Although Windows 7 will not suddenly cease to work after the 14th January 2020, continuing to use it will open your devices and precious data to more and more malicious attacks. There may be a short-term cost in migrating outdated equipment to a new and secure Windows 10 device, but in a world where all your information is held on your computer or online, consider the cost of doing nothing.

Farmplan offers a range of IT equipment and services, and you can find out more here.

Come together with Microsoft Teams

Microsoft Teams is a chat-based collaboration tool that provides global, remote, and dispersed teams with the ability to work together and share information via a common space. You can utilise cool features like document collaboration, one-on-one voice or video chat, team chat, and more. Microsoft Teams is also fully integrated with many other Office365 services, such as Skype, SharePoint, OneDrive for Business and Exchange Email.

If you already have a Microsoft Email subscription with Farmplan and there are at least two members of staff in your company, then Microsoft Teams could be what your company needs for day-to-day communications, especially in the current climate where going to meetings is not an option. Teams also allows you to meet with external people outside of your company and vice versa.

The ability to meet virtually is an important and cost-effective feature for businesses today. Teams gives you a view of your scheduled meetings, the timing, the subject, and a list of other individuals who will be attending.

What does Microsoft Teams do?
Within one window, users can call upon a variety of key Office 365 apps and tools to help them work more effectively, such as:

  • Calendars and meetings (Outlook)
  • Create, share, edit and find content (SharePoint, OneDrive)
  • Call and meet team members
  • Chat and instant messaging

Key benefits of Microsoft Teams

  • One centralised hub
  • Office 365 integration as part of your emails subscription with Farmplan
  • Enterprise security & compliance
  • No extra cost to Office 365 users as part of your Farmplan subscription

As well as providing our customers with the ability to work from home using Farmplan’s ‘Remote Workplace’ we are here to help you with everyday communications. For more information regarding Microsoft Teams or Microsoft Email, please contact our expert tech team on 01594 545033 or email

Find out about our range of IT cloud services we offer here.

The time is up on Windows 7 – now it is time to move on

Microsoft officially ended support for the Windows 7 operating system on 14th January, meaning many users could now be vulnerable to a range of security threats if they continue to use the now unsupported version.

The popular operating system, which was released 11 years ago, will no longer receive security updates or new features from Microsoft, while third-party software will also begin to stop supporting its use on Windows 7.

A Microsoft spokesman said: “If you continue to use an unsupported version of Windows, your PC will still work, but it will become more vulnerable to security risks and viruses.

“Your PC will continue to start and run, but you will no longer receive software updates, including security updates, from Microsoft.”

The National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC), the public-facing arm of GCHQ, has warned people not to do internet banking or use emails from computers with Windows 7.

A spokesperson for the NCSC said: “The NCSC would encourage people to upgrade devices currently running Windows 7, allowing them to continue receiving software updates which help protect their devices.

“We would urge those using the software after the deadline to replace unsupported devices as soon as possible, to move sensitive data to a supported device and not to use them for tasks like accessing bank and other sensitive accounts.

“They should also consider accessing email from a different device.”

Currently, Farmplan customers can access their software on Windows 7, although users will receive warning messages when launching their respective program. However, any future updates of software will no longer be compatible with the operating system, due to the security risks to your personal and business data.

Andrew Smith, Hardware Manager at Farmplan, said: “It’s extremely important to consider upgrading your machinery to the latest version of Windows as the threat to your data is very real. We understand the importance of identifying the right computer for your needs and our team has a vast range of experience in ensuring you get the most out of your new purchase.

“The equipment we supply is based on our knowledge of Farmplan product requirements and careful testing of the programs, while making sure that you won’t be susceptible to external threats.”

From collecting your old hardware direct from your door to providing you with the right computer with your existing data transferred over, Farmplan can guide you through the entire process, providing highly valued pre-sales assistance and after-care support.

“There may be a short-term cost in migrating outdated equipment to a new and secure Windows 10 device, but in a world where all your information is held on your computer or online, consider the cost of doing nothing,” Andrew added.

Find out more about the end of Windows 7 and how Farmplan can help you by clicking here, and explore our hardware range here.

Microsoft begins warning users with Windows 7 end of support notifications

Microsoft has begun warning users of Windows 7 that support for the system ends on January 14th 2020, less than 9 months from now.

“After 10 years, support for Windows 7 is nearing an end,” the notification reads. “January 14th 2020 is the last day Microsoft will offer security updates and technical support for computers running Windows 7. We know that change can be difficult, that’s why we’re reaching out early to help you back up your files and prepare for what’s next.”

Unfortunately for those individuals using Windows 7, there’s not much you can do beyond purchasing a new computer: Any PCs that came with Windows 7 when new would offer a poor upgrade experience and in most cases would contain incompatible components.

How can Farmplan help you?

Microsoft suggest a ‘three-step plan’ for moving past Windows 7: Back up of all your files and photos, pick out a suitable new PC that’s right for you, and immerse yourself in learning the new Windows 10 user experience.

Our team will guide you through this entire process, providing highly valued pre-sales assistance and after-care support, giving you confidence that if you need help you’ve got someone to call. We offer a range of IT services and equipment to meet your needs and your budget. The equipment we supply is based on our knowledge of Farmplan product requirements and careful testing of the programs.

To find out more about Windows 7 and how Farmplan can help you, click here