Employee behaviour key to improving information security, new survey finds

UK companies have become increasingly aware of the need to have information security policies in place, with seven out of eight large businesses now claiming to have one. However, the high priority given to information security by companies does not necessarily translate into improved security awareness among employees. Increasingly, companies are realising that to tighten up further on information security, they have to change their people’s behaviour.

These are among the early findings of the 2008 Information Security Breaches Survey (ISBS) carried out by a consortium, led by PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP, on behalf of the Department for Business, Enterprise & Regulatory Reform (BERR). The full results of the survey will be launched at Infosecurity Europe in London, 22-24 April www.infosec.co.uk.

The survey shows that companies are placing greater trust in their staff and they want their staff to use technology to improve their effectiveness. For example, 54% of UK companies now allow staff to access their systems remotely (up from 36% in 2006); every very large business gives remote access to at least some staff. The proportion of businesses restricting Internet access to some staff only has nearly halved (from 42% to 24%), and only 9% give no staff access to the Internet.

At the same time, the survey shows that staff are increasingly targeted by social engineering attacks (where outsiders try to obtain confidential information from employees). In addition, businesses are becoming increasingly concerned about what is being said about them on social networking sites (such as MySpace, Facebook and Bebo), and some staff have posted confidential information on these sites.

Against this background, companies are hardening their technical controls:

  • Use of strong (i.e. multi-factor) authentication has nearly doubled since 2006. 14% of small businesses and 53% of large companies now use strong authentication for some of their systems.
  • Two-thirds of companies that allow staff to access their systems remotely require additional authentication over that access. Virtual Private Network (VPN) use is almost universal among very large businesses for remote access.
  • 81% of large companies block access to inappropriate websites and 86% log and monitor staff access to the Internet.

However, technology controls alone are not enough. Key to making sure that staff remain the organisation's greatest asset is to ensure they behave in a security-conscious way. Increasingly, companies are focused on setting clear policies, making staff aware of the policies and then monitoring behaviour to ensure that it is in line with those policies. The proportion of companies that have an information security policy has quadrupled over the last eight years. Large businesses remain more likely to have a security policy; seven out of eight do so, and some of the 12% that do not have a security policy per se have an integrated overall set of business policies that include information security.

Some 68% of companies surveyed that give a high or very high priority to security have a security policy (up from 55% in 2006 when the last ISBS was conducted) compared with 64% of those that treat security as low or no priority (up massively from 13% in 2006).

There is some correlation between how clearly senior management understands security issues and whether a security policy is in place. However, even where senior management has a very poor understanding, 56% of those businesses have a security policy. The biggest correlation is between security policy and risk assessment; companies that carry out risk assessment are nearly twice as likely to have a security policy in place as those that do not.

Security awareness is not just an issue for a company’s staff. Nearly two-thirds of very large companies would welcome more education for the general public about information security risks.

Chris Potter, partner, PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP, who led the survey commented:

”Of course, having a security policy alone does not magically improve security awareness among staff. The overwhelming majority of companies take steps to raise awareness. The priority given by senior management makes a difference in the extent to which security awareness is drilled into all areas of the organisation. Only one in five companies for whom security is not a priority at all takes any steps to raise the security awareness of their staff.

“What companies are realising is that increasing security awareness is only part of the answer. The critical issue is changing the behaviour of their people. A ‘click mentality’ has grown up - users do what expedites their activity rather than what they know they ought to. It is a bit like the road speed limit – everyone knows what they ought to do, but only a few actually do it. Only when behaviour changes do businesses realise the benefits of a security-aware culture.”

Martin Smith, Chairman and Founder of The Security Company (International) Limited, a company that focuses on promoting long term behavioural change across all levels of organisations, added:

“Traditionally, where organisations have attempted to improve employee awareness they have used a combination of computer-based training and face-to-face presentations to get security messages across. But these methods are somewhat transient - much more collaborative and longer-lasting programmes are needed. Genuine behaviour change is essential, and this takes time and effort.

“To be truly effective, awareness messages need to be personalised and tailored to the audience – staff need ownership, plus what works well for a bank won’t necessarily come across well on the shop floor. Messages also need to be kept up to date, so sharing experience with other organisations is important. But if you want to really change staff behaviour, you must put metrics in place to measure actual performance, to ensure compliance, and to reinforce and reward the right conduct.”

Solcara Communications Centre is De Beers’ best friend!

  • Solcara’s Communications Centre deployed across De Beers operations
  • Market-leading communications software deployed in South Africa, India, Russia and Canada
De Beers, the world’s leading diamond company, has installed Solcara Communications Centre to manage stakeholder engagement and communications across the globe. De Beers joins a number of large plcs, government organisations and international enterprises that have benefited from deployment of Solcara’s Communications Centre.

Implemented at the De Beers office in London, Solcara Communications Centre will aid the communications teams when managing stakeholder relationships, providing a comprehensive contact database, an enquiry management service and an events calendar. The Communications Centre works by creating one area where all vital information is easily accessible for sharing, distribution and evaluation. Team members, activities and information can work together for a faster, more efficient media operation.

Kirsty Lane, Media Relations Executive at De Beers commented,

”The De Beers Communications Team is always looking for ways to bring our disparate teams closer together by sharing current information and best practice across all markets. For the first time we have a secure, online stakeholder management database that we can all access, no matter where in the world we are located. Solcara enables any of our users to get the information they need about an issue, stakeholder or event in real-time“.

Rob Martin, Solcara’s Managing Director added,

“Solcara Communications Centre continues to prove an indispensable tool for marketing, press and media relations personnel across all business sectors. Solcara Communications Centre is now installed at some of the largest and most prestigious companies in the UK and the global leader in terms of diamond production.

“What we have found is that once deployed, Solcara’s Communications Centre becomes indispensable and we are particularly pleased to see how many former customers who move jobs, quickly order Communications Centre when in their new role”.

Initially piloted by De Beers’ UK office, Solcara’s Communications Centre has since been rolled out to De Beers’ international operations – within its External & Corporate Affairs offices in South Africa, India, Russia and Canada.

Free Your Computer with Ubuntu

There is lots of talk everywhere, I know, about the different Linux operating system distributions but I must say that, as far as I am concerned, I shall, for the time being for personal use, at least, stick with Ubuntu by Canonical.

I like Ubuntu for a number of reasons, and the word Ubuntu being one of then. I know that that may be silly but so be it. I also love the Ubuntu promise, which is to keep it totally free of licensing fees. The promise was given some while back and it is still as true as it was then. Let us hope that it will also remain thus, namely free of all license fees.

We have come a considerable way already since I started using Ubuntu, with Dapper Drake. Feisty Fawn came and went, the Gutsy Gibbon arrived and then the Heron. Now, yet another version/upgrade is due out soon. I am not worried about that, presently.

For, while now even Gutsy Gibbon and the Heron are both out and more or less, history, I personally still use the Dapper Drake version of Ubuntu and am very happy with it for the work PC, e.g. the one where all the writing is done, predominately. It sits there quietly in the corner, is ready when I want it and never freezes up or crashes – well, at least not so far. It is quacking great, the Drake, in my view, and very dapper.

If you have an older computer or just want to get the absolute best performance out of your computer you may want to try Xubuntu, which, apparently, uses the slim and trim Xfce Desktop. If you want the KDE Desktop there is Kubuntu. And, if you want to run a thin client and server setup for a classroom there is Edubuntu.

For all of the versions except Xubuntu you can request a free install CD.
However, if you have a broadband Internet connection, or have a friend who does, downloading the CD images will get it to you faster and conserve resources for those that have not choice but to order the CD.

I guess that, personally, I am biased as to the Linux distro that I use, e.g. Ubuntu, simply because it was Ubuntu that introduced me proper to Linux on the desktop and as far as I am concerned Ubuntu it will remain for a long time to come.

This is not to say that I shall not, in due course, as I have a number of “older” PCs sitting about here that I want to put to use again, experiment with Fedora, Puppy, Damn Small Linux, and a few others. I still doubt, however, that any of them will replace my Ubuntu one(s).

Let me reiterate that Ubuntu Linux is definitely worth a look

The Ubuntu developers have a philosophy and a product that seems to be Second to none. Here are some points that I find appealing as regards Ubuntu Linux:

Ubuntu Linux has a company behind it to make sure releases and updates are available in addition to support by an active user community. They have pledged never to charge a license fee. They make their money by offering paid support only.

The people behind Ubuntu Linux are committed to the free Open Source software concept and working hard to get the software out to people to use.

One impressive way they are helping to spread the word about (free) Open Source Software is by offering free CD-ROMs with free shipping. This is a great way to get the software to those without fast Internet connections and to get people to share it with their friends.

Ubuntu Linux is available as a Live Linux version you can run from the CD so you can see how you like it before installing.

Ubuntu Linux is definitely worth trying whether you have ever run Linux before or not. Check it out! I did exactly that. I checked it out by ordering the live CD and got sent about five of them. One for use, theoretically, and four, I guess, to pass on to others. I have meanwhile also cut CDs of those and given them of people who were interested.

I had heard a lot about Linux and decided to give it a go. I liked what I saw and stuck with it. I also stuck with the first initial version of Ubuntu that I ever stuck onto the PC. Why? Because of the old adage “if you Linux box works, leave it alone”. The real reason is, it does what I want it to do, is fast about doing it and, well, I am happy with it. As said, give it a try, you have nothing to lose bar your ties to Microsoft. You can set up – the CD does that automatically – a dual-boot on the PC so you have the option to return to Windows at any time, should you so wish; though I doubt that you would wish to.

© Michael Smith (Veshengro), March 2008

P.S. I am not getting paid by Canonical for this, before anyone asks. I just like the product.

Solcara helps AstraZeneca set international benchmark for global media relations

Solcara, the market-leading provider of software for the control, management and searching of digital information, has been helping AstraZeneca manage its interactions with the media through the use of Solcara Communications Centre.

AstraZeneca, one of the world’s leading pharmaceutical companies, is a truly international company, and is active in over 100 countries, with its corporate office in London and major Research & Development (R&D) sites in Sweden, the UK and US. AstraZeneca’s media relations team wanted a system that would create an accessible international benchmark for consistent media relations across all continents.

Solcara Communications Centre is a ‘live’ application which means the information stored within it can be accessed anywhere, anytime. AstraZeneca’s key international media contacts have access to a user-friendly interface and information management system that enables key spokespeople to provide consistent information to the media “around the clock,” regardless of their location.

The media relations department at AstraZeneca uses Solcara Communications Centre to manage journalist contact details, track enquiries from the media and log numerous interview requests. The software provides a simple and effective means of monitoring all press office activity, enabling the team to report on progress and productivity quickly and easily.

Rob Martin, Managing Director at Solcara said, “With hugely successful worldwide businesses such as AstraZeneca, protecting a reputation and communicating a coherent, consistent message on a global scale is becoming more and more important. AstraZeneca’s strategic approach to communications is being adopted by a rapidly increasing number of major organisations who understand the importance of reputation. Like AstraZeneca, they are choosing Solcara Communications Centre because it supports global communications and removes barriers of time and location.”

Edel McCaffrey Media Relations Manager for AstraZeneca, commented, “We have been very impressed with the Solcara system since we implemented it within the company. As a global business, it is important for our key media contacts from around the world to have access to information required by the media, regardless of the location or time zone they are operating in. Solcara helps us to achieve this in an efficient and user friendly manner.”

About Solcara

Solcara is a market-leading provider of software for control, management and searching of digital information across a broad range of business sectors and disciplines. Solcara’s software products are designed to address critical information management and retrieval needs, irrespective of the industry or sector. All of our products and solutions are designed and built using our own framework and methodology, ensuring consistency and high-quality, regardless of the environment in which they operate.

Solcara provides four main products for enterprises:

  1. Solcara Communications Centre: a product for PR and marketing, the Solcara Communications Centre enables the distribution of corporate communications, and the logging of all calls and enquiries, ensuring consistency of response.
  2. Solcara SolSearch: the next generation of search technology for internal and external online resources, SolSearch creates a speedy one stop search for all indexed internal and Internet based content without the need to deploy traditional retrieval software, with simultaneous access free-to-air and subscription-based Internet search sources.
  3. Solcara Crisis Control Centre: a complete software solution for managing critical communications across the enterprise during a corporate or business continuity crisis. Solcara Crisis Control Centre delivers a platform for the rapid capture of information and quick distribution of the facts to those that need to know, enabling a more effective decision-making process in emergency situations.
  4. Solcara Know How: Solcara Know How is a repository for an organisations high-value, reusable assets that stand alone from general documents. Solcara Know How reduces duplication of effort, maximises employee productivity and reduces the cost of managing information.

Solcara is a subsidiary of ArgentVive plc, an eCommerce Group quoted on the London Stock Exchange (code:ARGV)

For more information about Solcara’s products, go to www.solcara.com

Hackers attempt to spread malware via Trend Micro website

Hackers have attempted to spread malware via the website of security firm Trend Micro, according to media reports in Japan.

Hackers tried to alter a number of web pages on the firm's Japanese and English-language websites on Sunday 9 March, using a malicious iFrame exploit that could deliver a Trojan horse onto users' computers. Trend Micro is believed to have uncovered the problem on Wednesday 12 March, and replaced affected pages with a message saying, "This page is temporarily shut down for emergency maintenance.”

It has not yet been revealed how hackers tampered with the web pages on the security website, but it is likely a software vulnerability on the site was exploited.

Trend Micro reported on its website that visitors to its sites could be infected by the malware, which it named JS_DLOADER.TZE, either by accessing one of the infected web pages or clicking on a malicious URL link.

The company said on its blog, "Early last week, we realised that part of our public online Virus Encyclopedia (VE) was altered via external hacking. The redirect placed on our site didn't work properly so nobody visiting the hacked pages was at risk of infection.

"In response to this incident, we shut down the VE for several hours, patched the systems, removed the inserted code, and brought it back to life again. We have already taken interim measures to further harden the VE system against future attacks."

On its own website, rival security supplier Sophos, said, "Our friends at Trend Micro and people visiting the hacked pages are victims of a crime. Sadly, it is not an uncommon crime these days and all kinds of businesses have suffered."

Sophos added, "This is not the time or place to make cheap shots against a competitor. In the past, we have found websites as varied as wedding photographers, antiques firms, pilates classes, ice-cream manufacturers and even the US consulate general in St Petersburg infected by similar attacks. It seems we now have to add anti-virus companies to that list."

Sophos said Trend Micro was not the first security company to become a victim. "In 1999, hackers changed the home page of Symantec - although in that instance the motivation was apparently to cause mischief rather than to spread malware."

Credit card data stolen from supermarket chain

A computer hacker or computer hackers stole thousands of credit card numbers after managing to breach security at two U.S. grocery store chains owned by Belgium-based Delhaize Group SA, the companies admitted.

Nearly 2,000 cases of fraud have been linked to the breach, but no personal information such as names or addresses was accessed when the hacker broke into the Hannaford Bros. stores in Massachusetts, New England and New York, and Sweetbay customers in Florida, Hannaford claimed in a statement. The question is, how do they know that no other information was accessed.

According to Boston's WBZ radio 4.2 million credit and debit card numbers were stolen. Company officials were not immediately available to confirm the number of stolen card numbers. In other words, officials of the company were not prepared to admit that the is so large. They are working on so-called “damage control”, I am sure.

Hannaford, headquartered in Scarborough, Maine, said that it had become aware of unusual credit card activity on February 27 and began an investigation. It said the data was illegally accessed during the credit card authorization process. And how is this possible? If it is that easy to access such information then, maybe, we better all went back to cash payments and, maybe, checks. This definitely does not make for inspiring confidence in the systems that are in place to safeguard information that companies (and governments) hold on us. Time to put the breaks on this, methinks.

Hannaford Chief Executive Ron Hodge offered an apology for the intrusion. There are 165 Hannaford stores in the U.S. Northeast and 106 Sweetbay supermarkets in Florida.
"We sincerely regret any concern or inconvenience this has caused," Hodge said in a statement. "We have taken aggressive steps to augment our network security capabilities."

The breach is the latest at a big U.S. retailer and comes after U.S. retail group TJX Cos Inc disclosed last year that data from 45.7 million credit and debit cards were stolen by hackers over a period of 18 months, as well as personal information for 451,000 people.

A group of banks later asserted in court documents that the number of consumer accounts were affected was closer to 94 million, a charge Massachusetts-based TJX denied.

But, how can this be? The data we give out is supposed to be so secure. Yes, I am being sarcastic; a trait I am well known for. Our data is simply NOT secure on an such systems that can be accessed from the “outside” so to speak, whether business or government. This is yet another reason for for us all not to trust the governments with our personal data for any kind of national ID card scheme, whether in the UK or in the USA. With all the information in digital for cloning it is all so much easier and NOT harder, as they try to tell us all the time.

Michael Smith (Veshengro), March 2008

Internet Gridlock Ahead

Whilst consumers, private or corporate, worry as to whether their Internet Providers can deliver their advertised download speed, many analysts are predicting that serious bottlenecks could occur within the core infrastructure before another five years have passed. The sheer volume of data flooding the internet could at best create a go-slow effect.

I believe that at times we are seeing this “go-slow effect” already. There are times when, regardless of your official speed, downloads are about as fast as they were with a 56k modem.

An analysis conducted by Nemertes Research, an advisory firm that specialises in assessing the business value of emerging technologies, has identified a critical issue facing the Internet and that we must take the necessary steps to build out network capacity or potentially face Internet gridlock that could wreak havoc on Internet services.

Voice and bandwidth-intensive applications such as streaming and interactive video, peer-to-peer file transfer and music downloads and file sharing are redefining the Internet. Wireless devices such as cell phones, Blackberrys and gaming accessories provide consumers ever-increasing access to the Internet, exponentially accelerating consumption of Internet bandwidth, which can lead to a collapse of the service.

So, how will this affect you? If you rely on the internet to access your database, or operate remotely, you may find your capacity to work slowing down. We saw this only the other day when some online databases and storage facilities could not be contacted by the users.

Many people think that keeping everything stored online is the way to go but my advice would be; don't do it. Rather invest in an external hard drive or even more than one and store your data that way if you must keep – and you should – your computer's hard drive slim.

While it may seem a great idea, and there are some little PCs around nowadays that rely on online applications, for instance, my advice, as above, is “don't go down that route”.

Too many services are places online now that could wreak havoc with the Internet bandwidth and therefore its speed. Maybe we must reconsider how we watch TV and listen to the radio and music?

© Michael Smith (Veshengro), March 2008

EU to consider buying open-source software

BRUSSELS: The European Commission will propose to buy more of its computer software from open-source developers, a commission spokeswoman said Wednesday.

The move is a potential setback for Microsoft, the world's largest software maker. The company is trying to prevent an increasing number of defections by governments from its proprietary software toward software from open-source developers, who are allowed to modify the software source code, or underlying instructions.

However, can one really wonder that users are switching to Open Source software seeing that Windows has been plagued by viruses, and especially the exploits and the ongoing need for patches after patches, and let us not even talk about Vista and IE7.

"There is a growing pressure on the commission to promote open-source software," said Carlo Piana, a lawyer for the Free Software Foundation Europe, which represents open-source developers.

The Dutch government announced in September that it would favor "open standards" when purchasing desktop software. Singapore stopped using Microsoft's Office software in 2004 and Munich has decided to use the Linux-based operating system rather than Microsoft's Windows program. The French Gendarmerie too, as far as ICT Review is led to believe, went over to open source software, Open Office on Windows and also to Linux OS with Open Office, and, so we understand, the city of Vienna too went over entirely to open source.

Jesse Verstraete, a Microsoft spokesman in Brussels, declined to comment.

The commission will soon release a "strategy paper" on using more open-source software, said Valerie Rampi, a spokeswoman for Siim Kallas, the European commissioner who is responsible for administrative affairs. The paper will say that open-source software should be pursued provided it does not cost more and is in the best interest of European citizens, she said.

The commission, with about 32,000 employees, mainly in Brussels, has made several steps to use open-source software for its administration.

But Piana, of the Free Software Foundation Europe, said the adoption of the software by governments had been slow. "There is a gap between proposals and the adoption. It takes time to implement the policy," he said.

And, as we know that have any dealing with the public sector and with industry, it can take a long while, especially with CIOs that are set in the Windows ways. Some, it would seems, are in the pay of Microsoft the way they will not even consider anything else.

The move comes as the commission pursues two new antitrust cases against Microsoft. EU regulators opened investigations in January into whether Microsoft was using its dominance in word processing and spreadsheets to thwart rivals, and into whether the company illegally tied an Internet browser to Windows.

© Michael Smith (Veshengro), March 2008

Cyber war sure to escalate in 2008

Well over hundred countries are developing ways to attack computer networks as means of waging war against other nations.

Cyber warfare waged over the world's computers will become one of the biggest threats to security in the next decade, according to a report published by computer security company McAfee.

The Virtual Criminology Report, which was compiled with input from academics and officials from Britain's Serious Organised Crime Agency, the US Federal Bureau of Investigation and Nato, warns that intelligence agencies already routinely spy on other countries' networks and test them for weaknesses.

Although China is named in the report as being at the forefront of this cyber warfare, McAfee said about 120 countries are developing ways to use the internet as a weapon to target other states' computer networks; including national grids, financial markets, banks and government departments such as tax and benefits.

Russia has done that not that long ago when it tried to, and succeeded, so I believe, to hack into the infrastructure computer networks of one of the Baltic states, that once were part of the Soviet empire.

Lilian Edwards, a co-writer of the report and professor of internet law at Southampton University, has stated that such attacks had already happened in the UK.

She referred a recent incident when Chinese hackers attacked the computer networks of British Government departments. Furthermore an organised Chinese hacking group shut down part of the House of Commons computer system.

According to Whitehall, in September this 2007, Chinese hackers targetted the networks of the Foreign Office and other key departments.

“Attacks like this are already happening in the UK. Computers control a big part of the UK's infrastructure, including services such as transport, electricity and also people's hospital records. Cyber spying can knock out the computer network, putting services out of commission until the problem is rectified," Edwards said.

She called on the Government to take responsibility in securing its networks as well as thinking carefully about where it stored people’s personal data.
However, according to Edwards, it's not just the Government's responsibility. The public also has a part to play because many home PCs become infected with zombies and botnets and can infiltrate other networks.

“Home users need to make sure they have the basic security in place to make sure botnets don’t build up,” she said.

McAfee also found that 2008 would see an increased threat to consumers.

It said online services such as banking will continue to be targets and a complex and sophisticated market for malware will emerge. It referred to the Storm Worm which it said was the first example of such malware and said future attacks would be based on this.

The problem though often is that consumers, ordinary computer users, have little or no idea of the fact that they need to secure their Windows computers against all manner of threats. In fact so many run with outdated anti-virus software that it is no longer funny.

Home users and home business users also always seem to think that they have to spend vast sums on anti-virus software and annual licenses and such but there are free programs “on the market”, FREE for the simple download, that perform as well if not, often, better than there paid for competition.

I personally, aside from using Linux in some occasions, have my Windows computers secured with FREE software that have caught the viruses and other malware that the likes of McAfee and Symantec, though updated the same as my free ones, missed and let through.

McAfee also said that criminals would be likely to target new threats such the targeting of internet telephony. This included vishing (phishing via internet telephony known as VoIP) attacks and phreaking (hacking into telephone networks to make long distance phone calls).

This can be done because most VoIP calls travel across the public internet, so hackers can capture VoIP packets in the same way as data packets. Hackers can then use the address found in the packet to call the user and direct them to a site or use any personal details being spoken about.

© Michael Smith (Veshengro), March 2008

Green Computing

Going green

Everyone is now concerned about the environment, thank the gods for that. The idea of being greener in the workplace is well established by now, or so at least we should hope, with the only question remaining as to exactly how this should be accomplished. People have the idea that computing should be able to help.

The answer to that is a yes as well as a no. Computing and computers can help a bit – but the people operating the computers can do more.

The notion of green computing itself is mired in some controversy. In the US in the early 1990s an accreditation called Energy Star was launched, for which monitors could qualify. This had a certain green ‘cred’ about it until everybody finally acknowledged that the legislation was so far behind the technology that it was virtually impossible to get a monitor that was anything other than fully compliant.

There are a number of more interesting and creative ways of greening your systems nowadays. Among the mare virtual PCs, to name but one. It is well known that people use only a small percentage of their brain during their lifetime; the same is often true of their computer and its capabilities.

This is why a number of organisations, particularly in the public sector, now adhere to a ‘virtual’ model – so more than one terminal is powered by the same computer, and while one person is using their keyboard and screen to do the accounts another might be using the same computer but a separate screen and keyboard to design a website.

As long as the system has enough oomph this isn’t a problem. IF, however, the computer does not have enough of the oomph then there is a problem with the virtual machine idea. However, external network drives can be most useful as well in that the PC's own drive only used the absolutely necessary programs and all the storage is done outside the PCs own drive(s).

On the other hand older systems, as long as not energy hogs, can be put to use with an operating system that does not hog resources in the way Windows does. Recycle the PC, put Linux on.

Others go further.

Several councils now share large systems for finance and HR, for example, using high-end systems like Oracle; the idea is that a couple of non-competing organisations set up as separate users with separate accounts on these large systems and log into them from a distance. It doesn’t matter in practical terms that there’s only one physical computer; the two organisations have their own virtual set-up so other than reducing the impact on the environment there’ no real difference bar the lower cost.

We see similar things happening with the virtual desktops, e.g. Windows Live, Google, etc. where one can use software remotely, over the Internet. Whether, however, security-wise this is such a good idea is, obviously a question.

The other question is whether, during the next year or so, this sort of computing is likely to enter the mainstream and move down to the smaller enterprise.

In some cases this has already happened as regards to smaller enterprises. View of them if any now would wish to operate as their own Internet Service Provider. They want a specialist to do this; this is nothing short of renting space on someone else’s computer for a particular task. If a number of software companies have their way, as I already mentioned above, this will come to applications as well, so you’ll buy some time using an accounting system rather than buying the software outright. And you may, in the end, not even have to buy some time, as long as you are prepared to view some ads while you, or a member of your staff does the work.

In the meantime, a lot can be done by way of greening the PC if staff can just be persuaded they don’t need to leave them switched on all night. Using a “Bye, Bye, Standby” kit with your setup is a start. This way no one has to crawl under a desk or such to physically switch off each individual socket or power strip.

© Michael Smith (Veshengro), March 2008

Your Laptop and Your Health - Product Review on LapGardTM

We hear a great deal at times about the possible dangers from the heat and now also the WiFi radiation from using a laptop, well, on the lap. While there is nothing proven as yet to whether or not and it all may be false alarms and scare stories even, with the exception of the heat and burn issue, who is willing to take the chance.

I do know that one or the other reader is going to, yet again, tell me that I do not write review but ads when I do reviews, may I stress again that there is more than one way in which to write a review and I have been writing reviews for rather a long time by now.

So, back to the situation in hand.

I personally stopped using my old Toshiba Satellite laptop on my lap not because of heath fears, to start with, and I am too old by now to worry about fertility anyways, but simply because even through jeans it was very hot prior to, eventually, the fan kicking in. If I want my legs burnt from a laptop I might put one on my lap but only then. Otherwise I rather won't do that. Therefore, if and when I needed to use mine on my lap and had no other choice I had devised my own “lap desk” from light metal. This is and was not an ideal solution but it kept the heat off.

As one computer geek in a store told me once: those things are not really meant to sit directly on your lap. Aside from the heat that they radiate and that might burn you the lack of air circulation while they rest on your lap also can cause damage to the PC itself. Cheers, pal!

Now Amps International Ltd. has come up with what, to me, appears to be the perfect solution: namely the LapGardTM.

LapGardTM is a laptop protection heat absorber, which will protect the user from potentially dangerous heat penetration. It has a multi-core construction which prevents electro-magnetic aves and radiation, potential causes of low male fertility, amongst other health hazards, coming into contact with the user's body.

LapGardTM is simple to use and is constructed from a unique combination of materials. It comes in an attractive leather-look finish and has an adjustable spacer bar with Velcro tabs that holds the laptop to sit comfortably and securely while at the same time allowing for proper ventilation of the laptop at all times.

LapGardTM is lightweight and very convenient to carry, as it easily fits into a laptop case.

LapGard comes in four sizes to suit 12” - 15.5” laptops and is priced from £19.99 and available from www.laptopsafety.co.uk.

I was given a review sample on the Health & Safety 08 Exhibition, which was held from February 26-27, 2008 at Sandown Park Racecourse, Esher, Surrey, which fits the old Toshiba of mine lovely and I can but endorse everything that is said by the company as to this little device. What I would just like to add is that, in my view, it should come as standard equipment with every laptop case.

© Michael Smith (Veshengro), March 2008