Now it has always been common practice for Apple computers to cost more than equivalent computers. In exchange for that extra expenditure, you usually get a better looking, better built machine that is easy and straightforward to use. And of course you get great customer service and a nice drop off store with Geniuses to help with any problem you have.

It has also always been common practice for computer manufacturers to charge you extortionate prices for upgrades. Sometimes the upgrade would cost more than twice as much as if you were to buy the component outright. And again Apple were as guilty as most of this practice.

Now before if you weren’t happy with the amount of memory or hard disk space on a MacBook, MacBook Pro or Mac Mini, you just have to buy one, remove a few screws and change the component without even voiding the warranty (except with the Apple iMacs).

Now that’s changing as Apple specifically are using non-generic sizes and connections for hard drives so you can’t purchase generic makes and soldering memory direct to the board. But that is mainly on the MacBook Airs and MacBook Pro Retinas, and considering the size we can give them a pass and assume they had to do that to get the size and design right.

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However with the Mac Mini and new iMac they have now introduced the Fusion drive. This is actually a great piece of kit, it combines a Solid State Drive to the standard drive and through software trickery you pretty much get the speed of a SSD with the capacity of a normal hard disk. Whilst this is common practice in desktop PCs it’s all a bit more “manual” and everything has to be manually configured and moved.

So when purchasing an iMac and choosing the option of a Fusion Drive, you are technically purchasing a 128GB SSD drive to add on to the existing 1TB drive. Now these start at £60 to purchase, Apple are choosing to charge £200 extra. And no you can’t buy your own, the connector is unique and you would void the warranty installing it.

So I guess that’s a bit much and I suppose you could live without it? On the 27” models you get a nice reasonable fast 1TB 7200RPM hard drive as standard. Same as the old model, and should do the job nicely. However if you’re buying a 21.5” model you’re going to be stuck with a 5400RPM drive. In practical terms this means that the new iMac in some cases will be slower than the old one, unless you buy the Fusion drive.

If this was the dilemma I had I would feel I would need to purchase the Fusion drive. SSD’s are fantastic and really improve the user experience. It’s just a shame Apple are pretty much forcing people to buy it at such great cost.

 

In this series of blogs we are going to discuss methods, practices and equipment required to look after your data so that you firstly do not lose valuable data, and secondly, stop other people from accessing your data. Today’s topic is about online security and protecting your files and information from online attackers.

 

Protection of data against Automated Hackers and Phishing Programs

Identity theft and credit card theft may not be as traumatic as having your physical devices stolen from you, but the effects and stress of resolving all the issues can be just as bad. So here are few pointers as to steps to take to reduce the likelihood of you being a victim of online identity theft, and reduce the likelihood of anyone accessing your files.

Most forms of hacking and illicit information gathering are now done using automated programs and having them distributed to thousands and thousands of people using websites and emails with the hope that some people and their systems are exposed to these forms of attacks. You may yourself have received emails that appear to be from your bank, online stores, and social media sites asking for private information. Or you could receive emails from your own friends linking you to bad websites. This is extremely common, and the distribution itself there’s little you can do about.

Once the programs they have set up have tricked someone into providing personal information, usernames, passwords and credit card information then they will begin work with either simply purchasing items with your credit card or full on identity fraud.

 

So how to protect you and your system

  • Make sure your Anti-virus software is enabled and activated. Antivirus software will block programs such as Trojans, worms and other malware from getting on your computer. These can affect your system in many different ways, including giving direct access to your data or installing key loggers which monitor all your keyboard inputs to get hold of your passwords and usernames. Recommendations to virus software will be discussed below.
  • Make sure your Firewall software is activated and updated. If you do not have one make sure the Windows built in firewall is enabled. Recommendations to firewall software will be discussed below.
  • DO NOT click on links in emails. Even if from a friend, bank or social media site. Many of these are fake “phishing” emails trying to trick you into giving them your passwords. Try and go to the website directly using a browser, or at the very least move the mouse icon over the link and the status bar at the bottom over the browser should give you the exact location the link is sending you to. If it looks suspicious, avoid clicking. In fact just avoid clicking it and type in the website manually. And do definitely do not provide anyone, no matter how legitimate a message looks, with your username and password for any account. No legitimate company will ask for these details in an email.

 

For more help have a look at our 10 Step Guide to Protect Against Viruses which has a few general pointers to help in this area.

 

Protecting against Direct Hacking attacks

There’s not much additional advice we can help with regards protecting from direct attacks to your computer in your home or place of work. If they target your computer or network directly, there’s not much you can do additionally, short of hiring a computer security company, or just disconnecting your computer from the internet. The steps described above in protecting your computer from automated hackers also help here, what you can do is in addition is encrypt folders (described in Data Protection Series Part 1) and files that you wish to restrict access to. File encryption is extremely hard to break and provides another obstacle to any hacker.

However this situation is very rare and unlikely unless you were a large corporation in which case it is the responsibility of the company I.T. security team to protect your computer. However if you do feel that you are a target in your work or home, then you would need to consult a computer security company to install and look after additional firewalls to protect your systems.

 

 

In Part 3 we will be looking at software and services that will help you maintain security.

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In this series of blogs we are going to discuss methods, practices and equipment required to look after your data so that you firstly do not lose valuable data, and secondly stop other people from accessing your data.

Protection of data against Theft or physical loss.

We will start with the most primitive and basic form of losing data, physical theft, or loss. Carrying around a laptop or memory stick is extremely convenient for work on the go, accessing your information anywhere, or even passing on the data to someone else. Unfortunately having your laptop or storage device with you all the time leaves you open to theft or simple forgetfulness, leaving your laptop bag on the train, at work etc.

So we may lose our valuable equipment but we can at least look at protecting the valuable information on it.

Common Sense practices to securing your data.

  • Avoid carrying important data on memory cards/sticks and portable hard drives. These can be easily stolen/dropped and unless you have encrypted them are easily accessible.
  • Have a backup. Make sure your data is stored in at least 2 places at any one time.
  • Do not have all copies of your data in one place. For example do not put your backup hard drive in your laptop bag with your laptop. You lose your bag you lose everything. Try and leave a hard copy at home or store the data online.
  • Setup a password for your computer. A simple Microsoft Windows or Apple OSX password is your first line of defence against people accessing your data.
  • Do not store any confidential details on your laptop. IF you do, make sure the file or folder is password protected or encrypted.

 

Computer Passwords

As mentioned a simple Windows or OSX password is your first line of defence against people accessing your data. And in most situations a thief will mainly be interested in the device rather than the data and just wipe your computer and reinstall the operating system, but the Windows and OSX passwords can be removed within 5 minutes by someone with little know how. So here are a few options

  • Setup a BIOS password. The BIOS menu can be accessed by pressing either “F2” or “Del” on most computers (check your manual), and there you can set a password for the computer which is more secure. Each computer is slightly different so consult your manual for further details.
  • Setup a Hard Drive Password. A BIOS password does not protect accessing the hard drive on another computer. In the same BIOS menu as above a password can be set for the hard drive. Not many computers have this option but it is a very secure option.
  • Password protect individual documents. Microsoft Office has a built in password protection for its documents, it does not encrypt the data inside but it adds a level of security to the file. Any documents where important confidential data is secure must be password protected. Follow the instructions for your version:
  • Folder Encryption. Have a single folder where all your confidential information is stored. Then use an encryption tool to protect this folder. This is a very secure method of protecting data. Here are some options
      • Windows Encryption. Stops access of folder from another user. Very basic protection that doesn’t stop access if the main user account that encrypted the folder is accessed.
      • Microsoft BitLocker. Available in Windows 7 Enterprise and Ultimate.
      • TrueCrypt – Freeware. Very secure but not very easy to use.
      • FolderLock – Windows program. Secure and easy to use. Not free though. Rated top encryption software at toptenreviews.com
      • OSX Built in Encryption – OSX has a built in encryption method which Macworld.com have a nice tutorial for.

Portable Devices Encryption

If you carry your data around the best practice is to password encrypt the whole hard drive or USB flash drive. You will still be able to access the data on other computers by inputting a password.

  • Microsoft BitLocker.– Available in Windows 7 Enterprise and Ultimate. Encrypts whole drives, however cannot be read on other operating systems.
  • OSX Built in Encryption. Can only be accessed from OSX systems MacLife encryption Tutorial
  • TrueCrypt. Freeware. Can be accessed from Windows, Apple OSX and linux. Video Tutorial to encrypt a USB device.

 

In part 2 we will be discussing protection of data against automated hackers and phishing software