Blog

Hi All,

gf2As the Nerd Herder and resident Old Guy of the expanded Lateral Plains family, its always exciting to see new blood, new ideas and new thinking. Since Lateral Plains and Eureka ICT have come together as one, some magic has happened and there is a sense of excitement and anticipation as to the next chapter for us all. And one of the most important things? Its a lot of fun. 

Of course with growth, come growing pains. A new office is in development yet but its not quite there as of the time of writing! So at the moment, our entire crew are working out of three office suites in Ballarat Technology Park Central, 2 of them upstairs and one downstairs. You'll find us here and we're accessible from 9 - 5 on weekdays. Whilst we are running up and down stairs a lot and clients are still coming in and out as always, its been a great start to the new expanded operation, both in terms of the teamwork but also in terms of the significant growth of our services and products. We've pooled what must be one of the most unique collection of technical skillsets and technical enthusiasts (Nerds if you like) in the region.

But none of us have lost sight of the fact that anything and everything we do has a human outcome, and we remain firmly focussed on that.

Good things come to those who are patient and we're pleased to be planning the move into the 'N' Building of the Flecknoe Building in Albert Street. The whole precinct has become Tech and Innovation Central in the region, and we are about to join the community there. As a binding fabric of it all, the precinct is integrated into the environs of Federation University Australia. The lines between research and exploration, commercial endeavour, learning and applying, will quickly blur as the communities on the precinct start clustering and collaborating. There is literally a creative and innovative revolution happening in the region. Smart people are coming together and working in ways not seen before.

The precinct currently houses:

Ballarat Technical School - https://ballarattechschool.vic.edu.au/

Ballarat Hackerspace - https://ballarathackerspace.org.au/

Runway Ballarat - https://runwayhq.co/ballarat/

 ... and it's about to house us :-) 

 

Here are some preliminary views:

 

Whether you have been a Lateral Plains client or a Eureka ICT client, you will still benefit from the same expert and caring team members you've dealt with in the past. But significantly you'll all have access to so much more in terms of services and expertise. And one thing that will not change is that we promise always to keep things as simple and plain English as we can.  We'll be posting up regular updates on our process with the Big Move and we are very much looking forward to welcoming you to our new Home in Albert St :-)

 

Cheers

George

Nerd Herder @l Lateral Plains

 

 

Barbara Fong - Celebrating International Womens' Day 2017 tribute

At Lateral Plains we’d like to add our voice worthy celebration of women and their achievements on this International Women’s Day 2017.  Too many true business heroes remain unsung heroes. so we would like to pay tribute to one of our most loved team members, Barbara Fong.

Barbara is co-founder, financial controller, business manager and business innovator of our organisation. Whilst a lot of our work gets publicity in the ICT fields, behind the scenes, Barbara has dedicated herself to ensuring that we have a sound business and financial base off which to work. She is the voice of client relations and her innovation and entrepreneurial spirit and expertise have ensured that we have had a sustainable and flexible business structure to allow us to innovate, grow and stay relevant in a fast changing industry.

Few will be aware that Barbara was also one of the four founding members of NetConnect Communications, one of Regional Australia’s first Internet Service Providers She was also executive officer of the Ballarat Regional Multicultural Council at a time when the organisation successfully negotiated with the Federal Government to settle 10 refugee families into Ballarat. She was an essential part of a team that was pivotal in getting these families settled and is still recognised by many of those who have remained in Ballarat.

Barbara continues to be the mainstay of Lateral Plains and continues on as a mentor and leader to the team here.

Happy International Womens’ Day Barbara, from the grateful and appreciative Nerds at Lateral Plains.

8th March 2017 - International Womens' Day 

ransomwareAs many will now be aware, a massive ransomware attack occurred across the world, affecting mainly English and US computer systems. One of the biggest victims was the UK’s National Health Service. By all accounts, the attack has not so far been widespread in Australia and most authorities and anti-virus systems are up to date on the malware footprint.

What is WannaCry?

This malware program affects Windows based systems and exploits a well known vulnerability in a number of versions of Windows, The vulnerability is known to Microsoft (MS17-010) and was patched as far back as March.

In many cases, ransomware gets on to a system through a user clicking on a link in an email. Once that link is clicked, the malware is downloaded onto the computer and it then exploits the above vulnerability to encrypt files and documents on the computer.

However, in the case of WannaCry, if a Microsoft system is not patched as described above, the program uses tools originally developed by the USA’a National Security Agency to exploit the vulnerability – in other words, without intervention from the user,

The original files and documents are then deleted, and a screensaver message will appear, giving payment instructions and also outlining what will happen if the victim does not comply.

What do I do if I get ransomware on my computer?

Whether it’s Wannacry or any other form of ransomware, the first and most important thing is not to panic. We would suggest disconnecting your PC from any network connection and turn it off. Call your local computer support team as soon as possible.

Should I pay the Ransom?

This is a judgment call for all victims of this sort of crime but our suggestion would be to report it to the authorities first. In Australia, you can report ransomware attacks to the Australian CyberCrime Online Reporting Network (ACORN) at http://www.acorn.gov.au

How do I protect myself against ransomware attacks?

Common sense rules the day here.

  • Update Update Update - First, make sure that your computer’s operating system has been patched to the latest updates. As noted above, WannaCry exploits a vulnerability that was patched by Microsoft in March of this year. But even that’s no guarantee of safety, as some of these systems are upgraded to utilise other unpatched or as yet undocumented vulnerabilities, or where the malware is as yet unknown to Microsoft or antivirus systems (known as “zero day” exploits)
  • Anti-Virus and Malware Scanners - Make sure you are running a reputable antivirus scanner that is also up to date and is regularly updated. Whilst there are a number of good commercial products in the market, Bear in mind that Windows 8 and 10 also have an inbuilt antivirus system called Windows Defender. In addition to this we would also recommend that you download at least the free version of Malwarebytes (https://www.malwarebytes.com/). This program is a useful and effective supplement to your antivirus programs.
  • Email and Suspect Web Links - Importantly, be careful with your email and with strange links to websites. Many malware programs are spread by malicious links or attachments in email. Once you click on the link or open up the attachment, that’s when the trouble starts. 

    Be very careful about emails with odd email addresses or from people you do not know. Bad grammar and short cryptic and often confusing messages are usually a tell tale sign that the email is not legitimate.

    If your email is being provided by your Internet Service Provider, find out if they are running mail scanners at their end to hunt down junk mail and malware. Whilst none of these systems is absolutely foolproof, many ISPs offer such services as addons and some of them actually provide options for such a service that you can control yourself through a web console page.

    Email is a very insecure way of communicating even though it’s the most convenient way of doing so. Be suspicious of what you see in your inbox. Even if an email looks like it is coming from someone you know, be cautious, because sometimes email addresses can be spoofed or made to look similar but not the same as the person’s in respect of whose email they are spoofing. (Our Nerd Herder wrote about the dangers of email a couple of years ago (https://www.cso.com.au/article/560207/r-p-email/) ).

  • Backup Backup Backup – It is very important in this day in age to backup all of your important data and files. Small businesses especially can be crippled by a Ransomware attack. If you have been a victim of an attack and you do have backups, then you may lose a little bit of current data but you may well be able to restore your data with only minor impact. Without backups you are quite literally held captive by your attacker.

    It is important that when backups are made, that they are taken off line from the PC being backed up. If not, then it is possible that even your backups could be attacked.

    Spend time policing your data. If you have important data that is only referenced occasionally, consider putting it on another computer or in a safe storage medium such as a Network Area Storage system (NAS) or a backup drive. And also consider storing your data on another device that is not exposed directly to your email or web browser. Segregating computers from each other does also contribute to the safety of your local area network.

Backup Services

If you are looking for a remote backup service, there are many available to you. At Lateral plains, we run our own datacentre services and we also have access to large secure data warehouses that are backed up in Melbourne and Sydney. Automated backups from your PC to these various backup services is available.

Feel Free to Talk to us!

If you are unsure about the safety of your computer systems and/or you are interested in finding out more about our backup services, please feel free to either email us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or call us during business hours on 03 53 177 123

Some References for you

If you are interested in reading a bit more about Ransomware and the cybersecurity, here are a few useful links

Correction: This article originally stated that WannaCry is activated by clicking on email links or compromised URLs. WannCry does not in fact need user intervention to do its thing. Thanks Kyhwana (https://keybase.io/kyhwana) for pointing out our error.

Access to fast broadband is allowing startups to set up shop in their hometown.

Once known for its Eureka moment, Ballarat became a major settlement following the Victorian gold rush in the mid 1800s.

While that gold rush saw prospectors rushing to the town in pursuit of the yellow metal, the Ballarat of today is a goldmine for young startups.

George Fong provides a backdrop to how NBN is helping young Ballarat startup company Retsim.

Full article from NBN Australia and accompanying video here.