Ransomware: How its moved the I.T. security goalposts

May 17, 2017 |


As the fallout from the “Wannacrypt” outbreak continues, the harsh reality is that the issue of cyber security is once again at the front of the agenda with and ransomware now the top security concern worldwide. A new approach to security is needed and a multi layered approach needs to be taken in preventing data loss to your business.

What is ransomware?

mean man

Ransomware is a sophisticated piece of malware that blocks the victim’s access to his/her files, and the only way to regain access to the files is to pay a ransom. Ransomware targets both businesses and home users.

How do ransomware infections happen?
  1. Initially, the victim receives an email which includes a malicious link or a malware-laden attachment. Alternatively, the infection can originate from a malicious website that delivers a security exploit to create a backdoor on the victim’s PC by using a vulnerable software from the system.
  2. If the victim clicks on the link or downloads and opens the attachment, a downloader (payload) will be placed on the affected PC.
  3. The downloader uses a list of domains or C&C servers controlled by cyber criminals to download the ransomware program on the system.
  4. The contacted C&C server responds by sending back the requested data.
  5. The malware then encrypts the entire hard disk content, personal files, and sensitive information. Everything, including data stored in cloud accounts (Google Drive, Dropbox) synced on the PC. It can also encrypt data on other computers connected to the local network.
  6. A warning pops up on the screen with instructions on how to pay for the decryption key.
How can we prevent it?

safety first

Unfortunately, there is not a one size fits all magic bullet available and as SME’s we need to rethink our approach to combating it and to have contingency’s in place if or when it does hit.

A new managed approach needs to be taken to layer our security against these new threats.

If you would like to speak to A to Z Computers on how you can improve your security and limit your exposure to data loss, feel free to give us a call on 056 7712918 or email us at info@atozcomputers.ie We can arrange for you to have a free security audit of your business.


Chromebooks in the Classroom!

May 8, 2017 |

Chromebooks are becoming increasingly popular in our National and Secondary Schools over the last year. There are huge benefits to using these ultra-portable devices for both Teaching staff and Students, to enhance the learning environment.

Below are some of the many advantages found by Chromebook users:

  1. Price – Chromebooks are typically priced in the €250 – €300 bracket making them a very affordable option for Schools. When compared against your average Laptop price of €400 + for many (if not all) the same features, Chromebooks are a hugely attractive alternative.
  2. Speed – Chromebooks boot up in seconds and take only 10 minutes to setup out of the box.
  3. Familiarity – All computer users are familiar with Google’s Chrome web browser making it very easy for any level of user to pick up a Chromebook and begin working (or playing!) straight away.
  4. G-Suite for Education – Formerly known as Google Apps, many Schools are already using Google’s Cloud platform for Gmail, Google Docs and Google Classroom. Chromebooks, being a google device will seamlessly hook up to all these essential Educational Cloud services.
  5. Security – Chrome OS is an extremely secure system, with no installations allowed on the Computer itself. Only identified Google users can share or access files meaning anti-virus software is not even required.
  6. Battery life – 8 hours battery life as standard on all Chromebooks.

There are many other advantages to these devices which we will be happy to discuss in person/phone or to callout and demo for your School. There is huge flexibility offered by these devices, along with the high speed, portability and huge Educational possibilities offered by Google’s educational software suite.


Chromebooks help make learning real, and Google Apps are very easy to manage. They give students access to the information they need to be successful in school, and in life. Many schools are already transitioning to Chromebooks because they like the price, cloud offerings and security features. According to the Teachers and Students we work with, Chromebooks are bringing a lot more than that to their classrooms. Collaboration has become vital to the modern-day students.

Chromebooks and Google are opening doors for learning.

See Google’s own case studies showing the possibilities for using Chromebooks in the classroom. – https://www.google.ie/chrome/education/devices/casestudies.html#casestudy-kippla



Web Summit 2016

January 6, 2017 |

The Guardian newspaper describes the 2016 Web Summit in this manner (It) ‘defines the eco-system’, while Bloomberg says it as ‘Davos for Greeks’!  Neither of these descriptions are helpful in negotiating the true nature of the all-encompassing technological conference,  which has been held annually since 2009.  This conference is Mecca for all technophobes, start-up business’s and anyone who wants to rub shoulders with successful bright young things. The Web Summit originated in Dublin and brought an influx of hotel bookings and beautiful people to the city for six years before announcing their controversial relocation to Lisbon Portugal. The 2016 Web Summit conference takes place there from the 7th to the 10th November.

It is impossible to define the focus of this mega occasion, except to say that it is gathering of everyone and anyone who has a significant presence online. If that seems too vague for you to start booking flights, think of those 21 separate conferences and over 50,000 attendees which make this an event that most tech companies will be afraid to miss. The topics to be discussed centre broadly on internet technology and participants range from Fortune 500 to smaller tech companies. There is a mix of CEO’s and founders of tech start-ups, together with a range of people from across the global technology industry and related industries. In other words, every business which you can think of that trades in some way, large or small, on the internet is here. Add to this all the companies aspiring to success online, and you have a heady mix of go-getters in one place.

This year’s speakers include Sean Rad, Co- founder of Tinder, The artist and musician, Tiny Tempeh, The President of Estonia and Rich Williams of Groupon, along with 596 other well known, and not so well known, business people.  The topics to be discussed are every bit as diverse as the list of lecturers.  You can hear Mike Kreiger, the dynamic Instagram co-Founder,  discuss the’360* VR selfie ‘as a thing of the future or hear the Chief scientist of the Bitcoin Federation explain how handy small Bitcoin computers will be the way of payment for the whole world in the future. Ronalindho, Brazilian footballer and investor is there to pass on tips on his success or listen to ustwo owner, Marcus Woxneryd tells us that ‘Becoming a VIP to a WIP is the most important skill we need to have’! In fact, there are symposiums and lectures on any number of subjects, internet related.

It’s not all work and no play at the Summit ! Included in  the 21 conferences and exhibitions, there is a Surf summit, where attendees can take to the ocean waves and surf in the original and exciting offline way.  While the pub crawl summit is exactly that. A pub crawl for which you must purchase tickets.  That’s a novel idea for Irish people but no doubt the whole purpose of the Web Summit is in making contacts, in networking and in the explosion of creativity when similarly wired minds come together.  The Web Summit smells of success and bubbles with possibilities and the promise of exciting collaborations. Don’t miss it!

Christmas in a Digital Age – What does the future have instore?

December 15, 2016 |

Happy Digital Christmas

Everyone loves a traditional Christmas but the holiday has become rather more Hi-Tech over the past few years.

Recently one Dublin politician urged the public to come offline this year and to send old fashioned, hard copy Christmas cards. This, he claimed, will help out the struggling rural post offices and will be more meaningful to the recipients.  No more digital greetings. Eugene Murphy TD claims that ‘to open up that card… is a fantastic experience and I don’t think we should let it go’.   But digital greetings are exceeding the traditional card greetings over the past few years and most people will text, FacetimeDigital Gifts dominate Christmas and Skype their greetings. By all accounts, postal services will be busy regardless, as the public moves to online shopping en masse.

Last year Visa reported an increase in the number of people purchasing gifts online. It is expected that this year will top those figures.  The surge in eCommerce spending in December 2015 was up 16% on previous years, this surpassed the previous record from June 2015. The rise came after Cyber Monday in November, the busiest day in the year for online shopping.  It is now more common for retailers to sell online as well as from storefronts.  One click shopping is the way of the future.  But that is not the only advancement for a digital festive season.

Hi tech Christmas trees have no tinsel, falling pine needles or dodgy blinking lights but are resplendent in 30,000 LEDs, 43 LCD televisions or cornea shattering lasers.  A 3D laser tree, made by functional and unsentimental Japanese techies blasts a vision of a Norwegian Fir tree on to the buildings and skyline of Las Vegas. The Electronic giants, Sharp constructed a tree made from television screens showing Christmas
movies. But for the Scfi home enthusiast, check out laser Xmas tree lighting here. No more searching for that one malfunctioning bulb that knocked the whole string of fairy lights out. Digital ChristmasNo more picking up the dropped ornaments and of course, no more 20/20 vision either but sure it’s a small price to pay for a digitally decorated home.

As busy as the mobile networks will be over the Christmas season, it is the New Year celebrations that have become a texting hell with all the providers crashing under the weight of New Year wishes.  Some people start texting their messages a day or two early to avoid the network issues.  “When the clock strikes 12 with the midnight bell, I’m not going to join the texting hell. So here is my message to those I hold dear, have a great night and a happy new year”, others opt to stand swaying on the pavement outside the pub, while the bells are chiming, desperately texting generic messages to their entire contact list. This is not a personal seasonal greeting folks, but a gift of use age to your mobile phone provider.  If you are really feeling organised, you can download an app to compose a witty greeting and bang it off to your ‘friends’ while you enjoy the evening’s entertainment.  Technology becomes the dominant force in greetings!

As you open your techie Christmas gifts and teeter round with a VR headset blocking your view of the traditional Christmas TV, take a few moments to enjoy all that the holidays have to offer.

Merry Christmas from A to Z Computers

The Modern Classroom – A Changing Environment

October 10, 2016 |

While Irish schools desperately try to catch up with the digital age and providing basic internet access and enough computers for their pupils, the world of education has moved forward in new, innovative ways with technological advancements which will change the modern classroom into a learning environment comparable to any SciFi movie. Check out some of the most amazing up and coming technologies which could potentially change education for the better.

Augmented Reality (AR). is changing educational content and making it much more exciting and engaging for students.  Google Sky Map, a free app which works on Android phones 1.6 and higher, is a prime example of how AR is revolutionising the learning experience.  Simply point the smartphone at the sky to receive automatic identification of stars, planets and constellations on your camera screen. FETCH! Lunch Rush is an amazing little app which helps to bridge the gap between the paper and reality when it comes to maths questions.  It successfully teaches math skills to primary school students through the use of visualization. french-teaching-strategies3Designed in 3-D, the app uses your smartphone camera to place graphics on your camera over real-world surroundings. It then teaches children to add and subtract using real-world scenarios which allow for visualization while solving math problems. There are many augmented reality apps available to make learning more fun.

The 3D printer is emerging as a vital piece of technology in the modern school with decreasing price points, a 3D Printer should be a feature of all modern classrooms going forward. In July this year, Gabriel Fillipini a sixteen year old junior student at Park View High, Virginia successfully used the school’s 3D printer to provide his 6 year old brother with a prosthetic hand. Woodworking classes will never be the same again. Budding engineers can effectively test out engineering designs and perfect them prior to making a prototype. When used in conjunction with CAD (computer-aided design) modelling software, students can experiment freely and at a fraction of the cost

Cloud computing will assist in the drive towards a paperless classroom and finally provide a solution to those heavy school bags.  Students can log on to access homework information, school tutorials and all timetable information. China has already installed more than 6,000 cloud computing terminals on 118 schools. This means that learning is 6benefitsofcloudcomputingsupported at all times, even when the library is closed, it is still available online. On the downside, this will stop dogs eating homework and negate the ‘snow day’ excuses for avoiding school and work. Of course, the internet speed and availability would need to support this advancement.

Whiteboards are now the norm in most classroom settings as blackboards become obsolete. The next generation of ‘blackboards/projectors’ comes in the form of a giant touchscreen interactive LCD screen, which would be capable of detecting multiple touch inputs from many students simultaneously. Check out this video and throw your chalk in the bin forever.

The future of learning in the modern tech-savvy classroom is an exciting and intriguing prospect. The potential for collaborations with other learning centres across the world and for a more practical and enjoyable learning experiences are endless.



Digital Skills and the Irish Student

September 15, 2016 |

In the past, teachers focused on traditional learning and the basic 3 R’s of reading, writing and arithmetic. However, as the ever increasing pace of technological innovation drives changes in the world, educators must re-assess whether the skills they teach fully equip their students for the best opportunities to succeed in school, the workforce, and in life itself. Digital skills are not a luxury, but an essential part of everyday life.

Does the modern Irish student have access to the best technology, the best teaching aids and the knowledge to fulfil this brief?    In May this year, a senior academic at Trinity College Dublin (TCD), Prof. Brendan Tangney warned that unless there a was fundamental reform in Ireland’s education system,  the digital skills gap in Irish society would not be bridged.  How can we improve the digital skill levels in our schools ?

A lack of digital Literacy

Digital literacy is the knowledge, skills, and behaviours used in a broad range of digital devices such as smartphones, tablets, laptops and desktop PCs, all of which are seen as network rather than computing devices.   The need for improved digital skills in Irish schools has been highlighted in a number of recent reports and there is growing concern that Irish pupils will be left behind when it comes to innovative digital literacy.   Part of the problem is a lack of knowledge by educators, relative to their pupils. It is not only vital that teachers ensure that  they incorporate digital literacy into their lessons in order to connect with their students, but that they keep up to speed and engage in lifelong learning themselves. Teachers also identify short class times and a pressure to teach to test and prepare students for exams as factors which limit their capacity to introduce kids-working-on-laptopcomputer science skills and digital competency in the classroom.

The lack of resources is another worrying issue with many schools reported to be without basic digital equipment, computers, whiteboards etc.,   A Google-funded programme discovered that one 500-student school in Ireland had only one computer for every 20 students.  The Computer Science and Statistics Department of TCD issued results of their recent study which reported that some schools had virtually no internet access or Wi-Fi and very few computing resources. The findings showed that almost 60pc of schools had little access to the technology required to make an impact on their schools. Prof.Tangney states that teachers need comprehensive resources, whole school supports, training and technology available in the classrooms in order to effect change in the classroom.

Bringing the digital age into the classroom.

TCD have been working to redress the balance and the college now offer courses for teachers wishing to retrain and introduce digital skills to the classroom. “What we have seen clearly is that, with the proper training, teachers are more confident in teaching computer science (CS) and science, technology, engineering and maths subjects to their students.  63pc of teachers who participated in Trinity Access 21 (TA21) CS workshops introduced new Computer Science content in their classroom, but they are limited in what they can achieve under current structures. ‘  ays Prof. Tangney. The courses are funded by Google and focus on schools identified as being in particular need under the DEIS school system.   Apart from a need for teachers to retrain and the serious lack of equipment, the methods of teaching may also have to undergo some radical thinking,  in order to fully incorporate new technology into the classroom. Thinking creatively and incorporating digital learning into lesson plans could help to maintaining student interest.  Strategies might include things which many educators may have never considered, such as utilizing Skype, texting, Twitter, or possibly even games into the curriculum delivery. It’s a new world and if our students are to be included in fast paced technology, the classroom must rethink its own opposition to the digital age.  Google have repeatedly requested that the Department of Education put coding or computer science on to the Irish School curriculum. “It is shocking that there are schools today without access to the internet and Wi-Fi. Investing in technology is just one part of the equation, but, equally, we must train our teachers in CS using 21st-century teaching methods such as experiential, technology-mediated, team-based models of teaching and learning across the curriculum.” Fionnuala Meehan managing director of EMEA SMB sales at Google. A recent survey revealed that a third of parents believe computer coding is a more essential skill to master than Irish, with two-thirds viewing it as being on a par with mathematics, science and languages.  This is not ict-at-schoolsreflected in the learning at our schools. Virtual headsets would make geography or science much more interesting to any student and computer science as a respected subject,  must find its place on the standard lesson plan.

Digital Schools of Distinction

The Department of Education has a flagship programme, Digital Schools of distinction, which aims to promote, recognise and encourage excellence in the use of technology in primary schools.   Schools that successfully complete a three step programme receive a nationally recognised Digital School of Distinction Award, accredited by the Dept. of Education.  Digital Schools of Distinction will also receive free hardware and software and ongoing practical support and resources as part of the community of digital schools in Ireland. Unfortunately, of the 3,305 primary schools in Ireland, only five schools are currently registered as digital schools of distinction.

Whether educators like it or not, digital learning, digital skills and a focus on technology is inevitable when we consider the huge advances in communication and technology of the past decade.  Ireland needs to step up, rethink and make some radical changes from the misplaced focus on traditional methods of teaching traditional subjects.




What is Ransomware and how to protect your business against it.

August 23, 2016 |

Ransomware is a form of malware typically installed in a system through a malicious email attachment or visiting a malicious website. Once the ransomware infection has access to a computer system, it will then proceed to encrypt all data it can see on that system, and on any accessible network drives.  This means that one user can open an innocuous looking email attachment, and inadvertently allow Ransomware to encrypt the entire Server/PC data for your business within minutes.

The only option for getting your data unencrypted at this point will be to pay a hefty ransom to the cyber criminals who carried out the attack.

The threat of Ransomware has increased significantly in recent months, with reports of numerous businesses in Ireland being targeted. There are
however a few important steps which can be taken to help prevent Ransomware attacks on your business.

  1. Backups, Backups and more Backups

By far and away the most important step is to ensure you and your business have up to date and working backups of your data. This data should be stored offsite and not on the same network as your machines, or the backup itself could also be compromised. An effective online backup is the best defence your business can have against Ransomware. In the event of an attack, data from (at worst) the previous day can be restored and your business can carry on as normal.

  1. Anti-Virus Software and Windows updates

Many (not all) Ransomware infections can be detected by up to date Anti-virus software preventing and attack taking place.  Ensuring all the latest updates for Windows are installed is also vital to shore up any potential security holes in your operating system the Ransomware may try to exploit. Similarly, running an up to date version of Windows is essential: If you are still running Windows XP for instance, you are asking for trouble!

  1. Educating staff around email and internet usage

Ransomware can only access a computer network if it is “allowed” to, i.e. someone opens an attachment from a suspicious source which results in all company data on the Server becoming encrypted. There are a few simple rules to follow for all users:

  • Do not open e-mail attachments from senders you do not know
  • Do not click on links in e-mails from senders you do not know
  • Check for misspelled domains (e.g. .rncom instead of microsoft.com)and bad spelling in e-mails
  • Do not open any .zip attachments unless you are 100% expecting such an email
  • Do not click on internet pop-up ads

By following the steps above you can go a long way towards protecting your business from Ransomware.  If you want any further information on Ransomware or I.T. security in general please call A to Z on 056 7712918 or email info@atozcomputers.ie and we will be happy to help.

Must have Apps for Irish SME’s

August 12, 2016 |

Today’s business innovations could not have imagined a decade ago.   Drones, driver-less cars, machine learning, digital currencies, 3-D printers, robots, gadgets for the connected home.  The fundamental building blocks of this burst of creativity are springing from data analytics, the cloud and artificial intelligence. Mobile  communications continuous to inspire new ideas. Entire industries are being transformed by technology and every self-respecting small to medium business is networked, paperless and aux faix with all the latest mobile Apps to make the business of being in business go smoother.  Here we feature some of the most useful mobile apps, which are must-haves for any busy modern, savvy business.

Mind Mapping:

Brainstorming ideas and mind-mapping are not just for school children approaching an essay from a new angle.  With the mobile apps listed below, you will be able to streamline your blue sky thinking while mapping your thoughts in an easy and practical way.  This is so essential for the busy executive, who needs to gather those thoughts easily while on the go. MindMeister is just one of the simple mind-mapping tool that allows you to create maps which help you organize your thoughts. From these you can build out cohesive workflow charts and share them easily with others. When you’re brainstorming, the last thing you want to do is be hampered by your technology. By making it so easy to note and map out your thoughts, MindMeister helps you free up headspace so that you can focus on your next big idea.
MindMeister – iOS / Android Also check out 10 iOS Brainstorming Apps to Organize Your Ideas

Sales :

Customer relationship management (CRM) software which is accessible from your mobile devices is a huge advantage when supporting sales.  There are many options available and some may be industry specific, so a little research can highlight the best options available.  Microsoft Dynamics, Salesforce, Oracle, and SAP are tried and tested software packages which offer good business solutions.  For start-up and new businesses, a simpler option may be a good starting point.  While there are a lot of options out there, Elements CRM has a proven track record in customer relationship management.

Microsoft Dynamics – iOS / Android
Salesforce – iOS / Android
Oracle – iOS / Android
SAP – iOS / Android
Elements CRM – iOS


MailChimp is a one of most popular and simple apps that allows you to automate your email marketing campaigns, even if you’re not an expert. This easy to use system not only formats emails and manages contacts and lists, it also has tools which allows you to assess the impact of your email campaigns. Freshmail, Getresponse and iContact also offer easy solutions. Again, a little research will see you keeping in touch with your clients in an easy and manageable way, for a minimum outlay.


Every small business relies on feedback from clients to plan ahead and make the changes needed to achieve further success.   One app which allows you to collect feedback easily from your client base is the slick and clever, SurveyMonkey.  Gaining insight and responses from customers is crucial. Survey tools such as this allow you to devise, manage and distribute simple surveys to your customers.  Again, there are lots of apps to choose from, but SurveyMonkey offers wonderful options for analyzing the results.

SurveyMonkey – iOS / Android


It’s not always possible to meet new clients face to face and Skype offers an alternative to emailing. The personal touch without the cost of travel.

LinkedIn Yes, we know it’s a 10 year old site, but recent upgrading and streamlining makes LinkedIn an essential place to have a presence and an essential place to search quickly for business’s/new talent and a who-is-who of your chosen business field.


There are many other Apps which may be useful to your business. All are designed to time-save, to streamline with the added bonus of making you look like the cutting edge industry leader, which you strive to be. Check out Uber, Evernote, Google maps, Expensify and Dropbox.   The only thing missing is an App to help you manage your Apps, but no doubt, that is probably already in production.

Choosing the right I.T. Provider for you…

August 11, 2016 |


Information Technology (IT) is critical to any modern business. More and more, we are reliant on technology to organise and run our business’s efficiently. Whether you are a fully-fledged computer nerd or whether most of your problems occur between the mouse and the chair, everyone needs good professional I.T. support.

If your I.T provider is not giving you a satisfactory service, then the smooth working of your business is under serious threat. Without the backing of a good I.T. provider, you run the risk of your sales and services coming to a shuddering halt due to technological difficulties. Perhaps your current IT provider is fulfilling the brief and there is no need to look for a new company. This is great news for you, but for the many companies out there, who are unhappy with the quality and service currently on offer and are looking for a new I.T. Provider, we list some points to keep in mind when making that choice.

1. Can the Company solve your issues within a reasonable time frame: Time is of the essence and you should only choose a company that The-5-Things-To-Consider-Before-You-Switch-IT-Providersguarantees a callout/service call within a reasonable time-frame both during and outside business-hours.

2. What is their support request process? Alongside timescale, it is imperative that one person, a real live human person, at the I.T. Company is responsible for the support call from start to finish.

3. Do they know what they are doing? It is good practice to look for qualifications and for evidence of partnerships and standards, such as Microsoft Gold Partner, HP Preferred Partner, VMWare Enterprise Partner and IBM Advanced Partnership status. For example, VMware has registered, professional and enterprise partners but only the higher levels must prove their specific technical competencies. Microsoft Gold certification means that a provider is up to date on the latest technology and gets ratings from clients for you to compare.

4. Do they understand your particular industry: Your Information Technology Provider does not need to be aux faix with all aspect of your company’s business, but they do need to know how you use technology in It Provideryour work. Choose a company with a proven track record for your specific industry.

5. How do they handle disasters? Ask the company to relate a time when one of its clients faced a technological disaster and what they did beforehand to mitigate file loss and minimise the risk of network failure. In addition to proactive measures, ask what they do in the event of a system crash to assist clients recover as quickly as possible.

6. Proactive, not just responsive: It is vital that your I.T. company has the smooth running of your business as a priority and therefore, issues updates and advices on threats and mitigating risks to your systems. You should ensure that they have a failsafe back-up system and are focussed on spotting problems before the problems become a major issue for your company.

Along-side these critical points when choosing an I.T> provider, you might ask to view testimonials and interview companies from their current client base. Trust- worthy and efficient tech support can mean a huge difference to your business performance, so the most important point of all when choosing a new service is to trust your own instincts.