Staying safe online this Summer

With the summer holidays just around the corner, children are looking forward to having more free time.

For some, this will be spent using the internet to keep in touch with friends, catch up with the latest apps and online trends, and playing their favourite games.

For parents, it’s a great chance to sit down with your children and visit their favourite sites and games together, so you can keep in touch with their online lives, and show them you are interested. It’s a good opportunity to have positive conversations about the internet, so that if anything happened online that worried or upset your children later on, they would feel more confident in confiding in you.

Keeping in touch online

During the Summer holidays, young people may want to keep in touch with their friends through social networking sites or games. It’s a good time to ask them about what sites they use, and remind them you have to be at least 13 to use most social networks. Encourage your children to use the privacy tools on the services they use, so that the content they post is only available to people they know and trust in real life.

Managing online friendships

The holidays are also a good opportunity to talk to your children about their online friendships and encourage them to be good online friends. It’s also important to remind young people that even if you have been chatting to a friendly person on a site or in a game for a while, if you only know them from being online they are still a stranger and you should not give out your personal details to them. If you are worried about an adult pressuring your child online, you should contact the Police and report it to CEOP

 Sharing those holiday snaps

Some children may want to share photos and videos of what they are getting up to in their summer holidays online. Talk to your children about what types of photos are appropriate to share, and who they are okay to share with. Photos can hold clues that give away personal information. For example, if you share a selfie of you and friends, are there any landmarks or street signs that give away your location?

Finding a balance

Without the structure of the school day, children may spend a lot of their time on the internet. The internet is a fun place to be, and children may find it hard to manage their time between being online and offline. Talk to them about how important it is to spot the signs that they have been online for too long. For example, they might get tired eyes, a headache, interrupted sleep or mood swings. Setting a time limit can be helpful, but remember to set it before they start playing a game or chatting online, so they get less frustrated when it’s time to stop. Offer some alternative activities to being online, and remind them the summer holidays are also a time to enjoy being outside and having a rest.

Enjoy the summer holidays!

Reblog from UK Safer Internet Centre – “Staying safe online this summer” posted 12th July 2016

Ben Whittle’s latest Uber Computer Update

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Ben has finally finished the fabrication and painting of most of the panels and has assembled the desk for cable routing and testing. There is still a lot of wiring to be done, and while it isn’t particularly complex it has been very time consuming. As you can see below the loom for the SSD activity indicator strip is now complete and in place.

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Ben has also completed the wiring for the Asus ROG panel, intake fans and lighting. In order to test these systems Ben has removed the motherboard and drives from his existing system and mounted them in the desk. This has enabled him to test the front mounted USB ports and audio jacks, power switch, cooling fan speed control, SSD indicator strip, etc…

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So far everything is working as expected, Ben is particularly pleased with the lighting and is looking forward to seeing the painting lit up in the right hand side. He is currently unsure what to do with the legs, the original plan was always to paint them black as with the rest of the desk. A few people have said they like them as they are, as a compromise Ben is considering staining them to try to match the finish of the M-Audio studio monitors which will sit either side of the screen.

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Ben will give this a try first and see how it looks as it is much easier to paint black over varnish than sanding off black paint. Thankfully the colour of the lighting is much easier to change:

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It is looking ok from the front but there is still much work to be done, still many cables to make, terminate and route. The rear panel still needs to be cut out and painted, then it will be on to mounting the exhaust fans and rear connectors. Currently it is just a mess of wires, pipes and components:

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Ben is hoping to have the panel and cabling complete in August, then the construction will be complete and he’ll be ordering the components and testing. More updates to follow soon.

TeslaCrypt ransomware gang reveals master key to decrypt files

Articles about ransomware often don’t make terribly happy reading, especially if you’ve gone looking for the article because you’re looking at a “pay page”. That’s the message you see from most ransomware after it has scrambled your data, when the crooks make absolutely sure you know how to go about buying your data back.

Occasionally, the malware attacks everything. That happened with ransomware called Petya that scrambled the low-level index of your C:drive so you couldn’t boot at all, let alone use a browser or copy-and-paste text, or even take a screenshot.

You had to find another computer to get online, and manually type in a long, alphanumeric personal decryption code that Petya displayed:

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But most ransomware is much more commercially savvy than that, and goes to great lengths to ensure that your operating system and all your applications are left well alone. That leaves you free to get online, follow instructions, and send money to the criminals.

To leave you in doubt what to do next, some ransomware event changes your wallpaper so that the how-to-play details are permanently in your face:

jjduySo we were surprised and delighted in equal measure to read that security researchers over at ESET had reached out to the crooks behind TeslaCrypt…

…asked them for the private key used in the operation…

…and received the reply, “Project closed, master key for decrypt XXX…XXX,[…] we are sorry.”

We weren’t inclined to believe that the crooks really were sorry, but it seems that the master key was genuine.

Most ransomware uses what’s called a hybrid cryptosystem, in which files are scrambled with a regular symmetric encryption algorithm such as AES, which is fast and straightforward.

Each computer, or more commonly each file, uses a unique, randomly chosen key that is never saved on disk, so it can’t be recovered directly. Instead, the file encryption key is then itself encrypted using a public key for which only the crooks have the corresponding private key. (Public-private encryption, known as public key cryptography, relies on two related keys: one that locks data, and another that unlocks it. You can’t use mathematics to figure out the private key from the public key because they have to be generated as a pair. In other words, the public key means that other people can scramble data that only you can decrypt.)

Usually, the crooks never part with the private key – they just use it to decrypt the unique AES key or keys needed to unlock your computer.

Because your key is unique, it only works on your files, so you can’t use it to help out other victims. In other words, the announcement by the Teslacrypt gang that they’ve revealed their business secret is unusual. Indeed, various public tools have already been created to use the Teslacrypt master key to unscramble locked files for free.

Result!

Of course, only vistims who have been hit recently and haven’t yet paid up, or victims who backed up their already-encrypted data just in case, will get much use out of the master key at this stage.

Why did the crooks do it?

That really is the million pound question, and we shall probably only ever be able to guess at the answer:

We can think of the following possibilities:

  • The crooks are genuinely sorry, and have retired in a fit of conscience.
  • The crooks were hacked by another gang, who spilled the master key to ruin their rivals’ business.
  • The crooks have switched their time and effort to newer ransomware.
  • The crooks have made so much money that they want to retire in a media-friendly way before they get caught.

What do you think?

Introducing Trilby TV Digital Signage

We had some interesting partners attend our 10 Year Anniversary Event on May 6th. We thought we would share one of them with you in a little more detail.

Trilby TV is our new digital signage partner who specialises in schools. They were formed by some passionate educators that wanted to bring schools signage back to life in an “easy to use” and controlled environment.

The concept is pretty simple….

 

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Use the iPad app, Chrome app or website to upload your video and select a category.

 

ttvappcrpApprove

Get the video approved for playback, all it takes is one tap from a moderator who could be a teacher or student.

 

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Your video will playback on your digital signage. Simply install the player app on your PC, Chromebit, iPad, or AppleTV. And that’s it! – your students work can bring the school signage back to life and even be accessed by parents from home.

 

If you would like to arrange a demonstration or free trial to show you how good it really is, please contact us today on 01695731233 or email toby.wilkinson@virtuetechnologies.co.uk

Ben Whittle’s Latest Uber Computer Update

The Project is finally starting to take shape as Ben has now attached the legs and started to paint some of the panels, it is actually starting to look a bit like a desk.

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The legs are simply attached to the side of the chassis with four 2.5″ screws per corner placed so the heads won’t be visible, and to provide a good level of structural integrity.

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The aluminium control panel that Ben designed and had Seattle Based company DataPro manufacture has arrived and Ben has cut out a space in the front of the and situated the components. The silver touch sensitive power switch will be sprayed black to match the panel and different mounting screws will be used, but the photo below gives an idea of the finished product.

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Mounting the UPS display and controls was a bit of a challenge. As the board was only ever designed to be mounted inside the APC UPS it was removed from, the control panel had to be designed around it to a certain extent. For the buttons to work correctly the display board placement had to be very precise. To achieve this Ben took all of the relevant measurements and ordered stand-off screws of a particular size and cut out an aluminium mounting bracket to support the display from behind.

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Having finished work on the base panel which will sit under the glass, Ben has started sanding and painting. The finish is coming out exactly as he had hoped for, matt black but with grain of the wood visible through the paint.

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We should start to get a much better impression of how the finished product will look as more panels are finished and painted, but painting is a slow process. Ben is applying three coats of paint to each panel, each requiring 16 hours drying time between coats. As the desk is made up of 21 individually cut panels there is a fair bit left to go.

As the base panel was drying, Ben set to work on making the wiring loom for the cooling system. This comprises of thirteen 120mm fans, an 80mm fan, water pump and temperature sensors. The part Ben has made so far is just to monitor and control the intake fans at the front of the desk, and at the rear mounted 480mm radiator. The custom wiring loom was necessary due to the bespoke design of the chassis, Ben needed to monitor and control banks of fans in different locations in order for the system to regulate temperature and noise efficiently.

The loom itself is fairly simple, there is a single 12 volt line leading directly back to the PSU to power all the fans. Each fan header takes power from this line all the way down the loom, one fan in each bank is used as a master which will report its speed reading back to the PC. All fans in each bank will receive the same PWM control signal from the motherboard.

There will be a total of four banks to control, front intake, rear radiator intake, rear left and right exhaust. The loom will ultimately allow these thirteen fans to be effectively controlled with four fan headers. With some strategically placed temperature sensors and tweaking the fan speed/temperature curves on the Asus thermal management software, the goal is to have the system virtually silent when not under load, and very well cooled when running the most demanding applications (by which of course Ben means games) 🙂

Making the loom itself is quite time consuming, the individual cables needs to be cut to size, pulled through the braided sheath and then the connectors need to be crimped and the end.

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With the first section of the loom completed, Ben has tested with the front intake fans and found it works perfectly. It also looks quite neat as the spacing between the fan headers was designed so that the connectors could be tucked between the fans getting rid of messy trailing wires.

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Stay tuned for more Uber Computer updates

Keynote Speaker Revealed

It is with great pleasure that we can now announce who the keynote speaker will be for our 10 Year Anniversary Event, which is taking place on Friday 6th May 2016 at Wrightington Hotel, Wigan.

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Professor Don Passey
Professor of Technology Enhanced Learning
Lancaster University

Click here to visit our keynote’s bio

The new Computing Curriculum sets demanding challenges for Trusts, schools and teachers, but at the same time enables important short, and long-term opportunities.

Professor Don Passey’s keynote will explore important issues such as:

  • How can Trusts, schools and teachers manage collaboration – across schools, between teachers, with peers, and with parents?
  • What are the implications, and how can these be supported technically?

Don will offer examples of practice of how this has been achieved.

Haven’t registered for our 10 Year Anniversary yet?
Click here for more information

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Ben Whittle’s Uber Computer Update

Front Panel

Ben has been working on the design of the front control panel, he has decided that due to the complexity of the design, he will not be manufacturing the panel himself as he does not have the equipment necessary to manufacture the panel to an acceptable standard. Ben has produced a working drawing and sent this to DataPro in Seattle who will manufacture the panel to Ben’s specifications using CNC machinery to ensure the perfect accuracy. The front control panel will have the following features:

4x USB 3.0 Ports
Headphone Socket
Audio Input
Volume Control
UPS Display and controls
Power Switch

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Base Panel and Cable Management

Ben has been facing a challenge regarding cable routing for the motherboard compartment, mainly with the 24-pin motherboard power connector. The cabling needs to be neat and aesthetically pleasing, so the original plan was to have the rectangular cable duct directly in front of the power connector allowing wires to instantly disappear  into the cavity under the motherboard. Unfortunately this process was a bit more complicated as part of the desk structure would obstruct the cable as seen below:

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Ben has decided to go with a circular cable duct to the left of the connector, it isn’t quite as neat as the original plan but it is the only option without modifying the structure of the desk. Because of this, the main power connector is too large to fit through the circular duct, this part of the wiring loom will need to be part of the base panel. This means that Ben will be preparing for final sanding and painting of this particular panel in order to make a start on the cabling.

The reservoir inlet and outlet will be on the side as seen in the photo, Ben has found some red aluminium fittings to attach the cooling hoses which fit the colour scheme. There is a transparent acrylic plug in the base of the reservoir, Ben is fitting an LED underneath the reservoir which will light the water from below. The top of the reservoir is transparent acrylic so the coolant level can be seen clearly from above.

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Ben has routed out a groove on the underside of the desk to supply the reservoir lighting without any additional visible cables.

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Ben has cut sections of RGB LED strip to the correct lengths for the SATA lighting strip. He is going to wait until all of the components can be put in their correct places before making the wiring loom and soldering the LED strips as this will ensure the loom is not any longer than it needs to be.

Ben has also started on the cable ducts in the back panel to supply CPU power, GPU power and cooling hoses. So far only the CPU power cable duct is in place, the photo should give an idea of the concept.

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Below you can see the cable duct for the motherboard power and the finished SATA illumination strip with the SSDs in place, the entire board now needs to be touched up, sanded and painted.

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Stay tuned for more Ben Whittle’s Uber Computer Updates