Crims are clever..

You have to hand it to them, criminals are a clever bunch and in some ways we should thank them for entertaining us with their ingenuity. Actually we do thank them - with our hard earned cash when they get the better of us. This cat and mouse game will likely still be going on when Long Player ( ) has long since stopped playing...

In the interests of learning and staying safe, we'll share some experiences of current attacks used to try to steal your information (and thus maybe your money a little later).

Example 1:  Socially Engineered Email Attacks

This is a popular one as we write and, having started off targeting large organisations, it is now trickling down to smaller organisations like yours.

What happens? Criminals have a look at public sources like your own useful website / Companies House etc. to identify who the main boss(es) of the company are and who is in the finance team. They then craft (forge) an email from the head of the company to the head of finance asking for help to make a payment to a supplier, which might be a perfectly normal thing to do and a reasonable request. If the scheme runs to completion then the head of finance replies, thinking that he or she is talking to the boss, and £15,000 (or such amount as the criminal deems appropriate to not raise suspicion) is transferred into the sunset. 

If the criminal can be bothered, they may even have sent a fake enquiry to your company prior to the attack, so that they have a copy of your email stationery and footers to make the mail more convincing.

To date (October 2016)  it is estimated that just short of a billion pounds have been lost by UK companies falling for this type of fraud. Not many people or large organisations are going to want to stand up and admit that they were caught out though.

The same exploits are used not only in attempted financial fraud but in other walks of life too. A salient example is noted at where a prisoner was released and ushered out of jail after his bail / probation had come through - albeit on a fake email which was not noted until his release.

Example 2:  Phishing Links

A newer threat that we are seeing in the wild at the moment is the digital equivalent of the chain letter, but with more malice. It starts when criminals trick you (through one of many possible ways) to reveal your login credentials for your email (MS Office 365 / Exchange / Lotus Notes / Google Mail). They then access your mailbox and send out a bulk email to all your contacts using your email account. Since this will be to people you know and who know you and is sent via your real email address and mail system, the chances are that it will get through all the email filters.

As they have access to your mailbox, they know your industry and how you write, along with your stationery etc.  They also have a full copy of your email box in case there is anything interesting or useful to them in there. What could a criminal or competitor do if they had a full copy of your email box, sent box, folders, contacts, diaries, public folders and web shared folders?  Have you ever emailed payment card details to people or noted passwords in email?  Although most of the time this may be disregarded as the prime aim is just to spread and spread malware to do more damage later.

A typical mail sent out from one company to another could include a note such as: 'Please can you review these deal documents?'; or something similar that is appropriate to the industry and company, such that it looks credible, as well as a link to a document sharing website like Google Drive / Docusign Form etc.

When someone receives this message, if they click on the link, they might get a login page such as the below to access the 'documents':

The above looks like a legitimate login page for Google Drive, but please look carefully at the address - it starts out with ' (which looks legitimate to the human eye), but the 'gotcha' is the bit after this of ... so you will not be going to Google Drive at all in this case, but to a sub-domain (sub-site) of - easy to miss that small but vital detail. The page looks convincing so if you are in a hurry then you may just enter your details to log in to get to the interesting deal documents.

If you do proceed to enter your details as invited to do, then you'll have just given away access to your files / email / anything else you store on Google in this case to the criminals. Unless you have further login security in place, they can now log into your email, continue the chain and help themselves to any interesting items you have. You may well not know that they've been looking and lurking for a week or more, before your mailbox is used in turn and it is also possible that your login might be sold on the underground 'darkweb' markets - value being higher depending on factors like, organisation and connectedness.

When one of these email abuse attacks are launched to repeat the cycle that started this example, the person or group starting the bulk mail is said to have 'owned' your mailbox. They may also change your password to lock you out and to slow down the process of you getting control back once you realise what is happening (by which time the damage is done in mail sending and to your reputation in turn).  We've also seen that criminals like to interact with people when they are in the process of an exercise of abuse. For example: if a bulk mail goes out referring to deal documents etc. and a recipient is slightly suspicious so mails back to confirm validity (e.g. 'Hi Paul - can I check that this link was from you and is legitimate?'); then the crims in turn reply back to say something like - 'Hi Bob - yes, these are from me - please review and let me know your thoughts' etc... so encouraging Bob to become the next victim in the chain. The perpetrator of the fraud also likely deletes all your contacts and the replies / conversations they've had to further frustrate your recovery and communications as you wrestle back control of your mailbox.

Remember that, in this case, the email comes from the trusted mail account and no virus bearing attachments are included, only the link to the website for the 'documents' so the majority of virus scanners / junk mail filters will pass the email as 100% legitimate. There are effective defences but we'll come onto that later. Apart from just stealing your login details, scripts on the site also commonly detect what type of computer you have and which web browser and if these are known to be vulnerable to known attacks then they will often proceed to use these open doors to load malware onto your computer in the background without your knowledge. If you know that 90%+ of infections can be avoided by having your computer up to date so that known vulnerabilities are stopped, then you'll understand why your IT department focuses a fair bit of time and energy on patches and updates that get pushed out to your computer to keep you up to date. The odd reboot to apply these is a very minor inconvenience compared to the alternative of not keeping up to date!

Example 3: The Freebee USB stick.

Who doesn't like a freebie? For example a free promotional USB drive that you're sent in the post, or one that you were 'lucky to find' which someone else had evidently previously dropped. Statistically we're all suckers for the proverbial free lunch and 'don't look a gift horse in the mouth'.  So you proceed to plug the drive into your computer to make use of it, or if found to see if there is anything interesting (music/ files / competitor files / the original owner's contact details to return the drive) on the drive. There is a chance this was your lucky day, but equally there is a good chance that the drive might have been 'dropped' where you'd find it.

When you click to open files on the drive, these may not be what they appear and unbeknownst to you could silently install malware or viruses on your computer, especially if you don't disable the 'autorun' features on removable media. By the act of plugging in the USB device to your computer, you bypass all your network firewall and external security and there is a very good chance that if a hacker can be bothered to drop USB devices for you to find, then they'll be bothered to write a custom virus for you that will not be detected by your virus scanner.  Thus the last line of defence on your desktop could well be bypassed as well and the attacker has a backdoor to your office network and can likely get to anything you can get to, as well as maybe recording all your visited websites and keystrokes. Combine this with taking the odd screenshot in the background and letters 2 and 6 of your password may not be your secret for long.

Example 4:  Bank Phone fraud.

We're all very careful about our computing and personal data, which websites we trust and keep our cards safe, don't we?  So if you get a call from your bank's security department that they're worried about a number of transactions that have been put through for authorisation on your account, then you'll be glad that their anti-fraud systems have got your back, right? Not if the caller is not, in fact, your bank, but yet another clever criminal trying to catch you off-guard; to obtain your banking details to later abuse and enrich themselves. The fact that they appear to be trying to help you by flagging attempted transactions on your account is often enough for them to get your confidence before any of these 'transactions' go through.  Analogue telephones also have a flaw that is abused at this point; if you have any doubt as to whether the call is genuine, then you can call back the bank on the phone number printed on the back of your bank card and are encouraged to do so 'to satisfy yourself that the call is genuine'.  So you hang up the one call and then dial the number on the back of your card for whichever bank you are with. The call is answered - sometimes with a short 'your call is very important to us and we are connecting you as quickly as possible'; then you ask to be transferred to the fraud department where you are connected to the same, or another, agent who then verifies your details and helps you reset your security information to be very secure in future. In actual fact you've not called your bank, as the original call has not been cut off.  The flaw in many phones is that calls do not disconnect until the caller (that rang you) has hung up, thus you've been on the same fraudulent call all the time and likely given away your memorable word / date / date and place of birth etc. in the process, while all the time thinking you are helping the bank to protect you.  You can imagine how this ends; often within days of the original call.

There are a number of variations on this fraud call which targets businesses as well as individuals. Criminals know that certain professions, like solicitors, accountants and investment advisers may well hold short-term funds for clients in client accounts separate from their own funds. Where this is the case, there is a heavy duty of care on the holder and thus criminals may well target these groups as the modus operandum of the call appeals to and preys upon the instinct of the account holder to 'keep the funds safe'.  Variations have included suggestions that the 'bank' will call back (and then do) tomorrow to assist with moving chunks (often quite considerable) of money into 'safe' accounts away from the account which is currently being 'targeted'. So, in a desire to keep client money safe, the unwitting victim actually assists the criminals by transferring large amounts of other people's money to them; which in many cases is never to be seen again.

If you're thinking 'no one would fall for this', then have a read of which is a real example of this fraud occurring. The article notes that in the case of this unfortunate solicitor, the implication of the fraud was personal bankruptcy and being banned from practicing her profession. We understand that the professional indemnity insurers also failed to pay out on the grounds that she 'knowingly assisted criminals' which we think counter to probability and good faith in insurance so also be reminded that not all insurance is the same, though you may only come to understand that when you need to call upon it. Would your insurer cover you for this case if you acted (in your mind) in utmost good faith but were fooled into transferring money to criminals? Now might be a good time to make a call and find out.

What can we do to stay safe?

The above are just some examples of common frauds that we see in the real world that are delivered by technological means. There are many more.

Some advice we'd generally give is:

  1. Remember nothing is secure.

    Sobering as it is, there is no such thing as a completely secure system; only degrees of risk reduction. Security is about reasonable justified degrees and measures which reduce risk of abuse. Admitting that you have a security problem (we all do) is the first step towards mitigating it. Never trust a security professional who isn't paranoid!
  2. Learn from the mistakes of others and don't repeat them.

    Take an active interest in security. The more you know, the more you are armed. There is a lot to read on the Internet and in the press and knowing that you are at risk is the first step in reducing risks.
  3. Respect the need for security.

    Security often (nearly always) comes at the expense of some convenience. Be that glass screens or steel bars in a bank branch that physically protect cash, or computer processes that ask for authentication or for you to change your password from time to time. Each time you have to go through the hassle of changing a password, remember that means you have a fresh start where anyone who might have known your password, now does not.  Equally if your computer prompts for a reboot to complete install of (security)updates, don't hit 'postpone' but instead save anything you need to save, hit reboot and grab a coffee or glass of water; the updates are there for a good reason - to keep you safe.
  4. Be part of security.

    We all need to be careful and vigilant. Even network administrators should normally only log in with normal user rights - see our other post on this at . More generally, ensure you consider things and share information on a 'need to know basis'. Recruitment companies and those involved with industrial espionage (the former might arguably be the latter in some cases) might charm information out of you under many guises.  We've even had phone calls where people claim to be calling from the Police (not the band or manufacturer of sunglasses, but the law enforcement crew) and naturally we want to help them, don't we? Even beware that, by reading security blogs and web pages, you are often giving away your network IP address and location.
  5. Make sure appropriate technical measures are in place to minimise your risks.

    Where appropriate, pieces of technology can help maintain security.  Make use of these and make sure they are configured, deployed, monitored and managed appropriately. There is a big difference between just 'having a firewall' and having a well-configured and well-run security solution in the same.
  6. There are no stupid questions when it comes to IT security.

    As a rule of thumb: If you have a doubt, point it out. If something looks too good to be true, or does not 'feel right', then be sceptical and check. This might be in the language used in an email that might not be quite characteristic of the sender. Remember it took the one little boy to point out the emperor wore no clothes - often we find this recurring on a digital scale. It can also be in person or on the phone.  Who is that new guy in the office and does everyone else just assume he has the right to be there?
  7. Trust your security.

    There are many computing tools that aim to minimise risks online while you get on with your work. Quite a few operating systems (including MacOS / Windows 7, Windows 8, Windows 10 etc.) and popular web browsers like Firefox, Chrome and Internet Explorer have pop ups when they are warning you about a potentially dangerous website, or when a piece of software is trying to change things on your system. Unfortunately many studies show that 95%+ of the time people just hit 'Continue' and carry on. Stop and think when you see these, and better to err on the side of caution.
  8. Maintain good backups (and test them).

    If all else fails, you've got your backups, right? There are many risks from threats like 'cryptolocker' which encrypt your files and ask for a ransom to restore them (which likely leads to only an empty wallet and no files back for you) and the value of your information to others which may be electronically leaked. But if you have good backups, at least you are still in business. Onega have developed a Backup Policy Template document which takes you through a number of risks to help make sure you have an appropriate strategy in place.  We'd be happy to share a copy of this with you. Do test your backups though; we can't stress that enough. Over time companies implement new systems and people put things in new locations. On the cloud, on their computer, on external drives and network shares. Pick some random files, note their details, move them to somewhere new and challenge yourself or your IT department to get them back. A good example of this is if you move all your Outlook contacts from Office 365 to a PST file - do you have these backed up and can you get them back easily? I digress, but in that example Onega would have you covered with our O365 SkyKick backup system to keep your MS Office 365 cloud data safe.
  9. Don't be complacent.

    This one is hard. Our natural inclination is to concentrate our attention on what is urgent, not neccessarily what is important. Even if your office is connected to the MOD secure network, or if you've got the shiniest new firewall, is everything else as good and is everyone briefed and playing the same way. If: you leave your computer unlocked while you are away from your desk; your Sage 'manager' password is blank (the default so do check if you use this); or 1001 other things, then you are at risk.  An external check can sometimes help to remind us of this and wake us all up.  Standards like the basic Cyber Essentials standards from the UK Government give a good basic baseline, also to make sure most of the low hanging fruit is covered.

    ** Please note the above are elements of what we consider salient advice but in no means comprehensive guidelines.
Think and read warnings before you blindly click continue.

Think and read warnings before you blindly click continue.

Onega can help with aspects such as Incident Response (although we'd rather help avoid incidents in the first place), Security Review / Audit, ensuring you have good Physical and Cloud Backup Solutions, implementing multi-level UTM Firewall protection, user education and security awareness, external mail filtering etc. The first step is to get in touch and we can discuss any particular concerns, run through any issues and decide what would be appropriate for your needs.


The story header picture here is of a Lego Criminal, but in actual fact we're probably not giving them the credit they're due. Here, more accurately, your foe could be better imagined as:

.. the Evil Genius (complete with white cat)

.. the Evil Genius (complete with white cat)

But in reality would actually probably look more like this:

Average Joe..

Average Joe..

Be on your guard; keep safe online and in the real world :-)

Sharks and Saints - Domain Rights on and .uk

One of the many services that Onega offers clients is assistance with domain registrations and acquisitions. This can be a minefield but there is usually a common sense solution and balance in this; as to which are the appropriate domains for an organisation to own or register and to protect branding and reputation alongside trademarks etc.

We recently helped a client to buy a domain that matched the initials of their company name from a broker, to go alongside their other domains. In this case it was a four letter domain that we helped to purchase.

This all went smoothly, transacting via and the timeline on this was as below:

Negotiation - 7th Jan 2016 - Several offers and counter offers back and forth, thankfully managing to secure the domain in a small but happy spot where the offer was just affordable to our client and just acceptable to the seller, so all could proceed.

Purchase - 7th Jan 2016 - We paid for the domain directly so that things could move ahead and to seal the deal. Thus the domain was now secured for our client's company. The purchase was for a domain for which no .uk had been registered (so rights were still vested in the domain for this).

Transfer - 27th Feb 2016 - This was the date that the domain came across to our client in the form of a transfer to their GoDaddy Domain Registration account, and from where we immediately updated the contact details to be correct for their company contacts, to ensure a valid Nominet registration.  The delay was partly down to us as the broker process was a little different from some others in this case (we normally do a Nominet tag change to the ONEGA tag as we are a member and registrar / tag holder with Nominet); whereas in this case a GoDaddy account transfer was the process used which was fine and smooth when done.

So far so good.

Fast forward a few weeks. We then came to register the .UK domain as part of good management and to realise the new and trendy higher level domain registration for our client.

It is worth explaining here for anyone unaware, that as a holder of a .CO.UK domain, you have a 5 year 'sunrise' right to register an equivalent .UK domain. Thus if you have (in our case) then you also have rights to Here at Onega, we primarily use our domain but hold the .uk domains for secondary purposes and domain protection alongside our UK registered trademark of 'Onega'. After the 5 years which starts from the .uk domain launch date to the 'fully open' period, then anyone can potentially register an equivalent .uk address. This 5 years started on 10th June 2014 so protection ends and open season begins at 10am on 10th June 2019. Thus we recommend that clients with an active domain exercise their right and protect their .uk domain with a long registration now (the cost is trivial) . It's also good contemporary branding to do this and use the domain.

Back to our narrative... we found that when we came to register the domain for our client as per best practice, that now it transpired from the .UK Whois data that the .uk domain had been registered by the seller of the domain under their own details on the same day as the transfer finally occurred (17th Feb)... hmmmmm....

It was our understanding and is common practice that when the domain of the was purchased, that this would include the rights to register the .UK address. We were a little disconcerted to say the least when we discovered this registration, as we'd consider the domain and related rights effectively owned from the point of agreement and payment - the transfer being a formal process in the completion as would occur in the land registry work related to conveyancing and sale of a house.

Next course of action was to read up on the rules and check our position. Nominet has a good Q&A on the .UK domain rules, which we consulted; we also checked the Terms and Conditions of the domain broker. The Undeveloped Ts&Cs did not contain anything mentioning related domain rights. Nominet's Q&A is well written although it did not have anything specific on this case, but it did remind us that .UK registrations should normally be available for the owner (who was our client at the time of the seller's registration though not reflected in Whois yet), also that these registrations can be referred to the Nominet Dispute Resolution Service if there is a disagreement on a registration. 

The majority of domain disputes are amicably settled but having a fair procedure for resolution as a formal path available is a good comfort should it ever be needed. Our next action at this point was to get in touch with the domain broker, through whom the purchase had been agreed, to raise the issue with them and also to contact Nominet DRS informally to ask about case history and precedent on this.

Nominet DRS were very helpful on our call and we learned that this issue has come up a small number of times already and is likely to come up again in the future as the .uk domains become more established. No cases of this type have yet to get to binding adjudication, but some have been through the DRS procedure which commences with mediation on the issue and thus far all have been settled at this stage. The outcome has so far been, in all cases that we are aware of where the complaint has been followed up in the DRS case, that the .uk domain has ended up being transferred to the complainant (who is normally the rightsholder). Resolution at this stage avoids costs escalating for all parties in the process.

This was useful to be aware of and to better understand the position and case histories. At this time we heard back from the sales domain broker and they reasonably disclaimed involvement in a case not exactly related to the actual domain purchased and recommended that we contact the seller directly.

We did contact the seller with a professional, respectful while reasonably formal mail on the subject at hand - setting out the brief case and asking for an amicable agreement on this.

I'm delighted to be able to say that in this case, the seller called back within the hour and the domain has now been transferred to our client at no cost. The seller had apparently sought to register the domain to protect it from abuse by anyone else, though arguably that should not have been an issue as only the owner can make the .uk registration. In any case, the situation has been resolved without further escalation. The seller was delightful to deal with and I'm happy that this was just a simple miscommunication issue rather than anything more.

What have we learned or been reminded of from this?

1) Don't make assumptions - in this case there was no discussion either way on the question of .uk domain rights in the negotiation process. It would have been better in retrospect if we had have explicitly said 'for the domain in question and any rights vested in that registration' so that we made sure we were specifically reserving these rights.

2) Ideally domain brokers should be clear in their terms as to whether any rights vested in a domain are included in the sale or not. It would be fair and reasonable for a seller of a domain to sell the domain but reserve the rights and register in advance the .uk domain if they explicitly state that they reserve this right.

3) Most disputes are amicably dealt with and it is always best to try this route before looking at invoking a formal process.

4) The online reputations of Domain Sellers and Brokers are very important to them so as far as possible most will adhere to best practices.

If you need any help on domain matters please don't hesitate to Get In Touch and we'd be happy to discuss how we can help. 

Thanks to Ryan Espanto for the circling sharks photo.

Onega March 2016 Planned Engineering and First Focus on DNS

This is to let you know about some March Planned Engineering and Service Updates - and our fist 'Bono Pastore' Focus area. Please see the background and overview of the program at if you're not yet aware of this.

Our first best practice focus is going to be on DNS (Internet Domain Name Services) and making sure that clients systems (as well as our own) are in-line with best practice in this area.

In business terms:

DNS is the system that allows us to register Internet domains for our organisations and to browse the web and send emails with friendly names like and etc. So much uses DNS that we often take it for granted much of the time – and well implemented so we should.

Being such an important system, we want to make sure that client implementations are optimal in three key areas relating to DNS:

Domain Registrations – This is the administration of your domain and the registration of it. We want to help make sure that all the details related to your domains are up to date, correct & appropriate, not due to expire any time soon etc.

Internal Resolution – This is how client and server computing devices carry out Internet resolution so that you can connect to the Cloud quickly, reliably and safely (see  Secure DNS Services for more on this).

External Resolution – This is how people find your organisation and services on the Internet – to know where to send you email, browse your website and communicate via electronic means etc. It is important that this service be provided robustly and reliably.

Our object is to conduct a review to ensure that these aspects of DNS are all well implemented across our client organisations.

The next steps are:

We will be in contact with clients over the coming weeks to ensure that we run through your DNS configuration with you. Don’t worry if you’re not technical – we are happy to take care of those parts. We have a checklist which we’ll complete with you so that we capture the key information about your domains, and identify any areas that need attention so that we (you or us as per preference and can work to resolve these and get them checked off.

For clients under Onega managed services contracts we'll liaise with you and do most of the running on this to help make sure your DNS is good and documented. For clients with whom we have PAYG agreementswe can agree with you who will do what with the aim that we make sure all our your services are robust.

Expect us to be in touch soon then about next steps and starting the process. If you are not under contract with Onega (or not sure) and would like to engage in the DNS best practice review process then please do get in touch and we’ll be happy to add you to the review rosta.

For reference:

Internet DNS Best Practice Policy –

Organisational DNS Checklist -

For information on Secure DNS Services:

If you don’t have a login for the Onega’s Policy and Procedure wiki then please get in touch and we’ll setup access for you.

Technical changes that will occur on Onega Infrastructure:

Tuesday 22nd March 2016 12:00 (Midday) GMT - We will be changing the configuration of our two legacy DNS servers and to no longer act as recursive resolvers. Thus any computers or servers that are using these servers for DNS will need to be updated to use alternate (eg Secure DNS) servers before this cut off date.

Tuesday 12th April 2016 12:00 (Midday) GMT - We plan to turn off these two DNS servers - thus any zones hosted on these servers will need to be moved before that time.  We have new servers in place to take the zones and migrations will be done as part and in conjunction with the best practice review process – the new DNS servers being more best practice compliant than our legacy servers.

Why are we making these changes?

In short, so that we also comply with our own guidelines for Best Practice, but in more detail:

1) Comply with best practice - Recursive DNS Servers (ones that do lookups for client PCs) should be split off in role from ones that host DNS Zones.

2) For best security and maintain best performance of the service - Recursive resolvers can be abused in DNS Amplfication attacks (see if you're interested to learn more

3) So that we make sure all clients are resolving securely to the Internet and to retire an older Windows Server 2003 DNS Server which is coming towards end of life.

What happens if I don’t have best practice DNS?

We don’t want to scare anyone but if you don’t comply with best practice then you risk (in the worst case):

  1. Losing your domain or having it suspended.
  2. Not being able to access the Internet
  3. Not being able to send or receive email
  4. Clients getting redirected to phishing or competitor’s websites and email going the same way.
  5. Being unprotected at DNS level against infected websites.

The above are worst case scenarios but we aim to greatly reduce the risk of occurrence by complying with best practice with regards to your domains.

Once we've been through the review process with you the outcome should be that we can all sleep easier knowing that the DNS aspect of your IT is in very good order.

The Importance of Using Secure DNS Servers

All good IT administrators know that maintaining a secure, productive and supportable computing environment means considering (and implementing) security at many levels. There is a whole load more to it than just installing a virus scanner on all your computers (though deploying a good antivirus and anti-malware solution is of course one element in this). Ideally you'll have Endpoint protection for AV and Malware on all desktops, laptops and servers (Onega tend to recommend and use Kaspersky, AVG and MalwareBytes depending on use case), but also a secure firewall (e.g. a good Watchguard XTM or similar unit) and external cloud based email filtering to reduce the risk of anything untoward getting into your network in the first place.

One thing we are also now recommending (aside from reminding people about limiting use of full admin rights to a PC - see ) is to set your external DNS servers to be secure servers.

In QA format - here you are:

Q. What is the difference between Secure and Non-Secure DNS Servers?
A. In this context, the answer is that a standard or non-secure DNS server does a good job of DNS resolution and turning your request for into the IP address ( in IPV4 Land as I type) that hosts the site for your web browser to connect to or your email to be delivered to etc.  The resolution process is simple, fast and robotic and the DNS server will cache entries for fast response or look them up for you recursively from first principles and the Root DNS Servers. When the server has the result then it gives it to you.  A secure DNS Server adds an extra level of security to this process. It will lookup websites and Internet addresses, but before giving you the result, it will check that the IP address is of known good or known bad reputation (or check it with a virus scanner first); such that if the site is deemed clean then your computer is given the IP address in the blink of an eye. If the site is one that you'd probably be glad not to be visiting, then the DNS server will redirect you to a harmless web page which will let you know why you are there.

Q. Put simply, what is the benefit of secure DNS?
A. It helps reduce this risk of accidentally browsing to an undesirable website that might otherwise have tried to install malware or other junk on your computer. Thus you are very likely to save hard money through reduced downtime and lost productivity and also less time to fix (and cost of fix) on a machine otherwise.

Q. Which Secure DNS Servers to we recommend?
A. The two main contenders at the moment for secure DNS are:

Comodo Secure DNS: and
(See )

OpenDNS: and (others are available on premium packages - these are free for public use)
(See )

Q. How to we implement Secure DNS?
A. Make note of the DNS server addresses above, and either set these individually on a PC / laptop (if not in an office environment) or else set these servers as the DNS Forwarding servers on a Linux / Windows / Mac Server DNS server in an office environment. DHCP should give out DNS servers that relate to these (or actually give the addresses out if you don't have an Active Directory environment).
.. or just ask Onega of course and we can help configure these for you quickly.

Q. Is there a Cost?
A. If you are a business then it is of benefit to subscribe to one of the premium services which has a modest charge but this is of relatively trivial level and soon, anecdotally, pays for itself. The premium services also give you the confidence of an SLA as well as extra features. On the setup / installation / configuration of secure DNS in your environment, Onega would do this for you, either free if you are under a proactive maintenance agreement with us, or based on our standard PAYG time charges (it would normally take no more than an hour on the average client network servers and firewalls, unless you have a really big system).

Q. What about Google's DNS - is that Service Secure? ( and
A. No, not in the sense being discussed here. Google being Google, that is likely to change over time.


Are you logged in with admin level credentials on your computer right now?

If you are reading this then there is a fair chance that you're categorised as a 'power user' or a full administrator on your IT systems. There is also a fair chance that right now, you may be logged in with an account that has admin rights to your local machine.

If you ask someone: 'Do you need admin rights on your computer?'; the answer, 90% of the time, is: 'Yes, I could not work without this'. Psychologically, we all like to have the power of full admin control to our own computers all the time. If you are used to having full admin rights to a local machine then this is hard to give up, and giving this up can be akin to giving up smoking, gambling, etc. Admin rights are addictive!

There is a strong case for best practice (basically not disputed) for having permissions set on the basis of least required permissions. Part of this is making sure that you only use the login / admin / access rights that you need at the time. For normal day to day use, we should only be logging into a computer with 'user level' access.

The reasons for this are many and whilst you probably already know these, the key ones are worth reiterating:

1) Reduced Malware Surface and Risk - By using a user level permission account in day to day use, you minimise the impact of any malware that you may inadvertently come across while browsing the web etc. Whilst there may be some malware that can very cleverly bypass permissions on a computer, or exploit zero day flaws, assuming your computer is up to date, then you reduce the attack surface (and hence risk of contracting malware, Viruses and APTs (Advanced Persistent Threats) on your computer by about 95% by using user level rights most of the time.

2) Regulatory Compliance- Nearly every IT security and relevant industry regulation standard specifies that organisations should adopt the principle of 'Least Privilege' . This includes UK PCI DSS standards, ISO27001, Sarbanes Oxley, UK Financial Conduct Authority (FCA was FSA) etc. This covers not only compliance from the security stand point, but also in compliance with company IT policies - for example, with company software licencing and authorised software. If a user does not have admin rights then they can't install a bit of software which is not approved or licenced. Thus, administrators and company managers can be confident that there are not any hidden liabilities around and that change control is maintained. We've seen many occasions when a user might install a piece of software that either 1) has a hidden (and very undesirable payload) or 2) causes unexpected repercussions if, for example, it installs DLLs that then cause other software to run less reliably - which may not be easy to diagnose as the problems might not appear straight away and sometimes are only cured by a restore from image backup or at worst require complete PC rebuild.

3) Evidence Proves the Point - Analysts such as Gartner have proven that statistically, if you remove admin rights from most users, then you reduce security breach incidences, but also save money and wasted time in IT support. Having least privilege makes for a more supportable, reliable, productive and hassle free environment, and with lower support cost through both reduction in direct support costs, and lost time in productivity if a user is unable to work for a while..

If you want a second, third or fourth opinion on this, Google 'IT security best practice for least permission' or look at other blog entries like  - who make the point well also.

So how do we address this practically?

The first thing is to admit that we have a problem and accept that you may be an 'adminrightsoholic' personally or indeed even suffer from endemic CEPS - Corporate Elevated Permission Syndrome to coin a phrase or two.  You know you have admin rights, that others have full admin rights, and that you should give these up in every day use - you could give them up but you choose not to. Maybe you should stand up right now and state to the office that 'I'm an adminrightsoholic and I'm admitting this as the first step to changing my ways. I know it is not going to be easy and I'm going to ask for your support as trusted colleagues in getting through this tough time for the benefit of myself and the company. Will you join with me in this righteous journey?'

The key is to take things one step at a time, and learn to live with user permissions one day at a time.

The first steps:

We can address this personally and across a company. In taking Gandhi's words to heart that you should 'be the change you want to happen' the first place to start is on your own desktop or laptop computer.

If you are an administrator in a company, or genuinely (in this word is a world of debate and access to regression) need access to admin functions on your computer, then the best thing will be to create (if you don't have one already) a separate local admin account on your computer e.g. if you are BobP and this is your normal login, then you could perhaps create an account called 'bobpadmin' or suchlike. Both your new and normal accounts should have secure (complex passwords which are not easy to guess or Password123 etc.). Give the new admin account full local machine admin rights. Then log out of your normal account and log in with the admin account. Remove admin rights from your normal user account (on the local machine, such that you are only a User (or any other special groups you need). Then log out of the admin account and back in with your now only regular user level account. Congratulations; you just went cold turkey on desktop admin access on your Windows PC. Continue to work as normal and you can feel smug that you've given up your full admin permissions in day to day use. If and when you need to install software on your machine then you can;  but run the installer as your admin account.

You'll find that actually everything works fine. In reality we don't install software very often so you'll only rarely need to enter the higher level account details for elevated permissions. If you're still considering all this, ask yourself when you (knowingly) last installed a piece of software on your computer.

As I type this I can admit that 'I used to be an adminrightsoholic' and now I've turned a leaf. It was hard to do it but now I'm glad I have and like many things, this is something I should have done long ago. I can now be the most annoying type of reformed addict who can evangelise to the world about the benefits of giving up.

At the wider corporate level though, it is important that users and rights are documented and set on the principle of least permission. Some users may genuinely need admin rights but best if the dual account method is used here to minimise use of elevated rights, which includes for very senior network admins who should likely also have both a user level and an admin account so that things are done the right way and in the right place. If you are an Onega client then you'll have access to our Policies and Procedures Wiki Site where you can see formal policies for some of these. see and the relevant section on this. If you don't have access to this and are a current client then feel free to contact us by any means at  If you're not a current client, we'd love to chew the fat and talk IT and about you becoming one :-)

Some advanced solutions exist to manage elevated permissions and remove various back door risks and human risks including  Avecto and  ViewFinity. However, beginning with the simple steps above is a good start. If there is enough demand, we'd be happy to run support group sessions for recovering adminrightoholics where you'll be amongst friends.

Wishing you happy and safe computing but bear in mind that, just like all the best fictional characters, IT superheroes should remember that whilst it is great to have superpowers, you should: only use them when you really need to, only use them for good and keep them hidden at all other times.

How many IP Addresses? Onega say hello to IPV6

Internet Standards are evolving all the time, but the fundamental addressing mechanism that allows one computer to talk to another on the Internet has been in place since 1981. Called IPV4, it allows for 4 billion network notes on the Internet which seems a lot and, back when initially only tens and then hundreds of computers were connected to the Internet, would have seemed a huge number at the time in the same way that Bill Gates was once quoted as saying that '640K was more memory than anyone would ever need'. Over time these have all been used up and allocated such that there are, in the great scheme of things, very few left. If you've come across addresses like 192.168.X.X on your network computers or 89.106.X.X for other machines etc. then these are the IPV4 addresses.

The next generation of Internet is being built on IPV6 and this will allow for a world where everything from your socks to kettle are likely to have an IP address. It will not be long before it, by necessity, becomes mainstream and in use daily. Google, Facebook and other big websites are already IPV6 enabled and everyone else is gearing up. If you have a Windows 7, Windows 8 or Windows 10 PC or laptop and/ or Windows Server 2008 or 2012 then you are most likely already using IPV6 without realising it (if you like to tinker and want to see this in action try disabling IPV6 on a Windows Server and see what happens - actually on second thoughts don't, as things stop working without IPV6 enabled internally on your network).

Onega's core service network is no supporting IPV6, and we have a new allocation of IP Addresses from RIPE (the European coordinator of IP addresses) as Onega are a Local Internet Registry. For IPV4 we have an allocation of a /21 network which gives us 2,046= hosts / networks (and we have to be careful to conserve these). Our new IPV6 allocation is: 2a04:cf00::/29 - this does not look much but actually represents a significant increase.

In numbers, this is  633,825,300,114,114,700,748,351,602,688 addresses.

In Words this is: six hundred thirty-three octillion, eight hundred twenty-five septillion, three hundred sextillion, one hundred fourteen quintillion, one hundred fourteen quadrillion, seven hundred trillion, seven hundred forty-eight billion, three hundred fifty-one million, six hundred two thousand, six hundred eighty-eight.

Yes, that's a big number and we're still getting our heads around it!

Usefully, the RIPE website has a button to 'apply for more IPV6 address ' but we suspect that this will not be called for very often. Maybe in 2050 there might be another iteration needed but right now it is hard to think of how all these addresses can be used up; even if you really do have lot of socks.

More seriously though, here at Onega we are aware that change is coming and consider this on behalf of our clients. Any new equipment we buy is considered for IPV6 compatibility, and you should avoid anything that is not IPV6 compatible as this would thus be pre-obsolete.

IPV6 as a topic is something that is currently coming up to the boil, and when it gets there it will be a very big thing. We predict it will be a salesman's dream to replace anything that is not compatible with new models that are when the time comes. By thinking about this early you can ensure a smooth transition for your networks.

Interestingly geopolitics or geotechnocratics comes into play here. Historically America had (and still has) the biggest allocation of IPV addresses whereas countries like China had a virtually nil (or very much smaller) allocation, befitting their IP addressing needs at the time (China in the early 1980's was not big on the Internet). Thus countries like China are actually way ahead of the USA now on IPV6 adoption, through the simple necessity of pressure their IP V4 allocations caused - so we see vendors like Huawei (if you've never heard of them they are a hard competitor to Cisco and have over 100,000 members of staff making all sorts of computer and communications equipment and selling all over the world including to BT) competing hard with Cisco and ahead on IPV6 support where some American companies feel like they are dragging their heels somewhat and still selling yesterday's solutions. That will change soon enough though.

This article has been written mainly for interest and a little education perhaps, and also to demonstrate that here at Onega a big part of our work is looking forward, anticipating needs of the future as much as those immediate ones of today so that we are ready to help architect transitions to the core topology that will see them through the next decades.

If you have any questions or comments on this or other issues, please don't hesitate to get in touch - we like talking tech and this is certainly something you want to 'have a strategy' on. .

Onega provide subsidised Internet connections with Connection Vouchers

Onega Ltd are fully registered as an accredited supplier for the UK Government's SuperConnected Cities Connection Voucher Scheme. This allows us to provide (for qualifying companies) free fibre and other fast business grade broadband service installations. The subsidy here covers up to £3,000 of install costs and is designed to help kick-start the next phase of the UK's digital economy.

Having enjoyed 100Mbps and gigabit Internet speeds here at Trinity Buoy Wharf for the last couple of years, we can attest to the benefits of very high speed broadband. The Internet just works and downloads, video calls etc. are all smooth and seamless which is how they are meant to be. If you are currently on ADSL, ADSL 2+ etc. then you'll benefit from a big improvement here.

If you are located in London or Docklands and want to experience how Gigabit Internet feels, then bring a laptop and visit us and we can plug you in :-) The SuperConnected cities project now includes areas in the UK from Newcastle-upon-Tyne to Chelmsford and Southend (and many other cities).

It is important to remember that the subsidy is only on the install costs and that you have to pay for ongoing costs, but you also reap the benefits at the same time.

Based on a postcode and phone number, we can check quickly which providers cover your area, and what the best deals are based on your requirements. Please do thus contact us for a quote with no obligation.

To further reduce the costs, if you have some neighbours who are also interested, you can split the costs and the benefits with them, so that you only pay for a portion of the ongoing costs but benefit from all the speed available. We've done this a number of times and can help to broker 'good neighbour' agreements on the lines. Sharing an Internet connection is still secure as you'll have your own firewall (something else we can help with if needs be).

See for details of the cities that are covered. We can help you get quotes and fill in the paperwork (all electronic forms now) to apply for your voucher. Then call us on 020 7536 6350 to see how we can help or drop us a line via .

Welcome to The New Dawn of Open Source Networking with Vyos - a Vyatta (now Brocade) Fork

Onega are fans of Open Source software though we are aware that this is not a be-all and end-all in business. Philosophy aside, you have to first ask yourself if an open source project makes economic sense - i.e. weigh up (cost of software aside - Open Source does not necessarily mean no cost) the cost of ownership, support options and if it is the best tool for the job. Open Source projects can be really good, or they can be rubbish!

So, general points on Open Source aside, I recently have been learning about VYOS. This is a Fork (spin out) from Vyatta, which in turn packaged Xorp then Quagga network projects and others to create a fully-featured Open Source router.

Onega have been using Vyatta since 2006, which was early in its conception. We were the first ISP BGP implementation of Vyatta globally and we've been very happy with the software which offers features and protocols that normally are only found on the 'big iron' network equipment such as that from Cisco, Juniper or Extreme, but at a much lower price point (and running on standard X86 / X64 Intel based servers). Vyatta was purchased by networking giant Brocade (best known for their Fibre SAN routers) in November 2012.

When we first bought into Vyatta, the cost was approx. £220 a year for a three year enterprise subscription -  then Approx £450 a year for a similar Enterprise support and update subscription upon renewal and now, at renewal under Brocade (who bought Vyatta out) has gone up to approximately £900 a year. So every three years the cost has doubled. I'm not sure if it can sustain being doubled again.  I guess this is as a result of going from a young and aggressive company being disruptive to the mainstream networking industry through to being a mature part of a big player.

Considering that our need of support for the Vyatta routing software has been quite minimal over time (two primary support tickets in just under ten years is not bad) and given our familiarity with the protocols and the product, the value added makes us question if we need the full Brocade support. Since having been purchased, Vyatta branding has been dropped and so have all references to community and Open Source.

Thus, I was very happy to discover Vyos - -recently. This is an Open Source fork of one of the later Vyatta Open Source releases and it is actively updated, developed and supported. This is in use at thousands of sites around the world and looks to be just the ticket for Onega's own network use to upgrade our older Vyatta routers. An Intel based server with a modern processor and appropriate network interfaces (typically fibre, gigabit Ethernet and 10Gbps Ethernet now) will provide an excellent and very high throughput server compared to a traditional Cisco router, with more flexibility for upgrading where needed, and no vendor lock in.

We also make use of the excellent MicroTik ( routers for wireless and smaller networks and their OS is available separately to their hardware to do similar jobs. But for core networking, Vyos looks like it will fit the bill. Full kudos to the team that continue to work to make it a success in the Open Source project space.

Well worth a look if you are in need of router upgrades to see how this would work in your case. Onega have good experience at implementing and supporting these solutions and they are very much production ready and proven with years of solid core networking use here at Onega and around the world.