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Ransomware

POS SOFTWARE


 

Currently, I estimate that every month we have at least one point of sale client having issues regarding Ransomware and unfortunately many of our customers are falling victim to Ransomware attacks. We have had three (3) such attacks this week.

Our support manager Phil has put together step by step notes for you.

 

What it does

This form of attack encrypts all of your data and prevents you from using your computer unless you pay a fee. If this happens to be your server then this means your shop will not be able to trade.

What to do

Your only other option is to reformat your server and restore from a backup.

However, in many cases, we are finding that despite our best efforts there are no backups available as they too have been encrypted.

 

What can you do about it?

 

Your choice of Operating System

Firstly you should think about the version of Windows you use in your store. Windows 10 has a lot of features built in that make it much harder for Ransomware to take hold of your system.

 

If you are not running Windows 10 in your store, especially on your server and the computers you use to connect to the internet, then you should consider upgrading these as soon as possible.

 

While not as good, if you must or insist on running Windows 7, you should at least ensure that all Windows Updates have been installed. Windows Update includes many security patches, some of which may stop Ransomware from taking hold of your system.

 

In Windows 7, Click the Start button and in the run (or search box) type “windows update” and then press enter.

Click on the Check for updates and install updates button.

Windows Update may want you to restart your computer at some point and you should do so.

Remember that if this is your server then your shop will not be able to trade while your server is restarting.

When you have restarted, repeat the above process until there are no more updates to install.

 

If you are running Windows XP, then you are leaving yourself wide open to attacks from Ransomware. Microsoft stopped supporting Windows XP in April 2014, so for five years there has not been any security updates for this operating system.  There is little you can do apart from replacing the computer with one that has Windows 10 as its operating system.

Make sure you have a backup

 

Ransomware attacks are happening, and as much as you may try to prevent them, it may happen to you. If it does, you either have to pay up and encourage these criminals to continue their actions or have someone reformat and reinstall your computer system.

 

Reformatting and in reinstalling the operating system is the easy part. What nobody can replace is the data. Your customers, stock, sales history etc.

 

To protect yourself and ensure you will be able to replace this, you should be taking a regular backup copy of your data and remove it from your network so that Ransomware cannot access it.

 

I will deal with Posbrowser, but you should also find out how to do the same with your other important data such as your accounting and payroll data and any documents you may store on your local hard drive.

 

Posbrowser uses SQL server. One of the features of SQL server is that you can take online backups.

This means that you can take a backup without having to bring the system offline and stop trading.

 

So find a time during the day, a regular time. 

Also, find a USB stick. Now go to your server and plug in the USB stick.

 

Open Posbrowser and from the main menu select System Maintenance / Backup and Restore.

In the “Backup to a location” section click the three dots and navigate to the USB drive you just plugged in and click OK.

Note that if the three dots are greyed out, you are NOT on your server!

 

 

Then click the Backup button and the backup will start.

Wait until you see a message telling you the Backup was complete.

 

 

 

If you see any other message, you should contact POS Solutions Support for advice.

 

When it finishes,

DO NOT JUST TAKE OUT THE USB STICK – REMEMBER TO EJECT IT SAFELY.

This is the only way you can ensure that the backup has been written to the USB stick correctly.

 

If you want to be double sure, after you have removed the USB stick, you can insert it again and restore the backup to your training system via the “Restore to Training” tab in the Backup and Restore document.

 

When you have removed the USB drive, place it in a safe place, and DO NOT put it into a computer again until you are ready to do another backup of your system.  Don’t let Ransomware have a chance to get access to it.

Even if this backup is a couple of days old, because you are not in on the weekend, it is a lot better than having nothing at all.

You should take the time and make an effort to protect the most valuable part of your business – your data.

 

 

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XP almost dead

POS SOFTWARE

Recently Touch, a major supplier of electronic services in our market space announced it was dropping XP. This is the last major supplier left that was using XP. The reason is just that there are not enough users of XP to justify the cost of supporting it.

Windows Australian Market

Source: StatCounter Global Stats - Windows Version Market Share

As you can see in Australia, it has dropped from almost 60% in 2010 to 1% usage. 1% cannot pay for much which is the problem here. The other problem is that most computer suppliers of hardware and software have long dropped XP. I know that one of our competitors is now telling to all its XP users that they have to upgrade and are planning soon an increase in support fees to those that people that stay on Windows XP. 

We are not advocating the use of Windows XP now.  Microsoft no longer supports Windows XP, it has limited support by antivirus software and so is an insecure and out-of-date operating system. 

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Wireless security cameras

POS SOFTWARE

What is saving retail now are security cameras from shoplifting, it seems to be the only evidence that the courts are accepting. However, have a read here on monitoring and the law if you have or intend to have cameras.

For retailers, the best security systems are those that are directly connected to your point of sale software. With such a system if for example, a customer said, I gave you a $50 and you gave me change from $20, well you just press a button on the cash register, find the transaction and playback it back. Every till should have one.

However, there are many more places to cover than the till for example the shop itself, the front and exit of the shop, the back room and some parts outside. For these often you need wireless security cameras.

They have one great advantage that they are easy to move around. However unlike wired security cameras, wireless security camera are funny things, you install in one shop a few and they work perfectly, you put the same cameras into a similar shop and it is nothing but trouble so we have to pull them out and replace them.

Here are some points

Map out your requirements on paper.

Do it carefully as I assure you that paper will get a lot of use. Try to draw it to scale if possible.

Now, put on the paper where you feel the cameras should go, generally, to save cost people follow the power points as much as possible. 

Now measure the range of these camera positions to your camera base. You will need to know the range before you can buy the camera.  What you also need to determine where you will need a narrow vision and where you need a wide-angle camera.  If you are not sure the salesman can tell you what cameras they have for such range and angles.

If you are in an area of a lot of WIFI you need to make sure that it will operate in these areas. I have seen WIFI security cameras fail in shopping centres.

Camera requirements

You want cameras that are easy to install and setup. Over their lifetime, you are going to want to move them around. This, after all, is the point of having them wireless.

Most important it is easy to change the Date and Time, you do not want to have to try to explain to a judge why the alleged robbery took place at this time but why your camera showing a different time. If you are in an area that has daylight savings you, make sure your camera has daylight savings enabled and check to make sure it does automatically adjust the cameras time. 

I would say 1080p should be the standard resolution that you should use. With prices today there is little savings going much lower and often you need that extra resolution. Remember a shoplifter can be out of your shop in seconds and you need often to make an instant decision. 

Check how good the motion cameras sensor is, you do not want lags.

Make sure the camera got decent night vision, you do not want anything that looks grainy. Some of these cameras have a function that I love when it is dark a red light like a gun shines out, it helps to deter undesirables as they can see the cameras are working.

Final note

Much of the camera software supplied by the security companies are full of bugs. I would not count on it despite what the specifications say. 

How much to budget?

Impossible to say for the $800 they spent it was much for what they need, others that spent $20,000 will sigh and say that it was not enough.

 

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Your old printers do not work

POS SOFTWARE

Old printers being prepared for the tip

Something goes wrong in the computer and attached to it say was a point of sale receipt printer which although old worked well and now suddenly it no longer works. This is happening with all versions of windows although the problem is much worse on the old versions of windows.

Here is why:

Your old printer works through a driver which is a software package written by the manufacturer of your printer. This driver then talks to Windows. As windows updates, these drivers often need changing however there are several issues.

1) Manufacturers of printers often no longer update the drivers required to get the older printers to work with the latest Windows updates. After say five (5) years they just stop doing it. Their view is that you need to get a new printer.

2) Sometimes the manufacturers of the printer, just have not got around to fixing the driver. It can take time before their users notify them of a problem, before they can verify it, before their programmers can write a fix, before it can check the changes and then time before it can be released. In the meantime your printer is unusable.

3) If your brand is obscure, it may not be trusted by Microsoft so Microsoft does not support it and distribute it. 

However, now there is a new problem.

Microsoft will start excluding printers from the upgrade process.

 

Microsoft is moving to a new standard in printers "Mopria" and is dropping support for many of the old printers. This is stated as due to lack of space which is true but I am sure it is partly that Microsoft has had enough of supporting the old stuff.

If you have an old printer that is not working here are three tips that might work.

1) Try using advanced setup

2) Try installing the printer manually from the manufacturer's website.

3) Try installing a printer driver for a printer that is similar to yours. Generally, you will not get all the functions but you may get the functions you need.

Failing that get a new printer. 

The picture above is of old printers that worked being prepared to go to the tip.

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Today is "Clean Out Your Computer Day"

POS SOFTWARE

It is a fun holiday but it has a real and necessary purpose.

Like much else mechanical, dirt, smoke, dust and pet hair can damage your computer. In a computer generally, the problem is two-fold

1) These products settle on your computer components and as they are an insulator act as a blanket and making the computer run hotter then it is designed to run. What this does is reduce its life expectancy and cause parts of your computer like the memory, the processor and the power supply to misbehaviour or stop working. I have seen several short circuits of delicate electrical components caused by dust too generally in the CD and DVDs. 

As a rule, try to put a computer in a clean location, near a fireplace, where your dog sits on, dusty place, etc is not suggested.

In an effort to overcome the heat what the computer does is push the fan to run faster which can cause the fan to break from overuse which brings us to the second problem

2) The computer has several moving parts and vents mainly in the ventilation system. The dust, hair etc can reduce the ventilation system efficiency. If enough cold air cannot come in then the computer is going to run hot. If they jam the fan they can break it too.

As a rule, try to put a computer in a spot where its air vent has access to cold airflow. Next to heating vent is not suggested.

Now, what can you do about the dust already in the computer?

If you have seen the movie Zoolander and this is you on the computer mechanics, now stop reading and ask someone else to help out.

Here is a video that I do suggest the person cleaning your computer views first and remember there is a good reason why this holiday was set up on a Monday if something goes wrong on a weekday you can get professional help if something goes really wrong.

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More companies dropping support for Win XP

POS SOFTWARE

 

If you sell Telco products through Touch systems, Touch now requires that all their clients upgrade to the new version.

The kicker is that the new version requires Win 7 or Win 10 which means that the software will not run on an XP  computer.

One point to consider is that the wholesale price is always set to $0 in the new version which means that some reports will show all sales as 100% profit.  Also, there is no GST coming through but as all Touch products are GST free anyway this is not an issue.

 

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new i9 computers

POS SOFTWARE

i9 intel

Point of sale software has to be fast, so people are switching over their old processors to the new i9 processors because of the speed increase. In retail speed is everything and the i9 is a fantastic piece of hardware.

So even though our system is the fastest point of sale system, I know, check out the transaction speeds in yellow below 

Transaction speed raw data

the big issue in business is that old computers run slow and employees are paid for in time. A shop assistant costs you $19 hour, once you include holiday, sick pay and superannuation, that comes to about $24 an hour and that is the cheapest you can get. Currently, if an old computer say with slow processors, without a touch screen or an SSD drive costs an employee about 10 minutes more a day. Over a year that works out to costing you over a $1000 for that employee just in salary! Now add in that many people will work on overtime rates. Then there are senior staff members costs on the computer! Now add in the cost of your customer service being 10 minutes per employee worse a day, your own time etc. With probably even the cheapest employees from a business point of view, a computer upgrade can be justified as it's false economy to hang on to old computers in business.

If you are looking to upgrade let us know. 

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Current point of sale computers

POS SOFTWARE

Point of Sale computers

No one has much space nowadays behind the counter it is in the checkout area, and people want to use the space for practical things that sell rather than big computers. So here is a picture of our current computer specially built with a point of sale areas where it is often hot and dusty. 

You can have it in i3, i5 or i7.

On speed test we did, the i5 was very fast. 

 

 

 

 

 

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Improving your WIFI

POS SOFTWARE

WI FI

 

WIFI now is indispensable and here are some tips if you have problems with your WIFI signal in your retail shop.

Measure the problem

You cannot do much till you have measurements, the WIFI app that I like to use to help me judge WIFI signal strength is WIFI Overview 360 Pro available on google play free. I suggest you first get a copy. 

Now look at the position of the modem

All too often technicians tend to put the cables so modems in the office area which is an out of the way place in the shop. As walls and doors all block the WIFI signal so putting the modem in the office room is often wrong. This is not good for WIFI modems. The WIFI modem should be as central as possible in the shop hopefully near the main areas where people use WIFI.

Move things away

Move away from anything from the modem that blocks the signal.

Up higher

What we find works well is to raise the WIFI modem, the higher the better. Because it sometimes is an eyesore what you can do is put the modem in a nice material bag and hang it up on the wall. Do not use a plastic bag for this. 

Silver foil

A neat trick here which you can experiment with to boost the WIFI signal is put silver foil between the modem and the wall. Some WIFI signal in the shop will bounce off the metal foil back onto the modem.

Reduce the number of devices you use

Try reducing the number of items using the WIFI in the shop, too many WIFI devices can cause problems. Maybe you cannot provide all your staff with WIFI in the shop to their mobile phone. 

Reduce electrical interference 

Try to reduce the electrical interference particularly from other WIFI modems. I remember going to a neighbours shop and talking to the owner there to make some compromise in the positions of the WIFI modems as their modem was interfering with our client's modem. This is a particularly big problem in shopping centres where there are heaps of WIFI modems, cordless phones, etc all belching radio signals. 

Try changing the channels on your modem

Try changing the channels that your WIFI modem uses. As a rule, 5 GHz is faster but works on a shorter distance while 2.4 GHz gives a longer range. Experiment with both and see what works best for you.

Antenna adjustment

Try putting the antennas in different directions say one vertically and the other flat. WIFI signals come from all different directions.

So there it is, now see how these tips go for you.

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Microsoft's Windows 10 future

POS SOFTWARE

Win10.jpg

I was reading this report on the Microsoft financial report here. {link been removed}

Most of their revenue now comes from cloud-based products like Office 365.

Still, they are doing well out of Windows 10 updates. I am not surprised as its an excellent product and as a result, we have upgraded almost all our clients to Windows 10, but Microsoft has only about a year and a bit, of these upgrade left as Windows 7's free support which is very limited now will end on the 14 January 2020. 

The article does state that Microsoft "has no intention of leaving money on the table, even if there never will be an explicit Windows X-to-Windows Y transition" but what does that mean for Windows, we still do not know?

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