Fishing for Phishing Emails & How to Spot Them

Phishing emails are often so ridiculous that you naturally pass the by without a moments’ though – probably on a daily basis. Unfortunately, however, there are many unsuspecting victims who can fall for these fraudulent messages; opening the phishing emails and sometimes even following the actions recommended within the message.

Though there is not “one size fits all” response to dealing with these phishing emails, there are a few different ways in which we can identify them – and help others as well.

Check the URL

If the message contains links to websites or other sources, spend a minute hovering over them to check the validity. Often a phishing email will contain mismatched URL’s, so the hyperlink will appear differently to the address displayed. If this is the case, the message isn’t real.

Misleading Domain Names

To understand this one, there is one simple trick you need to remember. If a domain name is linked to a legitimate site, the page you’re looking for will appear before the owner site. For example, info.domainname.com is perfectly legitimate, while domainname.maliciousinfo.com is not.

Please do note that these are dots and not forward slashes, as the forward slash should rightly be at the end of a web link as a page from the original site. If it’s a forward slash you’re safe, but a dot should always be checked.

Silly spelling and grammar errors

Phishing emails are often created by robots or simply by people who don’t have the competency to check their spelling and grammar thoroughly. If it contains silly errors, it’s probably not legit.

Be careful about personal information

In May 2018, every company was forced to become GDPR compliant. As such, any email you receive that asks you for personal information needs to be checked – because it most likely isn’t what it says it is, and if it was then that company would be in serious trouble.

Is it realistic?

This could well be a matter of opinion, but if the offer seems too good to be true then perhaps it is. If the message makes some wild and big promises, and doesn’t appear to be from someone you recognise, it’s probably not real.

Are you expecting it?

If you get an email saying you’ve won the lottery, despite never having brought a lottery ticket in your life, common sense points us towards this being a scam.

Are they asking for any sort of money?

It might not be today, or even next month, but eventually a phishing email is likely to try its luck and ask you for money. If all the other tell-tale signs haven’t thrown up a red flag yet, this one is sure to make you think twice.

Do they threaten you?

One of the most common kinds of phishing email makes claims against you and then tried to blackmail you into giving over personal information or even money. If the threats are unrealistic and you are being accused of something you haven’t done or aren’t in any way linked to, it’s a phishing email and should be blocked.

Does it look on the surface like it could be from the government?

If they’re pretending to be a government agency, they’re not. These kinds of organisations don’t just email you out of the blue, so you can rest assured that if they claim to be from the FBI or other law enforcement agencies, they’re trying to trick you.

It doesn’t feel right

The last one relies on your gut instinct more than anything – and that is this, does it feel right? If not, trust your instinct and ignore the message. The worst that can happen is a legit message has to contact you again because you ignored the first one; but better that than falling for a phishing email.

What to expect from social media in 2020

2020 may seem like months away, but the truth is that as the evenings grow darker and the temperature drops, the end of the year is well and truly in sight. The new year brings with it many resolutions, lots of retail sales and discounts, and some exciting new developments for technology – especially social media.

Ever since the launch of Facebook over 15 years ago, the way we use the internet to interact with each other has never quite been the same, and it seems as though every month there is a new trend or social channel that’s got the young people hooked to their phones and devices.

So, with the promise of many more updates and developments, what sort of changes are we likely to see in 2020?

Privacy

Privacy and online security have become a far bigger threat in recent years, with so many different social channels available and the average user age dropping every year. Information is collected by these social media platforms and we are expected to tick a small box to acknowledge this – but do we know what it all really means?

Facebook have recently launched a televised advert about the importance of privacy settings and understanding what information is available to who – and in 2020 we predict be a much larger focus on being aware of your online security.

Video content

In a world where everyone wants everything immediately, reading a blog suddenly seems long and laborious. Why read a whole article when you could learn the same information in a one-minute video?

Video content makes for a great and memorable marketing platform for many small businesses, and as such has seen an incredible rise in usage recently – from video ads to GIF’s that we send privately in messages. Facebook and Instagram have even upgraded to allow for automatic video playing – what more reason do we need to assume video content is set to grow even bigger?

Augmented Reality

Carrying on the technical branch, augmented reality is set to rise very soon – as the new and more sophisticated older brother of virtual reality. While virtual reality creates something entirely new and makes you feel like you’re in it, Augmented Reality is an extension of what is already there – adding extra elements to existing experiences or images. The most basic explanation of this is the filter features you see on Snapchat and Instagram – being able to alter and add props to existing photos and screens.

It will simply be able to do more

In short, social media will be able to do more. Facebook and Instagram recently extended many services into online shopping channels, and social media is fast becoming people’s go-to when they want local news and gossip. So much so that very soon we anticipate social media becoming the main news reporter across the board. Promoting engagement and sharing, people are continually reporting that most of what they know about global issues comes from social media – and this is set only to increase as these channels grow.

Of course, the risk of fake and highly opinionated news is prominent if you rely entirely on social media for your daily updates, but on the whole social media channels do a good job of filtering the real from the so-called “fake news”, and can even tailor stories just for you based on your interests and location.

Specialised search engines

If you’re looking for a video or audio example of something specific, you search in YouTube. If you’re looking for a certain person or business, you might use Facebook. If you’re looking for a particular company or organisation, you could use LinkedIn. Becoming more like modern search engines is the direction that many social media channels seem to be moving in, promoting the search function and allowing users access to as much information and predicted search terms as possible.

Influencers

As social media grows, so too does the barrel of influencers who specialise on each channel. Of course, with so many smaller businesses opening their doors and their websites every single day, influencers are a valuable asset in terms of endorsements and effective consumer marketing. With such high demand, 2020 is likely to see the rise of influencers gain even more traction – and even more competition!

Personalisation

The more personalised and specific your marketing is, the more of a buzz you will generate among your users. Personalisation is already all over social media, but the challenge remains that with the increase in privacy and security, gaining the information needed to create a unique and personal experience on every channel could begin to be a problem. How social media channels deal with this will be interesting to look out for – watch this space!

In short, 2020 will be a big year of social media. A constantly evolving and always updating platform for marketing and online interaction, each channel has its own user base, its own demographic and its own benefits.

Each of the above trends exist in some form already, and how social media chooses to develop these in the next 12 months will certainly be an interesting one to watch.

Our top 10 SEO trends for 2020

The Winter months have well and truly set in, and with the end of 2019 fast approaching, it’s time to turn your attention to your 2020 strategy.

Keeping up with the constant developments is a never-ending job all of its own, and unfortunately the same goes for keeping up with the competition. The internet is an endless minefield of competitors all vying for attention from prospective customers and clients – and the best way to get this attention is via the global search engines.

But as technology and content information matures, so does Google. It is no longer enough to just write a great blog – now it has to work alongside and in partnership with a specific set of rules implemented by organisations like Google.

Without further ado, here’s 10 ways you can use SEO to harness Google’s attention and make sure your website features in those all-important top search results.

1. Consider featured snippets

When you Google something and wind up on a result page, generally the first thing on the screen is something called a Snippet. This literally does what it says on the tin, offering the searcher an extended preview of what they might find on that first site result – whether it’s instructions, tips or generic information.

To gain a chance at being the featured Snippet for any given search term, ensure you are answering the most common questions in clear and concise language. The Snippets receive a high percentage of clicks so it is worth spending the time tailoring your content accordingly.

2. Voice recognition and voice-driven searches

Our phones and smart devices are getting clever by the upgrade, with many now offering users a chance to search for anything they want – without having to tap a single button. While this has been attributed to accidental searches and even unintentional holiday bookings, it seems the powers of tech have honed and matured the technology to enable voice search to grow in popularity.

To work in partnership with this trend, you need to think about how people are searching using their voice – rather than their keypad. In short, the searches will be more detailed and keywords will become more conversational.

3. The growth of Artificial Intelligence

The majority of drivers may not be ready for driver-less cars yet, but artificial intelligence is on the rise and has recently become on of Googles most trusted advisors when it comes to user searches and search result algorithms. In short, the AI robots have learned what makes an article great; creating their own set of rules that we, as content creators, have to abide by if we want to continue to perform well online.

Does anybody know what these sets of rules look like? It’s all trial and error.

4. Online security

First GDPR and now this – if a user doesn’t feel that their information is safe when browsing your website, they won’t use it. It’s as simple as that. Increased user security is a trend which is only going to continue to grow, and one which will influence our strategies for many years to come.

5. The power of the blue tick

Blue ticks have never meant more than they do today. A sign of status and popularity in the online world, a blue tag tends to mean that someone is a verified influencer – usually with an extremely large following and valuable networks.

Having one of these influencers endorse your brand is a priceless tool that enables your brand to be seen by networks and potential customers you couldn’t even dream of reaching before. Allow the social media trend to improve your website traffic and widen the reach of your content.

6. User experience

Remember the days when everything took minutes to buffer? We used to sit in front of the screen and watch the buffering wheel for days on end – but not today. Today, users want everything instantly, and if it’s not instant on your website then they will simply head to a different website that is. It doesn’t matter if you have great content – if the user experience isn’t exactly what they expect, you will very quickly find yourself losing valuable visitors.

Quick load times, an easy to navigate website, and optimised content for all devices – they’re all important!

7. Videos vs. Written content

Facebook has launched a new video viewing page which takes you straight onto another related video once your first one finishes. This subtle but clever way to introducing you to new content highlights how important video is becoming in the world of online content, as users are now just as likely to watch a tutorial as they are to read one.

Youtube advertising has never been so popular, and online videos are starting to take over and attract more and more interest – pulling viewers away from their television screens. Make sure your videos are optimised in terms of SEO, to harness the power of this ever-growing trend. Great keywords and descriptions can mean the difference between a viral clip and a video that falls flat.

8. Quality Content

A pretty simple one really. You can do all the SEO and tagging in the world, but without quality content you will never be able to retain potential customers. Give them value, well-researched information and clear calls to action! After all, in a world where everything is so fast-paced and temporary, your content needs to prove itself as informative yet entertaining; useful but also high quality and approachable.

9. Dwell time will increase in prominence

The amount of time someone sits on your website is about to become even more important to your SEO success. If a user is spending lots f time on your website, the search engine will know that the quality of your content and website is likely to be high – and this is going to become even more of an influential factor as we enter 2020.

10. It’s not going to be just about Google

Google pretty much owns the search engine world, with the phrase “Google it” being used to answer probably half the questions that are voiced by millions of people every single day. However, this could be set to change, as other search engines rise in prominence and give Google a run for its money.

This may mean that SEO requirements will differ particularly as different and new search engines work to attract users and gain support. We’ll have to watch this space to see what happens…

 

Cybersecurity for small business websites

All too often the media shares stories of large organisations and companies that have been hacked through their website; stealing customer data and private information that can be extremely damaging both in the short term and the long run. The unfortunate truth however is that it’s not just these large-scale companies that are being targeted. Small businesses are just as likely to be targeted – we’re just far less likely to hear about it.

Recovering from a security breach is expensive and can be catastrophic for a small business without the necessary cybersecurity measures in place. Read on for some of the most basic ways you can protect your site and your business from harm.

Keep your domain information private

If a hacker has access to your name, your email address or even your mailing address, they can use this information to hack into your website or worse. The more personal information they can collect about you, the easier their job is, and you could find yourself facing a case of stalking or identity theft. Employ domain privacy to shield all your personal details from hackers and identity thieves.

Invest in an SSL certificate

Many internet users now will not trust any website without an SSL certificate in the browser bar, and we know Google relies heavily on SSL certification for a good ranking. However, this isn’t just a good investment for business – it also protects your site from hackers by encrypting all the data stored on it. All of our hosting packages come with free SSL certificates as standard!

Automatic backups

One of the most damaging ways a hacker can destroy your business is to crash your entire website or cause such problems that customers can no longer access your site.

With an automatic backup, you can work safe in the knowledge that should anything happen, you know you have everything you need to get the site up and running again quickly and easily. Ensuring that the automatic backup updates itself on a daily basis is key to being able to restore as recent a version as possible should it become necessary.

Malware scans and removals

It sounds like something out of Doctor Who, but cybercriminals are now a very real threat to small businesses that work online. With access to coding that can steal data and allow access to your site at the click of a few buttons, cybercriminals can attack a site before you even realise it’s happening. That’s why automatic malware scans are so vital.

These malware scans perform regular automated scans on your entire site; identifying and removing any potential threats to your security. By investing in one of these, you can be sure that any vulnerable areas will be identified and fixed before a hacker can exploit them.

Domain renewals

Another thing worth investing in simply because it can be done automatically, is domain renewal. After an allotted period of time, your domain will come up for renewal and if you don’t act quickly you can lose control of your business domain name. Not only is this bad for business, but it also leaves you expired domain open for exploitation and unregistered access, whereby any cybercriminal could find out yours and your customers personal data and email addresses.

This can be prevented with automatic domain renewal – an easy way to register your domain name so that when the time comes for renewal, your site will do so automatically. This can generally be managed through the billing information on your domain registration account.

Automatic updates

Staying up to date is one of the best ways to ensure fool proof security, not least because it ensures your cybersecurity is working to its newest and most effective version. Many updates that become available have been created to patch up the flaws left open in an old version, and so neglecting to update with them can mean that your site is still open to those flaws. And once a hacker gets in, it’s too late.

By setting up your WordPress and plugins to update automatically, you will be protected with the latest versions without even having to think about it.

Check your passwords

Creating a password is often a toss up between choosing something easy to remember, and choosing something that no one will ever guess – but that you might well forget. Trust us, the latter is much safer.

It’s important that not only you but anyone with access to your site uses a secure and unique password, as hackers can find a different way into the site even if your own password is super secure.

Login Forms

If your site includes a feature where customers can log in to their own accounts, you’re at risk of letting in a bot. These cyber bots are designed by hackers to try multitudes of potential login credentials until they strike gold with one that works; allowing them into your site where they can release malware to damage the business from the inside.

By adding protection layers to your login forms, this should be avoidable. Things like the reCAPTCHA tools we see all the time – where the login asks you to identify all the images with one thing in common – are good examples, as automated bots are unable to identify these. It’s also worth enabling a tool that gives customers a set amount of login attempts before they become locked out, as this annihilates the potential for trying multiple logins until one works.

These ideas are just some of the basis in cybersecurity, but they will ensure increased safety for both your business and your customers. And we think that’s an investment worth entertaining.

Keeping the Hackers Out – the Basics

Hackers are the enemy of the online world, and can destroy everything you’ve worked on with the click of a button. Whether it’s an entire website of content, or accessing and destroying your client database, a breach of your website is a horrible blow to your hard work and can often feel like a very personal attack.

Protecting your website from hackers is one of the most important investments you can make into your online security, and not all of them require a tech-whizz – some of them you can employ right now. So, without further ado, read on for our top ways that you can keep the hackers out.

Security Plugins

We talk a lot about plugins – some can help improve your SEO and some may make your developers life easier. Security plugins do a different job; actively preventing hackers from breaking into your website.

Content management systems are designed with a number of built-in plugins that do just this, and each one addresses the most vulnerable areas of security on the different platforms; whether you use WordPress, Magento or Joomla.

Another thing you can do to further tighten your online security is look into SiteLock, which acts as a daily monitor across your website; identifying everything from a virus to active attempts to break in to the site. Picture the online version of a burly bouncer on the door of a nightclub – that’s SiteLock, and it’s well worth the time spent on installing it.

HTTPS

If you’re inputting personal information into a website, for example payment details during an online transaction, chances are you know to look for the green padlock at the beginning of the website address in the browser bar. Next to the green padlock you will see the letters HTTPS – these five letters show you that the website is safe from hackers, and that you can safely input your personal details without risk of theft.

Historically it has always been important for ecommerce websites to hold an SSL certificate, because it secures the transfer of important and private information and ensures the safety if your website visitor’s data. Since July 2018 however, Google has taken to informing website visitors of every site that doesn’t have an SSL certificate, no matter what your website provides or does.

If you want your visitors – and Google – to trust your brand and your website, investing in a SSL certificate is a valuable investment as it will ensure your site is ranked highly on Google and will make visitors feel safe when visiting your site.

Keep your content management system up to date

This applies to everything from content management system to your plugins, apps and any additional scripts employed to create your website. If any of these are left outdated for too long, the chances of a hacker being able to find a way in increase greatly.

Checking that your website is up to date is easy enough on WordPress, by checking directly through the dashboard. Employed as a way to keep you informed of any important changes or updates required, the dashboard will instantly tell you if the version you’re running is up to date.

Keep your passwords new and unique

Unfortunately, it’s not as easy as recalling the name of a favourite pet. Passwords are there for a reason, and setting something that’s super easy to remember is very likely going to lead the hackers straight to you.

When choosing a password, make it long and use a mixture of letters, characters and numbers to create something that really is unique.

And it’s not just you. If you work within a team who all have access to your website, making sure they all have strong and secure passwords is just as important as your own. After all, the website is your business and something as simple as a bad password can allow hackers in to quite literally destroy your business and livelihood.

Don’t take the chance!

Automatic back-ups

One of the worst things that a website hacker can do is erase all of your work – particularly if it isn’t backed up or if you were relying on the idea that what goes online will stay online forever.

Making sure you have a recent back-up of everything you do, therefore, is key to limiting the damage a hacker can do if they do get in. An automatic backup service will enable you to do this without even having to think about it.

There are a handful more ways in which you can secure your website from hackers, but these require a more technical skillset and understanding of how the backend of websites work.

For now we suggest employing the above techniques in order to keep your site safe from hacker harm, and will explore the more technical tips in a future post.

Back to Basics: Backup your WordPress

As a fairly new website ourselves, we know how important creating great content is. Gone are the days where every idea began as a scribble on paper, but in a world where everything is constructed directly onto a computer or other device, unfortunately technology can still let us down.

Of course, this is something we’ve all learnt the hard way. Whether it was a dissertation draft back in your university days, or a company presentation that you were finalising for the next day, we’ve all experienced that drop in your stomach when you lose a piece of work and realise that it was never backed up. The mistake that so many of us make is believing this won’t happen when we work directly on a website build, such as WordPress. After all, it’s the internet. Nothing gets completely lost on the internet, right?

Wrong. If you strip your WordPress website down to the basics, it’s really just a jumble of characters and files and hyper-sensitive codes that link it all together. Mess with one of those codes, and you could well lose everything.

Our job is to make sure that doesn’t happen – and if it does, to make sure all your content is backed up safely and securely so that in case of a disaster you can restore your site easily. Without further ado, here’s our guide to backing up your WordPress site.

Download a plugin

In the technology world, a plugin (rather confusingly) is not something you actually plug in. Rather, it is a backup system you can download onto your device which is large enough to store everything you create. Key examples include Dropbox and Backup Buddy, which both sit comfortably on your desktop and allow you to arrange all of your content into different folders and areas for your ease.

The great thing with these plugins is that setting up an automatic back up process is super easy, ensuring that even when you forget to back your work up manually, your device will do it all for you without any prompt. We suggest setting the automatic back up to update at least once a week; sending an email to your own email address with a link to the latest version of your work.

That is not to say that you shouldn’t do a manual back up regularly, especially when making significant changes to the layout or formatting of your WordPress site. You never know when something could go wrong that just deletes everything, so ensuring you have the more up-to-date version saved before making any big changes could save you a lot of time and effort in the long run.

The manual back up

Backing up your WordPress site manually is no mean feat, and we would recommend investing in the plugin before playing around with the manual back up feature – just in case.

That being said, it is perfectly possible to perform a manual back up directly in your WordPress site, by logging into your server and delving into the developer tools of the site.

Logging in can be done either through cPanel or an SFTP program. cPanel is all online, and can be accessed through your web host – once logged into your web host, navigate to the cPanel page and find your WordPress site folder in the file manager. Compress the WordPress folder into a small file (usually a zip file) and then download it for manual safe keeping.

Alternatively, you can use the SFTP program which requires downloading a file manager such as FileZilla. Once in your file manager, log in using your STFP details and download every item linked to your WordPress site. Pop it all in a zip folder for ease and save the file somewhere you can access easily anytime.

Backing up your work has never been easier – and it has also never been more necessary. Building a WordPress site takes time and your time is worth so much, that making life a little easier for yourself can only be a good thing. Now, go and back up your work immediately!