How to Detect and Stop Ransomware

Looking for a technical deep dive on how to detect and stop ransomware in its tracks? View this on-demand webinar product demonstration for an inside look at Imperva file security technology. During this session, we explore how to monitor user access to file shares in real-time. You will leave with a technical understanding of how our solutions can help you: Leverage deception based detection capabilities to identify ransomware Block costly attacks before it’s too late Ensure and demonstrate compliance with regulations, such as PCI, SOX, and HIPAA Protect your business data against Ransomware Prevent costly downtime from Ransomware Watch the 30 minute product demo hosted by security experts. Please note that this session is for a technical audience.

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Protect Your Business Data Against Ransomware

40% of Businesses Get Hit by Ransomware. It Could Cost Your Business Millions. Cybercriminals are increasingly using ransomware to attack companies and organisations like yours, with expected losses for 2016 reaching £1 billion. In the Insider’s Guide to Defeating Ransomware: Protect Your Data at its Source, you’ll learn: Why ransomware attacks have increased 300% How ransomware can rapidly bring your business to a standstill What you need to do to protect your business data Read the eBook to see how you can stop ransomware in its tracks and prevent your business from being held hostage by cybercriminals.

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How To Prevent Ransomware Attacks Like WannaCry

As I'm sure you are all aware, on Friday 12th May 2017, a large cyber attack was launched which has been described by Europol as unprecedented in scale. The attack is called WannaCry (or WannaCrypt, WanaCrypt0r 2.0, Wanna Decryptor) and is a ransomware program targeting the Microsoft Windows operating system. By yesterday, there were believed to be more than 200,000 victims in 150 countries. However, that figure is likely to grow as people switch on their computers on Monday if their IT has not been updated and their security systems patched over the weekend. What Should I Do? If you're lucky enough to have avoided the attack so far, don't be complacent. You should still follow the steps below to do everything you can to prevent an attack: Check you have installed the Microsoft patch as this addresses the vulnerability used by Wannacry Fully educate your staff so they will know the difference between legitimate emails and sophisticated phishing emails. E-mail attachments or links to dropbox are some of the most widely reported sources of this attack. How Can I Prevent a Phishing Attack? Even companies with the most secure systems can be left wide open to phishing attacks because, more than ever, users are becoming the weakest link in network security. Phishing emails are becoming more and more sophisticated and one simple click is all it takes to cause devastation. Can all of your staff spot the difference between a legitimate email and a phishing scam? Do you know how many of your corporate email addresses are exposed online? If you're unsure, there are tools you can use to find out. Email Exposure Check Are you aware that many of the email addresses of your organisation are exposed online and are easy to find for cyber criminals? With these addresses they can launch social engineering, spear phishing and ransomware attacks. Click on the image to the right to access a free email exposure check which will show you just how many of your employees’ email addresses are exposed online. Security Awareness Training It is pretty much impossible to prevent phishing emails from entering your network and some of them look so authentic. The only way to be sure that your business is fully protected is to educate your staff. You can get first-hand training from a man who was once the worlds most wanted hacker to train employees to understand the mechanisms of spam, phishing, spear-phishing, malware and social engineering. Once your staff know how to spot a sophisticated phishing attack, your business data will be much safer. Does it Really Work? After a year of helping their customers train employees to manage the urgent IT security problems of social engineering, spear phishing and ransomware attacks, KnowBe4 analysed the statistics. Looking at the simulated phishing attacks, the overall Phish-proneTM percentage (people who clicked on the KnowBe4 phishing emails) dropped from an average of 15.9% to an amazing 1.2% in just 12 months. The combination of web-based training and very regular simulated phishing attacks really works.You can find more information on available tools to help you prevent a phishing attack here. Alternatively, please fill in the form below if you would like more information or a free email exposure check.

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North East Business Support Fund

If you are based in Northumberland, Tyne and Wear or County Durham and you are looking to improve your business processes or grow your online presence, you can now claim up to £2800 of free funding to help with the project. NBSL are giving North East businesses 35% funding towards business improvement projects costing between £3,000 and £8,000 including web design/development, product development and process improvement systems. You can check your eligibility here. As a registered provider of the North East Business Support Fund, we'd love to help you access this funding and grow your business online. Whether you need a responsive website, a business application, a secure online shop or something more custom - we'd love to hear from you. Please click on the links below to view some examples of our work

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Phishing for Money

The malicious email as a means with which to socially engineer an “attack” is undergoing something of a revival. Malicious emails are more targeted, at individual companies, probably company types, and in some cases specific individuals. Background information gleaned from social media and other publicly accessible sources is often used to seed these emails with familiar words, phrases or whole issues to lure the recipient into a false sense of security. A momentary lapse in concentration by one user in an organisation can have serious implications. One of our customers* recently had an incident which resulted in them having to roll back their financial system by 3 or 4 days. The restore was accomplished relatively easily, as they are like many organisations, running a VMware environment and take overnight snapshots of just about everything. The desktop clean up took a lot more resource and time, and they completely lost all of the effective work done on the finance and payroll system for the previous few days. One of our customers, (they don’t buy AV or email filtering from us) recently had an incident which resulted in them having to roll back their financial system by 3 or 4 days. Moral of the story It’s never a bad time to remind your staff about “Phishing Emails”. You may think it’s obvious when you get one but with the stresses of everyday office life that may not be so for everyone. Security Awareness Training Ecommnet have recently teamed with KnowBe4 to provide managed security awareness training for employees and other users specifically targeted at the use of email. Click here for more details. The anatomy of a phishing email Spoof Amazon Account Verification Email Spoof Apple iTunes Email   Attackers bypass technology so you need to educate your employees. KnowBe4 provides on-going, scheduled, simulated Phishing Security tests to keep employees on their toes and provides remedial on-line training if an employee falls for the simulated phishing attack.

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How Much Should a Website Cost?

If you have a budget of £200 for a car, do you expect to get a brand new BMW with all of the latest technologies? If you go to buy the latest HD TV, will £30 be enough? These sound like ridiculous questions, but when it comes to web and software development, for some reason so many people still expect to get so much on a very limited budget. How much does a new website actually cost? This completely depends on your individual requirements. One price does not fit all businesses and the cost depends on how much development work is required. Do you simply want one page online or do you want 50 pages to showcase your entire business? How about an online shop? Different features require varying levels of development work which obviously have to be factored into the price. Consider the fact that the average salary for a web developer in the UK is around £25000pa (an app developer is around £30K). That’s roughly £100 per day per developer (excluding any overheads). A standard web project usually involves 2 – 3 web designers and developers and around 5 days of development time. So – looking at the very basic maths and excluding the costs of any business overheads or software costs, the cost to a development company for a basic website designed from scratch is around £1500 and they obviously need to make a profit. Why should I pay that much when I’ve seen adverts for websites for so much less? I’m sure you’ve all seen adverts offering a complete business website for just £300 or £25 per month. Yes those companies do exist, but you always get what you pay for. A website at this price will usually just include a branded template with very limited options to customise anything at all, little or no support and limited bandwidth/storage. If your website is important to your business (which I’m sure you’ll agree it is!) then it is worth investing in web development to make your website a sales tool that works for your business, rather than just doing anything to get online as cheaply as possible. What will I get if I pay extra? If you opt for a web developer over the cheap DIY sites, then you will get so much more. We have designers and developers in-house who will meet with you to discuss exactly what you want to achieve with your business. That is always where we start because understanding your business is the key to getting it right. You will also get additional benefits such as: A dedicated UK support team Regular review meetings to make sure you’re happy with progress Training so that you can easily add content yourself and keep your site up to date Google Analytics so you can see exactly where your web traffic is coming from Hosting that suits your business needs and can expand when needed SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) advice and options We understand that most business owners are not web developers. Your strengths lie within your own business and you just want to get your brand out there to make money.  That’s where professional web designers and developers can help you. Should I disclose my budget? Yes! We always ask potential new clients what their budget is. This isn’t so that we can quote you a penny less no matter what you want, this is so that we know how much you can afford, and we can then look at the best options possible within that development time. It also means that we can both talk openly and honestly, and you do not end up with unrealistic expectations. We recently had an enquiry for a travel website where they wanted us to provide the design, branding, web development, online booking platform and all content for just £1200. A straight forward conversation from the very beginning saves a lot of time for everyone. What if I don’t have enough budget? If you’re desperate to get a new website but you can’t afford to pay for everything upfront – talk to your developer! There may be options for you to pay a deposit and then spread the payments out. There are also ways to get funding such as the NBSL fund (which is currently only available for businesses in Northumberland, Tyne & Wear and County Durham). They are offering a grant of up to 35% for business improvement projects costing between £3K and £8K (including web design projects). Please note the project costs here – they are for realistic business improvement projects not for the cheap DIY options.  You can find out more about this Business Support Fund here.If you want one page online and you’re not really bothered about the design, customisation and  support, then you can try the cheap DIY options. However, if you want to get advice, stand out from your competitors, have a website professionally designed around what you want to achieve and have ongoing support available (to name a few of the benefits), then work out your budget and speak to a developer.

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Grab a Coffee – We know Online Security is boring but you need to read this!

In today’s post, I want to talk about computer secur – no, never mind; you’ve fallen asleep. Wake yourself up and read on. I'm not going to bore you with the technical details, I'm going to talk about why online security (stop yawning!) can be major hard work when it comes to selling & marketing the benefits to customers and the importance of having it in place. So before we begin, feel free to grab a coffee… or some matchsticksHaving published blogs and executed marketing campaigns on a variety of topics, we often find that when it comes to cyber security, we never get that same traction with our audience. There are plenty of variables to why this might be, but on the whole and despite its importance, we can agree that this isn’t necessarily the most interesting topic of conversation. Every year you will see a handful of news articles showing how some huge corporation has been hacked and held to ransom for simply not having the right solution in place to protect them. And only is it then – when it’s too late – that they decide they should act on it. And funnily enough, it’s at this point that other people, particularly those exterior to the organisation, show some interest – and mainly because somebody has dropped the ball – but still never act on it themselves. Why Do Companies Still Get Caught Out? But why is this the case anyway? Why do companies still get caught out with inadequate data protection? Let’s consider some reasons. They're Too Busy: They’re always too busy (no, seriously). And sure, we understand that - we’re all busy... but what if we focus on the fact that a lot of solutions these days can be deployed within minutes, taking up very little valuable time and run seamlessly in the background with minimal disruption. Protecting a business does not have to take up much time at all - and as most solutions now don't rely on hardware, it's even quicker and easier to do. Many business owners still believe that IT Security requires huge amounts of hardware and integration time - and that they just don't have time to do it. Trust us - the cost and time involved in not doing it is much greater! Lack of Understanding: We don't mean this as an insult. IT Security can be a complex and equally mind-numbing topic – especially with such an overwhelming amount of choice, filled with alien language and jargon. It could certainly be made a little simpler to understand for those of us who aren’t already familiar with this field. It Won't Happen To Me: Perhaps we can put it down to naivety. If you take the “it won’t happen to me” or “I’ll solve it when it happens” approach, you could not be more wrong. You could try to be; but would not be successful. You’re setting yourself up for disaster. With the above in mind, maybe it’s because people genuinely don’t care – at least not until they are victims. I’d like to think that people don’t drive around at night, doing 70+mph with no lights on, no seatbelts on and their brakes permanently disabled and expect nothing bad to happen. Apart from potential disfigurement/impending death, there’s really not a big difference between this and the topic at hand. Right - Now It's Time to Grab that Coffee So - we've talked about why so many people are turned off by IT security. Its a boring minefield of information to wade through when you have so many more interesting things to do. However - to put it simply - you absolutely must have measures in place to protect your business or you could literally lose everything. Instead of boring you with more facts and statistics (and stories of doom and gloom) - how about we just say that we can protect your websites, apps and business data from hacking and data theft within minutes. Simple. Done. You can go back to what you were doing. Many solutions these days are that simple to put in place. We can tell you all about the technical details and infrastructure that make them work if you really want to know - but more than likely you just want to know that your business data is safe. Take a look at some of the Online Security Solutions that we provide, or alternatively, if you'd like a jargon-free conversation with a member of our team, please get in touch.

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Financial Services Webinar: Defend Against the Data Miner

Sophisticated Data Thieves Lurk Where You Least Suspect Data miners are sophisticated thieves that tap, explore, and drain your financial institution’s databases of valuable information. Whether in the office next door, or a thousand miles away, data miners steal your customer and account information and leave little trace. Watch the webinar, “Defend Against the Data Miner,” to discover: How behavior analysis and deception technology identify insider threats Why data activity monitoring provides comprehensive coverage Why a proactive approach with visibility can quickly stop data miners  

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Don’t Be a Cyber Attack Statistic: Read the DDoS Trend Report

Did you know that at least 20 percent of all cyber attacks last more than five days? If one of your applications is attacked, you could be unable to access that software for up to eight days. Even worse, attacks on applications are likely to happen more than once. The Annual Global DDoS Threat Landscape Report includes information on: 2015-2016 DDoS attacks, including size, duration and frequency Botnets for hire, which allow anyone to pay for an attack against another party How the latest trends impact your own DDoS mitigation efforts Get Imperva's free Annual Global DDoS Threat Landscape Report now and start protecting your organisation. *Source: https://www.imperva.com/

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How Do Businesses Convey Trust Online?

We have recently dealt with many travel agents who struggle to convey the same level of in-branch trust on their website. The personality and traits that their customers love are often lost. In view of this, we put together a guide to help - which applies to all businesses (not just the travel industry). It’s already the case for most industries that a web presence is required to compete – but for some, the internet can be an intimidating arena and consequently a reason they are yet to transition to the digital world. Another reason could be their current base of loyal customers is built on years of physical and human interaction, word of mouth and recommendations…  so how do companies, still holding on to their traditional values, make the leap without diluting or jeopardising their long standing level of trust and quality? What does your First Impression Look Like? First impressions count for a lot. When a customer walks into your branch, how do you portray a warm and welcoming image? What information does a new customer need from you that will help them feel at ease with doing business with you? I’m sure you have so many answers to those questions – but – how do you then translate the intangible elements so online customers get the same first impression? Start with listing down your key values which set you apart. Put them down on paper. Then have a think about what they look like to a customer. Is it a happy, welcoming image? Is it the diversity of your staff with a wealth of knowledge? Think about it even down to the colour scheme of your branch and what makes your customers feel happy when they’re buying from you.  Now that you have a list of your key attributes which create the first impression you want, it’s time to get that same image across on your website. Use branding and images that reflect what you’re all about. Your values, your staff, your customer service. You could even use images of the staff who your existing customers have come to know and love. Be a personality and portray that welcoming image and the trust you rely on. Once you have the right first impression, you need to look at usability. Customers find it easy to come into the branch/store and talk to you because you do all of the work for them. If they’re buying online, you need to make sure that their online experience is as simple as possible too. If you make it difficult, you instantly start to lose their attention.   What do your Customers really think of you? I know that we’ve said it before, but another way to make sure that you portray the right image online is to use your customer reviews. If other people buy from you and are willing to take the time to shout about their fabulous experience, it will instantly affect the first impression of new customers landing on your site. Customer ratings and reviews count for a lot more these days. That first-hand experience is now a far more valuable and reliable source of information.Speaking of customers, and their (hopefully) glowing reviews, how do they contact you? Obviously they could still stop by your shop but what about those visiting your website for the first time? Ultimately, you want people to get in touch, therefore, call to actions such as contact information and enquiry features need to be bold and reach out to the visitor, rather than them having to find it. As we said above, it’s important to completely cater for the customer so their online experience is seamless and effortless. Ever thought about using surveys? Finally, another great way that you can utilise your valuable customers, is by asking them for their opinion about your site. Ask them to have a look and see what they think. Do they like it? Does it portray your image correctly? What would they do to improve it? You can use tools such as Surveymonkey to collect valuable information like this which you can then really use to your advantage. We hope that for those of you currently considering a move to online have found this post useful. If you want any extra help about how you can make this transition, please get in touch and we will be very happy to help.

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Traditional Travel Agents: How to portray the right image online

On a recent post comparing OTA’s and traditional travel agencies, we received comments from far and wide offering a variety of opinions on the matter. It was interesting to note that the comments favoured towards the more traditional agencies highlighted one particular element when it came down to human interaction: TRUST. It’s already the case for most industries that a web presence is required to compete – but for some, the internet can be an intimidating arena and consequently a reason they are yet to transition to the digital world. Another reason could be their current base of loyal customers is built on years of physical and human interaction, word of mouth and recommendations…  so how do companies, still holding on to their traditional values, make the leap without diluting or jeopardising their long standing level of trust and quality? What does your First Impression Look Like? First impressions count for a lot. When a customer walks into your branch, how do you portray a warm and welcoming image? What information does a new customer need from you that will help them feel at ease with doing business with you? I’m sure you have so many answers to those questions – but – how do you then translate the intangible elements so online customers get the same first impression? Start with listing down your key values which set you apart. Put them down on paper. Then have a think about what they look like to a customer. Is it a happy, welcoming image? Is it the diversity of your staff with a wealth of knowledge? Think about it even down to the colour scheme of your branch and what makes your customers feel happy when they’re buying from you.  Now that you have a list of your key attributes which create the first impression you want, it’s time to get that same image across on your website. Use branding and images that reflect what you’re all about. Your values, your staff, your customer service. You could even use images of the staff who your existing customers have come to know and love. Be a personality and portray that welcoming image and the trust you rely on. Once you have the right first impression, you need to look at usability. Customers find it easy to come into the branch and talk to you because you do all of the work for them. If they’re booking online, you need to make sure that their booking experience is as simple as possible too. If you make it difficult, you instantly start to lose their attention.   What do your Customers really think of you? I know that we’ve said it before, but another way to make sure that you portray the right image online is to use your customer reviews. If other people buy from you and are willing to take the time to shout about their fabulous experience, it will instantly affect the first impression of new customers landing on your site. Customer ratings and reviews count for a lot more these days rather than how many stars a hotel or resort might be officially awarded. That first-hand experience is now a far more valuable and reliable source of information.Speaking of customers, and their (hopefully) glowing reviews, how do they contact you? Obviously they could still stop by your shop but what about those visiting your website for the first time? Ultimately, you want people to get in touch, therefore, call to actions such as contact information and enquiry features need to be bold and reach out to the visitor, rather than them having to find it. As we said above, it’s important to completely cater for the customer so their online experience is seamless and effortless. Ever thought about using surveys? Finally, another great way that you can utilise your valuable customers, is by asking them for their opinion about your site. Ask them to have a look and see what they think. Do they like it? Does it portray your image correctly? What would they do to improve it? You can use tools such as Surveymonkey to collect valuable information like this which you can then really use to your advantage. We hope that for those of you currently considering a move to online have found this post useful. If you want any extra help about how you can make this transition, please get in touch and we will be very happy to help.

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Web Attack Survival Guide

Web attacks were the number one cause of data breaches in 2015. 63% of confirmed data breaches involved weak, default or stolen passwords, and a whopping 95% of confirmed web app breaches were financially motivated! It is vitally important that you understand the online threats that face your business – and what you can do to eradicate them.Imperva have put together a Web Attack Survival Guide to help you fully understand the threat landscape and the technologies you can use to safeguard your website from attack. It provides a step-by-step guide so your business can survive. Topics covered include: Understand the Threat Develop a Security Response Plan Locate and Assess Applications and Servers Strengthen Application, Network, and End-Point Security Controls Counter the Attack: Monitoring and Tuning Procedures When Under Attack Bring in the Experts: Optional Security Consulting Services Conduct a Post Mortem of the Attack Web attacks are on the increase so don’t be of the mindset that “it won’t happen to you” because everyone is a target. Act now. Understand the threats and protect your web assets before it’s too late!

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Choosing a Web Application Firewall (WAF)

The Internet is a scary and dangerous place, or so the press keep telling us. There are stories almost every day of an online attack taking place and the consequent loss or exposure of customer data. When the very nature of what we do is to put our assets in the direct firing line of such attacks, by enabling literally everyone to connect to our web server, what else can you expect? But let's examine that last statement a bit further, “let everyone connect to our webserver”; is that really what we want to do? On the one hand the marketers encourage traffic to our web shop, it’s their job, surely we do want any and everyone to be able to connect? Well no, anyone and everyone is not what we want or need, we want legitimate traffic only, real users who are shoppers or browsers there to take proper advantage of the services you are offering, or real Google* bots there to help you get your site ranked and visible. (*there are other search engines available) What we don’t want is to allow the bad bots, the scrapers, the false search bots, the automatic bots that are scanning your site for vulnerabilities or the users who are testing your defences manually with hacking tools, picking at your locks. Of all the web traffic hitting your website, the proportion of welcome traffic compared with unwelcome is probably less than 50%!* Use a Web Application Firewall  (WAF) A WAF, such as the cloud service offering from Imperva called Incapsula combines a number of features to provide a complete outer layer of security for your web presence. Using a Web Application Firewall like Incapsula ensures that your website or application is always protected against any type of application layer hacking attempt. Choosing a Web Application Firewall There are many different web application firewall solutions to consider - all with different capabilities. We have looked at the solutions available and have tried out some of the alternatives, but our WAF of choice is definitely Incapsula by Imperva. Incapsula is the only WAF which has been positioned as a leader for the last three consecutive years in the Gartner Magic Quadrant for Web Application Firewalls. It has been independently validated as the market leader - and for good reason.Here are a few links to the independent reviews so you can make up your own mind: The Gartner Magic Quadrant for WAF has rated Imperva as the only Leader for three years running, 2014, 2015, and 2016 – Click Here Forrester’s 2015 Wave Report for DDoS Service Providers rates Imperva as having the industry’s strongest current offering – Click Here The 2016 ‘Top10Review’ of DDoS protection rates Imperva as #1, with a Gold Award - Click here

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How Much of Your Web Traffic is Good Traffic?

The recently published Incapsula bot traffic report 2016 has some surprising insights into the good and bad of website traffic hitting your website. On average, automaton or bot traffic now comprises just over 50% of all web traffic. This means that of all the visitors to your website less than half are likely to be actual humans. More worryingly, more than half of the non human traffic, the "bots", are likely to be malicious or "bad bots", overall almost 30% of your traffic is likely to be in this "bad bot" category and the trend is on the up. malicious traffic accounts for almost 30% Imperva Incapsula With Incapsula you can eliminate all unwanted web traffic to keep your website and the data behind it secure, and to increase overall performance. Incapsula is a subscription-based cloud service that's easy to deploy, and according to Gartner is the most effective web application firewall in the market. Download the full Bot Traffic infographic here. You can find out more about the full features of Incapsula and how it works here. Alternatively,  please use the contact form below for more information and to arrange a free trial.

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Google Chrome: SSL Connection Indication

Google and others have been aiming to make the use of website certificates easier, cheaper and therefore more common amongst website providers. The intent being that this makes the internet a safer, more reliable and trustworthy place for everyone. One key issue is making something technically complex, visible and easy to recognise by the average user. It's now very clear that SHA-1 signature algorithm is well and truly compromised and should not be used to issue certificates at all. As a consequence of this, Firefox and Google Chrome now no longer accept older SHA-1 certificates when they encounter them on a website and flag the site as "insecure". It's important that the average user understands what's going on and whether or not they can trust the connection and therefore the website they are looking at. This flagging indication of the status of the SSL connection has undergone a number of iterations in Chrome especially, as the process has been evolving over the past year of so. A recent change in Chrome has removed the capability to immediately see the actual certificate that is being used by a website. Until this latest release, it used to be possible to view the details of the certificate with a couple of clicks of the mouse. In it's place there's a link to "Learn More" which leads the user to a comprehensive explanation of the certificate process. Now it's only by firing up the Developer Tools window that it's possible to see the certificate information.A really detailed explanation of Chrome HTTPS UX and the thinking behind it is on one of Google’s Security Engineer’s blog noncombatant’s blog post. Mozilla and The End of SHA-1 on the Public Web Decoding Chrome’s HTTPS User Interface SHA-1 Is Broken If you need any help or advice regarding SSL certification, please get in touch with our team.

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Are you ready to embrace Travel Technology?

Following on from my previous blogs (Can Travel Agents Really Compete and the Travel Agent’s Survival Guide 2017) we have received a lot of very interesting comments and points for discussion – so thank you to all of you who got in touch. Being a Travel Agent isn’t an easy job. Providing a highly comprehensive, personal level of service is definitely the key to success – but I still stand by the fact that you have to embrace new technologies to make sure you get your message out there to your customers. So – how do you do this? Start with your website When was the last time you updated your site? Does it now look dated? How do you compare to your competitors? These are all valid questions to ask yourself – but more importantly – is your website mobile friendly? If you want to stay ahead of the game, you need a fresh website that provides an excellent user experience, that works across all mobile devices and which inspires your customers to travel. If your website does none of these things – then you need to invest some time and money in this to bring yourself up to date. Your website is literally your biggest sales tool and if it’s done and marketed correctly, customers will come straight to you. I personally would never purchase anything from a business whose website was outdated and difficult to use when there are so many better options out there. Take a look at the website that we recently redeveloped for Rough Guides – how does your website compare to this one? The benefits of redeveloping your website far outweigh any initial outlay so it’s something you should seriously consider. Define your Message and Shout about it As you know, there are so many travel companies out there, all competing for business. Find what sets you apart from your competitors and market the hell out of it using the latest technologies. Whether it is a niche area of expertise, extra levels of service that no-one else provides or something completely different – get that message out there far and wide. Once you have a new website to market, make sure that message is strong and that its also consistent across your Facebook, Twitter and Instagram pages. You will also need to work hard on Search Engine Optimisation (SEO), but keep that message unique and strong to really stand out and use Social Media as much as you can. Your new website should be integrated with your social media feeds anyway so this will make this task an easier process. Use Reviews Customer reviews can really make a big difference when it comes to getting new business and technology helps you to get your reviews noticed. Your customers buy from you for a reason. They keep coming back to you because they love the service and expertise that you provide – so why not get them to shout about you too? Everything is on the internet now, and people love reviews. I don’t book any accommodation without checking Trip Advisor first and I wouldn’t employ any tradesperson without seeking positive reviews. The same applies to the travel industry so ask your customers to write reviews and testimonials for your business and get them out there via Facebook, Google and your website. Add an additional level of service Customers love to feel valued. They also love hassle-free travel. You already do all that you can to make the booking process as easy and informative as possible for your customers, but why not go that extra mile? Most people now expect to have everything they need on their mobile device. Consider investing in a Travel Itinerary app for your customers so that they have all of their travel information with them on their mobile wherever they go. The app can also include local tourist information and recommended activities to really enhance their travel experience. This is a great way of showing your customers that you care and that you're a modern, forward-thinking company who is moving with the times.I hope that you find all of this information useful and that it helps you to stay ahead in a very competitive market. If you need any assistance or would like to speak to us about developing a travel website or app, please get in touch with our team.

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Travel Agent’s Survival Guide 2017

It’s safe to say that the travel market is a challenging one. There is so much competition out there and you need to make sure that you’re seen, heard, and more importantly – that you’re the one people think of when they want to book their holiday. So how do you do this? It’s actually not rocket science – it’s more about having the know-how and tools to do what you do best and to shout about it. Following on from my previous blog about traditional travel agencies vs online booking agents, I’ve put together a Travel Agent’s Survival Guide to help you to stay ahead of your competitors. 1. Start with the Facts With so much political unrest and the threat of terrorism, it’s no surprise that people are nervous about travelling to certain destinations. I’m afraid to say that I am one of those people – and whilst I refuse to give into terrorists, I also refuse to put my family in harm’s way. This is a huge reason for people to turn to the traditional travel agent. Arm yourself with the facts. Know about your destinations inside out, and have answers to those all-important questions ready to reassure your customers. If customers feel they can trust you to look after them and their loved ones – they will feel confident to book with you every time. You simply cannot get that level of service online. 2. Go that Extra Mile Unfortunately, good customer service is often hard to find. If that one person goes out of their way to help you – it really stands out. Listen to your customers, give them what they need – and then give them even more. If you provide outstanding service, your customers will shout about you on social media. Ask your customers to rate you on your Facebook Page, on Google and on Twitter. Positive reviews and recommendations are the best form of marketing out there and they're completely free! All you have to do is be excellent at what you’re already doing. 3. Re-educate the Do-It-Yourself Traveller Do-it-yourself travellers tend to use online booking websites because they think it’s easier and saves time – but what if the traveller has special requests or needs to change their booking? The do-it-yourself travellers need to see that it’s actually easier and much more beneficial to go through a travel agent. But how do you re-educate them? In my opinion, the best way to do this is through your marketing (and your customer reviews of course). You need to really showcase your expertise and the benefits of booking through you. Be a one-stop-shop where nothing is too much trouble (even the family with one vegan, one coeliac and a lactose intolerant child). Take the pain out of every element of the booking and you will stand out a mile. 4. Technology, Technology, Technology You have to embrace new technologies. It’s as simple as that. How does your website look to potential customers? Can they find you on Google? Can they use your site easily on mobile devices? If not, then you need to do something about this. I don’t know anyone who doesn’t do their research before going on holiday. Whilst you are the experts and you have all the knowledge to guide your customers, they need to be able to find you online and they need to see, at a glance, what you’re about. Use Facebook, Twitter, Instagram. Post beautiful images of your destinations to inspire people to travel. Shout about your excellent customer service and knowledge, and have the technology to back this up. Your website needs to be fresh, modern, easy-to-use and mobile friendly. It needs to be inspiring. If it is none of these things – why would customers choose you over your competitors? 5. What about an App? Offering your very own free travel itinerary app shows customers that you care about them. It shows them that you have their best interests at heart and that you want to make their trip as easy and enjoyable as possible. Why wouldn’t your customers want all of their booking information on their mobile phone rather than carrying 20 pieces of paper around with them? Offer this service and it's another string to your bow. All of the above points are, in my opinion, essential for travel agents to not only survive, but to thrive in a challenging market. You know your customers better than anyone but you have to keep up with the latest technology, trends and information to maintain a high level of customer service.

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Can Travel Agencies really compete with big Online Booking Agents?

Booking.com have been given the award for Europe's Leading Online Travel Agency 2016 at the World Travel Awards. Last year they won the award for the World's Leading Online Travel Agency Website. We've decided to take a look at the possible reasons behind this, and if traditional travel agencies can really compete. It’s safe to say that you will have heard of Booking.com. You might have even used it yourself. It is easy to navigate and has everything a traveller could possibly need to plan and book their perfect trip…or does it? Whilst the website is very comprehensive and worthy of its awards, many would argue that the personal touch is still best when they are planning on booking their trip of a lifetime. If you know where you want to go and when, then Booking.com or similar sites are ideal. However, if you are unsure about your destination and would like some advice, or you don’t want the hassle of booking every individual part of your trip yourself, that’s when the traditional Travel Agents come in. Travel Agents can do things that the internet just can’t – but – customers still need to be able to find an agency to speak to.Travel Agents not only sell their holidays, but they also sell expertise and guidance – from the best time of year to visit a particular destination, to the best resorts to go to based on the individual’s needs. Identify what you’re good at – and shout about it! Whether it’s a niche type of holiday you offer, or you go that extra mile to take the hassle out of the booking process, you need to get that message to your customers. How do you stand out in the crowd? Shout about your Strengths – Everywhere! Once you know what sets you apart from your competitors, you need to get that message out to as many potential customers as you can. Use your website, social media and customer newsletters to keep customers and potential customers aware of the services you provide. You can even use an app to get notifications to your customers about news or special offers. Get Your Customers to Help! These days, most people won’t make a purchase or booking without checking reviews. Contact your customers and ask them to post reviews about your services on their social media, on Google and on your Facebook page. Positive reviews are excellent for business, and you can incorporate these into your marketing strategy. If you happen to get any negative reviews – don’t worry! You can also use these to see if there are areas you need to improve on, and then let your customers know that you’ve listened to what they had to say. Embrace New Technologies I know we keep going on about it – but keeping up with the mobile trends is vitally important! Make sure your website is fully functional on mobile devices or your customers might be pushed towards your competitors. Use the Resources Available Most companies do not have the time or money to invest in huge amounts of market research. However, ABTA and Google have released reports into the latest travel booking trends. Study these and make sure you’re doing everything you can to keep up with customer trends.So, to summarise, huge companies with extensive marketing budgets and a huge online presence are hard to compete with if you are targeting the same market share as they are. However, most Travel Agencies that we speak to have a niche offering, and are more about giving customers quality, service, expertise and the personal touch. If you use the research and statistics available, keep up with the latest technology and trends, and continue to provide excellent service - then we think you'll be just fine. If you are struggling to keep up with the latest technology though - please give us a call. We'd be happy to point you in the right direction.

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Travel Agents: Go Mobile or Go Home?

Following the recent article based on the ABTA 2016 report, Google have also released their own statistics which show that 90% of consumers used a desktop computer for holiday bookings, yet they relied heavily on their smartphones for researching prior to making that final booking*.Whilst many users may switch devices simply out of genuine preference or routine, here are few points that I feel, from my experience, are worth mentioning that can help encourage a pleasant end-to-end booking experience on a mobile device with the aim to retaining your visitor: Keep it simple. Less is more when it comes to mobile websites and because of the reduced dimensions, it’s important for the experience to be as straight forward and stress-free as possible. This is particularly important with calendars and menus. Think with your digits. That’s right – your thumbs and fingers. Make sure the “targets” are easily within reach and large enough to be selectable. Keep it concise. There’s no room for waffle on a smaller device. Get to the point and go easy on the text to keep things clean rather than cluttered. The average user’s attention span is incredibly short, so make sure the words you choose are the right ones. Keep it fast. Whilst mobile internet is constantly improving, it’s still considerably slower when Wi-Fi might not be available. We’re an impatient bunch so make sure page loading speeds are kept to a minimum. Another feature that speeds up the process is predictive search and autofill. Keep forms straightforward. When it comes to the booking stage, this can be where most people switch devices or simply switch off. Request the minimum yet most important information where possible. It’s important to optimise usability through the technology available in a smartphone. Taking advantage of features such as GPS to pre-populate forms or splitting forms into steps/stages to give the appearance of less for example, can encourage the user. Keep payment secure and convenient. Provide options for payment methods whilst also keeping the page features to a minimum. Presenting this on a single screen can save additional loading time. To ensure this, take advantage of one tap and drop down options for pre-defined options such as dates or payment type to avert any fiddly typing. When a visitor to your website decides to leave or stay: the mobile user experience is huge factor and must be a positive one to allow a start to finish conversion on that single mobile device. The design and navigation is key. It should encourage users to stay and finish their journey; rather than make them reach for their laptop or plonk themselves in front of their desktop, which can potentially act a distraction sending them off course to another website. This opens up a great opportunity for travel companies to close the gap in what is fast becoming a mobile dominated world. And if your website is already optimised for mobile use and performing well, the next level to consider to further benefit your customers, would be a mobile app. Keeping this streamlined and secure allows for a wonderfully simple end-to-end user experience and would help set travel companies apart from the competition.*Source: Sojern Internal, U.S., H1 2015 vs. H1 2016; Google Internal, U.S., Jun. 2015–Jun. 2016.

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Online Travel Booking Trends 2016

ABTA have now released their report into the holiday habits of UK consumers for 2016 and it is a very interesting read. Despite the ever increasing terrorist threats, UK consumers still want to travel – albeit sometimes to alternative locations – but they still greatly value their annual holidays which is good news for Travel and Tourism organisations. The statistics that interest us most – and which you should pay careful attention to if you’re a travel company yourself – is the method people use to book their holiday. As many as 76% of people booked their holiday online in 2016 with the PC being the most popular choice. 23% booked using a tablet and 13% used their mobile phone. Out of the 13% who used a mobile for their booking – a whopping 56% said that the process was difficult compared to booking on a PC. What does this mean for Travel Companies? You need a strong web presence across all devices If 76% of UK consumers are booking holidays online, you need to make sure that your web presence is strong and that customers can easily find you in the first place – you certainly can’t rely on the remaining 24% calling you or walking through your door.You need a mobile-friendly website which can be used on all devices. 80% of internet users now own a smartphone and the average web activity is now 50.62% mobile. This means that mobile has over taken PC/desktop browsers across the board for the first time since the beginning of the internet and this trend will only continue. If your website isn’t optimised for mobile use, you are missing out on some serious business. You can check if your current site is mobile friendly here. SEO As well as a mobile friendly site, you will need to invest time in SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) as well as your marketing activities to make sure that you appear in relevant internet searches. It is also worth checking to see where you appear in relevant searches. If you do not have access to Google Analytics, the best way of doing this is to use the incognito mode in Google Chrome (so that your previous browsing history and trends do not affect the results). You can do this by: In the top-right corner of the browser window, select the Menu (computer) or More (mobile). Select New Incognito Window(computer) or New incognito tab (mobile). A new window will open with the Incognito icon Once you’re Incognito, carry out a few searches and see if and where you appear, and who your competition is. Make sure the user experience (UX) is seamless People hate websites that are difficult to use. If the website takes too long to load or the information they need isn’t easy to find, they won’t waste time trying to use your site. The average time a user will wait for a page to load is between 0.5 and 2 seconds. People will not return to a website that took more than 4 seconds to load Amazon found every 100ms of page delay cost them 1% in sales. A broker could lose $4 million in revenues per millisecond if their electronic trading platform is 5 milliseconds behind the competition. Source: http://blog.gigaspaces.com/amazon-found-every-100ms-of-latency-cost-them-1-in-sales/ You must make sure that your website provides the best user experience (UX) possible to make booking with you a simple, enjoyable process. Have you tried using your own site? Give it a go and see if you need to make any improvements. Stay on the right side of Google You should make sure that you have a valid SSL certificate on your website. If you’re not sure – just take a look at your URL. If it says Https you’re good to go – if it just says http then you need to get a certificate and have it installed by your web providers. 25% of SSL-enabled websites sit within the page-1 results on google. You are penalised by google if your website doesn’t sit within their guidelines and in 2017 if you’re not on SSL it’ll be game over for your SEO. Online Booking should be easy This ties in with the user experience and sounds straight forward – but unfortunately it often is not. If booking a holiday ends up being stressful – it defeats the object of what the consumer is trying to achieve! Your website should have an easy-to-use booking engine that allows the customer to find, book and pay for the holiday of their choice. The PC is still the most favourable choice of device for booking holidays online because people find it easier – but it is possible to allow your customers to book with you on their mobile – and to provide an enjoyable experience of this (which many holiday companies seem to fail on).  To back this up, even further, Google have released their own report which shows that consumers carry out most of their research on their mobile device. On weekends, mobile queries related to travel outweigh those on desktops. They then tend to revert back to their desktop to make the actual booking though. You can definitely use this statistic to your advantage - investing in a user-friendly mobile booking system could set you far ahead of the competition. Virtual Tours Another option to consider is adding an additional dimension to your website. If you can allow customers to virtually ‘walk through’ your resorts to really get a feel for the place they are thinking of booking and spending their hard-earned cash on – wouldn’t this increase your bookings? Planning for 2017 Going forward in 2017, the trends show that accelerated mobile pages (AMP) are going to be huge for news/article websites and they will help to greatly improve SEO. There will also be more focus on interactive content, videos and illustrations, with the goal being to provide maximum amount of information in a short space of time. If your website contains reams of text – it’s time for a change. All of these points need to be considered carefully so you can make sure you keep up with the holiday booking trends which are turning increasingly online, increasingly mobile and need to be delivered as quickly as possible to customers. If you need any advice, please get in touch with our Travel Development team – we’d love to help you achieve your goals for 2017.

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