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March 2015


Sick of Your Systems Management Toolset?

By NewsNo Comments

IT Systems Management toolsets are becoming increasingly more complex. Whether you have tried one single solution or are using multiple products for patching, remote control, software distribution and inventory, so much work goes in to just managing and maintaining these tools. We invite you to join industry expert and Head of Desktop Management Services at Verismic Robert Brown for an informative webinar where he will share the top six issues IT professionals are sick of dealing with and best options to overcome them.

Join us: Wednesday 29 April 2015

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About the Presenter: Robert Brown is the head of Desktop Management Services at Verismic and is responsible for all software delivery services, which includes Security Updates and software distribution deployments. Rob Brown has 15+ years background in IT industry and within the last 10 years has focused on the systems management space.

A patchy channel

By Managed Service Providers, Patch ManagementNo Comments

Downtime: one word to strike fear into the hearts of even the hardiest IT manager.

Avoiding downtime at pretty much all costs is the name of the game now. However, with the reliance on Microsoft products and their attendant regular security updates, some downtime will inevitably be necessary to roll out patches to keep systems secure.

The problem is that the more updates there are, the more downtime is needed to update and install patches. This can be a challenge for customers, but for IT service providers and managed services companies it can be a real headache. Invariably, your customers have a very limited window where systems can be taken offline to install patches.

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“Do your own research and don’t be afraid to look elsewhere when advising customers about patches and security vulnerabilities.” – Ashley Leonard, President and CEO of Verismic

This is all well and good when there are only a few patches, such as in Microsoft’s January update, but when there are a large number (generally eight or more), it can be a real challenge. Microsoft has its own rating system for its patches: critical, important, moderate, and low.

On a typical Patch Tuesday we will see a small number rated critical, and the rest are invariably rated important. If taken at face value, you’d presume to roll out critical patch updates first, and work down the list.

But what may be a critical patch for one of your customers could in fact be almost unnecessary for others due to the different systems they use.

Read the full article on

Ashely Leonard pasword reset quote|

Common helpdesk complaints businesses face – and how to fix them

By Managed Service Providers, NewsNo Comments

Help your users help themselves!

Working on a helpdesk can give you a sense of deja vu when it comes to some of the difficulties you hear from users. If you have heard a problem once, you have heard it a thousand times.

Whether you are a newbie on the support desk or a seasoned pro, many helpdesk problems that clog up the helpline can easily be avoided or solved. In doing so, you can save time and money and concentrate on the more interesting and critical challenges.

Here are some of the most dreaded helpdesk issues that plague IT staff, and how they can be avoided.

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1. I can’t remember my password

Forgetting a password is by far the most common problem users call up the helpdesk with. The reason behind this (aside from people’s inability to remember several passwords, each requiring a lower case, an upper case character, a number, a symbol, etc.) is that people think calling the helpdesk is the easiest and most efficient way of solving their problem.

“Lost passwords and Active Directory password resets are still the leading cause of service desk calls,” says Ashley Leonard, president and CEO at Verismic. “A lack of education [and often business technology] can mean that some users will still see a helpdesk call as the easiest and quickest way to sort out their problem.”

He says helpdesks need a self-service password reset tool that allows end users to control and reset personal passwords without calling the helpdesk. “End users, including remote workers, should be able to reset personal passwords by correctly answering a series of private questions. In many cases, a password reset tool can reduce helpdesk calls by up to 40%.”

2. My PC is too slow

Is the user running umpteen applications at once? Other reasons could be that system scans have been scheduled for the wrong time of day when the user needs their computer the most.

Izak Oosthuizen, consultant at Exec Sys, says that to reduce the volume of the most common IT maintenance complaints, such as a slow PC or network, organisations should look to automate maintenance items as much as possible with increased use of automation tools.

“Try automating the following ongoing, critical support tasks, including security patches, apps such as browsers, the scheduling of regular disk defragmentation, temporary file deletion and enabling real-time scanning,” he says.

3. I can’t print anything!

It’s the call helpdesk people dread – the user cannot print anything. The obvious things to look for are to see if the printer is turned on, is loaded with paper (in the correct tray) and has enough toner or ink. The trick to making these calls go away is to have users check for these issues first before calling in.

If it doesn’t appear to be an obvious answer then a connection problem could be the cause, i.e. the printer is not connected (or indeed the computer!)

David Weeks, channel strategies manager at N-able Technologies says that issues such as this can be resolved through a self-healing automation policy, which is typically implemented via the MSP’s remote monitoring and management (RMM) platform.

“Once the MSP has rectified the initial reactive issue, from there they can look at the subcategories that may have led to this issue occurring in the first place. If the print spooler is commonly filling up – why is this happening?” he says.

4. My mobile device isn’t syncing my emails?

According to Charlie Goulding, managing director of IT support firm Greencorn, this is quite common and quickly solved by ensuring that “push” is enabled on a phone so that new data is pushed to a user’s phone from the server.

“If you are using an Android phone, you may want to try removing all accounts on your phone, and then clearing all the data and cache files before shutting the phone down. Next, turn the phone back on and re-add your accounts. The ‘turning it on and off again’ method may sound overly simplistic, but it does in many cases solve syncing issues,” he says.

5. I can’t find anything in Windows 8

Windows 8 is a real departure from previous versions and some people find it difficult to get used to. Just remember that you can search for and find anything in Windows 8 using the top right search function, and that you can always get back to the last screen you were on by hovering at the top left of your screen – your active windows will pop up and you can select amongst them, says Goulding.

6. Why is the internet/network so slow?

The main cause of a user suffering slow internet access is usually down to malware or spyware. This is when you need your users to be honest with you and find out about sites they may have visited or applications they have downloaded.

Another reason why the internet or network may appear slow to the user could be because the user is connecting to the network via wireless. In an office building not everywhere will get a good signal, or could just be too far away from the Wi-Fi router.

7. My computer/application isn’t working!

In most cases, an application or hardware failure complaint is usually caused by a user’s lack of knowledge. Oosthuizen says that users must be “educated via scheduled training sessions; try creating a knowledge base for users and install workflow/procedures for complicated, propriety in-house software.”

8. I can’t log in!

Another common call to the helpdesk and reasons behind this range from the user leaving Caps Lock on when entering their password to an expired password that the user forgot to reset. Again, a self-service reset system should solve this issue.

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MSPs Need A Simple Systems Management Tool

By Managed Service Providers, NewsNo Comments

It would be easy to switch off when people start talking about cloud. The subject is not only worn out, but is one that means so many different things to so many people. As a result of that jaded confusion, there is a danger that some of the potential opportunities cloud presents could be missed.

MicroScope garnered opinions from across the channel about what cloud technology could offer resellers this year and where efforts would be best placed for those looking to grow their businesses. The good news is that there are plenty of suggestions, and with Microsoft Windows Server 2003 support ending in July, it is a good time to encourage those running on traditional setups to look at a hosted alternative.

Management of Systems
Ashley Leonard, president and CEO at Verismic, says the channel community, particularly managed service providers (MSPs), need to arm themselves with a simple, cloud-based systems management tool.

“PCs and laptops are not going away, despite the rush to adopt tablets and smart devices. PCs and laptops need managing, monitoring, patching and licensing. Windows 10 will likely create a flurry of upgrade work, application compatibility testing and roll-out,” he says.

“MSPs need a systems management tool that combines the cloud with agentless end-device setup, so they don’t need to deploy and maintain another piece of software at every customer site and on every PC,” he says.

Read the full article at

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Microsoft Patch Tuesday insight: FREAK, Stuxnet and more

By Patch Management, Patch TuesdayNo Comments
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Each month I’ll be offering insight into Microsoft’s Patch Tuesday updates, giving advice on which are the most serious vulnerabilities and how to prioritize them. Microsoft rates it’s own vulnerabilities internally, so whilst the ratings can give a good idea of severity, the scoring system isn’t infallible.

We generally compare two sources of information to try and understand the full impact of the patch update – Microsoft’s own rating as well as ratings from US-CERT [United States-Computer Emergency Readiness Team], which uses the Common Vulnerability Scoring System (CVSS).

By taking US-Cert’s independent ratings alongside Microsoft’s, you get a much clearer picture of which vulnerabilities are going to pose the biggest risk to your customers.

This month’s Microsoft Patch Tuesday is a relatively hefty one, with a total of 14 separate updates, with five rated Critical and the rest as Important, according to Microsoft. One update that surprises me is MS15-031, which resolves a major well-known issue with Windows called FREAK. This was serious enough a vulnerability that it was almost released as an out-of-band patch just last week, yet it’s only been rated as Important and not increased to Critical. Very odd!

The eagle-eyed will also notice MS15-020 is included in this month’s update that fixes the Stuxnet vulnerability, which is a virus/worm believed to have been developed by the US and Israel and used specifically to attack nuclear reprocessing plants in Iran. With a CVSS of 9.3 this should definitely be a priority for all businesses, whether you happen to be working at an Iranian nuclear plant or not.

Outlined below are the patches that you should actually consider rolling out first.

Critical patches
MS15-018 – CVSS: 9.3
This security update fixes a total of 13 separate vulnerabilities in Internet Explorer. The most serious flaw could allow remote code execution if a user were to a view a specially crafted webpage. An attacker would be able to gain the same access rights as the current user, so if you’re logged in as an administrator, that attacker can essentially have full control of the system.

The update addresses the vulnerability by modifying the way Internet Explorer handles objects in memory, helps to ensure policies are properly enforced and by adding additional permission validations.

MS15-019 – CVSS: 9.3
This security update resolves a vulnerability in VBScript (a script language designed for interpretation by web browsers). Again, if a user visits a specially crafted webpage it could allow remote code execution. The update is rated Critical for the VBScript scripting engine in Microsoft Windows, but only moderate for affected versions of VBScript on Windows Servers.

MS15-020 – CVSS: 9.3
This patch addresses the Stuxnet vulnerability, and while there were previous patches, they didn’t completely fix all of the vulnerable path code. Even if you aren’t working at an Iranian nuclear reprocessing plant its still worth patching as it can allow remote code execution if a user browses a specially crafted web page, open a specially crafted file, or browse a working directory that contains a specially crafted DLL file. Let’s stop Stuxnet once and for all!

MS15-021 – CVSS: 9.3
This update resolves eight privately reported vulnerabilities within Adobe Font Driver. The most serious of the eight could allow an attacker to take complete control of an affected system if a user views a specially crafted file or website.

MS15-022 – CVSS: 9.3
The final Critical update from Microsoft addresses vulnerabilities in Microsoft Office 2007, 2010 and 2013. This update patches five privately reported vulnerabilities, three of which could allow remote code execution.

Important updates
A further nine updates came from Microsoft this month that were all rated as Important. There is some discrepancy over the severity of the Important updates this month compared to US-CERT’s rating, so I’d recommend patching MS15-025 and MS15-030 once you’ve dealt with the Critical updates, and then take the rest from there.

Three of the Important updates [MS15-023, MS15-025, MS15-026] could allow an elevation of privilege. That is to say, an attacker that successfully gains access to your system can elevate their privilege to an administrator. From there, they could install programs; view, change or delete data; or create new accounts with full user rights.

Two updates (MS15-028, MS15-031) could allow security feature bypass, so an attacker with limited privileges could use the vulnerabilities to execute files that they do not have permission to run. MS15-031 resolves the FREAK vulnerability, an industry-wide issue that’s not specific just to the Windows operating system.

The final three updates resolve issues in Microsoft Windows and NETLOGON that prevent spoofing, information disclosure, and a denial of service attack.

Next steps
There’s rarely a Patch Tuesday that goes by where there isn’t an issue with one of the patches that can cause problems such as the dreaded blue screen of death. I’d advise that before you roll out patches to your customers, look at the binary code for each update and move to testing and piloting the updates before deployment. This is what we do for both our customers and MSPs and then work through the roll out of the patches through Verismic Syxsense.

Update no. CVSS Score Microsoft rating Affected software Details
MS15-018 9.3 Critical Microsoft Windows, Internet Explorer Cumulative security update for Internet Explorer
MS15-019 9.3 Critical Microsoft Windows Vulnerability in VBScript scripting engine could allow remote code execution
MS15-020 9.3 Critical Microsoft Windows Vulnerabilities in Microsoft Windows could allow remote code execution
MS15-021 9.3 Critical Microsoft Windows Vulnerabilities in Adobe Font Driver could allow remote code execution
MS15-022 9.3 Critical Microsoft Office, Microsoft Server Software Vulnerabilities in Microsoft Office could allow remote code execution
MS15-030 7.8 Important Microsoft Windows Vulnerability in Remote Desktop Protocol could allow denial of service
MS15-025 7.2 Important Microsoft Windows Vulnerabilities in Windows Kernel could allow elevation of privilege
MS15-023 5.6 Important Microsoft Windows Vulnerabilities in Kernel-Mode Driver could allow elevation of privilege
MS15-024 4.3 Important Microsoft Windows Vulnerability in PNG Processing could allow information disclosure
MS15-026 4.3 Important Microsoft Exchange Vulnerabilities in Microsoft Exchange Server could allow elevation of privilege
MS15-027 4.3 Important Microsoft Windows Vulnerability in NETLOGON could allow spoofing
MS15029 4.3 Important Microsoft Windows Vulnerability in Windows Photo Decoder Component could allow information disclosure
MS15-028 2.1 Important Microsoft Windows Vulnerability in Windows Task Scheduler could allow security feature bypass
MS15-031 5.0 Important Microsoft Windows Vulnerability in Schannel could allow security feature bypass

Our monthly blog post appears here.

Patch Management Web Clinic

6 Advanced Patch Management Questions Answered

By Patch ManagementNo Comments

“Web Clinic: Advanced Patch Management” Tuesday 17 March – 2PM GMT & 9AM PDT / 12PM Eastern

Following feedback from our first Patch Management webcast – Avoiding Patch Doomsday, join industry expert Robert Brown, Director of Services at Verismic for the next web clinic – Advanced Patch Management.

Rob will be answering the questions you asked and provide crucial tactics for designing an advanced patch management strategy utilising your own toolset.

Join us: Tuesday 17 March 2015

A great offer for attendees – check out the web clinic registration pages

About The Presenter: Robert Brown has over 15 years of expertise in IT systems and security management and has deployed over 5 million patches globally.

PCR MSP article|Ashley Leonard of Verismic

Race for free Windows 10 will create MSP windfall

By Managed Service Providers, NewsNo Comments
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Following the news that the new Windows 10 update will be free for a year, Ashley Leonard, president and CEO of Verismic, shares how he thinks this will affect managed service providers.

The latest figures from Netmarketshare suggest usage of the XP platform is dropping. Market share was 18.93 per cent in January 2015, down from 26.29 per cent in April 14.

OS upgrades to Windows 7 will be common in 2015 as customers come to realise support for XP has been stripped away, leaving them adrift.

Windows 8/8.1 has not been popular with all users, which could also prompt those XP and 7 users to actually jump to Windows 10. For a limited time only, one year, Microsoft has also said 10 will be a free upgrade, which makes this upgrade jump even more likely.

In any scenario, a flow of OS upgrades stretches IT resources not just through OS rollout, but through testing, fixing, repackaging and preparing existing applications for the new environment. It really is no small feat deploying applications.

Read More on PCR…

About the author Ashley Leonard, President and CEO of Verismic.