Department for Education: Malware Misfortune

Recently there has been news circulating that a few of the Department for Education (DfE) laptops, that are being distributed to disadvantaged children to help with schooling, have had a virus on them. The government scheme enabled disadvantaged children to access lessons from the comfort of their own home during school closures across the country and there are currently over 1.2 million devices that have been distributed with the Department for Education being on track to meet its target of 1.3 million. The virus is called Gamarue.I and is a worm which had been previously identified by Microsoft in 2012. Gamarue is a malware botnet where infected devices communicate to Gamarue servers to harness click-bait fraud and steal confidential information such as credit card details. The virus was found to be contacting a server in Russia whilst active in a Bradford school.

What Do We Think?

We believe that because the DfE laptops were refurbished, there was a higher chance any malware could have been present but it unfortunately turned out to be Gamarue. However, you would think that wiping the data from the devices before delivery would be a standard procedure since they are for disadvantaged children. We at Advanced IT Services thankfully haven’t encountered any laptops with the virus especially since it only affected a minor number of laptops. Nevertheless, it is still invasive, infectious and one of the most severe malware strains still around today. One common way Gamarue penetrates your machine is through spam emails with attachments and it makes changes to browser settings add toolbars and even download files directly onto your machine’s registry. The best way, in our opinion, to get rid of such viruses is to completely wipe the devices or use a notorious anti-virus software such as Malware Bytes. However, Cyber Security is now a key part of any organisation and we can make the process of implementing it easier than ever before; find out how here.

Due to the sheer volume of devices and the lack of time and preparation, it is understandable that things may have been missed; everything, in retrospect, is obvious. However, it feels like the government is just throwing money at the Education sector and expecting everything to cope which is not the case. Every school and educational setting is different and all of the guidance given reflects that which is why it is so vague because the head of each educational setting should then determine how the advice can be applied to them. One the other hand, it has been an extremely difficult time for everyone but it has definitely changed a lot of perspectives on many different ideas such as working and education.

Epidemic Employment: Is This The Future?

COVID-19 has been one of the largest outbreaks the world has seen since the Spanish Flu. With each country determining the best plan of action; many changes have been made especially regarding employment. Panic was spread across the nation with uncertainty being at an all-time high and a large number of people found themselves unemployed.
However, restrictions and guidelines were put into place thereby transitioning countries like the UK towards complete remote working wherever applicable. It’s been clear that there is separation between the people that are happy with it and those who are not.

Given the significance of COVID-19, all sectors have been affected but some more than other. An example would be education with schools being forced to close to the majority; it changed the lives of every parent, teacher and child per school. However, in IT, a lot of work can be carried out remotely such as technical support.
IT, as a whole, is a diverse market and is constantly evolving but this pandemic has given a push to companies to commence remote working schemes and rotas because there was no other choice given the scale, severity and magnitude of COVID-19 especially being as contagious as it was and currently is. This is supported by the emergence of cloud networking which has now become a massive part of both private and public sector business. Cloud networking, which we provide and you can find out more here, is essentially a secure way to store all of your data whilst being very cost effective but also be easily accessible. With this, it is now easier to work from anywhere meaning that people are no longer tied to their specific office building to work.

As reported by the Office for National Statistics, 46.6% of people in employment did some work at home and 86% of those did so due to the pandemic. It has opened a lot of eyes on how employment and work locations operated before COVID-19.
This may be a future way of working permanently with jobs such as developers being able to work from home which greatly benefits companies due to the potential of saving thousands in overheads for maintaining a company building. This, as we have said before, can benefit all parties involved but other industries like construction and building will not have this option because their work cannot function as such.

How Has The Pandemic Affected AIT?


Advanced IT Services is a prime example of a company that has coped very well during these pandemic times as with other IT companies because there has been an increase in demand for IT equipment and support with reduced supply given the fact that countries like the UK have urged people to stay and work at home. Although, this actually negatively impacted consumers because the movement of goods was limited across the globe meaning that suppliers incurred higher costs leading to higher consumer pricing and the consumer pricing has soared massively. This along with the increased unemployment made it difficult for the everyday person to purchase some of the equipment needed to work from home thus their employers had to pay out to facilitate remote working.


Advanced IT Services do support schools as well as companies and support was needed more than ever because thousands of staff had to use devices at home even if they have never before. Zoom and Teams came into fruition during the COVID-19 period and Advanced IT Services, like many other IT support businesses, helped set up, deploy and educate their clients on operation. AIT have still been operating as normal with the exception of visiting sites that we manage due to the restrictions. Remote working, for a lot of people, has been a new venture because it has not been performed at such a scale before this.

First wireless link in Boston

Work on the new The Boston Witham Academies Federation (BWAF) wireless network has begun. This will be the first wireless link we have in Boston.


Our Mission

This project aims to join as many of the BWAF academy schools together with wireless links. This is to minimise the use of external ISPs and maximize efficiency when dealing with network faults.Boston Link

This first link, from the Haven High academy campus to Park Academy primary school, is a proof of concept link for testing before the rest of the project is given the green light.

This makes use of wireless technology. Which means the schools link has been upgraded in a matter of hours from a single 10Mbps link, to a link with a capacity of 655mbps. As a result this will allow for servers in the school to be removed and managed at our central DC via a lease line to haven high.

These works move towards the vision of a single unified network for the BWAF. Allowing for pooled resources and central spending keeping costs down whilst maximising network access and speed.

Watch this space, and follow our progress!

Fairfield Primary Gate System

Last month we were approached to motorize Fairfield Primary Gate System, one of the schools on our support contract.


The Fairfield Primary Gate System would need to work both independently and as a pair depending on the command given.

This was a unique issue for a school as each school usually have separate pedestrian and Vehicle gates but Fairfields use the same set.


Unique Gate Access Solution

The system designed was a Paxton Net 2 and BFT combination.

FF Gate 3

The BFT gate controller.

The use of Paxton Net 2 allowed the school to join the George spencer Central access control server allowing full roaming of staff across all trust schools. To allow multiple access options we used Paxton net 2 entry panels mounted on custom made mounts, these panels allow multiple token types to be used as well as the use of the built in keypad for pin numbers and the use of SIP protocol to link to the schools existing VoIP network.

The BFT gate controller has been configured to fire different commands depending on the relay triggered by Paxton, this allows the use of one or both gates either separately or individually.

The gates have been fitted with break beam photocells and crush bars to eliminate any possible entrapment areas that could cause any harm or damage to pedestrians or vehicles.


Fairfield Primary Gate System

The Camera System that was put into place.

Centralized CCTV System

As well as the installation of gates, a camera system was installed to allow office staff to monitor access via the gate and give them a visual before allowing or denying access to the site.

AIT’s New Offsite Backup Facility

April sees the commissioning of AIT’s New Offsite Backup Facility.


Installation

AIT's New Offsite Backup Facility

One of our technicians at work, during the installation.

The facility in question was in a previous life a O2 telecoms site, after the handover from O2 to AIT in November works have been underway to install two 1Gbps capacity wireless links to our Main DC at George Spencer.

Each link is a Ubiquiti link using both the 24Ghz and 5Ghz band to give full redundancy and reliability.

 

 


Testing

After installing the first backup server in March (a 200tb storage array made up of 10tb drives), testing on the link capacity as well as the servers and writing capacity have now been complete and starting to hold live backup data of our servers.


Future

The next set of backup servers will be installed later this year after they have been decommissioned from our old facility and rebuilt with new 10tb drives.

This facility has a dedicated power supply and UPS on site as well as full air-conditioning and alarm systems all sealed behind a half tone door with a custom manufactured lock for extra protection.

AIT's New Offsite Backup Facility

Give’s a good morning view for our technicians.