Server Health Checks 😍

We’ve recently implemented a new strategy for our clients so we can proactively automate the reporting of their server infrastructure with scheduled Server Health Checks.

By deeply embedding tools like Server Density into our workflow and directly integrating them with Zendesk and our Slack comms, our automated Server Health Checks allow us to deal with potential errors in running server updates, dealing with failed backups and or corrupt data before things get nasty!

We all like a break from being at our desks regularly, but a break in realising an idea because of system downtime sucks, so we usually aim to be in touch and alert our clients of developing issues long before they happen, but when snags do occur, one of our braincells is almost certainly already working on a fix remotely or on their way to sort things out onsite.

We understand and care that your systems are at the heart of your ambitions as a business, school or enterprise, therefore we’re always quietly doing digital Tai chi to ensure that nothing interrupts or hinders your team and their workflow.

If you’d like to know more about our proactive approach towards infrastructure management or you could use our help, please do give us a nudge via help@leftbrain.it!

Malware on a Mac, and How to Trash it

01 - Malware on a Mac

“You can’t get viruses on a Mac” and “they just work”.

Both are true to an extent, and as a passionate Apple user and former employee I believe their ecosystem is fantastic and far stronger than others out there. However, there are always threats in the realms of technology, and whether the term ‘virus’ is strictly accurate in this case or not, Apple isn’t immune to malware, and it’s crept it’s way into OS X more noticeably recently.

What does ‘malware’ mean?

Malware is a term for malicious or intrusive software that can come in many different forms, and can be used to obtain personal information such as bank details, display unsolicited advertisements, or generate marketing revenue by redirecting traffic.

A paper recently released by Bit9 + Carbon Black states that five times more malware for OS X has appeared in 2015 than during the previous five years combined (source link)

How does it find it’s way onto my machine?

There are many different ways malware can find it’s way through but in most cases on a Mac from my experience it has been through ‘phishing’ emails which may appear to be from a recognised company or source (or friend if their account has been affected in some cases) and either have a link or downloadable attachment that can let in some nasty scripts into your machine.

So, how can I protect myself?

First and foremost, exercising caution with emails and anything that seems slightly out of the ordinary. For example, most companies won’t ask for your password or any details directly through an email, particularly a bank. Also, if it is a link appearing to come from a company that you have an account with saying you must sign in to make changes for whatever reason, rather than clicking on the link in the email try going to their website directly through a browser (e.g. Safari / Chrome) and seeing if it is prompting you to change anything from there.

The next step I would strongly recommend if you have any existing malware concerns or want to be able to scan your system and check is to download and install a free application called Malwarebytes (there’s also a premium version available). You can download it here:

Malwarebytes for Mac

Once you’ve downloaded it, run a scan, and it’s very quick and efficient at discovering and wiping any hidden malware that you don’t want there. However, recently I discovered another attack that Malwarebytes hasn’t yet been able to find.

A new threat

Prior to the Malwarebytes application, I used the below website as a great resource for manually finding and getting rid of malicious software, however unless you are an experienced user of OS X then I would strongly recommend against doing this yourselves, as a lot of the files and folders you are looking at may have odd-looking names but the system needs them to operate, and deleting the wrong one could corrupt your operating system (so is best avoided!).

The Safe Mac

These are the guys that developed Malwarebytes, and for earlier intrusions (Vsearch and Geneio being notable culprits) the guides and application are great for removing them.

The other day the malware I found on a machine had cut out network access for the user and appeared to be an evolved version of Geneio which had changed itself to many different names hidden away in the user library rather than just the one previously, such as the following:

Again, if you are unsure about any of this and have malware concerns that the Malwarebytes application isn’t picking anything up then I wouldn’t advise going in to delete system files yourself unless you have experience in this field; get in touch and we can help!

Where the malware in this example had cut out the network connections we set up a Guest User account (System Preferences > Users & Groups > Enable Guest User) and logged into this account. From here I was able to change the permissions for the user account that had been affected in Finder to allowing everyone access to view and edit, so we could go in and delete what needed to be.

An interesting tip here, one way to be able to view the (hidden) library folder when not in the user account is to show hidden items in Finder. You can do this through a Terminal command:

defaults write com.apple.finder AppleShowAllFiles YES

This will show you hidden files and folders, in this case we need to go to the users ‘Library’ folder. Note, to reverse the above change you can open Terminal again and write this command line to switch hidden files and folders back to being hidden:

defaults write com.apple.finder AppleShowAllFiles NO

Now I could access the hidden library folder of the affected user account, and this is where I discovered lots of the above names popping up in Application Support, Launch Agents, Preferences, and went through deleting them and then emptying the Trash. It took some time searching through them, but eventually they all appeared to be cleared out, at which point we logged out of the Guest User account and back into the original account and things were fine again!

So, my advice would be always to exercise caution particularly with emails with links and attachments (even if they appear to be legit), download Malwarebytes and run a scan for peace of mind, and if you have more issues, queries or concerns get in touch at help@leftbrain.it and we can help!

Events, Done Right! 📅✨

Over the years we have perfected the fine art of deploying and managing Apple devices for events and seminars of all shapes and sizes. Handling delegate registrations, keynote presentations, AirPlay connectivity, asset tracking devices, or all of the above, it’s all a breeze, when you know how to.

Whether you’re looking for a solution for a small training session with 20 people in a room with a simple A/V setup, or an event with hundreds of attendees and multiple sessions taking place simultaneously throughout an entire venue space, we’ve been there, done that, and know how to handle it like a boss!

When it comes to selecting a venue with the right infrastructure, proactive project planning for potential snags, deploying devices with the required configuration and managing the technical aspects in order to ensure that devices perform as expected (as well as having contingencies for when they don’t), our team of infrastructure engineers, strategists and project managers have the expertise to ensure that your event doesn’t suck, at least from a technical perspective.

We’re eager to share our expertise and demonstrable technical wizardry to help plan for and provide onsite support for using Apple Mac or iOS devices for your events. If you’d love to know more about our work or would like our help, we’d love to hear from you!

Teaching and Learning with iOS 9.3 for iPad 🤓👍

With Monday’s preview release of Apple’s iOS 9.3 update for iPad, educators worldwide are really excited by the tools has Apple has in store to make iPad the most pleasant and engaging experience there is for modern teaching and learning.

Shared iPad for Students is a feature we know a number of schools with small class-sets of iPads have been waiting for and we’re sure educators across the board will be happy to see built-in to iOS for education. Giving students the ability to instantly recall their personal content by logging into any iPad they have access to in class should negate the need for students to be assigned the same iPad every time in order to resume a learning activity or for evidencing learning outcomes.

The new Classroom app is also another great feature enhancement for iOS in education. Over the years educators have longed for the ability to easily monitor and guide students through their lessons, as well providing simple AirPlay controls for sharing a student’s work with the rest of the class via Apple TV. The only way to do this in the past involved subscribing into MDM services like JAMF’s Casper Suite, although this then also added further cost implications for the school consider.

Having Shared iPad for Students and the new Classroom app functionality available in iOS 9.3 should have a positive pedagogical impact on teaching and learning workflows for iPads, now that every classroom with a compatible iPad will be able to take advantage of these great new features and functionality, for free!

For technical administrators, Apple School Manager should completely streamline the creation of Managed Apple IDs, as well as the creation and delivery of classroom content via iTunes U. With Apple’s VPP, DEP, iTunes U, and MDM service configuration falling under the new single Apple School Manager portal, everything will now be run from a single online portal instead of having to create and login into multiple Apple services.

Apple has a deep commitment to providing educators with the most advanced tools available in order for them to create and deliver transformative lessons for modern day students. As technical support specialists and training providers, our LeftBrain team are excited by the opportunity for us to provide even more streamlined support and management to our amazing education clients. We can’t wait to put these tools to use, as well as helping to plan for any technical considerations that schools might need to have in mind before updating. We’re hoping to get stuck in to Apple’s technical resources for the final iOS 9.3 release as soon as they are available, exciting times.

If you could use our help in planning for updating your school iPads to iOS 9.3, or if you have questions, we would love to hear from you!

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