Windows 10 Upgrade – Not Free Anymore!

May 27th, 2016

Waving Goodbye to FREE Windows 10

That annoying message the keeps appearing asking you to upgrade to Windows 10 will finally stop appearing in June…

BUT…. Do you have the time to upgrade now or are you uncertain that your computer will be able to manage the new system?

Microsoft have declared that you will not be able to download for FREE any more.

As of the 1st of July, to gain the latest and personally the best (we think) operating system will require a whip of the credit card and a purchase of Over £250. Act now and upgrade for FREE, in July onwards Alchemy will do a professional upgrade for £180.


Here are the new features with Windows 10:



1 New Start Menu The new Start Menu – has metro-style tiles that are live showing a preview of the important information that you need.

2 Windows Hello Is a new feature that greets you by name and with a smile, letting you log in without a password using facial recognition or fingerprint scanning,

3 Office on Windows In addition to the Office 2016 full desktop version, Windows 10 users will be able to experience new (touch friendly) universal Windows applications for Word, Excel, and PowerPoint.

4 Partnership Allowing easy transformation from desktop to tablet and back, this feature will allow those hybrid devices that cross the desktop & tablet classifications to transition easily between modes. Play video Here is an informative introduction to Windows 10 from Microsoft’s Joe Belifiore.



From Our Blog We have a number of articles about Windows 10 on our website. These have been previewed below.


Preparing for Windows 10 Prior to upgrading to Windows 10, run through the systems requirements page from Microsoft to ensure that your machine is compatible. What will Windows 10 Deliver? Check this article to review some of the key features that have been delivered with this new release of Windows. With the new version of Windows 10 being released, there is a new version of Microsoft office following that has been designed to integrate fully with the new operating system.


Contact Alchemy Today for More Information


Sales: 01784223100 Email: [email protected] Support: 01784223129

Local Offices – Alchemy House, Band Lane, Egham, Surrey, TW209LN

—– Why Alchemy Recommends Panda Security

May 17th, 2016

Traditional Security provides little protection against advanced Ransomware attacks


Criminals are peppering UK Businesses with ransomware, building on the success of recent high-profile ransom pay-outs

Discover all that you need to know about Cyber Extortion and how to protect your organisation with Alchemy Systems




Traditional antivirus can only protect you against traditional threats.


Adaptive Defense 360 monitors, registers, and classifies 100% of running applications.

With its Endpoint Detection and Response (EDR) features, Adaptive Defense 360 allows you to detect and block malware that other protection systems don’t even see.


Read our Ransomware case study



Don’t wait until it is too late.


To find out more phone

01784 223 100

or email [email protected]

When Ransomware Strikes – Alchemy SuperHeroes Strike BACK

May 16th, 2016

 UK SMEs are finding out that expensive security is often powerless to stop extortion.



Targeted ransom attacks can’t be stopped with yesterday’s security


As a UK-based building consultancy discovered the hard way, being hit by ransomware is like staring down the barrel of a loaded gun during a quiet evening stroll.


One minute the company is a functioning business, the next it’s being extorted by people it has never met, a threat it hasn’t heard of and an alien crime it might have been only dimly aware even existed.

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The firm later traced the fateful infection by a ransomware variant called DMA Locker back to an email attachment opened in Outlook at 21.46 on 6 March, a vulnerable moment because it happened to be a Sunday, a day when most of the firm’s 30 employees were at home.

As with so many ransomware infections, the simple act of opening one attachment became a gateway to a world of trouble. The malware immediately started encrypting files on the first PC before successfully reaching out to a series of attached network drives. With nobody around accessing those shares, nothing untoward was noticed until the next day by which time 90 percent of the files the company rated as critical to its business had been scrambled using AES-256 – or at least that’s what the malware claimed in the ransom message.

DMA Locker is nothing special by ransomware standards and early variants were even described as amateurish by security researchers when it first appeared in February 2016 due to major flaws in its encryption. It seems likely that the building consultancy was hit by a later patched version that presented a more serious challenge.

Most ransomware demands a modest ransom, usually between $500 and $1,000 in Bitcoins, but this one asked for £6,500 ($9,500), an unusually high price that strongly suggests that the attackers had carried out a targeted raid in which the ransom is calibrated to the likely effect on the victim.


Creepily, it is possible that ransoms are now being decided after the files have been encrypted and their number and value has been assessed.

When ransomware strikes – AV failure

The firm had firewalls – no defence whatsoever against this kind of malware – which meant its only line of defence was antivirus software running on each PC. This layer failed to notice the ransomware, not surprising given that the variant was new. This inability of antivirus to stop aggressive ransomware makes such attacks similar to zero days.

The firm had no security team which meant that reinstating the encrypted files from backup presented an onerous challenge.  This is another common theme mong SMEs but even larger organisations with staff on hand find locating backups and installing them a headache that could take days or weeks.


It’s all part of the extortionist’s business model – the cost of reinstating encrypted files (assuming such backups exist for all lost files) – costs more than the ransom. An unknown but growing number simply pay up because it’s the cheapest option.

Managed security provider and IT consultancy Alchemy Systems was called in by the victim, presumably by this point pretty desperate for some way out. Alchemy describes the clean-up as taking about a day with systems fully restored in a week.

With the current AV unable to detect let alone stop the ransomware in question, Alchemy installed Panda Security’s Adaptive Defense 360, a cloud-based system along with “beefed-up” endpoint security and continuity systems in case of a repeat attack.


“As is often the case following the attack the building consultancy wanted to ensure that nothing like this happened again,” comments Panda’s marketing manager, Neil Martin.

“Traditional antivirus solutions based on signatures, heuristics and behavioural analysis are reactive and there is always a latency, we call the ‘window of opportunity’, between the malware being created and subsequently blocked.”


The cybersecurity firm calculates that around a fifth of new malware goes undetected by antivirus in the first day of its existence, more than enough time to do serious damage.

He argues that the cloud-based design of Adaptive Defense 360 is better suited to stopping current malware than a simple endpoint client of the sort used by many home users and SMEs. Defence needs far more layers to have a chance.

Panda Security’s Adaptive Defense 360 takes this further through continuous endpoint monitoring of all processes, gathering 1000’s of features on each such as ‘where did it come from, ‘how did it execute’, ‘on which system’. All of these are used as part of the machine learning along with manual checks from Panda Labs Experts that identifies and blocks malware.

“We don’t allow anything to run until we know exactly what it is.”

The victim in this case was understandably unwilling to reveal itself. Many other victims aren’t even written up at all. Some even suffer in silence, middle through or, sad to report, pay up.

It’s a dark experience more and more UK SMEs and even large enterprises find themselves living though although smaller firms are in greater danger because they often lack the knowledge to cope.


When ransomware strikes – lessons?

There are no simple or comforting ‘what to dos’ to draw from the incident. It was a typical ransomware attack on a UK SME that was poorly defended to resist this kind of predation. What is clear is that organisations of all sizes can’t rely on cybersecurity based on single layers of defence that fail gracelessly. More layers are needed so that there is not one single and brittle weakness that can be bypassed.

Every firm needs to devise a plan as to how it will respond not simply to malware in general but extortion specific attacks such as DDoS, ransomware, web defacement, data breaches or a combination of all of the above. Having backups is a start but not on its own enough.Alchemy

For small companies, the best place to start is to find an expert third-party consultancy (like Alchemy), preferably one that can prove it has business experience of dealing with such attacks. This partner will also be able to advise on the vulnerability of the network, which is to say outline the sort of damage a typical attack could do and how quickly. Reconfiguration might be necessary.

Most of important of all, companies shouldn’t wait for trouble to strike. Ransomware is not a new threat but it shows no sign of going away, far from it. It is evolving and the targeting is becoming better and better. Each and every company is at risk. Don’t ignore it; give yourself a chance by understanding the enemy.

Panda Security has released a broad overview of the attack documented here as a case study on its website.


Windows 10 Upgrade Announcement

February 29th, 2016

The Alchemy Technical team has been made aware of a change that Microsoft is initiating in relation to the Windows 10 upgrade availability, and problems which may affect PC’s running Windows 7, 8 and 8.1. Microsoft are adjusting the Windows 10 upgrade to become a “Recommended” update, instead of an “Optional” update, which may mean it automatically prompts the user to initiate the upgrade.

Windows 7, 8 and 8.1 have a default setting for Windows Update which would result in the download and installation of Windows 10 onto your PC’s. This deployment is due to start on 29/02/2016. Users will be prompted to upgrade to Windows 10 as part of their Windows Update regime. This operating system upgrade could result in the following problems:

· Printer failures – your printer model might not support Windows 10, with printer drivers may not yet be available for Windows 10.

· Software failures – your third party software might not be compatible with Windows 10, causing it to fail or crash without notice.

· Certain Citrix and RDS clients are incompatible with our hosting platforms, which may then restrict user logon.


NOTE: If the below appears, you need to click on theRED CROSS in the top right hand corner to cancel the upgrade. PLEASE DO NOT SELECT EITHER OF THE UPGRADE OPTIONS.


Win 10



We recommend that all users be advised not to accept the upgrade if they are prompted to install Windows 10.

If an unwanted Windows 10 upgrade occurs, please contact our support team on 0845 052 4399.

Should your company wish to progress with an upgrade to Windows 10, Alchemy can discuss this further and orchestrate appropriate testing for compatibility of all software at risk. Once testing has been completed Alchemy can then proceed with an upgrade project in a planned and controlled manner.



Resolving issues with your PC’s/Laptops following and automatic Windows 10 upgrade will involve restoring your PC to its previous version of Windows; this can cause significant downtime and may require your previous Windows and Software Product Keys. In addition IT Service charges will apply from Alchemy for works relating to a problem resulting from the upgrade.

Please note Windows PCs running XP and Vista are not entitled to a free upgrade to Windows 10 so the above issue does not apply in this case.

Please contact Alchemy if you have any questions or if there is anything more Alchemy can do for you.


Steve Prosser



Contact us to discover how Alchemy can help your business.

Call us on 01784 223 100 or email us – [email protected]

Cyber Flashback of 2015

January 8th, 2016

Everytime one year ends, a new one begins – 2015 has just ended and 2016 has just begun. We want to refresh your memory with these cyberattacks that marked the year 2015; from January to December.

On the 4th of January, the second largest bitcoin exchange, UK-based Bitstamp suspended operations after thieves stole up to 19,000BTC approximately $5.2m from it’s operational store of bitcoins.

On the 16th of February, the press revealed that the group CARBANAK embezzled nearly $1 billion from 100 banks in the world between 2013 – 2015.

In March, health insurance provider, Premera Blue Cross confirmed that it had been the subject of a cyber attack resulting in 11 million customers having their data breached.

On the 5th of April, in the name of OpISIS, Ghostsec (A hacker affiliated with Anonymous) releases a list of websites allegedly supporting the ISIS extremist group. The list also contains names of companies hosting or protecting these sites from DDOS and other cyber attacks.

On the 15th of May, Der Spiegel reveals that Bundestag was the victim of an attack: hackers have penetrated five computers including that of Angela Merkel and contaminated information associated with the German Parliament.

In June, demonstrative hackers Charlie Miller and Chris Valasek took control of a jeep to highlight the vehicle’s vulnerabilities. They gained access to the brakes, steering and the transmission. Despite the hack involving just one car, Fiat Chrysler recalled 1.4 Million vehicles.

In July, a 17 year old Finnish man, Julius Kvimaki, was convicted in his country of 50,700 acts of hacking. He managed to break into Microsoft’s servers, Sony and MIT. He got a 2 year suspended sentence.

On the 18th of August, the Team Impact Group threatens to publish client information from the extramarital Canadian dating site. 1.9GB of data on 32 million accounts leaked online.

On September 1st the UK’s National Crime Agency website was taken down with Lizard Squad taking responsibility. It was thought to be in retaliation after 6 teenagers were arrested for using Lizard Squad’s DDOS attack tool.

On 30th of October, British Police contact a 16 year old after stopping a young Irish 15yr old in relation to cyber attacks on a large British ISP. They reportedly embezzled personal and banking information from 4 million customers.

On the 6th of November, after having hacked the mailbox of CIA director, hackers say they can access internal messaging, allowing access to confidential FBI information.

V-Tech toys has been hacked a few days before Christmas, five million parent accounts and 6.5 million children’s accounts with the key to a lot of personal information including; names, dates of birth, email addresses, postal addresses.

There you go, your Cyber Flashback of 2015. And from Alchemy, we wish you all a prosperous New Year!

*** graphics / information from F-Secure ***

Contact us to discover how Alchemy can help your business.

Call us on 01784 223 100 or email us – [email protected]

New Twitter-world for Windows 10

December 17th, 2015

Meet new people, connect with your loved ones, and discover more about some of the things that you love with the new Twitter app for Windows 10.

The new Twitter app is a Universal Windows Application that will give you an instant access to Top Tweets, videos, and photos.

You will also get to see “tweets” right out of the box in live tiles from the Start Menu.


twitter, twitter app for windows, windows, alchemy systems


If you wish to know the highlights of the Windows 10 app, here are some:

  • Multiple Photo Tweets (up to 4 photos)
  • Animated GIFs
  • Twitter Live Tiles
  • Vine Playback
  • Share photos privately via Direct Message (DM)
  • Tweets with photos, videos, and others will now show in your home timeline.

This free app may not be the most sophisticated app but, this has more influential support for sharing and following people, and is cleaner.

Plus! You get to see what’s happening now on Twitter without even requiring you to login.

So if you want to experience this trending topic, you know what to do – download the free Twitter app for Windows 10 and share to us your experience.


Contact us to find out how Alchemy can help your business.

Call us on 01784 223 100 or email us – [email protected]

Microsoft releases First Major Update for Windows 10

November 18th, 2015

Microsoft reaches a new milestone with it’s first major update to Windows 10. The update is available for for PCs and tablets and will be delivered in the November update (subject to your update settings). There are improvements across the platform coupled with enhancements to the experience. Not only does this include updates from Microsoft, device drivers and application updates have also been included.

With this major update, Microsoft feel that they can confidently recommend Windows 10 deployment to whole organisations.


windows 10, alchemy systems


Experience improvements in this update include:

  • Performance in everyday tasks, such as boot time now nearly 30% faster than Windows 7 on the same device.
  • Cortana can also now keep track of your event and movie bookings too, sending you helpful reminders to know where to go and get there on time.
  • Microsoft Edge offers improved performance and security, along with tab preview, which allows you to hover over your open tabs and get a preview of what’s on those websites without leaving the page you’re on. Microsoft Edge now syncs your Favorites and Reading list items across devices so you can easily get back to the content you’re interested in most.

The update includes many improvements to Mail, Calendar, Photos, Groove, Xbox, Store, OneNote and more!

Enterprise ready PCs

Microsoft states that Windows 10 is already actively running on more than 110 million devices including 12 million business PCs and are now introducing two free services, designed for IT departments

  • Windows Update for Business provides IT controls over the deployment of updates within their organizations, while ensuring their devices are kept current and their security needs are met, at reduced management cost. Features include setting up device groups with staggered deployments and scaling deployments with network optimisation.
  • Windows Store for Business provides IT a flexible way to find, acquire, manage and distribute apps to Windows 10 devices – both Windows Store apps and custom line of business apps. Organisations can choose their preferred distribution method by directly assigning apps, publishing apps to a private store, or connecting with management solutions.

Managing Device Options for the Modern Workplace

Today’s update introduces two capabilities designed for IT to empower people to effectively, and securely, use multiple devices to get their work done:

  • Mobile Device Management, empowers IT to use the full power of Enterprise Mobility Management to manage the entire family of Windows devices, including PCs, tablets, phones, and IOT. Windows 10 is the only platform that can manage BYOD scenarios from the device to the apps to the data on those devices – safely and securely. And of course, Windows 10 is fully compatible with the existing management infrastructure used with PCs, giving IT control over how they bridge between two capabilities.
  • Azure Active Directory Join, empowers IT to maintain one directory, enabling people to have one login and securely roam their Windows settings and data across all of their Windows 10 devices. AAD Join also enables any machine to become enterprise ready with a few simple clicks by anyone in the organisation.

Read the full article here Microsoft releases First Major Update for Windows 10


Contact us to find out how Alchemy can help your business.

Call us on 01784 223 100 or email us – [email protected]

Office 2016 IS HERE

October 7th, 2015

Office 2016

Microsoft Office 2016 (codenamed Office 16) is a version of the Microsoft Office productivity suite, succeeding both Office 2013 and Office for Mac 2011. Our article below, captures the headlines, and for more information, and whether it’s right for you and the business, please drop us a line.


Key Features


Office 2016, Office 2016 features, Alchemy Systems




Co-authoring is now available on Word, PowerPoint and OneNote. This does require that the document is stored in OneDrive/SharePoint. This allows you to see real-time updates and lets you interact with the other editors.




Groups, Office 2016, Alchemy Systems




Outlook now has a new feature called “Groups” whilst akin to self-provisioning mailboxes and are seen as a replacement for distribution groups and public folders. In addition SharePoint is also involved and creates a document library and OneNote notebook. So for example if you were working on a project for a company you can create a group, this then gives you a mailbox and document workspace to all collaboratively contribute to for that project. To go with this there is a new file called a GST which acts like an OST to store the content offline.




Office 2016, Alchemy Systems,Outlook Links, Office 2016 features



Outlook Links

Sharing is documents is now more prominent and Outlook encourages you to share links rather than attach files.





Office 2016, Office 2016 Features, Sway, Alchemy Systems




Sway is an Web based interpretation of PowerPoint allowing you to make interactive presentations with Videos etcs





Office 2016, Alchemy Systems, Delve, Office 2016 features




Although it has been floating around in 365 for a while Delve gives you a news feed of all the Documents and Activity going on involving SharePoint.





Office 2016, Alchemy Systems,Office 2016 features,Planner




For those that find Project rather heavy Planner gives groups the ability to plan out projects and tasks without having to read a manual first.





Office 2016, office 2016 themes, Alchem Systems, UK IT Provider




Office now has a new “Colourful” theme which adds accented colour to match the programs icon.





Office 2016, office 2016 Help, Alchemy Systems, UK IT Provider




“Tell Me” suggests ways of doing tasks. It’s the new Clippy!





Contact us to discover how Alchemy can help your business.

Call us on 01784 223 100 or email us – [email protected]


Alchemy Maintains ISO 27001 Certification

September 15th, 2015

As part of our ongoing commitment to our clients, we are pleased to announce that we have maintained our ISO 27001 status following our annual audit.

Alchemy ISO27001 Certification,ISO27001 certification,Alchemy,Alchemy System


ISO 27001 is the standard for Information Security Management. Maintaining the ISO 27001 standard ensures that we have continued our commitment to our clients in ensuring that we have security controls in place to ensure both Data Protection and the protection of sensitive company information.

By following the ISO 27001 standard we:

  • Follow a common business framework across divisions
  • Have Risk Management processes and an Information Security Management Solution
  • Ensured that we have the correct people, processes, procedures and technologies in place
  • Ensured that information is protected and maintains confidentiality, integrity and availability

We believe that this shows commitment to our clients and demonstrates that we take the protection of data and information seriously.


Contact us to find out how Alchemy can help your business.

Call us on 01784 223 100 or email us – [email protected]

9 Things to Remember when You’ve Reserved Windows 10

August 3rd, 2015

Mark your calendars for July 29 as Microsoft is set to roll out its newest and most competitive Windows version yet. It is a free upgrade to users running on Windows 7 and Windows 8.1 and if you haven’t reserved Windows 10 for your devices, click here. And do check out all our previous post to learn more about Windows 10.

windows 10

But for the eager users who have reserved the latest version and are counting the days, here are a few important things to remember and look forward to:

  1. On Reservations

When you successfully reserve Windows 10 for your device, an email will be sent to confirm that reservation. If in the unlikely event that you do not receive that email however, you can also check your reservation status. Right click on the Get Windows 10 app or Windows icon found in your taskbar and select the “check your upgrade status” bar. Here you may “view confirmation”.

Once you reserve, Microsoft will download Windows 10 to your device upon availability. A notification will be sent to you when your device is ready to install the said upgrade.

But what happens if you don’t reserve? And then your co-workers talk about how extremely amazing the new Windows is. Can you still get the free upgrade even if you haven’t reserved, you ask? Yes, you can! Once Windows 10 is available, devices will be notified of the free upgrade. Some will be notified as soon as Windows 10 rolls out while others may have to wait in the following week or months. But once you get the notification, open the Get Windows 10 app to schedule your upgrade.

  1. Cancelling Reservations

From Today to July 29, you can cancel your reservation. Simply click on the Get Windows 10 app or Windows icon located in the taskbar. Click the “Check your upgrade status” bar and then select “View Confirmation”. On the lower left side is the option to “Cancel reservation”.

  1. Check your System

Go through the Systems Requirement page of Microsoft very thoroughly, and by all means, make sure that your system qualifies for this upgrade. Remember that in order for Windows 10 to run, users must have a PC or tablet with 1GHz processor or faster, 1GB of RAM for 32-bit machines, 20GB hard disk space for 64-bit machines, a DirectX 9 or later graphics card with a WDDM 1.0 driver and an 800 x 600 display. Microsoft has said that some Windows 10 features like the Cortana will need advanced hardware. They’ve pointed out that “not all features and services are available on every device, nor in every market”. Unfortunately, if your system doesn’t qualify, a hardware upgrade is in order before you can upgrade your operating system.

  1. Back up your files

Of course, while waiting for the new Windows to roll in, it’s very important that you backup your files. This is the smartest thing to do – back up your files before you start the upgrade process. Use OneDrive, a local external device or other cloud services. Microsoft says, “Applications, files and settings will migrate as part of the upgrade, however some applications or settings may not migrate”. As a default, your files will remain on the hard drive, but with Microsoft’s disclaimer, its better safe than sorry.

  1. Upgrading and Installing

If you have multiple Windows devices, know that you will have to make separate reservations for each of your device that you want to upgrade.

As mentioned, when you reserve, installation files will be automatically downloaded for you. Once it is ready, you will be notified. Microsoft says to allot about an hour for the installation although newer devices may take about 30 or 20 minutes less while older devices may take more than an hour.

  1. A year of Free Windows 10

Yes, Windows 10 is free and it is free for each device that you have reserved it on. Windows 7, Windows 8 and Windows 8.1 users get a free update come the roll out date. Note that this is not a trial version or an introductory version, this is the real deal but for a limited time only. After one year, users will have to pay to keep the Windows 10 updated and fully licensed.

  1. Editions of Windows 10

As part of the free upgrade, you will stay on a “like-to-like” edition of Windows. Windows 7 Starter, Windows 7 Home Basic, Windows 7 Home Premium will have the Windows 10 Home edition. Windows 7 Professional and Windows 7 Ultimate will have Windows 10 Pro. Meanwhile Windows Phone 8.1 will have Windows 10 Mobile; Windows 8.1 will have Windows 10 Home and Windows 8.1 Pro and Windows 8.1 Pro for Students will have Windows 10 Pro.

  1. Security Updates for all versions

Unlike in the past updating of Windows Operating Systems, the Windows 10 update does not terminate security updates and or service packs of old operating systems. Microsoft will keep issuing security patches for Windows 7 and Windows 8 until January 2020 and January 2023 respectively.

  1. 10 Years of OS Support

The company has also announced a new scheme that will entitle users 10 years of support for Windows 10 from the day of first use. The hardware will have to be able to support the updates during the full decade for the machine to be eligible for support. This good news means that if you buy a laptop with Windows 10 in 2017, you are guaranteed support for the operating system until 2027.

Don’t forget these 9 things and you should be all set for what has been touted as the most collaborative Operating System ever. And when you are up and running with the new OS, don’t forget to brag to your co-workers about it!


Contact us to find out how Alchemy can help your business.

Call us on 01784 223 100 or email us – [email protected]