With digital threats lurking around every corner, safeguarding your organisation’s digital assets has never been more critical. The Australian Signals Directorate (ASD) recognises this urgency and has devised a comprehensive cybersecurity framework known as the “Essential 8.” Let’s delve into this essential guide to fortifying your cyber defences.

What is the Essential 8?

The Essential 8 is a set of cybersecurity strategies developed by ASD to help organisations mitigate cyber threats effectively. It comprises eight key mitigation strategies, prioritised based on their effectiveness in addressing targeted cyber intrusions and ransomware attacks.

Understanding the Strategies

• Patch applications: Regularly updating and patching applications is crucial for fixing security vulnerabilities. Unpatched software can serve as easy entry points for cyber attackers.

• Patch operating systems: Similar to patching applications, keeping operating systems up-to-date is crucial for addressing security vulnerabilities and strengthening overall resilience against cyber threats.

• Multi-factor authentication: Implementing MFA adds an extra layer of security by requiring users to provide multiple forms of verification before accessing systems or data. This significantly reduces the risk of unauthorised access, even if passwords are compromised.

• Restrict administrative privileges: Limiting administrative privileges helps prevent unauthorised access and minimises the impact of cyber attacks. Only authorised personnel should have elevated privileges, reducing the risk of malicious activity.

• Application control: This strategy involves allowing only approved applications to run on your systems. By restricting unauthorised software, you significantly reduce the risk of malware infiltration.

• Restrict Microsoft Office macros: Malicious macros embedded in Microsoft Office documents pose a significant threat. Configuring Office applications to block macros from the internet can prevent potential breaches.

• User application hardening: Harden your systems by configuring applications to reduce their attack surface. This includes disabling unnecessary features and restricting privileges to minimize potential avenues of exploitation.

• Regular backups: Regularly backing up data is essential for mitigating the impact of ransomware attacks and data breaches. In the event of an incident, having up-to-date backups can facilitate timely recovery and minimise disruption to operations.

Why it Matters

Cyber attacks are becoming increasingly sophisticated, posing significant risks to organisations of all sizes. By adopting the Essential 8 strategies, businesses can enhance their resilience against these threats, safeguarding their sensitive information, maintaining operational continuity, and protecting their reputation.

In today’s interconnected digital landscape, cybersecurity is not an option; it’s a necessity. ASD’s Essential 8 provides a roadmap for organisations to strengthen their cyber defences and mitigate the evolving threat landscape effectively. By implementing these strategies, businesses can stay one step ahead of cyber adversaries and safeguard their digital assets against potential harm.

Talk to Mac Aid about implementing The Essential 8 to secure your data, your devices and your business.

Apple continues to raise the bar with its latest iPad releases: the M4 iPad Pro and M2 iPad Air. These cutting-edge devices epitomize the pinnacle of Apple performance, design, and functionality, catering to the diverse needs of modern consumers. Let’s delve into what makes these gadgets the best tablets in the world.

M4 iPad Pro: Redefining Productivity

At the forefront of innovation lies the M4 iPad Pro, with an all-new design. Incredibly portable, it is the thinnest Apple product ever.

The iPad Pro packs astonishing power into an unbelievably thin, light and portable design. Push the limits of what’s possible on iPad with an ultraportable 11-inch model and an expansive 13-inch model.

Powered by the brand new M-series chip, iPad Pro boasts unparalleled processing power, effortlessly handling complex tasks with lightning speed and efficiency. M4 features 1.5x faster CPU performance and 4x faster rendering performance than M2. Whether you’re editing high-resolution videos, designing intricate graphics, or multitasking with multiple applications, the M4 iPad Pro delivers seamless performance, elevating your productivity to unprecedented levels.

Beyond raw power, the M4 iPad Pro dazzles with the Ultra Retina XDR display, the world’s most advanced display. Ultra Retina XD utilises groundbreaking tandem OLED technology, featuring extreme brightness, incredibly precise contrast, and advanced technologies like ProMotion and True Tone. iPad Pro is now also available with a Nano texture glass option.

Pro connectivity adds a whole new dimension of versatility to iPad Pro. Drive high-resolution external displays up to 6K and connect to storage devices with Thunderbolt. And stay connected wherever you are with blazing-fast Wi-Fi 6E and 5G capabilities.

M4 iPad Pro can be partnered with a brand new Magic Keyboard with an amazing typing and trackpad experience in a sleek, portable new design with an aluminium palm rest. The keyboard includes a function row and a larger glass trackpad with haptic feedback for precise work and Multi‑Touch gestures.

M2 iPad Air: Bridging Performance and Affordability

Complementing the M4 iPad Pro is the M2 iPad Air, a testament to Apple’s commitment to democratizing cutting-edge technology. Powered by the formidable M2 chip, this iPad delivers exceptional performance without compromising on affordability, making it the ideal choice for a wide spectrum of users. M2 iPad Air is available in 11 inch and now 13 inch sizes.

The incredibly fast M2 chip brings breakout performance to iPad Air. With a powerful CPU, GPU and Neural Engine, it’s nearly 50 per cent faster than the previous generation.

The M2 iPad Air impresses with its sleek design, featuring a vibrant Liquid Retina display that brings content to life with stunning clarity and vivid colors. Whether you’re browsing the web, streaming multimedia content, or engaging in casual gaming, the M2 iPad Air offers an immersive and enjoyable experience, rivalling its more premium counterparts.

Moreover, the M2 iPad Air excels in portability and versatility, making it the perfect companion for users on the go. With its lightweight and compact form factor, coupled with all-day battery life, this device ensures uninterrupted productivity and entertainment wherever you are.

Apple Pencil Pro

Apple Pencil sets the standard for how drawing, painting, handwriting and note-taking should feel — intuitive, precise and magical. All with pixel‑perfect precision, low latency, tilt sensitivity and support for palm rejection. The all-new Apple Pencil Pro adds even more capabilities to bring your ideas to life like never before.

Apple Pencil Pro adds advanced features like squeeze, barrel roll and haptic feedback to make marking up, taking notes and creating a masterpiece more intuitive than ever. Use Apple Pencil hover to preview exactly where Apple Pencil Pro will touch down on the display, and double-tap to quickly switch tools. And if you misplace it while you’re out and about or at home, you can easily locate it in the Find My app. Apple Pencil Pro pairs, charges and stores magnetically on the side of your iPad.

Talk to Mac Aid about which of the new iPads would be best for you.

With new Macs and iPads constantly rumoured to be on the horizon, it can be tricky deciding when is a good time to buy.

Now that all Macs have transitioned to Apple silicon, the improvements to what are already great computers are tending to be incremental. That means the performance improvements from for example, M2 to M3, or wifi 6 to wifi 6E, BlueTooth 5 to BlueTooth 5.3 or HDMI 2 to HDMI 2.1, while nice, needn’t be deciders as to when to buy a new Mac. So you shouldn’t necessarily wait to get your new Mac because of a rumoured new model.

The other thing to remember about rumoured Mac upgrades, is that Apple are highly secretive and never pre-announce upgrades themselves. So rumours can turn out to just be rumours, and you may end up waiting years for a Mac upgrade that never materialises. Ultimately, there is always something new in development, and if you wait for the perfect time to buy, you may wait for ever. If you are insistent on always having the latest and greatest, the best time to buy a new model is in it’s first few months after release.

That said, here is the current state of Macs and iPads.

M3 MacBook Air: the recently released M3 version of the MacBook Air is a nice upgrade, although the improvements over the M2 versions are largely a slight performance improvement and the ability to run two external displays in clamshell mode. If you are looking for a bargain, the M2 13 inch MacBook Air is still available as a base model. So it is a great time to buy a MacBook Air.

M3, M3 Pro and M3 Max MacBook Pros: The M3 variants of 14 and 16 inch MacBook Pros are fantastic laptops and it is the perfect time to buy these.

M3 24 inch iMac: This is a recent release, so it is a very good time to upgrade to an M3 24 inch iMac. iMac can now be upgraded to 24GB RAM, so can be useful in more demanding roles than the previous M1 version.

M2 Max and M2 Ultra Mac Studios: These are very potent Macs, and the M2 Max and M2 Ultra iterations are perfect for heavy hitters in design, photography or architecture. It is logical that M3 Max and M3 Ultra versions of Mac Studio will be released this year, but there is no visibility as to when. So if you need a Mac Studio it’s still a sensible time to buy

M2 and M2 Pro Mac mini: The M2 and M2 Pro Mac mini is a great little powerhouse for mid-level business, design and photography users. Like the Mac Studio, an M3 version is inevitably going to arrive, but there is currently no indication as to when. So it is still a great time to purchase M2 and M2 Pro Mac mini.

iPad Pro, iPad Air and iPad mini: There have been consistent rumours of new iPads being released for some time now, and they are overdue for upgrades. So if you can hold out for M3 iPads you probably should. Current expectation is that M3 iPads will be released in May this year.

If in doubt, talk to Mac Aid about upgrade strategies for your Mac or iPad.

Mac Aid’s favourite anti malware tool, Malwarebytes (by ThreatDown), now has a new optional vulnerability and patching extension.

In today’s digital age, cybersecurity is more important than ever. With the rise of sophisticated cyber threats, protecting your devices and data has become a top priority. One crucial aspect of cybersecurity is vulnerability and patch management, and Malwarebytes Vulnerability and Patch Management can help us to help you stay ahead of the game.

Many Mac Aid clients already trust Malwarebytes as their anti-malware solution, so adding Malwarebytes Vulnerability and Patch Management is a great next step to making sure your devices and your data are safe and secure.

What is vulnerability and patch management? Essentially, it’s the process of identifying, prioritising, and mitigating security vulnerabilities in software and systems. So, running updates. Cybercriminals often exploit these vulnerabilities to attempt to gain unauthorised access to your devices or steal sensitive information. Patch management involves applying updates or patches provided by software vendors to fix these vulnerabilities and strengthen your defences.

Malwarebytes Vulnerability and Patch Management allows us to take a proactive approach to vulnerability detection. It continuously scans your devices for potential vulnerabilities, identifying any weaknesses that could be exploited by cyber attackers. By staying one step ahead, Malwarebytes Vulnerability and Patch Management  helps us prevent security breaches before they occur, giving you peace of mind in an increasingly complex digital landscape.

Moreover, Malwarebytes Vulnerability and Patch Management simplifies the patch management process, making it easier to apply necessary updates across all your devices. With automated patch deployment and centralised management capabilities, Malwarebytes streamlines the patching process, saving you time and money while ensuring that your systems are always up to date with the latest security patches.

If you subscribe to Malwarebytes Vulnerability and Patch Management, Mac Aid will monitor your systems and let you know if important updates need to be installed. At that point we can book a remote support session to get your system up to date and secure.

In addition to its robust vulnerability and patch management features, Malwarebytes offers comprehensive malware protection to defend against a wide range of cyber threats. Whether it’s viruses, ransomware, or phishing attacks, Malwarebytes has you covered, keeping your devices and data safe from harm.

Vulnerability and patch management are essential components of strong cybersecurity, and Malwarebytes Vulnerability and Patch Management is a great tool to stay secure in an ever-evolving threat landscape. 

Talk to Mac Aid about deploying Malwarebytes and Malwarebytes Vulnerability and Patch Management on your systems.

It was inevitable that Apple would upgrade the MacBook Air to the M3 processor. The M3, based on the new 3 nm process, always seemed like a perfect fit for a compact, fanless laptop like the MacBook Air.

The M2 MacBook Airs were already great laptops, and a lovely evolution of what has always been one of Apple’s best laptop form factors. And the 15 inch MacBook Air was a great addition to the range last year. With plenty of processing power, amazing battery life, great displays, and improved FaceTime cameras, microphones and sound, all in a new sleek “slab style” design, in two sizes, Mac Aid clients who have purchased M2 MacBook Airs have been very happy with them.

The design for both sizes remains the same, the main improvements are the upgrade to the M3 processor, wifi 6E, and improved 3 mic array. 

Apple says that the new M3 MacBook Airs are up to 1.6x faster than MacBook Air with the M1 chip, and up to 13x faster than the fastest Intel-based MacBook Air, which is a considerable performance boost by any standard. 

As with other M3 Macs, the performance improvement compared to M2 Macs isn’t as big, being from 15-30% depending on how you measure it. So M3 MacBook Air is most sensible as an upgrade for users of M1 MacBook Airs or older. It’s a no-brainer for those still using an Intel MacBook Air.

M3 MacBook Airs also have support for Wi-Fi 6E, which is up to 2x faster than Wi-Fi 6, and a new 3-mic array with Voice Isolation and Wide Spectrum microphone modes, for enhanced voice clarity in audio and video calls.

For fans of the Midnight Black colour, another nicety with the new M3 MacBook Airs is the adoption of the improved “anodization seal” to reduce visible fingerprints. This was first introduced on the Space Black M3 MacBook Pro last year and does seem to modestly improve the usability of Macs in these sexy, but sometimes impractical colours.

A limitation of Macs with base M1, M2 or M3 processors has always been that they could only drive one external monitor (apart from the mighty Mac mini). Apple have – partly – addressed this limitation with the M3 MacBook Airs. They will run 2 x 5K external displays – in clamshell mode (with the lid closed). This might be helpful for users who need two external monitors, who until know have had to upgrade to Macs with Pro or Max processors for multiple monitor support. But remember that having the lid of your MacBook Air closed will mean you lose the use of the built in FaceTime Camera and TouchID on the keyboard.

It was a little sad to see that Apple have now discontinued the M1 MacBook Air, which was a great classic MacBook Air design, and had been a great deal for Mac users on a budget. The 13 inch M2 MacBook Air has been kept in the range to take its place, with a substantial price drop. Starting at only $100 more than the 13 inch M1 MacBook Air, the 13 inch M2 MacBook Air is a perfect solution for those with modest needs and on a tight budget.

Talk to Mac Aid about your needs in a MacBook Air to make sure you get the right spec for your needs and budget.