Author Archive for Andy Wilkinson

Your Latest IT News Update

Featured Article – Coronavirus Tracking

Following recent Wall Street Journal reports that phone data from tech companies and data providers is being used to track the movements of Americans in order to better understand the spread of COVID-19, here’s a look at how data and apps are being used worldwide in the common fight against the virus.

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YouTube Bans 5G and COVID-19 Link Conspiracy Videos

After a recent live-streamed interview with David Icke linked the introduction of 5G technology to the emergence of the COVID-19 the pandemic, Google’s YouTube has now banned all 5G conspiracy videos.

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Facebook Launches Desktop Messenger

Facebook has launched a desktop Messenger app for macOS and Windows for free group video calls and chats.

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Data Reveals Business Worries About Remote Working Challenges

London-based security company Redscan has reported that recent Google searches reveal how businesses are focused on how they can adapt to the security and technology challenges posed by remote working.

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Tech Tip – How To Sign A Digital Document (Mac)

If you have a Mac, there’s a fast and easy way to sign a digital document without the need to print it out first. Here’s how:

<More>

Featured Article – Coronavirus Tracking

Following recent Wall Street Journal reports that phone data from tech companies and data providers is being used to track the movements of Americans in order to better understand the spread of COVID-19, here’s a look at how data and apps are being used worldwide in the common fight against the virus.

Americans Tracked By Phone Location Data

As has recently been reported in the Wall Street Journal, phone data from tech companies and data providers is being used to track the movements of Americans in order to better understand the spread of COVID-19.

The phone data, which is reported not to have any personally identifiable elements, thereby retaining privacy, has been analysed (according to the WSJ) and compiled into reports which have been sent to the ‘Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’ as well as other offices.  The data will also be added to a portal for official use.

500 Cities

The reported goal of making a portal available to officials which contains the analysed phone data from 500 U.S. cities is to be able to help improve America’s response to the unfolding COVID-19 crisis.

Privacy Concerns

Although it could be argued that these are unusual times when all manner of methods of tracking and controlling the virus are likely to be considered, the fact that phone data is being used this way has led to concern among privacy groups and activists.

Not Using Phone Data

However, a spokesperson for ‘Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’ is reported to have said that phone data is not being used but public health surveillance data from sources such as the World Health Organisation (WHO) is being used to help track the spread of COVID-19.

Letter

Back on March 19, Senator Edward J. Markey wrote to Michael Kratsios, the Chief Technology Officer of the United States, asking him to “balance privacy with any data-driven solutions to the current public health crisis”.  Also, in the letter, Sen. Markey pointed out that “a person’s location information can reveal other sensitive details, such as a place of employment, religious affiliation, or political preferences” and, therefore, Sen. Markey asked for assurances that collection and processing of phone location information, even if aggregated and anonymised, would not pose safety and privacy risks to individuals.

Location Tracking in Other Countries

In his letter, Sen. Markey also noted how America should be guided by the experience of other countries that have turned to technology to combat COVID-19 and that,  the use of location data without careful limitations could harm the privacy and civil liberties of Americans.

Singapore

The countries and methods highlighted by Sen. Markey included Singapore, where he alleges that the government publishes personal details of coronavirus, such as their age, nationalities, length of stay in hospital, where they live, and even their connections to one another.

It is likely that he may have been referring to several technological measures being used in Singapore,  such as the TraceTogether app.  The app uses location data and Bluetooth to help stop the spread of COVID-19.  Once on a user’s phone, the app records when that user goes near another person who has the TraceTogether app.  This proximity data is stored on the user’s phone and can be requested for analysis with the user’s permission – which many are willing to give to help stop the spread of the disease.  The TraceTogether app is also used by the Singapore government to send out updates to citizens via WhatsApp twice a day containing information such as the number of cases, suspected locations of outbreaks, and advice for avoiding infection.

South Korea

Another Country referred to by Sen. Markey was South Korea where he suggested that data shared about patients who were being admitted to hospital led to them being stigmatised.

This may have been a reference to the “self-quarantine safety protection” app from the country’s ‘Ministry of the Interior and Safety’ via which the central and local governments send out real-time alerts via text message, apps and online giving details of the number of confirmed cases of coronavirus (COVID-19) and of the travel histories of those infected.

Another app in popular use in South Korea is the “Corona 100m app” which has been downloaded more than 1 million times and alerts users if they breach a 100-metre (328 ft) radius of the latest tracked whereabouts of a coronavirus patient.

South Korea is also reported to be deploying a system that uses data including surveillance camera footage and even the credit card transactions of confirmed coronavirus patients to recreate their movements.

The UK

Following the example of other countries, such as South Korea, using technology to significantly ‘flatten the curve’ of COVID-19, the UK government is reported to be about to launch its own app to warn users if they are in close proximity to anyone who has tested positive for coronavirus. The app will use short-range Bluetooth to detect phones in the vicinity and store a record of those contacts and, if a person tests positive for COVID-19, they can upload the contacts and alert them via the app.  The idea behind it appears to be that, if people test positive for coronavirus, those people that they may have been in contact with can be quickly informed and can self-isolate.

It has also been reported that the data from the app won’t be shared with central authorities, thereby helping to reduce fears of possible privacy breaches.

Large Numbers Needed

For the UK app to be effective, however, it is (somewhat optimistically) thought that more than 50% of the population would need to download it.

Ethics Board To Be Appointed

Considering that the app will be collecting such sensitive information, and assuming that it does achieve a very large number of downloads, it appears likely that UK’s National Health Service ‘NHSX’ (a new unit driving forward the digital transformation of health and social care) will need to appoint its own ethics board to oversee the app’s development.

Social Media and Tech Giants

As well as whole countries and governments looking at ways to collect and use location data to help fight the spread of COVID-19, tech giants like Facebook and Google are also offering to use their collected data to help.

Facebook

Facebook is reported to be using its unique perspective as a company with access to data from 2.5 billion monthly active users to:

– Provide (anonymised) location information to feed into analysis and forecasts that could help tackle the spread of the virus.

– Produce three disease prevention maps on population movement, as part of its, ‘Data for Good’ program, to help inform disease forecasting efforts and protective measures.

– Send out a prompt on Facebook aimed at encouraging people in the U.S. to sign-up to a voluntary survey from Carnegie Mellon University Delphi Research Center that’s been designed to help health researchers identify COVID-19 hotspots.

Google

Google is also releasing ‘COVID-19 Community Mobility Reports’ to health officials, based on its own collected, anonymised data from phones, to show movement trends and insights and thereby help to tackle the spread of COVID-19.

Looking Ahead

Most people would probably agree that using what data is available, if it really is in an anonymised form that will not impact on privacy, and if it is used just to help tackle the spread of the virus is a reasonable idea.  It is a good thing that some countries appear to have been able to use apps to help gather data and inform people in a way that may save lives, and it appears that the UK will also be using the power of technology (an app) to help in the fight.

The challenge is to be able to use data from consenting people i.e. people who have downloaded the apps and agreed to have their location data used, in an ethical way, in a way that protects privacy,  and in a way that doesn’t lead to stigmatising or prejudice or is carried on for other purposes beyond tackling this particular outbreak.

YouTube Bans 5G and COVID-19 Link Conspiracy Videos

After a recent live-streamed interview with David Icke linked the introduction of 5G technology to the emergence of the COVID-19 the pandemic, Google’s YouTube has now banned all 5G conspiracy videos.

5G Theory Far-Fetched

Mr Icke’s interview, which was watched by a reported 65,000 people and in which he alleged a possible link between 5G and the COVID-19 health crisis, appears to have been the ‘straw that broke the camel’s back’ for YouTube.

Among the many controversial elements of the broadcast, Mr Icke appeared to say that a continuation of 5G would lead to the end of human life, and alleged that when a vaccine is developed, it will somehow contain small microchips that will allow those who have been injected with it to be controlled.

Mr Icke’s interview and the resulting questions to YouTube about why the video was allowed on the platform appear to have had a strong influence on YouTube deciding to tighten its policies to the point where other videos with similar claims will now be banned from the platform.

Unsubstantiated Medical Claim Worries

YouTube is now very keen to point out that it will not tolerate videos on its platform that deny/dispute the existence or transmission of COVID-19 as defined by the respected medical authorities i.e. the World Health Organisation (WHO) and local health authorities. YouTube includes in this definition, any videos relating to the 5G and COVID-19 conspiracy theory.

For conspiracy theorists, of course, the banning of their videos is likely to feed even more into their beliefs.

Masts Set Ablaze

The 5G and COVID-19 conspiracy theory is very likely to have been the reason why a number of 5G masts were set on fire recently in Birmingham, Liverpool and Melling in Merseyside.

This led to the UK’s Culture Secretary, Oliver Dowden, to arrange meetings with the representatives of the big tech companies and to ask social media companies to try and increase their efforts to tackle the spread on their platforms, of 5G and Coronavirus conspiracy theory.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

There will always be those who are more likely to believe and share conspiracy theories and to try to feel in control of complicated situations and ideas by finding an apparently simple solution and apportioning blame.  It must be frustrating and expensive for phone companies to have their masts attacked and many businesses are looking forward to having the benefits of 5G, even though those seem some way off.

Also, it is good to see that Google is prepared to take action quickly in matters which could pose a risk to public health.

Facebook Launches Desktop Messenger

Facebook has launched a desktop Messenger app for macOS and Windows for free group video calls and chats.

Huge Increase

The social media giant reports that, over the past month, it has seen a 100% increase in people using the desktop browser for audio and video calling on Messenger, and that this has led to the launch of new desktop Messenger apps for macOS and Windows happening now. The desktop Messenger app is something that had already been in the pipeline since 2016.

Features and Benefits

Some of the features and benefits offered by the new desktop app include the ability to have free group video calls on a larger screen, the ease of connection that Messenger already provides (all your Facebook friends already have Messenger), and the fact that users can dip in and out of conversations while they do other things on their computer – it allows for multi-tasking.

The app also gives notifications of new messages (which you can choose to mute or snooze), and chats can be synchronized across mobile and desktop so that calls or messages, regardless of the device that’s being used.

Facebook also says that the new desktop app will include everything that users like about mobile Messenger including Dark Mode and GIFs.

Competition

With so many people at home and working remotely, video and chat apps and collaborative working platforms have seen a surge in new user numbers.  For example, Microsoft’s collaborative working platform ‘Teams’ reported seeing a massive 12 million user boost in one week and ‘Zoom’ has also seen a massive surge in popularity.  The launch of desktop Messenger now, therefore, is a way that Facebook compete in what is an area of digital communications that is experiencing massive growth and in which it is important to be a top player.

Downloading The App

The new desktop Messenger app can be downloaded from the Microsoft Store or Mac App Store.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

For Facebook, desktop Messenger is a way to compete with the many other tech companies offering remote video, communication and collaborative working solutions and is way to keep the Facebook brand prominent, increase loyalty, and to increase positive feelings about the company.

For users, the desktop app offers benefits of convenience in contacting anyone who is a Facebook friend and many may think it’s a long-overdue new feature when you consider that popular apps like WhatsApp have offered a desktop version for some time now.

Data Reveals Business Worries About Remote Working Challenges

London-based security company Redscan has reported that recent Google searches reveal how businesses are focused on how they can adapt to the security and technology challenges posed by remote working.

Not Prepared

This does appear to show, perhaps not surprisingly, given the speed at which the spread of the COVID-19 virus led to the temporary closure of business premises and a lockdown, that businesses were not fully prepared to manage business continuity and the challenges created by this rather unexpected threat.

COVID-19 Phishing Scams

Redscan reported that, for the first time in many years, ‘COVID-19’ and not ‘Apple’ has become the most searched-for term in relation to phishing campaigns.

Business Continuity

Redscan has also reported that searches for “business continuity plan” reached an all-time high in Google from 8 March to 21 March.  Other searched for terms that hit record-levels included “remote working”, “remote access” and “VPN”.

Redscan’s CTO, Mark Nicholls, says on the company’s website that the popularity of “business continuity” as a search term “suggests that many businesses did not already have a continuity plan in place, and now is hardly an ideal time to implement one”.

Mr Nicolls also highlights how the pandemic has provided cybercriminals with “a unique opportunity to target remote employees” and suggests that “employee cyber awareness training and proactive network and endpoint monitoring are more important than ever”.

Collaborative Working Tools

Search terms relating to popular collaborative working tools such as ‘Zoom’ (the most searched for), GoToMeeting, WebEx, Slack and Microsoft Teams have also seen huge search volumes in Google in recent weeks.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

The volume of searches for ‘business continuity plan’ suggests that many businesses don’t have one and have been forced into very quickly searching for information about keeping their business going in during the most challenging conditions since WW2.

Last week, research by Check Point indicated that cybercriminals may be targeting the video conferencing app ‘Zoom’ while in recent weeks there have been reports of several different phishing scams going around.  These include emails purporting to be from doctors offering details of a vaccine cure that’s been kept secret by the Chinese and UK governments, emails with fake links to disease management policies, fake promises of tax refunds for coronavirus, and fake emails asking for donations to fund the fast development of a COVID-19 vaccine. It appears, therefore, to be a sound observation from Redscan that employee cyber awareness training and network and endpoint monitoring are more important than ever, and businesses need to be extra vigilant as cybercriminals are seeking to exploit this extraordinary situation to steal data, money, and/or install malicious software on business networks.

Tech Tip – How To Sign A Digital Document (Mac)

If you have a Mac, there’s a fast and easy way to sign a digital document without the need to print it out first.  Here’s how:

– Save the document as a .pdf file.

– Open it with the ‘Preview’ app.

– Select the ‘Show Mark-up Toolbar’ option.

– Select ‘Sign’ and use the mouse (or trackpad) to draw your signature and save it.

– You will now be able to insert your signature into any digital document (and edit the size).

Your Latest IT News Update

Featured Article – Maintaining Security on Employee Exit

When employees leave (or are asked to leave) or retire from businesses and organisations, those entities still have a legal responsibility to ensure that security levels are maintained with regards to data security.

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Research Indicates Zoom Is Being Targeted By Cybercriminals

With many people working from home due to coronavirus, research by Check Point indicates that cyber-criminals may be targeting the video conferencing app ‘Zoom’.

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Google Warns Against Disabling Websites During Lockdown

Google has warned businesses that are tempted to disable or temporarily close their online business website during the coronavirus outbreak not to do so, as this could have a lasting, detrimental effect on its (SEO) search engine  rankings.

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Data Caps Removed During Pandemic

The UK government has announced that the UK’s big ISP’s are removing caps on data for fixed-line broadband during the coronavirus pandemic.

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Tech Tip – Taking Care of Your Laptop

Here are some tips for keeping your laptop battery in good condition and the screen nice and clean:

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Featured Article – Maintaining Security on Employee Exit

When employees leave (or are asked to leave) or retire from businesses and organisations, those entities still have a legal responsibility to ensure that security levels are maintained with regards to data security.

Laws For Data

The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and the Data Protection Act 1998 are the main legislative frameworks covering how a businesses or organisation in the UK should manage the protection and handling of data. Within these, the data controller (i.e. you and your company/organisation) hold the responsibility for data matters.

Protecting that data is vitally important both to protect those who the company holds data about, and to protect the company itself from legal penalties, damage to reputation and more.  As well as personal data, your business needs to ensure that other sensitive data such as financial records, intellectual property and details about company security controls are all protected.

Threats

In addition to legal responsibilities for data protection, businesses must also address other potential threats as part of due diligence and hopefully, of a built-in company procedure when an employee leaves for whatever reason. For example:

– Damage and Disruption – In addition to the risk of data theft, attacks on a company’s systems and network, which may have been facilitated by not having security measures or procedures in place for employees leaving/retiring, can cause costly and disruptive damage and disruption.

– Insider Threat – One of the dangers of not managing the departure of an employee properly is that your business could then have an ‘insider threat’ i.e. a former employee, contractor or partner with access rights and logins that still work.

Security and Employee Exit

Clearly, there are many areas to be covered to manage employee exit from a security perspective.  Here are some pointers for managing the security aspects of an employee’s departure:

– Email is a window into company communications and operations and a place where sensitive data is exchanged and stored. It is also a common ‘way in’ for cyber-criminals.  With this in mind, managing the email aspects of security when an employee leaves/retires is vitally important.  Measures that can be taken include revoking access to company email, setting up auto-forwarding and out-of-office replies, while making sure that you mention who the new contact is. Also, it’s important to revoke access to/remove login credentials for other email programs used by the company to communicate with customers and other lists of stakeholders e.g. mass mailing programs with stored lists, such as Mailchimp.

– Company Systems and Networks. Employees have login details and rights/permissions for company computer systems and networks.  These should be revoked for the employee when they leave.

– CRMs provide access to all manner of data about the company, its customers, its other stakeholders, sales, communications and more. Login access should be revoked when an employee leaves.

– Collaborative Working Apps/Platforms and shared, cloud-based, remote working platforms e.g. Teams or Slack also contain direct access to company data. Make sure that a departing employee can no longer have access to these groups.

– If the departing employee has a personal voicemail message on the company phone, this will need to be changed.

– A leaving employee will need to return all company devices, and this implies that a company should have procedures in place to keep a record of which company devices have been allocated to each employee.

– Retrieval of any backup/storage media e.g. USBs may also help to prevent some security threats.

– Although it is best to store all online documents in a shared company folder that you have control over e.g. in OneDrive, it is possible that an employee has stored items in separate folders on their computer. Making sure that these are transferred to you or deleted when the employee leaves can help to maintain levels of security.

– Having a policy in place for the regular changing of passwords can work well anyway as a fail-safe but also, changing any passwords shared with multiple members of staff is an important measure to take when an employee leaves.

– If the departing employee was authorised to use company credit/debit cards, changing the PINs for those cards is another step that needs to be taken to maintain security with the company/organisation’s finances.

– Letting the company team/person responsible for IT security know that a person has left, particularly if the person left ‘under a cloud’, is another way that you can help to close security loopholes.

– Making sure that all company-related keys, pass cards, ID cards, parking passes, and any other similar items are retrieved is something that should be done before the ex-employee leaves the premises for the last time.

– If the employee has been issued with physical documents (e.g. a handbook) that contains information and data that could threaten company security, these need to be retrieved when the employee leaves.

– If the departing employee’s email address and extension feature on the website and/or is that employee is featured as being in the role that they are departing from, this needs to be removed from the website.  Also, check that company social media doesn’t indicate that the departed employee is still in their role e.g. on LinkedIn and Facebook.  You may also wish to make sure that the ex-employee doesn’t feature in the business online estate e.g. at the top of the website home page or other prominent pages.

Responsibility of the Employee

It should not be forgotten that employees who leave or retire from their jobs also have a legal responsibility as regards not taking company data with them.  A case in point, from 2019, led to the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) to warn those retiring or taking a new job that under the Data Protection Act 2018, employees can face regulatory action if they are found to have retained information collected as part of their previous employment.  The case which led to the warning from the ICO related to two (former) police officers who were investigated under previous Data Protection Act 1998 legislation after it was alleged that they had retained personal data in the form of notebooks that they had used while serving.

The warning in the ICO’s statement was that the Data Protection Act 1998 has since been strengthened through the Data Protection Act 2018, to include a new element of “knowingly or recklessly retaining personal data” without the consent of the data controller (see section 170 of the DPA 2018).

The only exceptions to this new part of the new Act are when it is necessary for the purposes of preventing or detecting crime, is required or authorised by an enactment, by a rule of law or by the order of a court or tribunal, or whether it is justified as being in the public interest.

ICO Warning – Retiring or Taking a New Job

The ICO has also warned that anyone who deals with the personal details of others in the course of their work, private or public sector, should take note of this update to the law, especially when employees are retiring or taking on a new job because those leaving or retiring can now be held responsible if the breach of personal data from their previous employer can be traced to their individual actions.

Prosecution Example

Examples of where the ICO has prosecuted for this type of breach of the law include a charity worker who, without the knowledge of the data controller (Rochdale Connections Trust), sent emails from his work email account (in February 2017) containing sensitive personal information of 183 people.  Also, a former Council schools admission department apprentice was found guilty of screen-shotting a spreadsheet that contained information about children and eligibility for free school meals and then sending it to a parent via Snapchat.

Moving Forwards

Maintaining the company/organisation’s security (physical, data and financial), are vital to its survival.  Making sure that procedures are in place to cover security in the event of ‘employee exit’ could save the company from preventable threats in the future.

Research Indicates Zoom Is Being Targeted By Cybercriminals

With many people working from home due to coronavirus, research by Check Point indicates that cyber-criminals may be targeting the video conferencing app ‘Zoom’.

Domains

Cybersecurity company ‘Check Point’ reports witnessing a major increase in new domain registrations in the last few weeks where the domain name includes the word ‘Zoom’.  According to a recent report on Check Point’s blog, more than 1700 new domains have been registered since the beginning of the year with 25 per cent of them being registered over the past week. Check Point’s research indicates that 4 per cent of these recently registered domains have “suspicious characteristics”, such as the word ‘Zoom’.

Concern In The U.S.

The huge rise in Zoom’s user numbers, particularly in the U.S. has also led New York’s Attorney General, Letitia James, to ask Zoom whether it has reviewed its security measures recently, and to suggest to Zoom that it may have been relatively slow at addressing issues in the past.

Not Just Zoom

Check Point has warned that Zoom is not the only app that’s being targeted at the moment as new phishing websites have been launched to pass themselves off as every leading communications application.  For example, the official classroom.google.com website has been impersonated by googloclassroom.com and googieclassroom.com.

Malicious Files Too

Check Point also reports detecting malicious files with names related to the popular apps and platforms being used by remote workers during the coronavirus lockdown.  For example, malicious file names observed include zoom-us-zoom_##########.exe” and “microsoft-teams_V#mu#D_##########.exe” (# is used here to represent digits). Once these files are run, InstallCore PUA is loaded onto the victim’s computer.  InstallCore PUA is a program that can be used by cyber-criminals to install other malicious programs on a victim’s computer.

Suggestions

Some ways that users can protect their computers/devices, networks and businesses from these types of threats, as suggested by Check Point, include being extra cautious with emails and files from unfamiliar senders, not opening attachments or clicking on links in emails (phishing scams), and by paying close attention to the spelling of domains, email addresses and spelling errors in emails/on websites.  Check Point also suggests Googling the company you’re looking for to find their official website rather than just clicking on a link in an email, which could redirect to a fake (phishing) site.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

This research highlights how cyber-criminals are always quick to capitalise on situations where people have been adversely affected by unusual events and where they know people are in unfamiliar territory.  In this case, people are also divided geographically and are trying to cope with many situations at the same time, may be a little distracted, and may be less vigilant than normal.

The message to businesses is that the evidence from security companies that are tracking the behaviour of cyber-criminals is that extra vigilance is now needed and that all employees need to be very careful, particularly in how they deal with emails from unknown sources, or from apparently known sources offering convincing reasons and incentives to click on links or download files.

Google Warns Against Disabling Websites During Lockdown

Google has warned businesses that are tempted to disable or temporarily close their online business website during the coronavirus outbreak not to do so, as this could have a lasting, detrimental effect on its (SEO) search engine rankings.

Why Disable or Close Down The Website?

The coronavirus outbreak has meant reduced orders for many businesses but has also left many businesses unable to fulfil orders, or in a position where many products are out of stock.  Where the website for these businesses is the online shop, this has led to some business owners deciding to disable or close the website temporarily.

Bad Idea

Although this may sound like a reasonable idea from a practical business perspective, Google has warned that doing so could adversely affect the website’s search engine position in a significant way, even after it has been restored.  Google has advised that an “extreme” measure like removing a site completely from its Google’s index is “a significant change that can take quite some time to recover from”.

Google has also said that there is no fixed time for a recovery from a complete website removal and that it has no mechanism to speed a recovery of a website in its search engine rankings after that site has been taken down and then put back up.

Lose Access To Information

Taking your website down temporarily will also mean that Google’s Search Console verification will fail, you will no longer have access to information about your business in Search, and you will lose potentially valuable data from the Aggregate reports in Search Console (as pages are dropped from Google’s index).

Other Reasons

In addition to damaging the position of a website in Google’s search engine rankings, Google suggests that other reasons why temporarily taking down a website would be a bad idea for a business include:

– Confusing customers.  Customers won’t know what’s happening and may even assume that that business has closed. Also, if Customers/potential customers can’t find first-hand details about you and your products/services and are forced to look for third-party information about your business, this may not be as correct or comprehensive.

– Making it more difficult to gain ground in future.  Restoring a website after a break means having to wait for re-indexing.

Better To Limit Your Website’s Functionality

Google advises that it is better, and less risky (in terms of losing rankings) to simply limit the functionality of your website rather than totally disabling the website without following Google’s best practice advice.  Limiting functionality while retaining search visibility can include disabling the cart functionality, displaying a banner or pop-up to explain the situation to customers, updating structured data and local business structured data, checking the Merchant Centre feed, and telling Google about the updates.  This could mean using the Search Console to ask Google to re-crawl a limited number of pages or using sitemaps to ask Google to re-crawl a larger number of pages e.g. product pages.

Other Advice

Google has issued advice about the proper procedure for situations where businesses feel that they need to disable their website for e.g. a couple of days. See: https://developers.google.com/search/docs/guides/pause-online-business#best-practices-disabling-site .

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

Clearly, disabling functionality while retaining the kind of search engine visibility that it has taken a lot of time (and money) to build up, and is vital to the life of the business is preferable, in most cases, to completely disabling a website without following best practice advice.

If you feel that you must take a site down for a short period, it is certainly worth following Google’s best practice advice when doing so (see the ‘Other Advice’ paragraph above for the link).