Energy Firm Cyber Defence is ‘Too Weak’, Insurers State

Energy Firm Cyber Defence is ‘Too Weak’, Insurers State
Power companies are being refused insurance cover for cyber-attacks because their defences are perceived as weak, the BBC has learned. Underwriters at Lloyd’s of London say they have seen a “huge increase” in demand for cover from energy firms. But surveyor assessments of the cyber-defences in place concluded that protections were inadequate.

Energy industry veterans said they were “not surprised” the companies were being refused cover.

“In the last year or so we have seen a huge increase in demand from energy and utility companies,” said Laila Khudari, an underwriter at the Kiln Syndicate, which offers cover via Lloyd’s of London.

Energy Firm Cyber Defence is ‘Too Weak’, Insurers State The market is one of few places in the world where businesses can come to insure such things as container ships, oil tankers, and large development projects and to secure cash that would help them recover after disasters.

For years, said Ms Khudari, Kiln and many other syndicates had offered cover for data breaches, to help companies recover if attackers penetrated networks and stole customer information. Now, she said, the same firms were seeking multi-million pound policies to help them rebuild if their computers and power-generation networks were damaged in a cyber-attack. “They are all worried about their reliance on computer systems and how they can offset that with insurance,” she said.

Any company that applies for cover has to let experts employed by Kiln and other underwriters look over their systems to see if they are doing enough to keep intruders out.

Assessors look at the steps firms take to keep attackers away, how they ensure software is kept up to date and how they oversee networks of hardware that can span regions or entire countries.

Unfortunately, said Ms Khudari, after such checks were carried out, the majority of applicants were turned away because their cyber-defences were lacking. “We would not want insurance to be a substitute for security,” she said. What was not clear, she said, was why firms were suddenly seeking cover in large numbers.

Although many governments had sent warnings about the threat from hackers, attackers and hacktivists to utility firms and other organisations running critical infrastructure, none had mandated them to get cover. “I think what’s behind it is the increase in threats and the fact that a lot of these systems were never previously connected to the outside world,” she said.

Mike Assante, who helped develop cyber-security standards for US utilities and now helps to teach IT staff how to defend critical infrastructure including power networks, said it was “unfortunately not surprising” that insurers were turning away energy firms. Power generators and distributors had struggled with the complexity and size of the networks they managed, he said. In addition they had found it hard to find and recruit staff with the specialist skills to defend these systems, he added. “There have been a number of incidents that have caused company leadership to re-evaluate their risk and develop strategies to mitigate it,” he said in an email to the BBC.   Financial pressures and the ability to manage systems remotely was inadvertently giving attackers a loophole they could slip through, said Nathan McNeill, chief strategy officer at remote management firm Bomgar.

Trying to cut costs by linking up plant and machinery to a control centre so they could be managed remotely meant those systems were effectively exposed to the net, he said. “If something has basic connectivity then it will become internet connectivity through some channel,” he said.

This left critical infrastructure exposed, he said, because typically the control systems for such hardware was written long before the web age and had only rudimentary security tools. Known as Scada (Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition), this software has come under increasing scrutiny by security researchers who have exposed many flaws in it. In addition, added Mr McNeill, it was often very difficult to update the core code in many Scada systems to close loopholes that attackers had slipped through.

Ed Skoudis, who runs “war games” for IT and security staff at many US utilities, said the numbers of attacks on Scada and other control systems was escalating. Malware was being written just to get at particular vulnerable elements in the infrastructure run by many utilities and manufacturers, he said. Some attackers were just curious but others were thought to be carrying out reconnaissance in service of some future event. US power companies had begun sharing information about attacks so everyone knew about all the threats to them, said Mr Skoudis. “However,” he added, “it’s surprising no big incident has happened given how weak the infrastructure is. It’s very hackable.”

Air & Sound Testing in One Easy Package

Air & Sound Testing  in One Easy Package
APT Sound Testing can offer substantial cost savings if a joint package is placed to encompass both air & sound testing elements. We are able to offer this ‘combined’ service as all our engineers are fully trained under UKAS to undertake both the air and sound testing. This helps us to offer clients reduce costs as well as improving onsite coordination.

We offer a comprehensive testing service resulting in:
•             Easier on site co-ordination resulting in Minimal site impact
•             Substantial cost saving
•             All testing undertaken in-house – no work is subbed out
•             Reactive last minute service

Other companies offer Air & Sound Testing in one package but more often than not they don’t undertake  both disciplines in house, they usually out-source either the air or sound testing, this means they have to charge more with their on costs, plus they cannot ensure the same on site coordination as effectively as different companies will be undertaking the testing on their behalf.

Air Tightness Testing
We APT Sound Testing pride ourselves in offering a helpful, efficient and cost effective service to our clients. Using the latest high power portable door fans systems, we are able to offer air leakage testing to all building types, ranging from residential flats to large commercial office blocks in accordance with the ATTMA Technical Standard 1. Our fan systems are compact, discreet and fit straight into standard personnel doors. The system can easily be transported through areas of limited access or up to high level areas (we do not use large trailer fans). Due to our minimal onsite requirements we win a large amount of work in tight access areas such as busy city centres. As a proactive company, wherever possible we try to let the main construction works continue inside the building throughout the air leakage test.

Sound Testing
Recent changes to the Building Regulations in 2000 mean that many new dwellings and conversions require sound insulation tests to demonstrate compliance with the airborne and impact sound insulation criteria given in Approved Document E (ADE). APT sound testing can perform these tests at relatively short notice for any sized development, from two-flat conversions up to hundreds of flats. Utilising the latest sound test equipment this shortens the duration of the sound test to ensure site disruption is kept to an absolute minimum.

Acoustic Design Service/Noise Surveys
APT can undertake the acoustic design of projects from the initial design stage through to the completion and pre-completion testing stage. We offer a practical, professional & seamless approach to acoustic consultancy that ensures you receive professional advice every step of the way, with a continual consideration of cost and buildability.

Planning Noise Surveys
We can also carryout noise surveys for planning applications in line with PPG24 & BS4142 for all sizes of  developments ranging from applications for single dwellings to large scale developments.

We also carry out the following services:
•             Infrared Thermal Surveys (Part L of Building Regulations)
•             SAP, CfsH & SBEM  Assessments (Part L of Building Regulations
•             Ventilation Testing (Part F of Building Regulations)
•             UAV Aerial Surveys for Roofs (No need for powered access or road closures)
•             Fire Enclosure Testing of Server Rooms (BS ISO 15004)

We hope this information has been of help and look forward to working with you in the near future, if you have any questions or queries in regards to our services please don’t hesitate to contact us at: or call us on: 07775 623464 / 07967 233836.

Business:             APT Sound Testing


Gearbox Repair and Reconditioning Services

Gearbox Repair and Reconditioning Services
Do you have a car or other vehicle and need a new gearbox? Armstrong Gearbox Repair Services have been repairing and reconditioning manual gearboxes for over 40 years. Servicing all national and international makes and models of vehicle, the company are located in the North East of the UK, where they have fully equipped workshops and garage facilities.

Widely renowned for their expertise and competent workmanship, as well as the ability to source and manufacture parts as required, Armstrong provide a comprehensive range of gearbox repair and reconditioning services.

They supply gearbox reconditioning services, reconditioned boxes and new gearboxes for all makes of cars including Audi, BMW, Ford, Vauxhall, Toyota, Fiat, Renault, Honda, Citroen, Land Rover, Volkswagen, Volvo, Alfa Romeo, Porsche, Rover, Range Rover, Kia, Skoda, Nissan and many more.

And remember, it is often cost effective to consider a reconditioned unit rather than simply buying a new gearbox form a dealer. The alternative of getting a ‘used’ gearbox from a scrap yard is also fraught with potential problems.

Armstrong Gearbox Repairs operate across Newcastle, the North East and throughout the UK providing a highly specialist gearbox repair service, including:

• Manual gearbox repair

• Manual gearbox reconditioning

• Manual gearbox diagnostics

• Manual gearbox parts

All car gearbox repairs come with a 6 month and 6,000 mile warranty, whichever comes first. Reconditioned car gearboxes come with a 12 month or 12,000 mile warranty and commercial vehicles carry a 6 month or 6000 mile warranty.

So if you gearbox suffers from noisy gears, difficulty in selecting or changing gears then call us now on 0191 236 3892, mobile:  0794 430 8855 or email us on and let call us see how we can help keep your car on the road and safe.

Business:             Armstrong Gearbox Repairs


New Double Glazed Windows & Conservatories

Searching for New Double Glazed Windows & Conservatories
Are you searching for new double glazed doors or windows? Are you looking for a company with over 30 years’ experience in the building industry and 15 years’ experience in the uPVC manufacturing industry? Then Hi Spec double glazing, windows and conservatories could well be just the company you are looking for.

Hi Spec manufacture and install all their own double glazed products ensuring that the customers always receive competitive prices and quality products. The range of services and products on offer include:

•uPVC Double Glazed Windows
•uPVC Doors
•Composite Doors
•Double glazed units

For your peace of mind we are members of South Tyneside Safe Traders, and have recently became a FENSA registered company and we give a 10 year written guarantee on the fitting of white uPVC products. With no high pressure sales, we let our customers decide for themselves what they need.

Hi Spec double glazing, windows and conservatories. Providing high quality double glazing, windows & conservatories in South Shields, Newcastle, Sunderland & the North East.

For more information, call Hi-Spec Fabrications on 0191 4541 070 today or email / call for your free no obligation quotation.

Business:             Hi Spec Double Glazing, Windows & Conservatories


A New Staircase – Design and Remodelling

Staircase Design and Remodelling
If your hardwood stairs are faded or cracking, perhaps it is time to remodel your staircase.  This will without question help improve the value and appearance of your home and should be done, especially if you are considering selling your house anytime in the future.  This may also be a good idea if the staircase is to be carpeted and the stair case itself has become so dirty that nothing that you do help improves the look of the area.  Not only do stairs provide a vital function, but staircase design also serves as a powerful tool that can spruce up the theme or tone for the entire home.

Renovation on the Increase
Currently, the renovation of homes and other properties is on the increase.  Many home owners want to have a focal point in the main living areas but aren’t sure what to do.  Redesigning the staircase can be one good way of adding a degree of extra glimmer and shine to any home.

Whether you are thinking about installing a staircase to the attic, a new stairway to the basement or creating an attention grabber by fitting a new, stylish and unique staircase; there are many companies, including Staircase Parts Direct that can help you with part of the project or do the entire endeavour for you.

Create the Perfect Custom Staircase
Online companies such as Stairparts Direct will be able to utilize their considerable expertise to create the perfect custom curved staircase ideal for you and your home. Whether you are doing a new build or a refurbishment, you will want to create a staircase that reflects the style of your home and chosen interior finishes. They provide all of the parts you need to create your new staircase: including the bannister, handrail, base rail, caps, newel post and spindles.

Redecorating the Staircase
There are also several methods for a homeowner to redecorate a staircase.  You could simply paint the staircase.  There are numerous colours for painting stairways.  If you want to paint the stairs with only one new colour, it will be totally fine – but some people are using all the colours in the rainbow.  These are people who don’t want anything boring to be painted around them.  Others decorate their stairs by writing some inspirational word on each step.

As stated above, you can renovate, repair or totally rebuild your staircase.  If like many home owners who are looking to improve their homes you are planning a new staircase project and would like to include us in the design and planning from the start, then send us your plans and we can offer you a quotation for stair treads and the required components to suit your theme. Simply contact us on 0191 3410077 or via the Stairparts Direct website or email us on

Business:             Stairparts Direct


Thoughtful Kitchen and Bathroom Gifts for the Home

Thoughtful Kitchen and Bathroom Gifts for the Home
Most homeowners and flat dwellers appreciate gifts for the home because such gifts are usually attractive, useful and, in many cases, needed by younger recipients who have only been living on their own a few years. This applies particularly to the kitchen and bathroom, where improvements are often as simple as upgrading the furnishings or accentuating the existing ones with colourful touches that add comfort and charm.

After years of waning culinary aptitude among younger adults, prowess in the kitchen is making a comeback. For relatively young adults who have been living in a flat for a few years, this may mean that the time has come to upgrade from the most basic kitchen items from when they first moved out on their own to newer ones which will demonstrate for guests that they are ready to meet the challenges of cooking for and entertaining guests. To that end, one might consider kitchen gifts such as a cake stand, an attractive set of antiqued coasters or any number of kitchen gadgets which will both serve a useful purpose and allow the recipient to demonstrate his or her skill in the kitchen to guests. People who wish to prepare fresh food despite leading a busy, fast-paced lifestyle are certain to appreciate gifts such as choppers, four-way pans in which small portions can be cooked together and even a soup maker which does double-duty as a smoothie machine.

Many modern homes and flats feature an eat-in kitchen, in which case it is important to have accoutrements in place to make this common area more inviting and to encourage home cooking with fresh ingredients. A person in need of such items will likely appreciate gifts such as tablecloths made of chenille or damask as well as slip-resistant cushions for the dining chairs. Another way to improve the kitchen is by bringing the outside in: the kitchen and garden go hand-in-hand for many people who are rediscovering the joys of domestic life, and a fashionable watering can for herbs grown in a kitchen window and for plants grown in other common areas of the home is a simple yet elegant way to link the two.

Since the bathrooms in the modest dwellings occupied by most young adults are smaller than the kitchen, improving the bathroom may require even less effort. If shelving is available on which to display attractive items, an easy way to improve the bathroom is to make the most of this space by displaying bright, solid-colour bath towels. If new towels are on display, it is a good idea to coordinate the colours with matching bath and pedestal mats. If toiletries are cluttered in an otherwise well-appointed bathtub or shower cubicle, this problem can be easily solved with the addition of a vertical shower caddy with multiple baskets. Yet another way to improve the bathroom is with attractive toiletries which can be prominently displayed and used by guests. These and other bathroom gifts will brighten up any bathroom and make for a more luxurious experience.

While some kitchen and bathroom upgrades can be expensive and time-consuming, improving these areas of the home is often simply a matter of choosing decorative items which are also functional. For the young adults in your life who are ready to take the domestic experience to the next level for the benefit of guests and themselves, thoughtful gifts for the bathroom or kitchen may be exactly what they need.

So were to find these great gift ideas? Online shopping websites such as the Home and Gift shop offer convenience and range, offering everything for the home and garden, including a diverse range of home & garden furniture, including a range of gift ideas for the kitchen and bedroom, many of which you probably never knew existed.

Shopping online for home furnishings and gifts is also great way to get decorating ideas and the perfect way to find a huge selection of products. And, by shopping online, you will often also be able to find high quality items at bargain prices, something that every homemaker will appreciate!

So, be creative and have fun when choosing the home furnishings and giftware for your new home. And remember, you can browse an ever growing range of gifts for the home and garden twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week at the Home and Gift Shop.

Business:             The Home and Gift Shop


HMRC Targets Tax Evaders with Offshore Accounts

HMRC Targets Tax Evaders with Offshore Accounts
The government has launched an advertising campaign targeting people who have been evading taxes by holding money in offshore accounts. Chancellor George Osborne said the campaign aimed to make it “very clear” that if people hid money offshore “then we are coming after them”.

Tax evaders could face fines of 200% of the tax owed and the possibility of criminal prosecution and imprisonment.

“Ultimately, this is about fairness,” Mr Osborne told Australia’s ABC TV. “People have to pay their taxes.” Mr Osborne said tax evasion “means that others have to pay higher taxes and, as a society, we all have to make a contribution”. He said the authorities were “expecting to collect a significant amount of revenue but the challenge is finding out exactly what is hidden offshore”.

HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) director general for enforcement and compliance, Jennie Granger, said most people with offshore assets “do the right thing and tell us about them” but “for the minority who do not, the net is closing around them”. She said those with undeclared offshore assets should contact HMRC urgently or face penalties. “The days of hiding money in another country to cheat the UK are coming to an end,” she said.

The government has repeatedly said it will hunt down tax evaders but Labour has questioned how effective its efforts have been, with one high-profile campaign failing to catch many of its targets.

Some campaigners have argued the efforts of government and the tax authorities would be better directed at tackling legal but aggressive tax avoidance, especially by big companies.   Mr Osborne was speaking after a meeting of G20 finance ministers in Sydney, Australia. He said the gathering had achieved “a real breakthrough” on tax, with countries agreeing to exchange information so individuals could not hide money offshore. He said the finance ministers had also “come together to say it is not fair if big companies avoid their taxes by shifting their profits around artificially to different countries”.

His comments restated a G20 commitment in 2012 to fight “profit shifting”.

The finance ministers said work on new rules would continue to be undertaken by the OECD club of industrialised nations.

Companies including Amazon, Google and Starbucks have faced widespread criticism for paying little tax in the UK despite having big UK operations.

There has been no suggestion their actions have been illegal but a committee of MPs called their avoidance of tax “outrageous and an insult”.

Made-to-Measure Blinds – Improve the Look of Your Home

Improve the Look of Your Home with Made-to-Measure Blinds
One of the most enjoyable parts of home ownership is being able to make the place your own through original interior design ideas. The decisions you make regarding window treatments can depend on a variety of factors such as the presence of children and/or pets in the home, how much light you want to have in that space and aesthetic appeal. Blinds are far and away the most popular window treatment option, and following are some considerations for how made-to-measure blinds can help to make the most of the space you have.

Venetian blinds
These are the most commonly used blinds, and styles range from inexpensive and flimsy to a somewhat more expensive but much more attractive and durable version which the Americans call “plantation blinds.” Venetian blinds allow for more or less light from outside without sacrificing privacy, and well-constructed wooden or plastic blinds with thick slats can help to lower heating and cooling costs by providing more shade in the summer and by blocking drafts in winter more effectively than other window treatments.

Roller blinds
Roller blinds and curtains were the go-to window treatment before Venetian blinds became popular in homes, but they are now enjoying resurgence in popularity thanks to the newly available variety of textures and prints. Do you have a window looking out over the garden in an otherwise boring kitchen sink area? Jazz it up with a roller blind in a bold colour or even one with a garden pattern that will catch the eye of whoever walks into the kitchen and also remind them of the equally lovely view on the other side!

Conservatory blinds
These are clearly only a need in homes with a conservatory, but necessary in the conservatory they most certainly are. If you are thinking of adding a conservatory to your home, you will want to plan for blinds to go around the entire room for privacy, energy efficiency and shade as needed. Styles vary widely, but roller blinds and pleated blinds are generally the best options for the conservatory roof.

Much like the furnishings and the paint colours, the window treatments you choose for your home contribute significantly to the look and feel of each room. For flexibility in terms of shade and privacy and a cleanness of line which curtains simply cannot match, made-to-measure blinds are the way to go.

So if you are searching for more information on adding new or replacement blinds for your home or property then why not contact the Beautiful Blind Company, a UK company with over 30 years-experience in the industry creating made to measure blinds & shutters.

A family run business located in the North East of the UK, they are passionate about the service provided to all our customers, large or small. The Beautiful Blind Company supply and fit all types of blinds for your home and office. We specialise in conservatory roof blinds and conservatory blinds and each blind is made to your exact requirements.

The company moto is, Simplicity, No hidden extras or gimmicks. We measure your blinds, give you the price with a great service for your blind requirements. Simple!

Business:             The Beautiful Blind Company


Designer Bathrooms in the North East

Designer Bathrooms Showroom in the North East
P.T. Ranson has one of the largest dedicated Bathroom Showrooms in the North East of England and is described by many in the industry to be among the finest Bathroom Showrooms anywhere in the country. They have gone above and beyond and invested heavily to ensure an abundance of lifelike room settings are available to view, touch and feel.

Installed are working bathroom displays to tempt you to push buttons, turn on taps, showers and steam rooms to see how items actually operate and perform. An extensive arrangement of branded materials from some of the worlds’ most renowned producers of high quality bathroom products displayed in a manner in which you no longer need to try and imagine them in your own bathroom.

P.T. Ranson have tried to make it as easy as possible for you to achieve a real life feel for the room settings enabling you to re-evaluate your thoughts and ideas with regards to your own projects potential. Scouring the globe to find an array of stylish, durable and affordable products, they have developed a portfolio of bathroom fixtures and fittings that is second to none.

Partnering with manufacturers as far afield as Italy, Germany and the United States, they offer a selection of flamboyant, unique and eye-catching designs and delivers designer bathroom solutions that are anything but conventional. Their aim is simple; to offer the right product, the right price and the right service.

Whether your home is ten years old or 100 years old, adding a new bathroom or upgrading to designer bathrooms is one of the best investments you can make in your home. The right luxury bathroom fittings will make your daily routine more enjoyable, impress your guests and put you in a favourable position to sell your home should that day ever come.

Make sure that the bathroom designer you choose can offer the best value for the design you have chosen, and your new designer bathroom will delight your family and guests for many years to come.

Why not visit the P.T. Ranson website or call in to the showroom to view the extensive range of working bathroom displays available. They have one of the finest showrooms anywhere in the North East and would welcome the opportunity to show you what type of bathroom might work well in your home.

Business:             P.T. Ranson Designer Bathrooms


UK Retail Sales Fall 1.5% in January

UK Retail Sales Fall 1.5% in January
Retail sales in the UK fell in January after the pre-Christmas surge in spending, figures have shown, but sales remained stronger than a year earlier. Sales volumes fell by 1.5% last month, but this followed a strong increase in December when sales jumped by 2.5%.

However, sales in January remained 4.3% higher than a year earlier, the Office for National Statistics figures showed.

Analysts said this showed the underlying picture remained positive for the sector. “UK retail sales fell sharply in January, though the very strong figure in December always meant a drop was likely,” said David Tinsley at BNP Paribas. “Despite the drop, there remains some solid momentum in retail sales,” he added.

“While some of the pace of growth has eased back in the sector, it looks likely to still make a significant contribution to GDP growth in Q1.”

The ONS said that sales over the past three months compared with the previous three months – seen as a better measure of the underlying trend – were up 1.1%. The drop in sales during January from the month before was mainly due to weak trading at supermarkets and a fall in clothing sales. However, the ONS said non-food stores had seen “notable” annual sales growth, up 8% from a year earlier.

Shops selling household goods recorded growth of 9.8% from a year earlier – the strongest rate since July 2007 – although the ONS said the figure may have been boosted by weak sales in January 2013 when heavy snowfall affected trading.

Ian Geddes, UK head of retail at Deloitte, said: “In stark contrast to the flurry of January administrations seen in recent years, we saw no major retailers go under last month. This is a clear sign of the sector’s improving health. “Despite the adverse weather that has affected the start of the year, retailers will be hoping that strong sales will continue into 2014.”