Showing posts from December, 2021

About Start Software

Start Software is an award-winning developer and leading publisher of asbestos software, systems for the legal services industry and more.

Want to know more about asbestos software Alpha Tracker? Alpha Tracker is the most used asbestos software in the UK, Australia & New Zealand with more than 60m items of asbestos data stored.

Our legal services software Alpha Legal helps will writers, accountants, solicitors, IFAs and estate agents to communicate securely with clients. Read about developments here on the blog.

Or need help with Alpha Anywhere or Alpha Transform projects or software development? You'll find useful info here.

Really, Microsoft?!! Are you *still* allowing "password" to be used as a password at the end of 2021...?! Don't underestimate the importance of complex passwords

Complex passwords are really important.  "Brute force" hacking attempts are very common on all web systems - hackers literally throw 1000s of combinations of well-known user names and passwords at web systems to see if they can find a way in.  It might surprise you to learn that most publicly-facing web systems are subjected to this sort of attack every few days.

Almost all pieces of software now insist on long, complex passwords.  If passwords are long enough (8 characters, say) and contain numbers, lower case characters, upper case letters and some punctuation, hackers simply can't guess or be lucky and find a matching combination.

It's for this reason that we were surprised that Microsoft Excel - the most popular spreadsheet software in the world - still allows "password" to be used as a password when encrypting a file!  We found this out when testing encryption methods when preparing a webinar for our Alpha Legal users.  In 2021 this is simply unacceptably sloppy on their part - it's encouraging users to use guessable passwords when potentially storing sensitive data and this should not be possible.

Here's a demonstration showing that Excel still allows "password" to be used as the "secure password" for an encrypted file:

This screen recording shows me typing "password" into the password box - really!

Alpha Legal has been designed from the ground up to help you to secure your business, your clients' data and your reputation.  Take cyber-security seriously and protect your business with Alpha Legal - easy, safe & secure.

Time-saving tip! Don't hunt through the menus, use the Menu Search instead

This is a great time-saving tip!  

Instead of hunting through the Alpha Tracker menus, use the Menu Search box instead.  You'll find it at the top of the menu on the left-hand side of your screen.

Here I am looking for the "Lab Equipment" menu option:

Alpha Tracker is full of features so it isn't always easy to find the menu button you want.  Just type into the Menu Search box and you'll find the option you need - instantly!

More great feedback for our HSG248 changes in Release 37

Another asbestos consultancy client has been in touch to say thanks following the Alpha Tracker Release 37 update.

We've had some cracking feedback for our latest update

The comment came from the Quality Manager at one of our Australian clients who is using our equipment management/calibration feature:

"Just a huge thanks for the latest update, wherein ‘days to calibration’ are now displayed.  

This will be a huge help in tracking our items!"

We love it when a plan comes together! 

Watch out for our article and advert in Modern Law magazine

This month's edition of Modern Law has a really good article about Alpha Legal and how it protects legal businesses and their clients from the dangers of cyber-crime.

Do keep an eye out for it - they are carrying an advert of ours, too.

Christmas gingerbread house fun!

We entered our software partner CTT Group's Christmas gingerbread house competition and this is our entry.  We had such fun decorating it - wish us luck!

Kim & Catherine were most involved (though Zac had to lie on the floor to rotate the stool for the video!

Bake Off next year perhaps?!? ;-)

Kim, Zac (on the floor!) & Catherine

Dr Mavis Nye is voted SHP's Most Influential Figure in Health & Safety for 2021

We've sent our heartfelt congratulations to our new friend Dr Mavis Nye for winning SHP's ballot for the "Most Influential Figure in Health & Safety" in 2021.

Congrats Mavis - you even beat Prof Chris Whitty to the title!

SHP's citation says:

"Mavis has been described as a ‘tour de force, and an absolute dynamo for Asbestos Awareness’. She lives with Mesothelioma every day of her life, having been diagnosed with Mesothelioma in 2009.

It was during her treatment, that she decided early on that something needed to be done. Today, she spends her life campaigning for asbestos awareness and removal and her work is internationally recognised. Supported by many influential people, she is in demand for presentations to spread the word."

Here at Start Software, we are working with the Mavis Nye Foundation to find ways that we can support their work.  Our asbestos software, Alpha Tracker, has been used to survey more than 5.5 million buildings (we believe this is the biggest asbestos database in the world).  We want to use our experience to support the work that Mavis and her team does in the fight against asbestos-related disease.

For more information, go to SHP Online:

The release notes for Alpha Tracker Release 37 have been published

Kim has finished the release notes for the latest Alpha Tracker software update.  

You'll find them here - all 20 pages of them - or click the image below:

You can read the releases notes on our website

Let us know what you'd like to see in Release 38 - the list of suggestions is growing!

5* feedback from a busy asbestos consultancy following our HSG248 updates - thanks Allium!

Allium Environmental's Technical Manager has just shared this feedback with us after we updated their Alpha Tracker system for the new HSG248 updates.  Thanks, Rob - glad you're pleased!

5* feedback for our HSG248 updates

Here's the feedback we received on Alpha Tracker Release 37:
"...Tracker Air was the logical choice for Allium due to the use of Alpha Tracker in other areas of the business.

The functionality of the program enabled us to concentrate on other aspects of the accreditation process, with our early beta testing proving very successful. Further updates have enabled the transition to version 2 of HSG 248 to be much simpler than it could have been, with all of the bases covered. 

Lastly, it cannot be stressed how much positive feedback we get from our client base, with regards to the layout and aesthetics to the final reports. Thanks to all involved for the continued support."

Rob Connor
Technical Manager
Allium Environmental 


What is the Log4j vulnerability and should I be worried?

The news has been full of a new cyber-security threat that has been causing havoc since the start of the month.

Log4j, as it is known, is one of the worst server vulnerabilities to ever have been discovered.  In fact, some experts say it is the worst.  There's a really good summary of the threat here, on

The Log4j vulnerability gives hackers the opportunity to do virtually anything on a compromised server - from running bitcoin mining software (causing your server to run at full speed, essentially disabling all of your server running on it) to exposing user names and passwords, or even installing dreaded ransomware.

The UK has been particularly hit with attacks, as this graphic shows:

The UK and North America are amongst the areas seeing most hacking attempts

At Start Software, we take security really seriously and we have already checked the servers which run asbestos software Alpha Tracker, legal software Alpha Legal and all of our other systems.  We are urging clients who operate their own servers to check their systems and to make sure that all security patches are applied. 

For more information, contact Robin in the Telford (UK) office.

Hello World! See how creative the Start Software developers are when using the Alpha Anywhere development tool

We've just had a lot of fun presenting one of Alpha Software's weekly Wednesday webinars for their Alpha Anywhere development environment.

Our topic?  How to do something very boring - the classic newbie programmer's "Hello World!" app - in increasing interesting, complex and bizarre ways!

Hope you enjoy watching the recording of it here on YouTube.  We certainly enjoyed putting it together!

If we can help you with your Alpha Anywhere software developments - perhaps you need some support, some mentoring, or perhaps you even need a system looking after - do get in touch.

Cracking feedback, Gromit! We love it when our subscribers enjoy using Alpha Legal

We just spotted this lovely Alpha Legal feedback on LinkedIn:

Thanks, Anthony (Marshall Financial Solutions), and so glad you're enjoying using the product and appreciate our 24x7 personal service.

Alpha Tracker has now surveyed more than 5 million buildings

We've just been reviewing the Alpha Tracker asbestos software stats.

We believe Alpha Tracker is the biggest asbestos database in the world

As of December 2021, Alpha Tracker has helped our asbestos consultancy clients to:

  • survey more than 5 million buildings

  • take more than 11 million samples

  • complete more than 3 million jobs, and

  • inspect 70 million+ items.
One of our competitors shows their stats on their website home page - feel free to compare! ;-)

Acorn Analytical Services goes live with Alpha Tracker air monitoring

Kim enjoyed training the asbestos analysts at Acorn Analytical Services last week to use the Tracker Air module for Alpha Tracker.

Our trainer Kim on the Zoom call with Acorn

The feedback on our HSG248 asbestos air monitoring changes has been really good.  Can we help your asbestos consultancy to be compliant with the new regs?  Do get in touch.

Emails cause another cyber-security nightmare - the Irish Health Service was "crippled" by ransomware introduced by email

In another example of why emails are not secure, the investigation into the ransomware that "crippled" the Irish Health Service has found that the problem was introduced by an infected email.

A screenshot of the conversation where the hackers demanded nearly $20m ransom 

The report, commissioned by the HSE from PwC, identified the “frail” nature of the dispersed IT system used by the health service as a key weakness and recommended a multi-year programme of investment in IT and cybersecurity.

There was a “known low level of cybersecurity maturity” within the HSE and the connected national health network, and this weakness had “persisted”, the report said.

An extra €100 million is to be spent on this issue next year, Mr Reid said, and a business case for an as-yet-uncosted multi-year investment programme is being worked on.

The impact of the ransomware wasn't primarily financial in this case, it affected the treatment plans for individual patients and caused a huge amount of concern, delay and worry.  Read for more information about the impact.

This is an extreme but very real example of the danger of ransomware.  Alpha Legal protects organisations by providing an easy-to-use, safe and secure method of requesting information from clients, sharing documents and electronic signing documents.

Customer feedback from the HSG248 updates for our Tracker Air module within Alpha Tracker

It's been a challenge to get the HSG248 changes into our Tracker Air (asbestos fibre/air monitoring) module in time for the end-of-November deadline.  Other asbestos software providers are still working on their updates and we've heard of angry consultancies disappointed that their updates were not completed in time - we're really pleased to say that all Alpha Tracker customers were notified before the end of November.

Customer feedback for our HSG248 changes has been really good

Not every update has gone smoothly, but most have gone without a hitch and some of the early feedback we've had has been excellent.  This comment from the Technical Manager at one of our bigger clients is typical:

"I will say that I’m loving the new additions to Tracker air – it looks really aesthetically tidy, and is nice and easy to read for laymen and qualified employees"

If you have similar comments, or would like to see changes or improvements, please do get in touch.

Another week, another 1,000 clients are being protected by Alpha Legal

Alpha Legal is now protecting 10,000s of clients for will writers, solicitors, IFAs and estate agents across the country.

This is what 1,000 people looks like! Another week at Alpha Legal

This last week alone, more than 1,000 new clients have submitted their ID documents or received documents for e-signature via the Alpha Legal platform.

We all know that emails are not secure.  If you are sending and receiving sensitive information by email, it's time to find a better way.  Alpha Legal solves the problem for you and offers subscription plans from only £10/month.  Register risk-free now!

PS want to know how Alpha Legal's security protects you and your client? Click here

Tracker Mobile (Mobile Data) is now compatible with Microsoft InTune

Several of our biggest clients have been asking us to make Tracker Mobile, our on-site asbestos data collection app, compatible with Microsoft's handset security software, Microsoft InTune.

Microsoft InTune is part of Microsoft's corporate security software, EndPoint Manager

We're really pleased to be able to tell you that this has now been done.  The Mobile Data app, which powers Tracker Mobile, is now available in the Google Play Store which means it is now compatible with Microsoft InTune.

This means that councils, housing associations, utility companies and our larger asbestos consultancy clients will all be able to install Tracker Mobile on InTune-managed devices as part of their Alpha Tracker setup.

Tried the meeting planner yet? Give it a try and let us know what you think

The Alpha Legal meeting planner is one of the latest features to reach our users - it only made an appearance at the end of October in the biggest update of the year so far.

Have you tried it yet?  It's a huge timesaver if you're trying to organise a meeting between a group of Trustees, for example.

Try the meeting planner built-in to Alpha Legal

You'll find the meeting planner on the "Meetings" menu.  Give it a try and let us know what you think!

Feedback needed on Release 37 - let us know what you think

We've been busy answering calls from asbestos consultancies using asbestos software Alpha Tracker who are experimenting with all of the new features in Release 37.

Call Dan, Jack or any of the team - tell us what you think

We want to hear from all of our users.  Let us know what you think!  We're also planning Release 38 of Alpha Tracker now so do get in touch with Jack to tell him what you'd like to see in the product.

664 support calls answered in November 2021 - phew!

Our 24x7 Support Desk had a busy November answering 664 calls.  It was the usual mixture of questions, queries, suggestions and problems - all good fun!

Busy month on the Support Desk!

Overall, we maintained our good performance from the month before with 19 out of 20 queries being resolved within the timescales set by our clients.

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