Archive for the ‘Sunsystems and Vision’ category

SQL Server 2016 Service Pack 2

April 25th, 2018

SQL Server 2016 Service Pack 2 is released. This SP2 release includes the hotfixes from all released 2016 cumulative updates: SQL Server 2016 CU1 through SP1 CU8.

SQL Server 2016 Updates
Each update is linked to its Microsoft knowledge base article with the download and the list of hotfixes included. The dates show the end of support date

SP2 2018/04/24 13.0.5026.0 2026/07/14
CU8 2018/03/19 13.0.4474.0 2019/04/24
CU7 2018/01/04 13.0.4466.4 2019/04/24
CU6 2017/11/22 13.0.4457.0 2019/04/24
CU5 2017/09/18 13.0.4451.0 2019/04/24
CU4 (w/MDS bug) 2017/08/08 13.0.4446.0 2019/04/24
CU3 2017/05/15 13.0.4435.0 2019/04/24
CU2 2017/03/20 13.0.4422.0 2019/04/24
CU1 2017/01/18 13.0.4411.0 2019/04/24
SP1 2016/11/16 13.0.4001.0 2019/04/24
CU9 2017/11/22 13.0.2216.0 2018/01/09 – out of support
CU8 2017/09/18 13.0.2213.0 2018/01/09 – out of support
CU7 2017/08/08 13.0.2210.0 2018/01/09 – out of support
CU6 2017/05/15 13.0.2204.0 2018/01/09 – out of support
CU5 2017/03/28 13.0.2197.0 2018/01/09 – out of support
CU4 2017/01/18 13.0.2193.0 2018/01/09 – out of support
CU3 2016/11/17 13.0.2186.6 2018/01/09 – out of support
CU2 (see note 1 and note 2) 2016/09/22 13.0.2164.0 2018/01/09 – out of support
CU1 2016/07/25 13.0.2149.0 2018/01/09 – out of support
None (RTM) 2016/06/01 13.0.1601.5 2018/01/09 – out of support

Note 1: CU2 has a known issue with Filestream not working when SecureBoot is enabled. If you’re on Windows Server 2016 or Windows 10, and using SecureBoot (which is enabled by default with Hyper-V Gen2 VMs), and your database has Filestream, then either need disable SecureBoot, or skip CU2 for now.

Note 2: columnstore index users should consider the on-demand hotfix update 13.0.2170.0, which includes serious performance and reliability fixes.

Warnin read the bottom note about “Uninstalling SQL Server 2016 SP2 (Not recommended): there some new features which once installed may give issues if you then try to uninstall.

https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/download/details.aspx?id=56836

SQL Server 2017 Cumulative Update 4

March 4th, 2018

Last month Microsoft released SQL Server 2017 Cumulative Update 4, which is Build 14.0.3022.28.

There are 55 hotfixes in the public fix list. Run the special T-SQL script in the release notes if you are using Query Store and previously ever had SQL Server 2017 CU2 installed (and you were using Query Store on any of your databases at that time). The script will look for any plans that were forced while you were running SQL Server 2017 CU2, and if it finds any, it will unforce those and then clear those from Query Store.

There are several updates both for Columnstore indexes and for Availability Groups.

There will not be any Service Packs for SQL Server 2017, so test and deploy SQL Server 2017 Cumulative Updates as they become available.

SQL Server 2017 and later versions will no longer receive SPs
The Modern Servicing Model (MSM)

Starting from SQL Server 2017:
• SPs will no longer be available. Only Cumulative Updates (CUs) and critical updates (GDRs) will be provided.
• CUs will contain localized content if it’s necessary as what SPs have done.
• CUs will be delivered more frequently at first and then less frequently: every month for the first 12 months, and then every quarter for the final four years of the five-year mainstream lifecycle.

Note The MSM only applies to SQL Server 2017 and later versions.

Earlier versions of SQL Server are not affected by this SP policy change. Service Packs (SPs) will continue to be provided for the reminder of mainstream support for SQL Server 2014 and SQL Server 2016.

“Meltdown” and “Spectre and azure.”

February 10th, 2018

Last month as reported on this blog, Intel revealed two critical vulnerabilities they found in Intel chips. These vulnerabilities allow cyber-attackers to steal data from the memory of running apps. This data can include passwords, emails, photos, or documents. Intel dubbed these as: “Meltdown” and “Spectre.”

Microsoft released a patch for Azure the very next day. Just as well because Microsoft Azure is a shared-computing environment by default. One server hosts applications and development of applications, and various Virtual Machines tap into the server to allow employees to and others to access these applications. As such, the Meltdown vulnerability allows an attacker to compromise the host and read all the data from every operating system tapping into it. Around 3-10 million physical servers host Azure, and these servers in turn host tens of millions of Virtual Machines. So impressively Microsoft developed deployed a patch for these vulnerabilities in less than a week’s time. Azure is a cloud-based application and so Microsoft could focus their security team to work on the cloud servers and only the cloud servers. This way, these millions of servers and users had a patch and all applications hosted on the Azure cloud-platform were immediately protected.

A good business case example for business to move to Azure cloud services.

Malware developers are still out there. German antivirus testing firm AV-Test reported 139 samples of malware trying to attack the Meltdown vulnerability in January to exploit those who have not patched.

Microsoft patched their cloud servers, but non-Azure users (as well as all Windows users, period) still need to apply their operating system patches to ensure complete protection. This is one vulnerability you definitely don’t want cyber-attackers to exploit, whether it’s your personal computer or your business’s server.

Infor Ming.le and the Xi platform from Infor partner Synergy Software Systems, Dubai

January 8th, 2018

Infor Ming.le™—the beautiful entralized platform for collaboration, business process improvement, and contextual analytics. Use with Sunsystems ask Synergy Software Systems an implementation partner of Sunsystems for 20 years.

See the new features of Infor Ming.le™ 12 to improve business processes using the new Xi platform.

VAT key steps – Synergy Software Systems, Dubai.

January 8th, 2018

- Maintain regular accounting books and records

Account maintenance is now mandatory under UAE VAT Law and it facilitates the correct receipt and payment of cash and other transactions entered by a company. Audited accounts will be needed so don’t wait till year end to find an auditor that suits your business.

2- Make changes to the core processes and accounting departments

It is important to change your core processes and adapt your accounting departments to achieve tax compliance. For SMEs, with limited transactions, the task is easier as the transition is less likely to require significant systematic change or they might use an external bookkeeper or tax agent.

3- Train staff, especially financial management

Employees need proper insight around GCC-wide initiatives to implement VAT across the region and how companies should prepare. Help them de-mystify VAT by providing on the job training and a framework to raise and clarify queries. Avoid disputes with trading partners and ensure staff have the relevant information and training to resolve issues that arise.

4- Review your contracts and the contracts and conditions agreed with dealers

Many businesses negotiated contracts at a time VAT was not payable but running across the implementation dates. It is time to now bring contracts into step with the UAE’s economic context.

- Consider accounting software for bookkeeping

Electronic reporting systems are increasingly being used by tax authorities. The ability to produce the required audit file details on demand will be difficult without a system. Companies that use electronic invoicing are likely to improve the timing of VAT recovery on costs.

6- Adhere to VAT deadlines

Register your company to avoid a fine as severe as AED 20,000. The Federal Tax Authority (FTA) has already been extend the deadline to the 1st January and if you don’t complete VAT registrations you will also have to stop sales till you get your tax registration certificate (TRC).

Note initial returns are due 28 January 2018 so time is running out.

7- Study UAE tax legislation

The implementation of taxes in the UAE came with a whole new set of procedures. we recommend to study and get familiar with the different laws in place including the UAE VAT Law and to discuss with your auditor, tax agent and software provider.

8- Keep an eye out for new information

There have been a slew of clarifications in the last month and some details are still not finalised e.g. with regard to free zones, or which companies will report monthly and which quarterly.

SQL Server 2014 SP2 CU9

January 2nd, 2018

On December 18, 2017, Microsoft released SQL Server 2014 SP2 CU9, which is Build 12.05563.0.
This CU has seven public hotfixes, most of which are for the SQL Engine of SQL performance -critical for taks like mrp. inventory close, consolidation etc.

Since SQL Server 2014 SP1 and earlier are no longer “supported service packs”, there is no corresponding CU for the SP1 or RTM branches of SQL Server 2014.

As always, make an effort to stay current on cumulative updates

SQL version – when should you upgrade – ask your Dynamics U.A.E. Partner, Synergy Software Systems

December 23rd, 2017

SQL Server for many years on a two-year release cycle. SQL Server 2017 arrived less than 18 months after SQL Server 2016 became available.

Since 2005 each release of SQL Server brings exciting new features and improvements to existing capabilities. Many organizations are running instances that are several versions of SQL Server behind.

To keep up with the latest SQL Server versions is a challenge, but risks losing mainstream support and missing out on beneficial features. Often database administrators must support multiple versions at once, and consultants face an even greater range of versions across their customers.

Microsoft has not committed to any specific release cadence for ersions of SQL Server. Many clients it seems are still running SQL Server 2008 R2. One reason why companies are hesitant to make the move off 2008 R2 is because of the change to per core licensing. The effort to test and to upgrade is discouraging, but it is best to do this on a planned basis than a reaction to a crisis..

It was a painful experience to upgrade from SQL Server 2000, but the compatibility gap between versions is much narrower once past 2005. To make upgrading easier, provides a tool called The Upgrade Advisor for each new version that will spot issues and provide a chance to resolve them before starting the upgrade process. Virtualization also makes setting up testing environments much simpler and quicker.

With each new version there are enhancements to T-SQL, improved availability and disaster recovery functionality, more security options, and additional ways to get better performance. 2016 service pack 1, was a game change – many previously Enterprise only features were ported down to more affordable editions.

Another consideration is support. It doesn’t take long to reach the end of mainstream support. SQL Server 2008 R2, for example, has been out of mainstream support since 2014. While it’s still in extended support, which will ensure security hotfixes, other support features are available only on a paid basis.

When you look at erp upgrades it makes sense to also review your SQL upgrade plans.

U.A.E. VAT rates

December 9th, 2017

The Federal Tax Authority (FTA) has announced the supplies that will be subject to Value Added Tax (VAT) as of January 1, 2018.Selected supplies in sectors such as transportation, real estate and financial services will be completely exempt from VAT, whereas certain government activities will be outside the scope of the tax system (and, therefore, not subject to tax). These include activities that are solely carried out by the government with no competition with the private sector, activities carried out by non-profit organisations.

The UAE Cabinet is expected to issue a decision to identify the government bodies and non-profit organisations that are not subject to VAT.

VAT treatment on select industries:
Education
Private and public school education (excluding higher education) and related goods and services provided by education institution 0%
Higher education provided by institution owned by government or 50% funded by government, and related goods and services 0%
Education provided by private higher educational institutions, and related goods and services 5%
Nursery education and pre-school education 0%
School uniforms 5%
Stationery 5%
Electronic equipment (tablets, laptops, etc.) 5%
Renting of school grounds for events 5%
After school activities for extra fee 5%
After school activities supplied by teachers and not for extra charge 0%
School trips where purpose is educational and within curriculum 0%
School trips for recreation or not within curriculum 5%

Healthcare:

Preventive healthcare services including vaccinations 0%
Healthcare services aimed at treatment of humans including medical services and dental services 0%
Other healthcare services that are not for treatment and are not preventive (e.g. elective, cosmetic, etc) 5%
Medicines and medical equipment as listed in Cabinet Decision 0%
Medicines and medical equipment not listed in Cabinet Decision 5%
Other medical supplies 5%

Oil and Gas:

Crude oil and natural gas 0%
Other oil and gas products including petrol at the pump 5%

Transportation:

Domestic passenger transportation (including flights within UAE) Exempt
International transportation of passengers and goods (including intra-GCC) 0%
Supply of a means of transport (air, sea and land) for the commercial transportation of goods and passengers (over 10 people) 0%
Supply of goods and services relating to these means of transport and to the transportation of goods and passengers 0%

Real Estate:

Sale and rent of commercial buildings (not residential buildings) 5%
First sale/rent of residential building after completion of construction or conversion 0%
First sale of charitable building 0%
Sale/rent of residential buildings subsequent to first supply Exempt
Hotels, motels and serviced accommodation 5%
Bare land Exempt
Land (not bare land) 5%
UAE citizen building own home 5% (recoverable)

Financial Services:

Margin based products (products not having an explicit fee, commission, rebate, discount or similar) Exempt
Products with an explicit fee, commission, rebate, discount or similar 5%
Interest on forms of lending (including loans, credit cards, finance leasing) Exempt
Issue, allotment or transfer of an equity or debt security Exempt

Insurance and Re-insurance:

Insurance and reinsurance (including health, motor, property, etc) 5%
Life insurance and life reinsurance Exempt

Food and Beverages: 5% VAT rate

Telecommunications and electronic services:

Wired and wireless telecommunications and electronic services: 5% VAT rate
Telecommunications and electronic services:
– Sovereign activities which are not in competition with the private sector undertaken by designated government bodies Considered outside VAT system
– Activities that are not sovereign or are in competition with the private sector VAT rate dependent on good/service ignoring provider

Not for Profit Organizations:

Activities of foreign governments, international organisations, diplomatic bodies and missions acting as such (if not in business in the UAE) Considered outside VAT system
Charitable activities undertaken by societies and associations of public welfare which are listed by Cabinet Decision Considered outside VAT system
Activities of other not for profit organizations (not listed in Cabinet Decision) which are not business activities Considered outside VAT system
Business activities undertaken by the above organizations VAT rate dependent on good/service ignoring provider

Free zones:

Supplies of goods between businesses in designated zones Considered outside VAT system
Supplies of services between businesses in designated zones VAT rate dependent on service ignoring location
Supplies of goods and services in non-designated zones VAT rate dependent on good/service ignoring location
Supplies of goods and services from mainland to designated zones or designated zones to mainland VAT rate dependent on good/service ignoring location

Other:

Export of goods and services to outside the GCC implementing states 0%
Activities undertaken by employees in the course of their employment, including salaries Considered outside VAT system
Supplies between members of a single tax group Considered outside VAT system
Any supplies of services or goods not mentioned above (includes any items sold in the UAE or service provided) 5%
Second hand goods (e.g. used cars sold by retailers), antiques and collectors’ items 5% of the profit margin

The UAE and Saudi Arabia are the two GCC member countries which will implement Value Added Tax (VAT) Reform from 1st January 2018 whereas the remaining member countries will implement over the coming years.

According to the UAE tax officials, it is anticipated that the new tax reform will help to generate nearly Dh12 billion (around 0.8 percent of GDP) revenue in the initial year after the introduction of the VAT. It might increase to Dh20 billion (around 1.2 percent of GDP) in the succeeding year (2019).

Bad Rabbit – a virulent wave of data-encrypting malware is sweeping through Eastern Europe

October 28th, 2017

A new, potentially virulent wave of data-encrypting malware is sweeping through Eastern Europe and has left a wake of outages at news agencies, train stations, and airports, according to multiple security companies

A new ransomware outbreak similar to WCry is shutting down computers worldwide, Ransom:Win32/Tibbar.A or Bad Rabbit, as the outbreak is dubbed, is primarily attacking targets in Russia, but it’s also infecting computers in Ukraine, Turkey and Germany, researchers from Moscow-based Kaspersky Lab said. In a blog post, the antivirus provider reported that the malware is using hacked Russian media websites to display fake Adobe Flash installers, which when clicked infect the computer visiting the hacked site. Researchers elsewhere said the malware may use other means to infect targets.

Bad Rabbit appears to specifically target corporate networks by using methods similar to those used in a June data-wiping attack dubbed “NotPetya” that shut down computers around the world.
Bad Rabbit infects Windows computers and relies solely on targets manually clicking on the installer, Kaspersky Lab said. So far, there’s no evidence the attack uses any exploits.

The Ukrainian computer emergency agency CERT-UA posted an advisory on Tuesday morning reporting a series of cyberattacks.

Kevin Beaumont said on Twitter that Bad Rabbit uses a legitimate, digitally signed program called DiskCryptor to lock targets’ hard drives. Kaspersky Labs’ blog post said the executable file dispci.exe appears to be derived from DiskCryptor and is being used by Bad Rabbit as the disk encryption module.

Bad Rabbit relies on hard-coded credentials that are commonly used in enterprise networks for file sharing and takes aim at a particularly vulnerable portion of infected computers’ hard drives known as the master boot record. A malicious file called infpub.dat appears to be able to use the credentials to allow the Bad Rabbit to spread to other Windows computers on the same local network, The malware also uses the Mimikatz network administrative tool to harvest credentials from the affected systems.

Once Bad Rabbit infects a computer, it displays a message in orange letters on a black background. It directs users to a Dark Web site that demands about $283 in Bitcoin to decrypt data stored on the encrypted hard drive. The dark Web site also displays a ticking clock that gives victims 40 hours to pay before the price increases. It’s not yet known what happens when targets pay the ransom in an attempt to restore their data. The NotPetya malware was written in a way that made recovery just about impossible, a trait that has stoked theories that the true objectives of the attackers was to wipe data in an act of sabotage, as opposed to generate revenue from ransomware. It also remains unclear who is behind the attack.

The outbreak is the latest reminder that you should back up all their data on drives that are secured with a password or other measure to protect them from ransomware.

Windows Defender Antivirus detects and removes this threat with protection update 1.255.29.0 and higher.

This threat appears as a fake Adobe Flash Player update.

Microsoft advice:
Microsoft doesn’t recommend you pay the ransom. There is no guarantee that paying the ransom will give you access to your files. If you’ve already paid, then see our https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/mmpc/shared/ransomware.aspx for help on what to do.

Review logs and shutdown or run Windows Defender Offline.

This ransomware attempts to reboot your PC so it can encrypt your files. You might be able to stop your PC from rebooting and instead shut it down or run a Windows Defender Offline scan:
Check event logs for the following IDs: 1102 and 106
• Event 1102 indicates that the audit log has been cleared, so previous activities can’t be seen.
• Event 106 indicates that scheduled tasks “drogon” and “Rhaegel” have been registered (these are ransomware wipers)
• If events 1102 and 106 are present, then issue a shutdown with the parameter -a to prevent a reboot

You can also immediately inititate a Windows Defender Offline scan by using PowerShell or the Windows Defender Security Center app.

Run antivirus or antimalware software

Use the following free Microsoft software to detect and remove this threat:
• Windows Defender Antivirus for Windows 8.1 and Windows 10, or Microsoft Security Essentials for Windows 7 and Windows Vista
• Microsoft Safety Scanner – Run a full scan to look for anyhidden malware.

Advanced troubleshooting – To restore your PC, download and run Windows Defender Offline.

Ask us about how to use cloud protection to guard against the latest malware threats. It’s turned on by default for Microsoft Security Essentials and Windows Defender for Windows 10. Go to All settings > Update & security > Windows Defender and make sure that your Cloud-based Protection settings is turned On.

Indicators of compromise
Presence of the following files in %SystemRoot%:
• infpub.dat
• cscc.dat
• dispci.exe
• You can’t access your files or your PC
• A ransom message in red on a black background

VAT registration U.A.E. – act now deadlines are imminent

October 17th, 2017

The UAE Federal Tax Authority (FTA) online portal is open 24/7 to allow for taxpayers to register for VAT purposes. The FTA has also determined the deadlines for the application for VAT registration based on business turnover.
For larger companies VAT registration is required by 31 October 2017, and such businesses should
immediately consider the timeline requirement given their turnover profile and the other registration
requirements.
Businesses that are required to register for VAT will need to set up an online account on the FTA website and complete the VAT registration form.

The FTA has announced that a phased registration approach has been introduced. In particular, those businesses that meet these criteria must comply with the relevant application dates for registration:
● Businesses with an annual turnover exceeding AED 150 million must apply for registration by
31 October 2017
● Businesses with an annual turnover exceeding AED 10 million must apply for registration by 30 November 2017

● Remaining businesses with an annual turnover exceed the mandatory registration threshold
(expected to be AED 375,000) must apply for registration by 4 December 2017
Prior to the fulfilment of the VAT registration form, the FTA provides a “Getting Started Guide” that shares essential information that businesses should be aware of. This includes information on the registration criteria, registration of a VAT group, and necessity to register if only zero-rated supplies are made.

Additional details clarifying the VAT registration mechanism are found in the VAT registration guide, a document posted on FTA online portal under the “Advice” tab. This document captures the
calculation of turnover for VAT purposes, a walk-through of VAT registration through the FTA
registration portal, registration of a VAT group and types of books and records required to be held by a
taxpayer to ensure accurate tax compliance.

We strongly advise for businesses to visit the FTA website to initiate their VAT registration application by
their applicable deadline after having considered the guidance provided by the FTA and other advice
as required (for instance VAT Grouping).
Businesses should allow time to compile the required information for the VAT registration.

VAT in the U.A.E. – time to act.

October 16th, 2017


VAT, as a general consumption tax, will apply to the majority of transactions in goods and services. A limited number of reliefs may be granted.

As a result, the cost of living is likely to increase slightly, but this will vary depending on an individual’s lifestyle and spending behaviour. If an individual spends mainly on those things which are relieved from VAT, he is unlikely to see any significant increase.

The government will include rules that require businesses to be clear about how much VAT an individual is required to pay for each transaction. Based on this information, individuals can decide whether to buy something.

Implication of VAT on businesses

Businesses will be responsible for carefully documenting their business income, costs and associated VAT charges. Businesses that meet the minimum annual turnover requirement (as evidenced by their financial records) will be required to register for VAT. Businesses that do not think that they should be VAT registered should maintain their financial records in any event, in case the ministry needs to establish whether they should be registered. The FTA does have the power to conduct audits on taxable persons and subsequently impose penal measures on those that are not compliant with the law.

A business must register if the total value of their taxable supplies made within the UAE exceeds the mandatory registration threshold over the previous 12 month period, or they anticipate making taxable supplies with a value exceeding the mandatory registration threshold in the next 30 days.

The mandatory registration threshold is AED 375,000.

A business may also apply to register if they do not meet the mandatory registration criteria and the total value of their taxable supplies or taxable expenditure in the previous 12 months exceeds the voluntary registration threshold, or they anticipate that the total value of their taxable supplies or taxable expenditure will exceed the voluntary registration threshold in the next 30 days.

The voluntary registration threshold is AED 187,500.

For the purposes of understanding whether a registration obligation exists, a taxable supply refers to a supply of goods or services, made by a business in the U.A.E., that may be taxed at a rate of either 5%, or 0%. Imports are also taken into consideration for this purpose, when a supply of such goods or services would be taxable when made within the U.A.E.

VAT registration require some official documents. Before submission of an application some important documents must be completed. Businesses will get VAT registration in the form of a VAT certificate, with the help of official documents. Every VAT certificate will have a specific identification number. The identification number will be essential for all the tasks to be carried out for VAT in UAE.

The process for VAT registration and fee submission will be done online. Following documents are required for the registration of VAT in UAE.
1. Copy of Trade License
2. Passport copy of the owner/partners who owns the license
3. Copy of Emirates ID of the owner/partners who owns the license
4. Memorandum of Association (MOA)
5. Contact Details of company (complete address & P.O Box)
6. Concerned person contact details
7. Email of the concerned person
8. Copy of all bank accounts and statements including IBAN
9. Owner has any other entities?
10. Income statement for the last 12 months
11. Expected revenue and expense for the next 30 days after VAT implementation
12. Are they exporting, or importing?
13. Are they dealing with any custom department? If yes. What is the custom code?
14. Are they doing business with any other G.C.C. country? (Country name)
15. If these are representing more than one entity, whether they want one tax group number for allof the entities, or separate tax numbers for each entity.
16.Experience of business (Owners or directors involved in any previous businesses before for the last 5 years?)

The submission of the documents will be done when you have registered online.
After online VAT registration and fees payments, you will be allowed to submit the documents. After the verification of the documents and completion of the process, a VAT certificate will be provided.

VAT will be charged at 0% in respect of the following main categories of supplies:

Exports of goods and services to outside the GCC States that implement VAT
International transportation, and related supplies
Supplies of certain sea, air and land means of transportation (such as aircrafts and ships)
Certain investment grade precious metals (e.g. gold, silver, of 99% purity)
Newly constructed residential properties, that are supplied for the first time within 3 years of their construction
Supply of certain education services, and supply of relevant goods and services
Supply of certain Healthcare services, and supply of relevant goods and services

The following categories of supplies will be exempt from VAT:

the supply of some financial services
Residential properties
Bare land
Local passenger transport

Registered businesses and traders will charge VAT to all of their customers at the prevailing rate and incur VAT on goods/services that they buy from suppliers. The difference between these sums is reclaimed or paid to the government.

VAT-registered businesses generally:
• must charge VAT on taxable goods or services they supply
• may reclaim any VAT they have paid on business-related goods or services
• keep a range of business records which will allow the government to check that they have got things right.

VAT-registered businesses must report the amount of VAT they have charged and the amount of VAT they have paid to the government on a regular basis. It will be a formal submission and it is likely that the reporting will be done online.

If they have charged more VAT than they have paid, they have to pay the difference to the government. If they have paid more VAT than they have charged, they can reclaim the difference.

Please note there will be a year end rush on consulting services we have already received over 100 inquiries for software consulting support so don’t leave it too late.

SQL Server 2012 Service Pack 4 (SP4) is available

October 16th, 2017

SQL Server 2012 Service Packs, Service Pack 4 (SP4). This release of SQL 2012 Service Pack has 20+ improvements centered around performance, scalability and diagnostics to enable SQL Server 2012 to perform faster and scale out of the box on modern hardware design.

SQL Server 2012 SP4 includes all the fixes up to and including SQL Server 2012 SP3 CU10

Security security security

September 26th, 2017

You never know when some item that queries or alters data in SQL Server will cause issues.

Bruce Schneier recently commented on FaceID and Bluetooth security, the latter of which has a vulnerability issue. I was amazed to see his piece on infrared camera hacking. A POC on using light to jump air gaps is truly frightening. It seems that truly anywhere that we are processing data, we need to be thinking (see https://arstechnica.com/information-technology/2017/09/attackers-can-use-surveillance-cameras-to-grab-data-from-air-gapped-networks/)

Airborne attacks, unfortunately, provide a number of opportunities for the attacker. First, spreading through the air renders the attack much more contagious, and allows it to spread with minimum effort. Second, it allows the attack to bypass current security measures and remain undetected, as traditional methods do not protect from airborne threats. Airborne attacks can also allow hackers to penetrate secure internal networks which are “air gapped,” meaning they are disconnected from any other network for protection. This can endanger industrial systems, government agencies, and critical infrastructure. With BlueBorne, attackers can gain full control right from the start. Moreover, Bluetooth offers a wider attacker surface than WiFi, almost entirely unexplored by the research community and hence contains far more vulnerabilities

Finally, unlike traditional malware or attacks, the user does not have to click on a link or download a questionable file. No action by the user is necessary to enable the attack.

Fully patched Windows and iOS systems are protected

– the Equifax breach for example must worry everyone who has ever had credit in the USA. (Hackers broke into Equifax’s computer systems in March, which is two months earlier than the company had previously disclosed, according to a Wall Street Journal report.)

The Securities and Exchange Commission said Wednesday that a cyber breach of a filing system it uses may have provided the basis for some illegal trading in 2016. In a statement posted on the SEC’s website, Chairman Jay Clayton said a review of the agency’s cybersecurity risk profile determined that the previously detected “incident” was caused by “a software vulnerability” in its EDGAR filing system (which processes over 1.7 million electronic filings in any given year.) The agency also discovered instances in which its personnel used private, unsecured email accounts to transmit confidential information.

So let me suggest take a good look at your systems and be honest – do you feel safe?

Microsoft has released Microsoft 365, a complete, intelligent solution, including Office 365, Windows 10, and Enterprise Mobility + Security, that empowers everyone to be creative and work together, securely. Watch Satya introduce it.

What about your websites?
Although acts of vandalism such as defacing corporate websites are still commonplace, hackers prefer to gain access to the sensitive data residing on the database server and then to sell the data.

The costs of not giving due attention to your web security are extensive and apart form direct financial burden and inconvenience also risks:
• Loss of customer confidence, trust and reputation with the consequent harm to brand equity
• Negative impact on revenues and profits arising e.g. from falsified transactions, or from
employee downtime
• Website downtime – is in effect the closure of one of the most important sales and marketing channels
especially for an e-business
• Legal battles and related implications from Web application attacks and poor security
measures including fines and damages to be paid to victims.

Web Security Weaknesses
Hackers will attempt to gain access to your database server through any way they can e.g. out of date protocols on a router. Two main targets are :
• Web and database servers.
• Web applications.

Information about such exploits are readily available on the Internet, and many have been reported on this blog previously.

Web Security Scanning
So no surprise that Web security should contain two important components: web and database server security, and web application security.

Addressing web application security is as critical as addressing server security.

Firewalls and similar intrusion detection mechanisms provide little defense against full-scale web
attacks.
Since your website needs to be public, security mechanisms allow public web traffic to
communicate with your web and databases servers (i.e. over port 80).

It is of paramount importance to scan the security of these web assets on the network for possible vulnerabilities. For example, modern database systems (e.g. Microsoft SQL Server, Oracle and MySQL) may be
accessed through specific ports and so anyone can attempt direct connections to the databases to try and bypass the security mechanisms used by the operating system. These ports remain open to allow communication with legitimate traffic and therefore constitute a major vulnerability.

Other weaknesses relate to the database application itself and the use of weak or default passwords by
administrators. Vendors patch their products regularly, and equally regularly find new ways of
attack.

75% of cyber attacks target weaknesses within web applications rather than directly at the
servers. Hackers launch web application attacks on port 80 . Web applications are more open to uncovered vulnerabilities since these are generally custom-built and therefore pass through a lesser degree of
testing than off-the-shelf software.

Some hackers, for example, maliciously inject code within vulnerable web applications to trick users
and redirect them towards phishing sites. This technique is called Cross-Site Scripting (XSS) and may
be used even though the web and database servers contain no vulnerability themselves.

Hence, any web security audit must answer the questions “which elements of our network
infrastructure are open to hack attacks?”,
“which parts of a website are open to hack attacks?”, and “what data can we throw at an application to cause it to perform something it shouldn’t do?”

Ask us about Acunetix and Web Security
Acunetix ensures web site security by automatically checking for SQL Injection, Cross Site Scripting,
and other vulnerabilities. It checks password strength on authentication pages and automatically
audits shopping carts, forms, dynamic content and other web applications. As the scan is being
completed, the software produces detailed reports that pinpoint where vulnerabilities exist

VAT for the U.A.E. some updates – July 2017

July 15th, 2017

Any taxable person must retain VAT invoices issued and received for a minimum of 5 years.

Imports
The place of supply will determine whether a supply is made within the UAE (in which case the UAE VAT law will apply), or outside the UAE for VAT purposes. For a supply of goods, the place of supply should be the location of goods when the supply takes place – with special rules for certain categories of supplies (e.g. water and energy, cross border supplies).

For the supply of services, the place of supply should be where the supplier is established – (with special rules for certain categories of supplies e.g. cross border supplies between businesses).

VAT shall be payable in addition to the custom duties paid by the importer of the goods and cannot be deducted against. VAT shall be computed on the value that includes the customs duties.

Some goods that are imported may be exempt from customs duties but be subject to VAT.

VAT is due on the goods and services purchased from abroad. In case the recipient in the State is a registered person with the Federal Tax Authority for VAT purposes, the VAT would be due on that import using a reverse charge mechanism. In case the recipient in the State is a non-registered person for VAT purposes, VAT would be paid on import of goods from a place outside the GCC. Such VAT will typically be required to be paid before the goods are released to the person.

Exempt and zero rate
- The VAT treatment of real estate will depend on whether it is a commercial or residential property.
Supplies (including sales or leases) of commercial properties will be taxable at the standard VAT rate (i.e 5%).
- Supplies of residential properties will generally be exempt from VAT to ensure that VAT does not constitute an irrecoverable cost to persons who buy their own properties. To ensure that real estate developers can recover VAT on construction of residential properties, the first supply of residential properties within 3 years from their completion will be zero-rated.

There is a difference between exempt goods and zero rate. (for example zero rate might be raised in future).
VAT will be charged at 0% in respect of the following main categories of supplies:
• Exports of goods and services to outside the GCC;
• International transportation, and related supplies;
• Supplies of certain sea, air and land means of transportation (such as aircrafts and ships);
• Certain investment grade precious metals (e.g. gold, silver, of 99% purity);
• Newly constructed residential properties, that are supplied for the first time within 3 years of their construction ;
• Supply of certain education services, and supply of relevant goods and services;
• Supply of certain Healthcare services, and supply of relevant goods and services.

The following categories of supplies will be exempt from VAT:
• The supply of some financial services (clarified in VAT legislation);
• Residential properties;
• Bare land;
• Local passenger transport

Financial Services
It is expected that fee based financial services will be taxed but margin based products are likely to be exempt.
Generally, insurance (vehicle, medical, etc) will be taxable.
Life insurance, we understand will be treated as an exempt financial service

The VAT treatment of standard financial services and Islamic finance products, the treatment of Islamic finance products will be aligned with the treatment of similar standard financial services

Businesses that meet requirements the Legislation (such as being resident in the UAE and being related/associated parties) will be able to register as a VAT group. For some businesses, VAT grouping will be a useful tool to simplify accounting for VAT.

Offsetting VAT.
VAT registered businesses will be able to reduce their output tax liability by the amount of VAT that relates to bad debt which has been written off by the VAT registered business. The legislation will include the conditions and limitations concerning the use of this relief.

A scheme will be introduced to allow a UAE national who is not registered for VAT to reclaim VAT paid on goods and services relating to constructing a new residence which will be privately used by the person and his family. This will allow the recovery of VAT on such expenses as contractor’s services and building materials.

To avoid double taxation (where second hand goods are acquired by a registered person from an unregistered person for the purpose of resale), the VAT-registered person will be able to account for VAT on sales of second hand goods with reference to: the difference between the purchase price of the goods, and the selling price of the goods (that is, the profit margin).

The VAT which must be accounted for by the registered person, will be included in the profit margin. The legislation will include the details of the conditions to be met in order to apply this mechanism.

VAT on expenses
A VAT registered person incurs input tax on its business expenses, and this input tax can be recovered in full when it relates to a taxable supply that was made, or intended to be made, by the registered person. In contrast, where the expense relates to a non-taxable supply (e.g. exempt supplies), then the registered person may not recover the input tax paid.

VAT will not be deductible in respect of expenses incurred for making non-taxable supplies. Furthermore, input tax cannot be deducted when it is incurred in respect of specific expenses such as entertainment expenses e.g. for employee entertainment.

VAT on expenses that were incurred by a business can be deducted in the following circumstances:
• The business must be a taxable person (the end consumer cannot claim any input tax refund).
• VAT should have been charged correctly (i.e. unduly charged VAT is not recoverable).
• The business must hold documentation showing the VAT paid (e.g. valid tax invoice).
• The goods or services acquired are used or intended to be used for making taxable supplies.
• VAT input tax refund can be claimed only on the amount paid or intended to be paid before the expiration of 6 months after the agreed date for the payment of the supply.

In certain situations, an expense may relate to both taxable and non-taxable supplies made by the registered person (such as activities of the banking sector). In these circumstances, the registered person would need to apportion input tax between the taxable and non-taxable (exempt) supplies.

Businesses will be expected to use input tax (ratio of recoverable to total) as a basis for apportionment in the first instance – (there will be the facility to use other methods where those are fair and agreed with the Federal Tax Authority).

Compliance and returns
Penalties will be imposed for non-compliance. Examples of actions and omissions that may give raise to penalties include:
• A person failing to register when required to do so;
• A person failing to submit a tax return or make a payment within the required period;
• A person failing to keep the records required under the issued tax legislation;
• Tax evasion offences where a person performs a deliberate act or omission with the intention of violating the provisions of the issued tax legislation.

No special rules are planned for small or medium sized enterprises. The FTA will provide materials and resources available for these entities to assist them in their enquiries.

A supplier registered or required to be registered for VAT must issue a valid VAT invoice for the supply. To be considered as a valid VAT invoice, the document must follow a specific format as mentioned in the legislation. In certain situations the supplier may be able to issue a simplified VAT invoice.

Government entities
Supplies made by government entities will typically be subject to VAT. This will ensure that government entities are not unfairly advantaged as compared to private businesses. Certain supplies made by government entities will, however, be excluded from the scope of VAT if they are not in competition with the private sector or where the entity is the sole provider of such supplies. It is likely certain government entities will be entitled to VAT refunds – this is designed to avoid budgeting issues and provide a level playing field between outsourced and insourced activities. For the supplies provided for government entities, the treatment of such supplies shall depend on the same supply and not on the recipient of the supply. Therefore, if the supply is subject to the standard tax rate, the treatment would remain the same even if it is provided to a government entity.

Transitional rules
Special rules will be provided to deal with various situations that may arise in respect of supplies that span the introduction of VAT. For example:
• Where a payment is received in respect of a supply of goods before the introduction of VAT, but the goods are actually delivered after the introduction of VAT. This means that VAT will have to be charged on such supplies. Likewise, special rules will apply with regards to supplies of services spanning the introduction of VAT.
• Where a contract is concluded prior to the introduction of VAT in respect of a supply, which is wholly or partly made after the introduction of VAT, and the contract does not contain clauses relating to the VAT treatment of the supply, then consideration for the supply will be treated as inclusive of VAT.

There will, however, be special provisions to allow suppliers to charge VAT in situations where their recipient is able to recover their VAT but where there is no VAT clause.

Payments and claims
Note that VAT will be payable in full not after netting off input tax which will then have to be claimed. This is more of a challenge for cash flow and business risk, especially given the penalties for late payments.
Refunds will be made after the receipt of the application and will be subject to verification checks, with a particular focus to avoid fraud.

The FTA may provide its views on various matters in the law. Taxpayers may choose to challenge these views. However, penalties may be imposed on taxpayers who are found to violate any tax laws and regulations.

Other Emirates
It is expected that businesses will need to complete additional information on their VAT returns to report revenues earned in each Emirate. Guidance will be provided to businesses with regards to this. It is expected that the rules will be relatively straightforward for most businesses and will be based, for example, for B2C transactions, on the location of the transaction (e.g. in a retail environment, the location of the shop).

European Union General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) – 2018 what should GCC countries consider?

May 30th, 2017

The UAE Ministry of Economy is raising awareness among private sector companies of the need to be ready for new European data protection rules, which comes into force one year from now.

The European Union General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is set to become law by May 2018. The new rules govern all companies in Europe, as well as all companies trading with European companies and individuals.

The GDPR was drafted to “harmonise the protection of fundamental rights and freedoms of natural persons in respect of processing activities and to ensure the free flow of personal data between Member States

The law includes strong penalties for either misuse of data, or failure to protect the personal data of customers, with fines of up to 4% of annual turnover, or 20m euros ($22m).

HE Juma Mohammed Al Kait, Assistant Undersecretary for Foreign Trade at the Ministry of Economy, noted that the regulation issued by the EU aims to protect the data of every individual in the EU.

This not only impacts companies operating in European countries, but includes all institutions and companies that conduct business, trade and investment activities within EU countries, including the UAE business sector linked with European trade relations.

Due to this, the Ministry is working on deepening its knowledge about the new legislation, its provisions and requirements, and aims to reconcile its operational procedures with European authorities, in adherence with the framework of the GDPR, before May 2018.

Al Kait emphasized the EU is one of the UAE’s most important trade partners. Trade between the two sides generated $65.8 billion in 2016 alone. The UAE has become one of the top 10 destinations for EU exports, and is home to over 41,000 European companies, in addition to over 121,000 EU citizens.

Penalties will also apply to information controllers and processors, including cloud software companies.

The new legislation also outlines terms of approval for the use of data, to prevent companies from using legally illegitimate terms, and gives both parties the ability to easily withdraw if desired.

The compliance world will change dramatically for a number of GCC organizations on 25 May 2018. In just over one year’s time GCC organizations that:
1.have a branch, subsidiary or single representative in the European Union (“EU”);
2.do not have a physical presence in the EU, but offer goods or services to data subjects in the EU; or
3.neither have a physical presence in the EU nor offer goods or services to people in the EU, but monitor the online behavior of data subjects in the EU, will have to ensure that they are complying with the European Union General Data Protection Regulation (“GDPR”).

Who is likely to be affected?

Based on the test set out in the GDPR, the new regulations will likely apply to a significant number of entities in this region.
Obvious examples include:
– major airlines that fly to and from the EU,
- hotel and tourism operators who promote travel to the region to EU data subjects,
- regional banks and other financial service companies that have branches in the financial centres in the EU and online.

Less obvious examples include:
- e-commerce companies that are able to accept payments in euros and deliver to the EU
- mobile apps that can be downloaded by users in the EU and which have access to a user’s contacts, photos or location data.

All of these businesses may need to comply with the GDPR and to mitigate the risk and cost of failure to do so.
If your organization is affected it has three main options:
1. wait and see i.e. do nothing (not advisable);
2.consider what it needs to do to ensure that it does not fall within the scope of the GDPR;
3. take immediate steps to prepare to comply with the GDPR .

For option (2), if your organization does not have an establishment in the EU and does not need to target or monitor EU data subjects then you ight consider making it very clear that your website or app is not for use by EU users (e.g. including geo-blocking EU data subjects).

for option (3), if you have not started the process of ensuring compliance by now, then there is a lot to do.

1.monitor business to consumer business practices, including:
- conducting a data protection audit,
- examining the legal basis on which it processes personal data and updates its privacy policies;
2.monitor internal business practices, including:
- review and update of agreements with data processors,
- implement processes for adoption of pseudoanonymization and privacy by design
- considering the legal basis on which it transfers personal data between jurisdictions;
3.establish compliant accountability processes, including”
- processes for record keeping,
- appointment of a data protection officer or EU representative and dealing with data subjects;
4.invest in infrastructure, including:
- how to determine the severity, and impact on data subjects of a data breach
- to establish robust security processes and procedures for notifying regulatory authorities and data subjects -

The need for compliance, especially for longer-term projects such as records of processing and compliant contracting, must be addressed as soon as is practicable.

Businesses that either operate, target customers or monitor individuals in the EU should :
• Audit: to identify key remediation areas.
• Record of Processing: This mandatory record will require significant internal resources, but will also help to plan and implement GDPR processes. .
• Consider Contract Renegotiations: The GDPR requires that contracts with data controllers include additional obligations. As companies come to renegotiate contracts, ensure that adequate data protection clauses are added.
• Review and update, where necessary, employee notices to be GDPR compliant. If you currently conduct criminal records checks, then review national laws where you operate to ensure you can continue to do so . There is an emphasis on transparency in the GDPR. Notices must be clear, concise and informative. Employees must be adequately informed of all data processing activities and data transfers and the information set out in Articles 13 to 14 must be provided. Criminal records can no longer be processed unless authorized by member state law.

Consider whether your organization is processing any sensitive personal data and ensure the requirements for
processing such data are satisfied While the grounds for processing are broadly the same as those set out
in the current Data Privacy Directive, the GDPR imposes new requirements to gain valid consent. Consent can be withdrawn at any time and systems must be able to handle withdrawal request.

• Review and update, where necessary, customer notices to be GDPR compliant
• Consider whether your notices have to accommodate “child-friendly requirements”. he GDPR requires parental consent for the processing of data related to information society services offered to a “child” (ranging
from 13 to 16 years old depending on the member state.
• Data privacy rights. The current rights to request access to data or require it to be rectified or deleted have been expanded to include a much broader right to require deletion (“the right to be forgotten”), a right not just to access your data but have it provided to you in a machine readable format (“data portability”). Versions of the existing right to object to any processing undertaken on the basis of legitimate interests or for direct marketing and the right not to be subject to decision based on automated processing are also included and expressly refer a right to object to profiling.
These must be clearly communicated in the notices given to data subjects, e.g. privacy policy
• Privacy by design. Ensure processes are in place to embed privacy by design into projects (e.g. technical and organizational measures are in place to ensure data minimization, purpose limitation and security)

Consider what data you hold in emails, in CRM systems, Social media.
What should be your data access use and retention policies?

Personally I think it will be great if this is a way to prosecute the perpetrators of all the spam nd phishing emails I get or at least to remove data form their lists!