How to encrypt your data for free!

Last month, the Talk Talk cyber-attack resulted in the theft of a substantial amount of sensitive customer data, in the region of:

28,000 credit card/debit card details

15,656 bank account details and sort codes

15,000 dates of birth

1.2 million Email addresses, names and phone numbers

This was Talk Talk’s third attack of this kind in the last 12 months, putting the company firmly on the ever-growing list of multinationals to have suffered a major cyber-attack. The question is, if large corporates such as, Sony, EBay, Carphone Warehouse and Talk Talk (with their expert IT departments and security specialists), can’t prevent hackers from infiltrating their networks, what chance do smaller companies and home users have?

Talk Talk’s CEO, Dido Harding couldn’t confirm whether the data of around 4 million customers had been encrypted or not and when asked why, she didn’t know and responded stating that it wasn’t a ‘legal’ requirement to do so. Ok, so it isn’t required by law but surely any company, regardless of size has a duty of care over their customers’ private data?

The fact is, encryption isn’t a hard thing to implement. It won’t guarantee total prevention of a data leak but together with other security tools, like firewalls, email filtering, intrusion prevention systems, patching and anti-virus, it adds another important layer of protection.

Together with our partner Kaspersky, we’ve outlined the top 5 benefits of encryption:

  1. Full protection of data – Securely encrypted data is completely protected, even if it is stolen. Why? If, for example, a file is encrypted with 256-bit AES, it would take a hacker more than a lifetime to crack the code using the brute-force method.
  2. Security across your devices – Many companies are currently struggling with the boom in smartphones and tablets. Whether administrators like it or not, data is pouring out of companies and being distributed among the most diverse of devices. Encryption removes the stress from this situation, as it ensures that data remains secure, regardless of the device on which it is stored.
  3. Safe transmission of data – Users sending files via email or distributing them via a cloud server can use encryption to ensure that no unauthorised user can view them.
  4. Retain data integrity – Targeted data theft is one thing, but another way to misuse data is through manipulation. Even though a hacker may have absolutely no interest in the information in question, he or she can manipulate specific data to disrupt corporate communications. If encrypted data is used, the recipient will definitely notice that it has been tampered with.
  5. Ensure compliance – IT departments often have to comply with legal or contractual regulations on data protection. These may involve archiving banking data or providing special protection for customer information. In many cases, encrypting the data involved is the easiest way to comply with these rules.

If you are a home user or a small company looking to encrypt your data, recently published their poll to establish the most popular ways of using encryption for free, with these desktop tools:

  • Veracrypt (Windows/ OS X/Linux) – MOST POPULAR – 40% of the vote
  • 7- Zip (Windows/OS x/Linux) – RUNNER UP – 20 % of the vote

Netshield’s IT security specialists have a wealth of experience and can offer expert advice. If you are a company and not sure where to go next with your IT security, we can arrange a full security health check across your network starting at just £295 (+VAT). Your data is your business – let us help you keep it secure.

Call us on 0333 200 1636 or email for more details.

Proactive IT Monitoring = Knowledge, Knowledge = Power

The term ‘managed services’ has been around in the IT industry for a fair few years now. The level of importance placed on managed services varies from business to business and is directly related to how a company prioritises the efficiency and performance of their IT network and infrastructure.

For many companies, the more traditional break-fix mantra of, ‘When it is broken, we will get the “IT guys” in to fix it,’ is the extent of their IT strategy. In recent years, the more forward thinking organisations recognise the importance of keeping their IT systems running efficiently, to minimise downtime. Unfortunately, relying purely on a break-fix approach can be risky.

The majority of the time, just reacting to problems that have already occurred is too late. Productivity has been diminished, data has been lost and downtime has had an impact. Consider these real life scenarios:

Scenario 1

Backups have failed and have for the last few weeks but without proper monitoring, nobody noticed. It is only when the HDD gives up the ghost that the company discovers the loss of invoices, product orders, communications and more.

Scenario 2

A spam bot attacks the exchange server because the firewall isn’t being monitored. This creates a spam relay causing the customer’s domain to be blacklisted. The ISP terminates service and the internet and email shut down.

Scenario 3

A virus has hit the network due to the server anti-virus expiring over a month ago. Due to the lack of monitoring and management, this has escalated into the users not being able to start their workstations up until everything has been cleaned.

The ability to strategically look forward, for many IT departments is a tricky task, mainly due to various operational and commercial pressures. However, in order to enhance and maintain technology performance, planned monitoring will ensure that corporate objectives are met and, more importantly, reduce the exposure to risk.

‘But it is too expensive!’ I hear you cry….IT purchases are often about justifying upfront costs for hardware and software. After those expensive purchases, it is rare that a company would monitor the performance of the costly kit and just rely on the vendor’s claims. This makes little sense after spending so much putting the kit in place.

In fact, for a modest monthly fee, monitoring will allow you to:

  • Analyse historical trends to enable data driven insights and decisions
  • Prevent outages rather than fight fires
  • Increase productivity and run at peak performance
  • Plan and budget for future upgrades
  • Minimise downtime and save money

Perhaps more importantly, a managed service provider, such as Netshield take on all the risk for you. When your systems are running at peak performance, you are happy and so are we!

Contact us to enquire about a health check or to find out more about our monthly NetManage rates.

Still cloudy about the cloud? A hybrid approach could be the answer

There is no doubt that there are many advantages for moving to the cloud, as we have discussed in previous blog posts. With all the hype and noise surrounding cloud solutions, it is easy to get distracted from the most important issue – which solution best fits your business right now and moving into the future? As part a recent survey conducted by IDG Connect and, it was revealed the use of third party datacentres or colocation is growing in popularity:

  • 4 in 10 companies cited a major restructure, merger, change of premises or an acquisition as one of the main reasons for turning to a third party resource.
  • 29% pointed to a lack of capital to extend their current facilities.
  • 28% stated that their datacentres were not currently designed for the modern world of high density, heavily virtualised servers.
  • 24% simply don’t have the floor space to keep extending and the same proportion said that they were running out of electrical power and that it was increasingly difficult to hit energy efficient targets based on current designs.

Netshield currently provides colocation services in our ‘out of city’, state of the art datacentre for many of our customers. Before making the important decision of whether or not to place equipment offsite, we are frequently asked to outline the benefits:

  • Reduced costs – Rather than investing in backup generators, UPS and HVAC units and paying the ongoing expense associated with this equipment, we take on this responsibility, providing a secure datacentre environment that is scalable to the evolving needs of your business.
  • Reliability – The peace of mind that you are guaranteed a 100% network reliability. When running an in-house datacentre, this can have its difficulties and related costs. Our network configurations are designed to deliver reliability, availability and uptime for you.
  • Robust bandwidth – As requirements increase, colocation allows you to keep up with more complex applications, maintain service provider diversity and take advantage of volume pricing without the hassle of negotiating and managing multiple contracts.
  • 24/7 local support – You decide how much control you need or want over your own equipment. Coupled with our NetManage solution, we have a remote hands service and onsite service to provide 24/7 management of servers, giving you assurance that there is always a professional at hand to assist you and manage your assets.
  • Greater power capacity & redundancy – Our increased power capacity means that you can take advantage of this to introduce virtualisation and high density computing. Our constant, uninterrupted power supply means constant uptime and the knowledge that there is always a backup in the case of a power outage.
  • Security & data protection – We have multiple layers of security including 24/7 onsite security, biometric and key card entry, cabinet/cage locks, CCTV. Your data and equipment is protected at all times.
  • Business continuity & disaster recovery – In the event of a natural disaster or power outage, we can ensure your offsite servers, equipment and applications will remain available and operational. Even with the increased risk of a terrorist attack, our datacentre is located out of the city centre.

While the ‘cloud’ remains a hot topic, security seems to be at the forefront for many IT managers. It maybe that the cloud is not suitable for every application, perhaps that is due to compliance, specialised hardware dependencies, or the need for direct physical control over the IT environment – colocation is a strong alternative for overcoming these issues. Contact us today to find out more about our colocation services.

How outsourcing your IT can help gain competitive advantage

IT networks have grown in complexity in the last few years. With all the changes like cloud, end-user demands, social media, mobility and smart devices it is not always easy to keep up with IT demands and new technologies, this can be particularly difficult for SMEs.

Outsourcing can ultimately help relieve pressure on internal resources. By utilising a Managed IT Services Provider (MSP), it is like extending the IT team without the HR costs of recruiting new IT personnel, it is a flexible resource that can look after a small element like monitoring the company’s servers to providing a fully managed service with 1st – 3rd line technical support. Services provided can be scaled up or down, as and when the business needs them.

Less strain on resources means businesses can focus more on core functions without worrying about IT issues impacting daily operations. Additionally MSPs can carry out regular maintenance and preventative activities to lower the risk of unexpected downtime. They can carry out administrative tasks like software updates and ensuring data security measures meet the required data compliance and regulations.

Furthermore outsourcing provides businesses with access to IT expertise and knowledge that the company may not have – MSPs are trained and up-to-date with the latest technologies so, they can implement new solutions quickly and cost-effectively. Not only can this increase business efficiency but, competitive advantage too.

In the era of collaborations, working with a MSP to ensure all IT needs are met can be mutually beneficial. MSPs should listen and cater for business needs, if they just go in with a hard sell, they might not be the best match. To discuss in more detail how outsourcing your IT can benefit your company, contact us today.

Microsoft Azure – How it can increase productivity for businesses

Microsoft Azure is a scalable and powerful cloud platform that can help businesses improve productivity and save money. It offers both infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) and platform-as-a-service (PaaS), supporting a range of operating systems, languages, tools and frameworks. Organisations can easily build, deploy and manage applications and services with a few clicks. Check out the video to find out more.