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, lifehacker.com 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 info@netshield.net for more details.

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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.

Why moving to a hosted desktop service is beneficial

Moving to a Virtual Desktop environment helps unify and centralise network management for IT administrators and empowers employees to work remotely using their choice of devices. However, to migrate from a physical desktop to a virtual desktop environment can be costly and time consuming due to the hardware, software and expertise required to install and manage it. A simpler way would be to opt for a ‘Hosted Virtual Desktop service’ from a services provider and here are a few reasons why…

Reduce costs
Helps convert capital expenditure to operational expenditure, there will be some software and hardware costs but, it will be considerably less than implementing it yourself. VDI infrastructures are flexible, it can be scaled up as well as down – the service provider can add new user accounts within minutes. Desktop bandwidth consumption will also reduce as all the processing work is done at the core of the network (at the service provider’s datacentre) – so, existing WAN bandwidth will be able to support more branch users.

Manageability
It consolidates, standardised, cut hardware costs and centralise management where administrators can monitor and maintain the desktops all in one place. VDI streamlines day-to-day management, new application deployments and operation system upgrades. Choosing a hosted service means businesses will not need to worry about the management of the network, as the service provider will manage it all.

Device and Location Independence
Remote WorkingIt provides mobility to the workforce – allowing users to access corporate data and applications from any device securely and efficiently. It offers location independence so, employees can work from anywhere with an internet connection and the service provider can efficiently and effectively provide remote IT support to users. So, workers will not be tied to a physical place of work, when ‘working’ and it will assist in decreasing branch office energy costs, required desk space etc.

Flexibility
Whether it is the Cloud-Hosted option or an internal Virtual Desktop Infrastructure it offers flexibility and scalability. Virtual desktops can be added or removed with a few clicks on a global scale and monthly costs can be adjusted accordingly. Setting up new branch offices worldwide can also be done quickly using this solution. Opting for a hosted VDI, monthly costs often includes remote IT user support and any changes required you will just have to call the service provider, the monthly costs will also be adjusted accordingly to reflect the number of users, saving you time.

Security
Employees can work anywhere in a secure manner, as workers are granted access toSecure Remote Working Netshield corporate networks and all data that is amended or created is stored in a central location. This also makes disaster recovery planning simpler as it can be implemented and managed easily and promptly. Service providers will ensure all security configurations, user policies and data backup procedures are always up-to-date which all helps to lower the risk of data loss.

Conclusion
Virtual Desktops can help lower the total cost of ownership for organisations while providing a robust and scalable infrastructure. Hosted services removes the barriers to adoption and eliminates the cost and complexities of deploying and managing desktops while providing flexibility to end-users. This type of hosted service also allows SMEs, to gain competitive advantage and adopt to market changes quickly without having to worry about the IT infrastructure capacity and management.

For more information on Hosted VDI services contact Netshield today.

The drawbacks of Cloud – Things they don’t tell you!

Cloud Computing - NetshieldCloud computing refers to storing and accessing your data and applications via the internet and not running it from the devices or the business server. It can provide a number of benefits for businesses like flexibility, control costs and mobility but, there are drawbacks too.

Network Connection Reliance

Internet services down? Cloud services will be down too. Slow upload and download connection speeds will also affect how efficiently the cloud service runs. Even if precautions are made to ensure maximum uptime and speeds, there is always a risk.

Costs

Preliminary assessment on cloud applications may appear to be more cost-effective than buying software outright but, detailed comparisons must be made like does the cloud version have the same features and would any missing features concern you? Calculation of the total cost of ownership is necessary, make sure there are cost savings involved both for the short and long-term.

Lack of Support

Cloud-based service providers can be situated anywhere making it difficult sometimes to receive prompt support. So, always check the SLA’s within the contract and check whether their support desk operates during your office hours.

Security ConcernsData Security

All resources and data is access through the internet benefiting flexible workers because they can access all the corporate data that reside in a central location. However, if there are concerns about data being sent across the internet or the organisation need to follow strict data rules then, cloud might not be suitable.

Predicting Costs

This can be positive or negative depending on different variables. For a SME adopting cloud services it turns CapEx into OpEx because it allows companies to pay for software or services on a pay monthly, per user basis rather than buying it outright. However, if the business grows rapidly the monthly incremental costs also increases and eventually may result in the business paying more for cloud services than building a private network. So, always review and evaluate on a regular basis.

Privacy and Data Ownership

We’ve all heard the stories about certain governments requesting access to data from service providers – if this is a concern always best to encrypt your data before moving it to the cloud.

There are also issues surrounding data ownership, the question of whether the data belongs to the individual(s) or company that created and uploaded it or does it belong to the storage provider? Because of this you will often find ‘Terms and Conditions’ and ‘Service Level Agreements’ will vary amongst cloud service providers. Before signing on the dotted line always read and compare in detail, keeping an eye on the ‘Privacy and Data’ ownership information.

Suitability

Cloud computing is not something that will suit every business and as mentioned earlier, it can be more costly than traditional computing, as the bigger the company the bigger the IT requirements are, and the less likely cloud will provide financial advantages. Larger companies may benefit more from building their own private cloud than using a service providers.

It’s not for everyone!!

Cloud will not be the future of all computing, there is still room for a server room and private networks. It is however, great for Startups and SMEs because it flexible and help spread the costs. There are disadvantages that the salesman might not tell you but, it is about weighing up the different options and measuring them against your business IT needs.

For more information on cloud or managed IT services please contact us today.

Anti-Virus – Do we still need it or is it doomed?

With the advancements in technology the threat landscape is evolving too.

Malicious software is becoming harder to detect and remove – it is also starting to affect a wider range of devices because of the ‘Internet of Things’. There has been some cases that advance malicious software can even bypass the anti-virus software by changing its code!

In some ways there is truth behind what Brian Dye, senior vice president of Symantec famously said a few months ago ‘Antivirus is dead’ and it is ‘doomed to failure’ because Anti-Virus relies on a signature database to block out malicious behaviours so, if a particular piece of malicious code has never been seen before – you will probably be a victim to it.

However AV is not completely doomed as Eugene Kaspersky quite rightly said, it is still ‘very much alive and kicking’ because as threats evolved so has the traditional AV. It is about choosing a product that has a database that is continuously updated and have a good feature set.

Many vendors are now reinventing AV and changing it to ‘Endpoint Security’ which offers a wider range of features from your standard things like Anti-Virus, Anti-Spyware and Anti-Malware but, include features like application control, mobile device security, encryption and rule-based system behaviour blocking.

However security has become more complex and just because AV or ‘Endpoint Security’ has more features, we cannot just relying on it to be the sole system defences, it is not viable anymore. It will not provide an adequate level of protection for a modern day complex network.

Networks have developed into complex environments with multiple layers and a range of devices connected so, a layered approach to network security is key because it helps protect the different level within the infrastructure.

AV should just be seen as the first line of defence only, its aim is to protect users from things like spam emails, malicious attachments and websites. Occasionally some will get through but this approach is more secure and safer. Always keep in mind there is no 100% defence against the malicious cyber-attacks because the variables are always changing. Continuously network monitoring is also key to catching any abnormal behaviour.

For more information on network security please feel free to contact us on 0845 603 5552 or info@netshield.eu