Protecting Your Business with Cyber Essentials Qualification

Without the amazing benefits and capabilities provided by IT, modern business would look very different. Accordingly, the need to protect your organisation’s IT equipment such as networks, data storage systems and workstations should be a major priority. You only have to take a quick look at the technology headlines to see that hacking makes for big business in the digital age.

How, though, can your business protect itself from the threat of hackers and their arsenal of tools which include DDoS attacks, malware and ransomware? Understanding what those last three terms mean is tough enough, but combatting them is on another level. Thankfully, the Cyber Essentials qualification is a Government-backed scheme that aims to help businesses protect themselves by enhancing their cyber security.

What is the Cyber Essentials Qualification?

Cyber Essentials is there to help protect your organisation from the very real threat of cyber-crime by focusing on the following areas:

  • Securing your internet connection to ensure that only authorised traffic is allowed to enter and leave your network
  • Ensuring that any device on your computer network is correctly configured and secured to reduce the risk of any security vulnerabilities that may be present
  • Underlining the importance of protecting your applications and hardware from the threat of malware
  • Working to differentiate the various levels of access that should be assigned to different computer users across your network.
  • Best practices for patch/update management to give your software the best chance of being protected from vulnerabilities

What Does Cyber Essentials Mean For Your Business?

Cyber Essentials is a form of certification which demonstrates your understanding of cyber security. It not only reassures your customers that you’re reputable and trustworthy, but it also ensures that any potential downtime is significantly reduced. Allowing you to become more proactive with risk management, the visibility that the qualification grants you in the chaotic world of cyber security is priceless. With enhanced knowledge comes the ability to spot risks early on and reduce the impact they could have on your business and its customers.

Not every organisation, of course, has the necessary skills in house to achieve the Cyber Essentials qualification on their own. However, this doesn’t mean that your business has to head out into the digital landscape without the protection afforded by Cyber Essentials. A successful cyber strategy can easily be put into place by teaming up with an external partner who has the Cyber Essentials certification and can help to craft a strategy which suits your organisation and its unique needs.

Cyber Security A Necessary Addition to Your Business

Clearly, the need to protect your IT infrastructure in the modern age should be a paramount concern for all contemporary businesses. After all, the sheer amount of data now held by organisations is staggering and the need to protect this increases with each passing cyber scandal. Despite IT being a niche that is notoriously complex and unfriendly to newcomers, Cyber Essentials represents a fantastic opportunity to start taking back control of your IT defences and keeping your infrastructure online.

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Managed IT Support Services in the UK

What is managed IT service?

IT is such a crucial part of the modern business landscape that even the smallest businesses struggle to operate without some form of IT infrastructure. Technology, of course, can be highly complex and a certain level of expertise is required to get the best out of it.

IT Support for Small Business

Small businesses, however, rarely have the resources to install an in-house IT support team. As a result, IT issues can soon begin to affect the productivity of your organisation and the ability to remain competitive in a world that is becoming more and more digital.

Help is at hand, though, in the form of external partners who can provide managed IT support. Highly experienced and capable of significantly improving your existing IT infrastructure, external IT support comes laden with the following benefits:

  • Installation and configuration of equipment can be easily planned and executed with the minimum of fuss
  • Response times ensure that you’re guaranteed to have any technical faults attended to within a specific time period
  • Remote technology allows external providers to access your networks from anywhere in the world to diagnose faults and solve problems quickly

These benefits, of course, are all fantastic, but how do you go about choosing the right provider for your IT services?

What do managed IT service providers do?

Every organisation is unique in its digital needs, but it’s important to concentrate on these basics when searching for an IT support team:

Working with both PC and Mac:

Office workers, for example, will require desktop computers and remote workers will most likely use laptops. And, regardless of the industry, it’s increasingly common to find PCs and Macs rubbing shoulders under the same roof. Looking after all these different types of equipment requires a level of experience and expertise that the average office manager simply won’t have. However, the best IT support teams are able to tackle all these different challenges with confidence and ease.

Cloud Services:

The headlines surrounding cloud computing have been inescapable over the last few years and this is with good reason due to the amazing benefits it provides. Off-site network solutions and storage facilities free up valuable space in your premises, but how do you know which cloud provider is right for you? If, however, you have an IT support team on hand then they will be able to recommend the best provider for your needs and, as a result, help enhance your IT operations.

 

Plan for Future IT System Growth:

If your business wants to grow then you need to make sure your IT solutions grow at the same pace. And that’s why it’s vital that you work with an IT support team who can plan for future growth. Ideas should be drawn together to schedule a five year plan that allows your organisation to expand as planned and with the minimum of fuss.

The demands of business in the 21st century are such that you need to ensure your IT operations are carefully managed. With this taken care of you can concentrate on remaining competitive and providing your customers with a fantastic level of service. And, with an external IT support team on standby, this has never been easier to achieve

What is a spear phishing attack?

What is Spear Phishing?

Spear phishing has been present in the digital landscape for over 20 years, but it’s only in the last 10 years that it’s started making headlines.

Primarily using email to deliver its malicious payload, spear phishing presents a very real and current threat to any business with an email account. Key to combatting the threat of phishing is by educating your business on the signs and symptoms of such an attack, so let’s take a look at what you’re up against.

Spear Phishing Techniques

A number of techniques are employed when launching a phishing technique and these can include:

  • Macros contained within Microsoft Office documents that, once activated, allow hackers to gain remote access of the infected PC
  • Tricking employees into disclosing sensitive data such as login details for company emails or databases
  • Redirecting victims to malicious websites where malware can be downloaded to their PC

What’s Different About Spear Phishing?

Phishing is frequently in the headlines, so many businesses are aware of this threat and know how to protect themselves. Spear phishing, however, is a little different.

Where phishing emails tend to target large numbers of individuals with generic content, spear phishing is a much more personalised attack. For example, rather than starting an email with “Dear Sir/Madam”, a spear phishing email will use the recipients exact name to engender trust and move the recipient closer to taking the malicious bait.

What are the Characteristics of a Spear Phishing Attack?

Phishing attacks are generally executed by sophisticated hackers, but there are still a number of telltale signs which characterise spear phishing such as:

  • Multiple Levels of Attack: Phishing attacks businesses on a number of different levels following the initial infection, so further attacks are likely to involve malware downloads, logging keystrokes and capturing screenshots.
  • A Combination of Threats: To enhance the chances of outwitting standard web defences, spear phishing incorporates a number of different techniques to deliver their payload including infected URLs, documents and unauthorised downloads.
  • Exploiting Zero Day Vulnerabilities: Spear phishing specialises in exploiting the numerous zero day vulnerabilities that can arise in browsers, apps and the various plugins that are found within desktop PCs.

Spear Phishing Examples

If you take a look at the IT headlines from the last couple of years then it doesn’t take long to find a mention of spear phishing.

In 2016, an employee of Snapchat fell victim to a spear phishing scam which involved an email being sent which claimed it was from the Snapchat CEO. Falling for the scam, the employee duly followed the request within the email and forwarded on payroll details to a spoof email address.

However, the most famous example of spear phishing is the attack launched on the US Democratic Party in 2016. Hackers sent spoof emails claiming to be from Google representatives and advising recipients to update their email passwords to strengthen security. However, the links contained within these emails merely led the victims to malicious websites which allowed the hackers to take control of their email accounts.

Rather than becoming the next victim of phishing, it’s important that you understand how such an attack is likely to be launched against your business. Knowledge is a valuable currency when it comes to cyber-attacks, so it’s crucial that you educate yourself and your employees to not only protect your sensitive data, but also maintain your productivity.

Cyber Security in the Office

Cyber Security Tips For Employees

We live in a digital age where computers are crucial for any forward thinking business, but this landscape is one that’s blighted by cyber attacks such as ransomware and malware. Combatting this is important, but instilling a good cyber security culture in the office is even more important. All of your employees, no matter how conscientious they seem, are vulnerable to cyber attacks. After all, it takes just one click of a mouse to activate an email’s malicious payload. To help you minimise the chances of this happening, we’re going to take a look at the principles of cyber security in the office.

Cyber Security Awareness

The absolute bottom line of developing cyber awareness is training. Your employees are often the final (and weakest) line of defence when it comes to cyber security, so they need to be seriously schooled in its best practices.

And this needs to begin when an employee starts working for your business. Therefore, cyber security training needs to make up a significant part of IT inductions for new starters and this should be signed off by an IT professional. Following this, regular refresher courses need to be put on internally to update employees on current threats and the best methods of defence.

Tips To Improve Your Cyber Security

To ensure good cyber security in the office you need to invest in a strong cyber security culture. This approach allows you to build organisation and regularity into your fight against cyber crime and, ultimately, provides a safer and more secure environment to work in. To create a strong cyber security culture, it’s recommended that you implement the following:

Test Your Cyber Defences:

There’s no room for complacency in cyber security as hackers are constantly evolving their techniques, so you need to regularly test your defence systems to guarantee they can deflect any attacks.

  • Protect All Devices:
    With the rise in popularity of the Internet of Things, we’re connecting more external devices than ever to our internal networks such as smartphones and even smart fridges. Including all of these devices in your security approach is paramount for protecting your networks.
  • Backup Your Data: Ransomware has the capability to encrypt all of the data on your network, so backing up your data has never been more important.
  • Analyse Inbound and Outbound Traffic: You need to know exactly what activity is taking place on your networks to stand any chance of detecting cyber attacks. Therefore, monitoring traffic in and out of your network is the best way to keep an eye on any rogue activity before it escalates into something more disruptive.

Cyber Security Awareness in the Office

By following the advice above it’s relatively simple to create a level of cyber security awareness in the office which protects both your employees and your data. You only have to take a quick look at the headlines to understand just how commonplace cyber attacks are, so bolstering your defences is essential for your business to remain productive and avoid any potential data losses.

 

 

Benefits of Private Cloud Technology for Businesses

Private Cloud Technology for Businesses

Cloud computing is one of the top trends to emerge in technology and instantly impact the way we work. When you use cloud technology, you experience a massive amount of upside, with only limited additional risk.

Benefits of cloud technology include:

  • Reduced Costs – The capital expenditure required to maintain cloud technology is minimal, and your costs become variable based on the amount of storage and computing power you require.
  • Improved Flexibility – The ability to quickly scale is one of the top benefits of using cloud technology. This is because you can quickly increase the amount of compute power and storage you use, but without having to shut down your system or make large expenditures.
  • Better Employee Experience – Cloud technology both allows employees to work from anywhere, and to collaborate more easily. The result is they can get more done and do it much more efficiently, which will benefit both you and your employees.
  • Protects from Disaster – Some companies are extremely vulnerable to physical disasters, and the static nature of their servers mean that if they are damaged, the information will be lost. Cloud systems are the best remedy for that, and are known to have great backup and recovery systems.

 Public Cloud vs. Private Cloud

The use of cloud technology is usually considered to mean public cloud computing, which scares away many potential users because of their worries about security. The initial concern with cloud security is that you were sharing hard drive space and servers with other companies, which meant your information was more vulnerable. Any compromises in security can result in a massive reputational and financial hit, which is why cyber security has become so important.

As a result, private cloud solutions have gained a lot of popularity. Having hardware that is specifically dedicated to your company helps reduce the potential harm of any cyber threats. You can gain all the benefits of having your servers located offsite, and therefore not being vulnerable to a disaster at your office, while still knowing all your information is segregated and secure.

Cloud Security

When you use private cloud services, assuming you have the proper anti-virus software and firewalls in place, your information is as secure as it would be if it were on your desktop. Some companies are experimenting with a 2:1 ratio of private to public cloud usage, which is representative of the emphasis companies are putting on having proper security on all their data.

They know that the flexibility of cloud technology is good, but it becomes even more powerful when it is secure, as private cloud computing solutions are.

 

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The Future of Cloud Technology

The Future of Data Transfer

As technology has advanced and the level of automation and data collection necessary in ordinary business has increased, the need for every company to have their own data management solutions has continued to grow.
These days, every competitive firm is a technology company in a sense.

Hybrid & Private Cloud vs. Public Cloud

In the cloud computing world, there are two major categories: private and public. Private clouds consist of internal solutions which are often referred to as enterprise cloud solutions. These are hosted on the company’s intranet or in a data centre, and have the benefit of a firewall to protect them. If a company is already managing their own data centre, this is fine, but for a fledgling company, the costs can be prohibitive and outside of their expertise.

Cloud services like AWS ( Amazon Web Services) are examples of public cloud technology that seek to solve this issue. Companies choose a provider to be responsible for the management and maintenance of their data and it is then stored in that provider’s data centre. This has a clear cost and convenience advantage, but comes with more security risks.

Choosing the best of Cloud Services

Debate about the strengths and weaknesses of each of these cloud solutions has led to more companies going the hybrid cloud IT infrastructure route. This is where companies use a mix of cloud services that has both in house and external cloud computing services.

As anyone could tell from looking at the news today, businesses are learning they need to be much more careful about how they transfer and protect data. This caution is a lot of what has enabled hybrid and private cloud solutions to gain so much steam in the marketplace.

As one would expect, hybrid clouds are a mix of private and public clouds. Considering each solution has its own pros and cons, once you take them into account, you can optimise your cloud computing solution to harness the best of both worlds.

Data sensitivity and the benefits of a hybrid approach

With data regulations constantly changing, the goal is to have the sensitive data stay in house, but have other data go into the public cloud. Using hybrid cloud technology allows companies to keep their costs down and save lots of time, while maintaining their reputation and security by keeping the most important data safe.

Data transfer will continue to evolve, and with hybrid solutions there are certain applications and data that will run on both solutions. For example, a company could maintain an application on their private server, but when demand picks up have the overflow go to the public data center.

As time goes on and the need for security picks up, we will see many more innovative cloud technology solutions work their way into the foreground of the IT security world.

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GDPR Compliance

Are you Ready for GDPR?

Preparing For GDPR and Data Protection Reform

Data privacy laws have been consistently intensifying in the last few decades as technology has advanced and the reach of some companies has continued to expand. In the EU, the big news is that GDPR, or General Data Protection Regulation, is going to be enforced as of May 25th, 2018.

Data Privacy Laws

GDPR is planned to bring all the data privacy laws across Europe into harmony so there is less confusion about how to protect the information of consumers. With this, there will be significant complications for businesses in the short-run, as they work to adjust their policies to be accordance with regulations.

Key GDPR Changes

The three key changes to past privacy regulations are around the increased territorial scope, the penalties levied, and the conditions for consent.

  • Scope – The most important thing to realise about GDPR is that it doesn’t just pertain to EU businesses, it pertains to any businesses that provide services to and collect data on EU data subjects. This puts nearly every business under the microscope, since it is difficult to completely avoid customers from the EU.
  • Penalties – The penalties can be harmful with fines up to 4% of annual global turnover. The highest fines are taken when a company does something egregious like failing to gain customer consent to process data. It is important to realize this applies to both data processors and data controllers, so “cloud” companies won’t be able to escape unscathed.
  • Consent – Prior to GDPR, it would be possible to gain the consent of subjects by using hard to decipher terms or advanced legalese to confuse the consumer into acquiescing. Now, consent must be based on clear and plain language, so no confusion can result, and withdrawing consent must be as easy as it is to supply it.

Other major changes involve the mandatory notification of a breach pertaining to a consumers’ data, data portability, and the right to be forgotten. These will all require their own processes to be put in place for when a consumer makes a specific request. Additionally, companies will now require the consent of parents if the consumer in question is under the age of 16.

Preparing for GDPR

To prepare for GDPR, it is important to assess which aspects of these regulations your company is not currently in compliance with, and take measures to remediate them. Key points of interest are regarding children, consent, data breaches, subject access requests, and the international aspect of all these points. Additionally, public institutions and companies meeting other conditions will be required to appoint a Data Protection Officer (DPO), who would be in charge of addressing all these points.

GDPR Going Forward

Individuals have data rights, and the EU regulators are beginning to get very aggressive around their desire to protect these rights. Every organisation that processes personal data must be compliant with new GDPR rules on 25 May 2018 and this includes charities and voluntary organisations. Your senior staff should be aware that the law is changing and take appropriate action. If you don’t know what personal data you hold and where it came from you will need to organise an audit of your different systems and departments to find out.

Let us help you navigate the GDPR rules and ensure your company is ready

Network Support for the Digital Workplace

Digital Workplace

The development of the digital workplace over the past decade has been astounding, with more and more companies moving closer to the ideal of a paperless, digital office. The introduction of the computer network has also changed the way we work, leading to a 24/7, always on culture.

This technology allows people to collaborate in the office, having shared space for storing files, and appropriate communications channels such as video conferencing. But it also allows people to access these types of resources from outside the office.

All of this requires a solid foundation of networking infrastructure to underpin these new ways of working. Wi-Fi is now seen as a must have for most offices, along with multiple Wi-Fi access points to ensure a good connection from anywhere in the building. That being said, Ethernet ports are still desired for users who don’t want to rely on a wireless connection.

It is essential that you have the right network support capability to maintain these systems and keep the company moving.

Network Security

As the number of devices on the network proliferates, including employees bringing their own devices and third parties requiring connectivity, network security becomes an increasingly important part of the digital office.

The challenge is to ensure network security without placing too many constraints on the end users.

Key Considerations for Network Security

  • Antivirus and firewalls – The right network security software will go a long way to preventing any harmful activity getting through to your corporate systems. This includes firewalls and up to date antivirus protection. Ransomware attacks are becoming increasingly prevalent, so it is more important than ever that you track the developments in this space.
  • Access restrictions – You may want to place specific restrictions on who can use you network in different instances, so example giving they most locked down experience to guests connecting to the Wi-Fi, and the most unlimited access to employees connected directly via Ethernet.
  • Website filtering – Some website are used by hackers to infect machines and infiltrate corporate systems. By locking down suspicious sites you can help to prevent this happening.

This is just a small subset of the steps that you can take, and a comprehensive solution would require a thorough understanding of your business and an appreciation for any specific threats you might face.

Network Support

Network support is about maintaining the systems that allow organisations to function and communicate. Maintaining the corporate network, either as part of the organisation’s internal IT support team or through an external network support team.

These days, failing to protect your network can have serious negative effects on your digital office experience and your business as a whole. Something causing the network to go down can make it difficult for many employees to do their jobs effectively, and if it is as a result of a virus or hack, can lead to serious reputational damage to your brand.

It is therefore essential that you dedicate sufficient time and resource to protecting this core asset.

If you haven’t already done so, you should consider taking a free network survey to highlight any weak spots in your digital workplace, don’t hesitate to get touch if you have questions about how to adequately protect your network.

Ransomware Protection

Using IT Security to Mitigate the Costs of Ransomware

Ever since we have had widespread use of computers, we have had people trying to exploit users using viruses and other malware. One common type of malicious software is ransomware, which is designed to block the user’s access to a computer system until they are paid a sum of money.

This started off as a relatively small-scale issue, but hackers have now figured out ways to hit financial markets with this ransomware.

When ransomware is used, hackers can gain access to:

  • Emails
  • Addresses
  • Phone numbers
  • SSNs
  • Other customer information

Cyber crime is a major problem, and is expected to get worse as the difference in terms of technological expertise widens. What this is means is you have many hackers with a huge amount of expertise, and governments with not nearly the same ability to play defense to these hackers.

The scale of these attacks has increased because major financial institutions serve as honey pots to these hackers, and they are incentivized to invest more resources in order to gain the information of many people at one time.

Using Cyber Security to Improve Ransomware Security

By implementing proper IT security, it becomes possible to manage the risk associated with ransomware. Every company which holds its customers’ information has a huge potential liability should that information be compromised.

A cyber security strategy can help to protect your company in a number of ways including:

  • Enforcing strict password policies, requiring a mixture of letters, numbers and special characters makes it more difficult for hackers to break in via the front door
  • Control internet access, by blocking access to suspicious sites and maintaining a list of sites that other companies have flagged as inappropriate
  • Prevent external hardware use, like USB drives, this makes it easier to control how files enter and exit your network
  • Firewalls and intrusion detection make it more difficult for hackers to break in via more unscrupulous methods

Invest in IT Ransomeware Security

IT security can help make sure that ransomware doesn’t hurt your company in an irreparable manner. The trust you have built with your customers is important and you want to do everything you can to maintain that.

Cyber crime will always be a reality in the world we live in, but it doesn’t have to be a constant threat to your company. The two best things you can do to prevent the effects of ransomware are:

  • Implement comprehensive IT security to prevent massive ransomware cost
  • Train your employees to make the correct decisions in risky situations

By following through on these two steps, you can increase your cyber security and save your company a ton of money and time as the potential cost of ransomeware damage is incalculable. This may seem like a hassle now, but as you watch more and more players become compromised, you are going to be happy you took the time to invest in yourself.

Want to know how to do more to improve Ransomware Security?

Top IT Mistakes

Four IT Mistakes that Many Companies Make.

There are some constants that hold true for nearly every company, and one of those is that technology plays a key role in their success or failure. It used to be that only companies like Facebook or Apple were considered “tech” companies, but that definition is changing as technology becomes as core a part of businesses as the employees who work there.

Common IT  mistakes and  IT errors to avoid

This doesn’t mean that all companies are performing well when it comes to implementation of technology. There are many mistakes companies make, including four common IT traps people fall into:

:

  1. Not Listening to Users: Your users are perhaps your most important resource for building a better technological infrastructure. Employees use your system every day, and you would be a fool to ignore the feedback you receive from them. If you built an app and released it for sale to the public, you would happily take the feedback and use it to improve your product, so you should do the same with the employee feedback you receive.
  2. Failing to Future Proof IT Systems: Lack of foresight or long-term thinking is a common setback for companies. They only think in terms of the present needs and fail anticipate what is necessary for success in the future. By making sure all the technological systems in place are compatible with future technology, massive amounts of downtime and costs can be saved.
  3. Not Investing Enough in IT: Technology can make your company an efficiency juggernaut, and has the power to propel your business forward if you use it correctly. Sometimes CEO’s start to look at technology as an expense rather than an investment, because there isn’t always a clearly demonstrable and measurable ROI available. This is a short-sighted mistake that can cost the company significantly.
    If you are smart about your IT investments, you can create a firm where efficiency and experience are constantly improving, and the initial investment will be recovered in full through increased profits across the company’s different business lines.
  4. Not Properly Securing Systems: Security is a growing concern, and in line with the point above about treating your IT like an investment, you need to manage the downside risk. By establishing strong protocols that can weather any external attacks, you will protect your resources and reputation in full. There is no such thing as a 100% secure system, but you can take many steps to make it safer and mitigate risks along the way.

On examining these points, it is clear that that are mistakes of omission. Companies fail to commit a certain action and it can cost lots of time and money to put right further down the line. Avoid these common IT mistakes and your company will continue to grow and thrive over the long-term.