IT Security

4 Key Security Threats that Businesses Need to Prepare for in 2019

From high profile data breaches of companies like Facebook and British Airways, to mounting evidence surrounding Russian interference in the 2016 US election, it is safe to say that 2018 was a landmark year in terms of security vulnerabilities and emboldened cyber-criminals. So, with 2019 set to bring more technology advancements, what can you do to protect yourself, and what should your priorities be as a business?

The Information Security Forum – also known as the ISF – is a trustworthy source that senior security professionals and board members turn to for guidance on information security and risk management. They have identified 4 key security threats that businesses will be faced with this year – as well as tips for risk management. You can read the full report here.

Key threats for 2019 include:

1. Increased Sophistication of Cyber Crime

In 2017, high-profile incidents, such as the WannaCry ransomware attack, made file-encrypting malware internet enemy number one. 2018 actually saw a decrease in the number of Ransomware attacks, as many businesses invested in backup solutions that eased the impact of a ransomware attack – or even investing in high quality Endpoint Detection and Response (EDR) systems – which basically eliminate the risk altogether.  However, there are still many high-profile ransomware attacks happening, which is why this threat remains at the top of our list as a threat to business in 2019.

How to Prepare:

John Zorabedian, author of Sophos NakedSecurity Blog – suggests that preventing ransomware attacks can be as simple as getting the basics of cyber security right. Back up your files regularly,  train and retrain employees in your business (we can help with that if you need). Use a password manager and never reuse passwords. Keep up to date with operating system patches and app or software updates. Change the default administrator passwords on things like home routers, modems, and network-attached storage servers.

2.Legislation Falling Behind 

ClickDimensions-GDPRBoth regional and national legislators are struggling to keep pace with the fast-paced developments in Cyber-security. They are set to fall even further behind in 2019, with most current legislation in place being years behind the technological curve. At the same time, as businesses cry out for more regulation, sweeping changes get made with tight deadlines that don’t allow adequate time for organisations to attain compliance. The ISF identifies how national regulations will also provide a hindrance: “legislation by its nature is government and regulator driven, resulting in a move towards national regulation at a time when cross border collaboration is needed. Organisations will struggle to keep abreast of such developments which may also impact business models which many have taken for granted”.

What Can I do?

Unfortunately, this one is mostly down to government and regulation. Without doubt, there remains much to be done and it requires the collaboration between governments, private initiatives, the academic sector, and of course, users.

3. Smart Devices will Challenge Data Integrity

Picture+for+ArticleAs the world enters a new era of technology, businesses are implementing smart devices enthusiastically in an effort to impact their business. This is a huge positive; however, many users won’t realise that these devices are often insecure by design, and therefore offer many opportunities for attackers. These types of attacks are on the rise; in 2018, SophosLabs saw significant growth in the volume of attacks targeting IoT devices. One of the reasons for this is that it’s challenging to detect a device is affected until something goes horribly wrong.

There will also be an increasing lack of transparency – vague terms and conditions will allow organisations to use personal data in ways customers did not intend. This will prove problematic for business, as it’ll become less clear to pinpoint what information is leaving their networks or what is being secretly captured and transmitted by devices such as smartphones or conference phones. To add insult to injury, when breaches occur, organisations will be held liable by regulators and customers for inadequate data protection.

The Fix:

Again, the main advice for preventing these types of attacks is to focus on mastering the basics. Make sure all devices are kept updated, and continually updating passwords. A new device that’s being introduced as a replacement for old devices makes it increasingly easy to forget about every connected device on your network. But old devices may carry old security protocols, forgotten passwords, and a whole host of other threats to your networks.

Each device is a potential weak point that has to be secured. So, if there are old access points that you no longer use, you’ll want to thoroughly disconnect them from the network – even going as far as doing a factory reset on the gadget.

4. Supply Chain Assurance Myths

Supply chains are a vital component of any B2B or B2C organisation. They are integral to the smooth running of a business, with valuable – and often sensitive – business information being shared with trusted suppliers. It’s important to remember that when this information is shared, direct control over your data is lost. This year, many organisations will realise that gaining traditional reassurance of their supply chain security is a lost cause. Businesses that continue to focus on assuring supply chain security with approaches such as self-certified audit and assurance, may preserve the illusion of security in the short term, but will inevitably discover that the security foundations they believed to be in place were lacking. Even the smallest supplier, or the slightest supply chain disruption, can have serious impacts on your business. Brand management and brand reputation are subject to the successful security of your supply chain; both are constantly at stake.

What to do:

Refocus on managing key data and understanding where and how it has been shared across multiple channels and boundaries, irrespective of supply chain provider. The best method is to implement a supply chain information risk assurance process, which is focused on information shared with upstream suppliers. This can be done by using supply chain maps to follow the information. Such an upstream information-sharing assessment tracks what is being shared with the suppliers’ suppliers and beyond. The results draw attention to significant concentrations of information, triggering the implementation of additional controls on your suppliers and can mitigate risks.

In Summary:

The unfortunate reality of today’s complex digital marketplace is that it is impossible to prevent every security compromise beforehand, and that no matter how much you prepare, there are still risks. However, being proactive now also means you, and your business will be better able to react rapidly and intelligently when something does happen.

For more information, guidance, and support on making sure your infrastructure is as secure as possible, get in touch with one of our engineers.

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Web4 Key Security Threats that Businesses Need to Prepare for in 2019

Windows 7 End of Life Support: January 2020

Are you prepared?

Windows 7 has now been with us since 2009. It’s probably one of the most liked of all recent releases of the Microsoft Windows Operating Systems.

In January 2020, Microsoft will end the extended support for the Windows 7 Operating Systemwhich means that they will no longer patch any security vulnerabilities found after that date.

Microsoft has stated that they: “strongly recommend that you move to Windows 10 sometime before January 2020 to avoid a situation where you need service or support that is no longer available.”

What does that mean for your business?

This basically means that all technical assistance and automatic updates that currently help to protect your PC will no longer be available. We understand that the end of life for a software product can be a significant challenge for businesses.

Don’t believe us? Consider this:

When Microsoft ended support for its popular Windows XP product in 2014, it affected 40% of the world’s computers. That’s 40% of one billion computers worldwide. In a world where cyber-security threats are on the increase, sticking with Windows 7 means you are extremely vulnerable as a business.

computers graphic

What if I don’t upgrade or replace my machines by 2020?

Imagine using a product that a company doesn’t want to take responsibility for anymore. You’ll be using the product at your own risk. This means that Microsoft will not take responsibility for loss of data due to security breaches on Windows 7.

Computer threats are now developed daily. Although there is technically nothing stopping you from continuing to use Windows 7, it’s important to understand that continuing to use it will expose your business and make your data vulnerable. Without regular patches and security updates, you’re basically at the mercy of hackers.

Although 2020 seems a long way off, businesses should now plan their approach to replace or upgrade any machines running Windows 7 before this date.

Still sceptical? Remember the NHS 2017 Cyber Attack?

Wannacry Graphic

Do you remember the NHS Cyber Attack in 2017? It’s also known as the WannaCry attack, and it’s a prime example of what can happen when your systems aren’t in current vendor support. The WannaCry attack in 2017 leveraged vulnerabilities in unpatched and unsupported operating systems and spread the infection throughout the NHS, amongst many others throughout the world. It left the NHS with a whopping £72 million IT bill, and massive costs on patients who received incorrect treatments, had ambulances delayed, and appointments cancelled.

What shall I do?

The passing of this product I’m sure will be mourned by many users; according to NetMarketShare’s September 2018 data, over 40% of desktop users are still using Windows 7. That’s the equivalent of up to 184 million commercial PC’s still using the software.

At ITCS, we have already upgraded many of our customers to the replacement Windows 10 platform, and although the user interface is quite a step change from what customers were used to, it has proved to be a stable and secure platform.  In addition to the usual Microsoft offerings, the professional versions allow the planned encryption of your hard drives to protect the information they contain in the event of loss or theft ‑ a must in today’s post GDPR environment for an increasingly mobile workforce.

If you haven’t upgraded yet, it’s best to seek the help of an IT professional. This is a good way to ensure that everything is upgraded correctly and that all firewalls and antivirus are in place and working optimally. Depending on what type of hardware and software you’re using, you may need to take specific steps to make sure everything is fully compatible.

To meet with a member of our team or discuss your needs, please contact the ITCS support desk on 08456 400200 or email support@itcs.co.uk and we will be happy to help.

WebWindows 7 End of Life Support: January 2020

1/3 of UK leaders say they’d rather pay a hacker than invest in IT security – is UK plc waiting for the ransom notes?

Like most of Britain’s IT Leaders. IT Specialists ITCS are acutely aware of the importance of robust IT security systems and the threat posed by the growth in cyber-attacks and ransomware.  However, it seems that outside the IT department, business leaders are not giving adequate priority to the business risks they face from IT security threats.

IT Security Risks ‘huge’ as April report shows 350% Increase in Cyber Attacks

The Global Threat Intelligence Report (GTIR) published in April, reported that ransomware attacks surged by 350 per cent in 2017, accounting for 29 per cent of all attacks in EMEA and 7 per cent of malware attacks worldwide.  Victims have included public systems, such as the NHS, which impacted every area of the organization, including patient care.

The NHS response has been to allocate £150m on cyber-security to avoid a repeat of the incident – there is nothing like a headline-grabbing incident to raise the urgency of IT security spending.

‘Ordinary’ businesses face the same security risks as Public Bodies

It isn’t only official Government bodies, but absolutely every business that is at risk from the growing menace of cyber attackers – and it seems that UK business leaders, even in some of the UK’s largest employers are not treating IT security with the priority it deserves.

The 2018 Risk Value Report, published today, sees one third of senior global business decision makers admitting they would rather pay a hacker’s ransom demands than invest more of their hard-won budgets in information security.

ITCS Managing Director Brian Stokes said he was ‘shocked but not surprised’ by these results.  Brian said:

“This report is shocking, seeing as the UK’s top leaders don’t even know how much the ransom is likely to be, or even if they will ever get their data back after paying a ransom. This mindset is sending the wrong message, essentially telling international hackers they have a blank cheque ready – and are sitting waiting for the demands to arrive.  If that’s not scary, I don’t know what is.”

C-Suite leaders are over-confident about IT Security

It seems that outside the IT department, C-Suite leaders and other key decision makers are over-confident when it comes to assessing vulnerability within their own organisation.

Only 41 per cent of UK respondents were confident that their organisation had not been affected by a data breach already, but only 10 per cent of UK business leaders acknowledged that their organization was at risk of a future security breach.

22% of senior leaders ‘don’t know’ if their organization has suffered a security breach already

Nearly a third of senior leaders (31 per cent) believed they were not at risk and do not expect to suffer a breach – while this perhaps shows overconfidence, most worrying of all is that 22 per cent of senior UK business leaders admitted that they were not sure whether their organization had already suffered a breach or not!

Business leaders ‘idealistic’, not ‘realistic’

Kai Grunwitz, Senior VP EMEA, NTT Security, comments:

“Many decision makers within organisations are simply not close enough to the action and are looking at one of the most serious issues within business today with an idealistic rather than realistic view.

“This is reinforced by that worrying statistic that more than a third globally would rather pay a ransom demand than invest in their cybersecurity, especially given the big hike in ransomware detections and headline-grabbing incidents like WannaCry. While it’s encouraging that many organisations are prepared to take a long-term, proactive stance, there are still signs that many are still prepared to take a short-term, reactive approach to security in order to drive down costs.”

The issues that concern UK business leaders

Only 4 per cent of UK leaders identified information security as the single greatest risk to the business.

Notably, 14 per cent identified Brexit as the single greatest business risk facing UK businesses, but  competitors taking market share (24 per cent) and budget cuts (18 per cent) were the biggest concerns – it seems that most business leaders fail to appreciate the risks posed by poor IT Security and the impact a breach could have on the business.

UK Leaders under-estimating costs of an IT Security breach

The report also shows that UK executives are estimating lower costs than their international colleagues should a breach occur.  While global estimates predict costs to be USD1.52m, UK executives estimate their recovery costs would be on average USD1.33m.

UK Leaders under-estimate time to recover from a breach

UK executives also show far more confidence than their international colleagues when it comes to predicting recovery times.

Globally, respondents anticipate it would take 57 days to recover from a breach, whereas in the UK, decision makers predict it would take just 47 days to recover, one of the lowest estimates for any country.

IT Security is not ‘just an IT issue’

Brian Stokes, Managing Director of ITCS, said:

“This survey proves what we’ve been saying for some time, that over-confidence in IT Security is widespread and in most cases this level of confidence is not justified among UK business leaders.   Attacks have the potential to disrupt an entire business so the threat needs to be discussed at board level – in every business, not just within IT businesses.

“GDPR sent UK plc into a panic, but IT Security spending is just as important to address – and also critically important to GDPR.  If these figures are correct, then we have way too many senior executives who are under-prepared, over-confident it will not happen to them, and happy to run the risk and pay an unquantified price if a breach occurs.   Their employees, customers and shareholders deserve better, I encourage them to act now.”

 

Business leaders who have any questions about IT Security can contact ITCS by telephone on 08456 444 200 or by visiting their website: https://www.itcs.co.uk

Web1/3 of UK leaders say they’d rather pay a hacker than invest in IT security – is UK plc waiting for the ransom notes?

‘World Password Day’ flooded businesses with password advice – that fell on deaf ears!

With each weekday bringing another new ‘World Day for xxxx’ on social media, businesses can’t help but become a tad cynical – but some advice is still worth following.

May 3rd was officially World Password Day – a rather odd thing to celebrate, but nonetheless social media was flooded with advice for businesses on what to do, most of which probably got overlooked by the very businesses that nonetheless hit like and share!  With new reports finding that one in five UK businesses have been hacked, and that nearly half of all UK attacks target UK manufacturers, password security is something businesses cannot afford to ignore.

ITCS spoke about it to Welsh Business News about the issue – click here to read the full article

Web‘World Password Day’ flooded businesses with password advice – that fell on deaf ears!

Gone Phishing!

ITCS Cyber Security expert, Wayne Harris, discusses the growth in ‘Phishing’ attacks – and how ITCS are protecting their customers

Information is now the lifeblood of most businesses, and the more we do on-line, the higher the risks of cyber-crime and greater the rewards for the attackers.

Let’s face it, we all receive a mass of emails every day, and as good as the email spam filters are getting, inevitably rouge mails will get through.  Your next line of defence are your users, and this raises the importance of adequate cyber security awareness training, and the investment in your staff.  I meet with companies on a regular basis, who are looking to invest in their information security, but often they haven’t covered the basics when it comes to their staff training.

So, what is ‘phishing?   A phishing email (or sometimes SMS or instant message) is an electronic message sent to a user (or group of users) purporting to be from a trustworthy organisation or government department.  These messages invite you to open a link (such as viewing an online invoice), or an attachment that will lead the user to a malicious website or install malicious software on your devices (such as ransomware).  These malicious websites are designed to draw you in, and may look genuine to a casual user.  This year we have seen attacks masquerading as energy providers, parcel delivery notifications, and popular on-line auction and e-commerce sites.  They all have something in common – they all invite the user to click the links!

Great care should be taken with these types of attacks, as they are either designed to infect computer systems, steal personal details, user credentials (and often users will use the same password on multiple accounts), or to coerce the user into paying fake invoices and initiate banks transfers.  Our advice to users is to never click links on emails unless you are absolutely certain that it is genuine – if you are in any doubt, check or better still, go directly to the genuine website.  We also advise that any bank details provided via email should be double checked directly with the provider before making payment – use the existing information you have for them, don’t reply to the email, and speak to a known contact.

At ITCS, we have gone to great lengths to protect your systems, where possible through the implementation of software restrictions, and enhanced spam filtering, and offer next generation security solutions to further enhance the security of your network.  In the event of a successful attack, our Backup and DR solutions will ensure that your data is protected and your business can recover quickly.

Over the last year, we have run cyber security briefing sessions for our business customers, and have offered over 100 free places to our business support customers.  In addition, we have written and delivered bespoke user training to various customers throughout the UK at their own sites to further protect their business information and financial assets.

For further information, or to book your free cyber security briefing session, please call 08456 444 200, email support@itcs.co.uk or visit our website for more information.

WebGone Phishing!

ITCS responds to publicity surrounding CPU Chipset Vulnerabilities

Wayne Harris, Compliance Officer & Cyber Security expert at ITCS discusses the impact of the much-publicised chipset vulnerabilities revealed on 3 January.

There has been a flurry of publicity surrounding vulnerabilities identified within the Intel chipset (processors), however this vulnerability also affects other mainstream manufacturers AMD and ARM.  Together, these manufacturers provide the vast majority of processors in use by modern computer manufacturers.

Who is at risk and what is the threat?

The two vulnerabilities which have been revealed, ‘Meltdown’ and ‘Spectre’ affect every modern computer containing one of these processors, i.e. the majority of PCs on the market.  The CPU chipset vulnerabilities are present in most of the processors produced in the last decade and in certain circumstances the vulnerability allows access to contents of protected memory areas by some applications such as javascript in web browsers.

That said, despite the hype, the threat is currently considered low on the Common Vulnerability Scoring System (CVSS).

What is being done to tackle the risk?

The underlying vulnerability is primarily caused by CPU architecture design choices, so fully removing the vulnerability will require the replacement of the CPU hardware.  The true long-term solution will be the replacement of the vulnerable chipsets entirely – but don’t expect a product recall any time soon.

While it may be technically accurate to say a completely redesigned chip is the ultimate solution, large-scale hardware replacements would possibly amount to a needless, over-the-top reaction.  It is unlikely that manufacturers will offer chip replacements – we expect them to instead provide a solution to fix any chipset vulnerabilities with a patch.

Microsoft, Apple and other Operating system vendors have all responded quickly and they have released (or are working on) solutions which will ‘patch’ these vulnerabilities.

Will I notice any difference when my PC is patched for chip vulnerabilities?

Unfortunately, at present there is a performance cost to this patch solution –  because the solution involves segregating the kernel into a completely different address space, it takes additional time to separate the memory addresses and switch between the two.  The impact on performance will vary – anything from a 5% to 30% reduction in processing speed can be expected.

How are ITCS responding?

At ITCS, we have been monitoring the vulnerability since the news broke.

We have already implemented a roll out of the Microsoft patch update throughout our contracted customers to address these vulnerabilities.  Users may have had to restart their computers to apply the changes, and we will monitor these installations to ensure our customers continue to be protected with up‑to‑date vulnerability patching.

How should our customers respond?

This vulnerability highlights the need and importance of regular vulnerability reviews, and the timely installation vendor patching to reduce the risks to businesses from cyber-attack.

For a review of your cyber security, please contact ITCS on 08456 444 200, or use the call back request to speak to one of our support team.

 

 

WebITCS responds to publicity surrounding CPU Chipset Vulnerabilities

‘Tis the Season to be Cautious

Wayne Harris, Compliance Officer at ITCS shares his monthly IT security blog – this month, he talks about fraud and phishing attacks.

As the festive season approaches rapidly, we see an increase in cyber-crime, phishing attacks and fraud attempts.  I’m sure we have all read about or seen these attack emails, and believe that we would not fall for them, but beware, they are becoming more and more complex and plausible. 

A common attack at this time of year is a phishing email masquerading as a supplier email such as Amazon or delivery tracking email.  As our shopping habits change to on-line services, it opens up an opportunity for the criminals to gain your trust, after all you probably have just ordered goods from one of these suppliers or used your Pay Pal account haven’t you?  These attacks may be trying to gain access to your banks account/credit card details or using these emails and links to deliver a Virus or Trojan on to your systems such as Ransomware.  

Here are a few tips to avoid falling for these scams:

  • Make sure the website you are ordering from is legitimate, we see more and more online shopping scams at this time of year, and they are becoming more difficult to spot – gone are the days of poorly constructed websites or emails.
  • Do not use your business email address for registering to these services, that way if you get one of these emails to your business email address you know it is a scam.
  • Do not click on any links contained in the email.  If you have ordered goods from an on‑line store, use the store website to track your order progress.  Clicking on links within an email may download malicious software or take you to a fake website to steal your credentials or financial information.
  • Check the sender address very careful, and look for badly composed emails or spelling mistakes – however, this is becoming more difficult to spot as the attacks are becoming more complex and organised.
  • When you place the order, you probably received a confirmation number – make a note of it, suppliers generally include these details in any emails they send – check it.
  • Do not reply to any emails that you receive, this builds up a sense of trust between yourself and the attacker, and you could just get in deeper.

Email spam services will generally not pick up on these types of attacks, as they don’t contain malicious code in the source email, and unless are from a blacklisted domain will not score highly on the Bayesian database which is used to calculate the probability of spam.  Users are therefore the best form of defence against these types of attacks.

ITCS are currently running new courses on managing IT security, including the new GDPR regulations due to come into force in 2018. If you would like to book a place, or if you have any questions or concerns around computer security, please don’t hesitate to contact the ITCS support desk on 08456 444 200.

 

Web‘Tis the Season to be Cautious

Why Data Security starts in the Boardroom, not the IT Department

Wayne Harris, Compliance Officer at ITCS shares his monthly IT security blog – this month, he talks about information security and the part the boardroom must play in the security of your data.

Who is responsible for Data Security?

When I ask the question ‘who is responsible for data security at your organisation?’, without a doubt, the number one response given is ‘the IT department’.

However, if you think about it, data isn’t only about computers. Yes, it is the IT department who manage where the electronic information is stored and secured, but information security is also about how people access data, how and who they share it with – and let’s not forget about those hard, printed copies, often carelessly left on a printer, or face up on a desk.

The C-Suite cannot dismiss this important responsibility as an ‘IT issue’.  Information security must be dealt with in the board room, and should be a regular item on the agenda.  It is only by top lead risk management that you can implement a robust information security management system.  After all, if your senior management don’t understand the importance of compliance, how can you expect your shop floor users to implement and adhere to the requirements?

A clear understanding of what is expected must be communicated throughout the organisation, and involves co-operation between the C-Suite, HR leaders, marketing and other heads of Department – as well as IT.

What should Leaders do?

As a minimum, we suggest that you include the following in the management meeting agenda at least quarterly:

  • Current Risk environment
  • Suitability of current technical prevention/detection solutions
  • Information Audit (Do you know what information you hold, and is the correct security applied to protect it?) – Annual agenda item.
  • Data backup and recovery (Is all of your data protected? Include testing schedule, and DR solution fitness for purpose)
  • Staff communication and training
  • Breach reporting (include near miss reporting and security reports).

What changes will GDPR  bring?

As many leaders are already aware, the requirements for data breach reporting are changing with the implementation of the new GDPR legislation.  Organisations will be required to self-report within 72 hours of the detection of a breach, or face additional financial penalties.

Along with the new rules comes an increase in potential penalties for a breach, which could reach a new upper limit of €20 million or 4% of annual global turnover – whichever is higher.  Board members cannot afford to assume that ‘the IT Department’ are managing the risk, and training key staff in secure data practices will be vital.

If you have been a victim of a cyber-attack, and the personal data you are responsible for is encrypted by one of the Ransomware variants, the Information Commissioner’s Office may take the view that you have not taken appropriate measures to keep it secure.  Even if you are able to recover your data, the ICO may still look at the circumstances of the case to determine whether or not there were appropriate measures in place to have prevented the attack from succeeding.

How are ITCS supporting customers through the changes?

ITCS have an experienced team of data security specialists who have worked with clients to help them secure their network infrastructure.   As well as providing GDPR advice, we are able to take clients through cyber accreditations and implement robust DR and BCP solutions, including data recovery and scenario testing – and we are offering clients a free security overview.

We are also offering a series of courses on IT Security and compliance with the new GDPR regulations – we are offering limited free places for existing ITCS clients, although paid places for non-clients are only £35.

Clients can book up to two free places online.  If you have any questions or concerns around computer security, please don’t hesitate to contact the ITCS support desk on 08456 444 200.

WebWhy Data Security starts in the Boardroom, not the IT Department

Wayne’s IT Security Blog: The importance of using strong passwords

Wayne Harris, Compliance Officer at ITCS shares his monthly IT security blog – this month, he talks about the importance of using strong passwords

OK, so we’ve secured the firewalls, Installed AntiVirus, filtered out the spam, locked down your desktop PC, encrypted your drives and enforced password complexity – what could possibly go wrong?

Well, if you are using the same passwords for multiple accounts, sharing passwords with others, writing them down, using weak passwords, dictionary terms etc, then you should consider yourself as the weak point in the system!

Commonly used passwords that a hacker will try

Do you recognise any of these commonly used passwords?


These common passwords make it easy to hack into your account – so if one of them is familiar, change it now!

Other insecure passwords

Are you using names of loved ones, favourite sports teams, new film release? Even if you are subtlely changing these by the use of additional numbers, replacing characters with numbers, recycling passwords with sequential numbers etc. you should consider your passwords weak – and change them.

Don’t forget Social Media

Often people don’t think they are at risk – until it happens.  Even on social media, which is seen as ‘just for fun’, being hacked can be horrific. Social media is often where people have the least secure passwords, yet that password protects details about the most important people in your life.

You may wonder why people would bother to hack a social media account, but usually all the information people include in their passwords (family names, friends names, pet names etc.) is available for all to see – often even without a hack!  Plus, social media attacks can be incredibly personal and have a big impact on your life.

Many people use the same password on social media that they use for their work accounts, email accounts etc. Be smart and use secure passwords everywhere, at work and at home, and use a different password for each account.

Who would want my information, anyway?

If your password was compromised consider what information would get in to the wrong hands, especially if you use the same password on multiple accounts.

At home, this might be access to your emails and contacts which start spamming, or access to your financial information/bank accounts etc. At work, this breach might take down your network if you are targeted by hackers, causing expensive downtime and irreparable damage to your company reputation.

Secure passwords

No password is 100% secure, however you can increase your password security by following standard protocols.

Make passwords longer

While most password systems allow you to have 8 characters, we would recommend using a minimum of 9 or 10 characters – and your passwords should be changed regularly (we recommend doing this monthly).

No Names Rule

Passwords should NEVER contain names or usernames, and should also follow the standard ‘complexity rules’.

Password Complexity Rules

Strong passwords normally incorporate 3 out of the 5 characteristics:

  • Uppercase characters of European languages (A through Z, with diacritic marks, Greek and Cyrillic characters)
  • Lowercase characters of European languages (a through z, sharp-s, with diacritic marks, Greek and Cyrillic characters)
  • Base 10 digits (0 through 9)
  • Nonalphanumeric characters: ~!@#$%^&*_-+=`|\(){}[]:;”‘<>,.?/
  • Any Unicode character that is categorized as an alphabetic character but is not uppercase or lowercase. This includes Unicode characters from Asian languages.

It goes without saying that writing down passwords, or sharing them with others is an insecure practice.  Guard your passwords like you guard the PIN to your credit card!

CyberCrime is on the increase, and you have a part to play in the defence of your network. Secure your passwords now, and make sure you keep vigilant as to the risks that we all face.

If you have any questions or concerns around computer security, please don’t hesitate to contact the ITCS support desk on 08456 444 200, we are always happy to help.

WebWayne’s IT Security Blog: The importance of using strong passwords

Research finds just 9% of SMEs teach staff about IT security risks

IT Security continues to be a key issue hitting the headlines for SME’s.  The ITCS team saw new research released today, which worryingly found that only 9% of SMEs offer training or send emails to educate staff about  IT security risks.

Politecnico di Milano School of Management ran a Cyber Crime Observatory which analysed the information security systems and expenditure breakdown of 803 SMEs operating last year.  As well as the shockingly low level of awareness in SME’s. large firms were not much better, they found only about a quarter of the largest firms were educating staff on IT security.

This means that the majority of staff are unaware of the vital role they play in IT security – leaving most companies exposed to the increasing risks.

Alessandro Piva, director of the research observatory said: 

“Cybercrime has grown dramatically over the past months, alongside a continued rise in ransomware, where hackers demand payment of a ransom to release data, and attacks on products linked to the Internet of Things.

“The need for a long-term approach to how information and privacy are managed and the organisation’s data is kept confidential should be a top concern of a company’s upper management.

“It seems that smaller organisations don’t anticipate that they will be targeted as victims of cybercrime in the same way as, say, Yahoo in 2013, where a hack left over one billion users’ information publicly available. Yet without a contingency plan or any preventative measures, these companies are leaving themselves wide-open for potentially devastating cyber-attacks.”

So why are businesses being so complacent?  Brian Stokes, Managing Director of ITCS explains:

 “Actually I don’t believe UK businesses are as complacent as they were 12 months ago, because the new GDPR rules due to come into force next May are giving many businesses a wake-up call. However, the wake up call is bringing risks too.

We’ve seen new GDPR ‘experts’ pop up charging businesses huge fees to get them ‘GDPR ready’, when often the measures needed to reach compliance are quite simple.  

“We are offering any business a free IT Security audit and data health check.  It’s our way of giving something back to the South Wales business community we are proud to be part of. Security and compliance have always been priorities for the ITCS team and our Compliance Team will continue to support businesses ahead of the planned changes and beyond.”

If you have any questions about IT Security or GDPR, call 08456 444 200 and ask for our Security Team.

WebResearch finds just 9% of SMEs teach staff about IT security risks