Articles about security – will be highlighted on the security page.

July 2021 – A record month for Safe4

July 2021 saw a record number of vaults being created in Safe4 in a single month. During July, 19,468 new vaults were created, bringing the total in the system to well over 165,000.

The rapid recent growth in the number if vaults is partly a result of Safe4 being used to handle highly personal health information, primarily related to Covid testing. The flexibility and security of Safe4 makes it an ideal solution to the problem of providing patients with critical medical information rapidly and safely, without risking the use of open email.

Safe4 also recorded another milestone in July, with over 150,000 users being registered in the system. These users enjoy highly secure access to information, whether for personal or business use. Safe4 stores all information in the system in UK-only data centres, accredited to ISO 27001.

If you would like more information on how Safe4 can help to improve the security of movement and storage of critical information, please contact us. We will be delighted to assist.

Safe4 passes 100,000 users

User numbers in Safe4 have been growing steadily over the years, and a significant milestone has been reached in April 2021. Safe4 now has more than 100,000 users, each of which is able to enjoy the benefits of highly secure cloud-based storage and management of confidential information.

Initial usage of Safe4 was concentrated primarily in commercial and corporate applications. Recent trends, however, have seen the system becoming increasingly used as a secure personal vault, holding information on behalf of private individuals who are clients of service providers in different sectors. These range from clients of international banks to patients of health testing and screening companies. Integration of the Safe4 vault into other business applications using the system’s restful API has provided many users with a convenient and safe facility for holding their personal information.

Full compliance with the UK Data Protection Act, following the introduction of the European GDPR in 2018, gives customers and their clients additional comfort and protection, as does the knowledge that Safe4 uses UK-only data centres accredited to ISO 27001.

For further information on how using Safe4 can potentially add value to your business, please contact us. We will be delighted to hear from you.

Safe4 completes development of Covid-19 Testing application

The challenge

The Covid-19 pandemic has challenged many businesses globally by making it extremely difficult for their workers to carry out their duties normally. Whilst many organisations have been able to function by assisting staff to work from home, there are many for whom physical attendance in a specific workplace is essential – construction, property maintenance, care for the elderly, retail, hospitality, to name but a few. In order to help such organisations deploy their workforce with minimum risk to health, we have completed the development of the Safe4 Covid-19 Testing application.

The solution

The application developed by Safe4 is based on 5 key elements:

  • The creation of a secure vault in which each individual’s identity and test result data can be held
  • Biometric identity verification using smartphone technology to ensure that the people involved are who they say they are
  • Facilitating an on-site Covid-19 antibody or PCR antigen test using a world-leading testing partner and PHE and MHRA approved laboratories and testing processes
  • Capturing the test result in the individual’s personal vault and providing a facility for this to be downloaded as a pass to a smartphone, so that it can be shown in a wallet bearing a QR code
  • The ability to present a landing page direct from the secure Safe4 site when the QR code is scanned, to allow the individual to be verified visually

The pass in the smartphone wallet presents the individual’s test result. When the QR code is scanned, the landing page allows both the identity of the individual and the test result to be verified visually.

Safe4Work

The service is aimed primarily at organisations with more than 20 employees, although it can accommodate businesses of any scale.

All of the data captured in this process is held in secure UK-based data centres accredited to ISO 27001, and is managed in accordance with well-established Safe4 standards, offering class-leading security and availability.

Please contact us if you would like any further information on how the Safe4 Covid-19 testing application can assist your organisation to get its staff back to work safely.

More news about leaks of highly sensitive information

There are now virtually daily examples in the media of how leaks of highly sensitive information are occurring, often due to human error or misbehaviour, but also due to lack of security in poorly designed or managed systems. A current article in the media today highlights a glaring example of this – click here for more information.

Safe4 was designed with security at the core

The fundamental design of Safe4 is based around the use of secure vaults, into which information can be placed by the provider of the service, such as a professional practitioner or an employer, and the individual users who have been given access to that specific vault. Information cannot “leak” in the way that seems to be occurring regularly in other systems.

Even if a hacker were to break in to the “back door” of Safe4, without using one of the normal user interfaces, nothing can be inferred due to the way that the data is obfuscated and encrypted. The secure vault design underpins this, so that each vault becomes a completely discrete storage space for information in structured form (in columns and rows, similar to spreadsheets and simple databases) or unstructured form (document files).

Regulatory compliance

Safe4 complies with a number of regulatory frameworks by virtue of the fact that all stored information is encrypted, everything is held in UK-based data centres that comply with ISO 27001, 2-factor authentication, and a full audit trail of all user actions is maintained. The ideal solution for the storage and management of highly sensitive information, in effect.

Please contact us if you would like more information on how Safe4 can help your organisation to enhance compliance, reduce costs, and improve client service.

Payment fraud using email – it’s completely avoidable

Payment fraud is a constant risk

Occurrences of payment fraud using email are continuing to hit the headlines, and it is something that can be avoided completely. The risk of using email for communication of confidential information has been evident for some years, as highlighted by this post on the Safe4 website last year.

Sending invoices by email, particularly for large sums of money, is fraught with risk. Even communicating via email regarding financial transactions can risk significant losses – as highlighted in the media today. Both supplier and customer can be victims of this type of fraud.

Personal or financial information – don’t use email

It is not just using email for communicating financial information that can lead to unnecessary risks. Personal data can also be misused if is transferred between organisations by email. The potential for theft of highly personal information is something that HR consultants face constantly, as illustrated on this website in April this year.

There is a solution

For a number of years Safe4 have been delivering invoices by uploading them into a secure vault dedicated to each customer. Only the designated users of each vault are able to access the document, and there is a comprehensive audit trail of all activity so that the supplier can be sure that the invoice has been received by the customer – and nobody else.

Options for ad-hoc sharing of confidential information have been identified by Safe4 partners OPTSM, as explained on their website. The simple rule – if you need to communicate sensitive financial or personal information, don’t use email – use SafeShare, the approach they are offering. This is based on the ability to create a Safe4 vault and invite a user in a few seconds, thus making sure that the data being shared gets to the right person immediately and with no risk of intrusion.

If you would like more information on how to avoid the risk of financial payment fraud or loss of sensitive personal data, please get in touch. We will be delighted to help.

Safe4 version 6.1 is released – managing large file uploads safely

Alistair Stubbs

 

The release of Safe4 version 6.1 represents a significant move forward. The task of managing large file uploads safely has proved to be a considerable challenge, but members of the Safe4 development team, led by Alistair Stubbs and Darren Hamilton, have completely overhauled the upload function within the system to make it more secure and much more robust.

File size limit is increased to 2 gb

Safe4 can now accept uploads of up to 2 gb per individual file. Safe4 does not function in the same way as an FTP site by simply transferring files from one location to another, but processes files by checking for viruses and applying industry-leading encryption. Security policies are also enforced through whitelist and blacklist checking, as well as scanning for protective markings and rejecting the upload of password-protected files when appropriate settings are applied. This comprehensive content checking also extends to ZIP files, nested to an arbitrary level. Updating comprehensive audit trails enables the system to maintain a full record of all user activity.

The enhanced upload process now manages a series of queues, so that if network connections are broken, or hardware failure occurs in the server environment, uploads will still be completed without further user intervention.

Opportunities for new applications

The increase in the file size limit opens up new areas of opportunity for the application of Safe4. Capture of PST files from email systems is one area that is of great interest to law firms, who may need to store very large files as records of projects or cases. Medical requirements can also be addressed; video files generated by endoscope examinations are frequently very large, and can now be handled within the context of patient records.

Please contact us if you would like any further information on how Safe4 can be used within your organisation – we will be delighted to assist you.

Confusion reigns regarding responsibility for data protection compliance

A recent survey suggests that there is still a good deal of confusion regarding responsibility for data protection compliance. Given that the UK adopted the EU GDPR into the Data Protection Act in May 2018, this reflects the general lack of awareness among many organisations today.

This survey also indicates a lack of clarity over whether cloud-based information management services offer better or worse protection that traditional on-premise storage. The answer of course is that the level of security and therefore protection depends on which cloud service provider is involved. Safe4 has an unblemished record of secure service provision, with an availability record very close to 100%. Not all cloud service providers can offer this.

Safe4 has also clarified the different roles and responsibilities relating to data protection in their Data Protection Policy – click here for more details. Safe4 does not claim ownership of any data that is stored within its system, and thus acts as the Data Processor. Customers own their data and have responsibility for any information that is placed in Safe4, and therefore are Data Controllers.

Adding to the benefit of using Safe4 for information storage is the fact that Safe4 only uses UK-based hosting services accredited to ISO 27001. Together with enhanced password strength management and 2-factor authentication, Safe4 provides a platform for its customers to be confident that the system will support their own Data Protection compliance programme. No cloud service provider can make its customers compliant with the Act however – ultimate responsibility lies with the Data Controller to ensure that their own information security policies and practices are enforced. The vast majority of data security breaches are caused by human error or poorly trained employees.

For more information on how Safe4 can assist your data protection compliance programme, please contact us.

Enhanced user management as Safe4 version 6.03 is released

The release of Safe4 version 6.03 sees an upgrade in the way that vault users can be managed. It is now possible for vault users to be given specific permission to issue invitations to those with whom they wish to share their own vault. Hitherto the issuing of user invitations has been restricted to provider users. This enhanced user management will support the implementation of Safe4 in a number of particular application scenarios, principally in situations where a vault user wishes to share their inheritance vault or life vault with a member of the family, for example.

As before, the ability to alter permission settings on folders and user accounts remains under the control of provider users. Invitations issued by vault users will carry by default a read-only security group setting, thus preventing any potentially unwanted addition or removal of documents or data in the vault by the invited user.

Safe4 version 6.03 also incorporates a number of server-side enhancements to security and performance, to ensure that the system remains among the safest and most reliable on the internet.

Please contact us if you would like more detail on this release, or for general information on how the implementation of Safe4 can bring benefits to your business.

Enhanced 2-Factor Authentication from Safe4

In line with the Safe4 policy of constantly enhancing security, as well as maintaining compliance with the recommendations of the UK National Cyber Security Centre, the latest release of Safe4, version 6.02, features 2-Factor Authentication using 7-digit codes sent to the user’s mobile device by text message. This enhanced 2-Factor Authentication from Safe4 (2FA) replaces the PIN, which has been a feature of the system since inception in 2010. The advice from the NCSC is summarised here.

Safe4 users with a PIN on their account will be prompted to enter a mobile phone number to which authentication codes will be sent. Once this has been done, they will be challenged to enter the code when logging in. The authentication code will have a life of 24 hours. When this period has elapsed a new code will be sent to the user’s mobile device on the next login.

Flexible options for applying 2-Factor Authentication

The use of 2FA can be enforced by a provider administrator, or can be selected optionally by each user in their own personal settings. In either case the registration of the mobile phone number will be followed immediately by the sending of an authentication code that must be entered before access is gained to the system.

The mobile phone number that is registered is held in the user’s My Account settings, to which entry will be controlled by a further 2FA code challenge. This will prevent a user’s settings being altered without authority. If a user changes their mobile phone number for any reason, the provider administrator will be able to require the user to reset 2FA with a different phone number.

Other enhancements in version 6.02

As always, version 6.02 of Safe4 includes a number of server-based security updates that relate to the way that data is held and managed on our servers. It is our policy not to publish details of these changes.

A further change in version 6.02 relates to the way in which folders are displayed. Folders and subfolders will be shown in the right-hand pane of the screen, together with any files that are stored in that folder. This is the first step towards more flexible management of folders.

Additionally, version 6.02 will allow the selection of which users will receive notification of file uploads. This will involve a further option in the Upload Files dialog box.

The Safe4 User Guides have been updated to reflect these changes.

For more information on how Safe4 can help your organisation to reduce cost, enhance client service and improve security and compliance, please contact us. We will be delighted to assist you.

Password strength requirements for Safe4 are being increased

Cyber crime, identity theft and online fraud are becoming more frequent. It is known that there are large organisations, some of whom are state-backed, whose sole purpose is to disrupt the lawful activities on which much of our normal economic life is based. Recent ransomware attacks, as well as the ever-increasing use of spam email, are evidence of the scale of the threat. For this reason, the password strength requirements for the Safe4 system are being increased.

Safe4 works very closely with a number of public-sector organisations for whom security is paramount. Acting on the advice of the UK National Cyber Security Centre, part of GCHQ, the password requirements for Safe4 are being changed to incorporate a minimum length of 10 characters and a maximum of 150 characters. As before, each password will have to contain an upper and lower case alpha character, a number, and a symbol such as a punctuation mark. Passwords will accommodate spaces as well as normal characters, thus allowing the use of pass-phrases as well as basic passwords. The advice of the NCSC is that passwords up to 8 characters can now be cracked by brute-force attack methods in a few minutes, whereas those with 10 or more characters are unlikely to be cracked in meaningful time.

Password strength matters

Choosing a new password is increasingly challenging, hence the ability to use a pass-phrase for Safe4. This can be a favourite piece of text, such as line from a book or song, which will generally be easier to remember than a shorter password containing an obtuse string of characters. The longer the password, the more difficult for criminals to crack it. A random sequence of words that are easily remembered will have the same effect.

An additional feature that Safe4 have incorporated in this release is a warning message if the password chosen by a user has already been compromised on another site. This does not prevent the selection of that password, but the user is warned of the potential risk.

Following the release of Safe4 version 6.01, scheduled for 25 May 2019, new users will be invited to create accounts using the updated password strength requirements. The new rules will also be applied to password changes and to resets.

2-Factor Authentication by Text Message

At present, the 2-factor authentication applied by Safe4 is based on the use of a 6-digit PIN as well as a username and password. In July 2019 this will be changed, and the PIN will be replaced by a numeric code sent to the user by text message.

We at Safe4 are constantly trying to ensure that the system is as secure as possible, and that our customers’ data is protected to the maximum extent. If you have any questions, or if you would like any information on how Safe4 can assist your organisation to enhance the security of your communications, please contact us.