Evidence of increased threat of email intrusion

Online fraud and theft have become widespread in recent years. Email in particular presents a growing risk as criminals identify ever more devious methods of persuading individuals and businesses to expose their confidential information.

The risk is highlighted in an article on the VaultConnect website, please click here for details. VaultConnect are partners of Safe4, and are working to reduce the risk of email intrusion for professional practitioners and other businesses across the United Kingdom. This article refers to 5 scams, of which number 3 is the particular case in point. Safe4 have stressed the importance of avoiding the use of email for some years, although in many sectors it is still used routinely to transfer confidential information in spite of the potential consequences of a breach under the terms of the Data Protection Act.

For more information on how the use of Safe4 can help your organisation to reduce cost and improve regulatory compliance and governance whilst enhancing customer service, please contact us.

Password strength checker improvements for Safe4

One of the challenges of enforcing strict rules about the strength of passwords is how to make them secure and still easily usable by people who perhaps utilise a system occasionally and often need rapid access to share or obtain important information.

Safe4 has now been updated to make it easier for users to select passwords in the first place, by listing each of the strength requirements and showing visually when these have been satisfied. Because Safe4 is used in many countries around the world and by speakers of many languages, it can be difficult to prevent users from choosing a password that is a common word in one language but not in another. Using sequential characters on a keyboard is also potentially an issue, as in several European countries different keyboard layouts are utilised. Beyond Europe, in countries where alphabets may also differ, keyboard layouts are often radically different from those familiar in Anglophone regions.

Keeping it simple without sacrificing security

Safe4 has become established as one of the most secure sites on the Internet, and consequently enforcing strict password requirements is essential given the presence of brute-force attack systems that can crack simple passwords very quickly. Whilst setting a strong password is the responsibility of each individual user, applying specific rules governing this, as well as limiting the number of unsuccessful login attempts within a single browser session, makes it easier to prevent unauthorised access to the system. The changes made by Safe4 will inform new users of the strength of their password as each character is chosen, and show any discrepancies visually.

Please contact us if you would like any further information on the security measures that are taken by Safe4 to protect the integrity of information that we hold, and the protection that this offers for our customers.

Safe4 is going large – version 5.20 is released

October 2018 has seen the release of Safe4 version 5.20, which contains some important enhancements to the highly secure information delivery and management service. “Safe4 is going large” is a fitting way to describe some of the changes introduced in this release.

As in all new releases, Safe4 have improved a number of the fundamental security features of the system. In order to make sure that customers’ data, as well as that of their clients, is managed in the most secure way possible, changes have been made to the way in which information is stored so that the risk of penetration is reduced. This includes some changes that will make it easier for clients to comply with the Data Protection Act, following the introduction of GDPR in May 2018. For example the Subject Access Request report, which is available at the press of a single button, has been expanded.

Large file management

However, the most significant element within this release is the ability to upload files of up to 800 megabytes per individual file. This is an interim step, with the short term objective being 2 gigabytes per individual file. The fundamental security approach of Safe4 has always meant that uploading documents was more than just moving a file from one location to another, and consequently the upload process involves a number of server-based functions such as virus-checking, content scanning, encryption, transferring the file into cloud storage and updating the database and all of the audit trails. These functions have now been separated and will be performed sequentially, so that the server-based processing is carried out after the client interface has been refreshed. Very large files will be shown on the file list immediately, but with a “Processing” indicator until the server functions have been completed.

As well as virus checking and encryption, Safe4 also performs a series of content checks to ensure the integrity of the data that is being uploaded. If the file fails one of these tests, or is found to contain a virus, a reference will be shown on the file list even though the file itself has been removed from the server. This will cover the whitelisting and blacklisting scans, as well as the ability to check for any files that have been protectively marked.

More significant developments to come

There is a lengthy list of enhancements in the pipeline for Safe4. The next release will feature the ability for files held in Safe4 to be signed digitally in a way that allows them to be submitted to both HMRC and Companies House in the UK. This important development will be a major time-saver for any organisation that needs multiple signatories to approve documents, and will be carried out entirely within Safe4, without the use of any external technology.

If you would like any further information on how Safe4 can help your business to improve client service, reduce costs and enhance regulatory compliance, please contact us. We will be delighted to assist you.

Cyber crime is still soaring – and insecure email remains the weakest link

The scourge of email scams and phishing continues to rise relentlessly. Whilst some organisations have taken steps to protect themselves, many still use email to transfer confidential information to recipients both within and beyond their own domain. A recently-published article highlights this, and the risks to corporate governance that are involved.

Professional practitioners are among the worst offenders. Much of the information that they generate on behalf of their clients is highly confidential and is sent by email as an attachment. Not only does this expose their clients to the loss or theft of the data, it is inefficient and can ultimately lead to serious difficulties for the practitioners themselves. In the UK it is estimated that more than 70% of law firms, for example, still use open email to carry confidential client information.

Sometimes the clients themselves are a problem …

Accounting firms, for example, provide services for a wide range of different clients, everything from global corporates to the local butcher, baker and candlestick-maker. At the smaller end of this scale many clients are resistant to using secure information sharing services as they find it easier to simply receive financial information as an attachment to an email. Sometimes it is securely stored away, but often it is not, leading to repeated requests for the information to be re-sent by the accountant, multiplying the scale of the risk.

VaultConnect, partners of Safe4 Information Management, have expressed the consequences of these “can you just …” requests for information. Typically they result in an interruption of approximately 23 minutes to stop a current task, go and find the requested information, respond to the client, and then try to resume the task that has been interrupted. And the result of this is to expose both the client and the accountant to increased risk.

There are better and safer options

The Safe4 service has been designed explicitly to protect any organisation that needs to share confidential information with external or internal parties, whether it be in unstructured form (such as documents), or structured (data held in columnar format, similar to spreadsheets and simple databases). Manningtons, an accounting firm in Sussex, have recently chosen to significantly expand their use of Safe4 in order to protect themselves and their clients from loss or theft of sensitive information. Read about their experiences here. The result of this approach has enabled Manningtons to enhance their compliance with both the Data Protection Act (which now embodies the recently-enacted European General Data Protection Regulation), and with the guidance issued by the Institute of Chartered Accountants of England and Wales. This strongly advises accounting firms not to send confidential information to clients by email, even if the client has actually requested that they do so.

Safe4 utilises a highly secure vault to hold information relating to each client. This can be shared with the clients themselves, allowing two-way transfer of confidential documents and data. The very granular permissions provided by Safe4, as well as comprehensive audit trails and reporting functions, add further levels of protection to the professional practitioners as well as their clients.

Contact Safe4

For more information on how Safe4 can help your organisation to achieve enhanced levels of security and compliance with regulatory frameworks, please get in touch. We will be delighted to assist you.

Safe4 has been registered as a G-Cloud supplier

A new round of updates to the UK Government’s G-Cloud Digital Marketplace has been announced today, and Safe4 Information Management has been successfully registered as a G-Cloud supplier. This will allow public sector organisations in the UK to purchase Safe4 through G-Cloud without having to go through the OJEU (Official Journal of the European Union) process.

New opportunities as a G-Cloud Supplier

Safe4 has been supplying its highly secure information delivery and storage service to public sector organisations in the UK for some years. Registration as a G-Cloud Supplier will enable further public sector opportunities to be pursued with a simpler purchasing process, thus reducing the delay and cost of procurement. The relevant page within the G-Cloud supplier list can be viewed here.

There are many potential applications for Safe4 in the public sector. Both local and central government organisations manage and share large volumes of information about citizens, much of which is shared between departments or with the individuals themselves. Safe4 provides a highly secure and robust way of supporting a wide range of public services. Hosting of all data in the UK in ISO 27001 accredited data centres helps to reduce risk, as does the fact that all Safe4 operations are conducted under English Law.

Unique Architecture

The architecture of Safe4 allows individual citizens to receive information from multiple providers through a single login, thus permitting the concept of the “single view of the citizen” to be achieved. Making use of the mature and robust Safe4 Application Programming Interface will enable the capabilities of Safe4 to be embedded seamlessly into other business applications. Many individuals prefer to interact with providers on mobile devices – Safe4 is ideally suited to information being provided and consumed in this way.

For more information on how Safe4 can enhance the information delivery of private and public sector organisations, please contact us.

More good news for Safe4 customers – outstanding availability record

Safe4 has achieved outstanding availability in the last 7 months.  Since 1 October 2017 the highly secure information delivery and storage service has achieved 100% uptime, with not a single second lost through system outages of any kind. This represents a stark contrast with other cloud-based information management services, many of which report outages almost weekly. Availability of the Safe4 service is monitored independently, and reported on every month.

This outstanding availability record for Safe4 underlines the quality of service that is the basis of the way the system functions. During the period from 1 October 2017 to date, Safe4 has undergone 4 major upgrades, none of which interrupted access to the system. This process of enhancement included the changes associated with enabling Safe4 to support customers’ GDPR compliance programmes, many of which went deep into the core of the software.

Safe4 delivers value

An exceptional level of availability is just one of the significant benefits that Safe4 offers. Safe4 has been independently assessed among the most secure 0.8% of sites on the internet, out of millions tested. Other benefits include automated upload notifications, comprehensive audit trails and reporting facilities, and UK hosting in ISO 27001-accredited data centres. Extensive customer branding and white labeling, granular permission and content controls as well as a unique and flexible architecture allow Safe4 customers to derive a wide range of financial and operational benefits.

Maintaining a strong commitment to a high quality of customer service is one of the key objectives of Safe4, together with providing class-leading levels of security. For more information on how Safe4 can provide benefits for your business, please get in touch with us. We will be delighted to assist you.

Safe4 releases version 5.10 to address GDPR compliance requirements

The General Data Protection Regulation becomes law across the EU on 25 May this year, and in order to assist our customers to ensure that they are compliant with the regulation we have introduced some system changes to the core Safe4 service. These changes are in fact part of a work-in-progress, since there are still some areas of uncertainty in the way that GDPR is expressed. The system modifications at this stage address the basic requirements of GDPR compliance, and will be built upon as greater clarity emerges.

As the Data Processor under data protection legislation, Safe4 makes use of a number of constructs, described within the system as providers and vaults. The new release, designated as version 5.10, allows these to be completely deleted, with all of their data content being irreversibly removed. The ability to perform such deletions will be granted to customers, the Data Controllers, at system administrator level only, and any actions of this sort will be carried out after several warnings have been given and responded to.

Users can also be deleted by Data Controllers. Safe4 permits users to have access to multiple providers and vaults, and consequently the removal of a user from a particular vault will not affect their access to any others.

However, because Safe4 is a system of record, the audit trails relating to the existence of providers, vaults and users will be retained. For example, the record of a user account’s existence will be retained as a basic “stub”, so that the integrity of audit trails can be maintained. Activity while a user was a member of a Safe4 vault will thus be available for evidential purposes in future, while any personal information that was stored about that person will be deleted.

The full range of reporting options will be developed over time as the specific needs of customers are established, and as aspects of GDPR compliance are clarified both by the Information Commissioner’s Office and by case law.

An additional function that will be made available to the Data Controller immediately will be the ability to respond to Subject Access Requests. The Safe4 administrator will be able to generate a Subject Access Request report at the touch of a button. This will create a PDF document that can be provided externally if required, or stored as a record within Safe4.

As always, we at Safe4 consider the secure handling of customers’ information to be our highest priority. This approach will continue, and will be extended as necessary through working closely with Data Controllers to ensure that their GDPR compliance obligations are being met.

For more information on how Safe4 can support your GDPR compliance programme, please contact us. We will be very pleased to assist. General information on GDPR can be obtained from the UK Information Commissioner’s Office.

Insecure email communication still causing huge losses through fraud

Recent news has highlighted once again the risks caused by using insecure email communication to transfer confidential information, as this article shows.

The effect of online theft is clearly devastating for those that have had their money stolen – in many cases these losses represent life savings and cannot be recovered. Criminals posing as conveyancing solicitors, or alternatively hacking into private email accounts and falsifying bank account details so that the conveyancer transfers the proceeds from the sale of a property into a criminal’s account have become much more frequent in recent years.

To allow conveyancers to be confident that they are transferring funds into the correct account, Safe4 are offering the use of their highly secure information transfer service, into which clients or indeed any other party can enter bank details directly into designated fields. This completely eliminates the risks posed by using insecure email communication to transfer this information. It is not only email that is insecure – hard copy post and voice communication also carry risks of their own.

Safe4 are also working with other organisations that have to transfer funds into a client account at the completion of a transaction. These include art galleries, auction houses, and others who may be selling assets on a client’s behalf.

In addition to the storage of all data in UK-only data centres accredited to ISO 27001, Safe4 have just completed another penetration test carried by an independent UK Government accredited agency. Again this has confirmed the high levels of security offered by using Safe4 as the means of transferring confidential information between parties that are involved in high-value transactions. Compliance with the SRA guidelines for cloud computing gives conveyancers additional confidence that information is being transferred between parties with minimum risk.

For more information on how Safe4 can help your organisation to improve the protection of clients’ money, please contact us.

Charities are exposed to serious risk when documents are lost

Proper management of sensitive records can be challenging, but when the documents in question relate to vulnerable individuals who are receiving care from charities or local authorities, the consequences of information falling into the wrong hands can be very damaging.  Recent cases of paper documents being lost highlight this risk.

The impending arrival of GDPR will of course impose far more severe penalties than have hitherto been possible under current data protection legislation. Among the organisations most exposed to such potential penalties are small-to-medium charities, who in many cases handle highly sensitive information about individuals. Such charities are generally staffed by dedicated and highly competent volunteers, but often they lack the experience or resources to implement processes or systems that give proper protection to the information they handle.

Converting paper documents into electronic records can be difficult, particularly if volumes are large and the documents them selves are not in good condition. However, electronic systems do provider much tighter control of information, and also provide a host of other benefits including speed of retrieval and access while away from the office or filing cabinet.

Among the key benefits of applying a highly secure electronic system such as Safe4 to the management of confidential information is that it will not only eliminate or reduce the risk of document loss, but will permit the organisation in question to achieve and maintain compliance with GDPR. This could prove to be a key safeguard in the coming years when some of the UK’s most high-profile charities have suffered enormous reputational damage and are now seeing the cancellation of direct debit donations doubling in recent weeks. Maintaining the highest possible standards in record-keeping and information management will be a valuable means for the charity to protect their most valuable asset – their donor subscribers, who provide the majority of funds to support the important work that charities carry out to assist the members of our society who are most in need of help.

In conjunction with a number of partners, Safe4 Information Management is launching an initiative to offer the charitable sector solutions that will help them not only protect their information to the highest possible standard, but also to reduce costs and improve the efficiency of their operations. Further details of this initiative will be published in the coming months, as GDPR approaches.

If you like to know more about how Safe4 can help your organisation to enhance the secure management of confidential records, please get in touch with us.