Posts

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.

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.

Met Police see ransomware as the biggest cyber-security threat in 2018

A series of global ransomware attacks in 2017 have reaped millions of dollars in rewards for criminals who have penetrated unsuspecting users’ IT systems and encrypted their data. In the UK, the National Health Service was one of a number of high-profile victims of such attacks.  According to London’s Metropolitan Police, ransomware looks likely to be a major threat again in 2018. Ransomware cannot prevent access to data stored in Safe4, as indicated in previous articles on this website.

In an article published in The Times newspaper today, the need for managing personal information is highlighted even more strongly. Theft of identity, and with it money, has become such an enormous issue that more and more of us are likely to be at risk through insecure management of our online activities. Using clever apps or devices on mobile phones or computers will obviously help; however using secure online services to deliver and store critical personal information will give the greatest level of protection to businesses and their clients alike.

Safe4 has been rated among the most secure 0.8% of sites on the Internet by independent agencies, out of more than 1.5 million tested. Using the Safe4 Asset Register to handle personal details for a wide range of online activities offers a unique facility for holding both confidential documents and individual elements of data, such as personal identification details. All data held in Safe4 is stored in UK-only data centres accredited to ISO 27001. Please contact us for more information.

UK corporates becoming more aware of the importance of GDPR compliance

Whilst the corporate sector in the UK is generally becoming aware of the need to ensure that they are compliant with the new General Data Protection Regulation that comes into force in May 2018, there are still some large firms who are alarmingly exposed to the risk of cyber attack. According to recent research, only just over half of the boards running FTSE 350 companies recognise the full impact of the threat of cyber attack, and the need to become GDPR compliant.

The impact of GDPR will affect all organisations in the UK, both large and small. In fact, it could well be the SME sector that faces the greatest risk, as many do not have a robust IT infrastructure or the necessary policies and procedures to protect their clients’ data. Safe4 are currently working with a number of organisations in the charities sector who wish to ensure that their essential information, most notably details of their donors and their financial records, do not fall prey to intrusion and thus expose them to severe penalties.

If you would like more information on how implementing Safe4 within your business can significantly reduce the risk of online fraud and data theft, please contact us.