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Archive for ‘File Transfer Discussion’

Half a million reasons to beware!

Today was the day that the ICO’s got the power to fine companies for data breaches with the amendments to the Data Protection Act finally coming into force.  With the UK somewhat behind some of the EC this brings us closer in line with the the European Commissions E-privacy directive that the UK signed up to some years ago to uphold the privacy of individuals and specifically personally identifiable data.  A lot has been written about this subject but what does it mean and how does it affect your business?

If your business stores/holds personally identifiable data about individuals, that data is now governed by the Data Protection Act.  If your company has personally identifiable data your company is legally obliged to register themselves with the ICO and appoint one or more a Data Controllers within your organisation.  It is then that persons responsibility to ensure that all personally identifiable data is stored and distributed in a secure manner.  This affects both the data stored within the organisation but the bit we get involved in is the ‘distribution’ or the data, to third parties, customers, suppliers, remote offices or remote workers.  This data now needs to be secure & managed file transfer so that you have a complete audit trail of who sent what, to whom and when – also providing information on when the information was downloaded and if possible where they were when it was downloaded.  Simply put you need to know what’s happening with your data at all times!

ICO Logo

Why should I go and implement new systems, who’s going to know it was me?  Well you could take this approach and to be fair a lot of companies will lose data and won’t get caught but would you seriously want to take the risk that the ICO could find out due to your data ending up somewhere its not supposed to be.  The consequences are up to 10% of turnover (up to a maximum of £500,000) and public humiliation when the ICO provide their statutory reports on which companies have had breaches.  Given that the ICO have been a little bit slow in getting to this stage according to the EC who threatened to fine the ICO at the end of last year you can expect that the ICO will want to take the opportunity to make a statement to the EC when they get the opportunity.  Personally I’d rather it wasn’t my company getting noticed for the wrong reasons – remember TK Maxx?

So what should I do?  Well, if you’d like to speak to someone who’s able to provide you an independent insight into the best way to move your data securely within any given business scenario then you should give Pro2col a call as we’d be pleased to help.  If you don’t want to do anything then good luck and keep your fingers crossed because the ICO are coming!

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Healthcare Industry Beware!

Recent reports have highlighted that hospitals and physicians in the US have been given a deadline of 2015, to convert all health records into digital form and then, to deploy the accompanying technology to handle these digital assets.  Considering only about a quarter of the US population’s health records are digitally stored – this is a bit of a tall order!

Makes you wonder whether, no lets rephrase that, WHEN the UK will follow in their footsteps.  For those organisations operating in the health sector, it may be

stethoscopewise to start reviewing the security and efficiency of you’re file transfer systems now, especially when you take into account the increased ICO powers of enforcement due to come into effect on 6th April 2010.  If a similar mandate were to come into force in the UK, in order to avoid possible fines of up to £500,000 organisations would need ensure that sensitive client files were secured when being transported between locations.

If your a healthcare organisation and you want to review or evaluate your large file transfer processes, please get in touch with the team at Pro2col on 0333 123 1240.  We offer a comprehensive range of secure file transfer solutions and we’re always happy to help.

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Email Attachment Management – The Future of Ad Hoc File Transfer

Email is probably the best known and most widely used internet service in the marketplace to date.  With an estimate quarter of the worlds population on the internet and a total of 418,029,796 users in Europe (over 50%), figures indicate that 92% of these users either send or read email.  As technology progresses and file sizes increase, moving data between geographically isolated locations has become more challenging.  Many businesses rely predominately on email for their daily communications and operations but unfortunately, it is being used for purposes it was neither designed nor intended to cope with.  Using email for ad hoc file transfer can cause huge problems for businesses in terms of  cost, efficiency and reliability.

Email Attachment

So if we can’t email large attachments, what can we do?  Introducing our latest white paper; Email Attachment Management – The Future of Ad Hoc File Transfer, which is available for download now.  It addresses the issues surrounding the ad hoc transmission of large files and details how email attachment management solutions enable businesses to email large attachments, minus the problems associated with standard email.

If you would like to discuss any of your file transfer requirements ad hoc or otherwise, please contact Pro2col on 0333 123 1240, we are always happy to help.

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IT Departments Beware – employees may be compromising your data!!

According to a survey published by Osterman Research Inc. in June-July 2009, using a sample of large organisations (over 500 employees and $5 million dollar revenue), 82% of employees resort to using personal email accounts when sending large files – compromising data security.  This tactic is employed by many to evade the email server attachment limits imposed by IT departments.

Considering 20% of the organisations surveyed send in excess of 500 files a week, this is a seriously disturbing statistic when you take into account the ramifications of using standard email for file transfer.  The most frustrating aspect of this predicament, is that many IT professionals are fully aware of the risks associated with this method of file transfer in particular e.g…

•    Compromised security and non-complianceCaution Sign
•    Lack of tracking, logging and auditing
•    The absence of visibility and monitoring

…and consequently, have introduced strategies and procedures to combat the use of unsolicited file transfer methods. The problem is employees will continue to violate security and procedural policies if they aren’t provided with a comparable, alternative solution that offers the same, simple functionality as their email client.

The results also revealed that 55% of the organisations surveyed had seen a 20% increase in ad hoc file transfer activity during June-July 2009 – the largest growth across all of the business file transfer ‘requirements’.  Evidently, employees have an increasing need to send large files on an ad hoc basis, largely due to the dramatic increase in file size over recent years.

So the moral of this story is, if you want your employees to adhere to company procedural policies when sending large files on an ad hoc basis, IT departments need to provide them with an adequate alternative to their email server!

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Secure File Transfer Standards – Are you Compliant?

With the sheer abundance of security standards, laws and legislation in our society nowadays, it’s really easy to get overwhelmed.  Although a necessary measure to safeguard individual’s confidential information and protect your business against prosecution, it can be difficult to fathom which laws apply to your organisation when it comes to secure file transfer.

To complicate matters further, legislation varies between continents, in the US even between states!!  As a result, we have put together a succinct guide detailing some of the most high-profile legislation governing the US and UK in terms of secure file transfer, including some standards that are recognised internationally.  These include acts such as The Health Insurance Portability Act (HIPAA), Sarbanes Oxley (SOX), Gramm-Leach-Bliley and The Data Protection Act, as well as industry standards like FIPS and ISO 27001.

Data Protection Act

Unfortunately it doesn’t end there.  Once an organisation has established which legislation applies to their business, they then have to make sure that their systems and procedures are actually compliant!  Thankfully, accompanying the majority of legislation is compliance testing – a sure-fire way to guarantee investment in technology and solutions that meet the secure file transfer requirements stipulated by government.

If you would like to discuss security compliance in terms of secure file transfer solutions, don’t hesitate to get in touch – we are happy to provide advice and support.

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UK businesses under increasing pressure to step up data privacy

The European Commission (EC) have publicly stated that the UK Government is not adequately enforcing European data privacy laws and is ready to clamp down on them in 2 months time.  Reported on the Infosecurity web site and backed up by our recent discussions with the ICO; next year is likely to be the year in which Enterprises feel the full force of European legislation regarding the data privacy.  Enterprises will be under increasing pressure to ensure that every step is taken to secure data both at rest (internally) and in transit (e.g. securing file transfers).Judge Hammer

The powers at the disposal of the ICO are also being addressed with individuals responsible for data security breaches potentially being liable for custodial sentences.

Read more: European Commission warns UK over privacy legislation.

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Saving money by ignoring data security – a false economy?

We hear it in the news week in week out.  So and so company has left a laptop on a train containing 4 million unencrypted customer records, a hacker has infiltrated an online payment system stealing thousands of unsuspecting UK consumer credit card details – even today I have walked through the door and the first news alert in my email begins, “ChoicePoint to pay $275,000 for second data breach.” I can’t help but wonder why data security is failing?

Recently, I’ve begun research into the current state of data security in the UK. As part of my research I contacted the ICO (Information Commissioner’s Office) and asked them to provide me with figures detailing reported breaches in the UK over the last few years.  According to ICO figures, 2008 saw the loss of sensitive data on 341 separate occasions, spanning all industry sectors.  So far this year, we as a nation have seen 348 instances of compromised data and we still have 2 1/2 months to go!!!  Before I progress any further I must emphasise the use of the word ‘reported’.  According to a study conducted by The Ponemon Institute using a sample of 615 UK based companies, 70% of the companies surveyed experienced a data breach in the last 12 months – a worrying discovery in itself.  Even more surprisingly, nearly 40% of those surveyed failed to publicly announce a breach in their security, as there’s no legal or regulatory requirement to do so because they are a private sector organisation.

data and lock

Taking into consideration the growing prevalence of digital business systems and processes over the past decade, we all must be aware of the importance of data security in our digitally dominated world.  Especially in light of the abundance of publicity surrounding data breaches – surely it must weigh on the minds of CIO and IT personnel?  So if we are all so acutely aware of the risk, why do some companies not take the precautionary measures required to secure the data they hold or transmit?  I can only make assumptions regarding the factors involved and I would speculate its the cumulative result of a number of factors.

Firstly, the big stumbling block – finance.  From experience, I know there are companies out there that struggle securing the necessary funds from their annual budget to address data security as its often deemed non-critical, especially in the current economic climate.  With the inhibitive cost of some of the security solutions out there, I can’t really blame them.  On the other hand, there are lots of providers emerging in the marketplace offering affordable, scalable solutions, that provide not only the data security they need but also the ability to streamline business processes and reduce operational costs.  Solutions such as this, can provide a significant return on investment and in the long term actually save money – a win-win situation!

The financial consequences of a data breach should also be taken into consideration.  According to a study coordinated by The Ponemon Institute back in 2008, the average cost of a UK data breach incident is £1.73 million – substantially more than the cost of securing the data in the first place!  Then you have to take into consideration the financial implications of a blow to a companies reputation – these intangible costs are likely to be well in excess of any fines.

Secondly, I feel the lack of legislation has a big part to play in the predicament organisations find themselves facing.  Apart from a select few e.g. PCI DSS, the only legal guidelines UK businesses are currently required to abide by, are those outlined in the Data Protection Act.  The problem is, up until very recently the majority of this act has been unenforceable (more to come on that later).  I can’t help but feel this lack of legislation and an authority body promotes a certain amount of apathy in organisations.  If all of these companies in the public eye are receiving minimal fines and a slap on the wrist for contravening Data Protection laws, what is the motivation to spend money on securing data?  Consequently, many organisations opt to sit on an unexploded time bomb and when it finally blows (which it inevitably will)  hold their breath and hope no one gets wind of the incident during the aftermath and leaks the news to valued customers.

The recently appointed UK Information Commissioner, Christopher Graham, has addressed this very issue during his first speech at the Annual Privacy and Data Conference in London on 8th October.  The crux of his speech is that change is afoot.  Mr Graham made it perfectly clear that data privacy and information security are now ‘top of the agenda’ and with the new powers of enforcement being granted to the ICO in the forthcoming Coroners and Justice Bill, he fully intends to use them to maximum effect.  He added: “we’re going to have the resources to go after the bad boys – there’s a well-funded regulator that will hit you hard if you get it wrong… if you don’t take this stuff seriously its going to bite you in the bum.”  He also stated, “If you breach the law you’re going to be in trouble.  It (compliance with data privacy law) isn’t a nice to have – it’s the law of the land.  You will destroy brand value and reputation (by ignoring it).”  Some strong words!

Finally, although aware of the viable threat of data breaches, from our experience as security specialists we have dealt with a number of companies who believe their data is completely secure when in reality – it isn’t.  Therefore a lack of insight and knowledge when addressing company wide data security systems can result in inadequate protection.  This is where the value of a security specialist comes into play.  We can’t be masters of all trades, sometimes its beneficial in the long run to let the experts work their magic as data security can be a minefield, its best left to the professionals.

Taking into consideration the consequences associated with the loss of sensitive data, such as the tangible cost to the company and more significantly a serious blow to reputation, is it really worth risking the security of your company’s data to save money in the short term?

See here to find out more about some of the secure file transfer solutions available in the marketplace.

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Are these the three main types of b2b file transfer solutions?

File transfer requirements are diversifying at a rate of knots with more products available than I care to count, but for me there are three distinct types of file transfer solutions I believe the majority of the larger corporate and blue chip customers are interested in. These are;

Enterprise File Transfer – making use of email to deliver a message to the end user that provides them with instructions on how to download the files(s) with the added functionality of tracking and reporting.  This method is great for the ad-hoc user, requiring little to no training.

Managed File Transfer –  relates to the secure delivery of files, in many cases making use of secure FTP based protocols also providing additional functionality such as reporting and monitoring.  These solutions are generally embedded processes that are not seen by the users and underpin internal/external business processes.

Fast File Transfer – with businesses needing to shift large volumes of data over increasing distances across the WAN or Internet traditional delivery protocols such as FTP have been superseded with UDP based delivery solutions, which have the ability to send files significantly faster.  With the cost of Internet connectivity as it is, WAN acceleration technologies are becoming more frequently used to maximise the throughput over those connections.

I’d be interested to hear from anyone who has any suggestions for areas that we may have missed, specifically if you’re a vendor of the solution and are looking for representation in the UK.

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What is the true cost of file transfer?

In the previous blog article “File transfer – a manual action or embedded process” I suggested that wherever possible file transfer should be an embedded or automated process rather than a manual action.  For those adopting the manual approach I suggested that companies were under-utilising their most valuable resource – their employees – and that it was a criminal waste of time and money.  In this article I’m going to delve deeper into the underlying cost of file transfer.

The problem is that many companies that require a file transfer solution look at the cost of the options available and disregard the appliance or software as too expensive.  Usually this is due to insufficient finances/budget, instead customers choose to continue with their existing solution or set-up.  This failure to invest or make the switch that is so desperately needed by many companies sets them back both in terms of time and money and will generally only delay the inevitable.

Stack of Coins

Whilst the implementation of a suitable file transfer solution will inevitably cost the company several thousand pounds, maybe tens of thousands in some cases, the business benefits achievable with the right file transfer solution can be ten-fold.

An area being readily addressed by many organisations now is that of Enterprise File Transfer,  or to those of us unfamiliar with the term ’sending large files as an email attachment’.  There are a number of vendors in the marketplace providing these types of solutions that allow users to create an email, attach a file(s) and send it.  This circumnavigates the email server storage or attachment limits, with in most instances the files remaining local to the sender ready to download.

Its true there is an upfront cost for a solution of this type, a large enterprise may well come in at £50,000 with annual support costs of up to 20% or £10,000 per annum ongoing.  However when you then look into the reduction in costs in other areas of the business the solution could pay for itself in a period of several months to a year.

To illustrate the point we’ll take a look at the cost of file transfer activities to a business of some 100+ users wanting to send files ad-hoc to external suppliers, customers or remote workers using a combination of FTP server/client and online email solution.

FTP File Transfer Solution 

Purchase of FTP server – free

Implementation of FTP server by IT administration – 2 hours

Ongoing weekly overhead to manage FTP server by IT administration – 5 hours

IT Administration cost of FTP server in first year @ £20 p/h – £5240

Each subsequent year – £5200

20% of the users send files via FTP daily taking them 10 minutes each @ £10 p/h – approx daily cost £33.33 – annual cost £8665.80*

Total first year cost £13,905.80
Email File Transfer Solution 

Set up cost of free online email solution – free account and say 10 minutes which we’ll disregard

100% of the users send files via the email solution daily taking them 10 minutes each @ £10 p/h – daily cost £166

Annual cost £43,160*

In this very basic example the total cost of our conservative estimate in year one is – £57,065.80.  Whilst implementing a solution won’t eradicate all of the cost a fair estimate would be an 80% reduction saving year on year £45,652.64.

*All calculations have been on the basis of 52 weeks worked per employee and a 5 day working week.

10.5 Month Break Even

In addition to the costs associated with employees time spent on non-core activities you have the security implications when using basic online solutions of where your data is being hosted, the security of data in transit and ensuring that the data is only downloaded by the intended recipient.  Then there is the management information, knowing who’s sent what and when with the added control of being able to restrict who is able to send data remotely.  Finally you have security implications of the traditional FTP server – no doubt many of you will have read about Finjan uncovering a database of 8,700 stolen FTP credentials. In the event that your server was to be compromised what would the hacker be able to access – what additional damage to your internal network and core business would be achievable?

As businesses send more and more data its important to remember that file transfer is in the most part, a small cog in the overall workings of your business.  That small cog though has the potential to reduce the effectiveness of the rest of your company or if we were to take it to the other extreme, lose sensitive data and affect your core business.  So what is the true cost of file transfer and is it worth not addressing your requirements? You tell me.

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When is FTP better than Managed File Transfer?

So why FTP File Transfer and what’s so great about it?  Well to be honest this isn’t necessarily a blog to evangelise FTP but more the way in which it works, lets call it ’sending files’.  With many businesses looking to adopt Managed File Transfer solutions, I thought it might be worth redressing the balance and putting things into perspective.  Managed File Transfer solutions have many good features but in the case of email based ones, sending files isn’t one of them.  In many cases the Managed File Transfer solution doesn’t actually send anything, rather it asks the company email server to send an email to a particular recipient.  The person receiving the email clicks on a link within the email to download the file or goes to a web site to log-in and manually download the file – so you see the responsibility is on the recipient to download the file and given this, there is no guarantee that the file will get there.  In fact there’s no guarantee the email is going to get there at all, asking the recipient to download the file(s).  Whilst Managed File Transfer solutions cater for the majority of ‘file transfer’ uses it is certainly not the right solution for every scenario.

FTP

So what do I mean by ’sending files’.   Well, historically the majority of solutions used to send files required a connection to be created between two sites and the files to be pushed/transferred to the receiving site using the appropriate delivery protocol for the connection method, e.g. Modem, ISDN or IP.   A typical example that many people would be able to relate to is FTP.  A user with an FTP client enters the details for the server, connects, selects the files to transfer, drags them over to the ‘remote server’ window (in many FTP client softwares) and the transferring of files starts straight away.  Once all of the files have been transferred you can see them on the remote server, they are there without question, the files have been delivered.

In contrast, Managed File Transfer solutions that use email messaging to deliver a message to request the download of the files, has several potential points of failure.  You’ve got to rely on two email servers to be happy to deliver the message and not overburdened with other requests, you have to ensure that SPAM filters don’t whisk away your all important message and probably most importantly – someone has to be there to open, read and perform the manual process of downloading the file.

In short FTP file transfer has a place in the enterprise.  If you want to be able to push data to a location with or without manual intervention, then FTP or another file transfer protocol with similar features will do.  Certain business to business situations will rely on data being sent from one location to the next e.g. a publisher to his printer, where time is of the essence and any doubt about the delivery of the data has to be avoided.

Finally it is possible to make FTP more functional and secure than many Managed File Transfer vendors make out, in fact some Managed File Transfer vendors have it built in.  Depending upon the solution you implement, you can get some great functionality to compliment this old delivery protocol and its also possible to integrate with workflow solutions, script integration and utilise API’s and SDK’s for complete integration.

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