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Managed File Transfer in Action – Part 1

A well known utilities company in Yorkshire were using multiple legacy systems and 2 disparate FTP solutions to move data into, out of and around their organisation.  These systems had grown organically over time to tackle isolated file sharing issues when they arose.  As it transpired, this approach left the company with an ungovernable mix of system to system and FTP solutions that required manual interventions and the ongoing revision of batch scripts.

Utility Bill

The mounting costs generated by work duplication and management overheads, accompanied by the risk associated with the absence of failover was becoming a genuine concern.  Bearing in mind that these systems were executing business critical processes such as billing, debt management, banking and delivering mission dependent data to employees in the field – recreating these undocumented workflows in the event of a disaster would be costly.  Considering the sensitive nature of certain pieces of data moving through these workflows, securing data was also a priority.

Pro2col worked alongside the customer to develop an understanding of their processes and document their key requirements.  Armed with this information, we were able to identify the technologies that would meet these requirements, and help them through the selection and evaluation process.  Specifically, the company were looking to:

  1. Secure the sending and receipt of confidential business and customer data
  2. To further automate the retrieval of time sensitive data from remote systems to provide realtime updates of vital information to their workforce at regular intervals throughout the day.

In terms of features, the company were looking for:

  • A solution that would support FTP, SFTP/FTPS, HTTP/HTTPS.
  • A user-friendly GUI for administration and configuration as apposed to CLI and scripts.
  • The ability to schedule time or event driven actions.
  • Pre and post processing ability i.e.; archiving, moving, deleting files that have been processed.
  • The capability to report failed transfers and system problems.
  • Potential to integrate with HP OpenView for system reporting.
  • Ability to perform ad hoc file transfers manually and simply via web browser or email plugin.
  • Ability to run concurrent processes.
  • Automatic fail over to a backup system.
  • Compatibility with Windows 2008 R2.
  • Integration with Microsoft Active Directory.

Based upon the information we gathered through the consultancy process, we were able to recommend the most suitable solution to meet their objectives – in this case, a combination of Ipswitch MOVEit Central and MOVEit DMZ with the Ad Hoc Module.  MOVEit Central was specifically designed to automate a wide range of mission critical file transfers, enabling the company to automatically “pull, process, and push” all files to any platform, including network architectures, operating systems, and protocols.  It would integrate directly into their existing data workflows, consolidating their automated file transfer tasks and allowing IT staff to create/administer them via a user friendly GUI interface.  For the ad hoc aspect of their file transfer requirements, MOVEit DMZ with the ad hoc module provided a secure, end to end solution for employees to send and receive mission critical files.

This just gives you an idea of the potential of these solutions and the levels of automation that can be achieved.  Within an enterprise environment such as a large utility company, an managed file transfer solution can save hours of manual processing and ensure that all the information is where they need it, when they need it.  As with all of our customers, we’ll be working with this organisation in the months and years to come, and look forward to helping them achieve their maximum ROI.

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A Secure Alternative to Dropbox – Welcome to Managed File Transfer

Once again here we are discussing Dropbox as they attempt to minimise the damage to the company brand following the latest reports announcing a further security breach.

Dropbox announced yesterday on their blog that after hiring some “outside experts” to investigate why certain Dropbox users were getting spam to their non-public Dropbox email addresses, the experts concluded that a Dropbox employee’s account was hacked and the details were lifted from a project document.  No details were provided on the numbers of users affected, what other information was compromised or why account details were stored in an unencrypted document.

Dropbox Spamming

Ordinarily we’re singing the praise of managed file transfer solutions as an alternative to custom built, cumbersome, unsupported, legacy FTP servers. However, a quick search on Google this morning showed me that perhaps more people are now searching the internet for a secure alternative to Dropbox, likely due to the broadcast of recent security issues.

Dropbox Alternative

 

 

A business’ decision to select Dropbox or any other cloud based technology for storing and sharing company data, should be taken with caution.  Cloud based solutions in general offer significantly more advanced features than your average in house managed file transfer solution, which end users have grown accustomed to.  Why?  Because they’re developing for a single, controlled environment over which the vendor has complete control whereas a managed file transfer vendor has to develop for multiple server based operating systems and the QA process can be lengthy, thus inhibiting progress of a product.

There are however a number of reasons why a greater degree of security can be achieved by deploying an in house managed file transfer solution, here are four of them:

  1. It’s not a big Cloud brand target with hundreds and thousands of users
  2. Data is stored local to you and you have complete control over the security policies
  3. Access is securely controlled by AD/LDAP and other user group contained within corporate authentication tools
  4. Reporting and blacklisting tools mean that hackers can be monitored and banned very quickly

If you are concerned about the lack security, control, auditing and governance of your business data then speak to Pro2col.  We can help to analyse your requirements, select the most appropriate vendors and assist right through the evaluation process and beyond.  Managed File Transfer is fast becoming a necessary business tool and is certainly a more than adequate alternative to Dropbox.

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An update from Infosecurity 2012

Yesterday was the first day of Infosecurity 2012 one of, if not the biggest IT Security Shows in Europe – and it was a busy one.  Not only that, the war of the most outlandish gimmick was in full force, so be prepared for talking dogs and 7-foot robots if you’re planning to visit!

We’re helping out on the GlobalSCAPE stand this year (check out their stylish booth), as they’re showcasing their latest products for the first time here in the UK – Hosted Enhanced File Transfer Server™ (EFT Server™) and Secure Mobile Access™. As GlobalSCAPE’s primary reseller’s in the UK, it’s been a great opportunity for us to spend some more face-to-face time with the GlobalSCAPE team.

GlobalSCAPE Stand - Infosecurity

There’s been a lot of interest from businesses spanning all sectors, looking secure their data transfers and comply with regulations such as PCI DSS and The Data Protection Act.  We’re looking forward to being kept busy for the remainder of the exhibition, so if you’re heading down to Earls Court come see us at stand F82.

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Data: Transferring the Burden Under PCI DSS

GT News have just published a great article written by Jonathan Lampe (Vice President of Product Management at Ipswitch) regarding data transfer requirements under PCI DSS.  If anyone is looking for a PCI DSS compliant solution for file transferring data, these are the points they really need to be taking into consideration:

Data: Transferring the Burden Under PCI DSS

Jonathan Lampe, Ipswitch – 08 Jun 2010

Despite widespread adoption of Simple Object Access Protocol (SOAP) and transaction sets in the financial industry, a surprising high percentage of the data flow is still represented by files or bulk data sets. In 2009, Gartner determined that bulk data transfers comprise around 80% of all traffic. This is probably a surprise if your company is among the many with millions invested in just managing individual transactions – but there are good management and security reasons for this continuing situation.

Why is File Transfer Still Common?

Financial institutions and item processors are still ‘FTP’ing’ (file transfer protocol), emailing, or sending and sharing files instead of transactions for a number of reasons. First, it helps hide the complexity of systems on both ends – there is no reliance and concern regarding libraries of transactions and responses related to one system and a different set related to another system. Second, it reduces the risk of transmission failure and makes it less risky for employees to send a small number of files or bulk data sets rather than a large number of transactions. Finally, it also increases the reliability of an overall operation.

The Managed File Transfer Industry

The managed file transfer (MFT) industry is comprised of providers whose solutions manage and protect these bulk data sets as they move between partners, business areas and locations. Collectively they address challenges presented by bulk data transfers and principles-based rules of the sort that have become common over the past few years – for example the Data Protection Principles or International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS). Fundamentally, rules that tend to embody real-world outcomes as a standard. So, for example, the reported outcomes of penetration testing depend for certification as much upon the experience of the tester (who may be an employee) as upon the integrity of the network. This is all fine – until your network meets the real world. Principles-based rules tend to put the onus squarely on us to make and maintain systems.

For consumers, consultants and Payment Card Industry (PCI) assessors, this is undoubtedly ‘a good thing’. For those handling card data, the costs of validated and effective compliance represent a potentially significant burden that’s worth passing on to an industry that has quietly got on with the job well before buzzwords, such as ‘cloudsourcing’ or even ‘outsourcing’, entered the lexicon.

Vendors and Technologies Need Evaluation

It therefore makes a great deal of sense to place as much of that onus, and indeed risk and potential liability, on the shoulders of others – suppliers and consultants – as we can. Although PCI Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) can, and does, descend into tick-box detailed level rules in some places – which it makes very good sense to sign off to trusted third parties – nevertheless, significant ongoing parts of our obligations under PCI DSS are essentially management issues. Despite subjective components and PCI requirements to take ongoing account of best practices, the technologies themselves can still be evaluated on a relatively straightforward mechanistic basis, provided that they are submitted to sufficient scrutiny.

At the most basic level, subjective terms such as ‘adequate’ or ‘insecure’ are sometimes to be understood (explicitly or otherwise) as denoting specific technologies or other standards in line with industry best practice and are, therefore, a route to initially evaluating software on a tick-box basis.

Beyond Ticking Boxes – Four Initial Considerations

When evaluating for data security technology in the context of regulated activities, you should look at how four categories – confidentiality, integrity, availability, and auditing – contribute to security and compliance. These headline considerations are designed to assist in assessing whether a data technology or process is likely to provide one-time compliance for the purposes of PCI DSS.

Confidentiality ensures that information can be accessed only by authorised individuals and for approved purposes. For the purposes of PCI DSS this means that employees should have the minimum level of access necessary to do their job. Confidentiality begins with authentication of login credentials on every secure application and starts with putting a strong password policy in place, with robust account expiry procedures and password management.

Integrity, as repeatedly addressed in PCI DSS rules 10, 11 and 12, is relatively under-appreciated and understood solely as a security issue, but is a critical component to compliance. It means ensuring the uncompromised delivery of data, with full Secure Hash Algorithm (SHA)-512 support. In the case of file transfer operations, non-repudiation takes data security to the highest level currently available by adding digital certificate management to secure delivery and data encryption beyond the requirements of PCI DSS. The setting up of alerts is a relatively easy goal – a box ticked on the route to compliance.

Availability is not explicitly addressed in PCI standards but is a critical component of any overall security strategy. It can and should be addressed, if not guaranteed, through load balancing and clustering architectures that support automatic failover and centralised configuration data storage to minimise the chance of a data breach.

Auditing capabilities should be demonstrated by vendors in the form of comprehensive logging and log viewing with tamper evident measures to guarantee the integrity of log files. For technology, security, and other auditing purposes, all client/server interactions and administrative actions should be logged.

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to File Transfer in the PCI DSS Galaxy

The main body of the PCI DSS is divided into 12 requirements.PCI Logo

Section 1 establishes firewall and router configuration standards by requiring all managed file transfer (MFT) vendors to build a product architecture that puts a proxy, gateway or tiered application into a demilitarised zone (DMZ) network segment. This requirement also puts the actual storage of data and any workflows associated with it into internal networks.

The best architectural implementations ensure that no transfer connections are ever initiated from the DMZ network segment to the internal network. Typically this is accomplished using a pool of proprietary, internally established connections. In this way, clients can connect using FTP Secure (FTPS), Secure File Transfer Protocol (SFTP), etc to the DMZ-deployed device, but the transfers involving internal resources are handled between DMZ- and internally-deployed vendor devices by the proprietary protocol.

Section 2 demands that no default or backdoor passwords remain on the system and that systems are hardened. These best practices are generally enforceable with MFT technology, but the best implementations include a hardening utility that also extends protection to the operating system on which the MFT software runs.

Section 3, particularly subsection 3.4, covers encryption of data and storage of keys. To address these issues MFT vendors have an array of synchronous and asynchronous encryption technologies, such as OpenPGP, to ensure data is secured at rest. Cryptography is almost always performed using Federal Information Processing Standards (FIPS)-validated modules and secure overwrite of data is commonly used.

Section 4 covers encryption of data in motion. All MFT vendors currently support multiple open technologies such as Secure Socket Layer (SSL), Secure Shell (SSH) and Secure/Multipurpose Internet Mail Extensions (SMIME) in multiple open protocols, including SFTP, FTPS and Applicability Statement 2 (AS2), to provide this protection.

Section 5 ensures anti-virus (AV) protection is in place for systems and the data that passes through them. Most MFT vendors provide the ability to provide both types of protection with their software. The best allow integration with existing AV implementations and security event and incident management (SEIM) infrastructure.

Section 6 requires secure systems and applications. Most MFT vendors conform to the guidelines here, particularly subsection 6.5 on web application security. However, there are large variations on fidelity to subsection 6.6 in the industry. The best vendors use a battery of security assessment and penetration tools, such as HP WebInspect and protocol fuzzers, to ensure that their software exceeds PCI security requirements – and remains that way from release to release. The best vendors also have multiple security experts working with developers to ensure new features are secure by design. These attributes are not always easy to find on a vendor’s website, but they are critical to the long-term viability of an MFT application – be sure to ask.

Sections 7 and 8 cover the establishment of identity and authority. MFT solutions typically have built-in features that cover these issues from multifactor authentication to sharing of accounts. However, there are two common areas of difference between MFT vendors in these sections. The first is the ability to rapidly ‘de-provision’ users (i.e. disable or delete the account upon termination). The second is the proper storage of passwords: some vendors still use unkeyed hashes or weak Message-Digest algorithm 5 (MD5) hashes, both of which are susceptible to either rainbow table or collision attacks.

Section 9 is about physical access and is one that many software vendors erroneously ignore. However, subsection 9.5 is about off-site backups and is a function that MFT software often provides. One advantage of using an MFT solution for this purpose is that all the security benefits from the MFT solution flow into the backup process as well.

Section 10 is about auditing and visibility into data. MFT vendors also typically have a strong story around these attributes. Common features of MFT include visibility into the full ‘life cycle’ of files, aggregate reporting, detailed logging of every administrative action, and enforcement of specific service level agreements (SLAs). Some MFT solutions also ensure that audit logs and transfer integrity information are tamper-evident to ensure complete non-repudiation of data delivery.

Section 11 is about regular testing of systems and processes. As mentioned above, MFT vendors who perform these types of tests on their own solutions before releasing their software to the public should be sought out and preferred by companies that must adhere to PCI DSS.

Section 12 is about maintaining and enforcing a security policy down to the level of end user training. Like section 9, section 12 is another section many software providers erroneously ignore. However, the best MFT vendors know that providing fingertip reporting and good user experience to both administrators and end users can go a long way toward encouraging proper use of technology.

PCI DSS Appendices A (‘Additional PCI DSS Requirements for Shared Hosting Providers’) and E (‘Attestation of Compliance – Service Providers’) are also often used when managed file transfer services through virtual area network (VAN), software-as-a-service (SaaS), hosted or cloud providers are used. Key requirements here include ensuring that the service provider is not allowing shared users, that different organisations can only see their own logs and that the provider has policies that provide for a timely forensics investigation in the event of a compromise.

Summary

The substance of the PCI burden is an ongoing one. To look down the list of PCI requirements is to scan a list of enjoinders to ‘maintain’, ‘monitor’ and ‘ensure’, that echo the ‘manage, monitor and secure’ objectives of basic FTP technology. However, and, as the March 2008 Hannaford data breach shows, it is possible to be ostensibly compliant – to have ticked all the boxes – and yet not be fully secure.

PCI DSS compliance requires organisations to protect the security, privacy, and confidentiality of information – and to document who accesses the information and the security measures taken to prevent theft, loss, or accidental disclosure.

Click here for further information on the range of products by Ipswitch File Transfer or call Pro2col Sales on 0333 123 1240.

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Positive results for Pro2col and co-exhibitors at Infosecurity

We made the decision to attend Infosecurity for the first time this year, with the intent of affirming Pro2col’s position as the UK’s leading supplier and integrator of secure file transfer technologies, with a range of carefully selected products designed to meet the requirements of any business.  Spurred by the formation of partnerships with some of the world’s leading secure file transfer vendors including Aspera, Ipswitch, Data Expedition, Biscom and Stonebranch, we were fortunate enough have experts from two vendors on the Pro2col stand, ready to impart their extensive product knowledge to attendees from around the world.

In customary form, after spending months meticulously planning for Infosec, the days leading up to the show were a little unsettling for us.  With not one but two co-exhibitors traveling from the US to London, nature decided that the pressure of event organisation was not enough and kindly added a humongous ash cloud to the mix – leaving us wondering whether or not half of our stand would actually make the event!

Despite initial concerns over travel arrangements (everyone made it thankfully – even if a little jet lagged), we are excited to say that the show was a great success for all parties involved.  With over 10 years experience within the file transfer arena, we can empathise with how daunting the broad spectrum of solutions in this marketplace can be for businesses when sourcing the most suitable solution for their requirements.  Both resellers and end users alike were very receptive to the impartial file advice and product demonstrations offered by Pro2col representatives, but also pleased to benefit from specialist product information imparted by Jon Laughland – UK Sale Executive for Stonebranch and Charlie Magliato – Channel Manager for Biscom Delivery Server.

From our perspective, it was brilliant to see just how seriously companies are taking the security of their sensitive data.  We spoke to IT professionals from a wide range of market sectors from the public domain (government bodies, healthcare organisations, universities), to retail, publishing, banking, legal firms – the list is endless!  Although unable to give each visitor the time allocated in a typical demonstration or consultation, we were able to glean valuable insight regarding the way businesses are currently moving their sensitive data and provide a neutral recommendation for products to meet their operational needs.

Another factor that surfaced repeatedly during the event, was the financial investment associated with some secure file transfer solutions.  There’s an abundance of smaller companies out there with a requirement to transfer files securely, that just don’t have the budget for a good percentage of the secure file transfer products available.  Similarly, larger corporate organisations don’t want to be paying over the odds for potential solutions.  Pro2col have spent a great deal of time scouring the marketplace to select products that not only cater for all file transfer requirements, but that do so at an affordable cost!

As we are continually looking for ways to improve the services we provide to both existing and potential customers, Infosec was a great learning experience for us in terms of the security marketplace and a productive exercise for the business in terms of relationship building with customers and resellers.

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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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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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ICO gets new powers to address data protection negligence

Announced earlier this week by the Ministry of Justic, amends have been made to the Data Protection Act of 1988 that when passed in April 2010 will allow the ICO to impose fines of up to £500,000 on organisations found to be negligent regarding the privacy of personal data.

Justice Minister, Michael Wills, said: “We want to ensure that the Information Commissioner’s Office has the powers it needs and is able to impose robust penalties on those who commit serious breaches of data protection principles.”

To be subject to the fine there are certain criteria to be met, but the one that should make existing Data Controllers sit up and take notice is:

If the data controller knew or ought to have known that there was a risk that the contravention would occur, and that such a contravention would be of a kind likely to cause substantial damage or substantial distress, but failed to take reasonable steps to prevent the contravention.

ICO Logo

If you’re a Data Controller responsible for your companies data security how does this announcement make you feel?  If you’d like a no-obligation discussion regarding your data security and secure file transfer requirements contact Pro2col today on 0333 123 1240.

Article continues here

 

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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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