Amicus ITS Awarded Full Certification For Cyber Essentials Plus

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Amicus ITS has announced its award of the higher level ‘Cyber Essentials Plus’ status.  This industry-backed technical security scheme seeks to heighten the defences of companies against threat.  For Amicus ITS with its long history of serving healthcare, regulated industries and blue chip corporates, it was a logical and natural extension of its existing security standards.

Led by Standards Co-Ordinator Emma Purr of Amicus ITS’ Security & Compliance Team, Emma Purr said:  “This was a good team effort, supported by members of our technical Escalation Team.  Cyber Essentials Plus is normally a first step-in for organisations to gain the more stringent security accreditation, ISO 27001.  Cyber Essentials Plus requires a 5-step security approach, whilst information security standard ISO27001 has 114 control requirements in 14 groups and 35 control objectives which must be addressed, so is both very broad and very deep.  However, we’ve done it in reverse, having gained our ISO27001 status back in July 2014. This was however no walk in the park and illustrates the critical importance of ensuring robust defences exist around your business.  Obtaining Cyber Essentials Plus status has further strengthened our resilience and is great to have on show as another recognised security badge”.

What is Cyber Essentials Plus about?

To create the UK Cyber Essentials scheme, the UK Government worked with the Information Assurance for Small and Medium Enterprises (IASME) consortium and the Information Security Forum (ISF) for several years before launching the current system in June 2014.  Backers also include the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB), the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) and various insurance institutions.  Forming a set of comprehensive and challenging technical controls, it endorses compliance for organisations to create better technical protection from cyber attack and misuse of systems.  With standards which are risk-based and prompted by international best practice, they include aspects such as physical security, staff awareness and data backup.

What does Cyber Essentials Plus focus on?

Amicus ITS had to focus on five mitigation strategies:

1.   Boundary firewalls and internet gateways – for any user trying to access any websites which may have malicious content
2.   Secure configuration – ensuring the administration control of all user devices are securely configured, so the rights on what can be downloaded is appropriate and controlled.
3.   User access control eg, new starters only have access to the systems they require as part of their job; special access privileges which are restricted to a limited number of authorised individuals, which includes domain admin and the restriction of selected system administrators to be able to make any changes at a high level to internal systems and security firewalls; plus password strengthening and complexity in relation to service accounts. These get changed regularly – and automatically on the exit of any personnel.
4.   Malware protection – ensuring that relevant antivirus malware software is installed and kept up to date, which scans files and web locations automatically on access to identify they are safe and also to re-endorse the protection against accessing unsafe websites which get automatically blocked.
5.   Patch management – this ensures all software running on company devices are licenced and up to date, installed in a timely manner and that out of date software is removed from devices. Additionally, that security patches are deployed automatically on release.

Anyone wishing to discuss business information security issues or about being supported to obtain Cyber Essentials status, should contact the Sales team or speak to JP Norman on 02380 429429.

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Week’s Technology News – 27th February 2015

Boards acknowledge cyber risk on their 2015 agenda

Back in 2013, following a KPMG report that cyber leaks at FTSE 350 firms were putting the UK’s economic growth and national security at risk, the heads of UK intelligence agencies MI5 and GCHQ then asked leading businesses to take part in a Cyber Governance Health Check.  The results were a stark wake up call.

As we reported in our blog on 19th December, Board engagement is pivotal to the success of any cyber security plan and thwarting the eye popping 80% of preventable attacks in 2014.

The 2015 Cyber Governance Health Check has just been published and reveals that 88% of companies are including cyber risk on their Risk Register with 58%+ anticipating an increased risk over the next 12 months.  However, only 21% say their boards get comprehensive information and only 17% regard themselves as having a full understanding of the risks. This is clearly insufficient in the light of the continuing squeeze on data security and compliance measures.

You do not have to be a FTSE 350 to want continued trust from clients and the comfort of having up to date data security measures.   So wake up and smell the budding roses of 2015 and do your own health check review now:

  • Re-evaluate what the unique crown jewels of your organisation are (key information and data assets) as they may have changed in in the 12 months.
  • Review risk from any 3rd party suppliers and avoid contractual complacency – get into active compliance.
  • Be pro-active about risk and create a competitive advantage of rivals.
  • Arrange for a ‘pen test’ and get in shape to be security fit for purpose in 2015.

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Windows Server 2003 is dying – but Windows Server 2012 will offer an elixir

With the forthcoming end of life for Windows Server 2003 and cessation of support from Microsoft on 15th July 2015, the effect will be severe for the many business still running this server in their data centre with exposure to cyber attack, unless considered steps are taken now to plan for upgrade.

Microsoft’s own survey recently confirmed that there were 22 million ‘instances’ (database environments) with WS2003 still running.

Organisations clearly need to plan their migration strategy – and quickly – if they are going to protect their infrastructure. End of support means no patches, no safe haven and no compliance.  Any company continuing to run WS2003 beyond July will fail regulatory compliance audits which could result in losing commercial contracts. So delays are not only expensive but highly risky.

The advances in the data centre with Windows Server 2012 RT offer integrated virtualisiation of compute, storage and networking along with enterprise class scalability and security.  The Cloud options of Microsoft Azure and Office 365 will deliver applications faster and increase productivity and flexibility – and take away risk.

Security implications

  • Software and Hardware compatibility – If you are running a mixture of physical and virtualised servers, then priority should go to addressing physical assets, as most WS2003 licences are tied to the physical hardware.
  • Compliance against many industry requirements has moved from a best practice ‘good to have’, to a mandatory requirement, so no option.
  • Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) v2, v3 – providing adequate assurance levels to meet the requirements of PCI will fail.
  • UK Government – connecting to the Public Services Network (PSN), whether through an assured connection or via an Inter Provider Encryption Domain (IPED) will be a headache if updates cannot be supported securely.
  • Industry standards Industry standards such as ISO 27001:2013 and the Cloud Security Alliance all require you ensure your systems and applications are up to date.
  • Disaster Recovery and Resilience  How do you re-start servers that are no longer supported? If DR is key to you business then migrating is a necessity will be fairly expensive.

Planning to move

  • Integrate your servers and their lifecycle into your strategy and risk management process.
  • Check what the servers do for you and do data mapping, flow and services exercise.
  • Identify your core assets and check them against confidentiality, integrity, availability and likelihood of compromise to help future design and investment decisions.
  • Create fit-for-purpose security architecture within your Cloud (ie should you need to retain legacy data which is rarely used – create security zones using layered firewalls, ingress and egress controls, file integrity and protective monitoring.
  • Test – lots – and then get a 3rd party certified security professional to conduct an ethical hack.
  • Failure to plan is planning to fail – do not let your business suffer by putting your head in the sand.

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