Tuesday, 13 September 2016

10 Essential steps to protect your business from cyber-attack


Barely a week goes by without news of yet another data breach incident. Cyber-attacks are undeniably on the rise. In 2015 reportedly over half billion personal records were lost or stolen, there was ban increase in spear-phishing of 55% and a 35% rise in known ransomware*.

Talk Talk, LinkedIn and What’s App have all made the headlines recently due to being hit by cyber-crime and thousands of other business have suffered lower profile attacks. No one is immune; businesses of all sizes are at risk.

Claritas has pulled together a short guide for SME's to keeping your business secure.
  1. Team Work

    The most important thing when it comes to cyber security is collaboration. Strong IT teams coupled with supportive management are the most resilient to cyber-crime. Cyber security needs to be on the board meeting agenda and embraced by the whole company.
  2. Be Prepared

    When it comes to cyber security, we can learn a lot from the Boy Scout motto! Companies should always ‘be prepared’ for the worst. Back-up your data off site or install duplicate severs to help prevent the loss of data.
  3. Update Systems and Software Regularly

    Advanced Persistent Threats (APTs) are creating new vulnerabilities that are constantly being updated and take a long time to detect, making it more difficult for traditional defence methods to protect systems. It is therefore essential not to rely on old systems; hackers work all hours to work out ways of getting into companies’ networks.
    Staying ahead of the game with regular system and software upgrades is key.


  4. Make an Inventory

    Having an accurate record of all of your company’s systems, software, endpoints and data is essential to ensure control over what is running where. It’s impossible to secure your IT infrastructure when you don’t know what you have. If anything is identified as surplus to requirements it is advisable to remove it to reduce any unnecessary risks.
  5. Invest Wisely in Defence Tools

    Don’t cut corners when it comes to your company’s cyber security. ‘You get what you pay for’ could never be more relevant than when deciding which defence tools to purchase. Whilst many may seem expensive, the cost is nothing compared to average cost of a cyber breach, reportedly £36,000, and that doesn’t take into consideration the loss of reputation and disruption to the business.
  6. Ensure All Angles Are Covered

    It’s no longer sufficient to invest in a middle of the road firewall and think that your cyber security is covered. Perimeter, internet, email, mobile, all need to be protected.

    With the threat landscape constantly shifting and evolving, the fight against cybercrime is never truly over. Organisations are under pressure to stay updated with the latest threats and must work nonstop to mitigate the risk they pose to their business.
  7. Education is Essential

    Even with the very best kit available, there are still a significant amount of threats entering business networks due to a lack of knowledge. There needs to be more investment in educating employees. A large number of security breaches are caused by human error so it is essential to communicate to employees the steps required to prevent your company becoming a victim.

    Many of the most malicious recent attacks have come from external sources masquerading as insiders by using stolen or compromised credentials to steal valuable data. Companies must ensure all employees are aware of these risks. There are several new products on the market to help identify such scams. Claritas can advise independently which tools would best suit your business.
  8. Ensure Users Change Their Passwords Regularly

    A large number of hacks are due to weak passwords. Companies must encourage users to implement strong passwords and force them to be changed regularly by setting a limited password lifetime.


  9. Engage a Security Professional and Work Together

    An external pair of eyes will see things you won’t and will help give you an objective perspective. A professional IT company, such as Claritas, has valuable experience and can offer independent advice on the best security solutions for your business. Their expertise will help you to quickly identify potential risks and they can also often negotiate the most competitive rates.
  10. Carry Out a Security Checkup

    Claritas partners with Check Point, the world’s largest network cyber security vendor, to offer a full IT infrastructure security check. We produce a full report highlighting any vulnerabilities in the system and offer solutions to help to resolve the identified weaknesses.

For more information on any of the points raised above, please contact Andrea Olsen on 08456 399 661 or at andrea.olsen@claritas-solutions.com.



*Symantec Internet Security Threat Report 2016

Thursday, 18 August 2016

Claritas Spotlight

This month our Spotlight is on Finance Director Kirsty Sutton.



Tell us about your role at Claritas

I run the Finance team and manage the day to day operations of the company. Overseeing Customer, Supplier and employee relations, managing cash flow, accounts preparation and attending to the bulk of the legal and compliance side of running a business.

How long have you been at Claritas?

Since September 2013.

What prior experience do you have?

I held a very similar role as Finance Director at POSTcti for 8.5 years before it was bought by InterCall UK. Prior to that I trained and worked in practice at HW Leeds as an audit senior (Chartered Accountant).

What’s the team’s focus this year?

As ever it’s to ensure the company systems and processes run smoothly.

What would a normal day consist of?

There is no such thing as a normal day for me, which is why I enjoy the job so much. Over a year there are VAT returns, payroll, management accounts, payment runs etc that all need to be done in a timely manner.

Why is your role so important to Claritas’ customers?

We keep the wheels turning in the back ground keeping the billing and customer service elements working.

What’s your favourite part of your job?

I enjoy all of my role; if I had to choose one element it would be managing my team.

What do you do on those days you’re not in the office?

As the mum of 2 young girls I’m kept busy providing taxi services to various sports and social activities for the kids! I also enjoy keeping active myself doing a bit of running, gym work and weekly Pilates classes.
In the last couple of years I’ve also taken on the role of school governor at the local primary school which the girls attend – unsurprisingly I’m on the finance and resources committee!

What 3 things could you not live without?

Chocolate, family holidays and gin!

Thursday, 14 July 2016

Claritas Spotlight

This month our Spotlight is on Simon Fogg.



Tell us about your role at Claritas

I do whatever Glenn (the owner, MD, Claritas) wants me to do to get projects and service delivered. I am primarily a hybrid Business Analyst / Project Manager assisting Claritas customers in articulating their requirements and managing projects from initiation through to implementation and ongoing support.

How long have you been at Claritas?

4 years 6 months. I started in January 2012. I switched “sides”, post redundancy, from being a Claritas customer and was known by a number of Claritas staff prior to joining.

What training did you have to have to do your role?

Significant education and training in my life to date (I started work in August 1984 on Asda’s first graduate store management training programme) that has equipped me for my current role includes:-

  • BA (Hons) in Business Studies / Management Science at the University Of Stirling
  • MBA at Strathclyde Graduate Business School
  • Data and Business Process Modelling
  • Prince 2 Project Management Practitioner
  • Managing Business Change Through Programme Management
  • Managing Extraordinary Customer Service
  • The Service Account Manager
  • Implementing a Change Culture

The University of Stirling

What would a normal day consist of?

I would be hard pushed to do all of this in a single given day but typically I would do the following:-

  • Facilitate and then document requirements workshops involving staff at all levels of the customer organisation to “extract” their business and other requirements for us to then deliver a solution to meet those requirements
  • Chasing progress on project work and actions from Claritas and customer staff
  • Managing change requests from Claritas technical staff into the customer organisation’s change process
  • Lunchtime: walk “round the block” for 3 miles around Garforth (the only exercise I get!)


What sort of issues do you deal with on a daily basis?

Issues relating to project planned work mainly revolves around clarifying customer requirements and prioritising work/issues. For unplanned work, issues are around marshalling responses from the various Claritas teams to incidents and ensuring that there is a rapid turnaround of fixes to live incidents in customer systems.

Why is your role so important to Claritas’ customers?

Depending on the customer and the work we are doing for that customer, all members of the Claritas team will be important to the customer in varying degrees.

For the work that I am involved in, I see myself, and strive to be, a “trusted advisor” ensuring that I understand the customer requirements and that these are clearly articulated to other members of the Claritas team. This includes challenging appropriately what the customer is asking for and ensuring that likely future changes to their business operation are properly considered.

What’s your favourite part of your job?

I do tend to get “on a roll” when discussing challenging requirements in a workshop setting with customer staff and marshalling the discussion to a conclusion. I have a ruthless obsession with concluding and driving to action.

Tell us a couple of quirky facts about yourself?

I recently completed my 19th Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) in 3 years. This has been eye-opening as my education and learning previously was all pre-internet. A summary of the courses I have done can be found at http://goo.gl/F9qunu. I am now building a MOOC (Project Management 101) using knowledge acquired on the 19th course “Making MOOCs on a Budget” which I am endeavouring to implement with no financial cost to me.

I was in the army cadets (part of the Assault Pioneers) at Loughborough Grammar School in the 1970s. I never missed a summer camp (mainly army-related activities) or an adventurous training Easter camp (mainly leisure activities). One memorable achievement was walking 150 miles of The Pennine Way in 7 days after being dropped off north of the Scottish border and arriving at the Three Peaks in Horton-in-Ribblesdale. This included walking in whiteout conditions on Cross Fell and camping outside Tan Hill Inn (highest pub in England).



If you were stranded on a desert island what 3 things would you take with you?

I am an avid listener to BBC Radio 4’s Desert Island Discs podcast!
I would take:-

  • Laptop/tablet device with in-ear headphones and internet access to support my Twitter addiction, to listen to music and podcasts (both are a huge part of my life) and to read books
  • Large screen TV to watch quality drama series (e.g. NYPD Blue, The West Wing, The Newsroom)
  • A never ending subscription to a daily takeaway delivery service of Thai, Italian and Indian food with accompanying real ale, exotic lagers and so on…


Wednesday, 1 June 2016

Claritas Spotlight

This month our Spotlight is on Project Manager Jenny Lloyd.

Tell us about your role at Claritas

I am the Project Manager here at Claritas and work closely with the Technical and Development departments in delivering client solutions. I also assist and develop operational processes within departments.

How long have you been at Claritas?

I have just reached my 10 year milestone! I started as receptionist all that time ago!

What would a normal day consist of?

A normal day would generally consist of managing suppliers, client reviews and project meetings.

Why is your role so important to Claritas’ customers?

Customers need to be kept informed of progress of their projects and be assured that the solution that we are delivering meets their requirements and expectations and also to budget.

What’s your favourite part of your job?

Hearing the satisfaction from our clients that the solutions we deliver have really made a difference.

Tell us a couple of things about your life outside Claritas?

Over a weekend it is time for unwinding at home, spending time with friends and family and having a few tipples in the local watering hole! I often travel back to my home town of Aberdovey in Wales to see my very large family!





What’s your idea of a good holiday?

My idea of a good holiday is plenty of sunshine, a gorgeous pool, a glass of wine and beautiful views. In fact this time next week I’ll be relaxing in sunny Spain!

Thursday, 5 May 2016

Claritas Spotlight

This month our Spotlight is on 3rd line & Presales Technical Consultant, Ben Dunkley, who has been with Claritas Solutions for almost eight years.



Tell us about your role at Claritas

I predominantly specialise in network and security devices, (i.e. switches, routers, load balancers/ADCs and firewalls). Our team handles the architecture, design and specification of proposals for new projects, and their implementation, and also escalation of support issues from the 1st and 2nd line teams.

What training did you have to have to do your role?

Various vendor specific training programs, (e.g. Check Point, Cisco), and accumulated on-the-job experience.

What would a normal day consist of?

There isn't really a typical day, the things we do are a bit too varied for that. I’m usually out on a customer site maybe up to a dozen days a month, depending on what projects or work is ongoing. When in the office I'm either dealing with presales work, or escalated support issues, or picking up background project tasks.

What sort of issues do you deal with on a daily basis?

There isn’t really any consistent pattern, but recently we’ve been handling the rollout of a large infrastructure project, and have been doing some Check Point Security Check Ups.

Why is your role so important to Claritas’ customers?

Not only is 3rd Line Support responsible for implementing IT solutions but we are also on call to respond to technical issues our customers may have. And for some weird reason customers seem to like me!

What’s your favourite part of your job?

It’s a great opportunity to get to play with new, and sometimes expensive, bits of kit. The variety of kit that comes across the desk often requires a little creative thinking to adapt to the job at hand!

Tell us a couple of things about your life outside Claritas?

At home I can often be found either reading science fiction, or playing computer games and I even sometimes get a little bit adventurous in the kitchen.

What’s your idea of a good holiday?

I’ve been snowboarding for something like 15 years or so, and tend to take to the slopes around January/February with a fairly variable group of 4-12 folks.
In the summer I prefer active holidays rather than sleeping on the beach all day – windsurfing and taking to the water in dinghies and catamarans have been involved in fairly recent holidays.

Thursday, 7 April 2016

Claritas Spotlight

This month's Claritas Spotlight blog focusses on Sales Manager, Andrea Olsen.



Tell us about your role at Claritas

I head up the Sales Team, which consists of three Account Managers and 2 New Business Developers, to ensure we are exceeding all our clients’ expectations whilst prospecting and promoting Claritas and its capabilities to new clients.

How long have you been at Claritas?

8 months.

What prior experience do you have?

I spent the previous 10 years in a similar role within the healthcare industry managing a team of 7-10 people. Prior to that I worked in both the Recruitment and Actuarial sectors.

What’s the sales team’s focus this year?

To continue to exceed our current customers’ expectations, maximise every opportunity to raise the Claritas profile with new customers.
Claritas have a very loyal client base and this is the year to replicate this with new customers.

What would a normal day consist of?

No two days are the same. There are always new opportunities to explore; coaching and development within the team; learning about new products and technologies.
I attend both existing client and new business meetings with the team and work alongside our partners.

Why is your role so important to Claritas’ customers?

We need to ensure that our customers consistently receive customer excellence whilst being kept up to date with new products and technologies. I endeavour to ensure all of the Sales Team maintain these high standards.

What’s your favourite part of your job?

As Claritas is an independent IT services and solutions company we can genuinely advise our customers on the best solution for their business, so, as clich├ęd as it sounds, everyone really is working together towards one goal: Our customers!

Tell us 3 things your colleagues don’t know about you?

  • I’ve created and made my own gin called 'Somewhere in the world it's G&T time!' Anyone can order it online!
  • I’ve signed up to run 26 miles in May to raise money for the British Heart Foundation. I used to tell the PE teacher in high school that I had asthma on cross-country running days so whether I’ll be able to complete it or not is a different matter!
  • I’ve had a UK top 10 hit single written about me.

If you were stranded on a desert island what 3 things would you take with you? 

  • A Leatherman Utility Knife - survival first!
  • A guitar. I’ve always wanted to learn to play a musical instrument and I’ll have plenty of time on my hands. When I get frustrated at my lack of skill, I can use the wood for a fire and the strings for fishing
  • A crate of my own gin!

Tuesday, 1 March 2016

Claritas Spotlight

Welcome to our new blog - Claritas Spotlight. Every month we’ll be putting a different employee under the ‘spotlight’ and showcasing a bit about them and what they do for Claritas Solutions.


We hope to give you an insight into our business and great people behind Claritas’ success.
This month is the turn of 1st Line Technical Consultant, Shaun Greatbatch. Shaun has been with Claritas for 18 months and here he tells us a bit about himself and his role at Claritas Solutions.


Picture of Shaun Greatbatch

Tell us about your role at Claritas

My role is 1st line IT support for the company. Myself and Adam Burgess deal with all initial inbound communications to the company in regards to technical support for both clients and also Claritas employees.
This involves logging all support tickets we receive via email and telephone within an hour of receiving them.
Once a ticket has been logged we will do some initial investigations into the issue and if this is something we have the ability, skills and tools to fix it will be fixed with us at 1st line.
Anything that is out of our remit or expertise is discussed with members of 2nd and 3rd line and a ticket assigned to the most appropriate engineer to investigate further.

What training did you have to have to do your role?

When I left school I did an apprenticeship in IT where I acquired a great many qualifications in networking and operating system fundamentals such as Windows Server 2008/2012 and Windows 7/8.
I also had some initial training when I started at Claritas on our call logging system and other in house systems we use.
The rest of my training and knowledge has come from working closely with other 1st, 2nd and 3rd line technicians as this is my preferred learning style. If there was anything I was unsure about there was always someone willing to sit down and work through it with me and help teach me what I didn’t understand.

What would a normal day consist of?

First thing on a morning I tend to check through the support folder and sort through all the emails that have come through overnight. Most of these emails are automated messages alerting us to the status of backup jobs that have run overnight for certain clients and in some cases automated emails from our monitoring system, Nagios, for outages through the night. Once these emails have been checked I move onto the emails from clients, this normally entails logging new calls and updating support tickets.
I normally spend the afternoons updating and working on my own tickets and also do the daily monitoring for one of our key accounts where I have to log into their servers and build a report based on Disk, RAM and CPU usage on the systems.
As well as all of this, myself and Adam are the first port of call for any technical issues within our company so there’s a lot of configuration stuff such as setting up new starters’ email and Lync accounts, as well as setting up and configuring laptops, phones and PC’s for new users.

What sort of issues do you deal with on a daily basis?

Some examples of the type of problem I’ve been dealing with this week are a client was having some compatibility issues with their version of Internet Explorer on some websites. Another client experienced an outage on their primary and backup lines over night, with this one I had to make initial contact with the supplier and diagnose and troubleshoot the issue with them to resolve the issue.
We have also had two different issues with dropped connections between clients’ sites. We conduct technical investigations and liaise with the supplier to ensure the issue is resolved as quickly as possible with as little impact on the client as possible.

Why is your role so important to Claritas’ customers?

My role is important to Claritas and its customers as we are the first port of call for all support queries. All tickets and helpdesk calls and emails come through 1st line and we are then in charge of making sure tickets are with correct departments and engineers to ensure a quick resolution.
All updates via email from clients in regards to existing tickets are done by us, this ensures that 2nd and 3rd line engineers actively working on tickets don’t have to break off and search through emails to find an update on their ticket.

What’s your favourite part of your job?

The favourite part of my job is the environment we work in and the amazing people that work here. I love how closely everyone works together and how well we manage to communicate not just in our own teams but as a company as a whole. I think it makes work a lot more enjoyable.
 

Tell us a couple of quirky facts about yourself?

I have a zombie survival kit… in my car… and my partner’s car…and my parents’ house… and my house… all of them contain the exact same things just to ensure WHEN it happens I am prepared! The kit includes: a hammock, tarpaulin, a length of rope, first aid kit, 20 days’ worth of ration packs, a handheld HAM Radio, a compass, lighters and lighter fluid, waterproofs!
I love camping in the rain!
Cheese is basically my staple diet!

Finally, if you were stranded on a desert island what 3 things would you take with you?

I’m really glad you asked this question. With me being a scout leader survival on a desert island is always at the forefront of my mind!
I would take:
  • Rope (crafting + basic survival)
  • A mirror (to signal for help)
  • A knife (crafting + basic survival)

Monday, 1 June 2015

Security Threats 101 for the SME Enterprise


Image from CESG – The Department for Business Innovation & Skills: 
For many SMEs with less than 100 employees accountable, IT security isn’t usually the first on the list for priorities. The minimalist approach is taken for protection against cyber threats, many merely relying upon economy value firewalls and email security for protection.

Unfortunately for them, over 250,000 variants of viruses are manufactured each day… making it unlikely that the basic firewall can put up a strong battle, against the constant stream of threats.
IT managed services, likeClaritas Solutions is one of the many reasons why SMEs utilize and rely upon third party help, to help distinguish a real threat from a regular day in the office.  

So what are the common threats in IT?
Hackers
The person who created this infestation, controlling the destruction in the technology realm. Behind every virus/malware/worm, there is a man or woman producing the coding for debauched purposes. Don’t believe that the hacker will only be an external threat, many hacks do also come from within carried out by disgruntled employees.
Malware
Malware is one of the biggest growing threats in technology, manipulating its way through network infrastructure as email attachments, URL links, downloadable PDF’s or presentations; the list is endless. Once the malware is in, it sends communication and opens the door for newly welcomed viruses onto your network, to steal data, cause havoc, and create a nightmare task for the SME.
Worms
Worms are a standalone piece of malware that can duplicate and spread across other computers within a network. Quite a vicious little creature, it is controlled by the hacker to track data and send it back out of the private network or convert it into a zombie state or bots themselves, thus stopping the document from being used again.
Viruses
Created in 1978, way before the internet is what it is now, the first virus was born. Viruses were the first of its kind, alongside hackers in the malicious data industry, causing systems to crash, using all a computers’ data. Although some of the first viruses created were to help protect software from being pirated, there was always going to be a big industry for malicious data, lurking around the unprotected corner of the internet…
Adware
Adware, the painful ad-covered webpages, disrupting your user experience on many websites, with pop-ups, banner ads and even onto your desktop. Advertised-supported software automatically renders adverts onto a computer to generate revenue for its author. Very annoying once downloaded, even more so when the blighters ask you to pay for the removal of the software from your computer.
Trojans
The Trojan War tactics taken on by the Achaeans, a gift to Troy, a wooden horse carted into the town and massacred the entire population of Troy. Horrific yes, and theoretically speaking, the technology version of the Trojan can produce the same effects... massacring your business, draining your IT resources.
How do we combat it?
(This is where the marketing team jumps for joy to say…) Through Claritas Solutions of course! J
In all seriousness, we can help with the above threats, it is what we do for a business. However for now, consider; Firewalls, Email Security, Mobile security and anti-virus software when updating or setting up IT security infrastructure; and use the 10step security approach endorsed by The Department for Business Innovation & Skills.

Our facts and figures were taken from the 2014 Information Security Breaches Survey: