Friday, 28 July 2017

Everything You Need To Know About Encryption (Part 2)


In the first part of our series we spoke about the history of encryption and why right now, it’s such a big talking point globally. You can read about encryption’s origins in part one of our series here.

Today we move on to talk about the importance of encryption to businesses around the world, why it’s also important in your personal life and finally ask whether encryption is helping to make the internet a safer place.


Why is everyone talking about encryption?

The breakable, unbreakable debate has been a hot topic for some time when talking about encryption. The way that some tech companies implement encryption means that no-one apart from the sender and the recipient can read the messages. Whilst this undoubtedly assists with data security there is a genuine problem with this when it comes to law enforcement as the police and intelligence agencies cannot get access to all the information they need. This makes it easier for criminals and terrorists to plan and communicate securely.

So the question of whether encryption should be breakable or not continues to be a discussion point.

Encryption is Important to your Business

Without encryption, you are offering people easy access to your data. Whether it’s used to protect your email communication or stored data, some form of encryption should be included within your company’s security tools for precautionary measures.

Adopting an email encryption application is a good first step to protecting your company’s digital safety and privacy. Traditionally, emails are sent in plain text through the internet and local networks which means they can be intercepted by hackers who want to know their content. Email encryption applications attempt to stop hackers spying on your messages and can be an effective way of protecting sensitive business information.

Hard drives, internet traffic, cloud storage, software and USB drives can all be encrypted. However, despite sophisticated encryption, human error, insider attacks and poor implementations are challenges that I.T. teams have to overcome to ensure a company’s data is safe.

End-to-end encryption is the best defence available to keep the data and services we all rely on safe from misuse. From storing data on the cloud to online banking to identity verification, end-to-end encryption is essential for preventing data being accessed illegally in ways that can harm consumers and business.

Encryption is Important in your Personal Life

In a world where everybody, from the government to email providers, is threatening your privacy, encryption has become a necessity. Your personal information can be used to steal your identity, threaten your reputation, and undermine your professional life.

It is not only cyber criminals you need to be aware of, both the government and your email provider may also have access to your communications. Many email service providers routinely obtain data from users’ emails. Data is more frequently used for advertising purposes rather than cybercrime, however it is still an intrusion of your privacy. Email encryption software can help with this.

Encryption keeps us safe in many ways: it keeps your financial transactions secret as they travel across the internet; it keeps your personal details personal and your unwise selfies safe from prying eyes. Without email encryption software, all your private messages are an open book. Encryption allows you to communicate privately when you need it.

The Whatsapp Debate

A big encryption talking point this year has been popular messaging app Whatsapp’s policy on end-to-end encryption. The company states that “privacy and security is in our DNA” but has come under scrutiny recently from Home Secretary, Amber Rudd, who has called for its content to be made accessible to intelligence services to aid the war on terror.

Whatsapp allows contacts to send photos, messages and videos without the worry of anyone accessing the material. Naturally, this poses problems when it comes to users breaking the law and worse, terrorism.

Companies like WhatsApp and Apple, which are using end-to-end encryption, do not currently have the ability to read customers' messages at all. To allow police access to those messages, those companies would have to change the way they use encryption, and they would then be able to decode every message. That makes people using these services less secure than they were before.

However, if tech companies weaken security and allow their government access to apps, they also make it easier for other organisations to gain access.

Another consideration is that other countries may not adopt the same principles meaning that criminals and terrorists will simply move to other encrypted apps based in other countries which will allow them to continue communicating privately.

Robert Hannigan, former Head of GCHQ, warned that "building back doors" in encryption systems was "a threat to everybody" and suggested that the government and private companies work more closely together to tackle the problem.

It still remains to be seen whether WhatsApp and others companies like it will eventually make their information available to intelligence services after mounting pressure for a safer world.

Is the Web is getting Safer?

Web encryption has been around for years. The original HTTPS protocol was released in 1995 and was known as Secure Socket Layer, or SSL. It enabled companies to handle credit card transactions online by protecting payment details and ensuring that online merchants were who they said they were. Transport Layer Security (TLS) replaced SSL and is now widely used outside of credit card payments.

The volume of encrypted internet traffic is now greater than unencrypted traffic. Encrypted sites have a little green lock right next to the web address that indicates that the page you visited came to you via HTTPS, the web's secure protocol, rather than HTTP. Many big companies such as Facebook, Google and Wikipedia have all switched to HTTPS.

HTTPS is so sophisticated now however, that hackers have moved their attention away from trying to hack into data in transit instead are targeting the data at source or via the end user. So whilst HTTPS may prevent cybercriminals accessing your data online, they are constantly coming up with new ways to obtain what they want.

We hope you’ve found this blog useful. For more information about encryption tools or to discuss other I.T. security concerns, please contact us on contact@claritas-solutions.com or 08456 399 661

Friday, 14 July 2017

Some advice for young people from young people – #WYSD2017 #skillsforall

Did you know, according to recent statistics young people are almost three-times more likely to be unemployed than adults?

July 15th is World Youth Skills day, an initiative set up by WorldSkills and the United Nations to champion education and training for young people with the aim of improving their life prospects.

We thought we’d take this opportunity to speak to some of our younger employees to find out what skills they learnt before entering employment and those they have gained during employment to offer useful advice to other young people who might be considering a career in I.T.

Josh Scaife, Technical Trainee – 2.5yrs at Claritas Solutions

What do you see as the most valuable skills to gain if you are thinking about a career in I.T. and why?

I think one of the most important things you need to decide is if you would like to go down Software or the Hardware path before you begin your training.

Ultimately, I would say the best skill of all would be team work and also being able to think outside of the box to help you solve any problems that occur. If you can learn these skills it will stand you in good stead for a career in I.T.

Which skills that you have learnt, either before you started work or in your job, do you find the most useful and why?

I learnt how to build a PC and install operating systems when I was quite young, which is definitely a good place to start. Throughout my job so far I’ve learnt a lot about virtualization, networking and how applications are configured in a business environment. All of these skills are valuable for anyone thinking about a job in I.T.

Is there any other advice you would offer young people looking to gain I.T. skills?

I would probably start with building a PC and getting to know what everything does like a CPU, GPU, PSU, Motherboard etc.

I would also do your research about what career path you would like to take in I.T. as there are so many out there.

Matthew Pateman, 1st Line Technical Consultant – 3 months at Claritas Solutions

What do you see as the most valuable skills to gain if you are thinking about a career in I.T. and why?

I would say that the most valuable skills are being willing and eager to learn, not being afraid of making mistakes and being comfortable asking for help. I don’t have a particularly technical background so when I started I was learning almost everything on the job, which would have been a lot more difficult had I not asked for help or not done anything because I was scared of making mistakes.

Which skills that you have learnt, either before you started work or in your job, do you find the most useful and why?

Aside from all the technical knowledge, organisation and communication skills are the most useful. Having these skills allows me to talk with clients, vendors and my colleagues to get any issues our clients are having resolved as quickly as possible. That doesn’t just apply to my role, these skills are useful for any role.

Is there any other advice you would offer young people looking to gain I.T. skills?

Don’t be intimidated by tasks that may look complicated. If you try and push yourself out of your comfort zone you’ll soon realise that most of it isn’t unachievable and before you know it you’ll be able to do all of the things that seemed impossible just a short time ago. Finding a company that supports you and offers you the opportunity to learn and train also helps this process.

Joseph Shelswell, 2nd line technical consultant – 2 years at Claritas Solutions

What do you see as the most valuable skills to gain if you are thinking about a career in I.T. and why?

Communication is the most valuable skill to learn before starting a career in I.T. It makes every aspect of the role easier.

Which skills that you have learnt, either before you started work or in your job, do you find the most useful and why?

I’ve learnt to plan things before jumping straight in. Make sure you know exactly what the task in hand is and how you’re going to tackle it. I learnt this the hard way as in the past I’ve broken things before by not planning fully!

Is there any other advice you would offer young people looking to gain I.T. skills?

Never be shy to learn new things when you get the chance, this is an exciting industry which offers you the opportunity to expand your knowledge across a whole range of different skills.

Shaun Greatbatch, 1st Line Technical Consultant – 2.5 Years at Claritas Solutions

What do you see as the most valuable skills to gain if you are thinking about a career in I.T. and why?

Patience and communication skills as a lot of people you deal with in I.T. aren’t I.T. literate and you need to have the ability to speak to them in a way that they will understand.
Also, a logical mind-set is essential to be able to work backwards from the fault to work out what is causing the issue. Developing your problem-solving skills can be a fun way to learn this valuable skill.

Which skills that you have learnt, either before you started work or in your job, do you find the most useful and why?

Networking, hardware and Windows OS as these are things we commonly deal with on 1st line. I have also learnt a lot of more in-depth networking and Linux skills since working at Claritas.

Is there any other advice you would offer young people looking to gain IT skills?

Put the time and effort in… buy a book on the subject you want to learn and actually do it! The only thing stopping you is yourself!

We hope that this has given you an idea about which skills you may want to start developing as you start on your path to a career in I.T.

If you have any questions or you would like any further advice, please feel free to contact us here: http://bit.ly/2sV6u94

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Friday, 7 July 2017

Everything You Need To Know About Encryption: Part 1

Encryption is a hot topic in the media and amongst politicians at the moment; in the wake of the recent terrorist attacks in Britain and a European Parliament committee’s proposal to enforce encryption across all digital communication.

But what is encryption and why is it important in both your private and professional life? Claritas has pulled together a two-part blog series which will give you an overview of everything you need to know about encryption - from how it all started, to practical advice to ensure your information is protected.


What is Encryption?

Basically, encryption is a system that encodes a message or file so that it can only be read by certain people. Data is scrambled using a programme called an algorithm. A cryptographic key is applied and works like a password to protect the file. Once the data is encrypted, it looks like nonsense to anyone trying to access it! The only way to read it is by using the cryptographic key to decrypt, or unscramble, the data.

Encryption is used on many portals and websites for everything from protecting your emails from hackers, to guarding top secret government documents. Encryption is considered by many to be the only technology that can make the internet truly secure.

The History of Encryption

Although mechanical encryption is a modern invention, decoding messages goes back thousands of years. Many cultures used different methods to disguise their messages throughout history. As early as 1900 B.C., Egyptians used coded hieroglyphics to disguise their messages. The Hebrews and Greeks also had their own methods of cryptography.

Early mechanical encryption was introduced hundreds of years later, in 1455, by Leon Battista Alberti in the form of a polyalphabetic cipher machine. In short, these machines used a series of disks, each featuring letters of the alphabet, to create coded messages.

The Enigma machine, used by Nazi Germany is the most famous cipher machine of all time and was used to encrypt communication during World War II. The Allies managed to break Enigma which allowed them to listen in on communications, and outmanoeuvre them.

Modern Day Encryption

Encryption comes in many forms, with key size and strength generally being the biggest differences from one variety to the next. The original Data Encryption Standard (DES) algorithm, developed in the early 1970s, was cracked by hackers with relative ease. Following that, The National Institute of Standards and Technology held a competition in 1997 for a new cipher. They wanted an algorithm that was easy to implement, and resistant to both brute force attacks and other code breaking techniques. The Rijndael algorithm won, and became the basis for the Advanced Encryption Standard (AES). AES is still used today for many things including business records and top secret government data.

There are other widely used algorithms such as RSA, Triple DES and Twofish, all which have their own benefits but as cyber-attacks are constantly evolving, security specialists are continually having to develop new ways to keep data safe.

Why has encryption been in the news recently?

A European Parliament committee is proposing that end-to-end encryption be enforced on all forms of digital communication to protect sensitive personal data from hacking and government surveillance. The committee believes that EU citizens are entitled to personal privacy and this includes online communications.

This contradicts the UK Conservative Party’s recent election campaign that included a statement that tech firms should provide the authorities "access to information as required" to help combat online radicalisation. That has led to some confusion among tech industry leaders as to whether the government wants some kind of "backdoor", a way to have end-to-end encryption disabled in specific cases. Many consider that this would be worse for computer security and citizen’s rights to personal privacy.

It's a debate that is sure to rage on between all parties interested, and will continue to occupy news slots for the coming months. In part two of our encryption series we look at why encryption is important for your business and also why the internet is actually getting safer. Don’t miss it.

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