ATEC Linkedin Group

The impact of vendors involved with filtering web and email traffic.

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ATEC members here is an interesting debate.  The impact of inadequate filtering or screening web and email traffic lands fairly and squarely on the board’s lap when it goes wrong.  Our phrase is let only the good come into your network.

As a pre-cursor, I have been involved with the original developers of the 3-D engine that powers most of the web filtering vendors for eight years embedded on their code.  It is a sophisticated system that recognises illicit content and blocks it entering the corporate and general user environment.  It has been instrumental in increasing productivity and preventing legal issues.  Of course the anti-malware and intrusion protection aspect of these products is almost a foregone conclusion as integral part of these vendor’s offers.  Mimecast, Forcepoint, Bluecoat, Proofpoint, McAfee, Cisco, Check Point, Palo Alto and many more are on our radar. We do our analysis with virtual teams from industry leading resellers that are formal members of the Audent consortium.

We are not sponsored by the vendors, yet use industry leading analysis and quadrants to start our investigations for each client.

A market leader can become an underdog over night.  Debates about SAAS vs on premise also come up because SAAS based algorithms are often protecting the entire client base instead of the individual user.  The market is plagued by algorithms that replicate incorrect manual behaviour.  We have had one vendor that took three months to unblock a critical file in transfer due to an algorithm that protected the core processing impact in their SAAS hosted environment.  They could not find the algorithm.  There is automation and common sense at question.

As an unbiased IT partner and trusted advisory board, Audent has been tracking the performance of the major vendors in the web and email filtering markets.  In our usual fashion, when a client is reviewing or embarking on the subject of filtering, we analyse the market leaders and also some of the newer contenders.

We have covered the Rolls Royce of filtering which is in fact a combination of two vendors:  Bluecoat for web and Proofpoint for email.  These vendors are the smaller contenders that specialise in the field, compared to a larger vendors that have filtering diluted as part of thousands of other IT products.  We have real life experience of the support quality of the market leaders.  We have seen organisations acquired, remove support staff and see quality drop.  When a url or an email is blocked as a false positive, the impact on the client is catastrophic and often treated as a severity one.  For example it may be a proposal or an RFP from a potential customer that you are looking to do business with or a research paper that needs to meet deadlines.

We have seen domos from most of the vendors, we have experienced their sales techniques.  In many situations a client reviews our analysis: picks a bake off list, we get accurate quotes, runs POCs and then asks us to interface with the vendor to remove the barrage of sales calls and requests for meetings about features with up sell that are irrelevant.

We start engagements with clients by asking them what is important to them, build an essential criteria list, price being one of them and send it to the vendors to score them on their ability to deliver.  This helps us quickly determine a shortlist ready for bake off.  The vendors are responsive to us because they know that we have a good ratio to close the business.  The difference with us is that you would have experienced an unbiased, trusted advisory process with an IT partner that is focussed on your requirements first.  Our philosophy is that technology is secondary to client requirement and here at Audent, we demonstrate that across the full spectrum of our 200 plus vendors.  We don’t mention vendor’s by name in these blogs because to err is human and we all learn from our mistakes.

Our question to the ATEC members is:  what are your experiences with vendors pushing upsell when you don’t need the functionality?

Attention to detail

Product bake off, end user AV. Independent review.

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About eight years ago a client mentioned that they were highly disappointed with their incumbent AV provider.  It was letting through malware.  We pulled a team together with our security division.

This is where our independent review process was instigated.  We asked the client if they would like us to review the market and look at the industry leaders.  We decided to look at three areas:  cost per user, user reviews, Gartner (plus other analysts) magic quadrant and then ease of use for administration from a central location.  We decided to score the vendors 1 to 3 on a simple scale for them.

After looking at the market, we shortlisted:  Symantec, McAfee, Kaspersky, Check Point and ESET.  (We won’t mention who was incumbent).

Once we had gathered the data, we presented a matrix and the client was able to select the technology that they wanted after we arranged some demonstrations.

We won the business after a competitive bid and have renewed the licence each year since.

Our independent, unbiased reviews and activity are shared with a closed community of IT decision makers in a vendor free environment in our Audent Technical Excellence Committee LinkedIn group.  Why not join us?  Here is a link:  ATEC LinkedIn Group.

Attention to detail

A safe haven for IT executives to exchange notes without vendor pressure.

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Audent has set up independent LinkedIn group called the Audent Technical Excellence Committee (ATEC) in LinkedIn.

Instead of talking to analysts, the global investment community often consult with us to get unbiased views about vendors before they adjust where to put their money.  On the back of this, we have devised ATEC to be only for the consumers of IT, not the vendors.

We manage subscribers and are informed of new members who are vetted as buyers of technology. (A long list of vendors are asking to join, yet they are not allowed).

We have conducted independent reviews of vendors for our clients to help them decide which products to buy in a pressure free, unbiased environment.

Come and join us, let’s get the dialogue going and share experiences.  We can discuss vendors without being influenced by them.



Join ATEC and see the difference.

Application development

Automation for visitors to offices and facilities with Audent safety innovation.

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Audent is a consortium of 10 separate companies with 300 vendors and 600 resources working as one cohesive eco-system.  We are at the forefront of technology and often come across innovation that we would like to share.  This blog is about a new visitor management system called TAAP.

Many of us already have automated systems for visitor bookings from accepting deliveries to visitors entering a building.  The use of tablets to allow visitors to help themselves to registration is well adopted.  However this touch screen technology is a vector to spreading viruses and bacteria, we have removed this risk by introducing an automation technique using QR codes which are zero touch.  Simply maintain investment in touch screens and display a QR code on them.  (If you don’t have screens available then simply printing the QR code at access points works well to minimise contact levels).

Here is a two minute video to demonstrate visitor book in use:

Visitor Book demonstration.

Once you have visitor book in place then making changes to configure the system to work in your environment is easy with Visitor Book Plus.  Adding functionality such as:  GDPR policies, health questionnaires and limitless integrations into room booking systems, supply chain systems and many other areas are rapidly deployable.

A food retail client has enabled supply chain integration to include details of foreign travel in the last 14 days to enable deliveries to be refused for safety.

Contact us if you would like to explore this innovation.

Coffee break

Do you police your social media policy? We think you should.

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Many organisations have had a social media policy in place for some time.  Yet we have found that policing the social media footprint of employees and contractors is another matter.  We have developed an AI based open source intelligence platform.  Managed by our team of ex Police, Military and Government staff, we produce fantastic insightful reports highlighting any issues.

This does not have to be a negative thing either, because issues like own goals (something that can influence the reputation of an employer and employee) can be deleted, restoring the right image instantly.  If you use your own staff to do screening it can create unconscious bias towards individuals which can be a legal nightmare.  Giving us your screening means we stay focussed on just the issues that impact business reputation with protected characteristics.

To make the policing job affordable, we produce these reports for £50 per person and always ask the person being screened for their permission.  Contact us to find out more at

Cyber Essentials

ACE Cyber Essentials Plus services make a difference working with the Audent Consortium. A bit of history.

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The original CESG 10 steps to cyber security in 2012 led to an evolution in security positioning.  Cyber Essentials was born on the back of custodians of IT security wanting more guidance and detail than the 10 steps programme.  Developed by government and industry the NCSC (was CESG) now has 5 certification bodies and have successfully helped to train many consultants to become accredited Cyber Essentials Practitioners or ACE practitioners.

Being an ACE practitioner is not the end of the story at Audent.  Our ACE practitioners, (often experienced in other areas of security governance such as 27001 and PCI) bring real world security experience to the table.  Our experiences at the Ministry of Justice, YJB, The Supreme Court, Energy Systems Catapult Warwick Manufacturing Group and Warwick University have been based on practical gap analysis and an eye on ensuring they are as secure as possible, within budget.  We are not an organisation that is prescriptive, each customer has their own challenges and particular areas that need more attention.  Our Cyber Essentials remediation advice is in plain English and we will debate the best route to get Cyber Essentials without cutting corners.

Cyber Essentials is based heavily on preventing attacks from the internet, yet we have detailed knowledge about all attack vectors assisted with a separate team of advanced penetration testers.  Complimented with our consortium of 10 separate, specialist companies.  We have in depth knowledge of infrastructure from servers to firewalls and security software enabling us to fully guide each client with a practical remediation.  In many cases we are asked to architect a remediated environment for the client and assist with implementation using our pool of 600 experts.  Check Point, Palo Alto, Cato, Forcepoint, Cisco, Symantec, Veeam, Fortinet, IBM, Dell and HP are just a few of our vendors where we have accredited consultants.

Don’t hesitate to contact us if you would like to talk real world Cyber Essentials and everything that surrounds successful IT security!  Contact us.

Application development

Virtual companies are the way forward just like virtual operating systems, Audent has been doing this since 2010 and going strong.

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Audent Limited leads a group of 10 separate companies to meet the requirements of it’s corporate customers.  Like VMware, we manage virtual teams to meet the IT demands of major corporates.  The difference with us is that we engage our resources only when they are needed.  This makes us very lean and agile.

The analogy is a bit like comparing a large corporate IT supplier with thousands of employees (like an old mainframe, always on even when not processing) with Audent spinning up expertise when required in virtual teams (like a modern VMware estate, only on when needed).  The consumption of power, fuel and other vital resources is hundreds of times lower at Audent because we are only using the resource pool of 600 experts when needed.  This enables us to maintain competitive edge with reduced overheads.

Our carbon footprint is massively reduced.  Like a pilot light, our core team of senior managers is ready to react fast and spin up expert teams quickly to meet demand.  From Cyber Essentials consulting to implementing a hybrid cloud infrastructure, we are ready to help, fast.

It has been said that companies that grow to over 100 staff start to forget who their customers are and their management often forget who their staff are.  Smaller companies care more about their customers.  Let’s face it each £1 means more to small company compared to a massive entity.

We have taken 10 smaller, specialist companies spanning the important areas of IT and combined them in the Audent Consortium. This gives us scale and expertise to compete with the big players yet we still value our customers and they get the attention they deserve.  We have also invited some of the top experts globally to join us and ensure we deliver the best solutions.  Many are drawn to us because our philosophy is that technology is secondary to customer requirement.  We are requirement led and not product led like so many other IT integrators.

Doug Woodburn (Managing Editor, CRN Magazine) wrote a great summary last year and was taken by our virtual structure. See the blog:  Interview with Doug.  If you want to know more, don’t hesitate to contact us.

Consultative selling

Audent. Here for the long haul, unlike some others.

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Audent grows from strength to strength based on long term, strategic partnerships with clients since 2010.

We are a consortium of 10 separate, specialist companies spanning the most important areas of IT.  600 resources and over 250 vendors gives us so many opportunities to add real value.  Here is one journey we have had with a client spanning 8 years:

1.   In 2010 we were asked to provide a WiFi router to this strategic client, we were price competitive and delivered quickly.

2.  We were invited to help with the provision of the security estate and implemented, Check Point, Clearswift and Cisco ASA.

3.  We also provide 24/7 help desk support for the security estate.

4.  Won a bid to implement online backup.

5.  Delivered a market analysis of anti-virus products to replace Sophos, the client chose Symantec for 350 users.

6.  Won the bid for a new storage environment with EMC for the NAS, coupled with Cisco and Dell to complete the   implementation.

7.  Introduced Vodafone to replace EE on 350 handsets.  Won the contract with £30,000 extra hardware fund together with completely funded Microsoft 365 environment for 350 users.

8.  Delivered the latest Windows phones to complete the mobile working enablement capability.
We were invited to write a five year IT strategy with our interim CIO over a 6 month period, working closely with key stakeholders to really understand what the business needed. Delivered the strategy.

9.  Also invited to bring on board our interim IT Manager to deliver the strategy over 4 years as part of the customer team.
Implemented Microsoft 365 with our Microsoft cloud team on time.

10.  A stronger reliance on cloud drove the requirement to replace aging internet connectivity and Audent won the public bid with delivery of dual 200 Mbps circuits.

11.  Won a bid to implement WiFi on seven floors working with Cisco and Cisco Meraki.

12.  Converted all hardware warranties across the estate to reduce warranty costs by over 30%. SLAs range from 4 hours to next business day.

13.  Our resourcing division was successful in placing two engineers to assist with managing IT and support under the newly appointed IT Manager who was recently promoted.

14.  Successfully completed a pen test and instead of simply handing a remediation report to them, we met and discussed how to remediate using our infrastructure knowledge.  We also offered unlimited remediation advice at no charge.  We are focussed on making our clients more secure rather than simply ticking a pen test tick box.

15.  The partnership continues…

The Result

We have grown with our customer and we are seen as an integral component of the IT capability, remaining preferred supplier based on a proven track record.  The customer benefits from our pool of resources and excellent prices from diverse routes to market.  All of the above projects have been sourced through the Audent consortium, making procurement much easier. References on request.

Application development

IoT, smart fridges and hackers

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February 2017:  Audent takes leading role in IoT security testing.

The first example of a smart domestic device security breach was with an internet enabled fridge.  Hackers took advantage of a flaw in the way a smart fridge fails to validate SSL certificates, making ‘man-in-the-middle’ attacks possible.  Login details from a Gmail account were obtained.

The explosion of IoT devices in domestic, corporate and healthcare environments has huge implications on personal safety. Internet access is now enabled within our cars, fridges, vacuum cleaners, heating systems, utilities and wearable technology such as medical diagnostic tags. Risk from cyber crime is growing at an exponential rate.

Audent has responded to this demand with a team of 25 testing experts covering all aspects of IoT.  Working on devices before they are released and also building assurance standards openly shared throughout the IoT community.

The teams working for Audent are well known and respected in their space, and below are some of their achievements and project highlights:

IoT Experiences:

  • Smart Health Monitor Device: Security assessment of smart health monitoring IoT product from one of the largest international medical/home automation device manufacturer.
  • Smart Vacuum Cleaning Robot: Performed controlled attack and penetration activities to assess the overall level of security of Smart Vacuum Robot from one of the International smart home appliance manufacturer.
  • Smart Food Processor: Performed penetration testing of Smart food processor appliance from one of the largest smart food processor manufacturer.
  •  Other smart domestic heating control devices.
  •  Provide training on IoT, Web, Android and IOS exploitation.

Web, Infrastructure and Mobile Application Experiences:

  • Security assessment of MDM solution, IOS and Android app of a consulting company in Germany.
  • Web Mobile and Network security assessment of various telecom companies. Security testing of large payment gateway.
  • Green field security testing for a government agency who are actively targeted by state sponsored/APT attacks.
  • Hardware/Embedded: Found and reported various issues, such as, buffer overflow in Linksys router, malicious command injection and encryption bypass in Kankun smart plug (IoT device).
  • Fuzzing Infrastructure: We have developed a state of the art in-house infrastructure for fuzz testing of various software. We regularly report bugs we find via fuzzing to product vendors.


  • Discipline Fusion: our ultimate objective is to secure clients’ systems rather than just finding vulnerabilities and suggesting a few technical steps.  Therefore, Cyber security strategy and defence consultants (who have worked at CISO level of highly secure organisations) are engaged after the security testing is completed by the penetration testing team in order to devise pragmatic risk mitigation solutions.
  • Post-Testing Support:  full support is provided to the client even after the report is presented to help remediate any vulnerabilities that are discovered during the engagement.  we are happy to advise on remediation after testing on an unlimited basis.
  • Organisation Focused Reporting:  a technical vulnerability with “High” criticality for one organisation may be a “Low” criticality for another organisation.  Therefore, our business aware security assessment reporting specifically considers and includes business specific risks in addition to the standard assessment process.
  • Specialist Testing: The security testing of various components, such as, Web App, Infrastructure, hardware devices is conducted by specialists in that area.
  • Research Led Security: Our team members spend a big percentage of their time researching vulnerabilities, crafting exploits, and training that provides them more techniques in their arsenal which they use in real world testing rather than just using the standard pen testing toolset.

Contact us if you would like to explore how we make a difference with our unique penetration testing, especially our unlimited remediation services.  Contact us.

Coffee break

Amazing picture on Google Earth

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This is a one in a million photo from space to share. What are the chances of this happening? I was looking at on old property on Google Earth and right above my street caught on camera was an Air Canada aircraft!

The chances of seeing something like this are so remote I thought I would share it.  If you look at Groves Close, Bourne End in Google Earth you can see it’s real.  The Finance Director of Air Canada emailed me and said that it was no longer in service and was a few years old.