At Shorthand, our primary security focus is to safeguard our customers' data. This is why Shorthand has invested in resources and controls to facilitate effective risk management through our comprehensive security programme and governance processes.
To formalise our commitment, we are ISO27001 certified and SOC2 Type II compliant. A copy of our SOC2 report is available on request.
What data does Shorthand store?
When you create a Shorthand account, you must provide personal information such as your email address and full name. We may also store your profile picture.
While using our services, the data you enter into your Shorthand story may vary — you may upload or directly enter any data such as text, images, audio, video, or other files.
Where does Shorthand store data?
We store your story data in Amazon Web Services (AWS), our primary infrastructure provider. All production data is stored in AWS us-east-1 region located in North Virginia, United States.
Where we use third party tools or sub-processors, these are listed on our Data privacy: sub-processors and third party tools page with details about the data we use and how it is processed.
Infrastructure and network security
Shorthand is powered by AWS, the leading provider of secure computing infrastructure. We chose AWS because of their stringent security measures and industry-recognised certifications, including ISO27001 certification and SOC2 audit compliance — the full list of compliance resources is available on the AWS Compliance Programs page.
Shorthand also uses secondary cloud infrastructure providers to process data for specific features of the web application, such as image processing. Data is sent to these providers temporarily and stored for a brief period of time to perform the functionality of the feature, and is then permanently deleted after the functionality has been performed.
No data is permanently stored or hosted within these infrastructure providers.
Shorthand Hosting is an extremely reliable publishing method and uses a high traffic capable AWS S3 and AWS CloudFront content delivery network. Amazon’s S3 infrastructure is designed to provide 99.99% availability. If you would like to know more about AWS CloudFront’s performance, you can read about it on the product page.
Customers also have the ability to host stories directly on their own servers and have full control over their hosting environment.
Shorthand employees have limited access to Shorthand infrastructure, with access always provided on a minimum required and least privileged basis. Access is only granted on a need-to-use basis, based on the responsibilities and duties of the employees. Access is reviewed half-yearly at minimum, and access rights updated accordingly.
Access to infrastructure configurations and logs is managed by the AWS IAM (Identity and Access Management) service. Roles are used in conjunction with named user accounts to give fine-grained control of user rights to any resources. Multi-factor authentication controls are enforced on all user accounts. All access attempts to the hosting platform or servers are logged and monitored. Alerts are in place to expose any abnormal activity.
Shorthand uses AWS for its primary infrastructure. AWS data centers feature a layered security model, with physical and environmental controls implemented as outlined by AWS.
Shorthand employees do not have physical access to AWS data centers, servers, network equipment, or storage.
Shorthand is reviewed yearly by a well-respected third party security consultancy, and any findings are actioned within a time frame as determined based on the severity assessment of the issue.
The testing represents a point-in-time assessment of the Shorthand application against potential or existing vulnerabilities that may lead to compromise of the environment. Testing is based on best practice methodologies such as the Open Web Application Security Project (OWASP) and CWE/SANS Top 25 Most Dangerous Software Errors.
Shorthand uses automated testing to ensure new features do not weaken our application security model. Automated patching is in place for all servers in our hosting platform with the latest available patches from relevant vendors.
New security threats and emerging vulnerabilities are continually being found through automated dependency and security scans, and we monitor bulletins to identify threats that could affect our platform. Shorthand defines the severity of an issue using Common Vulnerability Scoring System (CVSS) scores, which is an industry recognised standard.
Once vulnerabilities or threats are found, findings are actively investigated and remedied based on their severity. Compliance of vulnerability resolution times are enforced via compliance software, Vanta, and tracked with Linear.
Intrusion detection and prevention
Shorthand's network security design uses a defense in depth approach, with network firewalls (AWS Web Application Firewall) supplemented by Virtual Private Cloud network segmentation rules and per environment security groups, and IAM policies.
Shorthand uses CrowdStrike Falcon for Endpoint Detection and Response (EDR). Amazon GuardDuty is used for Intrusion Detection (IDS) and Intrusion Prevention (IPS). GuardDuty uses machine learning, anomaly detection, and integrated threat intelligence to continuously monitor and identify potential threats.
Clients access our services over the internet using a secure connection. All data is encrypted in transit using current cipher suites and protocols which are reviewed regularly, and at rest using AES-256 encryption.
Communication between clients’ browsers and the application are transmitted over HTTPS (TLS 1.2, or TLS 1.3 if available) and are secured using SHA-256 encryption. Any data leaving the data centre is transferred on an encrypted channel.
Secure development lifecycle
Shorthand is designed and developed in accordance with the principles of secure software development consistent with industry best practices, including protection against commonly known vulnerabilities such as OWASP Top 10 for web-facing applications. Internal security reviews are conducted on all new feature work, and as part of business as usual.
Code reviews and automated code scanning tools are used before anything is released to production so that flaws and human error can be identified before they can cause security concerns. When a third-party application or service intends to replace existing or introduce new functionality, these are assessed and demonstrated to satisfy existing business use cases without increasing the risk of exposing sensitive data to unauthorised third parties.
Separate Development, Test, and Staging environments are used to validate and test changes made to the production code and infrastructure configuration. These environments resemble the configuration and makeup of the production environment as closely as possible to allow effective testing and to reduce the effect of environmental differences.
Shorthand uses a multi-tenant architecture where all customers share the same computing resources and customer story data is stored and processed in a shared database. Logical segregation of data between customers and correct access is enforced using program logic and unique customer identifiers.
Our team has a clear process to manage incidents through to resolution as outlined within our Incident Management Plan. Incident reporting includes investigation of findings, scope of the data or services affected, and what remedial actions will be taken to reduce the risk. In the event of a data breach, it will be reported to the relevant authorities and the affected clients within 48 hours.
Logging and monitoring
Logs are configured to include, but are not limited to:
- authentication activities, whether successful or not,
- activities or occasions where the user's privilege/permission level changes,
- administrative activities on the application or any of its components,
- transaction events related to interaction (read, change, copy, move, delete) with business-critical data and sensitive data,
- detailed HTTP logs,
- system information and errors, and
- application errors.
Logs are scanned by automated tools and alerts are raised to the centralised alerting and monitoring system (AWS Security Hub and Datadog) for identified issues or anomalies.
Sentry and Amazon CloudWatch logs are used for application logging and monitoring to assist in the diagnosis and correction of issues within the Shorthand application. Amazon CloudWatch and CloudTrail are also used to log, monitor, and alert on resource allocation and operational performance of the Shorthand infrastructure. Vanta is used to enable governance, compliance, and operational risk auditing of operations, security related events, and misconfigurations.
Logs are centrally stored for up to at least 2 years, with 3 months’ worth of logs readily available to assist in the diagnosing of security issues.
Single sign-on and passwords
Where possible for customers, we recommend the use of SAML-based single sign-on (SSO) or Google Sign-In to access our platform. If this isn't a viable option for you, then user access is controlled by unique usernames and passwords aligning with elements of the NIST Digital Identity Guidelines (800-63B).
Users can reset and manage their own passwords within the platform. These may not be blacklisted (where the blacklist includes known compromised values in breach corpuses, dictionary words, repetitive or sequential characters), are stored using one-way hashing with a per-user salt, and are never sent or able to be viewed by either the user or Shorthand’s staff.
Shorthand provides the ability for users to manage their active sessions where they are logged into their accounts. Users can review their active sessions to proactively manage the security of their account and prevent unauthorised access, including the option to end any active session at any time.
SOC 2 Type II
Shorthand has received a SOC 2 Type II report demonstrating that appropriate controls are in place to mitigate the risks related to security.
A SOC 2 audit report provides detailed information and assurance about Shorthand’s security, providing assurance about the effectiveness of our controls. The report is the outcome of an external audit performed by an independent third-party firm certified by the American Institute of CPAs (AICPA).
Shorthand was assessed against the AICPA’s Trust Service Criteria for Security (also known as Common Criteria). The Type II audit proves that we have controls in place for a sustained period of time, with reliable and consistent safeguards in place to protect our customer’s data.
Our reporting period concludes in December each year and we are committed to carrying out an annual SOC 2 audit.
Shorthand is ISO/IEC 27001:2013 (also known as ISO 27001) certified. ISO 27001 is a security management standard that specifies security management best practices and comprehensive security controls. The standard lays out a framework and controls which allows Shorthand to ensure a comprehensive and continually improving model for security management.
Shorthand’s Information Security Management System (ISMS) supports the operations underlying our product and is governed by the implemented controls in accordance with the organisation’s Statement of Applicability.
Shorthand was certified following an external audit performed by an independent third-party firm accredited with UKAS, the only government-backed body for ISO certification in the United Kingdom. Our certification was issued on 30 November 2021, and we are committed to carrying out an annual ISO 27001 audit.
All payments made to Shorthand are securely processed by Stripe. Stripe has been audited by an independent PCI Qualified Security Assessor (QSA) and is certified as a PCI Level 1 Service Provider. This is the most stringent level of certification available in the payments industry.
Business continuity and disaster recovery
Shorthand has documented application and data backup policies and procedures that ensure all systems supporting our service are regularly backed up and securely stored.
Data is backed up using Amazon Web Services’ (AWS) Relational Database Service (RDS) backup and recovery solution. Daily full backups are retained for 7 days, and transactional logs are taken every 5 minutes, with all backups encrypted at rest. All story related assets are stored using Amazon Simple Storage Service (Amazon S3) with versioning enabled.
All backup processes are tested periodically to ensure that backup data can be restored to a production environment.
Shorthand has a structured disaster recovery plan with detailed procedures to recover service operations after a disruption resulting from a disaster. A disaster is defined as a disruptive incident which has occurred which significantly affects the delivery of the Shorthand application, making it unavailable to users. This may be due to infrastructure or software failure, loss of services, a cyber incident or some other reason.
While Shorthand aims for zero data loss and high availability, we understand that this may be impractical as systems can go wrong and such targets may be unattainable or extremely expensive. As part of our Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery Plan, we set Recovery Time Objectives (RTO) and Recovery Point Objectives (RPO) that aim to strike a balance between cost, benefit, and practicality.
RTO refers to the amount of time it takes to restore critical functionality to Shorthand during a period of unavailability. While we aim to keep this as minimal as possible, there may be scenarios where this may take longer than expected. As a result, we advise a RTO within 48 hours of failure.
RPO is the time an organisation accepts it may lose in a recovery operation. Full database backups are performed every 24 hours, and database transaction logs are maintained. In an ideal scenario, this means we can restore our database to within minutes of when service is interrupted, with minimal data loss, if any. Failing that, we expect to be able to restore to a full database backup and as a result, we advise a RPO of 24 hours.
Coordinated testing and rehearsals of both business continuity and the disaster recovery plan are conducted annually. This includes a retrospective to identify lessons learned and improvements to playbooks and operating procedures.