Cyber security is looking better, but don’t leave the door open

All of us understand that fraud is a big problem. And we live in a world where cyber warfare is part of everyday life. Soon Government budgets for cyber defences (and presumably offenses) will overtake the budget for physical warfare.

The network security market is forecast to be worth $6.6 billion in 2018, up from $1.54 billion today. This according to research house Infonetics. Interestingly, the market over the last quarter slipped slightly, but was slightly up over the last year. 

Are we resting on our laurels at the moment? Do we think our defences are good enough?

Such sentiments would make Paul Nguyen of CSG laugh. To him, now heading up a new global security unit within CSG, we should never stop being vigilant. Starting out as a professional hacker, Paul cannot look at anything without wondering where the weaknesses are.

And we miss the obvious ones. While investing millions in cyber security we leave the smokers’ door open at the office. “One of the classic ones,” muses Nguyen. “The other is the loading bay. Always things going on, easy to walk in. Hiding in plain sight is also good. Why not put on the pizza delivery boy’s uniform, then get a job behind the counter, then show some intelligence. Before you know it, you have a job in the data center.”

Mike Newman, founder of password vault my1login would agree. Working for a telecoms operator he would get sick of finding post-it notes on screens on which someone had written password1. “Then when people became more security conscious, they would change it to ‘Password1’.” Or, if it is not written on the screen, try turning the keyboard over, you will probably find it stuck to the underside. 

The weakest link is the human one. Every security expert would agree with that. Take the incredibly cheeky scam that hit Telstra. Call centre operatives in the Philippines would ring customers with huge balances and offer to reduce the balance to zero, for a fee. 

“Billing data is something I love,” says Nguyen in a kind of ‘love to hate’ kind of way. “It is full of information on Paul Nguyen and it is easy enough to syphon it off, or change a balance. Our mission is to get people to think about security up front, as part of an IT transformation.”

Looking into the future – and not very far – there are some scary scenarios. The connected home sounds great – to many but not all – but it is not a comforting thought to think that someone might have hacked the CCTV camera in the kitchen and be watching you cook dinner for the kids. Some people are even putting sticky tape over the camera on their tablets and several at last week’s TM Forum Live said they had heard their camera clicking at odd moments. And with revelations from Vodafone about the scale of information they are being asked to divulge, we surely do live in a ‘Big Brother’ world. And he is not nice.

The solution?

“Vigilance,” says Nguyen, “and things like real time functionality will help. Being able to spot unusual behaviour will allow operators to act, to provide that extra security for their customers. Virtualisation will also be critical, because it will allow operators to react fast, to change the topology of the network, to thwart the bad guys.”

Help may be at hand but in the meantime go and take those post-it notes off the billing system.

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About Alex Leslie 400 Articles
Alex was Founder and CEO of the Global Billing Association (GBA), a trade body focused on the communications sector. He is a sought after speaker and chairman at leading industry conferences, and is widely published in communications magazines around the world. Until it closed, he was Contributing Editor, OSS/BSS for Connected Planet.

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