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7 July 2015

BT Tower Talk challenges cyber security perceptions 

panel of expert speakers

What connects the escalating cybercrime ‘arms race’, the UK’s looming net security skills shortage and the true value of privacy?

Well, these were just some of the big issues from the world of digital security keenly explored at the latest BT Ingenious Tower Talk.

The event, hosted in partnership with the Institute of Ideas, featured a stellar panel of expert speakers.

Mark Hughes, president of BT Security was joined by Stephanie Daman, chief executive of Cyber Security Challenge UK, Professor Bill Durodie, chair of international relations at Bath University, Dr Siraj Shaik, senior lecturer in ethical hacking at Coventry University and Dr Ian Levy OBE, technical director at GCHQ.

Chairing the debate, which was broad, progressive and occasionally controversial, was Claire Fox, director and founder of the Institute Of Ideas.

Valuable experience

BT’s Mark Hughes set the scene for the discussion. He shared some of the security lessons that BT learned from its experiences as Official Communications Partner to the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games.

He presented some breathtaking statistics to the audience. For example, it was revealed that during the Games, BT prevented more than 210 million malicious connection requests.

But Mark’s main message was concerned with the future.

He explained that although the technology industry, including service providers like BT, was getting better at preventing cybercrime, denial of service attacks, privacy lapses and other security breaches, the ‘adversaries’ were also raising the bar and becoming more sophisticated.

He described the situation as an ‘arms race’ which will continue to accelerate.

Digital disruption

Mark also highlighted how through disruptive mobile technologies such as 5G, the Internet of Things will have a major impact on the security landscape.

Mark said: “We are going to have to rethink how we can protect the integrity of the intensive mobile connectivity of tomorrow - the way in which we do cyber security today is not going to work in the future.”

Stephanie Daman introduced a new but equally critical issue - an impending skills shortage.

“Until very recently, our education system has ignored cyber security,” she said.

“This has resulted in a huge shortfall of formally trained, qualified individuals to fill a multitude of security jobs that are out there. The implications of that skills shortage are widespread and serious.”  

Building trust

Dr Siraj Shaik, meanwhile, asked how we build trust in the digital world.

“There’s a significant lack of trust out there. More than two-thirds of online users do not trust what their ISPs or retailers will do with their data. Sometimes we don’t even trust ourselves.” “We need to think about why this has happened and how we can fix it.”

Bill Durodie contributed his thoughts on the issue of privacy.

He said: “We need to remind ourselves how important privacy is and recognise the value of private communications. The cause for attacks on privacy is not technology or technology firms, the government or the media. It’s because we live in a culture that doesn’t value privacy.”  

Honest opinion

Finally, Dr Ian Levy from GCHQ argued the case for bringing more honesty into the cyber security discussion.

“Large corporates who’ve suffered from security breaches often say the attacks were ‘unprecedented’ and ‘sophisticated’. But almost certainly their system was defendable. If you have just one security vulnerability then you are completely vulnerable - and I say cyber-Darwinism wins.”

Suzy Goodman, head of the BT Ingenious programme, said: “Our latest BT Tower Talk built on some of the questions that arose during our Internet of Things event in February, digging deep into the issue of cyber security. The panel debate raised some fascinating arguments, and enabled the audience to reflect on some of the challenges presented by security, privacy, trust and generational attitudes.”

“Huge thanks go to our partner the Institute of Ideas for helping us organise such an enthralling debate.”