Category Archives: Gardner Systems

North West Data Forum – My Learning Recollections

In today’s digital world, there are so many security risks posed to data. These are not just related to technology, but also to people, markets, skills shortages, resistance to change, organisational culture, and more. This poses a major challenge for organisations, to legally adhere to data protection legislation.

From May next year, the legislative landscape related to protecting data is changing. This is because the EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) will be coming into force. GDPR is a legal regulatory framework, which will apply to all organisations and businesses.

Data security is a keen interest of mine. Recently I attended the North West Data Forum in Liverpool. Organised by Gardner Systems, the forum looked at the imminent introduction of GDPR, as well as how technology can assist organisations with ensuring they are compliant. Having previously written about other Gardner Systems events on data security, I was extremely keen to find out more about GDPR for myself. I am delighted to say that I came away afterwards, feeling the forum to be worthwhile, informal and useful.

The forum consisted of three speakers, followed by a panel discussion. The speakers were Grant Caley from NetApp, John Hughes from Varonis and Paul Stringfellow from Gardner Systems. Each talked about how technology can assist organisations, with ensuring that they can become legally compliant with GDPR. For me personally, there was so much that I learned from all three speakers, from not only securing data, but also how technology can help with complying with legislation.

Below are some of the key points that I learned

  1. Recognise and understand the value of the data you hold.
  2. Challenges posed to data security extend beyond IT (Information Technology).
  3. Less embedded skills within organisations make them more vulnerable.
  4. Data needs to be maintained, transferrable and also made portable.
  5. Explicit permission is required when transferring data.
  6. Technology only helps with ensuring compliance.
  7. Important to think about security when designing and developing solutions.
  8. 70% of security breaches went undetected for a year.
  9. Data access needs to be not only secured, but also monitored and analysed for abnormal behaviour.
  10. Security must work for people, as they use the technologies.
  11. Educate people on general principles on why data security is important.
  12. Important to collaborate with others.

The panel discussion was much thought provoking, with the audience asking pertinent questions related to GDPR. In addition, the discussion also allowed for the audience to submit questions through Twitter. Sensing an opportunity, I submitted a question, asking if GDPR would still apply after Brexit. The response I received was an unequivocal and resounding yes from the panel, in that GDPR will apply to the UK, after the conclusion of Brexit. I learned this is because the legislation will apply to any organisation or business that collects and holds data on EU citizens. Furthermore the panel explained to the audience that my question has constantly been asked by audience members, at other GDPR related forums and seminars. Therefore I was delighted to have asked a meaningful question that is relevant today.

I would like to thank everyone at Gardner Systems and all the speakers, for a very interesting forum. As well as meeting fellow IT professionals, I found the experience to be very educational, and a valuable investment in my own knowledge and understanding, of the importance of data security and GDPR. I was also impressed by the technical insight of Gavin, John and Paul, and I felt privileged to listen and learn from three knowledgeable professionals.

With regards to GDPR, look out for my next article. This is because I shall be writing in more detail about what it is, and how it will affect organisations.


Busting the Myths of Data Security

In this modern era of technology, the security of data is often taken for granted. This is because myths have been built up, perpetuating a false reality of data security, and undermining an organisation’s capability to secure data resulting in increased risks of data breaches, through malicious attacks. As you read this post, I sincerely hope, you learn more about the importance of securing data.

I have includes some examples of data security myths below, and you can find more here.

These examples are:

  1. An organisation believes they are not a target.
  2. Data security is the sole responsibility of the IT department.
  3. This product or tool (e.g. firewall & anti-virus) can protect you 100%.

The reason that I am writing about this, is because last month I attended an event on this subject in Liverpool. Organised by Gardner Systems plc, this included three interesting speakers, with a great wealth of experience, knowledge and technical expertise in the IT industry. The speakers included Seth White from Nexthink, Liam Bridge from Varonis and Paul Stringfellow from Gardner Systems (who also writes an excellent IT blog). Having attended one of Gardner’s events last year (you can read about it here), I was once again looking forward to re-educating and reinforcing my understanding of this subject.

The purpose of the event was to debunk the myths surrounding data security in detail. In addition, the speakers also sought to highlight the need for an intelligent and proactive approach to dealing with issues. This included focusing on more detailed approaches to data security, such as controlling and removing access to prevent inside attacks, and using encryption to protect data as the cornerstone of any security policy.

I was also interested to listen and learn about targeted monitoring of IT resources, through the use of analytics. Through this, I learnt that analytics can be used to monitor infrastructure activities and behavioural patterns. Therefore analytics enable for the proactive management of potential security issues, and to identify and resolve them.

In addition, I also learned some shocking points regarding data security, which I have included below. These points are a snapshot of the modern reality of IT, and of the vulnerability of data, to potential breaches and losses.

  1. Data is more mobile as it is stored on PCs, laptops and smartphones.
  2. 80% of threats come from end users.
  3. The average costs of data breaches in the UK are £1,15m.
  4. Cyber attacks are more targeted and smarter now!
  5. IT configuration changes increases risk.
  6. Attacks and breaches can lie for months quietly undetected.
  7. 10-15% of notebooks are lost daily.
  8. Easy for internal users to get inside and steal valuable data.
  9. 23% of users open a phishing e-mail that steals sensitive information, whilst disguised as a legitimate message.
  10. 45% of organisations cannot always tell if they have suffered an internal breach.

Recalling the points above, have served to reinforce my understanding of the importance of securing data. In addition, I have also learned and understood that cyber attacks are more intelligent today. This means that intelligence is an important countermeasure, as part of a multi-layered approach to safeguarding data, along with technologies, processes, procedures and even common sense.

With recent high profile cyber attacks such as the hacking of Sony Pictures, and more recently TalkTalk, businesses are more vulnerable than ever before. As technology has transformed our lives, the most valuable asset of all businesses is data. From holding and processing it, data is so important to businesses, as they would not exist without it. If data was lost, stolen or misused, the consequences for companies include brand and reputational damage, heavy fines, prosecutions, potential millions in revenue losses and even bankruptcy!

I would like to thank all of the speakers and Gardner Systems, for this important event. Working in IT myself, I appreciate and acknowledge the speakers and everyone involved, for sharing their knowledge and expertise, which I found very educational and important.

To conclude, I hope you have found this article extremely useful, as data security is a very serious matter. There is help and assistance from IT suppliers and vendors, and I strongly insist that you work with them to help protect your data and resources. Data security must never be taken lightly, as businesses, organisations and even individuals are at more risk than ever!

Finally, I would like to leave you with these six important words that encapsulate what I have learned, and what you must learn too.

Everyone is responsible for data security!

How to Really Protect Your Valuable Data Event – Thursday 19th March

Last month, I attended a special breakfast event on Data Security, organised by Gardner Systems plc. Held at Partnership for Learning in Speke, the event included talks from data security and counter-terrorism specialists. Working in IT, I am constantly aware of the importance of keeping data secure. In addition to networking with other IT professionals, I wanted to educate and broaden my knowledge and understand of data security.

Technology has changed how organisations operate. From bricks and mortar to the digital age, technology has brought many advantages. However the disadvantage is the vulnerability of an organisation’s data, to potential misuse and cyber attacks has increased substantially. The event gave me a useful and disturbing insight into how there is a general lack of knowledge and failure, to grasp the size and nature of cyber attacks that can occur both internally and externally. In addition, there were some other interesting points that interested me, which included:

  1. 80% of data stored by organisations is unstructured data (data not contained in databases).
  2. Most security vulnerabilities are found in third-party applications.
  3. Portable devices or end points (laptops, smart phones) hold 28% of organisational data.
  4. Human factors need to be taken into consideration in data security.
  5. CEOs’ are now being held more accountable for data losses in their organisations.
  6. Cyber attacks are regarded as a Tier-1 threat to National Security by GCHQ. This is the highest level of alert!
  7. Different cyber attacks range from espionage from other countries to commercial competitors.
  8. Cyber attacks are real and present a clear and present danger to UK plc!
  9. The UK Government has a website providing advice on cyber security, which can be found here.

Securing data is a complex puzzle requiring a multi-layered approach. This requires a complex solution of products, procedures, human awareness and clearly defined written policies. In addition, solutions must be specifically tailored and integrated effectively, to address the security needs of customers, whilst balancing usability. Tailoring is important, as organisations will have different security requirements, depending on different factors such as IT infrastructure setup, organisational structure, environment and geography.

I really enjoyed the event, as it was not only informative, but also fascinating to be given an insight into data security. This is not only important to protect an organisation’s reputation and brand, but also the national infrastructure, and the threats posed by cyber attacks must not be taken lightly!

I would like to thank Gardner Systems plc for organising the event, and to the speakers who contributed. You can find more information on what tailored IT solutions Gardner Systems can provide your business here.