Do you know where your data is?

By Alastair Hartrup, Global CEO of Network Critical.

What do you know about where your telecommunications and mobile provider stores, manages and secures your personal data? You might say, “I have Virgin Media so I don’t worry about it. Virgin Media is based in the UK and has great security.” Or, you might say, “I know that Apple is very focused on security and privacy. It even fought against the FBI to not give up personal user data.” Well, take a seat and get ready to explore what really happens to your data in today’s world. If you think that your personal data is simply tossed into a pile of dusty files, then you are mistaken. And take heed, if your personal device and data is compromised, your organisation’s network is also at risk.
Since the emergence of mobile phones, the speed of innovation has been unprecedented. Legal restrictions have relaxed and the physical anchor of copper cable telecommunications networks is gone. Switches have become much more sophisticated, and wireless technologies have revolutionised the network.
The major service providers like Virgin Media, BT Group, O2, Vodafone, T-Mobile and others are providing much more than voice calls. Mobile devices are now the universal terminals for our daily lives. They give us voice, data, text, video, photos, entertainment, banking, shopping and a wide variety of other specialised convenience applications. There are over six billion mobile phones in the world, with about 1.1 billion connected to broadband services. Apple and Samsung are working with the carriers to provide more and more sophisticated devices that are becoming the indispensable cornerstone of modern business and personal connection. Now, buckle up for the truth about how your personal data is used today.
These global companies are storing, recording and analysing everything you do as a broadband customer. Their massive computers store information such as where you bank, where you shop, and what restaurants you like and do not like. They have your PIN numbers, access codes, passwords and any other information on your connected devices. The more they know about their individual customers, the easier it is for them to provide new and interesting services, sell new products and maintain customer loyalty. These companies are using customer identification, location and preference data to their own marketing and competitive advantage.
Large global companies need to be nimble and cost effective, while providing voice and data services to hundreds of millions of customers. Firstly, they locate their massive data centres in countries with low cost structures for land and labour. Then, they hire local workers through third party contractors. Naturally, they have instruction manuals and best practices that the third-party contractors and employees are expected to abide by. However, close supervision and control of all activity is difficult, if not impractical, when your human and physical assets are spread across countries and cultures.
Two recent examples of glaring security breaches are Three and Apple, highly trusted brands that service the UK.
·Three – In a recent cyber-security breach, the personal data of over 133,000 Three customers was compromised. Users logging into their accounts were able to view the names, addresses, phone numbers, call histories and phone bills of strangers. A spokesperson said that Three was investigating a technical problem, and that no customer bank details had been made accessible.
·Apple - Employees of a third-party sales and customer service contractor in China have been caught selling Apple customer data including names, numbers and Apple ID’s of Apple China’s customers. The ring netted over US$7.5 Million before being stopped.
It is an increasingly popular Big Data trend: storing massive amounts of data for marketing, sales and retention analysis. This use of data exposes customers to breach and invasion of privacy. These examples of non-supervised third parties do not always implement the safeguards that you would expect from your supplier.
Today’s employees often use their own devices at work. For businesses, this BYOD policy means that the security risks posed to employee’s personal devices will carry over to the business network. It is critical that network links are secure and that traffic visibility is consistent. Perimeter security such as Intrusion Detection as well as specialised appliances to detect traffic anomalies will help secure corporate assets. Connecting these network protection appliances is safe and reliable using intelligent TAPs and Packet Brokers. A Gartner report states that by 2020, 60% of businesses will suffer service failures due to the inability of IT teams to manage digital security. For more information about increasing traffic visibility and securing network links, do your research at
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