Security takes centre stage in the digital era

In a long and varied career, Srinivasan CR, Chief Digital Officer for Tata Communications, has seen huge changes in enterprise approaches to the thorny issue of security. In conversation with Business Innovation Leaders Forum podcast host Julian Patterson, he reflects on how security has gone from relative afterthought to paramount priority.

“Enterprises are beginning to take security very seriously,” he muses. “When people are planning large projects, they talk about security up front, including the resources that they will need to protect the estate. They’ve moved to a proactive posture, and that sea change has come about probably in the last 10 years.”

A massive task lies ahead, however: “Not all enterprises are at the same stage of awareness, or the same stage of investment in security,” he reflects. “And things are only getting more and more complex. It’s no longer a perimeter-centric conversation. We’re talking about 5G connectivity, mobility, Zero Trust. The threat surfaces have broadened and evolved meaning that there is a need for enterprises to constantly evolve and do more.”

 

Srinivasan CR is Executive Vice President with Tata Communications, responsible for the overall digital and security strategy and execution. A technologist and a business leader, he is also the global business head for cloud and security businesses at Tata Communications enabling digital transformation initiatives for customers.

His experience spans over 25 years in enabling business technology solutions. He has worked in large enterprises, co-founded a start-up, custom-created new platform based solutions and leveraged technology to help build sharper customer experiences and differentiated business models. In his long career Srini has worked with CMS Computers, Citibank India and Sify.

Humans, as ever, can be the weakest link. It remains important for people to continually question whether what they are doing is right for the enterprise. “Am I doing things that will help me secure the work that I’m engaged on?” says Srini. “Constant thought processes need to be baked in. It shouldn’t even be looked at as security. Typically, people tend to look at that stuff as for the corporate security information officer. The mindset change is coming through, that it’s everybody’s responsibility.”

Srini also sees a lot of AI and machine learning being deployed,  reacting to security events and simplifying the grunt work aspect: “I think threat hunting is an important area where technologies like AI and ML will be of help,” he feels. “Today there are a number of technologies and toolkits that are available featuring AI and ML, as well as analytics tools.”

Recent years have also seen a huge acceleration of digital transformation among enterprises seeking to stay relevant in the market, he notes: “They have had to do things faster than they would have otherwise done, shrinking the own data centre footprint, making sure their network is cost effective, moving to SD-WAN, using the Internet a lot more than they would have done pre COVID,” he says. “There’s the move to cloud, shifting enterprise workloads there, with the data centre footprint shrinking. And applications are becoming modern. You want applications to be available 24 by seven, which means making them modular. It also means no downtime, and no concept of scheduled maintenance. You can’t be off, even for a second.”

The biggest cloud challenge, he says, is making sure that you’re moving the right workloads there: “The second is making sure that you’re paying effectively for what you’re using, and that you’re not having idle instances for which you’re being charged. Cost management and the economics of cloud needs to be closely managed. And third, of course, is security.”

Cloud security, he believes, can never be a shared responsibility: “It must always be owned by the enterprise,” he says. “Cloud service providers play a role in that, but at the end of the day, it’s your asset in the cloud, and you got to make sure that it’s fully protected and safe. The primary responsibility is with a customer, having outsourced the infrastructure to a hyperscaler or cloud provider. They can ensure that at the infrastructure level, the components are secure.”

In any conversation about security, ransomware will always be on the agenda. Why is it such a huge problem for businesses? What can we do about it?

“When Bitcoin was worth less than $1, I didn’t hear too much about ransomware,” reflects Srini. “When Bitcoin reached $100, then all at once the opportunity to get money out of an IT problem was simplified. I think ransomware is a big problem right now. It’s a big opportunity for somebody to stop you in your tracks and demand money, and there is a payment mechanism that’s available in the form of Bitcoin. It’s making life complex for enterprises, I think two thirds of larger enterprises have been impacted. You’re left with the dilemma of whether to pay, and how to recover from a ransomware attack. The hygiene of an enterprise is extremely important if you’re going to manage ransomware effectively.”

As ever, he says, security is a trade-off between risk and cost. In sectors like banking and insurance sector, risks are seen to be higher, so more is spent on protection. Costs are going up, and skills getting shorter: “You’re not just hiring people to look at a monitor and say yes or no, you’re looking for people who can think through an incident and how to react to it. This is why every CIO would like to have more budget for enterprise security. It’s always a catch-up game, in some form or another. Many are working to try and keep the budgets flat, to do more for the same.”

 

By Guy Matthews, Editor of Innovate! a Business Innovation Leaders Forum publication

 

Listen to the full interview here on iTunes

Listen to the full interview here on Blubrry

 

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Book of the Month*

The Serendipity Mindset: The Art and Science of Creating Good Luck

By Dr Christian Busch
Serendipity is an aptitude for making desirable discoveries by accident. To other people it looks like “good luck”, but it is more the ability to recognise and seize an opportunity, rather than have good fortune thrust upon one. Finding a wallet stuffed with money on the conference room floor is good luck, whereas holding it up and asking if anyone has lost their wallet might be the beginning of a valuable friendship – that would be serendipity.

Chance encounters, or strokes of fortune, feature in countless stories of business success. This book looks beneath the surface, reveals and teaches the mindset that can transform pure chance into opportunity. The author is director of the Global Economy Program at New York University’s Center for Global Affairs, and a lecturer at the London School of Economics.

Serendipity is an aptitude for making desirable discoveries by accident. To other people it looks like “good luck”, but it is more the ability to recognise and seize an opportunity, rather than have good fortune thrust upon one. Finding a wallet stuffed with money on the conference room floor is good luck, whereas holding it up and asking if anyone has lost their wallet might be the beginning of a valuable friendship – that would be serendipity.

The author says “This is a book about the interactions of coincidence, human ambition and imagination”. In the above example: finding the wallet is the coincidence; ambition is the desire to make something of the discovery; add imagination and you open up a whole menu of possibilities: from spending spree to earning a reputation for honesty – or even making a wealthy friend.

Business is typically forged on human ambition and imagination, but early success often feeds an appetite for control – and “control freaks” can be blind to the opportunities thrown up by the unexpected. They only see chance events as distractions. If plans go awry, they may blame the failure on “bad luck” rather than admit their own inflexible attitude.

The author himself admits to being “a German who is used to planning” and prone to feel anxious when something unexpected happens. That makes him an ideal teacher, because he has worked hard to discover and analyse the mindset that enables one to “connect the dots” and cultivate serendipity. He presents a goldmine of examples from science, business and life where an apparent mishap or failure lead to a breakthrough.

Indeed, studies suggest that around 50% of major scientific breakthroughs emerge as the result of accidents or coincidences. A well-known example is Alexander Fleming’s discovery of penicillin, launching the whole field of antibiotics. Other examples include X-rays, nylon, microwave ovens, rubber, Velcro, Viagra and Post-it Notes – where would we be without these!

The book goes beyond the ability to recognise and respond to opportunities in chaos, but the subtitle – The Art and Science of Creating Good Luck – is actually a bit misleading. True, he does show ways to develop better fortune, but it would be better to call it “inviting” or “encouraging” good luck. For example, he suggests better ways to start a conversation with a stranger – ways that will make it more likely to lead to chance connections or shared interests.

The publishers may have chosen the word “creating” to make the book appeal to the human desire to control – for control freaks are exactly the readership that would benefit the most from this book’s wisdom and practical advice.

For the rest of us, it offers a great way to rediscover the sense of play that is so important in life – and too often lost in business.

 

“Following the success of The Serendipity Mindset hardback, a paperback edition has also now been launched under the title “Connect the Dots”.

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