The 4th to the 6th of June was definitely a very hectic period in London this year for those involved in information security. From talks to workshops right up to showcases of the latest tech, anyone attending should not be blamed if they can’t get everything down, especially if their editor is a cheapskate who sends them alone on an economy budget flight and a £15 a day meal stipend.
For a first-time attendee, the whole event can be overwhelming. So to start off my day, I decided to attend the Opening Keynote Address by Baroness Dido Harding, who kick started a programme on how to protect personal data and critical infrastructure. For the experienced IT nerd, familiar territory, but I was reminded by one of the many helpers at the event that quite a number of attendees were also business owners looking for plans for their organizations.
Drawing on seven years as the head of TalkTalk PLC during which she led the company through one of Britain’s most high profile cyber attacks, Baroness Harding shared her view that ‘the digital world is a great thing but only if it is civilised.’ She added that transparency helps that civilisation, and it also improves safety. She spoke about how our generation is building the social, moral and legal scaffolding of the digital world, and how both tech and commercial functions need to engage closely with each other and debate key issues openly in order to create the right rules and regulations, improve education and awareness, and develop the right culture for a strong digital world.
From her own experience, she added that CEOs need to spend quality time with their organisation’s brightest IT stars and learn what they are worried about. To her, cybersecurity is at the heart of this. “It shouldn’t be all cloak and dagger, it should be a risk that i s acknowledged and mitigated,” she said.
The interesting events were of course the workshops. One of my favorites was presented by security researcher Scott Helme, who addressed issues around companies failing to deliver on promises of security, especially when claiming to provide the most secure communications protocol. He shared about how online services are constantly leaking data and how the devices we are bring in to our homes are betraying us. I certainly didn’t look at my phone the same way after that for awhile, even though I already took precautions with my iPhone as it were.
“There is huge unease in the public sphere about online privacy, security and how data is being used.”
The strong overall message was well put on the second day of the event by Baroness Martha Lane Fox, founder of lastminute.com and board member of Twitter. She added, “We cannot have a robust society if technology is undermining our democratic institutions. I believe it’s crucial to keep liberal values at the heart of our digital world and infrastructure. I am a technology optimist. This is a moment to ensure that we help people through their anxieties, build a positive future, not look backward but rather use technology to conquer the challenges we face and help set a global standard in digital resilience and responsibility.”
She described how the internet has grown from an exciting and empowering information exchange network for digital entrepreneurs with few data security or privacy considerations, to a place that is now causing anxiety amongst the general public.
The conference this year also saw many new areas of exploration, in terms of information security in relation to AI and IoT. It was an eye-opener and also gratifying to learn that we are still a long way to go before the adoption of these were to take place, as experts find security issues to address as days go by.
Due to flight timings and the aforementioned cheapskate editor, I had to leave before the entire event was over; yet, I left feeling that this event is going to be around for quite a long time as more and more people realise the importance of cybersecurity.