2018 Technology Trends: An Interview with Sébastien Boire-Lavigne
Sébastien Boire-Lavigne (affectionately known as SBL), Executive Vice President and CTO at XMedius, has been a driving force and key player in the company’s technology strategy. Among the accomplishments in his 20+ year journey with XMedius, SBL has led the development of the cutting-edge XMedius Fax-over-IP technology, cloud platforms, and XM SendSecure solutions.
2017 has been a monumental year in terms of cyber security, technology, and the announcement of major data legislations. News of data breaches affecting millions of people worldwide have raised awareness and made many wonder what 2018 will bring. We sat down with SBL to talk compliance, information security, and technology that he sees playing a significant role in the coming year.
GDPR is coming into effect in May, what are some of the biggest impacts you think it will have on organizations?
The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is probably the most transformational digital legislation to ever come into force. Obviously, organizations are racing to meet compliance, but beyond the craze, GDPR will have a long-lasting effect on organizational information architecture in Europe and around the world. Europe is trailblazing with GDPR and it is likely to become the de facto privacy standard for the whole world.
GDPR solidifies a new fundamental right for European citizens: They have an unalienable right over their personal information. Organizations collecting European citizens are merely the custodian and cannot claim ownership of that information. In the digital world, this is the most significant human right.
Organizations have traditionally considered information they collect as theirs, so GDPR is significantly changing that state of affairs regarding personal information. In fact, not only are organizations relegated to the role of custodians, but that role now carries significant responsibilities in terms of protecting that information. Much like doctors or engineers in regard to their work, all organizations now have an obligation to protect the personal information they collect.
As such, organizations have little choice but build the foundation of an information security management system (ISMS), at least with a scope around personal information assets. This will do much to advance information security across the board. If done well, organizations can greatly benefit from the governance framework that will be in place to protect personal information.
Another big change that GDPR will bring is that prior to GDPR, “digital” personal information had an extremely low “holding cost”. As such, information could be loosely managed, duplicated across several systems, kept for an indefinite period of time, etc. The new requirements around content, access, erasure and protections will create significant costs for collecting and holding personal information and will have a transformative effect on information architecture. With high holding cost, organizations tend to centralize information into a few, well protected & well-governed systems. This type of change will not come in the next 6 months, but is likely to be a long-term effect of GDPR.
You were a panelist at a BrightTALK conference earlier this year after the prolific WannaCry ransomware attack that affected organizations worldwide. How can companies protect against ransomware in 2018?
Ransomware protection is a great exemplification of the need for “defense in depth”. There is no silver bullet against ransomware. First, it’s important to understand that ransomware is here to stay, and likely to continue to increase in occurrence and intensity in the years to come.
The rise of ransomware goes hand-in-hand with cryptocurrency becoming mainstream. Cryptocurrency provides a means to exchange cash equivalents in an untraceable fashion, allowing criminal organizations to expand their extortion business to the digital world with little means for authorities to hinder them.
- The economics of ransomware doesn’t make it effective to use zero day vulnerabilities to launch a ransomware attack – instead, they use well-known vulnerabilities. As such, the most effective protection measure against ransomware is aggressive patching practices. Patching is an ungrateful task. It interrupts users work, break systems in unexpected ways, requires testing and causes server downtime, but it is also one of the most effective ways to defend against ransomware by preventing breach and/or limiting its contagion. Take, for example, the two largest breaches of 2017: NHS and Equifax. Both would have been prevented and/or mitigated to a large extent if patching would have been done properly. You don’t need fancy technology, just hard work, commitment and thoroughness.
- Backups. If your data is taken hostage, backups will be your best friend. But backups may not be enough in themselves. Ransomware targeting businesses may also target your backup server and/or may encrypt network storage used to store your backup. Offline or offsite backup is the best way to make sure that bad agents cannot prevent you from using your backups to restore data encrypted by ransomware.
- Anti-virus & anti-malware is your next line of defense. It helps to prevent the execution of known nefarious code/software. Anti-virus/malware is a requirement, but don’t let this lull you into a false sentiment of protection. Those technologies are not bulletproof, and malware can still get through.
- Security Awareness training and phishing impact training are also an important means of stopping ransomware. Users can be your best asset to protect against attacks, but they can also be your worst enemy.
- Advanced firewall/NIDS (network intrusion detection systems) may detect or block rogue agents communicating with their command and control, largely mitigating their impact.
Confidentiality, integrity and availability (or the CIA triad) is a popular model for guiding information security policies within organizations. Are there any extra measures companies can take in 2018?
Today’s information security model is commonly based on the CIA triad, but never before has information taken so many physical forms. With the advent of the Internet of things (IoT), we may need to also evaluate the security objectives of information assets in regard of the physical integrity of human beings. This is particularly true for autonomous robots or vehicles.
What is the appropriate level of security regarding human life? A good example of the blurred line of information vs physical security is the recent demonstration by researchers that autonomous driving systems could be “hacked” by putting simple stickers on a stop sign, rendering it unrecognizable and possibly leading to traffic accidents causing serious or fatal injuries.
What is the acceptable level of physical protection required for implementing surgical robots? Armed robotic guards? Autonomous flying airplanes? Manufacturing robots? Drones?
As AI and IoT create new forms of autonomous objects, there is a need to integrate security approaches on both information and physical security. An integrated approach is more likely to address all the risks and provide security controls that work towards common goals.
As someone with their finger on the pulse of technology, what are some of the most innovative ideas you see emerging on the market in 2018?
Zero UI: The combination of voice recognition technology, natural language API and deep learning is likely to finally deliver on the promises of Zero UI where requests and responses can be achieved in a natural discussion, eliminating the need for a formal user interface. ZeroUI has some limited success in virtual assistants, but is now likely to refine and expand to more diverse systems.
Specialized AI: Despite the hype, computers showing humanlike “generalized” intelligence is not around the corner – it’s still decades away. Nevertheless, computer systems managing to show human intelligence for performing very specific tasks are already available. These systems will revolutionize the workplace and are likely to transform it much like computers and the Internet did decades ago. AI will not “replace” humans per se, but change the way our work is done and make us more productive, allowing us to concentrate higher value tasks. On the downside, this is likely to further increase the digital divide, between workforces that can harness digital/AI and those who cannot.
Compliance: The cost of cyber crime that is already estimated to exceed $3 trillion which is likely to double by 2021 and is a phenomenon considered by experts to be “out of control”.
Authorities across the world are putting together new regulations to impose some basic standards in terms of how organizations need to protect information assets. After HIPPA, FERPA, PCI-DSS, GDPR more compliance regulations, whether compulsory or mandated, are likely take force in 2018 and the years to come. All organizations will need to stay on the lookout and adjust their IT strategy in accordance. For those that are not prepared, the change will be painful.
Automation: With salaries rising in East Asia, there is a trend to bring manufacturing closer to its intended market. Robots and automation have reached a tipping point in terms of tasks they can perform and can now replace low-wage workforces in several areas. This will not only transform manufacturing, but also local services like restoration and retails where several tasks can now be economically automated.
What resources would you recommend to anyone who wanted to learn more about data security (best practices, etc.)?
In terms of security 101, I find that Dan Goodin at Ars Technica does a great job of vulgarizing security tech news for the rest of us. Follow Dan on Twitter. For a peek into emerging hacking methods (and to scare yourself) follow Dragos Ruiu.
- CVE Database: https://cve.mitre.org/index.html (@CVEnew)
- Anti-virus testing/comparison: https://www.av-comparatives.org
- GDPR https://www.privacy-regulation.eu/en/index.htm
- ISO 27001: http://www.iso27001security.com/index.html
Information security communities:
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