Friday 19 December 2014

McAfee's Hatter warns of growing security threats from smart phones and tablets

Patty Hatter warned event delegates of technology risks

Published 26/08/2014 | 13:51

McAfee senior vice-president, Patty Hatter, attended a special ‘Women in Security’ (WISE) chapter event in Cork
McAfee senior vice-president, Patty Hatter, attended a special ‘Women in Security’ (WISE) chapter event in Cork

The world’s accelerating connectivity though smart phones, tablets and computers poses one of the greatest security challenges ever faced by the global IT sector.

The warning came as McAfee senior vice-president, Patty Hatter, attended a special ‘Women in Security’ (WISE) chapter event in Cork.

WISE aims to promote IT and security industry careers for women.

Ms Hatter, who previously worked with AT&T and Cisco, said it was important to underline the huge potential for careers within the IT and security industries for graduates.

McAfee opened their Cork office in 2005 with just 40 staff.

The CityGate complex in Mahon now employs 350 people and was hailed by Ms Hatter as one of the strategic centres for the California-based security firm now owned by IT giant, Intel.

The firm is now as the centre of an Irish IT ‘hub’ that has attracted global attention.

Ms Hatter said that Intel have predicted 50 billion devices will be connected worldwide by 2019 – offering huge global opportunities but also carrying significant risks.

“The threat is always evolving. It is not specific to Ireland or any specific country,” she said.

“When you look at the technology landscape that is where it starts. There are so many devices connected to the network…especially as we move towards an environment where you have the ‘internet of things’.

“This is a big topic across a lot of technology companies right now. We are talking billions and billions of devices that are connected to the Internet. It is a huge opportunity as well as a new scope of potential threat.”

“We just never had this level of connectedness in the past. You see a lot of companies building new business models and new capabilities from that so there is a lot of positives.”

“But it also means that we, companies like McAfee and other security technology firms, need to look at how do we protect ourselves and our customers in what is just a very fast moving environment.”

She said the opportunities for abusing the connectedness has already been realised by cyber-criminals.

There have been major attacks on Government agencies as well as attempts to hack the data storage archives of major US and multi-national firms.

The US Securities Commission confirmed that American firms reported a 42pc hike in successful cyber attacks in just 12 months.

These included:

• the October 2013 cyber-attack on the software company Adobe Systems in which data from more than 38m customer accounts was obtained.

• the December 2013 cyber-attack on Target Corporation, in which the payment card data of approximately 40m Target customers and the personal data of up to 70m Target customers was accessed.

• the January 2014 cyber-attack on Snapchat, the mobile messaging service, in which a reported 4.6m user names and phone numbers were exposed;

Ms Hatter said that the roll-out of the ‘Cloud’ data storage environment is crucial to the future.

“When you look at technology trends, the ‘Internet of things’ and the level of connectedness is a new breadth of problem. It is both an opportunity and a problem that we have to deal with.”

“That will take a lot of energy. The whole ‘Cloud’ space is a big area. Traditionally, companies had perimeters - they kept their data within their own networks.”

“That is not the case anymore and you only have to look at public ‘Cloud’, private ‘Cloud’ – the multiple of providers that people need to connect with.”

“All of a sudden your data is out there – it is not just in your own network. It is another opportunity for new technologies and security companies to say, ok, as the world is evolving this is the new normal now.”

“How do we help companies protect this? The tech space is always changing and evolving but the pace of change is remarkable.”

“The core of it from the security point of view is the level of connectedness – the number of devices, how they are being used.”

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