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Why telco security teams and functions need to evolve

Amit Pradhan, CTSO, CPO & SVP - Technology Security, Vodafone, on the security challenges that telcos face while responding to technology disruption

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Amit Pradhan, CTSO, CPO & SVP – Technology Security, Vodafone

Data consumption in India is expected to reach 6,046 petabytes by 2022, with jacked up numbers of mobile phones, pushing the telcos to adopt the emerging tech to cater the customer needs and eventually exposing themselves to cyber risks. “The situation is like building a road and putting a couple of thousands of vehicles every month and then waiting for the road to expand so that it can accommodate more vehicles. Similarly, telcos are challenged every year with emerging tech,” said Amit Pradhan, CTSO, Chief Privacy Officer and SVP – Technology Security, Vodafone.

Pradhan spoke about the hurdles the telecom industry is encountering and how they are responding to emerging technology. India is witnessing mobile data usage jump by 144 per cent to 2,360 petabytes, with average consumption per user in 4G broadband, according to a report. “By 2022 the data consumption is to reach 6,046 petabytes,” he added.

Why is it happening?
Firstly, India has observed a hike in the number of smartphones. Secondly, the increase in the IoT and on-demand services like Netflix, Hotstart, etc, are escalating the expectations to improve customer experience and at the customer’s convenience. “The customer now demands more data, more speed, service-on-demand, and self-help,” mentioned Pradhan.

According to him, business demands a quick go-to-market approach, enhanced customer experience, new revenue streams, followed by technology demands- coverage, capacity, resilience and lower cost of production.

“With all this, we also have a supplier’s ecosystem, especially in the IoT space with multiple parties involved, such as GPS enabled system and IoT connected vehicles, cab aggregators, enforcement agencies and regulatory bodies, etc. With such a large ecosystem, how do we manage accountability and privacy?,” asked Pradhan.

Key technology initiatives
Pradhan spoke about establishing the Content Delivery Network (CDN), a separate network closer to the users, focusing on delivering the content faster and utilisation of international peering links for the internet.

“Autonomous network, future networks will be self-provisioning, self-optimising and self-healing, we are deploying the latest ML and analytics technologies to manage growing complexities and costs,” he said. “We are now allowing the foreign entities to be installed in our system and foreign content closer to my users spread across the country, which may expose my organisation to the risk of cyber attacks. Hence, my role emphasis on increasing responsibility and liability towards licensing the content,” he explained.

The underlined technologies behind these initiatives are AI, ML, and cognitive intelligence. Extending connectivity, new solutions including balloons and drones can help to boost the internet.

Innovative cybersecurity
“We focus on keeping up with the expansion to the agile development and distribution environment, and create a hardened and monitored ecosystem,” said Pradhan. He suggested automation and cognitive technologies to fight against cybercriminals, “We are building cognitive capabilities to enhance security postures, making security systems learn from their prior experience and capable of making self-decisions. Focusing on improved monitoring, building relevant, proactive monitoring through AI, ML, IR and ensuring seamless business continuity.”

Since the telecom industry is the most regulated sector, Pradhan constantly adheres to the regulations while responding to the disruption and supply chain security requirements and data privacy needs.

“Disruption is inevitable, security needs to evolve as technology responds to disruption. Security teams and functions need to evolve. Focusing on monitoring, response and recovery in real-time should not be avoided. Moreover, we require strong partnerships, suppliers, etc., since we cannot do everything alone,” he concluded.

(Amit Pradhan made this presentation at the recently held IBM Security Summit in Mumbai)

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