What drives cybersecurity in telecom: Siva Sivasubramanian, Bharti Airtel

Siva Sivasubramanian of Bharti Airtel shared his insights into what makes the telecom sector a prime target for cyber criminals, and what the industry can do to fight back.

There’s no denying that cybersecurity is pretty much at the heart of every sector imaginable in today’s world. And to share insights about the challenges, innovations, and initiatives around cybersecurity in the telecom space was Siva Sivasubramanian, global chief of security, Bharti Airtel – a well-rounded IT professional with rich senior management experience gained by working for organizations across the globe.

Sivasubramanian spoke at length about how phishing is the channel of choice for cyber thugs, and that ransomware laden phishing emails grew to 97.25 percent during Q3 2016, from 92 percent in Q1 2016.

The trend he pointed out was that ransomware attacks were no longer perpetrated to “teach a lesson”, but for economic gains, and occasionally, for engineering a disruption.

The reason, Sivasubramanian revealed, is because, in the telecom sector, technology is not merely a business enabler, but the business itself. And that technology is an integral part of the way customers interact with the brand.

No attack emanates from one single vector, but the attackers exploit multiple vectors. So the key to effective security management lies in integrating all lines of security including physical security with cybersecurity.

So, telco security, as he quite rightly pointed out, is all about protecting this core technology in addition to the IT and business operations.

What happened in the case of traditional telco networks was that it comprised of specialized hardware and software to carryout different functions from text messaging to controlling antennae. Today, however, these specialized systems are moving at breakneck speeds into the world of virtualization using commodity hardware in the cloud.

As a result of this, the challenge at hand is to manage security risks of both legacy infrastructure, with its known vulnerabilities and emerging infrastructure, with all the weaknesses of virtualized commodity-IT infrastructure in the cloud.

Sivasubramanian went on to highlight how the challenge is only going to become more acute with 5G and disruptive competition emanating not only from the traditional telco sector but also from the new non-telco players.

Coming to how telcos can combat the rising threat scenario, the security veteran said that Minimum Baseline Security Standards (MBSS) converges both the vendor of the platform and the operations department to a single focus. In addition to this, it helps in maintaining telco security health and reporting compliance to regulators.

Coming to the topic of operational convergence, Sivasubramanian recommended that without fretting over the model to follow, follow what works for the company to manage risks arising from security.  “It is a holistic risk management solution that should be the focus,” he opined.

Winding up the insightful session, Sivasubramanian said that no attack emanates from one single vector, but the attackers exploit multiple vectors. So the key to effective security management lies in integrating multiple strands of security including the physical security with cybersecurity.

Watch: Siva Subramaniam discuss Security Frameworks In The Telecom Sector- Challenges, Innovations, and Initiative