by Byron Connolly

?BT Global Services in cybersecurity, AI push

Feb 10, 2017

BT Global Services is putting the final touches on a new purpose-built cyber security operations centre in Sydney as the organisation looks to triple worldwide revenue from its security business over the next three years.

The new cyber security centre is currently staffed by 10 people – with employee numbers to double soon – and adds to an existing security operations centre at its new North Sydney digs.

Speaking to CIO during a recent visit to Australia, BT Global Services’ Belfast, UK-based chief information officer, Chris Cochrane said the traditional security perimeter has completely dissolved as organisations move their infrastructure to private, hybrid and public clouds.

“In the good old days when I started as a software engineer, we had all of our IT and network infrastructure within our corporate LAN behind a very well defined security perimeter. That’s completely gone,” he said.

Providing security services is one of BT’s strengths, said Cochrane. The organisation works with intelligence agencies and the Ministry of Defence in the UK. It also provided the communications for the London 2012 Olympics, which Cochrane says “was the most hacked event” up until that time.

“We had that event out on satellite, on national television and online and we kept it bulletproof,” he said.

Cochrane spent his short trip talking to a few of BT’s 250 customers in the high growth Australian market, including multinationals that are investing heavily in cloud infrastructure to support their digital transformation strategies.

“On our global network, we connect to the world’s largest cloud service providers – Amazon, Google and Equinix,” he said. “To give a sense of scale, over two years ago, we had gone out and pre-connected 50 cloud service provider data centres to our global network. Today, we have connected more than 250,” he said.

This gives customers – who don’t want to access cloud software like Microsoft Office 365 over the public internet – the opportunity to connect to BT’s highly secure network.

“On the links to those cloud data centres, we are putting virtualised firewalls, vritualised acceleration, so they [customers] can also fire up security and quality of service on the links too,” Cochrane said.

Cybersecurity is a top priority for Cochrane in his role as CIO. He believes industries should be working together to protect against the increasing threat of cyberattacks.

“It’s a constraint which will impact all of us from doing digital transformation and improving our businesses and improving the customer experience. Defence isn’t enough. We have to get more proactive and be saying, ‘what’s the motive of cyber criminals and how do they cash the cheque and how can you attack them in those parts of the chain to control that?’

“You’ve got to collaborate and we do this in the UK with intelligence agencies, with each other and with security specialists.”

Cochrane said that if was to go back to university now, he would study analytics and security as these skills are scarce in the market. Still, he said BT isn’t having too much trouble finding people with these skills.

“Data analytics is a very scarce skill to get because every single organisation is after them. Frankly, and it doesn’t matter what the sector is, you can get value out of extracting the signal from noise from that big data analytics.”

Intelligence in the network

BT is also building its next-generation global network using software-defined network and network function virtualization technologies, said Cochrane.

“These are two technologies which are transforming the world of networking. So our network will have real-time telemetry [capabilities] as opposed to today where you poll it [the network]. This is akin to Formula 1 where you have the cars [using] telemetry [systems].

The aim is to more proactively fix network faults before they happen, Cochrane said.

“Once the telemetry [data] comes in, we will aggregate it and pass it though an artificial intelligence and machine learning layer where we start to … put in some basic code that says, ‘if you see this pattern, take this action. Isolate the fault domain and trigger a proactive action.’

“This is one big area where we’ve got to really help train and leverage the artificial intelligence to make ourselves much better at proactive fault detection,” said Cochrane.