Chris Pearce was interviewed on Ticker News on June 17, 2021 to respond to the breaking story of significant outages that impacted a number of major banks, airlines and other organisations in Australia and internationally. Here's what he had to say.
Ticker News: To get his analysis, Chris Pearce is a former Australian politician; now he’s a Managing Partner at DB Results and he’s here to talk to us about the latest major outage and to get his analysis. Chris, thank you so much for your time.
Chris Pearce: Good afternoon, how are you?
TN: Really good, Chris. What do you make of this outage? What’s your first take of this?
CP: Well certainly it’s very concerning. It seems, doesn’t it, that we’re seeing more and more of this kind of activity going on, not just in Australia but across the globe, and I think that’s the first point. The frequency of outages and cybersecurity issues are increasing, and not only are they increasing, when we do hear about them, they seem to be becoming more sophisticated in their nature. So you’ve got this increase in the number of times it’s happening, and when it does happen, the level of sophistication and complexity also seems to be greater.
TN: Indeed. Chris, we know initially it was impacting major Australian banks, which was obviously very concerning for people who could not access their funds, now it’s moved more internationally. What is the extreme here? How wide and how vast could this be? Could it potentially be a hack? Is it related to that cloud-based server? What do you think is the potential cause of this?
CP: It could be a range of things, and it could be any of what you’ve just described. What’s happening, of course, is that we find with the advent of cloud and remote working in technology landscapes, you’ve got greater geographic spread of your infrastructure. Being able to have high visibility of everything, always, is a great challenge. I think the other thing is making sure that, as an organisation, you’ve got the level of security talent that you need to be able to monitor, and detect, and to avoid this type of outage or cybersecurity hack happening. So investing in new technology that helps detect, that helps monitor, and helps put in place an action to deal with this is incredibly important. And I think that’s the challenge for organisations, not just here but across the globe.
TN: This obviously comes after the Fastly outage which was reported last week. What do you make of these content delivery networks being struck by outages?
CP: Well, technology – there is huge innovation. And it’s one thing to look at the avenue that these outages might be happening through. But I think, as I mentioned earlier, the introduction and the increasing sophistication of things like artificial intelligence, machine learning, and companies investing in infrastructure like security operations centres is incredibly important. In our particular business, we offer a security operations centre as a service product offering, which allows organisations with very minimal upfront cost to be able to put in place the world’s leading platform that will help them overcome these types of issues, will help them actively monitor, detect, and wherever possible avoid these types of outages. And of course, the impact on these companies and on their customers and on citizens, as we’re hearing right now in your story, is significant.
TN: We look at the vast impact and flow-on effect this is having on multiple industries, affecting people’s funds, affecting people accessing their own money – is this the new pandemic that we face in this digital world?
CP: Well, certainly I think it’s true to say, based on our experience of what we’ve seen, that there’s no business across the globe that’s immune to this. So it is impacting a whole range of industries, and sectors, and they all interface with their customers and their clients. There is nobody immune to this. And this is a very significant global, international issue, and it is so important for companies to take proactive action. For example, organisations need to make sure that they’ve got a cybersecurity outage plan in place. Secondly, they need to invest in the new technology – artificial intelligence, machine learning – that can learn from these mistakes and help predict and avoid future outages. The third thing that they need to be doing is educating and training their staff in these more sophisticated attacks, because they cannot be underestimated. And it is, of course, about investing in the right technology that supports your current infrastructure in order to try and decrease all these avenues of attack.
TN: What message does this send to the hackers out there when they see the devastating impacts that something like this can have?
CP: I think it goes to the area of what I like to call “digital trust”. It’s incredibly important that as more people move online, whether it’s doing personal transactions or interacting with organisations, it is incredibly important that they’re able to have trust in their digital experience. So to your question, anything that organisations can do to improve their level of technology that helps build digital trust with their customers is incredibly important.
TN: Do you think in this space we need to look at alternatives to make sure that we’re better protected against incidents like this? Does this send a clear message to our world leaders that we need to be putting systems in place to prevent these types of incidents from happening?
CP: Well certainly in my view, it is a matter of extreme public policy importance. So I agree with you: I think that all sectors of the community, whether it’s our world leaders, whether it’s our business leaders or other appropriate leaders, all need to recognise that this is a matter of real public importance. And any mobilisation around an effort, whether nationally or internationally, that helps resolve these types of issues, I think is important.
TN: We still haven’t heard from Akamai, a provider of technology that runs behind the scenes of some of the biggest websites in the world. Should they be held to account when these incidents take place?
CP: I think it’s very important to understand where the breakdown is in the network. Our technology networks are very integrated these days, and they’re made up of various components. So I think it is important, before jumping the gun, to make sure there is a thorough analysis of where the breakdown is. And of course, wherever that breakdown is, appropriate action and appropriate accountability should take place.
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