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Do You Know Where Your Data Is?


What do you know about where your telecommunications and mobile provider stores, manages and secures your personal data. You might say, “Well, I have Verizon so I don’t worry about it. They are based in the US and have great security.” Or, you might say, “I know that Apple is very focused on security and privacy. They even fought against the FBI to not give up personal user data.”

Let’s look at a little history before we move on to the current telco landscape. In the “good old days” prior to the breakup of AT&T the United States had Ma Bell (AT&T) to provide telephone service to 80% of the US market. A secondary company called GTE provided service to the areas AT&T did not want to serve. There were also a few hundred smaller independent telephone companies serving small rural areas where neither AT&T or GTE wanted to develop infrastructure.

In those days, infrastructure was expensive to develop. Most communications connections were copper cable so poles had to be erected or trenches dug to connect serving offices to the customers. There was a network of large communications switches that connected all the phones in the country used exclusively for voice calls. There was also a network of specialized computers that stored customer information, recording such data as call origination, destination, rate structure and duration for billing purposes. This is how your bill was developed.

Now, lets fast forward to 2017. Over the years innovation has exploded, legal restrictions have relaxed and the physical anchor of copper cable networks is gone. Switches have become much more sophisticated and wireless technologies have revolutionized the network. Mobile devices are now the universal terminals for voice, data, text, video, photos, entertainment, banking, shopping and a wide variety of other specialized convenience applications. There are over six billion cell phones in the world with about 1.1 billion connected to broadband services.

The major service providers like Verizon, AT&T, China Mobile, Nippon Telegraph and Telephone (NTT), Deutsche Telecom and others are providing much more than voice connections. Apple, Motorola, Samsung are working with the carriers to provide more and more sophisticated devices that are becoming the indispensable cornerstone of modern business and personal connection. Buckle up folks, here comes the scary part…

These global companies are storing, recording and analyzing everything you do as a broadband customer. These massive computers store information such as where you bank, where you shop, what restaurants you like and do not like. They have your PIN numbers, access codes, passwords and any other information used by any of your connected devices. If you think this information is just being stored in a pile like old furniture you are mistaken. These companies are using this customer identification, location and preference data to their own marketing and competitive advantage. Obviously, the more they know about their customers, the easier it is for them to provide new and interesting services, sell new products and maintain their loyalty as a customer.

These large global companies need to be nimble and cost effective while providing voice and data services to hundreds of millions of customers around the world. First, they locate their massive data centers in countries with low cost structures for land and labor. Then they hire local workers through third party contractors. Of course, they have their instruction manuals and practices that the third party company and contractor employees are expected to follow but close supervision and control is difficult when your human and physical assets are spread throughout a variety of countries and cultures.

Two recent examples of glaring security breaches are Verizon and Apple. Two highly trusted brands headquartered in the US.

  • Verizon - An independent Cyber Risk Team identified a misconfigured cloud-based file repository that exposed personal customer data of as many as 14 Million US customers. This misconfigured data repository was owned and operated by NICE Systems based in Raanana, Israel. What was at risk? Names, addresses, account details and PIN numbers. All the information that could be used to access banks, shopping accounts and other applications.
  • Apple - Employees of a third party sales and customer service contractor in China have been caught selling Apple customer data including names, numbers and Apple ID’s of Apple China’s customers. The ring netted over US$7.5 Million before being stopped.

The increasingly popular Big Data trend, storing massive amounts of data in large depositories for marketing, sales and retention analysis, exposes customers to breach and invasion of privacy. Even though your trusted provider may be in your local area, your personal data likely is being accessed and/or stored far away and managed by third party contractors without the safeguards you would expect from your preferred supplier.

For businesses, BYOD means that the exposure to employees personal devices will carry over to the business network. It is critical that links are secure and traffic visibility is consistent. Perimeter security such as Intrusion Detection as well as specialized appliances to detect traffic anomalies will help secure corporate assets. Connecting these network protection appliances is safe and reliable using intelligent TAPs and Packet Brokers. A Gartner report states that by 2020, 60% of businesses will suffer service failures due to the inability of IT teams to manage digital security. For more information about increasing traffic visibility and securing network links go to www.networkcritical.com.

Posted: 01/08/2017 19:42:19 by Network Critical with 0 comments
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