Network security disasters ‘waiting to happen’

Until network security is elevated from an IT issue to a company-wide risk management issue, disasters are waiting to happen on the nation’s most critical networks, according to Senetas’ chairman and CEO Francis Galbally.

“A disaster is waiting to happen and it will happen,” Galbally said. “The Bonnie and Clydes of the last century are the cyber thieves of this century and the magnitude could be hundreds of millions of dollars.”

Galbally said not every enterprise has the money to encrypt all its network links but since it should be a business, not IT, issue, network security should be free of the IT budgetary constraints.

“Security in IT is a governance, board and a risk management issue,” he said, "because executives don’t understand the issues involved. If you heard financial information was being sent from one end of a network to another and could be intercepted, you wouldn’t sleep. If people’s privacy has been invaded and personal financial information has been intercepted [they] will feel violated.”

Galbally said Senetas is a tier-two level – confidential but not top-secret – network security appliance vendor. Its flagship product is aimed at ATM and SONET (Synchronous Optical Network) networks but the company also plays in the Ethernet and Fibre space. Senetas lays claim to Common Criteria and the US federal government FIPS (Federal Information Processing Standard) stamp of approval for encryption and its customers include US defence agencies, the Australian Federal Police, and National Australia Bank.

Galbally says the main problem with the local market is that security is being undertaken in an “ad hoc” fashion where there is an “I need to protect this link” mentality rather than the holistic “protect the whole network” approach.

“Here, companies plan bits and pieces of security,” he said. “I’m not calling for [security] mandates but for greater awareness of the risk and insuring those risks.”

That said, Galbally believes that as security becomes more of a risk management than IT consideration, banks will encrypt all links not just the critical ones.

Senetas has commercialised the technology over the past 18 months with its research partners after seven years of research and development. The security device is like a WAN router and sits in a standard telco rack, the company said.

“SONET will be around for at least another 30 years and can now be used in a simpler way,” he said. “IPSec takes up bandwidth whereas Senetas’ appliances do not.”

Galbally claims the competition in the market sector is between hardware and software and that Senetas is the only hardware manufacturer.

“At this level revenues will grow and we are in a strong position,” he said. “Senetas’ product line is developed locally by eight engineers with manufacturing done in the US.”

Senetas now plans to move into the content filtering space to compete with today’s software-based solutions, which Galbally says are “not good”.

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