Part 3 – Safe and secure

Since the year 2000, the internet has grown to become a very powerful platform and has changed forever the way we do business and communicate.  The availability and anywhere access of the internet has meant we use it every day but when you consider the staggering amount of information it holds, everyone who uses it has become an expert of sorts.  This in turn has meant our expectations have grown exponentially both in terms of the World Wide Web and our IT support team.

This growth of technology is in stark contrast to the cost with tech prices dropping dramatically over the last 16 years. The average person now has high-speed internet, a huge HD flat screen TV and a tablet in their home. And if it’s in our homes, then us tech-savvy and computer-literate workers of the 21st century naturally expect it at work – and also when we aren’t at work. This does however present a number of new challenges.

Employees want to access company resources from their bed, bus or whilst holidaying on the beach. Company bosses may well be excited by this commitment to productivity but they must also understand what it means from a security standpoint. It’s akin to the Glastonbury Festival of days gone by when a security team would stand on the gates whilst thousands poured over a flimsy perimeter fence.

In the last 16 years, security has changed, not just at Glastonbury with their infamous million pound ‘superfence’ but in the IT arena. There was a time when hackers would use their skills to expose a global corporation’s security failings and inadequacies just for fun. Nowadays, we have malware viruses like ‘Stuxnet’ which attacked industrial control systems, or on a more personal level, hackers revealing the identities of users of a somewhat contemptible dating site.

So what’s changed? Well, hacking is big business now and a malware expert could use the dark art to become very rich, very quickly. As a result, IT professionals must keep their wits about them to not fall victim to this ever-growing form of online espionage.

One area of IT that makes hacking easier than ever is the rise of cloud computing. If you’ve got a username, password and a payment card then you’ve got all the tools to set up a server in the cloud. And where do you put all your company’s confidential information? In the impenetrable cloud of course. But it’s not Fort Knox and data can be compromised, so there will always be a need for ‘IT guy’ to come and fix the mess.

The role of ‘IT guy’, or the IT professional, has evolved with the industry. For example, Chief Information Officers (CIOs) have seen their roles grow hugely with the rise of cloud computing and virtualisation – from a restricted position of command and control to a free and expansive role that requires vision and inspiration.

IT professionals are now in a much greater position of power. We don’t just call them when the printer jams or we’ve forgot our log-in and password, they mean so much more to us now. Now the gatekeepers and the keymasters in one, they must welcome this new responsibility and ensure the rest of us come along for the ride.

When your technology freezes and goes south, it is no longer simply a case of ‘Turn it off and on again’. IT professionals must embrace the over-enthusiastic kids TV presenter personality of the HR Manager and teach other departments to stay secure. If they can do this, the future’s a bright one for the IT industry. In A Very Brief History of IT Part 4 – we will look at what’s to come and how the IT professional of the future can survive and thrive.