Opinion Piece: Forged in Manchester… by Dr Daniel Dresner, University of Manchester

The road to cyber security…

Security – as a colleague once pointed out – shows the boundaries to the good people. And perhaps this is why security is just associated with guards and bouncers, window bars, 5-lever mortice locks and padlocks the size of a bucket. Cyber security brings greater opportunities to seed fear, uncertainty and doubts with promises of firewalls, antivirus, and biometrics. If those last three have already driven your distraction, reward yourself with something nice to eat or drink and settle down to consider a new approach. This is where we shall try to abandon jargon and set sail on the ship of hope.

I’m sure that every culture has its warnings about playing with fire and the association of licking flames with Abaddon, Gehinnom, Jahannam, or just that place that cats don’t have a chance in. Which is a shame, because amongst these warnings of ‘here be dragons’ there is not only the risk of failure and doom but also a risk of success borne of innovation as we (proverbially) sail into new waters.

Note: before we out-metaphor ourselves, it’s worth remembering that the concept of risk did start with sailors heading off into uncharted place with the possible hazard of sailing off the edge of the world.

Cyber security – that state of being safe in our interconnected world – is achieved by any number of activities that integrate technology design with the soft, squidgy bit between the chair and keyboard. Often it’s in the realm of the being whose second brain is held in the palm of their hand and steered by the swipe of a finger across a touch screen. Cue the long list of necessary gizmos and careful settings to make time online safe and secure. And a big shout out for those cultures for whom security and safety is the same word.

The best application of white heat since 1966

The times – as always – are a-changing and four universities have come together to use cyber security as a way of saying ‘Yes!’ No longer just tool of disclosure and barring, the iron bar of cyber security is being recast in the Cyber Foundry as a tool to make businesses grow. It’s all about looking at what a business is doing and then analysing how the safe use of the Internet can enable additional opportunities and efficiencies.

Back in metaphor land…think of a space. You might want to work there. You might want to store goods there. You might want to meet customers there. So you start thinking about walls to keep the rain off but you will need to walk through a wall and not being an ephemeral you put in a door. But perhaps you don’t want everyone coming so you put on a lock or you don’t want everyone coming in at once so you put in a turnstile and so on. Bit by bit you create something that has added value to that original space and allowed it to be used in a way where you’ll have the confidence to use it for something critical to your business.

It’s the same on-line. Using technology from a laptop, tablet, smartphone, digital video device, cloud and beyond enables more things to be done in distributed locations by more people in your customer base and supply chain. You can control what you dare to share with people who need to know.