Opinion

US card fiasco is a warning for all

The security breach which exposed the full personal and banking details of 40 million MasterCard, Visa and other card holders should act as a wake-up call to us all.

It is just the latest in a string of embarrassing and potentially expensive security scandals to affect major US organisations.

The latest breach occurred at a credit card processing company that works for MasterCard and Visa. The two credit card giants have strict policies for merchants and processors handling transactions.

Processors have to hire certified external consultants to carry out an annual security assessment. They must also regularly scan their networks for vulnerabilities and conduct a quarterly self audit.

The processor where the theft took place says it ticked all the right boxes. But it also had an unauthorised store of unencrypted data "for research purposes" in a bid to debug its systems, and it was this that was stolen.

How many UK organisations routinely encrypt sensitive data on their systems? How many are really sure that their third-party service providers are genuinely secure and not just going through the motions? How many organisations use sensitive live data on potentially unsafe test systems?

You cannot hide from the issues or the costs. In future it will not be enough to claim your systems are secure. You will have to prove compliance and these latest security breaches have raised the bar.

 

IT's unsung heroes

Technological progress happens so fast that it is easy for the trailblazers and industry leaders of only a few years ago to be almost forgotten as a new wave of pioneers and players dominate the stage.

Of course, some great names from the past such as Alan Turing remain the focus of articles and even plays, but too many of those who have shaped the IT industry are left on the shelf in the IT hall of fame.

On page 28 we redress the balance with a look at five prominent IT leaders from the past who today are largely unsung, despite their enormous contributions to the UK or international IT industry.

For example, how many of those who take laptops for granted are aware of an Errol Flynn lookalike called Adam Osborne who launched the first portable - or at least luggable - computer?

Osborne is one of our five unsung heroes of IT. And we would like to hear who you feel deserves another day in the sun.

 

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This was first published in June 2005

 

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