Comment: IT security implications for the War on Terror

Poulter says both states and companies can help protect the public without overspending
Poulter says both states and companies can help protect the public without overspending
John Poulter, Informatica
John Poulter, Informatica

The security implications of the War on Terror affect all IT security managers, whether they work in the public or private sector. Being able to meet tougher regulations, such as stopping money laundering, is critical for the finance sector, while providing government access to relevant data has become a prerequisite for any organisation dealing with the public. And with the Chief Constable of West Yorkshire claiming it may take 20 years to tackle violent extremism, the security implications are here for the long term.

Given this timescale, the other key aim is to achieve security efficiently – protecting the public, but without overspending. With the US spending an estimated $28 billion on anti-terror activities since 2001, it is vital that money is spent wisely. This looks like a daunting task, but both of these needs can be met through a more integrated approach that brings together data and enables it to be analysed and actioned.

Everything we do nowadays creates a digital trail built from data, whether from using credit cards, computers or simply making a phone call. The volume of this kind of data is increasing exponentially, along with the number of locations the data is found in. The challenge for private and public sector organisations worldwide is to identify which information is important and then be able to quickly and efficiently share that data with the right people.

With so much data to manage, the only way to do this is by increasing the level of automated data integration, with alerts being escalated when further investigation is required. Without this, it becomes increasingly challenging to fight terror, particularly to verify that people are who they say they are. With identity theft and manipulation costing millions of pounds every year, this is not an area that can be left unaddressed, either by governments or businesses.

For a company, it is vital to be able to accurately identify the individuals it is transacting with. Otherwise the organisation potentially exposes itself to steep fines or prosecution if it fails to comply with legislative requirements designed to combat criminal and terrorist activity. This is where technology has a key role to play, integrating data from multiple sources so that it is reliable and of use to an organisation and provides solutions to help stop global terrorist activities, both now and for the foreseeable future. Integrating and profiling data is key to ensuring that nothing falls through the cracks, and there are several different technologies that can be implemented to achieve this objective.

Putting technology at the heart of the War on Terror

First, data integration should be central to everyone’s efforts to efficiently use technology against terrorism. Companies and government organisations must be able to combine data from multiple sources and provide a unified and accurate view of their information. In the War on Terror, it ensures that the various ‘watch lists’ managed across departments, agencies and countries are made accessible. Even when naturally occurring data degradation – such as data entry errors – threaten to further complicate data management, integration solutions can reduce false positives through a series of algorithms. These score the likelihood of a match and improve match rates through various techniques, such as the use of name variations.

Organisations also need to introduce identity resolution technology to search, find, match and group identity data, allowing them to connect disparate data sources in order to identify matches, as well as relationships, across multiple data sources. When organisations can pinpoint this, they can effectively arm themselves against threats to public safety, fraudulent transactions or claims, and potential financial crimes. An added bonus for private sector companies is that an accurate identity resolution process can help them address issues related to a number of wider concerns, such as governance, risk and compliance; law enforcement; conflicting and disparate data sources; balancing resources, risks and returns; and emulating expert users.

The millions of pieces of data in the intelligence ecosystem cannot be cost-effectively sifted by hand. Complex event processing automates the process by comparing multiple events, with the goal of identifying the meaningful ones. Having this kind of technology in place gives the appropriate people access to the right information when they most need it and, more importantly, does it through an efficient mix of human and computer power.

By bringing the two technologies of identity resolution and complex event processing together, companies and government agencies benefit from real-time operational intelligence (OI) that is based on all of an organisation’s data sources, enabling valuable decisions to be made and implemented before a threat is realised. If governments and the private sector work together by sharing their data to ensure technologies like identity resolution and complex event processing are used, then it would help to prevent and predict the next terrorist threat – now and in the future.

The War on Terror and the private sector

Thwarting the War on Terror is not just a government problem. Moreover, technology installed to stop terrorists can also help a company’s overall security strategy. Areas such as fraud detection and anti-money laundering (AML) can use identity resolution technology to assist financial institutions in combating identity fraud, and leverage name matching of hidden patterns and correlations in preventing attempts to disguise identity.

We live in a world of information. Turning this into intelligence is our most important weapon in the War on Terror. This means that governments and organisations need to look again at how multiple sources of global information can be managed effectively to collectively benefit organisations and aid governments. Technology should be at the centre of delivering this joined-up picture of the overall threat, providing an efficient way of combating terrorism and ensuring we sleep easy in our beds.

John Poulter is the senior vice president, EMEA Sales, for Informatica. Poulter joined Informatica in September 2006 to spearhead the company's expansion in EMEA, and he brings 11 years of senior sales and sales management experience. Prior to joining Informatica, Poulter was VP of sales, Northern EMEA, at Symantec, where he directed sales in the UK, Ireland, Nordics and Baltics. 

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