Cybersecurity: Heard It All Before

John says that while cybersecurity education is part of the puzzle, it's not the catch-all answer some are seeking.

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John considers the cyclical nature of cybersecurity discussion and how education will only scratch the surface of the problem, as well as asset management’s love affair with machine learning.

A journalist's working life is rarely that constant; aside from the regular deadlines there's usually an underlying degree of change to whatever we're working on from week to week, month to month—particularly when covering a sector that moves as quickly as technology does.

But there are always exceptions to the rule. Ever since I joined Waters there have been a few things that constantly keep cropping up, at least enough to make me notice them anyway.

One such example is the phrase: "We need more education in this area." It doesn't matter on the context, it's constantly being thrown around and has almost become a red flag in my mind that warns of a lack of better ideas.

Last week when speaking to Waters, Pascal Busnel from vendor ACA Aponix, advocated the importance of cybersecurity education for all financial services staff, even outside of the office, while Viewpost chief security officer Chris Pearson posited that education should be baked in "from day one."

Cybersecurity has come back into the capital markets' consciousness in a big way over the last two months. Whereas it seemed the topic had died down a bit from last year's cavalcade of panic-inducing headlines and audacious hacks, discussion is once again turning to the prevention of cybercrime as further cases, such as the Bangladesh Bank–New York Federal Reserve snafu or the recent hacking cases in cryptocurrency distributed-ledger projects, come to light.

While the advice portioned out by Busnel and Pearson seems reasonable on the surface, the emphasis on education once again causes that little red flag in my mind to start a-flapping.

For example, just how viable is it that every member of personnel at a reasonably-sized firm is going to be able to not only grasp the technical nuances or skills adequate security controls can require, but also to actually take the time out of the day to do it?

I'm not saying education in cybersecurity is a bad idea or a waste of time; phishing scams are growing ever more complex and hackers count on people not paying enough attention or being busy enough to not be careful when opening such communications.

The issue is that education is not a panacea. Excuse my use of another one of these phrases I hear all too often, but there is no silver bullet when it comes to security. Hackers are not the adolescent angst-ridden teens of the 1990s; they are serious, competent adults who are ahead of the industry by some distance.

To have any hope of closing that gap, firms need a holistic approach to security that includes education, but not to the detriment of other security areas or the actual operations of the business itself.

Artificial Intelligence

Last month I sat down with Chris Donnan, CTO at London-based Tyler Capital and regular speaker at Buy-Side Technology conferences, for an upcoming feature.

Much of our conversation revolved around machine learning and its application at the proprietary trading firm, which has built its primary trading strategy around a core of machine learning-driven technology.

It's certainly one of the popular zeitgeists for the buy side at the moment and I don't see this slowing down any time soon; from addressing historic liquidity issues to untangling the many data management elements that plague so many asset managers, machine learning is driving the industry forward.

The technology is still in its relative infancy as firms test out new strategies and models, seeing what works and what fails, but the very real potential (sit down, blockchain) of bespoke application through the availability of related application programming interfaces should be plain to see.

While there is some way to go yet with machine learning, vendors are becoming increasingly active in this space, so it may be a case for some to get on board or get left behind.

Side Notes

  • On the topic of machine learning and artificial intelligence, I have been playing the much-hyped video game No Man's Sky since it was released last week. The game is a space exploration/survival simulator, entirely populated through procedural generation algorithms that resulted in 18 quintillion unique planets for players to freely roam around on; it would take a single player 5 billion years to visit every planet for just one second. It's a staggering feat of computing engineering and all accomplished by less than 20 people.

  • Forget your summer vacation: Entries for this year's Buy-Side Technology Awards are now open! Click here to peruse the categories and submit your entry to make sure your firm has the chance to get its hands on the trophy come November.

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