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OPINION: Security is our number one concern

11 Apr 2012

It sits at number nine in Ernst & Young’s Top 10 risks in telecommunications 2012 but I think it needs to be higher, and that’s not because the other 10 are unimportant.

It’s just that most people and many businesses underestimate the risk associated with business data and information in a cyber world.

The Ernst &Young report notes in the risk 'Privacy, security and resilience' that ‘On the one hand, operators are widely regarded by customers and business partners as security guarantors across a range of services. On the other, they have to try and fulfil this role while coping with an array of threats that are expanding rapidly in number and severity.’

This is spot on. As the song goes, we’re ‘stuck in the middle with you’. 

Interestingly, the report also found: ‘Yet customers hold operators responsible for threats or attacks from third parties and suppliers even including mobile malware and rogue apps. At the same time privacy concerns hamper service information.’

Telcos seem to be stuck between customer expectations and the determinations of hackers and cyber criminals. However, there’s a solution to every problem, and data security and, with it, personal safety is a problem that can be tackled.

At Telstra Clear, we take security extremely seriously, whether it be our customers’ data, or the prevention of DDoS or other attacks. We have some of the best people in the business and access to best-in-class tools. 

Some have cynically suggested that security is easy – just stop sharing data, and there’s actually a grain of truth there. The non-cynical, and obviously correct, answer is to stop sharing data that shouldn’t be shared.

That can be done. It means everyone needs more information and understanding of the hazards and risks, as well as the continuing development and implementation of reliable software, hardware and enforcement techniques that detect intrusions and enhance security.

Of course, sensible online behaviours won’t stop the problem but it will help each of us be that little bit safer and so, perhaps, a little less worried when using our data-connected devices in this Internet-enabled world, whether for business, education or entertainment.

While we operate our network and systems to top-level security protocols, and provide world-class security solutions to government and business clients including the Defence Forces, banks and insurance companies, we also put effort into keeping individuals safe, whether they’re our customers or not. Making good data decisions requires people to be informed about the risks attached to actions.

Among those most at risk are our youngest New Zealanders, and these are the ones who can most benefit from good information that leads to proper online behaviours. Whether cyber-bullying or the attentions of predators, children need help to learn how to stay safe online, including not providing personal information that could lead to personal or family harm when offline.

I encourage businesses to consider supporting organisations that help make young people aware of the dangers and what they can do to stay safe. For example, we are active with cyber-bullying education and the SuperClubsPLUS initiative and both deserve greater attention.

Leading expert on child cyber safety, Dr Martyn Wild, predicts that cyber-bullying is likely to be the biggest online concern and already affects about 35% of all children. We support his work to combat this threat. I encourage you to visit to learn more. Every concerned adult, not just parents, should take this threat seriously and act to protect our vulnerable youngsters.

SuperClubsPLUS is a social learning networking site especially for children to learn not only the fun and benefits of social networking, but to do so in safety. Because it's monitored by trained mediators, the kids get a great online experience as well as learning about potential risks on the unmonitored and un-mentored Internet. We’re covering the costs of schools and parents registering. The information is at

When I’m asked why we support these initiatives, the answer is always a question: if you were told that almost one in seven 8 to 17 year-olds have come across potentially harmful or inappropriate material in the past six months; up to 35% of kids by age 15 have been bullied or harassed online; and up to 80% of children don't use private settings on their social network profiles, what would you do?

That’s why I think having security as the number nine risk is much too low. I take security to mean more than just the data that people are sending across our network. 

To me and my team security extends to the people at the end of the connections, and those people are our number one concern, not number nine.

Allan Freeth is CEO of TelstraClear

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