Information Warfare at Data Center World 2012

Data Centers - Battleground for Information Warfare

Things have been rather quiet in the news for this fall’s Data Center World, which kicked off this morning in Nashville. Tennessee. Although the normal data center players like Schneider Electric and Raritan are there (among many others), the opening keynote called upon security, IW, and cyber-terrorism expert Winn Schwartau.

Photo of Cyber-Security Expert Winn Schwartau

(Photo: Colleen Miller)

Corporate data centers are the front line in an escalating battle between electronic attackers and defenders, and must be vigilant about defending their perimeter, cybersecurity guru Winn Schwartau told industry managers in his keynote address this morning at the Data Center World Fall 2012 conference. That’s especially true for leading cloud computing data centers, he said.

“I maintain that cloud computing is critical infrastructure, and we have not taken appropriate steps to protect it,” said Schwartau, who called out a leading cloud provider for its downtime and architecture.

Is The Cloud Resilient Enough?

“I love Amazon,” said Schwartau. “But when you sign up for EC2, you find that backup and redundancy are options, and I just think that’s insane. Backup and redundancy should not be optional for someone providing critical infrastructure.”

Schwartau was referring to Amazon’s compute-on-demand cloud computing service, which allows users to deploy virtual servers on Amazon’s data center infrastructure. A recent power outage at an Amazon data center knocked many popular web services offline, highlighting the fact that Amazon users must provision servers across more than one “availability zone” to truly take advantage of the redundancy available across company’s distributed network…

Data Center Managers “Undervalued”

“The front line is now the private sector,” said Schwartau. “Suddenly, we find ourselves defending our critical infrastructure at the private level with a bunch of geeks.

“I think you guys are undervalued and underappreciated,” he told members of AFCOM, the leading association of data center managers and organizer of Data Center World. “You are an asset to national security. You are the support system for the economy of the world…”

Read the full article – Data Centers: The Front Line in Information Warfare.

Schwartau, well known in the cyber-security world, gives this address at a time when concerns about cyber-security are apparent yet still fragmented and directionless. Indeed, it couldn’t come at a more appropriate time as October is Cyber-Security Awareness Month.

In the business world, cyber-security has been a key issue that has slowed widespread adoption of the Cloud. Of course, even removing cloud technology from the equation, IT security remains a hot topic. And a recent study suggest that business leaders are “far too optimistic” about their ability to handle these types of security issues.

PwC’s 2013 Global State of Information Security Survey reveals that executives are confident that they’re winning the high-stakes game of information security and believe their companies are leaders in information security. But PwC says that there is a marked discrepancy between this optimism and reality.

Rather it warns that the rise in global security incidents, diminished budgets and degrading security programs have left organisations to deal with security risks that are neither well understood nor consistently addressed.

Less than 8% of respondents in PwC’s survey truly qualify as information security leaders. Everyone else seems to be lagging behind while their confidence inflates… a dangerous combination.

Also worrisome is that organizations appear to be less diligent today about keeping track of their data than in the past. As the complexity and scale of data (including big data) grows, the barrier to successful data management will becoming increasingly higher. Companies that wait to get a handle on this will find it more difficult and more costly to do so later.

Whether or not Schwartau’s keynote will spur the attendees at Data Center World to make the necessary changes in their organizations we will have to wait and see. Not everyone agrees with his assessment of the situation. That said, he makes a very prescient point about data centers as one of the main stages of the information warfare battleground.

This year’s Data Center World opened under a new AFCOM president, Tom Roberts. Roberts, a 30-year veteran of the data center industry, was named Data Center Manager of the Year in 2011. He most recently served as senior technical architect for Data Centers at Trinity Health, a $9 billion health care system where he was responsible for 25 data centers across nine states. Learn more about the event at http://www.datacenterworld.com/fall2012/.