Charles gets at OBE!

The new year has started wonderfully for us at Azenby, with one of our very own, Charles Brookson, being awarded an OBE in the New Year honours list. Hearty congratulations to Charles from us all for this richly deserved recognition of a life-time’s dedication to making modern day telecommunications as safe and secure for users as possible.

Those of you who know Charles (isn’t that everyone in the GSM world?) will know he is a very modest chap and he won’t ‘blow-his-own-trumpet’, so we will do it for him!

Last year marked his 40th year in telecoms and he has certainly seen many changes. In the early days all the experts in the UK met in one very small room and nowadays there are thousands of busy security people. Yes, things have come a long way since Charles chaired his first GSM Security Group in 1987.

He recently stood down as Chair of the GSM security group after 25 years continuous service. But no fear! He is chairing a new Standards Group called TC CYBER, a new ETSI committee to standardise Cyber Security in Europe.Photo 15-04-2013 05 45 15 PM

To mark his 40th year, Charles is taking a well-earned sabbatical for the next few months, however, before he “powered off”, he sent us some interesting fodder that we wanted to share:

In December he chaired a Panel on the Internet of Things in Doha, Qatar. This was at Telecom World, once a large exhibition based in Geneva and now an event that moves around the world offering a series of panels on the latest topics plus a large exhibition. He nominated the topic for his panel “The Internet of Things: Will it be our Panacea or Fuel our Paranoia?” Very typical of Charles this.

“Internet of Things”, like “Cyber Security” has become a very difficult term to define – it has become an umbrella term for many different ideas, concepts, platforms and solutions. The panellists discussed issues such as privacy, Cybercrime and Cybersecurity and the hacking of devices. The majority of questions from the floor were around privacy and security.

There was a great deal of discussion around minimising the risks, by being able to turn off some functions which are not required: After all, does playing a game necessarily require your precise geographical position? The conclusion of the session was that while we see some brilliant innovation in IoT, we must do the detail to make sure that the security risks are minimised.

In December, Charles addressed the Security Standardisation Research Programme held at the Royal Holloway in London. He took the audience back to the GSM – the Public Key standards that he had been involved with creating – and he pointed out that at the time no one ever expected the impact of these Standards. How well they have stood the test of time and have been used by millions of customers all around the world. He also touched upon the political, business and legal issues around Standards creation. Is there too much fragmentation in security work? Not enough collaboration going on when it seems to be needed more than ever?

Charles is very committed to encouraging new blood to create the next generation of security standards. The well-publicised cyber-attacks on Sony were a sobering reminder to us all that we are one-step behind the hackers and agents involved in industrial espionage, not to mention those seeking out the vast amount of private data about us that is held in servers. Keeping one-step ahead is proving to be a massive challenge for the industry and now more than ever we need to focus carefully on how we keep our telecom world secure. The new TC CYBER ETSI group certainly has its work cut out and we look forward to its output with Charles at the helm.

Perhaps we need to recognise that we may never be able to stop illegal intrusion into our networks and systems. It’s time to rethink how we store and use data. Security is much more than prevention alone – it’s about thinking how big does “Big Data” need to be and the debate needs to move towards making hacking a futile exercise rather than thinking we can ever eliminate it.