Williams F1 Graeme Hackland tells TechWeekEurope how the team’s partnership with Symantec is helping keep its valuable data secured around the world
As the 2016 Formula One season continue, all 11 participating teams will turn their attention to closing – or increasing – the gap between themselves and their rivals as each car fights for position and gradual improvement against its rivals.
But in a sport that hinges on such small margins, how can teams ensure their valuable data and private information remains safe and secure?
Williams F1 is one of the most famous teams in Formula One, having been in the sport since 1977, and employs several hundred workers at its Oxfordshire headquarters in Grove.
In order to protect its data and innovations, Williams F1 recently announced it would be partnering with Symantec to provide endpoint security across its business, including its Formula 1 and Advanced Engineering projects.
“We’ve already made a huge step forward,” Williams F1 IT director Graeme Hackland told TechWeekEurope. “It’s a huge step forward from where we were two years ago”.
Hackland estimates that over 60 percent of the team’s workforce works regularly away from its headquarters, at race weekends in locations as far-flung as Australia, Canada and Brazil, meaning that the need for easy-to-use, reliable security systems is paramount.
“One of our main criteria to Symantec was that our users shouldn’t have to do anything different. So we need to cope with a very mobile workforce.”
Hackland was looking for a system that was, “almost invisible” but also simple to set up and intuitive, to deal with the changing locations and data sets a Formula One team generates every few weeks.
Short shelf life
Formula One data has a “fairly short shelf life”, Hackland noted, reasoning that cars change so much these days that information from only three years ago is pretty outdated. But as Williams works in other areas away from the sport (including the battery production for the Formula E racing series), the company has a need for security systems that could cover all bases.
“We wanted to be absolutely certain that we were protecting that data, and (the partnership with Symantec) can give customers confidence that we know where their data is, and we’re protecting all their devices,” he said.
And it seems that the team is in need of this protection, as Hackland says that Symantec was able to detect 227 separate pieces of malware in March alone through its endpoint security.
“We do believe that we are a target…but we think we have a very good handle on the security of our data – but we’re working with some of the best companies in the world to help protect ourselves and build layers of security.”
Hackland joined Williams F1 from Lotus in 2014 as the team’s first ever IT director, meaning that he plays a key role in helping make key decisions at an executive role.
Having been in the sport for 20 years, he has seen many changes, not least on the technology side. He notes that when he came in, the telemetry data for both cars could be stored on a floppy disk. Now up to 40 or 50GB worth of information can be generated by two cars across a race weekend.
Formula One has seen a number of technologies in recent years that have trickled down to road vehicles, such as energy recovery and hybrid power, and Hackland believes that the sport will continue to prove its worth as a proving ground for new technology in the future.
“There’s a lot of belief in what we’re doing at Williams,” he says, “I think F1 has always been at the forefront of technology and IT…but we’ve not always been early adopters, and at Williams F1 we want to be an early adaptor – so long as it’s not something that will stop the car, we’ll give it a go!”
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