IT Life: From Modems To Data Security

colin tankard digital pathways

Colin Tankard likes modems – and makes his living in data security

The managing director of data security firm Digital Pathways, Colin Tankard has been working in IT for 26 years.  He’s a fan of modems – and the men who built them – and he also relishes the challenge of securing the communications networks that have evolved since their appearance.

Fixing security errors

surveillance spy security NS GCHQ © Andrea Danti ShutterstockWhat has been your favourite project so far?
A leading car manufacturer had a data loss of its latest car design that was traced back to a system that was accessed only by senior executives throughout the organisation. The requirement was to secure the database.

The database manufacturer had failed to fix the problem and we found ourselves called in to see if we could help. We undertook a proof of concept exercise that included the client, the database manufacturer, the database company and the client’s IT administrators all of whom were shining the spotlight on us hoping we would fail too. However, we identified basic flaws in the configuration of the database that were the result of mistakes by the client’s internal database group, that had gone undetected by the other parties involved.

We deployed our solution, had the required errors rectified and stepped back to allow the ensemble to break the system. After three days they gave up trying! This was a great ‘feel good’ moment for us.

What tech were you involved with ten years ago?
Remote access systems providing extranet services.

What tech do you expect to be using in ten years’ time?
None, I think I may have had enough by then! No, I think technology will become far more interactive as in touch and feel.

A love of modems

bob jones equiinetWho’s your tech hero?
Bob Jones – the designer of the Dowty Modem who then went on to design some other cool multiplexing products and then became an ‘angel’ for many entrepreneurial designers of technology  [Here’s an article about Jones, and our picture is from an old brochure for his company Equiinet – Editor].

Rich_SkrentaWho’s your tech villain?
Richard Skrenta who is attributed as writing the first virus in 1981 that attacked multiple computers (Elk Cloner).

What’s your favourite technology ever made?
The modem as this gave access to worldwide information from your home.

Which do you use most?
Smart phone.

What is your budget outlook going forward? Flat? Growing?
As we are coming out of the recession I think we will see a growth in infrastructure and increased concern about data privacy and the effects it has on a companies reputation.

sonos wireless hi-fi hifiApart from your own, which company do you admire most and why?
Sonos who enabled streaming media, in a workable reality, to be accessed in the home.

What’s the greatest challenge for an IT company/department today?
Security and how to standardise it across the whole enterprise whilst keeping it simple.

To Cloud or not to Cloud?
Only if you can secure it with true separation of duty and robust key management (which can be done by the way).

What did you want to be when you were a child?
A pilot!

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