A recent 60 Minutes episode highlighted an NSA staffer describing a Chinese plot to “take down” the U.S. financial system using social engineering & a firmware update to brick the computers that support all economic activity. The story received a lot of unflattering attention (Google it). The broader piece about recent NSA data-gathering and spying also seemed less like news than an advertisement. This has resulted in a lot of attention on the nature of the story and the likelihood that there is material distance between the themes highlighted by the CBS report and the behaviors of NSA staff and leadership. So, why should we care?
There are many reasons. One assumes that many in our industry receive “news” via feeds & tweets — which must radically distill stories down to a very few words. Many senior decision-makers “grew up” with news shows like 60 Minutes and have sensors tuned to content from its brand. So, that channel can deliver messages to financial services leaders in ways many others can’t.
Later in the December 15th 60 Minutes broadcast was a report about the Chinese telecommunications equipment giant “Huawei.” It could have been a useful reminder that infrastructure matters in global Financial Services risk management. Global data communications networking makes decision-making about ‘inside’ & ‘outside’ and what or whom to trust much more complex and challenging. Culture matters. Nation-state behaviors matter. The scale and scope of Financial Services operations make it an attractive target for intellectual property theft. We all need to continue to enhance our understanding of threats associated with infrastructure purchasing and integration, as well as with extending our operations using partners and massive shared ‘cloud’ infrastructure.
“Update on Huawei.” Dec. 15, 2013 http://www.cbsnews.com/videos/update-on-huawei/
“Chinese telecom giant eyed as security threat.” Oct. 05, 2012, http://www.cbsnews.com/news/chinese-telecom-giant-eyed-as-security-threat/