Why quantum computing makes this CTO both ‘excited and concerned’

14 Jul 2023

Ryan McConechy. Image: Barrier Networks

Barrier Networks’ Ryan McConechy talks to SiliconRepublic.com about his role as CTO and how quantum computing will affect the threat landscape.

Ryan McConechy is the chief technology officer (CTO) at Barrier Networks, a UK-based managed security service provider.

In his role as CTO, his main responsibility is to secure client systems, enabling them to meet business objectives and regulatory compliance requirements.

He also helps to improve security awareness among clients’ employees, as well as assisting organisations in implementing effective cybersecurity strategies and deploying security technologies.

I am also very focused on the industrial sector just now, helping these critical businesses secure operational technology (OT) against the tidal wave of threats currently targeting them.”

What are some of the biggest challenges you’re facing in the current IT landscape and how are you addressing them?

With Barrier Networks being a security service provider, I spend a lot of time advising clients on different security technologies to improve the defences of their networks. I help advise them on the best solutions to protect their assets and also support integrations, to ensure all security tools are deployed correctly, so there are no gaps in their posture that could be exploited by adversaries.

One of the biggest issues our customers face today relates to vendor-sprawl (the staggering number of vendors in any one area) – there are simply too many security tools required to protect their assets, because threats constantly evolve and target different areas of the tech stack. This is an area that we at Barrier work to address. We streamline security defences and take over the management of tools to reduce vendor sprawl and free up resources.

‘Security is a cat-and-mouse game’

What are your thoughts on digital transformation in a broad sense within your industry? 

OT and industrial organisations face a big challenge today because there is a big focus on automation and bringing their processes online, but when security is not embedded, and OT is not segmented properly away from this IT network, this modernisation can increase security risks.

I am currently working to educate the industry on cybersecurity and help organisations implement programs to secure their complex environments.

Sustainability has become a key objective for businesses in recent years. What are your thoughts on how this can be addressed from an IT cybersecurity perspective?

Cybersecurity will enable sustainability – helping industries digitally transform safely and gain greater value from their data. For instance, by running training and security education courses, this can help prevent human security risks. Cybersecurity will also enable connected systems to be secure, which will increase productivity, safety and outputs.

What big tech trends do you believe are changing the world and your industry specifically?

Advances in quantum computing make me both excited and concerned. On the positive side, quantum computing is set to significantly increase computing power, but on the negative side, it’s also going to give more power to bad actors. Like all things, I believe this will generate a new breed of quantum-safe security practices and protocols.

I am also excited about the adoption of IPv6 (Internet Protocol version 6), as it also opens up performance benefits and allows the removal of certain abstraction layers that affect manageability/day-two operations.

What are your thoughts on how we can address the security challenges currently facing your industry?

Security is a cat-and-mouse game and organisations are constantly at the mercy of criminals trying to breach their networks. In the face of this, they are also faced with three major challenges: awareness – employees need to be better equipped to spot and avoid malicious emails and scams; vendor complexity – organisations must deploy complex security tools properly and manage them constantly, even though many are completely under-resourced; and the overall skills shortage – attackers innovate faster than organisations can keep pace with.

These are three key issues organisations face today and they reinforce the importance of the security services industry, which can help alleviate these burdens for businesses.

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