Vodafone’s Csaba Kiss Kalló: ‘People are growing numb to cybersecurity threats’

14 Dec 2018

Dr Csaba Kiss Kalló, Vodafone Ireland. Image: Naoise Culhane

The fact that cybersecurity threats are spiralling is having an adverse effect on business leaders, warns Vodafone Ireland’s head of connectivity, mobility and security.

Dr Csaba Kiss Kalló is a telecoms expert with 19 years’ experience with service providers and equipment vendors such as Vodafone, Telecom Italia, Enet, Intune Networks and Ericsson.

He spent most of his career working in international settings in a range of countries including Ireland, Italy, Romania, Hungary and the US.

‘People have heard too much about it and they are becoming a little bit numb, and less sensitive. They are switching off’

He won Product of the Year and Innovation of the Year awards from The Irish Times in 2011 for Intune’s optical packet-switching technology, and the Tech Excellence Project of the Year in 2014 for his work in building Ireland’s first fibre town with Enet.

Kalló currently heads up the connectivity, mobility and security portfolio in Vodafone Ireland where his team brought to market a range of innovative products such as the cloud-based, integrated Secure Network Gateway and the first nationwide narrowband IoT (NB-IoT) network.

He holds an engineering degree in computer science and automation and a PhD degree in wireless communications and networking.

Vodafone’s recent Cyber-Ready Barometer found that businesses in India, the UK and the US are the most cyber-ready while Ireland, Singapore and Germany perform less well.

What is your biggest takeaway from the recent Cyber-Ready Barometer?

There are a number of things that I see coming out of the research, and I would put them under three headings. The first would be attitude to cybersecurity; the second is the direction the market is taking and what sort of changes in the direction we can spot this year; and, finally, opportunities for differentiation for businesses. I believe that there are a number of opportunities coming out of the research that companies can capitalise on.

In terms of the attitude, one interesting finding I found was that only 27pc of organisations agree that all of their initiatives involve risk. Essentially, it means we are a getting a little numb or accepting of the risks. A year ago, our previous report showed that they wanted security everywhere. I feel that attitude has disappeared.

In terms of GDPR, I am seeing the same thing. Up until 25 May, people were tuned in, but then it became ‘we got through this’. The market calmed down a little bit and what that tells me is that either we have we gone numb or we are becoming more knowledgeable about cybersecurity. The attitude is: ‘We have put in place measures and systems and everything … so what else can we do?’

What is your instinct on this? Are they knowledgeable, or tired and accepting of the spiralling number of breaches?

I wouldn’t say that they are super-ready; it is exactly the opposite what the barometer tells us and especially in Ireland, in terms of we are the least cyber-ready.

People are growing numb to cybersecurity threats – and that is dangerous. People have heard too much about it and they are becoming a little bit numb, and less sensitive. They are switching off. Even looking at the recent Facebook breach, after it all quietened down I’m not seeing all the coverage in the media as we saw last year for WannaCry. Everybody has had enough of all the Facebook problems, Cambridge Analytica and seeing Zuckerberg in front of the Senate. People have just had enough. Everybody is focusing on their business and don’t seem to be paying as much attention any more.

This could be bigger problem then?

I believe the danger is out there. Even the Facebook example shows that. You cannot relax about these things because cyberattacks come in waves and they are always changing, and there are new ways to get into businesses.

I believe that relaxation is not the solution. If somebody did their homework and they feel that they put everything in place and they are ready, then it is good to take a step back. But just ignoring it is not the way forward.

What is Vodafone doing about it? You have a large SME and corporate base, how do you ensure they are up to speed?

To be honest, I was a little surprised by the finding of the report that Ireland is behind the rest of Europe and the rest of the world in terms of cyber-readiness. That said, our customers in Ireland and the rest of the world seem to be quite interested in cybersecurity, and they do come to us and talk to us and ask what they can do to protect against phishing attacks and what type of new firewall services we can offer. They seem to be quite cyber-aware and we are offering services on the fixed and mobile side to keep them protected.

Essentially, what we believe – and this is another takeaway from the report – I see cybersecurity as a quality indicator of the service a company offers its customers. So, from my perspective, quality is the one keyword that I take away from this report.

Looking at the associations of the successful businesses, those that adopted cybersecurity say they feel that by doing so, they are more focused on innovation than their competitors. Others believe they are more customer-centric than less-cyber-ready competitors. Our research showed us that 59pc of cyber-ready companies believe they have a competitive and digital advantage.

Innovation, focus and cyber-readiness: I think these are all measures of attractiveness to the customer which in turn enable more sales and more business. You will always have customers that make the choice between quality and price and go for the cheapest option; others will say if you help reduce risks from business, they are happy to pay. There is always a different attitude, and certainly in Vodafone we pride ourselves in offering high-quality services to customers.

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

I believe that for the future, cybersecurity will be a really important aspect of our economy for the coming decade. More and more new technologies will penetrate our lives and businesses, so we need to make sure our digital world is kept safe.

What I can see becoming a trend is technology that is getting a lot of attention, edge computing, which has its own security challenges. What I find really interesting about edge computing and 5G and IoT, which are all interrelated, is the level of risk will change and will go higher. Currently, what you can see after an attack, you might lose reputation, a lot of money, which are quite serious risks. But what will happen when you start connecting things and industrial machinery and drones and cars to the network? You will see even life risks.

So, I believe that cybersecurity will have a higher importance in the future and all of those new technologies will go mainstream.

Want stories like this and more direct to your inbox? Sign up for Tech Trends, Silicon Republic’s weekly digest of need-to-know tech news.

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years