The Snowden Effect and IT Automation’s Role

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Gabby Nizri is the Founder & CEO of Ayehu Software Technologies Ltd., publishers of eyeShare, an enterprise-class, lightweight IT process automation tool.

GabbyNizri_tnGABBY NIZRI

Ayehu Software

These days, everyone is hyper aware of privacy and Internet security – especially given the paradigm shift toward cloud computing. Across industries, organizations are cracking down to ensure they prevent leaks of confidential and sensitive information. We’re all aware of the so-called “Snowden Effect”, which essentially highlights what could happen when personal information is released, so how does one continue to compete in an increasingly virtual climate without sacrificing the need to keep information secure?

Balancing Security and Transparency

IT Automation may be the key that solves this problem, and it’s starting in the most unlikely of places: the U.S. government. The reason behind this change; however, is what’s being called into question.

Recently, the National Security Agency/Central Security Service (NSA/CSS) announced that it would begin the process of automating nearly 90 percent of its system administration duties in an attempt to eliminate waste and free up valuable resources. The NSA/CSS is a U.S. defense agency that is responsible for providing timely information to key government officials and military leaders. The agency is also tasked with the broad responsibility of protecting sensitive or classified national security information from foreign adversaries.

Perhaps no other agency or government body has as much official responsibility for the privacy of information as the NSA/CSS. Yet many critics have called into question its plan of automation, touting the security risks associated with removing the human element from the picture and introducing technology as its replacement. Keith Alexander, the agency’s director has defended the decision, boldly stating that:

“[Until now] we’ve put people in the loop of transferring data, securing networks and doing things that machines are probably better at doing.” He further went on to point out how automation would “make those networks more defensible … [and] more secure.”

 

Contrary to popular belief that software and computers are inherently risky in terms of security breaches, the NSA feels instead that leveraging such technology will actually improve the ability to maintain the confidentiality of information securely. This is due, in great part, to the infamous Snowden Effect, in which a former CIA and NSA employee, Edward Snowden, leaked details of several top-secret United States and British government mass surveillance programs to the press.

The devastating results have rocked the cloud computing industry across the globe, striking fear in individuals and businesses alike and creating an environment of uncertainty on a worldwide scale.

Reducing Risk or Increasing Efficiency?

The idea of rolling out a massive automation project within one of our own government agencies seems, to some, to be about much more than just a way to improve efficiency. Rather, many feel it is more about finding a way to remove what is now viewed as the biggest risk to our national security and critical, confidential information – human beings. Even if the real reason behind the shift toward automation is, indeed, to boost efficiency and cut costs, the real benefit of automation in this case becomes diluted or lost completely.

How the government will actually leverage IT automation remains to be seen, as does the long-term effects of doing so. In the meantime, the real reason why this technology can and should become an integral part of the business culture – regardless of industry – remains not in eliminating people and the risk they pose from the business process, but rather providing innovation that will free up those talented and highly skilled people to be able to focus on much more important matters, like driving the future growth and success of their organization.

Up until now, organizations have primarily justified IT process automation by its ability to eliminate manual, labor-intensive tasks that kept expensive technicians busy. We could now be seeing an entirely new justification take root based on IT process automation’s ability to prevent the far greater expense & damage of information security breaches. Ultimately, the Snowden Effect’s greatest legacy could be raising awareness about the importance of securing computer systems efficiently and cost-effectively.

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