Cybersecurity comes to the fore at Web Summit 2016

I attended the Web Summit at its new home in Lisbon last week and it was noticeable how prominent cybersecurity was compared to previous years. At Enterprise X, the SaaS enterprise software track focused on multiple industries, most of the technical keynotes made some reference to cybersecurity, showing how topical this subject has become. Naturally, there were some mentions of Yahoo in light of its record-breaking data breach of an estimated 500 million customer records, but a recurring theme was the explosion of data. Helen Dixon, Ireland’s Data Protection Commissioner, had several speaking slots at the many mini-conferences that were curated under the Web Summit banner.

The Internet of Things is driving an explosion in volumes of data – the structured and unstructured data that smart devices generate and the information in the systems to which these devices are connected. Many times during the conference, the discussion turned to the need to protect that data before it becomes information.

Most sessions came to the same broad conclusion; that is, we don’t yet know how this is going to pan out but there is going to be a need to manage the growth of data and there’s a lot of uncertainty about whether the systems we have today can deal with that data as it grows in volume.

Consequently, there’s a lot of investment in data management tools for IoT. At the same time, the mood in the room was that if we are able to manage that data, we need to make sure we can do so in a compliant way. Obviously, EU GDPR was mentioned in this context many times. There’s a widespread feeling that the new regulation will drag many more organisations into the data protection net than were covered by it before. As more organisations experiment with IoT and test its suitability, they may well become data processors by virtue of the information they gather.

Other personal highlights from Web Summit, were the featured startup tracks where there were two rows of companies dedicated to cybersecurity and information security. Last year, by contrast, I don’t recall seeing any security startups, so it’s another indicator that this area is moving into the mainstream.

The nature of the Web Summit itself, and the early stage of these companies, means that some will make it and some won’t, but I saw some interesting ideas focused on tackling an ongoing challenge.  As security moves ever closer to the mainstream, I wouldn’t be surprised to see a dedicated ‘cyber-X’ part of the summit when it comes around again in November 2017.

By that time, the global cybersecurity landscape might well have changed because of the newly elected US president Donald Trump. We know from his public statements that he wants to protect the US national grid and make changes to cybersecurity regulations. We can expect more developments on that front in the months to come.

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