‘Machines are Becoming More Intelligent and Capable of Even Performing Tasks that Require Limited Intelligence or Cognitive Abilities’

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We spoke to S M Kumar, Co-founder & MD, MitKat Advisory to understand the recent geo-political developments and their impact on security, their implications for the roles and responsibilities of chief security officers, the role played by evolving technologies such as AI, IoT, Machine Learning and Big Data in enhancing security of an organization and his views on the IFSEC India expo and the role played by it enhancing awareness around security products and solutions for key security stakeholders

S M Kumar, Co-founder & MD, MitKat Advisory

Interviewed by Adeesh Sharma

Recently, there has been lot of talk of geo-politics impacting security; can you elucidate?  Does it have implications for the roles and responsibility of Chief Security Officers?

Worldwide, there have been a number of recent political events which are impacting regional/global economy and business. Brexit and the political uncertainty in the UK, the events in the Middle East, particularly those involving Syria, Yemen and Iran, US-China Trade War, the protests in Hong Kong etc. have far reaching consequences for the countries, regions and the world.

South Asia is one of the world’s demographically richest (home to 2 out of 9 human beings with a relatively young population), economically dynamic (India and Bangladesh are growing rapidly at nearly 7% per annum) and politically turbulent regions.  The geo-politics of the region is indeed complex. Geographically, India has two nuclear armed neighbours with which it does not enjoy particularly good relations.  The US decision to pull out troops from Afghanistan (and Pakistan seeing a critical role for itself in mediation with Taliban), Easter terror attacks in Sri Lanka and the constitutional crisis prior to that, re-election of governments led by powerful leaders in India and Bangladesh, India’s decision to bifurcate Jammu & Kashmir and abrogate Article 370, Indo-Pak tensions, smooth transition of power in Maldives etc. are important events with implications for politics, business and security.

Historically, a striking feature of geo-politics of South Asia has been that its strategic destiny has often been puppetted by great global powers:

  • China wants to come in – secure its underbelly and oil routes, open up its hinterland (it is making massive investments in Belt and Road Initiatives or OBOR; it is putting a string of pearls around India with ports in Djibouti, interest in Maldives, Gwadar in Pakistan, Hambantota in Sri Lanka and ports/listening posts in Myanmar and Thailand).
  • US wants China out, keep Iran down, exit Afghanistan gracefully and contain religious fundamentalism and communism.
  • Russia wants to remain relevant (after loss of Afghanistan).

A combination of big consumption market, working age population and high growth rate make South Asia attractive to global businesses; superpowers jostling for space, geo-politcal and socio-economic turbulence and array of risks (covered above) makes the job of security and risk leaders extremely important and critical to the success of our businesses. The CEOs these days increasingly look up to their security and risk leaders for pre-emptive and actionable business intelligence, accurate risk analysis and forecast, and implementable, cost-effective recommendations to de-risk their businesses, and secure their most critical assets.

A combination of high growth rate, fragile security environment and a rapidly evolving technological landscape makes the job of security leaders more dynamic and interesting. A good CSO understands his/her business and the rapidly changing dynamics as well as the evolving threat environment.  He/she estimates risks accurately, helps evolve correct business-relevant risk management strategies and plans, communicates well and regularly with his CXOs, and enjoys their confidence. He/she works tirelessly to anticipate and prevent risks to businesses by carrying out an accurate threat-vulnerability-risk-assessment, selects right people, deploys a right mix of systems and technologies including surveillance, IAM, VMS, fire and life safety, endpoint, network & application security, incident and emergency management systems, and develops right processes well integrated with the systems, all this in a cost-conscious manner.

Over the last few years, there has been a spurt in demand for geo-political risk analysis, threat and business intelligence and travel advisory services. Demand for MitKat’s spot, daily, weekly, monthly and annual risk trackers, calendars, maps etc has been steadily growing, and shows a sharp spike post any incident – be it a Ram-Rahim, or a Jat or Gujjar or Maratha agitation, a Balakot or a surgical strike, a terror strike in Sri Lanka or decision to abrogate Article 370 or heavy rains in Mumbai and Pune.

What role can evolving technologies such as AI, IoT, Machine Learning and Big Data play in enhancing security of an organization?

Technology is rapidly transforming business and security. Future security would be more efficient and effective, less human-dependent, more technology and process-centric. There would be flying policemen and robot cops. Increasingly robots will patrol and carry out surveillance of the borders, raise alarms and zoom in surveillance devices when they pick up something suspicious.

Technology would remove vulnerabilities associated with excessive human dependence and would be ideal for repetitive tasks. Machines are becoming more intelligent and even becoming capable of performing tasks requiring limited intelligence or cognitive abilities. Developments in technology will redefine perimeter surveillance and security, authentication and access control, perimeter intrusion detection, endpoint/device, application and network security, command & control centre and incident and emergency response operations etc. The numerous IoT devices will feed inputs to smart Command and Command & Control Centres which would have smart applications to collate and synthesise data, make and communicate decisions. 

Technology is reshaping the threat environment; non-state actors, criminals, terrorists and malicious insiders are making intelligent and innovative usage of technology. Attacks are becoming machine-led and so must defences be.

Technology is also fundamentally reshaping and re-defnining businesses; digital transformation of business is a reality of times we live in. CSOs must keep track of developments in digital technologies and its impact on business and security. 

How do you think expos such as IFSEC India can be leveraged by the security stakeholders to enhance awareness about security products and learn about security strategies?

Exhibitions and Conferences like IFSEC bring together multiple stakeholders connected with security under one roof – be it defence, para-military, law enforcement, intelligence agencies, policy makers or other government officials responsible for homeland security, R&D organization, end users including Chief Security Officers and Corporate Leaders/Managers responsible for security, Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs), System Integrators (Sis), Consultants, Technologists, Scientists and Researchers, Academics, Editors of leading security and safety publications etc. Exhibitors from across the world get a chance to showcase their technologies and products to multiple stakeholders from governments and multi-lateral organisations, security and intel agencies, PSUs, corporations and NGOs.

IFSEC has traditionally organized two day Knowledge Sessions which attracts best in class speakers and thought leaders from across the globe to express their views on subjects of contemporary importance -from geo-politics and environment, the evolving threat spectrum (including insider threats) and risk environment (including interconnectedness of vulnerabilities and risks) , contemporary and latest technologies such as IoT, advanced analytics, AI, ML, quantum computing, blockchain etc. and their impact on security, the changing role of CSOs, Fraud and Integrity Risk Management issues etc.

In IFSEC in December 2018 at New Delhi, UBM partnered with MitKat, a leading Asian Risk Consultancy to unveil of a publication “South Asia Risk Review 2019” - a comprehensive analysis of geo-political, social, environmental, technology, regulatory, security and safety risks impacting businesses in South Asia. In IFSEC’s inaugural event at Dhaka, Bangladesh in Apr 2019, IFSEC released “Bangladesh Risk Review 2019.” These Knowledge Papers were received very well by the attendees.