Data security game-changer - why newest mainframe important to banks

Opinion by Richard Whomes

While the world has been riding from the boom of new technology innovations in 2017, the mainframe has recently reaffirmed its rightful place at the top of the financial security technology field says Richard Whomes

Note: Ordinarily company names or products are not referred to in SC opinion pieces, certainly not a company's own offering.  Richard Whomes has chosen to talk about the impact of a product from a different company from his own and excluding the product name was considered inappropriate in this article.  His views of this product are his own.

While the world has been riding from the boom of new technology innovations in 2017, the mainframe has recently reaffirmed its rightful place at the top of the financial security technology field thanks to the release of the IBM z14. This mainframe is the data security solution that banks and financial institutions have been clamouring for, in the face of growing cyber-attacks and hacking scandals.

Customer data isn't safe

With new government figures suggesting that 46 per cent of companies have suffered a digital attack so far this year, it's safe to say that protecting customer data against breaches is a big part of doing business in the modern world. Malicious attacks on data cost the banking industry an estimated £5.9 billion last year and according to IBM, cyber-attacks are set to cost the global economy £5.9 trillion by 2022. It makes sense, then, that many senior bankers believe that cyber-attacks are the biggest threat facing their industry today.

On top of these statistics, it's not only malicious outsider attacks that global companies need to worry about. Insider threats, and even simple mistakes made by employees, can also end up doing significant financial and reputational damage to organisations. IBM's new z14 has been designed to mitigate these threats to businesses, and IT decision makers would do well to sit up and take notice.

Encryption is key

The biggest game-changer that the z14 brings is new sophisticated encryption capabilities. IBM's new mainframe can run more than 12 billion encrypted transactions per day. This means that not only can it process almost five times the amount of transactions than the previous model, but it can also encrypt the data at the same time. This will change the landscape of data protection as we know it; by encrypting customer information, banks can put a seriously strong wall between the sensitive information they hold and the cyber-criminals who are looking for every opportunity to steal valuable data.

In an ideal world, organisations would already be encrypting all data they hold. But of the nine billion data records that have been lost or stolen since 2013, only 4 per cent were encrypted. The delay in implementing such a change is because encrypting large amounts of customer data has traditionally been an expensive and extremely time-consuming task. What's more, with older systems, it was only possible to encrypt data in small chunks. The laborious job of encrypting data in smaller amounts is a key reason for its prohibitive cost and why organisations have been slow to adopt the data security method. The launch of the z14 adds significant processing power, which will allow banks and financial institutions to encrypt data sets en masse.

What's more, the z14 will go further than just encrypting the data sitting within a mainframe system. It will also extend encryption to data on applications that rely on cloud services or other databases, as well as newer technologies, such as blockchain.

Bringing business into the 21st century

Shockingly, only two percent of business data is encrypted, compared to 80 percent of mobile data. The new mainframe will close this gap, bringing businesses into the digital age alongside the technology companies, such as WhatsApp, which have long recognised the need for including encryption as part of their data security arsenal.

In addition, the new level of data security built into the z14 will support companies in achieving compliance with both existing and incoming regulations. For example, with laws such as the EU GDPR and the UK Data Protection Bill just around the corner, organisations face new burdens around ensuring data security. Having encryption as a standard security practice will serve to show regulatory bodies that banks and financial institutions are making substantial efforts to protect against cyber-attacks.  

IBM has recently stated that trust is the currency of the new digital economy. With consumers becoming increasingly wary of the ways in which companies are implementing data security measures, real effort needs to be made by big businesses to demonstrate they are taking things seriously - and the z14 may just be the answer.

Contributed by Richard Whomes, director sales engineering, Rocket Software


*Note: The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of SC Media or Haymarket Media.


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