Interview: Tim Best
Interview: Tim Best

The world may be heading for economic meltdown, but Logica's head of enterprise security solutions isn't worried.

Tim Best is looking sharp in his managing director's office. Pin stripe suit, serious glasses – very neat. He has a no-nonsense air, one of those people who seem to have their lives pretty much mapped out from the point of graduation and are now reaping the rewards of their application.

He did a degree in business information and technology at Newcastle before joining a marketing company in Manchester to take charge of their IT.And then, ten years ago, he got a job with Logica and moved down to London. “Since then, I've got married, had two kids and bought a couple of houses and now live out in Sussex. Yeah, it's changed quite a bit over that time,” he says.

His reward for ten years of service is to run Logica's enterprise security solutions business. The pan-European IT consulting group is probably not the first name many would associate with information security, but Best claims it has a 30-year track record in the sector. “We have 400 consultants worldwide delivering information security. A large proportion of those are in the UK,” he says.

It just so happens that on the day we meet oil has reached an all-time high barrel price, house prices are plummeting and the world seems to be heading for hard times. I ask whether he thinks that information security might actually be a safe harbour in terms of employment.

“Quite possibly. I made a conscious decision after the dot.com bubble that it might be a nice safe little place to be and I've stayed there ever since,” he replies. So how bad a state does he feel the economy is in this time round?

“I don't think it's quite as bad as some make out, but I do believe there are a number of trends that are coming to a head,” he says. “We're in for a rocky ride over the next few years. You've got water shortages in South Asia, mass migration, and people across Europe are starting to wake up to this immigration thing, even from Eastern Europe. You've got global warming, food shortages, rising food prices….” Not exactly reassuring…

So everything's going to hell, but Best does have a point to make. He mentions the fact that many of Logica's customers are offshoring in the very places most likely to be affected by the dramatic shift in geopolitics and the resultant rise in cyber crime. But we won't get any closer to taking these people out until the businesses start owning up to the fact they've been hit, he continues, because they are reluctant to lose reputation.

“If something happened or some customer data goes missing, do you report it straight away, or do you try and solve the problem yourself? Usually organisations consider the pros and cons, and probably keep stum about much of the stuff. For us in the industry it is frustrating, because we don't get to hear about what's happening,” he complains.

I ask whether, as an expert on access and identity management, he feels we may be reacting in the wrong way to fears about crime on our streets.

“Well, I suppose there is a privacy aspect to it, and there is a legitimate Big Brother concern. But, saying that, there is also a genuine need out there for this type of stuff. I think we need to look at purpose, that would be my overriding concern,” he muses. “We need to look at the purpose of what this information's being collected and used for. But in reality, it takes law enforcement hours to go through video tape to spot a crime, and it's laborious and it's probably very rarely done.”

But the infrastructure is in place, the cameras are becoming more sophisticated, and the UK has the world's largest DNA database, all of which is already causing anxiety among civil liberties groups. Aren't we in danger of, in Daily Mail lingo, sleepwalking into a surveillance society?

Best, who lives out in the quiet of the Sussex countryside, is not too concerned. “You could argue that. I suppose if you start to join up these bits and pieces and you start to put it together, there is a dividing line between someone's personal life and that of the state,” he says – adding that Logica only uses this technology for business purposes.

We move on to business. These are still good times for Logica – its information security business is booming, according to Best. “We identified a number of areas for strategic investment. So we're going to grow these parts of our business where we think that A, we've got a very good reputation and B, we think that there's potential growth that's going to outstrip the rest of the market. And we believe security is one of those areas. It has been identified as an area for strategic investment for Logica, which
is great,” he says.

So what are Logica's customers afraid of and want his company to protect them from? The answer: data leakage.

“It's talked about a lot at the moment, but it is out there. I've actually recruited people specifically for data leakage prevention at the moment,” he claims. “We're building a dedicated capability in that area, because we're simply so busy. The protection is moving to the data and data loss prevention field, both in terms  of monitoring and the enforcement.

“People are strange; they do the weirdest things. We have come across some very peculiar stuff, for example scams that staff members are running. Sometimes we have been called into an organisation for completely different reasons, but our consultants have spotted something else happening on the other side of the room, for example.”

So given that that what goes on is not always what you expect, does Best believe that technology can keep up with a surge in cyber crime?

“I think it can, yes. I'm going to say that because I love these solutions and I love future-gazing, but there's a convergence of many technologies happening,” he says. “You've got the convergence of logical and physical access. Many organisations are running multiple schemes, in different countries, or different buildings even, for physical access to a building, or logical access to a network and applications on your desktop.

“We're seeing a convergence of access, but there are technologies around now, solutions are out there that can bring these two together – and with huge return on investment opportunities for organisations. Up to now that's not really been possible to do cheaply, but now it is,” he continues.

Best is also big on biometrics, which he predicts have a great future, with relatively straightforward biometric technologies now being more widely adopted, especially in the banking sector where fear is undermining internet banking. “People are worried about internet fraud and identity theft, so they're using the telephone banking option more often, which means the bank's costs are going up,” he says.

And again he sees opportunities against the backdrop of a credit crunch largely created by the banks themselves. “The banks have to fund this growth in telephone banking traffic and pay for someone to sit at the other end of the phone. It's quite expensive for them, so we're talking to a lot of the banks at the moment about using voice biometrics,” he says. Every cloud and all that…