Tuesday, April 5, 2011

ASSOCHAM Conference on Cyber & Network Security, New Delhi

In the past few days, I attended a one day, International conference on Cyber & Network Security by ASSOCHAM (Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India). The conference had speakers from all around, including 2 professors from Ohio State university, professionals from around Israel, the folks from the ministry, various CBI officials, European Union cyber crime division heads and US embassy economic affairs secretaries.

Among the attendees/delegates, most who attended, except the likes of I, were from some kind of government shop, which could afford to fly them in and make them well rested at a guest house. And, then while speaking with one such individual, I got updated on how the Indian government offices and subsidiaries were well equipped with the latest know-hows and infrastructure of Cyber Security.

Until this day, from my perspective, I had only seen the Indian government's image as of this big elephant surrounded by blind men, and everyone stating out what they "feel".

Boy, I was in for a surprise! It appeared to me that the government had figured out their Boa constrictor* & were already playing with it! The snake was still crawling under the carpets of red-tapsim, bureaucracy, corruption, inefficiency and what not. One of the senior official from Indian Oil subsidiary shared with me, how Indian Oil and his company, the Chennai Oil Company, were strongly focusing on Cyberspace Security. They had infrastructure in place, policies were framed and implemented and they reviewed their stuff periodically, and reported everything back to New Delhi HQs.

The EU representatives mainly showed much concern over information privacy and vowed assistance to the Indian government in this regard. I am not sure what they will have to say about Cloud computing and all the DRP's EU firms might have overseas! There were a lot of questions to be asked and issues to be discussed but someone took more then his quota of time on a not very enriching topic, and everyone else had to pay for him! Following speakers got only 5-7 minutes to speak afterwords, no questions or discussions followed. It was more like a, sit-tight while the wind gush passes, kinda sessions afterwords.

One panelist was quick to observe this along with the deficiency of aligned topics and lapses in matter and presenters. I laughed at the way he placed his sarcasm on a platter. When he was addressed to share his thoughts on "Security on Social Networks and Cloud Computing", I still remember almost verbatim what he said. This guy is the Executive Director of KPMG, Akhilesh Tuteja. He preferred to talk while sitting behind his name board, as I remember it, this is what he said: "It gives me mixed feelings of good and bad sitting here today. Good feeling is that, my flight will depart at 7 'o clock. Usually I take the 5:30 flight and most of the time, the airline, delays the 5:30 flight and then combines it with the 7 'o clock flight. So, all these times I had to wait and then fly with someone, who never waited. Today its a good feeling that I won't have to wait. I am happy that someone else waited today and not me. Bad feeling is; this is the second time in my life I am unable to say anything or participate. The first time was during my marriage, when I was on the stage and everyone else was enjoying themselves." & that's all he said for his remarks. Then to make it more humorous, he stated "7 ways facebook could make your life tought". lol... do I have to mentione them here?! ;) He did although mentioned about "beacon score" app in facebook. That's something I learnt too!

I was rounding up folks, who according to me were impressive & knew their stuff at the back of their hands. So, here they are:
  • The Altal Security, Board Chairman, Dr. Nimrod Kozlovski, came out as an aware, super-charged and wise guy. His presentation was impressive, and vocally he was bursting out..lol.
  • Peter Swire, Professor at Ohio Sate University, was good. His presentation content was good, updated and he knew what he was saying.
  • Akash Mainra, Research in Motion, I remember, gave a good talk and was on-track.
  • S.N.Ravichandran, Cyber Society of India. This guy had some facts and figures at the back of his hand and was going smooth, I wanted to see more on what he had to say & where he wanted to go with the topic in conversation, but he bailed out after 5 minutes into the topic, sighting limited time availability.
& that's it, yes, I've checked my list twice! Out of 33 odd speakers, I could only find 4 worth listening to. I am sure I could have accommodated 2 more, but I couldn't recollect what exactly they spoke about.

So, looking at what I "learnt" and took home with me, hmm.. lets do that math now. I learnt:

  1. Cyber Security initiatives are in place for large-scale & stable government and semi-government bodies and are working. Example, Chennai Petroleum Corporation.
  2. Most fully-government bodies had a lot of work to do about managing and safeguarding personal information & security. Example: like the UIDAI (Unique Identification Authority of India), something similar like the SIN (Social Insurance Number) of the west, had some plans in place, but weren't convincing enough. If you are going to put entire country's personal information online, then you gotta be smart and have partnership with a private player too, to keep your bases covered. The UIDAI representative apparently had this down her list. She was much happy about the UIDAI initiative itself, or so, it appeared from her talk.
  3. Less panel discussion members are always more! On average there were 6 in each session, whilst not more then 3 wise men, would have been better and enriching.
  4. Presentations don't have to be arbitrary in scope! In fact they never are.
  5. Giving out handouts on topics & about what you want people to remember from the conference, is important. Just the Agenda won't do! This was missing and four days after the conference I hardly could recollect what these folks said in their presentations. Everybody said everything & remaining just enjoyed the days off and free travel.
  6. Merging two sessions together is like a mandatory tactical exercise! Not everyone does a Triathlon, so, breaks between sessions are must!
  7. One important of all things I learnt; is to have a mechanism of feedback. If you dont know how your hairstyle looks like, you could well be looking Ace Ventura or Captain Jack Sparrow, but you would never find out! How good is that?!

That's all for now. I did sent an email to Assocham two days ago, but never heard back. Guess that email address only accepts payments! ;)

* - Boa Constrictor - from the famous french novel "The Little Prince". Read online here.
Boa Constrictor mentioned in (chapter 1, paragraph 2)

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