Vauban teams up with MSC to bring its security operation to Qatar
October 28 2016 10:48 PM
Vauban CEO Mitchell Scherr with MSC-Q general manager Omar Bitar. Vauban recently partnered with MSC Qatar, and its operation in Doha under the new name VCS is already up and running.

By Denise Marray Gulf Times Correspondent London

Vauban Cyber Technologies will have a strong presence at Qatar Central Bank’s third annual Conference for Information Security in Financial Institutions. Vauban recently partnered with MSC Qatar and its operation in Doha under the new name VCS is already up and running with a core staff. Vauban founding partner and CEO Mitchell Scherr is moving to Doha to support the operation on the ground.
He said there would be a major focus on bringing skill sets into Qatar. “We will bring core technologies and start doing application development in-country.”
Gulf Times met up with Scherr and key members of the London team to learn more about the JV and their participation in the conference.
“We will launch at the conference. We have ourselves been very active in inviting over 200 attendees to the event. We have been granted a special panel and will bring in six UK companies to participate,” he said.
Chris Ford, responsible for Business Development and Government Liaison noted that the UK Government’s Department for International Trade is attending the conference, which is attracting industry thought leaders from around the globe.
Vauban is currently engaged in eight pilot projects in Qatar related to healthcare, infrastructure, oil and gas, financial services and a number of ministries.  Scherr said that having a presence in Qatar is a major plus for the company.
“We really believe it is important to make that commitment. Whereas other companies come and go – we are there long term to handle the support side of service.” He said a lot of operators come to Doha, win a contract, and take the money, but if the critical need later arises are not readily available on the ground.
For companies and organisations to be secure, Scherr said it was essential to focus on four core aspects: people, policy, process and technology.
Training staff to avoid basic mistakes that open organisations to hackers is essential. William Egerton, Vauban’s chief strategy officer said: “An additional problem for staff in the Middle East, for whom English is a second language, is that phishing emails in English can be harder to spot.”
Scherr ran through the constantly evolving methods used by cyber adversaries; denial of service, where they overwhelm a network and take it down, hijacking data with ransom ware, going into your system with a phishing attack and staying there for months extracting data which could be personally identifiable information, including possibly bank account information.  He noted: “They are now sophisticated enough to look at the physical and digital together. Equipment like CCTV cameras can become a point of entry.”
He said it is vital to integrate systems to create defence in depth. He added that he was impressed with the measures being taken in Qatar to combat the ever-changing risks. With Qatar hosting the 2022 World Cup it is fully aware of the need to protect itself against cyber adversaries.
“There are so many threat factors which can affect the sectors we work with that you need a defence in depth approach; you need to have technologies talking to each other. We ensure that with the companies we deal the capabilities interact, with encryption, anti-malware and authentication working alongside each other in an integrated fashion. In banking they are looking at multi-factor authentification including facial recognition. In mobile banking this is easier for the end user, especially where you have a large workforce using the service en masse on pay-day, and more secure than passwords and user IDs which can often get hacked.”
Companies also need to be vigilant about ‘insider threats’ posed, for example, by disaffected staff. Having the best predictive analytics and being able to understand what is going on in the workplace with a preventative rather than reactive mentality makes sense.
Scherr commented that he expected to see more legislation put into place to better hold companies to account in the event of security breaches. Punitive fines would increase attention on the negative effects on brands and loss of share value; they would also make companies more likely to take responsible proactive measures.
Companies that have already invested in cyber defence technologies need constantly to think what else they need to do. They needed to accept that newly evolving threats need constantly evolving counter measures. Vauban, he said, has the flexibility to react quickly to new threats which is not always the case with big ‘blanket approach’ brands. It is necessary, he stressed, to look at innovation and not just tick security boxes without measuring effectiveness.
Egerton said that there was evidence that not all anti-virus program were the same; some were far more effective than others, but few, if any, gave full protection. Additional specialist capability such as was available through Vauban was therefore necessary to combat malicious software.  
Egerton also pointed out that ‘the Internet of things’ implied that more every-day items such as fridges, cars – even baby monitors – would get an Internet Protocol address. All of these could be vulnerable and provide another access point for hackers.
The aviation industry is concerned about the security of its systems – now there was on board wireless, could, for instance, a hacker gain control of the cockpit?
Vauban from its base in Qatar will also look to expanding across the region to offer custom made solutions to state and commercial enterprises.

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