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Cybersecurity Needs Multi-Faceted Solution, Role Of Tech Cos Crucial: Microsoft

The top executive noted that recent incidents like the Facebook-Cambridge Analytica event were 'tipping points' that impacted how people think about technology more broadly now.

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The global challenge around cybersecurity needs a multi-faceted solution with tech companies playing a bigger role while bringing in a larger pool of security professionals and applying best practices are crucial, Microsoft President Brad Smith said.

The top executive noted that recent incidents like the Facebook-Cambridge Analytica event were 'tipping points' that impacted how people think about technology more broadly now.

'It (cybersecurity) is an extraordinarily important issue...I think the recent spate of cybersecurity attacks underscored that even more clearly. I think the solution has to be mult-ifaceted...(as a tech company) we have to ask ourselves how can we change our practices, how can we make our software and our services more secure and what more can we do to help customers around the world,' he said during Raisina Dialogue.

Running solutions on the cloud are more secure than when it runs through on-premise servers as it is easier to keep a watch on the data and the attacks, and the upgrades can be done, he added.

'We have a global shortage of cybersecurity professionals in the workforce. I think we're going to need a global initiative to really accelerate the kind of training to put more cybersecurity professionals in place...I think this is going to be something that will be important for governments around the world to pursue as well,' Smith said.

The executive said that an important aspect is also applying cybersecurity best practices, whether it's patching of servers on-premise, use of multi-factor authentication or security measures tied down devices that people use for their work.

Smith, who has co-authored a book called 'Tools and Weapons: The Promise and the Peril of the Digital Age' with Carol Ann Browne, said a degree of regulation would be needed for digital technology.

'..I think that there was a similar tipping point around privacy globally. This happened for Facebook and Cambridge Analytica in 2018, but it really then swept around the world. And that was a tipping point that followed one five years earlier with the Snowden disclosures,' he added.

The Facebook–Cambridge Analytica data scandal involved British consulting firm Cambridge Analytica obtaining the personal data of millions of Facebook users, including those in the US and India (which are among the biggest market for the social media company) without their consent.

Smith pointed out that national deliberations are going on with people asking about the obligations that tech companies running social media sites should have around the removal of unlawful content.

'...another is what's the right balance for tech companies to take when they are removing content that may be lawful but that they or others may find objectionable. How do you balance that with free expression and the like,' he said.

Smith added that a new model will probably emerge that will require tech companies to be more transparent and publishing the principles that they adopt and follow consistently to give individuals who are impacted some right to appeal and even perhaps having some regulatory review of whether they are adhering to the principles.

He also noted that the 'changing relationship' between China and the United States, and China and some other countries is one of the most significant geopolitical developments of this decade, which is also impacting the technology sector.

'...we are definitely seeing an impact on hardware supply chains, in terms of many companies moving part, in some instances perhaps almost all or all of their hardware manufacturing, out of China and to other countries. That has been underway for the last, I would say, 18 months, even though it's not always discussed by companies publicly as much as it might,' he said.

Smith added that hardware manufacturing capacity is shifting to Vietnam, South Korea or other parts of South Asia.

'...from a longer-term perspective, this creates potential new opportunities for, say India as well as others, to make themselves more of a location for hardware manufacturing,' he said.