Tabcorp working with Telstra on security for gaming

Telstra's new cybersecurity centres and services allow Tabcorp to better balance maintaining the security of customer data with its own drive for digital transformation, the gaming company has said.

Gaming services company Tabcorp has entrusted its online security operations to Telstra, saying the telecommunications provider's new cybersecurity centres and services provide a more individualised and transparent approach.

Speaking during the annual Telstra Vantage conference in Melbourne, Tabcorp CISO Brendan Smith said the danger of losing the trust of its customers in a data breach is the biggest fear of the Tabcorp board.

However, with the brand needing to digitally transform in order to offer online services to continue competing with rival offerings, Smith explained that it has been difficult to balance security with innovation.

"While I'm trying to do everything I can to ensure that the trust of the customer is earned and protected, I have a business that needs to move faster, with more agility, more flexibility, more use of big data, more use of the customer data in order to create that personalised experience, which is the other thing you hear about along with machine learning," Smith explained on Thursday.

"So that customer profiling and the personalisation presents risks which I have to try and manage back into the business to make sure that we maintain the trust."

Smith explained that the gaming and wagering industry has vast sums of money floating around online, making it a prime target for hacking attempts.

Telstra CEO Andy Penn had announced in his Vantage keynote on Wednesday that Telstra is working with Tabcorp on security because gaming companies are one of the most lucrative targets of cyber attacks.

"What's critical is we can help monitor and protect Tabcorp's network from a security perspective," Penn said.

Calling Telstra a "technology optimist", Penn said it is utilising its newly launched security operations centres (SOCs) in Melbourne and Sydney, along with its new managed virtual security service, which he said brings together an artificial intelligence (AI) engine with the physical capacity to monitor customers' networks and protect them from a cybersecurity standpoint.

In Tabcorp's experience, the benefit of using Telstra's new security offerings is a personalised service leading to customers gleaning more insights and intelligence on their security threats, Smith said.

"The difference with the new [Telstra] service is we've been able to work really closely with the development team to say, 'Well, these are the sorts of things that an enterprise customer or a business customer actually needs to see, and so these are the things you need to be able to provide'," the Tabcorp CISO explained.

"As an example, I was talking with one of the lead developers and project leads [at Telstra], and he said that 'until you said to us that you wanted to be able to see the broad data of the alert, that had never crossed our mind, we'd never considered that the customer would want to see that', and so then they built that in.

"So we're already getting intelligence and alerts and information back from the new service that significantly exceeds the value of what we were getting from the old service ... and I know we're only at the beginning of feeding in data, but it will get more interesting as we feed more stuff in."

Similarly, Smith said Telstra's SOC analysts are now developing personal relationships with their customers' teams, with Tabcorp seeing the Telstra security staffers as "an extension of our team" rather than a separate entity.

Saying the security industry has consistently under-delivered to its customers, Telstra director of Global Security Solutions Neil Campbell said the telco's new SOCs in Sydney and Melbourne can deliver a vaccination-like security service to its customers.

"Telstra is the single best-placed organisation in this country to have significant impact on reducing cybercrime across the board ... we have a chance of inoculating the country against a vast majority of threats," Campbell said during Telstra Vantage 2017.

"One of the concepts of security is a chain is only as strong as its weakest link. But one of the concepts of immunisation and ultimately inoculation is that if you protect a sufficient percentage of your population, you don't have to get to all of them; you effectively create herd immunity.

"We want to head towards cyber herd immunity."

Telstra built its new SOCs and security services with the capability for its analysts to concentrate on an all-encompassing view of a company's systems while dismissing irrelevant factors and breaking down the remaining information into manageable chunks for customers to look at, Campbell explained.

"We do a lot of work with the engine itself to basically just discard the innocuous from consideration," he said.

"We get down to a smaller set -- 6,000 events in this case -- use a combination of correlation and advanced analytics, and ultimately get down to five events out of three quarters of a million that a person must look at on a screen.

"That's the power of great technology and great people able to monitor it, because we can take what feels impossible to manage and bring it down to a very manageable subset of events."

Telstra on Thursday said it is also looking to deploy SOCs in Hong Kong, Singapore, and London, as well as exploring the possibility of building "mini-SOCs", after Penn last month told ZDNet that the telco was looking to launch more SOCs across the globe.

"There will be more [centres] in the next year or two," the chief executive told ZDNet during the Sydney SOC launch in August.

"The thing to bear in mind, though, is that they're virtual; this centre is virtually connected to the centre in Melbourne, and every future centre that we'll have will be virtually connected as well, plus they'll have 24/7 capabilities.

"So in that sense, these centres once established have the capacity to service thousands of customers, and as our business grows -- particularly internationally with our submarine cable network where we have about 400,000 kilometres of submarine cable network where we're doing all the data transmission services for international customers -- we'll build out more centres as that demand requires, but we certainly have plans for a small number of extra centres internationally."

The chief executive also told ZDNet that Telstra will likely upgrade its existing SOC in Canberra.

Telstra's SOC management platform is run on Microsoft Azure, with the centres also utilising the capabilities of software development company Readify and security analytics technology from Cognevo, both of which were acquired by Telstra last year.

Telstra built the Melbourne and Sydney SOCs to an Australian Security and Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) T4 standard, with Campbell on Wednesday saying this was not in order to sell services to government, as it already has a centre for doing this, but rather to demonstrate its commitment to maintaining the highest level of security possible for its customers.

Telstra last month also announced a new "secure internet initiative" -- a learning and development program to increase knowledge of cybersafety within organisations.

"Cybersecurity is a team sport," Penn said, adding that Telstra fully supports the federal government's cybersecurity strategy.

"The security operations centres and the secure internet initiatives reinforce Telstra's commitment to working with the government and industry to create a cybersecure Australia."

Having launched its managed security services earlier this year, Penn told ZDNet during Telstra's FY17 financial results call that Telstra has "deep" skills in cyber.

"We've got deep, deep, deep skills in cyber because of our own need to protect our networks, but also we provide a very significant dynamic service for our enterprise customers, and this is really a significant investment in really building that service for our enterprise customers," Penn told ZDNet.

Disclosure: Corinne Reichert travelled to Telstra Vantage in Melbourne as a guest of Telstra