Data Privacy and Security

Wynyard Group CEO: The future of crime fighting & privacy

Although it doesn’t always go down well with the public at large, the law is getting on board with technology. The latest tool government agencies are using to enforce the law is data.

Applying big data to crime prevention - where structured and unstructured data is pooled to discover links between people, relationships and events of interest - is a relatively new trend. However, it potentially gives investigators and intelligence analysts insights to act on for preventing and solving crime. And according to Craig Richardson, CEO of Wynyard Group, the crime analytics software is worth something in the region of $5 billion a year.

Based in London, Wynyard’s Advanced Crime Analytics software is being employed by law enforcement, corrections, homeland security, domestic and foreign intelligence and communications agencies and even financial institutions for a range of uses including drug crime, gang crime, gun crime, homicide and fraud or financial crime. Also competing in this space are Palantir, BAE Systems, and various other specialist vendors.

So with this new era of crime fighting, will we ever see a Minority Report-esque style of policing? “I think that’s unlikely,” says Richardson. “Predictive analytics does the heavy lifting and rapidly analyses masses of data but translation, decisions and actions are still a human responsibility.”

With Wynyard being so closely involved with law enforcement and data, privacy is an issue the company has to be careful around. While the level of legal oversight and regulation varies depending on the institution or agency deploying it, Richardson stresses his company’s software is used by agencies that are subject to judicial oversight for sifting through legally collected data.

“To protect privacy, our software incorporates high levels of data encryption and partitioning to ensure individuals are only able to access and view data to which they have security rights.”

Privacy vs. Government

There’s been a lot of talk about whether tech companies should be encrypting their users’ data, with many politicians – UK PM David Cameron among them - and agency officials such as GCHQ’s Robert Hannigan basically saying data shouldn’t be protected. For the most part Richardson seems to agree.

“Helping law enforcement agencies interrogate and analyse digital content more effectively means they can be even more responsive in tackling offenders, stopping drug trafficking and protecting children from exploitation,” he says. “Encryption is not the answer. The solution is governance and process by warrant over the unlocking authority, which is already largely in place.”

Many will say politicians and security agencies are scaremongering, but with so many organisations being hacked by cyber-groups with extremist links, is this still the case? “There’s a real, growing and significant cyber-threat from sophisticated terrorist organisations and crime networks. The Islamic State, for example, has already had success in using the web and social media as its command-and-control platform.”

That stance probably shouldn’t be a surprise, as former GCHQ Deputy Director Andrew France recently joined the Wynyard Group. And while some companies may shy away from the potential media backlash, Richardson has no such worries. “GCHQ is a widely respected and effective communications and intelligence agency,” he says, adding that despite public awareness and debate increasing post-Snowden leaks, he doesn’t feel GCHQ has shied away. “To the contrary, it has taken steps to ensure it’s an informed and balanced argument which I think most citizens would recognise as important.”

Outside of the terrorism argument, there are plenty of other cyber-criminals for governments to worry about. “Script kiddies, hacktivists, crime syndicates and state sponsored actors all pose different levels of threat to governments.” Richardson says the less sophisticated hackers are put off by your standard security tools. “Syndicates and state actors however, are motivated by significant financial, intellectual property or espionage gain. They represent the advanced and persistent threat and are unstoppable.”

With the news full of stories about organisations and agencies being hacked, are governments doing enough to keep up with hackers? “Government intelligence and communications security agencies are definitely taking this growing problem seriously,” he explains. “Broadly speaking however, the response from government agencies and corporates is dangerously slow.”

“The building blocks of the internet are ageing and were not designed to carry critical communications, protect your privacy or operate national infrastructure, but pro-active companies and government agencies can manage the risk.”


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Dan Swinhoe

Dan is a journalist at CSO Online. Previously he was Senior Staff Writer at IDG Connect.

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