Centre stage with Aleksander Gorkowienko, Managing Consultant, Spirent Communications
Born –The UK is my home but I came here from Poland many years ago.
Studied / Education background – I have always been curious about a combination of two worlds: advanced technology and people. I think I have had a unique opportunity to learn about the world of Information Technology and obtain new skills at the same time as the technology itself was changing, and has become more and more sophisticated during the last thirty years. I have always been passionate about IT security and once I had an opportunity to move to this area of IT and do it professionally – there was no way returning back to anything else!
Current role / bio – I work as a Managing Consultant for Spirent Communications, being a part of their SecurityLabs team. I am responsible for developing Spirents’ cyber capabilities in the UK and EMEA.
Who do you work for and what does your role entail?
I work for Spirent Communications, who are a truly global player in the area of network testing and cyber-security. The company has a long and interesting history (we were established in 1936!) and I am excited about the fact that I work with Spirent and am a part of the history of technological innovation, specifically in the area of cyber-security.
What’s been your biggest work achievement of the last 12 months?
I am very happy to say that SecurityLabs now is not only well-known in the US, but also in Europe, the Middle East, in China and Japan. My team is now open to new markets and new challenges. We are dealing with the security of industrial systems, IoT, self-driving cars and blockchain. We test Wall Street banks, but also medical devices, trains, cars and nuclear power plants.
Every job is different and at the same time is a bit of an adventure. I am proud to be engaged in cybersecurity projects which shape the world of technology as we know it today. For me, the biggest achievement was to be able to successfully “build new bridges” and get people excited about working with Spirent – either as a client or a business partner. The biggest challenge, as always, is not technology, but people.
What is the biggest challenge facing the industry?
I think in the IT business, many people seriously underestimate the value of the “human factor” and cybersecurity awareness. We build better and smarter firewalls, but it’s people who make mistakes when configuring them, it’s people who click dangerous links and answer suspicious phone calls. I would say that probably half of the issues with security would cease to exist if ordinary people would be aware of the risks.
I think this security awareness should be an integral part of education in the future. As children, we learn quickly not open the door to strangers, but as grown-ups, we are not so sure what to do if someone sends us a very nice-looking phishing email. We share too much information about ourselves without thinking about security implications. Nowadays, digital security is an integral part of our personal and also professional life, so the sooner we learn about it and understand, the safer our families and our businesses will be.
What’s the best piece of advice you have ever been given?
I like to listen to advice. Sometimes this can make me laugh and sometimes this gives me food for thought. Let me mention this one: “Do not wait for the phone to ring”. Often, we spend too much time complaining and desperately “waiting for the miracle”. We become masters in persuading ourselves that “…yes, I would probably do this-and-that (something I really really want) if circumstances are appropriate, but now […] … So if someone would help me, give me a sign, etc.”. This is all wrong! The right time is today. Do not wait, grab the initiative and take the first step. Circumstances will change and stars above surely will help if you open your door, go outside and become open for new experiences. If you always do what you have always done, you will always get what you have always got. You can do literally anything, whatever you really want, but not with one “giant leap”. Much easier is to do it with many small steps in the right direction. So, what about taking one step today?!
What are your predictions for the IT industry for 2019/20 or beyond?
I would say that the world we live in is facing upcoming changes which are of the same, if not a greater scale, as the industrial revolution. The unprecedented development of information and biotechnology already generates an immense influence on how we live and work. We exchange a massive amount of data; our society is gradually becoming information-centric/-driven. Even the meaning of "human" might be redefined soon as we are becoming more dependent on smart machines and AI, implants monitoring our health (and one day maybe even thoughts!). More information about us will be aggregated into various online databases.
This all will impact on how we live and how we work and, also, what kind of skills will be required from the humans of tomorrow. The oil and gold of the future will be data. I doubt if we really know what we should be studying today to be able to live (or survive) in the constantly and rapidly changing environment of the very nearest future. What if large corporations use machine learning and AI to fine-tune their global marketing machinery? Will they be able to know us better than we know ourselves? Could they for example, sell pretty much everything to us, because they could unveil our most secret wishes and unleash our hidden desires? This will also create many worrying security-related implications.
What would happen if the information about us is stolen or abused? What if someone can steal not access to my bank account but my “social score”? Would we have black-market services offering for example, fake “likes” which can improve our social credibility, so in the end, we can have a better job or a bigger mortgage? What if someone obtained access to mandatory health sensors installed in our bodies? What if someone can manipulate the information flow and spread any fake news for money? In the constant technological race - are we aware of new emerging cybersecurity threats waiting for us tomorrow? I think we should be smart enough not to wait but to ask those questions today.
How do you perceive the hype around AI, a big concern ethically or a huge opportunity?
I don’t think AI is significantly different from many other inventions. Similar questions were asked many years ago at the dawn of the industrial revolution. Would machines become our friends and help to develop a better world, or they will make people obsolete? Is nuclear energy good or evil? Also, how about the ability to program machines? You can create a computer game for kids or build a dangerous, destructive malware.
In my opinion, AI is no different. As everything else, it is just a tool - a new generation of instruments available in our arsenal. And it is up to us to decide how this tool can be used. Would it help to analyse mountains of information and search for a cure for diseases or will it be used for building autonomous weapons of mass destruction? I can only hope that humans will make the right choice and at the right time.
What do you think is going to be the next big technology development? Quantum Computing? Smart Robots?
As I mentioned earlier, we will be living in the world more and more driven by data. All aspects of life will be dependent on data. Today we have just a small foretaste of what we could be dealing with tomorrow. I would expect that the following areas will be developing most rapidly: data collection, transmission, storage and processing/analysis. IoT is a good example of how much data can potentially be generated and exchanged in the future where, literally, everything will be connected. Should we also add terabytes of data (per hour!) generated by self-driving cars? A huge amount of information would also require the whole concept of data storage to be redefined. We should be prepared that terabytes of data will be generated daily by every individual and every household.
Should I also mention the avalanche of data generated by businesses, banks, research facilities, etc.? And data processing – it will require not only high-speed computers (Quantum? Optical? maybe organic?) but new algorithms and data processing techniques which have yet to be invented. Maybe not even by humans. What if we employ AI to develop better neural networks for even faster data processing?
Join Aleksander at Digital Transformation EXPO Europe
Have you seen for yourself how hackers can switch off electricity and make a global blackout? You can now. Come to Digital Transformation EXPO Europe in London, at 15:00 pm on the 9th October in the Cyber Hack theatre!