Boeing backs metadata for information security

Industries should do more to label digital data says Boeing’s Stephen Whitlock

Metadata – 'data about data' such as the non-image-related information stored when people snap a photo on a digital camera – should be used to label corporate information according to one US security specialist.

Speaking at The Open Group conference in Sydney, Boeing information security chief strategist Stephen Whitlock told delegates that if more digital data was labelled it would be easier to secure.

“What we are talking about is a shift from discretionary access control system to mandatory access control. If you apply metadata to the data and have a set of policies, the system decides the access,” he said.

For example, if an aircraft designer was logged into a CAD system and working on a certain project, by default the system would be able to assign certain rights to that data.

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Whitlock showed delegates the type of metadata stored by his camera. This included the owner’s name, the firmware used by the camera, and if the camera had been repaired.

“I like this example because when you press the shutter the camera did all this,” he said. “Most of the applications I use are much smarter than my camera.”

“The industry that has tonnes of money at stake in various verticals ought to care about corporate data as much as a picture someone snaps with an iPhone,” Whitlock said.

He added that data theft was “much easier” than physical crime because it was faster and left little to no trace.

“There is a lot less risk when you are stealing data, especially if you’re doing it over the Internet from one country to another,” he said.

Whitlock said he would like to industries invest in data labelling including rules and protocols.

“Data is now worth more than hardware and we have seen a big global rise in data theft. There needs to be more emphasis on data.”

Follow Hamish Barwick on Twitter: @HamishBarwick

Follow Computerworld Australia on Twitter: @ComputerworldAU, or take part in the Computerworld conversation on LinkedIn: Computerworld Australia

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Tags security risksdata protectionboeingThe Open GroupmetadataStephen Whitlock

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