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  • Efrat Thomas

Trust and data centre security. Lessons from Prometheus (and simple humans)

Before Prometheus gave man his first fire, our evolutionary great-great-grandparents already had two feet on the ground. Big headed bipeds with opposable thumbs gave us some of the most vital instincts that we carry today. An innate ability to identify a threat before it ate you was and one worth keeping - something you could pass along to the kids, along with the thumbs.

Several species and four hundred thousand (or so) generations later, we are no longer on the menu. But we still face potentially dangerous and threatening situations. Keeping safe remains the top priority for an instinct that took millions of years to develop and may take as many to alter. As we pass it on, it changes its names, but not its nature.

For ICTS Europe, keeping safe is more than an instinct – it is our mission. Rapidly becoming a leading force in securing data centres, in the past two years we expanded our services to some forty data centres across six European countries. A growing number Colocation and Hyperscale operators now talk to us about their challenges and how we can help them achieve an effective, cost-optimal physical security.

This conversation is critical as data centres are increasingly seeking specific security expertise to match the risk profile they are facing. So we asked our clients a simple question: What are the most important qualities and attributes they would expect to find in their physical security providers?

We offered five options to rate, and the result is striking! As seen below, the vast majority placed two attributes at the very top.

Notice that the top priority – trustworthy & dependable - is all about human qualities. Interesting, but hardly surprising. Research shows that most security failures in data centres are caused by human errors. Hence, it is only natural that data centre security professional would value a physical security provider that they can trust and rely upon.

Equally noticeable is the emphasis on the capacity to increase compliance and resilience. First, data centres want to see improvement on what they were able to achieve in the past. Simply maintaining quality and reducing costs is no longer sufficient. As threats develop, as risk complexity intensifies, as colocation clients increase their demands – data centres have to push security performance up. And, it has to come with both compliance and resilience.

For compliance, which is by virtue a means of measuring inputs, is only part of the performance picture. Resilience is nowadays the Holy Grail, the critical output that data centre security – physical and digital combined – is judged on.

Human qualities and the capacity to drive service outputs upwards – that’s what data centre security professional are telling us they need. Experience, cost optimisation, technology and innovation remain, of course, important. But only if such capacities serve the ultimate purpose. And certainly not on the expense of working with people you can trust.

So let's talk about trust

With its variety of definitions, our concept of ‘Trust’ plays a part in every interaction. It guides decision, shapes expectation and influences conscious behaviour. Instinctive trust interacts directly with our primal brain – the area which controls automatic self-preserving behaviour.

Our capacity and ability to trust is rooted here as it determines our ability to detect and respond to threats. On a basic level, it helps us differentiate between the threatening and non-threatening, to instantly spot the difference between familiar and unfamiliar. The unknown we treat with more caution or suspicion until we have assessed it.

But can we measure trust? Maister, Green & Galford believe we can. In their business classic The Trusted Advisor (Free Press, 2000) they identify four behaviour patterns that, combined, produce trust: Credibility (what I say and how I say it), Reliability (what I do and when I do it), Intimacy (how comfortable or safe I make someone feel) and Self-Orientation (the extent to which I am focused on myself).

Expressed in an equation, we can actually see how it works:

High degrees of credibility, reliability and intimacy build trust. Below the line, focus and attention on the other reduces self-orientation to boosts trust levels higher up.

Or, in our world of data centres security, trust means professional credibility, operational dependability and obsessive client focus. It is an important lesson that we take to heart and hold precious, together with all the other human qualities bestowed upon us by Prometheus.

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