What Does Taylor Swift Know About Data Security?

Creativity was hardly in short supply at February’s IBM InterConnect. From Stanford University’s Monopoly-themed presentation to the University of California, Berkeley’s use of Taylor Swift memes to make its points, attendees got a good dose of humor along with some serious education about protecting their corporate data.

Ben Gross and Clifton Hom of UC Berkeley’s IT department pulled together a compelling mix of fun and facts to describe how IBM helps them manage their security life cycle for more than 10,000 machines across campus.

“All most users really want is a computer that works reliably when they sit down and has the software available that they need, and a station where their data and the university’s data is kept secure,” Gross said. To accomplish this, he said, the university uses IBM BigFix.

Cyberwar tips from the @SwiftonSecurity Twitter account

Image Source: @SwiftOnSecurity

“If you don’t follow InfoSec Taylor Swift, you’re making poor life choices,” Gross continued, half joking. “But in all seriousness, while the account is largely tongue-in-cheek, a lot of the content they put out is very real, accurate and helpful.”

Of course, the quotes may not have come from Taylor Swift herself — a quick Web search reveals the original Twitter account using the pop star as its handle now has several cohorts across the Web, including a Tumblr account. Several articles online debate the authenticity of the tweets, but independent of source, the Twitter account has more than 60,000 followers, with the Tumblr account following at a close second.

What

Image Source: @SwiftOnSecurity

Regardless of whether the quotes actually belong to Swift, the suggestions are often correct.

“We use BigFix to keep over 10,000 machines up-to-date with patches and antivirus software,” Hom said. “For us, it dramatically lowers the total cost of ownership of devices on campus, because now we can patch an entire fleet of machines in a few hours using only one staff member. In the past, that same process took weeks and several people to implement.”

“We’re also able to better manage software licensing across campus,” Gross added. “A few years ago, if a user wanted to install Microsoft Office, for example, it was a pretty drawn-out process. They’d have to contact their local tech, who would have to contact another tech who could grant access. Then, that original tech would have to schedule a physical appointment with the user and come to install the software manually on the machine. The whole process could take a full week.”

According to Gross, that process is now automatic. Users click a button on their screen, grab a cup of coffee, come back to their machine, and the software is correctly installed and ready to use.

“The cost savings for the university for that type of automation, both in terms of head count and accuracy, is huge,” Gross said.

Ben Gross and Clifton Hom of UC Berkeley's IT department at IBM InterConnect 2015

Gross and Hom both reiterated the reduction in administrative IT support costs and increasing security benefits they’ve enjoyed by using IEM.

“In the past, we’ve had multiple solutions to perform different tasks on different devices — like patching, asset discovery and inventory, OS and software deployment,” they said. “Now, we can find, track and address challenges with all our endpoints in a matter of minutes in most cases and get up-to-the-minute visibility into their status.”

So, how does all of this make them feel?

“The peace of mind we get from BigFix is definitely something worth celebrating,” Gross said.

Image Source: Flickr

Mitch Mayne

Public Information Officer, IBM X-Force Threat Intelligence

Mitch is the Public Information Officer (PIO) for IBM Security X-Force Threat Intelligence, and is responsible for how...