Rob Abrams: In the digital age, data security is non-negotiable

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Sithabile Technology Services’ CTO believes that data is the company’s most valuable asset.

Rob Abrams, an executive for data and security (CTO) at Sithabile Technology Services, began his journey in the IT industry at OpenPro, which allowed him to thrive as a junior engineer.

He has held various roles throughout his career, including positions as a hardware engineer, software engineer, engineering manager, IT manager, and most recently, chief technology officer (CTO) of Sithabile Technology Services.

Rob is fascinated with helping companies avoid security breaches that could lead to data losses caused by insufficient data back-up solutions.

After completing his BSc at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, Rob eagerly immersed himself in the realm of information technology as a software engineer. “This birthed a passion for data protection,” he said.

Rob joined Sithabile Technology Services in 2005 as General Manager where he took care of the engineering services department, including preventive maintenance, and upgrading systems to boost optimal performance of the company’s systems.

Rob was promoted to CTO of Sithabile Technological Services in 2011, where he is currently serving. He oversees critical IT infrastructure that supports the company’s operations.

He shared that his role in the company underscores the criticality of cybersecurity in the digital age.

Rob credits his knack for problem-solving to his inquisitive character. He shared his fascination for constantly finding solutions to system gaps by thoroughly testing back-up systems.

This is something that led him to Sithabile Technology Services, a company which prides itself in back-up systems supplying services to major companies including Eskom, Discovery, FNB, Southern Sun, Tracker and many more.

With his extensive experience, Rob cautioned against organisations that tend to cut corners until they experience a catastrophic event.

He added that companies need to have robust back-up systems to eliminate gaps that could potentially harm the company’s data system.

“If you’re a company that actually relies on data to make decisions, you’re lost. You can’t recover from data loss,” he said.

Rob added that the challenge of having a fully functioning back-up data system fuels his drive to constantly find solutions to potential data security threats by constantly testing the company’s back-up systems.

“You have to test the systems, you have to do the work. You can’t just say, ‘I’ve got a back-up, therefore I should be okay.’ You haven’t actually tried it. You need to allocate a couple of resources and a couple of people’s time to test your system to strengthen it,” he said.

He emphasised that disasters, whether due to ransomware attacks, malicious hacking, or physical disasters like fires, can be financially ruinous. “Without proper data back-up and recovery measures in place, companies risk losing their essential data, which can lead to business shutdowns,” he said.

Rob emphasised that cybercriminals are constantly evolving their tactics. He highlighted the importance of keeping back-ups offline, physically disconnected from the primary network. “Just as the flu virus changes, attackers change. You can’t keep the same protection methods you were using last year.”

He added that this practice ensures that even if a hacker gains access to a network, they can’t compromise the back-ups.

In the ever-evolving landscape of data security, businesses must continually adapt their data recovery strategies. As Rob underscored, “Cyber attackers are relentless in seeking vulnerabilities. Hence, organisations must evolve their protection measures to stay one step ahead.”

To counter this, Rob recommends data classification and scenario testing to prioritise data back-up efforts effectively.

“Data should be categorised based on importance, with critical data receiving the highest level of protection. Additionally, scenario testing involves simulating worst-case situations to determine recovery timeframes and resource requirements, ensuring that businesses are well-prepared for any crisis,” he said.

Rob emphasised that in the digital age, data is as crucial as the products or services a company offers. “Whether it’s a bank relying on transaction records, a trading company needing real-time data for decision-making, or a manufacturer dependent on production and shipping information, data underpins business operations,” he said.

He added that his journey through adaptability in data security underscores the critical importance of proactive measures, rigorous testing, and constant evolution in safeguarding valuable data assets.

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