He spent four years promoting the benefits of the digital world as the UK’s e-Envoy until earlier this year and now Andrew Pinder has reappeared as a non-executive director of security company Entrust.
The idea of an e-Envoy is hard to explain to some people outside the UK – the nearest equivalent in the US, for instance, would be that the role is like that of a drugs “Czar”. Someone, then whose job is to make things happen - in his case a fixer out to drive home the benefits of online take-up among the general population and business.
Some ridiculed the need for such a person – like persuading people they need to drive cars and spend time on roads – but there is no doubt Pinder was a success story as e-Envoy, albeit in a role that might look daft in years to come.
So what can someone so well connected in UK government circles actually do for a Dallas-based security outfit? He has a ready answer for that one during our short telephone chat. “Stop the next Enron from happening,” he says humorously. But of course non-execs famously failed to stop Enron from happening the first time so there must be a lot more to such a job these days.
“It’s board is almost entirely American,” says Pinder noting that he is one of only two non-US citizens on the management team. He will broaden that US-bound culture.
Security is serious business nowadays and security companies need every scrap of experience to sell their wares, especially to complex, nervous and recalcitrant parts of the economy such as government. As an ex-Civil Servant (US translation: government worker) Pinder no doubt has what it takes to break down the doors.
Before he took on the e-Envoy job, he was a senior team member at a number of companies including Citibank, The Prudential and a Director of Information Technology at Office of Inland Revenue.
Most security professionals you speak to are out to sell their product, come what may. But having spent time as a public servant you are tempted to ask more philosophical questions. Has the IT industry not itself created, by neglect, a lot of the problems the security industry now seeks to solve at the customer’s expense? Are the current crop of security systems being oversold? These get a measured response.
When you mention the fact that he has spent the last four years of his life promoting Internet technologies which open people to a greatly increased risk of engineered fraud, scams, data theft and general hassle (to pick on the obvious examples), the charm falls away. Has not the digital economy turned out to be more complex and risky than envisaged then?
The word he used to describe that perspective is best left off the record, but he dismisses it out of hand.
“Popularity has turned computing into a criminal opportunity. The industry itself is not to blame, the problem is public awareness.”
“Aspects of government and the private sector don’t think about security as they need to,” he admits. The banking industry, in particular, has failed to react quickly enough to the issue of security by building in simple checks for online commerce. And that is where the security industry comes in, of course, in providing lucrative solutions to the darkness that threatens to descend on the online dream of openness, liberty and effortless commerce that Pinder still so cherishes.
It’s nearly 2005 and the fastest growing crime of the 21st Century is identify theft. Online fraud is increasing thanks to social engineering scams that play on ignorance and it’s the internet is playing its part in revolutionising the publicity departments of every crackpot ideology.
No, this isn’t an argument for getting rid of the Internet before you all write in. Just a notice that getting people to tie their homes to the Internet for a spot of shopping was only the beginning of a long story from the ideals of the e-Envoy to whatever lies ahead.