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Automation no cure-all for leaks, claims Redwood Software

NSA threat to axe 90 per cent of system administrators is futile, company says.

Recent claims by the US National Security Agency (NSA) that it is to automate its systems in order to eliminate 90 per cent of its systems administrators in the wake of the PRISM revelations have been called into question by Redwood Software.

Neil Kinson, vice president of Europe for the business and IT process automation firm, told IT Pro that such an action will not prevent leaks and is not the right way to approach an automation strategy.

In mid-August, Keith Alexander, the director of the NSA, said: "[Until now] we've put people in the loop of transferring data, securing networks and doing things that machines are probably better at doing," adding automation would make those networks "more defensible ... [and] more secure".

However, Kinson disagrees with Alexander's point of view.

"The rights and wrongs of the Snowden situation is a thorny topic, but the NSA's reaction the belief that by eliminating 90 per cent of the staff you are going to achieve better governance is an interesting one," said Kinson.

"It does not sound like it is coming from a labour saving point of view, it is about limiting the number of people that have access to what is highly sensitive information. However, if there was a governance issue before automation is implemented, there will still be one afterwards," he added.

Kinson claimed that the benefits of automation are often misunderstood, as in the case of the NSA, with business leaders focusing on headcount reduction and cost savings, rather than the innovation it can bring to a company.

"Automation frees up highly talented people, meaning companies are then able to deliver additional services and information to their customers," he said.

"There may be some cost savings, but what is most important is what those people can be freed up to do.

"Having highly qualified and expensive people, such as analysts in the NSA or accountants in a financial process, carry out repetitive, mundane tasks is clearly not the best use of the skills they have spent time building up," he concluded.

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