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The use of AI within business is starting to become more common place. With major applications like Microsoft Teams and Word integrating many new features designed to make our lives easier.

However, we still need to exercise caution with this new technology and consider what we can put in place to mitigate any potential security risks while developing or utilizing it. Which is precisely what today’s guest, Monolith, has done.

Monolith provide a machine learning program that engineers can adopt to build highly accurate self-learning AI models that instantly predict the performance of systems in a wide variety of operating conditions.

In this weeks’ episode Mel is joined by Æsc George, Senior Software Engineer at Monolith, to discuss why they have adopted ISO 27001, explain their implementation journey and the benefits of having an Information Security Management System. 

You’ll learn

  • Who are Monolith?
  • What was their main driver behind obtaining ISO 27001?
  • What was the biggest Gap identified in the initial Gap Analysis?
  • What benefits did Monolith gain from implementing ISO 27001?

Resources

In this episode, we talk about:

[00:25] An introduction to Monolith and Æsc George – Monolith is all about empowering engineers to develop self-learning models from their engineering test data. With this they can develop machine learning models to really accelerate new product introductions and get these new products to market much more quickly, primarily by using these models to accelerate and streamline their testing.

They are currently recommended for ISO 27001 certification, and are eagerly awaiting the arrival of their physical certificate.

Æsc George is a Senior Software Engineer of this web browser based software. He is also the interim security officer, which is why he was tasked with obtaining ISO 27001.

Fun fact about Æsc: He was a proud owner of a colony of 8 rats! He currently takes care of 4 cats, which have access to a plethora of enrichment in his home 😊

[03:35] What was the main driver for Monolith to obtain ISO 27001? – There were a few drivers, the most obvious being that they want to display their commitment and credibility when it comes to Information Security.

Acquiring ISO 27001 makes it easier to show their clients and prospects that their engineering data is in safe hands.

Monolith also know that there’s a lot of buzz about artificial intelligence and machine learning at the moment, and that buzz covers both sides of the coin. What good it can do for the world and the harms it can do, so aligning with ISO 27001 shows that they’re trying to use AI in a responsible way.

[05:10] The start-up is getting a head start! – Monolith is a start-up company, only a year in and already leading the way for AI development by ensuring security is a priority from the start.

[05:40] How long did it take to implement ISO 27001? Nine months from the point of contacting Blackmores to assist to being recommended for certification.

Æsc recounts his experience: “My perception is that the effort was quite front loaded, so the amount of effort involved in the process almost wound down towards the end – even with the external audit happening towards the end.

I think once the information security management had been established and we’d worked it into our day-to-day, the perceived effort was lower. So I felt pretty confident going through our audit processes because I’ve experienced the system working already.”

[08:15] What was the biggest gap identified at the Gap Analysis?: There wasn’t a formal approach to information security risk and risk treatment.

There were already a number of existing systems and ad-hoc arrangements to mitigate information security risks – but they had been framed in terms of risk.

They hadn’t gone through a process where risks were quantified and weighed against each other.

So following the gap analysis, one of the many actions Monolith took was to make sure they were consistently and regularly assessing information security risk in various dimensions.

They now have the right framework in place to allocate the appropriate time and resources towards information security, and to prioritise the biggest risks.

[10:10] What difference has Implementing ISO 27001 made? –  It’s given Monolith more confidence in their understanding of Information Security risks, and assurance that there aren’t any massive, unidentified risks that may cause trouble later down the line.

It’s also made it easier to discuss information security risk and policy decisions. Monolith AI are a remote first company, allowing their staff the freedom to experiment with new technologies, and be in an environment where they feel comfortable. Having formal risk treatment in place means they can maintain this highly flexible, highly innovative and productive way of working – but with their eyes wide open.

[11:40] What has Æsc learned from the experience of Implementing ISO 27001? Æsc is not new to ISO Management Systems, having been involved with the maintenance and implementation of a few in the past.

However, he has gained an appreciation for the nuance in ISO 27001. For example, the knowledge that the standard uses words like ‘should’ and ‘shall’ that have particular intentions – ‘shall’ being mandatory and ‘should’ being recommended.

His previous experiences with Management systems had more available resource than at Monolith, so learning this nuance has been important in the prioritization of focus and resources in his current position.

[13:30] What have been the main benefits from Implementing ISO 27001? Having a holistic and formal approach to Information Security and risk management compared to the ad-hoc approach they had prior.

It’s brought the company together on a really important issue, and helped everyone to understand the role they play in Information Security.

Personally, Æsc has enjoyed reaching out to people he may not ordinarily get the chance to work with, as a result of this unifying issue that everyone at Monolith cares about. 

[17:00] Once Monolith formally receive their ISO 27001 certificate, what benefits will that bring? – Currently Monolith AI are recommended for Certification, and are simply waiting on the delivery of their physical certificate.

Once received, they will be able to present it to prospects and clients if they are questioned on information security credentials – to show that they are serious about their commitment to security.

It will also open doors to new prospects that may bother considering them as a supplier due to the lack of ISO 27001 certification.

They are also a leading example in the relatively new industry of AI, those with ISO 27001 certification at this stage stand out from other competitors.

[19:15] What tips does Æsc have for those starting out on their ISO jorney? –  Speaking from experience, Æsc recommends hiring a specialist in ISO to assist with your implementation.

In his case, Blackmores helped to organise the process, drive a lot of the early gap analysis and gave him confidence in going through internal and external audits.

Having someone with experience acting as a guiding hand makes the whole process go a lot more smoothly. This could be a consultant, or someone you train within your own business.

These projects are the sort of thing that turn passion into action. Whether that’s information security or environmental management ect, it’s better to have someone experienced or trained in the nuances of the Standard to ensure it’s implemented in a way that truly benefits your business.

 [21:20] Æsc’s book recommendation –  Nature’s Calendar: The British Year in 72 Seasons by Kiera Chapman, Rowan Jaines, Lulah Ellender and Rebecca Warren. It’s Inspired by a traditional Japanese calendar which divides the year into segments of four to five days, this book guides you through a year of 72 seasons as they manifest in the British Isles.

As Æsc describes: “Lots of the seasons will be very familiar to people who’ve lived in this country their whole life, but they may not have necessarily thought about the context of it.

So I think is really grounding. Time and the way we measure it can seem so arbitrary and abstract sometimes, and measuring minutes and hours is responsible for so much stress and anxiety, so taking a breath, thinking about how nature moves at a different, slower, more deliberate pace, and finding the time to synchronise with that move with nature can be a really rewarding experience”

[24:15] One of Æsc’s favorite quotes –  “I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived” – Henry David Thoreau (from his book ‘Walden’)

[26:10] Need help with your ISO 27001 transition? – We have an ISO 27001 Transition Gameplan available on the isologyhub. This Gameplan provides a step by step guide for you to transition to the latest 2022 Standard.

If you’d like to learn more about Monolith, check out their website.

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