In the high-dollar heady world of Formula 1 racing, there can be no compromises when it comes to performance. When everything is measured in microseconds, nothing can be allowed to slow the action down, not even the security required to protect the data systems of the legendary Williams Racing team. Still, those data systems are crucial to the success of Williams, so there’s no room for compromise there, either.
Williams Racing, which is part of Williams Grand Prix Engineering, Ltd. is much more than a winning racing team. The company uses what it learns from fielding some of the top Grand Prix racers to develop engineering solutions in a variety of industries in areas as wide as healthcare, aviation, automotive and mining. All of this engineering work creates a vast amount of intellectual property that must be protected against loss to keep the racing team competitive and to protect the interests of the company’s engineering customers.
Adding to the team’s security challenge is the fact that the whole thing is mobile. Every week or two the entire racing team locates to another track, and takes their mobile data center with them.
“Our IT equipment has to move around with the team,” said Graeme Hackland, group CIO for Williams. “We have a moving data center.”
On the Road Again
“You arrive at an empty garage, your competitors are in the garage next to you,” Hackland explained, “the attacks that we face in Formula 1 are the same as other organizations.”
Hackland said that while the proximity of the competition adds complications, so does the constant attempt by other teams to hire away his engineers. In addition, he said that there’s always the trusted insiders who might use data in the wrong way.
That data is in constant use by the Williams engineering team as they prepare each car for competition. The cars are equipped with real-time telemetry that feeds information about every aspect of its operation. With this data, the engineers can make subtle adjustments to eke out the last millisecond out of lap times, choose just the right tires and suspension settings and tune the engine and energy recovery system in just the right way. While Formula 1 teams have to be able to demonstrate to the sanctioning body, the FIA (Federation Internationale de l’Automobile) that they’re using their own engineering work, the telemetry and other engineering data would be invaluable to a competitor. This requires a serious security solution.
Global Security Solution
To protect its wealth of intellectual property globally, Williams chose Dtex Systems, a security company with a global reach. Dtex makes two products that Williams uses. The first is their insider threat platform Intercept, which keeps track of the activities of what network users do with data. For example, it will issue an alert if a user is saving IP to a personal storage device or is moving personally identifiable information in an insecure manner. Privacy rules in Europe, which is where Williams has most of its races, are very tight, and even though Williams is based in the U.K. they’re still subject to the GDPR.
Dtex Pulse is the secure operations platform that Williams uses to handle encryption, including the encryption of the telemetry data stream. Pulse also handles diverse tasks including software license optimization, remote worker analytics and asset tracking. Pulse will also find rogue applications and shadow IT implementations. Both products work together to protect the cloud applications that Williams uses to offload some of the processing power from the mobile data center.
Because of the mobile nature of Williams operations, engineers are constantly on their laptops working on problems in hotel rooms or while traveling, so protection of the IP and other critical data is an ongoing battle. Without adequate security, it would be difficult for the Williams Racing team to function competitively. With the level of security they have, Williams stays up to the microsecond when those times can make the difference between winning and being an also-ran.