Inventing the future of security

LAS VEGAS – The person who pulled the trigger on the $7.7 billion Intel/McAfee deal, one of the more controversial acquisitions in the tech space in the last decade, said it’s no longer sufficient to protect PC and the challenge now is to protect continuous use devices.

That was Intel’s (Nasdaq: INTC) Renee James’, senior vice president of the software and services group and McAfee chairman, main reason for the chip making giant acquiring McAfee (NYSE: MFE).

“I’m either crazy to spend $8 billion on a security company or we have made the single most important acquisition this decade,” James said during the Focus 11 McAfee Partner Summit, held here.

“Mobile security is not like PC security it requires a new approach and requires a level of investment that McAfee at is prior size was unable to make. We have an obligation to users and industry to try and solve this problem and we believe we have to raise the level of security overall.”

Currently there are more than 24 billion connected devices for the seven billion people on the planet. “That’s a huge threat and opportunity for channel partners,” James said.

She added that after looking at both the Intel channel network and McAfee’s partner base there was little overlap. The feedback from the channel was that security was the top priority for both consumer customers and enterprise CIOs and one of the only areas of high tech that customers were willing to pay more for even through the recession.

“We need to solve the security problem in a ubiquitous way and if not it would retard the limits of computing. And, we knew that this would take a decade, but that security has to be reinvented especially in mobile platforms. And, it requires a combination of hardware and software to solve the problem,” James said.

Kevin Dawson, vice president of sales for ISA, a solution provider based in Toronto, concurred with McAfee’s view that more mobile devices will pierce business networks. Dawson has also seen the trend toward bring your own device (BYOD) increasing in the Canadian market.

“BYOD we see that as critical to maintaining customer relations and or owning the end point. If we do not provide a solution for these devices; then there’s a risk of losing that customer,” Dawson said.

As a McAfee partner, ISA has seen the security vendor take a major step up to solving the mobile security challenge with the addition of Enterprise Mobility Management (EMM) from the Trust Digital acquisition of 2010. Trust Digital was one of the few enterprise focused security players who had a solution for deploying and managing smartphones securely.

What the acquisition provided McAfee was the opportunity to move beyond just endpoint security and address the channel’s concern with increased threats on mobile devices.

Dario Sasso, who is attending the Focus Partner Summit for Tech Data Canada, said McAfee’s EMM is a fantastic way for Canadian partners to get a piece of the ever growing mobility pie. “With 24 billion connected devices worldwide and growing, EMM is a great opportunity to break into the space,” he said.

According to senior vice president of product management for McAfee Brian Foster, Android is an open operating system and attacks have increased by 238 per cent since Dec. of 2010.

“This is the year of the Android attack. This is happening and the Android platform has become a target for malware and has also demonstrated that it’s possible to attack mobile devices,” he said.Foster added that many of these attacks are sophisticated attacks similar to Stuxnet. The risk associated with Android today for users who have mission critical data or do transactions is that its open for attack and that those devices can be compromised with popular malware such as Zeus.

“We are at a point where these platforms are vulnerable. And they are attacks for financial gain. As we fast forward to mobile devices you can see these platforms are more of a target than in the past,” Foster said.

The business case for the channel on mobile security is one of consistency, says Dawson. “There are other players in the mobile space besides McAfee, but those others only have point mobility solutions and do not have the integration and the complete different layers of the solutions that you need today,” he said.

McAfee has enabled ISA, who is one of 650 partners attending the Focus Partner Summit from the Americas region, to consistently maintain the margins the company has been making on security products. But this new mobility security approach and new products such as EMM and its cloud offerings has enabled ISA to do more services business.

“BYOD is considered by our customers as an outbreak. For them its a problem when employees come to work with their Christmas gifts. We can come in through our services and do a mobility audit and show them their environment. From there they can see the impact of these devices and it drives a lot of ROI for the customer,” Dawson said.

Crossbeam and RSA

Besides making its case for mobile security, McAfee and RSA announced a joint compliance and risk management solution for correlate device-level security risks at the Focus Partner Summit in Las Vegas.

The joint solution integrates security data from the McAfee ePolicy Orchestrator platform with infrastructure and compliance data in the RSA Archer eGRC platform and the RSA Archer enterprise management solution. By connecting this data, users are able to leverage information together with security data to gain a deeper understanding of risk and compliance issues.

McAfee also announced that Crossbeam will now be a resale opportunity for channel partners. The product will still be marketed and branded as Crossbeam.

The Boxborough, Mass.-based Crossbeam Systems Inc. partnered with McAfee late last year to address the downsizing the appliance farm and to consolidate network security in the data centre.

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Paolo Del Nibletto
Paolo Del Nibletto
Former editor of Computer Dealer News, covering Canada's IT channel community.

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