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Opening up security

One of the most common words that crops up in discussions about the security market is 'transition,' referring to the move from a reactive to proactive industry trying to stop threats before they wreak havoc.

Although that shift has been industry wide, spurring consolidation and changes in customer behaviour, there are larger forces at work in the market that are shaping not just the next few months but the next few years.

In his position as regional director for Northern Europe at Check Point, Nick Lowe believes that one of the biggest challenges ahead is to move a technology that has traditionally been sold as a way to lock down and ring fence data into an open and collaborative environment.

As customers move towards different patterns of working and tap into the web, not only to host applications but also to open up access to their own data, there is a real pressure to keep criminals out but let staff and suppliers in.

Of course that sounds relatively straightforward but as the last year has shown - with laptops left in trains and cabs, lost memory sticks and discs full of information, and attacks on corporate networks and websites - when it comes to keeping things secure, customers of all shapes and sizes are a long way from that utopia.

What makes things worse is that those inflicting pain on customers are not the lonely attention-seeking teenage virus writers of days gone by, but organised, highly technical criminals. They are waiting to exploit human error, vulnerable systems and the mistakes that some customers will make as they move to a more open and collaborative world.

The recent focus has understandably been on the high profile cases of data loss, with prison records, patient data and police files all hitting the headlines for the wrong reasons in just the last couple of weeks.

Lowe acknowledges that this presents an opportunity for resellers looking to go out with a timely pitch and accepts there is clearly a greater place for increased encryption. But he also underlines the ongoing requirement for education and an eye on the direction that market is heading in.

"This is probably the only technology where there is an opponent. With other technologies the ultimate goals of rival vendors are in-line but with security there is the hacking community, terrorists etc and they are working against you," he says.

"Security is moving towards the data object rather than access control and availability and there is an opportunity for resellers helping answer the question that customers are asking about how they protect their data." These changes in the overall market are inevitably being felt at a reseller level and Lowe believes there is a challenge for dealers.

"The security market is at a crossroads. Check Point probably attracts more boutique resellers and some of those have been with us for years. They probably derive a large portion of their profits from security and are seen by customers as the trusted adviser. But what's challenging that model is a realisation that security needs to be integrated into the business and isn't an add-on," he says.

As a result resellers are facing competition from other parts of the market that are integrating security into a broader infrastructure sale.

Straight talking

"There is a risk that the security dialogue will decrease and will be misunderstood and we want to ensure that the real security decisions can be influenced by a partner [with the right knowledge]," adds Lowe.
If an approach is taken that starts to reduce the risk of extending the perimeter of the business, and integrates the management of security into the business then dealers specialising in this market will be able to talk to customers about cutting costs as well as improving efficiencies.

Already getting into a position to service that demand has had an impact on Check Point not just in terms of products but also in its relations with the channel.

"It is a trusted name in security circles but there are some misconceptions that we are expensive and enterprise-orientated. What Check Point has done in the last five years is to broaden the portfolio so security can be supplied more cost effectively," explains Lowe.

In terms of the channel the last year has seen the discount structure used as a measure of rewarding those resellers that deliver value for both Check Point and its customers. The aim of the drive towards value is to ensure that the channel is not only evolving but also becoming one that understands the need that customers will have to become collaborative.

"A large company will see the collaborative enterprise as a driver for technology refresh and a partner needs to be able to look at that statement and have an objective view on how to secure it rather than just telling them - of course it will be secure'," he adds.

"The classic corporate would define who has access to what, and what those individuals could do with that data, and then ask whether it's encrypted. But in a collaborative enterprise in a much more portable world we see a move towards a centralisation of data and objects.

Security is moving towards the application and the data, and the partner is going to need broader skills and an understanding of how the organisation works and how it wants to work," he says.

For those who thought security was about updating against threats with an annual licence fee to be collected, the world has already changed. But as data becomes an increasingly portable commodity that needs to be protected in a much more sophisticated way the market will change again. Lowe and Check Point are ready for that shift.

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