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Jamf CEO Dean Hager On Expanding Into Endpoint Security For Macs

The maker of popular Apple device management products unveils the acquisition of Digita Security, a startup with a macOS-only endpoint protection offering.

Apple device management software maker Jamf will move into offering endpoint protection for macOS, with the acquisition of a startup that's developed a security offering purpose-built for Macs.

In an interview with CRN, Jamf CEO Dean Hager said that while the acquired company, Digita Security, is the smallest of three recent acquisitions for Jamf, the deal will have major implications for enabling partners and customers in the macOS space.

[Related: Apple CEO: Mac, iPad Businesses Are ‘Very Strong,’ iPhone Sees ‘Significant Improvement’]

"This is a small acquisition in terms of the number of people, but we actually think it may be our most impactful [acquisition] years down the road—in terms of actually opening up the potential for Mac to grow more within the enterprise,” Hager said. “Because the CISOs will very much appreciate having the visibility into their Mac fleet that we will provide.”

Digita Security has developed its offering exclusively for the Mac, leveraging native macOS security capabilities and providing day-zero support for new releases of the operating system, according to Jamf.

Minneapolis-based Jamf reports having 30,000 customers and managing 15 million Apple devices via offerings such as Jamf Pro. The endpoint protection offering will be provided alongside Jamf Pro and other offerings, but its planned release date was not disclosed.

What follows are the biggest takeaways from our interview with Hager.

Enabling Businesses To Offer Macs

Hager said that as Jamf's offerings have "taken off" over the past four to five years within enterprises and education customers, the company has gone back to customers to ask whether there are other problems that could be solved in the macOS realm. A Jamf survey from last year found that 72 percent of employee respondents would choose a Mac over a PC for their work device—raising the question of why employees who want Macs are not getting them, he said.

"There are a variety of different answers to that. But one of the big ones was that CISOs, or the infosec teams, had some concerns about their real visibility into what was happening on the Mac from an endpoint protection perspective," Hager said. "After more discussion, we found that while there are a lot of security providers out there, generally they all started with a Microsoft focus."

The implications include that being day-zero ready for new releases of macOS "is not common in the security space," he said.

"Generally, only Apple moves on day zero. The users upgrade the second the operating system comes out. That's pretty unique to Apple. And as a result, it's a different rhythm for security vendors to respond to," Hager said.

Ultimately, "all these security applications are designed using legacy kernel extensions, which of course are being phased out of Apple—and are pretty much all based on Microsoft Windows threats, not unique Mac threats," he said. "Our conclusion was that somebody needed to do for the Mac endpoint protection space what Jamf did for the Mac management space so many years ago."

How The Acquisition Complements Jamf Pro

In terms of securing Apple devices, Jamf Pro is able to issue security-related policies—such as a policy that users must have a complex password or that all Macs need to be encrypted.

What Jamf Pro doesn't do is look for behaviors of the system—or perhaps the user—that could indicate that there may be a security threat, Hager said.

"Jamf Pro doesn't monitor for those types of unique threats that could be occurring on the device. That's where Digita Security really comes in," he said.

The Digita Security offering likely will be launched under a new Jamf product name and won't become part of Jamf Pro, Hager said.

"Even though Jamf Pro manages most of the Macs out there, there are still some that we don't. And this endpoint protection system will apply to all Macs, not just those managed by Jamf Pro. We want to make sure to have it available for any Mac within an organization that needs protection," he said.

A New Offering For The Market

Digita Security has just five employees and its offering only launched into the market in 2019, Hager said.

"We essentially found Digita Security in the early days of their being founded. They've been working for the last two years on this solution, and were just starting to take it to market. They have a few customers. And when we connected with them and evaluated their solution, we thought, ‘This is exactly what the market needs,’" Hager said.

Jamf isn't launching the offering immediately to give the company time to work on putting it on the Jamf cloud and developing branding, he said.

"Beyond that, we have some work that just became available to us that Digita didn't even have when they launched their product. When Apple had their WWDC event in June, they announced the new security framework. And they encouraged security providers to use that framework to strengthen their security systems. So we couldn't be coming to market at a better time than this because Apple just announced this in June," Hager said.

Down the road, Jamf will be looking at how to create synergistic capabilities between the endpoint protection offering and Jamf Pro, he said.

"The two together become powerful,” Hager said. “Jamf Pro issues policies, or grants access into the network. So therefore, we could start granting conditional access based on threats that are being found within the Digita systems.”

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