Staying Ahead of Hackers

While innovation is becoming the latest buzzword for differentiating everything from laptops to business software, advancing technology is critical for security. Threats evolve at a pace slightly faster than countering security technologies. And attackers always work around the controls erected by vendors, solution providers and enterprises.

"If you're not innovating security, you're locking three of four doors," says Check Point Software Technologies CTO Gregor Freund, who oversees the development of new technologies to counter yet-unknown threats. "Security is completely different, since customers will buy best-of-breed. If you don't have best-of-breed, you'll have people on the other side, hackers, who have best-of-breed, better tools."

Freund spoke with VARBusiness about security innovation, the challenges facing vendors when advancing technology and the role channel partners play in selling innovation. "One struggle we have in innovation isn't just developing cool technologies. We have to make it work and secure users without getting in their way," he says.

Security is inversely proportional to ease of use. You erect a security control, then you impede access and performance. Innovations in security during the past five years reflect the need for protecting systems from the Internet to the desktop without infringing on productivity and usability.

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"Five years ago, security was about firewalls, intrusion-detection systems and antivirus protection," says Freund, who will be among a panel of technology leaders addressing innovation issues at this month's CMP XChange conference in San Francisco. "We've seen a broad shift in understanding that every PC and device must be individually protected. We can't rely on centralized security."

Innovation has ushered in such security controls as heuristic antivirus scanners, Bayesian antispam filters, automated-response intrusion-prevention systems, and behavior-based traffic monitoring and response. Likewise, security innovations have developed single sign-on systems to ease access control, SSL VPNs to enable connectivity from any place at any time, and endpoint security solutions that protect both corporate networks and clients. Nevertheless, innovation costs must be considered.

"There are some areas where spending isn't justified; any type of security is a compromise," Freund says. "How much should you pay? How much of a hassle is it to deploy? What do you lose by deploying it?"

That's where solution providers play a critical role in conveying the benefits of innovations to end users. Channel partners are the conduits for helping end users assess their needs and then build the most appropriate solutions, at the right cost, that produce the most benefit.

"We have to rely a lot more on our channel partners for communications issues and inform them about the benefits of our approach," Freund says.