Symantec To Partners: Tackle Cybersecurity's Crucial Next Steps

Welcome Back

Symantec this year moved its annual Government Symposium -- a one-day conference in Washington, D.C. devoted to cybersecurity discussion and Symantec's robust public sector business -- from its previous home at the Ronald Reagan Building to the much larger Walter E. Washington Convention Center, which stands as a testament to just how much the conference has grown. CRN was there, attending sessions and chatting up key Symantec executives and government-focused VARS and integrators. Here's a look at how it all came together.

Photos courtesy of Symantec.

Channel Stalwarts

DLT Solutions, the Herndon, Va.-based Solution Provider 500 powerhouse, was among several VARs and integrators on hand to support the event.

Symantec executives told CRN that in addition to bringing back many of its top partners who have supported the event year after year, it had an all-time-high registration of partners who were first-time attendees, including a bunch of Symantec partners who were looking to expand into public sector accounts.

Try Your Luck

Even with the election just past and cybersecurity threats high on everyone's mind, the day wasn't all sober discussion. MeriTalk directed attendees toward its putting green and found more than one willing participant.

Beltway Bigwigs

VARs, integrators and vendor sponsors like the Symantec Government Symposium because it offers a chance to hobnob a bit with some of the key stakeholders in government IT. Among the attendees and panelists was Kenneth Brodie, chief information security officer for the Office of Information Dominance and also CIO of the U.S. Air Force, whose federal government IT experience spans more than 30 years.

Generally Speaking

Gen. Keith Alexander, Commander, U.S. Cyber Command, and Director, National Security Agency, told attendees in a morning keynote that it's imperative that the public and private sectors work together to tackle cybersecurity threats.

That's been a refrain at conferences like these for years, Alexander acknowledged, but with the attacks so much more frequent and sophisticated than even a few years ago.

Government Boss

Gigi Schumm, vice president and general manager of Symantec's public sector organization, introduced the conference and later told CRN that the previous night's election results probably wouldn't have changed the government's posture on cybersecurity much.

"I don't think we will see major changes," she said. "Both Obama and Mitt Romney had said that cybersecurity was a priority, and we've had the opportunity to see that it has been a priority for President Obama, so I expect that to continue. Obama has also shown under his administration that he's interested in private/public partnership, so I think that's a good thing."

Coming In January

Steve Bennett took over as Symantec's CEO in July following a management shakeup that ousted former chief executive Enrique Salem. He told attendees at the Government Symposium the same thing he's been mentioning for months: Symantec will be rolling out a new strategy in January 2013 designed to re-sharpen its focus and make it a better business partner.

Captive Audience

The roomier halls of the Washington Convention Center were well-received following years of cramming attendees into the Reagan Building, which Symantec and the event have outgrown.

Sequestration Stress

DLT Solutions CTO Van Ristau was part of a panel called "Cyberscope and Continuous Monitoring," focused on public sector compliance challenges. He later told CRN that while government pundits, federal specialists and channel partners alike are concerned about the so-called "fiscal cliff," he believed the U.S. government would find a way out of sequestration in time for the new year.

"How they're going to come up with the pluses and minuses of what they need to hit, I don't know. We're going to have to have some tax revenues from somewhere," Ristau said. "But they'll figure out a way. I just don't believe we'll get to that point. There's too much to lose and not enough to gain. Congress won't let it get that far before accommodations are made."

BYOD Emerges

Barbie Bigelow, senior vice president and chief information officer of TASC, a Chantilly, Va.-based solution provider, joined a panel talking about just how pervasive mobile consumerization and the BYOD trend have taken hold in public sector settings, from iPads to virtual desktop infrastructure.

In a later interview with CRN, Bigelow agreed with fellow attendees that the government has to work to avoid sequestration and the so-called fiscal cliff looming in the new year.

"Sequestration is not a good thing," she said. "It's arbitrary and it doesn't allow the government to really focus on the mission and priorities for businesses. That is the most important thing: for us to get around that, or through that, to a path where we are looking at the right things and leveraging technology to enable that."

Buying Power

Michael Walsh, regional director for NetApp's U.S. Army, Air Force, Navy and Marines, Public Sector unit, joined several panelists for a discussion of how to manage risks versus costs and understanding how cybersecurity and other challenges are changing the ways the armed forces invest in IT.

Securing Your Data

Gary Galloway, deputy director for the Office of Information Assurance for the Department of State, and Samir Kapuria, Symantec vice president of business strategy and security intelligence, weighed in on insider threats and data loss prevention challenges with a group that also included representatives from the FBI and FDIC.