Arik Hesseldahl

Recent Posts by Arik Hesseldahl

Big Blue Goes Big on IT Security

The RSA security conference takes place in San Francisco next week, and though I’ve never attended it, and won’t be doing so this year, I know enough about the state of the IT security business to predict one thing that’s almost certainly part of the experience: Many vendors of security products will speak loud and long about why what they sell is a panacea for a particular new type of security problem, and why that new problem is the worst and most important one on which CIOs should choose to devote their meager security budget.

CIOs, for their part, will be confused and irritated because of the scale of the problem they face — which is deciding which security problems actually affect them, and then prioritizing which ones they’re going to respond to — and hope that what they choose to buy doesn’t break anything already running on their systems.

If any of the above sounds familiar, then the people of IBM would like to have a word with you. Big Blue is getting ever more serious about security as the days go on.

On one hand, it’s some news about a new product — specifically, a new platform dubbed QRadar — that brings to bear something that IBM is exceedingly good at, which is powerful data analytics in sifting through security threats. But, with the platform, IBM is sending an important signal about the strategic importance that security is going to play across its lines of business going forward.

The sad fact facing anyone who’s in charge of fending off the intentions of hackers and other digital miscreants is that, essentially, it’s impossible to comfortably keep up with the changing landscape of security threats. IBM’s approach is to track the latest info on threats in real time and do the analytical work that identifies the ones that actually apply to a given organization. The point is to protect your organization against the threats that are actually worth worrying about.

IBM knows a little something about this: Its various security operations monitor something like 13 billion security incidents every day. If you think that gathering information from that, analyzing it and pouring the results into a product might be worth something, then you get what IBM is trying to do.

Last week, I talked with Brendan Hannigan, the general manager of IBM Security Systems — which is, I’m told, the name of a new IBM business unit that is going to be a big deal going forward, and which is also a creation of IBM’s new CEO, Ginni Rometty. Hannigan told me that IBM will not only bring its analytics capabilities to the security business, but it will combine it with its capabilities in the managed-IT services for which IBM is also universally known.

It turns out that, over the years, IBM has either grown internally or acquired (Hannigan comes from Q1 Labs, which IBM acquired last year) several strong bits of security technology. Now, under the banner of IBM Security Services, those disparate bits will be combined into a single unified offering that spans the enterprise. “The point is to look at security holistically and in a big-picture manner,” Hannigan told me. Doing so, he argues, will give organizations the ability to anticipate attacks before they happen, rather than have to repair the damage after the fact — which, to me, sounds like what the entire concept of security is all about.

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The problem with the Billionaire Savior phase of the newspaper collapse has always been that billionaires don’t tend to like the kind of authority-questioning journalism that upsets the status quo.

— Ryan Chittum, writing in the Columbia Journalism Review about the promise of Pierre Omidyar’s new media venture with Glenn Greenwald