16 November 2011

NetEvents APAC Press Summit - Day 1 highlights.

Keynote: Nir Zuk, CTO, Palo AltoNetworks

Palo Alto Networks' CTO Nik Zuk opened NetEvents' first visit to Thailand, the event being held in a hotel on the beach in Phuket. Amid tropical vegetation and humidity, Zuk highlighted the IT security problems facing today's enterprises. They were characterised, he said, by the fact that malware authors were no longer disaffected geeks but serious people targeting specific individuals inside specific corporations with the aim of breaching perimeter defences to steal money and corporate IP.

It takes five steps, Zuk said. The malware persuades an end user to open a document, using a technique known as spear fishing -- this means using information from sites such as LinkedIn and FaceBook to find information about an individual who works for a particular organisation. They are sent an infected document which they are persuaded to open. This then downloads an executable that installs itself and opens up a back channel to the hacker, who can access that machine and through it, the rest of the organisation.

Zuk reckoned that it takes security companies two months to respond to such attacks because they are not widespread but highly targeted.

"If it only happens once, security vendors will not find it," Zuk said. "And even then it can take a week or more to fix. Every executable is a suspect, and there aren't enough security researchers in the world to fix all the vulnerabilities."

He claimed that his company's firewall technology fixes the problem because it looks at all documents and executables in a virtual machine and watches for malware-like behaviour. "We do it in software in a datacentre and generate signatures for each piece of malware," Zuk said. "We can then block it within an hour."

Tim Dillon: Cyber-attacks

After questions to Zuk from NetEvents' editorial director Manek Dubash and from the floor, the agenda stayed with security, this time led by IDC analyst Tim Dillon, who talked about cyber-attacks.

Dillon outlined how online identity was now the front line for security, while credit card details -- once the malware authors' equivalent of gold dust -- were now worth very little. The problem said Dillon is that the sheer volumes of data are flooding security vendors, with some seven zettabytes expected to exist by 2014. "The environment today is trillions of things, billions of users, and millions of applications," he said.

A question from the floor opened the issue of whether the enterprise perimeter is dead from a security perspective. Panel member Eric Chan of Fortinet said that perimeter security is the first line of attack and cited the attacks on Sony's website as an example. Mike Haro of Palo Alto Networks said that web application firewalls are not a total solution as you need to understand what the traffic is. Leon Ward of SourceFire said that application traffic has changed and that the visibility and context of that traffic are the important issues.

Discussing the importance of automation of malware analysis, all the technology vendors said that automation played a vital part. They also agreed that trust relationships were changing, and that an adaptive agile approach was needed to manage the ever-changing tide of malware.

Paul Sumner: e-Government and the cloud

Paul Sumner, senior manager at analyst firm Analysys Mason, then presented research on e-Government and the cloud, looking at the drivers for change, and strategies to address challenges.

He argued that governments are looking to the cloud to lower costs, improve services and gain greater insight into their citizens. Their challenges are to decide which services to migrate to the cloud, the choice of deployment model, and the rate of migration. He said they need to decide on data ownership, interoperability and infrastructure availability.

Sumner gave examples of governments' cloud strategies including the US, Singapore, Japan, India and the UK. He said the top challenges are security, legacy applications, cultural resistance in IT, and evolving standards, while alleviations are quality SLAs, the prioritisation of high value services, and sharing information on successful implementations.

In terms of practical progress, Sumner said that we are at an early stage. "There's lots of strategy but it's a work in progress," he said. "Governments are approaching cloud as a way of making savings and they could make up to 20-25%".

Asked if we could see a global e-government cloud, Sumner said this was "unlikely".

Ian Keene - telecoms and networking in Asia-Pacific

Looking at the big picture, Gartner VP Ian Keene said that governments believe that providing broadband and comms will spur economic growth, while service providers see broadband access as revenue opportunity. The main barrier, said Keene, is sufficient investment.

Keene then talked about specific markets in Asia-Pacific. Australia and China are huge markets, along with Singapore, Korea and Hong Kong, where broadband reached has saturation. He contrasted these with developing opportunities in Thailand, and India. Unlike Europe, where copper-based DSL holds sway and is offering ever-greater speeds, he said that for broadband, "it's a fibre world in Asia-Pacific, especially now that the region is aligned with the rest of the world and uses GPON optical technology.

Regulations are holding back new technologies by increasing risk, said Keene. "This means you need virtual local loop unbundling -- that's unbundling the bitstream not the physical infrastructure," he said.

Again contrasting APAC with Europe, Keene said Asia was slow to adopt LTE due to problems of spectrum release and licensing slowness. He noted though that numbers of cellular users in Asia are growing rapidly, while in Europe bandwidth growth not user growth is the pattern.

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