Existing firewall will soon be redundant

by Sohini Bagchi    Jul 30, 2013

Vishak Ramanfortinet

With rising threat incidents, the enterprise security landscape has become complex than ever. In an interview with CXOtoday, Vishak Raman, Senior Regional Director, Fortinet India & SAARC speaks about the challenges in the enterprise security market and how businesses can deal with the emerging threats by deploying advanced and intelligent security solutions. Excerpts

 What are the recent trends in enterprise security market that you would like to highlight?

With enterprises becoming more connected, the need for security seems to be increasing today than ever. The biggest testimony to this is enterprises are increasing their security spending from 2 percent to about 5 percent. The other thing is that many companies now have a dedicated security budget unlike in the past when it was a negligible part of the technology budget. Increase of bandwidth, proliferation of mobile devices like tablets and smartphones that have allowed employees to access the corporate network from anywhere as well as use of cloud and social technologies are increasing the risks of threat that enter the organization’s network from common applications like email and web browsers. As these devices go beyond the security firewall of the organization, is it becoming vital for CIOs to monitor and have control over these devices. The other trend is that broad based attacks are losing their relevance today. Attacks have become more targeted, smarter and industry specific. Advanced persistent threats (APT) and other high-level threats are enabling businesses to lose millions of rupees. These threats require an advanced and consolidated approach of control, which can be provided by deploying a next generation firewall, as a basic firewall or traditional security gateways will not up to the challenge and will become redundant.

How would a CIO look at managing security in the organization?

In the current threat landscape, CIOs are looking at increasing their performance of their network, device and application with the ability to prevent zero day attacks. They should realize that today’s threat require complete content protection, which is more than simply identifying applications and allowing or denying the traffic. It require intelligent mechanisms to handle them, application control coupled with identity based policy enforcement of all content should go beyond device intelligence and from network it should migrate to the application level. They look for solutions provide the visibility to detect hidden threats within legitimate content, even from known sources and authorized applications. This in turn can allow new applications into their network, but instantly block any malicious content or behavior. And this is where sandboxing, next generation firewall, unified threat management (UTM) and other advanced and intelligent mechanisms come into prominence.

When it comes to deploying security solutions, do enterprises prefer a consolidated platform or prefer to opt for a standalone system. How is the level of awareness with respect to security management?

Customers are certainly becoming aware and perceptive about their overall security management strategy and the type of solutions they deploy that will give them a higher ROI and a strong technology roadmap. They are realizing the long-term benefits of a consolidated security model such as UTM to deal with today’s complex threat. Even some years back, businesses used point solution to protect themselves against threats that often became cumbersome in terms of cost, time and complexities. Today this kind of standalone devices is no longer possible to secure your data and network. With desperate devices, apps, operating systems and multiple maintenance, licensing and support, more firms are realizing the need to migrate to consolidated security platforms or advanced UTM technologies to reduce complexities, increase the efficiency and boost ROI. It is also important for vendors to adapt themselves by coming up with a consolidated and customized portfolio for their customer requirement. Fortinet for example, has diversified from our core UTM solutions to become an end-to-end IT security vendor, offering enterprises security that extends from the client, to databases, to web applications, to the overall network. This broad based solution portfolio has given us an edge over competition and win clients globally across industry verticals.

What according to you are the security challenges posed by the BYOD concept and how can enterprises deal with these challenges.

Enterprises have realized BYOD offers several advantages to their business, ranging from cost efficiency to improved productivity which in turn increases the ROI. However the IT department is a BYOD environment often lacks the visibility and control to secure the data which remain outside the confines of the physical network. They fail to realize that mobile devices and applications require a different approach in many ways but still have the same strict policy enforcement capabilities as desktop devices. Lack of a BYOD strategy enables employees to use their mobile devices to access video streaming and other applications that are denied by standard corporate policy, increasing greater risks of threats. To strike a balance between usability and security, companies can adopt a BYOD policy that offers some flexibility for users while enforcing corporate policies and adopting best practices. IT has to determine what devices and app will allow on the network and come up with policies stating appropriate devices and acceptable behaviors.

With an increased adoption of cloud based solutions, security concerns are on the rise. In such a scenario, what security aspects will CIOs keep in mind when moving data and applications to the cloud?

Although cloud computing is the most exciting technology in recent times, given its potential to increase ROI and reduce operational costs, IT professionals often struggle to protect theirsensitive data in the cloud. The choice of vendor again becomes important when a company plans a cloud-based deployment. However, as the organization moves data and processes to cloud service providers, a virtual UTM solution can provide a secure gateway that’s entirely under the control of the IT. The need for physical firewalls will also be on the rise with the growth of cloud based solutions, as companies would like to see a mix of both. However, with the increased adoption of smarter firewalls and UTM solution, the market will routers will inevitably cease to exist. Next-generation firewalls for example can identify application traffic, withstand various new attacks, support cloud technologies to prepare for future threats and going forward, next-generation firewall will be a shield for the future.

How do you see the adoption of security solutions in the Indian market and what are your future plans for this market?

Enterprise security is growing at a phenomenal pace in India and will continue to grow steadily as it is becoming one of the key areas of priority for CIOs. Two things have triggered this concept. One, the level of awareness is growing tremendously in the wake of advanced threat landscape and second, strong regulations from the government and associations are promoting businesses to look at security seriously than ever. For example, the Department of Telecom (DOT) has mandated that Indian telcom providers to have clear security mandates of their own networks. even the Reserve Bank of India’s (RBI) guidelines are compelling banks to invest in network security solutions and have well drafted IT security policies to combat cybercrime and fraud.

The larger enterprises have been at the forefront for implementing security solutions, but in recent times, SMEs have started investing towards IT security. With more vendors and service providers providing subscription based security services, the market will continue to expand and this is an area of our focus. Last year, Fortinet India focused on two key verticals: telecom and government. Our key focus this year will be on the BFSI segment where it has not been very strong until now. We have two tech support team in India, expanded our presence in various tier II and III cities and will continue to invest in R&D to bring the best of solutions to the Indian market.