Cloud Security’s Weakest Link Is Mobile Device Passwords
The Twitter CEO’s account getting hacked is the latest in a series of incidents that reflect how easy it is for hackers to gain access to cloud-based enterprise networks using mobile devices. Verizon’s Mobile Security Index 2019 revealed that the majority of enterprises, 67%, are the least confident in the security of their mobile assets than any other device. Mobile devices are one of the most porous threat surfaces a business has. They’re also the fastest-growing threat surface, as every employee now relies on their smartphones as their ID. IDG’s recent survey completed in collaboration with MobileIron, titled Say Goodbye to Passwords found that 89% of security leaders believe that mobile devices will soon serve as your digital ID to access enterprise services and data.
Because they’re porous, proliferating and turning into primary forms of digital IDs, mobile devices and their passwords are a favorite onramp for hackers wanting access to companies’ systems and data in the cloud. It’s time to kill passwords and shut down the many breach attempts aimed at cloud platforms and the valuable data they contain.
Three Reasons Why Killing Passwords Improves Your Cloud Security
Killing passwords improve cloud security by:
Eliminating privileged access credential abuse. Privileged access credentials are best sellers on the Dark Web, where hackers bid for credentials to the world’s leading banking, credit card, and financial management systems. Forrester estimates that 80% of data breaches involve compromised privileged credentials, and a recent survey by Centrify found that 74% of all breaches involved privileged access abuse. Killing passwords shuts down the most common technique hackers use to access cloud systems.
Eliminating the threat of unauthorized mobile devices accessing business cloud services and exfiltrating data. Acquiring privileged access credentials and launching breach attempts from mobile devices is the most common hacker strategy today. By killing passwords and replacing them with a zero-trust framework, breach attempts launched from any mobile device using pirated privileged access credentials can be thwarted. Leaders in the area of mobile-centric zero trust security include MobileIron, whose innovative approach to zero sign-on solves the problems of passwords at scale. When every mobile device is secured through a zero-trust platform built on a foundation of unified endpoint management (UEM) capabilities, zero sign-on from managed and unmanaged services become achievable for the first time.
Giving organizations the freedom to take a least-privilege approach to grant access to their most valuable cloud applications and platforms. Identities are the new security perimeter, and mobile devices are their fastest-growing threat surface. Long-standing traditional approaches to network security, including “trust but verify” have proven ineffective in stopping breaches. They’ve also shown a lack of scale when it comes to protecting a perimeter-less enterprise. What’s needed is a zero-trust network that validates each mobile device, establishes user context, checks app authorization, verifies the network, and detects and remediates threats before granting secure access to any device or user. If Jack Dorsey’s telecom provider had this in place, his and thousands of other people’s telephone numbers would be safe today.
The sooner organizations move away from being so dependent on passwords, the better. The three reasons why killing passwords improve cloud security are just the beginning. Imagine how much more effective distributed DevOps teams will be when security isn’t a headache for them anymore, and they can get to the cloud-based resources they need to get apps built. And with more organizations adopting a mobile-first development strategy, it makes sense to have a mobile-centric zero-trust network engrained in key steps of the DevOps process. That’s the future of cloud security, starting with the DevOps teams creating the next generation of apps today.
Marketing and Sales prioritize AI and machine learning higher than any other department in enterprises today.
In-memory analytics and in-database analytics are the most important to Finance, Marketing, and Sales when it comes to scaling their AI and machine learning modeling and development efforts.
R&D’s adoption of AI and machine learning is the fastest of all enterprise departments in 2019.
These and many other fascinating insights are from Dresner Advisory Services’6th annual 2019 Data Science and Machine Learning Market Study (client access reqd) published last month. The study found that advanced initiatives related to data science and machine learning, including data mining, advanced algorithms, and predictive analytics are ranked the 8th priority among the 37 technologies and initiatives surveyed in the study. Please see page 12 of the survey for an overview of the methodology.
“The Data Science and Machine Learning Market Study is a progression of our analysis of this market which began in 2014 as an examination of advanced and predictive analytics,” said Howard Dresner, founder, and chief research officer at Dresner Advisory Services. “Since that time, we have expanded our coverage to reflect changes in sentiment and adoption, and have added new criteria, including a section covering neural networks.”
Key insights from the study include the following:
Data mining, advanced algorithms, and predictive analytics are among the highest-priority projects for enterprises adopting AI and machine learning in 2019. Reporting, dashboards, data integration, and advanced visualization are the leading technologies and initiatives strategic to Business Intelligence (BI) today. Cognitive BI (artificial-intelligence-based BI) ranks comparatively lower at 27th among priorities. The following graphic prioritizes the 27 technologies and initiatives strategic to business intelligence:
40% of Marketing and Sales teams say data science encompassing AI and machine learning is critical to their success as a department. Marketing and Sales lead all departments in how significant they see AI and machine learning to pursue and accomplish their growth goals. Business Intelligence Competency Centers (BICC), R&D, and executive management audiences are the next most interested, and all top four roles cited carry comparable high combined “critical” and “very important” scores above 60%. The following graphic compares the importance levels by department for data science, including AI and machine learning:
R&D, Marketing, and Sales’ high level of shared interest across multiple feature areas reflect combined efforts to define new revenue growth models using AI and machine learning. Marketing, Sales, R&D, and the Business Intelligence Competency Centers (BICC) respondents report the most significant interest in having a range of regression models to work with in AI and machine learning applications. Marketing and Sales are also most interested in the next three top features, including hierarchical clustering, textbook statistical functions, and having a recommendation engine included in the applications and platforms they purchase. Dresner’s research team believes that the high shared interest in multiple features areas by R&D, Marketing and Sales is leading indicator enterprises are preparing to pilot AI and machine learning-based strategies to improve customer experiences and drive revenue. The following graphic compares interest and probable adoption by functional area of the enterprises interviewed:
70% of R&D departments and teams are most likely to adopt data science, AI, and machine learning, leading all functions in an enterprise. Dresner’s research team sees the high level of interest by R&D teams as a leading indicator of broader enterprise adoption in the future. The study found 33% of all enterprises interviewed have adopted AI and machine learning, with the majority of enterprises having up to 25 models. Marketing & Sales lead all departments in their current evaluation of data science and machine learning software.
Financial Services & Insurance, Healthcare, and Retail/Wholesale say data science, AI, and machine learning are critical to their succeeding in their respective industries. 27% of Financial Services & Insurance, 25% of Healthcare and 24% of Retail/Wholesale enterprises say data science, AI, and machine learning are critical to their success. Less than 10% of Educational institutions consider AI and machine learning vital to their success. The following graphic compares the importance of data science, AI, and machine learning by industry:
The Telecommunications industry leads all others in interest and adoption of recommendation engines and model management governance. The Telecommunications, Financial Services, and Technology industries have the highest level of interest in adopting a range of regression models and hierarchical clustering across all industry respondent groups interviewed. Healthcare respondents have much lower interest in these latter features but high interest in Bayesian methods and text analytics functions. Retail/Wholesale respondents are often least interested in analytical features. The following graphic compares industries by their level of interest and potential adoption of analytical features in data science, AI, and machine learning applications and platforms:
Support for a broad range of regression models, hierarchical clustering, and commonly used textbook statistical functions are the top features enterprises need in data science and machine learning platforms. Dresner’s research team found these three features are considered the most important or “must-have” when enterprises are evaluating data science, AI and machine learning applications and platforms. All enterprises surveyed also expect any data science application or platform they are evaluating to have a recommendation engine included and model management and governance. The following graphic prioritizes the most and least essential features enterprises expect to see in data science, AI, and machine learning software and platforms:
The top three usability features enterprises are prioritizing today include support for easy iteration of models, access to advanced analytics, and an initiative, simple process for continuous modification of models. Support and guidance in preparing analytical data models and fast cycle time for analysis with data preparation are among the highest- priority usability features enterprises expect to see in AI and machine learning applications and platforms. It’s interesting to see the usability attribute of a specialist not required to create analytical models, test and run them at the lower end of the usability rankings. Many AI and machine learning software vendors rely on not needing a specialist to use their applications as a differentiator when the majority of enterprises value support for easy iteration of models at a higher level as the graphic below shows:
2019 is a record year for enterprises’ interest in data science, AI, and machine learning features they perceive as the most needed to achieve their business strategies and goals. Enterprises most expect AI and machine learning applications and platforms to support a range of regression models, followed by hierarchical clustering and textbook statistical functions for descriptive statistics. Recommendation engines are growing in popularity as interest grew to at least a tie as the second most important feature to respondents in 2019. Geospatial analysis and Bayesian methods were flat or slightly less important compared to 2018. The following graphic compares six years of interest in data science, AI, and machine learning techniques:
Endpoint security tools are 24% of all IT security spending, and by 2020 global IT security spending will reach $128B according to Morgan Stanley Research.
70% of all breaches still originate at endpoints, despite the increased IT spending on this threat surface, according to IDC.
To better understand the challenges organizations have securing the proliferating number and type of endpoints, Absolute launched and published their 2019 Endpoint Security Trends Report. You can get a copy of the report here. Their findings and conclusions are noteworthy to every organization who is planning and implementing a cybersecurity strategy. Data gathered from over 1B change events on over 6M devices is the basis of the multi-phased methodology. The devices represent data from 12,000 anonymized organizations across North America and Europe. Each device had Absolute’s Endpoint Resilience platform activated. The second phase of the study is based on exploratory interviews with senior executives from Fortune 500 organizations. For additional details on the methodology, please see page 12 of the study.
Key insights from the report include the following:
Increasing security spending on protecting endpoints doesn’t increase an organizations’ safety and in certain cases, reduces it. Organizations are spending more on cybersecurity than ever before, yet they aren’t achieving greater levels of safety and security. Gartner’s latest forecast of global information security and risk management spending is forecast to reach $174.5B in 2022, attaining a five-year Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 9.2%. Improving endpoint controls is one of the highest-priority investments driving increased spending. Over 70% of all breaches are still originating at endpoints, despite millions of dollars spent by organizations every year. It’s possible to overspend on endpoint security and reduce its effectiveness, which is a key finding of the study. IBM Security’s most recent Cost of a Data Breach Report 2019 found that the average cost of a data breach in the U.S. grew from $3.54M in 2006 to $8.19M in 2019, a 130% increase in 14 years.
The more complex and layered the endpoint protection, the greater the risk of a breach. One of the fascinating findings from the study is how the greater the number of agents a given endpoint has, the higher the probability it’s going to be breached. Absolute found that a typical device has ten or more endpoint security agents installed, each conflicting with the other. MITRE’S Cybersecurity research practice found there are on average, ten security agents on each device, and over 5,000 common vulnerabilities and exposures (CVEs) found on the top 20 client applications in 2018 alone. Enterprises are using a diverse array of endpoint agents, including encryption, AV/AM, and Endpoint Detection and Response (EDR). The wide array of endpoint solutions make it nearly impossible to standardize a specific test to ensure security and safety without sacrificing speed. Absolute found organizations are validating their endpoint configurations using live deployments that often break and take valuable time to troubleshoot. The following graphic from the study illustrates how endpoint security is driving risk:
Endpoint security controls and their associated agents degrade and lose effectiveness over time. Over 42% of endpoints experience encryption failures, leaving entire networks at risk from a breach. They’re most commonly disabled by users, malfunction or have error conditions or have never been installed correctly in the first place. Absolute found that endpoints often failed due to the fragile nature of their encryption agents’ configurations. 2% of encryption agents fail every week, and over half of all encryption failures occurred within two weeks, fueling a constant 8% rate of decay every 30 days. 100% of all devices experiencing encryption failures within one year. Multiple endpoint security solutions conflict with each other and create more opportunities for breaches than avert them:
One in five endpoint agents will fail every month, jeopardizing the security and safety of IT infrastructure while prolonging security exposures. Absolute found that 19% of endpoints of a typical IT network require at least one client or patch management repair monthly. The patch and client management agents often require repairs as well. 75% of IT teams reported at least two repair events, and 50% reported three or more repair events. Additionally, 5% could be considered inoperable, with 80 or more repair events in the same one-month. Absolute also looked at the impact of families of applications to see how they affected the vulnerability of endpoints and discovered another reason why endpoint security is so difficult to attain with multiple agents. The 20 most common client applications published over 5,000 vulnerabilities in 2018. If every device had only the top ten applications (half), that could result in as many as 55 vulnerabilities per device just from those top ten apps, including browsers, OSs, and publishing tools. The following graphic summarizes the rates of failure for Client/Patch Management Agent Health:
Activating security at the device level creates a persistent connection to every endpoint in a fleet, enabling greater resilience organization-wide. By having a persistent, unbreakable connection to data and devices, organizations can achieve greater visibility and control over every endpoint. Organizations choosing this approach to endpoint security are unlocking the value of their existing hardware and network investments. Most important, they attain resilience across their networks. When an enterprise network has persistence designed to the device level, there’s a constant, unbreakable connection to data and devices that identifies and thwarts breach attempts in real-time.
Bottom Line: Identifying and thwarting breaches needs to start at the device level by relying on secured, persistent connections that enable endpoints to better detecting vulnerabilities, defending endpoints, and achieve greater resilience overall.
80% of fraud specialists using AI-based platforms believe the technology helps reduce payments fraud.
63.6% of financial institutions that use AI believe it is capable of preventing fraud before it happens, making it the most commonly cited tool for this purpose.
Fraud specialists unanimously agree that AI-based fraud prevention is very effective at reducing chargebacks.
The majority of fraud specialists (80%) have seen AI-based platforms reduce false positives, payments fraud, and prevent fraud attempts.
AI is proving to be very effective in battling fraud based on results achieved by financial institutions as reported by senior executives in a recent survey, AI Innovation Playbook published by PYMNTS in collaboration with Brighterion. The study is based on interviews with 200 financial executives from commercial banks, community banks, and credit unions across the United States. For additional details on the methodology, please see page 25 of the study. One of the more noteworthy findings is that financial institutions with over $100B in assets are the most likely to have adopted AI, as the study has found 72.7% of firms in this asset category are currently using AI for payment fraud detection.
Taken together, the findings from the survey reflect how AI thwarts payments fraud and deserves to be a high priority in any digital business today. Companies, including Kount and others, are making strides in providing AI-based platforms, further reducing the risk of the most advanced, complex forms of payments fraud.
Why AI Is Perfect For Fighting Payments Fraud
Of the advanced technologies available for reducing false positives, reducing and preventing fraud attempts, and reducing manual reviews of potential payment fraud events, AI is ideally suited to provide the scale and speed needed to take on these challenges. More specifically, AI’s ability to interpret trend-based insights from supervised machine learning, coupled with entirely new knowledge gained from unsupervised machine learning algorithms are reducing the incidence of payments fraud. By combining both machine learning approaches, AI can discern if a given transaction or series of financial activities are fraudulent or not, alerting fraud analysts immediately if they are and taking action through predefined workflows. The following are the main reasons why AI is perfect for fighting payments fraud:
Payments fraud-based attacks are growing in complexity and often have a completely different digital footprint or pattern, sequence, and structure, which make them undetectable using rules-based logic and predictive models alone. For years e-commerce sites, financial institutions, retailers, and every other type of online business relied on rules-based payment fraud prevention systems. In the earlier years of e-commerce, rules and simple predictive models could identify most types of fraud. Not so today, as payment fraud schemes have become more nuanced and sophisticated, which is why AI is needed to confront these challenges.
AI brings scale and speed to the fight against payments fraud, providing digital businesses with an immediate advantage in battling the many risks and forms of fraud. What’s fascinating about the AI companies offering payments fraud solutions is how they’re trying to out-innovate each other when it comes to real-time analysis of transaction data. Real-time transactions require real-time security. Fraud solutions providers are doubling down on this area of R&D today, delivering impressive results. The fastest I’ve seen is a 250-millisecond response rate for calculating risk scores using AI on the Kount platform, basing queries on a decades-worth of data in their universal data network. By combining supervised and unsupervised machine learning algorithms, Kount is delivering fraud scores that are twice as predictive as previous methods and faster than competitors.
AI’s many predictive analytics and machine learning techniques are ideal for finding anomalies in large-scale data sets in seconds. The more data a machine learning model has to train on, the more accurate its predictive value. The greater the breadth and depth of data, a given machine learning algorithm learns from means more than how advanced or complex a given algorithm is. That’s especially true when it comes to payments fraud detection where machine learning algorithms learn what legitimate versus fraudulent transactions look like from a contextual intelligence perspective. By analyzing historical account data from a universal data network, supervised machine learning algorithms can gain a greater level of accuracy and predictability. Kount’s universal data network is among the largest, including billions of transactions over 12 years, 6,500 customers, 180+ countries and territories, and multiple payment networks. The data network includes different transaction complexities, verticals, and geographies, so machine learning models can be properly trained to predict risk accurately. That analytical richness includes data on physical real-world and digital identities creating an integrated picture of customer behavior.
Bottom Line: Payments fraud is insidious, difficult to stop, and can inflict financial harm on any business in minutes. Battling payment fraud needs to start with a pre-emptive strategy to thwart fraud attempts by training machine learning models to quickly spot and act on threats then building out the strategy across every selling and service channel a digital business relies on.
According to the 2019 Verizon Data Breach Investigation Report, manufacturing has been experiencing an increase in financially motivated breaches in the past couple of years, whereby most breaches involve Phishing and the use of stolen credentials.
50% of manufacturers report experiencing a breach over the last 12 months, 11% of which were severe according to Sikich’s 5th Manufacturing and Distribution Survey, 2019.
Manufacturers’ supply chains and logistics partners targeted by ransomware which have either had to cease operations temporarily to restore operations from backup or have chosen to pay the ransom include Aebi Schmidt, ASCO Industries, and COSCO Shipping Lines.
Small Suppliers Are A Favorite Target, Ask A.P. Møller-Maersk
Supply chains are renowned for how unsecured and porous they are multiple layers deep. That’s because manufacturers often only password-protect administrator access privileges for trusted versus untrusted domains at the operating system level of Windows NT Server, haven’t implemented multi-factor authentication (MFA), and apply a trust but verify mindset only for their top suppliers. Many manufacturers don’t define, and much less enforce, supplier security past the first tier of their supply chains, leaving the most vulnerable attack vectors unprotected.
CargoSmart provided a Vessel Monitoring Dashboard to monitor vessels during this time of recovery from the cyber attack.
Supply Chains Need To Treat Every Supplier In Their Network As A New Security Perimeter
The more integrated a supply chain, the more the potential for breaches and ransomware attacks. And in supply chains that rely on privileged access credentials, it’s a certainty that hackers outside the organization and even those inside will use compromised credentials for financial gain or disrupt operations. Treating every supplier and their integration points in the network as a new security perimeter is critical if manufacturers want to be able to maintain operations in an era of accelerating cybersecurity threats.
Taking a Zero Trust Privilege approach to securing privileged access credentials will help alleviate the leading cause of breaches in manufacturing today, which is privileged access abuse. By taking a “never trust, always verify, and enforce least privilege” approach, manufacturers can protect the “keys to the kingdom,” which are the credentials hackers exploit to take control over an entire supply chain network.
Instead of relying on trust but verify or trusted versus untrusted domains at the operating system level, manufacturers need to have a consistent security strategy that scales from their largest to smallest suppliers. Zero Trust Privilege could have saved A.P. Møller-Maersk from being crippled by a ransomware attack by making it a prerequisite that every supplier must have ZTP-based security guardrails in place to do business with them.
Among the most porous and easily compromised areas of manufacturing, supply chains are the lifeblood of any production business, yet also the most vulnerable. As hackers become more brazen in their ransomware attempts with manufacturers and privileged access credentials are increasingly sold on the Dark Web, manufacturers need a sense of urgency to combat these threats. Taking a Zero Trust approach to securing their supply chains and operations, helps manufacturers to implement least privilege access based on verifying who is requesting access, the context of the request, and the risk of the access environment. By implementing least privilege access, manufacturers can minimize the attack surface, improve audit and compliance visibility, and reduce risk, complexity, and costs for the modern, hybrid manufacturing enterprise.
IT decision-makers (ITDMs) report that cybersecurity is the hardest area to find qualified talent, followed by cloud computing skills.
56% of ITDMs report that certified personnel closes organizational skills gaps.
48% of ITDMs report that certifications boost productivity.
44% of ITDM report that certifications help meet client requirements.
Knowing which cybersecurity certifications are in the greatest demand is invaluable in planning a career in the field. I asked Global Knowledge, the world’s largest dedicated IT training company, which hosts over 3,000 unique IT courses delivered by over 1,100 subject matter experts for their help in finding out which cybersecurity certifications are the most sought after in North America this year. Their 2019 IT Skills and Salary Report is considered the gold standard of IT skills, certification, and salary data, with many IT professionals relying on it to plan their careers. Human Resource professionals also use the report and consider it an invaluable reference to guide their recruiting efforts. Thank you Global Knowledge for providing custom research of the current state of demand for cybersecurity certifications.
Ranking The Most Sought-After Cybersecurity Certifications
Of the 63% of North American IT professionals planning to or are pursuing a certification in 2019, 23% are pursuing a cybersecurity certification according to the latest Global Knowledge IT Skills and Salary Report. The certifications reflect how quickly unique, specialized areas of knowledge are gaining in popularity. “Traditionally, cybersecurity senior leadership-level certifications have been dominated in popularity by the administrative and Governance, Risk Management, and Compliance accreditations. This continues to be reflected in the latest data with the most popular (ISC)2 and ISACA certification bodies represented well in the list,” said Brad Puckett, Global Knowledge’s global product director for cybersecurity. Brad used the Global Knowledgebase of survey data to produce the ten most sought-after cybersecurity certifications in North America in 2019 shown below:
Forbes readers’ most frequent requests center on which companies are the best to work for in emerging technology fields, including IoT. The Computer Reseller News’ Internet of Things 50, 2019 list of companies is used to complete the analysis as it is an impartial, independent list created by CRN. Using the CRN list as a foundation, the following analysis captures the best companies in their respective areas today.
Christy Wyatt’s career exemplifies what you would expect from a high-performing tech leader who thrives on turning challenges into growth. Showing persistence, resiliency, and tenacity – she has a long history of scaling high-growth technology companies and infusing them with greater creative energy, ingenuity, and intensity for results. As CEO of Absolute, she’s leading the company through an evolution that is shifting its focus from simply being known as a ‘track and trace’ company to becoming the world’s most trusted security company delivering endpoint resiliency to businesses of all sizes.
Previously she served as CEO of Dtex Systems, a user behavior intelligence company that grew revenue by 321% last year. Before Dtex, she was Chairman, CEO, and President of Good Technology, the global leader in mobile security where she defined and delivered an aggressive growth strategy before its successful acquisition by BlackBerry. Wyatt began her career as a software engineer and rose through the executive leadership ranks at Citigroup, Motorola, Apple, Palm and Sun Microsystems. She was named one of Inc. Magazine’s Top 50 Women Entrepreneurs in America, CEO of the Year by the Information Security Global Excellence Awards, and one of Fierce Wireless’s Most Influential Women in Wireless.
Insights From Absolute’s Latest Earnings Call
On August 13th, Christy Wyatt and Errol Olsen, CFO of Absolute, hosted the company’s latest earnings call with financial analysts. A transcript of the call is available here. Key insights from the company’s latest quarter and fiscal year-end were shared and included the following:
Total revenue in FY19 was $98.9M, representing an increase of 6% over the prior fiscal year with the ACV Base reaching $98M as of June 30, 2019, up $6.5M or 7%, over the prior year.
Enterprise sector portion of the ACV Base increased 11% year-over-year. Enterprise customers represented 55% of the ACV Base of June 30, 2019. And the Government sector portion of the ACV Base increased 15% year-over-year, now representing 12% of the ACV Base as of June 30, 2019.
Incremental ACV from new customers was $5.2M in FY19, compared to $3.4M in FY18.
Adjusted EBITDA in FY19 was $19.3M, or 20% of revenue, up from $9.2M or 10% of revenue, in the prior fiscal year.
FY19 Net Income increased 144% over the prior fiscal year based on continued Enterprise market growth.
In Q4, Absolute signed a new financial services customer with an ACV just under $1M with their service being delivered by a Managed Service Provider (MSP) that maintains the customers computing infrastructure.
Absolute has provided product-level enhancements to make it easier for MSP partners to use their products to support multiple customers, with the strategy paying off with more deals globally.
Christy Wyatt On Competing In Today’s Cybersecurity Industry
I recently had the opportunity to interview Christy and learn more about how she sees the cybersecurity industry today and where it’s heading, in addition to gaining insights into her and her teams’ goals at Absolute, one of the top 10 cybersecurity companies to watch in 2019. Absolute serves as the industry benchmark for endpoint resilience, visibility, and control. Embedded in over a half-billion devices, the company enables more than 12,000 customers with self-healing endpoint security, always-connected visibility into their devices, data, users, and applications whether endpoints are on or off the corporate network, and the ultimate level of control and confidence required for the modern enterprise.
The following is my interview with Christy:
Louis: Coming into a new company environment and establishing yourself with credibility in the role is key. What are the things that you’ve gone after immediately to address how the company is doing and where it’s going? In essence, what’s been your 90-day plan, and how’s that going overall?
Christy: Most incoming CEOs join a company with a thesis about why this is an interesting opportunity and how they can invest significant intellectual capital into it. And then that first 90 days is really about vetting out that model and seeing if the opportunity is real. With Absolute, my thesis was here is a company that very few people understood, with an amazing install base and partner community built around unique self-healing capabilities. If you juxtapose that against the security industry today, you’ll see the glaringly huge problem. There are start-ups after start-ups all claiming they can protect businesses from breaches – so organizations keep buying more and more technology – all while breaches are accelerating. And those businesses keep asking themselves, “Are we more secure? How do I know if my business is more secure?” And the answer is they don’t know.
When I talk to customers, they say, “I have more than ten agents on every laptop in my device fleet. User experience is suffering, and the complexity is mind boggling.” As a CEO, I want to be able to fix that, right? How do we effectively deploy security controls in a way that is healthy and productive for both the laptop and for the user? That’s a massive opportunity, and that’s what gets me excited about Absolute.
Louis: In your last few earnings calls, you referenced wins in financial services, healthcare, and professional services. What do you attribute the success of Absolute moving more towards the enterprise?
Christy: The initial transition and increased focus on the enterprise market predates me. Over the past year, however, we’ve expanded our discussions into all the sectors you mention, and more, to better understand what they’re doing around enterprise resilience.
In April, we published original research that examined the state of decay and exposure points around endpoint security. Once we quantified that, we then spent our time with customers talking about what’s happening within their unique environments. What we found was that they had a false sense of security. They have encryption, malware security, and VPN all checked. But based on our research and new analytics, we were able to show them there are gaps in their protection when those agents became un-installed, missed a patch, or conflicted with other controls. That is the rate of decay we are talking about. How to make their existing controls more resilient to decay. We highlighted how their existing deployments degrade, weaken and fail over time. We also showed them some simple strategies to heal and even boost the immune system of their environment. That’s very powerful, and as a result, customers are leaning into our resilience story – it helps them capture the value of the investments they have already made.
Louis: Regarding your product roadmap and the direction you’re going in, what are some of the plans that you’re looking to be able to capitalize on that presence that you have on billions of devices?
Christy: Critical to our success has always been our partners. If you look at our Resilience product, which is our enterprise product, we can heal other third-party applications. So if the average enterprise has ten plus security agents deployed, there are probably at least three to five that they care about. They say, “Look, I feel exposed from a compliance perspective or a risk perspective if I don’t have, for example, encryption turned on… and it’s not okay with me that my users can delete something or turn it off.” Our data tells us where and how we can serve, and better secure, those enterprise IT architectures.
There’s a growing list of things within our platform today that we already heal. Broadening our resilience capabilities is something you’re going to see us invest significantly in. And then there’s work we have to do for our customers’ security and IT organizations, pointing them to the specific, critical things that need their focus right now. So if there’s a gap or something has gone offline in their security fabric, I want to bring their attention to it; I want to heal it and fix it. Absolute excels at solving those challenges for our customers.
Louis: You mention endpoints often, and it makes me think about ‘Zero Trust’ security and the proliferation of IoT and industrial internet of things devices and how that’s flourishing across manufacturing and other distributed based industries like supply chains. What are your long term plans in these areas?
Christy: We’re doing a lot of work in that space. With 5G quickly evolving, this is going to have a significant impact on the enterprise, and the ability to have similar controls on anything that’s connected to your network will be critical. I think there is a lot of credence in Zero Trust model as one of the many security architectures, but any one of these has to be rooted in something. So even if you’re trying to manage security from the cloud, your efficiency and your effectiveness are only as good as the data that you’re getting. If you don’t have visibility on what’s connected or what’s happening on the endpoint, your ability to diagnose it or fix it is relatively is impacted. My view is whatever you think your security strategy is today, the controls you think you need are going to be completely different 18 months from now. And so the five things you care about persisting and healing today are not going to be the same five things you care about in that timeframe. Our job is leverage our BIOS enabled foundation that allows enterprises to get reliable data, see the things that are protecting their environment, and heal them if something goes wrong – regardless of what their stack looks like.
Louis: So Absolute becomes a system of record because it is the definitive record of all activity coming off of that laptop or that device that’s enabled at the BIOS level with your technology.
Christy: I think we’re a big part of that. We’ve talked to a lot of customers, and there are other visibility solutions on the market. A lot of times somebody says, “Well, I have a fill-in-the-blank-security-product, and so I think I see everything.” My answer is the thing they are relying on is likely one of those ten things that are sitting in the stack that has a rate of decay – because it is not rooted in the BIOS so, therefore, it has some inherent vulnerability. So we should be instrumenting that and ensuring that we protect that critical control, ensure it is always running, and heal it if it goes offline. Our customers rely on us because they know that we are giving them the complete picture.
I don’t see the vast ecosystem of security products as competitive to what we are doing. I see those as complementary. Whatever is in your security technology stack, let’s make sure it’s always there, let’s make sure it’s always turned on, and let’s heal it if it goes offline.
Louis: Regarding the designed-in win you’ve achieved with being embedded at the BIOS level, do you spend time OEMs? How is that all orchestrated at the platform level, or at the OEM level, to ensure that you continue to have that as a competitive advantage?
Christy: We’ve had very close relationships with our OEM partners for well over a decade. We spend a lot of time looking at both the technical architectures and customer challenges. Every one of our OEM partners has a unique strategy for how they are delivering unique security services to their customers, and we view ourselves as an enabler of those strategies.
Louis: When you visit customers, what are they most excited about? What’s their burning need right now? What are they focused on?
Christy: Right now, we’re spending a lot of time with our customers focused on simplifying their experience and making these new capabilities easier to use, and easier to integrate into their environments. A lot of our customers have been with us for a long time and get very excited about how we make their jobs easier with more automation using things like our constantly expanding library of Reach scripts, enabling their IT teams to automate a lot of their endpoint tasks.
Where we also see a significant change in behavior is when we show them the power of some of our Resilience capabilities, paired with some of our analytics pieces. When we show them the state of the endpoint as it applies to their unique environment, where the gaps are, and demonstrate how we can help heal those gaps, I often hear, “Oh, I didn’t know Absolute could do that…” It’s a big departure from where we were ten years ago. So I think we’re going through a period of reintroducing ourselves to our customers and showing them that, even with the technology they already have, they could be doing so much more.
Louis: How do you build the business case for Absolute?
Christy: I think it depends on the customer. I think that if they’re a customer that’s talking to us about our visibility and control products, which are really about trust in our BIOS level visibility and control, management and tracking and locating and taking fine grain view at their assets, then I think the conversation is really about return on investment around the asset itself. Using their data to give them valuable insights about the state of their assets, as well as their posture. It’s a conversation about protecting the investment you’re making in your computing infrastructure.
When we’re talking to a customer about resiliency, it’s really about how much they are spending on security and how do we help them get back the return on investment of the dollars they’ve already spent. I believe the frenzy around security spending has put a lot of IT managers into a position where they have deep stacks and are not getting the full return on investment from those controls. We want to help them close the gap.
Louis: How do you enable innovation of culture and be able to turn out the next generation products?
Christy: So, I’ve done it a bunch of different ways, and I believe that what is most empowering to people who love to build great products….is when individuals get to see their stuff, their unique idea, their new concept go to market and be used by customers. We are fundamentally builders using our tools to solve customer problems.
What I like is a little bit more of the startup energy. Where people can bring forward ideas, and if we agree this is a cool idea – we invest. We give them a team and a timeline. We can give those ideas an opportunity for commercialization. And by the way, that’s what engineers and innovators and entrepreneurs love the most. That’s what they want. They get passionate about pointing to a product and saying, “I did that. That’s super cool. It was my idea; they gave me a team. I learned a lot, and I got to have an impact.” And I think that impact is really what fires or fuels the innovation culture.
86% of enterprise executives say that mobile threats are growing faster than any other according to Verizon’s Mobile Security Index 2019 and 67% of enterprise execs are less confident about the security of their mobile devices compared to other IT assets.
Mobile devices are hackers’ favorite platform to target, with over 905,000 malware packages installed in Q1 of this year alone and over 5.3 million in 2018, according to Statistica.
38% of mobile devices introduce unnecessary risk into the organization based on an analysis of privacy and security settings according to MobileIron’s Global Threat Report.
Mobile devices reflect you and your customers’ identity in the many apps, data, and ongoing activities you and they choose to engage in. Every enterprise looking to reinvent itself by scaling digital business strategies is putting mobile devices at the center of growth plans because they are everyone’s identity.
Enterprises are relying on mobile devices more than ever before, personalizing them for each associate or employee to launch and scale new business initiatives. These factors combined are leading to a rapid expansion of, and reliance on mobile devices as the single digital ID enterprises rely on to enable perimeter-less borders. The following IDG survey results reflect enterprise security leaders’ prediction of when mobile devices will authenticate Identity Access Management (IAM):
Passwords Aren’t Strong Enough For A Zero Trust World
The bottom line is that passwords are the weakest defense in a zero-trust world. Ineffective in stopping privileged credential-based breaches, with the most privileged system access credentials shared and at times resold by insiders, passwords give hackers a key to the front door of enterprises’ systems. They no longer have to hack their way in; stolen or purchased passwords and privileged access credentials available on the Dark Web-enable hackers to use the front door of enterprise IT.
While 95% of enterprise executives say they have multi-factor authentication (MFA) implemented, a little more than half of their users are using it. Senior security executives say they doubt the security benefits (36%), expense (33%), and the decision that users don’t access sensitive information (45%), making MFA pointless.
86% of senior security executives would dump password use as an authentication method if they could. In fact, nearly half of those surveyed cited eliminating passwords as a way to cut almost half of all breach attempts. Perceived security shortcomings are a key reason why almost three-quarters of these security leaders say they’re actively looking for replacements for passwords for authentication.
62% of the senior security execs reported extreme user irritation with password lockouts. The percentage of respondents who reported extreme user frustration at password lockouts rose to 67% at companies with more than 5,000 employees. Users having to call in and change their password with IT’s help is a major drain on productivity and worker’s time. Senior security executives want to abandon passwords given how high maintenance they are to support and how they drain time and productivity from any organization.
Creating A Mobile Zero Trust Network
The new reality for any enterprise is that mobile device identities are the new security perimeter. Mobility devices ranging from smartphones to tablets are exponentially expanding the threat surfaces that enterprises need to secure and passwords aren’t scaling to do the job. Instead of just relying on a password, secure access needs to be determined by a “never trust, always verify” approach that requires verification of the device, user, apps, networks, and evaluation of the presence of threats before granting access.
The formidable challenges of securing a perimeter-less enterprise where the mobile device identities are the new security perimeter need a mobile-centric zero-trust network to succeed. Zero trust validates the device, establishes user context, checks app authorization, verifies the network, and detects and remediates threats—all before granting secure access to any device or user. Zero trust platforms are built on unified endpoint management (UEM) systems and their enabling technologies including zero sign-on (ZSO) user and device authentication, multi-factor authentication (MFA), and mobile threat detection (MTD). The following illustration reflects best practices in provisioning, granting access, protecting, enforcing, and provisioning access privileges for a mobile Zero Trust network.
Your smartphone or mobile device of choice is increasingly going to become your ID and secure access to resources across the enterprises you work for. Passwords have proven to be ineffective in thwarting the most common source of breaches, which is privileged credential abuse. Enterprise executives interviewed for two completely different studies reached the same conclusion: IT infrastructure will be much safer once passwords are gone.