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As the threat landscape evolves, the channel must keep pace

As the threat landscape evolves, the channel must keep pace

Security vendor sees close partner cooperation key to successful outcomes in rapidly changing landscape

Joergen Jakobsen (Sophos)

Joergen Jakobsen (Sophos)

Credit: Maria Stefina

As businesses and people become increasingly connected, vulnerabilities emerge that need to be addressed as quickly as possible.

“The key challenge we foresee for our partners is how their customers will deal with the rapidly changing nature of threats across an increased digital attack surface,” said Joergen Jakobsen, regional vice president and managing director of Asia Pacific, Sophos.

The market benefits when channel partners and vendors work closely and seamlessly together, supporting each other in what is a rapidly changing security landscape.

“We are enabling our partners to deliver security as a service to their customers, at the speed of business and to help make cybersecurity a corporate priority,” said Jakobsen, speaking exclusively to Channel Asia.

With this rise in connectivity enabled, to a large extent, by the Internet of Things (IoT), security threats are finding new ways to exploit vulnerabilities and gain access to restricted data.

Threats are now proving to be asymmetrical in nature, and can occur from any source and attack any digital platform, “this is something that we are already addressing, and at our 24/7 threat research centre, SophosLabs, are monitoring closely and have already launched a next-generation security product to better mitigate customers against these threats,” said Jakobsen.

Channel partners need vendor support to better serve their customer base and help to close security holes. One important way a vendor can do this is through a comprehensive training and development scheme.

“For our partners to successfully develop their cyber security practice it is a priority for us to continue to provide our partners with training and development of their staff,” Jakobsen added.

Additionally, as Jakobsen explained, is to provide channel partners with effective technical assistance from Sophos “in terms of both pre- and post-sales support to facilitate our partners in acquiring new customers or to expand their relationship with their current customers.”

Security

Digital transformation is changing how organisations think about security. In the process, business models are changing.

An estimated US$1.16 trillion is expected to be added to Asia Pacific’s GDP by 2021 as a direct result of the digital transformation, according to IDC.

“A macro-trend in the market is the ongoing digital transformation by which customers digitise their business models, their processes, as well as many of their engagements with their customers, partners and suppliers,” Jakobsen added.

However, while digital transformation may enable a plethora of benefits including increased agility and additional streams for profitability, it also has some significant security concerns that need to be addressed to ensure a successful transition.

“It (digital transformation) also opens them up to an increased risk of cybercrime,” said Jakobsen. 

Jakobsen further explained that to deal with such an increased threat, “many customers now prioritise cyber security as a top priority for their company.”

Further discussion will be needed, however, at a national level, around how best to address the changing nature of cyber crime.

This is particularly important, as digital transformation is not a trend solely focused on the enterprise, it is of national concern and one that has the potential to change how governments interact and connect with their citizens.

“New national and international regulations around data privacy also contribute to making cybersecurity a board level discussion in many companies,” concluded Jakobsen.

With the rise of new attacks, such as ransomware and targeted phishing, a comprehensive education program is needed to address gaps in understanding in how best to manage such threats.

“These new threats, as well as the probability of these threats, leads to an increased need for a broader education around cyber security and how all employees play an important role in protecting their business against cybercrime,” said Jakobsen.

To put things into perspective, according to recent research by Sophos, more than half of surveyed customers of the vendor had experienced cyber attacks within the last 12 months – and these customers experienced on an average of two attacks in that timeframe.

“This increase in cybercrime is fuelled by the fact that cybercriminals today do not require any formal high-level training in IT to carry out cyber attacks, complemented by the exponential growth of toolkits available on the Dark Web, developed specifically to carry out malicious activity,” said Jakobsen.

Cyber criminals are disguising their attacks in order to gain initial entry into a network. This presents an additional set of challenges for vendors such as Sophos.

“In a lot of cases, these criminals use the weakest link in one’s cybersecurity strategy – people – as an entry point as many of these attacks are difficult to spot by an untrained eye,” said Jakobsen.

“But we are continuously developing new measures to ensure that technology and people can work together to control and reject these immoral activities,” reasoned Jakobsen.

Channel

Sophos is a 100 per cent channel-driven vendor. “We do not have any competing internal sales teams and we see our channel partners as the only route to market,” said Jakobsen.

The demands of end-users are somewhat similar, despite being spread across different industries, added Jakobsen.

Furthermore, as Jakobsen explained, what is common amongst end-users is their need for a solution that is easy to configure and manage, and when the time comes, easy to use, and effective.

What this means, however, is a close relationship between vendor and partner with a comprehensive training and development program for partners.

“Simplifying complex technology is difficult, but is, at the same time, of paramount importance when it comes to cybersecurity,” said Jakobsen.

The call for greater ‘simplicity’ is not without merit as many companies do not have a dedicated cyber security team.

“These (security) solutions are managed by a lean team, inclusive of an IT manager who must oversee both network and endpoint security on top of monitoring the evolving threat landscape,” said Jakobsen.

There is also a demand for a central point of control when it comes to cyber security– a single dashboard that allows for remote or outsourced management of solutions that also notifies and alerts teams.

Furthermore, companies are seen moving away from adopting disparate solutions due to compatibility issues.

“This is adding to the management burden for customers who already struggle to manage their best of breed strategy of products that are not integrated and leave dangerous gaps in protection,” said Jakobsen.

Demands of the end-user are shifting towards adopting security solutions that work together, seamlessly.

“At Sophos, we are leading the way into what we call ‘synchronised security’ that allows endpoint and network security products to actively work and communicate directly with each other,” said Jakobsen.

“This real-time partnership provides close to zero latency when dealing with sophisticated threats,” explained Jakobsen.

Deep learning and artificial intelligence are seen as key pillars in the vendor’s ability to successfully prevent threats with speed, scale and ultimately better judgement compared to what humans are capable of.

A major driver of growth for both the vendor and its partners is the industry-wide transition to the cloud.

“Channel partners can expect us to provide enablement and technical assistance supporting them as in terms of customer acquisitions as well as cross-sell and upsell into their installed based customers,” said Jakobsen.

“We are enabling our partners to deliver security as a service to their customers,” explained Jakobsen.

“Our growth is dependent on the growth of our partner ecosystem and we are constantly striving to ensure our partners thrive in their marketplace,” said Jakobsen.

A successful partner needs both domain expertise and trust, both from end-user and also from the vendor.

It is often the case that small businesses, especially, do not have adequate in-house IT expertise, and as such rely heavily on their partners as their IT managers and security experts. They need to trust that what the partner recommends will meet their needs and will work.

“A successful partner in our ecosystem will be aware of the changing security landscape and will trust that our recommendations in terms of solutions are the best for them and their customers,” said Jakobsen.

“They need to be able to mirror this trust and knowledge and pass it on to their customers.”


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