Mobile computing, the cloud, bring-your-own-device and the Internet of things are trends that are changing the way computing is being done, and forcing businesses big and small to rethink what security needs to look like in order to protect the growing numbers of user devices and data.
At a recent panel discussion in Boston, Dell officials and customers, as well as analysts and journalists, discussed the security challenges that these trends bring with them, the issues facing enterprises and small and midsize businesses, and what security measures will be needed in a world where workers are more mobile and armed with more smartphones and tablets, data is stored in the cloud and information is constantly flowing across networks to and from a multitude of systems, machines and devices.
The July 24 event was the first of what Dell officials are calling their 1-5-10 Series, where company experts and others will tackle a range of issues facing the IT industry and what can be done to address them in the present, near-term (five years) and future (10 years).
The series comes at a time when the newly private Dell is continuing to evolve beyond its PC-making roots and into a provider of enterprise IT solutions and services, an effort that has been ongoing for several years and in which Dell has spent billions of dollars buying companies to grow its capabilities in such areas as networking, storage, software and the cloud. Also at the forefront has been security, through such acquisitions as SecureWorks in 2011 and SonicWall, AppAssure and Quest in 2012.
The wide-ranging discussion at the Boston event touched on a range of issues, from the rapidly growing number and sophistication of threats and the particular challenges facing SMBs to the problem of human error, the need for security to become more proactive than reactive and the way security will need to evolve to address the changing IT environment.
It eventually comes down to people: those who are the threats—both inside and outside a company—those who are putting the products together and developing the software, those who are deciding on features for their offerings, and those who are making the decisions about security for their businesses.
"The human is still the weakest link in security," said Tim Brown, Dell fellow and executive director of security for Dell's Software Group. "But humans are also the greatest enablers of security."
For many SMBs, they don't have money to pay a staff of such enablers, which is a key problem for them, according to Laurie McCabe, an analyst with the firm SMB Group. SMBs are overwhelmed by what they're doing just to stay in business, McCabe said. Having to keep up with the mounting security threats is almost impossible.
"They can barely keep up with the day-to-day stuff," she said.
Don Ferguson, Dell senior fellow, vice president and CTO of Dell's Software Group, said the amount of security threats—and their complexities—are things that all businesses struggle with. The sheer number of threats is massive, Ferguson said.
"It's huge," he said. "I think people have reached a cognitive saturation just thinking about the known [threats]."
And it's not just the threats themselves that are inundating businesses, panel member said. It's also the number of devices and the mobility of both the workers and the data. Organizations can no longer count on workers being in the office, using corporate-issued computers. Now they're more mobile, using an array of devices both corporate-owned and personal, and demanding access to company data from anywhere and on any device.
"There's no longer a way to contain an end user," said Brett Hansen, executive director of client solutions software.