Six years after Intel completed its $7.68 billion acquisition of security vendor McAfee, McAfee today is now once again its own independent company. Intel had announced its intention to spin-out the McAfee business in September 2016, with Intel selling a 51 percent stake in the company to private-equity firm TPG for $3.1 billion in cash.
The newly independent McAfee is now marking a new chapter in its corporate history as the company looks to focus on the evolving challenges of the increasingly hostile IT security market. The new McAfee is led by Chris Young, who had been leading the unit as the senior vice president and general manager of Intel Security. In a February 2017 interview with eWEEK, Young said that the new McAfee would be 100 percent dedicated to cyber-security.
Steve Grobman, who has been an Intel employee since 1994, is also moving over to the new McAfee. Grobman has been serving as the CTO of McAfee and Intel Security since January 2012.
"After working at Intel for 23 years, it's a difficult decision to move on to other things," Grobman said. "That said, the opportunity that McAfee as a standalone company presents really overtakes any of the personal feelings for Intel."
When Intel acquired McAfee, the original promise was that there could be a combined set of silicon and software innovations for security. It's a promise that Grobman had talked about in a 2015 video interview as well, with Intel hardware helping to enable better software security. Now with McAfee as an independent company, Grobman still holds the view that hardware companies, like Intel, can and will continue to innovate on some of the basic building blocks of security. However, he emphasized that since the security threat landscape evolves rapidly, hardware is not the most optimal location to build defensive technologies.
"It's much more important to deliver technology rapidly and have technology that can easily be changed in the field, as the threat landscape changes," Grobman said.
Grobman added that having a cyber-security defence company inside of a semi-conductor hardware company, isn't necessarily the best structure for being able to rapidly deliver the best security technologies, as quickly as possible. As such, Grobman said that having McAfee as an independent company provides a more optimal structure, that will help to accelerate and foster security innovation.
"McAfee is tracking the threat landscape every day, seeing the new techniques used by bad actors and then rapidly building new protection technologies and tools," Grobman said.
From a product perspective, McAfee's portfolio spans both consumer and enterprise markets, including all the various threat and attack vectors that can impact IT users. Looking at some of the emerging risks, Grobman commented that as organizations embrace cloud computing, there is a growing need for different types of security technologies that need to be developed.
"If you think about the impact of a breach on a multi-tenant cloud system, the impact can be immense," Grobman said.
The threat landscape has also changed in recent years, where malware is no longer the primary attack vector. Grobman said that McAfee has seen legitimate applications repurposed by attackers to exploit users and organizations.
"I would expect the threat landscape to continue to change and a big part of what the McAfee spinout does, is it gives us more agility to respond more effectively," Grobman said.