Interview with Bruce Hendrix, President and CEO of ServGate
by Mirko Zorz - Monday, 12 July 2004.
What do you see as the biggest online security threats today? What are your clients most worried about?

The key threats to deal with today are the so-called 'blended threat' that combines multiple characteristics such as worm, virus, spam, or intrusion and is agent- or content-based; that is, once it penetrates the edge of the network and embeds itself onto one client system, it replicates and propagates very rapidly to unleash any range of dastardly deeds.

Many of our clients are concerned about the amount of time it takes to lockdown all their systems, interms of both the productivity cost as well as an ever-widening window of vulnerability from updating conventional point solutions running out of context. Many solutions take up to 24 hours to distribute new protection files. Speed to closing the windows of vulnerability is key. For example, MyDoom itself had several different variants within a 24-hour period, which means if you don't have real time response then your response time to the changing makeup of a virus gets truncated. Integrated platforms with auto update capability, like ServGate's EdgeForce, caught myDoom within 3 hours of its release, or an 800% faster rate of time-to-protection. This severely limits the potential damage of an attack an contain further internal outbreaks.

Spam is probably the fastest growing problem today. Some label it as just a nuisance while others see it as a threat. What's your take on the spam problem?

Spam is a huge drain on business performance by siphoning off large amounts of bandwidth and causing companies to over-invest in bandwidth capacity, in addition to the costs associated with lost worker productivity and the inherent downtime risk from a spam-spawned worm agent. Blocking spam on a separate server at the email gateway is a better strategy than waiting until messages arrive in individual Inboxes. The greatest intrusion is a worm wrapped inside a virus deeply embedded in a spam attack.

The best prevention strategy is a multi-threat management system that closes the gaps between the network layer and the application layer. Spam does cause damage: it is a major 'carrier' of viruses, worms, intrusions and spyware, or so-called 'blended' threats. Scanning email traffic out of the context of spam and viral attacks is unthinkable.

What is, in your opinion, the biggest challenge in protecting sensitive information at the enterprise level?

There are many issues involved in protecting business critical data including better authentication and other so-called "AAA" security matters that others focus on. In terms of the kind of automated, integrated security ServGate offers, there are two strategies we can aid in implementing:

1) Defend against external, agent-based threats: A favourite trick of the hackers is to use a virus, worm, Trojan Horse or combination malicious content embedded in a spam attack or URL Web page as a carrier for an agent-based attack, for example an executable file, that once inside the network trolls around sniffing for sensitive data to report back to a remote server. Prevent your computer systems from becoming zombies that these agent attacks hijack to steal and malign confidential data: deploy an integrated security system that looks at all of these attacks in their full context and in real time to prevent the exploit from ever entering the many exposed edges of the network.

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