Darren Thomson of Symantec – Have you ever MET Facebook?
We are delighted to announce that Darren Thomson, Head of Marketing EMEA for Symantec – leader in the security and management of information, will be speaking at the EntrepreneurCountry Global Forum on February 3rd. Darren, who has worked in the IT industry for 25 years and joined the marketing team two and a half years ago, will be discussing the diverse and multiple challenges of the IT security industry in responding to ever-more sophisticated threats, and the risk that this poses to Small and Medium Businesses (SMBs) and the future of the Internet of Things (IoT).
Darren spoke to EntrepreneurCountry Global regarding the value that Symantec provides its customer base and how they can help SMBs to overcome modern cyber-criminality with innovative and industry-leading solutions.
SMBs under threat
Information is at the core of everything we do. Darren's philosophy of the security industry is clear – "The security industry in IT throughout history has been about deploying certain tools that help people to protect themselves and protect information. So my philosophy in IT strategy is there are only two things that really matter and they are people and information. What IT is about is connecting those two things. It's either about protecting the connections or it's about connecting people quicker or in more meaningful ways". The controversial Edward Snowden release of sensitive NSA data via Wikileaks demonstrated just how important connections between people and information can be. IT has facilitated this connection, and gave meaning to NSA data in new, often disruptive ways. Indeed, the information connection was so important, that Mr. Snowden now has to take refuge in an undisclosed location in Russia.
IT has grown in importance, with information provided online used to "make decisions which differentiate businesses". As interconnectivity grows and the number of devices connected to the internet reaches 10billion, "Governments and criminal organisations alike have realised that actually most of the world today exists in some way of another in IT. We conduct our business and our personal lives almost entirely on it's platforms - social media being a really good example of what has evolved over the last 10 years, and therefore access to information, whether it be with permission or not, is very very powerful. So criminal organisations have got smarter because they are motivated to do so, an historical security approaches have started to fail." The hacking of Sony Pictures as a retaliation to the proposed release of comedy film 'The Interview', by a source alleged to have been located in North Korea, shows just how important companies regard their online information. At threat of further attacks and data loss, Sony pulled the film from release, promoting mass debate as to speech freedoms and the legitimacy of their company. It is in protecting this information and tackling these criminal motives where Symantec can help and protect SMBs.
SMBs are particularly vulnerable to attacks because "If I think of most advanced criminal organisations – the people that for example are developing advanced persistent attacks on nuclear power stations – they are small businesses. They have between 200-300 people in them. They have a P&L. They're funded. They have a value proposition, some have a mission statement...That indicates to me that they also know how to attack small businesses very well – because they are one. They just need to look at themselves and think they're something like us, how do we get in?" Darren argued that it is "much easier to do that systematically than going after a real big gun where you know you have to get through lots of perimeter defences. They probably have a security office with 50 people in it analysing everything that's going on. So small business is not safe."
Symantec saves the day
Symantec have a plan to protect SMBs. "We determined nearly a decade ago that this was going to happen, and as a result we started to build what we call our Global Intelligence Network. This is a place where we can suck all of the things that we learn to a central repository. Imagine if you've got 200million users of our software. So 200million laptops, PCs, tablets, are using us – they are constantly looking at things on the internet - being attacked in some cases, stumbling over websites that aren't good. We have the ability to gather all of that information, put all of that information in a central repository, and then create an analytics platform that helps us to provide intelligence to our customers." Symantec are using big data to create the largest database on IT threats in the world, and as a result their customers receive the most comprehensive coverage. Big data is evidently a fruitful way through which to further connect people and information – Taggstar use data on online retail products to overlay purchasing and stock information on a screen, prompting increased sales for example. Their partners have seen huge uplift as a result of Taggstar's innovative use of big data. This is Symantec's difference. "You could argue that (our competition) have much the same end-user tools that we have - a piece of anti-virus software that you put on your PC will look and feel roughly the same. There are plenty of people that do that very well, but what our competitors don't have is 200 million people providing them with information that can be reused in order to protect those people. And that's getting more and more clever as we go".
Darren also gave us his top three practical tips for SMBs to look closely at – "email attachments, USB sticks, and looking out for social engineering techniques and social media. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, this is where the social psychology starts to come in. If you know how people think, live, cooperate and communicate with their peers and their social groups then theres an awful lot that can be achieved in terms of getting through. Somebody's password is very easy to glean if you know a little about their lives, pet names, children's names, grandchildren's names and such. How many times have you been asked as a security question – what's your place of birth? "If you were to think about small businesses and all of the various threats and attacks that we've witnessed over the last 5 years - I bet you could knock 90% of them off with those three things." An extremely prevalent example was "an advanced malware attack about 6 years ago now, called Stuxnet, that made the international news. Stuxnet was a particularly virulent virus, very advanced. We estimated it was probably developed by over 200 programmers - it was a serious piece of code. It actually put the Iranian nuclear program back 10 years. What it did was to attack their robotic systems that control the centrifuge systems that cool the rods, and they disabled them. But believe it or not, fundamentally that virus was transmitted through a USB stick." Symantec can help in providing these insights for SMBs and ensuring that all eventualities are catered for – from the complex virus to basic education of staff members regarding USB sticks.
Connecting with SMBs – A mutually beneficial relationship
Darren also provided insights as to why it is key for Symantec to interact with SMBs. Similarly to the David and Goliath format and philosophy that EntrepreneurCountry Global is famed for, Darren argued that "a framework needs to be developed between the small business and the enterprise business, because they've got things they can lend one another. A small business, where it is able to skim and cherry-pick, is able to borrow best practice - hard lessons that have been learnt in enterprise so that hopefully it doesn't make the same mistakes (as it grows) and avoids cost and risk and those sort of things. The enterprise can learn from the small business in entrepreneurship and innovation, as it often does." A good incidence of where EntrepreneurCountry Global has facilitated these connections is with the introduction of Soundout/Slicethepie and Kiss 100 FM. Soundout provided the technology for analysis of popular songs that could then be chosen by the radio station as a result of this data, while Kiss gave Soundout the necessary scale and market expertise in order to grow. Symantec is keen to make similar partnerships in order to teach and to learn itself.
The reciprocal relationship is embraced by Symantec, who are committed to aiding SMBs in their growth and security policies – "we have and continue to design channels for partnerships and direct selling models that allow us to behave in that consultative way with customers and businesses...every business is different – we learn as we move to different vertical markets – they have different requirements and risks, and so that consultative approach is very important." He added, "We've got 20 years of experience of helping people to either defend themselves or be proactive about that defence, and we can leverage that experience very quickly in the SMB community, just with a few known variables." Symantec provides SMBs with a unique opportunity to interact with world leaders in security and combat modern internet threats, while entering into a relationship with real mutual value and intimate interaction channels. In an uncertain era with plenty of digital innovation, including that by cyber-criminals, it is more vital than ever to secure devices and to place security at the centre of thinking as the IoT emerges.
Darren Thomson will be speaking at the 2015 EntrepreneurCountry Global Forum, to be held on February 3rd at the Royal Institution of Great Britain. Make sure that you are there to hear more about internet security and protecting your business from the increasing threats – buy your ticket here.