Grow security army to combat threats

Drawing from experience with Palm, TippingPoint President Alan Kessler says today's complex threat landscape calls for strong ecosystem of security partners.
Written by Vivian Yeo, Contributor

SINGAPORE--Working with a large pool of researchers and partners is the most effective way to combat the threats of today's complex security landscape, according to an IT industry veteran.

Alan Kessler, president of TippingPoint, told ZDNet Asia in an interview that the challenge in security today was that no one single vendor is capable of managing or meeting the myriad of threats.

"The threat landscape is changing--malware, social [engineering] and application-level vulnerabilities are increasing. When you look at that type of threat landscape, you can't just focus on one or two operating systems--it now becomes tens if not hundreds of thousands of applications, Web-based," he said. "How can any one company serve the security needs in that type of environment--you can't do it alone you have to build a platform, you have to enable that platform with powerful tools, you have to provide a way for the ecosystem to be built up around that platform."


Having a trusted platform would pave the way for security researchers and partners to invest in it, while they would also benefit by having their labor shared with "the larger commercial world". These driving forces, said Kessler, are and will continue to be the basis of TippingPoint's model--bringing together experts through its Zero Day Initiative and refreshing its intrusion prevention system (IPS) products with the knowledge learned.

Kessler, who joined TippingPoint in late January, drew a parallel with his experience at Palm, during which he led the smartphone company to its IPO in 2000. "How different could a Palm Pilot be from a high-end intrusion prevention system? Very different, but one of the lessons that I learnt at Palm is if you build a platform and you enable an ecosystem it can be very powerful."

"We signed up 25,000 application developers to write applications for Palm; we just signed our thousandth researcher as part of our Zero Day Initiative," added Kessler. "There's a lot more we can do to enable more researchers [that in turn] enable more partners to deliver more powerful solutions around an ecosystem that TippingPoint delivers, and I think that would be a big part of what you'd hear us talk about and execute moving forward.

Kessler, who carries not a Palm device but a Blackberry Bold these days, acknowledged that the company had to "continue to have wonderful products" but having just that was no longer enough.

"You might even hear us talking more about the services that we enable, and less about IPS. IPS is a tool, but it's really the value that we bring to our customers that matters most," he explained. "We'll sound less like a product and more like a platform. We'll talk probably less about feats and speeds and more about the different partners and the ecosystem we build around our solution."

More emphasis on Asia
The company also has ambitious plans for the Asia-Pacific region, said Kessler. On top of doubling its headcount in the region from the current 30, as well as set up local offices in countries such as Malaysia.

Much of the activities will be centered in Southeast Asia, a high-growth area for TippingPoint. In the last year or so, the company has set up offices in Indonesia, the Philippines and Thailand.

On the whole, Kessler noted he was pleased with the progress the company has made since he took over at the helm. "[U.S.] President [Barack] Obama had his first 100 days a little before I did. I didn't run a deficit; I made money--he didn't," he joked.

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