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A small team from Tivoli development, product management, and sales enablement descended upon China and India recently to meet with customers, business partners, and the local IBM security teams. Aside from some seriously good food and some serious jetlag, what else did the Tivoli team get out of this trip? Read on my friends…
China: original architects of “perimeter defense”
We had the good fortune of working in a stop at the Great Wall of China on our travel day between stops in Beijing and Shanghai. Don’t think for one moment that this piece of the itinerary was a touristy boondoggle. Oh no. Our visit to the famous 5,000 mile long collection of walls, trenches, and other natural barriers was all business.
In security parlance, the Great Wall represents the ultimate in perimeter defense. Originally constructed over 2,000 years ago in the Qin Dynasty and improved through the 1600s during the Ming Dynasty to its present form today, the Great Wall performed well to keep the “bad guys out” – whomever the “bad guys” of the century happened to be.
While that is an impressive track record for any security professional, the Tivoli Security team decided to investigate a bit deeper. It turns out that the particular stretch of Wall that we visited was rather unique – and ripe with foreshadowing. We toured the Mutianyu section of the Great Wall, about 70km northeast of Beijing. What is unique about this stretch of the wall is that it was designed to fight off enemies on both the outer and inner sides of the wall.
This concept of finally looking at insider threat proved to be quite prophetic, but was too little, too late for the Ming Dynasty. A disgruntled insider, General Wu Sangui, opened the gates in 1644 from the inside at Shanhaiguan to the advancing enemy. Of course, this led to the fall of the government and certainly led to the loss of jobs for their security professionals.
Major banks and government institutions we visited in present day China have clearly followed suit with their predecessors and focused first on perimeter defense. Fortunately, we are seeing a renewed concern and focus inside these organizations to address insider threat and risk management. It is still a burgeoning area of investment for most firms, but the promising aspect is that the organizations we talked to were most interested in attacking the insider threat because true security risk management was the right thing to do and essential to protect valuable data – and not strictly as a “box to be checked” on an audit.
India: seeking wisdom, prosperity, good fortune…and security.
Our timing to visit Mumbai was very fortunate as we arrived during the annual Hindu festival of Ganesha Chaturthi. I admit that I did not know anything about this festival before traveling to India, but I am very glad the timing worked out to experience it. There are two important things I have learned about Ganesha Chaturthi: 1) worshipers of Ganesha seek wisdom, prosperity, and good fortune; and 2) visitors flying home during the festival should add extra hours to their travel time to the airport because of the processions in the streets. More on that later.
Security wisdom was something we did find in abundance in India. Not only does Tivoli security have major development labs in Pune and Bangalore, but the clients and business partners we met with had a sophisticated view of the types of security threats they were facing and evolving compliance landscapes domestically and abroad. This led to excellent discussions on perimeter defense, intrusion prevention, as well as identity and access management, insider threat and compliance reporting.
The Indian economy is booming and you could see signs everywhere of the country’s increasing prosperity. Organizations we met with clearly recognized the need to proactively handle insider and outsider threats and increasingly have the resources to do so. While there was wide agreement on the scope of security threats, the economics of how to handle those threats still seemed in flux.
Some organizations, like a large bank, saw custom development through a local services firm as the best way to meet its user provisioning and compliance auditing needs. They believed that they could deploy those security controls for a single important system more quickly and cheaply than with a leading commercial software solution. The problem with this approach became apparent when I asked them what happened when they wanted to add one more or 10 more or 20 more systems. Then the total cost of ownership advantages of partnering with a security leader like IBM, and taking advantage of the best practices of clients around the world, became obvious.
Other clients we talked with, like a large telco, expressed a strong desire to leverage IBM’s expertise in managing entire security functions and billing for this service as an operating expense (OPEX) vs. capital outlay (CAPEX). In this case, the client had already purchased intrusion prevention and perimeter defense technologies from IBM and had in-house skills to manage it, but was looking for IBM to deploy and operate new solutions for insider threats and compliance.
Now we come to good fortune. Our team was very fortunate to have such welcoming hosts, interesting clients, and fantastic food at all our stops in India and China. It was truly exciting to see security professionals in those countries embrace security and compliance challenges head on, in partnership with IBM.
I also had the good (?), or at least unintentional fortune of making this trip my first round the world flight. Heading from my home in Austin, the original intent was to fly West to China, then India, and return home through Delhi via the North Pole. One potential snag in this return home that I did avoid was traffic associated with Ganesha Chaturthi in Delhi. My hosts warned me it would take 3 hours or more (vs. the typical 45 minutes) to reach the airport – and I needed all of that extra time to make flight from Mumbai. Long story short, I didn’t make my connection in Delhi and ended flying through Brussels (directly over Kabul too!) on my way home. After 48 hours (and many connections later) from the time I left my last client I was finally home, sweet home! At least that detour gave me the chance to enjoy a fine mug of Hoegaarden on the way home and rack up my first round the world flight for security.