Can Dell change endpoint security?

Traditional PC security is failing most companies, and a new approach is required if enterprises are to be protected. Can PC vendors like Dell dramatically improve endpoint security?

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Endpoint security is changing dramatically. It’s becoming clear that simply doing anti-malware the way it’s always been done with an add-on software program that scans for threats through signature comparisons as files are opened is not enough. The two major traditional AV companies, Symantec and McAfee, who championed this approach for many years, now have competition from next generation players like Cylance, who use predictive machine learning and AI approaches to evaluating and discovering new malware not easily detected through signature-only approaches. And processor suppliers like Intel, ARM, Qualcomm, etc. are getting into the act, designing-in trusted segments of their chips intended to become impenetrable vaults for protected execution of critical parts of the OS and apps. With newer sophisticated malware attacks, security must move beyond an outdated add-on only approach and into a multilayered approach that includes hardware, OS, layered software and network awareness.

The major PC endpoint providers believe that security can be a competitive differentiation for selling their products, particularly to business users. But can they do a better job than just shipping add-on AV software? Enhanced security as a selling point has been tried with marginal success before, but current players may have reached an inflection point for enterprise customers. A leading example of this is Dell, which claims to have a superior next generation AV and end point security solution, and has established a security group chartered to fulfill its vision of what security for new age threats should be.

Why is Dell concentrating on this approach?

Dell has many assets it can bring to bear, including recently acquired technology from EMC which owned RSA and VMware/AirWatch. But it has also acquired companies over the past few years (e.g., Credent), and partnered with promising new players (e.g., Cylance). Dell’s security business is primarily aligned to its own end points, but will work with other vendor’s products. Since few enterprises are solely a single sourced environment, cross vendor support is critical. Dell has integrated its offering into a suite with encryption/DRM, host based firewall with protection, and an end point security console that includes VMware/AirWatch, Cylance, RSA NetWitness and SecureID. It also has an API to allow integration with Microsoft’s System Center to make it easier for the large number of companies using that management tool to manage and deploy its solution. Most companies currently have a hodgepodge of security components, so creating a suite makes corporate deployment much simpler and probably more cost effective.

Dell’s strategy was primarily driven by the needs of its PC business, and while aligned to its client devices, the group is not constrained to that market. Dell’s security group plans to reach out and provide capabilities for a wide range of enterprise needs through its consulting and custom deployment capabilities, which are an important need of larger clients who often have a fairly complex environment where an off-the-shelf suite may not be sufficient. And although other PC device vendors have similar programs (e.g., HP), they are often limited to their own hardware. Non-hardware companies who provide security services (e.g., Symantec and McAfee who are also trying to refocus on advanced security services) can’t match the tight integration with hardware devices that Dell can provide, giving it a potential competitive advantage.

In my opinion, Dell has the most wide-ranging security technology capability currently available from a hardware vendor based on the assets it acquired with EMC and the partnerships it has created. Further, the combination of its hardware and software assets creates a synergy that most others can’t match. Finally, the ability of the security group to loop back and influence the hardware engineering group makes this a unique relationship among the major vendors.

So what’s the bottom line? Dell’s heavy focus on bringing security products and services to their endpoints and business customers makes them a leading contender in this space, and one that others will need to emulate through partnerships/acquisitions of their own. It’s clear that the old AV software-only approach to enterprise security is no longer sufficient given the rapidly evolving threat landscape, and that a combined hardware/software approach is required, along with enhanced machine learning and network monitoring capabilities to add the necessary layers to the security perimeter. While all the components are available for the do-it-yourselfer, Dell is leading with a combined product set that will expand over time and that enterprises would do well to evaluate.

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