Australia's cloud appetite fed by big data: new WatchGuard head

Increasing use of big-data techniques is contributing to a stronger overall response to the expanding threat profile modern organisations face, the new regional head of security vendor WatchGuard Technologies has observed.

“The sheer volume of logging information that's produced is beyond a person's ability to make sense of it,” newly appointed regional manager David Higgins told CSO Australia, noting the use of better analytics techniques in forensic security investigations as a sign of what can be done when analytics is effectively applied to the challenge.

“Using big data is helping them analyse it, and to pick out the nuggets that improve security. It doesn't take long for agencies to find that bit of information which is incriminating people; we're seeing it every single day.”

Application of the techniques isn't limited to the high-end use of the data – and it's not always tied to malicious outsiders. In one recent case, a small business was wondering why its bandwidth usage had jumped significantly, and through applied analysis identified bandwidth peaks on Sunday nights; an investigation revealed that an employee had left a connected laptop onsite and was using it to distribute movies and TV shows via BitTorrent.

Increasingly sophisticated technologies, combined with increasingly user-friendly tools to facilitate their use, are helping even non-technical IT managers make the most of the technology.

“It's all about providing reports that an IT manager can interpret and turn into valuable information,” Higgins said, “which in turn can enable you to make a decision about how the firewall should be configured. If you can turn log data into a list of your top 10 bandwidth users in the organisation, or who is playing games on Facebook, it becomes a very powerful tool.”

Assistance in applying data-analysis tools had become even more important where security paradigms are being extended to cloud-based environments, Higgins said. In such environments, IT managers are becoming increasingly dependent on security intermediates – in particular, those able to apply big-data techniques to a flood of security-related data – to keep track of an ever-broader range of security threats.

“Virtualisation has been a huge enabler for the cloud in spinning up new environments quickly and easily,” Higgins explained, “but businesses need to do this securely and think about the ramifications of hosting that sensitive information in an uncontrolled environment.”

With the use of cloud-based services exploding in Australia, Higgins is optimistic about the security sector's growing opportunity to capitalise on this trend and help in the application of big-data techniques to omnipresent security challenges.

“Everyone says the market is booming, and like every company we're looking to grow the business,” he said, “but that goes hand in glove with IT budgets that are under a lot of pressure. Security is absolutely critical, but it's really about more bang for buck and the best possible return for their investment.”

This article is brought to you by Enex TestLab, content directors for CSO Australia.

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