Security industry “has failed the customer”, exec concedes as reborn McAfee spruiks consulting, integration growth

‘Tool sprawl’ has complicated the security story and fueled surging demand for security skills

Gavin Struthers,Senior Vice President and President Asia Pacific Sales, McAfee

Gavin Struthers,Senior Vice President and President Asia Pacific Sales, McAfee

The relaunching of the McAfee brand as a standalone company – after 7 years in which the company formerly known as Intel Security functioned as a division of Intel – will give the security giant more latitude to capitalise on runaway demand across the Asia-Pacific region, according to the company’s regional head.

That demand saw the company increase its security consulting capabilities by 60 percent last year as enterprises wrestled with the challenges of integration and modernisation in what, McAfee senior vice president and president of Asia Pacific sales Gavin Struthers told CSO Australia, has become a “messy, fragmented industry”.

“There’s a new widget every day because there’s a new threat that evolves every day,” explained Struthers, a 14-year McAfee veteran who assumed his regional role with Intel Security in early 2015. “And the industry is really good at inorganic innovation, where you just buy up features and technologies.”

Yet this approach had become untenable in the long term, he said, because “we have all these point technologies and new innovations as a result. We’ve developed tool sprawl, which is too fragmented for customers to make sense of. And that’s one of the reasons the industry has failed the customer.”

Contemporary solutions needed to be better integrated to facilitate sharing of threat data at the data exchange layer, he said, with various tool drawing on common sources of information so they can respond more effectively to new threats.

“You can then automate a response because you are integrated at the platform level,” Struthers said, adding that the integration needed to extend to third-party products and services such as those in what is now called the McAfee Security Innovation Alliance (MSIA).

The breadth and depth of MSIA partners – which, Struthers said, gives the company “a very broad spectrum of competitors and contributors that play in the industry” – will help McAfee continue building on the momentum that Intel Security put behind its division, which it acquired in 2010 and positioned as a cornerstone of its efforts in the exploding security industry.

Yet with corporate ownership had come stricture around the organisation’s operations, which had led to there being “maybe not a lot of clarity around what is really going on in McAfee,” Struthers conceded. “Intel did a great job supporting the business, but we were somewhat obscured by the mothership being Intel. The McAfee brand coming back is very powerful.”

Intel announced last September that it would join TPG in spinning off the Intel Security business with the McAfee name and take a minority stake in the new company, but faced legal challenges from original owner John McAfee after Intel preemptively moved to prevent him from starting his own security company with the name.

The new entity is in “growth mode” in Australia and “hyper-growth” in south-east Asia and India, Struthers said, where businesses and governments are catching up with digital initiatives and laying down digital-security frameworks. This is driving more demand for advanced consulting capabilities and skills – an area where he said the company has been investing heavily, having quadrupled its training business in the last 18 months.

Closing the cybersecurity skills gap remains a key part of general security strategy across Australia and the region, with the latest Hays Specialist Recruitment market report noting that security, system/infrastructure engineers with cloud experience, and DevOps remain key focus areas for employers. Data protection, compliance and auditing were key areas of demand in the security space, Hays said, as were firewall experts, cybersecurity specialists and security engineers.

The recent Cisco Annual Cybersecurity Report 2017 identified key initiatives around skills as being part of cybersecurity improvement programs. For example, to protect the company from security breaches, some 38 percent of the 1375 respondents said they had separated the security team from the IT department and 37 percent had increased their investment in training of security staff.

Fully 51 percent said they had outsourced security advice and consulting services in an effort to be more cost-efficient (52 percent) and to obtain unbiased insight (48 percent). Furthermore, those companies that were most dependent on security outsourcing, were the most ready to boost their investment even more: of those outsourcing 80 percent or more of their security, 15 percent said they would significantly increase their investment in the next year – compared with just 2 percent that said the same amongst those outsourcing 20 to 40 percent of their security needs.

This demand created strong opportunity for the reborn McAfee organisation and a key part of the company’s strategy as it pursued new opportunities unfettered by its former ownership.

“We are maturing the way that we engage, manage and partner with our customers on a more strategic level rather than just being a product supplier,” Struthers said, noting initiatives such as the hiring of a customer success leader, use of Net Promoter Scores to track customer satisfaction, and training and collaborating with partners.

“We’re putting a lot more effort and resources into those companies,” he said. “Awareness and enablement for customers goes hand in hand with closing that skills gap, and we will hold ourselves accountable to customer satisfaction.”

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