COMPUTER BUSINESS REVIEW

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Issue Date: August 2000 (es)

First pro-active Internet virus security solution protects against e-mail-based attacks

1 August 2000

At the end of last month I was privileged to have been able to visit TECHXNY 2002 in New York, an event that was to be one of the largest technology events in the USA this year and one which coincided with the breaking news of the WorldCom scandal and the latest accounting fiasco at Xerox.
The event consisted of several exhibitions, including the 20th PC EXPO and a number of parallel conferences. It was a paradise for the 'techno freak' with numerous new product announcements, but was an opportunity for us from the media to be briefed on the latest developments from Microsoft, PalmSource and IBM, to name but a few of the big names that were involved.
Mobility, efficiency and productivity key drivers
The overall key themes, as well as the new product announcements, were orientated around the mobile/wireless space, the long awaited reality of 'PC tablets' and a view of some of the directions that were being researched for a successor to the silicon world within which we are currently operating. However, the real business theme was efficiency and productivity coupled with the most important topic in the current climate, that of security. It was evident that the rate of change in the technology world is not slowing and the events of 9/11 and the current slump within the technology sector is not impacting new research and new developments, but in many cases accelerating this process, since the belief is that tools for increasing productivity and efficiency and particularly ones offering a short ROI will be quickly embraced and implemented within the organisation.
From a Microsoft perspective the focus was on a preview of the new Tablet PC software that is due for release in November this year and on the associated hardware samples from, for example, Acer, Fujitsu, HP, NEC, Tatung and Toshiba, that supported this initiative. The initiative obviously includes a handwriting capability, is seen as the means of bringing together the PC and paper environments, and complements the Pocket PC software that Microsoft are pushing hard in the PDA environment in order to increase its market share against Palm OS.
Additionally, Microsoft was previewing their Pocket PC Phone Edition that they are hoping to introduce and pilot over the next few months, beginning later this month, if Microsoft's dates are to be believed. Microsoft's business proposition is orientated around increasing user productivity by a factor of two by the end of this decade.
On the other side of the table, so to speak, PalmSource, the company set up separately by Palm to develop the new editions of Palm OS, were highlighting the details of Release 5 that will operate on the new ARM powered chipset that is to be the basis of the new Palm-based hardware that will emanate from its partners, such as Palm, Handspring, Research In Motion and Sony. The items of specific interest were not only the developments within Palm OS 5 itself but with the strategic licensing initiatives put in place with, for example, ACCESS for their browser technology, SafeNet for their VPN technology and Insignia for their Java VM implementation. It was obvious that PalmSource intend to retain their market share, which according to Gartner and IDC is between 55 and 60%. Also, and maybe surprisingly, it was indicated that research showed that the TCO of a Pocket PC-based PDA was twice that of a Palm OS-based PDA.
Autonomic computing
From IBM, we were introduced to the area of autonomic computing, a technology based on the autonomic nervous system in the human body. This was one of the key research areas that is being examined as a replacement model for our current systems that are dependent on Moore's law and are likely to need replacing in the next decade or so.
Finally, and uppermost in the mind of businesses today, is the issue of security, which is now starting to get the attention it should have had several months ago, particularly within the overall remit of corporate governance. It is a priority within the new software talked about above and was very much in evidence across the whole gamut of TECHXNY, whether it was during the introductions/announcements of new products or one of the conference sessions that was being presented. The focus came from every aspect from the physical scenarios to the corporate servers or through to the users desktop systems.
Executive responsibility
Senior executives are, at long last, starting to realise that security is their responsibility and not some technical manager lower down within the organisation. They are also realising that any example must come from the top and address the needs of all levels within the organisation, whether it be the central servers or the individual desktop systems, and regardless of whether these devices are mobile or otherwise, and regardless of whether the user is inside or outside any firewalls that have been put in place.
In this regard the emphasis was reinforced by a description of how the FBI were now significantly enhancing their own capabilities both from a reactive, but more importantly, from a proactive stance. This latter stance in particular, brought a renewed focus on security software applicable to all levels of an organisation, including new software for the mobile/PDA environments specifically, coupled with the need to ensure 'holes' at the client level are not left unfilled, thus creating a situation that can be exploited, often inadvertently, by users bringing in their own files/CDs/disks, etc.
This is especially critical with the flash memory/storage hardware that is starting to proliferate. Additionally, the realisation of the responsibility of senior executives to the company and its staff from threats posed by individuals in the organisation abusing the use of e-mail and Internet facilities is starting to have its impact, and the interest in, and the explosion in the availability of monitoring/tracking software for these areas, has not passed unnoticed.
From an individual perspective, the interest in personal firewalls was particularly noticeable. Suddenly, spend priorities are changing, and security has become No 1 or if not, one of the top three items.
Paul Booth
Global Research Partners
Tel 082 568 1179
Fax 011 463 0448


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