Hacker Police

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How Symantec keeps the Internet bad guys away. With a few words from Luichi Robles—their man in the Philippines

Cybersecurity is a confusing battlefield. Rather than trying to thwart a familiar adversary, the process of shielding information is so arduous, so uncertain, it is like battling a pathogen.

The exact numbers are staggering. Based on research compiled by Symantec, one of the world’s 20 biggest cybersecurity firms, half a million web- based attacks occur daily.

A well known rival, Kaspersky, eschews the hard numbers and maintains a Cyberthreat Real-Time Map. Ideally viewed on the Google Chrome browser, Kaspersky uses a 3D model of the globe to track hacker activity as it happens.

As this story was being written, a massive denial of service attack or DDOS was being launched against the US.

“Before, the reasoning used to be we’re a third world country so we’re not affected,” says Luichi Robles, senior country manager of Symantec Philippines, about the local mind set toward cybersecurity.

Robles is adamant. “It is not true that there are no threats here.” He should know. Ex-IBM, ex- HP, ex-Cisco, and a systems engineer by training, Robles’ career spans the evolution of the local ICT landscape. Robles was there when BPO was only beginning.

“The big companies [here] have to be more proactive,” he says. “The small companies recognize it,” Robles adds.

“That’s why our solutions are easy for an SME to absorb. It requires less technical resources to maintain.” Symantec Philippines is fundamentally a sales operation for Symantec Inc. founded in 1982 by computer scientist Gary Hendrix.

Symantec then focused on databases for desktop PCs. Its affinity for personal computing has not waned. A year after its 1989 IPO, it merged with Norton and used the brand to market a bestselling anti-virus suite.

Today, Symantec is a 18,000-person strong business with US$7 billion in revenue last year, when it also scored high on the Gartner Magic Quadrant. Still headquartered in Mountain View, California, Symantec is a leading provider of critical knowledge on cyber threats thanks to its in-house intelligence unit, multiple war games, and a formidable research arm.

At the moment there is a crisis at the top, with board member Michael A. Brown serving as interim CEO until a new one is found to grow the company’s operations.

Two months ago, a critical vulnerability in the SSL certificates enabling users to access websites was discovered. Dubbed Heartbleed, it allowed hackers to slowly drain bytes of data from compromised websites. No one was safe.

Troves of user information from Facebook, Dropbox, Amazon Web Services, Instagram, Wordpress, and Google were at risk. A lot of big corporations too.

“We can’t disclose much, but most of them are our customers,” Robles says, referring to Symantec’s response to the local fallout of Heartbleed. “Whatever effects it had, we were able to respond immediately,” he says. “We did send warning e-mails and gave advice on what to do.”

Heartbleed and various horrors figure in Symantec’s annual Internet Security Threat Report. Available for free download on its main website symantec.com, this year’s edition compiles everything you need to know about the dangers hackers pose.

According to Symantec, the top six targets for data breaches are mining companies, governments, manufacturing, wholesale, infrastructure, and finance.

Tactics span ransomware, exploits, and brazen social engineering, not to mention targeting smartphones. Android devices are at the most risk, while iOS is 100% safe.

“Workers are becoming more mobile,” Robles says. As a result, Symantec Philippines is growing to accommodate local demand for robust security products. It is Robles’ job to meet this need.

“We’re expanding and it’s difficult to get good talent,” he admits. “The senior talent isn’t here, maybe in Singapore or Malaysia.”

Cybersecurity is an arms race and Symantec is struggling to keep up.

Print ed:06/14


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