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eWeek Goes 1-on-1 with SonicWall CEO Bill Conner

Bill Conner has a plan for SonicWall. And he’s already ahead of it.

In a recent interview with eWeek, the SonicWall CEO provided high-level perspective on not only where SonicWall is and how it got here, but also where it’s going in the future. It was a candid, one-on-one conversation that really lets the industry get to know SonicWall as a company.

“Everything comes through some kind of a network … where we think the market is going is really going to be about automated, real-time breach detection and prevention,” said Conner.

Announced in May 2018, SonicWall financially separated from Quest with oversubscribed investment interest and unprecedented growth in the last six quarters. This success is less than two years removed from Francisco Partner’s purchase of SonicWall from Dell.

“We still have Dell as a partner, and as an OEM, and still do a great deal of business with them,” Conner told eWeek. “We also have business that has nothing to do with Dell.”

Conner walked eWeek through the last 10 months of fast-moving growth for SonicWall, which included 12 new products that featured updates to trusted firewalls, introduced new virtual firewall offerings and unveiled the SonicWall Capture Cloud Platform.

Conner stressed that all of the development into defending endpoints, email and other areas of vulnerability does not mean that SonicWall is diverging from its true nature, which is primarily that of a network security company. SonicWall is simply expanding the breadth of its cyber security portfolio to deliver more cost-effective, real-time protection to customers and partners.

“One of the big questions when I came in was, ‘Is the brand going to be alive?’” said Conner. “Then there were questions about our roadmap and ability to deliver … Now our vision, that I started talking about six quarters ago, is starting to be real.”

This fiscal year SonicWall also added over 24,000 SecureFirst partner organizations, a 60 percent year-over-year increase, while closing $530 million in partner deal registrations. Since the start of 2018, SonicWall has collected 27 cybersecurity industry accolades, most recently being named the Editor’s Choice Security Company of the Year by Cyber Defense Magazine.

Ransomware, Variants, Snipers & Kung Fu

The 2018 SonicWall Cyber Threat Report reported a 71.2 percent decline in the number of ransomware attacks, but a 101.2 percent increase the number of ransomware variants. Let me ask you, is this good news or bad?

If this was a military battle, would you celebrate the news the enemy reduced the number of machine guns by nearly three quarters but doubled the number of snipers? Perhaps, but now you’d have to keep your head lower and stay out of sight.

2016 saw a flood of “spray-and-pray” ransomware attacks as hackers were taking advantage of soft defenses and low levels of employee awareness. In fact, in 2016 SonicWall blocked nearly 640 million ransomware attacks; that was over 1,200 ransoms not seen (or paid) each minute.

Because of this intense pressure, organizations around the globe bolstered their defenses and education efforts. Simply put, we got tired of getting beat up for our lunch money and took Kung-Fu lessons.

Attackers retool ransomware strategies

In 2017, attackers retooled with new exploits. From that, WannaCry, NotPetya and Bad Rabbit were born. Each were designed to be malware cocktails that infected a system and then move on to the rest of the network through shared drives. But these are just three of the 2,855 variants SonicWall created defenses for in 2017 alone.

With these new malware cocktails in the wild, threat actors targeted specific roles within companies through social engineering. Instead of annoying thousands of people with a small ransom with a shrinking chance they will pay, many switched to hard-hitting attacks with larger demands.

Unique Ransomware Signatures

One such instance was the city of Atlanta, where the SamSam ransomware variant affected five out of 13 city departments and shut down systems for 10 days. Fortunately, the $51,000 ransom went unpaid but the damages to systems, lost files and productivity far outweigh the demand.

How to stop ransomware attacks, avoid ransom payouts

So, what can we do in this period of the threat landscape? Employee awareness for social engineering attacks (e.g., phishing attempts) still needs to drastically improve. Strong password hygiene also needs to be in place to block attacks like SamSam that work off of guessed passwords.

From there, we need ransomware protection technology in place that stops attacks. Here are two core technologies have may not have thought of recently:

  1. Implement a network sandbox that can identify and stop unknown attacks.

    A network sandbox is an isolated environment on the firewall that runs files to monitor their behavior. SonicWall Capture Advanced Threat Protection (ATP) is a multi-engine sandbox service that holds suspicious files at the gateway until a verdict can be achieved.

    Capture ATP also features Real-Time Deep Memory InspectionTM (RTDMI). RTDMI is a memory-based malware analysis engine that catches more malware, and faster, than behavior-based sandboxing methods. It also delivers a lower false-positive rate to improve security and the end-user experience. Learn about its ability to find and block malicious PDFs and Office documents.

  2. Use advanced endpoint client security

    For years, companies deployed traditional anti-virus (AV) on their computers, which was fine when the total number of signatures they had to write and update numbered in the hundreds of thousands. Last year, SonicWall discovered 58 million new forms of malware that take time to signature and push to defense points like firewalls.

    Even if these are pushed within 24 hours, it leaves a gap that new and advanced malware can walk right through. I recommend using a next-generation anti-virus (NGAV) solution that can monitor the behavior of a system to look for malicious activities, such as the unauthorized encryption of your files. For example, SonicWall Capture Client delivers advanced malware protection and additional security synergies for SonicWall firewall users.

On top of these two new forms of technology, please follow best practices when securing and managing your networks, such as network segmentation.

Download the 2018 SonicWall Cyber Threat Report

The cyber arms race is a challenge we face together. And it’s the core reason we’re committed to passing our findings, intelligence, analysis and research to the global public via the SonicWall 2018 Cyber Threat Report.

READ THE FULL REPORT

SonicWall Named 85th Common Vulnerabilities and Exposures (CVE) Numbering Authority (CNA)

SonicWall has recently been named the 85th Common Vulnerabilities and Exposures (CVE) Numbering Authority (CNA) by the MITRE Corporation, an international not-for-profit security institute.

What does this mean for SonicWall and the cyber security world at large? SonicWall has a new way to contribute to cyber security education and defense. The purpose of the CVE program is to provide a method and consortium for identifying vulnerabilities in a standardized manner.

SonicWall now has the authority to identify unique vulnerabilities within its products by issuing CVE IDs, publicly disclose vulnerabilities that have been newly identified, assign an ID, release vulnerability information without pre-publishing, and notify customers of other product vulnerabilities within the CNA’s program.

“This program takes us one step closer to reaching the transparency security administrators need in order to make swift and educated decisions when it comes to threat protection,” said SonicWall Chief Operating Officer Atul Dhablania in an official announcement. “SonicWall looks forward to working with MITRE in a collaborative effort to expand the arsenal of information needed to properly equip those who are being targeted or looking to strengthen their security posture.”

On a larger scale, the program is effective because an entire network of certified organizations works together, with the backing of numerous researchers and support personnel, to identify and stay ahead of emerging threats.

CVE Numbering Authorities (CNAs) are organizations that operate under the auspices of the CVE program to assign new CVE IDs to emerging vulnerabilities that affect devices and products within their scope.

The program is voluntary but the benefits are substantial, among them the opportunity to disclose a vulnerability with an already assigned CVE ID, the ability to control disclosure of vulnerability info without pre-publishing, and the notification of vulnerabilities for products within a CNAs scope by researchers who request a CVE ID from the CNA.

Becoming a part of the CVE program is a chance to not only connect to a vast network of organizations working to identify cyber threats, but also to contribute to the effort as a whole.

SonicWall and our Channel Partners Team to Deliver New High-Value Security Professional Services to Fight the Bad Guys

I can only imagine the pressure that comes with the job of being responsible for a company’s network security.  These individuals are not only entrusted with protecting company and customer data, but the reputation of the company and its brand.  In the case of smaller businesses, the stakes are particularly high, where a network breach and data loss can threaten the very existence of the company. According to the Ponemon Institute Cost of a Data Breach 2017, the average cost of a breach for the average total cost of a data breach is $3.62M, and over 60 percent of SMBs cease to exist 6 months following a data security breach. Add to these grim statistics the incredible rise in malware, ransomware and other advanced threats in a constantly evolving cyber threat landscape and you have the plot of a very scary true (cyber) crime movie – the good guys vs. the bad guys.

Network security vendors like SonicWall and the channel partners who integrate our products in to security solutions for their customers are most often the first line of defense to help organizations defend against the bad guys. These organizations rely on SonicWall to deliver highly efficient security products that can stop today’s known and unknown threats. And they rely on our channel partners as their trusted advisors to deliver their security solution. With so much at stake, it is critical that the right SonicWall products are designed in the security solution. And just as critical that the solution is implemented properly and optimized for the customer’s environment and business requirements. Even the best security products, if not properly spec’d and implemented, can leave an organization vulnerable. To address this reality, SonicWall has announced the launch of a new lineup of valuable professional security services to help customers and channels design, implement and operate SonicWall security solutions that keep the bad guys at bay and defend against their relentless cyber attacks.

Organized around three areas of competency, the security professional service offerings were jointly developed and blueprinted by SonicWall and a group of channel partners (the good guys) with deep security services expertise. Each service incorporates the real-world services experience of these partners, essential knowledge gained through hundreds of services engagements.

The services include:

  • Implementation Services – compliance audit prep, remote and onsite implementation services for SonicWall products
  • Solution Services – security health checks,  wireless security deployments, campus network and distributed network solutions.
  • Architecture Services – more complex or large-scale solutions and customer environments, such as DPI-SSL deployment or SuperMassive next-gen firewall implementations.

It makes so much sense to have these types of services surround the SonicWall product portfolio, as a means to ensure our customer have the best possible protection. As SonicWall’s Channel Chief, I’m equally proud of the new services as I am of the way in which they are delivered.

This is where our new Partner Enabled Services Program comes in. Just launched, the program identifies and showcases SonicWall SecureFirst channel partners who have a security focused professional services practice and enables them to deliver the new services. These partners are vetted, granted status as a SonicWall Advanced Authorized Services Partner and given access to exclusive training, tools, sales, marketing and technical resources. All of the services are branded and sku’d by SonicWall, so the entire SonicWall channel can resell them. Once sold, the services are delivered by the Advanced Services Partners.

This breakthrough approach to delivering professional security services is only possible due to the collaboration and trust that exists within the incredible SonicWall channel partner ecosystem – one that has developed over the last 25 years. SonicWall channel partners genuinely trust each other to engage respectfully with their customers to deliver high-grade professional security services and, in doing so, they deliver the most effective security solution and drive incremental opportunity for their business. With this program, SonicWall’s broad channel, our Authorized Services Partners, and most importantly, our customers, can join forces to fight the bad guys and win the war against cyber attacks. Score one for the good guys!

Feedback from our channel on this approach to services offer creation and delivery has been fantastic.

“This year marks 20 years of our relationship with SonicWall and we are excited about deepening our engagement with SonicWall and showcasing our SonicWall based services expertise through the Partner Enabled Services Program. The Exertis team is highly skilled in SonicWall distributed architecture deployments, proven time and again to be the real leader when customer security is at stake,” Jason Hill, Security Sales Director of Exertis in United Kingdom, a leading SonicWall distributor in Europe..

“As a dedicated SonicWall Platinum Partner with a mature services practice, we are delighted to see SonicWall making such significant investments in driving partner growth in security services.  Our team of security experts have a passion for security and phenomenal service,” said Timothy Martinez, President of Western NRG Total Internet Security, based in Camarillo California. “With more than 15 years of SonicWall implementations, we go to battle for our customers in the cyber arms race. The Partner Enabled Services Program is an excellent opportunity to grow our services further with SonicWall.”

“Our unwavering commitment is to protect and empower our customers against today’s most damaging cyber attacks,” said Michael Crean, CEO of Solutions Granted, a SonicWall SecureFirst Platinum partner in Virginia. “In our case, as one of SonicWall’s longest-term Managed Security Services Providers, this requires additional services and expertise to ensure we’re delivering the value and guidance our customers require to be secure. SonicWall understands our needs and, yet again, delivers the structure, resources, training and incentives to enhance customer loyalty, satisfaction and market recognition.”

Customers interested in the new security professional services should contact their SonicWall channel partner.  For interested SecureFirst Partners, we have a webinar planned for Nov. 30 at 8:30 am PT: Grow your Services Business with the New Partner Enabled Services Program.

IT Security Done Right Enables State and Local Governments

News reports about new data breaches have become an all too frequent occurrence.  But cyber attacks can’t and don’t stop state and local governments from getting on with the business of governing. It’s easy to fall into a state of paralytic fear about attacks and data breaches, but in the meantime, state and local governments need to deliver the services their citizens rely upon, and continue to leverage technology to expand and improve those services.

If IT security is viewed as a defense mechanism by government, and even by security professionals themselves, government doesn’t work at well as it needs to.  A more productive attitude is to view security as an enabler of ongoing and new information technology efforts, providing a secure foundation for governments to take advantage of new technologies, provide employees and citizens with the ability to access the services they need from any device, and most importantly, streamline and improve those services.

In other words, we at SonicWall want to help state and local government IT security to become the Department of Yes. Making this change in viewpoint, doing security the right way, is the subject of the Government Computer News article, Take a Positive Approach to Security.

In the article, SonicWall’s Ken Dang goes into detail on how to accomplish this. Improving protection of government assets needs to be coupled with improving legitimate access to resources, which in turn improves efficiency, a key consideration for resource-constrained IT departments. Ken discusses a contextual approach to access, in which requests are evaluated based on a case by case basis, with the particular user’s specific requests placed in the context of the time and place of the request itself.

For the contextual approach to be effective, access information needs to be shared among all the different security devices and solutions throughout the government’s IT.  It’s important to have the proper tools to do this – which we’re happy to provide –but it requires breaking down organizational silos, getting people used to the idea that security is done better when the groups responsible for the many different aspects of security cooperate and communicate.

Contextual security particularly mandates this relationship when it comes to networks and user identities. Without transparency and full awareness between the two, the opportunity to improve overall security posture becomes a lost opportunity. But when government IT embraces that transparency and awareness, and leverages its capabilities by inspecting every packet on the network, even encrypted packets (which bear an increasing share of attack exploits) – that’s the path to security done right.

Add up all the above, couple it with our cost-effective, easy to install, SonicWall next-generation firewalls and other network security solutions, and IT security for state and local governments moves away from being an obstacle and towards being an enabler of better, more effective and responsive government.