Entering a new era of cybersecurity innovation

I'll begin this month by stating the obvious: the title of this month's column uses the term “cybersecurity.” That is not the accepted term for what we do. We have, over the years, called our discipline everything from computer security to information assurance. I usually dislike the hackneyed, over-hyped terms that start with “cyber.” It was, after all, introduced into our vernacular in a science fiction novel, and what we do is anything but fiction. But the world is turning “cyber,” so I succumb.

I interpret “cybersecurity” to address the protection of all things in cyberspace. That subsumes data, information, systems, computers, the cloud, etc. Thus, like it or not, I think that the term pretty well covers the bases. A good segue to this year's Innovators issue, that. Good because the remarkable companies that we highlight in this issue are blazing the trails in their respective market segments through pure creativity and innovation. And they cover the bases too. In fact, if we were to create a dream system using all of the products these companies offer, we'd likely have a home run.

One of the things that makes writing here so exciting for me is watching small companies – often the spawn of an entrepreneur's creative imagination – carve out niches in a marketplace that can become quite crowded, and where small companies often are gobbled up by bigger fish and then disappear in that fish's innards never to be seen again. For example, one of our Hall of Famers from last year – Nitro Security – has been acquired by McAfee. We couldn't be prouder of them. They had a very innovative product and a business plan that put them right at the forefront of their market.

And that is where innovation takes you. This year's companies are just as creative, just as innovative, and just as likely to attract those big fish. While it remains to be seen if McAfee will gobble Nitro and pull the technology into their products or keep the Nitro products as a discrete part of the McAfee line-up, it is clear that the folks at Nitro have been doing it right. And that is beginning to characterize our market space.

Over the past couple of years, I have observed a renaissance in innovation shown by the small up-and-comers in our field. This is excellent news in my view, and it could not come at a more propitious time. Never – not even in the heyday of the transition between classical hackers and criminal hacking – have the cyberthreats been worse. There's that term again – cyberthreats. And again it fits the bill. The threats are pervasive and observable in all aspects of computing, the enterprise and the cloud.

The innovations are pervasive as well. While we tend to focus on the technology, if the business is not run well and the products don't make it to market so that they can be monetized, all the technology in the world is not going to save the company. But it's hard times, and start-ups struggle for survival even more than they have traditionally. The smart, clever, creative companies that use innovative business practices and cost-effective stealth marketing make it. Others don't.

That does not mean buying the most advertising either. All of the companies we talked to limited their advertising budgets in favor of more direct ways of communicating with potential customers.

What's all of this mean for you, the consumer of security products? It means that you have a choice. It means that you can deal with companies that have a real upgrade when they announce it, not just the same old box painted a new color. It also means that you take a small risk: Will the company survive? We're betting on all of these companies. One, in fact, that enters our Hall of Fame this year recently announced that it was being acquired so, cheers to Altor for joining the Juniper family. With that said, let's get on with the show!

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