Channeling Security: Kaspersky Execs Say 'Plan Is to Push More Responsibility Out to Partners'
This week I sat down with Kaspersky Labs’ Jon Whitlock, SVP of marketing for North America, and Kevin Lozeau, the security company’s new director of channel marketing. Lozeau, who joined Kaspersky in July from HPE, is charged with setting channel marketing strategy and signing on new partners.
Kaspersky is privately owned and offers a broad set of security products and services for SMBs through enterprise customers in North America, selling exclusively through about 3,000 partners, spread across four tiers. The company recently joined with Europol, the Dutch National Police and Intel Security on a No More Ransom project that offers advice on preventing ransomware as well as free tools to help retrieve encrypted data without shelling out bitcoin. Kaspersky also this week joined the VMware NSX Partner Program.
By year’s end, the company plans to further expand its product set and put new emphasis on deep security expertise within its partner community. Lozeau says a focus on certifications will soon increase as well — despite some partner grousing about the cost and complexity.
"Certifications are difficult to manage, and partners, when they take a look at their time and how they're spending those scarce resources, it's a tough one," Lozeau admits. "But at the same time, security is so important to the longevity of their customers’ businesses. It's critically important to make sure the solutions are installed correctly."
That said, Lozeau says there are no walls around the program, and Kaspersky puts effort into ease of use, to allow VARs and other partners to begin offering managed security services without a deep bench. To that end, the company launched an onboarding program about a year ago that, Lozeau says, gets new partners up to speed within 90 days.
“It’s how to engage with sales and technical teams, how to engage with sales and programmatic resources," he says. "We have ongoing product demonstrations throughout the course of the week, we have partner calls on a monthly basis, we have a lot of collateral they can co-brand."
That helps partners present themselves as experts. "It's a mix of online, in person, sales-facing, technical [and] marketing," says Lozeau. "We really try to tee them up to be successful."
Place to Be
The endpoint security market is crowded, to say the least. Besides the likes of Intel Security, Sophos and Trend Micro, Cisco is moving aggressively into the space with AMP for Endpoints, and channel-focused startups like CarbonBlack, CounterTack and Tanium are looking for mindshare as well.
Why should partners sign on with Kaspersky?
"Our ability to catch more," says Whitlock, who adds that independent tests consistently confirm the products’ effectiveness. The partner community is risk-averse, he says, and no provider wants to stake its reputation on an unknown quantity.
"Whether it's a resell, where I am putting my reputation on the line, or whether it's an MSSP that doesn’t want to go out all the time to remediate because that’s where they're going to lose all their profits, the efficacy factor is huge," he says.
As to what’s hot, Whitlock cites a popular cybersecurity awareness training offering, the ransomware initiative, and new OEM and alliance partnerships that he sees as good for both partners and customers.
"We're working on some really good projects now with LabTech, with AutoTask and some other companies to ensure that integration just gets better and better," he says. "From an MSP perspective, in terms of 'how does this plug into my management system?' — that's important."
Education and health care are popular verticals.
"And mobility is a hot topic that continually gets hotter," he says.
As for that plan is to push more responsibility out to partners, there will be new programs to support that effort. "This is a good thing for them; it puts them in a stronger place," says Whitlock. Expect more help achieving certifications and expanded rewards for upper-tier partners.
Also this week in security:
On Alert: I recently attended a security roundtable with Alert Logic, which sells managed security services and software through partners. Misha Govshteyn, the company's chief strategy officer, and chief security evangelist Stephen Coty, discussed the risks around moving IT infrastructures to AWS, Azure and other IaaS providers. One way to reassure customers is AWS CloudTrail, which Govshteyn classifies as a must-have for customers that want a trail of “who did what, when" to servers residing in AWS. That should read as “every customer."
Single Pane: Sophos announced this week that the Sophos Email cloud-based secure email gateway is now integrated with the cloud-based Sophos Central management platform. That means partners can manage customers’ email protection from the same console as Sophos endpoint, mobile, web and wireless security products. Sophos Email supports Microsoft Office 365, Microsoft Exchange 2013 and Google Apps for Work.
CrowdStrike Falcon: Have you heard of Google’s VirusTotal? It’s a free service that analyzes files and URLs to spot malware and help security engineers detect false positives. It’s not for commercial use and can’t replace endpoint security; rather, think of it as “a second opinion regarding the maliciousness" of any file or URL. Security pros can run queries and get an authoritative opinion on whether an alert is a false positive or requires a customer notification. And, this week, the service got more mojo when channel-focused endpoint security firm CrowdStrike announced that its Falcon Machine Learning engine now integrates with VirusTotal.
ZyWall Upgrade: If you’ve deployed ZyXel USG and ZyWall security appliances, note that the company this week rolled out a major firmware upgrade. The ZLD 4.20 firmware, a free download for registered USG and ZyWall products, adds functionality including hotspot management, GeoIP blocking, TLS1.1/1.2 support and better HA and redundancy.
New Partner Program: Security operations provider Siemplify announced this week the launch of its Nucleus Channel Program. Partners can now offer the ThreatNexus SOC platform, which the company says can reduce alerts by 90 percent, lower the learning curve for analysts and cut incident response times by 60 percent. See our write-up and discussion with Ryan Snell, Siemplify’s vice president of sales for North America, here.
Big Data Lockdown: The Cloud Security Alliance released today a new handbook from its big-data working group. The Big Data Security and Privacy Handbook lists 100 best practices for big data security and privacy. “As big data expands through streaming cloud technology, traditional security mechanisms tailored to secure small-scale, static data on firewalled and semi-isolated networks are inadequate," said J.R. Santos, executive vice president of research for the CSA. “Security and privacy issues are magnified by this volume, variety and velocity of big data." The handbook can server as a template for partners looking to help customers protect large data stores.
Connected Kids: The national PTA and LifeLock have collaborated on The Smart Talk, a free online tool to help parents set ground rules for technology use. The site covers safety and privacy, screen time limits, social media use, apps and downloads, texting and calling, cyberbullying prevention, and use of videos and cameras. If you send out customer newsletters, this is a timely topic.
IoT Report: Have you downloaded our free report on IoT and the channel? The author is a security pro, and you'll learn three must-have pillars of a profitable IoT program and look at the risks intrinsic to each element. It's great info no matter where you are on your IoT selling journey.
Check Their Privilege: Finally, two new research reports that could help sell security services.
More than 500 senior IT, IS, legal and compliance experts spoke with channel-focused privileged account and vulnerability management provider BeyondTrust about how they manage access to data. The results are instructive for partners looking to help customers minimize the risks posed by insiders, both malicious and clueless.
The 2016 Verizon DBIR (itself a useful sales tool) shows that 63 percent of confirmed data breaches involved weak, default or stolen passwords, so it’s no surprise that “top tier" companies – defined as adhering to best practices for privileged access management – tend to establish centralized password policies, grant admin privileges selectively and maintain the ability to monitor privileged user sessions.
One area where some security experts disagree is the efficacy of forcing users to change passwords frequently. In his session at Channel Partners Evolution, CounterTack CTO Michael Davis suggested that end users adopt long passwords with high entropy (randomness) and that frequent demands to change passwords only leads to reuse. Compare "Tr0ub4dor&3" (28 bits of entropy, would take about three days to crack) versus "correct horse battery staple" (44 bits of entropy, would take about 550 years to crack). And, it's relatively easy to remember.
F5 just released its own report in conjunction with the Ponemon Institute on the state of application security in 2016. The companies asked 605 IT and IT security practitioners in the United States how they protect their orgs’ critical business applications. Of interest to the channel is that while 90 percent of budgets still go to protecting the network perimeter, the majority of attacks (72 percent) are now aimed at user identity and applications. Seems like some portfolio rebalancing is in order. More than half of respondents also say that cloud-based applications increase risk — perhaps indicating that it’s time for a reality check. The report offers advice on helping customers secure their applications as well as the implications of shadow IT and the impact of more use of mobile and cloud-based apps.
This is the blog formerly known as 5 Channel Ops. When I started with Channel Partners about 20 months ago, that format was a useful way to wrap up the week’s news that we didn’t have the capacity to cover as it happened. However, now that our staff has grown with the additions of Lynn Haber and James Anderson and the expansion of our relationship with Edward Gately, it’s time for something new. Let me know what you think, either in comments or direct.
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