Wireless Security: an Elephant in the Room

BTR_Feature_Art_ItsTime As the cable industry delves deeper into multiscreen video, WiFi, home networking and business services, wireless security is becoming more and more important.

The increasing mobility of the workforce and the continued move to cloud-based services is giving managed security services a boost. A recent Infonetics Research report indicated that the market grew 12% in 2012 to $13 billion. This increase came on the tail of a greater than 10% jump in 2011 as well.

"There is gradual increasing activity toward outsourcing (security) no matter the size of the business," said Jeff Wilson, principal analyst for security at Infonetics. "The year-over-year market inclined up slowly but surely."

The reason has to do with the fact that a more distributed user base makes it more difficult for companies to solve security themselves with on-premises solutions, Wilson said. Mobility means something entirely different than it did a few years back. Workers using laptops at coffee shops has changed into a multitude of mobile devices with broadband access. The rapid adoption of mobile broadband, in turn, has led to the growth of the cloud. As a result, Infonetics forecasts sales of cloud-based security services to increase 69% over the next five years.

Another reason for the uptake in managed services is that offerings are becoming more mature. Service providers have developed the ability, for example, to use one physical device to deliver a firewall to numerous customers. "We are at the point now where the boxes are available, providers know what to do, and customers are looking for the service. The market started accelerating in 2009," Wilson said.

An ongoing challenge, however, is that mobile threats are changing along with the number and variety of devices available. While web traffic and email security can be adjusted for the cloud, there are additional problems that come with the territory. For example, the same security measures used to protect web and email traffic might not protect against a malicious app downloaded from Google Play, Wilson said.

"The solutions don't necessarily have something on the device that monitors installed applications for malicious behavior," Wilson said.

And the problem with security in general is the nature of the beast. While engineers developing new broadband solutions solve issues with better math and materials, security, on the other hand, is about chasing human ingenuity.

"It is an endless cycle, and few technologies have been developed that can disrupt the cycle in a meaningful way," Wilson said. "A few times (people) have developed constructive technology that has allowed businesses to put security on the back burner. (But) it is an ongoing problem that requires constant vigilance."

To cover as many bases as possible (including the fact that data, like credit card processing info, cannot go into certain cloud environments), many companies are building up their internal security infrastructure even as they outsource. "Even if they (buy) a managed service, customers are also buying and deploying their own CPE," Wilson said.

Monta Monaco Hernon is a free-lance writer. She can be reached at mcmhern@yahoo.com.

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