IBM exec shares views on internet security

Businesses today cannot afford to ignore the electronic business revolution, but they must come up with a comprehensive approach to network security if they hope to succeed.

This was the message from IBM executive Jeffrey Jaffe, who says a "security chasm" currently exists in many organisations. Jaffe, general manager of the IBM SecureWay business unit, on Wednesday morning addressed a crowd of partners and customers at IBM's Networking Solutions Technical Conference. The event, held annually, drew about 1,000 participants.

In the past six months, IBM has witnessed many companies jump into e-business without really thinking through security issues. The companies are more concerned right now with holding onto customers who might otherwise be inclined to go to competitors with online businesses.

Yet evidence of security risks is everywhere, Jaffe says. He adds that viruses such as Melissa have already cost companies about $7.6 billion this year, according to one survey. He notes, however, that there are ways to prevent or at least limit the damage such programs inflict. He pointed out that in the US, where there is extensive virus protection, Melissa only affected 5,000 PCs; worldwide. However, in countries where there is little security in place, the virus touched hundreds of thousands of PCs.

Jaffe then got into the sales pitch portion of keynote address, suggesting that individual point products are not enough to stop the security threat. Companies need to establish a well-thought-out security architecture - the kind of architecture that IBM specialises in designing for customers.

Such architectures need to support things such as public keys, virus protection, firewalls and centralised directories that can be used to enforce policy throughout a network, he says.

Once seen as a company that emphasised its proprietary products, IBM is actively working to base all of its security products on industry standards. In fact, IBM will soon begin working with its partners to slap a "SecureWay Ready" label onto their products to show that they do indeed work with IBM's security offerings.

"The threat is out there," Jaffe said. "So are the solutions."

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