Unisys minding the security gap

With fresh statistics that show gaping holes in the security preparedness of companies, Unisys announced a new initiative Wednesday that will realign that company's consulting services and offerings.

In a statement timed to coordinate with the Infosecurity 2002 IT show in New York City, Unisys unveiled a new offering called Zero-Gap Security Planning and named Sunil Misra, a 13-year Unisys veteran, to head the new group.

Misra will be responsible for rolling out the new program to Unisys's clients worldwide, according to Unisys, which is based in Blue Bell, Pennsylvania.

The new paradigm was developed in response to surveys conducted by Unisys that measured the security readiness of companies against industry standards and regulations such as the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) and the ISO 17799 security standard. Those internal studies showed a large percentage of companies had significant security problems and had few measures in place to address them, according to Unisys.

The Zero-Gap initiative will focus on developing security policies and systems that are driven by business processes and are well-suited to companies and the employees charged with deploying them, Misra said in an interview at Infosecurity. Unisys also announced the creation of four "centers of excellence" to deliver security services worldwide through a total of 1,500 security consultants and staff.

Misra said the new organization was a common-sense reaction to changes in the IT market and within Unisys.

"All organizations, when they reach a certain size, divide up into regions. The question was, 'How do we aggregate knowledge about security within a diverse organization?'" said Misra.

The centers of excellence will be collections of experts with what Misra described as "deep experience" in different technologies. For example, the company's center in Washington, D.C., offers expertise in the areas of identity management, PKI (public key infrastructure) and smart-card technology, Misra said.

As opposed to privately funded think tanks such as Lucent Technologies Inc.'s Bell Labs or PARC (Palo Alto Research Center), which was founded by Xerox Corp., Unisys' centers for excellence will be firmly focused on developing security systems for customers.

"We tried to follow the model that there is no such thing as an ivory tower. All these guys are going to be chargeable," Misra said.

Ideally, the centers will help Unisys broaden its portfolio of offerings to customers while also providing customers with a single stop to access company resources and expertise.

Going forward, Unisys will distinguish itself from competitors such as IBM Global Services and Computer Associates International Inc. by avoiding packaged approaches to technology problems and recommending technologies from a variety of sources - including those of IBM and other companies - if they suit a customer's needs.

Articulating the company's new message to key decision makers while continuing to bring new talent on board are the key challenges facing the company in 2003, Misra said.

"Just like we are here, in the business world, we're surrounded by noise," Misra said, gesturing to the crowded and noisy exhibit floor at Infosecurity. "Every five minutes, there's a new product that's the greatest thing since sliced bread and that will solve all your problems. But at the end of the day, its about having a set of policies to assess and manage risk."

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