The City of Aspen in Colorado has a network of over 500 devices and a dedicated network staff of three employees. It is one of many lean IT organizations throughout the U.S. that continuously look for outside services that can add security capabilities and are affordable.
"Everything is connected to our network," said City of Aspen Network Coordinator John Sobieralski. He added that a major challenge the network constantly faced was a growing number of malware attacks. "It reached a point where we were experiencing as many as four or five security episodes a day," Sobieralski said. "As a small staff, we were working as fast as we could to clean up infections."
In the City of Aspen's case, a major source of malware invasions was websites employees accessed that contained a lot of malware, which was then passed into the corporate network.
Another major security concern for all SMBs is the impact of intrusions; this has become even more worrisome of late as the number of mobile devices used in business continues to grow. The situation prompted Mike Fey, Chief Technology Officer at McAfee, to comment in November 2013 on the growing number of cyber malware attacks on mobile devices, and in particular Android devices.
These situations create a soaring market opportunity for cloud-based security solutions that can augment corporate resources in the fight against intruders and security breaches.
A recent Gartner report predicts cloud-based security services will increase in 2014 due to adoptions by SMBs that lack the internal IT resources to combat threats. In the same report, Gartner said secure email gateway as a service is the leading revenue gainer for cloud service providers in the security space, and that it will likely attain $1 billion in annual revenues by 2017. The cloud security as a service area that is likely to grow the fastest between now and 2017 is Identity and Access Management (IAM), which Gartner projects at a 28.3 percent combined annual growth rate.
"Within the IAM space, interest in cloud-based security has been driven mostly by SMBs' needs to extend their basic IAM functions and serve employees who are accessing SaaS (software as a service) and some internal Web-architected applications," said report co-authors Ruggero Contu and Kelly Kavanagh. "An increasing number of organizations seem to be adopting cloud-based IAM services to replace IAM on-premises tools. Larger businesses are often looking to use IAM as a mixture of legacy- and Web-architected cloud and on premises applications."
For IT practitioners, none of these prognostications take on shape or meaning until they can experience first-hand the improvements that can be made to their security capabilities. For instance, the City of Aspen's Sobieralski said that his department has gone from witnessing "cycles of drive-by infections" to rarely seeing an infection occur at all, thanks to the cloud.
The malware detection solution that Sobieralski and his team use is founded on advanced analytics that monitor websites and then develop predictive analytics about which sites are most likely to contain and pass on malware. The solution can also assist Sobieralksi in monitoring his internal network users to see which stations are accessing these sites and even shut down access to the sites altogether.There are cloud security solutions that track and shut down lost mobile devices, control access, malware, and spyware, and more. These various options are becoming de facto methods for IT decision makers at SMBs in particular, because those shops often lack the resources to fight the growing legions of Internet threats.
Mary E. Shacklett is president of Transworld Data, a technology research and market development firm. Prior to founding the company, Mary was Senior Vice President of Marketing and Technology at TCCU, Inc., a financial services firm; Vice President of Product Research and Software Development for Summit Information Systems, a computer software company; and Vice President of Strategic Planning and Technology at FSI International, a multinational manufacturing company in the semiconductor industry. Mary is a keynote speaker and has more than 1,000 articles, research studies, and technology publications in print.