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Sunday, November 19, 2017
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NEWS ANALYSIS: Encryption keys are wonderful things that allow your organization to conduct secure communications without a problem, at least as long as you have control of those keys. Tatu Ylönen, CEO and founder of SSH Communications Security, was clearly frustrated as we talked over lunch. “Why can’t I get through to them,” he asked, almost rhetorically. Ylönen was expressing a level of dismay common in the security industry.

Getting senior management to invest in security can be a daunting task.Unfortunately for many managers, security remains a cost center in their minds and that in turn gives them reason enough to skimp. When the quarterly balance sheets come out, it's easy to improve the bottom line by cutting back on security.

That’s no surprise to the IT staff, where budgets are often cut to the point that the department can no longer function effectively.The reason that managers can get away with cutting back on critical functions such as IT services and security is because the consequences are delayed. You won’t realize the costs of cutting the security budget until a major network breach sometime later results in the theft or public exposure of customer accounts, trade secrets and internal financial records.What even makes even less sense is an organization that goes to the trouble to try to keep data out of the hands of cyber-criminals by routinely encrypting data and communications, but fails to provide the adequate resources to manage the encryption keys. Without proper management, the keys that ensure your communications remain encrypted can frequently be found where criminals can find them. Worse, when they’re not properly managed, encryption keys may be left in place for years, long after the devices they were protecting are out of service. Ylönen explained that an encryption key is simply a string of something over 100 numbers that are used like a password to gain access to a network device.

The keys are usually embedded in the software that provides the encrypted link between secure systems.One of the major methods of encrypting communications is by using the SSH (secure shell) protocol, which Ylönen invented. His company, SSH Communications Security, provides the encryption keys.The problem, unfortunately, is that when encryption keys are purchased for secure devices, many companies get far more keys than they need. When those keys aren't management properly, it's possible for a hacker to find the keys and then try them against a company's secure communications infrastructure.

This type of breach does happen with depressing regularity, according to Ylönen.The solution to this problem is to adopt some kind of key management system that ensures encryption keys are protected, that they aren’t left installed in obsolete equipment when it’s taken out of service and tracks where keys are assigned so they can be recovered.
According to a report, Intel executives are meeting with bankers to go over options for its security unit, which is based on its McAfee acquisition. Intel reportedly is considering selling its security business, the latest move by the chip maker as it continues to restructure to focus more on developing processors for the cloud and the Internet of things.According to a report in the Financial Times, officials with Intel have been meeting with bankers to discuss the future of its cybersecurity unit, which is large part is based on Intel's $7.7 billion acquisition of antivirus software vendor McAfee in 2011.

The report said a deal could be the largest in the security field.Citing unnamed sources, the Financial Times said that a group of private equity firms might join together to buy the Intel security business if it's sold at a price the same or higher than what the chip maker bought McAfee for.Intel has declined to comment on the report. The plan at the time of the McAfee acquisition was to take the company's technology and embed security capabilities into Intel processors for a broad array of systems, from PCs to connected devices. Putting security technology directly into the chips would help protect the systems from the growing range of cyber-threats. However, the nature of cybersecurity and the response to threats has changed radically over the years since Intel bought McAfee, according to Roger Kay, principal analyst with Endpoint Technologies Associates."Antivirus is kind of old school," Kay told eWEEK, noting that many of today's attacks are sophisticated phishing and spear phishing efforts and that security software vendors are increasingly addressing such new threats with technologies that go beyond antivirus.

That calls for a "different set of skill sets than McAfee originally brought with it."It's difficult to get a clear read on why Intel would sell its security business, which the company renamed Intel Security in 2014. Kay noted that changes going on within Intel and said it could be that the McAfee acquisition now is more of a drag on its balance sheets than an asset.
It also could be an indication Intel wants to move in another direction with its security efforts, having been able to cull talent, patents and customers from the McAfee deal."It does raise questions, though," Kay said. "They do need a security story of some sort, and that wasn't it.

But they'll need a security story."The move would come at a time when Intel is aggressively shifting its focus away from PCs and to the cloud, connected devices and 5G connectivity.

The company's client business still accounts for 60 percent of Intel revenues, but the global PC market continues to contract, putting pressure on OEMs and component makers to find new growth markets.
Intel has scaled back its ambitions in a mobile device space dominated by ARM and such partners as Qualcomm and Samsung, and instead is moving aggressively into other areas.CEO Brian Krzanich caused a stir in November 2015, when he named longtime Qualcomm executive Venkata "Murthy" Renduchintala as president of the newly formed Client and Internet of Things Businesses and Systems Architecture Group.
Intel traditionally has hired top executives from within the company, but Krzanich instead went outside.

The hiring has led to a number of long-time executives to leave Intel.To accelerate the company's transformation, Intel has announced 12,000 job cuts—which is about 11 percent of the worldwide workforce—by the middle of next year.

According to The Oregonian newspaper, Krzanich earlier this year addressed the disruption caused by the layoffs during an address streamed to employees worldwide, saying that he was working to rebuild trust and confidence, and that he doesn't expect another round of layoffs beyond what was announced.