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DATA DETECTIVES

Michael Dell on Why Data Security Is the Most Important Issue You Face

Cyber attacks don't endanger only major corporations but also growing companies. What are you doing to protect yourself?
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As Dell has transformed from a products company to a solutions company over the past few years, our salespeople have had to change from saying, "Let me show you what I have to sell you,” to saying, “Let’s talk about what problems you want to solve." And when you ask people about their biggest worry these days, their biggest unmet need, cyber-security is at the top of the list.

After hearing the same concern over and over we said, let's figure out how to solve it. Securing and protecting data for companies of all sizes is now a billion-dollar, fast-growing business for Dell. The number of attacks is staggering, and expanding at an astounding rate. In the past year alone, we prevented 1.06 trillion intrusion events in 249 countries. That's not a typo: 1.06 trillion intrusion events. In one year.

Data security is a major problem for any company that has valuable information to protect, and that means most companies these days. Just about every week there's a fairly major cyber-security event that gets talked about in the public--and there are many more that don't get talked about.

Hacker Targets

Think about the kinds of information that's at risk: We work with banks, insurance companies, and ecommerce sites that need to protect their customers' personal information and finances. There are pharmaceutical companies and aerospace companies with tons of important intellectual property. We have clients that control critical infrastructure--nuclear power plants and air-traffic-control systems, for instance.

For the most part, companies can't protect themselves on their own. The adversaries are very sophisticated. We're talking about state-sponsored attacks, terrorism, identity-theft criminals, and activist groups. They are well funded--it's a multibillion-dollar industry--and they are relentless. They've also automated the process of attacking. It’s a cat-and-mouse problem, and we have dedicated thousands of people and serious research dollars to staying ahead of it.

Let me give you an example. We have a counter-threat unit that spends a lot of time in the darkest places on the Internet, researching what the bad guys are doing and dissecting it. They found a server that had loads of confidential information on it that had been stolen from tens of the world's most valuable companies. We contacted those companies and explained to them what we'd found, and one of them hired us to clean up their network.

It took us 45 days, and we cleaned the whole thing up, and on the very last day that we were completing our work, the adversary sent an email that appeared to come from the IT team in the company. It was presented as a survey to understand whether they did a good job cleaning up the problem, but it was actually the next attack. We fortunately saw that and intercepted it before it could do damage.

Here's the scariest part: In the end, it turned out the company had been hacked to death for two years before this event, and they had no idea. No idea.

I say all this because I want to caution any business owner to take cyber-security extremely seriously. For small, fast-growing businesses the risks are just as great, if not greater. An attack that compromises company accounts or customer relationships can directly affect an entrepreneur's personal security and finances. Moreover, that entrepreneur won’t have access to the resources for recovery and defense that are available to a major corporation.

So as you seek to unleash the power of your business through technological innovations, you have to make sure your data is protected. That means protecting your devices, as well as your network, data center, and the cloud. For those of us in the technology industry, we face a challenge to make the most advanced technology and most advanced security more accessible and affordable, so that your business is thriving and at the same time you and your customers are protected.

IMAGE: Newscom
Last updated: Mar 27, 2014

MICHAEL DELL | Columnist

Michael Dell is the chairman of the board of directors and chief executive officer of Dell, the company he founded with $1000 in 1984 at the age of 19. Notably quoted as saying,"Technology is about enabling human potential," Michael has led Dell beyond its PC roots to become a leading provider of end-to-end IT solutions that create value and drive better results for customers around the world.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.



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