Exec Talks about Growing Security Pressures: Page 2

IT administrators and security officers are under a lot more pressure than ever before. Ken Xie, president of Fortinet Inc., talks to eSecurityPlanet about the added workload and what can be done to make the job a little easier.
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Q: A lot of administrators want to move to Linux because they think it's more secure than Windows? How dangerous can life be on the Linux platform?

I think it's probably too early to tell.

It is certainly true today that the most damaging attacks have afflicted Windows-based systems and that, by comparison, Linux has been relatively immune. However, there are real questions as to the true reasons for the apparent safety of Linux.

The first and most important issue is prevalence. Just as in biological systems, dense populations are most conducive to the spread of contagions. And in contrast, more dispersed populations are more immune to rampant, fast-spreading attacks. Thus Linux, with its more sparse installed base -- and absence from the desktop -- will be inherently more secure than Windows, as long as Windows maintains such a dominant share of installations.

Another potential characteristic in favor of Linux is the degree to which Microsoft is viewed as a more ''deserving'' target of attack compared with Linux. In addition, some believe that Linux code, because it is open, is more heavily scrutinized and therefore benefits from the security expertise of thousands of developers, while others say that it is far easier to find security flaws by exercising object code rather than by analyzing source code.

These factors are all extremely complex, so it will be interesting to see how the security posture of Linux evolves as it becomes more widespread.

Q: Worm after worm continues to hit the Internet. Users are still clicking on attachments and downloading damaging viruses. How can we stop the cycle?

Social engineering has always been one of the greatest challenges to security. Those who wish to do harm always seem to play upon natural human curiosity and weakness.

This will always be a problem. While user education is important, we are firm believers that the only truly effective way to stop these threats is to do so before they have the opportunity to reach end users. By implementing effective security solutions at the network gateway and preventing attacks from ever reaching users, companies can take great strides to protect themselves against these threats.

Q: A lot of people still think of spam as a nuisance. How big of a security risk has spam become?

Spam has become a real security issue as the lines between spam activity and malware have become blurred. We believe that, in addition to using intelligent filtering and content analysis technologies to reduce the amount of undetected spam, it will be necessary to raise the ''cost'' of sending spam to the point where the return is no longer attractive in order to truly curtail the practice. There are, of course, many parameters to the notion of ''cost'', so it should be possible to make a big dent in spam activity without necessarily charging for email.

Q: What do you see coming down the road in terms of security technology?

The key challenges -- and opportunities -- will be to deliver security technologies that are enablers of all of the new and exciting applications that have only started to show their promise, such as voice and video, instant messaging, real-time collaboration, e-commerce, and more. The individual piece parts -- encryption algorithms, authentication systems, and the like will continue to improve. But the real benefits will come when security becomes embedded with, and ultimately as ubiquitous and invisible as the network itself.

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