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April - 2008 - issue > Company Spotlight
McAfee-The big 'M' of security
Priya Pradeep
Monday, March 31, 2008
If you think of McDonalds, you smell fast food, and mention the name McAfee, you feel secure. These big ‘M’s enjoy universal recognition for their services. No wonder that the global security firm McAfee’s (NYSE: MFE) top ten predictions for security threats announced during the New Year time is greatly looked forward to by the tech community. For its 2008 predictions the $1.3 billion rich firm had its say on malware, botnets, instant malware, trojans, adware, phishers, parasitic crimeware, vishing, and phreaking. Cyber crime threats are not exclusive to any one country, but are a rampant worldwide menace. Hence by seeking to provide a counter-active balm, McAfee is present at locations worldwide to address consumer or enterprise security issues and protect customer investments.

McAfee India
Headquartered in Santa Clara, California, McAfee has spread and planted its roots to Bangalore as McAfee India. Sridhar Jayanthi, Head of the Indian operations of the company, comments, “McAfee India Center is home to about 1000 employees focused on R&D, customer support, and other business critical functions. The India Center, established in 2002, works closely with its customers globally, in the entire product development lifecycle.” The investment here is over $80 million and the India facility is the largest development center for McAfee worldwide. Its wide range of products empowers home users, businesses, the public sector, and service providers with the ability to block attacks, prevent disruptions, and continuously track and improve their security. McAfee is also keen on the usage of its information security products in the Manufacturing and Pharma sectors, which are growing rapidly, to cater to protecting critical data leakage – through e-mail, mobile, or any other form of communication.

Enterprises can Breathe Easy
“An innovation exchange program at McAfee which is actually a panel consisting of six members comprising of senior management, senior engineers, and product managers brainstorm on how technology can be used to make the customers’ enterprise systems more secure,” shares Pravat Lall, Director of Engineering.

The path to valuable innovation at McAfee is nurtured in a framework aptly named as ‘Visual Flywheel’. The six-pronged approach towards innovation consists of exercises in product innovation, execution excellence, organization culture, operation excellence, rewards and recognition, and development and learning. The leaders of these initiatives are encouraged to take a proactive approach where they set their own goals and measure themselves against themselves and their peers with the latter acting as the benchmark. “How to foster, promote, and sustain innovation is the key challenge for managers at McAfee,” mentions Lall.

Product innovation apart, tact selling of the product is more important for its continued presence in the mind of the customer. Aiming to garner the mind share of the customer market innovation comes into play and it consists of the sales model, delivery model, and management model. For an engineer to achieve this level of being aware of the big picture requires a blend of market focus (for knowing how the product will be positioned) and customer focus (to know what the customer needs). Realization of the big picture or the greater good takes place when there is free communication with a variety of people across positions who would be happy to give their feedback. “It is thrilling to garner insights from the junior most to the senior most persons in the organization about what the customer wants, as it gives a refreshing bandwidth of perspective,” points out Jayanthi. He continues… “There should be management innovation and communication innovation to sustain technical innovation.”

One of McAfee’s differentiating innovations is ePolicy Orchestrator, a central management console that helps administrators manage hundreds of thousands of desktops and servers with relative ease. The ePO fills the need to address threats, risk, and compliance of individual applications that are disparate and need to get real-time information and application integration for network, desktop, and server security. More than 30,000 customers with a network reach of nearly 54 million desktops and servers use the ePO security management technology. It is one of the technologies that has benefited from innovations by Indian engineering teams.

Used in conjunction with ePO, McAfee Active VirusScan provides security management for consumers and enterprises protecting desktops and file servers with advanced anti-virus technology. The VirusScan is an emerging market proposition, the resultant product of the dynamic nature of security products within the IT world. “We consider certain applications as hot prospects which are termed so after due deliberation by competent internal authorities. Usually the trend prediction from McAfee’s India team is done for the Asia Pacific region due to locational proximity of the markets. We look forward to make sure that products from our India stable become blockbusters,” proclaims Lall.

Security management technology for enterprises is very crucial today. A survey by Illuminas, an international marketing research consultancy and McAfee sheds more light on the security status of enterprises. A whopping 55 percent of respondents in the survey stated that they use portable storage devices to take confidential data out of the workplace every week. Another 22 percent said that they lend portable devices containing work documents to colleagues. Enterprises thus face dire consequences due to user behavior at endpoints, which puts confidential data at risk. McAfee’s Host Data Loss Prevention (Host DLP) suite monitors and prevents risky user behavior that can lead to a sensitive data breach. This protection works across networks, through applications and via removable storage devices, even when the data has been modified from its original form. Enterprises are in control whether users are in the office, at home, or on the move. “At the enterprise level we envision DLP becoming a million dollar business for us in the next three years,” states Jayanthi.

The McAfee IntruShield Appliance secures enterprise networks from threats and vulnerabilities with its intrusion prevention solution, as threats lie deeper too for enterprises. The pre-configured, plug-and-play appliance simplifies deployments, reporting, policy configuration, and administration of intrusion prevention system (IPS) sensors.

McAfee has its security scanners on mobiles too which are vastly used at enterprises. Security threats loom large with the targets being mobile devices, mobile services, and mobile content from email, instant messaging, bluetooth, Wi-Fi, and Internet downloads. This leads to data leakage, productivity loss, and other liabilities. Hence, McAfee also provides Mobile Security for carriers, manufacturers, and enterprises. In fact, McAfee is the largest mobile security vendor with their software, factory-installed in over 30 million mobiles in Japan alone.

The company knows that securing their customers’ information systems is key to its own secure future and the fuel to drive the show is constant innovation.

Inside McAfee India
Sridhar Jayanthi and Rajeev Malik, Director - Human Resources spend a full day each month with every new employee to drive home the McAfee culture and values and help them transition into the McAfee environment. Here, they are encouraged to leave behind the shackles of past negative learning and enter a free-thinking new age workplace where open culture and feedback are the norm for professional growth. Employees are trained to understand the business aspects of their job and not just the technical inputs required from the position they hold. Hence it is not surprising that an employee, who suggested a company’s name for possible acquisition by McAfee learnt that his suggestion materialized later, though the acquisition was for different reasons. Thus the senior management here is receptive to their employees.

Each employee has access to senior personnel and care is taken to not let the hierarchy choke communication. Jayanthi believes, “People don’t work for managers, managers work for their employees. At McAfee we follow an inverted organization pyramid where I work for my employees ensuring they get the right environment, right compensation, and right growth. I also ensure that the right people are hired and retained. Such practices have shown the results wherein engineers at McAfee India have submitted over 100 patents in 2007, and more importantly all the patents are related to our business.”

Engineers at McAfee are introduced to methods used by hackers and innovation in response to threats from hacking. The knowledge received is put to good use for the benefit of the society. In fact as software viruses multiply, software professionals here find their workload increase manifold, and there is a multiple increase of passion to serve the society.

This passion was recognized when McAfee received the Frost & Sullivan Award for ‘Strategic Technology Innovation’ in February 2008 for its latest offering called McAfee OK within the mobile security space. This award is presented to the company, which has shown the ability to adapt its business and marketing strategies to changing market conditions. The research process for judging includes interviews with industry experts, industry participants, and end-users, as well as extensive secondary data research. McAfee OK provides mobile content certification program for content providers, aggregators, and network operators.

Awards or no awards, McAfee knows that it has what it takes to maintain its lead as the world’s premier security alchemist. New technologies coming in mean newer challenges for the company to address security issues. It may sound incredulous but the truth is the more and more things change, the more they remain the same. “The bad guys will never stop trying to steal, and we will protect what’s valuable to our customers,” says Jayanthi.

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