Trend Micro’s Anthony O’Mara: firms need to get the balance right on public vs private cloud (video)

26 Oct 2012

Anthony O'Mara, senior VP (EMEA) and head of global business operations, Trend Micro

As one of the major enablers of security over today’s cloud infrastructure, Trend Micro has played a key role in defending the internet, as well as individuals’ and businesses’ online lives. Trend Micro senior VP (EMEA) and head of global business operations Anthony O’Mara urges, however, that firms can still be brave and don’t need to allow fear to halt innovation – the key, he says, is getting the balance right.

Trend Micro’s operation in Cork has played a leading role in defending the internet as we know it, not only from the perspective of daily protection of corporate networks across the world via the cloud, but in terms of actually capturing cyber-criminals at work.

It is understood that the cyber security team at Trend Micro’s operations in Cork played a key role in ‘Operation Ghost Click’ to help apprehend several individuals in Estonia and Russia. These cyber-criminals manipulated internet websites and advertising to generate at least US$14m in illicit fees. Using malware known as DNSChanger that infected 500,000 PCs and Macs worldwide, the scammers redirected users to rogue servers, which sold fake pharmaceuticals and security products, among other items.

In recent weeks, the Cork operation hosted senior officers from the world’s police forces and a memorandum of understanding was signed to underline the commitment to collaborating in the fight against cybercrime.

Attendees included officers from Europol, the European Police Agency, the European Cybercrime Task Force, the New South Wales Police Cybersquad and An Garda Siochana. The event had been held by the International Cyber Security Protection Alliance (ICSPA).

For O’Mara, what we call ‘the cloud’ is really just a name used to describe the interconnection of IT infrastructure, a move that has been ongoing for nearly 20 years now.

“Irish companies are no different than any other company around the world. Cloud computing has created some confusion in the marketplace. It’s a buzzword and I liken it to 10 years ago when the internet boom was in its pomp and people talked about eyeballs on the screen. It’s a bit like that with cloud computing today. It’s a buzzword that gets people’s interest, but cloud computing in its purest form has been around for 17 years now.”

He cites web email packages that many people began using 15 years ago as an example of the earliest manifestation of public cloud.

“Now, a 12-year-old can afford to have a share of a server and access computing power that could have sent a rocket to the moon 40 years ago – that is the essence of cloud computing today.

“At the end of the day it is going to provide a benefit to everyone – the progression allows everyone to have access and the ability to get computing power as you need it – for Ireland that should allow us to be able to innovate more.”

O’Mara says that in terms of consumers who are charging ahead in using cloud services, it depersonalises the traditional experience – for example, a consumer used to go into a bank, now they use 24×7 online banking. “If you go to the airport today theoretically you don’t have to talk to anybody, you just flash your passport and the boarding pass you printed off at home and walk to your plane.”

But in terms of how the cloud is sold and positioned, O’Mara points out that what may work for consumers and small businesses may not be the same for large organisations.

The heart of the issue is protecting data

“Private individuals below a certain age group don’t care about who sees their data and everybody wants to have 1,000 friends on Facebook, so there’s no privacy in that sense.

“But how does a commercial organisation still create privacy for its workers and its customers? The balance between the consumer and the commercial side is really about how we need to make sure that if your data is in the cloud somewhere, does the individual know if that is encrypted, how is the storage being managed, etc.

“Companies have to strike a balance – if you’re a large organisation you’d want a private cloud,” he said, adding that a hybrid approach of public and private cloud or just public cloud depends ultimately on how much data you have to protect.

“Getting that balance right is very important and there is no right or wrong answer – there’s no such thing as perfect security, and anybody who says there is are giving you a load of flannel.

“Getting the balance right means analysing the risk. You still need to protect your information and in Trend Micro we say that we are creating a world for the exchange of digital information,” O’Mara adds.

“What’s the next cloud going to be in five or 10 years’ time, how do we protect you, the consumer, or an entire commercial organisation?

“How do you encrypt it, how do you make sure the storage is secure, who has access, how is that allowed, what risk profile do you want to have, what are you afraid of and what don’t you care about?

“Taking all those questions into consideration, the cloud is just a platform. Once we had no gates now we have alarms and people get more sophisticated. You can get caught up in the hype and think this is it; there will be something else in five years’ time.

“But if you know that your data is safe and know where it is kept – that’s the important part,” he says.

Join Anthony O’Mara and Ireland’s digital leaders who will gather to discuss cloud computing and the big data revolution at the Cloud Capital Forum on Friday, 23 November, at the Convention Centre Dublin

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years