Ingram puts focus on security at 2019 Partner Experience

MISSISSAUGA, ONT. — Security was the focus at Ingram Micro’s annual Partner Experience, with a pair of keynotes on the subject as well as broad hints from country chief executive Bill Brandel about upcoming offerings from Ingram Micro in that realm.

First up was Cisco’s Sean Earhard, advanced threat solutions specialist, who talked about how artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) help solve today’s tough security problems.

“Everyone has a story about how the robots are coming,” he said. “But they’re not coming, they’re here, and they’re not going to take your job. As a partner, they’ll make you look great.”

Security tools are heavy to deploy and don’t have the answers people need when something goes wrong. So, what to do?

People are confident when they have time, Earhard explained. Time + expertise + data helps provide confidence. Partners are in a tough spot from a confidence perspective. “You have to solve big messy problems with AI and ML,” he said. Unless you have the right tools, the network can be blind to threats; you need data to train it.

The challenge when you come to machine learning is giving it the right training data so it can recognize threats when it sees them. Classifying weird stuff, he said, is hard.

Michael Calce

Michael Calce

Michael Calce, aka MafiaBoy, then chronicled his path from boy hacker to security penetration tester. Today’s environment scares him. When he designed his attack in the late 1990s, hackers were curious and mischievous, vying with each other to be the best. Today, 80 percent of hackers are out for cash.

“Everyone in this room has a dollar sign over their head,” he said. “I now make it my mission to raise awareness.”

Hacking has become institutionalized, he noted. It’s easy to find and download tools that turn a kid in his mom’s basement who has no clue what he’s doing into a powerful hacker. And the weakest link for companies is people, specifically untrained people. Hackers are now using AI and information gleaned from social media to create personalized phishing attacks.

And just as bank robbers of yore knew that they could find weak spots by avoiding the carefully guarded doors and windows and finding other ways into the vault, today’s hackers are sneaking onto networks through unsecured or improperly secured devices like connected printers whose default passwords haven’t been changed. It’s only going to get worse as IoT devices proliferate.

“I don’t think we can afford to live with that kind of blind spot,” he said. “How you purchase is a security decision.”

In an interview, Brandel later said that Ingram Micro is launching several initiatives to help partners eliminate that blind spot. 

Bill Brandel, country chief executive for Ingram Micro Canada

“You’re not going to go out and spend hundreds of thousands of dollars for a person for, say, cyber-security if you don’t have any cyber-security business,” he said. “So we offer that as a service until they’re up and running, and then either they can acquire the people that we have, or they can go find their own resources, or we can train people on their staff to become certified. We offer a lot of flavours throughout the program, and it’s everything from identifying an opportunity through implementation.”

The company is also providing self-paced online courses and other training to partners. Events like the Partner Experience, with its partner-to-partner networking, are a big part of its strategy.

“Our partners have to look at where they want to expand their businesses,” he said. “The key thing all partners need to do is understand what their overall strategy is. It’s very difficult to be a master of everything. It’s becoming much more complex, and we’re starting to see specialization really play a role.”

Greg Onoprijenko, director of cloud at Ingram Micro Canada, said that the cloud business is growing rapidly as well, with its footprint in Canada growing from 3 people at its inception three years ago to over 30 people today (and over 1500 worldwide).  Although it was started as a separate entity, it has now reached critical mass and is being merged with its parent. That is necessitating a cultural shift within the organization, just as it is in any organization adopting cloud.

Greg Onoprijenko, director of the cloud business for Ingram Micro Canada

Greg Onoprijenko, director of the cloud business for Ingram Micro Canada

“The customer demand is driving everybody to change,” he said. “If the channel doesn’t change and distribution doesn’t change, and the vendors don’t change, customers will pick other solutions.”

The company has recently launched a program known as the Comet Challenge in partnership with Microsoft around its ISV strategy, looking for hidden gems that are ready to go to market and need some assistance. The challenge began as a pilot in three countries (though not in Canada) last year at Ingram Micro Cloud Summit; a Canadian version is launching in the next few months.

Ingram Micro, Brandel said as he reminded partners of the breadth of the company’s services, has moved beyond distribution. “Spend time (here) to see what Ingram Micro is doing to support you,” he advised.

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