This was my third Trend Micro partner conference and Trend Micro Directions ’17 was hosted at the JW Marriott San Antonio Hill Country Resort and Spa in Texas. 

The invitation-only event brought together executives and leaders from Trend Micro’s most important marquee customers from around the world and most successful partners.

In a quiet, relaxing atmosphere, set among 600 acres of Texas Hill Country, I had an opportunity to network with peers from around the world, share our experiences and gain unique insight into this changing threat landscape; and meeting with Trend executives and threat experts I also gained a deeper understanding of Trend Micro’s business, strategy, technologies and solutions.

Enterprises and organisations are facing next-tier, multi-faceted threats that are both familiar and uncharted. As the Cloud and the Internet of Things become more interconnected, it is essential for organisations to re-evaluate and redefine their understanding of the threats, the risks and the solutions: to Go Beyond the hype of next-gen offerings and determine a strategy that remains effective over time.

Therefore, to start the ‘Go Beyond ’ theme Trend had invited Chris Hadfield on to begin the keynote speech.  For those of you not familiar with Chris, as I wasn’t, Colonel Hadfield is a pioneer of many historic “firsts”. In 1992, he was selected as a NASA Mission Specialist. In 2001, aboard Shuttle Endeavour, Colonel Hadfield performed two spacewalks and, in 2013, he was Commander of the International Space Station.

Chris Hadfield has had the type of career one can only dream of – just like he did as a child watching the Apollo 11 moon landing.  Through his 21-years as an astronaut, three spaceflights, and 2600 orbits of Earth, Colonel Hadfield has become a worldwide sensation, harnessing the power of social media to make outer space accessible to millions and infusing a sense of wonder into our collective consciousness not felt since humanity first walked on the Moon. Called “the most famous astronaut since Neil Armstrong,” Colonel Hadfield continues to bring the marvels of science and space travel to everyone he encounters.

The first morning set off at an excellent pace as the audience was introduced Chris and he set off to cover one of the most inspiring speeches I have had the privilege to witness.  As a metaphor for pursuing our dreams we’re often told to reach for the stars and Chris literally did it. The commitment, intelligence, sacrifice, and hard work that allowed him to achieve his dreams have taught him some valuable lessons over his 20+ year career – and have left him with some incredibly riveting stories and advice to give. A heavily decorated astronaut, engineer, and pilot, Colonel Hadfield’s many awards include receiving the Order of Canada, the Meritorious Service Cross, and the NASA Exceptional Service Medal. He was named the Top Test Pilot in both the US Air Force and the US Navy, and has been inducted into Canada’s Aviation Hall of Fame.

Chris talked about the need to challenge and go beyond our human boundaries.  Highlighting human desire to change and evolve and push our own personal boundaries.  Clearly believing that the “best attitude to fear is preparation” and that failure is where you learn things.  One of the best lines of the morning was “Better is the enemy of good enough”.

I can honestly say that EVERYBODY was left in awe of a man that was not only in incredibly intelligent, but also has the physical endurance for space missions.  Anything ‘beyond’ what I personally could achieve.  But it doesn’t stop me dreaming and admiring the nature of the man.  Well done to  Trend for introducing such an amazing individual to the audience.

How do you top that.  Eva Chen certainly did a great session as she followed Chis Hadfield.  Keeping with the theme Eva entered the stage in a space suit. Admitting that she had once dreamed of becoming an astronaut.

It had become clear that her strategy to create a safer place for information exchange is being hampered by Cyber-criminals, and always trying to stay one step ahead of the pack.  The accelerated adoption of the Cloud by business and the evolution of the Internet of Things, which is bringing new connectivity to devices in the enterprise, are introducing new risks  and is creating a greater sense of urgency is an ever-changing world. 

Eva’s statement that “Cyber-security is not for Geeks” resonated well amongst the audience well.  World leaders are talking about this now and Trend have worked on continual innovation.  Successfully protecting data and resources is not all you need to do. It’s also imperative that we convince business leaders of the value of our security strategies and that we are covered for the risks your business faces today, and prepared for those soon to come.

Eva stated that the landscape was changing, in particular

  • Shifts in IT Infrastructure
  • Changes in User Behaviour
  • Emergence of new threats.

…and that the threat landscape has changed and continuously evolving.  Cyber criminal are becoming increasingly destructive and stealthier.  The WannaCry was fresh in everybody’s minds from the previous week.  The impact to the UK was delayed NHS operations amongst the many delays and disruptions to services.

Eva then presented some starting figures.  2016 Ransomware spiked 752% and what does 2017 hold?

The internet of things (or as it’s also known, IoT) isn’t new: tech companies and pundits have been discussing the idea for decades, and the first internet-connected toaster was unveiled at a conference in 1989. At its core, IoT is simple: it’s about connecting devices over the internet, letting them talk to us, applications, and each other. The popular, if silly, example is the smart fridge: what if your fridge could tell you it was out of milk, texting you if its internal cameras saw there was none left, or that the carton was past its use-by date?  In some instances, ordering a fresh carton for you.  Get it?

Increased internet connectivity means greater risk across more devices.  Imagine your toaster not working, as its been hacked into?  Imagine your fridge not ordering milk, but taking money out of your account instead?  The examples are numerous, as are the eventual threats.

Other IOT threats include

  • Baby Monitors
  • Home Heating/Smart meters
  • Hotel Smart Keys
  • ATM’s
  • Medical Devices
  • Billboards

IoT is more than smart homes and connected appliances, however. It scales up to include smart cities – think of connected traffic signals that monitor utility use, or smart bins that signal when they need to be emptied – and industry, with connected sensors for everything from tracking parts to monitoring crops.

In short, you will be affected in some way, as the internet connects to more devices.  There will eventually be more points to protect in this digital world.

There is a strong argument that not enough is being done to build security and privacy into IoT at these early stages, and to prove their point Eva and Rick Ferguson ran a demonstration that  hacked a host of devices, from a car to a drone.   As well as city wide systems such as traffic signals. Hackers haven’t, for the most part, put much attention to IoT; there’s likely not enough people using connected appliances for an attack against them to be worth the effort, but as ever, as soon as there’s a financial benefit to hacking smart homes, there will be a cyber criminal working away at it.  Therefore, The Internet of things is now a big focus for Trend Micro.  Eva talked about the formula for success that this is now cross generational.  We are all soon to be at risk.  To deal with the threats, Old Gen meets New Gen, which in turn equal NextGen.  Get it.  Nice marketing twist.

The formula was laid out then by Eva

I = IOT and evolved cloud computing

U= User is now increasingly mobile and cloud adoption to IT causes privacy concerns

T= Threats such as Ransomware, Cyber propaganda and IoT Hijacked

Therefore and formula of

X= I+U-T

X-Gen equalling a cross generational defence to threats.  Trend are evolving a new class of security software that addresses the full range of ever-changing threats—now and in the future. Instead of using separate, siloed security solutions that don’t share information, XGen™ security provides a cross-generational blend of threat defence techniques and a connected threat defence that can protect organisation from unseen threats.

The next question that Eva addressed was how are we going to go beyond and maybe use Artificial Intelligence to work with IoT.  Should we go beyond and look at AI based security solutions? It seems that AI may help hacking to be more intelligent to deal with the IoT of things.

Overall and excellent keynote speech from two inspiring individuals.  The keynotes focused on “hot topic” sessions and covered great executive interaction.

Directions ‘17 delivered a balance of up-to-the-minute, high-level overviews with a deeper dive into the nuts-and-bolts and real-world experiences – preparing me to ‘Go Beyond’ the popular notions of what is new and effective in cyber defence, to strategies and solutions that draw on cross-generational technologies and ensure protection in a much more complex environment.

Already looking forward to Trend Partner conference 2018 in Miami.