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IBM Unveils Endpoint Security Initiatives

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IBM on Wednesday unveiled a slew of new initiatives aimed at securing mobile devices and instruments, including smartphones, ATMs, traffic systems, kiosks, buildings, water systems, sensors, and traffic systems. The moves come as part of a concerted push by IBM Security Solutions, which generates about $1 billion in annual revenue, to better aggregate the company's overall security portfolio.

Specific announcements include a managed service built on mobile security software from Juniper Networks, ongoing research projects, and new security software that manages many different types of devices -- not just desktops and laptops.

"From electrical grids to mobile devices, transportation systems and buildings, the proliferation of these intelligent systems is creating new security loopholes that businesses need to address," said Steve Robinson, general manager of IBM Security Solutions, in a statement.

But IBM as a business has also been addressing some security-related issues. Speaking late last year, Robinson said that IBM needed to consolidate its approach to security, especially in the wake of its numerous, security-related acquisitions in recent years. "We need to move beyond the single product that solves a single problem, to more of a comprehensive strategy," he said, mirroring a push by customers to do the same with their security strategy, as evidenced by the sharp increase in IBM customers that now have a chief security officer.

Evidence of that new approach could be found in Wednesday's announcement. For starters, IBM's new Tivoli Endpoint Manager will manage the security of numerous types of devices, including servers, laptops, ATMs, and self-service kiosks. According to IBM, Tivoli Endpoint Manager identifies devices not in compliance with corporate security policies, and recommends specific updates.

What's especially notable about the product is that it blends existing security management technology from IBM -- via its Tivoli line -- with compliance and reporting technology that IBM acquired when it bought BigFix.

A similar blending is at work with a new managed security service announced by IBM, which is layered on top of the Junos Pulse mobile security suite from Juniper Networks. IBM said its service adds policy-based enforcement to the software, to ensure that smartphones and mobile devices that access corporate networks and data meet designated security policies and run specified applications. Junos Pulse works with Android, Apple iOS, BlackBerry, Symbian, and Windows.

IBM is also moving into new security territory. Notably, its researchers have developed software to manage and secure smart meters, including making sure that they remain tamper proof. "While smart meters have great potential for cost savings and efficiency, their ability to sense and interact with other devices can also cause them to be vulnerable to security breaches if not managed correctly," said IBM.

According to market researcher Berg Insight, more than 300 million smart meters will be deployed globally by 2015, backed by government grants, aggressive rollouts by utilities, and billions of dollars in related spending. But critical infrastructure security experts have been warning that the rapid rollout of the technology is failing to address key questions, such as how the devices will be managed, updated, or secured.