McAfee To Take On Data Loss Prevention

With data loss becoming common news in the headlines, the security company's new CEO said at Interop that his company can help solve the growing problem.

May 23, 2007

3 Min Read
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McAfee's new CEO says the company mainly known for antivirus software is poised to tackle the expensive and costly problem of data loss.

Saying data loss has reached epidemic proportions, Dave DeWalt, the new president and CEO of McAfee, said taking on the growing problem is going to be a "killer opportunity" for the security company. Speaking in a keynote presentation at Interop in Las Vegas this week and in a one-on-one interview with InformationWeek, DeWalt pointed out that McAfee is pushing outside of its traditional antivirus walls and moving headlong into the data-loss prevention arena.

"Probably not a day goes by when you can't go online and read, or pick up a newspaper and read about data loss and data theft," said DeWalt during his keynote speech, adding that data loss costs an estimated $40 billion a year. "Ninety percent of data loss happens electronically."

DeWalt's comments come on the heels of Alcatel-Lucent reporting this week that the company has called in the U.S. Secret Service to investigate a lost computer disk that holds critical identifying information on current and retired employees. A company spokesman said in an interview Tuesday that they're not sure how many current and former employees, along with their dependents, are affected by the loss, but explained that the disk contained information on current U.S.-paid employees who used to work for Lucent and retirees who used to work for Lucent.

The disk, she said, includes names, addresses, Social Security numbers, dates of birth, and salary data.Last week, the major data loss news came out of IBM, which confirmed that a contractor lost more than one tape containing identifying information on current and former IBM employees. IBM isn't saying how many employees are affected by the lost data, how many tapes are missing, or how they went missing, says an IBM spokesman. He added that the company doesn't believe the tapes were stolen. IBM ran an ad in local papers offering a reward for the return of the tapes.

Data loss headlines haven't just been filling the news for the past few weeks. The parent company of T.J. Maxx, TJX Companies Inc., has suffered a highly publicized breach that has cost it upwards of $17 million in just the past two quarters. Boeing has suffered its own data loss, as has the U.S. Department Veterans Affairs and the Transportation Security Administration.

DeWalt says companies need to be able to tag information -- files, documents -- so they can't leave a device, whether it's a desktop PC, a laptop, or a smartphone, unless they want it to. "You have to set preventions at the host and at the network," he said. "If you classify a document, it gets a little fingerprint and the gateway inspects the packets trying to go out, and checks for those fingerprints. If it's not supposed to leave, it won't."

DeWalt said McAfee's Data Loss Prevention solution can prevent users from digitally removing classified information from a computer, whether they try to print it out, e-mail it, download it on a thumb drive, or cut and paste. "The only thing I can't stop is someone looking at it and writing the information down," he said.

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