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Sun 9 May 2004 04:00 AM

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IMT touts managed security services

Saudi company partners with Symantec to provide the Kingdom’s end users with a wide range of outsourced IT security services.

|~|SYMANTECINSIDE.jpg|~|Symantec’s Mohammad Tahmaz believes IT security is now mandatory for all companies.|~|Symantec has teamed up with Information Management Technologies (IMT) to provide end users in Saudi Arabia with managed security services (MSS). The first of its kind partnership in the Middle East will see IMT offer Symantec’s portfolio of services to local enterprises, including risk profiling, vulnerability assessment, security auditing and 24/7 network monitoring, virus protection and patch management.

IMT’s MSS centre will leverage Symantec’s 20,000 Deep Sight Threat Management System registered sensors as it takes MSS to the Kingdom. These sensors monitor global internet activity in more than 180 countries and are operated by the security vendor’s six Security Operations Centres (SOCs) and nine response labs. Essentially, IMT will be the local interface for these global SOCs.

In a typical security breach, Symatec’s global SOCs, which monitor the a user’s network over the internet and analyse nine million-plus security logs daily, will alert IMT’s security control centre, which will then alert the customer and take preventive action to contain the incident.

To ensure that it can provide a continuous service, IMT has replicated its security control centre infrastructure across Saudi Arabia, which allows it to automatically switch control between Jeddah, Riyadh and Al Khobar.

“The whole idea of MSS is to reduce operational security costs,” says Mohammad Tahmaz, country manager for Symantec in Saudi Arabia. “Security is a very complex issue, which is mandatory right now. Any company, be it big, small or even a small-to-medium sized business (SMB), needs security. A lot of them cannot afford the costs or manage the operational side of it. Even if they can afford it, they do not have the experience and the global view — this is where we add the value,” he explains.

With the full range of monitoring services starting at less than US$2000 per month, IMT believes its Symantec-powered MSS service will appeal to a large number of customers, especially as investment in IT continues to grow in Saudi Arabia and the pain associated with tracking and reacting to security threats increases. The Al Khobar-based company also believes its service level agreements (SLA), which promises to alert customers in less than 10 minutes when a breach occurs, will also attract potential users.

“If you look at the skill sets of IT security experts, who are scarce and expensive to hire on an annual basis and compare the price of our services, then we offer a 10% price point difference,” says Vernon Fryer, divisional head of information security & risk management at IMT. “Symantec’s 20,000 security probes do not go on leave like employees and they work 24/7. We are sharing the risk with customers, as our security control centre, provides not only assurance to the company, but we are also responsible for security because of SLAs,” he adds.

Symantec’s Tahmaz argues that its vendor agnostic approach will also give IMT an advantage as it takes its latest offering to market. “70% of the products supported and monitored by our MSS are not Symantec products. This is one of our niche features, as most of our competitors only support their products,” he says.

Another factor identified by Tahmaz that should help IMT’s customer recruitment drive is the increased willingness of end users to outsource some of their security requirements, something many local companies had vowed never to do in the past.

“Two years ago a lot of companies were against outsourcing their network security to a foreign company,” he confirms. “But now [considering] the increasing complexity and issues of doing it [security] internally, and after some education and market awareness, they are changing their mindset and planning to outsource at least part of their security operations,” Tahmaz explains.

IMT and Symantec hope to recruit 15 customers by July this year. At the same time, the duo will investigate the possibility of expanding its joint offering to other parts of the GCC. Currently, it is considering Bahrain and looking to partner with regional ISPs. ||**||

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