Dell R&D Center in Silicon Valley (image by Justin Sullivan/Getty)
Byron Acohido, USA TODAY
SEATTLE - In a move that should drive millions of security-hardened computers into the workplace, Dell has begun factory-installing sophisticated anti-hacking software into all commercial-grade Dell PCs.
Dell last week announced that it will add sandboxing technology from Invincea to its Latitude, OptiPlex and Dell Precision line of Windows PCs sold to companies of all sizes.
Invincea CEO Anup Ghosh says the multiyear partnership with Dell will put Invincea's technology on more than 20 million new Windows desktops, laptops and tablet PCs in the coming 12 months. That's the number of new commercial computers Dell anticipates selling.
It's an ambitious push. "If Dell is successful in getting their business customers to use these products, it will certainly raise the bar for out-of-the-box security, which we badly need," says Wendy Nather, research director at 451 Research.
Invincea's technology directs all Web browsing, PDF reading and Web-connected Microsoft Office functions into a quarantine area, known as a sandbox. Any malicious software that tries to install itself - or any Trojan program that a worker gets tricked into opening - executes harmlessly. The individual worker's computer - and the company's network - goes untouched.
Routing of Internet traffic into the sandbox is seamless, requiring no user interaction. Employees shouldn't notice anything.
Large scale shipments of Dell PCs with Invincea sandboxing technology baked in "will be a game-changer" and "take a serious bite out of cybercrime," contends Ghosh. Invincea is free for first year, then on a subscription basis thereafter, much like how other security software is sold.
Michael Dell, founder and CEO of the company that bears his name, has been vocal about how important security is to Dell's future. The computer maker has backed that up with cash investments, acquiring a variety of tech security companies. Over the past few years, Dell has acquired network monitoring, encryption and identity management technologies, and begun integrating those protections into its products and services.
You might think incorporating multiple layers of protection is something most companies already do to protect their networks. Not so. The traditional approach - put up a firewall and install anti-virus software on employees' PCs - remains the status quo. Dell has joined other tech giants, including Intel, Cisco, IBM and Hewlett-Packard, in investing heavily in advanced security technologies. Over time, with the tech giants pitching more advanced systems, stronger business networks should become the rule.
"We've built up a whole industry around keeping security separate from IT, and when that happens, security becomes optional and therefore a luxury," Nather says. "It's high time we turned that around."
Pete Lindstrom, vice president of research at consultancy Spire Security, says Dell and the other tech giants still face an uphill battle getting Corporate America to fully embrace a new cybersecurity paradigm.
"Right now, the network-based anti-malware solutions are having much more success," says Lindstrom. "Maybe Dell can change that."