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The IT community needs to learn from cyber criminals, according to a senior HP technologist.

HP enterprise security services chief technologist Andrzej Kawalec (pictured above) thinks cyber criminals "have a competitive advantage" over the security community because they are more innovative, faster, more collaborative, more creative, and better funded.

"They understand the New Style of IT better than we do," he observed.

With 16 successful cybercrimes occurring per second with an annual value of US$100 billion, we face "a relentless and dynamic threat environment," he said, noting that one million new hackers - "an integrated army" - are expected by 2020.

"They're taking advantage of all the systems we've built," including software as a service.

Among the problems are people's vulnerability to phishing and other attacks ("there's no patch for people"), untrustworthy mobile apps ("nine out of ten mobile apps have significant security flaws" whether by design or carelessness), 80% of security budgets going on network defences (no longer a viable idea: "the cybercriminals are already inside"), and the way organisations are taking longer to respond to breaches once they have been detected (and that's after the average 243 days between penetration and detection).

We therefore need to understand the way the criminals work, learn from them, and work out how to disrupt them, Mr Kawalec suggested.

So HP has developed or acquired tools and technologies to address each step of the cybercrime cycle - research, infiltration, discovery, capture and exfiltration - and can see what is happening in close to real time.

"We are as relentless and dynamic as the cybercriminals," with 5000 security professionals. HP currently tracks more than 40,000 security events per second, and its TippingPoint operation (which runs a "not-for-profit bounty scheme" that pays 'white hat' security researchers for the vulnerabilities they uncover) has been responsible for bringing to light 70% of the known vulnerabilities in Microsoft products since 2006 and 50% of those in Adobe products.

After the vulnerabilities have been validated TippingPoint builds protections into its own products, informs the vendor concerned, and then shares the information with the rest of the industry.

Even banks and oil companies cannot attract and retain top security professionals the way HP can, he noted.

"You don't have to do it alone," he said, "we're closing the gap on the hackers."

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Stephen Withers

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Stephen Withers is one of Australia¹s most experienced IT journalists, having begun his career in the days of 8-bit 'microcomputers'. He covers the gamut from gadgets to enterprise systems. In previous lives he has been an academic, a systems programmer, an IT support manager, and an online services manager. Stephen holds an honours degree in Management Sciences, a PhD in Industrial and Business Studies, and is a senior member of the Australian Computer Society.

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