EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW

Security Is an Infrastructure Problem: Q&A With Trend Micro CEO Eva Chen

Eva Chen, CEO of security vendor Trend Micro, wears many hats. She’s a mom, a chief executive, a philosopher, an idealist and a highly savvy technologist who’s guided the development of several award-winning security technologies while serving first as the company’s executive vice president, then as its chief technology officer. Chen received a B.A. in philosophy and holds two master’s degrees, in business administration and management information systems.

Chen also has won several honors, the most recent being in March, when she was named one of Silicon Valley Journal‘s Top 100 Women of Influence in 2010. She was named one of the 50 most powerful people in networking in 2004; selected as one of Information Security’s top five women of vision in 2003; and received the Lifetime Achievement Award from Secure Computing in 2001.

Chen, her sister Jenny, and brother-in-law Steve Chang, cofounded Trend Micro in 1988.

TechNewsWorld: From your bio on the Trend Micro blog, it looks as if you not only conceptualized and delivered your Network VirusWall product but also drove several industry firsts.

Eva Chen:

Yes. I like new things so we were the first ones to use an Internet update in our first consumer product, PC-cillin. We were also the first company to come out with Internet gateway protection, mail server protection, and cloud-based protection, both from the cloud and for the cloud.

TNW: What do you mean, from the cloud and for the cloud? How do you differentiate between them?

Chen:

Security for the cloud is for cloud service providers. They can use our software to provide a secure infrastructure for their users. From the cloud is a Trend Micro service. To provide antivirus security, you need to do a lot of pattern updates, and Trend Micro pioneered moving all these comparisons and pattern updates to the cloud. There’s just a small, smart agent in the user’s PC that knows which file has been activated, accessed or copied onto the user’s computer, and it queries the cloud about that file. That enables users to have real-time protection and a much lighter footprint on their computers.

We think security is an infrastructural problem; if we don’t fix the security problem for the Internet or the cloud, then this great Internet information sharing platform can’t be sustainable. That’s why we moved into security for the cloud — more and more people are storing their information in the cloud, and they’re using shared systems where they can rent a virtual server or computing power from different cloud providers. They will need to make sure all the systems they rent and all the storage they use are secure.

TNW: Let’s talk about the computer security field in general. The amount of malware developed is growing, and both consumers and corporations are being hacked regularly. What can be done to make them safer?

Chen:

I think we need to do more user education. We recently launched a campaign to help small business owners understand security, for example, because we found that hackers consider them the weakest link in the security chain.

First, small businesses’ bank accounts have more transactions and hold more money than those of large businesses, so they’re bigger and easier targets. Second, small companies do business with big organizations, and while the big organizations have security and IT infrastructure experts, the small companies don’t, so hackers use them as their vehicles to attack the larger enterprise.

Our surveys show that small-business owners think they’re too small to be targeted so they’re on lower alert and don’t have security staff. But we’ve recently seen a lot of attacks against small businesses.

TNW: Well, why don’t businesses enforce policies more strictly?

Chen:

Even if you enforce policies strictly, many hackers get around this by using phishing emails. For example, there was a wave of attacks on small businesses recently where hackers sent them emails claiming to include eligibility forms for funding from the federal government. But the forms were really malware and infected the victims’ computers when they were downloaded.

TNW: What about security in the corporate arena?

Chen:

We are major players here, and are focusing on security for the cloud. Take virtualization — this is a big thing in almost every enterprise, but people don’t realize that when you switch from physical to virtual servers, you need to consider new security practices.

Traditional security software needs to be redesigned because in the virtual environment, you’re sharing the I/O [input/output] and hard drive and antivirus software among several virtual machines.

So if one of your desktops or servers starts scanning its files in a virtual environment, it might drag down the environment’s performance. Also, you need to know who your neighbor is.

Putting firewalls in front of servers is no longer enough; you need to wrap each virtual server with individual granular security policies which follow it wherever it goes. That’s what our Deep Security product offers.

TNW: You have a program for targeting women at home. Can you tell us more about this?

Chen:

Women are the CEOs of the home. We have a nonprofit program called “Internet Safety for Kids” in which we produce content for moms on how to keep their kids protected online. This includes protecting them from cyberbullies. I’m a mom; I really care about this.

We suggest some very simple things such as always keeping your computer in the common area of the home, and having a separate, small computer for Internet banking only.

TNW: Your sister Jenny, who’s one of the cofounders of Trend Micro, is now its chief culture officer in charge of promoting and maintaining the company’s core values and open-minded transnational culture. Tell us about that.

Chen:

Our vision statement is a world safe for changing digital information. When I came to the U.S. to study, it took seven days for my mom to receive my letters and for her to write me back; today, it takes just seconds. We want to make sure we can have this capability passed down to future generations and enable people to exchange information no matter where they are in the world.

That’s why we do a lot of things that don’t make very much business sense, but we feel very passionate about them. Steve, my cofounder, is planting trees in Vietnam; Jenny is helping Filipinos build homes and helping their kids learn to use the Internet.

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OPINION

Tesla Smartphone Could Be a Game Changer

Image Credit: Tech Fusion / YouTube

Elon Musk tends to gravitate between brilliant and crazy, making him a lot of fun to watch if you aren’t an investor.

Investors have way too many moments where they may regret their stakes in Musk’s companies, given he makes the related securities and several cryptocurrencies far more volatile than they otherwise would be.

One recent rumor that Musk has been emphasizing is the creation of a Tesla phone with a unique feature set.

The phone makes a lot of sense given where Tesla is going, particularly as a hedge against Apple’s rumored electric car.

Let’s explore the potential for a Tesla phone this week. Then we’ll close with my product of the week, a set of earbuds that are the most comfortable I’ve ever tested.

Tesla’s Apple Problem

Tesla and Apple have a similar approach to their respective markets, and both enjoy similar advantages.

Apple was built by a charismatic leader Steve Jobs, and Elon Musk has done a better job of mirroring Jobs’ unique approach to management and product creation than Tim Cook.

Both companies have impressive brand loyalty with their customers, exact market valuations, and several large companies gunning for them.

Tesla doesn’t do much marketing and has a history of poor quality control. While Apple has reduced its marketing substantially, it still essentially leads its market in this regard, and Apple tends to set the bar in terms of product quality.

There is a very high correlation between iPhone users and Tesla buyers. So, if Apple brings out a car that is highly integrated into the Apple ecosystem, it can take a substantial share from Tesla.

Of all the coming challengers to Tesla, Apple represents the greatest threat due to extreme customer loyalty, visibility, and sizeable marketing budget. Apple’s reserves make it a frightening future competitor to Tesla.

Finally, smartphones are becoming keys on the new Tesla cars, and they are already integrated somewhat with Tesla’s in-car audiovisual technology. Apple would have a leg up with that integration and could break the interoperability with Tesla while driving Apple users from Telsa cars. This last is probably pushing Musk to consider doing his phone.

The Tesla Phone

The rumored phone is expected to have Qualcomm’s high-end Snapdragon 8 Series solution, colors that match Tesla car colors, operate better as a car key for Tesla autos than any other phone, and (this is the iffy part) connect to Starlink.

This last is iffy because, typically, getting a smartphone to connect to a satellite requires a large antenna and a far more powerful radio. However, if they could get it to work, it would provide a vast, unique advantage to Tesla phone users who could get relatively high-bandwidth connections years before 5G is available to them.

I think the better path would be to put the satellite connectivity into the car, which could better conceal the large antenna, and then have the phone connect through the car when a 5G network was unavailable or when you want to watch a movie (to get around data caps). Then the car gets an always-on satellite connection for remote operation and to report on attempted thefts or parking lot damage more reliably.

Last but not least, with smartphones becoming keys to cars, a Tesla phone could be further integrated with your Tesla car.

For instance, it could have dedicated buttons to lock, unlock, locate the vehicle, and scream for help using the car’s external speakers to get attention. The phone would also help the car locate you if you had the autonomous feature and wanted it to pick you up, which would be particularly handy for those of us who forget where we park.

If Elon Musk is more visionary than Tim Cook was with the Apple Watch, he’ll make those features configurable so they could work with other cars, and the phone could be a foot in the door to getting those people to buy Teslas automobiles.

Oh, and as a side note, a Tesla smartwatch that worked with the car might even be more interesting, but I haven’t heard a rumor of that yet. (By the way, there is a Tesla watch. It isn’t a smartwatch and it isn’t from Tesla. I have one, and it is pretty cool).

As far as making a phone that worked out of the box, remember that Qualcomm helped Apple with the first iPhone, and they’ve become far more capable since then. With Qualcomm’s help, Tesla starts with market-leading phone technology and would need to add the car features, which they are certainly more than capable of doing.

Wrapping Up

Tesla could be better than Apple at integrating the car and phone.

Although neither Tesla nor Apple has proven to be great partners, Qualcomm can partner well with anyone and was successful at helping Apple get started when it was far less than it is now.

With Qualcomm’s help, Tesla potentially more than closes Apple’s phone technology advantage. Qualcomm has more car experience than Apple, given their work with car AV and autonomous driving.

Even though Tesla is light on the phone side, Qualcomm will help close that gap; on the car side, Tesla knows far more than Apple. If Tesla can get its quality up to where it needs to be — a big if given its history — they should deliver a better driver experience than Apple can early on.

In addition, the regulatory hurdles surrounding building a car are far more challenging to overcome than when building a phone, so Tesla arguably has a far faster time in the market with Qualcomm than Apple does with only its new car.

Ironically, Steve Jobs was more of a car guy than Tim Cook, suggesting the first Apple car has a very high probability of being Apple’s Zune. If that Apple car is a catastrophe, well, it would likely make not only Elon Musk’s day — but also Steve Ballmer’s since he was the father of Zune and would appreciate Apple having a similar experience.

Rob Enderle's Technology Product of the Week

UE Fits Earbuds

I’m not an earbud person. I have a tendency to lose them; they tend to make my ears itch, and they tend to look dorky.

UE Fits from Ultimate Ears are expensive at $249 retail (currently on sale for $169), but they have one trick that may make them worth it for you. They heat internally when setting them up, allowing the part that goes into your ear to mold to your ear for a perfect fit.

UE FITS earbuds

This product feels very next generation.

A few years back I got a set of similar earbuds, but you had to let the earpieces sit in hot water until they became pliant and then, before they cooled, put them in your ears for the fit. I never got around to that, so I used those earbuds without fitting, which was less than ideal.

These UE Fits take you through the fitting process as part of the setup, provide decent sound when used, and because of the very tight fit, they don’t fall out which often makes me hate earbuds (did I mention that I’m forever losing them?).

They come in three colors: Eclipse (midnight blue that looks black), Cloud (gray), and Dawn (lilac).

UE FITS earbuds color options

Be aware that only Eclipse is still available at the time of this writing, the other colors are sold out, but I think the Eclipse color is the best.

They arrive with only one pair of earpieces, but if they don’t fit, contact the Ultimate Ears folks, and they’ll send out another set in a different size for free.

UE Fits don’t have active noise cancellation, which is unusual for a product in this price class. Still, I doubt they need it with the extremely tight fit, and active noise cancellation on earbuds is always uncertain anyway.

The UE Fits are unique earbuds and a decent bargain right now if you can live with the blue/black color; though getting them by Christmas, given the shipping issues, is risky. But since they feel good in my ears, are less likely to be lost, and are a bargain at the moment, the UE Fits are my product of the week.

The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ECT News Network.

Rob Enderle has been an ECT News Network columnist since 2003. His areas of interest include AI, autonomous driving, drones, personal technology, emerging technology, regulation, litigation, M&E, and technology in politics. He has an MBA in human resources, marketing and computer science. He is also a certified management accountant. Enderle currently is president and principal analyst of the Enderle Group, a consultancy that serves the technology industry. He formerly served as a senior research fellow at Giga Information Group and Forrester. Email Rob.

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OPINION

The Unforeseen Consequences of Amazon’s Boardroom Switch

Jeff Bezos last week announced he will be stepping down from his role of CEO Amazon. Bezos is following Microsoft’s lead and putting his cloud executive Andy Jassy in charge of the company. Given that Microsoft was exceedingly successful with putting Satya Nadella in the same role, it would seem that this would be a slam-dunk success.

But the issue is that Amazon is not Microsoft; it is an online retail company with an unusual interest in cloud services. Amazon’s success is that, up until now, its cloud business was run by a subject matter expert, and Bezos, while building Amazon, became an expert in online retail.

Blue Origin, which Elon Musk’s SpaceX has significantly eclipsed, is also run by experts. Still, Bezos isn’t a rocket scientist, and this game of musical chairs will end with their cloud expert running the retail business and Bezos attempting to run full time a rocket company.

This effort will almost certainly not end well because each executive’s skills — with the possible exception of who takes over Andy Jassy’s cloud job — are unqualified for the part of Bezo’s empire they are running.

Let’s explore this potential train wreck this week, and we’ll close with my product of the week, the new robotic Echo Show 10.

Succession

One of the most significant omissions with companies that are just a few decades old, like Amazon, is the lack of a formal succession training program for the CEO job.

Often the CEO founder, who has grown up with their company, doesn’t realize the unique skills they have and assumes almost any senior executive can do the job.

More mature companies like IBM have formal programs where employees are identified early and extensively trained as executive assistants by former CEOs, and in various company roles. Hence, they gain the breadth they need for the job that they can demonstrate to the board when it comes time to replace the CEO. Like I did when I was in the IBM program, they also learn whether they even want the job (I didn’t).

Why Bezos Is Likely Leaving

This lack of formal succession often results in the selected CEO underperforming because they either lack the necessary breadth or the interest to do the job as it needs to be done. The typical reason that a CEO like Bezos voluntarily steps down is that they no longer enjoy the job, which becomes very political, bureaucratic, and increasingly regulated as the company grows.

Amazon is facing a vast number of things that I’m sure most of us wouldn’t enjoy facing any more than Jeff Bezos does. The company is being unionized, is under antitrust review, its taxes are about to go up a lot, and it faces increasing competition from Walmart and China’s online retail firms.

Because of Amazon’s size, it’s restricted from many aggressive ways to compete. Both the unionization effort and antitrust investigation could result in massive headaches for the CEO.

Wrong Choice

Now, the guy that likes running a cloud business that isn’t facing antitrust and isn’t being unionized mostly requires technical competence rather than political savvy. Both union fighting and litigation experience don’t look like a fit to me.

When Microsoft pivoted to become a cloud business it was no longer under an antitrust cloud. As a result, competent technical leaders like Nadella and, a decade earlier, Steve Ballmer made more sense because Microsoft dealt with operational problems resulting from their antitrust effort. Even so, Balmer was still viewed as a failure because he lacked the technical competence needed to run a technology company.

Given the threats to, and the nature of, Amazon’s business, the company needs someone who understands how to address the threats and grasps the online retail market. Where Amazon needs its top cloud expert isn’t running the company; it’s running AWS, a mostly separate entity that also has Amazon as a client.

To offer an analogy, Amazon is doing this as if Microsoft and Walmart merged, and Satya Nadella ran the combined company. There is a pretty good chance that both Microsoft and Walmart would suffer, since Satya does not have the retail comprehensiveness to run Walmart.

I expect this move at Amazon to demonstrate that a successful CEO must be an expert in the business of the company, and also be able to formulate a strategy to address the imminent threats the firm faces.

A better move would have been to anticipate an unfavorable antitrust action and spin off AWS as a separate company to help ensure that result wouldn’t damage the company. As part of Amazon, selling cloud services to other retailers or into markets like China is problematic due to Amazon’s retail power.

Separately, Amazon would be free to compete against Microsoft and Google more evenly because it wouldn’t be seen as a competitor or threat to many companies. Businesses, as a general practice, avoid buying from competitors like the plague.

Repeating Bill Gates’ Mistake

When he went through the antitrust trials, Bill Gates realized he no longer enjoyed the job of running Microsoft. Things had changed a lot and became similar to what Bezos is facing at Amazon: assorted government challenges, bureaucracy, and people stopping you from doing things you enjoy.

Bill wanted out, and he saw running his charity as something he’d enjoy more. But rather than looking for the best candidate to replace him, he picked the easiest in Steve Ballmer. That cost the company one of their best operational executives and caused Gates the loss of his closest friend.

Even though there was supposed to be an overlap where Bill trained Steve, Bill pretty much moved on and left Steve to screw up — which Steve did with a vengeance. Most notable were the failed Yahoo acquisition, the Nokia acquisition, Windows Vista, Windows 8, and the Zune debacle.

It wasn’t that Ballmer was a lousy manager; he did impressively well until he became CEO, whereupon he was out of his depth, which in turn made him overly defensive, which led to him not getting timely help.

About that help: Bill did provide Steve with a technical resource out of Lotus’ Iris software group, but Ray Ozzie (who replaced Gates as chief architect) didn’t get along with Balmer, likely because Steve saw him as more of a threat than a partner. Also, Ray wasn’t known to work well in large companies and hadn’t grown up at Microsoft, making him a poor choice. They should have selected someone that Steve liked from inside Microsoft to offset his lack of programming skills and knowledge.

Bezos appears to be making this same mistake, choosing someone not because they have the right skills but because they are comfortable and foolish enough to take the job without realizing they are likely to hate it.

Back to the Microsoft-Walmart analogy…Think about it: If Satya Nadella were offered the job to run Walmart, even though he is a successful CEO, I think he’d be smart enough to say “hell no.” That situation would bring about all the stuff he hates about being CEO without any of the technical aspects he loves; and he’d have to learn large scale retail and how to manage unionized employees (Walmart has been fighting unions for years, mostly with surprising success).

Like Gates and Ballmer, Bezos and Jassy appear to be close friends, and just like with Gates and Ballmer, friendship is unlikely to survive this move if, as I expect, Jassy is now a square peg in a round hole.

Wrapping Up

Companies need succession planning. CEOs aren’t immortal; they aren’t infallible, they aren’t always honest, and they often have issues with abusing power, given that every CEO will need to be replaced at some point.

It is the board’s job to find the best person for the job. With good succession planning, the firm will have internally several viable candidates at any time that are trained and ready to step in. Without it, you get something like we saw at Microsoft with Steve Ballmer; and now see with what I view as a bad skills match that will likely damage Amazon and force out their top cloud executive, hence damaging AWS.

Unlike Bill Gates’ charity, running a rocket company will be problematic for someone that isn’t the right kind of engineer, much like running a software company was with Ballmer. There is always a chance this will work out, but the odds don’t look good and, I expect, Amazon, AWS, and Blue Origin will all be badly harmed by this move.

Rob Enderle's Technology Product of the Week

The Amazon Echo Show 10

I’m a colossal Echo fan. I’ve had nearly every Amazon Echo made since the firm came out with the platform. This digital assistant is our home’s music source, it helps manage our shopping and it even turns out our lights at night.

There’s an Echo in every room of my house, except for closets and pet rooms (I’m a bit worried about what would happen if my pets figured out how to use it). We have the old Echo Show in the kitchen and my office. It works fine in my office mostly because I never really use the display and only ask it questions or to update shopping lists.

But, in the kitchen, the display isn’t angled correctly to use it for cooking, or to watch videos while cooking. Touching the device when you are preparing food can mess it up and, during a pandemic, touching anything others may touch is problematic. It will show if someone is at the door because it connects to the door camera, but that does you little good if you can’t see the display.

The new Echo Show 10 adds a motorized screen that will rotate to face you when you need to see something without touching it. Not only is that a ton more fun to show off when you have folks over, but it is also much more convenient when you have to see what is on the screen and your hands are dirty, or you are across the room at the wrong angle.

Echo Show 10

Echo Show 10

Ironically, it also looks like my favorite iMac — which for me is an added plus. The new Echo Show 10 will release on Feb. 25 for $249 — and it is my product of the week.

The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ECT News Network.

Rob Enderle has been an ECT News Network columnist since 2003. His areas of interest include AI, autonomous driving, drones, personal technology, emerging technology, regulation, litigation, M&E, and technology in politics. He has an MBA in human resources, marketing and computer science. He is also a certified management accountant. Enderle currently is president and principal analyst of the Enderle Group, a consultancy that serves the technology industry. He formerly served as a senior research fellow at Giga Information Group and Forrester. Email Rob.

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