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June 10, 2013

CTIA 2013 Gems: Cloudmark hits the Mark with New Broadband Messaging Security Services

Here's an interesting bit of trivia: Given today's buzzwords and technologies, one might perhaps feel inclined to forgive Cloudmark for the use of "cloud" in its name. After all, why not take advantage of what is buzzing about? It turns out, however, that "cloud" has nothing to do with the cloud in Cloudmark - the company's founder Vipul Ved Prakash uncovered the name back in 2001 in a book -  a science fiction novel by Vernor Vinge named "A Fire Upon the Deep." So perhaps we need to be forgiven instead.

Not that Cloudmark minds the association, though cloud-based services are not really at the heart of Cloudmark's messaging security businesses. Nor is Cloudmark your average enterprise messaging security vendor. In fact, Cloudmark's customers are ISPs and carriers, who are responsible for delivering billions of messages on a daily basis.

Cloudmark's solutions are in use across more than 120 tier-one customers worldwide, including AT&T, Verizon, Swisscom, Comcast, Cox and NTT. Cloudmark's technologies work deep within communication provider infrastructure and it isn't the sort of service that subscribers would ever take note of or make overt use of though subscribers are fully protected from numerous messaging security issues behind the scenes.

We have a certain amount of respect for any vendor that can operate at such a level with these companies. It takes a great deal of internal fortitude to survive such encounters - let alone thrive within them! Given that, we were very interested in catching up with Cloudmark at CTIA 2013. To do so, we caught up with Cloudmark CTO Neil Cook, who joined Cloudmark in 2006 and who was previously associated with Openwave, another vendor used to operate deep within communications provider infrastructure.

Aside from generally catching up, we wanted to get more information on Cloudmark's new Cloudmark Security Platform for Broadband, which was announced at CTIA on the day we met up. The new platform provides fixed-line, mobile carriers and Web hosting providers - that is, all of Cloudmark's existing customers - with carrier-grade protection against spam and other messaging threats specifically within their broadband networks.

Protecting the Major Communications Vendors

Although most malware and spam "news" tends to focus on end users, whether on the enterprise or consumer front, the reality is that the greatest impact is far more often felt by the fixed-line, mobile and Web hosting networks. Neil notes, "At the scale these companies operate at, even one missed security attack that should have been caught and prevented from taking place will negatively impact their infrastructure and reputation. These attacks include malware-infected systems as well as malicious network uses - they take place constantly, and our customers must be vigilant in constantly protecting against them."

To ensure that its customers remain proactively vigilant, Cloudmark Security Platform for Broadband allows the provider networks to do such things as transparently block the delivery of spam and malware from local broadband networks to the Internet, as well as block the delivery of inbound spam and malware from remote Internet sources.

Neil claims that "the Cloudmark platform consistently blocks 99 percent of messaging attacks in real time with near zero false positives. Ensuring that there are no false positives is, in fact, critical and just as important as ensuring the real attacks are blocks. False positives will lead to service degradation that is just as bad - or in any case nearly as bad - as degradation from the real attacks."

Neil went on to say, “The increased popularity of mobile devices has provided spammers with numerous ways to distribute both spam and malicious messages. These attacks pose a threat to individual consumers of course, but they are especially harmful to providers as they manage hundreds of millions of messages.”

The new platform is able to both detect and take action against infected devices before they can impact service for other broadband subscribers and for the networks as a whole. The platform provides reputation tracking of infected devices, even as IP address assignments change. Accurately tracking infected systems and malicious senders allows Cloudmark's customers to apply consistent anti-abuse and class of service policies to spam-sending devices. It does so even in those cases where devices re-associate to the network and obtain different IP addresses.

Neil points out that, “In today’s competitive landscape, providers must be able to ensure their customers can send and receive messages without issue. With Cloudmark’s new Security Platform for Broadband, we are enabling providers to detect and prevent spam before it becomes a costly support and brand-impacting issue.”

In a world where attacks will originate from anywhere and at any time, the ability to deal with likely attacks in real time is critical for Cloudmark's customers. As Neil notes above, attacks that actually take place will exacerbate support costs and will deliver harm to both brand reputation and brand loyalty. Brand loyalty of course is critical to subscribers recommending a provider's services.

When asked what the real competitive advantages Cloudmark offers, Neil points to three critical Cloudmark capabilities:

  • Real-time Threat Response: Cloudmark Security Platform receives frequent updates from the Cloudmark Global Threat Network, which collects and correlates threat and sender intelligence data across world-wide deployments and sensors, enabling real-time protection against zero-day and rapidly evolving threats.
  • Greater Visibility and Insights into Networks: Identifies spam activity and provides insights into traffic and abuse patterns, enabling passive or active management of spam outbreaks.
  • Seamless Network Integration: Integrates easily into existing network topologies, supporting a broad range of messaging protocols, security intelligence feeds and data sources.

It is the cumulative benefits of the new platform that ultimately identifies it as a CTIA 2013 Gem for us. Cloudmark provides its customers with the ability to effectively reduce capital and operating expenses by consolidating messaging servers and infrastructure, as well as reducing bandwidth requirements through the significant reduction of overall messaging traffic on their networks. By proactively ensuring that threats - including new threats that seemingly appear out of nowhere - are killed in their tracks, Cloudmark gives its customers that all important ability to deliver the best possible service to their subscribers, which translates to hugely positive results that accrue ultimately to all of Cloudmark's customer brands.

Editor in Chief Rich Tehrani also conducted an interview at CTIA 2013 with Neil. Check out the video below.

Other CTIA 2013 Gem articles include the following:

Edited by Alisen Downey

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