McAfee plans to become leader in social engineering security

By Peter Gothard
24 Oct 2012 View Comments

McAfee Data Protection has pledged to invest heavily in social engineering and so-called ‘wetware' (meaning human-focused) technologies in order to protect users from a continual increase in social network-based spoofing and false link fraud.

When asked at McAfee's FOCUS 12 conference in Las Vegas today if the company has staff dedicated to the behavioural and human side of cybersecurity, CTO Michael Fey replied that while itself doesn't have specialists in psychology, the company has "individuals who do nothing who look at nothing at the patters and behaviours of individuals."

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"But what we have is a plan around that," Fey added, cryptically.

"We really see behavioural and situational awareness as one of the next big things in security, and we plan to be a very big leader in that part of the market," concluded Fey.

McAfee Co-president Michael DeCesare added that this team is "600 people strong," meaning McAfee has "the whole human side of this and analytics figured out."

"We have people who can rip that apart in labs, but as the cybercriminals get more advanced with social engineering, it's important to start recognising the patterns that go on and spot the anomalies," said DeCesare.

Referring back to this morning's keynote, in which DeCesare talked of hardware-integrated endpoint security, Fey reiterated that McAfee wishes to "make it so users don't have to make a decision; so you can seamlessly move through the internet safely and conduct business, and buy safer without having to make those decisions to use secondary authentication and other items."

"If we start focusing on how to make usability and security one and the same process, we can handle some of the challenges in that ‘wetware' area. That is an area we find very exciting," said Fey.

Upon McAfee's acquisition by Intel in 2011, DeCesare was asked for a "five year plan" by its new parent company.

"We had to look at each other and see if we had a five year plan," said DeCesare. "Most tech companies run at such a fast pace that you tend to look at the next one to two years versus a longer period."

But, said DeCesare, "Intel is known for innovation, if you look back at the history of Intel from the very beginning, it has time and again shown this, and we want this same DNA to play a much more active role in McAfee."

As a case in point, McAfee unveiled an industry-first method for protecting print devices at the conference today.

Partnered with Xerox, the solution uses McAfee 'Embedded Control' software to prevent printers becoming victims to malware attacks - a phenomenon that became only too evident in June's widespread "printer bomb" malware attack which caused thousands of printers to churn out hundreds of pages of gibberish.

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