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Qualys' Courtot Backs Trustworthy Internet Movement

Firm's CEO pumps half a million dollars into a nonprofit collaborative group designed to accelerate progress on Internet security's tough problems
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RSA CONFERENCE 2012 -- San Francisco, Calif. -- If 2011 was the year of the data breach, then 2012 will be “the year of data breaches to the power of two.” So said Qualys CEO Philippe Courtot yesterday in a keynote he used to unveil his company’s leadership in a nonprofit initiative that he hopes will help bring some sanity to Internet security in 2013 and beyond. Called the Trustworthy Internet Movement (TIM), the group will start up with $500,000 in seed money, from Courtot, in an effort to more quickly mobilize against a changing threat environment.

“We are like the French fighting the German Panzers with the Maginot Line and French cavalry,” he said, “so not very effective against a motorized enemy.”

Courtot reported that the initiative has already garnered the backing of security visionaries, such as Vint Cerf, who have the goal of tackling very targeted problems plaguing organizations today, such as botnets, inadequacies in SSL, and a lack of security participation in cloud deployments. The idea, he said, is to put the fast movers in security innovation together in a collaborative force that will allow them to circumvent some of the more staid machinery of security progress.

“We’re not going to boil the ocean. We’re going to pick our battles, and the way that the Trustworthy Internet Movement will be judged is by how we can influence and get things done by not only integrating the papers and conferences and discussions, but also putting the right people together to sow these seeds and leverage new technology very quickly,” Courtot said.

The genesis of the initiative came from the IT practitioners, Courtot said, who have become frustrated at the IT industry’s stasis within the vendor community.

“All of them are frustrated by the current vendors; whether they're enterprise vendors or technology vendors or security vendors, the customers are frustrated,” he said. “They are too expensive, they don’t work, they don’t integrate, etc. So they really welcome the initiative and have encouraged me to do this.”

The most frustrating part of the scenario, he said, is the fact that many innovators have already come up with ways to tackle the tough problems in Internet and cloud security.

“The blueprints are already there, people are working at it, but somehow we are still married into these old things, so the enterprise wants to move forward on its own,” he said.

For example, he cited the nonprofit StopBadware as both a model organization and a participant in his initiative for its work in fighting botnet activity online.

“We are going to centrally promote these initiatives and solutions,” Courtot said.

At launch time, Courtot said he wasn’t yet ready to announce specific projects that TIM would target in 2012, but he expects to publicize them early next quarter.

“In the meantime, I’m inviting anyone who has ideas to visit our website and tell us, ‘These are the problems I would like to fix,’ or, ‘This is the knowledge I have,’ or, “I have a corporation very much interested in your initiative,’” he said. “We are going to open the door to everybody, and then after that we’re going to prioritize and pick our battles.”

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