I found the RSA Conference completely exhausting, but also intellectually invigorating. (Shameless plug: you can see me speaking on an RSA Keynote panel about the future of authentication here.) I came away with a much clearer picture of the trends shaping the future evolution of our market.

The first one I want to talk about is the reemergence of the endpoint as a key element of security architecture.

As our IT environments have evolved, we’ve moved a lot of our security controls into the network and into applications. While these technologies and services will remain relevant and investment in them will continue to increase, I predict a radical swing back to the endpoint as a focus for security.

I see this driven by four major market trends:

  • Virtualization. With virtualization, security functions that existed on the network (firewall, IPS, WAF, etc.) are moving on the host, integrating through APIs like vShield to capture inter-VM traffic. Moreover, it makes no sense to copy the model we have today of procuring a different function from different vendors and putting multiple agents onto servers. Instead, we will inexorably, and quickly, follow what happened at the desktop: vendors will consolidate functions into single-agent "suites" with unified management and reporting.
  • Device diversity and employee mobility. The floodgates are open: empowered employees demand broad device support. iPhones, Android phones, and iPads are making their way into the enterprise at an amazing pace. People are also bringing their own PCs – and Macs – into the enterprise, or connecting them from home and demanding access to a broad set of applications. IT and IT security have no choice but to accede to these demands and embrace these trends – to do otherwise would result in their irrelevance. As we see greater device diversity, and these devices are hopping in and out of the network, it becomes more imperative than ever to deploy controls on these devices to protect them from attack as well as to protect the business from inappropriate data transfer.
  • Embedded security. We’re on the cusp of an explosion in IP-enabled devices, of which smartphones and tablets are only the beginning. It’s extending to smart utility meters, healthcare devices, automobiles, consumer electronics, industrial controls, public kiosks, and many more areas. Security must be embedded into the devices at the system level to ensure system integrity and data protection.
  • The threat landscape. What do the three biggest security incidents of 2010 – Aurora, Stuxnet, and WikiLeaks – have in common? All involved attacks on the endpoint (respectively: exploitation of a zero-day IE vulnerability, worm infiltration of a closed network through a USB, and data exfiltration via a USB).

Each of these trends is a disruptive market force in its own right, which is why we presently see immature or incomplete solutions from vendors. Yet moving forward, security vendors, service providers, and enterprises will need to adjust the balance of their security investments in favor of endpoint security controls.

This will have a dramatic effect on the market landscape as well as the practice of security.