SAN FRANCISCO — NTT this week is striving to bolster its security posture through an expanded partnership with Palo Alto Networks and new academic research efforts around cryptography and blockchain.
NTT Research, an arm of the Japanese telecommunications giant, inked a pair of joint research agreements with the University of California, Los Angeles and Georgetown University to conduct research on the theoretical aspects of cryptography and build a testbed for research into blockchain.
The Japanese telecommunications giant spends about $3.6 billion a year on research and development, and while that isn’t all earmarked for security, it’s a growing area of interest and emphasis for the company. NTT Security, another arm of the conglomerate, announced its acquisition of WhiteHat Security at last year’s RSA Conference.
NTT Research primarily focuses on quantum computing, health care applications, cryptography, and blockchain. The company invests in these areas because it wants to focus on areas of heightened interest even though clear objectives may not be achieved for a few years, Matthew Gyde, CEO of NTT Security, said during an interview at this week’s RSA Conference.
One of the near-term goals is to make cryptography more robust and ready for a post-quantum computing landscape, said Kazuhiro Gomi, president and CEO of NTT Research. “Most of the crypto systems today on the internet are broken, so we have to come up with something before that day (comes),” he said.
Racing Against Quantum Computing
In the more theoretical realm, NTT Research is also looking at homomorphic encryption because it could allow enterprises to do calculations without decrypting data, and thereby opening the organization up to risk. “Today you have to decrypt the data, do the calculation, and then do the encryption again, so during the process there is decryption and encryption so there is a chance of breach there,” Gomi said.
The research is still in early stages, so NTT isn’t sure if these technologies will make their way into data centers, for example, but the goal is to strengthen its security business, cloud business and managed service business overall, according to the company executives.
“The quantum computing system can break today’s public pieces so we need to be ready for it,” Gomi said. “We believe that we can make it before the quantum systems” arrive.
The company also wants to set itself apart from niche security vendors that compete in relatively similar spaces, according to Gyde. Seeking a comprehensive security solution from a single vendor is generally the wrong approach, he argued.
“Vendors are never going to be able to as an organization solve the complexity of security,” he said. “I think where the innovation and disruption starts to happen is in channel partners like ourselves so big managed services and big complex organizations that can bring those things together and offer a complete solution.”
NTT Seeks to Simplify Security
Instead of viewing security as a product that can be delivered to enterprises, NTT is focusing on business outcomes that can be achieved or reinforced by applying security to the environment each enterprise operates within, Gyde explained.
“The industry has now moved on to more of a managed service, and a comprehensive managed service. One of the reasons behind NTT acquiring WhiteHat security was to take us from a very strong background in network security” and apply WhiteHat’s security layers for applications, he said.
“A machine can make a decision faster than a human, and we’ve got to build a trust relationship between machines of different companies.” This is where cryptography and blockchain can potentially play a big role, he added.
Simon Chassar, chief revenue officer for security at NTT Global, said complexity in security remains the biggest challenge. “There are more gaps within technologies and vulnerabilities that we identified even on things that we probably trusted yesterday,” he said.
Those fast-moving and difficult to ascertain aspects of security are what’s driving NTT to partner, acquire, build, and conduct research into areas that can simplify and strengthen security for enterprises on a more holistic basis, according to Gyde.
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