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DT in Cybersecurity – Good but Could Do Better

Patrick Donegan

Around 1,000 delegates attended Deutsche Telekom's second two-day "Magenta" cybersecurity event for customers and partners in Munich this week. That 1,000-delegate number makes it a pretty strong candidate for Europe's largest ever telco-hosted cybersecurity event.

It was held nearly six months since the reorganization of Telekom's security assets into Telekom Security. The division has been building out a cybersecurity portfolio that looks to me to be bigger -- broader and deeper -- than any of its European telco peers. Unlike most European telcos, Telekom Security is pitching its security portfolio almost as hard to consumers and SMEs as it does to large businesses. The business is also unique in having a strategy for selling cybersecurity services to SMEs and consumers throughout Europe.

Spontaneous applause
You know when you're keeping your conference audience happy when speaker lines generate spontaneous applause. That happened twice on day one in a way that was wholly favorable to the event host. The first was triggered when Dirk Backofen, head of Telekom Security, explained what lessons his company took from November's US Presidential election, including the potential vulnerability of mobile devices. As a result, Backofen announced that Telekom is making high-end mobile security software freely available to Germany's major political parties to protect the smartphones of their operatives. That way, he said, "we can help make sure that the upcoming Federal elections will yield the exact, accurate, results -- not something that is influenced or made up."

Backofen earned full marks for that spine-tingler -- the audience applauded spontaneously, loud and long. And they applauded not so much because the telco was providing "cybersecurity." Rather it was positioned as the protector -- by means of cybersecurity -- of something far more emotive: the integrity of Germany's democracy. The second instance appeared to be triggered accidentally by Michael Fey, president and COO of Symantec, one of many C-level speakers from leading security vendors invited to speak. "We vendors play nicely together due to Deutsche Telekom," he admitted, "and that doesn't always come naturally to us." He seemed all set to move on to his next bullet point when the audience decided to intervene with loud applause.

Beating security vendors up to make them play nicely is precisely what German enterprise customers expect of Deutsche Telekom. They wanted to show their appreciation -- even if Symantec's president didn't quite expect to serve as the conduit for it.

I would also single out Industrial Protect Pro, Telekom's portfolio of security solutions for industrial operations technology (OT) for a mention. This leverages solutions from Cyber X, Cyber Arc, Radiflow and Genua. If any European telco has a more advanced cybersecurity portfolio for industrial applications in the IoT era, I've yet to see it.

As you'd expect, much of this event was a two-way pat-on-the back-fest between Telekom and its key vendor partners -- and for perfectly good reasons. Telekom owns the connection to the German user. The company has been savvy in committing resources to cybersecurity and spotting opportunities to stimulate investment. And it has made investments in an extensive portfolio from which more than 50 security vendors are benefiting.

Delegates undoubtedly got excellent value from the event. If you want to understand upcoming cybersecurity roadmap options, you can't have too many well-honed, 30-minute, CEO talks from premier players on what's wrong with the status quo -- and how to fix it. And Telekom's two-day agenda served up plenty of that.

There seem to me to be some areas for potential improvement, though. Being the most committed and ambitious European telco in the cybersecurity space is all well and good. But the way the cybersecurity landscape is evolving, that will only get Deutsche Telekom so far.

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