McAfee Acquire Skyhigh Networks

McAfee, from its foundation in 1987, has a long history in the world of cyber-security.  Acquired by Intel in 2010, it was spun back out, becoming McAfee LLC, in April 2017.  According to the announcement on April 23rd, 2017 by Christopher D. Young, CEO – the new company will be “One that promises customers cybersecurity outcomes, not fragmented products.   So, it is interesting to consider what the acquisition of Skyhigh Networks, which was announced by McAfee on November 27th, will mean. 

Currently, McAfee solutions cover areas that include: antimalware, endpoint protection, network security, cloud security, database security, endpoint detection and response, as well as data protection.   Skyhigh Networks are well known for their CASB (Cloud Access Security Broker) product.  So how does this acquisition fit into the McAfee portfolio? 

Well, the nature of the cyber-risks that organizations are facing has changed.  Organizations are increasingly using cloud services because of the benefits that they can bring in terms of speed to deployment, flexibility and price.  However, the governance over the use of these services is not well integrated into the normal organizational IT processes and technologiesCASBs address these challengesThey provide security controls that are not available through existing security devices such as Enterprise Network Firewalls, Web Application Firewalls and other forms of web access gateways. They provide a point of control over access to cloud services by any user and from any device.  They help to demonstrate that the organizational use of cloud services meets with regulatory compliance needs. 

In KuppingerCole’s opinion, the functionality to manage access to cloud services and to control the data that they hold should be integrated with the normal access governance and cyber security tools used by organizations.  However, the vendors of these tools were slow to develop the required capabilities, and the market in CASBs evolved to plug this gap.  The McAfee acquisition of Skyhigh Networks is the latest of several recent examples of acquisitions of CASBs by major security and hardware software vendors. 

The diagram illustrates how the functions that CASBs provide fit into the overall cloud governance process. These basic functionalities are:

  1. Discovery of what cloud services are being used, by whom and for what data.
  2. Control over who can use which services and what data can be transferred.
  3. Protection of data in the cloud against unauthorized access and leakage.
  4. Regulatory compliance and protection against cyber threats through the above controls.

So, in this analysis CASBs are closer to Access Governance solutions than to traditional cyber-security tools.  They recognize that identity and access management are the new cyber-frontier, and that cyber-defense needs to operate at this level.  By providing these functions Skyhigh Networks provides a solution that is complementary to those already offered by McAfee and extends McAfee’s capabilities in the direction needed to meet the capabilities of the cloud enabled, agile enterprise.

The Skyhigh Networks CASB provides comprehensive functionality that strongly matches the requirements described above.  It is also featured in the leadership segment of KuppingerCole’s Leadership Compass: Cloud Access Security Brokers - 72534.  This acquisition is consistent with KuppingerCole’s view on how cyber-security vendors need to evolve to meet the challenges of cloud usage.  Going forward, organizations need a way to provide consistent access governance for both on premise and cloud based services.  This requires functions such as segregation of duties, attestation of access rights and other compliance related governance aspects.  Therefore, in the longer term CASBs need to evolve in this direction.  It will be interesting to watch how McAfee integrates the Skyhigh product and how the McAfee offering evolves towards this in the future.


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