Gil Shwed is the founder and CEO of Check Point Software Technologies is considered as the inventor of the modern firewall and authored several patents, such as the company’s Stateful Inspection technology.
Gil Shwed has received numerous accolades for his individual achievements and industry contributions, including the Israel Prize for his contributions to the Israeli tech industry and philanthropy, an honorary Doctor of Science from the Technion – Israel Institute of Technology, an honorary Doctor of Science from Tel Aviv University, the World Economic Forum’s Global Leader for Tomorrow for his commitment to public affairs and leadership in areas beyond immediate professional interests, and the Academy of Achievement’s Golden Plate Award for his innovative contribution to business and technology. He is also the Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Youth University of Tel Aviv University, a Tel Aviv University Governor and founder of the University’s Check Point Institute for Information Security.
In an exclusive interaction with Dataquest on the sidelines of the company’s premier cyber security event CPX 360 in Bangkok recently, Gil Shwed shares the state of the threat landscape and his company’s play in the security space. Excerpts.
Do we need to be paranoid to be pro-active in terms of security?
Different things move different people, but it is important to do the right thing. For example, paranoia can help you take the right or wrong action. More than paranoia, an informed ‘security aware’ is the approach I would recommend for pro-active security.
As a thought leader in this space if you look at the security landscape, what were the key inflection points?
In the past, say two decades ago, security was rather simple. But if you look at the current threat landscape, it’s mired with complexities. This complexity I consider it as a key inflection. This is what is driving the security solution and the market. More and more threat actors are coming in by the day, and the manifestation of the threat is materializing in many different ways that call for a high degree of sophisticated solutions to address the current security complexities.
What differentiates Check Point from other players in the market?
I think the core value we have is a little bit different from other players in the fray. We are a highly customer-centric company and serve their security needs. In what way we are doing it differently is our ability and depth of offering that comes from more than two decades of being in the security space, this has given us an enormous degree of depth to address the myriad security challenges.
The security market is extremely plural with multiple vendors, for an IT decision maker or a CISO, how difficult is to go in for a security solution- is it a multi-vendor approach or single vendor approach that works here?
It’s a multi-vendor approach, but having said that, companies like us are strategically positioned to offer different kind of solutions by bringing in a well-meshed eco-system as per the client-side demands and address their security pain points effectively.
If you reflect on your entrepreneurial journey, can you talk about some of the guiding principles that have stood by all these years?
There are many principles I have followed. When you start your company and succeed, you need focus and a direction to make it a success. For instance, you need an address a critical problem with a simple solution. A complex problem with a complex solution
will not work. I was lucky when I started, the Internet was at a nascent stage and my solution was fairly simple. But if you look now, it is not that simple anymore, the cyber security, as a domain is very complicated and it is a multi-dimensional problem that calls for a focused approach. The ability to focus on what you believe is one key aspect of success. Moreover keep your solution simple, despite the complexity of the problem, the backend may be complex but in the front, it has to be simple.
The second important thing is to remain focused all through. Altering the direction frequently will make one fray out of focus. Course corrections are necessary, but frequent changes in the direction are not good. A right vision and a clear focused strategy are very vital for business success, and we were very lucky to find that.
How rewarding is for you to personally building Check Point?
For me personally it’s very rewarding. Twenty-five years ago I was a computer geek with full of ideas and dreams. Over the years I have completely become a different person with a clear business focus and evolving Check Point by doing the right things that worked for us. This has made me shoulder huge responsibilities as well, as we are custodians of our customers’ security and it’s a mammoth job we execute day in and day out.
When one looks at the demand side of IT, the CIO or a CISO is grappling with technology change. When you look at a domain like security, is it legacy technologies or a legacy thinking that poses as a challenge?
I agree that there are organizations in the older generation of security tech, both in terms of solutions and policies. Unlike the core IT, when it comes to security the dynamics are very complicated and its always in a state of flux, due to the dynamic nature of the threat landscape. We evangelize a lot so that the organizations can introspect on the current security practices and be more vigil and relevant to the current market dynamics.
So what keeps you awake these days?
Well, what keeps me awake is the constant thinking of our customers and more innovative ways giving them a more security defense system and a more safe and secure way they can protect their digital assets. We need to constantly innovate, learn, and unlearn to be relevant to address the threats. More important is to make the customers aware of the complexities and the consequences of a security breach and make them transition from the older generation to current generation security solutions.
With ever changing threat landscape, how are you aligning your competencies to the new normal?
We challenge ourselves all the time; we have a highly skilled young workforce which infuse new thinking into the organization.
What are your key priorities going forward?
As I told earlier, managing security is a complicated business. We are uniquely positioned today to address a whole lot of these complexities due to rich expertise and skill sets. My priority will be aligned to making customers more security aware and make the deploy the latest in security and enabling them to proactively secure themselves. We are there for the customers and my other priority and is to further up the ante on customer centricity.