As co-founder and EVP of global sales at Avecto, Paul is responsible for driving revenue and growing sales globally with a focus on North America and Europe. Much of his success stems from an outstanding 15-year track record in building, growing and leading high-performing, multinational high-tech companies in North America, Europe and the Pacific Rim. In 1999, he started AppSense, the global leader in User Environment Management for businesses and service providers. With the lead role on global sales, AppSense quickly grew to profitability with revenues of over $30 million.
Since co-founding Avecto, the company has established itself as a leader in Windows privilege management, helping organizations to deploy secure and compliant desktops. With its award-winning Privilege Guard technology, organizations can empower all Windows-based desktop and server users with the privileges they require to perform their roles, without compromising the integrity and security of their systems.
MO: For our readers who may be unfamiliar, can you elaborate on what least privilege management entails?
Paul: In establishing an organizational security plan, I think many IT professionals overlook the fact that the easiest way for malware to enter a business is through the desktop, where the use of Internet-oriented apps provide a window directly into the corporate network. For IT organizations hosting highly-sensitive data, one of the most important security strategies is making sure your endpoints are locked down. An obvious solution that comes to mind is the complete removal of administrative rights, to prevent employees from making system tweaks or downloading apps that might introduce security vulnerabilities. Of course, this then has implications for user productivity – how are employees expected to perform their day-to-day tasks when they’ve lost privileges to, say, download software, or even connect to a printer?
A least privilege environment translates into a least risk scenario because users are granted the privileges necessary to complete their job, and no more. Instead of assigning privileges to users, they’re assigned directly to applications and access is elevated only when needed. At the end of the day, the organization owns complete control over which apps are running on its corporate system.
MO: What are some ways that Avecto helps companies reduce operating expenses and strengthen security across their Windows-based environments?
Paul: For one, we’re eliminating admin rights on the desktop to reduce the number of potential threats, which then translates into a reduction of IT support costs. Gartner had stated that a locked down and managed PC can be 42 percent less expensive to support than an unmanaged one, and by removing admin rights, organizations can save $1,278 per desktop, per year!
Secondly, our Privilege Guard solution helps enterprises meet internal and external compliance initiatives by auditing all privileged activity through centrally-managed policies. What we’re seeing today is increasingly harsher enforcement of compliance, such as HIPAA and PCI, and it’s becoming more and more of an arduous and complex process. We allow for continuous monitoring of compliance processes so organizations no longer have to conduct a behemoth risk assessment once a year. It becomes an ongoing process of threat identification that is an inherent part of usual business operations.
MO: Can you talk about the dangers of not knowing what unauthorized software might be running on a network?
Paul: Unauthorized software might host hidden malware and viruses like Trojans, designed to create backdoors into your system. Antivirus software is far from fool-proof, and once malware makes its way onto the desktop, it can bury itself even deeper, seeking administrative rights to gain even more control of the infected desktop – and others, if it’s able to make its way into the corporate network.
Perhaps even more frightening than that is how unauthorized software is often downloaded onto the desktop in the first place… by accident! A large majority of today’s breaches continue to stem from internal end-user error, rather than external threats. Take the case of South Carolina’s recent Department of Revenue breach, for example. One of their employees unknowingly clicked an email link hosting infected exploits, and opened the agency to a cyber-attack that cost the state $14 million. End-user education is absolutely essential, and one of the best ways to go about this, which our solutions provide, is to implement customized messaging that opens communication between IT and users. These messages provide users with additional information about their activity, like warning against a certain download, or blocking an untrusted application from running.
MO: As an entrepreneur, what kind of habits have you established that you can recommend to others?
Paul: Building lists is something I think everyone should get in the habit of doing. It’s a great way to methodically work through your day, and get things off your desk quickly! And, for anyone who works with a team of colleagues, motivation is another habit that’s absolutely crucial to business success. It’s about keeping the energy levels up to ensure the team is on track. Sharing knowledge also factors into this. Sometimes in fast-growing companies, we forget to communicate with each other. I always feel that if we’re trying to sail the same ship, it helps if everyone knows the course!
MO: Can you elaborate on the experience of your recent expansion into North America? What were some of the biggest challenges that you faced during this transition and how did you overcome them?
Paul: We’ve made some momentous headway over the past fiscal year when we significantly expanded operations in North America. We saw a 64 percent increase in revenue over the same time period last year and we’ve nearly doubled our staff to support this rapid growth. We’ve also won a number of high-profile customers in the U.S.
Some of the most difficult challenges we’ve faced during this expansion are around recruitment. To build and drive a successful business that’s sees such large growth in what is still a slow economy isn’t easy, and to do so without the right people is even harder still. I attribute Avecto’s growth to a small number of factors and principal amongst those are the people. To improve recruitment processes, we’ve brought it all in-house and now have our own recruitment staff. This has given us a great deal of insight into how recruitment works, and also ensures we’re getting choicest cuts.
MO: If I could grant you one business related wish right now, what would you ask for?
Paul: A clone. I being serious – there is this movie called Multiplicity, starting Michael Keaton, where he decides to go for an experimental procedure in which he gets cloned. It’s a funny movie, but the idea of having another me to help meet all the demands put on my time, well, that would be perfect. If I could choose another wish, it would be to double our size of staff overnight without the lag of recruitment or training. For us, the opportunity is huge, the market is huge and we have best of breed technology – I just need more bodies to help me spread the word and transact the business.
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