India key focus area for us: Palo Alto Networks' Alex Nehmy

"We have a headcount of around 800 staff in Bengaluru, and we’re working on this, so we are investing heavily in product development in India and the APAC region as well. India is a key focus area for us," Nehmy adds.

By Radhika Dave calendar 27 Dec 2023 Views icon1824 Views Share - Share to Facebook Share to Twitter Share to LinkedIn Share to Whatsapp
India key focus area for us: Palo Alto Networks' Alex Nehmy

Palo Alto Networks, the California-based world's largest pure-play data and AI cybersecurity firm is betting on people to bolster growth amid the humans versus AI debate which states that artificial intelligence will take away jobs.

India key focus area 

The company adds that its India plan aims to focus on 'people capability,' as they are ultimately the ones who make a difference to work, besides aspects such as R&D, hardware and software. This obviously will call for increased hiring of personnel in various capacities, and Alex Nehmy, Field Chief Security Officer, critical industries, for Asia Pacific and Japan, Palo Alto Networks says, "We have a headcount of around 800 staff in Bengaluru, and we’re working on this, so we are investing heavily in product development in India and the APAC region as well. India is a key focus area for us," he added. 

“AI ultimately is a global challenge, and at Palo Alto Networks, we’re investing heavily around the world as well, says Nehmy. 

Regarding talent, Nehmy says that there is a global skills shortage in cybersecurity and AI and that the company is 'investing heavily to work on this problem and build their IP as well. 

On betting big on India, he further elucidates that the accelerated digital transformation and the government’s push for digitisation have created the right conditions for technological breakthroughs in the country, and it offers a very large talent pool with expertise across sectors.

It is also investing R&D centres across it's dedicated regions, and its investment in R&D has grown 17% on a year on year basis, without divulging a figure. 

AI in manufacturing capabilities 

Talking about how manufacturing capabilities have changed over the last decade, he says that the past 10 years have seen a really strong investment in automation and IoT within the manufacturing space.

"Operational tech environments are connected to IT and cloud. This expansion indicates that cyber security challenges that companies never had to face before are now posing a huge risk to industrial environments from home, which has expanded at a tech surface from the shopfloor to people’s homes, which is a risk industrial environments never had to face before," he said.

The industrial environments are highly digital and complex and third parties are needed to ensure that these envirtonments are maintained and kept operational. This has made organisations relying on third parties to secure their industrial environments. Third parties are needed but a trend in India and APAC is for key industrials to be regarded as critical infrastructure, and to have “in house cyber security obligations put on them to increase their cybersecurity robustness, he adds. 

Nehmy goes on to explain that they are now seeing that flow down to supply chains. “It’s no longer enough for organisations to say, our cyber security is good enough. They are also saying, well if our cybersecurity is up here, (of a certain standard), so is of other organisations that are mission critical to us. We are seeing the responsibility of cyber security flow down that supply chain." 

Resilience in industrial environments

Further talking about cyber security, he recommends adopting a 'zero trust approach' to tackle related issues. "It means identifying crown jewels one is trying to secure and taking a risk-based approach to cyber security. Removing implicit trust," Nehmy explains. Taking off from this, organisations will be in a better position to take a risk based approach and better protect their data bases from threats. 


Talking of smart cars and application to ADAS, he says that cyber security is critical to ADAS and smart cars. Untimately, cyber security boils down to trust and safety, he adds. 

"For automakers, cyber security is about ensuring safety and trust in their products, and to do that they need to make sure that they have the highest levels of cyber security built into everything they do. It really needs to be built into the culture of the company," Alex Nehmy said. 

Automakers have gone from manufacturers primarily, to manufacturers and service providers. They are now selling a car and offering those services that are cloud based, so that is a huge digital transformation for manufacturers and the way they run their businesses.

They have to secure the network connectivity of the car, the applications that are talking to the car in real time, cloud-based systems that are handling real-time communication, and the firmware and software updates they are delivering to the car.

"Cars have really transformed in a short period of time from manual simple devices to highly digital systems, where the rules of cyber security and technology have completely changed," he adds. 

Processing big data in real-time 

On cybersecurity in auto companies, he talks about how it is really a question of the scale of data and processing the same. The detection of incidents is a key part of cyber security, and that comes down to data and big data and processing the same in real-time, to identify that one little bit of data that may indicate an incident has occurred.

So really it is a data scale and a data processing problem in cyber security, and AI is looking to solve this by processing this massive data in real time and identifying this issue that may indicate that a cyber security incident has taken place.

Referring to his own organisation, Nehmy says that while the company has used AI for the past decade, they are 'very focused on bringing in new AI-based capabilities to the market.' 

It will boil down to tech vendors investing in capabilities, but also in organisations adopting and using them and proving them in the real world, and I think even though we’ve been doing AI for a decade, it feels like we’re at this new period of inflection for AI, and we will see a huge amount of change in the coming 12-24 months," he ends.





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