Telus acquisition brings telco more security expertise

Telus Monday said it has bought a Toronto-based security practice in order to bolster its presence in the East and better compete with Bell Canada.

Telus purchased privately-held Assurent Secure Technologies (formerly FSC Internet Corp.) for an undisclosed sum. The firm brings a staff of 55 to the West Coast-based telecommunications company as well as its sole security product, a Web-based application firewall.

It is the expertise Assurent’s consultants have in the market, as well as its existing customer base, that attracted the interest of Telus and will help it better compete with Bell, said David Fuller, senior vice-president of solutions and products, Telus Business Solutions.

Bell spun off its own security company, Bell Security Solutions Inc., last year. While Telus has no plans to build a build another security firm around Assurent, the acquisition “enhances our ability to compete viably with (Bell) in the Eastern marketplace,” said Fuller. “It’s not just Bell. Allstream has a strong security practice . . . and the SIs (systems integrators) as well.”

It makes sense for telecommunications providers to offer more consulting around security, given their affinity for network management, said Gartner Group analyst Elroy Joping, based in Toronto. “The telcos are in an ideal spot. Why shouldn’t they be in the business? When it comes to network security, they’re the closest. Often they’ve had the expertise, they just haven’t gone at it as strongly as they could,” he said.

Assurent’s specialties are research and consulting around vulnerability assessment and threat protection. Its Toronto office includes test facilities for benchmarking and ethical hacking. The hands-on approach is a real selling point for existing and new potential clients, said Fuller.

“We offer services around things like managed firewall and point protection, but the key to selling more of those services is advisory services that are done on the front end, because they’re not simple sales,” he said.

According to Assurent vice-president of sales and marketing Jason Doel, Assurent’s current client list includes most of the major banks and insurance companies in Canada. The firm also does business in Europe and Asia and shares security research data with industry powerhouses like McAfee Inc.

“There’s a number of very large Canadian organizations that we’re helping to meet their IT compliance goals by building up the functions, staffing the team and doing all the work that needs to be done to bring them up to scratch,” said Doel.

All 55 employees will remain with the firm following the Telus acquisition and Assurent chairman Roger Mahabir said he will stay on to manage its Toronto office. For the short term at least, it will be “business as usual,” he said.

There are no immediate changes planned for Assurent, said Fuller, but it will be rolled into Telus’s existing Business Solutions division.

“In contrast to Bell’s approach . . . it isn’t our intent to buy this company and create a separate company,” he said. “We’re not creating a new business unit.”

Enterprise security continues to draw the attention of Canada’s largest telecommunications providers, but Jopling said there’s little chance they will saturate the market.

“It’s like climbing a hill. They’re ain’t no top, you just have to keep climbing. I think there will be advances in security, but at least for the immediate future, it’s going to be a viable market,” he said.

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