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Technology and crime are uneasy partners. As hackers, crackers and sundry cyber attackers prove almost daily, turning technology into a tool of crime is a simple proposition.

“Technology breeds crime. It always has, it always will,” said Frank Abagnale, the con-artist-turned-FBI-associate whose exploits were depicted in the Hollywood blockbuster “Catch Me If You Can.”

Abagnale spoke to VARs, integrators and vendors on the closing day of IT trade association CompTIA’s Breakaway conference last week in Las Vegas.

Forty years ago Abagnale, who has become very popular on the lecture circuit, used rudimentary methods to dupe airlines and banks into thinking he was a pilot so he could fly for free and cash fake checks.

With today’s technology, he said, he would be able to counterfeit identification cards and checks much more convincingly. But Abagnale, now a 30-year veteran of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, said technology is also an effective tool used daily to fight crime.

With the rapid-fire delivery with which he delivered the account of his astounding life, Abagnale held the group of gathered IT professionals spellbound.

He even caused some misty eyes as he wrapped up his speech talking about the importance of family and spousal fidelity.

He was a tough act to follow.

And guess who had the very privilege of following him on stage? Yours truly.

I moderated a panel on security that wrapped up the four-day event.

Click here to read more about the CompTIA Breakaway event.

Luckily, I had help from five of the IT channel’s top security experts, who provided an insightful exchange on how the channel can seize the security opportunity.

The panelists were Patrick Hinojosa, chief technology officer of Panda Software; Gerard Kane, regional vice president of business development for Perimeter Internetworking; Scott Lupfer, senior director, Security Evangelists at McAfee Inc.; Chris Riopelle, U.S. director of sales at Interwork Technologies Inc.; and Bryant Tow, director of managed security services for North America at Unisys Corp.

These experts, who live and breathe security day in and day out, confirmed what I have been reporting in news stories and advocating in this very column.

Security technology and services, they said, are a tremendous opportunity for the channel, one that every VAR integrator and service provider should be thinking about.

Small and midsize businesses, a market in which channel companies have more traction than anyone else, often are oblivious to the risks, much less protecting themselves.

“Most people don’t realize the risk they face,” said Kane, comparing failure to protect data to leaving your doors open. “If you don’t think there’s a big issue, you don’t lock the doors at night.”

VARs and integrators not only have an opportunity in security, but they also have the responsibility to educate their customers on security risks. Merely telling them they are at risk is not enough. For that, Lupfer joked, we have insurance agents.

To succeed in security services, VARs and integrators must create a methodology they follow consistently.

And when tackling the security needs of customers, they must demonstrate how they will provide value, Lupfer said.

Channel companies, in the role of trusted advisers to small businesses, must not only assess the risks their customers face but also become intimate with their technology needs and business goals so they can deliver the most effective security solutions possible.

Find out where the customer is from a business standpoint and where the customer is likely to be in 12 to 18 months. Resist the temptation to sell customers technology just for its sake, because “it’s cool,” and instead drill down to their specific needs.

In other words, VARs, integrators and service providers must solve the customer’s business problem when delivering security solutions. Merely providing technology is not enough.

But first, the channel must be sure to take on the educator role that Kane talked about. VARs, integrators and service providers must advise customers that indeed, technology breeds crime. But it is also the most effective tool to guard against it.

Pedro Pereira is a contributing editor for The Channel Insider. He covered the channel from 1996 to 2001, took a break, and now he’s back. He can be reached at