Five cybersecurity names to follow in 2016

A look at tech industry leaders who are influencing the cybersecurity industry

One way to predict market directions and spot trends is to keep tabs on the most influential people in an industry. Here's five tech industry leaders who are also major cybersecurity influencers and people to follow in 2016:

ginni rometty ibm REUTERS/Elijah Nouvelage

Ginni Rometty, President, and CEO of IBM

Ginni Rometty, Chairman, CEO and President, IBM Corp.

Rometty has been orchestrating IBM's transformation from its legacy mainframe businesses into next generation technologies including cloud computing, big data, analytics, mobile, and security. She has been outspoken on hackers and security over the past year, which has drawn a lot of attention to IBM Security, a $1.5 billion business unit within IBM Corp. Rometty has said that cyber crime is the greatest threat to every company in the world. Heading in to 2016, IBM's CEO and her executive staff have tapped a new GM - Marc van Zadelhoff - to head up IBM Security and its global team of 6,000+ experts.

john thompson microsoft REUTERS/Jason Redmond

Microsoft Chairman John Thompson

John Thompson, Chairman, Microsoft

Over the past year Microsoft has spent over $650 million to acquire three Israeli cybersecurity firms, and it appears the company is ready to compete for large enterprise security deals. Microsoft's Chairman, John Thompson, has a deep background in the cybersecurity industry. He is the former CEO of Symantec - a position he held for 10 years from 1999 to 2009. Thompson is also an active investor in early stage tech companies - including his recent investment in network security startup Phantom Cyber. If the chairman has a say over what markets Microsoft should pursue - then we can expect to hear a lot more out of Redmond on cybersecurity over the next year.

tim cook REUTERS/Carlo Allegri

Apple Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook

Tim Cook, CEO, Apple

To encrypt or not to encrypt, that is the question --- and Tim Cook, Apple's CEO, has been the voice of the tech industry on this hot topic.  Apple and other tech companies  have become increasingly at odds with the U.S. government over encryption.  Cook claims "you can't have a back door that's only for the good guys".  With Cook at the helm, Apple is committed to strong privacy and encryption around its iPhone product line, iPads, Macs, and other.  If you want to follow the encryption debate, then you should follow Cook.

eric schmidt google REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton

Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt

Eric Schmidt, Executive Chairman, Google

Google is so big and so successful in its core businesses including Internet search, that it is easy to forget it is a major force in security. Aside from acquiring and developing security companies and technologies to protect the world's largest user base, their Google Ventures arm is one of the top 10 cybersecurity investors.  

Early last year Google Capital was launched as an investor in early stage tech companies -- and it was the lead investor on one of the biggest security deals in 2015 when Crowdstrike, completed a $100 million Series C financing round. Eric Schmidt, Executive Chairman at Google, sits alongside founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin - steering all of the corporate activities at Google. Schmidt is also Founding Partner at his VC firm Innovation Endeavors which counts several cybersecurity firms in their portfolio - including Illusive Networks.  

In a DarkReading article, he stated "The business world is under cyber siege, with cyber attacks dominating headlines... It is critical that we support innovative startups developing creative and disruptive solutions to these threats." Schmidt is in a unique spot - helping to oversee the massive Google operation and all that it does in security - while scoping out hot new startups in security and related spaces.

michael dell REUTERS/Jana Asenbrennerova

Michael Dell, chief executive of Dell Inc.

Michael Dell, Chairman and CEO, Dell, Inc.

Michael Dell heads up his namesake company Dell, Inc. which recently announced the tech industry's largest deal ever - an eye-popping $67 billion acquisition of EMC Corp.  WIthin EMC sits one of the most respected information security brands, RSA, which is a multi-hundred million dollar business. Dell is also about to take its SecureWorks cybersecurity business public in an IPO that many industry watchers have speculated can be worth as much as $2 billion.  

With RSA in one hand, and SecureWorks in the other, Michael Dell is all of a sudden one of the biggest names in cybersecurity. Perhaps we should have seen this coming back in 2014 when he wrote an article in Inc. Magazine which said Dell's customer's biggest challenge and unmet need is security.

Copyright © 2016 IDG Communications, Inc.

7 hot cybersecurity trends (and 2 going cold)