Global CIO: In Age Of Google Hack, Verdasys Redefining Cybersecurity

After a huge victory protecting Ferrari's racing secrets, Verdasys is racking up big wins among large enterprises seeking new approaches.

Bob Evans, Contributor

March 4, 2010

6 Min Read

The recent and stunning Aurora cyberattack on Google triggered two massive migraines for CIOs and CISOs because, first, if one of the world's leading tech companies is vulnerable, then what chances do mere mortals have? And second, the realization that the bad guys are seeking something more valuable than money: intellectual property, strategic plans, and highest-value information.

We've put multiple locks on the doors, we've coated the door in steel, we've put bars and alarms on the windows and stuck motion-sensors on everything including the pet cat. We've gated the community, mined the yard, filled the moats with hydrochloric acid, posted beefy security guards around the perimeter, pulled the curtains, and put on our bravest T-shirt—the one saying "I don't believe in ghosts!"

And nothing seems to work. The ghosts pour in like they own the place.

And the bad guys seem to get badder and more devious more quickly than we can get smarter and more effective.

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In spite of many billions and billions spent on enterprise security—and for all of the threats many of those defenses have stifled—businesses today still face huge, escalating, and utterly confounding risks from increasingly devious advanced persistent threats.

In that context, there's a a relatively low-profile IT security company called Verdasys that probably won't remain relatively low-profile for long (just wait til you hear the Ferrari story!). It's developed a security strategy and approach that it calls Enterprise Information Protection that it believes can provide the solution to the devastating cybersecurity challenges every company in every industry is now facing.

Extending the data-centric model, EIP is designed to weave together technology and processes and scale globally outside the enterprise to partners, supply chains, outsourced environments and more. Here's a snapshot overview from the company's website:

EIP looks holistically at defining and mitigating the risk to sensitive information moving across complete business processes and multitudes of end-users worldwide as part of a strategic and unified information governance program. It moves beyond the walls of a conventional enterprise to include knowledge sharing across joint ventures, supply chains, and partnership and outsourced environments, enforcing the proper, secure, and compliant use of information. EIP solutions enable global companies to create and deploy effective strategic information governance programs that improve business agility while reducing overall costs and risks by:

• Enabling secure knowledge-based collaboration; Reducing IT infrastructure and operational costs; Reducing the frequency and amounts of data and transactional losses; and, Improving the risk posture and compliance level of an enterprise

Some very large enterprises are buying into the EIP approach, according to Verdasys cofounder and president Nick Stamos, because the fact that they're large means that they have the most to lose.

"We're going after Fortune 2000 customers—right now have 3 million seats overall," he said. "That's the world we've been in for a while and we're getting used to it." About a third of Verdasys's business comes from financial-services clients, and other significant markets include semiconductor companies, chemical companies, software firms, and car companies—including Ferrari.

And if it's possible for a data-security company to make its bones on one particular deal, then Ferrari was it for Verdasys: Some of the details are available on a company presentation, which describes how Verdasys's tools nailed to the wall a rival racing team that had stolen, with the help of a Ferrari insider, a 780-page dossier containing Ferrari's next-generation plans.

Based on the forensic-type evidence Verdasys produced, the rival racing team was fined $100 million along with other sanctions. The Verdasys technology allowed Ferrari to show unequivocally that the design dossier was printed at a Ferrari office; the date and time the dossier was printed; the printer that was used; the identity of the Ferrari employee who printed it; and assurance that no other Ferrari employee, contractor or partner printed the dossier or any sub-portion of it.

Not shown on that slide were a few other details I was able to find about the enormous value Ferrari realized from its engagement with Verdasys: the contract covers not just the standard Ferrari enterprise but also 20 race tracks around the globe; Ferrari was able to eliminate about $2 million in alternative security expenses that it had been incurring at racetracks; and Ferrari was able to save at least $2 million more from administrative staff cuts it was able to make.

Here's how Ferrari CIO Antonio Calabrese described Verdasys's product: "Digital Guardian helps protect our leadership position and heavy investment in R&D that is essential to winning."

In another case study, a global healthcare provider saved "more than $3.5 million on a single application-logging project with an estimated payback period (ROI) of 2 months," according to a Forrester report.

One final example: Cigna CISO Craig Shumard said a Verdasys tool for cross-application data protection "will literally save companies like ours countless dollars in application-development and reprogramming costs."

In my conversation with Stamos, he gave significant credit to a partnership his company has formed with HBGary, creator of the Digital DNA product that recognizes the digital fingerprints of various pieces of malware.

"With Zeus malware targeting the financial industry, existing tools have 30% efficacy. But with the ability to check digital fingerprints, that goes up to 98%," Stamos said "Since we added HBGary's Digital DNA product to our infrastructure, we and can get reports continuously as they happen instead of having to try to figure out retrospectively what happened."

Ah yes, the retrospective approach: too many companies are relying on that, Stamos said, and with the stakes clearly soaring and the lifeblood of their enterprises—their intellectual property—at stake, the same-old same-old approaches just won't work.

"Customers are, unfortunately, usually most attentive after some type of incident has occurred. Then a lot of companies look at traditional approaches and pick someone, like an appliance, and hope that takes care of the problem," Stamos said.

"But that won't help with intellectual property—securing credit-card numbers or Social Security numbers is very very different from securing complex data sets like IP and designs, and those other types of products just aren't appropriate for that level of protection."

About the Author(s)

Bob Evans


Bob Evans is senior VP, communications, for Oracle Corp. He is a former InformationWeek editor.

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