While companies have traditionally marketed encryption software and services to security teams aiming to protect data, compliance professionals tasked with meeting regulations, and business executives looking to avoid breaches, startup Ubiq Security has targeted a different professional: developers wanting an easy way to lock down their applications.
Today the company launched an API-based encryption platform that aims to give developers the tools they need to quickly add robust encryption to their applications and easily use the services they need to manage their keys and products. The company says encryption can be added to an application with a few lines of code and two calls using its application programming interface, or API. Among the early adopters are the US Army, the US Department of Homeland Security, and Verizon.
Developers often don't have the specific knowledge of encryption libraries, algorithms, or the security architecture necessary to protect their data in the application, says Wias Issa, CEO of Ubiq Security.
"The challenge that most developers have when it comes to selecting libraries or algorithms is that they don't have any real context or knowledge," he says. "They will be working on a program and the first thing that they will do is search for encryption libraries, go to Google, or Stack Overflow, and then it is a guessing game from there."
The company is not the first to try to make adding encryption as simple as possible for developers. Last December, StrongSalt, a firm started by an engineer from FireEye, debuted its own encryption-as-a-service platform focused on making encryption easy for developers to incorporate into their applications. The company had originally focused on applications of blockchain technology for encryption.
The strongest argument for marketing to developers is the success of payments firm Stripe, which aimed to make accepting payments as simple as possible for web developers. The company initially survived on word of mouth between coders and, as of April 2020, is valued at $36 billion.
Acknowledging the influence, StrongSalt says its encryption-as-a-service "works like Stripe," while Ubiq Security's tagline is that its technology "reduces the complex world of encryption to two API calls and three lines of code." With an estimated 18.9 million active developers worldwide, making encryption as simple as possible can lead to significant adoption, says Issa.
"We want to make sure to get out there so that developers know a solution like this exists," he says. "We originally aimed for people at companies who are use to using APIs natively — the technology companies like Lyft or Uber who use Google APIs for navigation and Stripe's for payments."
Encryption has always been a fundamental part of computing — many of the early uses of computers were for cracking codes — and the technology has always been difficult to implement correctly. Despite the fact that there are many open source encryption efforts, adoption has remained low until the data-security capabilities could be integrated into technology. Even companies immersed in security and technology have had poor adoption rates. Google, for example, only had encryption implemented in half of its products in 2014, although the company claims that share is 95% today.
On the development side, encryption errors continue to be prevalent among applications, irrespective of the programming language. Cryptographic errors are the second most common software vulnerability, occurring in 62% of applications, just behind information leakage, which occurs in 64%, according to application security firm Veracode.
Encryption failures are also a significant factor in the severity of many data breaches. From the theft of unencrypted e-mails from Stratfor in 2012 to the failure to encrypt data in publicly accessible databases and Amazon S3 buckets, the failure of developers and operations workers to lock down every step in the data life cycle has led to reoccurring breaches.
Many companies assume developers have the necessary knowledge to implement encryption, but that is often not true. Nor should it be, says Ubiq Security's Issa.
"For us, developers are king," he says. "There are way more developers out in the world than security professionals. If we can solve this problem and shift it left to earlier in the process, that gives developers time back so they can spend more of it on creating a great product."