New DLP Startup Performs 'DNA Sequencing' of Data

nexTier Networks promises more automated, simplified approach to data leak prevention

Startup nexTier Networks emerged from stealth mode today with a new data leakage protection (DLP) product that it says automatically discovers sensitive data and determines its contents, who can access it, and where it can and cannot go.

nexTier's DLP technology is based on a self-learning algorithm that helps set security policies based on the content of the data, company executives say. It assigns security values to discovered network data, classifies it, and applies security policies based on the context of the data.

"Previous approaches to data leak prevention could not succeed," says Ken Baylor, nexTier’s vice president of business development and former CISO at Symantec and director of IT for McAfee. "nexTier’s technology reads and thoroughly understands a document like a human. Then, like a human, it makes a decision as to whether it should be allowed through, logged or blocked."

Enterprises today are struggling to get a handle on their ballooning unstructured data: In a new report unveiled by the Ponemon Institute and commissioned by Varonis System, only 23 percent of organizations think their unstructured data is secured, and 89 percent say controlling access to their spreadsheets, Word documents, audio and video files, instant messages, and Web pages, is tougher than for structured (database) data. And more than 70 percent said that their employees unnecessarily get access to some data. (See Survey: Unstructured Data a Security Nightmare.)

DLP adoption has been hampered by the manual and cumbersome task of creating and applying data leakage policies. “As always, deploying comprehensive security solutions runs into one show stopper: the inability to enforce or even know an appropriate policy,” says Richard Stiennon, CEO of Seccom Global.

"Previous DLP solutions -- Vontu and PortAuthority, for instance -- were good at finding and classifying data, but not in determining who should have access to that data or what they could do with it," Stiennon says. "If nextTier has solved that issue, they may have the edge in ease of deployment to get traction in this crowded space.”

nexTier's algorithms can "sequence" data to identify its characteristics and determine whether it's been modified, or accidentally or maliciously rearranged to evade detection, according to the company.

Some experts argue that nexTier's DLP isn’t really groundbreaking, but only a new twist.

nexTier’s Baylor says the company’s Data Leak Prevention Suite was built to be easy to deploy. "This was built by a CISO for other CISOs. We designed it so it would be simple to roll out and manage on a day- to-day basis," he says. "We specifically focused on TCO as we know there are too many hidden costs with previous solutions."

The product, which is shipping now, starts at $50,000.

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  • Symantec Corp. (Nasdaq: SYMC)
  • McAfee Inc. (NYSE: MFE)
  • Vontu Inc.
  • PortAuthority Technologies Inc.