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12/7/2006
06:35 AM
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GTB Goes for Data Lockdown

Startup touts binary code for email security smackdown

The challenges of securing data between offices in the Ukraine and the U.S. led to the creation of security startup GTB Technologies, which now is ramping up efforts to lock down users' internal data.

The startup, founded back in 2004, is an offshoot of dial-up acceleration company Proxyconn. Uzi Yair, GTB's founder and CEO, says he saw that security hardware was a growth opportunity as the dialup business shrank. The challenges of securing data between Proxyconn's Newport Beach, Calif., headquarters and a development site in Kiev, Ukraine, made Yair realize that the future was all about security.

"Having an office in Kiev, halfway around the world, always makes you nervous about someone stealing your intellectual property," says the exec.

The end result was GTB's one-rack-unit-high Inspector device, launched a couple of months ago, which sits behind users' firewalls and checks outgoing emails and messages for data leaks. It costs about $30,000.

Although a number of vendors, including Vontu and Vericept, are also playing in the content monitoring space, Yair claims a new approach to the data leakage problem. (See Content Filtering Options Proliferate, Stop That Email!, and Security Startups Flood the Market.)

Instead of searching for keywords such as "confidential" and "customer list" within outgoing messages, GTB applies a hash algorithm to documents marked as confidential. The data about the docs resides in binary code in a database on the Inspector device. As messages are sent out across the network, the startup runs an algorithm on them and checks whether they match the record on its database. If the data matches, the device prevents the message from being sent, and notifies a preselected administrator.

According to Yair, using binary code is more accurate than checking for certain words, because it prevents the possibility of "false positives," which might occur when a word like "confidential" appears in a message that does not actually contain any sensitive data.

A drawback is getting users to assign their messages and documents a confidential status. Yair says this can be done by prompting them when a document or message is created, but the onus is still on the user -- a wild card in any security strategy.

At least one analyst thinks GTB faces an uphill challenge. "It’s going to he hard, they are a small company," says Jonathan Penn, principal analyst at Forrester Research. He warns that GTB may have some catching up to do with the competition. Although the startup is pushing its code-based approach to data leakage, other security vendors, such as Vericept and PortAuthority, have the edge when it comes to their systems' "learning capabilities." This means they can automatically create templates from sets of documents, such as financial contracts, that can be used to block messages and files.

Encryption, though, is the next priority for Yair and his team. Next week, the startup will take the wraps off an upgraded version of the GTB Inspector device, which, according to Yair, will monitor encrypted SSL data. "Oftentimes firms say that 'the data that I am sending out is encrypted so I don't have to worry [about a data leak],' but that's a fallacy," he explains.

The CEO warns that an unscrupulous salesman who is about to leave a firm, for example, could send an encrypted customer database to himself: "The question is not whether it's encrypted, it's whether it's supposed to go out."

Currently, the 30-employee startup has just three customers, according to Yair. Only one of these, Picatinny Federal Credit Union in Dover, New Jersey, has been announced, although the exec says that GTB is currently in discussion with a total of 70 "large enterprises."

Funding is not an issue for the startup, at least according to Yair. "We're totally independent, self-funded, and organically growing," he says, explaining that GTB uses the ongoing Proxyconn business as its "cash cow." GTB, he adds, should reach profitability sometime in the first quarter of next year.

— James Rogers, Senior Editor, Byte and Switch

  • Forrester Research Inc.
  • GTB Technologies
  • PortAuthority Technologies Inc.
  • Vericept Corp.
  • Vontu Inc.

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