Dark Reading is part of the Informa Tech Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them.Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.

Analytics

6/27/2006
03:47 AM
Connect Directly
Twitter
RSS
E-Mail
50%
50%

Startup Locks Down Apps

Firewall pioneer Pensak is behind another venture intent on hardening applications where they live

The father of the firewall is back with a new venture: David Pensak, who designed the first commercial firewall and founded Raptor Systems, now part of Symantec, today is lifting the veil on a new startup with its own approach to securing applications.

Pensak's latest venture is Waltham, Mass.-based V.i. Laboratories, which has developed an as-yet unannounced product that hardens applications so they can't be pirated or hacked. "Tampering, reverse-engineering, and piracy are the biggest threats to applications today," says Pensak, who is also credited with developing the first digital rights management software. V.i. Laboratories will release its new software later this summer.

V.i. Laboratories' software protects applications or intellectual property (think researchers' code, for instance) by encrypting at the application-function level so malware or software pirates can't tamper with the app. "We take an existing program and run it through our post-processor that decompiles the program and looks at every executable and encrypts portions of it," Pensak says. It also decrypts it as needed but does not modify source code or change the application's processes or appearance.

"An application provider would run their software through this before deploying it," for example, he says.

It's a different approach from antivirus software or other security tools that scan for known vulnerabilities or anomalies. "It had dawned on me that what was really important was protecting the program itself, not the data going in and out of it," Pensak says. "No one writes perfect [application] code."

So if any malware or hackers get inside, the app is protected from any modification, or theft, he says. "We go after vulnerabilities in the OS that might bite you," Pensak says. "And we detect what we didn't know how to protect and repair it."

The tradeoff is applications do take a two- to five percent performance hit with the security software, he says.

V.i. Laboratories has already made a few sales of the software, but the company can't yet name any customers. The security software is aimed at application developers that would OEM it as well as enterprises such as banks running large, global CPU farms of their key applications that are at risk, Pensak says. It currently runs on Windows NT and XP, and V.i. is working on Solaris and Linux versions of the product as well.

Although industry analysts say the software may initially be a niche product for highly sensitive applications, it does break new ground. "Nobody has really looked at putting a shell around the application like this so an attacker can't do anything with it," says Michael Gavin, senior analyst for Forrester Research. "Any [organization] that has an application they don't want reverse-engineered is a prime candidate for this."

Eric Ogren, security analyst with Enterprise Strategy Group, says it appears V.i. Laboratories has taken Pensak's DRM know-how from his days at previous startup Authentica (now part of EMC), and applied it to application code. "I like the idea of encrypting some of the entry points and decrypting them on the fly," he says.

Having Pensak's name behind the new company and its application security software should help, too, given his credentials and previous work in commercializing the firewall and DRM. Rockford Capital is the lead investor in V.i. Laboratories' first-round funding, and pricing for its upcoming software product will start at $18,000 for enterprises.

So why the name V.i.? Pensak says it originally stood for "virgin image," a photography term that means an image hasn't been changed. But the company decided not to spell out "V.i." so its Website wouldn't be confused with a porn site, Pensak says.

— Kelly Jackson Higgins, Senior Editor, Dark Reading

Companies mentioned in this article:

  • Symantec Corp. (Nasdaq: SYMC)
  • EMC Corp. (NYSE: EMC) Kelly Jackson Higgins is the Executive Editor of Dark Reading. She is an award-winning veteran technology and business journalist with more than two decades of experience in reporting and editing for various publications, including Network Computing, Secure Enterprise ... View Full Bio

    Comment  | 
    Print  | 
    More Insights
  • Comments
    Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
    News
    US Formally Attributes SolarWinds Attack to Russian Intelligence Agency
    Jai Vijayan, Contributing Writer,  4/15/2021
    News
    Dependency Problems Increase for Open Source Components
    Robert Lemos, Contributing Writer,  4/14/2021
    News
    FBI Operation Remotely Removes Web Shells From Exchange Servers
    Kelly Sheridan, Staff Editor, Dark Reading,  4/14/2021
    Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
    White Papers
    Video
    Cartoon
    Current Issue
    2021 Top Enterprise IT Trends
    We've identified the key trends that are poised to impact the IT landscape in 2021. Find out why they're important and how they will affect you today!
    Flash Poll
    How Enterprises are Developing Secure Applications
    How Enterprises are Developing Secure Applications
    Recent breaches of third-party apps are driving many organizations to think harder about the security of their off-the-shelf software as they continue to move left in secure software development practices.
    Twitter Feed
    Dark Reading - Bug Report
    Bug Report
    Enterprise Vulnerabilities
    From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
    CVE-2021-21981
    PUBLISHED: 2021-04-19
    VMware NSX-T contains a privilege escalation vulnerability due to an issue with RBAC (Role based access control) role assignment. Successful exploitation of this issue may allow attackers with local guest user account to assign privileges higher than their own permission level.
    CVE-2021-20989
    PUBLISHED: 2021-04-19
    Fibaro Home Center 2 and Lite devices with firmware version 4.600 and older initiate SSH connections to the Fibaro cloud to provide remote access and remote support capabilities. This connection can be intercepted using DNS spoofing attack and a device initiated remote port-forward channel can be us...
    CVE-2021-20990
    PUBLISHED: 2021-04-19
    In Fibaro Home Center 2 and Lite devices with firmware version 4.600 and older an internal management service is accessible on port 8000 and some API endpoints could be accessed without authentication to trigger a shutdown, a reboot or a reboot into recovery mode.
    CVE-2021-20991
    PUBLISHED: 2021-04-19
    In Fibaro Home Center 2 and Lite devices with firmware version 4.540 and older an authenticated user can run commands as root user using a command injection vulnerability.
    CVE-2021-20992
    PUBLISHED: 2021-04-19
    In Fibaro Home Center 2 and Lite devices in all versions provide a web based management interface over unencrypted HTTP protocol. Communication between the user and the device can be eavesdropped to hijack sessions, tokens and passwords.