Security software player in global competition to make the world a safer place

13 Nov 2008

Today in London, six firms from around the world will take part in the Global Security Challenge at the London Business School.

A team of judges, which includes senior directors from the US Department of Defense, Barclays Bank and Accenture, as well an audience of world-renowned security experts, venture capitalists and giant IT firms, will scrutinise the six companies to identify a technology that will make the world a safer, more secure place.

Among the six firms to be dissected in detail will be an Irish technology company less than one year old, but which has so far won the European heat of this prestigious global race.

What separates Dublin-based and privately funded Beyond Encryption from most technology start-ups is the pedigree of C-level management it has pulled together. Its team includes a president with a background in the US Special Operations Command, the Naval Special Warfare Command and who is an ex-Navy SEAL to boot, and a director who was chief information warfare officer at the US Ballistic Missile Defense Organisation.

An Enterprise Ireland, high-potential start-up, Beyond Encryption specialises in the mysterious world of cyber encryption. In its own words, it “weaponises data defence”, arming organisations with the tools to proactively combat the problems caused by devices that have historically been out of their control.

According to Beyond Encryption’s CEO, John Fitzgerald (pictured), who is also a Harvard business graduate and former head of the SANS Institute in Dublin, the company takes a virtualisation approach to enable organisations to take an offensive line of attack and pursue a device, giving them the ability to take data access and control away from the current user.

The technology enables firms to create a virtual place where documents can be worked on remotely over the internet, but the data can never leave the virtual folder, and any attempted breaches can be pursued and annihilated.

“In this industry, a lot of good technology doesn’t get beyond the ramparts to survive; and particularly when it comes to security technology, reassuringly expensive software always wins out,” Fitzgerald says.

He says Beyond Encryption’s technology – developed by chief executive Stephen McCormack, who used to work for IT security giant Symantec – can be applied to organisations that are two-man operations, right up to Fortune 500 enterprises. The technology can span the entire gamut of industry, from accountants to manufacturers.

Beyond Encryption has also been selected by Enterprise Ireland as one of a small number of companies to be granted access to its North American Financial Advisory Panel, which comprises senior Wall Street executives.

These include executives from Morgan Stanley, Credit Suisse Securities, Goldman Sachs, Bentley Associates, Citigroup, HSBC Insurance Holdings and the Bank of New York Mellon.

“Beyond Encryption has a dual use in both the business and military worlds. It creates a virtual computer on the network that users can access remotely via their laptops, but won’t allow information to leave that area. Nothing can happen to that data; it can’t be printed, emailed or put on a USB key. The virtual machine could exist for just a short period of time before shutting down. The result is no more firms get hit with embarrassing revelations around data leakage,” says Fitzgerald.

He says that pivotal to Beyond Encryption’s growth is its ability to put in place C-level management, and its team includes US businessman David O’Reilly and SANS Institute CEO and president Stephen Northcutt, and a technical board that includes Dublin City University’s Professor Michael Ryan and globally respected security experts Eric Cole and Mike Poor.

“Putting a high-power team in place in a security start-up is pivotal for gaining respect from the IT security community and potential customers.

“For Irish tech firms in the changed business environment, having the right C-level management is as important as financial backing if they want to move up the curve,” Fitzgerald concludes.

By John Kennedy

Pictured: Beyond Encryption’s CEO, John Fitzgerald

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years