[MARCH 21] NEW YORK – The arrest in New York this week of a man accused of assuming the digital identities of some of the world’s richest men and using the information to steal millions of dollars calls attention once again to the ongoing battle for securing data over the Internet.
Israel-based Internet security software developer Safewww, which has U.S. headquarters on Long Island, is concentrating its efforts outside of the U.S. to find a niche in the market for its protection scheme. Chief executive officer Kenneth Bob foresees a future where Safewww authentication will eventually find its way into every use and application that calls for data protection.
“The key difference between Safewww and other security methods is that Safewww has a software-only solution,” Bob says.
Smart cards, retinal scans and fingerprint analysis devices are all good examples of techniques currently employed by companies to protect digital security. However, Bob says, all present liabilities due to the fact that they’re at least in part hardware solutions. This makes them more difficult to implement, and much more costly.
For most purposes today, software-based security has relied on passwords to authenticate users, a big mistake, Bob says.
“The problem is that passwords alone are insecure,” Bob says. “They’re easy to steal, and many people aren’t careful with them.”
Safewww’s solution to the security problem eyes the telltale signs that are found in individual computers, which are then used as a digital signature that the company says ensures positive identification of each user. These signs include hard drive and CPU IDs, among others.
“In our system, the computer itself becomes the smart card,” Bob says. “Every time we authenticate a user, we know it is coming from who they say they are.”
The Safewww technology is not currently marketed as a standalone program, but rather an extra level of protection that can be added on to existing sites that require it, such as an Internet banking site, for example.
As a startup, Safewww is not a particularly large company: It employs about 31 people, about half of whom are based in its research and development office in Or Yehuda, Israel. The decision to seek out markets in Europe and Asia at an early stage in the company’s development is a choice that Bob says sets Safewww apart from other companies competing in the digital security field, such as Arcot.
Spurred by deals struck in Spain and China, Safewww has set up offices in these countries and is looking to expand its sales and marketing staff as the company’s finances allow. Also, scheduled for development this year is a wireless application for the technology, as well as an application for digital rights management of e-books and music. But Bob does not hide the fact that investment capital needed to facilitate growth is scarce.
“We’re trying to raise capital for expansion,” Bob says, “Until then, we’ll live on what we’ve got.”