In the age of digitalised information and technological advance, Internet security is becoming an increasingly relevant, or rather essential, service. Just as there are advances in operating systems and other software technologies, there are also corresponding advances in the way virtual viruses and online hackers operate.
In some cases, older security systems using signature-based defenses are not sufficient to protect against these threats, and this led to the need for newer ways of envisioning and implementing security software. One firm that is at the forefront of pioneering technology for this level of threat is FireEye.
FireEye was developed as a security system that is based on a Threat Prevention Platform, which operates by recognizing and combating threats in real time. Their website explains that: “The core of the FireEye platform is a virtual execution engine, complemented by dynamic threat intelligence, to identify and block cyber attacks in real time.”
The product works by implementing a comprehensive method for dealing with security threats. This approach involves four stages: Prevent, Detect, Contain, and Resolve. The system is designed to deal with security threats at different stages of the attack cycle.
The company offers a variety of products within their range of Threat Prevention Platforms, Cloud Based Platforms, as well as Management and Subscription services.
Founder of FireEye
FireEye was started by Ashar Aziz in 2004. He completed his Bachelors from MIT, and his Masters from the University of California Berkeley in the US.
Ashar Aziz is credited with creating the security software on which the company is based.
Prior to founding FireEye, he founded another company called Terraspring, and then he worked at Sun Microsystems. According to Bloomberg Businessweek, “It was while at Sun that he became interested in how security issues limited the efficient deployment of data centers. He was the Lead Architect in the development of the software that is solving many of today’s computing environment problems.”
Explaining how he got interested in developing new security software, he said in an interview: “I was looking to identify the next big, interesting problem that we’re all going to face. My previous start up was in a different area – virtualised cloud computing. We didn’t use those words then, but that’s what that company was about. It was acquired in 2002 by Sun Microsystems.”
Internet security systems have become the primary defense against cyber attacks to not only individuals, but also national government organizations and major corporations. Following the cyber attacks on Sony, Google, South Korean banks, and the Stuxnet attack on Iran, governments and multinational companies are becoming more cautious about what sort of Internet security they employ. As a result of this, services like those provided by FireEye have become not only more popular but also necessary.
Ashar Aziz explained this need in the same interview: “Our goal is to bolster the security and the key infrastructure that is pervasive across financial, government and credit card infrastructure to protect from these three very important threats: crime, espionage and warfare. If money is in cyberspace, then crime will be in cyberspace; if information is in cyberspace, then espionage will be in cyberspace; and if our society’s infrastructure is supported by digital apparatus, then warfare will have a dimension in cyberspace. So that’s our motivation, that was the appealing gap in the marketplace, and that’s why I stepped up eight years ago to try and solve this problem.”
Issue of Loyalty
Considering the level of digital information that FireEye protects, the concern that arises is that of loyalty. One of the initial clients of FireEye was the CIA, and the company simultaneously works to protect different government organizations around the world. In a Bloomberg Businessweek article, this issue was described. Quoting Ashar Aziz, the article said: “The question of FireEye’s loyalties ‘comes up all the time, especially if I’m talking to a military intelligence agency,’ Aziz says. ‘My answer is very simple: Our loyalty is to our customer.’”
While this indicates that the company is committed to protecting its clients’ online security, it still raises some questions about the implications inherent in the process.
FireEye offered its shares to the public last year in September, and its initial IPO raised $350 million.
The value of the companys shares continued to increase after this, and Forbes valued Ashar Aziz at just over $1 billion, making him a billionaire.
In an interview, Aziz offered some advice for people looking to get involved in cybersecurity: “Before you even have an idea, think about how you construct it, and construct it backwards from the problem. Identify the problem and reverse engineer the solution. Once you have identified it, validate it with a customer, a conversation. It should not be something that is an incremental change to an existing product. It has to be something that is somewhat out of the box, and it is uniquely addressing it in ways that make the solution value proposition significantly better than anything that the incumbent market has. Once you have those litmus tests and the market validation, you have to go and get some investors. Raising the money is getting a ticket to the game, but figuring out how to win the game is the most important thing. You need to have courage, because when things go wrong, not only will you need to look in the mirror and motivate yourself, you’re going to go out there and have to motivate your employees too.”