Consumer-driven security inspires entrepreneurial spirit at RSA Conference 2013

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An annual competition for start-ups is showcasing the rising demand for consumer centric security solutions – a trend likely to continue as companies embrace the bring-your-own-device (BYOD) movement and other technologies focused on user convenience.

On Monday at the RSA Conference 2013 in San Francisco, ten start-ups, a group that was whittled down following a call for entries several months ago, presented their ideas to a panel of judges to win the top spot in the annual “Innovation Sandbox” contest.

Throughout Monday, representatives from each company have only minutes to make a case for their ideas in front of judges, which include George Hoyem, partner at Arlington, Va.-based investment firm In-Q-Tel, Gerhard Eschelbeck, CTO and senior vice president at security firm Sophos, and Alastair Goldfisher, editor at Venture Capital Journal.

Held since 2009, Innovation Sandbox, as the competition is known, is reminiscent of reality television show "Shark Tank," which gives entrepreneurs the opportunity to woo investors during a race against the clock. Instead, start-ups here will vie for industry recognition – and the designation of "Most Innovative Company" at the RSA Conference. Last year, Appthority, a mobile risk management company, took home top honors.

The finalists are Bromium, Light Point Security, Nok Nok Labs, PrivateCore, Remotium, Silent Circle, Skyhigh Networks, Spotflux, Victrio and Wickr.

San Francisco-based Wickr makes a free app that allows users to send anonymous, self-destructing text messages, photos, videos, voicemails, PDFs and other media to other Wickr users for secure data sharing.

Prior to the competition, Nico Sell, Wickr's co-founder, told SCMagazine.com that the line between enterprise and consumer solutions has become blurred with the rise of BYOD.

“The finalists in previous years were more enterprise-focused,” Sell said. “This year there are more consumer focused companies competing – and I believe that's because of BYOD, which means that consumers are taking over the enterprise.”

This year, three other finalists –San Mateo, Calif.-based Remotium, National Harbor, Md.-based Silent Circle, and Los Altos, Calif.-based Skyhigh Networks – were selected for their innovation catered specifically toward mobile security concerns.

And there appears to be a real need to solve these challenges. The "2012 Cisco Connected World Technology Report" recently found that a growing user base of younger workers would increasingly make mobile challenges a top priority for corporate managers in work environments.

According to the report, seven of 10 employees admitted to knowingly breaking IT policies on a regular basis, and three out of five respondents believed they were not responsible for protecting corporate information or devices from potential threats.

Another finalist, Victrio, is a Menlo Park, Calif.-based company that provides a voice authentication service for financial services clients, such as call centers, allowing for fraud detection of repeat offenders.

With the service, call centers are able to catch suspicious activity by matching scammers' voices to a database of past fraudulent calls.

Vipul Vyas, vice president of financial solutions at Victrio, told SCMagazine.com that the company's technology aids call centers that are on the lookout for fraudulent behavior, but also offers more efficient and convenient service for banking consumers.

“We determine that [a consumer] is indeed a specific customer of a specific bank,” Vyas said. “Then you don't have to put [them] through all the security processes you normally would. It kind of puts you in the express lane.”

Photo by RSA Conference
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