Cyber Squared says the solution to cyber crime lies in firms sharing information


Richard Barger, left, Cyber Squared’s chief intelligence officer, and Adam Vincent, chief executive of the Arlington company, which has developed a platform to allow users to share data about cyber attacks. (Jeffrey MacMillan/Jeffrey MacMillan)

The growing number of cyber attacks on U.S. businesses, federal agencies and other institutions could be stymied if the victims of those attacks shared more information about the perpetrators, says Adam Vincent, the chief executive of Cyber Squared.

The three-year-old Arlington company hopes to provide the platform where the information gets shared. Its software, called ThreatConnect, allows individual cybersecurity professionals to swap data about threats, attacks and responses.

This community-driven approach, Cyber Squared contends, allows companies to get ahead of potential threats by seeing the issues others in their industry are facing, as well as seeking input on how to prevent or combat attacks more effectively.

“Those communities can be anywhere from a few companies all the way up to a global industry," Vincent said. “The power of the community can grow as the number of participants grows.”

That may be more important than ever. Experts predict cyber criminals will continue to gain access to critical information through sophisticated attacks on retailers, financial institutions and other holders of sensitive data.

Last week, the University of Maryland revealed that a cyber breach exposed some 300,000 records containing the names, birth dates and social security numbers of staff, students and alumni.

Before that, there was the cybersecurity attack on Target and other retailers, which saw the names and credit card information of customers stolen during the busy holiday shopping season.

“If they had been working with Nieman Marcus and other people that were breached, ... would they as a team have been able to get ahead of them?” Vincent said. “That’s the question they need to ask themselves.”

Vincent said ThreatConnect has 1,800 registered users to date, including both individuals and businesses. The company authenticates users electronically and monitors their interactions to keep the network free of bad actors or false information, he said.

In the past, companies have been hesitant to admit to cybersecurity attacks, even if that information could help others, because of the potential adverse effects on their business. Now that attacks are becoming commonplace, however, Vincent said companies are starting to speak up.

“What we find though today is companies are sharing, and they’re doing it maybe within private groups or they’re doing it anonymously. Our communities within ThreatConnect allow you to participate anonymously or in an attributed way,” he said.

Cyber Squared hopes to stand out in the increasingly crowded cybersecurity industry by differentiating itself from firms that offer technology products to specifically monitor networks or thwart potential attacks.

“If you think about it, you’ve got all these product companies that all have a piece of a puzzle. ThreatConnect enables companies to put that puzzle together,” Vincent said.

Cyber Squared counts 33 full-time employees to date. The company also provides threat analysis and incident response services, which has allowed it to fund its own product development rather than raise capital, Vincent said.

Steven Overly covers the business of technology, biotechnology and venture capital in the Washington region for The Washington Post and its weekly Capital Business publication. In that capacity, he has written about start-up struggles, investment trends and major drug discoveries.
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