http://www.theglobeandmail.com/servlet/RTGAMArticleHTMLTemplate/C,C/20010429/wmill?tf=RT/fullstory_Bus.html&cf=RT/config-neutral&vg=BigAdVariableGenerator&slug=wmill&date=20010429&archive=RTGAM&site=Business&ad_page_name=breakingnews-business By SHOWWEI CHU The Globe and Mail Sunday, April 29 A Canadian startup is so convinced its network security device is bulletproof from cyberattacks that it's willing to pay $1-million (U.S.) to anyone who can break through. Saafnet International Inc. of Burnaby, B.C., said that with the adoption of high-speed Internet access, such as cable modems and digital subscriber lines (DSL), home computer users are increasingly vulnerable to cyberburglaries and cybervandalism if the connection is always on. So the one-year-old company has developed hardware called AlphaShield, which fits between a computer and a modem. Users can surf the Web as usual, but the device intermittently disconnects the computer. That prevents virtual thieves from having enough time to enter and tamper "The gate never opens unless the user actively clicks on the [mouse] button or activates the command to go and get the information," said Vikash Sami, Saafnet's 24-year-old founder and chief executive officer. "From a user's side, it's seamless. It doesn't affect your surfing at all," spokesman David Henderson said. "From the outside, hackers are basically locked out of your system because they effectively only have seconds to try to hack into your system before the connection is cut." The company is so confident that it plans to stage a contest over five days in July or August, inviting people to try to break into a Saafnet computer system that has had the device installed. Participants will be invited to go to Saafnet's Web site and get an Internet protocol address of the computer. Anyone who brings back a piece of code or password that Saafnet preregistered will be the winner of the grand prize. Saafnet said it is still working out the legalities and contest regulations and is negotiating with a U.S. broadcasting company to air the contest on television. When asked if it was just a marketing gimmick to get some media exposure for Saafnet, Mr. Sami said: "No. We're in final negotiations with a few of the big broadcasting companies that will be holding this contest for us and also some security companies that will help us with the technical side of it. So we're quite serious." Hacking contests are not new. Last September, the Secure Digital Music Initiative (SDMI), an industry group, invited hackers to crack into several encryption methods that protect the copying of digital music files. Several people claimed to have successfully hacked into four methods, but the group disputes the claim. And earlier this month, security firm Argus Systems Group called on people to try to penetrate software that secures a Web server. But industry observers say these contests don't necessarily mean that a company's product is secure. "Just because a technology survives a contest doesn't mean it's secure," Bruce Schneier wrote in InternetWeek magazine. Mr. Schneier is chief technology officer of Counterpane Internet Security Inc., a managed-security monitoring firm in California. "There's no way of knowing whether anyone really tried to compromise the security of either a system or some form of content." The idea for Saafnet's device came after a friend's computer was ransacked by cyberintruders who stole personal files and left viruses that crashed his system, Mr. Sami said. That friend asked him if there was any existing security technology that was 100 per cent effective. "There's lots of sophisticated software out there but nothing will guarantee 100-per-cent protection," Mr. Sami recalled. "The only way you can protect your self is by unplugging the data line from the computer." Mr. Sami, who has a computer sciences degree and was a freelance contractor specializing in networking, bought some parts from a Radio Shack store and eventually invented a prototype. Since then, he has worked with engineers to perfect the technology at Saafnet, a company he founded in March, 2000. The company, which employs 12 people and has raised $2-million from a group of private investors, plans to make the device commercially available in the summer for consumers and small businesses for $149. It has also received a letter of intent from a Virginia-based venture capital firm for $100-million, the company said. Saafnet competes with other companies such as Whale Communications Ltd. of New Jersey. ISN is hosted by SecurityFocus.com --- To unsubscribe email LISTSERVat_private with a message body of "SIGNOFF ISN".
This archive was generated by hypermail 2b30 : Mon Apr 30 2001 - 00:48:25 PDT