Written by Abby Robinson
The Advanced Technology Development Center (ATDC) at Georgia Tech is a startup accelerator that helps Georgia technology entrepreneurs launch and build successful companies. Founded in 1980, ATDC has graduated 135 companies, which together have raised more than a billion dollars in outside financing.
“Atlanta has become an international hub for companies working to counter cybersecurity threats,” said Stephen Fleming, Georgia Tech vice president and executive director of the Enterprise Innovation Institute, ATDC’s parent organization. “Georgia Tech has world-class faculty and students working in this area, so we are helping grow that industry by spinning off companies that will be important players.”
Six of ATDC’s cybersecurity companies are highlighted below.
Damballa – an ATDC company co-founded by Georgia Tech School of Computer Science professors Merrick Furst, Wenke Lee and Richard Lipton, and postdoctoral fellow David Dagon – is a pioneer in the fight against cybercrime.
Damballa recently received $12 million in new equity funding to capitalize on the growing global demand for its network security solution. The product detects the remote control communication that criminals use to breach networks to steal personal and intellectual information, and conduct espionage or other fraudulent transactions.
“Damballa is fundamentally changing the way the industry fights cybercrime,” said Val Rahmani, the company’s CEO. “Our innovative solutions protect enterprise, Internet service providers and cloud networks from the devastating effects of botnets, advanced persistent threats, advanced malware and other cybercrime activity.”
Damballa customers include Fortune 1000 companies, Internet and telecommunications service providers, government agencies and educational organizations.
After developing cryptographic security software in his garage for a year, GlobalCrypto CEO Todd Merrill brought his company to ATDC in September 2008.
“We became an ATDC company because I was exposed to ATDC companies and realized they are well-built and seemed to have basic business processes taken care of,” said Merrill.
GlobalCrypto’s RealMe software authenticates users on a website, protects online content, prevents the sharing of online memberships, digitally signs documents and eliminates the need to manage multiple passwords for commonly used Web applications – all without fobs, cookies, tokens, certificates or cumbersome login requirements. To do this, the software embeds information in a digital image and then exchanges pieces of that image between a user and a Web application to accomplish a strong, bi-directional two-factor authentication.
The software provides regulatory compliance for customers in industries that include e-commerce, credit cards, trading and health care.
In a high-security setting, such as a bank or government agency, preventing information from unintentionally leaving the network security perimeter is important. To thwart such incidents, ATDC company Gyrus has developed an approach that uses hardware events combined with memory analysis to authorize outgoing information before it is sent. Gyrus’ approach, which is based on virtual machine introspection techniques, can be used in conjunction with white listing, firewalls and intrusion prevention.
“Since malware cannot reproduce hardware events coming from a keyboard or mouse, Gyrus interprets a user’s intent based on his or her interactions with the computer and verifies that the application traffic is indeed user-initiated,” said company founder Wenke Lee, a professor in the Georgia Tech School of Computer Science.
The technology has been developed with funding from the National Science Foundation, Office of Naval Research, Georgia Research Alliance and U.S. Army.
John Copeland, a Georgia Tech School of Electrical and Computer Engineering professor, founded the ATDC information security company Lancope in 2000.
“I began working on information security solutions after finding bursts of data on my home computer that I recognized as the work of hackers,” said Copeland, who was also the first Georgia Research Alliance Eminent Scholar.
Lancope introduced its first product, called StealthWatch™, in May 2001. StealthWatch uses behavior-based architecture to monitor network traffic and detect suspicious activity. Unlike signature-based and protocol-anomaly products, it can identify unknown assailants and quickly trace the source of attacks. Since its release, StealthWatch has evolved into a family of products that lets enterprises track and analyze their network flows to root out suspicious activity within their network environments.
ATDC company Purewire launched in August 2008 and quickly garnered several accolades – including Gartner Cool Vendor and DEMOgod – for its technology innovation and thought leadership in the rapidly growing Web security market.
The company provided Web security services to enterprises, as well as a host of social networking security tools for both businesses and consumers. In October 2009, Purewire was acquired by Barracuda Networks, where the technology serves as the foundation for Barracuda’s cloud-based security services and its research scientists run Barracuda Labs, the company’s multidisciplinary global threat research team.
Whisper Communications’ technology enables secure transmission of sensitive information – such as credit card numbers – from cellphones, laptops and other wireless devices. By creating a “cone of silence” around the transmitting and receiving devices, information transmitted with Whisper’s technology is garbled beyond repair beyond a certain distance.
“In the next six months, we plan to launch our first product with a strategic partner in the mobile-payments space,” said Steve McLaughlin, a co-founder of Whisper and a Ken Byers Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Georgia Tech.
The technology has been developed with more than $1 million from the National Science Foundation, Georgia Research Alliance, Imlay Investments and the Georgia Tech Edison Fund.
An ATDC company, Whisper Communications was founded in 2009 by McLaughlin, former doctoral student Cenk Argon and current doctoral student Demijan Klinc. In 2010, the company hired Jeffrey McConnell, an experienced early stage CEO, to drive the commercialization of the technology.