Fixing advanced technology’s advanced vulnerabilities

Some of the biggest challenges our region, as well as the world, faces around cybersecurity is the Internet of Things: all those little devices, refrigerators, webcams, and others that now talk to each other, whether we want them to or not. However, some entrepreneurs in Washington are already stepping up to see if this problem can be solved. One of those is Glen Gulyas, founder and CEO of Onclave Networks, an enterprise IoT security solution.

ABERMAN: You’ve been involved in entrepreneurship in the region, you’ve done many startups. Tell us a bit about Onclave Networks, your latest activity.

GULYAS: So, Onclave was conceived almost two years ago, probably a little more than that. It was designed from the ground up to address, specifically, security around the internet of things. IoT is very, very different than IT.

ABERMAN: How so?

GULYAS: It’s much more diverse, the numbers are greater. There’s a lack of standards, and there’s a massive legacy inventory that most people don’t even realize exists out there.

ABERMAN: And the problem, as I understand it, is that when you have a lot of different things in the network, each one of those things can be a different place where a hacker can enter, or an attack can occur. So, the more devices you have connected to a network, the worse it gets, exponentially, right?

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GULYAS: Oh, absolutely. It’s actually defined pretty clearly as the attack surface. So, if you take the Department of Defense for example, they have an attack surface for their IT that has somewhere between ten and eleven million points: routers, switches, websites, computers, things that handle human communications. If you look at the internet of things, they’re numbers are much, much greater. They have nearly 2.6 billion devices running on the same wires. There are over 90 thousand different operating systems, and some of this stuff’s over thirty years old. It’s a difficult problem to attack, and it takes non-conventional thinking, I think, if we’re going to avoid a major catastrophe.

ABERMAN: So, what are you doing exactly on this problem?

GULYAS: We’re taking an approach that involves more communications that it does operating system. We don’t believe that you can solve this problem one device at a time, and since there is such a massive legacy inventory that’s not going away, you have to look at the network and the enterprise very differently. Today, we do a lot of segmentation, there are a lot of practices in place, but the reality is that there’s no real enforcement. And not because people aren’t trying to prevent problems, but because the IT networks that we’ve been building for the last 25 years were really designed for human communications.

So, when you get on a network at your business, you expect to be able to go to Amazon at lunch, an HR system in the afternoon, wake up in the morning and go to a couple of websites and do your research. So, if that’s what your network’s designed for, how can you ever close everything off, and make it inaccessible to people who want to do bad things?

ABERMAN: I buy it. It sounds to me, from what you’re describing, and others, this is a big problem that needs to be solved. Take me inside your mind now, because you’re an experienced entrepreneur. You’ve done multiple startups. How do you decide, and let’s use this as an example, how do you decide where to spend your time, and when, and what, to start a business around?

GULYAS: I try to stick to things that I know and care about, and sometimes a decision gets made for you. For me, the analysis on this is really pretty simple. The first thing that occurs to me is that every business revolves solving a problem, one or multiple problems. So, when you encounter a problem, I think the first question, at least the first question I ask myself is, can I do something to contribute to solving that problem? Is there something that I know, some pieces that I can put together? What can I do?

Once I get through that, it becomes a pretty easy decision. If I can do something that helps solve a problem, and there’s either some good that can come out of it, or some money to be made from it, I take a deeper dive.

ABERMAN: The way you describe it, it sounds so simple, yet so many people talk about entrepreneurial behavior like it’s so incredibly complicated, or they need to be schooled or mentored in doing it. Is it really as simple as you make it sound?

GULYAS: Well, I think what’s difficult is not conceiving a solution, or accepting that you need to participate in a problem solving. It’s a question of execution. And I think a lot of entrepreneurs get hung up, or just don’t know where to go, to find the right resources, the right network connections to raise money. I mean, I think we’ve all sat around and watched something on TV and said, well, that’s a nice widget. That’s a good idea. Why didn’t I think of that? I think it’s, am I willing to go out, and start spending time and effort, and money, to solve that problem?

ABERMAN: So do you think that entrepreneurs are risk takers, or risk mitigators?

GULYAS: I think they have to be a little bit of both. I think they are both inherently. It’s always a risk to go out and put yourself in an uncomfortable situation, with great unknowns, but I think that if you’re willing to step out, and you’re willing to ask for help, and you’re willing to put your ego aside and focus on that problem, and that solution, people are inherently good-hearted. I think, for the most part, if you’re looking for help, you can find it.

ABERMAN: It is interesting, to me, to hear you say that, because my sense has always been that people who are entrepreneurial, just definitionally, are optimistic people. You see the good in people.

GULYAS: I do, but I also think that there is a, getting back to the issue of solving a problem, I think that, and I’ll use this business as an example: when I finally realized that I had some of the pieces that I could put together to solve one aspect of the problem, it’s a major, massive, critical problem, something that everybody should have on their minds these days. But when I first looked at it, I came to the conclusion that, what I envisioned was averting bad things. I envisioned all the terrible things that could come from this: power outages, water treatment problems, CDC diseases. There’s just planes, trains, automobiles, factories, refineries. It doesn’t stop.

ABERMAN: All security threats.

GULYAS: Yeah, all security threats. So, when you look at that, for me, I was compelled to try to avoid something bad, as opposed to making money. I mean, I think if we solve a problem, we’ll make money.

ABERMAN: Glen, first of all, I really congratulate you in this latest venture. I think it’s important, and I think it will do some good. And I also appreciate you taking the time to be honest, and give us some insight into how an entrepreneur really thinks through how to become entrepreneurial. So, thanks for joining us today.

GULYAS: Thank you very much for having me.

ABERMAN: That was Glen Gulyas, founder and CEO of Onclave Networks.