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By Neutralizing the Bad Players, INTRUSION, Inc. has introduced a new approach to Cybersecurity
Jack B. Blount
President & CEO
Interview conducted by:
Lynn Fosse, Senior Editor
Published – August 3, 2020
CEOCFO: Mr. Blount, what attracted you to take on the role of CEO and president at INTRUSION Inc? What was the company looking for by bringing you aboard?
Mr. Blount: I have been in cyber security and love cyber security, really, my whole career. I worked on a product called RACF; the first mainframe cyber security product back in 1978, so I have been in cyber security forever. I am very passionate about it and it is close to my heart. The other thing I am very passionate about is AI, and we will talk a little bit more about that later in the call. I looked at INTRUSION and I saw a company that has been around for thirty-
CEOCFO: What is the approach to cyber security at INTRUSION? How does it differ from what else might be available today?
Mr. Blount: That is a great question, Lynn. I appreciate that. I would tell you a couple of things. First of all, let me say that I believe that all cyber security products on the market today basically work off the same architecture in the same concept. That is that they believe their goal is to keep the bad guys out. Just like a lock on your front door, they think they have to protect the network from the bad guys. Whether it is a firewall or whether it is a browser product or whether it is a client product; that is what they are all trying to do. However they brand themselves, they are all working off the premise that they will keep the bad guys out, and so keep it safe for you to do business. I took the problem after forty-
I really based much on what I am doing here on what I have learned in a very unique situation when I volunteered to step in as CIO of cyber security in the federal government. That was such an order of magnitude, of attacks, cyber warfare attacks from foreign entities, millions of them a month beyond comprehension; that I had to look at the problem differently and, in more depth, than I had ever looked at. My conclusion was that there will never ever be a network free of bad guys, ever again. Every entity, every company, every business, every state organization; their network today, is infected. The bad guys are already inside. Our job therefore, at INTRUSION, rather than trying to build better locks and keep people out, because we have decided that it is technically impossible; we are neutralizing the bad guys. You can come into my house; you cannot bring a gun with you, or cannot bring a knife with you; you are not allowed to get within six feet of anyone else in my house, but other than that you can do what you want. That is the way we treat the bad guys in our network. We isolate them; neutralize them, so that they cannot do anything to hurt anybody. Therefore, their existence does not matter. Our approach is completely different. It turns the whole technology problem on its head and we literally look at neutralizing all bad players and we know every network has bad players.
CEOCFO: Many people would say companies are recognizing that it is not a matter of if you will be attacked; it is a matter of when. Why has it been hard for technology people or security companies to make the leap that you have to go from the inside out?
Mr. Blount: I think it is a couple of things. Number one is that technology people are very, very smart. They are used to being right, so their natural instinct is to believe they have developed good solutions and they operate accordingly. The reason can do that is because it is actually very hard to tell that you are already infected. Obviously, if an IT guy knew he was infected he would go fix it. Therefore, the reality is that you are infected, you do not know you are infected and that is why they cannot do anything about it and that is why they will not accept that the problem is as bad as it is. Just to give you the flavor of how bad it is, a report that is out (I will get you the quote if I need to from it,) ninety-
CEOCFO: How does the INTRUSION method work?
Mr. Blount: In laymen’s terms, instead of trying to put better locks on the door and trying to put the third bolt lock on your house to say you are safe, instead of putting video cameras and trying to say you are safe, we are acknowledging that you are never safe again. Fundamentally, if you really get down and want to look at it, every computer today is manufactured in China and every computer coming out of China has a virus built into it at the core. You do not know it is there and you cannot get it off. That is just the reality. Again, when I worked in the government, I worked with people at the CIA that analyzed brand new computers, in any price category, from any vendor, and they were infected when they showed up, brand new. No matter of all of the other hundreds of ways that you can infect a business, if you bought a computer in the last ten years you bought a computer that is infected. You have to realize that. Again, that made us look at the problem completely different. What we say is that we have to look at all traffic. Not traffic just coming into your network, not traffic just going out from hour network.
We have to look at the lateral traffic that is moving inside of your network. If you think about for example, ransomware, it is the big thing in the market. How does ransomware work? Somehow it gets on your computer; through an email, through a back door, through someone making a mistake, through the machine your bought; whatever. The ransomware is on there. It does not immediately tell you that you owe money and do something. It spends days, weeks. Months, maybe years, analyzing your network, infecting every computer in your network, making a database of what is valuable in your network, until if figures out where the real assets are. Therefore, it has to do a constant extreme amount of communication internally.
There is no product on the market that looks at lateral communication inside of a network. We do. We look at those and that is where we find the patterns, that is where we find the IP addresses, that us where we find the signatures, that is where we use AI to say based on behavior, not just on an IP address, but based on the behavior of that piece of code running around in your network, we know it is a bad guy and we shut it down. Therefore, we block anything coming in, going out or moving internally, that through AI we can determine is dangerous.
CEOCFO: Is it relatively easy to track the lateral movement if you are looking for it?
Mr. Blount: No.
CEOCFO: How are you able to track it? What do you understand that others might not?
Mr. Blount: On a very basic level, we have a device that we developed years ago and have been improving, literally, is has been now for ten years. It is in the sniffer category, so it is a product, it is an appliance, it sets on the network that looks at all packets of traffic moving around your network. It can do that at the millisecond layer. You put some code on top of that to say, instead of just looking at incoming and outgoing, we are going to look at lateral traffic. It had to be changed quite a bit to make it do that, because no one else does that and it is not easy and there are millions of packets of data that have to be looked at. It is a fairly hard task, but it is technically doable, obviously. Therefore, we are looking at all of that traffic, real time, and then we use what is common and amazing and powerful today. We use artificial intelligence to “real time” determine, based on their behavior of those packets, that it is dangerous, and shut it down.
CEOCFO: Do potential customers realize what you are doing? Does it matter if they understand as long as they believe it works?
Mr. Blount: Those are two good questions and I’ll make sure I answer both of them. First of all, we have not announced the product yet, so except for what I just told you, no one knows how this product works or why it is different. We will be launching it this fall. We just launched the new website, the new branding, my position. I was obviously brought in to bring change to the company. The company has been very flat; stable but not growing for twenty years. I am a growth guy. I have done seven turnarounds in the industry. If you look at my resume, every one of them has grown at least 2x if not more in the first year. Growth is what I am all about. That is what I like to do.
I designed this new product that uses the assets the company already had with some changes, as I said, difficult but doable changes. We could not have done this if we did not have this product already. However, we made some changes to it to able to look at lateral traffic and made some changes by writing our own AI that sits on top of that, that now makes analyzing and makes the decisions real time if something is dangerous or not. All of that is new, so no one knows about it. I think that customers will understand it very quickly. As a matter of fact, I was almost late to this call. I was meeting with a CFO of a company here in Dallas that is going to be a beta customer for us. The CFO and the CIO wanted to understand more about the product and why they were going to be a beta customer. I was explaining all of this to them and the CEO, not the CIO says, “When can I get the beta,” and I said, “Not yet, we are not ready, but very, very soon.” He says, “I want a beta and do not ever plan to take it out!” Therefore, can they understand it? Yes! I think they will understand very quickly why we are different, why we are valuable and everybody that gets their hands on it will not want to give it back! I view this product much like the Gillette razor. Try it, you’ll like it.
CEOCFO: Are there different versions? What might be the variables for either size, type of company, and so on?
Mr. Blount: No, it is really a very standard product. There are some things you have to do different if you are bigger. The number of computers you have in your network, the number of routers and firewalls and bridges and switches and all of that, obviously makes your network more complicated. Therefore, a smaller business, one to two hundred employees; one of our appliances will handle that entire company. I have another beta customer, for example, that is a multi-
We do testing once we get into the larger environments, but it is probably one of our appliances per every two hundred users. Again, if I get a very large company, then I am going to have nine, ten, eleven of these devices. They are all silent participants on the network. It does not take configuration effort. You just plug them in and they work. It just needs the bandwidth to handle that much more traffic.
CEOCFO: Once you stop a potential threat will there be reporting? Will there be something the company needs to monitor on their own or is it going to happen by itself?
Mr. Blount: I like that you said that Lynn! It is kind of just like magic! It is! Again, they are using many products today. For example, one of the things that I tell people when I meet with them is, “What does every cyber breach in the world have in common,” and everybody looks at me with a blank look. I say, “They all have a firewall and they all got breached anyway.” Firewalls are supposed to stop you from getting breached. Again, it may have come installed on your computer when you bought it, in which the firewall is not going to help. However, you are getting breached, they are happening. That is what we are going to address for people. We are going to address it from looking at it from a new way. You install it, you do not have to do anything to change it, but yes, reporting is a core critical piece of the product.
You can real time, as the system administrator, log in and print a report as to what has happened since the last time you did a report or what happened today or you can look at it anyway you want. We are logging every blocked site, blocked communication, blocked path and blocked activity that we are blocking. We are logging that in a data base and right now the way the product works is that by default, it sends to CFOs. Therefore, about the only piece of information we have to have for a new customer is, “What is your CFOs email address,” because we want to send the CFO a report every month that says, “We blocked this many intrusions inside of your network this month.” That way every month, because there is no contract, they can turn it off whenever they want so they have to believe it is working; they will see a report that says that we blocked a whole lot of stuff for them. One test that we did with a fairly large customer in the first thirty days, this was pre-
CEOCFO: How does the AI grow over time?
Mr. Blount: That is another great question! Grow is the right word! AI is constantly learning. Again, we are looking at very packet of communications on your network. In a large corporation, that is millions of packets a day. We are looking at those and learning behavior from those, real time, all the time; the interesting and most amazing thing about AI. I worked at my first AI project when I was in the government seven years ago. I went out as a private consultant after I left the government and all I did was AI projects. Every one of them was an amazing success to me of things that I could not believe. I am an engineer. I am a math major. I understand the math of how AI works, but I am still pretty amazed at how well it works. It looks at things in ways that we cannot look at. For example, part of our problem in analyzing stuff is that we thing pretty flat. One plus one is two. We do not think that one plus one might equal seven hundred and sixty-
AI looks at things in millions of different ways simultaneously and that is how it can find these patterns that we could never find as humans or a computer could never find through sequel or normal data searches. It makes comparisons on so many different parameters on so many different aspects real time, and it learns from those and adds to it what it is learning all the time. It gets smarter every day as you have it installed in your company. It also passes all the information about blocked activity up to the mother ship and the mother ship then uses AI to analyze that, even in greater depth than you can do on your local machine with higher horse power and computing power. Then it pushes back every day updates to all of the devices around the world in the field. Therefore, it is learning real time on your network. It is learning real time on our worldwide installed customer base and it is pushing all that learning back down to all of the appliances every day.
CEOCFO: The INTRUSION site points out that ransomware kills sixty percent of small businesses or sixty percent of small businesses fail within six months of a ransomware attack according to the FBI. Are people aware that you cannot always recover; it is not even a matter of what you can put into it?
Mr. Blount: No, they are not Lynn. I think the real issue comes in two areas. One is that very few people, companies, or governments that get breached ever talk about it. That is because they are embarrassed by it, they think it exposes them to other risks; there are one hundred reasons they do not want to tell you. The only breaches that we know about are the ones that do get exposed, but that is a small percentage. That leaves the public thinking they are pretty safe, it does not happen to everybody. That is why we are looking for every day and finding and publishing statistics that make people more aware of how dangerous the internet is. There were 94 million breaches last year; that wakes people up. The FBI numbers, sixty percent of small businesses that got breached by ransomware go bankrupt in less than six months. It is devastating! This is devastating!
There are other methods that they use without ransomware to put you out of business. They steal your IP and produce your product in another country at half the price. There are one hundred different ways you can get hurt. Cybercrime cost the world three trillion dollars last year alone! That is larger than the GDP of the United Kingdom. This is the biggest problem I believe that businesses around the world deal with today. You talk about risk? This is the largest risk on any CFOs spreadsheet.
CEOCFO: Are you seeking funding, partnership or investment?
Mr. Blount: At this time we are not. We are a fairly small company, so we have to be open minded and look at opportunities. We believe we have enough cash to do what we have to do right now to grow the company and as the company grows we will have more cash. Right now we believe we are okay where we are. At the same time, if you look at my resume and look at my past, you will see that one of the things that I have consistently done since Novell back in the 1980s, when I created a term called Coopetion, I partnered with my competitors and everybody else.
I have done strategic partnerships with the top ten computer companies in the world at multiple companies. I understand the strategic leverage these giants can bring to you. I am in discussions with two of the largest technology companies in the world right now about our technology. They want to be a beta site. They want to form a partnership. Therefore, I cannot tell you, I do not have a crystal ball, will we take money, will we form a partnership. All kinds of things could happen, because the world is dynamic. I do believe that this is the most game changing technology every to be introduced to cyber security. I think we are the first people to turn the problem on its head, admit that we are infected already and decide that there is a path forward where I can be safe even while I am infected.
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“Our approach is completely different. It turns the whole technology problem on its head and we literally look at neutralizing all bad players and we know every network has bad players.” Jack B. Blount