Former IBM sales exec foresees sharp growth path for security compliance firm.
General Douglas MacArthur was once quoted as saying, "There is no security on this earth; there is only opportunity." While hackers may see opportunity in today's lapses of security, firms specializing in foiling their attempts to steal information may be emerging as a new growth industry.
SkyView Partners, which specializes in security compliance software and services, had one of its best years ever in 2009, earning revenues 13 percent above 2008, according to newly appointed chief executive officer Tom Coccione.
Headed for eight years by John Vanderwall, former CEO and now chief operating officer and chairman of the board, and Carol Woodbury, president, SkyView is hoping to ramp up its operations this year with a goal to increase revenues by another 13-20 percent. Coccione, a former IBM sales executive and start-up pro, has been brought on board to help make it happen.
"I see great opportunity to help the business—being in the right place at the right time as the market is emerging," says Coccione. His role will include assuming some of the day-to-day operations of running SkyView as well as taking over sales and marketing. Raising capital and expanding the company's line of software products are high on Coccione's list of to-dos.
"There is some significant opportunity out there for the company," he says. "We have a blue-chip customer base.… We think we have excellent products to solve a major problem. We look at it and see the marketplace as being wide open. The penetration of that market with even today's products on other platforms has tremendous potential.... We are positioned to scale the business, and one of the reasons that I joined the company is that we are going to take it to the next level… We have everything in place to do so, including the marketplace, and the timing is good…." Coccione says the financial climate today isn't receptive to companies that wish to go public, but he will be focused on trying to raise private capital to fund SkyView's planned growth. Should the climate for public offerings improve, the company appears to have that potential, he says.
SkyView has focused its attention on one part of the security business: compliance. While only part of the IT security business as a whole, it represents about $12 billion in annual worldwide sales, according to some estimates. Coccione notes that capturing even a couple of points in that business would be good business.
SkyView offers consulting services and sells two main software products, Policy Minder and Risk Assessor. It also offers Policy Minder Real Time Add-On, powered by Data Thread that provides real-time notification of events that have the potential to put the system out of compliance. Policy Minder monitors whether the system is in compliance with a company's established security policies. Risk Assessor gives users an evaluation of a system's vulnerabilities, explaining the issues involved and suggesting how to address them.
Coccione notes that many of the functions involved with comparing system settings and operations with a company's security policies can be automated, and the extent to which the software can operate on its own will determine how much a company can shave from its increased costs of compliance as a result of government- and industry-imposed standards to safeguard information. Increasing the autonomic functions of the products and expanding the product line to cover platforms beyond IBM i will be key goals in the coming months, says Coccione.
"The direction we will be going in is other platforms," he says. "The need and requirements are basically coming from our customers.… The opportunity will be on other platforms.… As for the specific products and specific strategy, I think we'll be making that public later on this year."
Coccione lauds company owners Woodbury and Vanderwall for doing "a great job" over the past eight years of building the business. "John has developed these Webinars using Carol Woodbury's expertise—she's written several books on security and is just well-known in the industry—so when they put on a Webinar, they're getting 250 to 300 to attend."
Coccione notes that one of the driving forces behind the business is the liability that companies face if a breach occurs and they're found to be out of compliance with laws and governing standards. With notorious system break-ins and financial information thefts such as those at major retailers like T.J. Maxx, Citibank-branded 7-Eleven ATMs, Dave & Buster's, Heartland Payment Systems, and Hannaford Brothers computer systems (from which 130 million card numbers were stolen), the specter of legal action hangs heavy over retailers. Most of the aforementioned break-ins were masterminded by confessed hacker Albert Gonzales and a ring of associates. The sophistication of how they cracked the retail systems sends chills down the spine of security professionals throughout the world.
Patrick Townsend, of Patrick Townsend Security Solutions, which specializes in data encryption and key management, wrote in his blog recently that the break-ins at the 7-Eleven ATMS apparently compromised debit-card PIN security. The hackers mounted an SQL injection attack against externally facing company Web sites. Once a Web server was compromised, Gonzales was able to gain entry to internal servers. "Once a hacker has access to an internal server, further access to other internal servers usually follows," notes Townsend.
"Hackers are getting a lot smarter, more determined, and more focused on striking where the money is," writes Townsend. "I believe the industry should prepare for attacks on key storage and key server systems next," he says. "The hackers [Gonzales et al] exploited a weakness in how PIN encryption takes place on HSMs [hardware security modules] to discover the encryption keys. They were then able to get the PIN codes for debit cards. Once they had card numbers and PIN codes, it was easy to manufacture debit cards…."
Protecting sensitive information often is the responsibility of the IT department, and following best practices is one way to help avoid a breach. Independent security companies, as well as IBM, are working diligently to provide the means for IT professionals to protect their companies against increasingly sophisticated intruders. Realizing an opportunity to help companies with one of their most important needs surely will be rewarded with growth and more business, a prospect that Coccione and others in the field are looking forward to managing successfully.
MC Press Online