A secure foundation

As the region undergoes digital transformation, DarkMatter believes it is crucial to build security and resilience behind these digitisation efforts

Tags: DarkMatter (https://www.darkmatter.ae/)
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A secure foundation Rabih Dabboussi, DarkMatter’s SVP of sales, marketing and business development
By  David Ndichu Published  July 24, 2017

Discuss briefly DarkMatter’s history

There’s a few ingredients that provided fertile grounds for DarkMatter to exist. First is the fact that every successful nation and economy aspiring to grow usually has major high-tech cybersecurity contractors to the government. There’s a clear need especially in the UAE as the country digitises, with the national digital plan and Smart Dubai plans, that support is there to support demand that digitisation. Most importantly, it is crucial to build security and resilience behind that digitisation.

Second is the fact that the main ambitions of a nation is to drive innovation. And the drive of innovation does not start and end with the establishment of a company within the nation- it’s a mindset that covers everything from policies and vision and funding of research programmes and academia to attracting talent and making sure there’s the support for companies that are involved in R&D within the nation.

The third is that we were awarded multiple government contracts that allowed us to build a business model that gives us longevity and the ability to go and invest in innovating and R&D and build an innovative business model.

What is DarkMatter’s plan to support these goals

Our vison is to secure the future by securing its technologies. That is an aspirational vision because we cannot play in every area of technology. However, there a lot of common denominators especially when you start looking at IoT and Smart Cities and Digital Nations and its all about making sure that everything is secure and resilient. This goal is increasingly difficult because technology moves at a very fast pace, and the risk associated with that technology also moves in a similar pace. The goal is quite ambitious and working to deliver that goal is quite challenging but you must set yourself a challenging goal otherwise you will not be an aspirational and innovative organisation.

Discuss some of the products and solutions you offer

We invest heavily in putting together national guidelines and policies, which are complemented by two major functions within the company. The first one is cybersecurity services that start from compliance and advisory services we provide to both government and private businesses and it goes all the way to professional services and support with technical resources and project management. We help with responding to incidents as well as assessing our clients’ environments both hardware and software and processes from a compliance perspective and making sure that they are ready to defend themselves against the threats that are out there. We also help them with doping post-incident forensics and compromise assessments as well.

On the other side, we have invested significantly in R&D to develop and introduce to the market the next generation of cybersecurity products. The market is highly fragmented and we obviously cannot invest in every area of cybersecurity technology. We focus on few areas that begin with secure communications to make sure the most critical communications both conversations and video, chats messaging, and email are secure. We have launched a product suite that supports that function.

We are investing heavily in cryptography that allows governments to grow their own crypto services. We can provide these service for any other nation and government if needed and we position ourselves as a transparent and open company to ensure that clients can source code review our technology, test and validate and bring third party assessments companies to look at our technologies if they require. Given that we have global aspirations, we must operate at that mode of transparency.

The third area of the product is our investment behind big data and analytics where we provide systems to enable the ingestion of mass amount of data, then analyse them for both for security and commercial reasons. Organisations can use these services to monetise data and make money from it and enable smart services. Further, analytics could be used to do business intelligence and analytics and bring efficiencies and optimisations to any organisation whether its government or enterprises. We have invested in the next generation of secure transactions using Blockchain and we are starting to build identity based and trust-based secure Blockchain libraries that allow the plug in of our technology into the deployment of Blockchain services. Dubai in particular has aspirations to become completely dependent and based on Blockchain for public transactions.

We also offer PKI services which involve digital certificates and secure authentication to digitally signing of documents and communications. PKI is an old technology but it’s still being used heavily. For example, in the UAE, the Emirates ID is based on PKI with the secure chip that hosts personal credentials and information about the holder has a digital license associated with it and a digital certificate associated with it.

We have introduced new capabilities that enable some of our clients to migrate towards a lower cost, highly scalable and highly elastic virtual security deployment. We are now starting to offer software defined edge gateways to our clients that allow them to deploy very rapidly a virtual security services which involves firewall, IPS, IBS software defined WAN, BPN capabilities, and more, in a highly elastic agile environment.

Our managed security services are increasingly important for a lot of the clients both governments and private sector in the UAE because a lot of them do not have a security operations centre. The reasons for that is because historically, a lot of the government entities and private companies did not feel there was a need for it because the national gateways have been resilient enough to prevent attacks. Unfortunately, with the recent growth in the amount of attacks and complexity and impact that now necessitates having a form of secure operations and first line of defence available around the clock obviously that comes as a cost and what we are doing now is offering that to our clients as a managed service which allows them to leverage our 24/7 security operations centre that is built for highly critical entities within the nation.

How do you see the role of security as IT becomes an IT enabler?

Historically, a lot of organisations both private and government, have looked at security as a cost item. Unfortunately, this is not the best way to go forward. We have noticed a direction in the last few years in adding a new role within the organisation around digitisation and innovation so you hear a lot of the new roles like the chief digitisation officer because technology is no longer just about IT. It’s now a part of everything you do in business as digitalisation of business processes and services continue. So, there was need to invest in somebody who leads this innovation transition within an organisation. Along the same lines, now that we have digitised, our attack surface has grown tremendously.

Our digital infrastructure was limited to a network that could be effectively secured by firewalls at the perimeters and devices that are corporate owned. It’s not the case anymore. The employee base is mobile all the time and production plants are being digitised. For governments as well, everything should move to the fingertips of residents while making sure these services are offered 24/7. This even extends to the home with connected IoT devices. There’s thus a huge need to invest both organisationally in technology and processes wise in security in general.

If you put security behind your digital infrastructure and security as the basis of your digital blueprint, you are accelerating the growth of your business. This is because as you invest in security, you build confidence and then your appetite to try new things and take further risks increases.

We all know that the future is going to weed out many organisations and societies. Many who are digitising are going to survive and be competitive. those who are not, will be left behind.

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