To protect data on an endpoint, an enterprise has to get everything right. Otherwise, hackers will find a way to slip in and access sensitive data.

But Cigent Technology says it has found a new way to protect data by combining methods from security, storage, and data recovery to make an impenetrable system. The company has its roots in a military project it is now turning into a commercial offering, boosted by a new round of funding led by the CIA’s venture capital firm, In-Q-Tel.

“This has been a large development, most of it in stealth, with a lot of moving parts,” said Cigent CEO Brad Rowe. “And it culminates with this release.”

The company today announced the commercial availability of its service, as well as a $7.6 million round that included money from CyberJunction, WestWave Capital, and a roster of prominent business angels.

The money will be used to commercialize its core product, Cigent Data Defense, a combination of hardware and software designed to prevent data theft even when a hacker has penetrated a network.

Stopping leaks

Following Edward Snowden’s leak of classified information, the U.S. government began seeking ways to toughen its internal and external cyberdefenses.

Officials turned to a company called CPR Tools, a security and data recovery company based in Fort Meyers, Florida. The company has been around for about 15 years and has 40 employees, most of them from intelligence backgrounds, including its founder, who previously worked at the National Security Administration.

Rowe said a multi-year research project generated dozens of hardware prototypes based on CPR’s storage devices. In early 2018, In-Q-Tel approached some team members about commercializing the technology, and Cigent was officially founded with about $2.8 million in seed funding.

How it works

Cigent engineering VP Tony Fessel explained that the goal of the security system is to get the security as close to the data as possible — in this case, placing the security inside the storage device.

In the most basic version, that could be just using Cigent’s software, which allows users and administrators to designate certain files as extra sensitive. The software applies a multi-factor authorization to specific data or files that are required to open them and access the information. While other solutions offer file-based encryption, Cigent prevents them from even copying the file to crack the encryption.

Even if a hacker gets access, they won’t be able to open the files without those credentials, Fessel said.

“It’s to stop ransomware and stop insiders from getting and doing things with data that they shouldn’t be doing,” he said.

By using a secure storage device, Cigent can extend the protection even further. This storage device creates a hidden drive on a computer that intruders wouldn’t be able to spot, and a user can make it visible when they need to access it.

The storage device has additional security built into the firmware and uses machine learning and AI to monitor for attacks. When it detects an attack, it automatically responds and self-defends to protect the drive and the data on it from an attack.

While the company is now selling the system, it’s also working with partners like Dell and Microsoft to build the protection capabilities directly into their PCs and software. Rowe said the long-term goal is to focus on licensing the technology to other vendors.

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