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Thursday, January 25, 2007

Stopping Sensitive Data Leaks a Promising market

A dozen fledgling high tech companies have positioned themselves on the world market for screening sensitive information, stirring the interest of computer security giants.

Since early 2000 a number of American and Israeli start-ups have been offering solutions to protect against the leaking of confidential data. Initially based only on the search for key-words, the technology has evolved and now allows for the creation of digital fingerprints for any type of file (text, images, video, etc.). That means attempts to sneak tagged information out of the internal network of a company or administrative service - by e-mail, saving data on USB keys or text -is foiled, whether it be only part of a text, mixed in with something else or re-written (detection by use of synonyms).

There are any number of applications: protecting a company’s intellectual property notably during the period that precedes the filing of a patent or its confidential information (financial data, contracts and negotiations). Companies operating in a highly regulated environment could be warned by the software when an employee flouts a pre-defined rule: it prevents communication of private data on patients (medical sector), sees to compliance with the Sarbanes-Oxley bill in the U.S. or foils diffusion of technical information on armaments.

A recent study by the U.S. firm Gartner estimated the market as being worth $60 million in 2006 and predicted it would increase five-fold by 2009. One after the other, two Israeli firms have been snapped up by industry heavyweights: Mc Affee acquired Onigma in October and WebSense finalized the acquisition of PortAuthority on Jan. 9 (see graph below). France’s Advestigo, the lone European player on the market - it was founded in 2002 by two former Atomic Energy Commission employees - is seeking a financial partner to boost its international sales.


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