Max­i­mum se­cu­rity


The Australian - The Deal - - Cover Story - BY GREG CAL­LAGHAN

Adrian Turner has quite a knack for spot­ting the Next Big Thing. More than a decade ago, the Aus­tralian­born en­tre­pre­neur pre­dicted not only the wire­less rev­o­lu­tion, but also the de­vel­op­ment of the smart­phone. He could see how mo­biles, which were then just voice and short tex­ting de­vices, could be­come re­mote con­trols for just about ev­ery­thing once the hand­sets were able to “talk” to all man­ner of other de­vices via the in­ter­net, al­low­ing us to pay bills on the web, pro­gram our en­ter­tain­ment sys­tems and even feed park­ing me­ters. (Ac­cord­ing to a re­port from Cisco, the num­ber of mo­bile­con­nected de­vices is expected to ex­ceed the world’s pop­u­la­tion by the end of this year.)

While Turner was by no means the only per­son to fore­see the end­less ar­ray of de­vices con­nected to the web once it was un­chained from the desk­top PC, he was one of the few to un­der­stand the se­cu­rity chal­lenges posed by this brave new world of con­nec­tiv­ity.

Just three years af­ter he moved to the US in 1999, the self-con­fessed se­cu­rity geek had set up his com­pany, Mo­cana, in the heart of Sil­i­con Val­ley. It has since grown into one of the most re­spected IT se­cu­rity firms and was one of the Geneva-based World Eco­nomic Forum’s Tech­nol­ogy Pi­o­neers for 2012.

For a risk taker like Turner, Sil­i­con Val­ley proved to be the per­fect fit or, as he prefers to de­scribe it, “ecosys­tem” for his busi­ness goals. “There is a unique set of con­di­tions that ex­ists nowhere else. There is a tol­er­ance for risk and an ab­sence of stigma if you fail; an ab­so­lute con­cen­tra­tion of ven­ture cap­i­tal; and great aca­demic in­sti­tu­tions like Stan­ford. That is why the lead­ing 150 com­pa­nies [in Sil­i­con Val­ley] are big­ger than the en­tire ASX.”

Turner says he could see the mo­bile phone ma­tur­ing into a hand­set com­puter with the “ex­po­nen­tial growth of mo­bile tele­phony, the de­creased cost of com­put­ing and ex­pand­ing band­width”. (That ever-grow­ing band­width means two thirds of global mo­bile data traf­fic will be video by 2016.)

Turner, 41, had his first glimpse of a hi-tech fu­ture in 1996, when the grad­u­ate from the Univer­sity of Tech­nol­ogy, Sydney joined the op­ti­cal gi­ant OPSM as a mar­ket­ing man­ager at a time when its big­gest fear was in­ter­ac­tive TV and prod­ucts sold di­rect to the cus­tomer.

But it was when he was set­ting up in­ter­net kiosks for OzE­mail about a year later that Turner had what he calls his “cross­over point” – the re­al­i­sa­tion that the in­ter­net was a gamechanger not just in com­mu­ni­ca­tions, but in busi­ness and mar­ket­ing, too.

One of Turner’s favourite books is Robert Vamosi’s When Gad­gets Be­tray Us. “Should we be so trust­ing of these con­nected sys­tems? No, I don’t think so.”

He says that many peo­ple falsely imag­ine their mo­bile phones are some­how safer than their PCs, or that all their per­sonal data is re­moved once they take out their SIM card. As has been shown ev­ery­where from YouTube to CNN, a hacker needs only your mo­bile num­ber to spy on your ev­ery on­line move, to break into your voice­mail, to steal your user

name and pass­words to bank ac­counts, your credit card num­bers, your contact lists and text mes­sages. If you’re us­ing Face­book and Twit­ter on your mo­bile, just think what other good­ies might be up for grabs with just a bit of nosing around: the names of your chil­dren or your pets or your mother’s maiden name. In short, those highly per­sonal snip­pets that you use to ver­ify your iden­tity when you call the bank or credit com­pany, de­tails that a hacker can use to pre­tend to be you.

Does Mo­cana ever use hack­ers, as the US Depart­ment of De­fence does, to test se­cu­rity hard­ware and soft­ware? “No, but we have two part­ner com­pa­nies that spe­cialise in break­ing into sys­tems. We never do it our­selves.”

Turner can see par­tic­u­lar risks in the 21stcen­tury fond­ness for shar­ing any num­ber of per­sonal de­tails on so­cial net­works, which ex­plains why he won’t dis­cuss his own fam­ily in in­ter­views, or give too much away about him­self, be­yond say­ing that he’s a cricket nut, dab­bles in oil paint­ing – es­pe­cially ab­stracts – and gets his adrenalin hit from rac­ing cars. “Be­cause of the na­ture of the se­cu­rity busi­ness, I per­ceive a risk in giv­ing out de­tails about my wife and chil­dren,” he says.

Turner thinks these risks will mount as we move to the next wave of mo­bile con­nec­tiv­ity, which in­cludes key­less en­try to our cars, self­di­ag­nos­tic en­gines com­mu­ni­cat­ing to ser­vice cen­tres, web-con­nected med­i­cal de­vices and au­to­matic point-of-sale transactions us­ing our hand­sets. Think of your phone as an em­bassy in Syria, he says. “You have no con­trol over the sur­round­ing en­vi­ron­ment, so you’ll need four im­preg­nable walls (the hard­ware) as well as se­cu­rity per­son­nel (the soft­ware) to pro­tect the data inside it.” Turner has had 100 peo­ple, in­clud­ing 50 en­gi­neers, at work on his se­cu­rity ar­chi­tec­ture for more than eight years.

The war zone anal­ogy may be apt, be­cause mo­bile tech­nol­ogy poses far more for­mi­da­ble and thorny se­cu­rity chal­lenges than on PCs, as Turner ex­plains. “The anti-virus pro­grams on PCs have a big foot­print. They are tens to hun­dreds of megabytes and in­cred­i­bly CPUin­ten­sive, which is why the ma­chines can’t be pro­duc­tive when their scan­ning soft­ware starts up. That ap­proach just doesn’t work on a bat­tery-op­er­ated hand­set. On the PC, it’s all about fight­ing mal­ware and viruses; on the phones, it’s about pre­vent­ing data leak­age.”

The most trusted se­cu­rity ex­e­cu­tion, he adds, is one carved into the sil­i­con chip of the phone it­self. “We have de­vel­oped a pro­gram that tog­gles be­tween hard­ware and soft­ware.” Mo­cana’s slate of soft­ware now sup­ports 2450 com­bi­na­tions of oper­at­ing sys­tems.

The com­pany has a global list of premier clients, in­clud­ing four of the An­droid hand­set man­u­fac­tur­ers, as well as en­ter­prises in the fi­nance, avi­a­tion, health and en­ergy sec­tors. “We are track­ing to­wards be­ing a NAS­DAQlisted com­pany,” Turner says.

It’s an in­di­ca­tor of how much con­fi­dence he has in his own prod­ucts that he ad­vo­cates a star or num­ber rat­ing on con­nected de­vices. “The first step is in­dus­try self-cer­ti­fi­ca­tion, but the gov­ern­ment does have to be in­volved.”

With smart­phone use surg­ing in coun­tries such as the US and Aus­tralia, pow­ered by the tremen­dous suc­cess of Ap­ple’s iPhone and Google’s An­droid oper­at­ing sys­tems, Turner pre­dicts a range of so­cial ben­e­fits, in­clud­ing en­ergy mon­i­tor­ing and help­ing the aged live in­de­pen­dently for longer. He had lit­tle trou­ble re­cently rais­ing $ 25 mil­lion in new fund­ing through Tri­dent Cap­i­tal.

A pas­sion­ate ad­vo­cate for his home­land – his ebook Blue Sky Min­ing in­ves­ti­gates why Aus­tralia, un­like the US, has been un­able to turn its many innovations and break­throughs into bil­lion-dol­lar in­dus­tries – Turner was un­til re­cently the chair­man of Aus­tralia’s lead­ing ex­pa­tri­ate net­work, Ad­vance.

“We in­tend to open an of­fice in Aus­tralia, which has great se­cu­rity en­gi­neers,” he says. “And I haven’t ruled out re­turn­ing to live with my fam­ily. I want to give some­thing back to my own coun­try.”

Turner is not at all shy about pre­dict­ing the Next Big Thing. Ad­vances in ar­ti­fi­cial in­tel­li­gence will cre­ate self-learn­ing ma­chines and a “think­ing” in­ter­net that will spur the next phase of the tech­no­log­i­cal rev­o­lu­tion. Ma­chine learn­ing and an­a­lyt­ics, he says, will hit “harder and faster than any­one re­alises”.


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