STINA EHRENSVARD YUBICO
Building the go-to cybersecurity device for companies in Silicon Valley—and across the globe
WHEN STINA EHRENSVARD OPENED AN ACCOUNT with an online bank and was issued a user name, password, and complex security software to be installed on her computer, what the bank didn’t know was that her husband was a white-hat hacker—the kind who breaks into networks to test their security. “He said it would take him about a day to write the code to hack into my account,” Ehrensvard laughs. The bank’s impotence provided the impetus for Ehrensvard, a native Swede, to close her Stockholm technology-design consulting business and take on hackers everywhere. In 2008, her cybersecurity company, Yubico, debuted the YubiKey, a $40 to $50 thumb drive–like dongle that authenticates a user and is as simple to use as plugging a keyboard into a computer, without ever requiring the installation of software. Simply put, a would-be hacker on the other side of the world would still need the user’s YubiKey to log in to his or her account. “The internet was not built for security; it was built for sharing,” says Ehrensvard, who also created the first intelligent pharmaceutical packaging, called Cypak. Today, YubiKey is the de facto security device for companies in 160 countries, including Facebook, Dropbox, and Salesforce. The profitable firm, based in Palo Alto, California and Stockholm, is doubling sales every year in a category projected to exceed $1 trillion in global revenue over the next five years. Says Ehrensvard, “We don’t solve all the problems, but we solve the major problem.”
HACKING THE VALLEY Stina Ehrensvard got her big break in 2011, when Google, after seeing a demonstration of the YubiKey, purchased tens of thousands of them for its employees.