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.”

Pho­to­graph by ANASTASIIA SAPON

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.

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