So much in tech comes out of left field, even amid evolution. Change creeps up and suddenly is … there.
And so it is with companies that come out of stealth mode, officially launching with products and funding at the ready. In one example germane to security and payments, ALTR has emerged from four years of stealth, with $15 million in private and institutional backing and what is being billed as the first commercial software package that it says “unleashes the security benefits of blockchain.”
Against this backdrop, blockchain moves against type, as it were – beyond the confines of the cryptocurrency arena where it is commonly placed. Technical and non-technical professionals within an organization that adopts ALTR’s offerings, the firm has said, will be on the same page when it comes to data security, and who has access to what information, and at what time.
Thus, private blockchain as an extraordinarily tough line of defense against the bad guys who want to breach a firm and take its data.
In an interview with Karen Webster, David Sikora, CEO of ALTR, said it necessitates a multi-faceted approach and a comprehensive mindset.
The field is wide open, said Sikora, noting that “it feels like circa 1995 or 1996 as it relates to the internet,” with explosive growth ahead for blockchain used in enterprise data security.
The ALTR platform is built on ALTRchain, which the firm says ensures “ultra-secure” data access and storage.
That comes as the cloud gains traction, as mobile devices proliferate and as the Internet of Things takes its place in the tech pantheon. Amid the wholesale embrace of tech, some predictions hold that a field day of sorts lies ahead for the bad guys, as cybercrime may be an industry worth $8 trillion by 2022.
One overarching theme is proactivity, where reactive scrambling had once been the norm in the wake of a breach.
“There’s a huge security problem, just with the internet in general,” Sikora said, adding that “the internet has grown up to be convenient and to have great experiences for everybody, but while doing that it was growing so fast that we compromised security.”
Though blockchain had been the province of – and often is mentioned in the same breath as – bitcoin and crypto brethren, the stage is set for blockchain to be used in security software. Sikora laid out three conditions necessary for blockchain to scale: really big pipes because firms have to transport lots of data, cheap storage because blockchain is all about replication and, as Sikora said, “you need really strong processing capacity for consensus algorithms.”
“We’ve invented a way to take data, whether it’s from a transactional database or a file system. We can take that data … and scatter it” to private blockchains, said Sikora.
In one example of a use case, a bank might typically have a customer database of a million records, and of course wants to ensure that someone cannot break into that database and steal sensitive and valuable information, such as Social Security numbers.
ALTR, said Sikora, can take the Social Security number out of the database.
“What we leave in the database is the reference pointer to the first piece of information that lives in the chain,” he told Webster. “The first piece knows where the second piece is, but does not know where the third piece is.”
And in reassembling the data, he said, “we go on a scavenger hunt when the application or the bank teller needs to get the information … we assemble it in real time with very low latency.”
The bad guy who tries to breaks into the database sees a reference pointer that Sikora likened to gobbledygook.
Asked by Webster why the firm is not simply embracing tokenization, Sikora stated that with such an approach, “it is all or nothing.” He noted that amid traditional encryption and tokenization efforts, “you take the whole database and you encrypt it … but it’s not as safe, because there is a key somewhere. Someone could take the cipher text of the key and take the data and no one would even know that it had happened.”
ALTR’s software sits between the user and the data (he said ALTR is storage agnostics) and enables the user, in conjunction with ALTR, to do a number of things, all with an eye on real-time information and security.
“We can provide the enterprise a view into what’s happening with their data and who’s accessing it [through ALTR Monitor],” said Sikora.
“We write that into the blockchain,” he added, and “it is a permanent, immutable record of everything that has ever happened inside of their database.”
Sikora noted that ALTR also offers Govern, which allows them to set up certain parameters around who gets access to what data. Thus, a bank teller might be able to access data only during Monday through Friday, between the hours of 9 to 5, and can access only 20 records every half hour.
“If companies treated data like money, there would be fewer hacks,” said Sikora, noting that information may be among the most valuable currencies of all.