By Corey Moss

Let’s begin here:

Gabe unhackable

And we’re not talking about a movie or a book, we’re talking about this:

TC unhackable.png

“You can’t hack what isn’t there” is the beginning statement of TechCrunch article Very Good Security makes data ‘unhackable’ with $8.5M from Andreessen. The statement is made by Very Good Security co-founder and CEO Mahmoud Abdelkader, whose startup assumes the liability of storing sensitive data for other companies, substituting dummy credit card or Social Security numbers for the real ones.

The premise is that when data needs to be moved or operated on, the company injects the original info – without clients having to change their code. It’s described as a data bank that allows businesses to stop storing confidential info under their unsecured mattress (interesting…). The author posits that people should think of it as Amazon Web Services for data instead of servers. In fact, Silicon Valley-based venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz is heavily betting that companies would rather leave it to an expert, given all of the high profile data breaches of late.

Expert? Keep following me on this.

Very Good Security (VGS) recently announced that it has successfully closed an $8.5 million Series A round of funding. The round was led by Andreessen Horowitz, and Andreessen Horowitz partner Alex Rampell is joining the Very Good Security board as a result of the investment (of course as you would figure). VGS also received funding from VC’s Vertex Ventures, NYCA, Max Levchin, and Slow Ventures. With this infusion of capital, the company is able to further scale its core security product that allows clients to collect, safeguard, and exchange sensitive data without the liability or risk associated with storing it on their own systems.

OK so far, let’s continue.

The company statement:

VGS is the modern approach to data security. Our SaaS solution gives you all the benefits of interacting with sensitive and regulated data without the liability of securing it.

This expert, as far as I can see, is Abdelkader who started VGS in April 2016. This after a four year stint at Balanced (where he was co-founder/CTO) – here’s his profile at the time according to Crunchbase:

Mahmoud joined Matin at Balanced in January 2011 during the Y Combinator Winter 2011 session — just after his previous employer, Milo.com, was acquired by eBay. Mahmoud was employee #4 at Milo.com where he designed automated product matching systems. He built high-frequency trading algorithms for Wachovia Securities before that. Mahmoud grew up in NY and Maryland after moving from Egypt.

Mahmoud graduated Magna Cum-Laude with a BS in Computer Engineering from University of Maryland, College Park, but actually learned to code by reverse engineering World of Warcraft.

I guess I’m convinced that anyone who can reverse engineer World of Warcraft must be a highly reliable expert source for protecting data. In reality though, I’m not sure what is in Abdelkader’s background that qualifies him as a highly reliable ‘expert’ in terms of data storing, substitution and security – or his partner as you’ll see, at least on the surface.

Some verbiage:

No Liability 

VGS takes on the liability of securing your data, eliminating the risk of data breaches and reducing compliance overhead. For companies that prefer to vault their own data, VGS layers on protection to the systems, preventing unauthorized access and leakage.

Not quite the full answer I was looking for – some of the where and how maybe? You can see some information under Resources, VGS Security.

Bill Payments Made Safe and Easy 

Whether you are making it easy for consumers to claim reimbursements, split bills or pay online, VGS enables you to outpace industry growth without putting consumer data at risk.

Now there’s the money shot – outpace industry growth without putting consumer data at risk. 

Now show me those facts and figures to go along with this important statement.

And honestly, anyone can create a flashy website with well placed verbiage, that’s for sure. Anyone can claim “Companies that interact with sensitive data trust Very Good Security to minimize their compliance scope and protect their data, so they can focus on innovating quickly.”

Where are customer stories (you can see “Trusted By” companies)?

The parties heading up VGS? We know something about CEO Abdelkader, what about his partner?

VGS team.png

Fintech, for those who need to know.

Now if you examine the descriptions of each, you’ll notice that Abdelkader is passionate about democratizing data security, and Jones has designed successful engineering processes from the ground up. OK, but passionate especially can mean just about anything from expert to enthusiast. Overall, with the information I’m gathering – VGS looks like it needs to bake somewhat further.

Not ready for prime-time cybersecurity, Infosec, etc. – there’s a ton of it out there, and I will stand on record that nothing is ever unhackable, but it certainly can be made to look possible.

Note that recently (in an unrelated story) Bitfi Bitcoin wallet – promoted by software maverick John McAfee – has disavowed its claims of being unhackable as research revealed security flaws. Security flaws that it is, as in a recent story that some of us have  heard – with no known hacks.

This stated by researcher Alan Woodward, a Surrey University professor specializing in cybersecurity:

Security can be complex and the wider public rely upon vendors telling the truth […] However, there are certain signals that should immediately ring alarm bells. The worst is if a vendor claims something is unhackable as Bitfi did: nothing is unhackable.

McAfee’s claim on Twitter:

Naturally, after commentary by a known member of the security research team that specified security flaws – and in a way McAfee is correct, but I wouldn’t sell it on just stated as being unhackable. Or even ‘unhackable.’

A statement by Abdelkader in TechCrunch: “Hey! Stop doing this yourself!,” he asserts. “Put it on VGS and we’ll let you operate on your data as if you possess it with none of the liability.”

And according to TechCrunch – While no data is ever 100 percent unhackable, putting it in VGS’ meticulously secured vaults means clients don’t have to become security geniuses themselves and instead can focus on what’s unique to their business.

Aha, no data is ever 100 percent unhackable – or ‘unhackable.’ And don’t worry about becoming security geniuses, or being concerned with liability. And then something about “Privacy is a part of the UN Declaration of Human Rights.”

There is a “Get Started Now” next to a “Request Demo” button on the homepage, of course.

This is not to say I’m a non-believer, but I sure do need some more proof of this data security meticulousness.

(Header image: CC0 Creative Commons via Pixabay)

Me at Barco

With over 20 years in audio visual integration and IT/computer sales and consulting, Corey Moss is the owner of Convergent AV. Corey writes for the publication and hosts/produces podcasts – The AV Life, Convergent Tech Talk and Convergent Week. He has written for numerous industry publications about AV, IT, unified communications and collaboration (UCC), cloud and software, IoT, cybersecurity and more. He has also conducted interviews with AV and IT executives and global influencers. Find him talking about a whole lot of things, tech and otherwise. On LinkedIn https://www.linkedin.com/in/mosscorey/.