By Andrew Patterson
Security in the post 9/11 world is much more obvious and visible these days, but behind the scenes in the world of software, particularly affecting critical infrastructure and financial institutions, that security is under constant threat by a growing cohort of sophisticated cyber criminals.
While cyber-crime doesn’t tend to attract the same level of media coverage as other forms of crime in NZ the amounts involved can be substantial.
It’s a global issue that Government agencies and financial intuitions in particular are constantly battling against.
Wynyard Group, an off shoot of Jade Software Corporation, earlier this year become the latest company to unveil a new software product designed to combat the growing threat of cyber-crime and financial fraud.
More than two years in development, the new software is targeted at some of the world’s leading policing agencies as well as providing advanced financial crime solutions for anti-money laundering and countering the funding of terrorism.
Jade Managing Director and CEO of Wynyard Group, Craig Richardson, says with rapid increases in crime, threats to public safety and national security, Wynyard Group is focused on delivering intelligent solutions for these markets as well as the protection of financial institutions and critical national infrastructure.
“Jade has a deep background in software engineering going back more than two decades. When we really looked at some of the emerging problems that were happening in many of our key markets, we saw a range of increasingly complex issues. These involved dealing with large amounts of data, increasing threats from organised crime and corruption a well as significantly more rules and regulations and compliance requirements that our customers were facing.”
“In addition, almost all of our clients were under considerable budget pressure to reduce the resources they had to deal with all of these problems which created an opportunity for us to develop an integrated software solution to deal with these issues collectively.”
“So when we brought together some of the capability we had from software engineering and domain expertise through to law enforcement and managing risk, then it made sense to us that there was an opportunity to participate in a market that was growing rapidly and where we felt we could offer some real expertise which lead to the creation of the Wynyard Group earlier this year.”
In a world where keeping one step ahead of the bad guys is a constant challenge, the software, which has all been developed and engineered in NZ, has been designed to allow three principle functions to occur simultaneously: Managing risks, aggregating significant amounts of data looking for patterns of organised crime and providing tools that allow for investigation to take place.
“What the software is effectively doing is connecting the dots and closing the loops in a way that allows for detection to occur.”
Cyber-crime on the rise
It’s a global problem that has seen serious cyber-crime and financial fraud growing rapidly in the last decade as boundaries and territories disappear and criminal offending becomes increasingly virtual in nature; as do the victims of such crimes.
“To an extent, cyber-crime these days is as much of a problem as conventional crime and so obviously there’s a lot of demand for the tools and resources you need to deal with that type of crime.”
“New Zealand is in an interesting position because we’re part of what is called the FIVE I community which are five countries - NZ, Australia, US, Canada and UK - who work closely together to police online crime and corruption.”
“So for a NZ based company with that degree of global reach we’re actually in quite a privileged position and one that gives us a distinct advantage which we are attempting to capitalise on.”
However, Wynyard Group doesn’t have a monopoly in this space as a simple Google search will quickly reveal. In fact, since 9/11, there has been a proliferation of sophisticated software products designed to deal with cybercrime and financial fraud in the wake of a clamp down by governments and their respective agencies to deal with this issue. So is there actually space for another competitor?
Craig Richardson believes the company has a strong product offering.
“Components of online policing and security have been around now for some time. In any solution opportunity there are multiple elements involved, but we believe that we have developed some unique IP to solve some of these problems. It’s really when you combine the features the software offers with your knowledge of the domain that your customers are focusing on and perhaps most importantly the trust factor that’s involved that gives us an advantage.”
“We’re an organisation that is trusted by more than 2,000 organisations globally to solve some of their most sophisticated data problems and understand their risks so with that comes the expectation of integrity and ethics and a high level of trust in what we do so to an extent our credentials speak for themselves.”
“So yes, there is plenty of competition in this space, but when we win business we win it on the fact that we have great software and people who understand the problem and can be trusted to develop the necessary solutions.”
Trust & integrity
The decision to establish Wynyard Group as a separate entity from its parent company Jade was also designed to further reinforce this element of trust.
“We did that deliberately to send a strong message to our customers that we understand how important it is that the information they share with us is secure and also to our staff that they too sign up to the high level of security and integrity that our clients expect.”
With a team of more than 100 staff split between IT, engineering and development, sales and marketing Wynyard Group has made a significant investment in its new offering. However, the majority of the team are primarily involved on the development side.
“We’re currently spending around $10 million a year developing the software which is obviously creating opportunities for smart kiwis to stay in NZ, gain employment and work on some very sophisticated software. In fact, we expect to increase our staff compliment by another 50 over the next 18 months.”
So how does the software actually work when it’s processing all that data?
“There are multiple dimensions to the way the software operates. For instance there are rule based functions that allow us to examine a set of data based on a series of parameters to look for particular transactions of patterns. Then there are the unknown unknowns. The threats we hadn’t anticipated or known about or activity we haven’t seen before and that’s when we get into the smarts of the technology or what is sometimes known as the machine learning elements which is verging on artificial intelligence looking for occurrences that institutions haven’t seen before.”
“The power of the software then is to bring together these two elements, what you do know and what you don’t know, that can then be presented to someone like an intelligence analyst to interpret that data.”
Keeping ahead of the criminals is as much a challenge as another aspect of fighting crime.
“Everyone would admit that this is really a type of arms race between the people who want to exploit opportunities and the people who keep us safe at night. Our objective is to help our various clients protect their data and their operating systems and to use our significant experience to do so.”
“So it’s about being agile and reacting when you have to, but it’s also about anticipating where the next threat is going to come from.”
This is one business that can almost rely on growth in the future as a given. However, its challenge will always be staying one step ahead of those on the dark side.
|Sector:||Technology / IT security|
|Staff:||100 (expected to grow to 150 by 2013)|
|Annual growth rate:||30%|
|Biggest market:||NZ / Australia / UK|
|Fastest growing markets:||USA / Middle East|
|International offices:||Australia / Canada / USA / UK / United Arab Emirates (UAE)|
|Export / Domestic sales split:||70 / 30|
|Ownership:||Private (100% owned by Jade Software Corp.|
|Likely to IPO:||No|