Startup in DoS denial

An Auckland company believes it can do for cyberterrorism what the US government and its allies aim to do for terrorists who attack people and property.

An Auckland company believes it can do for cyberterrorism what the US government and its allies aim to do for terrorists who attack people and property.

JSD, an 18-person startup backed by the New Zealand Seed Fund, is a month away from releasing a beta version of a tool, netDeflect, for countering distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks.

The company’s chief executive, Johnny Cates, knows they’re in a race with other organisations pursuing the same end. But after a visit to the US six weeks ago, he’s confident JSD can get there first.

“This is the most wanted technology in the world,” Cates says. “The focus on network security is going through the roof.”

Cates says he wants to succeed not just for JSD’s sake, but so that New Zealand can become a centre for data security.

That’s a sentiment shared by the company’s technology chief, Juergen Brendel. Brendel, a German who spent several years working in Silicon Valley, is one of several foreigners at JSD.

“This potentially will have a profound impact on networks and security and to have it come from New Zealand will be a real attention-getter,” Brendel says.

The technology at the heart of netDeflect was developed by Americans Stephen Nelson and Douglas Reamer, both former US Department of Defence employees. Nelson remains at the company.

Brendel won’t go into details of the hardware and software-based solution. But he says it manages to halt DDos attacks, in which hackers commandeer as many as hundreds of internet-connected PCs to overwhelm a web server with network packets, where other approaches fail.

“Some approaches are very mathematical but attackers can evade such systems. We believe we know how to tell good network packets from bad.” JSD’s answer is to build an intrusion detection system that not only looks for patterns in network packets, but also performs rules-based and statistics-based filtering.

“The only way to create a watertight system is to combine all three.”

The solution is best applied as far upstream of web servers as possible, although filtering close to servers is also necessary. “The key is flexibility so you can adapt to different kinds of traffic attracted to different sites.”

Cates says netDeflect is aimed at telcos and large organisations, including defence agencies, and could be offered as a managed service. He says the US visit generated a great deal of interest.

JSD works from the e-centre, Massey University’s high-tech incubator at Albany, north of Auckland. Cates says it will be seeking a second round of funding next year, when the seven-figure seed sum provided by the New Zealand Seed Fund runs out.

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