Interview With Hed Kovetz – Silverfort

Aviva Zacks
Aviva Zacks Cybersecurity Expert and Writer
Aviva Zacks Aviva Zacks Cybersecurity Expert and Writer

With much thanks to Hed Kovetz, CEO and Co-Founder of Silverfort, Aviva Zacks of Safety Detective learned a lot about what his company does. She found out all about his company’s secure authentication technology.

Safety Detective: Tell me about your cybersecurity journey and what you love about it.

Hed Kovetz: I started my journey in cybersecurity in the Israeli Intelligence Unit 8200 where I was a group leader managing several teams. After that, I worked as a cybersecurity product manager and designed national cybersecurity solutions. Coming up with security solutions that work at a scale of a whole country gave me a good view of what cybersecurity looked like from both the offensive side and the defense side which allowed me to see what some of the challenges were and got me very excited about solving them.

In 2016, I decided to start my own company with two co-founders, Yaron Kassner and Matan Fattal. We decided to focus on the problem of identity protection because we recognized back then that identity is going to be a very crucial component of cybersecurity.

SD: Can you tell me about your motivation for starting your company?

HK: My two co-founders and I wanted to do something in the security of identity and authentication because working for many years in cybersecurity and seeing it from both perspectives showed us that identity and authentication are weak spots in security posture. If someone takes over your identity, steal your password, for example, they can impersonate you and access everything. No security tools would stop them because they are coming through the front door.

We were attracted to this because there are so many different technologies in identity and authentication, but somehow, the percentage of data breaches that leverage compromised credentials is rising year after year. So, it was very interesting to us to find out why this technology is not effective. Why can’t the existing solutions and vendors solve this problem? And why can attackers take over identities and steal credentials so easily?

We started talking to security executives and asking them what is missing. They told us it’s not that these products are not secure enough. The problem is that each of them only covers a small portion of the different identity and access scenarios in an enterprise. These solutions are working in silos—one of them might protect only your web applications, another protects your gateway into your network, another covers the cloud, and another might focus on your privileged users. Each of them only sees a piece of the puzzle, and none of them can really see across all these different users, systems, and environments to effectively apply secure authentication and protect identities in a more holistic and intelligent way across the board.

SD: Tell me about your technology.

HK: We enable identity protection for every user, asset, and environment in a unified way, by consolidating the security controls across the different identity silos, including both cloud and legacy infrastructure. We protect even systems and applications that no other authentication or identity solution can integrate with. With our solution, organizations can extend modern identity and authentication everywhere, and eliminate blind spots and silos.

There are two main things that we do. One is the ability to extend secure authentication and access to any kind of system and close those security and compliance gaps that almost every company has. Many systems just don’t support modern authentication and identity—for example legacy applications, proprietary systems, critical infrastructure, command-line tools, machine-to-machine access and more. Even though companies have been trying to get rid of passwords for many years, it’s very difficult to do so because many systems have their built-in authentication mechanisms, that are based on passwords. Replacing that mechanism system by system is just too complex and sometimes not even possible. Silverfort can seamlessly extend protection to all these different assets without having to modify them. We don’t change them, we don’t install anything on them, and we don’t even put a proxy in front of them.

The second thing which is even more strategic, is that because of this architecture, we can monitor and control authentication and access across all systems and environments. It’s not just about individual assets that you couldn’t protect before, but about applying a unified, risk-based policy across the entire organization: everything from on-premise to cloud, from web applications to infrastructure, including both human access and machine access, both at the perimeter and beyond the perimeter.

SD: How do you stay ahead of the competition?

HK: Our solution is the only one enabling consolidation of identity protection across all users, systems and environments, accelerating migration to modern IAM and eliminating silos that almost every enterprise currently has. We are the only authentication provider that sees the full picture of user access, not just to specific assets or through a particular gateway, but everywhere, which allows us to apply a much more intelligent AI-driven policy. We have all this data that we monitor across the hybrid environment, across all the different silos of identity that exist in organizations today, analyze them with machine learning, understand user and machine access behavior, and then apply dynamic intelligent policies based on the risk level.

There are many authentication and access solutions in the market. The problem is they only see a piece of the puzzle. They only see access of certain users to certain resources. Because of our unique architecture, we can see all of it which allows us to make much more accurate decisions. This also allows us to achieve what we call Identity-Based Zero Trust.

A lot of companies are talking about the Zero Trust approach. In this new perimeterless environment, you can’t assume that users are trusted anymore. You have to verify the identity of the users before you allow them to access anything. Other companies focus on the network aspect, controlling whether someone can connect to something at the network level. We achieve a more holistic protection using an identity-first approach. On the identity level, we look at which user is trying to authenticate, or which user is trying to access which resource. This allows us to effectively achieve a Zero Trust security model without having to install any agents or proxies. It’s a much more holistic approach and a more achievable approach for organizations because they don’t need to change the network architecture with segmentation and proxies or install anything on the user devices or the servers. We can seamlessly monitor every access in the network and the cloud by any user and machine. We analyze it and can dynamically control who can access what, and what level of authentication is needed based on the risk level. Silverfort can provide this because it monitors and analyzes a lot of data about the access activity across all users, systems, and environments.

SD: What verticals use your technology?

HK: We have customers in almost every vertical: financial, telecommunications, energy, manufacturing, healthcare, technology, and more. The need to protect identity and access is a need that every organization has, and it’s only becoming bigger these days where employees are working remotely, from everywhere. They might be accessing sensitive systems and data from insecure devices and insecure networks and accessing the crown jewels of the organization. So, the need to validate their identity, make sure it’s really them, and control what they can access based on the risk is only growing and it’s shared among all companies.

SD: How do you think that the pandemic is going to affect cybersecurity for the future?

HK: I think that the pandemic has changed the threat landscape and, therefore, the way organizations think about security. It has also accelerated a lot of things that were already happening, but moving slowly. I think for many years now, companies have understood that networks are becoming perimeterless and more dynamic. In the past, all your assets were located physically in the office protected by a very clear border, which is called the perimeter, and you could focus on securing that perimeter and make sure nobody is coming in. Most of your employees were inside that perimeter and you could trust them because they are in your network, in your physical office. Nowadays, people connect from anywhere and access resources that might be located anywhere. Employees might be connecting from their home or from the office. Resources might be located in the office or in the cloud. Because networks are becoming hybrid, dynamic and complex, the reality now is that everything is connected to everything. In order to access something sensitive, you don’t always need to pass through a gateway anymore.

In this new reality, companies are starting to wonder where they should implement security controls. If there isn’t a gateway or a perimeter—where to you implement these controls? It almost seems like they need to implement it everywhere, on every device, on every cloud service, on every traditional on-premise asset. This is simply not realistic because we are living in a very dynamic digital environment where things are changing all the time. Assets in the cloud are changing every day without security teams even knowing about it. In this reality, organizations understand they need to take a whole new approach for security that is not just built on protecting the perimeter or protecting individual assets. They need to find a way to protect the connections between users and assets, the way they interact. And this is where identity and authentication play a huge role.

There are a lot of companies that were already in the process of realizing this. The pandemic accelerated this process rapidly. Organizations that were planning to address this over the next few years—now must solve it in a matter of months because they need to allow people to connect from home and access sensitive resources. Otherwise, they can’t do their job. They tried to solve this with existing tools, usually unsuccessfully. So, they started looking for a new security approach and new solutions.

Even though we started the company in 2016, and we didn’t know that this whole process was going to accelerate so much with the pandemic, we knew that this is where things were heading. These are processes that started before the pandemic. They just got accelerated now. And because of that we are seeing fast-growing demand for our solution.

About the Author
Aviva Zacks
Aviva Zacks
Cybersecurity Expert and Writer

About the Author

Aviva Zacks is a content manager, writer, editor, and really good baker. When she's not working, she enjoys reading on her porch swing with a cup of decaf.

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