Bill Penn is the CEO of LarkSpear, Inc., a cybersecurity company based in Ellicott City, Maryland. LarkSpear’s flagship product is its Cyber Automated Threat Sharing System (CATSS), a service that continuously monitors clients’ organizations for cyber vulnerabilities in real time. CATSS is a community-based information sharing framework that combines advanced data analytics with rapid reporting and predictive algorithms, allowing clients to detect and address cyberattacks before they occur. LarkSpear was recently named one of the winners of the 2015 CyberMaryland Conference’s Cyber Shark Tank.
How important will cybersecurity be in the foreseeable future?
BILL PENN: The cyber protection that’s going to be needed in the coming years is endless. I believe as long as we’re connected to the Internet, and systems are interconnected to each other, those threats will always exist.
How does CATSS differ from other cybersecurity products?œ
The average time a threat sits on a system is 225 days—in 2013—before a system is breached or [a person or organization] knows it’s been compromised. So, that threat sits there the entire time. Using CATSS, staying ahead of the threat, we make the correlation to allow the industry or the user to know that that threat’s there, before it can be compromised. It’s a very proactive approach, when historically we’ve had a very reactive approach to cyber threats.
The CATSS system is build on a sharing platform, so all of the knowledge and the participants in a CATSS instance know the data to the level that they have exposed. We’ve built in security measures inside our Accumulo, our cloud structure, that allow only certain data to be exposed to only certain members. The data after the analytics are run—we have a publisher subscriber type mechanism that pushes reports out, and pushes alerts out, if the system learned something that is of value to what that user is interested in. The mechanism for sharing is through pushes and servers, where we have a centralized local server that contains all the analytics and the data.
Are there certain industries that CATSS is ideal for?
The interesting thing, as we have evolved CATSS and developed it, is—we’ve realized—that this knowledge management and advanced analytical approach and predictive analysis algorithms can be applied to pretty much any domain. It’s really working on data that is structured to some degree, so you expect certain aspects and attributes in that data, and you can apply the predictive analysis to any domain—whether it’s cyber, whether it’s healthcare, or whether it’s insurance, so it’s an interesting software application.
What about your work with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security?
We’re personally very passionate about the cyber approach. We’ve worked with DHS for a number of years, and we’re pretty excited about what they’re doing. They are standing up the CTIC, which is the Cyber Threat Information Sharing Center, this month. We feel confident that with the commitment from DHS to stand up such a large entity, that they are committed to being at the front of threat information sharing for a number of years.
What are your aspirations for LarkSpear in five years?
LarkSpear is going to be an every CISO portfolio—chief information security officer’s portfolio. I want it to be in risk manager’s portfolios. I want to be partnered with the premiere software companies in the country that are touching cyber threat products and cyber threat issues, and we want to be working with the government from a DHS perspective to secure our networks. I think in five years, LarkSpear will be 50 to 100 people, and will be an analytic force.
What are your current priorities?
Currently, we are looking for investors in the company. We want to grow our development team by twofold this next year. We have a lot of new applications and features in the system that we want to increase, but we also want good partners that understand this landscape and that can help us get CATSS into the right methods and domains and instances in the industry.
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