EQUIIS: Cyber solutions to cybercrime

By Olivia Minnock

With the cost of cybercrime to business in 2016 estimated at $500bn in lost revenue, and this figure expected to increase by over $2trn by 2019, businesses both public and private are still struggling to implement secure communication. EQUIIS CEO Derek Roga is adamant more needs to be done to offer economical and intuitive solutions.

EQUIIS provides enterprises with a range of secure communications solutions so that from oil and gas companies to law firms, businesses can communicate securely and efficiently with each other and with clients, protected against the ever-increasing dangers of cybercrime and ransomware.

With a recent report from NTT Security having revealed one third of global business decision makers prefer to risk ransomware demands rather than investing in cybersecurity, despite attacks having increased by 350% in 2017 alone, it’s no surprise there are so many issues with keeping data secure and that EQUIIS is growing exponentially in a previously neglected space.

Derek Roga, a tech entrepreneur with 25 years’ experience, previously worked in the telecom software space, working with Blackberry before founding EMS in Dubai in 2005, which involved “taking the Blackberry solution to the marketplace through mobile operators”. Within three years, EMS became Blackberry’s largest partner, representing 18% of the company’s global sales and working with 105 mobile operators worldwide.

Roga went on to work with clients in the intelligence community. “They had a need to understand what type of communications took place where and if there was anything surreptitious they could identify.” Thus, in 2016, Roga was well-placed to go out on his own in the space and founded EQUIIS to assure clients with similar needs of a secure, compliant communication method.

Speaking to Business Chief, Roga was joined by Joe Boyle, CEO and co-founder of SaltDNA, who started working closely with Roga when the businesses formed a technology partnership in 2017. Previously, Belfast-educated Boyle had worked for Irish-based startups as well as Ericsson. “After a number of years working in telecoms, I made a switch to work in enterprise networking.” In 2013, he founded SaltDNA, which was largely focused on “giving enterprises solutions for securer, compliant managed communication”.

Together, both entrepreneurs’ experience helped fill the cybersecurity gap. “What drove us to start the business was that over the past several years there had been a significant uptick in cybercrime,” says Roga. “It’s a significant issue being faced by entrepreneurs. The idea was to provide an easy-to-integrate platform that could provide the enterprise with a tool to communicate securely: secure messages, calls and file transfer, and being able to spontaneously have conference calls in a secure manner, regardless of where the team was in the world.” EQUIIS also offers the option to burn messages at both ends once read in case a device becomes vulnerable.

Secure markets

EQUIIS’s closed communication network gives clients two options to communicate. “We have our own cloud network where we host the solution. An enterprise subscribes and we give them a portal through which they can manage their subscribers. It’s in our secure network and they can deploy it across their whole enterprise really quickly.” The second way is an on-premise solution which affords the client organization complete control. “We take the infrastructure we’ve developed and replicate that in the client’s own network.”

How does EQUIIS’s offering differ from a consumer-facing communication service? “The WhatsApps and Vibers of the world enable somewhat secure communications but are not made for enterprise,” says Roga. With EQUIIS’s solution, he explains: “the administrator controls who has access, who is communicating with them, how they are communicating and where they are communicating from, ensuring the integrity of the platform.”

“The reason clients choose us,” Boyle adds, “is really that control and management of closed user groups. Being able to do secure conference calls within their own network, not having to trust anyone else, is a key requirement for these large organizations and government bodies that can’t afford to take any risks.”

Key markets for EQUIIS include the oil and gas industry, and the business is now growing in the legal and government sector. “A number of law firms use our solution,” says Roga. “In some cases, law firms are mandated to ensure the protection and integrity of their attorney-client privilege communications, so they use our solution to accomplish that.” In terms of government, particular areas include police, military and intelligence organizations. “They are required, or have their own mandate, to ensure they’re getting the best of the best in regards to technology, and that the solution they implement has the highest of security built around it. Over the last two quarters we’ve had some significant wins with government agencies.”

In addition, business in the healthcare and finance sectors is picking up. “We offer something unique in this space: the ability to be compliant, particularly around regulatory requirements. In the financial services industry, there’s a requirement that every transaction and communication be recorded and kept for future reference.”

A key added value for clients is the assurance of compliance and safety when using EQUIIS’ solution. “Clients are looking for a partnership,” Roga explains, “And if the partner and the people representing it can really empathize and understand their challenges, and provide real world solutions, not hypothetical ones, it becomes a partnership.”

A consultative process also helps assure customers the solution suits their needs. “We can get a test group running within seconds so they can use the solution. It’s intuitive; there’s not much training required and this can then broaden to a wider group of users. It’s an elegant way for us to build rapport and relationships.”

Open sourcing safety

In addition, Roga feels use of open-source software assures users the solution is safe. “What we have is not proprietary technology. We use open-source encryption: it’s tried, tested and validated. Frankly, when you start touting proprietary solutions in the market, two things happen: there isn’t enough user experience to validate the technology, and secondly you are opening yourself up for people to try to be the first to hack it.”

“We don’t see ourselves as cryptographers,” Boyle explains. “We take the latest and greatest encryption technology and if something better comes along, it’s about a three to four-week process to upgrade. We’ve done that four times in five years. What makes us different is that we can get the latest encryption technology and then wrap up the management, control, visibility and compliance around these technologies to make it something an enterprise can easily buy, because we tick all the boxes.”

With data breaches these days widely publicized, Boyle argues “the vast majority” of businesses and indeed customers are unaware of potential dangers and how much data isn’t encrypted. “There’s a level of apathy. But it’s definitely something we see as becoming more and more important across organizations and sectors. Our technology should definitely be something anyone who has a trusted engagement with a client where they are dealing with sensitive information should leverage.”

Echoing the NTT study, Roga emphasizes how little organizations are willing to spend on cybersecurity, even in 2018. “If I’m a corporation, and I’m going to invest say $10mn in a marketing campaign for example, I can see my return on investment (RoI) in a very tangible way. It can be measured and quantified. Whereas if I take the same $10mn and invest in cybersecurity, that RoI is intangible. A lot of organizations are grappling with how to do the most to ensure cybersecurity solutions are implemented with the least amount of investment.

“We come in offering a very elegant solution giving peace of mind that one part of the issue is covered – and covered economically.”

Looking ahead

An area of increasing important for the future will be voice clips, says Boyle. “A lot of organizations on the consumer side are sending voice clips and voice notes. It’s catching on more in the UK, and in Asia and North and South America lots of people send voice clips. Not only does this allow you to have an asynchronous conversation with someone, but it is actually highly compliant as you can keep a record of things as they progress.” 

In addition to voice notes, Roga adds: “From a technology perspective we’re always innovating. Our service is significantly enhanced: we’re bringing in video conferencing and communication… A lot of the enhancements we implement come from direct interaction with our customers and understanding the landscape we exist in. That’s going to happen continuously.”


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