Digital Bond opened our doors ten years ago today on Sept 28, 1998. Like most businesses, Digital Bond morphed over time.
Gen 1 was a company designing a smart card solution to secure Internet brokerage transactions. We actually did pharming demonstrations with brokerage sites back in 1999, but we were never able to get the large brokerage beta client to get this product to take off – – of course a few bubble bursts didn’t help. We started doing security consulting to pay the bills rather than go for another round of angel/venture funding. Some of the team found they actually liked consulting more than developing products.
Gen 2 was a combination security consulting / value added reseller focused on the Florida market. We did assessment, architecture, policy engagements for a lot of banks and ecommerce companies, and we also sold, installed and supported products from Checkpoint, Cisco, Network Associates, Websense, … We found the resale/install to be more trouble than it was worth and quickly moved to pure consulting.
Gen 3 is where we are today, a control system security consulting and research practice. And we stumbled into that when a very large water system asset owner asked us to perform a security assessment on their SCADA system back in 2000. A bit scary looking back at that now knowing what we have learned over the past eight years. Control systems security engagements became a growing part of our business, slowly at first but then easily. Sometime in 2004 we decided to focus on control system security and since then it has been our entire business except for longtime customers in banking we still support.
A few key dates in our control system security history:
October 2003 – we started the SCADA Security Blog. There are now over 850 blog entries. It is funny that the second entry discusses the Modbus Hack Demo that was making the rounds in the control system events and now five years later is being shown at events like Defcon/Black Hat.
March 2004 – Digital Bond received our first research contract from DHS to create IDS signatures for control system protocols. Given these signatures are in almost every commercial IDS I think DHS got there $100K’s worth.
December 2006 – The SCADApedia started because we got tired of good, factual information getting aged off and buried in the blog. I know the SCADApedia has not gotten a lot of traction yet, but it is something that needs to be a certain size before the value is clear. Now with over 100 entries of increasing detail more people are using it.
January 2007 – Digital Bond’s first annual SCADA Security Scientific Symposium [S4] takes place in Miami Beach with about 35 physical attendees and about 20 virtual attendees. Attendance grew by 50% in 2008, and we anticipate a sellout in 2009. S4 was created out of frustration that there was no where to present technical research to a technical audience.
May 2008 – Digital Bond is awarded a DHS research contract that is leading to Quickdraw.
What is missing from this highlight timeline is our consulting clients, many fantastic asset owners who always desire to avoid security publicity. I frequently say that we are blessed in that we work with people who care about control system security – – – otherwise they wouldn’t pay to hire us. They are the top 10%, the early adopters.
Many of the clients have been working with us for 3, 5, and even 8 years. The progress they make from a system with many security problems to a set of effective technical and administrative controls is impressive and a credit to them. We even have some long time clients who ask us what else they should be doing, and there is nothing on the list of more value than more rigor in insuring they are effectively implementing what they have in place.
Finally I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that Digital Bond has had a number of talented security professionals who are now Digital Bond alumni, and I want to publicly thank them for their hard and often brilliant work while they were with the company. The fact that they all remain close and willing to help Digital Bond, and vice versa, is a source of pride.
After ten years I hope we learned something about creating and running a business. My unsolicited advice to anyone thinking about starting a company is you will have higher highs and lower lows as an entrepreneur than you can ever prepare for. Make sure you enjoy the highs and power through those lows.