Startup NexDefense offers control system fingerprinting (February 2014)

Intellishield founders to offer patented Sophia real-time network monitoring tool.

Cisco’s Intellishield founders, Derek Harp, Michael Assante and Mike Sayre have reunited to create NexDefense, a provider of cyber security solutions for industrial control systems and critical infrastructure. Assante stated, ‘Industrial automation and control systems have been developed over decades initially with little concern for security. Today, sophisticated adversaries are capable of hacking their way into these networks. Owners of industrial systems understand the challenges, but have few tools to work with. We are building toolboxes and contributing to community efforts to empower the defenders of control systems.’

The startup has signed a patent and copyright deal with the Battelle Energy Alliance*, operator of the Idaho National Laboratory (INL), for exclusive rights to the Sophia ICS network fingerprinting and monitoring tool. Sophia was developed at INL during the past three years with an investment of over $1.5 million from the US Department of Energy.

Sophia performs real time, passive diagnostics, building a network’s fingerprint and monitoring activity. Abnormal communications are flagged for further investigation, monitoring or action. Early trials with major utilities and control system vendors demonstrated the benefits of the fingerprinting process. Sophia is currently used by several federal government units including Homeland Security, the Army and the Navy. NexDefense is inviting participants in a phase II Beta test.

* Battelle, Babcock & Wilcox, URS Corporation, Electric Power Research Institute and MIT.

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