Shannon Wilkinson, President and Troy Wilkinson, CEO
When the NSA was hacked by the infamous Shadow Brokers group, a set of hacking tools was released and vulnerabilities for several firewall manufacturers were revealed. Many enterprises who actively monitor and are proactive scrambled to update and patch their systems yet many failed to acknowledge the critical vulnerabilities and even Cisco headquarters was hacked almost two months later.
Troy Wilkinson, the CEO at Axiom Cyber Solutions knows how grave a mistake it can be to fail to update threat protection on firewalls, sometimes, bringing an entire enterprise to its knees. “And that is why we have automated the firewall update procedures for you,” remarks Wilkinson. His company, Axiom Cyber Solutions has turned the tables for the cybersecurity universe by developing an enterprise firewall that automatically updates its defenses in real-time. “When we started, we understood that standing out of the crowd meant doing something that our competitors were not doing,” says Wilkinson. It was a time when enterprises announced planned outages on a quarterly, biannually, or monthly basis, to update their firewalls, apply firmware patches, signatures, and protocol updates. Given the situation, “Axiom was conceived with the sole focus of revolutionizing cybersecurity through the combined effort of automation and big data analytics, with no disruption of service post-update,” Wilkinson adds.
Behind the scenes, the auto-updated cybersecurity framework is the work of what Wilkinson calls a “big data analytics” engine. Located on a Hadoop cluster, this engine pulls in hundreds of sources of threat intelligence data, from every nook and corner of the globe. The data from these disparate points are not only parsed and processed by advanced analytics, but the points themselves create an essential part of the security system, where they act as specialized threat indicators. “For any firewall to be effective in protecting businesses, its positioning is crucial,” states Wilkinson. “We are positioned in the right place, which is at the very edge of your internet connection.” Axiom’s threat defense firewall solutions are positioned at every possible entry point on the network, constantly inspecting data and voice traffic and looking for intrusions, including malware, viruses, ransomware, denial of service attacks or other disasters.
Managed Services or DIY?
Axiom’s solutions comprise firewall products coupled with professional services, such as implementation, configuration, support, and also updating, monitoring, and notifying key stakeholders. “Our business model is built around a turnkey solution, where we completely manage our products for the customer,” explains Wilkinson. But oftentimes, customers wish to take things into their hands and buy only the device and manage it themselves.
For any firewall to be effective in protecting businesses, its positioning is crucial; we are positioned in the right place, which is at the very edge of your internet connection
Axiom has categorized its portfolio into four different devices based on the bandwidth/throughput of its customer’s network. Startups with less denser traffic— not exceeding one gigabit throughput—use the Axiom Sentry. For small-to-mid sized enterprises that handle much broader bandwidths of up to ten and twenty-five gigabit, the company has developed the Axiom Paladin and Citadel solutions respectively. The Axiom Sentinel addresses the higher end of large enterprises that work with labyrinthine networks in the order of a magnitude of 80 gigabits and above, processing 120 million packets per second. At the crossroads of intrusion detection and defense, these firewall devices are underpinned by a series of unique proprietary algorithms that handle threat defense. Especially, when it comes to DDoS, Axiom’s devices are empowered to handle data packets in a different way than the traditional IP tables and routing. DDoS attacks have been on the rise, year-on-year, with more advanced strategies targeting the top-most layers of the OSI model. “We can do all seven layers of the OSI stack,” notes Wilkinson. “More particularly, our devices are equipped to act on the newest line of attacks, where predators feed on the application layer and orchestrate buffer overflows on HTTPS stacks.”Axiom’s DDoS mitigation algorithm also answer the need of the hour, where Botnets—advanced DDoS frameworks—are deployed disrupting service on much larger scales.
The Cost of a Ransomware Attack
In June, 2016, a report published by Osterman Research— that took into account 540 C-level executives from U.S., Canada, U.K. and Germany—revealed that almost every one out of two participants confirmed their organization was held hostage by ransomware incidents in the last 12 months. Axiom’s second algorithm addresses ransomware, which off-late has become an increasingly hazardous type of cyber-attack. The ingenious piece of code ensures that the firewall devices look for an encryption handshake from the ransomware. “By keeping a check right at the point of entry, when there is an incoming public/private keypair handshake related to ransomware encryption, the device blocks it at the firewall level,” affirms Wilkinson. “In the cybersecurity universe, it is an unwritten edict that 85 percent of enterprises attacked by ransomware will be retargeted and we do a good job with our customers, keeping them safe from potential future attacks.”
Wilkinson lets in on one of his recent customer stories, where a South Carolina school district was held hostage after a hacker gained access the school’s digital files through a ransomware attack. Like a scene from a movie, the school was asked to pay $10,000 in Bitcoin, a virtual and anonymous digital currency, in order to decrypt and restore access to their files. Unable to come up with the required digital funds, the school had approached Axiom for its proficiency and most importantly its managed services surrounding cybersecurity.
Axiom doesn’t directly involve itself with the decision-making of whether to pay the ransom or not, and leaves it to the customer’s disposal. “We’re here to help them through the process to ensure they perform the appropriate action and then protect them later,” illustrates Wilkinson. “In this case, we were able to act on the situation in time, acquiring the digital currency, gaining access back to the crucial documents, fending off the attackers, and putting a permanent check to cybercrime at the school.”
More Data and More Devices
With cloud taking on newer and broader levels of adoption, there is little left to onboard the cloud, and firewalls are no exception. Organizations have long since taken their cybersecurity frameworks outside their premises, but as always, hackers and cyber-attack perpetrators have prepped themselves for their newest challenge and don’t follow the rules that the internet service providers say they should follow. “If you have moved your firewall into the cloud and hackers are able to compromise the network interface device (cable modem or fiber router) at the edge, then they would have unfettered access to the enterprise network,” points out Wilkinson. Rising to the event, “Axiom is ideally suited for the edge/perimeter as it essentially becomes the first stop into the business as well as the last stop out.” This design prevents a compromise on the security so that customers can trust the cloud architecture and be assured that hackers will not find a loop hole to get into the business, through intelligent routing.
"We are designing a small USB version of the firewall for entrepreneurs and teams who are on the move"
With the cloud becoming bigger, the scope for IoT to proliferate its footprint is a logical course of progression and more specifically, the Industrial Internet of Things(IIoT) will become a field day for hackers to play on. Ergo, it is only fitting for Axiom to be on the move and enable its customers to be a step ahead of their adversaries with respect to cybersecurity. “With the multitude of devices that will be added to an industrial facility’s infrastructure every day—such as sensors and monitors—our fixed strategy remains to protect those devices, by detecting intrusions,” implies Wilkinson. “The key takeaway here is that even if they gain access, we are constantly monitoring the edge to protect from damage.”
With the influx of trends like the IIoT, and Axiom acting swiftly to realign the capabilities of its firewall portfolio to stay neck and neck with hackers, the future looks interesting for the company. Axiom’s product roadmap works analogous to its firewall solutions; on one hand, automated updates are provided in real-time, while on the other, the company’s innovation lab is a hive of activities, responding to the industry trends. For instance, the notion of a portable mobile firewall is soon to become a handheld reality. “We are designing a small USB version of the firewall for entrepreneurs and teams who are on the move,” comments Wilkinson. “Part of my work includes travelling a lot globally to give keynote speeches and create cybersecurity awareness and I often realize the need for a portable firewall device.” The handy firewall device is soon to trot the globe along with Axiom’s stationary solutions, setting up fences for its users, protecting them against the “bad guys” in cyber warfare.