Interview with Dave Wreski, Founder and CEO of Guardian Digital

Dave Wreski is the founder and CEO of Guardian Digital, which he formed in May 1999 to solve the mounting security issues related to enterprises world-wide. With his vast knowledge of open source and security, he has grown the company to serve more than 500 customers. At Guardian Digital he is responsible for all aspects of the business including business development and strategic planning.

How long have you been working with Linux, and how did you get interested in it?

I’ve been working with Linux since sometime before v1.0. I believe it was in fact v0.99pl7. I had purchased it on a stack of floppy disks and it took a few months before it was fully installed.

At the time, I was responsible for the open source development on my college server. I knew even at the time that I would be involved with open source as my career, as it developed much more quickly than the DEC running Ultrix did, and offered a much wider range of software even at that time.

In your opinion, where does Linux need the most development at the moment?

In the security space, better government and vendor support, continued efforts to abandon legacy applications with no security in exchange for those that have been developed to be secure, as well as ongoing code auditing are probably at the top of the list of things that are currently needed.

Guardian Digital is focused on developing open source business applications with specific regards to security. This includes solving issues such as user privacy, “edge” security issues such as web, DNS, and mail services, code auditing, training, authentication, and access control.

Linux is already ahead of proprietary vendors in the areas of honeynet and honeypot research. Proprietary vendors have also acknowledged their open source counterpart in the areas of intrusion detection.

Security vendors are increasingly realizing that Linux is a viable platform for their own security products, and are shifting away from operating systems with licensing, stability, and security problems and porting their software to run on Linux.

What is, in your opinion, the biggest challenge in protecting sensitive information at the enterprise level?

Improved participation from end-users. Regardless of the application, operating system, levels of defense, it will surely crumble if it’s not taken seriously by the trusted users.

Further, it’s necessary for users to continue to build their knowledge of current trends and technologies. No longer is it possible to “secure” your network by purchasing a firewall and going home for the evening — the internal network, publically accessible systems, and even the physical building must be secured.

Many still don’t realize that email isn’t a secure mechanism for transmitting data. We’ve all heard the story about the sticky-notes with the password on the monitor. It takes a refresher periodically for people to acknowledge that your software vendor doesn’t make perfect software, and even large organizations with sophisticated security can be compromised without a vigilent approach to security.

What’s your take on the full disclosure of vulnerabilities?

I am a believer in the concept of full disclosure, but it must be done responsibly. There’s no benefit in releasing an exploit for a particularly vulnerability before a vendor has had the appropriate amount of time to respond.

It’s also the responsibility of the end-user to follow up with their vendor to ensure they are acknowledging security vulnerabilities and fixing them rapidly. Certainly one of the criteria users should use when choosing a particular software application or even operating system is the security history and the vendor’s track record in responsible security practices.

Introduce Guardian Digital. When was the company started? How did it evolve?

Guardian Digital was started in early 1999 as an Internet security and services company. In our early days we focused on finding out what kind of problems companies were having with regards to security, and addressing them using existing products with our own modifications to address their specific requirements.

Many of our customers were very small businesses with very tight budgets and no existing IT staff. They were concerned about people reading their email, defacing their web sites, falling victim to the same types of attacks that took down Yahoo! and Amazon.

Very early on we received a call from one of our colleages at a customer’s location implementing a Windows server for their public Web services. Trouble is that they did not take the necessary precautions to protect from the security vulnerabilities at the time, and the server was hacked thirty minutes after it was installed. The consultant for this company informed the customer, and they both chose to immediately bring in Guardian Digital for a more stable and resilient solution.

Learning through this experience and others, we built solutions to address these problems into our own products, thanks much in part to the merits of open source.

Today we remain committed to solving business problems using open source with specific regards to security and ease of management. The Internet is evolving rapidly, and new methods to manage security risks must evolve equally as rapidly.

The security improvements in our products reduces risk to not only cracker attacks, but also to financial risk, business downtime, and provides assurance that their customer’s data will remain in tact.

The ease of management reduces support costs, provides a consistent configuration every time, and enables businesses with limited staff and experience with security and Linux to manage their Internet presence.

What challenges do you face in the marketplace? What do you see as your advantages?

The current economic and political instability has presented a challenge, but already since the three or so weeks after the war with Iraq, we’re seeing an increase in business spending.

Guardian Digital is investing heavily in reaching new markets. Since the latest release of EnGarde and Secure Mail Suite, Guardian Digital’s products have entered larger enterprise markets previously dominated by a few key industry players. We have partnerships with several key industry companies that have eased this process of expansion, and expect several new partnerships soon will continue to assist with our expansion.

Our advantages include leveraging the benefits of open source technologies. This enables us to deliver products that are inherently more secure, faster to develop, less expensive, and better able to meet the requirements of a specific customer.

What products does Guardian Digital offer?

Based on Guardian Digital’s operating system platform, EnGarde, the company provides enterprises with the software and services necessary for secure computing on the Internet. This includes products and services that provide secure Internet connectivity, user privacy, Web and email functions, and intrusion detection.

How much success have you had with EnGarde Secure Linux?

EnGarde has been immensely successful for us. Customers recognize the requirement to be secure on the Internet today, and now more than ever don’t have the time and resources necessary to configure an off-the-shelf version of Linux, maintain it on a regular basis, and ensure that it’s always protecting their online information assets.

What are the main benefits in using EnGarde Secure Linux to create your online presence?

Simply put, security and ease of management. Within fifteen minutes of having EnGarde installed, an administrator can configure the server to support Web, DNS, email, FTP, and other common “edge” services suitable for a corporate Internet presence.

The best part is that they need not be concerned about the proper syntax for an OpenSSL command to create their CSR for a digital certificate, worry whether their email system is relaying mail for spammers, or if someone is using their FTP space for distributing illegal software.

Security and ease of management are pervasive throughout its design. Protection from trojan horse attacks, buffer overflows, and unauthorized access issues have all been addressed using EnGarde, and require no user intervention to implement.

Introduce your Internet Defense and Detection System.

Internet Defense and Detection System (IDDS) provides a comprehensive system for detecting and analyzing network traffic for suspicious or possibly damaging activity. Sophisticated data correlation abilities, regularly updated intrusion signatures, combined with real-time event reporting provide the information necessary to defend networked systems on the volatile Internet.

At its core is the snort network intrusion detection system, combined with a management interface, support, signature updates, and other services provided by Guardian Digital.

Sophisticated graphs and reports detail all network activity by date, protocol, and analysis of attacks based on their severity provide administrators key information necessary to protect their networks.

Combined with LIDS, providing mandatory access control to prevent system processes from accessing unauthorized resources, and Tripwire to monitor file changes, Guardian Digital IDDS is a powerful and effective network intrusion detection system.

What developments does Guardian Digital envisage for the future?

Guardian Digital will continue to develop highly-secure, modular, scalable, and feature-rich Internet solutions for business. We are devoted to using the revolutionary open source development process, resulting in secure open source solutions designed to meet the business requirement of securely operating on the Internet today.

Our goal is to provide the tools and techniques needed to run an efficient and secure system on the Internet. This includes initial deployment, configuration, as well as maintaining the level of security necessary to continue to provide assurance that your online assets will remain secure.