"Biodata Information Technology provides more than a sense of security. The company makes data encryption equipment (almost half of sales) and Internet firewall devices for public telecommunications networks. Its BIGfire and SPHINX systems offer firewall protection for PCs, local networks, and for company wide communications. Biodata's Babylon equipment provides multinational corporations, finance institutions, and government agencies with secure encryption for a variety of telecommunications, including voice, data, fax, e-mail, and videoconferencing."
The medieval castle Burg Lichtenfels, home of Biodata Information Technology AG, is a fitting headquarters for a company focused as it is on IT security. For anyone who has had the privilege of standing in the midst of a medieval castle, the physical sense of security is profound. Thick walls, fortified perimeters, protected zones within the castle walls, areas from which to repel attacks. Fortresses of old conjure up a myriad of pictures in ones' mind, tales of treachery and courage. A microcosm of life.
It seems a constant anomaly to me that, although we (the business world at large) understand the physical security world so well, and appreciate the need to protect people, assets and information, we continue to underplay the need to protect the virtual world. Bits and bytes are intangible in many ways, yet their value and ability to generate wealth, and conversely to damage and destroy, is unprecedented. The world economy is increasingly based on our ability to move data around, represent it in meaningful ways, and to act on the information itself. It goes without saying then, that the protection, authentication and availability of such data is crucial to the well-being of this networked world. Our fortunes, real and metaphorical, have never been so intertwined.
That said, we have never been as vulnerable to systemic failure or security compromises as we are today. And the bad news is that the situation is not going to get better. As we connect increasingly complex systems and networks, with an increasing number of devices and appliances, in an increasing number of ways, the holes and vulnerabilities we are exposed to are simply going to explode.
The good news is that there are companies focused on limiting the risk to our businesses and livelihoods. Biodata is one of these.
A global player
Originally founded as an electronic data processing enterprise in 1983, Biodata boasts a solid track record in network technology. Focused on the IT security market since the mid-nineties, Biodata has traditionally concentrated on high-speed encryption, network security hardware and software firewalls. Biodata has also recently added e-mail encryption, PKI application security and hardware network monitoring products to its portfolio of solutions.
Says Ingrid Reimschuessel, Director Marketing of Biodata IT South Africa, "Biodata is a global provider of electronic security solutions in data processing and data communication. The company's range includes hardware and software solutions for public telecommunications networks in Fortune 500 companies, multinationals, financial and government institutions."
"For example," says Reimschuessel, "the German Federal Reserve has, since 1998, secured its data traffic with Biodata technology, and Biodata continues to protect video, and voice networks for corporations such as Boeing and General Motors. Other key accounts include DaimlerChrysler, BMW, Airbus, Siemens, Sony, Motorola, Dresdner Bank and the Tokai Bank."
Growth in the new economy
According to Christian Runte, Sales Director at Biodata Information Technology South Africa, "New areas and ways of doing business such as e-commerce and electronic banking are changing the structures of modern economies, with the electronic transfer of information essentially the new economy's nerve system. It is clear that the IT security market offers big growth potential, because it is becoming more and more important to protect these 'nerves'."
In fact it is becoming so important that Biodata's growth continues to belie the current turbulence in the IT sector as a whole. Where companies across the board, including key players in the IT security, are announcing soft earnings and a cautious outlook, Biodata recently reported revenues of 17,2 million Euro
(R130 million) for the half year ended 30 June, 2001, representing a 154% increase over last year, making Biodata one of the fastest growing IT security companies worldwide.
A local presence
This growth and the company's global presence has resulted in the opening of a new branch office in Johannesburg as of 1 June, 2001.
"We participated at Computer Faire 2001 in May and are presently building up our partner network focusing on resellers and value-added resellers", says Runte. "Our strategy is to target finance, insurance, government, industry, military and education businesses as well as small to medium-sized companies. Biodata is prepared to claim its share of that market, providing end-to-end
IT security solutions that run the gamut of security and encryption products."
Focused on IT security and data protection
Biodata's focus in research has been in data security. Says Reimschuessel, "The exchange of data by phone, fax, e-mail, intranet or Internet presents many opportunities for compromising data. It is quite easy to illegally listen to phone calls or observe data packages. Secret and confidential information can easily get into the wrong hands, through malicious, inadvertent or even incompetent behaviour."
Adds Reimschuessel, "With its encryption hardware, Biodata Babylon protects confidential data in private and public networks, whilst firewalls such as Biodata PCfire or Biodata SPHINX prevent intruders from gaining unauthorised access to private networks. Biodata Securedesk is the only e-mail encryption solution that operates simultaneously with OpenPGP and S/Mime, whilst Biodata PKI Business Server is the most complete PKI solution for small and medium enterprises with up to 500 users. While most PKI products take months to set up, this simple PKI solution can be set up within one hour.
"Biodata has also extended its product portfolio to protect companies and government networks against objectionable websites and e-mail contents, by means of a new automated technique on digital picture recognition technology. In advance to all competitors, this automated search method is much faster than the manual search. The filter list includes more than 700 million sites (URLs) as well as 250 million pictures and has therefore, the world's largest and most up-to-date database."
Biodata IT South Africa will be exhibiting its products and services at Information Security World Africa 2001, which takes place at The MTN Sundome, Northgate, Johannesburg on 3-5 October, 2001. Biodata can be visited at stand no A5.
Checkpoint Software, Cisco Systems, WatchGuard and SonicWall are Biodata's competitors in the global firewalls market.
Symantec, McAfee and Aladdin Knowledge Systems on the PC firewall front, whilst Network Associates competes with Biodata in e-mail encryption.
Baltimore and Entrust are the main contenders in PKI solutions, whilst competitors in encryption technology for communication security include Cylink.
Biodata NetMonitor - network monitoring and alerting hardware/software.
Biodata VPN - standalone VPN Gateway.
Biodata Application/Proxy Server for Linux and Windows NT.
Biodata Security Manager - central management system for all Biodata security products.
Samara Academy - Biodata 100% owned web-based learning academy for professionals.
BioID - patented biometrical authentication recognising face, voice and lip movement simultaneously.