India: Ex-Chief information security officer at NSE launches blockchain powered Cybersecurity startup

Blockchain/Bitcon. Photo: Bloomberg

From managing and overseeing organisation wide risk management at NSEiT, a 100% subsidiary of the National Stock Exchange of India Limited (NSEIL), Narayan Neelakantan, has now launched Block Armour, an enterprise platform for cybersecurity, powered by Blockchain Technology. “Our platform provides software defined perimeter using blockchain and other emerging technology and we plan to use digital signature based authentication for humans, devices and data. This will allow us to securely ring-fence critical infrastructure as well as provide IoT related security,” he said in an interaction, even as the firm is in talks with venture capital firms to raise anywhere between $850k to $1.5m. Edited Excerpts

How is blockchain redefining the concept of cyber security?

Blockchain by its very nature is cryptographic-ally secure, distributed, provides for a consensus mechanism and is immutable; making it a great tool for a cybersecurity kit

What is the genesis of Block Armour?

Despite spending almost a trillion dollars on cybersecurity, we continue to fight today’s cybercrime with yesterday’s technology. Meanwhile, we have emerging technologies like blockchain and SDN technology as well as architectures like the Software Defined Perimeter that can be effectively used to reclaim cybersecurity. And, that’s exactly what we are doing at Block Armour.

You were associate VP, head IT risk and compliance & CISO at National Stock Exchange of India Limited (Technology) – was there a market opportunity that you identified when you were there that got you working on Block Armour?

Absolutely. Like I mentioned, we continue to fight today and tomorrow’s threats with yesterday’s technology. Cyber attacks are getting more advanced and complex. We need to build innovative solutions to successfully defend against them rather than act reactively. This is especially so when it comes to national cybersecurity and securing critical infrastructure.

Which stage of the company are you in – have you gone beyond the concept stage?

We had the concept drawn out a number of months ago. We bounced it off a few experts within and outside our network, validated the concept and are now are actively building the prototype

What is the plan for Block Armour going forward – in terms of fund raising, where are you? How much are you looking to raise and what the timelines that you are looking at?

We are talking to a few VC’s and are looking to raise anywhere between $850k – which will give us a nine month runway – to $1.5m for a fifteen month stretch. This will allow us to complete development, launch in Beta, forge a few key partnerships and take the solution to early-adopters in key market segments

How is Block Armour different from some of the competitors who are doing pretty much similar stuff? 

Our platform provides software defined perimeter using blockchain and other emerging technology and we plan to use digital signature based authentication for humans, devices and data. This will allow us to securely ring-fence critical infrastructure as well as provide IoT related security

Currently, public key infrastructure is the preferred method for securely identifying digital assets, but recent incidents have shown that PKI and especially its reliance on various private and public certificate authorities is vulnerable to manipulation and tampering. Can Blockchain save IoT?

That’s exactly what I meant above. We’re moving from PKI to digital identity for authentication, authorization and access to resources, for both, humans and devices in the Internet of Things

It has been argued for long that Blockchain can disrupt everything? What is your take – will it really revolutionize everything?

Blockchain itself will not disrupt everything. It’s the effective application of blockchain technology to address existing inadequacies and inefficiencies that can help transform many systems

Again, do you think that Blockchain-based technologies at some point could eventually become the backbone for all collaboration and communication that needs to take place in all critical industries?

The technology is still in its early days. But yes, as it matures you could quickly see blockchain technology going mainstream and becoming the backbone for all trust-based collaboration and communication

At this point in time, while the hype has been building, Blockchain does not really have a  legislative or regulatory framework. Open-source has a history of both successes and failures, and so we don’t know how open or controlled Blockchains will be. How do you see this playing out?

Well, you’re already seeing consortiums being formed and institutions and regulators engaging with market participants on the subject. While it’s still a wait and watch situation, It’s just a matter of time before some form of regulationstarts to fall in place. But do remember, the origins of blockchain was to be P2P without a ‘middleman’ J

When it comes to blockchain for cybersecurity, where does India stand?

I’ve presented what we are building at Block Armour at multiple forums and the traction has been overwhelming. Especially since this is a topic that cuts across industry sectors. With India’s plans to go digital, I guess it’s a great place to develop and launch a blockchain based digital solution for cybersecurity

Are Indian VCs mature enough to look at frontiers like Blockchain and specifically companies like Block Armour? Most of the VC funding in this space is still being led by the West.

I think the entire Indian startup ecosystem – VCs included – have come a long way and matured quite a bit. I’m keen to raise our first round in India itself before looking outside. And, I feel quite confident with VC’s in India.

Singapore Reporter/s

In Singapore, we are looking to double our reporting team by this year-end to comprehensively cover the fast-moving world of funded startups and VC, PE & M&A deals. We want reporters who can tell our readers what is really happening in these sectors and why it matters to markets, companies and consumers. The ability to write precisely and urgently is crucial for these roles. Ideal candidates must have to ability to work in a collaborative, dynamic, and fast-changing environment. We want our new hires to be digitally savvy and ready to experiment with new forms of storytelling. Most importantly, we are looking for hard-hitting reporters who work well in a team. Collaboration and collegiality are a must.

Following vacancies can be applied for (only in Singapore).

Following vacancies can be applied for (only in Singapore).   

  • A reporter to track companies/startups that have raised private capital, and have the potential to become unicorns. SEA currently has over 40 companies with a valuation of over $100 million and under $1 billion.
  • A reporter who can get behind the scenes and reveal how funding rounds are put together, or why they’ve failed to materialise. She/he in this role will largely focus on long-format stories. 
  • A journalist to track special situations funds, distressed debt and private credit (from the PE angle) across Asia.

Singapore Reporter/s

In Singapore, we are looking to double our reporting team by this year-end to comprehensively cover the fast-moving world of funded startups and VC, PE & M&A deals. We want reporters who can tell our readers what is really happening in these sectors and why it matters to markets, companies and consumers. The ability to write precisely and urgently is crucial for these roles. Ideal candidates must have to ability to work in a collaborative, dynamic, and fast-changing environment. We want our new hires to be digitally savvy and ready to experiment with new forms of storytelling. Most importantly, we are looking for hard-hitting reporters who work well in a team. Collaboration and collegiality are a must.

Following vacancies can be applied for (only in Singapore).

Following vacancies can be applied for (only in Singapore).   

  • A reporter to track companies/startups that have raised private capital, and have the potential to become unicorns. SEA currently has over 40 companies with a valuation of over $100 million and under $1 billion.
  • A reporter who can get behind the scenes and reveal how funding rounds are put together, or why they’ve failed to materialise. She/he in this role will largely focus on long-format stories. 
  • A journalist to track special situations funds, distressed debt and private credit (from the PE angle) across Asia.