Saket Modi loves to sift through the gargantuan dead data large corporations use to fortify themselves against growing cyber security breaches. He cites the examples of the US retail firm, Target; the telecoms company, Nortel Networks; the e-commerce major, eBay; and closer to home the state-owned Saudi Arabian Oil Company, known as Saudi Aramco, which have all been the victims of cyber attacks in recent times.Consider the case of Saudi Aramco. In 2012, Riyadh found that more than 30,000 computers of the company were hit by “spear-phishing”, disrupting production from the world’s largest exporter of crude oil.
It’s exactly these kind of events, Mr Modi’s enterprise Lucideus Tech, a cyber security start-up, would step in to plug the loopholes with intricate coding .
“We fortify the digital DNA of an organisation from across verticals who may be high on work experience but extremely low on cyber security knowledge,” explains Mr Modi, who was in Dubai recently to deliver a talk titled “Hacker – Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow”, at the iSafe Conference 2014, organised by the Information Systems Audit and Control Association’s (Isaca) UAE Chapter.
At only 25, the Indian cofounder and chief executive of the company, which has branches in New Delhi, Ahmedabad and Kolkata, proves why an IT professional’s success is often inversely proportional to his tender age.
The young entrepreneur was born in Howrah – the twin city of Kolkata, located across the Hooghly River and what was once known as the Sheffield of the East – and did his formative education from Kolkata. Born at the cusp of economic liberalisation and first-generation reforms in India, he was exposed to the coming of age of IT from his early teens. Having a father in the computer business – the senior Mr Modi runs a slew of computer training institutes in Kolkata – helped the son to be exposed to the wired world when he was barely a toddler. Cashing in on the IT boom and his innate love for computers, he graduated with a degree in computer science engineering from a Jaipur college two years ago, but unlike his peers he opted out of chasing the American dream.
He spurned a Dh1 million offer from a social media major a couple of years ago, and instead chose to become an entrepreneur. The timing could not have been more opportune.
The demand for cyber security has been exponentially growing in India, thanks to several instances of breaches and unethical practices. Mr Modi stepped up to the plate and has become a successful cyber security consultant for several ministries of Indian governments as well as C-level executives in large organisations across India, with several of his batch mates still going through the elementary rigours of coding as software developers. A stereotype that, he says in hindsight, he is happy to pass over.
The young entrepreneur reckons digital is the new buzzword across the globe. It is no longer a matter of choice, but a necessity.
He quotes Gartner’s forecast – “Digital Business is driving Big Change” – to illustrate his point.
Mr Modi feels the UAE is on the right track for digital innovation. He cites the recent announcement made by Dubai to invest Dh4.5 billion to make the emirate an innovation hub for global technology businesses and entrepreneurs as a case in point.
However, he warns that the UAE needs to be on its guard.
“With hackers evolving from anonymous teenaged pranksters to state-sponsored militants on the cyber space, the cyber warfare in the near future has a potential to cause massive destruction to a country or an enterprise, and that too with a couple of clicks on a device sitting thousands miles away and outside the ambit of legal jurisdiction of the target,” he warns.Mr Modi offers a bespoke solution to the emerging threat perception.
According to him, the UAE, which is “quick and agile to adopt new technology”, needs to broadly tackle its core verticals such as banking and hospitality.
“As competition among banks hots up to seduce customers, technology and security can often be an unwitting casualty,” he says.
Mr Modi, who is seeking a tie-up with a like-minded company in the region, is upbeat about global spending on cyber security – he quotes the research firm MarketsandMarkets, which forecasts the allocation to grow to US$120 billion in 2017 from $80bn last year. “Today’s cyber risk cannot be mitigated, it needs to be embraced. Risk, today, is a conscious leadership decision,” he adds.