Web security firm outguns industry giants

PUBLISHED : Monday, 18 July, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 18 July, 2011, 12:00am


Managed security services provider Network Box is looking to parlay its triumph at this year's Hong Kong Awards for Industries into further expansion of its domestic and international business.

'We certainly hope so,' said Michael Gazeley, the co-founder and managing director of Network Box. 'We are obviously working hard.'

That expansion drive would include licensing its award-winning technology to more internet service providers (ISPs) and providing its managed services to more small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in Hong Kong.

On June 30 the Kwai Chung-based company received the technological achievement grand award, the highest distinction bestowed to its industry by the Hong Kong government for its 'Z-Scan' system.

A technology that sits in a digital hub on the internet, Z-Scan is offered by Network Box to all enterprises as a so-called cloud-computing service.

Z-Scan was designed to reduce the time it takes to identify new malicious software, or malware, and automatically provide a defence against them. That includes so-called zero-day viruses, which are previously unknown malware for which a specific defence is not yet available.

'The key advantage of Z-Scan is its speed,' Gazeley said. 'It is able to react to new viruses in about three seconds. That means it takes as little as three seconds from the time a new zero-day virus first appears on the internet till it is blocked by Network Box systems around the world.'

Gazeley estimated that performance was 'about 4,200 times faster than what our fastest competition can accomplish'.

That is a far cry from the typical three hours to 20 hours that traditional anti-virus software providers take to protect their customers from new malware.

'You need the 15 traditional anti-virus engines to deal with the estimated 6.8 million traditional viruses out there. But you also need Z-Scan to deal with the roughly 90,000 zero-day viruses attacking right now,' Gazeley said.

Founded in 2000, Network Box has established so-called security operations centres in Hong Kong, the mainland, Taiwan, Japan, South Korea, Australia, Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, Britain and the United States.

'If you imagine the internet as a reservoir full of dirty water, Network Box acts like a professional water filter that sits between the mains supply and your kitchen tap, making that water safe to drink,' Gazeley said.

Network Box has started to license its technology to North American cloud services providers 6fusion, Artisan and E-ternity.

'We have really taken off in the US and Canada,' Gazeley said. 'We would love to start working with ISPs and other cloud service providers in Hong Kong.'

Network Box has started approaching government-backed organisations, such as the Hong Kong Productivity Council, to reach more SMEs. Gazeley pointed out that more than 98 per cent of Hong Kong's businesses are SMEs, 'almost all of which do not give any thought to cyber-security at all'.

Network Box's key managed security clients include luxury car maker BMW, video games giant Nintendo, British health care provider Bupa, United Asia Finance, Tradelink, Hong Kong's Applied Science and Technology Research Institute, Midland Realty, robotic consumer entertainment products developer WowWee Group, Ad-On Mobile Media, Centaline Property, children's clothing supplier Nicholas & Bears, and Chow Tai Fook Jewellery.

Eric Lau, the chief operating officer at WowWee Group, said the cost of the Network Box system was 'far lower than additional manpower dedicated to monitoring [network security threats]'.

'For a typical Hong Kong company of less than 25 people, the cost of being protected is just HK$1,800 per month,' Gazeley said. 'There is no hardware to buy. No additional people to hire. That's it.'

The importance for small companies to boost their network security can be gleaned by failed network protection in large organisations in recent months. Hacking groups Anonymous and LulzSec caused widespread and highly publicised mayhem in organisations such as RSA Security, the US Defence Department, the International Monetary Fund, the European Space Agency, Sony, Citigroup and Sega.


The number of 'zero-day' viruses - previously unknown malware for which a specific defence is not yet available. Z-Scan develops protection in seconds