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A Dialogue with Zoltán Györkő
ITSPmagazine talks with Zoltán Györkő, CEO and co-Founder, Balabit, about the power of diversity and the ever-swinging pendulum between IT security and freedom.
ITSPmagazine: How and why did you enter the field of infosec?
Györkő: In 2000, we established Balabit with university classmates with whom we had just graduated in computer engineering, and we had big dreams about creating something special and remarkable. We had no interest working on another ERP or some other general IT system – we had always been interested in IT security and its ever-changing landscape. The continuous cat and mouse game between good and bad guys really inspired us to work on innovative technology solutions, and to try to be smarter than others in the security sector. In a relatively short time we became successful in the market, not only in our country, Hungary, but on a global scale as well. And that success grew. Whenever we solved a real pain point for our customers, their positive feedback drove our continuous innovation and our drive to be even better.
ITSPmagazine: What inspires you to do your job each day?
Györkő: From the very beginning, we always wanted to deliver best-of-breed technology solutions to the global market. The founders of Balabit still work for the company, and we continuously grow, hire new talent, and look for new opportunities. Our organization is exactly how we built it as a team. We are a group of multi-national people, having different cultures and customs, and this diversity really makes us stronger.
For us, it was always important to be the best at what we do. You could say we’re very focused – we do less, but do it right – and we stay focused on our long-term objectives. This sometimes means skipping opportunities that might yield a high profit in the short term, but which don’t help us to reach our goals in the longer term. It’s great to see each day how we contribute to our success, or in the occasional case, what we learn when we fail, and where the balance lies at the end of the day.
ITSPmagazine: With respect to security and privacy, what’s the biggest challenge we face as a society?
Györkő: We have to imagine the relationship between security and privacy as being like a pendulum. When there is an attack that affects a big part of society, like that which occurred on 9/11, society turns to security solutions, such as having more CCTVs on the streets. They’re willing to surrender more of their privacy in order to feel secure. Then, when they feel there’s too much control and are no longer as focused on threats, society’s pendulum swings back – people want more freedom and more privacy in their everyday life.
In corporate environments, there is an expectation that IT security solutions will ensure security yet will not restrict or impede users in doing their jobs. We believe that continuous, real-time monitoring of user activities is the least painful way of preventing data breaches from happening, while at the same time maintaining the user’s privacy. Since Balabit has had a subsidiary in Germany since 2006 (a country where privacy is a top priority for organizations) we are proud to say that we meet the most strict privacy requirements of organizations in Germany.
ITSPmagazine: What impact do you hope your company will have on society?
Györkő: Our mission is preventing data breaches without constraining business. There are many ways to help prevent data breaches, but the traditional IT security solutions are control-based and they tend to restrict users in performing their everyday jobs. That’s the reason why the IT security team is not so popular within organizations: They create many additional barriers for users, such as additional authorization layers and more difficult passwords that users need to remember.
Balabit has a very different approach to data breach prevention: Our Contextual Security Intelligence (CSI) platform is based on continuous monitoring and it lets users do their everyday jobs without restrictions. We solve the privileged user problem by focusing on what happens after they gain access to the network – legitimately, or otherwise. We build an understanding of the typical behaviors of each individual user, and we then authenticate them continuously based on real-time analysis of their activities and behavioral characteristics. Our CSI is the only solution of its kind, giving organizations the power and flexibility to prevent data breaches without constraining business.
ITSPmagazine: If you had one piece of advice for a fellow CEO, what would it be?
Györkő: Hire people who are smarter than you are, and trust them.