By Joe Tash
Companies around the world are at greater risk than ever of losing their coveted trade secrets to computer hackers, said Rancho Santa Fe resident Hossein Eslambolchi, and his new venture aims to help businesses bolster their cyber-defenses.
Eslambolchi, 55, is a former top executive with global communications giant AT&T. He recently helped launch La Jolla-based CyberFlow Analytics, Inc., which is developing software that it contends will provide companies with an “early warning system” against corporate espionage and Advanced Persistent Threats (APT).
APTs are attacks by hackers in which a virus is implanted into a victim’s computer network, then remains dormant for months before beginning to extract and send back vital information.
The need for new methods of defending against hackers is great, said Eslambolchi, because more and more devices linked to the Internet are being used in all aspects of daily life. For example, he said, malicious hackers could target computers used to control “smart cars,” causing massive traffic jams, or even medical devices such as pacemakers and insulin pumps.
“I believe we’re heading in that direction,” said Eslambolchi.
Murray Jennex, a professor at San Diego State University and cyber-security expert, agreed that cyber attacks are on the rise in frequency, severity and sophistication.
“We’re noticing a lot more (attacks) this year than we have in the past,” said Jennex, who has predicted that a “watershed” cyber attack will occur somewhere in the world this year. Jennex said he hopes he’s wrong, but that in his opinion, cyber security has not kept up with advances in technology.
He attended a security conference in Las Vegas called Black Hat, where hackers penetrated a variety of devices, from smart TVs to phones to utility meters.
The software under development by CyberFlow analyzes and monitors activity within a computer network, providing an early warning to clients before their data is damaged or stolen by hackers, Eslambolchi said.
In July, the company announced that Toshiba American Electronic Components, Inc., had invested $2 million into the start-up venture.
Eslambolchi said a prototype of the software is expected to be unveiled within the next month, Beta versions will be ready by the beginning of next year, and the product launch is slated for the second quarter of 2014.
Eslambolchi said CyberFlow’s security software has global applications, from the corporate world to government agencies. “I look at us to become the Google of cyber security,” he said.
“This will turn the security industry on its head,” said Matthias Hynes, CyberFlow’s vice president of sales and marketing. “It’s next-generation security using mathematics.”
Jennex said security experts have been using analytics for some time to detect suspicious online activity, but the industry is always seeking better algorithms. Most important is software that can “learn” and recognize new patterns indicating the presence of intruders, he said.
“Cyber attacks are constantly evolving, the attackers are slightly changing things,” he said.
While Eslambolchi’s goals for CyberFlow may sound ambitious, he does have an impressive track record as a technology innovator.
After emigrating from his native Iran as a teenager, Eslambolchi played varsity soccer at the University of Oklahoma, where he pursued a medical degree. After switching his studies to engineering and applied physics, he transferred to UC San Diego, earning bachelor’s, master’s and doctorate degrees.
In 1986, he joined the staff of AT&T’s Bell Labs as a technology staffer, and he steadily rose through the ranks over the next 20 years. He held such positions as chief information officer and president and CEO of Global Networking Technology Services before leaving the company in 2006.
After leaving AT&T, he served as a technology consultant, then helped found LonoCloud, Inc., which created cloud networking software and was purchased earlier this year by Carlsbad-based ViaSat, Inc.
Eslambolchi’s name is attached to some 1,000 U.S. patents, which are either completed, pending or in preparation. Some of the patents were filed in conjunction with colleagues at AT&T, while others are solely in his name, he said.
He’s also received numerous awards for his work, and is slated to receive an Edison award in November from the Research and Development Council of New Jersey for software he helped develop that allows smart phone users to text contributions to charities.
Among his inventions are a system to fix breaks in a fiber-optic cable in just a few minutes, rather than the 12 to 14 hours under the old system, and a device to detect potential disruptions to a fiber-optic line before the line is actually cut, Eslambolchi said.
He’s also written a book about technology, called “2020 Vision: Business Transformation Through Technology Innovation,” and helped found the Center for Networked Systems at the UCSD School of Engineering.
So far during his career, Eslambolchi has filled many roles: researcher, inventor, author, business executive and company founder. He is most passionate about finding solutions to problems, the more challenging the better — even when he’s told that what he’s trying to do violates the laws of physics.
“That’s what makes me tick,” he said.
: Married to Farnaz Eslambolchi, who is studying medicine. His parents live in Carmel Mountain Ranch.
: Holder of some 1,000 granted, pending or planned patents. Former president and CEO, AT&T Global Networking Technology Services. Current chairman and CEO of CyberFlow Analytics, Inc., which is developing cyber-security software.
: Playing soccer, tennis and golf, as well as 3D chess. Photography.
: Enjoyed “A Brief History of Time” by Stephen Hawking, and “Who Moved My Cheese?” by Spencer Johnson.
: Likes action movies, recently saw “2 Guns,” with Denzel Washington and Mark Wahlberg. All-time favorite is “Contact,” starring Jodie Foster.
: Maui, because of its tranquility.
: “Do it right, do it once, do it every time.” Also, “Whatever it takes,” never back down from a challenge.