BEING innovative has enabled SecureMetric Technology Sdn Bhd chief executive officer Edward Law Seeh Key to advance from being a mere trader to having his own proprietary security technology.
Having the ability to add value and being attentive to clients’ needs are also a great help in growing a business, adds the 45-year-old co-founder of the digital security service provider.
The company’s efforts to improve its technology and grow its market were acknowledged at last year’s Star Outstanding Business Awards. SecureMetric won Platinum for Best in Marketing, Gold for Best Innovation and Silver for Best Global Market.
Law’s journey with the company started in 2001 with a digital security business called Softkey e-Solutions Sdn Bhd. Softkey’s business was simple: distribute third-party security products such as digital fingerprint and smart card readers.
“However, we realised that such a business model was not sustainable as there were many other competitors who will jump on the bandwagon. And it is not easy to differentiate ourselves.
“The ICT security market is one that evolves very quickly, and if we are not careful, we will become irrelevant very fast,” says Law.
But with the growing use of the Internet and digital technology, Law saw another opportunity emerging for the company.
He notes that there would be an increase in security incidences such as security, phishing and pharming attacks.
Realising this, SecureMetric started to conduct research and development works in the related security software development.
By 2007, with a staff of seven, the company started producing its own IT security hardware such as dongles, tokens, smart cards and smart card readers with the help of outsourced manufacturers.
“Hackers today are getting more organised and patient at the same time. They plan their attacks well and we sensed that businesses will require more advanced authentication systems to protect themselves,” Law says.
The company also started to work on a higher-level authentication software sytem in 2011.
Law notes that the current method of using Short Message System (SMS) for authentication, such as those received on your mobile phones after swipping your card for an online purchase, is becoming obsolete. Central banks in the region have also taken to advise financial institutions in their countries to strengthen their authentication systems.
“The authentication method used are no longer sufficient. We started researching and doing a feature analysis of the solutions available in the market then and we started to work out the roadmap for our product development,” Law says.
By 2013, after rigorous research and development, they rolled out the first version of their authentication system called the Centagate.
They managed to secure three clients from the telecommunication industries as well as system integrators for this product.
But Law felt more needed to be done to ensure the product was competent for a fast evolving security industry.
In 2015, they received a grant of about RM2.2mil from the Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation to further strenghten their software’s capability.
They managed to improvise the software and achieved the Common Criteria Evaluation Assurance Level (EAL) 4+, a rather remarkable feat for a security software product. The software was then programmed into a hardware called the secure execution environment which, Law says, was puchased from a German manufacturer.
Some of the features of this product include enhanced risk scoring, stronger security as well as having biometric security features using digital camera built into smart phones.
Law’s team put a lot of thought into this to make it also convenient for their customers.
“Our system is built to work with the smartphones that most people are using today. Higher-end smartphones may have fingerprint scanner but most phones have a built-in digital camera,” he says.
Apart from that, the product is built to be time and cost effective.
Law explains that most projects that involve the building of an authentication system would have various hardwares, including about six to eight units of security modules. These projects would generally involve multiple vendors developing different parts of the system and when things go wrong, the clients will likely have their queries passed around as there is little centralisation of information.
The Centagate addresses all these issues, says Law.
It cuts down implementation time from the usual four to six months to just four to six weeks. And when there are issues, Law says: “Just call us.”
The solution, which was ready on June 2017 is packaged from RM800,000 to RM1.5mil and Law says they are already working with potential clients.
“We project about 30 sales next year from financial institutions and large companies with large number of users,” he concludes.