This company's name isn't a joke: Secret Double Octopus goes beyond encryption

The strangest tech startup name I've heard all year, but a pretty interesting concept. Are there legs to this new approach?

Secret Double Octopus encryption network traffic
Credit: istock

The process of naming a startup is fraught with peril - founders need to find a name which is catchy, ideally short, and one for which the URL is still available. Seemingly throwing most of the rules (at least about brevity or sense) out the window, Secret Double Octopus, a new company just emerging from stealth, has at least ensured one thing - no one will forget its name.

Beyond quirky names, however, this company is doing something interesting. Yet another cybersecurity company that originated in Israel, Secret Double Octopus (we'll call it SDO to avoid the risks of overuse injury from repeatedly typing the name) is all about securing networking traffic and authentication beyond the traditional approaches of PKI, SSL and VPN. SDO aims to help secure data in transit, whether it's between sites, between a website and the cloud, or within mobile or IoT use cases. SDO's approach employs secret sharing, thereby eliminating the need for cryptographic keys.

Information theory, that academic study of all things data, postulates that SDO's approach is unbreakable - that's a pretty lofty hypotheses, so what is actually going on here? When SDO is implemented, data is represented by random bits across multiple routes that can only be interpreted when assembled at its destination. Essentially, SDO takes a package of data in its entirety, puts it through a virtual shredder where it is "sliced" into myriad individual strands, sends all those strands down different network pathways, and then recombines it all at the destination. For those who have come across the TOR web browser, SDO's approach is somewhat analogous.

The leadership team behind Secret Double Octopus is a who's-who of the cybersecurity world. The intellectual property that powers the company’s solutions is based on research conducted at Ben-Gurion University by Prof. Shlomi Dolev, the company's CSO, and Dr. Shimrit Tzur-David, SDO CTO.

Encryption algorithms are designed to take a long time to crack, but are, ultimately, crackable. The accessibility of super computing means that the barrier to cracking encryption is rapidly lowering. Another set of algorithms goes one step further. Information-theoretical security schemes cannot be cracked – not even with unlimited computing power. Secret sharing scheme is an information-theoretic security algorithm established in 1979 separately by renowned cryptographers Adi Shamir and George Blakley. SDO has taken this research and created a keyless communication and authentication protocol around secret sharing.

"Secret Double Octopus addresses shortcomings that have plagued the epicenter of cybersecurity - protecting data through PKI and specifically data in transit and PKI based authentication," Yoav Tzruya, partner at JVP, the company's lead investor, said. "Leveraging proven approaches, the company does away with all ailments of PKI, while providing secure communication compatible with all current products and networks."

I'm not so sure about the name, but this company is certainly doing something interesting. It will be fascinating to see the market reaction to their offering.

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