Start-up Provilla offers data protection product

Provilla’s technology scans file servers that hold sensitive data and creates a signature for each document

Start-up Provilla debuted today with a data-leak prevention product designed to alert security managers when network users try to send or copy sensitive data.

Start-up Provilla debuted today with a data-leak prevention product designed to alert security managers when network users try to send or copy sensitive data.

Provilla’s product, called LeakProof, includes the Anti-Leak desktop agent, which continuously runs in the background to determine whether a user’s desktop actions are violating policies set by an administrator. The agent software can warn about or block unauthorized data transmissions a user might attempt via corporate or Web e-mail, file transfer or copying to a USB port or disk.

The product also includes a Web-based appliance used to distribute data-use policies to the Anti-Leak Agent and report on activity. Provilla’s product competes with data-leak prevention wares from vendors including Reconnex, PortAuthority (which Websense is acquiring), Tablus, Vontu and Vericept.

“LeakProof lets you set up different policies for groups, such as your marketing, human resources, technical or customer support,” says Glen Kosaka, Provilla’s vice president of marketing.

Provilla co-founders Liwei Ren, Fei Huang and Shu Huang earned degrees from Chinese universities. The company’s first announced customer is the Sony Ericsson joint venture, which is using LeakProof in China to protect proprietary information.

“Our software supports Japanese, Chinese and French in addition to English,” Kosaka says. LeakProof, available now on a subscription basis, costs $18,000 for the appliance and about $20 to $50 per endpoint, depending on volume.

Provilla wants to leverage its knowledge of Asia to attract sales in that area of the world, and it has established a partnership with Hitachi Systems and Services to start selling in Japan in April. Provilla’s headquarters are in Mountain View, Calif., and all of its software development is done in the United States, Kosaka says. The company, which is privately funded, has 20 employees and was founded in February 2005.

One of Provilla’s co-founders, Fei Huang, was the principle engineer at Sygate, which designed one of the earliest host-based network-access control products and was later acquired by Symantec. Liwei Ren is said to be a math specialist in algorithms and pattern-matching.

Provilla’s technology makes use of what the company calls “DataDNA fingerprinting,” which relies on scanning file servers with sensitive data to create a signature for each document. This allows for detecting sensitive data even if it’s edited, or cut and pasted, Kosaka says. LeakProof also can check to see if data is encrypted if policy calls for it to be.

To give prospective customers a feel for what LeakProof does, Provilla this week plans to make available a free downloadable sample of a tool called LeakSense to users who officially register for it. Kosaka acknowledges that in the hands of the wrong person LeakSense could be abused to monitor an individual if the attacker gained administrative access of the victim’s machine to install the endpoint.

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