Browsing the web may be easy, but ensuring your digital safety is not.
That’s why there are hundreds of companies around providing numerous products to safeguard consumers and companies from malicious actors. While many of these companies offer seemingly identical products, some of the best are not only protecting users but researching what hackers are doing and exposing them.
Here are a few of the most influential companies on the market today, the people behind these firms, and some of the important vulnerabilities they have brought to light.
Kaspersky Lab was founded in 1997 by the storied Russian security specialist Eugene Kaspersky. From the beginning it has provided anti-virus software to large companies. But in the 2000s it expanded to offer more wide-reaching products including consumer and mobile security products.
Its researchers have been known to expose some of the most famous hacking groups and their malware. These include Flame -- which was discovered in 2012 as a highly advanced cyber espionage program -- as well as the Equation group, which was just announced this year as a clandestine computer spying ring. Kaspersky Labs' headquarters are in Moscow, although it has over 30 offices globally.
FireEye is a California-based network security firm. It offers services meant to manage networks for potential threats as well as offer its customers detailed threat intelligence. The company has joined forces with federal authorities, universities, and other security groups to discover and combat various malware. Most recently, FireEye discovered a group of hackers known as FIN4, which was targeting Wall Street to steal insider information.
Its CEO, Dave DeWalt, is a well-known heavyhitter in the cybersecurity scene. He worked as CEO of the security company McAfee, and then reportedly turned down 40 other positions until he settled on taking the helm at FireEye.
Founded in 2005, Palo Alto Networks is a network security company known for building advanced firewalls directed toward enterprise customers. Its founder, Nir Zuk, worked as an engineer at Check Point and NetScreen Technologies.
Most of Palo Alto Networks' products revolve around network traffic. The company has also made some important malware discoveries, most recently a family of malware known as 'WireLurker' that took direct aim at Apple products.
In the world of computer security, the Irvine, California-based Cylance is a somewhat smaller entity. It launched in 2012 and has yet to go public like most of the companies on this list.
But in the last few months the company, which provides anti-malware and threat management using mathematics and machine learning, has made a few very noteworthy discoveries. Last year it discovered a very sophisticated Iranian hacking initiative known as Operation Cleaver. And just a month ago Cylance announced a bombshell discovery of a vulnerability in many hotel Wi-Fi setups making both the people on the network surfing the web open to hacking, as well as private networks of the hotels themselves.
Its founder, Stuart McClure, has worked in cybersecurity for years, including a stint as CTO of McAfee. He's best known, however, as co-author of the seminal information security book Hacking Exposed.
Another Russian cybersecurity firm, Group-IB focuses specifically on cyber crime and fraud. It has been around since 2003, with customers in more than 25 countries. It claims its is the largest Eastern European forensic lab and 'is involved in 80% of all high-profile investigation cases in the field of high-tech crime.' Late last year, Group-IB released a report along with the other firm Fox-IT detailing a hacker group known as the Anunak gang, which supposedly wreaked cyber havoc on the Russian banking sector.
The firs's Head of Threat Prevention & Investigation Department, Dmitry Volkov, has been a prominent voice leading Group-IB toward becoming the go-to expert on Russian cybercrime.
Trustwave has been around since 1995 and is one of the largest information security companies around. Its research team, SpiderLabs, performs deep forensic investigations and has made a slew of malware discoveries of late. They include a family of point-of-sale malware known as Spark, which is able to steal critical card data, as well as a hacker server in 2013 that contained millions of stolen passwords. Earlier this year Trustwave was acquired by the Singapore company Singtel for $US810 million.
The company's CEO, Robert McCullen, has been at Trustwave's helm for nearly a decade, after working security at both Verisign and Netrex.
Avast, which was started in 1988 in the Czech Republic, is one of the largest security vendors in the world. It is most known for its antivirus products, which the company claims its products are used on more than 30% of the non-Chinese consumer PCs.
Vincent Steckler has served as its CEO since 2009, and is a known resource about the current state of cyber security. Avast's researchers have discovered a few well-known security vulnerabilities, including big issues with home Wi-Fi routers as well as one exploit found in numerous Android apps.