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AiThority Interview with Timur Kovalev, Chief Technology Officer at Untangle

AiThority Interview with Timur Kovalev, Chief Technology Officer at Untangle

Know My Company

How did you start in this space? What galvanized you to start at Untangle?

I’d worked at various high-tech companies before, and gravitated towards cybersecurity as I learned more about what kinds of disruption it is possible to create across the internet. Working at Untangle, I am not just building great innovative software, but building something that stops cybercriminals from stealing, taking down businesses and creating havoc that costs genuine companies time and money that they shouldn’t have to account for.

What is Untangle and how does it strengthen IT Network Security and Public Cloud systems?

Untangle is the most trusted name in solutions specifically designed to help small-to-medium businesses and distributed enterprises optimize their networks while safeguarding their data and devices. Untangle’s Network Security Framework provides Cloud-managed security and connectivity options that work together seamlessly to ensure protection, monitoring, and control across the entire digital attack surface from headquarters to the network edge.

What is the state of network security for IT Management in 2019? How much has it evolved since the time you first started here?

Over the last ten years or so, the following trends have been the most significant for IT Management:

IT Moved to the Cloud: The huge server rooms that supported the IT infrastructure of many companies are no longer necessary. Many companies are using Cloud Services, such as email hosted by Microsoft and Google, and they are also deploying their own business applications in Cloud Services such as Amazon and Microsoft Azure.

Remote Branch Offices: Businesses are more geographically dispersed than ever before; with the technologies available to us today, it’s not necessary for all businesses to have all their employees in one office. In order to get the right talent and cover more geographical locations, more businesses have small remote branch offices and remote workers. This changes significantly the types of business applications that IT Management needs to procure and maintain.

Increased Bandwidth Needs: Following on from the geographical disbursement of employees, today’s business applications are using more bandwidth than ever before. Applications such as video calling and online meetings are using up and requiring ever more bandwidth.

Multi-Device Connectivity: Not long ago, everyone had one laptop that they used for their work. Now employees are connecting multiple devices to their corporate networks to access business applications as well as their own personal applications. Keeping the network secure whilst allowing personal devices to access business applications have changed the way that IT Management needs to think about access to and the security of corporate data.

How can data breaches affect brand value and customer relationships? In particular, with small businesses. Any recent event that you would like to q**** –

The effect of a data breach ripples farther than the immediate financial toll on a company. When businesses and organizations, especially small businesses, are the victim of a data breach, it can disrupt more than the daily business functions. Brand and business reputation have become core decision-making tools. How many times have we chosen a local restaurant, mechanic, dog-walker, or other local businesses based on peer reviews from Yelp or Facebook?

Small to midsize businesses who may have suffered a data breach, on average, do not have the resources to launch a PR and crisis management campaign to restore their reputation after a breach, resulting in customer doubt about their ability to create and implement a secure data storage solution.

Read More: AiThority Interview with Edmond Baydian, Chief Strategy Officer at Optanix

What is your vision into growing revenue opportunities by deploying Cloud-managed security and connectivity options that work together to ensure protection, monitoring, and control across the entire digital attack surface?

Cybersecurity attacks are becoming more and more common, and the effects can be devastating to a company of any size. Our vision is to provide multi-layered protection from all kinds of cyber attacks all from one easily accessible platform: Untangle Command Center. Network administrators don’t have to use multiple platforms to get complete network protection and visibility into what’s going on across their network. With Untangle Command Center, they can go to one place to monitor corporate traffic, protect their network, protect all their endpoints and protect all their Cloud-deployed services. We plan to expand Command Center to provide wider protection, greater visibility and make it insanely easy for administrators of all levels to keep their assets safe and secure.

What is your new approach to ending “IT War games”? How does Untangle deliver on its promises?

Cyber threats and attacks are increasing in sophistication as hackers continue to use new and innovative ways to attack not only businesses but cities, financial institutions, and government offices. These IT War games trickle down into small and midsize business organizations becoming prime targets. Untangle’s approach is to provide SMBs with a scalable security solution to fit their immediate needs for network protection, and also allows them to implement layers of security as they grow, or as new threats come to the forefront.

We believe that cybersecurity can be available to all businesses and organizations, regardless of size and budget. By encouraging all businesses, regardless of size, to strengthen and invest into a unified threat management system, the potential for IT war games to affect over 30 million small businesses in the US alone significantly reduces – protecting this sector’s ability to thrive and protect the data of their customers.

Read More: AiThority Interview with Lisa Croft, Group Product Marketing Manager at Adobe Sign

How do you see the growing trend of including AI and Machine Learning in a modern CIO’s stack budget?

As businesses and organizations use AI and Machine Learning to increase back-end efficiency, reduce capital expenditures previously allocated for product development or testing, and leverage AI for customer experiences, CIOs will continue to make a considerable investment in these technologies.

In the same vein and Bank of America’s partnership with the Harvard Kennedy School of Businesses to create the Council on the Responsible Use of AI, all CIOs must remember that the integration of these technologies should be done with a sense of responsibility and transparency to the customer. As long as CIOs review the security measures behind these technology advances and continuously audit for vulnerabilities, the trend will continue to grow.

What is the biggest challenge to Digital Transformation in 2019? How does Untangle contribute to a successful Digital Transformation?

The biggest challenge to the current Digital Transformation is continuous diligence and human error. Businesses are increasingly turning to Cloud-based Services to reduce their reliance on company-owned hardware. As we saw with the Capital One intrusion, they have transitioned their data storage to a Cloud-based Management system and one misconfigured firewall app left them vulnerable. The company invested highly into Cloud-based services and cybersecurity within the Cloud, but without continuous diligence to test, monitor, and review all security solutions in place, this vulnerability was missed.

The other challenge is human error. We know humans will always be a vulnerable link within the security protocol chain. Mistakenly accepting a phishing email, accessing a business-related app over an open Wi-Fi signal, or simply forgetting to update critical software or passwords are all common reasons why human error is one of the biggest challenges to Digital Transformation in 2019.

At Untangle, we strive to give businesses and organizations the tools needed to maintain and enhance their network security as needed. With VPN solutions for remote employees and branch offices, Access Management policies that allow differentiated access to the network based on employee title, department, or employment with a company, as well as Malware protection for phishing and other potential attacks, Untangle’s NG Firewall is a unified threat management solution built to tackle these challenges as businesses transition into Cloud-based Services.

Where do you see AI/Machine Learning and other smart technologies heading beyond 2020?

AI/Machine Learning is going to continuously improve products and systems well beyond 2020. At Untangle, for example, we are able to intelligently gather data and trends from more than 40,000 installations, identifying trends in SMB deployments or content-sensitive environments, and building out hardware and software solutions to meet those needs. With this continuous acquisition of knowledge, we can help SMBs with template-based security solutions that abstract complex configuration, using thousands of data points and algorithms.

What is your opinion on “Weaponization of the Internet”? How do you promote your ideas to safeguard internet?

The most harmful form of Internet Weaponization remains hacking with criminal intent. Hackers continue to use tactics that target businesses and organizations for financial gain and extortion. Recently, we have seen local governments, like Riviera Beach and Lake City in Florida, giving into these attacks because the ultimate cost to salvage their cities’ networks would create an undue burden to taxpayers.

In other cases, we see institutions of higher education or non-profits also falling victim to these attacks. Most notably, hospitals and medical facilities are not only victims of phishing attacks, but full breaches into Cloud-based medical devices. These actions by hackers impact more than just a small government network, but also everyday citizens looking to purchase homes, receive medical treatment, enter higher-education, the total disruption, and toll one attack creates ripples throughout the community.

To safeguard the internet, we continue to educate and support those affected most SMBs and local organizations who do not have the depth of resources that some larger enterprises have on hand. With NG Firewall and its scalable breadth of security options, we ensure that companies and organizations can have multiple security solutions in place that segment, protect, and safeguard business-critical information and customer data.

With continuous system evolution, as with our latest web filtering protocols recently released in our NG Firewall 14.2, we help our customers remain vigilant as new threats emerge and their network expands.

Read More: AiThority Interview with Will Salcido, CEO and Co-Founder at Bedrock Analytics

The Crystal Gaze

What start-ups and labs are you keenly following?


As a tech leader, what industries you think would bethe fastest to adopting Analytics and AI/ML with smooth efficiency? What are the new emerging markets for these technology markets?

Industries like finance and emergency response are quickly adopting and benefiting from analytics and AI/Machine Learning.

For example, in Africa, increased connectivity and Machine Learning have allowed for larger banking institutions to redefine their credit-worthiness to small and medium businesses. SMBs who under previous credit applications would have been denied are now evaluated through additional data points and algorithms, allowing for micro-loan disbursement and economic growth.

AI and Machine Learning are also being tapped to help emergency response operations in emerging markets. Using predictive models for large-scale disaster relief can assist first responders in making quick, accurate, and beneficial decisions when time is critical. For example, in 2015 when a major earthquake hit Nepal, the use of technology, specifically drones, to map the destruction, scan for signs of life, and speed up recovery by giving first-responders a birds-eye view of the landscape.

What’s your smartest work-related shortcut or productivity hack?

I am a huge fan of OneNote, which is a tool that lets me keep track of almost anything I am working on.  I use it at work at my desk, and I can add notes to it during the day, or add notes easily from my phone whilst commuting. Everything is stored in the Cloud, so no matter what device I have at hand, all my notes are available to me any time.

Tag the one person in the industry whose answers to these questions you would love to read:

Werner Vogel or Andy Jassy

Read More: AiThority Interview with Ali Golshan, CTO and Co-Founder at StackRox

Thank you, Timur! That was fun and hope to see you back on AiThority soon.

Timur Kovalev serves as the CTO at Untangle and is responsible for driving technology innovation and integration of gateway, endpoint, and Cloud technologies. Timur brings over 20 years of experience across various technology stacks and applications. Prior to joining Untangle, Timur headed up Client and Threat Intelligence Technology at Webroot, where he led the development of desktop and mobile solutions, Cloud Intelligence Services, and research automation systems.

Prior to Webroot, Timur was responsible for the design and development of dynamic network communication architecture for medical devices at Dräger Medical Systems. Before that, he developed software for patient monitoring, imaging, and secure medical data delivery solutions at Siemens.

Timur holds a dual bachelor degree in Computer Science and Electrical, Computer and Systems Engineering from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, and an MBA from the Leeds School of Business at the University of Colorado, Boulder.

Untangle® is an innovator in cybersecurity products designed specifically for the below-enterprise market, safeguarding businesses, home offices, nonprofits, schools, and governmental organizations. Untangle’s integrated suite of software and appliances provides enterprise-grade capabilities and consumer-oriented simplicity to organizations with limited IT resources.

Untangle’s award-winning network security solutions are trusted by over 40,000 customers around the world. Untangle is headquartered in San Jose, California.

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