root9B employees, county staff, and journalists fill the halls of the newest tech office in San Antonio. Photo by Scott Ball.
root9B employees, county staff, and journalists fill the halls of the newest tech office in San Antonio. Photo by Scott Ball.

root9B, a cybersecurity company based in Colorado Springs, officially opened its office in downtown San Antonio’s iconic Tower Life Building on Wednesday afternoon.

“We hope to provide root9B a great home for your company as it grows,” said Councilman Roberto Treviño (D1). “The addition of your company to our downtown in turn helps to grow San Antonio.”

Treviño joined Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff and Michele Boggs of the San Antonio Economic Development Foundation at an office ribbon cutting Wednesday, where they welcomed root9B to the city.

The company has between 50 and 60 employees total, with 19 located in San Antonio. Plans are in place to double the staff and San Antonio office footprint in the coming months.

There’s a simple reason why root9B was named the  top-ranked cybersecurity company among the “500 companies to watch in 2016” list by  Cybersecurity Ventures, a research and market intelligence firm; root9B is the only public company providing real-time operations to thwart a cyber intrusion in progress.

Employees engage in defensive operations against hackers entering a company’s network on an ongoing basis, with people, not automated software tools monitoring hackers.

By leveraging the critical network defense experience of its cyber operators, who previously worked for the Department of Defense and U.S. intelligence,  root9B focuses on stopping the threat before damage is done.

Root9B CTO Mike Morris speaks with The Rivard Report during an interview. Photo by Scott Ball.
root9B CTO Mike Morris speaks with the Rivard Report. Photo by Scott Ball.

“The reality is that an intruder will eventually try and gain access to a company’s network,” said root9B Chief Technology Officer Mike Morris. “We focus on preemptive monitoring and immediate mitigation of an intruder’s actions in midattack.”

root9B CEO Eric Hipkins said along with preemptive monitoring, the company offers support from cyber operators who are well-versed in maintaining cybersecurity.

“Traditional cybersecurity focuses typically on helping clients set up defenses in order to catch bad guys trying to get in,” he said. “We offer clients real-time monitoring of intrusions with experienced people who have done this before.”

This real world experience with the adversary’s methods and tactics forms the foundation of root9B’s cybersecurity consulting and operational support to both commercial and government clients in the U.S. and internationally.

The company’s Adversary Pursuit Center also provides training to clients such as the 24th Air Force. Training includes intelligence operational analyses of cyber events, using intelligence assessments of likely network threats to understand what intruders will do to a company’s network, and how to stop attacks.

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It is no coincidence that the root9B headquarters are in Colorado Springs, also home to the U.S. Northern Command, which protects the U.S. homeland. When Hipkins left government service, he realized that the commercial sector looked to U.S. government resources to defend the cybersecurity realm. Hipkins started root9B originally as a fusion center to act as liaison between government cyber resources and the commercial cybersecurity need for those resources.

The company announced that they had signed a Collaborative Research and Development Agreement with the Department of Homeland Security on Jan. 11. The agreement will improve the nation’s overall computer network defense posture, and root9B will help with the identification and mitigation of cyber intrusions and assist Homeland Security with complex cyber issues.

This public-private partnership will help bridge the gap in cybersecurity efforts between the federal government and commercial enterprises. It will also facilitate intelligence-sharing on active cybersecurity threats between the government and public sectors, critical in preventing data breaches like the 2014 Sony hack or the 2015 OPM intrusion.

In February 2015, root 9B’s parent company, root9B Technologies, Inc. announced it acquired the privately-held IPSA International, Inc., a global business investigative and regulatory risk mitigation company. When root9B stops an intruder inside a financial corporation, for example, the job of tracing any attempted money laundering by the intruder goes to IPSA for investigation.

“Combining root9B Technologies and IPSA creates a best-in-class offering to assist our clients in dealing with the two most critical concerns in corporate America–cybersecurity and regulatory risk mitigation,” stated Joe Grano, root9B board of advisors chairman and CEO, in a press release.

It’s not just the immense financial risks from cyber intrusions that keep companies like root9B busy. Intruders have already demonstrated the ability to hack into and disable critical infrastructure by shutting off electric power to parts of Ukraine last year. Cyber intrusions impact potentially everyone in the public and private sectors.

The company’s name reflects their awareness of how critical cybersecurity has become. The root, or root directory, is the highest level in a directory hierarchy on a computer or network, Morris explained. It is also the super user account on a computer or network that has complete control.

Couple the highest level of computer access with control, the“root,” with “9” and “B,” the hexadecimal digit equivalent of “11,” and you have a company whose name is its primary mission: preventing a “cyber 9/11” from happening.

*Top image: root9B employees, county staff, and journalists fill the halls of the newest tech office in San Antonio.  Photo by Scott Ball. 

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Iris Gonzalez writes about technology, life science and veteran affairs.