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The loss of data by government and companies is
“The boss gave me $100k to spend on technology that would make
becoming an embarrassing epidemic. Perhaps it
the service work better. I wanted to get the most I could for the cash,
went on all the time unreported until there was a
so rather than buy off-the-shelf computers that would deliver the
serious processing power I needed, I teamed up with a couple of
really spectacular loss, such as the two data disks
young and exceptionally bright IT technicians named Chris and Ben
from HM Revenue and Customs going astray. Then
who said they could make the same machines for half the price.”
every loss seems to demonstrate one, clear,
unassailable point: electronic data, by its very
Chris and Ben understood technology inside and out and had been
recruited by the local education authority to help quell a rash of
nature, is slippery, can be replicated as many
computer hacking that had plagued Australian schools ever since
times as you like without degrading – and it can
email and internet access were introduced. Hackers, usually
go missing. schoolkids, regularly marauded through school networks, changing
grades and nicking test papers. Chris and Ben devised an ingenious
Now there is a steady drumbeat of news about lost laptops, disks,
system of real-time monitoring of the authority’s computer systems to
memory sticks, to the extent that dwindling public confidence in the
identify who was getting in and who was leaking stuff out.
ability of government and companies to hang onto data is
threatening to undermine public support for a major plank of this At around the same time, Mohan heard from a friend in the state
government’s policy, namely ID cards. government that poor IT security was plaguing government systems
from the local level right up to the national government in Canberra.
Given the easy access to data over networks and via transportable
media, pinning the responsibility for custody of lost data is proving a
That was his Eureka moment.
nightmare. Of course, if a laptop is stolen, the responsibility belongs to
“Government systems were very vulnerable to leaks, so Cirus and I put
its owner.
2 and 2 together, went to Chris and Ben and asked them if their
But if computer disks go missing in the mail, as they did from HMRC,
system could be redeveloped for use on a wider scale and they said
how do you know who burned the disks, unless there is a clearly
yes. The point is that everyone up to then had been worried about
defined audit trail that shows who has handled the data, when and
how to keep external hackers from breaking into computer systems.
what they did with it?
This needed something different; we needed to stop data getting
out...from the inside.”
A little over a year ago, a new company stepped into the UK data
security industry, with a ready-formed solution to this nightmare, tested
The team formed a company, Dtex, and made a pitch to the state
and proven in action. The company is Dtex and it is the brainchild of a
government to build software that could monitor what was happening
team of young Australian entrepreneurs. The CEO is 33 year old
inside their networks. Ernst and Young helped them write a business
Mohan Koo.
plan and the government gave them a development grant of $100k.
Alerted to the massive potential for solving their own data loss
Growing up in Adelaide, Mohan originally dreamt of becoming an problems, the federal government pitched in $1m in return for a share
action star. His Chinese father had arrived in the country at the age of in the intellectual property rights, which allowed the team to finish a
18 without a penny to his name, but with the sort of determination that prototype system.
appears to have been passed down undiluted to Mohan, he studied
hard, working at various jobs before building a highly successful
It worked, and it won Dtex a national innovation award for security.
accountancy practice.
“It felt great,” Mohan says, “but we were a bit naïve, thinking we’d be
inundated with business. We did manage to sign up a number of
Mohan could not have steered further away from the family business.
Australian government departments, but we needed more, so we
started looking to the private sector. And hit a brick wall.”
Just out of his teens he started a film production company, mainly
doing stunt work and odd jobs in the film and TV industry, but burning
Australian companies knew their computer systems were vulnerable to
with the notion that he could be a major producer himself.
data loss from the inside but there was a national debate over privacy
Mohan recalls with a big grin. “My partners Cirus, Angus and I
at the time, and a mood of resistance against anything that smacked
produced a 12 minute short action film that actually won the People’s
of Big Brother. CCTV was coming under fire, the unions fought the
Choice award at the Australian Young Filmmaker’s Festival. We cut it
concept of workers being monitored at work and Dtex looked headed
down to a 2 minute demo and went out looking for someone who’d
for trouble.
finance the production of a television pilot.”
The company’s next move was built on Mohan’s experience trying to
It was a quest that took Mohan and Cirus all over Australia, Hong Kong,
find financial backers for their TV pilot. They went back into Asia where
Malaysia and Singapore, knocking on doors of film and TV production
companies, particularly multinational banks who had set up call
companies, looking for that elusive deal.
centres in countries like the Philippines and India, were desperately
concerned about sensitive customer data leaking with abandon – or
“We raised a lot of interest and met some really big players, but being stolen - from their computer systems. Identity theft was rife and
unfortunately didn't nail the deal we were looking for,” Mohan says. “It they were eager to hear of a system that could stop it. It was such a
certainly taught me a thing or two about business!” major problem that issues of privacy in the workplace had to take a
back seat in the interests of protecting the core business asset, namely
Back in Australia, his dreams on hold, Mohan was offered a job customer data. Dtex quickly secured venture capital to set up in
running the on-line stock footage sales department for an Malaysia, only to find that their backers, Malaysia’s largest banking
entertainment company. group, wanted the entire company headquartered there. After
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