The number of connected IoT devices is expected to reach 29 billion by 2030 with machine-based connections reaching 75 billion in the same timeframe. These devices and connection points are found in everything from military and delivery drones, to our vehicles, streetlamps, and refrigerators. However, the IoT world has also created billions of points of vulnerability, making industry, corporations, our economy and infrastructure susceptible to cyber attacks.
Small, embedded and built from basic components, IoT devices are weak and vulnerable. They are designed to perform specific functions that warrant only limited computational abilities, but the device has little room for robust security mechanisms and data protection. Furthermore, devices often use a variety of transmission technologies which make it difficult to establish standard protection methods and protocols. Finally, the end users of these devices may not have the security awareness or sophistication to appreciate or detect vulnerabilities should they exist.
A unique bridge between IoT and Web 3.0
Web 3.0 startup and Berlin-based Staex was founded in 2019 by Dr. Alexandra Mikityuk as a spin-off from Deutsche Telekom and the Staex software platform provides a unique bridge between the IoT industry and Web 3.0.
“Back in 2013, I was doing my PhD in software security at the Technical University of Berlin. I observed through my work that there were an increasing number of large-scale attacks on intelligent machines. A multitude of telcos had been hit,” explains Alexandra. “The attacks were coming through network routers. I hadn’t thought much about these boxes prior, but as I started to take a closer look I realized that these technologies were widely deployed -- even into vehicles. Given the rapid proliferation of these intelligent devices, it became clear to me that a huge threat had developed and it wasn’t being addressed.
Staex provides essential protection for connected devices through a mobile first (I)IoT-ready VPN. Staex’s software has low data usage, low resource consumption and state-of-the-art encryption, and is deployed to these devices to act as an embedded defensive “shield.”
“There are other security solutions and providers in the market, but they all run on and require the Cloud. We were the only ones crazy enough to say, let’s do this in a completely distributed way,” says Alexandra. “Our very secure overlay is installed onto every device to create a wall that hackers can’t break through to access the network layer.” She adds that thanks to the distributed nature of the VPN hackers can’t breach a network by hacking the central server, which makes an attack far more complicated to orchestrate. “They have to take devices down individually,” says Alexandra. “And frankly, it just makes an attack too hard.”
Staex’s software is also installed with a secure, encrypted key that provides customers with the highest level of security that can be achieved on the market today so that data that is pulled off the device is known to be trusted. “We don’t know the key. We don’t collect any data,” says Alexandra.
Adoption growing in industries reliant on mission-critical intelligent devices
Because its solution does take some effort to deploy, Staex has chosen to focus on mission-critical intelligent machines in specific industry verticals. In particular, it is gaining traction and market adoption in the drone market, with manufacturers of energy appliances, such as EV charging stations, with blockchain providers, and autonomous vehicle manufacturers and fleet operators.
While Staex’s initial traction has been close to home in Europe, the company is now expanding into the US market. Several prospective customers are testing out the technology.
The relationship with 5G Open Innovation Lab, which began shortly after the company was founded in 2021 has provided a vital entree to mobile network providers. “Our tech out of the gate was highly optimized for mobile connections,” explains Alexandra. “In addition, we are now working with mobile tower operators. Staex creates new revenue streams in the “low altitude economy“ allowing tower operators to open up their locations to drone landing infrastructure and reusing the stations to create broader drone delivery networks.
Says Alexandra, “Jim, the Lab and its team have been very helpful in aiding us in building out this market opportunity, to assess other market opportunities as we start moving from the European market.
North America is just the first stop in Staex’s ambitious expansion plans. Alexandra and her team were recently approached by a fellow German company that is looking at Staex to secure mobile connections between rovers maneuvering on the moon’s surface.
Says Alexandra, “It got us all pretty excited. What if we could say our next market was on the moon? How cool would that be?”
Posted October 31, 2023