ISS founder on IBM and beyond

Internet Security Systems (ISS) last week entered an agreement to be acquired by IBM for US$1.3 billion in cash, a deal expected to close by the end of the year. Chris Klaus, founder and chief security advisor at ISS, talks about what he plans to do next -- and it could involve an online virtual world he hopes you'll visit, too.

How did you get the idea for ISS?

Internet Security Systems started off as a personal security research project to build the world's first public security scanner for the Internet. This security scanner that would analyze a network, determine vulnerabilities, and provide a report on what to correct, originally was inspired by reading a book by William Gibson called Neuromancer. In this book, the term "cyberspace" was first coined, and the vivid description of cyberspace inspired me to apply some of the book's concepts towards the Internet in 1992.

While at Georgia Institute of Technology, I released my research project as the first Internet Security Scanner 1.0 on Usenet with all of its source code available for free in 1993. I had such a positive reception and demand for new features, I announced the intention of making a commercial version of it. I took a break from school to pursue my dream of starting a security company a reality. In April of 1994, Internet Security Systems, the company, was incorporated.

How do you feel about seeing ISS in the hands of IBM?

ISS has focused on enterprise security solutions, and we have built both cutting-edge protection technology and an on-demand protection service called Managed Security Services (MSS). When IBM, who has been our partner for many years, came to us and explained how our solution could grow within IBM's enterprise framework, and achieve greater scale and leverage into many more customers than what we currently were serving, it made sense to take advantage of that.

Our solution would benefit from IBM's vast resources. It would ensure that our security solution as part of a larger IT framework could help protect a significantly larger customer base.

Additionally, many of our larger customers were indicating that security has become important enough to no longer stay separate and stand-alone, but should become an integral part of network and IT management. As security is built into the IT infrastructure from the beginning, as opposed to an afterthought, tying our security platform into IBM's platform would further complete this goal and desire of our customers.

I am proud of what the ISS team has achieved and feel that by joining a bigger organization that is very much aligned with our mission, it will help us achieve a greater significant contribution to protecting companies worldwide.

Are you going to stay with IBM or go sailing around the seas on a year voyage?

While I will be assisting with IBM, I am currently focused on my second start-up called Kaneva. Kaneva stands for canvas in Latin and we are enabling anyone to join and "paint" on our canvas with any type of digital media, including videos, photos, music, games, and especially virtual worlds.

As people build on top of this canvas, it becomes a social entertainment platform to join communities, meet others, and share experiences. We are in beta and working on a virtual world known as a MMOG (Massively Multiplayer Online Game). While this virtual world or meta-verse technology is totally different from the enterprise security realm, the inspirations came from the same similar books, Neuromancer and Snowcrash. I recommend reading those books, and then join me on Kaneva on my virtual voyage in cyberspace.

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