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Innoblock takes cybersecurity to your laptop

The regtech was cited by HKMA for solutions to help banks manage employees handling sensitive data.



Kevin Ng and Rowena Wong

A Hong Kong-based regtech, Innoblock, is helping financial institutions protect their security vulnerabilities by taking technology to the level of employees’ laptops and desktops.

Hong Kong Monetary Authority recently cited the company in its program to boost the city as a global innovation hub for regtech. The startup has signed one boutique investment bank to protect its client data around initial public offerings.

CEO Kevin Ng says the technology combines facial recognition, computer sensors, and blockchain to take cybersecurity to the device level, to prevent unauthorized people from taking photos of a screen showing sensitive information, or otherwise spying on employees.

“Protecting customer information is a big concern, especially for private banks,” said Rowena Wong, head of sales and marketing.

Ng and Wong were both working at Huawei, where Ng was heading sales for financial institutions, but they left to help set up Innoblock in 2020. The startup is part of the incubation program at Hong Kong Science and Technology Park.

Most enterprises, including banks, focus cybersecurity efforts on phishing, malware, and other external attacks. Banks with retail branches have hardened those spaces with lots of cameras, but may not have the same protections for data handled internally.

Innoblock focuses on the hardware staff use. Anyone using a device with sensitive data logs in with both a password and a facial scan. The firm’s machine-learning software is trained to detect anything that a computer’s internal-facing camera catches that looks like a smartphone or a camera. It also automatically locks down if an unauthorized person tries to use the computer.

Any possible infractions or breaches are logged on a blockchain. This immutable time-stamped record means the breach can’t be “lost” by an insider, and can be used as evidence in court if required. “Blockchain is for situations where you don’t want to trust anyone, not even your internal administrators,” Ng said.

Ng argues the service is not about spying on employees, but protecting them. With COVID-19 and work from home, it can help ensure spouses don’t accidentally see the wrong information; if a malicious person tries to capture data off an employee’s screen, the record will prove the employee is innocent.

The business has been bootstrapped so far, and Ng says he doesn’t expect to seek venture-capital funding soon. He’d rather wait and build up the customer base and improve the technology. “Why sell now if we think it’s a good product?” he said.

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