Qbound: “Never Trust, Always Verify”

The degree of digitization is increasing in more and more German companies, but that also makes them a target for cybercriminals. A simple firewall is far from sufficient for protecting valuable company assets. In our interview, André Schweizer, CEO and founder of Qbound, tells us about modern cybersecurity and how his security startup is doing.

Munich Startup: Who are you and what do you do at Qbound? Please introduce yourself!

André Schweizer, Qbound: My name is André Schweizer and I’m the CEO and one of the founders of Qbound. Together with Artur Rösch and Sven Radszuwill we decided about two years ago to take up an idea in the field of cybersecurity. We had realized that, on the one hand, the networking of our society is steadily increasing – experts estimate there will be up to 75 billion IoT devices in 2025, and on the other hand, cybercrime is also soaring – with an estimated 300 percent increase in the next five years. Which is why here at Qbound, we help companies protect themselves from cyberattacks and secure their key resources – applications, data and (IoT) devices – with a fine-grained approach. We developed an all-in-one-zero-trust-access-management solution for just that, which makes managing access safer and easier at the same time.

Munich Startup: What problem does your startup solve?

André Schweizer, Qbound: As mentioned in the beginning, the number of cyber attacks is increasing significantly. Professional hackers use highly innovative kinds of attacks – for example with artificial intelligence – to steal intellectual property or paralyze operations. The problem is that attempts are still made to protect hybrid IT structures – including cloud, IoT and on-premise elements – with rather dated concepts.

A firewall like Swiss cheese

We like to use an illustrative analogy to describe the problem: Walls used to be built around cities to protect them. To get into the city, there were city gates where only those who were allowed could enter. In the analogy, the cities represent organizations and the walls are firewalls, which allow for a strict separation between internal and external networks. The city gates represent the VPN connections that allow access to the internal network. Once a fraud managed to make it into the city, for example with a fake identity, Trojan horse or tunnel, they would be able to move with relative freedom and wreak havoc in the entire city. That is exactly what happens when an attacker manages to access a classically secured IT network. They have access to large parts of the entire, internal and critical network and can identify, manipulate and damage all network communication and IT systems. Once they are in the internal network (beyond the firewall), both users and attackers have open access to nearly all of the resources. The situation becomes even more complex when interfaces have to be configured to integrate external services and smartphones/laptops, etc. That makes the firewall (city wall) look a lot more like Swiss cheese riddled with holes.

In the “real world,” we’ve replaced city walls with smart alarm systems for each individual house. That is precisely the step that our product makes possible in the “digital world”. We make sure that only authorized individuals and devices have access to the right resources at the right time and for the right reasons.

Qbound’s security approach

Munich Startup: But that’s nothing out of the box!

André Schweizer, Qbound: It’s true that an increasing number of suppliers are moving towards zero-trust. On the one hand, that obviously increases our competition, but on the other, it makes companies and decision makers more aware that zero-trust concepts really are the right way to go. We’ve been working on just that kind of solution for quite some time now and have developed an innovative security approach and a competitive edge most particularly at the interface between IT and IoT and also in the cloud sector. With our solution, we offer fine-grained administration of secure access to individual IT components, which ultimately provides three significant advantages:

1) Never trust, always verify – users have to always authenticate themselves before they can access a service or device.

2) Micro-segmentation at the process level – every application and every (IoT) device is protected individually and communication is controlled individually for each process.

3) Fine-grained access and the principle of least privilege – dynamic access policies that take real-time contextual data into account.

These advantages not only mean that we have an innovative lead in terms of technology, but also that we offer a solution that combines the highest level of security with the highest degree of user friendliness.

“Making mistakes is part of the startup culture”

Munich Startup: Was there a point when you nearly failed?

André Schweizer, Qbound: I think those kinds of points happen time and again – some are more serious than others. For example, it might happen in software development when it isn’t possible to implement an innovative part of an idea exactly how you had imagined. It might also have to do with customer acquisition or applying for funding programs when you don’t end up getting the support you need at that moment – to name just two aspects as examples. But that’s also an important part of the startup culture, making “mistakes” as early on and as often as possible. What’s important is that you build on the lessons learned. Then you can continue to develop quickly and ultimately create a product that optimally meets your customers’ needs.

Munich Startup: How is business going?

André Schweizer, Qbound: Our projects have obviously also been slowed down by the corona pandemic in certain areas and we have had to deal with financial losses, but we are also seeing some good progress. For example, we’ve been collaborating with Beamler BV, the Dutch platform operator for additive manufacturing, on a pilot project since October 2019. We’ve also been working on a pilot project with a major manufacturer of truck and train systems (Knorr-Bremse) and are conducting a research project on zero-trust products in the field of critical infrastructure in cooperation with Stadtwerke Wunsiedel, mobitherm, VK Energie and the University of Bayreuth. We are also confident about the future in terms of further acquisition and financing.

“Munich is a model region”

Munich Startup: What do you think about Munich as a startup location?

André Schweizer, Qbound: When founding the company at the beginning, we made a conscious decision to be part of different incubator programs that ended up bringing us to Munich. I think Munich could be considered a model region for the many startup centers that are currently being established. Moreover, Munich is one of the German founder hotspots, which speaks for the community that is already here. It really is helpful to always be in contact with other startups and to have the opportunity to establish an extensive network – and that also applies to business contacts and investors. We are very pleased to be part of the Munich startup culture and to also get to help shape it to a certain extent.

Munich Startup: Apple or Android?

André Schweizer, Qbound: Both areas are of key importance for us because we would like to cater to as many users and devices as possible with our mobile client. And here in the company too, both worlds are used.

Maximilian Feigl

Maximilian Feigl berichtet seit 2020 über das Münchner Startup Ökosystem. Dabei haben es dem studierten Politikwissenschaftler vor allem Deeptech-Themen angetan.

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