An Israeli computer genius who graduated university at the age of 12 is determined to make computers impenetrable with his new product, Paranoid. Nir Gaist, now 23 years old and co-founder of the start-up Nyotron, developed an anti-virus that takes a new approach to computer security by combining technology and social psychology. With an aptly named title, Paranoid calls itself the first anti-virus software to stop viruses and foreign threats at the source.
In order to treat computer threats, most anti-virus companies must first identify and make signatures for these threats. Only once a threat is identified can it be protected against – and every threat must be identified individually. This causes a lag-time between when a virus is launched and when it is finally contained and/or eliminated. These initial threats, when an unidentified virus is first created, called “Zero Day Attacks”, are what Paranoid aims to prevent.
Paranoid is able to eliminate these “Zero Day Attacks” because it works on the level of computer security called the “Kernel level,” said Gaist, who at the age of twelve astounded some of Israel’s most prominent professors by graduating from the country’s top notch Institute of Technology, the Technion.
There are four different levels of security, starting with the Kernel level (level zero) up to level number three. “The highest ring is the least secure ring. The lowest ring, ring zero, the Kernel level, is the most secured layer but it is also the most dangerous layer if someone uploads a virus,” Gaist told NoCamels.
Most anti-virus software, threats, and hackers operate on the third level of security. This still leaves a lot of vulnerability in computers and networks as WikiLeaks has shown. Paranoid, on the other hand, works at the Kernel level, which is the most fundamental and integral level of computer security. If a virus is stopped at the Kernel level, it has no chance of causing damage to the computer at the other levels. “Just with one rule defining the normative way of downloading a file, we can see how many threats we are able to protect from.”
Paranoid attempts to eliminate a threat at the Kernel level using an innovation called the BPM, or “Behavioral Patterns Map”. This map is a rubric of normal functions that a computer should perform. Combining computer technology and social psychology, this map filters out any foreign or irregular functions as soon as they show up on the computer.
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With this system, a computer can remain in its normal state without constant updates while the computer quietly identifies and eliminates threats. This quiet process uses far less energy and space compared to most other anti-virus software, according to Gaist. “The idea is to provide a total solution without interrupting the user, without causing any effect on the performance, and to do that all with 99% percent of protection.”
Gaist has been working in technology securities since the age of ten. Starting out as a computer hacker, he was then hired by several Israeli banks and internet companies to provide security consultation and penetration testing services (legally hacking into systems to observe vulnerabilities).
He and his brother founded Nyotron and developed the technology for Paranoid less than a year ago. The company humble beginnings started when, in order to attain the capital to start the company, Nir convinced his older brother to sell his bike.
Although the software was initially marketed to governments, Nyotron has decided to make the software available for public use. Paranoid is currently still in its Betaphase, but CEO Moshe Dalman is hopeful that a public Beta version will be available this coming June, for Windows XP and Windows 7 machines. “We don’t just have a prototype – we have a real product that works,” Gaist said.
According to Gaist, Paranoid could protect against 99% of all viruses, but he claims, “Eventually we will be able to protect from anything. That is the vision.”
Photos courtesy Nytron