Stopping cyberattacks before they start

by | Jun 10, 2016 | Media Coverage

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Consider Uncle Sam an honorary cofounder of Code Dx Inc.

So says Frank Zinghini, founder and CEO of the Northport Village spinoff and its parent company, Applied Visions, a veteran software-engineering firm that developed new cybersecurity protocols – the backbone of Code Dx’s “software vulnerability management” solutions – primarily through government-funded research.

Applied Visions, which is also headquartered in Northport with a field office in upstate Clifton Park, has spent 28 years building software applications and products for other companies. It’s also carved a niche in cybersecurity R&D, with its Secure Decisions division earning multiple research contracts from Homeland Security and other federal departments.

“That research produced a product we felt had marketplace value,” Zinghini told Innovate LI. “We called it Code Dx and decided to grow a new business around that technology.”

Noting that most hacks can be traced to “weaknesses in software that were inadvertently put there when the code was developed,” Code Dx aims to close coding loopholes before cyber-attackers can exploit them. Applicable to several different programming languages, the system combines various code-analysis methods to identify and manage vulnerabilities written into software codes, decreasing both the risk of future compromise and the developer organization’s potential liabilities.

Turning the proprietary combination of static code analysis, wherein software is analyzed without actually executing programs, and dynamic code analysis, which reviews code while a program is run on a real or virtual processor, into a commercial product was simply following Uncle Sam’s lead, Zinghini noted.

“This is something the government encourages,” he said. “They want companies like us to take advantage of the results of government-funded research and turn it into products others can use.”

In Applied Visions’ case, that led to the 2015 incorporation of Code Dx Inc., a move meant not only to distinguish Code Dx products from other Applied Visions wares but to allow investors to buy directly into the spinoff’s cybersecurity solutions. While some $3.5 million has already been poured into Code Dx – including about $2.5 million in government research grants and another $1 million from Applied Visions’ coffers – Zinghini is looking for more.

“We have a working technology,” he noted. “Our product is in the marketplace already and we have well over 200 people using it every day. It’s not only a viable product but a successful product. What we need now is investment to grow the marketplace.”

To that end, the founder has embarked on a $2 million funding round, money he says will be used “almost exclusively for sales and marketing and customer support.” Zinghini has already directly pitched the Long Island Capital Alliance and the Long Island Angel Network, and has participated in a “Shark Tank”-like investor-pitch event organized by Uniondale law firm Farrell Fritz.

“We’re constantly looking for investors to help us grow the business,” Zinghini said. “The fundamental research funded by the government is what got the basic technology working and worked out all the kinks. The Applied Vision investment has been the commercialization process.

“But it does require further investment to grow a software company,” he added. “It takes a lot of effort to turn the technology into a product and establish a presence in the marketplace.”

To support that effort, Code Dx is moving this summer into Stony Brook University’s Center of Excellence For Wireless and Information Technology, where it will occupy a 165-square-foot office – not a huge space, Zinghini noted, but the right space for access to key resources that can help the software spinoff find its virtual footing.

“There are tremendous resources at the university in terms of talented students and professors,” he said. “They have the National Security Institute, which focuses on cybersecurity research, and a lot of other professors focused on software engineering and other things that relate to computer security.

“There’s an amazing supply of talent and knowledge (at SBU) that we hope to tap into.”

One of Zinghini’s long-term goals is to turn Code Dx into an international go-to for software developers. While Applied Vision has largely made its bones among U.S. customers – the founder estimates his current business is “70 to 80 percent domestic” – expanding globally is “very important to us,” and with that in mind Zinghini is already working with an international cabal of resellers, including two in Europe and one generating sales in Australia and Asia.

The entrepreneur isn’t shy about calling his existing customers to let them know about his cybersecurity spinoff and its new products, but his vision takes Code Dx well beyond the “handful of clients” amassed by Applied Visions over the last three decades.

“There’s really no barrier to this,” he noted. “It’s a software-development tool that can be used anywhere.

“There are 11 million people writing software in the world today,” Zinghini added. “We’d like every one of them to be using Code Dx.”

Stopping cyberattacks before they start

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