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Hacked, Cracked and Striking Back

Andrew McLennan finally got tired of being ripped off, so he started a security company.

Well, it didn't happen exactly like that, but McLennan's experience as a video game developer did eventually lead to his founding of Metaforic, a maker of anti-tamper software. During his time at Steel Monkeys, a Belarus-based game developer, McLennan saw the company's products hacked, cracked and available for illicit sale literally before Steel Monkeys had released them in some markets.

"We had so much stuff pirated, it was ridiculous," McLennan said in a robust Scottish brogue. "We had stuff available in Russia before it was available in the U.K. We did get kind of fed up -- you'd spend nearly two years working on something and then see it stolen from you."

So, with funding from the Scottish government, McLennan founded Glasgow-based Metaforic, which launched in the U.S. in late October and has an office in San Jose, Calif. McLennan, the company's CEO, said that MetaFortress, the company's flagship product, can "stop any hack in its tracks."

But there's more to MetaFortress than just the fact that it prevents hacking, piracy, theft and reverse-engineering, McLennan said. Not only does MetaFortress do all of those things, but it does them in a way that's easy to deploy and doesn't significantly affect application performance.

Instead of requiring eight weeks to six months, as some other applications do, MetaFortress adds protection to an application in an hour by automating the process of adding protection, McLennan said. "Because we're so easy to use, we've become easy to adopt."

Beyond that, McLennan added, while most anti-tamper tools reduce the performance of the applications they protect by anywhere from 5 to 20 percent, MetaFortress clocks in at a 0.2 percent performance downgrade. And, he said, while competitors protect an application for anywhere from a week to a month, Metaforic's product offers three to 18 months of protection.

And MetaFortress isn't just for game developers. Metaforic is targeting the enterprise with its product, selling not only to ISVs but also to companies that do internal app development or want to protect critical elements of their infrastructures. The company is looking for partners, too -- both for traditional partners and for companies that might want to OEM MetaFortress. Channel members in the financial and government fields are of particular interest, McLennan said, because "they're difficult industries to get into."

Still, McLennan admitted that nobody's perfect. MetaFortress isn't un-crackable, he said -- it just provides better protection for longer than competing products do. "We're not claiming we're uncrackable," he said. "The hacker has to do everything manually. All we're trying to do is bore the attacker to death."

Posted by Lee Pender on 11/04/2008 at 1:22 PM


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