Mobilized by Failed Systems: QWERX's Startup Story

a salmon swimming upstream

This week is DC Startup Week, and we are looking forward to connecting with our community of entrepreneurs and funders. The rapid pace of these events is efficient and energizing, but it doesn't always allow time to share our startup stories. Every founder has one, and these stories draw the line between what started as an idea or question and the passion and vision required to undergo the long, hard work of building a business. The founders at QWERX have a shared experience that drives our passion and dedication to mission.

Like so many in the National Capital Region, we were victims of the massive cyber breach at the Office of Personnel Management (OPM). In that history are the roots of our technology and mission. After dissecting the OPM breach, we discussed it with colleagues in the Intelligence and Defense communities and asked if any cybersecurity providers were offering any new and real responses to the problem. We were astonished to learn that nothing new was being offered, just the “same old/same old” solutions that had already failed so catastrophically.

We decided to analyze the problem with no preconceptions to determine the fundamental vulnerabilities that led to the OPM and most other data breaches. We concluded that effective security depended on two things that were not being addressed.

  1. Security depends on keeping secrets, but secrets cannot be kept in digital systems.
  2. Security is attached to a static credential that not only had to be protected and kept secret, but could be easily targeted by an attacker and stolen.

QWERX decided to take an entirely new approach: eliminate both the need for secrecy and the static credential that could be stolen. This was a tough challenge for anyone, but particularly for a startup. The paradigm that led to the existing security model was decades old and well-entrenched. Overcoming the failed cybersecurity legacy has been a huge challenge, but the QWERX team has been driven by the need to find real answers to the threats revealed by the OPM Breach. Our focus and passion have resulted in creating a solution that we are prepared to deliver to the market today.

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