Elevator Pitch: Vivek Ramachandran, Founder & CEO of SquareX
Singapore/ Venture/ Profiles

Elevator Pitch: Meet Comic Book Author & SquareX CEO Vivek Ramachandran

Elevator Pitch Meet Comic Book Author Square X CEO Vivek Ramachandran

When the term “hacker” comes to mind, you probably think of illicit activities and online threats. In Singapore alone, the prevalence of ransomware and phishing attacks surged significantly with 54% recorded in 2021 and continued to rise by 175% in 2022, with the banking sector being the primary target, according to a review on Singapore’s cybersecurity challenges published on Feb. 11.

For the uninitiated, hacking culture consists of three categories: namely white, black, and grey hat hackers. Black hat hackers are notorious for exploiting security vulnerabilities for malicious purposes, while white hackers are more "ethical" ones who leverage their skills to fix vulnerabilities. In contrast, grey hat hackers are usually involved in morally ambiguous activities which means that their actions and motivations may walk the line between legality and illegality.

If you’re intrigued by the world of hacking or fascinated by the complexities of cybersecurity, chances are you’ve read the comic book series “Hackers: Superheroes of the Digital Age” by Vivek Ramachandran.

Based in Singapore, Vivek is the founder and CEO of SquareX, a browser-native security product or browser extension programmed to keep users safe from nefarious online activities. More than just being a seasonal cybersecurity expert with over 20 years of experience, he is also a security researcher, author, and speaker-trainer.

The Beat Asia caught up with Vivek to learn about his cybersecurity journey, entrepreneurial pursuits for SquareX, and more.

Vivek Ramachandran
Photo by Vivek Ramachandran

Please share with us the story of how your tech journey started

My journey into the world of cybersecurity and technology began when I was quite young, back in the year 2000, during the massive denial-of-service attacks that targeted prominent websites, including Yahoo. I vividly remember the hacker named Mixter who developed the notorious Tribal Flood Network tool responsible for those attacks. This event piqued my curiosity and led me to download the tool in an attempt to understand how it worked, even though I couldn't grasp much of it at the time.

This initial encounter ignited my interest in cybersecurity and technology. I embarked on a quest to comprehend not only the programming languages involved but also the methods behind crafting such tools. As I dived deeper into this intriguing world, my interest, addiction, and obsession with cybersecurity grew, setting the foundation for my career in the field.

How would you describe the work culture at SquareX?

Vivek Ramachandran
Photo by Vivek Ramachandran

At SquareX, our company culture is built on a foundation of innovation and collaboration. We foster an environment where creativity and fresh ideas are not only encouraged but also celebrated. Our teams are diverse, bringing together individuals with a wide range of skills and perspectives, which fuels innovation.

To maintain our edge in the rapidly evolving cybersecurity market, we prioritize continuous learning and R&D. We encourage our employees to stay up-to-date with the latest industry trends and invest in their professional development. This commitment to growth enables us to adapt swiftly to emerging threats.

In short, we at SquareX are all about coming up with smart ideas, learning together, and working as a team to lead the way in cybersecurity. It's this kind of environment that keeps us on top of our game and lets us keep delivering top-notch security solutions to our customers.

We constantly read news about hundreds of millions being lost in online scams. What do you think is the root issue, and how can this be solved?

The root cause is that we live in an increasingly complex digital world powered by technologies which are difficult for the average person to understand. This makes it easy for attackers who are more technologically adept to scam and fool the ones that are not. Moreover, these attackers have further enhanced their attacks using AI tools like ChatGPT, making it even more difficult for users to simply identify an attack attempt based on bad grammar.

Unfortunately, the average person lacks security awareness about how they could get attacked in the digital world or which products they could use to safeguard themselves. This can be solved with public-private partnerships to create both security awareness and a culture of good security habits and product use.

What inspired you to write the comic book series “Hackers: Superheroes of the Digital Age”?

After the acquisition of Pentester Academy, I was looking for ways to give back to the community primarily via mentorship, which led me to write and publish “Hackers: Superheroes of the Digital Age."

This initiative was, in a way, my response to the mainstream media's negative portrayal of hackers, often depicted as villains in a digital world. By introducing a series that showcases the diversity and ingenuity of hackers, my aim was to demystify hacking, presenting it as a creative science. The series highlights hacker vigilantes from various backgrounds tackling global issues with knowledge as their weapon, though not always with success.

In today’s AI-driven world, attackers are using technologies like ChatGPT to create malicious code and more convincing scams. How will SquareX’s technology address these concerns?

With the advent of ChatGPT and now AI voice, video assistants, and deep fakes, we won’t be able to rely on our human senses to decide if something is real or virtual just based on seeing or hearing. As SquareX runs on the web browser, we are able to see what users see and hear what is said out there. We are currently building an AI-based security system, which can detect deep fakes in video, audio, and images. Stay-tuned!

Can you tell us more about SquareX’s approach to securing end users and enterprises against web attacks in the browser and how this is differentiated?

Today, the web browser is the most used application on your computer for work and personal life. Attackers now intelligently target users via multiple channels, including web mail, malicious documents, networks and scripts all via the web browser.

SquareX protects against these attacks by deploying a browser extension that constantly monitors everything that is happening on the browser. This allows SquareX to detect and mitigate threats in real-time for every user.

SASE/SSE solutions are unable to protect users against modern web threats that happen on the client side, and endpoint security solutions have no visibility into what happens in the browser during an attack. Hence, we hear more and more enterprises these days are falling victim to cyberattacks.

To address the current limitations and needs of the market, SquareX offers enterprises full visibility into the attack chain, enabling them to effectively threat-hunt and identify similar attacks across their networks and geographies. Empowering the enterprises with detailed threat graphs would help them understand how and where the attack originated.

Our dream is for every web user, from our grandparents to the CEOs of Fortune 100 companies, to “Be Fearless Online.”

What would you say to the young and emerging entrepreneurs who are about to embark on their business journey?

First and foremost, embrace innovation. In today's fast-paced world, the ability to identify opportunities and pioneer creative solutions is paramount. Don't be afraid to think differently and challenge the status quo.

Secondly, build a solid and passionate team. The right people, who share your drive, can take your business to great heights. Lastly, commit to lifelong learning. Business changes constantly, and to lead, you must always be a student. Never stop learning and upskilling yourself

This interview has been edited for clarity. Read more about by Vivek Ramachandran here. Stay updated on SquareX’ latest updates by checking its website.

Enjoyed this article? Check out our previous Elevator Pitch profiles here.

Get the latest curated content with The Beat Asia's newsletters. Sign up now for a weekly dose of the best stories, events, and deals delivered straight to your inbox. Don't miss out! Click here to subscribe.

This Week's Events In Singapore View more

Sign up to receive updates on what's going on in the city. Don't miss out on exciting events, news, and more. Sign up today!

By submitting your email, you agree to our Terms and Privacy Notice
Thank you for subscribing! Click here if you were not redirected.