Federal Ministry supports Darmstadt Cyber Security Start-up

Press release

IT-Seal GmbH receives funding for awareness program 'Lifetime' from the Federal Ministry of Education and Research

Darmstadt, January 7, 2020 - The Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) is supporting selected start-up projects with its "StartUpSecure" funding program in order to bring new ideas in the field of IT security faster to the market. The Darmstadt-based start-up IT-Seal has received a funding of around 0.7€ million from the BMBF for its "Lifetime" awareness program, which provides ongoing information on IT security risks to employees of companies and public authorities. IT-Seal focuses on the human risk factor. With its program, the Federal Ministry supports not only the start-up, but also sustainable awareness raising around the topic of social engineering.

In the digital age, cyber criminals no longer just use hacking methods to obtain company data. They have identified people as an easily accessible weak point in information security and are targeting them via social engineering in order to implement their plans. To do this, the perpetrators collect data from the social media profiles of their targets, for example, and then pose as CEOs, old acquaintances or even customers in so-called spear phishing emails. If employees do not recognize the deception and disclose the requested information, the company is threatened with data theft and financial losses. The company's reputation is also at stake in phishing attacks.

IT-Seal's "Lifetime" program raises awareness of cyber security on an ongoing basis.

"Lifetime" is IT-Seal's full-service package for employees that allows companies to put a check mark behind cyber security awareness.

In addition to a security culture analysis, the program also includes ongoing training. Using e-learning, videos and training sessions as well as spear phishing simulations, participants learn to distinguish phishing emails from legitimate inquiries. The training takes place "on the job". For example, during a phishing simulation, employees unsuspectingly click on links in the phishing e-mails prepared by IT-Seal for training purposes, but there is no danger. Instead, they are redirected to a presentation that shows how phishing can be easily recognized. In IT-Seal's experience, this "teachable moment" demonstrably increases awareness.

The ESI® (Employee Security Index) developed by the Darmstadt-based start-up also makes the IT security awareness of employees measurable for companies and enables evaluations. In the "Lifetime" program, each company can define a security level for itself that it would like to maintain. IT-Seal then continuously calculates the ESI® and plans further necessary training measures accordingly in an automated manner.

Federal Ministry of Education and Research invests in raising awareness of social engineering

With "StartUpSecure", the BMBF is promoting IT security research at German universities and research institutions and accelerating the transfer of research results into application-ready products for industry. This strengthens Germany's competitiveness as a business location and also promotes future-oriented and innovative IT security measures to protect vital infrastructures in the country. Not only companies, but also medical facilities and government agencies, benefit from new concepts for protection against cyber attacks. Social engineering is one of the great dangers of our time and endangers IT security, as this type of manipulation targets the "human security gap".

"Lifetime" – an eligible program

"IT-Seal's 'Lifetime' program addresses important aspects of the German government's research framework program 'Self-Determined and Secure in the Digital World'," says Nihal Islam, coordinator and knowledge manager at StartUpSecure ATHENE, formerly StartUpSecure CRISP. The Darmstadt startup incubator supported IT-Seal in the application process for the funding.

"In addition to defending against attacks, IT-Seal focuses on user-friendliness. E-learnings, videos, awareness materials and training courses are easy to understand. The 'teachable moment' in the phishing simulations creates good conditions for a lasting learning effect among users. In this way, employees in the company and other institutions are sensitized to social engineering and the risks of cyber attacks are reduced. In addition, the employee awareness measures that take place in the 'Lifetime' program can be evaluated and measured using IT-Seal's Employee Security Index (ESI®)," explains Islam.

David Kelm, who runs the Darmstadt-based startup together with Alex Wyllie and Yannic Ambach, is grateful for the support of the startup incubator. "ATHENE stood by IT-Seal with advice and support when applying for the funding from the Federal Ministry of Education and Research. We are pleased with the good cooperation, which is thoroughly successful with the funding commitment for 'Lifetime'."

IT-Seal will use the funding of EUR 0.7 million to raise sustainable employee awareness in public authorities and companies. In this way, the "Lifetime" program is to be made more present and introduced to the public.

2019 was a successful year for IT-Seal

2019 was a very successful year for IT-Seal, and not just because of the funding commitment from the BMBF. The start-up was also able to attract three new investors, WISAG Sicherheit & Service GmbH & Co. KG, Campana & Schott Holding GmbH and business angel Steffen Seeger. Furthermore, in cooperation with Digitalstadt Darmstadt GmbH, a world first was launched in summer 2019: free online IT security training for citizens. Under the title "Stay alert, Darmstadt!", interested parties receive various training offers on the topic of IT security by e-mail every two to four weeks after registering on the website darmstadt.bleib-wachsam.de. The short videos and mini e-learnings are intended to provide long-term training in the secure use of the Internet.

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About IT-Seal

IT-Seal GmbH is a successful cyber security start-up that specializes in defending against social engineering attacks by increasing users' security awareness. With the patent-pending "Employee Security Index", this awareness can be measured and benchmarked for the first time. Among other prizes, the company won the Europe-wide Social Engineering Award for this in 2016, and at the end of 2018 it was named the best cybersecurity start-up from D/A/CH at the it-sa trade fair.

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