Week of firsts for Ottawa data classification firm

It’s a week of firsts for Ottawa’s Titus Inc., which makes software for classifying email and documents.

The company is holding its first annual customer and partner conference, which officially opens Tuesday with an address from CEO Tim Upton. About 175 people from 20 countries are expected to attend the sessions.

They will get another first: A sneak peek at the company’s upcoming platform, to be released in October.

Arguably, some will get another first – a taste of unexpected hot and humid weather (28C that feels like 38C) in the national capital. “We’re going to break the stereotype of the Canadian cold,” laughed Upton in a pre-conference interview. “I’m going to spin that as a positive.”

On a more serious note, Upton was coy about describing details of the platform, except to say it will integrate the company’s separately sold products, Message Classification (labels and classifies email from Microsoft Outlook, Lotus Notes), Classification for Microsoft Office (for documents from Word, PowerPoint and Excel), Classification for Desktop (for PDF, CAD and multimedia files) and Security Suite for Microsoft SharePoint. There is also a solution for classifying documents on Windows file servers.
Essentially these add metadata to unstructured data. Organizations can better protect documents if they are ranked, Upton argues, which lets them prioritize which data needs more protection. “If you don’t know what it is, it’s hard to know how to protect.”
(Titus software makes staff classify documents, email)
With increasing cyber attacks and staff increasingly mobile “data is the new perimeter,” Upton says, “We can’t rely on a firewall and a few enforcement points along the way to protect data.”

The new platform will integrate all the products, he said. “We’ll show a few tidbits,” to most attendees, with select customers seeing everything behind closed doors. But he did say it will be “highly flexible, highly powerful.”

“What we want to do is enable customization of policy. We have very powerful classification products, but we want to adapt to companies’ policies. When you think of SAP, they’re a very powerful company because they can adapt business processes to the customer’s processes. What SAP is for business process is what we do for security policy.”

A modestly-sized company whose competitors include products from Symantec, Sophos and Websense, Upton said Titus is stretching for more global reach. “We feel we’re on the cusp of being mainstream.”  Customers include the Canadian Armed Forces, the U.S. Air Force and financial institutions.
Upton started the company 19 years ago this week as a security consulting firm advising on other products. About 10 years ago customers asked him to build its a solution so users could identify sensitive data. For some reason it took off in Australia and within two years Titus had become a software company.
He says Titus’ solutions are better than data leak prevention software, which he said suffers from false positives that block data from being shared. Titus’ approach allows only data that is labeled for sharing to be passed around. As a result Titus partners with some data leak prevention providers to leverage each others’ strengths –McAfee, for example: Titus apps label data, while DLP can apply encryption or block data from going to social media.
Labeling data makes it clear to users what they can and cannot do with it, Upton says. That way, for example, valuable email attachments can’t accidentally be sent to the wrong people.  “We need to change the culture of an organization and make the users accountable for the information. All the firewalls and do-dads that you can put in place can never stack up to getting all of your people a little bit smarter.”
And, he adds, trying to delegate data security to a handful of IT professionals “is really ridiculous.”
“If we could have users not be able to say ‘I didn’t know that was a problem. I didn’t know that was a secret’ we’ll have made leaps and bounds advancement over what we’ve been able to accomplish in the past decade.” 


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Howard Solomon
Howard Solomon
Currently a freelance writer, I'm the former editor of ITWorldCanada.com and Computing Canada. An IT journalist since 1997, I've written for several of ITWC's sister publications including ITBusiness.ca and Computer Dealer News. Before that I was a staff reporter at the Calgary Herald and the Brampton (Ont.) Daily Times. I can be reached at hsolomon [@] soloreporter.com

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