Email Security Blog

Battling the Bad Guys for 10 Years

Patrick Peterson October 15, 2019 Email Security

When we first flipped on the lights in 2009, we knew we were embarking on an endeavor that wouldn’t be achieved overnight. We wanted to be deliberate, to build a rock-solid foundation—not a quick fix—that would support an email security ecosystem. We anticipated the hefty innovation and investment needed. But we also knew that investment would ultimately yield a durable solution that would change forever the security of the Internet. DMARC is the perfect example. It took three years for us to develop and roll out. Today, it’s the bedrock of email authentication, universally.

I’ve been fortunate to collaborate with and learn from the brightest people who have dared to take up the mantle with me. You bet it’s been and remains a challenge, but a noble one that fires me up every day. So in that spirit, I’ve sketched below a few insights I’ve learned along the way, with the hopes of triggering new ideas.

1. An Audacious Mission Attracts the Bold

People go more than the extra mile when they’re motivated by doing work that matters writ large. From the beginning, I knew the mission I envisioned for Agari would be a differentiator in the fight for top talent. That proved to be true in our salad days and continues to be true today, even as we expand globally.

Agari isn’t innovating technology for technology’s sake—our technology has a purpose that makes an impact on the world. Part of what we do identifies and stops threat actors, like Nigerian cybergangs perpetrating invoice email scams, brand spoofing, romance scams, and more. Losses from these scams amount to $702 million monthly. Walk into any Agari office and the first thing you’ll see is our mission statement: We protect digital communications to ensure humanity prevails over evil. It’s every Agarian’s North Star. It tends to attract purpose-minded people, true difference makers.

Agarians come to work every day to fulfill an audacious mission by building and delivering the technologies that enable enterprises, employees, and consumers to have a safe email experience. They stay and so do our customers. In fact, our first employee is still an employee and our first customer is still a customer today.

2. Permanent Bonds Trump Transactional Relationships

We don’t embark to solve only our piece of a customer’s problem. Instead, we seek to understand the breadth of our customers’ worlds, the context in which they are operating, and the bigger issues they face daily so that we can leverage where we fit in and be a greater resource for our customers.

JPMorgan Chase was Agari’s first customer. We pledged to solve part of a problem that the bank thought was unsolvable. Frankly, we didn’t know whether we could do it back then. JPMorgan Chase didn’t really know if we could do it, either. But the next year, it was Agari that JPMorgan Chase honored in front of a packed house of much bigger technology companies with the Hall of Innovation Award.

Since then, we’ve been in the foxhole with CISOs at the biggest brands and government organizations in the world as they’ve made decisions, deployed technology, implemented products creatively, and produced extraordinary outcomes. We’ve witnessed and helped shape the creative deployment of many solutions by the brightest security professionals leading today.

That cumulative experience gives us a unique perspective we bring to bear on a grander scale to help our customers rethink what’s possible within their organizations, not just with email security—although that’s a part of it—but with infosecurity in general. The amount of time our customers spend thinking through the multitude of infosecurity problems they face, the available industry solutions out there, and how all the puzzle pieces fit together is tremendous.

Our cumulative point of view reduces the time CISOs dedicate to figuring those things out and generates disproportionate amounts of value and trust, and thus creates bonds—not transactional relationships.

3. Wipe the Slate Clean

Tossing out conventional thinking taps into creativity and a universe of new possibilities. Most legacy email security technology focuses on identifying and blocking bad emails. And it is that fact alone that makes CISOs feel like they are caught in a losing game of the carnival favorite, Whack-a-Mole.

Email is messy. No doubt about it. And as Agari grew and I spent more time with more CISOs, I rethought how the industry was thinking about advanced email security architecture. A different and better approach emerged: modeling the good.

Modeling the characteristics of good emails reveals patterns that make up trusted relationships between email message receivers and senders. Email security may not seem like the sexiest issue out there. In many ways, though, it is, because email is the most common channel for communications today—more so than social media, Slack, or texting. And the bad guys know that and have known that for generations. Modeling the good takes the power out of the hands of bad actors.

Rethinking the normal way of thinking—stop the bad—with a framework that focuses on advancing the good has been revolutionary, and propelled Agari to the front of the class.

In 2009, 10 years ago, a volunteer “army” made up of impressive companies, with impressive brands and even more impressive budgets, was working to solve email security issues, which had reached a critical mass of activity. Conflicting priorities, shifting focuses, and trepidation for taking bold steps slowed the progress this group was making. That’s when I decided a dedicated company actually had to wake up in the morning, every morning, to work solely on the email security problem. Otherwise, not enough progress was going to be made fast enough and the bad guys would win—sadly, evil would win. That potential outcome was just too big of a risk for me to ignore, which is why I founded Agari.

I’m grateful for the support of friends, family, and investors. I’m elated about the progress that has been made so far in the battle to secure email, proud of the impact of our durable investments, and thrilled with the successes the fantastic Agari team has achieved for our customers.

What’s next excites me, as we build upon the foundation for the next 10 years. Join us. There’s lots more to do.

Discover more about the history of Agari and how we’ve spent the last 10 years fighting evil. 

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