From Sweden to Silicon Valley; on a mission to boost internet security

CEO and Co-Founder of Yubico, Stina Ehrensvärd. Image credit: Yubico.

Stina Ehrensvärd moved from Sweden to Silicon Valley 10 years ago to work with the internet giants to help billions of internet users across the world boost their online security. A decade after that move, Yubico products are providing secure internet access to people in 160 countries.

Yubico began in 2007 in Stockholm. The prototype of their YubiKey was the world’s first one touch, one-time password authenticator, and didn’t require a client or driver. The company now has several different authentication products.

“90 percent of all the cybersecurity breaches that you read about in the press start with, or are in some way connected to account takeovers,” Yubico CEO and Co-Founder Stina Ehrensvärd said. “The biggest problem is username and passwords. 95 percent of all logins on the planet today don’t have any kind of strong two factor authentication.”

Product picture of Yubico’s YubiKey. Photo credit: Yubico.

Ehrensvärd says to solve the internet security problem on a massive scale, Yubico needed to move to Silicon Valley. They worked closely with service, platform and browser companies to build their technology directly into their solutions.

“That was the only way we could make it really easy and scalable, and reach the mass market,” Ehrensvärd said.

“We’ve combined the best of two worlds: the safety of Sweden with the boldness of the Silicon Valley”

Yubico is one of many Swedish startup companies which have been able to expand into a large international business.

Sweden has the the third highest startup rate in the world, and Stockholm is second only to Silicon Valley in terms of unicorns – startups valued at above $1 billion – per capita.

“In Sweden, we are very dependent on the world, because it’s a small country,” Ehrensvärd said. “So we have a lot of entrepreneurs in Sweden who are raised to think globally from the start.”

The company now has offices in 11 cities, including London, Munich, Singapore, and Seoul. Yubico manufactures all of their products from Sweden and the United States, which is unique for hardware.

“Supply chain attacks are one of the biggest threats,” Ehrensvärd said. “We need to control every step of the supply chain to ensure that we maintain the integrity and security of our products.”

Shifting the public perception

Society is starting to understand internet security is an important issue, as state actors use cyber warfare against each other in high-profile situations.

Public opinion tied to cybersecurity incidents have progress significantly over the past two decades, according to researchers from the Center for Security Studies in Switzerland. Experts say public opinion appears to have accepted the realities of operating in an increasingly cyber-dependent global society.

Ehrensvärd says it’s important to remember the entire cyber world is only 30 years old.

The company hopes to convince even more internet users to boost their online security. Ehrensvärd says their biggest competitor isn’t a company, it’s the simple username and password without any form of two-factor authentication.

“I think everyone is starting to understand what it is,” Ehrensvärd said. “You don’t do it overnight, cybersecurity is about building trust.”

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