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Putting Data Protection in Everyone’s Reach

Making it easier to keep data private, so the Internet is safer for all is Vaultree’s guiding mission. Each and every day, the Ireland-based firm empowers people to use the Internet with peace of mind, knowing their data is secure. In November 2021, seeing that it shared many of the Internet Society’s goals, Vaultree became an organization member.

A Conversation with Tilo Weigandt

A truly global citizen, Vaultree Co-Founder & COO Tilo Weigandt has studied and worked in many parts of the world, including England, Germany, and China. He spoke with us from his current home in São Paulo, Brazil, to tell us about Vaultree’s beginnings, explain how Vaultree innovates to make the world a better place, and share its vision for the future of the Internet.

From Irish Dairy Farm to the Global Scene

Vaultree was founded in the fall of 2020 to make unprecedented levels of data security available to the layperson via an easy-to-implement and innovative encryption service. Allowing users to process their data while keeping it encrypted and without ever surrendering an encryption key, Vaultree’s solution mitigates the negative impacts of data breaches and leaks by rendering clients’ information unreadable to intruders.

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At the time of Vaultree’s launch, its co-founders had already been working for years to fine-tune their algorithms, which are very complex mathematically. Once their technology was perfected, they registered the startup’s headquarters— in Cork, Ireland, initially at a dairy farm—and began the seed round to raise the necessary capital to make it fully operational.

Given the game-changing potential of its product, Vaultree soon gained advocates among the top names in the cybersecurity field, some of whom are now its official advisors. One year after its founding, Vaultree began hiring staff and quickly had teams on several continents.

“It’s a testament to the power of the Internet that we were able to create a company culture remotely,” Tilo says, “hiring more and more people over the months, and very few of us having met in person.” Vaultree now has around fifty team members in nine countries. “We were born remote and are still fully remote in everything we do, so people can choose where they want to be and are happiest.” In addition to the freedom this distributed-office approach brings its staff, Vaultree enjoys a great deal of latitude in talent sourcing—a key asset in today’s highly competitive and global arena, especially in the tech field.

Vaultree recently hosted a meet-up in Brazil for its staff members in Latin America. “We all felt like we’d known each other for a long, long time,” Tilo says. “The connections were already there, although it was the first time some of us were meeting without screens between us. That was wonderful to see, and a useful reminder of what a force for good the Internet can be, and why we must defend it.”

It’s a testament to the power of the Internet that we were able to create a company culture remotely, hiring more and more people over the months, and very few of us having met in person.”
Tilo Weigandt, Vaultree Co-Founder & COO

Disrupting the Paradigm with High-Level Encryption

Vaultree’s solution steps away from the traditional data protection approach, in which tools focus by default on the first line of defense — vulnerability trackers, app security, API security, firewalls, threat auditing, and so on. Instead, it centers around advanced applications of fully functional data-in-use encryption, the second and most important line of defense and “the essence of any sound data protection strategy,” as Tilo explains it. “Vaultree arose from a desire to make data safe sustainably, and not just patch security gaps.”

With Vaultree, clients benefit from cutting-edge security measures. For one thing, their data is never decrypted server-side, a protective measure that minimizes risk and frees users from worries over trust.

Even better, with an approach called “data-in-use encryption,” data stays safely encrypted even while being used. Clients can process it — performing searches, edits, and deletions, for instance — without having to decrypt it. They see only the portion of it that they want to view for the task at hand, and only on their own machine.

Vaultree arose from a desire to make data safe sustainably, and not just patch security gaps.”

This is a significant breakthrough compared to traditional approaches, in which data is encrypted while at rest or in transit but decrypted whenever it needs to be processed. “This is something that shouldn’t happen,” Tilo says, “since it creates vulnerabilities.”

The world’s first fully functional data-in-use encryption solution, Vaultree allows businesses to mitigate the enormous risks involved with a data breach. Even in the event of a leak, the data is still fully encrypted and therefore has no meaning to an intruder.

The peace of mind users gain lets them focus on accessing all the benefits the Internet offers instead of constantly looking over their shoulders.

Data Privacy and Protection as a Human Right

Vaultree believes that being able to access the Internet should be a fundamental human right. Along with that goes the idea that people should have the right to keep their data safe. “This right is being flouted all the time by some of the world’s largest companies and even some governments,” Tilo says. “We need to be careful because they seem to view the Internet as a big playground where they can do whatever they want.”

Vaultree believes that being able to access the Internet should be a fundamental human right.”

With most of today’s data security solutions, users need to understand complex encryption functions and deal with multiple intermediaries to keep their data safe. To help put an end to this, Vaultree aims to democratize data security, putting it in everyone’s reach by making it simple to implement and use.

“There are just two components,” Tilo says, explaining how Vaultree’s solution works. “One that’s installed on the server and the other in your application. And that’s it.”

This new paradigm means that companies and organizations without the means to hire expert cryptographers can now also protect themselves, allowing them to be more competitive and do more good in the world. By leveling the playing field in this way and putting power back in users’ hands, Vaultree is helping make the Internet a safer and fairer place.

Empowering by Educating

When asked what he thinks the future holds for the Internet and data security, Tilo is optimistic. “The last few years have been extremely exciting because we’ve come from literally zero to where we are right now, having made data protection much easier.”

Vaultree has had success so far in reaching companies around the world and receives positive feedback from those who use their solution. But as the company and its technology are still fairly new, the knowledge gap remains significant. “Even institutions with more knowledge in this field aren’t aware that what we’re doing is possible yet,” says Tilo. “They tend to think the technologies we use won’t be ready for years, so they’re still devoting their energy to the first line of defense.”

Data privacy isn’t yet where it should be,” says Tilo, “but we can speed it up, demand it from the bottom up.”

But he expects to see academia, governments, and investors turn their attention to encryption soon enough since the need is making itself felt. Companies are continually having their data exposed in plain text due to faulty encryption.

“Data privacy isn’t yet where it should be,” says Tilo, “but we can speed it up, demand it from the bottom up. And governments are starting to take action, so it’ll happen from the top down as well. But companies are the ones who really need to get involved since they’re the ones holding most of the data.”

Vaultree hopes to spread the word about the new levels of data security that are now available to help make the Internet a safer place for everyone to be part of. And like the Internet Society, it wants to see more people specialize in Internet-related careers. “The technology required to make our solution run, and keep it ahead of the curve, is highly complex,” says Tilo, “and it’s difficult to create algorithms that work in this way. There’ll always be room for new talent in applied cryptography and software engineering in the generations going forward.”

Defending a Fairer Internet

Vaultree also expects to see a trend toward decentralization, a shift Tilo describes as sorely needed. “Certain large companies are taking ownership of people’s lives without them realizing it or suspecting how much farther things might go.”

Like the Internet Society and many of its other members, Vaultree feels it’s essential to stand up against such trends and defend a free and open Internet in which users have control over their own data, including the right to keep it private.

Vaultree and the Internet Society

As the Internet Society is connected with so many players in the tech sector, Vaultree’s co-founders heard about its membership program from several contacts, including Encryption Europe and Inrupt. Learning about many mutual qualities—including promoting and defending the Internet for the greater good, connecting people, and educating Internet users with the aim of empowering them—they saw that their goals were closely aligned with the Internet Society’s.

“It was a very good fit,” says Tilo. Vaultree became an Internet Society member in November 2021 and has enjoyed the stimulating environment and motivation the membership has fostered. Vaultree looks forward to collaborating further with the Internet Society to amplify its impact in all the above mentioned areas, especially when it comes to helping people use the Internet more safely.

In its experience as an Internet Society member so far, Vaultree has found the organization to be a great place to connect with like-minded people — “techies” and “non-techies” alike — which it sees as a good thing since there’s strength in diversity.

Vaultree recommends membership because, in Tilo’s words, “We’re stronger as a society when we join forces to solve our real-world and future problems.”

By working together, we can champion a stronger and better Internet and help ensure it’s available to all for the benefit of human progress.

Together with our global community, members of the Internet Society have the unique chance to grow, strengthen, and shape the Internet of the future. Join us.