Paladin adviser on why security is the next frontier for deep tech

Najwa Aaraj says machine learning and quantum computing could be deployed for cybersecurity.

With more people working at home and the proliferation of the internet of things, technology to increase protection is once again a hot topic.

Najwa Aaraj, a new strategic adviser at multi-stage deep tech investor Paladin Capital, said security is one of the more interesting areas for research now.

“The first area where investment could go is in the security of cyber-physical devices and the internet of things,” Aaraj said.

She added that cryptographic solutions and even more basic ways to secure devices like Google Home, Alexa or even an internet-enabled appliance are still lacking. This is a concern because these and related devices are becoming ubiquitous.

Najwa Aaraj, Paladin Capital

Security, not just for internet-connected devices, but also for the cloud, continues to be the next big frontier for deep tech, Aaraj said. The work has now evolved to include how machine learning and even quantum technologies can boost privacy, cryptography and cybersecurity. This includes work on unsupervised artificial intelligence that can passively detect threats.

As part of the strategic advisory group of Paladin, Aaraj helps to assess potential investments in cybersecurity, cryptography and quantum technologies. She recently joined the advisory group and also provides support for current Paladin portfolio companies.

Aaraj holds several positions at the United Arab Emirates’ Technology Innovation Institute. She is the chief researcher at its Cryptography Research Center and the acting chief researcher at the Autonomous and Robotics Research Center. She previously worked with Booz & Company and IBM Research. Her research mainly focuses on cryptography and she has a particular interest in cybersecurity and post-quantum cryptography.

Data from Silicon Valley Bank’s Q4 State of the Market report showed cybersecurity has seen increased attention this year. Venture funding into the sector reached $11.5 billion in the first half of 2021, much higher than the first six months of 2020’s $4.7 billion.

Paladin invests in several technology sectors, such as telecommunications, life sciences and alternative energy but has taken a special interest in cybersecurity since 2008. Its portfolio includes information technology services provider to the federal government CyberCore Technologies, security company Cyberhedge and data analytics firm Decentriq.

Aaraj said she was excited when Paladin approached her to become part of the advisory group. “Their portfolio is quite comprehensive and they’ve worked with technologies that are very close to my heart,” she said. “I really like that focus on advanced technology.”