MN8 Studio

Scott Chasin is one of those veteran online security guys whose résumé checks off all the right boxes: he’s sold a company to Symantec, played an executive role at McAfee, and is now hawking a “just coming out of stealth” cloud-based security start-up. Called ProtectWise, its logo is a monk, because the company hopes the product—which records everything that happens on a company’s network and puts it in the cloud for analysis and playback, DVR style—will make people feel “calm and in control.” It’s like a security camera for the digital building that houses a company’s data—intended to help them spot and block hackers, attackers, and insiders siphoning data off the network. A product like this would have theoretically lessened Sony Pictures' huge headache.

What really stands out in ProtectWise is the stunning data visualizer it created for users to make sense of what’s happening in their digital buildings. It’s security art:

The ProtectWise interface for network traffic
Protectwise network attack visualizer

“We wanted customers to be able to immerse themselves in the data haystack, and differentiate our product from the current security user interface experience,” said Chasin, ProtectWise’s CEO.  Chasin and his co-founder, Gene Stevens, both “liked the movie Tron: Legacy” so they asked the movie’s animated graphics designer, Jake Sargeant, 36, to spend time in Denver, Colorado, where the company is based, to come up with an interface that was akin to Tron’s “Grid.” The final result though looks more like the user interface in the sci-fi flick Oblivion, another film for which Sargeant was a designer.

Oblivion © Universal Pictures, Inc. All Rights Reserved.


Oblivion © Universal Pictures, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Jake Sargeant

Sargeant, now a Portland-based creative director at a digital ad agency, said by e-mail that the ProtectWise project appealed to him because he would be making an "interface that was really going to get built and used as a product/service in contrast to a lot of the sci-fi interface work I’ve done in the past where it’s built to be seen but not actually used." He said it also helped that Chasin had "a rare-to-find aesthetic taste for beautiful data visualizations, especially in the network security space."


Chasin understands that everyone wants to feel like they're living in the future, even—or perhaps especially —the security IT guys.

Visualization of what people are up to on the network

Chasin and Stevens say there’s so much data coming off a network—all those clicks, IP addresses, and data flows—that an interface like this is crucial to making sense of it all, quickly. Next up is making it even more Tron-like with a three-dimensional interface. “We have several Oculus Rifts at the office,” said CTO Stevens. “The data is so rich and deep that it needs spacial exploration to enhance it. We expect people to wear Oculus Rifts and explore data sets by literally flying through them.”


Or, if they stay with the Tron theme, riding motorcycles through them.