5 questions for… Aware by Wiretap

Wiretap is a purveyor of “collaboration tool monitoring and governance” solutions, a.k.a. software that can scan the messaging and files within a collaboration platform. Its flagship product, Aware by Wiretap, monitors all content, including private messages and the content of files, shared with both internal and external members of platforms such as Yammer, Workplace by Facebook, Slack and Microsoft Teams, and send alerts in the case of a ‘toxic employee’ or policy breach.
In these five questions, I wanted to know what was behind the need — that old question of, is this a product or a feature; what’s net-new vs re-facing and renaming older solutions, and so on. And also, frankly, because I was intrigued by the name!
1. I see Aware by Wiretap as DLP applied to collaboration platforms, what did I miss? 
Aware by Wiretap does have some underlying DLP capabilities as it relates to your collaboration platforms, but goes beyond your traditional DLP, as it provides external and internal compliance governance that does more than security-focused DLP. Aware avoids impacting the intended experience of the platforms by running in the background. The platform utilizes Wiretap’s proprietary, enterprise-specific AI models, and provides human context by giving your organization insight into employee behavior, such as message sentiment. You can determine if it was a malicious or an accidental occurrence – and you can even educate the user about proper protocol automatically through the platform.
2. In Venn diagram terms, what is the size of the problem that Aware by Wiretap is looking to solve, e.g. relative to email, web site breaches?
The enterprise collaboration market is expected to grow to $70 billion by 2019 but little thought has gone into monitoring solutions to allow organization wide adoption, especially in highly regulated industries. In fact, many organizations have multiple collaboration platforms inside the company at any given time. While we protect against some external threats, we’re primarily focused on the insider threat detection as it pertains to collaboration security and compliance. As such, we offer a centralized point of governance across the platforms – organizations only need to use one dashboard, one set of policies, one set of actions, to govern multiple collaboration tools.
3. You make a thing of encouraging positive interactions — how do you square the intrusion and overhead vs protection and improvement circle?
Employee monitoring has existed for decades — we generally expect mail, email and voicemail, and HR-related information to be the property of our employer. Generally, people don’t enjoy not being ‘fully trusted’ by our employer; but we don’t always connect the dots between monitoring as a workplace necessity, and its role in protecting employees from situations such as sexual harassment, inappropriate communication, threats, rumors, and a toxic culture.
Inappropriate messaging doesn’t just put the company’s reputation at risk, it can also hinder productivity. For example, if a female engineer is propositioned and harassed by her boss on the company’s collaboration network, which was installed and intended to spur collaboration and innovation, how can she possibly be compelled to participate on that network? Also consider that this employee may not report the behavior due to the fear of retribution. The reality is companies must provide a safe, compliant and secure environment for employees, customers and other stakeholders in order to enable positive collaboration and fully realize the benefits of the investment.
4. How does Aware work in a mobile context?
We monitor the collaboration platform, regardless of how users connect to the platform. Our implementation method not only allows mobile coverage, but easy installation (hours not days) and time to value for an organization.
5. What specifics of GDPR are you looking to address with your data management module?
The Aware Data Management Module provides tools to help organizations address several GDPR provisions as it pertains to a company’s collaboration platform. This includes Article 5’s principles for processing of personal data, as well as Article 12 (on transparency of use), 15 (right of data access) and 17 (right to erasure/right to be forgotten).
6. And a bonus question: is the company name deliberately ironic/controversial/honest?
Deliberately provocative! It was important for our name to be memorable particularly in our early stages when we focused more on security. Now that we focus more on employee behavior, compliance and culture protection, we’ve started to soften the tone and relaunched the product as Aware by Wiretap late last year. Our product name is on a journey alongside the platform. As we continue to add features and evolve the platform to add value across organizational departments, we’ll continue to look ahead at the roadmap and evaluate the most appropriate name.
My take
Wiretap sits in an interesting zone somewhere between function and platform. As long as there are evolving events and contexts to monitor, we will need capabilities that focus on the monitoring, alongside the products and services that do the ‘core’ work — such as collaboration. Wiretap’s use of AI — in this case, natural language recognition and rule modelling — is perhaps the most intriguing element here as it aligns with the evolution of platforms such as Slack, with their use of bots and other AI-driven automation. There’s nothing to stop Aware being used for broader handling of events (indeed, Wiretap says it is already being used to recognize helpdesk requests) — which moves the product into the broader category of AI-based collaboration support.
As ever, it’s important for smaller vendors such as Wiretap to stick to their knitting: however generic the solution can be, vendors with a clever algorithm who say “well, it can be used for anything” tend to find themselves out on a limb. As the collaboration space evolves however, vendors such as Wiretap may find themselves being drawn into new areas by market need.
In the meantime, it is a fact that the success of collaboration tools has not been paralleled by security and compliance protections: indeed, some of the success of tools like Slack and so on could be put down to the fact that they are less encumbered than traditional collaboration mechanisms (email and the like). While this means Wiretap is filling a necessary gap in the market, it may also be a reflection of the state of maturity of collaboration today.
For IT decision makers, Wiretap may well respond to a problem — either to resolve a risk/challenge with inappropriate use of messaging, or to demonstrate that collaboration behaviors are conformant to corporate policy or indeed, regulation. Even if this is the case, use of a product such as Aware by Wiretap should still be considered within an overall framework of acceptable use policy, training and awareness across the employee base.