Tysons Corner software firm Haystax Technology no stranger to Super Bowl preparations and security


Long before the New England Patriots and Atlanta Falcons begin gearing up for the NFL's championship game, employees of Haystax Technology are developing a game plan for their eighth Super Bowl in nine years.


Headquartered in Tysons Corner, Haystax provides a security analytics platform that enables some of the most high-profile institutions in the world to mitigate high-priority threats related to public safety, evaluate event risk procedures and provide infrastructure protection and cybersecurity intelligence.


The city of Houston, host of the February 5 title game, has called on Haystax to use expertise that has been employed at seven of the previous eight Super Bowls and other iconic events including Hollywood's Golden Globes and the Indianapolis 500. Haystax was a natural to be involved with last year's Super Bowl in Palo Alto because the state of California happens to be the company's largest client.


In Tysons Corner, Haystax envelopes the entire 10th floor of its Greensboro Drive high-rise, providing employees with a 360-degree view of northern Virginia, not to mention a high-tech operations center with multiple video screens, individual office space and even a few video games to create a welcoming environment for 35 employees.


That's a workforce that President Chriss Knisley expects to double in short order thanks to investment in the company and accelerating demand for its security-focused software offerings.


Haystax was founded on expertise created by Digital Sandbox and current CEO Bryan Ware in the 1990s. When the company adopted the name Haystax in 2012, it moved into its current space. Haystax was bolstered in December by a $4 million strategic investment from Fishtech Labs and CEO Gary Fish. Knisley says it's no coincidence that the company is flourishing in Tysons Corner.


"This area has become sort of the cybertech hub," he says. "Talent is moving here, so this is where we need to be to continue to grow the company.  Our new hires -- our data scientists and cybersecurity types -- are living closer to D.C. and taking the Metro, which stops right outside our door. A few years ago, everybody had to drive here, but that's continuing to change. With the {mixed-use] Boro project and [amenities such as] the Whole Foods that's coming, this is going to be an attractive area to live and will bring us more of the right kind of employees."


FCEDA President labels Haystax Technology a Fairfax County "success story."


Knisley says Haystax has seen an approximate 30 percent growth in revenues during the last two years and is "anticipating sales growth much more than significant than 30 percent this year."


A primary reason is that few approach issues of security quite the way Haystax does to drive data collection and alerts. Anyone can identify a threat. Haystax enables customers to process large quantities of information that help agencies prioritize their reaction to those threats.


"The problem that most of our customers face is that they're overwhelmed with security alerts," Knisley says. "The question is really about what to do when you're given an alert that something bad could happen. We're all about determining the threat, the vulnerability and the consequences that allow our customers to prioritize their actions."


Haystax uses a statistical model called Bayesian Inference Networks, which enables it to project the likelihood of events based on the pattern of a potential threat. Haystax also goes beyond the numbers, talking to everyone from members of the Defense Department to psychiatrists to law enforcement officials charged with protecting a facility or event. 


"For an event like the Super Bowl, we create that model by talking to a diverse group of experts, not just the cops who look for threats every day," Knisley says. "We look for behavioral patterns that might shift, leading up to an attack. Plus, we look at all the data we can collect. That might be chatter on a dark web site, stolen vehicles, stolen weapons. Each of these things are indicators that could be viewed as individual crimes or interesting facts on their own. But, as you start bringing those pieces together, you start influencing a belief network that says the likelihood of a terrorist attack is up or down."


Haystax also protects large businesses from threats, including cybersecurity attacks from both outside and inside the company.


"We look at internal risks, whether intentional or unintentional," Knisley says. "How do I know if an employee is a risk, as was the case in the [Washington] Navy Yard shooting, or if a trusted insider broke policy? We look to understand if there is a risk or not and how to mitigate that risk.


"What's happening on a computer network can be one part of the problem -- perhaps an indication of a bigger problem. Most systems employed today can tell you when something's happening. But in most cases, once a person is typing something in, printing out something they're not supposed to or taking data outside the office, it's already too late."


Haystax Technology is located at 8251 Greensboro Drive, Suite 1000, Tysons Corner, VA 22102. Contact: 571-297-3800, www.haystax.com