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Surprised and happy winner of Open Innovation Challenge

Rohon Kundu flanked by Stephen Steele and Malin Brant Lundin from SEB's Employer Branding team.

“Wow, I would never have believed it.” Rohon Kundu, PhD student at Lund University, was really surprised last Friday when he was declared the winner of SEB’s Open Innovation Challenge and received the prize money of 10,000 euro.

On 18 October, SEB announced an open innovation competition for new ways to prevent digital fraud. Some 20 proposals were received and of these five finalists were selected who were invited on Friday to present their ideas to a jury of experts.

The five proposed innovations were all different and ranged from ideas for creating a hub where companies can share data to identify fraudulent transactions to speeding up reporting to regulators in conjunction with suspected money laundering.

A team of developers from SEB headed by Vibhor Mani presented an idea for using voice recognition to increase security in telephone customer service and another initiative was about creating a secure marketplace for trading in second-hand goods.

But in the end, it was Rohon Kundu who took first prize with an idea for making ransomware attacks difficult by allowing the information owner to split its files into parts protected using blockchain technology and distributed to different nodes worldwide. This means the attacker would not gain access to useable information even if he or she managed to hack into one of the nodes.

“This is a proposal that addresses a highly topical problem and is technically innovative,” said jury member Martin Monperrus when the winner was announced.

Surprised and happy

Rohon Kundu was both surprised and happy when he went on stage in a rain of gold confetti to receive the prize cheque from Malin Brant Lundin, head of Employer Branding, who initiated the competition together with SEB’s Innovation Lab.

“I had not heard about the competition until just before the registration deadline and put together my proposal in six hours. Furthermore, I had big problems with my Powerpoint slides that did not work during my presentation,” he said.

What will you use the prize money for?

“This prize provides a really good incentive to continue my research within this area and work to make it function in practice,” said Rohon Kundu.

Ethical hacker

While the jury was deliberating, there was a talk by Linus Kvarnhammar, who is a security consultant working among other things as an ethical hacker. This means he is engaged by companies to try to break into their systems to identify security vulnerabilities.

He spoke among other things about an assignment for an unnamed major Swedish bank (not SEB) where having registered as an attendee at the press conference he was left in the meeting room having been asked “will you find your own way out?”. Linus could calmly wander round the entire head office and if he had so chosen could easily have installed software to get into the bank’s network.

Linus Kvarnhammar has also taken part in the Swedish TV programme ‘Hackad’ (Hacked) and spoke of some of the intrusions shown on television.

The jury for the Innovation Challenge comprised, in addition to KTH professor Martin Monperrus, Harri Larsson, Cparta Defence, Benoit Baudry, KTH professor, Jan Olsson, from the Swedish Cybercrime Centre, Jaana Nyfjord, Technology Operations Manager at Spotify, and SEB’s security expert Greger Johansson. Jaana Nyfjord was unable to take part in the final.

Interview with the winner

Watch recorded interview with Rohon Kundu.