Novel Cybersecurity Startup Steg.AI Emerges from Rutgers Computer Engineering Lab
Steg.AI, a startup based on artificial intelligence technology developed at Rutgers, and founded by Rutgers graduate Eric Wengrowski and School of Engineering professor Kristin Dana, hopes to use its innovative security software to help businesses and organizations protect their media assets and intellectual property.
The technology is the brainchild of Wengrowski, who received both his bachelor’s degree and Ph.D. in electrical and computer engineering from Rutgers. After Wengrowski worked with Dana on his capstone project as a senior, she invited him to join her lab as a doctoral student in the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department.
“The technology we developed is information security software that businesses can utilize to protect their media assets and intellectual property,” said Wengrowski. “We leverage a research technology developed along with some of my cofounders called ‘light field messaging,’ which is an advanced forensic water-marketing technique that adds information to files like images, video, pdfs, gifs, etc. that is invisible to us, but visible to our algorithms or even a camera. This information is essentially embedded into these files as forensic tracers for our customers, so they can figure out who is doing what with their assets.”
Steg.AI’s mission is to establish a level of provenance for all digital media, using patented steganography technology to place attribution into content, so that users can be sure that what they are engaging with is indeed real, or at least trustworthy. The research conducted by Wengrowski, Dana and their team focused on the transmission of information with light in a way that is only visible to a machine or a camera. This required an understanding not only of how light works and is captured by a camera, but also how the human visual system perceives and processes that information. Wengrowski and Dana were able to tailor their research to address this issue after meeting with various companies.
“We participated in the National Science Foundation’s national I-Corps program and received feedback regarding the real-use cases of the technology, and we realized that we had a very compelling value proposition for information security,” said Wengrowski. “We learned that by talking to companies like Meta, Getty and Adobe, and then putting two and two together about how we could solve those problems.”
“We were able to leverage recent deep learning advances to build a robust solution to the pattern-embedding problem,” said Dana. “By taking part in the Bay Area I-Corps in the winter cohort of 2019, we were able to dedicate significant time and effort to in-person customer discovery to explore commercial needs for our technology.”
Rutgers Research Innovation Ventures, the university’s technology transfer department, filed patent applications for the technology in the United States, European Union, China, Japan and India, and handled the execution of the exclusive license for Steg.AI.