Shikhil Sharma of Astra Security

Shikhil Sharma – Founder of Astra Security

September 13, 2020 / Plugins / 0 comments

My name is Shikhil Sharma, an entrepreneur who loves the art of cybersecurity and building products that make the internet a more secure place.

I got attracted to ‘hacking’ as a teenager. Breaking websites, learning how systems can be hacked was so much fun. It felt like a superpower – knowing something that others don’t. When I found a vulnerability in an army website as a teenager, I reported it to them and got a reply from the higher management thanking me. That was the first time I felt that using the skills I’ve learned, I could make the world a better place and, – I could do what I love for a lifetime!

Currently, with my co-founder Ananda I’m running Astra Security – a website security suite that comes with a firewall, malware scanner, security audits, etc. All under one roof, making web security super simple for small and medium-sized businesses. Our mission is to democratize cybersecurity by making it super simple.

I was born and raised in the beautiful city of Chandigarh in India. Lived in Europe for the last couple of years and now I put up in New Delhi with a lot of shuttling between cities/countries. Studied at the excellent NIIT University, where we were provided the right mentorship to ensure our venture is a success.

The Journey Began

I started blogging about hacking using Blogspot (now Blogger), it got a lot of fame but still, I was far from WordPress. Of Course, I knew about the hype, reliability, and heard good things about WordPress but didn’t start using it until I met my co-founder at the university.

My co-founder and I met over a debate at the social media club of our university. We fiercely debated whether Blogspot is better or Joomla to run a blog. Months later we settled the debate by using WordPress and realizing with its ecosystem of plugins, community, and developers – it was an excellent choice.

There has been no going back since then. What WordPress has become over the years is an absolute delight to see. The fact that WordPress powers over 30% of the internet make us feel we’re having a massive impact on the internet by securing WordPress websites.

The Need for Astra Security

Astra Security Logo
Astra Security Logo

I’ve always believed that competitors are a sign of a healthy market. In the web security industry, no amount of competition will cause saturation simply because the problem to be solved is ever-evolving.

While bootstrapping we used to find vulnerabilities in Microsoft, Yahoo, Adobe, AT&T, and other giants. They rewarded us with a mention on their ‘hall of fame’ page and cash rewards. That helped us establish credibility and provided bootstrap funds. We realized that if such big organizations have security problems, small and medium enterprises without any security teams would be in even worse space.

We talked to CXO’s of various SMEs – we were surprised to find out how many of them were ready to spend on security or already spending. Yet they were always complaining about security solutions being so difficult to use, giving false positives, or requiring a dedicated person to ‘configure’ them. Clearly, there was a problem to be solved.

We understood hacker psychology and the problems our potential customers were facing. That’s how Astra Security was born – a security solution super simple to use, did not bloat the website admin panel and ensured rock-solid protection, not at the cost of user experience.

Starting Astra Security was like doing a mini MBA. So much learning about building teams, marketing, becoming a product manager, getting your first 10, 100, 1000 customers, and so on. We secure WordPress websites and also other CMSs like Magento, OpenCart, Prestashop, etc. This means we had to make deep integrations for all of them. And now, the threat intelligence system we have is way better, thanks to our other integrations.

We keep a tap of attacks stopped, malware found and vulnerabilities found by Astra Security on websites around the globe. Every week we see this number growing at a massive pace. This makes everyone in our team feel ecstatic and motivates us to keep up the hard work.

Shikhil Sharma Speaking
Shikhil Sharma Speaking

While our security suite is currently a paid one, we believe in giving back to the community whenever we can. Here are some excellent FREE resources we’ve made for WordPress:

  • A WordPress security course.
  • WP-Hardening plugin: That strengthens the security of your WordPress by automatically applying 12+ important security features on your WordPress within 2 minutes. Saving at least 3-4 hours of developer’s time.
  • Our free security scan to perform 140+ free server security checks and remote malware scans.
  • WordPress security checklist to ensure you’re following all best practices.

And finally, our WordPress security suite product which is absolutely loved by the users 🙂

Myself with my Brilliant Team

Team Astra Security

Team Astra Security

A little old picture with the team. A few changes in the team since we took this picture. Astra Security received a grant from the French government where the French president rewarded us himself. My co-founder and I stayed in Europe for a few years when expanding our user base there. So, this set of our tee’s is a thank you to the lovely city of Paris. 🙂

Shikhil Sharma Workplace

Shikhil Sharma Workplace

Advice for Business Owners

Starting any business is a bit difficult than the glorified news we read but it’s better than the tedious routine of a job. Almost all the time, it’s worth taking that flight. It’s a beautiful journey where you evolved as a person and put a dent in the universe in your own little way.

With COVID-19 so many businesses are coming online, agencies will have so much new work now.

Bloggers are the backbone of the internet and information. If you’re good at a niche, start a blog. Power it up with video content or the new Google stories plugin for WordPress.

Plugin and theme developers would never go out of business! With WordPress going all blocks and heavy on react, there are new monopolies to be made in this space.

The world could definitely use an honest, secure, and super friendly hosting.

Each one of the above has room for innovation. If you’re ready to do something differently, a business can be built.

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WordPress & Beyond

Our mission is to make web security super simple for businesses. And this isn’t an easy endeavor. Currently, we offer firewalls, malware scanner, security audits, and bug bounty management platforms. There are so many nuances of security that need to be simplified – managing vulnerabilities, end user’s security & privacy, compliance, app security, etc.

I see us building a comprehensive and homogenous solution for security which beautifully connects every piece of security together. It’s a long road ahead 🙂

WordPress is all set to grow, even more with block editors coming in and WordPress moving more towards Javascript. I see more and more enterprises using WordPress (especially after Salesforce investment in Automattic).

With 40% of the world’s population yet to use the internet the first time, I believe WordPress is yet to see its brightest days.

My Love for the WordPress Community

We always love to give back to the community by attending and hosting WordPress meetups and WordCamps. These meetups not only help us meet amazing WordPress enthusiasts and experts but also open up a plethora of opportunities. There’s a chance of meeting a potential team member, contributor, or even a customer in community meetups.

The way I see it, the entire WordPress community is a big family! I’ve talked to random people for hours when we discovered that both of us have something to do with WordPress. Michael Short from WaaS Pro, Saud at Cloudways, and Arun at ServerGuy are a few active WordPress community members all of us at Astra are friends with.

How I Keep Myself Updated

WP Tavern is a great source for WordPress news. Apart from that, I love to read autobiographies, quora, and psychology-in-marketing related books. I love to learn more about capitalism, the history of the world, and how both of them made the modern world what it is today.

I Have a Life Other Than the Work

I love ready, binge-watching Netflix/YouTube once in a while or even playing call of duty/counter-strike sometimes.

We have a ping pong table at the office, post-lunch we play ping pong games which get quite serious sometimes.

Big festive holidays are for family. I try to be less in front of the screen but more present with everyone though sometimes it’s hard (hacked customers are like 911 call).

I’ve been to a couple of cities in Spain but I think it has so many beautiful places with such friendly people that it needs at least a month-long vacation. Apart from that, I’ve been watching a few videos about pretty Canadian lakes in Quebec where I would love to spend some time in a cabin.

I Reward Myself by

I love visiting new places – undertaking adventure activities. Recently I started learning Kayaking and plan to learn to take an advanced course in it next summer (hopefully things are better by then). These days, spending time with family. Possibly the only good thing that came out of COVID. 🙂

At Astra Security, we love contributing to open source projects too. It’s always good to give back to the community.

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