Another month and another worldwide cyberattack. The latest ransomware scourge appears to have used hacking tools developed by the friendly, if nosey, folks at the U.S. National Security Agency. This is far worse than when the malware from the porn site you’ve been streaming from floods your computer screen with clickbait ads. This time the hackers have gone too far, shutting down a Cadbury chocolate factory in Australia, and demanding $300 in bitcoins for the key to unlock the encrypted data. This aggression will not stand, man. At least not much longer, if cybersecurity startups continue adopting and improving artificial intelligence to fight cyber crime.
A couple of months ago, we introduced you to six private cybersecurity companies considered to be at the forefront of applying AI to protect digital assets. That list was based on the top 100 AI companies annointed by the bright minds at data firm CB Insights. The AI cybersecurity landscape is evolving rapidly. According to CB Insights’ AI Deals Tracker, cybersecurity is the fourth most active industry for deals to companies applying AI. Last November, the data firm highlighted 13 AI cybersecurity startups. By June, the list had grown to more than 80 companies, which you can check out for yourself below.
You, the reader, have told us through your comments, shares and clicks that you think cybersecurity is an important topic. We agree. So, in the coming months, we’ll continue to chip away at this list and related topics. We’ve already looked in depth at companies like Darktrace, which uses the body’s immune system as a model for its AI-powered cybersecurity solution. In this article, we’ll tackle four of the most well-funded AI cybersecurity startups (outside of the ones we previously covered) that CB Insights categorizes loosely as “predictive intelligence.” The companies we chose are also representative of the category as a whole. Research firm Gartner believes that at least 75 percent of cybersecurity products on the market will use some sort of predictive analytics by the end of the decade. That tells us these AI cybersecurity startups are on the tip of the spear.
SentinelOne has emerged as one of the leading AI cybersecurity startups, at least when judging by the numbers. The company has taken in about $110 million, including a hefty $70 million Series C in January, led by Redpoint Ventures, an existing customer that now also gets a seat on the SentinelOne board of directors. The round also included investments from Sound Ventures (co-founded by our favorite TV stoner, Ashton Kutcher) and Granite Hill Capital Partners, among others. January’s deal marks the first mega-round to an AI cybersecurity company this year.
Like many companies in this space, the Silicon Valley AI cybersecurity startup applies machine learning to detect and mitigate various types of malware before they hit or in real-time. Less dynamic systems rely on a pre-set list of known malware referred to as signatures. It’s a bit like trying to catch a criminal. You’ll likely have the fingerprints of repeat offenders but the emergence of a new mastermind villain will skirt by most security systems unless you have a more dynamic platform that can detect the sort of behavior that recognizes something is afoot. Its flagship product (as shown in the video above) focuses on Endpoint Protection. An endpoint simply refers to a computer, laptop or other device that is at the “end” of a company’s IT infrastructure. The company also provides protection for servers, and offers specific solutions for the healthcare, energy, education and finance industries.
To continue our very tangential and tenuous thread to stoners, LogRhythm is headquartered in the Republic of Boulder, Colorado. The company has raised $126.25 million in disclosed funding over the last decade. It pulled in a neat $50 million last year in Venture funding, led by Riverwood Capital, which also headed a $40 million Series E in 2014. The startup, as the name implies, helps with the task of log management where the addition of AI can turn log and management event analysis into a near-real-time monitoring system. That’s just the beginning. LogRhythm offers a range of products and services, everything from threat intelligence to specific file monitoring.
LogRhythm seems to have a pretty good roster of clients, ranging from government (NASA, Air Force) to major corporations (Fujitsu, Raytheon). The startup recently announced it would provide cybersecurity for consulting firm Deloitte in Canada. The company doesn’t stand alone against the threats of cyber crime. It partners with a number of other cybersecurity firms, including at least one featured in this article.
Like Anomali. This Silicon Valley startup has raised $56.3 million in disclosed funding, though the most recent round last year was undisclosed. GV, formerly Google Ventures, and Paladin Capital Group have participated in three investing rounds (Series A, B and C) between February 2014 and April 2016. In 2014, the company brought aboard Hugh Njemanze, co-founder and former CEO of ArcSight, which Hewlett Packard Enterprises bought for $1.5 billion in 2010. Last year, Njemanze changed the name of the company from ThreatStream to Anomali, according to story in eWEEK. More recently, the startup announced it would open an R&D center in Dublin, bringing 120 new jobs to the city.
The new name came with a new focus and a suite of new products, based on the software-as-a-service (SaaS) model. eWEEK reported that that the SaaS platform “enables customers to upload their logs, and Anomali does the matching against all the threat intelligence for [indicators of compromise] that the company has available. The enterprise then gets insight and reports into potential security risks and incidents in their environment.” We had to dig a bit to understand where AI fit into all this, as Anomali doesn’t really play the artificial intelligence card. The company does say that as part of its threat intelligence platform service, it integrates machine learning algorithms for various functions such as automating searches for new domain registrations looking for those that can be considered suspicions and potentially vicious.
Where Anomali seems to downplay the role of AI in cybersecurity, JASK puts artificial intelligence front and center, clearly billing itself as an AI cybersecurity startup. Based in San Francisco, the company “came out of stealth mode,” as they say, with a $12 million Series A on June 27, bringing total funding to $14 million. In an example of it’s a small world, JASK co-founders Greg Martin and Damian Miller worked together at ArcSight. In addition, Martin was also a co-founder at ThreatStream-cum-Anomali. Martin has also offered his two cents on cybersecurity issues to agencies like the FBI, NASA and Secret Service, according to VentureBeat.
The idea behind JASK is that it monitors the security operations of its customers to learn about common threats, GeekWire reported. As it learns, the AI platform (nicknamed Trident) will help cybersecurity professional prioritize responses, eventually automating more and more of the work. “Our technology monitors a customer’s entire network internally and externally, while most organizations just monitor externally,” Martin told VentureBeat. “Our AI doesn’t just learn from your network and its vulnerabilities, it also learns by watching how your security team works.” The new greenbacks will help JASK add AI engineers to its staff of 25 employees, VentureBeat reported.
While the list of AI cybersecurity startups is rapidly growing, so are the number of acquisitions. A number of companies have been swallowed up by tech giants already. Fellow cybersecurity company Sophos (LON:SOPH), traded on the London Stock Exchange, bought Virginia-based Invincea for a cool $100 million. HP continued is spending spree on cybersecurity with the acquisition of Silicon Valley’s Niara, while Amazon bought San Diego-based Harvest.ai for $19 million in January. When will we see an AI cybersecurity company choose IPO over acquisition? It seems like only a matter of time. Well-funded startups like Cylance, CrowdStrike and Darktrace are probably the best candidates at the moment.
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