Ex-NSA Agent’s Security Start-Up Lands $8M In Funding; Uses Behavioral Data To Stop Early-Stage Cyber Attacks

Ex-NSA Agent’s Security Start-Up Lands $8M In Funding; Uses Behavioral Data To Stop Early-Stage Cyber Attacks


Sara Peters, writing in the December 10, 2014 edition of DarkReading.com, writes that “Area 1 Security, launched in May [2014], uses behavioral data to stop early-stage [cyber] attacks from going further.” The company, started by three ex-NSA employees, and some from Disney, and, MIT, landed $8M in funding; after launching in May with $2.5M in seed money,’ Ms. Peters wrote.

“The company’s sweet-spot,” according to Ms. Peters, “is early stage targeted [cyber] attacks. It identifies malicious activity quickly, assesses it to determine which may pose the most sophisticated threat (for example, which has been launched by a nation-state), and stops attackers in their tracks before they can do real damage,” at least that’s the claim. The key to their cyber detection success is “behavioral analysis” it collects from a platform sensors and looks for any abnormalities — timing, content, user interaction, method of delivery, or anything else that might raise eyebrows, or red flags.”

“It’s very hard to pretend to be normal,” says Oren Falkowitz, Founder and CEO of Area 1. “No matter how clever an attack is, there are real people behind it, crafting a phishing message, making a plan, and unconsciously doing all sorts of subtle things that give them away.”

“Conventional security measures tend to discover [cyber] attacks by looking for malware residue,’ Ms. Peters notes, “so attackers can compromise and organization; and, lurk within it for 229 days, on average — before they’re discovered,” Falkowitz said. Area 1 Security’s technology can shorten that time to discovery to minutes or hours, the company claims. “The service doesn’t stop there,” though the company adds. “Once it has given the company the bad news, Area 1 helps it decide how to remediate the problem. The new funding [$8M] will largely go to improving that capability…and, making it more adaptable and user-friendly,” Falkowitz said.

Ms. Peters writes that “since it launched, Area 1 has expanded from a team of 5, to a team of 13, adding talent from FireEye, CISCO, and others with strong operational experience in security. In response to comments that the recent, mammoth attack on Sony was “unprecedented,” Falkowitz dismissed that description. “Our team has seen these things before.”

Ms. Peters concludes, “the Area 1 technology is not yet commercially available; but, it is running a pilot program at a large financial institution.”

Wonder if this is associated with former NSA Director Keith Alexander who also started his own cyber security business and uses behavioral analysis in their software and approach — or, will this be a competitor? I am also still skeptical of behavioral analysis; but, would like to be convinced/proven wrong that a clever/sophisticated cyber adversary will be able to elude detection using these kind of techniques. V/R, RCP

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