February 3, 2016

Startup Enlists AI to Predict Cyber Threats

George Leopold

While major players are increasingly emphasizing human “intelligence-led” approaches to cyber security, artificial intelligence along with advanced analytics continue to make inroads in the “threat intelligence” market.

Among the AI startups is Jask, which emerged from stealth mode this week after raising $2 million in seed financing in a funding round led by Battery Ventures. San Francisco-based Jask said Wednesday (Feb. 3) it is building a “predictive security operations center” designed to help enterprises automate security operations while reacting faster to cyber threats.

The approach reflects growing demand for the ability to provide real-time threat intelligence that can be used to identify and block cyber attacks as they unfold.

Jask said it is leveraging AI technology in its ops center to help companies move beyond current security management and monitoring tools. AI proponents argue the technology can enhance security tools by making them more proactive and able to keep up with evolving cyber attacks.

Jask was founded cyber industry veteran Greg Martin, who previously launched a “threat intelligence” firm and worked for ArcSight, a developer of software used to monitor corporate networks. Hewlett-Packard (NYSE: HPQ) acquired ArcSight in 2010.

Martin’s latest startup is based on the premise that more enterprises are distributing applications across networks and the cloud. Hence, startups like Jask are trying to leverage AI and machine learning as a way to automate parts of corporate cyber security systems. That approach, the startup said, will help speed the analysis of threat data. “You have to move faster to keep up with threats,” Martin asserted in a statement announcing the seed funding.

While a growing number of cyber defense approaches rely on data analytics, others are taking a more hands-on approach to delivering real-time threat intelligence. “Intelligence-led” market leader FireEye recently acquired privately held iSight Partners, which has more than 250 cyber threat intelligence analysts stationed in 17 countries.

FireEye (NASDAQ: FEYE), Milpitas, Calif., said the acquisition would augment its proprietary virtual-machine based security platform designed to provide real-time threat updates to corporations and government agencies. Dallas-based iSight Partners reportedly hires overseas agents, some former security officials, in hotspots like Brazil, India and Ukraine to monitor online forums to stay ahead of potential cyber threats. Its human intelligence approach differs from traditional cyber defense firms that rely heavily on data and algorithms to fend off attacks.

Nevertheless, Jask’s lead investor said new security automation approaches are still needed as external attacks and insider threats increase and IT systems become more vulnerable as more applications and data shift to the cloud. “The large players in this space haven’t kept up with current trends, and startups are leading the charge leveraging AI and machine learning for security innovation,” Dharmesh Thakker, general partner at Battery Ventures, asserted in a statement.

Along with Battery Ventures, Vertical Venture Partners and other unnamed angel investors participated in Jask’s seed funding round.

Jask said it is using the early funding to complete product development while attracting early customers. The startup said it is targeting the second half of this year for its first product release.

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