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June 29, 2017

Startup Takes AI Approach as Cyber Threats Mount


Little else has worked lately when it comes to cybersecurity, prompting a startup and its backers to give artificial intelligence a shot.

A group of industry veterans that includes a former FBI cyber-security expert emerged from stealth mode this week with a plan to leverage AI and machine learning technology to bolster enterprise security frameworks. JASK emerged this week, announcing a $12 million funding round that will be used to expand its data science team and accelerate product development.

Those products are badly needed after another wave of ransomware attacks spread across Europe and parts of the U.S. this week, including attacks on critical infrastructure in Ukraine. While the exact source of the attacks variously referred to as Petya and GoldenEye remains uncertain, it appears the attackers were more interested in disrupting infrastructure than collecting ransom payments.

With the leaking of U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) hacking tools, a growing number of cybersecurity firms are searching for new methods for confronting increasingly sophisticated malware attacks that often spread rapidly from a single infected server.

Hence, JASK is part of the next wave of cyber-security startups embracing AI-driven approaches to increase the odds of real-time threat detection. The San Francisco-based startup promotes is machine-learning approach as operating akin to an “AI analyst.”

While flesh-and-blood security analysts remain the best defense against cyberattacks, a shortage of qualified threat detectors means vulnerable enterprises must automate security operations, JASK and its backers assert. The ability to detect and triage attacks would enable embattled security analysts to focus on the most serious attacks rather than being bogged down with common malware infections.

JASK’s approach seeks to eliminate “inefficiencies within security operations by equipping security analysts with artificial intelligence,” Greg Martin, co-founder and CEO, noted in a statement announcing the venture funding.

The startup’s AI approach is predicated on three business realities as the gap between hacker capabilities and detection capabilities widens. The first is that corporate networks are being stretched, making them more vulnerable as organizations and the applications they use become more distributed. Decentralization of operations “changes the network border,” the startup asserts.

Further, the number of “attack surfaces” is increasing with the rise of mobile computing and wider distribution of business applications via the cloud. As part of the unrelenting cat-and-mouse game, sophisticated hackers—some using stolen NSA tools—are developing new and sophisticated cyberattacks as new vulnerabilities such as unpatched Windows servers emerge.

JASK said its AI approach is based on advanced algorithms designed to monitor those extended corporate network to detect and triage the most serious attacks. The framework includes what the startup promotes as an “agile sensing and investigation layer” added to existing security tools. The monitoring tool can be continuously updated via the cloud.

Dell Technologies Capital led the funding round along with TenEleven Ventures. Existing investors Battery Ventures and Vertical Venture Partners also contributed, JASK said.

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