Investments

FireLayers And A Better Strategy For Securing The Cloud

A few years ago tech writers nationwide more or less ran their thesauruses dry trying to find adjectives worthy enough to describe the wonders of a cloud-enabled future. These days the ecstatic prose has died down some — or moved on to the innovations that the magic of cloud storage and processing make possible, like the Internet of Things — but enthusiasm about the cloud has settled nicely into certainness about its centrality.

“The cloud is the biggest tectonic shift in IT in the past decade,” said Yair Grindlinger last year when his security startup, FireLayers, came out of stealth. “It represents huge benefits and requires IT and security leaders to define the right cloud application strategy for their organizations, one that will enable the great benefits of cloud adoption while maintaining required levels of security, compliance and IT governance.”

Grindlinger is the cofounder and CEO of FireLayers, a San Francisco-based startup that helps firms secure their newly expanded digital perimeter in the cloud, but in a way that makes sense and preserves one of the main benefits of using cloud-based software: easy accessibility from multiple points.

That means the FireLayers’ teams work to move business clients away from binary security setups that either let users in or bounce them and instead toward one that responds to context and can offer a variety of responses to a user trying to interface with a system.

“At FireLayers, we strongly believe in mitigation rather than blocking. The vast majority of customers reject a user experience where the user is blocked from performing an action which breaks the application and results in frustration,” FireLayers’ other cofounder and president, Doron Elgressy, explained to PYMNTS. “We’ve developed a tiered mitigation solution which enables the security team to choose the user experience when suspicious or critical behavior is detected.”

The key, Elgressy explained, is customization and giving the IT department the ability to make different types of decisions about different types of scenarios and then allowing the FireLayers technology to work through those scenarios as they occur.

“Rather than locking down a system, the system asks the user to provide a confirmation or to re-enter his password to complete the operation. In more sensitive cases, the user will be asked to go through a more secured multi-factor authentication process or comply with a mitigation flow customized by the client,” Elgressy explained.

“These mitigation capabilities also apply when authenticating to the application. Before the user enters his credentials, the FireLayers system checks whether the upcoming authentication event requires an upgraded security mitigation and acts accordingly.”

The point, he says, is to move away from a system that simply decides “yes” or “no” based on whether a user has a credential and instead move to a system that counts factors like the device the request is coming from or the location of the requester and then giving IT professionals the ability to decide how the system will respond within its cloud-based apps.

And it is an approach that investors are liking and willing to put some funds behind. FireLayers announced yesterday (Oct. 20) that Akamai Technologies and YL Ventures are co-leading a funding round for the security firm. Under the investment agreement, Akamai’s vice president and CTO of Akamai Labs, Andy Champagne, joins the FireLayers board as an observer.

“Based on our view of the market and extensive technical evaluation, FireLayers’ core technology is well-positioned to deliver the enterprise-side cloud access security broker (CASB) solution the market needs,” said Champagne.

Akamai’s interest in FireLayers stems from its core business of content delivery network services; with hundreds of thousands of proxy servers deployed globally, better cloud security is in Akamai’s direct interest.

“For YL Ventures, the market size opportunity, the team and unique platform that we’ve built were the main drivers behind the investment,” Elgressy noted.

FireLayers has not disclosed the amount of the funding round as of yet, though the company did note the money will go towards expansion.

“FireLayers’ primary focus now is on boosting our sales and marketing while continuing to develop our Secure Cloud Gateway platform and keeping it competitive,” Elgressy said.

FireLayers is far from the only security player out there — even in the relatively new territory of the cloud. But from its point of view, its security perspective is unique because instead of trying to just make the cloud less accessible, it is trying to make the access points a little smarter.

Investment Tracker Week Ended Oct. 16

Anemic activity once again for our investment tracker, which saw only $605 million in total activity between both the B2B and FinTech realms. The preponderance of activity came within the latter subset, which had 97 percent of the week’s fund flows, with a total of slightly more than $585 million.

The heavyweights in the past week, by sums invested, included Rong360, which garnered about $160 million in Series D funding. The Beijing-based O2O Web-based banking platform’s latest investment came from a group of investors, with notable participation from Jack Ma’s Yunfeng Capital, as well as Sailing Capital. The company aggregates financial, mortgage and credit data, with a search function that can be winnowed down by city in China.

Next in the investment pecking order was the $135 million in venture funding brought in by Kabbage, with a valuation that comes along with that capital raise at $1 billion. The money will be earmarked for continued expansion in headcount, among other initiatives.

LendingPoint also joined the “triple-digit” club, with a new credit facility that came in at $100 million, with an eye on providing additional loan capacity to consumers.

Below is a snapshot of the top five investees, by dollar amount, for the week that just ended.

With additional insight and half the month behind us, we can see that the logistics space dominated October, with 89 percent of the tally, and B2B commerce brings up the rear with a relatively paltry 11 percent. See below for investments for the month thus far, through Oct. 16, broken down by category.

As FinTech held dominance in the week that was, we can see a sharp dropoff in the overall activity in B2B as measured by deal size and smoothed out to exclude outsized activity. The sharp slip comes hand in hand with the plummet in total Investment Tracker activity in the latest week.

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