In the era of tokenization, encryption, device forensics and pattern recognition technologies, hacks are getting harder. Which is not to say cybercriminals are en masse throwing down their keyboards and settling into new careers selling Ginsu knives.
Far from it.
There is still an active and growing community of malware coders and black hats who’ve dedicated their lives to writing the software that tricks the software that the security coders and white hats have designed to keep them out of sensitive systems. This conflict can likely be expected to live on until the eventual heat death of the universe.
In every ecosystem, environmental pressures push different types of organisms toward different types of adaptation — and cybercrime is at this point. As a result, different types of hackers are evolving their tactics accordingly. Some are writing more sophisticated programs, and others have gone a different direction.
Machines are getting very hard to hack.
People, on the other hand, have proven to be very easy to trick.
Phishing scams have been the order of the day, sending human users in a system official-looking emails that either act as Trojan horses to deliver system-eating malware from the inside, or get those users to send back information that hackers really, really shouldn’t have.
“There’s a reason why humans are the weakest link in any security system,” noted Kevin O’Brien, CEO and co-founder of GreatHorn. “They’re a ‘soft’ target, easy to trick, and often have commercial priorities that drive different behaviors from those of the security organizations.”
GreatHorn is a very new firm — the Belmont, MA based business was founded a little over a year ago by O’Brien and co-founder Ray Wallace — that finds itself stepping into a marketplace that is already fairly crowded. GreatHorn is a cloud security platform and though it is inarguably one of many, it has a unique focus on securing the user as well as the user’s computer, and ferreting out and removing those emails that might otherwise trick a user into unwittingly coughing up the goods.
Today, phishing attacks represent the third most prevalent type of “hack,” but O’Brien noted this is a growing trend, as phishing attacks are branching out to tax returns, bank systems and even federal government offices. Meanwhile, he noted, in a separate but related trend, app-based email platforms are becoming more universal for business users and changing how individuals and businesses communicate.
The GreatHorn software plugs directly into core email platforms themselves (Office 365 or the Google Drive suite, for example), which means there are no delays when attacks are being detected and shut down. It also means, according to O’Brien, that GreatHorn’s learning software is able to spot and kill phishing emails that spam filters tend to miss, but without the flipside danger of actually bouncing important and legitimate professional emails.
“Our theory is that the primary cause of the largest data breaches is essentially going to be a communications platform,” O’Brien recently told The Wall Street Journal.
These days, GreatHorn charges on a mailbox-by-mailbox basis. But it has entered at a fortunately unfortunate time when investors are looking for ideas in security that are able to prevent the people hacking that phishing relies on.
And GreatHorn has captured some of that investor interest, with a $2.25 million seed round led by ff Venture Capital and SoftTech Ventures. Techstars Ventures, RRE Ventures and Walter Winshall also participated, alongside Zelkova Ventures and V1.VC.
According to GreatHorn, the funds will go toward expanding the firm’s operations and improving its core offering.
Investments for week ending 3-18-2016
FinTech continued to lead B2B investments in the last week that ended March 18. The division between the two sectors was more evenly matched than it had been for quite some time, with “only” 65 percent of the fund flows, at $130.8 million, whereas previously that sector had dominated to the tune of 95 percent of all investment activity. However, it should be noted that the recent triple-digit tallies have come up from roughly $50 million nadirs seen in past weeks.
In the past week’s action, only a handful of deals were actually above the $20 million mark, with Momo, a mobile payment firm based in Vietnam, landing $28 million from Standard Chartered Bank, and with participation from Goldman Sachs. Close on those heels came the $24 million raised from LendInvest (based in London), which facilitates P2P payments and which gathered the funds through a series B round.
Usermind announced a $14.5 million series B round led by Menlo Ventures, with $20 million raised to date to center on enterprise data and apps and integration between different parts of a company.
Thus far, through the year, $7.5 billion has changed hands from investors to companies, with the preponderance of that coming in January, a severe dip in February, and a resurgence in March (still to be completed).