Awake Security CEO Rahul Kashyap Talks New Funding and Company Positioning During COVID-19
Awake Security, the only advanced network traffic analysis company that delivers answers, not alerts, recently announced it raised $36 million in Series C financing back in April. We sat down with Security CEO Rahul Kashyap to discuss the funding round and where the company is headed in the near-future.
The company has a ton of buzz around it. Tell me about Awake Security. What makes it different from others in the industry? Awake Security combines artificial intelligence with human expertise to autonomously hunt for both insider and external attackers while providing a decision support system for rapid triage, digital forensics and incident response. We do this across the ”new network” including the core and perimeter, cloud and Internet of Things. In terms of differentiation, it starts with the fact that we parse data deeper than any other solution on the market, looking at the full network packet and drawing inferences based on data science even if the traffic is encrypted. This allows us to deliver three unique capabilities:
EntityIQ™ is the world’s only AI-based security knowledge graph that identifies, profiles, and tracks all the devices, users and applications with just a network connection. No integrations and no agents required!
Ava is the world’s first AI-based security expert system that performs autonomous threat hunting and incident triage. Ava autonomously connects the dots across the dimensions of time, entities, and protocols, enabling a decision support system that visualizes the entire scope of an attack and presents investigation and remediation options on a single screen.
Adversarial Modelling™ is an industry-first capability that uses heuristics with EntityIQ™ to identify attackers based on their intent. By understanding mal-intent, versus looking for only specific indicators of an attack, Awake greatly improves the ability to see and stop attackers, especially those that are living-off-the-land.
Congrats on the funding. Tell me about the round and who is leading it. Thanks. This is our Series C and it brings our total funding since inception to about $80 million. We raised $36 million in this round, which was led by Evolution Equity Partners and we’re very excited to have Karthik Subramanian, one of the firm’s partners, join our board. Karthik has been in the industry for a long time and before jumping to the investor side, spent years leading Cisco’s cybersecurity acquisition and investment team. That combination of networking and security expertise is a perfect fit for us. For this round, we were very focused on finding the right investors with the right knowledge and experience, and we knocked that goal out of the park. In addition to Evolution Equity, Energize Ventures and Liberty Global Ventures also participated in the round, along with existing investors Greylock Partners and Bain Capital Ventures. There are many reasons these firms are such a great fit, but primarily Energize came on board because they’re focused on companies that solve big challenges in power, utility, manufacturing and other industrial sectors – and they understand how Awake can improve the critical role of cybersecurity in those areas. Liberty Global Ventures is the investment arm of its namesake, which is the world's largest international TV and broadband company. Organizations in the media and telecom industries have a unique exposure to cyber-threats simply because of the nature of their networks, and as a strategic investor Liberty Global is in a position to help us address those challenges. Plus, being a European-based organization was also a key factor behind our partnership too. What are your plans for the funds. Where do you see the future of the company heading short term? The main purpose behind this round was to facilitate growth. We’ve proven that there’s a strong market fit for the advanced network traffic analysis platform we built and have even displaced a number of well-established competitors at many of our customers. Now it’s time to bring our platform to more people and most of this investment will be used towards achieving that goal. We’ve always been laser-focused on the U.S. market and with this funding we plan to start making inroads in Europe now too. That’s another reason why the partnerships with Liberty Global and Evolution Equity were such a great fit – their European presence. In addition to the geographic expansion, we’ll be investing more in our channel program, both in the U.S. and abroad. How do you position yourself in the market during this unprecedented time? Cybercrime is steadily on the increase. When attackers see chaos happening in the world they don’t stop out of empathy, they double-down and try to exploit that chaos however they can. That’s why we’ve seen the volume of attacks explode in industries like healthcare and finance. On top of that, work environments have changed drastically, most notably in the number of people working from home, and that’s something that will continue for some time. When you combine these things, it’s more important than ever for security teams to gain visibility into their increasingly distributed environments, and that’s what Awake is built for. Whether an organization is dealing with IoT or shadow IT threats, phishing campaigns, or something much more sophisticated that we’ve never even seen before, the way our platform analyzes every packet that crosses the network and connects the dots for security teams is an invaluable asset. What advice would you give to other cyber startups during this time? I’d say stay true to your mission of defending the customer. Regardless of whatever piece of the cybersecurity puzzle you’re focused on solving, don’t lose sight of your larger purpose and how it can impact the big picture as security continues to prove how big of an impact it can have on our lives. Also, now’s a good time to focus on the “tech debt” and fix some of the issues that might have been deferred because other, more pressing issues were getting in the way before. The economy is going to slow and have an impact on everyone. Hopefully the impact won’t be too big on the cybersecurity industry, because we all know there’s still a massive need. But if things do slow, reinvest your time in making sure you can come out stronger on the other end. What does the security community need to be focusing on right now? First and foremost, everyone needs to follow the guidance from medical professionals and government leaders on things like social distancing and providing safe work environments. The health of security workers and their families is the number one priority. But practically speaking and thinking about this from a business standpoint too, a security operations team can’t do its job if the whole team is sick. Once you know everyone is safe and secure, be cognizant that there are plenty of attackers out there who are operating just fine too, and that they’re working to exploit the pandemic with COVID-related malware and attacks. Best practices for being wary of links and not clicking suspicious ones, being vigilant about misinformation on social media, and other standard protocols still stand. Also, even when working from home, remember that as employees, we still have a key role to play in defending the organization’s data, so you need to make sure your home network is secure, and make sure the rest of your organization is doing the same.
There is some good guidance from the FTC on how to work securely from home here: https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/blog/2020/03/online-security-tips-working-home