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Application Security

03:00 PM
Simon Marshall
Simon Marshall
Simon Marshall

ShiftLeft Secures Code Pre-Threat

Startup ShiftLeft is moving security forward in the software development lifecycle.

It's quite a talent to be able to see into the future. Someone might be willing to pay for it. No, this is not the next Marvel movie script, and this is not Destiny. But it's definitely where a company that just launched sees software security evolving to next.

ShiftLeft dropped out of stealth mode on October 11, announcing $9.3 million series A round funding from Bain Capital Ventures and Mayfield. Additional personal funding came from Prabhu Goel of Verilog fame, Sanjay Poonen, COO of VMware and Tobias Knaup, CTO of Mesosphere. So, the firm has some serious backing for an innovation that seeks to secure data while working at the speed of DevOps.

In effect, ShiftLeft, named for moving security protection earlier in the lifecycle of software development and production, can somewhat predict the future because it eliminates flaws in the code of cloud applications. According to data from ShiftLeft referencing the Department of Homeland security, about 90% of exploits are caused by defects in the code. So, by reducing defects, the firm hopes to change the time-honored mode of security from threat detection to where coding hygiene holds the key to avoiding threats in the first place.

Software guru Manish Gupta, previously GM of McAfee and CSO of FireEye, and now founder and CEO of ShiftLeft, told SecurityNow, "Software itself underpins innovation across everything, everywhere. Security for cloud software can't be effective if it focuses on threat detection." His vision? "Shouldn't we first understand what the specific software needs are from security?"

For another take on what ShiftLeft can mean for the enterprise, check out our sister publication Enterprise Cloud News' article, Cloud Security Startup ShiftLeft De-Stealths.

Achieving this requires an atomic view of Software DNA. In Gupta’s world this is a snapshot of all security relevant aspects from an application codebase, from which ShiftLeft creates a custom microagent that provides runtime protection. As software continues to be developed and updated through the addition of cloud-based workloads to the app, the security DNA changes and so another snapshot is taken that continues to protect the app.

Understanding security DNA depends upon collecting a 360-degree view of its security needs. This includes the execution space of code, the flow and treatment of data, the way the application communicates with the outside world, the dependencies and vulnerabilities. The DNA reveals the solution to a critical issue.

One of the next big security problems over the next decade will be how to protect cloud apps and microservices (cloud-based workloads) without slowing the pace of innovation that is the DevOps manifesto of 'continuous integrity, continuous development.' Using ShiftLeft, teams can improve the security posture of code, and rapidly ship new microservices without disrupting the application itself.

Gupta thinks that the solution concept is so inimitable that it was not a problem he could address by recruiting conventional security experts. "I needed people with software and cloud experience," he says. Now he has backing, the immediate growth goal for the company is to choose a technical partner from a choice of "four or five” before the end of the year." It looks like further funding will inevitably be required, and Gupta says that for today’s funding round, he had in his back pocket a few other VCs interested in a term sheet.

To steer development, he has formed a customer advisory board to help with the coming "evangelical" sales process. "We want to make sure that we’re building something that customers want," he says. He isn’t specific about who’s on the customer board, aside from indicating he has at least one Wall Street bank advising.

In terms of the company board, ShiftLeft has attracted some figures of note. Enrique Salem, Bain Capital Ventures managing director, FireEye board chairman, and former Symantec CEO, and Ursheet Parikh, Mayfield partner and StorSimple founder and former CEO.

Even with this collective wisdom, who can ever predict the future of a start-up at the point of series A? The concept is intriguing but it’s also very new, with ShiftLeft saddled with introducing a new concept to DevOps as well as educating a potential customer base for whom threat detection is the lifeblood.

Gupta, for one, is optimistic, "We have two choices: focus on exploit detection or perfecting the code."

Related posts:

— Simon Marshall, Technology Journalist, special to Security Now

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