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SINET: Startups Push IT Security's Envelope

SINET conference flags 16 security startups to watch, but they are just the tip of the iceberg, experts say

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- SINET Showcase 2013 -- Keeping up with the bad guys means finding totally new ways to fight -- and those new innovations are driving the creation of dozens of new security startups, experts said here today.

The Security Innovation Network (SINET), an organization devoted to developing information security companies, is holding its annual SINET Showcase here this week, providing an exhibition platform for 16 emerging companies selected last month. The chosen firms will have an opportunity to show their wares on Thursday and discuss their vision with top cybersecurity executives in government and commercial enterprises.

But Robert Rodriguez, chairman and founder of SINET, says the 16 exhibitors -- chosen from some 115 startups that applied for the honor -- are only the tip of the innovation iceberg.

"The traditional corporate debate of 'build versus buy' is no longer a debate. It's a full-on buy market being driven by a dynamic attack environment. This market has to move quickly to keep up with the innovation on the dark side. The innovators can't move fast enough."

So far in 2013, more than 230 deals have been made to fund emerging security companies, and nearly 80 new companies have been financed, Rodriguez reports. "There are so many great innovators out there," he says. "Judging and choosing the top 16 was harder than ever this year."

The SINET 16 includes a number of companies that already have become well known, including Bromium, Cylance, Damballa, Lookingglass, Nok Nok Labs, Pindrop Security, PhishMe, and ThreatMetrix.

But there also are several firms that have yet to make their public debut. Among them is Endgame Inc., which promises to "bring data science to cyber security to sense, analyze and act in real-time." Company officials said the firm was not ready to be interviewed or discuss its products in detail.

Some of the other new names include ZanttZ, which creates "Shadow Networks" to detect and dampen the impact of advanced persistent threats (APTs); Appthority, which identifies and manages hidden risks in mobile apps;and Agari, which prevents unauthorized email.

Although some of the SINET 16 showcase exhibitors have been delivering products and services for more than a year, executives said the information security market is a tough one to break into.

"The biggest problem facing emerging companies in the security space is to clearly articulate their solution in a crowded and hype-filled space," says Jamie Cowper, senior director of worldwide marketing and business development at Nok Nok Labs, which is working on a universal solution for user authentication. "Nok Nok Labs has a specific challenge in that we're trying to fix a fundamental computing problem. It will take a comprehensive, industrywide effort to reduce the password problem, and we're just starting on that journey."

Vijay Balasubramaniyan, CEO of voice fraud detection vendor Pindrop Security, agrees. "In general, credibility is the chief challenge for an emerging company, and this is compounded in the security space by the lack of reference customers," he says. "Privately, they are happy to discuss you with peers, but publicly, they will rarely discuss."

Balasubramaniyan cited two challenges specific to Pindrop. "First, our technology is most applicable to large organizations like the top banks and government agencies. However, these organizations are relatively slow-moving, which is challenging from a cash-flow perspective, and they have higher demands for customization at every step of the process," he says. "Second, Pindrop is truly unique -- so much so that organizations aren't quite sure how to use [our products] or who should be in charge of purchasing them."

"Attack and defense have always had an element of cat and mouse," notes Allan Carey, chief marketing officer at PhishMe, which provides anti-phishing and social-engineering education tools for enterprise uses." Emerging security company's struggle with staying nimble and innovative to address the most relevant threats, avoiding commoditization, and raising barriers to entry."

A complete list of the SINET 16 can be found here.

Have a comment on this story? Please click "Add a Comment" below. If you'd like to contact Dark Reading's editors directly, send us a message. Tim Wilson is Editor in Chief and co-founder of Dark Reading.com, UBM Tech's online community for information security professionals. He is responsible for managing the site, assigning and editing content, and writing breaking news stories. Wilson has been recognized as one ... View Full Bio

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