'Human Behavior' Security Startup Nets $7M in Seed

Nudge Security plans a general launch of its cloud-based service later this year.

A startup led by former AT&T Cybersecurity/AlienVault executives and focused on shaping more security-minded user behavior today announced a $7 million seed funding round led by Ballistic Ventures.

Nudge Security's co-founders — CEO Russell Spitler and CTO Jaime Blasco — are keeping the details of their technology and ultimate product offering close to the vest. But the security-as-a-service product they are building hints at providing an automated, over-the-shoulder helper for end users that helps steer them away from risky online behaviors that could imperil an organization's security posture.

Their approach aims to "reclaim" and shape user behavior, they say, so that it's in sync with security rather than exploitable by threat actors. Nudge also works psychologists to better understand how humans normally react or behave when faced with an online threat. Their product is not security awareness training, they note, but instead a cloud-based tool that dynamically helps users avoid security mishaps and mistakes.

"Our goal is how we get to the place where we can identify those in a few high-impact decisions," Spitler explains. "You're about to send a file to a partner: 'Is that really how you want to send that file?'" he says as one example.

"We have the opportunity to automate that so it makes less of an impact on the security organization" to handle, according to Spitler, former executive at AT&T Cybersecurity and senior VP of product at AlienVault.

It's about proactively helping end users understand what to do when faced with security risks in their daily jobs. "Make employees understand the impacts, and that someone is watching out for them as opposed to slapping their hand" and blaming them for security issues, he says.

Nudge also is working on the user experience of the product to simplify how organizations add it to their IT infrastructure. "And when they bring in a new tool we can be there with them so they make the right decision [so that] ... security features are properly configured," says Blasco, former VP at AT&T Cybersecurity and chief scientist at AlienVault.

Spitler says Nudge plans to make the cloud-based service generally available by the end of this year.

Ballistic Ventures co-founders and general partners include several well-known cybersecurity execs, including Ted Schlein, Barmak Meftah, Jake Seid, Derek Smith, and Roger Thornton. Kevin Mandia is a strategic partner of the VC firm.