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1/15/2019
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Former IBM Security Execs Launch Cloud Data Security Startup

Sonrai Security, the brainchild of two execs from IBM Security and Q1 Labs, debuts with $18.5 million in Series A funding.

Sonrai Security, a new startup focused on cloud data security, today launched with $18.5 million in Series A funding and rolled out a new service designed to enable data and identity control across cloud accounts and within data stores.

Sonrai co-founders Brendan Hannigan and Sandy Bird met at Q1 Labs, where Bird was co-founder and Hannigan was CEO. The duo helped create its security analytics platform QRadar, and both joined IBM when it acquired Q1 Labs in 2011. Hannigan helped establish IBM Security and served as a general manager for the division, while Bird became IBM Security's CTO.

Hannigan left IBM toward the end of 2015, and Bird a bit later, but both continued to work on issues related to data security as the space evolved. "What's happening with cloud, and what I'd call agile development, is [they're] clearly completely changing how companies deploy and run software," Hannigan says. "[It's] now happening at a rate which is intensifying."

He references Gartner data from July 2018, when researchers predicted by 2025, 80% of enterprises will have shut down their traditional data centers, versus 10% today. The change demands companies to rethink their approach to security as data and infrastructure spans cloud platforms.

"In new infrastructure, you cannot take old solutions and try to jam them into the new world," Hannigan says. The "old world," he says, was very focused on perimeter security. In this new cloud-focused world, many of the controls are built into the infrastructure cloud providers deliver.

As they move into this world, Hannigan adds, businesses don't have one cloud – they have multiple providers. Most use Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure, or Google Cloud Platform (GCP), but they can have hundreds of cloud accounts for any one provider and multiple data stores within those accounts. Organizations need to know whether they have confidential data in the cloud, where it's located, and who has access to it. Cloud accounts are packed with data spread across machine stores and accessed by people, virtual machines, and containers.

People need to understand their data and its associated risks, he continues. The idea prompted the idea for Sonrai, which Hannigan says "is about building a complete model of our identity relationships and access to that data across cloud accounts and cloud providers." Traditional network-centric security controls don't work in the cloud, its founders argue, so they wanted to prioritize cloud data control and build a risk mitigation model focused on data.

"Our focus across these clouds is the data – where is it, who has access, what type of stores are the data in," he says. "There's many different places people can store data in cloud accounts."

How It Works
Cloud Data Control, Sonrai's service, is a native cloud tool designed to track data and users across cloud services and third-party data sources. Hannigan and Bird used their experience in developing flexible platform solutions to create a service that lets users view identity and data relationships across cloud environments. A security pro trying to understand risk across AWS, Azure, and GPC would need only one query line to see, for example, whether encryption is automated for a data store housing confidential information, Bird explains.

The service is built on three values: continuous monitoring for unusual activity, audit and compliance, and driving efficiency for SecOps and DevOps teams, Hannigan says. Both groups need a broad view of cloud data and activity but have different use cases for that information. Sonrai had to bridge the gap between the data security teams want and the agility DevOp teams need.

"It's a different view for both sides," Bird says. The CISO and security team will be focused on whether a company's hundreds of AWS accounts and Azure subscriptions have met policies and controls. DevOps want an API to call to check the state of compliance before production. Both teams can see dashboards, APIs, and a compliance framework, but with unique interfaces.

Sonrai's Series A funding was led by TenEleven Ventures and Polaris Partners, where Hannigan was most recently an entrepreneur partner.

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Kelly Sheridan is the Staff Editor at Dark Reading, where she focuses on cybersecurity news and analysis. She is a business technology journalist who previously reported for InformationWeek, where she covered Microsoft, and Insurance & Technology, where she covered financial ... View Full Bio

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