Repeatedly burned by organized cybercrime networks and amateur hackers alike, enterprise CSOs are forever on the prowl for the ideal blend of security applications and services that lock down their data, their networks and the endlessly multiplying mobile devices that connect to them.
The recent data breach disasters at Target, Neiman Marcus and other retailers put tens of millions of customers' data at risk and served as yet another example of how organized hackers are capable of infiltrating multiple companies in the same sector over a short period of time with little or no resistance.
Confer, a Waltham, Mass.-based startup, just landed $8 million in Series A funding from Matrix Partners and North Bridge Venture Partners to continue safeguarding servers, laptops and mobile devices using a combination of big data analytics, vigilant threat assessment tools, the cloud and collaborative real-time data sharing to proactively protect enterprises and their customers.
"You're dealing with a much more sophisticated attacker these days," said Paul Morville, Confer's vice president of products and one of three co-founders. "Everybody is scrambling to find new ways to defend themselves."
One of the ways that Confer is helping companies protect themselves is by enabling real-time collaboration between companies either in the same industry or those that share commonalities that make them attractive to hackers. It gives clients a secure peer-to-peer platform to share information regarding threats and data breaches via self-forming groups and uses the platform to crowdsource information such as indicators of compromise and other "bad behaviors."
"Our observation was that we could collect a lot more information off the endpoints and really leverage it and feed it back into the cloud and use a big data-style approach to analyze (the threats)," Morville said, adding that this "always-on" approach trumps the manual investigation that companies tend to initiate only after an attack has occurred.
This proactive approach is something that Target and Neiman Marcus and perhaps dozens of other retailers could have used during the peak of the recent holiday shopping season.
Confer is just the latest in a long line of security startups to emerge from relative obscurity, offering a new take on a problem that grows more complex and fiscally devastating with each passing day.
In fact, no one can accurately determine exactly just how much damage these perpetual attacks are causing. The Center for Strategic and International Studies along with what's now known as Intel Security pegged the total cost of cybercrime at somewhere around $400 billion – but that's just a rough guesstimate.
Morville said Confer is already beta testing its service with select companies of all sizes and plans to use the majority of the seed capital to expand its sales and engineering staff.
"Traditional security products have been closed and proprietary in nature," he said. "Companies today are trying to get more sophisticated and are more open to looking at and leveraging all different types of (security) information."