Three security startups you should keep an eye on

Security start-ups Skyfence Networks and Zimperium made their official debut today, while another still in stealth mode, Bluebox Security, announced this week additional funding bringing it to a $27.5 million in venture capital.

Skyfence is "activity monitoring for cloud services, compliance controls and threat prevention," says Ofer Hendler, CEO and co-founder of the Israel-based start-up formed in 2012 with Michael Kantarovich, vice president of research and development. Some enterprises, including airline Virgin America, are exploring how to use what's called the Skyfence Cloud Gateway.

Skyfence is intended to help customers monitor cloud applications, especially software-as-a-service (SaaS), by having that traffic directed through a reverse proxy that can identify anomalies indicating insider threats or attacks such as compromises. Virgin America has been testing it out for a few weeks with positive results.

"Like many, we are migrating applications into the cloud," says Bob Markel, director of information security at Virgin America, adding many employees work in various airports. Virgin America is using Skyfence to monitor SaaS applications, and "it's giving us visibility into what was a black hole." To start, Virgin America is monitoring traffic going into its single-sign-on system to look for anomalies  and expects to eventually deploy it in full proxy mode to see all the traffic.

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Skyfence Cloud Gateway has been initially designed to alert about problems it detects, whether an employee trying to steal information or suspicious log-in of network resources indicating a possible compromise, but future capabilities in Skyfence are expected to offer mitigation options such as more automated blocking of accounts or transactions when threats related to SaaS applications are detected. Starting price for Skyfence is $40 per user.

Skyfence competes in some aspects with SkyHigh Networks, Netskope, and Adallom, acknowledges Hendler, whose background includes executive-level R&D positions at Websense and PortAuthority. Co-founder Kantarovich was previously director of R&D at Imperva. The start-up has received $3.2 million in venture-capital funding, mainly from some of Israel's well-known high-tech entrepreneurs, including Mickey Boodaei and Shlomo Kramer.

Start-ups Zimperium and Bluebox Security focus on mobile security

Also out of the gate is another Israel-based start-up named  Zimperium, which has U.S. headquarters in San Francisco while conducting R&D out of its Tel Aviv office. Its two co-founders, Zuk Avraham and Elia Yehuda, say the firm has received $8 million in funding from Sierra Ventures as well as individual investors such as Stephen Northcutt and Raymond Liao.

Zimperium has developed software to protect smartphones and tablets from cyberattacks, especially stealthy ones, based on a kind of machine-learning technology referred to as zIPS, says Avraham, Zimperium's CEO.

Not based on signature detection, the Zimperium software, first available for Android devices, is intended to detect malware or attacks such as traffic re-direction, he points out. "Our end goal is to prevent the organization from getting infiltrated."

If there's attack on a smartphone, such as someone trying a re-direction attack, it will be blocked.  Zimperium is charging $19.95 per device per month, with volume discounts available.

In other start-up news this week, Bluebox Security announced it received $18 million in Series B funding from investors that include Tenaya Capital, as well as existing investors Andreessen Horowitz, Sun co-founder Andreas Bechtolsheim, among others. That brings BlueBox Security, founded in 2012 by Caleb Sima, CEO and Adam Ely, COO, to a total of $27.5 million in funding just ahead of its official launch in mid-February when more details about its mobile-protection strategy, products and services will be disclosed.

Ellen Messmer is senior editor at Network World, an IDG website, where she covers news and technology trends related to information security. Twitter: MessmerE. E-mail:

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