Area 1 Raises $8M to Defend Against Social Engineering Attacks

A former NSA analyst pairs big data technology with new money to build out a security platform that is still in stealth.


Security startup Area 1 Security today announced that it has raised $8 million in a Series A funding round led by Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers. In total, Area 1 has now raised $10.5 million in funding as the company aims to build out a new type of technology to help organizations defend themselves against social engineering attacks.

"We look at all attacks as campaigns, and social engineering is typically the first phase or the first area for attack," Area 1 Security's CEO Oren Falkowitz told eWEEK. "We are focused on that first area of attack, getting good visibility and helping to prevent attack escalation."

Falkowitz is no stranger to the world of security, previously having spent six years working at the National Security Agency (NSA), working in part in the office of Tailored Access Operations (TAO). While at the NSA, Falkowitz helped develop the open-source Accumulo database, which is a data storage technology for Hadoop big data.

"Accumulo embeds security access controls, so petabytes of data can be stored in a system that has thousands of users, all of whom can only see the level of data that they are authorized against," he said. "This is helpful for highly regulated industries like health care, finance and, of course, national defense."

The technology platform that Area 1 Security is building is still in stealth, though Falkowitz was able to provide context into where it fits and what problem it is trying to solve. There are security companies that are trying to help train IT users about the dangers of social engineering, but that's not what his company is aiming to do, he said. In a social engineering attack, a user is somehow tricked or manipulated into clicking on something malicious, which can end up exploiting a system.

While education is an important piece in limiting social engineering risks, Falkowitz said that fundamentally humans cannot be relied upon to always spot potential attacks. In contrast, the platform that Area 1 Security is building is centered on the idea of identifying specific behaviors and delivery mechanisms for social engineering attacks.

While some social engineering attacks leverage zero-day vulnerabilities in application software, the Area 1 Security approach isn't concerned about unknown security flaws.

"Our approach is not to spot every vulnerability that exists," Falkowitz said. "What we focus on is how attacks are delivered, and that is revealed by way of behavioral patterns."

Vulnerabilities in software will always exist, according to Falkowitz. Area 1 Security is less interested in the attack payload than in the actual mechanics of a social engineering attack.

From a technology perspective, the Area 1 Security platform will sit outside of the end-user environments and leverage a cloud back end.

"We do have some integrations with some network edge devices for accuracy, and we have our own proprietary remediation capabilities," Falkowitz said.

Area 1 Security currently is doing software pilots with a number of Fortune 500 companies across multiple industry verticals.

"The goal is to continue to expand our technology platform and then have something that is more publicly commercial available toward the end of next year," Falkowitz said.

Sean Michael Kerner is a senior editor at eWEEK and Follow him on Twitter @TechJournalist.

Sean Michael Kerner

Sean Michael Kerner

Sean Michael Kerner is an Internet consultant, strategist, and contributor to several leading IT business web sites.