AI-Led Cybersecurity Enterprise Defense Triggers Startup Senseon Investment


Senseon, a breakaway startup from UK cybersecurity outfit Darktrace, has raised $6.4 million in seed funding to help roll out its artificial intelligence-powered information security technology to more enterprise customers, empowering them to keep pace as cyber attacks become increasingly innovative.

Pioneer of a model it has dubbed “AI triangulationOpens a new window ” based on an analytics concept used by the US’s Central Intelligence Agency, Senseon uses AI algorithms to understand and correlate cyber threats from multiple perspectives.

In essence, it makes use of a range of “senses” to gather information – the company’s network, cloud environment and endpoint devices, as well as its own investigator bots.

It’s in the triangulation of all these inputs that the system has an edgeOpens a new window in identifying credible threats, reducing false positives and saving IT departments’ time.

The company was founded in 2017 by former Darktrace executive David Atkinson, who previously served as a cyber operative within UK specialist military units. He said the funds would be used to build on Senseon’s rapid growth in the UK and expand in Europe and the US.

In a recent articleOpens a new window , Atkinson highlights the threat of cyber attacks to global businesses, the cost of which is estimated to have totaled $1.9 trillion in 2018.

While companies are spending large sums on educating employees to drive down the click-through rate on malicious emails, hackers are still getting in.

At the same time, research from the Ponemon InstituteOpens a new window finds that the average company receives about 17,000 malware alerts every week. Only 19% are considered reliable and just 4% are actually investigated.

Software Senses Hacker Presence

The financial services industry is among the sectors most targeted in cyber attacks. Processing large amounts of customer data, as well as having access to money and card payment information means attackers have the potential to grab data of real value, as well as cause significant reputational damage to the victim in the event of a successful breach.

These organizations often have extensive networks with thousands of endpoints, offering hackers multiple opportunities to gain access, Senseon notes.

This amount of noise means companies’ defense systems and human resources can be distracted and overwhelmed, allowing hackers to go unnoticed. Atkinson points out that in addition to this more traditional concern, hackers themselves are harnessing AI, which makes it the best method of neutralizing cyber threats.

“For information security purposes, AI enables already intelligent and interconnected systems to autonomously converse, improving the accuracy of threat detection across the network, endpoint devices, cloud environments and Investigator Bots,” writes Atkinson. “Senseon’s platform uses these multiple ‘senses’ to observe behaviour across an entire organisation, meaning security alerts can be raised the exact moment unnatural behaviour – and potential breaches – occur.”

When it senses anomalous and interesting activity, Senseon opens a “case.” The system captures all relevant information about the devices involved, processes that are running, users implicated and the connections and behaviors linking them together.

Grace Cassy, co-founder of seed investor CyLon, says: “(Information security officers) see real value in the way Senseon’s product – through the use of AI Triangulation and Sensory AI – can provide them with one cohesive platform that protects their organization from emerging threats, essentially replacing the need to purchase multiple single-point solutions.”

Triangulation of Information Zeros in on Detection

During one company’s trial of Senseon, new and anomalous behavior was detected on the laptop of a senior employee. She had received a targeted phishing email with an attached Word document containing malicious code, executed through a macro, Senseon says. This bypassed traditional monitoring tools by leveraging advanced tactics that were designed to help it blend in with the customer’s environment and evade detection.

Senseon’s external investigator bots noted that the domain, although previously legitimate, had expired recently and been repurposed to mask its malicious intentions from network threat intelligence. Senseon’s alerts allowed the company to react quickly, choking off any potential data loss.

Other companies looking at AI’s potential to defend against cyber breaches include Hexadite, owned by Microsoft, and Amazon.

The funding round was led by venture capital fund MMC Ventures, alongside Mark Weatherford, former deputy under secretary for cybersecurity at the US Department of Homeland Security. Additional investors include Amadeus Capital Partners, Crane Venture Partners and CyLon.