By Rahul Kashyap
Almost 20 years ago, I was in my home lab curiously analyzing the “ILOVEYOU” virus that had just hit the world. My reaction as I dug in was—this virus is too easy! I realized then that the internet was not designed to identify and prevent malicious malware and a lot more damage could be done in the future. At that moment, I made a pivotal decision to become an “internet cop” to stop the bad guys. Obviously, I had no clue what I was signing up for, nor what it really meant at that time, but my passion and mission were clear to me. In those days, the cybersecurity industry was still in its formative years and cybercrime wasn’t the high-profile problem it is today, so at that time it felt like a risky career move.
After nearly two decades traversing the ups and downs in this industry, I’ve had the good fortune to be involved in delivering multiple cybersecurity solutions across network, endpoint and logs/event data—the triad of security data sources. I have also seen how the hype cycles across technologies tend to alternate as defenses evolve and attackers in turn modify their tactics.
Consider this example. We’ve recently heard a lot of chatter about attackers using PowerShell and WMI for lateral movement and other nefarious purposes. As a security team, your choices for addressing these threats are:
- Manually hunt for these behaviors (assuming you have someone on the team capable of this) using slow, complex and arcane correlation rules in platforms not designed for hunting, or
- Given the proliferation of security companies, you can bet someone out there is building a product to specifically detect that attacker tactic (false positives be damned).
Given those two options, it’s no surprise that, as attackers evolve, most people’s first reaction is to go buy the newest product!
At Awake, we’re looking to change that crazy cycle!
In starting the company, Michael, Gary, Keith and Dash envisioned the ideal security solution differently. The team they brought together has built network traffic analysis technology that identifies and profiles ‘everything’ in the enterprise and then autonomously identifies threats. Why the network? Because the network sees everything—even IoT, BYOD and shadow IT devices that cannot be managed in the traditional sense with endpoint agents/logs, leaving the security team blind to them.
But importantly, unlike the other players in this space, Awake delivers a mechanism to add “skills” to the platform. Much like the platform approach Amazon has taken with Alexa, Awake’s platform stays relevant by allowing of-the-moment skills development to tackle new security problems as they emerge—rather than overhauling its entire solution to chase the latest threat. At Awake, our skills take the form of questions security teams ask of the data and the real-time answers the platform provides. The questions make it trivial for Awake security researchers and customers alike to express attacker tactics and then have the system automate the hunt for those tactics.
Just like Alexa understands the nuance of language and accents, Awake understands and parses security signals from billions of packets, network handshakes, protocols and flows to extract what you’re looking for. The platform can evolve as the attackers evolve, learning and adding new skills iteratively.
As I talked to CISOs, security analysts and partners over the last year or so, I could see the “rise of the network” in the making. To continue taking the fight to the attacker, we needed a new class of network security solutions that go beyond IDS, sandboxing and anomaly detection. Awake’s platform approach to this problem was exciting and it’s what brought me to the company.
And we have big plans! Awake has been at the forefront of technological development. Some of the innovations the team has been working on for encrypted traffic analysis as well as cloud visibility have impressed even the biggest network skeptics at our development partners and industry analyst groups. For now, all I will say is continue to watch this space as we break new ground.
Now is the time to scale and meet the growing market demands for our solution. We’re excited to continue to build out the team, doubling down on data science and security research, but also to expand to new regions and develop our partner ecosystem from a go-to-market perspective.
I also want to take this opportunity to deeply thank Michael Callahan for the leadership he has demonstrated in building Awake into the company it is today. I look forward to collaborating with him on the future direction of the company.
As I talk to multiple Awake customers and prospects, it’s become very apparent that this company is solving a compelling problem and, more importantly, changing network security in a fundamental way. I am excited to lead the tremendous team here at Awake to achieve our next phases of growth and continue building one of the best security companies in the world. Challenging the status quo is core to the mission I aspired to 18 years ago. I look forward to disrupting the industry (once again) and most importantly keeping the intruders out!
P.S: We are hiring!