Akamai, YL Ventures Fund Firelayers' Cloud Security Approach

4 minute read
Erika Morphy avatar
Cloud security, or lack thereof, is the tech industry's dirty little secret.

San Francisco-based Firelayers has secured more funding, the amount not provided, from Akamai Technologies in a YL Ventures-led round. 

YL Ventures, which is also based in San Francisco, is a venture capital firm that specializes in Israeli cybersecurity companies. Firelayers also has offices in Tel Aviv, Israel. The funding will be used for marketing, new customer on-boarding and product development.

Firelayers came out of stealth mode in February 2014 with a rules-based, proxy-server approach to cloud security.

Yes, as it turns out even applications that are provided through the cloud are vulnerable to security breaches, although vendors in this space would just as soon not discuss this.

A False Sense of Security

Indeed for various reasons the cloud has come to represent, falsely, a haven of safety for many companies.  

The result of these two trends has resulted pretty much as one would expect. The majority of companies surveyed recently by Ponemon Institute on their cloud security practices were not investing the time and resources to make sure that sensitive data was secured. 

The survey, which was sponsored by Armor, determined that few of the companies hit all — or even any — of the best practices associated with cloud security from a company perspective. They were, in other words, not:

  • assessing the affect the cloud would have on their ability to protect sensitive information (said 58 percent of the respondents)
  • thoroughly vetting cloud services for security risks (per 62 percent of respondents)
  • conducting audit or assessments of cloud resources before deployment (61 percent of respondents)
  • ensuring their cloud usage did not  violate  privacy  and/or  data  protection  regulations (58 percent of respondents)

Proxy Server + Rules

It was in this environment that Firelayers opened its doors and started to carve out its own turf in the ever-growing cyber security industry.

A reason, one might speculate, that it has made traction is that its approach to cloud security means executives and IT don’t have to bother with any of the above list (although they should).

Firelayers doesn’t use the APIs offered by the software-as-a-service vendors but instead has developed its own proxy server, Yoav Andrew Leitersdorf, managing partner of YL Ventures, told CMSWire.

That proxy server sits between the enterprise and the cloud.

Now here is where the security work does come in. The server is configured based on the rules the user writes, which by the time the process is done could number in the several hundreds.

Learning Opportunities

"The rules can touch on anything the company deems important," Leitersdorf said. Most typically these rules dictate which users can access which resources at specific times of day or from specific locations.

Firelayers provides rules templates as part of its application. 

When presented with specific scenarios for which they must write security rules, companies tend to move to the opposite side of the spectrum, writing overstrict rules, Leitersdorf said. "Then they move back slightly to achieve just the right balance of security and usability."

The Emerging CASB Market

In IT analytics circles, Firelayers' application is known as an enterprise-side cloud access security broker approach, or CASB. Gartner defined CASB as "an emerging technology that is evolving rapidly, and … delivers to enterprises a central point of monitoring and control across multiple cloud services," in a report published earlier this year called "Technology Overview for Cloud Access Security Brokers" [paywall].

Vendors in this space approach security differently, according to their core differentiators.  Firelayers, for its part, relies on both cross-application analytics for threat detection and real-time mitigations for threat prevention.

Specifically, regarding the latter, the application is able to identify file sharing-related actions in real time, in any application including homegrown applications running on Azure, AWS and Google Cloud, other IaaS customized applications and off-the-shelf SaaS tools like Box, Google Apps, Office 365, Workday, SuccessFactors, Salesforce and ServiceNow, it says.

If that sounds like a wide swath of territory to cover that is because it is. It is also necessary in the current environment, said Yair Grindlinger, co-founder and CEO of FireLayers.

"As the cloud market grows, the security perimeter and attack surface grow with it," he said.

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