10 hot IoT security startups to watch

With the Internet of Things growing unchecked, entrepreneurs are working to build security systems that can protect IoT infrastructure and the data it gathers. Here’s a look at 10 of them.

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ioTium’s IoT network isolates IT and OT networks and data, preventing IT traffic from touching OT traffic and thus eliminating the possibility of backdoor threats. Further, ioTium isolates data streams from different subsystems, preventing a compromise on one subsystem from affecting any other subsystem.

Competitors include: Check Point, Symantec, Indegy, Armis, Sentryo and NanoLock

Customers include: CBRE, Kilroy Realty, Rexnord, Siemens, SPIRE Realty and Emerson

Why they’re a hot startup to watch: Delivering IIoT security as a managed service is a smart move, considering the lack of IT and cybersecurity resources in this fast-growing market. ioTium argues that the industrial side of the IoT explosion is still an untapped market. The company has $22 million in funding to target that market, a long list of named customers within it, and the startup’s CEO previously led two successful exits (he co-founded Vyyo and led it to an IPO, and he led Hellosoft’s VOIP business when it was acquired by Imagination Technologies).

NanoLock Security

What they do: Provide a cloud-based IoT management and security platform

Year founded: 2016

Funding: $9 million

Headquarters: Nitzanei Oz, Israel

CEO: Eran Fine, who founded and served as CEO for OREE, which was acquired by Juganu Systems

Problem they solve: As the IoT expands, it is becoming deeply integrated into critical infrastructure and industrial processes, which tend to lack even basic security. Edge devices and their networks require a mechanism for secure updates and bug fixes, and without a way to closely manage them outside of the CPU or operating system, the devices become unreliable and cannot be trusted. 
How they solve it: NanoLock protects IoT environments through a cloud-to-flash protection approach that configures IoT devices for secure updates and device management. NanoLock creates a secure channel between the cloud and the flash memory in the edge device regardless of the status of the network, the status of the processor or the software version installed in the flash.

NanoLock creates a virtual gatekeeper in the secured flash that blocks write operations to protected memory blocks, making it impossible for attackers to alter the firmware with malicious code, even in cases where the attacker gains full control of the host OS.

Competitors include: Arm, Intel, ioTium, Edgeworx, Armis, Particle and Sentryo
Customers include:

Why they’re a hot startup to watch: NanoLock’s senior leadership team has a mix of industry (Microsoft, Qualcomm, GM) and security (IDF and the Israeli Secret Service) experience. Its CEO co-founded and served as President for Oree, later sold to Juganu Systems. Roughly half of the startup’s VC backing comes from the Awz HLS Investment Fund, an Israeli venture capital fund focused on homeland security technology, and the startup has locked down an impressive on-the-record customer in Thales.

While retrofitting IoT devices with flash is labor-intensive, NanoLock’s approach provides IoT owners with a safe and easy-to-understand method for securing, managing and updating constrained devices. 


What they do: Provide an IoT management and security platform

Year founded: 2012

Funding: $35.8 million

Headquarters: San Francisco, Calif.

CEO: Zach Supalla, a former management consultant with McKinsey & Company, advising Fortune 500 companies on strategy, operations and product development.

Problem they solve: Delivering IoT projects on time is difficult due to the complexity of IoT systems, network availability, and the lack of standards, especially when it comes to security. Even the most tech-savvy businesses are having a hard time mitigating risks as they chase new opportunities.

How they solve it: The Particle IoT platform adds connectivity, security and device management features to constrained devices. To internet-enable a device, Particle provides a hardware development kit that allows you to choose the right network option (Wi-Fi, cellular, Bluetooth, and/or mesh) for your use case.

Rather than building your own networking stack, you can use Particle’s hardware and proprietary embedded OS, called Device OS, to connect to the cloud. Communication protocols, encryption, monitoring and device management features are built in. If the device requires a cellular connection, Particle provides SIM cards with data plans included.

Device OS also connects to Particle’s Device Cloud, which is used to manage enterprise-scale fleets of devices. Device Cloud logs events, enables you to segment groups of devices, and gives you the ability to control and monitor devices individually or in groups.

Competitors include: Ayla, Electric Imp, Sierra Wireless and Telit
Customers include:
Keurig, NASA, SpaceX, Jacuzzi, MIT and Stanford University

Why they’re a hot startup to watch: After starting the project on Kickstarter, CEO Zach Supalla pushed Particle to the next level, locking down nearly $36M in VC funding. The startup claims to have roster of more than 8,500 customers, including half of the Fortune 500. Particle’s named customers lend credence to this claim.

ReFirm Labs

What they do: Provide IoT security

Year founded: 2017

Funding: $2.75 million

Headquarters: Fulton, Md.

CEO: Derick Naef, previously VP/GM of the mobility solutions business at Acronis

Problem they solve: Insecure firmware is a major risk for any enterprise with IoT deployments.

Mitigating supply-chain risks in IoT firmware is more than a business risk, as well as a national security threat.

How they solve it: ReFirm Labs’ flagship security product, called Centrifuge, vets, validates and monitors firmware security. Rather than forcing you to download source code, deploy agents or rely on specialized SKDs, Centrifuge is accessed through an API that integrates into the security and monitoring tools you’re already using.

To vet firmware, Centrifuge decompiles a single copy of the firmware in the cloud to look for known vulnerabilities, hardcoded accounts/passwords, embedded cryptographic material and potential zero-day threats.

The Centrifuge Platform includes an enterprise dashboard that provides detailed and actionable reporting. Once firmware images are uploaded, Centrifuge Guardian continuously monitors them for new threats. Alerts are prioritized by severity.

Competitors include: Veracode, Fortify, Synopsys, Eclypsium, Red Balloon, RunSafe Security and Finite State

Customers include: AT&T, Charter Communications, Arris, Altibox, Canadian Nuclear Laboratories and Deloitte

Why they’re a hot startup to watch: The only way to mitigate the massive risk to IoT is through simple security solutions that are plug-and-play or close to it. ReFirm Labs’ approach of offering IoT security as an adjunct to tools you’re already using is a smart one.

The leadership team has a solid track record, as well. CEO Naef was a co-founder/CTO of GroupLogic, which was sold to Acronis. Chairman Terry Dunlap and CTO Peter Eacmen were both analysts at the NSA and later co-founders of Tactical Network Solutions.

ReFirm Labs has a solid roster of named customers.

RunSafe Security

What they do: Provide security for embedded systems and devices that underpin critical infrastructure

Year founded: 2015

Funding: $2.4 million in seed funding

Headquarters: McLean, Va.

CEO: Joe Saunders, who advises and has invested in security and risk-management companies, including Kaprica Security and TARGUSinfo.

Problem they solve: The IoT makes it easier for attackers to find vulnerabilities, and those vulnerabilities (in oil refineries, flood control systems, nuclear power plants, medical devices, etc.) open up previously isolated environments to cyber-attacks.

How they solve it: RunSaf’s Alkemist software blocks zero-day attacks and closes IoT vulnerabilities by hardening software binaries so malware cannot execute. Alkemist uses remotely deployable runtime application self-protection (RASP) methods – including Basic Block Randomization, Control Flow Integrity and Stack Frame Randomization – to reduce attack vectors.  

These methods reduce cyber-risks by preventing exploits from spreading across networks. Alkemist leaves each system functionally identical, but logically unique and requires no source code or compiler access. It can be applied to either new builds or systems already in the field.

Alkemist, previously called Software Guardian, started out as a research project for the Advanced Research Projects Agency of the Department of Defense.

Competitors include: Argus, Karamba, Polyverse, Red Balloon, ReFirm Labs and Virsec

Customers include: Etas Bosch, Vertiv and the U.S. Department of Defense

Why they’re a hot startup to watch: RunSafe is shipping its commercial product and attracting named customers. Its concept of cyber-hardening IoT systems to reduce vulnerabilities can protect risky systems already in the field. Moreover, Alkimet, which began as an ARPA project, is still being used by the DoD.


What they do: Provide IoT security

Year founded: 2014

Funding: $10 million

Headquarters: Tel Aviv, Israel

CEO: Elad Ben Meir, who previously served as VP of strategic accounts and business for CyberInt

Problem they solve: Industrial trends are pushing a variety of devices online that worsen the degree of risks operators face because they’re no longer in isolated environments and expose them to different kinds of risks, as well.

In the past, operators trusted basic protections such as network segmentation, isolation and air-gapping. But due to the increasing connectivity between OT, IT, cellular and other networks, these protections are less effective. Moreover, relying on IT-oriented security tools does not protect against OT-specific attack vectors.

How they solve it: The SCADAfence platform is an industrial-network monitoring system that provides cybersecurity and visibility for OT networks, such as ICS and SCADA networks.

Designed to protect complex, large-scale OT networks as operators pursue digital transformation, the SCADAfence platform first conducts an OT networks asset discovery sweep and creates an inventory.

It then establishes a baseline for the intended behavior of each device and continues to monitor it, reporting any anomalies. By employing algorithms, machine learning and AI, it detects anomalies and security events that can affect availability and the safety and reliability of the OT network and its assets. The platform also provides risk management and threat detection, notifying critical personnel when something is wrong.

Competitors include: Claroty, CyberX, Nozomi, Security Matters and Check Point
Customers include:

Why they’re a hot startup to watch: SCADAfence has raised enough VC funding to develop an IIoT security platform that’s attracted an impressive on-the-record customer in Mitsui, which intends to use it to help accelerate its smart-city initiatives, relying on SCADAfence to secure its critical facilities and building management systems (BMS).

The senior leadership team has experience with both cyber- and national security. CEO Elad Ben-Meir previously served as VP of Strategic Accounts and Business Development for Cyberint. CTO Ofer Shaked previously served as a project lead for Integrity Project, which was acquired by Mellanox, and VP of Business Development Yoni Shohet was both a project manager and security team lead for the IDF. Shaked and other senior leaders also came up through the IDF.

Copyright © 2019 IDG Communications, Inc.

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