The 15 Most Important Computer Security Startups Of 2013

Computer security is a difficult problem that attracts some of the brightest minds in the tech industry who build some of the most innovative products.

We’ve assembled this list of the hottest, coolest security startups creating buzz for a number of reasons:

  • They’ve landed big finance rounds.
  • They have impressive founders.
  • They are solving a hard security problem.
  • They are approaching security in a fresh new way.

1.) Appthority: Protecting mobile app developers

Appthority CEO and cofounder Anthony Bettini

These days, everyone and anyone is a mobile app developer. But just because you can build an app, doesn’t mean it’s good or safe.

Appthority offers a cloud platform that checks to see if an app is secure so it can’t be hacked by the bad guys.

Appthority’s CEO and co-founder, Anthony Bettini hails from McAfee and was the technical editor for one of the best-selling hacking books of all time, “Hacking Exposed.”

2.) ThreatMetrix: Putting it all together to stop fraud fast

Reed Taussig, CEO, ThreatMetrix

Most businesses use a whole bunch of security products. If they find evidence of a hacker, that info isn’t easily shared between security products.

ThreatMetrix offers a cloud service that does all the big security stuff in one system and this lets it detect fraud the instant it happens, not sometime later.

ThreatMetrix landed on the Wall Street Jounal’s Top 50 startups of 2012 after it acquired another buzzy startup, malware detection firm TrustDefender, last year.

3.) Marble Cloud Security: Keeps hackers from fooling you into loading their malware

Dave Jevans, founder, Marble Cloud

Marble Cloud offers software for the bring-your-own-device phenom. Install it and if a user gets hacked, the malware can’t gain access to the company’s other data through the device.

It also protects people from bad stuff that could happen when they use a public Wi-Fi and from a growing threat known as “SMS phishing” where a text from the bad guys can fool you into installing malware or giving away your password.

Dave Jevans, founder and CTO, is also the founder of the Anti-Phishing Working Group, whose members include Yahoo, eBay, Google and Microsoft.

4.) AnchorFree: Safe and private public hotspots

AnchorFree: Safe and private public hotspots

David Gorodyansky, CEO and co-founder AnchorFree

AnchorFree offers software it calls the “Hotspot Shield” which gives everyone secure, anonymous, and private browsing on the Internet.

It came to fame during the Arab Spring, helping people in oppressed countries stay under-the-radar when using the Internet. That helped it land a $52 million investment led by Goldman Sachs last year.

AnchorFree has also attracted a whole bunch of famous angels including Flickr backer Esther Dyson, former Huffington Post president Greg Coleman, and Bert Roberts, the former CEO of MCI.

5.) Wickr: Your message will self destruct

Wickr: Your message will self destruct.

Kevin Smith/Business insider

Wickr’s mission is to let you use the mobile Internet and “Leave No Trace.”

It offers an app that gives you uber-control over your mobile messages — text, pictures, audio, video — with military-grade security to prevent snooping.

Then, at your command, the message self destructs and is gone forever.

Wickr isn’t the only one working in this area. Snapchat offers some of these features, as does Silent Circle.

Still, Wickr stands out for its co-founder, Nico Sell, who has started over 20 security companies over the past two decades and also helped run the yearly hacking conference DEFCON.

6.) Impermium: Making nasty comments go away

Impermium: Making nasty comments go away

Mark Risher did a lot of anti-spam work for Yahoo before cofounding Impermium

The Internet isn’t always a nice place. People and blog spammers write the nastiest comments and Tweets.

Impermium calls that stuff “Mal.content” and its tool finds it, deletes it and stops the spread of it.

Built by the former leaders of Yahoo!’s anti-spam and security teams, Mark Risher and Vish Ramarao, Imperium recently hired Sameer Bhalotra, the former White House senior director for cybersecurity, as its COO.

7.) Victrio: identifying bad guys when they call on the phone

Victrio: identifying bad guys when they call on the phone

Victrio cofounder Lisa Guerra (LinkedIn/Lisa Guerra)

What’s to stop fraudsters from calling a company on the phone and lying their way into obtaining forbidden information?

Victrio, that’s what.

Victrio has a very cool tech that does realtime phone fraud detection based on a “voice print.”  The tech is popular with banks, credit card companies, and any company that still does a lot of business through call centers.

Founder Tony Rajakumar and vice president of engineering and co-founder, Lisa Guerra, cut their teeth at BeVocal, a voice detection company bought in 2007 by Nuance Communications.

8.) Shape Security: Keeping people away from bad websites

Shape Security: Keeping people away from bad websites

Shape Security cofounder Sumit Agarwal

Shape is still in stealth mode and has been somewhat tight-lipped about its technology, but we know that it’s working on a way that makes it harder for hackers to trick people into visiting malware-laced websites.

The company has a whole bunch of Valley tech bigwigs excited enough to invest. It just raised $20 million (bringing their total to $26 million) from investors like Venrock, the venture-capital arm of the Rockefeller family; Kleiner Perkins; Eric Schmidt’s TomorrowVentures; and executives at DropboxFacebookLinkedIn, and Twitter.

Shape was cofounded by ex-Googler Sumit Agarwal, who was head of Google’s mobile product management.

9.) 41st Parameter: Taking a digital fingerprint of your PC

41st Parameter: Taking a digital fingerprint of your PC

Ori Eisen, founder, 41st Parameter

41st Parameter’s FraudNet has a creative approach to help retailers find hackers and fraudsters.

It invisibly scans the PC and creates a digital “fingerprint” of it. Even if a hacker has your credentials, if the person’s not logging in from your actual PC, 41st knows it and flags those activities.

The company was founded by Ori Eisen, who was the worldwide fraud director for American Express.

10.) CrowdStrike: Seeking to unmask and capture the hackers themselves

CrowdStrike: Seeking to unmask and capture the hackers themselves

George Kurtz

CrowdStrike is taking a completely different approach to security: find and identify the hacker.

Although CrowdStrike is technically in stealth mode, the company has created a ton of buzz for its aggressive stance on rooting out the hackers, as opposed to an emphasis on building defensive tech.

Its founders include George Kurtz, McAfee’s former CTO. Early employees are former FBI cybercrime bigwigs and a top U.S. information-warfare Air Force colonel, now retired.

11.) Tenable Network Security: Protecting the Department of Defense

Tenable Network Security: Protecting the Department of Defense

Ron Gula, CEO, Tenable Network Security

In September, Accel invested $50 million into Tenable, (YouTube/tenablesecurity) the biggest investment Accel ever made in a North American company.

Tenable isn’t that young (founded in 2002) and doesn’t make the sexiest security tech: Its flagship product is the Nessus “vulnerability management software” which helps companies manage all the security alerts and patches.

But it’s got a giant list of enterprise customers including a recently-signed huge contract with the Department of Defense.

12.) FireEye: Stopping the attacks that no one else can stop

FireEye: Stopping the attacks that no one else can stop

Ashar Aziz, founder, FireEye

FireEye solves two really hard problems: protecting corporate networks against so-called “advanced persistent threats” and against “zero-day” attacks.

APTs are very personalized attacks by hackers determined to get into a particular network.  Zero-day attacks are software holes that haven’t been fixed by the software vendor.

FireEye finds this stuff by flagging suspicious stuff and then opening it in a safe, virtual environment. For instance, its email appliance opens the suspected email attachment to see what it does. The whole process takes a fractions of a second and if the email contains malware, it stops it.

FireEye was founded by former Sun distinguished engineer Ashar Aziz who holds 18 patents on this tech alone.

13.) Co3 Systems: Helping companies recover after an attack

Co3 Systems: Helping companies recover after an attack

Ted Julian, chief marketing officer, Co3 Systems (Twitter/@eajulian)

Despite all the security companies buy, they can still get hacked.

When that happens, Co3 Systems solves an interesting problem: reporting that security breach. It makes sure a company meets its compliance obligations.

The company is run by a team of experienced execs including EMCs former director of engineering, Allen Rogers, and one-time IDC market research analyst, Ted Julian, who previously cofounded Arbor Networks.

14.) Bromium: Letting malware happen, safely

Bromium: Letting malware happen, safely

Simon Crosby, co–founder, CTO, Bromium

Bromium is doing for computer security what VMware did for servers. The company has created a technology called “micro-virtualization” that doesn’t care if potentially dangerous software gets installed on a PC because it runs in a safe container that can’t touch the rest of the PC.

In this way, PC users can download apps or open attachments without worrying about unleashing a virus on the company.

It was founded by Simon Crosby, who is known as the founder of XenSource, an open source competitor to VMware.

15.) CipherCloud: Encrypting data before sending it to the cloud

CipherCloud: Encrypting data before sending it to the cloud

Pravin Kothari, founder, CipherCloud (Twitter/@pkothari)

CipherCloud offers a service that just about every enterprise is going to need as it adopts the cloud.

It secures a company’s sensitive data in real time before that data is sent to the cloud. That means enterprises don’t have to trust the cloud provider to keep their stuff safe.

It was founded by Pravin Kothari, whose previous security company was ArcSight, which he sold to Hewlett Packard for $1.6 billion. In its first year in business, CipherCloud has already nabbed about 40 big enterprise customers, including two of the world’s top banks.

Plus, Andreessen Horowitz put $30 million into the company last month, raising its total to $31.4 million.

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