SafeGuard nabs $45M to combat cybersecurity risks using AI


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SafeGuard, a cloud platform designed to protect assets from cybersecurity threats and risk factors, today announced it has raised $45 million — a mix of equity and debt. This brings SafeGuard’s total raised to over $69 million and will be used to expand its business and technology capabilities, the company says.

In a 2017 Deloitte survey, only 42% of respondents considered their institutions to be extremely or very effective at managing cybersecurity risk. The pandemic has certainly done nothing to alleviate these concerns. Despite increased IT security investments companies made in 2020 to deal with distributed IT and work-from-home challenges, nearly 80% of senior IT and IT security leaders believe their organizations lack sufficient defenses against cyberattacks, according to IDG.

SafeGuard, which was founded in 2014, develops products that identify risks in communication channels such as social media, chat apps, and collaboration platforms — like Slack, LinkedIn, and WhatsApp. SafeGuard also helps companies take action and claims it can shield high-profile or targeted individuals from account takeovers, spearphishing, malicious content, threats of violence, and misinformation, as well as bad actor connections. Moreover, SafeGuard says it can protect enterprise and employee accounts from inbound threats, including brand impersonation, while providing visibility into potential threat vectors.

“Social engineering has traditionally been carried out within emails but has since evolved to incorporate a more targeted, soft-attack approach across social media, collaboration, and mobile chat channels where traditional security defenses simply do not detect and stop such attacks,” cofounder and CEO Jim Zuffoletti told VentureBeat via email. “Attackers also now realize that mass attacks have a low conversion rate and that targeted spearfishing, while more time-intensive, has a much higher success rate. From a cybercriminal’s point of view, social engineering is the perfect means to deliver a broad array of damaging exploits, such as ransomware that encrypts company data, or attacks that are focused on cyberespionage.”


According to a 2017 MicroFocus report, up to 463 billion gigabytes of data will be generated every day by 2026. To accommodate the coming influx, organizations are beginning to transform operations models through the adoption of AI to optimize, enhance, and automate threat and risk visibility, detection, and response capabilities, Zuffoletti says.

To this end, SafeGuard leverages an AI-powered engine called Threat Cortex that detects and spotlights risks across different attack surfaces. Threat Cortex searches the dark and deep web to surface attackers and risk events, automatically notifying IT team members when an anomaly crops up. Using SafeGuard, admins can quarantine unauthorized data from leaving an organization or specific account. It allows them to lock down and revert compromised accounts back to an earlier, uncompromised state.

“ThreatCortex allows for transparency in [machine learning] models​, ​offers data analytics​, and manages features and natural language programming building blocks as configurable rules that are used for scoring by the machine learning,” a SafeGuard spokesperson explained. “Since we support different types of models in the platform that range from out of the box to highly configurable, it is possible to avoid the need to ‘create’ models for each customer.”

On the compliance side of the equation, SafeGuard offers a tool that taps AI to alert employees, customers, and partners if their digital communications are at risk of violating regulations like the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority and Financial Conduct Authority. The platform flags stakeholders about risk assessments in real time, prioritized by machine learning algorithms. It also captures records autonomously with audit trails and archives content and metadata, including legal holds.

The global risk management market was valued at $6.25 billion in 2018 and is projected to reach $18.5 billion by 2026, according to Allied Market Research. SafeGuard has rivals in RiskLens, RiskIQ, Privacera, and Aclaimant, a data-driven safety and risk management platform for the workplace. There’s also LogicGate, which raised $24.75 million in December 2019 to help automate corporate governance, risk, and compliance processes.

Despite the competition, Charlottesville, Virginia-based SafeGuard, which has 78 employees, says its products saw “tremendous” growth in 2020 as enterprises increasingly turned to digital channels during the pandemic. The company counts some of the biggest names in financial services, pharmaceuticals and health care, education, technology, government, sports, media, and entertainment among its customers, Zuffoletti claims. At present, the company manages over 500,000 user and company accounts.

For one pharmaceutical client, SafeGuard’s platform is recording text call notes from customer service interactions. SafeGuard claims this has enabled the client to gain productivity and analytical insights, satisfying its digital transformation goals.

“SafeGuard achieved 100% supervision coverage of free text call note reporting, powered by language-agonistic machine learning. Initial results indicated that these controls were warranted, as the system flagged over 200 significant company policy violations for investigation within just the first few months of operation,” the spokesperson said. “Today, SafeGuard Cyber is monitoring up to 100,000 call records per day, in multiple languages, with a less than 1% false positive rate. As a result, the company has been able to cut manual review costs by $3 million per month.”

NightDragon led SafeGuard’s series B announced today, with participation from Cisco Investments and previous investor AllegisCyber.


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