Guardio nabs $47M for an AI-powered browser extension that protects from cyberthreats

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Web apps are a growing attack vector in the enterprise. According to recent research from Verizon, they’re involved in 43% of all data breaches today. That’s partially because it isn’t always easy to tell that a website is malicious. One report found that one in four malicious URLs are hosted on an otherwise safe, non-malicious site.

While the challenge is vast, experts say that companies can protect themselves by investing in a multi-layered approach to defending their internal network. Two of the most effective techniques are filtering and isolation. Filtering protects devices connected to the internet by scanning web code and blocking potentially dangerous URLs, while isolation sandboxes users’ activities in a secure environment detached from the local network.

Startups like Guardio are developing technologies that aim to leverage both filtering and isolation for enhanced protection. In particular, Guardio claims that its first product, a Google Chrome extension, can detect and prevent online threats by using a combination of machine learning and proprietary algorithms.

The Guardio approach

Founded in 2018 by Israel Defense Force veterans Amos Peled, Daniel Sirota, and Michael Vainshtein, Guardio’s software offers anti-phishing protection, email tracking, notification blocking, malicious extension removal, and more. Tel Aviv, Israel-based Guardio is the second company founded by Peled, Sirota, and Vainshtein. Their previous venture, Arpeely, specialized in real-time media auctions via machine and deep learning technologies.

“Nowadays, every IT manager has cybersecurity on their mind. From their standpoint, employees are roaming the internet, uploading, and consuming a mix of personal and work data into various … services from the same browsing environment. While many enterprise solutions are available covering different problem subsets, for micro-business, they are too pricey or too complex, making Guardio a friendly, easily deployable, go-to solution,” Guardio CEO Peled told VentureBeat via email. “Due to lockdowns, many activities that might have been otherwise done in person moved to the cloud and browser environment. Increased use of online services from everyday browsing to sensitive activities like shopping, banking, and work from home heightened the need for cyber protection products like Guardio. This translated into growth in users across all sectors and plans.”

Above: Guardio’s cybersecurity extension for Google Chrome.

Guardio’s software offers anti-phishing protection from emails and webpages that attempt to steal personal or payment information. It can keep track of email accounts to deliver alerts on breaches and mute unwanted notifications, as well as block malicious extensions that control browser settings and install malware, spyware, or adware.

“Guardio’s infrastructure enables real-time updates to block signatures, rules, and heuristics,” the company explains on its website. “[Our cloud-based system] routinely maps, stores, and indexes the entirety of the Chrome extension ecosystem … Metadata and fingerprints, such as WHOIS, DNS records, and hosting providers, are constantly gathered and factored into our decision-making engine. Some [additional] methods used by Guardio include client-side deep learning models in order to detect visual elements in fraudulent websites … [Our] algorithms and heuristics continuously sift through large amounts of data looking for anomalies and signs of malicious activity.”

Growing market opportunity

According to Terranova’s 2020 Gone Phishing Tournament report, almost 20% of all employees are likely to click on phishing links sent via email and, of those, 67.5% go on to enter their credentials on a phishing website. Malicious extension campaigns are often successful, too, with an Avast study revealing that more than three million internet users have installed 15 Chrome and 13 Microsoft Edge extensions containing malicious code.

For these reasons, Peled believes that Guardio is well-positioned for growth — despite the fact that rival browser extensions exist, including Guardbly. (It’s also worth noting that Google has changed how extensions access data and removed malicious browser add-ons from the Chrome Web Store, its official extensions marketplace, in response to emerging threats.) Nearly one million people use Guardio’s software each day, the company claims, including S&P Top 10 companies and “tens of thousands” of other paying customers. And Guardio projects that its annual revenue will reach the “tens of millions” of dollars in 2022.

It’s true that there’s no shortage of potential customers. According to one estimate, companies spend almost $6 million per year on business email compromise recovery alone, which includes about $1.17 million in illicit payments made to attackers annually.

“The team’s combined expertise in cyber, product and go-to-market positions them perfectly to disrupt and innovate in this market. Their traction while bootstrapped is a testament to that,” Tiger Global partner John Curtius, a Guardio investor, said in a press release.

With roughly 30 employees at its Tel Aviv-based R&D center, Guardio says that it’ll use the proceeds from its most funding round — which was announced today — to expand its workforce and refine its technologies. Guardio completed a $47 million funding round led by Tiger Global, with participation from Vintage Investment Partners, Cerca Partners, Union Tech Ventures, and Samsung Next.

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