Chip vulnerabilities and supply-chain concerns have directed fresh eyes at the critical issues around hardware security, and a Portland-area startup just raised $8.75 million in new funding from Madrona Venture Group to help big targets protect themselves from novel threats.
Eclypsium’s new funding comes after an earlier seed round of $2.3 million from Andreessen Horowitz, Intel Capital, and Ubiquity Ventures, all of which participated again in the Madrona-led Series A round. Tim Porter of Madrona will join the board of Eclypsium, which is headquartered just across the southwest Portland border in Beaverton, Ore.
Co-founders Yuriy Bulygin and Alex Bazhaniuk, CEO and CTO respectively, are developing security services that can help cloud infrastructure providers, large financial services firms with significant investments in their own data centers, and government organizations detect, analyze, and prevent security threats at the firmware level. Firmware is the basic software that runs on specialized chips within a larger system, and acts as a crucial link between application software and things like graphics chips in a laptop or high-end hard drives in a server.
Enterprise companies have spent untold billions on software security over the last 20 years, but it’s starting to become clear that malicious attackers are probing hardware for flaws they can exploit. While nearly everyone in cloud and enterprise tech I’ve talked to about Bloomberg’s Supermicro hardware spy chip story has rolled their eyes, there’s also widespread agreement that firmware is vulnerable to bad actors working inside manufacturing facilities or remotely.
Eclypsium’s services are designed to analyze traffic at the firmware level on new or existing hardware within a company’s network and look for anomalies that could indicate something has been changed when compared to verified firmware. Given the central role firmware plays in the operation of the hardware, compromised firmware could open up huge security holes: it is a “huge attack surface that is almost never patched,” Bulygin said in an interview with GeekWire.
During Amazon Web Services’ re:Invent 2018 last week, AWS Chief Information Security Officer Stephen Schmidt shared that for many years AWS has actually replaced the firmware on incoming equipment with its own verified firmware, in what was originally designed as a way to reduce bugs. Most companies can’t afford to operate at that scale, however, which is where services like Eclypsium could help detect problems with stock firmware.
“We’re definitely seeing the shift in the mindset that it’s not just about the software security anymore,” Bulygin said.
The company has around 25 employees as of this latest round, and expects to expand to as many as 40 by the end of next year, Bulygin said. Right now the company has customers in the infrastructure-as-a-service market, financial services industry, and the government but he declined to share specific names.