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Simbian brings artificial intelligence to existing security tools

Ambuj Kumar is ambitious and good for nothing.

An electrical engineer by training, Kumar led hardware design at Nvidia for eight years, helping to develop technologies including its widely used high-speed memory controller for GPUs. After leaving Nvidia in 2010, Kumar pivoted to cybersecurity, eventually co-founding Fortanix, a cloud data security platform.

It was while leading Fortanix that Kumar came up with the idea for his next venture: developing an AI-driven tool for automating a company’s cybersecurity workflow, inspired by the challenges he observed in the cybersecurity industry.

“Security leaders are under a lot of pressure,” Kumar told TechCrunch. “The average tenure of a CISO is no more than a few years, while security analysts have the highest attrition rate. And things are getting worse.”

The solution Kumar co-founded with former Twitter software engineer Alankrit Chona is Simbian, a cybersecurity platform that effectively controls other cybersecurity platforms as well as security applications and tools. Leveraging artificial intelligence, Simbian can automatically orchestrate and operate existing security tools to find the right configuration for each product based on the company’s business needs, taking into account the company’s priorities and security thresholds.

With Simbian’s chatbot-like interface, users can enter cybersecurity goals in natural language and then have Simbian provide personalized recommendations and generate what Kumar describes as “automated actions” to perform actions (to the best of their ability).

“Security companies have been focused on making their products better, which has resulted in a very fragmented industry,” Kumar said. “This creates a higher operational burden on the organization.”

In Kumar’s view, polls show that cybersecurity budgets are often wasted on too many tools. A survey cited by Forbes revealed that more than half of businesses believe they have wasted approximately 50% of their budgets and are still unable to eliminate threats. A separate study found that organizations now use an average of 76 different security tools, leaving IT teams and leaders feeling overwhelmed.

“Security has long been a cat-and-mouse game between attackers and defenders; due to the evolution of IT, the attack surface continues to expand,” Kumar said, adding, “There just aren’t enough talent to deal with it.” (Focus on Security A recent survey by the venture capital firm Cybersecurity Ventures estimated that there will be a shortage of 3.5 million cyber experts by 2025.)

In addition to automatically configuring a company’s security tools, the Simbian platform also attempts to respond to “security incidents” by giving customers control over security while handling lower-level details. Kumar says this can significantly reduce the number of alerts security analysts have to respond to.

But that’s assuming Simbian’s AI doesn’t make mistakes, a difficult task since AI is notoriously error-prone.

To minimize the possibility of escapades, Simbian’s AI is trained using crowdsourcing methods – its website features a game called “Are you smarter than an LL.M.?” – The volunteers are tasked with trying to “trick” the AI ​​into doing the wrong thing. Simbian works with in-house researchers to use this learning to “ensure the AI ​​is doing the right things in its use cases,” Kumar explained.

This means Simbian is effectively outsourcing some of its AI training to unpaid gamers. But to be fair, it’s unclear how many people have actually played the company’s games; Kumar wouldn’t say.

There are privacy concerns with systems that control other systems, especially those related to security. Will companies (and therefore suppliers) be willing to accept the collection of sensitive data through a single centralized portal controlled by artificial intelligence?

Kumar claimed that all efforts were made to prevent the data breach. Simbian uses encryption technology—customers control the encryption keys—and customers can delete their data at any time.

“As a customer, you have complete control,” he said.

While Simbian isn’t the only platform trying to apply an AI layer on top of existing security tools (Nexusflow offers a similar offering), it appears to be winning over investors. The company recently raised $10 million from investors including Coinbase board member Gokul Rajaram, Cota Capital partner Aditya Singh, Icon Ventures, Firebolt and Rain Capital.

“Cybersecurity is one of the most important issues of our time, and it’s no secret that it leads to a fragmented ecosystem with thousands of vendors,” Rajaram told TechCrunch via email. “Companies try to build expertise around specific products and issues. knowledge. I applaud Simbian’s approach to building an integrated platform that understands and operates all security. While it’s an extremely challenging approach from a technical perspective, I’d put my money – and I did Put my money on Simbian. This is a team with unique experience from hardware to cloud.”

Mountain View-based Simbian, which has 15 employees, plans to use most of the money it raises for product development. Kumar aims to double the startup’s headcount by the end of this year.

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