Fortanix, which offers a Runtime Encryption® platform, just announced that it has closed a $23 million Series B funding round with Intel Capital. The investment validates Fortanix’s focus on runtime security as a fundamental element of cloud security. Intel Capital joins Series A investors Foundational Capital and Neotribe Ventures in backing Fortanix.
According to Ambuj Kumar, CEO of Fortanix, as cyber defenses grow more robust across networks and infrastructure, attackers have started to concentrate on applications at runtime, one of the few vulnerable attack surfaces remaining in IT. “You can encrypt data at rest. You can encrypt data in transit,” Kumar said. “But, when you get to memory and the processor, you’re have data in the clear. It’s exposed.” Hackers can now target runtime data through root access.
Fortanix addresses this risk with its Runtime Encryption platform. The platform leverages Intel® SGX to enable general purpose computation on encrypted data. It does this without exposing any plaintext application code or data. The result is complete cryptographic protection for applications in a trusted execution environment. Even if the attacker can seize root or physical access to the server, he or she will still be unable to see runtime data in unencrypted form.
Runtime encryption has broad appeal across the technology industry. For Fortanix, though, the cloud is where this security countermeasure is most needed. “Cloud providers are running your data on virtual machines you can’t see or control at the hardware level,” Kumar said. “This offers incredible economic advantages, but it leads to uncertainty about how secure the data is at runtime. That is the problem we are solving here.”
“Cloud providers are running your data on virtual machines you can’t see or control at the hardware level,” Kumar said.
From Kumar’s perspective, it’s the customer who is driving the need for change in cloud security. “Attitudes are shifting, and cloud providers are taking note,” he added. “Until now, privacy and security were matters that could get buried in the EULA, left to the lawyers, sort of like ‘yes, we do a lot for security, but you’re still computing at your own risk.’ That is no longer acceptable to most users. It’s particularly true on social media platforms, which are essentially specialized cloud platforms.”
The Fortanix solution includes an EnclaveOS™ that transparently protects applications without the need for modifications. Software makers can use Fortanix to rapidly build protected applications with no application developer burden or learning curve. This applies to both new and existing applications.
Venture capital firms are getting the message. “Leaving data in the clear when it’s in memory is ceasing to be a viable way of doing business,” said Swaroop ‘Kittu’ Kolluri, a partner at Neotribe Ventures, which backed Fortanix at both the seed and Series A stages. Kolluri, who was personally involved in critical network security innovations as a founder of the SSL VPN firm Neoteris, later acquired by Juniper Networks, saw the potential in Fortanix early on.
“We only work with companies that we think can become category leaders, the inventors of new categories—that’s what we see with Fortanix.” – Swaroop ‘Kittu’ Kolluri, a partner at Neotribe Ventures
“We only work with companies that we think can become category leaders, the inventors of new categories—that’s what we see with Fortanix,” Kolluri noted. He then shared, “To close a Series B round with such respected funds is a validation of our initial confidence in Fortanix.”
Intel Capital, the venture branch of the chipmaking giant, has invested over $12 billion in 1,544 companies in 57 countries since 1991. Hundreds of their portfolio companies have gone public or been acquired. They are “stage agnostic.” Their investment in Fortanix suggests that they foresee a future where runtime encryption is a standard security feature for computer hardware.