September 2017

CyberGRX and BitSight Partner to Deliver 360-Degree View of Third-Party Cyber Risk

  |   Portfolio News, The Latest








Strategic Partnership Embeds BitSight’s Market-Leading Security Ratings Capabilities into CyberGRX Third-Party Cyber Risk Exchange


DENVER & CAMBRIDGE, Mass.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–CyberGRX, the provider of the most comprehensive third-party cyber risk management platform, and BitSight, the Standard in Security Ratings, today announced a technology partnership to embed BitSight’s proprietary security rating capabilities within the CyberGRX Exchange, the world’s first marketplace for sharing third-party cyber risk security information.


Integrating BitSight’s objective, quantitative measurements of companies’ security performance into the CyberGRX Exchange provides a unique 360-degree view of third-party cyber risk. The combination of BitSight’s Security Ratings, generated through externally observable data, with CyberGRX’s validated third-party cyber risk assessments, allows customers to make more informed decisions and scale their third-party risk programs.


“BitSight is a leader of the security ratings market, and their ability to continuously rate the security performance of third parties from an outside-in perspective will strengthen the CyberGRX Exchange,” said Fred Kneip, CEO, CyberGRX. “Combining their proven non-intrusive approach to evaluating risk and security performance with the inside-out view our platform provides is a powerful proposition for customers: a comprehensive, continuous, 360-degree view of third-party cyber risk exposure.”


As digital ecosystems continue to expand, the number of vendors, partners, contractors and customers with access to a large enterprise’s network can easily run into the tens of thousands. According to research from Gartner, “By 2020, 75 percent of Fortune Global 500 companies will treat vendor risk management as a board-level initiative to mitigate brand and reputation risk.”1The integration between CyberGRX and BitSight enables customers to get the most comprehensive view of the real risk posed by their third parties.


“Enterprises today require access to accurate, continuous and actionable information about third-party cyber risk,” said Jacob Olcott, Vice President of Strategic Partnerships at BitSight. “CyberGRX helps to solve that problem for companies across the world, and our security ratings provide the unique, objective data that organizations need to scale their third-party risk programs and make more informed business decisions.”


For information on the CyberGRX Exchange, visit For information on BitSight Security Ratings for Vendor Risk Management, visit


About CyberGRX
CyberGRX provides enterprises and their third parties with the most cost-effective and scalable approach to third-party cyber risk management today. Built on the market’s first third-party cyber risk Exchange, the CyberGRX platform applies advanced analytics to eliminate waste and streamline the assessment process to help entire partner ecosystems effectively manage, monitor and mitigate risk. Based in Denver, CO, CyberGRX was designed with partners including ADP, Aetna, Blackstone and Mass Mutual, and is backed by Allegis Capital, Bessemer Venture Partners, Blackstone, ClearSky, GV (formerly Google Ventures), MassMutual Ventures, Rally Ventures and TenEleven Ventures. For more information, visit or follow @CyberGRX on Twitter.


About BitSight
BitSight is transforming how companies manage information security risk with objective, verifiable and actionable Security Ratings. Founded in 2011, the company built its Security Ratings Platform to continuously analyze vast amounts of external data on security issues and behaviors in order to help organizations manage third party risk, underwrite cyber insurance policies, benchmark performance, conduct M&A due diligence and assess aggregate risk. Seven of the top 10 cyber insurers, 80 Fortune 500 companies, and 3 of the top 5 investment banks rely on BitSight to manage cyber risks. For more information, please visit, read our blog or follow @BitSight on Twitter.

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After Equifax: Should Tech Entrepreneurs Design The Next-Gen Credit Agency?

  |   Uncategorized




Xconomy | By Bernadette Tansey | September 15, 2017


Personal financial data for as many as 143 million Americans, inadequately guarded by credit bureau Equifax and stolen by hackers, can never be sheltered again under an umbrella of privacy. Those victims could face dire consequences, such as raids on their bank accounts and identity theft, for the rest of their lives. The losses for Equifax shareholders have already reached into the billions. The company’s stock value plunged after it disclosed the huge breach on Sept. 7. By then, some Equifax executives had already sold their shares in the company. Equifax says it had discovered the cyber intrusion on July 29.


The Equifax hack—possibly resulting from a software vulnerability for which a patch was available two months before mid-May, when the company now says the cyberattack began—is also a watershed event that is eroding confidence in the overall credit reporting industry.


It has raised calls for increased regulation, not only on cybersecurity standards, but also on the core business model of credit bureaus. The security failure of Equifax, founded in 1899, may stimulate 21st century technologists to design new safeguards that would bolster Equifax and its two major competitors, TransUnion and Experian. But some tech innovators may also see opportunities to disrupt the dominance of the “big three” in an industry that dates back to the late 19th century.


“We’re operating with a legacy paradigm that just doesn’t scale to the digital economy,” says Robert Ackerman, founder and managing director of venture capital firm Allegis Capital, which concentrates on cybersecurity investments. “Equifax is going to start a lot of people thinking about solutions,” he says.


What would a new rival to Equifax look like? One response to that question came from Simon Peel, chief strategy officer at Alameda, CA-based Jitterbit, which helps banks and other customers adopt advanced technologies more quickly through the use of Application Programming Interfaces (APIs).


“A competitor to Equifax would integrate the current best-of-breed technologies, in fraud detection, security and analytics, while also ensuring that they are remaining agile as new and improved technologies are being developed—such as predictive analytics, deep learning and AI,” Peel says in an e-mail exchange with Xconomy.


Peel says financial institutions are already using technology to move well beyond the metrics often relied on by credit reporting agencies to help lenders assess risks—that is, borrowers’ payment histories for loans and credit card debt. He points to the 2016 annual report by JPMorgan Chase, in which the bank described its use of a machine learning tool called COiN, which analyzed “12,000 annual commercial credit agreements in seconds compared with as many as 360,000 hours per year under manual review.”


Cybersecurity innovations are top of mind for Ackerman in the wake of the Equifax breach—not surprising, given his firm’s focus. But Ackerman also identified other pain points that entrepreneurs, as well as governments, could evaluate as they look to improve the credit reporting industry.


Decentralizing data
Hackers may have been able to abscond with their massive data trove more easily if Equifax was keeping the personal information of millions of people in a central repository, Ackerman says. “It is folly to collect everything and put it together,” he says. The idea of maintaining a complete set of valuable data in one hardened silo may seem more secure, but distributed data storage would limit the haul for each hack, he says. As it is, criminals may now be in possession of the Social Security numbers, dates of birth, credit card numbers, and drivers license numbers of millions of Americans.


Regardless of the storage strategy, a business model that calls for assembling all that consumer data under the control of one company is asking for trouble, two University of Houston computer science professors write in a commentary this week for The Hill.


“What Equifax and others have done in concentrating massive quantities of personal data simply is not desirable in our time of cyber insecurity,” according to the commentary’s authors, professors Wm. Arthur Conklin, director of the university’s Center for Information Security Research and Education, and Christopher Bronk, the associate director of the center. “Private firms and government agencies that maintain such data stores need to be regulated concerning protection and isolation of the data.”


All of that sensitive data held by credit reporting agencies should be encrypted, wherever it’s stored, Ackerman says. Hackers may inevitably get into any data cache, but companies can make it less useable for them by encrypting it. IBM and other companies are working on methods to encrypt data even when it’s in use, he says. That could be a key improvement for the credit reporting industry, he says.


“If I were building a company in that space, that’s where I’d be going,” Ackerman says.


Open source software
Equifax says hackers were able to overcome the company’s defenses by taking advantage of a vulnerability called Apache Struts CVE-2017-5638. Even if that vulnerability in open source software was the gateway for the breach, it’s no excuse for Equifax, Ackerman says. Users of open source software must constantly probe and validate it, using a variety of methods such as code scanners, white hat hackers, and diligent adoption of security patches when they’re released. According to a story by Ars Technica, a patch was available to fix the software flaw in March, two months before the time period in May when Equifax says the breach began.


Monitoring of company systems for security breachesAckerman says the hackers may have been operating inside Equifax’s defense perimeters for a longer period than the company has acknowledged. Companies holding that much sensitive data should be vigilantly monitoring the data leaving the network to detect the exfiltration of information by cybercriminals, he says.


Social Security numbers
A fundamental weakness in the U.S. financial services system is the widespread use of Social Security numbers as a means to identify customers, Ackerman says. Those numbers were originally intended to be used only for communications about government benefits, not as an identifier demanded by private vendors, such as utilities and credit card companies, he says.
“The fact that we’ve allowed people to use it as a national identity is a tragedy,” Ackerman says. Unlike account numbers, Social Security numbers can’t be easily changed once they’ve been stolen.


Now that criminals may hold the Social Security numbers of more than 44 percent of the U.S. population, lenders will be much less certain that a person who can provide a valid number is the real owner of that identity. Millions of spoofed identities could be created based on filched Social Security numbers, Ackerman says.


“What we clearly need is a much more rigorous regime of identity authentication,” Ackerman says. Technology could help with that, by creating methods of authentication that can scale to an almost unlimited number of factors without slowing transactions, he says. Novel authentication factors made possible by technology include the location where a user logs into an account; the angle at which a cell phone is held; the user’s thumb pressure; and a customer’s walking gait, Ackerman says.


Jitterbit’s Peel says smartphones themselves provide the means for verifying the identities of their users.


“Two-factor authentication simply sends an SMS message containing a password to the mobile phone that is on record for that person at the credit agencies,” Peel says. “With the iPhone 6, 7 or 8 it would be simply a matter of putting your thumb on the fingerprint reader. With the newly announced iPhone X it could be as simple as holding up the phone to your face and using your face as the password to prove your identity.”


Such technology solutions can produce good outcomes, but they can also lead to some of the downsides consumers now resent about traditional credit agencies, says professor R.A. Farrokhnia, a member of Columbia University’s business and engineering faculty, and executive director of Advanced Projects and Applied Research in Fintech at Columbia.


Just as the credit agencies sweep up our financial information without our permission, new technologies can monitor personal behaviors such as our Internet search histories, which have also been proposed as possible indicators of creditworthiness—or a lack of it, Farrokhnia says.


Government response
Ackerman sees regulatory actions by governments as one of the important ingredients in re-engineering the credit reporting industry for the 21st century. That also goes for other sectors responsible for safeguarding the valuable data of individuals, in his book. He admires the EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) data privacy scheme that will be enforced starting in May 2018. It will impose substantial penalties on companies that fail to safeguard the data of EU residents, no matter where the company is located.


Multiple functions of credit bureaus
Ackerman and others see problems worth solving due to the array of different roles filled by credit bureaus. The primary function of the agencies is to help banks and other lenders to determine whether a borrower is creditworthy; these entities report back to the credit bureau on each consumer’s track record of repayment.


The credit agencies also offer services to consumers, by helping them correct inaccuracies in their credit reports. But Ackerman sees these efforts as half-hearted.


“Their interest in our privacy and security and accuracy of information is lip service,” Ackerman says. “They care only if (an inaccuracy) reduces the value of information they’re selling. They collect your information without your permission, and they only work with you in response to regulatory pressure.”


As an investor, Ackerman says he’s been talking to colleagues for some years now about possible business models for an independent company that would protect consumer privacy and identity.


“I think there’s an opportunity,” he says. “More than an opportunity; there’s a need.”


University of Houston professors Conklin and Bronk think regulators should peel away another of the multiple functions of the credit bureaus: they sell the sensitive financial information of consumers to marketers.


“Lawmakers should consider investigating and possibly banning data brokering by the credit bureaus,” the professors suggest. “It is one thing for credit bureaus to inform lending establishments of consumer creditworthiness, but another for them to serve as behind the scenes marketing intelligence firms. So long as these companies cannot protect their data resources, they will harm U.S. consumers, financial institutions, and government through the countless cases of identity theft that incidents like the Equifax breach enable.”


Currently, U.S. government regulations applying to credit agencies are scanty, as detailed by the New York Times.


Farrokhnia, the fintech expert at Columbia, says the chance of a U.S. regulatory overhaul of the credit reporting industry may be slim, given the many distractions on the political scene and the current administration’s inclination to reduce regulation rather than expand it. Even so, the Federal Trade Commission has announced that it is investigating the Equifax hack, Reuters reported. Pressure is coming from other government sources, including investigations and lawsuits by state attorneys general. Class action law firms are lining up to sue Equifax on behalf of consumers.


Equifax’s management of the crisis is adding to public outrage. It delayed announcing the cyberattack after discovering it, and during that delay, company executives sold some of their share holdings. Equifax offered consumers free credit monitoring for a year, but at first made it a condition that they give up their right to sue the company for damages due to the data breach. Equifax later removed that condition under pressure.


The fallout from the huge breach could end up imposing substantial costs not only on Equifax, but also on most businesses, according to a report by the financial institution UBS.


“Major high profile attacks involving consumer data, like this Equifax incident, tend to lead to reevaluation of industry wide security practices and the architecture of digital security,” according to the UBS report. The result could be higher spending not only on cybersecurity measures, but also on insurance to cover the potentially devastating financial impact of a cyberattack, UBS stated. Citing a Gartner report, UBS says global cybersecurity spending could grow to $170 billion by 2020.


“I can tell you, the cybersecurity budgets for Experian and TransUnion are now unlimited,” Ackerman says.


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Cybersecurity Automation is Coming to the Rescue

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RSA Conference | By Bob Ackerman | September 7, 2017


Every now and then, it may seem as though the explosive growth of increasingly sophisticated, novel and successful cyberattacks is overwhelming. Who can keep up and fend off the attacks? Certainly not the federal government, and certainly not most major corporations.


Further undermining a strong defensive posture is the swelling shortage of cybersecurity specialists– more than 1 million globally today, according to multiple cyber experts, and a number expected to nearly double by 2021.


Is there any light at all at the end of the tunnel?


Fortunately, there is. Organizations are turning to automation and analytics to aid cyber specialists and, increasingly, to “force multiply” the effective size of cyber staffs. Automation can help spot attacks before they begin and save time for IT staffers, enabling them to focus on other tasks. Already, automation is accomplishing faster detection and remediation of cyber threats, courtesy of emerging providers that leverage advanced technologies, including user behavioral analytics, machine learning and real-time, automated remediation.


Cybersecurity automation was predictable


This development should come as no surprise. Look around and you see automation everywhere – in, among other areas, manufacturing, finance, marketing, transportation and in social networking. Even cars – i.e., autonomous vehicles – are becoming automated.


All forms of successful automation substantially improve efficiency. How this is accomplished depends on the specifics of different industries. In the case of cybersecurity, the role of automation boils down to better and far faster management of complexity. Bigger networks, mobile devices and multiple cloud services are making the workload for IT teams unmanageable. This becomes a crisis during a cyberattacks, when time is of the essence.


When a data breach occurs, organizations must respond immediately. Credentials are compromised in minutes, and typically most of an organization’s critical data or intellectual property is lost within the first day. Verizon’s 2016 Data Breach Investigation Report highlights this sad realty. It found that 82% of organizations surveyed said that a compromise took only minutes to infiltrate company systems, and 68% said associated data was breached within days.


Threat detection must be rapid


The obvious upshot is that a threat detection solution that cannot detect and remediate threats in near real-time is of little use. This is where cybersecurity automation enters the picture. It doesn’t replace cyber specialists. Rather, it massively extends their reach.


A good automated cybersecurity system detects an alert immediately and assesses it for legitimacy and severity. Real threats are prioritized and steps are taken to address the problem. If the incident can be resolved automatically, without the need for human input, it will be.


Typically, customizable and scalable automated incident response “playbooks” are built and deployed. Their development is usually based on real-life scenarios and actual incidents, enhancing their effectiveness in detecting and resolving legitimate incidents quickly. Automated incident response helps substantially reduce the time it takes to resolve an issue from weeks and sometimes months to hours and sometimes even minutes.


As such, a cyber breach that slips through the cracks can often be isolated and nullified before it has time to wreak havoc. This is a rarity for an IT staff without the aid of automation, which all too often finds itself weeding through scores of potential threats while the one truly dangerous incident busts through the defensive perimeter. In addition, automated incident response can also be used for protection 24/7.


Not all players in cybersecurity automation are young companies. Microsoft, for example, recently bought U.S.-Israeli artificial intelligence cybersecurity firm Hematite, reportedly for $100 million. More common, however, is activity among startups and in academia.


Carnegie Mellon and cyber automation


Carnegie Mellon University, for instance, has employed the attributes of web servers, such as the software they use, as variables to predict how likely a server is to be hacked. A model developed by researchers there successfully predicted 66% of future attacks.


In addition, software vendors are stepping into the breach and employing software and modeling approaches applicable to cyberattack behavior, stemming from efforts to identify credit card fraud. Both are a form of anomaly detection and can be unusually speedy and highly effective.


None of this should suggest that cybersecurity automation is a panacea. It still produces too many false positives and false negatives and misses some intrusions altogether. And some cyber pros are uncomfortable with it, fearing it could cost them their jobs. The latter, at least, is an unfounded concern. Humans are still best at identifying previously unknown threats. Cybersecurity automation must be woven into the fabric of a team; it is not a stand-alone solution and probably never will be.

Cybersecurity automation inevitable


In any case, there is really no alternative but to embrace automation. Statista, a statistics portal, estimates there were 23 billion connected devices in 2016 – a number that it adds will grow to 50 billion by 2020, reflecting an avalanche of Internet of Things (IoT) devices. In addition, there is an urgent need to reduce the time it takes to spot and contain organizational breaches – commonly 200 days-plus to spot them and another 69 days to contain them, according to Ponemon Institute. The longer the timeframe, typically the worse the financial consequences.


Not far away will be the application of artificial intelligence to automation. Human analysts, however, will go nowhere. They know their own environment, and they have intuition about how their system operates, making it relatively easy to distinguish between what is normal and what is questionable. Humans are also good at quickly adapting to rapidly changing conditions and, unlike software, are usually good communicators.


What humans cannot do, of course, is scale, and they often make mistakes. They are relatively slow, too. This is why they need to team up with cutting-edge software. The best cybersecurity systems are a union of analyst and machine.



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Reddit Teams with Lucidworks to Build New Search Framework

  |   Allegis News, Portfolio News, The Latest







TechCrunch | By Ron Miller | September 7, 2017


Reddit revealed today that it has teamed with Lucidworks to provide a long-needed, modern search tool for the immensely popular online discussion platform.


When you face the kind of scale that Reddit does with over 300 million monthly active users generating 5 million comments and a staggering 40 million searches every day across a more than a million communities, it’s a daunting task to find a search tool to handle that kind of volume.


The challenge with Reddit extends beyond indexing these massive numbers. They also have to deal with wide variety of content with text, gifs, images and video by the score. While part of the goal was to improve traditional search functionality and deliver more relevant results, perhaps even more critically, they wanted a tool to help users surface the subjects that interest them without having to explicitly state it in the search box, Nick Caldwell, VP of engineering at Reddit explained.


“I think that people who come to any site, and Reddit in particular, prefer an experience where they don’t have to do manual keyword entry, but want a continuous stream of interesting content,” he said.


Reddit’s search engine had actually been notoriously bad and Caldwell made upgrading it a priority. “One of the things I wanted to do when I started at Reddit, was I wanted to fix [search]. People have been complaining about it for five years,” he said.


Part of the issue up to that point wasn’t a lack of desire to improve the search experience. Everyone understood the issue, but finding the time to update it was another matter. When Caldwell came on board, Reddit had a small team of 40 engineers, whose primary job was keeping a site of this size and scope up and running.


Caldwell said that the company went with the Lucidworks Fusion platform because it had the right combination of technology and the ability to augment his engineering team, while helping search to continually evolve on Reddit. Buying a tool was only part of the solution though. Reddit also needed to hire a group of engineers with what Caldwell called “world class search and relevance engineering expertise.” To that end, he has set up a 30-person engineering search team devoted to maximizing the potential of the new search platform.


Lucidworks is built on the open source search tool, Apache Solr, but company CEO Will Hayes says the commercial product has been built to scale to Reddit-like proportions. “Solr is the core engine. We still heavily contribute to the open source project, but we put a lot of focus on how people consume data,” Hayes explained.


The means working in a streaming fashion to span billions of records in near real time, while using analytics and machine learning to understand the underlying data and deliver more relevant results and content to Reddit users.


Today’s search update is part of Reddit’s wider campaign to update the site’s look and feel, which became an organizational priority after the site’s two founders returned to the company — with Alexis Ohanian coming back in 2014 and Steve Huffman in 2015.


“With Steve and Alexis coming back, they brought to table that the site should be more welcoming and engaging than it has been in the past. It took the leadership of Steve and Alexis to see that the content we have is really a gold mine, and we have to find a way to present it to users to unlock that potential,” he said.


While Lucidworks remains an active partner in the project, Caldwell hopes his team will be able to take over by the end of the year. He says the ultimate goal is a tool that is not only more relevant, but looks better and is more engaging.


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