Modern application systems are made up of many different parts. Hackers exploit this fact to find the weaknesses between pieces. Illumio is a security company that takes advantage of segmentation to strengthen an application network's security, and the company just received $125 million in series D funding to do just that.
In a press release on June 7, the company announced that the funding round closed, "...led by clients advised by J.P. Morgan Asset Management. Existing venture investors Andreessen Horowitz, General Catalyst, 8VC, Accel and Data Collective (DCVC) all participated, alongside new and other existing investors."
In a telephone interview with Security Now, Illumio chief commercial officer Alan Cohen said that the mix of investors is a testament to the growth of the security market and belief in the Illumio model for security. He pointed out that the investor group is led by Wall Street firms rather than Sand Hill Road firms -- a way of saying that financial firms rather than Silicon Valley venture funds are leading the way.
Cohen said that the company, while four and a half years old, has been out of stealth mode for two years and has seen consistent growth for those ten quarters. "We've mostly sold directly to large enterprises," Cohen said. He went on to explain about the sort of customer the company has found, saying, "It's less about type of customer or vertical and more about mindset. We've done many 7 figure deals, and last year did first 8 figure deal."
When asked about how Illumio will use the cash from the new round of funding, Cohen said that little will change -- and that there will be major change. "We have a very strong balance sheet so certain things won't be different," he began, continuing, "We have a big presence in Europe but teams only in the UK. We'll build the channel, We're just getting started in the federal market. We have a large R&D function and we'll continue with that."
"On one level we'll step on the gas, on the other we'll keep doing what we've been doing. There are directions in analytics and product development that we'd like to put more resources against," Cohen said.
What is different about Illumio?
As to what it is, precisely, that Illumio does, Cohen began by describing it as "Security by the paranoid, for the paranoid." As I listened to his description of the technology, the image I got was of the classic white list taken to an extraordinary degree.
Most users see "white list" as a list of email addresses that an email client will accept or web sites that your browser is allowed to navigate to. The key concept is that anything on the white list is allowed to happen; anything not on the white list is not allowed to execute.
In Illumio's case, the company's software will set up a white list between "segments" of the application infrastructure. Each segment is an application, function, service, or block of functionality. At each interface, communication from and to specific, listed other segments is allowed. Everything else is forbidden. In Illumio's philosophy, the more segments, the more checks on permissible traffic and the greater security provided.
In practice, the Illumio says that any malware or intrusion attempt will not be on the white list for communication, and so will not be allowed to move from segment to segment. Critically, even if an intrusion makes it past the perimeter security that a customer has in place, Illumio says that their software will prevent it from executing within the segmented application environment.
"Everything is 'no' until it's 'yes'," Cohen said, boiling the approach down to a simple form. "Our emphasis is not on performance but on how components of services should communicate," he said, noting that the approach has found favor in particular markets. "Companies that are highly regulated or have high pressure have moved toward these protection strategies."
— Curtis Franklin is the editor of SecurityNow.com. Follow him on Twitter @kg4gwa.