42: The Answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, The Universe, And Everything

In Douglas Adams’ now iconic 1979 book The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, the answer to the ultimate question of life, the universe, and everything boils down to one simple number: 42. We all know Adams’ use of the number 42 as the answer to this seven-million-year-old question is, of course, arbitrary. It represents the eternal yearning and ultimate need in all of us: an answer to a chronic, persistent, and universal question about who we are and why we‘re here.

And this is where our story begins …

In my last role, I jokingly informed clients that my true title wasn’t Global Chief Technology Officer; it was actually Chief Apology Officer. More often than not, it received a few chuckles and served as a means to ease the tension in a room full of clients that were fed up with inadequate products and solutions. As time wore on, however, it seemed less and less like a joke. So, after suffering the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune over the course of my career in infosec, I finally decided to take arms against the sea of troubles on one fine day in July, 2012. Those “slings and arrows” of course refer to security products that are all bark and no bite.

The world isn’t a safe place. Even with hundreds of billions of dollars spent on products that promise the ultimate in cyber defense, we remain by and large, completely vulnerable to attacks. Why?

The reason stems from our roots. In the beginning, we fought attackers one at a time engaging in (virtual) hand-to-hand combat. In those days we were lucky. We only had to worry about a few new attack techniques that popped up each year such as: buffer overflows, heap sprays, SQL injection, password brute-forcing, zero-days, forever-days, denial-of-service attacks, etc. Today, while the new techniques are few and far between, the ability for the attackers to simply change a few bytes of code and completely bypass traditional, signature-based technologies (read: all existing endpoint technologies) makes launching a “new” attack trivial. That’s why we get some 500,000 “new” pieces of malware, spyware, adware, potentially unwanted programs, fake antivirus, ransomware, etc. per day. No relic technology could ever hope to keep up.

In order to rethink the entire threat detection scheme, we had to “jump off the cliff and learn to build our wings on the way down” to quote Ray Bradbury, another influential science-fiction writer. Collectively, we represented idealists and dreamers from some of the top companies in the security industry, but could we build a learning machine to detect even “undetectable” malware? There’s something to be said about going with your gut (and always knowing where your towel is) and we knew that something better could be built. I guess that’s the core of entrepreneurship.

As Matthew McConaughey’s character Cooper says in the movie Interstellar: “No, it’s not possible. It is necessary.” We have delivered the “impossible” by building a true, next-generation endpoint protection product that leverages artificial intelligence and machine learning to predict the future by learning from the past.

Our $42M Series C financing round, led by DFJ and announced on July 28, 2015, brings our combined funds across three rounds to $77M. While $77M is less than some of our competitors have raised, we’ve been able to achieve what no one said was possible: become the AI of AV.

Don’t panic.

Stuart McClure