Why Discern Security Thinks AI Can Defeat The Cyber Attackers

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Discern’s founders, Santhosh Purathepparambil, Sai Venkataraman and Rohan Puri


Worldwide, organisations invested more than $150 billion in cybersecurity products and services last year according to the consultant McKinsey, 12% more than a year previously. So why do the number of successful attacks continue to grow? The latest research suggests the annual cost of cybercrime globally will rise from $8.15 trillion to $13.82 trillion by 2028.

Sai Venkataraman, the co-founder and CEO of Discern Security, believes a large part of the problem is that after spending all that money on a patchwork quilt of cybersecurity solutions, many organisations simply don’t know how to use them properly. Discern, which is today announcing the successful completion of a $3 million seed funding round, thinks artificial intelligence is the answer.

“There is a huge talent problem in the cybersecurity industry, with many companies just unable to recruit the specialists they need,” says Venkataraman. “As a result, they don’t have the expertise they require to get the best out of the cybersecurity tools that have cost them so much money.”

Many organisations don’t know how to configure these tools to protect their individual vulnerabilities, Venkataraman argues. They don’t know how to use multiple tools in combination. They’re not even sure how to start filling in the blanks.

Discern’s solution is to resolve that human talent shortage by turning to AI. The Californian-based start-up, launched earlier this year, has built software that is capable of mapping the customer’s IT infrastructure, including the security tools already deployed and how they’ve been configured; armed with that map, the software can then recommend and implement changes to the current set-up so that all tools do their job more effectively.

“If your security tools are configured in the right way, many of your problems with breaches and attacks will simply go away,” Venkataraman insists. “And in the age of AI, a shortage of human talent to implement those configurations should not be an issue.”

Discern, which Venkataraman founded with Santhosh Purathepparmbil, and Rohan Puri, works both with organisations that manage cybersecurity in-house and with managed service providers to which other organisations have outsourced such work. “I think of us as being like a personal trainer for cybersecurity tools, maximising their strength and performance,” Venkataraman adds.

Effectively, the start-up is attempting to automate the kind of work that cybersecurity consultancy services specialise in. Many businesses are already spending substantial sums on such consultants, Venkataraman points out, so chief information security officers (CISOs) may simply need to reallocate some of this budget rather than appealing to their boards for additional funding to bring Discern in.

The big question, of course, is whether the software works – does it reduce the organisation’s vulnerability to attack? For Discern, making that case is difficult given that the business is at an early stage, but Venkataraman says success can already be measured in metrics such as the increased coverage of key tools that clients are seeing. “The other important point to make is that when you dial up cybersecurity, you sometimes dial down productivity, by making it harder for staff to do their jobs; that’s something we take into account too.”

In the end, Discern’s customers, including a growing number of larger enterprises and managed service providers will be able to decide for themselves. But Venkataraman takes heart from the fact that a number of CISOs and cybersecurity leaders have joined the funding round as angel investors. “That’s a good sign for us,” he says.

Other participants in the $3 million round include BoldCap, WestWave Capital, Cyber Mentor Fund, Security Syndicate.

“Security threats to organizations continually evolve, yet security policies and configurations at most organisations are infrequently updated, often once or twice a year; this leads to increased risk and vulnerability,” says Sathya Nellore Sampat, General Partner at BoldCap. “Discern’s AI-powered solution strategically addresses this need and is poised to create a new category.”

The funds raised are largely earmarked for recruitment, Venkataraman says, as Discern looks to build out its engineering team.

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