The ongoing threat of hackers is a menace to companies, but is a boon for cybersecurity companies. A case in point is Recorded Future, a threat intelligence service based in Boston, which just raised $25 million in a Series E fundraising round from Insight Venture Partners to expand its operations. The firm has a niche in monitoring the so-called “dark web,” where crooks meet to plot cyber attacks and to sell the information they rip off from consumers and companies.
According to CEO Christopher Ahlberg, Recorded Future now has clients in 22 different industry verticals. Whereas it once served only government and the financial sector customers, everyone from smaller retailers to the airline industry is now signing up for dark web intelligence. One way Recorded Future discovers threats is by hiring moles who hang out in criminal chatrooms, including those popular with Russian and Chinese hackers, and learning about their targets. The firm, which competes with the likes of Flashpoint and Digital Shadows, also relies on artificial intelligence technology to carry out the monitoring.
According to Ahlberg, Recorded Future is facing growing demand from smaller firms further down the Fortune 2000 list, and from existing clients who are now incorporating threat intelligence tools into different parts of their operations. He added the firm is also partnering with tech giants like Splunk that specialize in data and analytics. Ahlberg did not provide precise financial information, but said Recorded Future’s revenues are “in the mid-eight figures” and that it has enjoyed 100% year-over-year growth. He added the company is close to being cash-flow positive.
Meanwhile, the threat of hackers is unlikely to recede anytime soon. Ahlberg said the latest wave of threats, including the current wave of ransomware attacks known as Bad Rabbit, is partly driven by the theft of powerful hacking tools from government spy agencies like the NSA. These tools are now being deployed both by rogue nation states like North Korea and by common criminal gangs.
Ahlberg also warned that cyber attacks are becoming more common in international relations as countries use them to further foreign policy goals. “The mix of cyber with politics and warfare is coming true,”Ahlberg said. “If you believe Clausewitz (the Prussian general who said ‘War is continuation of politics by other means’) then the U.S. 2016 election was just the beginning. This is something our Russian friends have been practicing for a while.”