Cyber Defense

Keith Alexander's cyber startup draws backing

IronNet Cybersecurity, the startup founded in 2014 by former NSA Director Keith Alexander, has raised $32.5 million in a Series A funding round led by a cybersecurity venture fund along with a Silicon Valley heavyweight investor.

The company, based in Fulton, Md., said this week that Trident Capital Cybersecurity was joined in the initial funding round by Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, the Menlo Park, Calif., venture fund that provided early backing for Amazon.com, Google and other successful tech companies.

IronNet said it would use the cash infusion to continue development of cyber defenses for the private sector. The startup claims its technology "enables real-time visualization of a company’s entire cyber infrastructure and employs advanced behavioral models and elite petabyte-scale analytics to detect anomalous activity and support proactive mitigation."

IronNet added that it leverages high-end computing to help spot cyber threats and alert security administrators in real time to potential threats to their network infrastructure. The startup also touts its approach as enabling companies to "implement active response actions."

Alexander, a four-star general who also served as head of U.S. Cyber Command, founded IronNet shortly after retiring from the Army last year. He brought with him a team of cyber experts from the Defense Department, the National Counterterrorism Center and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. Brett Williams, a retired Air Force major general and former director of operations at U.S. Cyber Command, serves as IronNet's president of operations and training.

Alexander's quick shift to the private sector drew fire from critics who said the former NSA chief was cashing in on his military service.

Undeterred, Alexander noted in announcing the venture that “cybersecurity has become the most pressing threat to both the global private sector and our national security, and existing approaches and defenses to protect networks are falling short."

The startup is promising private-sector clients, presumably including military contractors handling classified data, higher levels of network visibility, data control and security. The venture funding would be used to accelerate the product development and "scale the launch of the IronNet product line," the startup said.

Executives of both venture capital firms have joined IronNet's board of directors.

About the Author

George Leopold is a contributing editor for Defense Systems and author of Calculated Risk: The Supersonic Life and Times of Gus Grissom."Connect with him on Twitter at @gleopold1.

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