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Startup founded by former Shin Bet chief raises USD 7 million for preemptive security tech

Opora’s Adversary Threat Protection platform draws inspiration from counter-terror methodologies.

(From left to right) Yuval Diskin, Julia Kagan, Erel Margalit, Noam Jolles, Shai Gabay. Courtesy of Opora via NoCamels. (From left to right) Yuval Diskin, Julia Kagan, Erel Margalit, Noam Jolles, Shai Gabay. Courtesy of Opora via NoCamels.

A new cybersecurity startup founded by a former head of the Israel Security Agency (known as the Shin Bet) has raised USD 7 million in a seed round led by Jerusalem Venture Partners (JVP), the parties announced this week.

The cybersecurity startup, Opora, was co-founded in 2018 by Yuval Diskin, who served as the director of the Shin Bet from 2005 to 2011, and has been operating in stealth mode. The company’s US headquarters are in San Francisco and its R&D team is in Israel.

Opora developed an Adversary Threat Protection platform that it says can detect and monitor potential cyber attacks and attackers’ infrastructure during the preparation and planning stages, offering a “preemptive security” approach to business clients. The software provides an “adversary firewall” for companies and organizations, allowing for preemptive blocking of attacks and breaches in advance of an initial campaign and throughout the attack chain, the company said.

In a briefing call with reporters ahead of the announcement, Diskin said the approach is borrowed from the Israeli security establishment’s experience over the years with “coping with terror attacks and suicide attacks when time is everything and you want to stop and preempt the attack.”

“Attackers are humans and they make mistakes. If you are in the right place at the right time, you can catch them,” he said, indicating that this approach also applies in the cybersecurity world.

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JVP co-founder and chairman Erel Margalit said in the briefing that Opora’s platform is a “timely tool that also offers next-generation capabilities in cybersecurity.”

“The world is in a storm. The COVID-19 pandemic has led to more phishing, more hacking, more money laundering, and more cyber crime,” said Margalit. Indeed, the pan-European policing agency Europol warned in a report in late March that phishing attacks were on the rise amid the global health crisis. “There is a long list of cyberattacks against organizations and individuals, including phishing campaigns that distribute malware via malicious links and attachments, and execute malware and ransomware attacks that aim to profit from the global health concern,” said the report.

Diskin said the technology allows organizations to identify a cyber threat’s infrastructure and glean intel on the potential targets and the intent. This attacker-focused approach, he explained, brings a different strategy to the civilian market “and can close the gap between attackers and defenders.”

Chris Bell, a serial cybersecurity entrepreneur who was a co-founder of Securonix and who serves as Opora CEO, said the tech will “allow companies to take control of their security posture.”

By focusing on behavior analysis, Opora can expose potentially harmful activities in the “pre-attack phase,” providing a first line of defense and giving clients a time advantage, Bell described.

Noam Jolles, Opora’s co-founder and chief intelligence officer, said in the briefing call that the company is “building a threat landscape for organizations” to level the field. Successful cyber attacks, she explained, require organization, preparation, and time, and this is where Opora comes in.

“We started Opora because we realized that to get control over cybersecurity and the largely uncontested adversaries behind the chaos, IT security teams need a preemptive advantage,” Bell said in a company statement. Customers can “change the balance of power” and gain “adversary level prevention, containment, and control,” he added.

Margalit said Opora’s security solution was part of a third phase of Israeli cybersecurity offerings.

“Israel has brought the three big cyber paradigms to the world. The first, firewalls created by Checkpoint Software, the second being Cyberark’s solution, preventing attackers from within, and now the third, Opora’s technology is stopping criminals on their home turf before they even attack,” Margalit said in the statement.

“Opora has brought about a new mindset in which cybersecurity is moving from defense to offense. The innovation of the Israeli Security Forces led by Yuval Diskin, Chris Bell, Noam Jolles, and the team has now come together with Israeli high-tech innovation and is creating technology that is redefining cybersecurity,” he added.

As part of the investment agreement, Margalit and JVP principal Julia Kagan will join Opora’s board of directors.

Opora said it has customers in Germany, the UK, and the US across the banking, utility, manufacturing, and pharmaceutical sectors. It indicated that it will use the seed funding for product development, sales, and marketing.

This article first appeared in NoCamels, which covers innovations from Israel for a global audience.