Phantom Takes Top Honors at RSAC 2016 Innovation Sandbox Competition

Posted on by Tony Kontzer

Innovation sandbox

If there was any doubt remaining that these are good times for the information security industry, it was erased during the opening day of the RSA Conference, as hundreds of attendees queued up to hear about the hottest startups during the annual Innovation Sandbox competition.

It was a much more tightly-packed room than previous years, for numerous reasons. Some people were there looking for answers to their companies' security challenges. Others where interested in a peek at what's coming down the pike—or perhaps scouting for investment possibilities. Heck, the guy sitting next to me was there because he simply wanted to watch a string of startup CEOs squirm on stage.

Whatever the reason for the crowd, all indications pointed to a surging interest in and need for innovative new security solutions.

"To anyone who says the security industry is not innovating, I challenge them to say that after this afternoon," Hugh Thompson, program chair of the RSA Conference, said to a standing-room only audience. Thompson later pointed out that the Innovation Sandbox event-within-an-event has a great track record, with many past presenters now influential industry players.

All of which begs the question, what kind of innovations are coming to market today?

PhantomTo get the news out of the way, the winning startup was Phantom, which CEO Oliver Friedrichs said "delivers a layer of connective tissue for the entire industry.” More on that below, but first let's review the competition.

First up was Kumar Mehta, CEO of Versa Networks, which aims to consolidate security tasks by turning branch appliances into virtualized security devices all run from a single management platform.

Next in line was Ajay Arora, CEO of Vera, which aims to secure data wherever—and whenever—it lives by shrinking the concept of the "perimeter" down to the data itself. "Imagine being able to kill that data wherever it is," should it fall into the wrong hands, Arora said, causing various members of the audience to experience sudden boosts of euphoria.

The third presenter, former HP security executive Art Gilliland, now CEO of startup Skyport, got the crowd's attention by wondering why organizations are spending so much money on security without getting better results. Skyport's answer? Deliver an easy and cost-effective way to bring security to every single application workload, such that "the visibility of your policy effectiveness is at your fingertips," said Gilliland.

And so it went.

Safebreach CEO Guy Bejerano shared how the company platform simulates hackers' breach methods, thus predicting breaches before they happen.

Gene Stevens, CTO of Protectwise, called his company's cloud-based product "the world's first security DVR platform," inadvertently causing a large portion of the room to wonder which binge shows were waiting for them at home.

Prevoty CTO Kunal Anand described how the company's technology helps customers understand what malicious bits of code might do within an application, and Amir Ben-Efraim, CEO of Menlo Security, asked the audience to "imagine a world with no malware," which the company isolates from "good" content in the cloud.

Illusive Networks CEO Schlomo Touboul appeared to be a contender to take the competition with his company's paradigm-shifting approach of creating "deceptive" networks on the fly to confuse would-be attackers.

And then there was Bastille, whose CEO, Chris Risley, shared how the company is securing the Internet of Things' numerous wireless protocols, most of which have not been battle tested.

It was an impressive lineup that caused the judge revealing the results, Paul Kocher, chief scientist of the cryptography division at Rambus, to call it the "hardest judging we've ever had." Ultimately, the judges felt that Phantom separated itself with its solution, which automates the manual investigation and response tasks that bog down analysts, thus freeing up a valuable security resource.

"Alert fatigue is a massive problem," said CEO Oliver Friedrichs. "There’s a lot of low-hanging fruit that people typically spend a lot of time on every day."

With its Innovation Sandbox win in hand, Phantom will certainly be solving some of that alert fatigue going forward.

Tony Kontzer

, RSA Conference

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