Israeli Karamba Security raises $2.5M seed to secure connected cars
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Photo credit: Karamba Security

Photo credit: Karamba Security

Karamba aims to tackle a new angle in the field of automotive cyber security

Israel-based Karamba Security announced on Thursday that they have closed their seed stage funding round with $2.5 million in new financing. Investors from this round were cyber security-focused YL Ventures and GlenRock, Leon Recanati’s private equity investment firm.

The company was co-founded in 2015 by Chairman David Barzilai, CEO Ami Dotan, CTO Assaf Harel, and VP R&D Tal Ben David. The team is a mix of hardcore security and business, with backgrounds in companies like Check Point, Rafael, Jinko Solar, and Voltaire just to name a few.

Karamba aims to tackle a new angle in the field of automotive cyber security. As cars become more connected with systems like GPS, multimedia, telecommunications and others, they have been found to be vulnerable to hackers.

So while most of the hackers known to have tried taking over cars through cyber attacks appear to be white hats, the industry has recognized that they need new solutions. General Motors and Tesla have opened up bug bounty programs, offering cash to hackers who can find holes in their security systems.

Even the FBI seems to be expressing concern, coming out with a statement on the issue two weeks ago.

Barzilai tells Geektime that the primary point of view up to this point is that the cars are networks on wheels, with great companies like Argus and TowerSec looking to protect the networks.

Karamba is taking a different approach by not going after network security but rather, protecting the Electronic Control Unit (ECU) that controls the features in the cars.

While most of the ECUs deal only with internal systems, there are a number that sit on access points between the vehicle and the outside world. Karamba identifies which ECUs are externally connected and therefore vulnerable to hackers, and offers car manufacturers an OS agnostic turnkey software solution to harden the points of entry selectively. “We view those externally connected ECUs as the point of entry,” explains Barzilai.

“All controllers are vulnerable to hackers, but only the ones that are externally connected are primarily at risk of penetration,” he says, explaining how they use a form of signature analysis to keep out attacks like Zero Days. “In addressing this, we predetermine which software is legitimate to run on those ECUs, and we block all those that are not on the White List.”

Karamba’s strategic position on the connected ECUs allows them to provide early detection before the malware can be deployed. If hackers start attacking the system, they will likely run some low-level attacks to check for vulnerabilities that their software can pick up on and send out an alert.

Barzilai says that having watched the enterprise world, he understands the need for a multilayer solution structure. He envisions their solution working alongside those of Argus and Towersec, the latter of which was purchased in January by HARMAN for $75 million.

In looking at the near term, Barzilai says that they are going to open an office in Detroit with CEO Ami Dotan moving there to manage the business relations in motor city. Already starting to engage with customers, Karamba is looking to have their first sales start soon.

In speaking with investor Ofer Schreiber of YL Ventures, he tells Geektime that he anticipates that the company’s solutions will start to be integrated sometime during 2017, due in large part to the high demand to integrate cyber security into vehicles as soon as is feasibly possible.

My thoughts

As the industry moves closer to the introduction of autonomous cars, this issue will only heat up since they will have to communicate not only with navigation systems, but also with the other vehicles on the road with them.

U.S. Senators Ed Markey and Richard Blumenthal have been active in promoting the need for cyber security in cars. Back in July, they proposed legislation to tackle the vulnerability and are still pressing for more measures.

It is refreshing to hear from Barzilai about the need for multiple solutions in this space, especially as so much of the industry claims that they can be one-stop shops.

Karamba, Argus, and the others that will enter this space will be important in developing solutions that can work in concert with one another, hopefully keeping the roads safe for driving and innovation that will make the autonomous car a reality.

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Gabriel Avner

About Gabriel Avner

Gabriel has an unhealthy obsession with new messaging apps, social media and pretty much anything coming out of Apple. An experienced security and conflict consultant, he has written for The Diplomatic Club, the Marine War College, and covers military affairs with TLV1 radio. He mostly enjoys reading articles wherever his ADD leads him to and training Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. EEED 44D4 B8F4 24BE F77E 2DEA 0243 CBD1 3F7C F4B6

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