Verizon Ventures leads $20M funding round for network security startup SAM

Verizon Ventures and Blackberry led a $20 million series B round of funding to invest in SAM Seamless Networks, a network security company focused on safeguarding the growing number of connected devices.

Existing investors Blumberg Capital, Intel Capital, ADT and NightDragon also participated.

SAM developed software that integrates into network gateways, using behavioral and machine learning techniques to both detect and prevent attacks targeting connected and IoT devices in homes and small and medium businesses. It can be installed on top of existing firmware without the need for new hardware. The company also launched an API-based intelligence service that use device fingerprinting and real-time security for IoT devices targeted at the enterprise market

Based in Tel Aviv, Israel, with offices in Berlin and New York, SAM said the funding will allow it to expand from currently protecting 2 million networks and 70 million devices around the world to 10 million networks and 500 million devices by the end of 2021.

CEO Sivan Rauscher co-founded the company five years ago and previously served as a cybersecurity specialist in the Israeli Defense Forces. She said most of the team comes from similar backgrounds within intelligence.

“Our know-how allows us to deal with operators,” she told Fierce, and it’s not incidental Verizon’s backing the company, which is zeroed in on network security and embedded devices for IoT. “The problem we’re solving is around IoT and this fact that unmanaged networks are surrounding us.”  

As a network provider, it was almost inherent that Verizon would want to invest in a solution like SAM, according to Tammy Mahn, managing director at Verizon Ventures.

“It just makes sense to invest in a company like this. It makes the network clean,” she told Fierce. “If the network is compromised then nothing is safe.”

Solving for a growing number of devices and 5G

Connected devices in the home and office are meant to make life easier, but with an increasing number moving between different types of networks there’s a greater risk for cybersecurity threats.

SAM saw a huge challenge, according to Rauscher, with more devices and data connecting to Wi-Fi and other networks.

“It’s the big number rule,” she said. “You have a lot of devices connecting, the attack surface is expanded.”

The impact is greatest for places without dedicated security, with Rauscher noting the typical home or small business doesn’t have a chief security officer to oversee and manage everything that’s running on a network. And in the past year as more people worked from home during the pandemic SAM saw attacks increase by 12% for breaches the company monitored, she added.

According to Parks Associates, 23% of U.S. broadband homes own at least three smart home devices such thermostats, light bulbs and others. The research firm also found that more than 50% of small and medium business are concerned about the cybersecurity of employees’ home networks.

Mahn said that with security attacks exacerbated by Covid, “it just became so clear that we need something to protect the network” and that Verizon is excited to help take the company to the next level.  

"With its powerful and intuitive AI technology, SAM Seamless Network addresses the unique challenges of our hyperconnected world where an explosion of IoT devices exposes potential attack surfaces for companies and consumers alike,” said Anooj Shah, director of Corporate Strategy at BlackBerry, in a statement.

Although Verizon is an investor, SAM’s software can integrate through any operator to protect various devices without the need for home or business users to actively manage.

Part of the carrier’s interest also has to do with 5G and mobile edge computing, which Rauscher said will expedite challenges as more products come to market with imbedded connectivity. According to Ericsson, by 2025 it’s expected there will be more than 25 billion connected devices globally.

There could be a scenario, for example, of a person carrying a device that starts on the home network, moves to a Wi-Fi network in a coffee shop, then connects to the public network in the park and finally reaches an office environment.

“Devices on you are experiencing new environments, new Wi-Fi, new networks,” she explained, bringing the tricky issue of how to ensure security.

With new funding, SAM plans to utilize its device fingerprint technology and security background and capabilities to expand its reach.

“So wherever the device will shift between technologies and networks we can easily provide the right atmosphere to secure it,” Rauscher said.

SAM technology detects anomalies in device behavior across the network, using aggregated data to make sure legitimate traffic has a safe network route. According to the company, investing in new intelligence that also incorporated increased visibility and reduced latency from 5G will help enable faster decisions for smart devices and more effectively predict unknown attacks.