Deal Focus: Twitter Acquires Dasient

January 27, 2012

Twitter announced this week that it acquired Dasient, an Internet security start-up focusing on anti-malware for large enterprises in the financial services, media, and online sectors. Dasient’s scanning software helps businesses identify and contain malware on the Web and is touted as an anti-malvertising service, which claims to protect advertising networks and publishers from malware. Deal value was not disclosed.

We wrote last summer about the increased focus on social media security and venture investments in the space. Since then, there have been four acquisitions of social media security vendors (including Dasient): Whisper Systems/Twitter, Unsubscribe.com/TrustedID and Garlik/Experian. These deals represent the first M&A activity Signal Hill has tracked in the area.

Dasient’s acquisition will allow Twitter to provide anti-malware technology to its ever-growing, real-time information network. Dasient’s technology will become part of Twitter’s revenue engineering team, which suggests its will most likely be used to identify malicious ads submitted through the company’s self-serve ad platform, Twitter’s latest attempt at increasing monetization. Three-year-old Dasient, which was founded by ex-Googlers, had raised $2 million in investments from Google Ventures, Floodgate and Radar Partners.

Twitter has had a number of issues over the years with scams and spam, and recently fell victim to a number of high-profile account hacks, including Fox News and Lady Gaga, and has been bulking up on its security offerings. In November, Twitter also acquired Whisper Systems, a provider of enterprise-grade security on Android devices. Its products included WhisperCore, a system which integrates with the underlying Android OS to protect everything on the phone, as well as TextSecure, which allows for secure texting by storing them in an encrypted database on your phone and the ability for encryption during transmission.

With the Dasient acquisition leading the way, we expect social security deal activity will accelerate this year as more social media leaders grow and ultimately decide to go public.


Social Media Security Focus To Grow

August 18, 2011

A number of innovative internet security companies recently began marketing suites of products designed to protect social media users. The phenomenon of social media is here to stay: from the growth in social advertising to social gaming, more and more users are continually engulfed in the online social experience. But with increased usage comes the necessity for greater security, especially for the enterprise.

Many corporate social media policies rely on simply blocking social media use altogether. This is quickly becoming a less viable option, however, as a growing number of companies and organizations rely on social media in their daily business tasks. For this reason, security vendors are stepping up and offering something more substantial solutions.

Investors are taking notice of the need for social media security: just this week social media compliance software provider SocialWare raised $7 million in venture funding led by Morgan Stanley Expansion Capital, bringing its total to $12 million for the year. Other firms, including Wedge Networks and Websense, are bulking up their offerings and marketing them specifically as security solutions for social media users. In June, Wedge announced it was expanding its “deep content inspection” network gateway approach to monitor real-time traffic for malicious threats, such as something that appears to be from a trusted Facebook friend. Websense similarly offers two social media products: Defensio, which secures against threats that target a user’s own social media pages (such as on Facebook or a blog), and its TRITON solutions, which protect against incoming threats from social sites a user may visit.

Government entities are also increasingly at risk of social media attacks. A recent report [PDF] by the Government Accountability Office found that nearly all major federal agencies are now using Facebook, Twitter and YouTube to provide information about agency activities and to interact with the public. In that vein, Cyveillance announced in June that government agencies can now utilize its Social Engineering Protection Appliance (SEPA), which uses Email Intent Analysis, real-time URL and link analysis, as well as high value target, protection to help keep users from falling victim to attacks.

Social media is expected to become a much bigger part of enterprise operations, according to Gartner, with social networking services acting as the primary means of interpersonal communications in 20% of businesses by 2014. As social media continues to grow, more attention will fall on these security threats. Smaller security providers focused on social media will be prime targets for future acquirers. These could include established security vendors looking to differentiate and remain current, as well as social networks looking to gain points with users concerned with safety.


Rapid Growth of Twitter, Social Media Creates New Security Risks, Opportunities

August 14, 2009

Popular social networking sites have recently been barraged by highly publicized security breaches over the past few weeks. Popular micro-blogging service Twitter has suffered three denial-of-service attacks in the past two weeks which completely shut down the site for a few hours to nearly a whole day. “Denial-of-service” attacks disrupt Web sites by utilizing millions of computers to overwhelm a particular site. Other social media sites, such as blog conglomerate Gawker Media and Facebook, have also been hit recently.

About 19% of all hacking incidents are attacks against social networks, according to web security firm Breach Security, making it the most targeted category of any kind in 1H 2009. In Twitter’s case, its first two recent attacks were believed to be targeting only one activist user, a Georgian professor posting about the war between Georgia and Russia. But the latest attack on Tuesday was not immediately linked to that user, and, to make matters worse, countermeasures put in place by NTT America (Twitter’s network provider) may have made the problem worse. Others say that Twitter’s vulnerability is due to its reliance on a single network provider and poor internal preparation. These attacks are the third major security breach on the service this year – the last occurred when a hacker gained access to employee email accounts and stole numerous documents (including business plans and employee information). In January, Twitter was forced to review its defenses after a number of high profile accounts were hijacked by hackers.

Twitter is one of the fastest growing sites on the Web today — with 72.5% of total users signing up for the service in the first six months of 2009, according to analytics firm Syosmos. Along with user growth has come hundreds of third-party Twitter applications that extend the functionality and accessibility of the platform. With this exploding popularity comes greater attention from hackers and more points of vulnerability.

Experts say Twitter, Facebook and others must, and will, get security right. Even though Twitter’s latest DoS attacks were only targeting one user, it shows the vulnerability of the entire business model. The concern is a boost for IT security vendors, which see the social networking community as a breeding ground for internet-based threats. “Social security” deal activity is heating up. Defensio, for example, a platform for blocking spam comments on blog sites, was acquired in January by Websense, a major Web, email and data security provider, Cyveilance, which monitors social media and other web sources for emerging threats, was acquired by QinetiQ North America earlier this year to boost its online data tracking capabilities.

These are early days for social media, so expect a lot more investment in and acquisitions of emerging security vendors focused on addressing the attendant risks.


Hold On, I Need To Twitter This…

September 19, 2008

Francesca Bartolomey

Francesca Bartolomey

Micro-Blogging: Epic Time Waster Or Useful Corporate Collaboration Tool?

Chances are that by now you know what Twitter is. Famous for its massive following, infamous for its outages, Twitter is a micro-blogging tool made popular by tech-addicted Gen Yers who just have to alert the world whenever they’re about to cross a street or order a sandwich or tie their shoes. Hit refresh every five minutes and continuous status updates from masses of friends (both real and of the Internet variety) provide endless hours of amusement when waiting in lines, walking to work, taking long car rides, etc. (Side anecdote: I was having dinner with a friend a few weeks ago and found out that dining just behind us was Patrick Wilson. As we were led to our table, the friend had seen him and updated her Twitter with the information. During a lull in our conversation, I checked my Twitter feed and that’s how I realized we were mere feet away from a celebrity. We were sitting within his earshot so to say his name out loud would have been horribly uncool.) But celebrity sightings aside, Twitter has more serious purposes as well:

Twitter Will Come to Current TV for Debate Chitchat
Earthquake in UK? News Broken on Twitter
Obama and McCain Sending Official Reps to Debate on Twitter

Twitter has even been known to thwart potential international incidents!

Initially dismissed as a pointless tool for ego maniacal young people who think the world is interested in their every exploit, micro-blogging has emerged as a serious tool for enterprises to use to encourage brand engagement and for internal corporate collaboration.

The CEO of Zappos is somewhat of a corporate pioneer Twitterer. Comcast even has a dedicated professional whose responsibility it is to monitor the Internet for Comcast bashing and respond; his Twitter feed is full of responses trying to placate unhappy Comcast customers. JetBlue’s Twitter feed (with over 4,000 followers) posts airline updates and responds to queries and comments from customers.

So intriguing is the idea of enterprise micro-blogging that several companies offering an internal solution have come to fruition. Yammer, which was launched at TechCrunch50 and won their top prize, is an example. Yammer boasts such enterprise clients as Cisco and Xerox. At the Web 2.0 Expo in New York, I met with Intridea whose latest project, present.ly, offers a simple, customizable Twitter-for-the-enterprise solution. Employees can use services like these to tap the collective knowledge pool of their company for help with an assignment, to circulate corporate news, or to post status updates on projects.

According to TechCrunch, Yammer signed 2,000 organizations up to the service on the day it launched. Clearly, micro-blogging isn’t just for the techie with the over-inflated sense of self anymore. It has already started to permeate the enterprise world as an effective corporate tool – both internally and also as a way to engage with customers. We see this trend growing as micro-blogging becomes more mainstream and users continue to bring the technology to work with them.


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