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Cybersecurity startup Jericho Security announced today it has raised $3 million in pre-seed funding to build solutions using artificial intelligence (AI) to combat increasingly sophisticated phishing attacks generated by AI systems.
The funding round was led by venture capital firm Era and includes participation from Lux Capital, FoundersXFund, MetaLabs, Alcove, Textbook, Alumni Venture Group, Thorntree and several individual investors.
Jericho Security’s approach marks a new frontier for cybersecurity, using machine-learning capabilities to essentially “fight AI with AI.” Jericho pits an AI red team against an AI blue team in simulations to uncover vulnerabilities and develop more robust defenses.
Sage Wohns, cofounder and CEO of Jericho Security, told VentureBeat that he was inspired to start the company after hearing a Stanford professor mention the potential dangers of generative AI phishing attacks.
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“[The professor] said it off-handedly,” Wohns explained. “He said, ‘What happens when a large language model has retention learning, and is trying to attack you, learn from its attacks and can attack you ad infinitum?’ And I was just like,’ Wait, are you just gonna say that and not go back to your lecture topic? You just dropped the bomb on all of us.’”
AI red team vs. AI blue team
Wohns says his vision for the future is to create an AI red team and an AI blue team that can learn from each other and improve their performances. The AI red team would be responsible for generating realistic and personalized phishing attacks that can test the security posture of clients and employees. The AI blue team would be responsible for detecting and preventing these attacks using advanced language processing, custom privately hosted language models and brokered data.
“By pitting these two teams against each other, we can create a feedback loop that can help us adapt to the changing landscape of AI and stay ahead of the curve,” he said.
In the world of cybersecurity, this approach represents a major shift in the industry landscape. It hints at a future where cyberwarfare is defined by AI models trading off with each other, constantly evolving and learning from each interaction.
Wohns emphasized the importance of focusing on existing threats rather than hypothetical future ones. “It’s about diligent focus and not being distracted by hypothetical futures, and doing areas that we know are existing threats and focusing on those first,” he said.
Persistent threat of phishing attacks
Wohns also said that he saw a huge market opportunity for his solution, as current cybersecurity solutions are becoming obsolete due to gen AI. He cited KnowBe4, a leading provider of security awareness training and simulated phishing attacks, as an example of a company that is facing technical obsolescence because of gen AI.
“They are an incredible company and business,” he said. “But they’re facing technical obsolescence because of generative AI. They’ve been around for 10 years; they’ve exited now three times. And it’s a phenomenal business because people have to have solutions. They have to buy it.”
Wohns also shared some examples of generative phishing attacks that he had seen or heard of, such as fake invoices from Costco or Best Buy, fake bank account updates from leaked data sources and fake VC offers for startups. “That’s why we have a very low price point ($3 per user per month), because I want to get this out to the world, so people are aware of these threats.”
“[Silicon Valley Bank] created a debacle for the entire startup community, where a whole spate of generative phishing campaigns against startups started from fake VCs saying, ‘Hey, we can wire you money if you give us your banking details,’” he added. “That was scary to see.”
Founding team of veterans
Jericho Security is the result of decades of collective observation of the evolution of cybersecurity threats by its founders.
Wohns is a veteran AI technologist and former CEO of Agolo, a natural language processing (NLP) company. Tim Hwang is the cofounder and CEO of FiscalNote, a government relations management platform. Dan Chyan is a cybersecurity expert and founding partner of PKC Security, a cybersecurity consulting firm.
The funding from the pre-seed round will be used to expand Jericho Security’s product offerings, grow its team and scale its operations globally.
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