Science & Technology



Startup fights fraud as hackers breach networks

Rex Crum, The Mercury News on

Published in Science & Technology News

SAN FRANCISCO -- With every new hack of computer networks comes questions about how it happened and what kind of security can prevent the next one.

Yet the recent hacking of consumer credit reporting agency Equifax's network has raised the question of not only what can be done to stop such attacks, but also what hacking victims can do after the fact.

The Equifax hack exposed Social Security numbers, credit card accounts and other personal information of as many as 143 million people. For individuals, fewer things are more personal than identity, and people want to know that when they shop or do anything else online, their personal data will be secure.

That's where software startup Sift Science comes in. The company offers products designed to attack potential areas of online fraud for industries and businesses. Its goal is to catch fraudulent activities before they affect those businesses' operations and, eventually, their customers.

"Breaches happen. They are a fact of life and are going to be of larger and of greater magnitude," said Jason Tan, chief executive of the 6-year-old company. "As more information is stored in the cloud, finding an intelligent approach to figuring out what to do after a hack attack occurs is critical."

With so much havoc being wreaked with each new hack, San Francisco-based Sift Science has found a place in the market for its approach to post-attack network security.

The company, with 122 employees, was launched out of the Y Combinator incubator program. Insight Venture Partners, Spark Capital and Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff are among its investors. Sift Science won't disclose its value, but said it has taken in $53.6 million in venture investments.

After the attack on Equifax, the consumer credit reporting agency acknowledged the hack in early September, but also admitted that it knew of the flaw in its system two months before hackers got in and took millions of Americans' personal data.

"If you look at the Equifax situation, that was a case of there being some kind of delay between the breach and the consequences," Tan said. "That allowed for plenty of time for the stolen information to make its way to the dark web, where it could be sold to bidders who then would use it to get access to people's personal accounts. The name of the game is turning data into something more valuable."

But Tan and Sift Science work to mitigate the effect of a hack after it takes place.


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