Sivan Rauscher (CEO), Shmuel Chafets, and Eilon Lotem
Intel, Blumberg Capital
"Israeli homes have an average of 14 devices connected to the Internet, including devices that people don't even know are connected, such as television sets and converters," says startup SAM Seamless Network cofounder and CEO Sivan Rauscher.
"All of the IoT devices are very vulnerable, and no one's protecting them."
Rauscher says that this is the reason that the startup she leads developed a solution for protection of Internet of Things (IoT) devices through the home network. "You can't keep control of devices that everyone brings home, so we chose to put ourselves on the network - the lowest common denominator. We provide protection for all the devices; you don't have to install anything. Even if you change routers, the installation is automatic," she says.
Before founding SAM, Rauscher was an officer in IDF signals intelligence Unit 8200 and worked at two startups and at information security consultant firm Comsec in London. She founded the company with vice-chairperson Shmuel Chafets and CTO Eilon Lotem. "He's only 27, and the company is built around him. He's been in this sector for over a decade. He had his own company when he was 16, and he worked in it during his army service," Rauscher says about Lotem.
Rauscher relates that when they started, "We chose home WiFi because we were looking for something untouched. There is inflation in companies doing cyber security for enterprises, even just around Rothschild Boulevard. On the other hand, people now buy a product and think that it's protected, but as far as the manufacturer is concerned, it's the user's problem. For example, I've got a robot vacuum cleaner connected to the network and I expect it to be protected, but it isn't."
Why does a device like a vacuum cleaner need protection? What information can you get out of it?
Rauscher: "The most you can get out of a vacuum cleaner is a mapping of the home, but once a device on the Internet is hacked, it's easy to get information from other devices in the home with access to the computer, photos, and bank account."
At present, SAM's customers are home Internet service providers. "In the past, there were providers who thought that they weren't responsible for protection," Rauscher explains. "Now, however, they sell smart home products, and their liability has expanded from connectivity to product protection. Everyone wants control in this world, because everyone wants the data. If a provider gives the customer an unprotected router, it has a problem, because customers expect protection. In the two years since the company was founded, there have been five-six attacks involving providers, and that damages the brand."
Bezeq Israeli Telecommunication Co. began cooperating with SAM a year ago. "Bezeq gives all of its customers our router protection technology, and also offers protection for all devices, which 35% of their customers choose to buy. We have duplicated this model for customers in the UK, the Netherlands, Germany, and the US," Rauscher says.
"I hear dozens of people complain that their Internet is slow and gets cut off," Lotem says. "We eliminate a lot of these problems, because much of the traffic gets lost on account of viruses, worms, or spyware installed on the network."
Are you considering offering your product directly to consumers?
Rauscher: "We have several collaborations abroad that enable people to buy a router with SAM technology, but selling to consumers requires building a big operation, and that's not very suitable for a startup. Our expansion in the coming years will be to WiFi networks outside the home - to hotspots of big places. We have branches in New York and Germany, and the goal is to expand there. We're considering the Asian market for later, because South Korea is a technological power."
You focus on the home, but what if I go out of the house with a smart watch and connect to unprotected WiFi?
Lotem: As soon as you get back home, we'll detect that the watch is infected. We'll isolate it so that it doesn't infect the other devices and provide a solution to the problem."
Rauscher: "This is the reason that our natural growth is to the networks of cafes, airports, universities - all of these are typical places for becoming contaminated with all kinds of bacteria, just like hospitals."
Technology giants like Google and Amazon are now entering the smart home. Aren't you afraid they will develop similar technology by themselves?
Rauscher: "Google's router recently had a weakness, even though protecting a router should be simple. Alexa also had a security defect six months ago that has not yet been fixed. These things don't attract the full attention of such companies, because they operate on a giant scale."
Another technology giant, Intel, recently led a $12 million financing round for SAM and announced strategic cooperation with it, in which the Israeli technology will be integrated in Intel's chips. "Intel is a leading manufacturer of chips for connecting to WiFi, and dominates the connected converters space," Rauscher explains. "It saw value in protection for its customers - Internet or cable providers. This is another way of spreading our technology."
Lotem: "We want to expand to more platforms, because everyone has a different type of router, and to support tens of millions of users. We're also developing our AI technology. Today, when the threat is a tough one, the first customer will sometimes be attacked before the algorithm identifies it, and then will deal with the customer and block the threat to the next customers. This is reasonable on a scale of millions of customers, but we want the threat to be blocked before it materializes."
Is acquisition something you think about?
Rauscher: "Right now, we enjoy what we're doing. We cooperate with large companies, but for now, we want to build a growing company."