Our critical infrastructure is at serious risk from cyber shutdown; why Alliance Venture led the new funding round in Northern.tech

Russian interference in the U.S. presidential election thru hacking and misinformation is one of the major news stories of 2017. Our Western democracies are under cyber-attack from hostile powers. A less discussed, but potentially more immediately impactful and life-threatening danger, is that our critical infrastructure is under threat of cyber-attack from both state sponsored operatives and rouge players. Russia has already proven the danger and capability, by taking out infrastructure in the Ukraine, as has ”botnet operators” on a global scale.

As our infrastructure becomes more advanced, it becomes more dependent on computing and a large number of connected/IoT devices. This large number of network nodes increases attack surface of the infrastructure, opening up new holes in security and causing increased vulnerability. Hostile players typically attack the weakest point to gain control over a target. IoT security is immature, similar to the early days of computers, and quite frankly a mess. While the problem is not currently at the center of public attention, the nature of the problem is well known, even if the full extent may not be. During a targeted scan last year researchers discovered over 170 million exposed IoT devices in major US cities. The U.S. Senate also recognizes the problem and is trying to do something about it. The Internet of Things (IoT) Cybersecurity Improvement Act of 2017 is a new bill seeking to improve the security of IoT devices. As the political process is slow, the danger is that it is too little, too late. The clock is ticking to secure our critical infrastructure.

Northern.tech is a company with the bold ambition of “Securing the World’s Connected Devices” by building great software for data centers, networks and IoT. Northern.tech’s product Mender is a so-called “over-the-air update tool (OTA) for embedded devices”. In short Mender enables the remote management and updating of IoT devices fast, easily and securely. OTA is a critical capability for keeping large fleets of devices robust. All too often this capability is missing or partially performed by rudimentary in-house hacks. Northern.tech has already shared a perspective on the dire state of affairs out there. Mender is an open source tool to minimize the barrier and friction for rolling out a fully secure solution, and is fortunately seeing great traction and interest in the market to tackle this major pain point. Regardless, it is important to keep pushing the message, as the size of the problem warrants attention. It is our belief that Mender can play a significant role in bringing much needed security to the IoT space, and thus our infrastructure — in an efficient and scalable manner. We think this is an important undertaking and that a solution is highly valuable both from a fundamental and financial perspective. This is why Alliance Venture is excited to lead the new 2.5 MUSD investment round in Northern.tech.

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