Microsoft acquires another Israeli cybersecurity firm

Ray Walsh

Ray Walsh

November 10, 2015

Microsoft yesterday announced that rumors about it acquiring yet another Israeli cybersecurity company are true. Secure Islands, which has offices in Jerusalem, will be the third Israeli security company that the tech-giant has bought out this year. That brings Microsoft’s total number of Israeli technology firm acquisitions for 2015 up to five. With three of them –  Adallom, Aorato and Secure Islands – all firmly rooted in data protection.

Although rumors had mentioned the lofty sum of $150 million, reports so far emerging (from sources close to Secure Islands) claim that Microsoft only had to pay a mere $75 million to integrate Secure Islands’ technology into its Azure Active Directory Rights Management service (AADRM).

The good news for companies running AADRM is that Microsoft will now incorporate Secure Islands’ advanced and innovative Information Protection and Control (IPC) solutions. This will allow them to benefit from the Israeli firm’s ‘patent pending, data-centric security technology’ – which boasts of being able to provide protection on ‘any file from any source – including applications, file shares, and cloud services.’

In a statement about how Microsoft envisages the Tel Aviv-based firm improving its service, Takeshi Numoto, Corporate Vice President of Cloud and Enterprise Marketing at Microsoft comments,

‘This acquisition accelerates our ability to help customers secure their business data no matter where it is stored – across on-premises systems, Microsoft cloud services like Azure and Office 365, third-party services, and any Windows, iOS or Android device.’

The Israeli solution

Why is Microsoft so interested in Israeli firms then? The answer is actually quite straightforward. Israel is home to some of the most highly skilled cybersecurity experts on earth – and with a global shortage of IT workers in the security sector – Microsoft is simply recruiting the expertise it requires to keep it at the forefront of data protection. In Microsoft’s statement on the acquisition Numoto says,

‘Businesses continue to face challenges protecting their data in a world where information travels beyond the boundary of the corporate network and across many devices outside company control. To work effectively, organizations must share information with partners, vendors and customers. These realities make it more critical than ever to have solutions that prevent data loss and track information regardless of where it resides.’

According to Dan Plastina, Group Manager of Information Protection at Microsoft, working closely alongside firms like Secure Island has never been more important if it is going to continue to deliver efficient next-generation solutions for Windows Azure ADRMS,

‘Leveraging close cooperation with innovative companies like Secure Islands, Microsoft ensures the widest possible uptake for cutting-edge IPC solutions on-premise and in the Cloud. Our mutually-supported solutions will especially benefit large financial, legal, and governmental organizations, for which effective data protection is crucial in an end-to-end RMS implementation,’

Advanced skills and knowledge

So why are Israelis firms so good at cybersecurity? Most Israeli startups have a workforce with strong ties to the Israeli government’s Defence Forces. This practical experience – working hands on – to provide Israel’s government with the best possible data protection (work that not only involved dealing with incoming threats but also involved high-level government espionage) puts Israeli firms in their unique position.

Both Adallom (which Microsoft acquired in September)  and Aorato (an earlier acquisition that now operates under rebranded name Advanced Threat Analytics) have these strong defence sector ties, and Secure Islands is no different. In the eight years since it first started up, the company has used its advanced know-how to develop high-end services that have allowed it to establish a client-base of top-tier Fortune 500 firms including; UBS, OSRAM, Vodafone and Credit Suisse.

While the new partnership means that Secure Islands will be working more closely with Microsoft than ever before (the firms have been working together for some time through Microsoft’s Azure Rights Management Service). Secure Islands will also continue to deploy its unique security systems with existing customers – including various government agencies around the world.

Secure Islands CEO, Aki Eldar, says he is excited to be working so closely with the technology leader. On the company’s blog, he explains that he (and company co-founder Yuval Eldar) noticed emerging trends were going to cause security issues. With this in mind, they started the data protection firm – a team of people that Eldar quirkily refers to as ‘marathon runners’,

‘When Yuval and I founded Secure Islands nine years ago, we shared one vision: to provide customers with the most efficient and reliable solution for information protection and control. In those days, it was still a nascent market for technology like ours, but we knew the customer need was there. Together, with our team of “marathon runners,” we have been thrilled to see our solutions adopted by some of the most prestigious companies around the world.’

Secure Islands’ flagship product is called IQProtector. Software that the company describes as a ‘policy-driven classification and protection solution’. It achieves this with advanced Information Rights Management (IRM) that has a powerful (proprietary) management layer that is described as follows,

‘Fully automating IRM by classification on endpoints (including PCs, mobile and tablets), repositories and ECM systems, IQProtector instantly broadens IRM coverage to include any file format, mail, web page, or application field based on a central policy. With ongoing data-centric risk assessment and reporting, auditing and forensics based on big-data analytics, IQProtector allows organizations to stay in control of their sensitive data at all times.’


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