Exclusive: Illumio Taps Former NSC Guru as Strategy Chief

January 13, 2016, 5:01 AM UTC
Photo by Carmen Holt.

Illumio, the hot cybersecurity startup that aims to protect corporate infrastructure in internal data centers and outside clouds, has hired Nathaniel Gleicher, former director for cybersecurity policy for the National Security Council.

In that role, which he held for nearly three years, Gleicher reported to Michael Daniel, special assistant to the President and the cybersecurity coordinator. Going forward in his new position, Gleicher will be Illumio’s public voice on policy and will oversee its cybersecurity technology strategy, the company said.

“My goal in moving to the private sector is to make sure there are tools that help defenders move as fast as the attackers. We need a real shot at rebalancing that,” Gleicher told Fortune.

The pattern that’s developed is that the bad guys get through a company’s perimeter defenses by phishing or some other social engineering ploy. Then they spend weeks or months sitting inside undetected while they identify what they want to steal, destroy, or hold for ransom.

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Illumio’s goal is to give customers a head’s up when something’s happening on their network that should not be.

“We view our technology as an MRI machine for the data center,” said Alan Cohen, chief commercial officer for Illumio, which is based in Sunnyvale, Calif.

Illumio’s software sits at the operating system level, in the cloud or on premises, and watches all the traffic and activity. When it flags an unexplained change, it notifies the IT department. Current customers include Morgan Stanley, Plantronics, NTT and Creative Artists Agency.

MORE: On Illumio.

The thinking is that Illumio will make it much harder—hopefully impossible—for malicious hackers to lurk on networks for weeks or months and then to suddenly start moving data out. It notes if there’s a database in the data center that is streaming data out to the Internet—a pretty clear sign that something is amiss.

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Illumio is well funded, having reaped $142.5 million in backing from Andreessen Horowitz and General Catalyst and other firms as well as individual investors including Salesforce.com (CRM) CEO Marc Benioff, Yahoo (YHOO) co-founder Jerry Yang, and Microsoft (MSFT) chairman John Thompson.

Obviously, there is huge opportunity defending corporate property from evil doers. All large companies worry that they’ll be breached like Sony Pictures. Forrester (FORR) Research estimated that enterprise spending on security software will grow from about $282 million this year at a 42% compound annual growth rate to $2 billion by 2020.

Note: The original headline of this story incorrectly identified Gleicher’s former agency as the NSA. It was the NSC.

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