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Mysterious Mu Tests for Leaks

James Rogers
News Analysis
James Rogers
1/30/2006

Startup Mu Security Inc. has clinched a $4 million Series A funding round to support its goal of testing storage equipment before it's deployed in user networks.

The round was backed by VCs Accel Partners and Benchmark Capital . The startup will use the cash influx to develop specialist security gear aimed at large enterprises, the federal government, and service providers.

Mu is part of a trend: With hackers becoming ever more devious, users are going to ever-greater lengths to ensure their hardware is robust enough to survive a cyber-attack. In the case of Mu Security, the startup is touting its yet-to-be-launched product as a way for users to test network devices prior to deploying them.

In a nutshell, Mu's device will mutate the code within network protocols in the same way hackers do (hence the name Mu Security). The tests can gauge the response to code changes that mark a security attack by a range of IP devices, including routers and servers as well as storage equipment like NAS or SAN boxes.

Pre-testing will tell IT managers whether their equipment can withstand a buffer overflow or denial-of-service attack of the kind that has crippled many businesses in recent years. (See Application Security Problems and Study Outs Top Internet Vulnerabilities.) If gear fails, it can be fixed or taken off the network before a security breach.

The new Mu Security product will be available in the first half of this year. At this stage, the startup is keeping the product specifics mum, though execs confirm their offering will combine both hardware and software. "It’s bigger than a bread-box," quips Joe Furgerson, Mu Security’s vice president of marketing. "We’re going to define more about the product in a later announcement."

Mu Security has its work cut out, particularly when it comes to differentiating its pre-test approach against existing security wares and the testing scripts of various consulting firms. At least one user, Adam Stavn, IT applications manager at Chippewa Valley Technical College, for instance, is drawn by the prospect of automated testing for security. But he's not convinced he needs it in addition to a range of other wares. “It‘s possible that we could look at this," is all he'll say.

Mu Security was founded last March by Ajit Sancheti, who now serves as CEO, and Kowsik Guruswamy, who is the startup’s CTO. Both execs previously developed intrusion detection products for OneSecure, later acquired by NetScreen, which in turn was eventually snapped up by Juniper Networks Inc. (NYSE: JNPR). (See Juniper Buys NetScreen and Juniper/NetScreen Merger OK'd.)

The Sunnyvale, Calif.-based firm has a 20-strong workforce, though Sancheti says the firm is on a recruitment drive. Could ex-hackers join the Mu Security team? “No, absolutely not,” says Sancheti. “We don’t need to -- there’s a science behind this thing."

— James Rogers, Senior Editor, Byte and Switch



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