42. Synack

The ethical edge of hacking

Founders: Jay Kaplan (CEO), Mark Kuhr
Launched: 2013
Headquarters: Redwood City, California
$60 million
Valuation: $151.8 million (PitchBook)
Key technologies:
Artificial intelligence, machine learning, software-defined security
Cybersecurity, network security

George Kavallines | CNBC

This cybersecurity company, started by two former National Security Agency agents, uses software security tools along with a network of highly skilled ethical hackers — so-called white-hat hackers — to help keep its clients' networks secure. Synack founders Jay Kaplan, CEO, and Mark Kuhr, CTO, specialized in counterterrorism at the NSA before starting Synack in 2013. In their former lives, they saw that the defensive tactics that most companies were using simply weren't working.

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Synack offers government agencies and companies penetration testing that enables them to find vulnerabilities in their networks that hackers can exploit. When necessary, the company will send in their Red Team — the ethical network of hackers they've vetted and use all over the world — to see where else a client may be vulnerable.

Earlier this year, the company worked with the U.S. Air Force to evaluate vulnerabilities in its IT systems for maintaining its weapons technology. Over a month, Synack's Red Team members spent more than 1,700 hours hacking the system and discovered 12 critical vulnerabilities that the Air Force is now correcting. It also works with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the IRS.

The company has raised a little more than $60 million from Greylock Partners, Hewlett Packard Enterprise and Kleiner Perkins. With enterprise customers desperate for security solutions that work, Synack is clearly in a growing market and counts companies in banking, consumer goods and food service among its customers. Last year the company says it was the only cybersecurity company to offer pro bono security testing to states during the mid-term elections through its Secure the Election initiative.

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