Disruptor 50 2021

32. Cybereason

Founders: Lior Div (CEO), Yonatan Striem-Amit, Yossi Naar
Launched: 2012
Headquarters: Boston
$389 million
Valuation: $1 billion
Key technologies:
Artificial intelligence, cloud computing, machine learning
Previous appearances on Disruptor 50 List: 0

Persephone Kavallines

When hacks like the recent takedown of the Colonial Pipeline hit, it is not just the company victims that turn to private cybersecurity consultants to help them understand and hopefully stay ahead of the next threat from the internet's bad actors, but increasingly, the government and public, that need help to make sense of it. Cyber threats are becoming more aggressive and, as in the case of Colonial, can quickly reach the level of a national security incident.

That is why hacking experts like Boston-based Cybereason, which came out of Israel's strong technology start-up sector, are playing a critical role in protecting not just corporate assets but the nation from the rogues of the dark web as well as nation-state supported online attackers. In fact, the hacking group behind the Colonial ransomware, DarkSide, was being tracked by Cybereason since August 2020.

The company's core offering is an endpoint protection platform. That term refers to technologies that can prevent malware attacks, detect malicious activities and identify and repair network flaws and breaches.

It has uncovered schemes in recent years including one that made off with large amounts of personal and corporate data from over a dozen global telecommunications companies, and in which Cybereason found links to previous Chinese cyber-espionage campaigns.

Cyberattacks have continued to increased and evolve in tactics, leading to a rise in both corporate spending — it is the No. 1 IT spending item at most companies — and the market prospects of companies offering network defense.

But individuals should not think it is only the big companies and government systems being targeted. In a recent report, Cybereason said it had identified a new hacking campaign preying on tax season panic with spear-phishing emails that unleash malware under the disguise of including important tax documents.

Cybereason CEO Lior Div on disrupting the cybersecurity space
Cybereason CEO Lior Div on disrupting the cybersecurity space

Hacking is a big business for the bad guys. Cybereason CEO Lior Div recently told CNBC that hacking group help desks staffed by multilingual experts — call centers for the malware criminals — have generated as much as $1 billion in revenue over the past two years. Colonial Pipeline paid a ransom of between $4 million and $5 million.

The increasingly online nature of the pandemic era has escalated risks. In Gartner's 2021 CIO Agenda Survey, cybersecurity was the top priority for new spending and represented the largest category of spending in 2021, at almost $72.5 billion worldwide. The big dollar signs on both the enterprise spending side and criminal web are a big reason why cybersecurity start-ups like Cybereason are attracting the world's biggest investors, including Softbank.

Contributed by Eric Rosenbaum

SIGN UP for our weekly, original newsletter that goes beyond the list, offering a closer look at CNBC Disruptor 50 companies, and the founders who continue to innovate across every sector of the economy.