Microsoft says two new Exchange zero-day bugs under active attack, but no immediate fix

Microsoft has confirmed two unpatched Exchange Server zero-day vulnerabilities are being exploited by cybercriminals in real-world attacks.

Vietnamese cybersecurity company GTSC, which first discovered the flaws part of its response to a customer’s cybersecurity incident, in August 2022, said the two zero-days have been used in attacks on their customers’ environments dating back to early-August 2022.

Microsoft’s Security Response Center (MRSC) said in a blog post late on Thursday that the two vulnerabilities were identified as CVE-2022-41040, a server-side request forgery (SSRF) vulnerability, while the second, identified as CVE-2022-41082, allows remote code execution on a vulnerable server when PowerShell is accessible to the attacker.

“At this time, Microsoft is aware of limited targeted attacks using the two vulnerabilities to get into users’ systems,” the technology giant confirmed.

Microsoft noted that an attacker would need authenticated access to the vulnerable Exchange Server, such as stolen credentials, to successfully exploit either of the two vulnerabilities, which impact on-premise Microsoft Exchange Server 2013, 2016 and 2019.

Microsoft hasn’t shared any further details about the attacks and declined to answer our questions. Security firm Trend Micro gave the two vulnerabilities severity ratings of 8.8 and 6.3 out of 10.

However, GTSC reports that cybercriminals chained the two vulnerabilities to create backdoors on the victim’s system and also move laterally through the compromised network. “After successfully mastering the exploit, we recorded attacks to collect information and create a foothold in the victim’s system,” said GTSC.

GTSC said it suspects a Chinese threat group may be responsible for the ongoing attacks because the webshell codepage uses character encoding for simplified Chinese. The attackers have also deployed the China Chopper webshell in attacks for persistent remote access, which is a backdoor commonly used by China state sponsored hacking groups.

Security researcher Kevin Beaumont, who was among the first to discuss GTSC’s findings in a series of tweets on Thursday, said he is aware of the vulnerability being “actively exploited in the wild” and that he “can confirm significant numbers of Exchange servers have been backdoored.”

Microsoft declined to say when patches would become available, but noted in its blog post that the upcoming fix is on an “accelerated timeline.”

Until then, the company is recommending that customers follow the temporary mitigation measures shared by GTSC, which involves adding a blocking rule in IIS Manager. The company noted that Exchange Online Customers do not need to take any action at the moment because the zero-days only impact on-premise Exchange servers.

Microsoft says two new Exchange zero-day bugs under active attack, but no immediate fix by Carly Page originally published on TechCrunch

Microsoft’s M12 led $20M investment in web3 platform Space and Time

Space and Time, a decentralized data platform, has raised $20 million in strategic funding to help businesses grow through smart contract technology.

“Our mission is to make smart contracts smarter and expand the use cases of business logic through smart contracts,” Nate Holiday, co-founder and CEO of Space and Time, said to TechCrunch. “We see a world where smart contracts will operate the business logic of the world through advanced automation.”

In software, business logic helps manage the exchange of information between an end user interface and databases.

Space and Time will use its “Proof-of-SQL” cryptography to allow business logic in traditional centralized systems to be automated and connected directly to smart contracts, Holiday noted. It also will integrate the platform with Microsoft Azure to provide users with an on-ramp to access and use its blockchain data.

The capital raise was led by Microsoft’s venture fund M12 and included investors like Framework Ventures, HashKey, SevenX Ventures, Foresight Ventures, Polygon and Avalanche’s ecosystem fund Blizzard, among others. In late July, Space and Time raised $10 million in a seed round led by Framework Ventures.

“If you think about it, the global digital transformation was led by Microsoft,” Holiday said. “They have been doing this for decades — driving automation of business logic and business transformation — so we look at this as an exciting time to expand on that and include blockchain operations and smart contracts in addition to what already exists in centralized databases today.”

The platform is a part of the Startup with Chainlink program and will be working closely with the oracle network to extend the capabilities of smart contracts so blockchain developers can build multi-chain decentralized applications (dApps) alongside analytical insights in a low-cost, decentralized way.

“With the total addressable market for trust-minimized applications in the trillions of dollars, providing core infrastructure to Web3 developers is crucial for scaling and meeting this global demand,” Sergey Nazarov, co-founder of Chainlink, said in a press release.

The platform isn’t open to the public, yet, but there will be a limited release available at the end of this year for DeFi and gaming protocols, Holiday said. “Then we’re going to move into a test net phase where we’ll launch Proof-of-SQL in the spring of 2023 and our full production launch in the fall of 2023.”

In the near term, Space and Time wants to help web3 dApp developers simplify their data ecosystems and architectures, Holiday said. “In the long run, see a world where business logic, automation and verification is all done through smart contracts.”

Microsoft’s M12 led $20M investment in web3 platform Space and Time by Jacquelyn Melinek originally published on TechCrunch

Microsoft rolls out Windows 11 update with File Explorer tabs, system-wide captions and more

Microsoft today announced that the next major version of Windows 11, the aptly-named Windows 11 2022 Update, has begun rolling out to the more than 190 countries where Windows is available. The highlights include updates to the Start menu and tabs in File Explorer, as well as new accessibility features including system-wide live captions, voice access that allows you to control a PC with your voice and Smart App Control for enhanced security.

Users with eligible devices running Windows 11 can upgrade by opening the Windows Update settings screen (Settings > Windows Update) and selecting “Check for updates.”

The most obvious changes are on the UI front. Windows 11 2022 Update brings with it updates to the Start menu, “faster and more accurate search,” Quick Settings and the aforementioned tabs in File Explorer. (File Explorer also now lets you pin files for quick access.)  There’s improved local and current events coverage in the Widgets board and better Snap layouts with improved touch navigation, besides, plus the ability to snap multiple browser tabs in Microsoft Edge.

Microsoft Windows

Image Credits: Microsoft

An update to the Photos app introduces a new photos-managing experience and allows you to more easily back up your photos with OneDrive, Microsoft says. And at the system level, Windows 11 allows you to copy phone numbers, future dates and get suggested actions such as making a call with Teams or Skype or adding an event in the Calendar app.

Accessibility

On the accessibility front, Windows’ new natural-sounding voices for Narrator leverage AI-powered text-to-speech that more closely mirror real peoples’ voices — in theory making everything from browsing the web to reading and authoring documents better for users who listen to their screens. The system-wide live captions feature, meanwhile, transcribes in-person conversations by capturing microphone audio, displaying them at the top of the screen in a floating window.

The new Focus feature in Windows 11 turns on Do Not Disturb, which silences notification and switches off task bar badges as well as flashes of applications on the task bar. Focus is integrated with the Clock App, Microsoft says, launching a timer to help you focus and reminding you to take breaks.

Security

The latest version of Windows 11 ships with beefed-up security in the form of Smart App Control, which aims to help prevent scripting attacks while protecting users from running untrusted or unsigned applications associated with malware or attack tools. Smart App Control creates an AI model based on the 43 trillion security signals gathered daily to predict if an app is safe, built on the same operating system core capabilities used in Windows Defender Application Control.

Microsoft Windows

Image Credits: Microsoft

The complimentary new Microsoft Defender SmartScreen identifies when people are entering their Microsoft credentials into a malicious app or hacked website in order to alert them.

As for companies using Windows Hello for Business, they can now take advantage of a presence-sensing optional feature so that devices equipped with presence sensors log employees in when they approach and lock the device when they leave.

Gaming and Apps

The arrival of Windows 11 2022 Update marks the expansion of the Amazon Appstore Preview to international markets, bringing more than 20,000 Android apps and games to Windows 11 devices that meet the specific hardware requirements. It also brings a new HDR Calibration app and a “gaming homepage” in Edge that highlights upcoming games releases.

Elsewhere in the refreshed Windows 11, there’s an updated view of the Xbox Game Bar — accessed by pressing the Xbox button on a Xbox Wireless Controller or compatible controller that’s connected to the PC. Graphical improvements are in tow beyond this, including improved display latency, Auto HDR and variable refresh rate for windowed games.

Productivity

New Windows Studio camera and audio effects in Windows 11 2022 Update include Voice Focus to filter out background noise, Background Blur to blur out backgrounds and Automatic Framing so that the camera stays with subjects as they move. In a related development, video editor Clipchamp, which Microsoft acquired recently, is now in Windows 11 by default.

Microsoft rolls out Windows 11 update with File Explorer tabs, system-wide captions and more by Kyle Wiggers originally published on TechCrunch

Microsoft rolls out Windows 11 update with File Explorer tabs, system-wide captions and more

Microsoft today announced that the next major version of Windows 11, the aptly-named Windows 11 2022 Update, has begun rolling out to the more than 190 countries where Windows is available. The highlights include updates to the Start menu and tabs in File Explorer, as well as new accessibility features including system-wide live captions, voice access that allows you to control a PC with your voice and Smart App Control for enhanced security.

Users with eligible devices running Windows 11 can upgrade by opening the Windows Update settings screen (Settings > Windows Update) and selecting “Check for updates.”

The most obvious changes are on the UI front. Windows 11 2022 Update brings with it updates to the Start menu, “faster and more accurate search,” Quick Settings and the aforementioned tabs in File Explorer. (File Explorer also now lets you pin files for quick access.)  There’s improved local and current events coverage in the Widgets board and better Snap layouts with improved touch navigation, besides, plus the ability to snap multiple browser tabs in Microsoft Edge.

Microsoft Windows

Image Credits: Microsoft

An update to the Photos app introduces a new photos-managing experience and allows you to more easily back up your photos with OneDrive, Microsoft says. And at the system level, Windows 11 allows you to copy phone numbers, future dates and get suggested actions such as making a call with Teams or Skype or adding an event in the Calendar app.

Accessibility

On the accessibility front, Windows’ new natural-sounding voices for Narrator leverage AI-powered text-to-speech that more closely mirror real peoples’ voices — in theory making everything from browsing the web to reading and authoring documents better for users who listen to their screens. The system-wide live captions feature, meanwhile, transcribes in-person conversations by capturing microphone audio, displaying them at the top of the screen in a floating window.

The new Focus feature in Windows 11 turns on Do Not Disturb, which silences notification and switches off task bar badges as well as flashes of applications on the task bar. Focus is integrated with the Clock App, Microsoft says, launching a timer to help you focus and reminding you to take breaks.

Security

The latest version of Windows 11 ships with beefed-up security in the form of Smart App Control, which aims to help prevent scripting attacks while protecting users from running untrusted or unsigned applications associated with malware or attack tools. Smart App Control creates an AI model based on the 43 trillion security signals gathered daily to predict if an app is safe, built on the same operating system core capabilities used in Windows Defender Application Control.

Microsoft Windows

Image Credits: Microsoft

The complimentary new Microsoft Defender SmartScreen identifies when people are entering their Microsoft credentials into a malicious app or hacked website in order to alert them.

As for companies using Windows Hello for Business, they can now take advantage of a presence-sensing optional feature so that devices equipped with presence sensors log employees in when they approach and lock the device when they leave.

Gaming and Apps

The arrival of Windows 11 2022 Update marks the expansion of the Amazon Appstore Preview to international markets, bringing more than 20,000 Android apps and games to Windows 11 devices that meet the specific hardware requirements. It also brings a new HDR Calibration app and a “gaming homepage” in Edge that highlights upcoming games releases.

Elsewhere in the refreshed Windows 11, there’s an updated view of the Xbox Game Bar — accessed by pressing the Xbox button on a Xbox Wireless Controller or compatible controller that’s connected to the PC. Graphical improvements are in tow beyond this, including improved display latency, Auto HDR and variable refresh rate for windowed games.

Productivity

New Windows Studio camera and audio effects in Windows 11 2022 Update include Voice Focus to filter out background noise, Background Blur to blur out backgrounds and Automatic Framing so that the camera stays with subjects as they move. In a related development, video editor Clipchamp, which Microsoft acquired recently, is now in Windows 11 by default.

Microsoft rolls out Windows 11 update with File Explorer tabs, system-wide captions and more by Kyle Wiggers originally published on TechCrunch

Daily Crunch: Adobe snaps up Figma in proposed $20B deal that has some scratching their heads

To get a roundup of TechCrunch’s biggest and most important stories delivered to your inbox every day at 3 p.m. PDT, subscribe here.

Happy Thursday! Has everyone recovered from Zoom going down this morning? Don’t worry, Zoom is back up, but if anything, we hope it helped you have a quieter day…for a while at least.  — Christine and Haje

The TechCrunch Top 3

  • One rival at a time: The digital design world got a treat today when Adobe announced it was buying Figma, one of its biggest rivals, in a $20 billion deal that has both investors and Figma enthusiasts pondering what will change and if those changes will be bad, Ingrid reports. Meanwhile, Alex gives his take on the deal over in TechCrunch+ land.
  • “The Merge” is here: Talk of “The Merge” has been with us for weeks, and today it is finally here. If you don’t follow cryptocurrency, this means that Ethereum, one of crypto’s most popular blockchains, has now switched to proof-of-stake consensus, which also means it will now consume a lot less electricity, Romain writes. And for TC+, Jacquelyn tells us why it matters that Lido, Coinbase, Kraken and Binance have a majority stake of ETH.
  • There’s a fix for that: Apple is clearing a path for easy iPhone 14 integration with a setup fix. Ivan has more.

Startups and VC

Today, Haje has been running around at Micromobility America. They insist on using the MMA acronym, so he’s expecting a fist to the face any moment, but so far the only risk of injury has been from neck-breaking micromobility in the form of electric rollerblades. It’s probably a coincidence that Kav announced it is spooling up a 3D printing factory for bike helmets on the same day.

Looks like mobility is everywhere these days — Matt notes that mobility startups are filling the void in a Detroit auto show that’s a shell of its former self.

The TechCrunch team has been extraordinarily busy. There’s a wall of news on the TechCrunch homepage; here’s a few of the ones that caught our eye this fine Thursday:

Pitch Deck Teardown: Helu.io’s $9.8M Series A deck

Helping small- and medium-sized enterprises with their controlling, reporting and budgeting may not sound exciting, but Austrian fintech startup Helu.io’s storytelling skills excited investors enough to raise a $9.8 million Series A in July.

With the exception of some details regarding unit economics and revenue, Helu shared its entire winning pitch deck with us. As these slides suggest, its founders took a straightforward approach:

Problem: “The CFO’s pain is Excel.”

Solution: “Good-bye Excel sheets.”

(TechCrunch+ is our membership program, which helps founders and startup teams get ahead. You can sign up here. Use code “DC” for a 15% discount on an annual subscription!)

Big Tech Inc.

Whenever Call of Duty is mentioned, we can’t help but recall Rashida Jones’s character in “The Office” giving the game a shout-out. In today’s case, Jordan was there as Activision unveiled what the game’s next generation will look like.

Daily Crunch: Adobe snaps up Figma in proposed $20B deal that has some scratching their heads by Christine Hall originally published on TechCrunch

Game on for UK’s deeper antitrust probe of Microsoft-Activision

The UK’s competition watchdog has confirmed it will move to an in-depth investigation of the Microsoft-Activision $68.7BN gaming mega-deal, a couple of weeks after it signalled concerns about the proposed acquisition.

Earlier this month, the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) said it was worried Microsoft could harm rivals in the gaming industry by restricting access to popular Activision titles.

It also expressed concerns about the impact on development of the more nascent cloud-gaming market.

“The CMA has referred the anticipated acquisition by Microsoft Corporation of Activision Blizzard, Inc. for an in-depth investigation, on the basis that, on the information currently available to it, it is or may be the case that this Merger may be expected to result in a substantial lessening of competition within a market or markets in the United Kingdom,” the regulator wrote in an update on the case today.

It also confirmed the (four) individuals appointed to the inquiry group. The so-called phase 2 CMA investigation will involve this independent panel examining concerns raised by the preliminary probe — a detailed assessment that could take months or even over half a year.

Other regulators reviewing the Microsoft-Activision acquisition include the U.S.’ FTC.

Despite close regulatory attention to the proposed mega-deal, Activision suggested earlier this month that it still expects the acquisition to close in mid 2023. While Microsoft expressed willingness to work with regulators to allay their concerns.

Game on for UK’s deeper antitrust probe of Microsoft-Activision by Natasha Lomas originally published on TechCrunch

On cloud platforms and SME antitrust complaints

End-to-end encrypted email provider Tutanota finally got a fix last month from Microsoft for a registration issue that had affected users who were trying to sign up to the tech giant’s cloud-based collaboration platform, Teams, using a Tutanota email address — but only after complaining about the problem publicly.

TechCrunch picked up its complaint last month.

In a blog post confirming the resolution yesterday, Tutanota writes that Microsoft got in touch with it “within a week” after media outlets such as this one raised the issue with Microsoft. It had been complaining about the issue through Microsoft’s official support channels since January 2021 — without any resolution. But after the oxygen of publicity arrived the problem was swiftly fixed last month. Fancy that!

While it’s (finally) a happy ending for Tutanota, its co-founder Matthias Pfau makes the salient point that this situation remains an entirely unsatisfactory one for SMEs faced with the market muscle of powerful platforms which have — at best — a competitive disinterest in swiftly attending to access issues and other problems affecting smaller businesses that need fair interfacing with their platforms to ensure they can properly serve their own customers.

“While the issue has been resolved pretty quickly by Microsoft after the right people contacted us following the media attention, we still believe that this example shows why we need better antitrust regulations. It is not fair that a Big Tech company can ignore a small company’s request to fix an issue that effects its users for months, and is only interested in fixing the issue after it received bad publicity because of this,” he writes.

“After all, not every small company has the option to go public, possibly because the media will decide their issue is not worth talking about or because they simply do not have established media contacts and find it hard to get through to the right people.

“While we are very happy that this particular issue has now been fixed for all Tutanota users, we still believe that there must be a better way for companies to contact Big Tech and request fixes from them – one where they can not simply answer to the request with “Sorry, fixing the issue you are having is not feasible for us.”

Platform fairness is one issue that the European Commission has been attending to in recent years — but apparently not with enough of a flex to ensure all SMEs are being treated attentively by cloud giants.

Tutanota is not alone in experiencing issues with Microsoft’s support response to its complaint. Another SME, the browser maker Vivaldi, got in touch following our report on Tutanota’s issue — saying users of a webmail service it offers had reported a similar issue on Azure, another Microsoft cloud computing platform. It told us that users of its Vivaldi.net email service had been given information — “and possibly access to” — other vivaldi.net users’ Azure accounts. Which sounds, well, suboptimal.

“The reason is that vivaldi.net is handled as a corporate domain, not an email provider domain. Microsoft has refused to fix the problem, claiming it is by design,” a spokesperson for the company explained last month, adding: “We have also had similar reports about other services.”

“It’s frustrating that in 2022 to find Microsoft blatantly continues to engage in anti-competitive practices,” they added.

After TechCrunch raised Vivaldi’s complaint with Microsoft, the SME got back in touch with us to say — surprise! — it had suddenly had fresh attention from the cloud giant to its complaint… “We are having a meeting with them this week. So they have woken up after two years. Let’s see what comes out of this,” its spokesperson told us a few weeks ago.

We followed up this month to see if Vivaldi has also had a resolution — but at the time of writing we’re still waiting on a response.

We also asked for an update from Microsoft but haven’t heard back yet. But the tech giant previously told us: “We’re in touch with Vivaldi.net to look into their concerns around data and will take action as needed to ensure that customer data is handled properly and any issues are addressed appropriately.”

One thing is clear: These two complaints are just the tip of the iceberg. (Just the social media chatter around our Tutanota reporting includes a similar complaint about IBM Cloud — and another that Microsoft also blocks self hosted emails from its virtual private servers “without any sort of explanation, so you can conveniently get an email address from them as well”, with the complainant accusing its business of “always been forced dominance” — for e.g.)

What’s a whole lot less clear is whether or not current (and incoming) EU regulations are up to the task of protecting SMEs from cloud giants’ power to be totally disinterested in resolving platform problems that affect smaller competitors.

Back in 2019, the European Union agreed a regulation the bloc’s lawmakers claimed was pioneering in this regard — aimed at tackling unfair platform business practices, with the Commission saying they wanted to outlaw “some of the most unfair practices” and create a benchmark for transparency. The regulation, which came into force just over two years ago, included a requirement that platforms set up new avenues for dispute resolution by mandating they have an internal complaint-handling system to assist business users.

However the EU’s platform-to-business (P2B) trading regulation, which was targeted at so-called “online intermediation services” which provide services to business users that to enable them to reach consumers, had a heavy focus on ecommerce platforms, search engines, app stores and rental websites etc (and barely any mention of cloud computing). So it’s not clear whether services like Microsoft Teams and Azure are intended to fall in scope — despite “online intermediation” itself being a broad concept.  

If the regulation is supposed to apply to cloud services, the poor experiences of SMEs like Tutanota — having core issues affecting their users essentially ignored via official support channels — indicates something isn’t working. So, at very least, there’s a failure of enforcement going on here. The lack of clarity around whether the P2B regulation even applies in such cases also obviously doesn’t help. So there does seem to be a communication gap — if not an outright loophole.

The EU has further digital regulations incoming that are squarely targeted at ruling how platforms do business with others, with the goal of ensuring open and contestable markets via proactive enforcement of fair terms and conditions. Most notably the Digital Markets Act (DMA), which will apply to the most powerful “gatekeeper” platforms.

However this regulation is not yet in force — application will start next year — and it will require individual gatekeepers and “core platform services” to be designated before requirements apply, which will take many months in each case. So, well, it’s not going to be a quick fix.

Additionally, there have also been some concerns about whether the new regime will robustly apply to cloud giants productivity and enterprise services to other businesses. So some legal fuzziness around cloud services may persist.

Asked if it’s confident the DMA will be an antitrust game-changer, a spokeswoman for Tutanota was doubtful it will prove a silver bullet to resolve the baked-in power imbalance between platforms and SMEs. “A better way to resolve such issues is needed,” she told us. “Possibly the DMA will address this but consequences in cases of negligence on the gatekeeper’s side must be in place; otherwise it will be easy for them to continue to ignore small competitors.

“As long as Big Tech companies do not have to fear any kind of consequence — be it bad publicity or drastic fines — they will not be interested to invest into fixing issues of competitors’ users — which from their business perspective is understandable. This is exactly why we need better legislation in this regard.”

“We expect the DMA to be a good first step into this direction, though it will probably not address all issues,” she added.

The Commission was contacted with questions on these issues but at the time of writing it had not responded. We’ll update this report if we hear back.

On cloud platforms and SME antitrust complaints by Natasha Lomas originally published on TechCrunch

Microsoft patches a new zero-day affecting all versions of Windows

Microsoft has released security fixes for a zero-day vulnerability affecting all supported versions of Windows that has been exploited in real-world attacks.

The zero-day bug, tracked as CVE-2022-37969, is described as an elevation of privilege flaw in the Windows Common Log File System Driver, a subsystem used for data and event logging. The bug allows an attacker to obtain the highest level of access, known as system privileges, to a vulnerable device.

Microsoft says users running Windows 11 and earlier, and Windows Server 2008 and Windows Server 2012, are affected. Windows 7 will also receive security patches, despite falling out of support in 2020

Microsoft said the flaw requires that an attacker already has access to a compromised device, or the ability to run code on the target system.

“Bugs of this nature are often wrapped into some form of social engineering attack, such as convincing someone to open a file or click a link,” said Dustin Childs, head of threat intelligence at the Zero Day Initiative (ZDI). “Once they do, additional code executes with elevated privileges to take over a system.”

Microsoft credited four different sets of researchers from CrowdStrike, DBAPPSecurity, Mandiant, and Zscaler for reporting the flaw, which may be an indication of widespread exploitation in the wild.

Dhanesh Kizhakkinan, senior principal vulnerability engineer at Mandiant, told TechCrunch that the company discovered the bug “during a proactive Offensive Task Force exploit hunting mission,” adding that the exploit appears to be standalone and is not part of an attack chain.

Microsoft did not share details about the attacks exploiting this vulnerability and did not respond to our request for comment.

The fixes arrived as part of Microsoft’s regularly scheduled monthly release of security fixes, dubbed Patch Tuesday, which includes a total of 63 vulnerabilities in various Microsoft products, including Microsoft Edge, Office, and Windows Defender.

Microsoft also released patches for a second zero-day flaw, tracked as CVE-2022-23960, which it describes as a cache speculation vulnerability known as “Spectre-BHB” affecting Windows 11 for ARM-based systems. Spectre-BHB is a variant of the Spectre v2 vulnerability, which can allow attackers to steal data from memory.

Earlier this week, Apple moved to patch a zero-day under active attack in iOS and macOS.

Microsoft patches a new zero-day affecting all versions of Windows by Carly Page originally published on TechCrunch

Dope Security emerges from stealth to shake up the SWG market

San Francisco-based cybersecurity startup Dope Security has launched from stealth with $4 million in funding to modernize the secure web gateway market.

A secure web gateway, or SWG, is a network security device that acts as a barrier between users and malicious web traffic, websites with vulnerabilities, malware, and other internet-based cyber threats. While by no means sexy, SWGs have become critical during the recent shift to remote and hybrid work as employees shift from a tightly-controlled office environment to less secure home networks.

Though SWGs are an important tool for organizations whose workers no longer sit within an internal corporate network, Kunal Agarwal, founder and CEO of Dope Security, says that most legacy SWGs are no longer fit for purpose in a remote, cloud-first world.

“There’s been an emergence of secure web access and today every major organization protects or secures what you can access from your laptop,” Agarwal tells TechCrunch. “The way in which they do this is a problem. It’s the equivalent of taking a flight from London to Dublin, and stopping over in Germany.”

These stopovers, along with difficult-to-deploy solutions, lead to outages, off-device decryption, significantly slower page loads, and reduced end-user productivity, he added.

Agarwal, a cybersecurity veteran who started hacking as a child, became frustrated with legacy SWG solutions during his time at Forcepoint and Symantec, where he spent years trying to retrofit existing SWG solutions to solve problems that he says were never designed to solve. “I started to see all of these customers complain about outages, reliability, and performance problems,” Agarwal said.

It was this that led to the creation of Dope Security, a startup named after the Bay Area slang. Dope Security is a fly-direct SWG that eliminates the data center stopover architecture required by legacy providers, instead performing security directly on the endpoint. This architecture improves performance up to fourfold, according to Agarwal, and ensures privacy and reliability when securing enterprises against web-based threats.

Agarwal said his company’s technology can be deployed in under five minutes and offers network defenders insights through a cloud-based console, and integrates with Microsoft 365 and Google accounts — and is already in the hands of customers.

The company’s $4 million investment was led by Boldstart Ventures. Agarwal said the company has 30 employees, mostly former Forcepoint and Symantec employees — is already looking for the market it’s going to try to disrupt next.

“We want to build together not one product, but a whole product portfolio,” Agarwal said. “And we want customers to look at these products and say ‘yeah, that’s dope’.”

Dope Security emerges from stealth to shake up the SWG market by Carly Page originally published on TechCrunch