How Citi’s Latest Cybersecurity Bet Veers From The Usual Model

  • Citi Ventures participated in a $12 million investment in Dyadic, a startup that helps companies manage their cryptographic keys

  • The area of cyber defense startups that studies analytics to find patterns is getting crowded, Citi says

Financial technology trends come and go but three are here to stay: Everyone has a mobile phone, large businesses are moving their data to cloud systems — and threats to cybersecurity are evolving with and around both behaviors.

As the threat cybersecurity poses for financial services – or any company, since they’re all collecting customer data – isn’t going away, these companies are heavily invested in analytics firms that monitor breaches, defenses and other activity to try to make sense of user behavior and identify patterns to help prepare for the next attack. That space is getting kind of crowded though, which is part of why Citigroup’s startup venture capital arm just invested in a newer cryptographic solution by a company called Dyadic.

“There are established vendors of hardware security models and systems we all buy from. They’re trying to prevent or detect threats. We’ve invested in that,” said Arvind Purushotham, global head of venture investing at Citi Ventures. “The Dyadic opportunity came along and was fairly unique, there are not 10 startups in their area.”

Dyadic is a software company that helps companies manage their cryptographic keys, a long string of numbers required to encrypt private information. Citi Ventures participated in a $12 million growth investment in Dyadic along with Goldman Sachs Principal Strategic Investments and Eric Schmidt’s Innovation Endeavors.

In many current systems, there is a key to encrypt and one to decrypt. Dyadic’s solution effectively splits each key into two and allows them to be stored in different places – one half on a company server and the other on a mobile phone, for example, or one half in the cloud and the other in a data center. This way, even if a hacker somehow obtained the part of the key stored in the cloud, it couldn’t use it to decrypt information without finding its pair. The solution isn’t completely unhackable, but it creates an additional challenge for those up to no good.

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