Talon and Island do battle for browser security

Credit: Shai Sharon and MKJ Photo
Credit: Shai Sharon and MKJ Photo

In an intriguing rivalry, Israeli startups Talon and Island have both developed enterprise browsers to enhance an organization's security in the age of hybrid work.

Our browser activity today includes more than surfing the Internet. In the age of cloud computing more and more professional enterprise applications are operated from the browser, instead of a dedicated application, which makes the browser the de facto operating system of the computer. So it is only natural that browsers have become a main focus for the cybersecurity industry.

This focus began several years ago with solutions like Remote Browser Isolation (RBI), which transferred all browser activity to a remote server in the cloud in order to protect the user's computer from Internet attacks. This solution is considered very secure and used by government and military agencies but is very expensive and has long response times. Israeli startup Guardio, which was founded in 2018, developed a lighter and cheaper solution with a security add-on to the browser for small private and business customers, which protects against phishing attacks and Internet malware. At the end of 2021, Guardio reported that it had over 1 million users.

Browser security is also the arena for one of the most intriguing rivalries between early stage Israeli startups Talon Cyber Security and Island. Both startups, which launched products over the past year, Talon at the end of 2021 and Island at the start of 2022, offer a similar secure browser solution for enterprises - a new field that did not previously exist.

What makes the competition particularly interesting is that both Talon and Island were founded by a pair of experienced entrepreneurs who were previously behind exits worth hundreds of millions of dollars each.

Talon was founded by CEO Ofer Ben-Noon and CTO Ohad Bobrov. Ben-Noon previously cofounded vehicle cybersecurity company Argus, which protected cars from cyberattacks and was sold to Continental for $430 million. Bobrov cofounded Lacun Security, which developed security solutions for mobile phones and was sold to Check Point for $100 million.

Island was founded by CEO Michael Fey, a former CTO of McAfee and senior executive at a startup sold for $4.5 billion and CTO Dan Amiga, who developed an early RBI with FireGlass, which was sold to Symantec for $250 million.

On the basis of the innovative concept, and no less important the reputations of the entrepreneurs, Talon and Island have raised large amount of money from known investors. Last week Talon raised $100 million, having previously raised $26 million. Island has raised $220 million since it was founded, with its most recent financing round in March 2022, giving it a valuation of $1.3 billion, just two months after it had unveiled its product. Island is the bigger company with 130 employees, while Talon has 75 employees.

Both companies continue to assertively insist that they developed the first enterprise browser. Talon launched its enterprise browser first but Island claims it began developing its product first.

Similar products, different ambitions

Talon and Island's browsers allow enterprises to remotely set security definitions for users, such as sites that can be blocked and certain downloads, in order to prevent penetration of computers by malicious elements. In addition, content downloaded by users is kept encrypted from the operating system in a way that prevents malicious elements from infiltrating the enterprise's systems. The browser can also block screenshots or the possibility of copying information through cut and paste. Both browsers are built on Google's Chromium open code, on which the world's two most popular browsers are built - Chrome and Edge. This fact provides users with the familiar feeling that lets them easily get used to the new browser.

While Talon and Island's products are very similar, the difference between the two companies is mainly in their ambitions. Talon is more modest and has designed its browser for a certain type of user - those who enter enterprise systems remotely from their PC. These users do not have the protective software installed on computers managed by the enterprise and so their entry to the enterprise system is more dangerous. According to Talon, this market is sufficiently large and complicated, especially in the era of hybrid working and gig work based on subcontractors.

Talon's solution, which is designed for enterprises with thousands of employees is meant to replace use of virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI), in which the user connects remotely from a separate desktop in the cloud and is therefore protected from threats to their physical computer. VDI is a very convenient and popular method for remote connections.

In contrast Island is marketing itself as an overall solution that can become the browser used by the entire enterprise, including all the computers that it manages. While Talon is focusing itself as somebody that mainly protects the enterprise's applications from infiltration and leakage of data, Island bills itself as protecting everything from everything. Island also targets the enterprise market but also sells to smaller companies.

To endear yourself with users while keeping your finger on the pulse

Both companies are still in the initial sales stages but the big money that has been thrown at them demonstrates that investors have very great expectations. The main question is if enterprises will really succeed in getting their users to forego the browsers that they know and love in order to work with a more secure browser. Talon and Island must build a product that is almost a consumer product but that also appeals to a wide audience and not just professionals. Browsers are also changing at a very swift pace with added features and security updates, so that both companies need to keep their fingers on the pulse so as not to be left behind.

In addition, both companies focus on browser security and do not protect the applications operating separately - applications like Slack for the enterprise, for example. Early stage Israeli startup Red Access, which has raised $6 million in a seed round, is attempting to cope with this problem by protecting all browsing, no matter where it comes from, by passing it through a filtering server that checks suspicious pages and scans files.

Google's Chrome browser itself also has a version for enterprises, which includes options for defining and changing the user's security policy. While Talon and Island's product may be better and broader ranging, if Google decides to invest in its own version, this could pose very serious competition for the two aspiring startups.

Published by Globes, Israel business news - en.globes.co.il - on August 11 2022.

© Copyright of Globes Publisher Itonut (1983) Ltd., 2022.

Credit: Shai Sharon and MKJ Photo
Credit: Shai Sharon and MKJ Photo
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