Facebook Buys Secure Server Technology Provider PrivateCore

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Facebook announced this morning it has acquired PrivateCore, a Palo Alto-based secure server technology company. The deal does not appear to be solely an acqui-hire, as Facebook says that it plans to deploy PrivateCore’s technology into Facebook’s server stack in order to better protect its own servers and customers.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed, but PrivateCore was backed by $2.3 million in funding from TEEC Angel Fund and Foundation Capital, according to Crunchbase.

“PrivateCore and Facebook share a vision of a more connected, secure world,” a Facebook spokesperson stated. “We plan to deploy PrivateCore’s groundbreaking technology into Facebook’s server stack to help further our mission to protect the people who use our service.”

Founded in late 2011/early 2012, the startup offered something it called the “vCage solution” which allowed PrivateCore to validate the integrity of remote servers, while also protecting data-in-use. Its software protected any application in use on commodity x86 servers, which would help combine the security that comes with an on-premise solution with the flexibility of the cloud, the company’s website explains.

Facebook’s Chief Security Officer, Joe Sullivan, explained in more detail the value of a company like PrivateCore to Facebook, as part of the company’s focus on increased security. Like many other technology companies, Facebook has also been ramping up its rollout of HTTPS encryption by default, and is also working to secure all its data centers with additional protections.

He notes that PrivateCore’s vCage technology was the big draw for Facebook, as well as the PrivateCore team.

“Their vCage technology protects servers from persistent malware, unauthorized physical access, and malicious hardware devices, making it safer to run any application in outsourced, hosted or cloud environments,” says Sullivan. “The team at PrivateCore is also made up of top-notch security veterans with a lot of experience.”

That team included CEO Oded Horovitz, previously a senior engineer at VMware in the networking and security group, where he worked on vShield and VMSafe security products. Before that, he was at McAfee and Entercept. Co-founder Stephen Weis a technical director at AppDirect and a member of the applied security group at Google.

Horovitz has also now shared an announcement of his own, posted to the company website:

We have some big news: PrivateCore will be joining Facebook. What makes this development so exciting for us is that Facebook and PrivateCore have an aligned mission. Facebook has done more than any company to connect the world, and we want to use our secure server technology to help make the world’s connections more secure.

Since the beginning, we have worked tirelessly on our technology to protect servers from malware threats, unauthorized physical access, and malicious hardware devices. Working together with Facebook, there is a huge opportunity to pursue our joint vision at scale with incredible impact. Over time, Facebook plans to deploy our technology into the Facebook stack to help protect the people who use Facebook. We know we will learn and grow as we continue developing our technology and making it stronger.

The PrivateCore team wouldn’t be where we are without our investors who believed in us, and we want to thank everyone who has been a part of this journey with us. The work is just beginning and we can’t wait to get started.

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Facebook’s move to acquire PrivateCore’s technology is especially interesting in the wake of the NSA snooping scandals, which has damaged several tech companies’ public images and perception. PrivateCore’s technology, however, could protect Facebook users’ private data better – the company had previously demonstrated its vCage software running on a Tor server, for example, and encrypting data in RAM which could protect against NSA-style snooping programs, said InformationWeek, which named at as one of a half-dozen cloud competitors to watch.

In that same article, security expert Felix Linder of Germany’s Recurity Labs praised PrivateCore, saying it was designed “by experts who knew what they were doing.”

PrivateCore’s early users have included large financial institutions and a Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) funded by the U.S. government. It’s unclear at this time how its current contracts will play out, now that it’s Facebook-owned.