Shift5 raises $50M to defend transport networks from cyberattacks

You might not think much about the train or the airplane that gets you from one place to another, but behind any transportation link is a vast sprawling network of electronics, devices and data that keep trains on the tracks and planes in the sky.

Companies like Shift5, which today announced $50 million in Series B funding, are trying to defend those very same systems critical to transportation networks today, an area that Shift5 says is underserved but rapidly growing.

Transportation networks rely on operational technology (OT) systems, like on-board components, which are critical to the functioning of trains, aircraft and even military equipment like tanks, but are becoming more prone to cyberattacks because these once-isolated systems are increasingly added to internet-facing networks.

While attacks on OT networks are rare, OT system failures can lead to millions of dollars in losses, downtime or even create safety risks when things go wrong. The U.S. government’s cybersecurity agency CISA has warned of a growing threat to critical infrastructure.

But OT systems are often unique to their application, and stripping out components from a tank, for example, to test for security vulnerabilities is not practical, nor are tanks readily easy to acquire.

Shift5 tries to solve this by giving transportation companies and leaders visibility into their OT networks, which helps to reduce their overall attack surface. This visibility aims to help detect threats and defend systems from internet-based attacks.

That effort seems to be paying off. Shift5’s latest round of funding lands just a few months after its $20 million Series A raise, buoyed by several million-dollar deals last year during which the company doubled its headcount. The Series B round was led by Insight Partners, which saw senior advisor Nick Sinai join Shift5’s board.

Shift5 said the round will go toward investing in talent to keep up with its demand, and ramping up its product development.

“This cat and mouse game is bleeding into critical infrastructure, and defenders must extend their purview to encompass operational technology. If the past year has proven anything, it’s that the leading defenders in rail, aviation and national defense see the prescient risks and are mobilizing to get ahead of costly damages,” said Joe Lea, Shift5’s president.