Impermium pockets $8M for social spam-fighting service

Krystal Peak · November 17, 2011 · Short URL:

Highland leds funding round for spam-fighting startup with a focus on social network sites

This week, Facebook was tackling a security and PR firestorm regarding an onslaught of pornographic and violent spam. The attack reminded me how overwhelming spam was on sites like MySpace -- oh the good old days.

And just on the heels of this public debacle, the former Yahoo expert in spam, Mark Risher, announced that his new start-up, Impermium, received $8 million for its service to combat spam on social networking sites.

This Series A round of funding was led by Highland Capital Partners and existing investors The Social+Capital Partnership and Freestyle Capital.

Impermium was founded last summer by Risher and fellow Yahoo anti-spammers Vish Ramarao and Naveen Jamal.

The Palo Alto-based company plans to use this funding to expand its engineering, data analytics, sales and marketing departments.

"Social Web spam is a growing problem on the Internet today. And big businesses are currently just attacking problems as they arise rather  than looking at the system as a whole," Risher told me. "We want to be the proactive solution that stops the fraudulent activity before users see it."

With the Facebook spam issue this week, hackers were able to exploit security flaws in some Web browsers and users were duped into copying malicious code into their browser windows, which aided in spreading the images.

Less than 4% of the content shared on the Facebook is spam, Facebook told CNN. That is a relatively low minority compared to the overwhelming onslaught seen in older email addresses each day -- I think I average 60-70% spam on my Hotmail account.

While Impermium's service is still in its beta phase, it has already partnered with platforms such as DISQUS (which serves 600 million monthly users and is interacted with on sites such as CNN, The Atlantic and Time Magazine) and has protected more than 300 million social Web transactions on other fronts.

Impermium works directly with the social network and company websites to do real-time verification on their sites -- much like a credit check -- to make sure that the activity of that user is not malicious.

Since cyber attackers often spread their efforts horizontally across several sites of varying popularity, Impermium looks at the whole social networking ecosystem to spot trends before they have permeated the entire market and prevent harmful updates from ever being seen.

Risher says that preventing spam from floating around your platform is crucial since the number of people that will see a single post can be immense before anyone flags or pulls it down.

"The spam items or accounts aren't the biggest danger alone," said Risher. "Often times it is the spiky nature of the activity that can overwhelm servers and users, affecting site performance and brand credibility greatly."

For security reasons, Impermium does not post a seal or stamp denoting their activity on various websites like other security measures such as TRUSTe would, but Risher says that some notification to users of spam fighting efforts may be an assurance that users and publishers would like to have on their platforms in the future.

Impermium states that five years ago, social spam was nearly nonexistent but then an industry study in October showed that 91% of users had come across some type of spam in their interaction with social networking.

This avenue of accessing the online community has taken a strong-hold as email spam has remained flat in its penetration. It is far more effective to attack social networks since more people are exposed to a single post in a given day and you can insert a link that could send them anywhere you like.



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