The Demise of Norse

The weekend saw news that no person in information security wanted to read or write – that a vendor had apparently closed down in a similar fashion to which it had arrived in a blaze of glory.

 

The company in question is San Mateo’s Norse, who according to reports fired its CEO last week. The initial story was published by investigative journalist Brian Krebs, who followed up on suspicions that the company was in trouble with comments from insiders that employees were instructed that they may not be paid anymore.

 

I first came across Norse in 2014 at the Black Hat conference, where it gave away Viking helmets and had models playing the part of the Nordic warriors. The company threw big parties and giveaways were spotted across Las Vegas, but there seemed to be some confusion on what the company actually did.

 

Last year I spent six months covering threat intelligence providers for 451 Research and struggled to get any briefing time with Norse; they failed to show to a briefing at the 2015 Black Hat with me and email conversations seemed to be with uninterested people (whereas a missed meeting usually gets a keenness to rearrange).

 

Between working for 451 and becoming acting editor of Infosecurity, I talked to Norse about writing for its DarkMatters blog, and had half an eye on working for them after my time here at Infosecurity comes to an end. Sadly the people I had been dealing with left the company in the new year, which The Register confirmed.

 

The company arrived in a blaze of glory, picked up $24.5M in four funding rounds, develop a strong social media profile, and described themselves as “dedicated to delivering live, accurate and unique attack intelligence that helps our customers block attacks, uncover hidden breaches and track threats emerging around the globe”.

 

It picked up senior security professionals – Mary Landesman arrived from Cisco, Rob Rachwald from FireEye and Brian Contos from Blue Coat. It seems that monetising the data that it collected has apparently been the dilemma. Since Krebs’s blog was published, the attack map and homepages are now offline and there have been pledges on social media to get the staff new jobs.

 

Those of us with long memories will remember the mistrust and closure of DigiNotar, while the attack on CodeSpaces showed how vulnerable a company can be to attack. So it is a surprise that Norse has apparently been the latest victim of a cult of FUD, and as a result it has apparently seen the end far too prematurely.

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As for that Norse hat, I’ll file it alongside the other swag that I collected from now extinct companies. In many of those cases though, the companies were acquired and memories are cherished. The IT security industry may not give Norse such a happy history.

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