6 hot Southeast Asian cybersecurity startups for the CISO watchlist

As the ASEAN region grows as a centre for security threats, so do young providers offering new approaches to secure digital systems and assets.

intro biggest security startups 2018
Getty Images

From massive data breaches to DoS attacks and online fraud, cybersecurity is a major area of concern for governments and organisations in Southeast Asia.

According to a report by AT Kearney, Southeast Asian countries are being used as launchpads for cyberattacks. They have become “vulnerable hotbeds of unsecured infrastructure where numerous computers can be infected easily for large-scale attacks or as hubs for a single point of attack to gain access to the hubs’ global connections”, the report said. Malaysia, Indonesia, and Vietnam are global hotspots for major blocked suspicious web activities—up to 3 .5 times the standard ratio, the report said.

Such activities help explain why Southeast Asia’s cybersecurity spend is forecasted to grow at 15% annually from 2015 to 2025. Singapore, Malaysia, and Indonesia are likely to drive a significant portion of this growth, accounting for 75% of the market by 2025., AT Kearney said.

In this context, the rise of cybersecurity startups in the region is worth paying attention to in multiple domains, including risk and compliance, data security, cloud security, and identity and access management. In Southeast Asia, most security startups are concentrated in Singapore and Vietnam. Singapore, which is arguably a leader in the fintech space as well, has more than 100 startups in cybersecurity, according to the Innovation Cybersecurity Ecosystem at Block71 (ICE71)’s Singapore Cybersecurity Community Map.

With cybersecurity being so critical for the region, CSO ASEAN has found the six hottest cybersecurity startups in Southeast Asia. Although most of these startups are five or fewer years old, they are achieving traction, raising funds, and garnering support from organisations and partners.


Year founded: 2017
Funding: Undisclosed
Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
CEO and founder:
Andrew Duck

What it does: Aversafe prevents the forgery and counterfeiting of documents, licences, and credentials by credential issuance and verification network services that connect employers, individuals, and credential issuers. Their software enables universities, professional licensors, and public agencies to issue verifiable digital credentials. Their platform operates globally and secures documents, licences, and credentials of any kind, providing decentralised credential issuance and verification services to jobseekers, employers, and educational institutions.

Why it is a hot startup: According to Aversafe, there are now more than 3,000 unaccredited universities worldwide now issuing more than 50,000 fraudulent PhDs each year—that’s more PhDs than are legitimately earned in the same period. Globally, fake degrees pose serious risks for job-seekers, employers, and educational institutions, so Aversafe is working to change that through credential fraud checking. Aversafe was one of the 10 startups that received funding from Innovation Cybersecurity Ecosystem at Block71 (ICE71), a Singapore-based cybersecurity entrepreneur hub, through its ICE71 Accelerate programme.


Year founded: 2015
Ha Noi, Vietnam
CEO and cofounder:
Nguyen Minh Duc

What it does: This startup calls itself a “pioneer in applying AI to cybersecurity”. Its advanced threat detection system uses machine learning and its own technology named a malware graph—a reputational graph database. It can hunt for new malicious domain names using big data analysis, provide an automated unknown-binaries-analysis sandbox, and apply anomaly detection on network behavior to catch malicious activities.

Why it is a hot startup: CyRadar is backed by FPT Ventures. Its security tools have been awarded as “high-quality information security products” by the Vietnam Information Security Association in 2015 and 2017. In 2019, CyRadar became the only Vietnamese representative in Top 20 Cyber Security Innovators, a title awarded to innovative and creative security companies by Technology Innovation magazine. It is one of the eight founding members of the Vietnam Information Security Inspection and Evaluation Club set up by the Vietnam Information Security Association (VNISA).


Year founded: 2017
CEO and cofounder:
Stefan Streichsbier

What it does: GuardRails is a continuous application security verification platform that helps development teams to find, fix and, prevent vulnerabilities related to source code, open source libraries, secrets management, and cloud configuration. Its open source security tools help developers address vulnerabilities in their web and mobile applications. Customers include AirAsia, Pantheon, Sigma, and Syapse.

Why it is a hot startup: GuardRails raised US$734,000 from venture capital firm Cacoon Capital. It was also one of the 10 startups that got funding by Innovation Cybersecurity Ecosystem at Block71 (ICE71), a Singapore-based cybersecurity entrepreneur hub, through its ICE71 Accelerate programme.


Year founded: 2016
CEO and cofounder:
Paul Hadjy

What it does: Horangi is a CREST-accredited company that provides a cybersecurity platform using enterprise-grade technology in the cloud. Customers include Gojek, Ninjavan, and PropertyGuru.

Why it is a hot startup: Former Palantir cybersecurity experts Paul Hadjy and Lee Sult founded Horangi, whichit serves customers across a broad range of industries from five offices globally. In 2020, it launched Warden, a cloud security product to continuously protect their cloud environments. So far it has raised US$23.1 million in funding; with the money, Horangi plans to expand in Southeast Asia and to enhance Warden by integrating artificial intelligence and machine-learning technologies to counter advanced threats.


Year founded: 2019
CEO and cofounder:
Theo Nasser

What it does: Taking into account the fact that 90% of data breaches occur due to employee error, Right-Hand offers a platform for organisations to monitor, measure, and mitigate employee-inflicted cyberrisks in real-time. It also helps enterprises personalise and automate employee awareness programmes to reduce human risk. The company has customers in government agencies and financial sectors across Southeast Asia and Australia.

Why it is a hot startup: Right-Hand raised US$1 million in March 2020 from Atlas Ventures, followed by an investment from SGInnovate, an investment firm backed by the Singapore government, and Entrepreneur First. It plans to use the money to expand its engineering, research, and data science teams.


Year founded: 2018
CEO and c0founder:
Johnny Le

What it does: 689Cloud is a cloud collaboration platform that integrates rights-management technology to protect and track files that have been shared. Its products include SecureDrive for cloud-based secure content collaboration and SecureMail for securing and tracking email attachments; it also provides software development services. 689Cloud offers tools for financial, government, education, R&D, retail, and manufacturing organisations. Customers include the Ho Chi Minh City Department of Information and Communications, Quang Trung Software City, Ricoh, and VIB Bank.

Why it is a hot startup: 689Cloud operates in Vietnam, Japan, and the United States, serving customers around the world in finance, manufacturing, accounting, education, and retail. Its investors include NUS Enterprise, Singtel Innov8, and Vietnam Silicon Valley. The startup won the Judge’s Choice Award at Echelon Top100 Vietnam Qualifiers Roadshow in February 2021.

Copyright © 2021 IDG Communications, Inc.

8 pitfalls that undermine security program success