Internet-of-Things Search Engine Census Attracts Seed Funding

December 14, 2018

Last March, we told our readers about several search engines capable of finding Internet-connected devices. One of those, Censys, has now raised a considerable sum in seed funding, we learn from Venture Beat’s article, “Censys, a Search Engine for Internet-Connected Devices, Raises $2.6 million Led by GV and Greylock.” We’re told the search engine monitors “all the devices” that are connected to the Internet. Naturally, the company intends to wield this power for good, informing clients about their potential vulnerabilities. Reporter Anna Hansel writes:

“[Brian] Kelly, who was brought on as Censys’ CEO when it spun out in 2017, told VentureBeat that that the most popular use case for Censys is helping companies see which of their servers have an operating system vulnerability that hasn’t been patched yet. In a recent blog post, Censys detailed how IT staffers could use Censys to search for servers that were affected by a vulnerability in Oracle Database by doing a search for servers running the versions of Oracle that contained the vulnerability, and limit those results to just their devices by entering ranges of IP addresses belonging to the company….

We also noted:

“Censys still allows its 50,000 registered users to make a limited number of queries for free, and academics can apply for a research license to get unlimited access to Censys. For companies that want to make more than 250 queries a month, Censys has subscriptions available from $99 per month to $1,000 a month. Censys says it currently has more than 60 paid customers, including the Department of Homeland Security, NATO, FireEye, and Google.”

Not that is an impressive client roster to have right out the gate. For cost comparison, we’re told Censys’ main competition, Shodan, offers subscriptions from the freelancers’ rate of $59/month to $899/month for corporations, depending on usage. Censys’ technology is based on an open-source tool, developed in 2013 by two of the company’s now-executives, J. Alex Halderman and Zakir Durumeric, called ZMap. This software was able to scan and map every(!) IP address on the Internet in fewer than 45 minutes, a process that formerly took weeks. In 2015 at the University of Michigan, the pair of researchers developed Censys as a user-friendly portal for ZMap, and the commercial startup was launched in 2017. Censys is based in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

Beyond Search assumes that some bad actors will find the system a useful complement to Shodan. Those insecure IoT devices are of interest to some in the bot business.

Cynthia Murrell, December 14, 2018

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