Chip startup Cornami raises $68M+ round to enable more secure data encryption

Chip startup Cornami raises $68M+ round to enable more secure data encryption

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Cornami Inc., a startup with a specialized processor that can help companies protect their business data from cyberattacks, has raised more than $68 million in funding to support go-to-market initiatives. 

Cornami announced the funding round today. SoftBank Vision Fund 2 led the investment, while Impact Venture Capital, Octave Ventures and multiple existing investors participated as well.

Organizations keep their business data in an encrypted form to reduce the risk posed by cyberattacks. If hackers steal an encrypted dataset but don’t have access to the corresponding cryptographic key, they can’t read the dataset’s contents. Nevertheless, cyberattacks still represent a major risk. 

A company can only keep business records in an encrypted form if they’re not actively used. When business records need to be accessed by an application, they have to be decrypted to facilitate processing. This creates an opportunity for hackers to steal datasets in their decrypted form and access their contents.

In 2009, an IBM Corp. researcher developed a technology that addresses the limitations of traditional data security methods. The technology is known as fully homomorphic encryption, or FHE for short. FHE enables applications to carry out computations on encrypted data without having to decrypt it first, which means that the data is never stored in a form that can be read by hackers.

FHE encryption has not yet been widely adopted in the enterprise because it requires a prohibitively large amount of computing power. Implementing the technology in a company’s application environment would significantly slow down processing. Cornami has developed a specialized chip that speeds up FHE software, thereby making the technology more practical to use in the enterprise. 

Cornami’s chip architecture, the TruStream Computational Fabric, includes programmable processing cores that can be optimized for specific computing tasks. The first version of the startup’s chip reportedly features thousands of cores. Cornami claims that TruStream Computational Fabric is capable of carrying out 7.9 trillion computing operations per watt, significantly more than competing products.

The startup envisions its technology enabling companies to extract insights from their data in ways that weren’t practical before.

There are situations where several organizations may wish to share data with one another as part of a joint business or research initiative. Such data sharing is difficult to carry out securely because of technical limitations and cybersecurity challenges. Using FHE encryption, organizations could exchange information in an encrypted form, which significantly lowers the risk of a data breach.

Another key benefit of FHE is that it encrypts data using a method known as lattice-based cryptography. Many of the other cryptography methods in use today are susceptible to cyberattacks by quantum computers: a sufficiently advanced quantum computer could theoretically decrypt companies’ encrypted business data. It’s believed that the lattice-based cryptography method used by FHE is not vulnerable to such cyberattacks. 

“The availability of practical FHE is a game-changer to the cloud computing marketplace and the entire information processing industry,” stated Cornami Chief Executive Officer Walden Rhines.

Cornami is not the only company working to make FHE more practical. Last year, Intel Corp. was entrusted by the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency to develop a chip capable of running FHE encryption software faster than current processors. The goal is to reduce processing times by up to five orders of magnitude, or 100,000 times. 

Photo: Unsplash

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