Feb 16, 2024 - Technology

Enterprise browsers could bring 2024's next security boost

an illustration an illuminated billboard featuring a browser window

Illustration: Tiffany Herring/Axios

Cybersecurity companies and investors are betting 2024 will finally be the year workplaces embrace browsers that come with enterprise-grade security baked in.

Why it matters: Ever since remote work took hold of corporate America in 2020, employees have become more reliant on their own devices for work — making it more difficult for IT teams to manage what applications, websites and files workers download.

  • Enterprise browsers offer the best of both worlds: They give IT teams the ability to monitor network traffic and block malicious files, and they give employees the ability to work from any device.

The big picture: Nation-state hackers and cybercriminals are increasingly targeting browsers to steal stored passwords, payment information and any other information gleaned from browsing histories.

  • Several critical zero-day vulnerabilities last year threatened the security of Google's Chrome, Mozilla's Firefox and Apple's Safari.

Driving the news: Palo Alto Networks acquired Israeli browser startup Talon for an undisclosed amount late last year. At the time, analysts told Axios they anticipated the deal would inspire other cybersecurity companies to pursue similar acquisitions.

  • Island, one of Talon's main competitors, raised a $100 million Series C round in October.
  • And Microsoft even rolled out its first business browser last year.

How it works: Both Talon and Island are built on Google's open-source Chromium project.

  • The browsers give IT teams the ability to wall off certain applications, regulate internet traffic and block certain file downloads.
  • Talon's customer base includes an array of sectors, including insurance providers, financial services companies and gaming groups, per its website.
  • Island's customers also cover a wide range, including both small and large businesses in hospitality, travel and manufacturing, CEO Michael Fey told Axios.

State of play: Depending on whom you ask, the term "enterprise browser" means something different, Dan Ayoub, a senior director analyst who tracks the enterprise browser market at Gartner, told Axios.

  • For some, the term is a catch-all for products that secure a browser, including browser extensions, Ayoub said. Think Israel-based startups Guardio and Prompt Security.
  • For others, it has a tighter definition that includes only browsers designed specifically to create a walled garden for corporations. Talon and Island would fall into this category.

Between the lines: Momentum and awareness are growing around enterprise browsers, executives say.

  • Ofer Ben-Noon, co-founder of Talon, told Axios that his company is onboarding a "new customer every week" and that now that the deal with Palo Alto Networks has closed, he's sure that rate will increase.
  • Over the last 12 to 18 months, security leaders have started to fully understand the opportunities enterprise browsers give them, said Ben-Noon, who is now Palo Alto Networks' vice president and general manager of enterprise browsers.
  • Island's Fey noted a similar market awareness in the last year. "This is moving at a speed that we haven't seen," he said.

Yes, but: Adoption and awareness of these technologies are still relatively low, even if they're growing, and there are only a handful of companies competing to sell enterprise browsers.

  • It's difficult for IT and security leaders to convince their companies to adopt an entirely new browser, Ayoub said.
  • Ben-Noon said, "Every time that there is a new innovation, there is always a perception curve that we have to cross as innovators."

What we're watching: "In the next 12 to 24 months, you're going to see more security vendors paying attention to the technology and potentially delivering their services or integrating with a browser or an extension," Ayoub said.

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