Adding enterprise control to the browser

Published on the 20/04/2022 | Written by Heather Wright

Island browser takes the fun out of surfing at work…

They’re designed to provide enhanced security and stop employees wasting time or accessing potentially dangerous content, and if Island is any indication of the enterprise browser market, it’s a space to watch.

Less than two months out of stealth mode, the US-headquartered, Tel Aviv-R&D based company completed a US$115 million series B funding round in late-March, bringing with it a valuation of US$1.3 billion and making it one of fastest startup unicorns.

“Market research on this space shows a real need and robust customer response to the Island Enterprise Browser category.”

The company says the modern web browser is the most-used enterprise application, despite being designed for consumers and advertisers. The distinct lack of browsers designed for the enterprise has left companies needing to bolt on external technologies such as web gateways and cloud access security brokers, to manage risk.

Enterprise Strategy Group, in a white paper which it should be noted was commissioned by Island, says those ‘solutions’ are lacking somewhat. 

“Most gateways offer only broad categorisation and often lack fine-grained control over what you can do within an app. Cloud access security brokers can offer additional levels of control but are often limited by the capabilities of the cloud provider. Using these tools can be cumbersome and somewhat ineffective, motivating many to explore other options.”

Island is hoping its Chromium-based (yes, Chromium) enterprise browser offering, also named Island, is that other option. 

It is designed to embed core enterprise protection requirements into the browser itself, providing organisations with visibility and last-mile control and making ‘work fluid, frictionless and fundamentally secure’.

“Our market research on this space shows a real need and robust customer response to the Island Enterprise Browser category,” says Ken Fox, founder and partner of Stripes, one of the early investors in the company. Stripe ‘substantially’ upped its investment in the company with new Series B funding based on ‘this significant opportunity’ Fox says. 

Stripe isn’t the only prominent VC firm throwing their money behind Island. Sequoia Capital was another existing investor who participated in the latest round, which was led by Insight Partners. 

The company was founded by former Symantec president and COO Mike Fey – now Island co-CEO, and Dan Amiga who founded threat isolation platform company Fireglass, which was acquired by Symantec in 2017. Amiga then became Symantec’s VP of engineering for web isolation. 

Fey says the browser makes use of the same open source Chromium engine as other browsers, but adds more manageability, control, security and enhanced productivity features running inside the browser. It enables organisations to govern how users interact with SaaS and internal web applications, including controls which limit copy, paste, download, upload, screenshots and other activities which might expose critical company data. Forensic audit logging is also included along with other advanced security features such as smart network routing and MFA enforcement.

Secure policies can be applied to private/public shared resources such as Google Workspaces.

“This opens up unprecedented opportunities across a growing number of enterprise use cases, including securing critical SaaS and internal web applications from data leakage, safe access for contractors and BYOD workers, and full governance over privileged user accounts,” Island says.

Frost & Sullivan, in its Extending Enterprise Security Architecture Via the Browser white paper, notes that current browsers developed with consumers in mind lack the visibility, control and manageability that modern enterprises need for corporate SaaS and web-based applications. 

While many browsers provide a degree of central managed browser control, most are configured and managed by the end users, leaving companies potentially exposed.

Frost & Sullivan claims an enterprise browser can tackle IT’s two major headaches, providing protection in a world of accelerated cloud migration, and helping manage BYOD and BYO PC.

Enterprise Strategy Group says organisations should explore ‘using a new enterprise-class browser as a disruptive approach to security and governance’.

“Specific attention to the extended workforce is particularly interesting, as supply-chain risk continues to increase at unprecedented levels.”

Island isn’t on its own in attempting to claim the enterprise browser market. Honeywell and Zebra also have their own offerings. Honeywell Enterprise Browser provides a locked-down offering with isolation capabilities. Each connection is ‘sandboxed’ for safer browsing, with user attention focused on line-of-business applications and the browser preventing ‘non-productive’ web surfing.

Zebra says its offering enables organisations to create  a single application that can run on different devices and different operating systems for a ‘write once, run anywhere’ development experience, while providing the additional security needed by businesses.

Island, meanwhile, says it released its GA product last September to ‘some of the world’s most recognisable brands across a range of industries, including several in the Fortune 500’ with Fey claiming enthusaism from customers has been ‘extraordinary’.

He has reportedly said early indications are that the browser could displace some security products, such as DLP and web filtering solutions, and virtual desktop infrastructure. 

As with everything, however, there are caveats, with some experts warning that limited third-party application support could be a stumbling block.

For Island and its ilk, however, that’s a minor issue to overcome. 

“Island is in a position to significantly change the industry, and this capital infusion will help drive continued leadership and innovation in the emerging enterprise browser category,” claims Jeff Horing, Insight Partners co-founder and managing director.

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