In early 2017, the U.S. Congress overturned previous internet privacy rules implemented by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). Those rules had been put in place to give internet consumers greater control over their data by requiring service providers to ask for permission before using data like browsing history, geolocations and financial/medical information for targeted advertising.
“That didn’t sound right to us, because I can choose not to use Google as a browser if I’m not okay with their practices. But with a service provider it’s more difficult. I still have to get my internet from somewhere,” says Araz Feyzi, co-founder and CEO of startup Syfer.
“We believe that privacy is a right, not a privilege that somebody can take it away from you just because you’re not tech-savvy enough.”
Feyzi and his co-founder Roshan Daneshvaran created Syfer to give that privacy control back to the consumer.
“The core of the idea was to bring a product to the market that allows anybody, regardless of skills, to use it and protect their data,” says Feyzi. “We, as a society, have been slow to catch up to these technological changes. It has been a very quick timeline for us going from nothing connected at all to being connected in basically every aspect of our lives.
First, they created the hardware component, which connects to your modem and wireless router to create a secure connection for all computers and smart devices in your home. No software installation is required, and no need to toggle the application off and on like other VPNs.
Feyzi says it also addresses a security safety gap many manufacturers don’t think about. “We’re leaving behind trails of data for internet companies to collect and monetize from,” says Feyzi.
Once connected, Syfer’s software, TunnelShaper, encrypts your data through a smart VPN, rerouting traffic to provide privacy and security without slowing down streaming. This stops any sensitive data from being shared with internet providers without your permission.
The software allows users to set parental controls, private browsing, cyber threat protection, and ad-blockers with its AI-powered technology. It alerts the user in real-time of any malicious activity, including phishing attacks, ransomware, and malware. Syfer also offers a companion app for users to easily manage all these settings from their smartphone.
“There’s no reason my internet company should allow me to go to a very well-known malware site. If it’s malicious, it should be blocked. It’s not blocked today because there’s costs associated with doing so and there’s no external regulatory pressure to do it either,” says Feyzi.
“In this case, we can help bring their prices way down and help tier 2 and tier 3 ISPs compete in their market against Comcast, for example.”
The team crowdfunded their first prototype through Indiegogo and raised nearly $450,000 — more than 1000 percent over their original goal. They drove pre-orders for the discounted hardware with a one-year subscription to the Syfer software. Those orders are slated for delivery in March.
While the solution does require the hardware right now, the team hopes to phase it out eventually through partnerships with internet providers. Feyzi says that they feel they are more of a software company, and the B2C approach is not realistic from a sales standpoint in the long run. He tells Hypepotamus that Syfer can function as a third-party app within the robust back-end of those ISPs.
The Atlanta-based company is currently conducting three paid pilots with small fiber providers in Florida and Wisconsin.
They’re also working on a proprietary machine learning-powered product that’s very effective at detecting two types of unknown attacks on the internet. They’re in talks with cybersecurity solution providers to license the technology as a beta to test how it detects and records attacks more efficiently.
After raising an angel funding round in early 2018, the team has opened up a $1.5 million seed round to bring on their engineering team full-time and scale product development.