Social networking security startup raises $2M

Today, the most popular applications on Facebook are for activities like playing games and sharing photos. But a Silicon Valley startup is betting that a security service can also attract a wide following on social networks.

Immunet, a Palo Alto, Calif.-based provider of what it calls social antivirus software, last week raised $2 million to develop a tool for Internet users to collectively protect against security threats. Altos Ventures led the Series A venture funding, which included TechOperators in Atlanta.

Altos Ventures put General Partner Ho Nam on Immunet’s board of directors in conjunction with the funding.

The company’s security software is aimed at battling new types of threats that have grown as social websites like Facebook have become ubiquitous.

“Today, many of us are part of social networks, so many of the threats we’re going to encounter are coming through them,” says Oliver Friedrichs, Immunet’s founder and CEO. Additionally, by shielding members of one’s social network from threats, viruses and other malware, a person greatly reduce the risk of threats making their way to their own computers.

Immunet released a beta version of its antivirus product, called Immunet Protect, about three months ago, and currently has about 20,000 users signed up, Friedrichs says. The application includes an invitation system that lets users automatically invite members of their social networks to sign up for the service.

The core product is currently free and will stay free, Friedrichs says. However, the company plans to make money selling premium services, such as tools to protect against malicious websites or rootkits, harmful programs that seize control of an operating system.

Friedrichs, a serial entrepreneur in the security space, founded Immunet last year, after six years at security service provider Symantec. He previously was a co-founder of two startups. Secure Networks, a developer of threat scanning software, was acquired by antivirus company McAfee for $25 million in 1998. The other, SecurityFocus, a developer of security threat warning technology, sold to Symantec in 2002 for $75 million.

In addition to its social networking focus, Immunet bills itself as a cloud-based application. That means that rather than downloading updates to users’ desktops, its antivirus platform is hosted by an outside service, which communications with a user’s computer. —Joanna Glasner