CoGuard received funding from OpenAI’s Cybersecurity Grant Program

Startup automates the identification of software misconfiguration to reduce the threat of cyberattacks.

Kitchener-Waterloo, Ont.-based cybersecurity and artificial intelligence (AI) startup CoGuard has been named among the recipients of OpenAI’s Cybersecurity Grant Program.

Launched in June 2023, the grant program was created to support cybersecurity projects that use AI to defend against cyberattacks, as well as to quantify the cybersecurity capabilities of AI models. 

The grant was used by CoGuard to fund research focused on using OpenAI’s API to address software misconfiguration.

According to the program’s website, OpenAI provides grants in $10,000 USD increments from a fund totalling $1 million USD. The funding can take the form of credits for application program interfaces (API), direct funding, or “equivalents,” according to OpenAI.

According to a statement from OpenAI announcing eight funding recipients last week, the program has received over 600 applications over the last year.

CoGuard was named alongside Dartmouth College’s Breuer Lab, Boston University’s Security Lab, and MIT’s Computer Science Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, among others. In its statement, OpenAI noted these eight projects represent “a few” that the program has supported to date.

According to CoGuard CTO and co-founder Albert Heinle, the company was accepted into the program in December and received its grant funding in February. Heinle declined to disclose the size of OpenAI’s grant to the startup.

Founded in 2020, CoGuard says it uses AI to automate the detection of software misconfigurations, which occur when configuration settings in a piece of software or platform is either missing or incorrectly implemented, which could allow unauthorized access to sensitive data.

On its website, CoGuard says its software helps companies identify and remediate these vulnerabilities, identify gaps and weaknesses in their existing security infrastructure, and help set up or migrate a business to a more secure application development and infrastructure provisioning process.

CoGuard was founded by CEO Nadia Mazzarolo and Heinle, the latter a PhD graduate and former sessional lecturer at the University of Waterloo specializing in computer science, programming languages, and data management. Prior to co-founding CoGuard, Heinle worked as a senior cloud developer at Richmond, BC-based FLIR Systems, and a software developer at Kitchener-Waterloo-based Sortable, according to his LinkedIn page.

RELATED: Canadian OpenAI co-founder Ilya Sutskever launches new company focused on safe AI development

The grant funding from OpenAI was used by CoGuard to support a research project focused on using OpenAI’s API to address software and platform misconfiguration. Specifically, the study looked at using the API to identify and add new policies and rules for software configurations, while maintaining or improving existing configurations.

“We at CoGuard were eying the use of LLMs in our development lifecycle to effectively manage and update our comprehensive set of rules for infrastructure configurations,” Heinle told BetaKit in an emailed statement. “When we saw that OpenAI put out a grant for cybersecurity research, we identified it as a great opportunity to test this idea in the context of a research project. It turned out to be successful and we are grateful for the trust and support by OpenAI.”

While OpenAI seeks to invest in solutions that integrate AI with security, the company, which is the creator of the text generator ChatGPT, has faced criticism over concerns that it is not sufficiently prepared to manage the safety risks associated with AI development.

Multiple safety-focused leaders and employees left the company this year, including one of its Canadian co-founders, Ilya Sutskever, who recently launched a new company focused on developing AI superintelligence safely.

Feature image courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

Isabelle Kirkwood

Isabelle Kirkwood

Isabelle is a Vancouver-based writer with 5+ years of experience in communications and journalism and a lifelong passion for telling stories. For over two years, she has reported on all sides of the Canadian startup ecosystem, from landmark venture deals to public policy, telling the stories of the founders putting Canadian tech on the map.

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