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Google snaps up security firm Impermium

Startup Impermium gives Google's already-solid security a boost in combating spam, fraud, and abuse. It could be a good fit for Google+.

The Impermium team, with CEO and co-founder Mark Risher sitting cross-legged in the center.
Impermium via

While security startup Impermium doesn't have the hot name cache of Nest, it is Google's latest corporate buy.

Impermium specialized in helping Web sites fight spam, something that Google is already an industry leader at doing, but it had chops at stopping fraud and abuse as well.

The company is shutting down its services immediately to begin integration with Google. CEO and co-founder Mark Risher said in a post on the company Web site that he was "excited" to merge Impermium with "some of the best abuse fighters in the world."

Impermium had raised $9 million from firms including Highland Capital Partners, AOL Ventures, Charles River Ventures, and Greylock. Google would not comment on what it paid for Impermium.

Impermium clients included commenting platforms Disqus, Echo, Livefyre, Squarespace, and WordPress, as well as sites such as Tumblr, Pinterest, ESPN, CNN, and the Washington Post. All told, Impermium claimed on its site a client base of more than 300,000 sites.

"With our combined talents we'll be able to further our mission and help make the Internet a safer place," Risher said in a statement on the Impermium site that replaced all other content there. Risher was Yahoo's spam czar until leaving to found Impermium, and his co-founders include other ex-Yahoo antispam experts Naveen Jamal and Vish Ramarao.

Impermium may not seem like the most logical fit for Google, given that Google is already good at what Impermium does. However, beyond the strong potential for the Impermium purchase to be an effort to get even more smart security engineers under Google aegis, what Impermium does well would serve Google+ nicely.

"Google's spam and abuse teams are industry-leading and world-class. Impermium should fit right in," wrote Bradley Horowitz, Google+'s vice president of product.

If Google was interested in using Impermium solely for Gmail, comments would have come from that division. The fact that the head of Google+ is making a public comment on this purchase means that Google is looking to improve Google+ security -- a good thing, too, given that only yesterday did the social-networking service suffer a hack that hijacked hotel Web site listings.

A few months after Impermium was founded in 2011, Risher told that social network spam was a serious problem, and that businesses were only "attacking its problems as they arise" instead of addressing them "as a whole."

"We want to be the proactive solution that stops the fraudulent activity before users see it," Risher said then.

A Google spokesperson said that Impermium has informed its customers that it will wind down their contracts after the required notice period.

Update, January 16 at 10:30 a.m. PT adds comment from Google on Impermium's current customers.