How billion-dollar start-up Darktrace is fighting cybercrime with A.I.


Darktrace has grown significantly since launching in 2013. The company has more than 700 employees around the world and has raised $179.5 million at a valuation of $1.25 billion. Since its inception, Darktrace has signed over $400 million in total contracts. (The company declined to share revenue.)

Tweet: 100% Revenue Growth and Total Contract Value Hits $400 Million! Proud to be one of the fastest growing private companies in the world and leaders in cyber #AI that fights back against attacks

But it’s not the only player in the industry using AI.

“We’re seeing growing interest in applying computing things like machine learning, deep learning, artificial intelligence, etc. (think of IBM Watson stuff) to cybersecurity issues both in ‘real time’ and on a more strategic basis to try and identify trends and vulnerabilities before they become actual incidents,” Richard Forno, assistant director of the Center for Cybersecurity and the director of the Cybersecurity Graduate Program at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, tells CNBC Make It.

Indeed, there are now “multiple” companies using artificial intelligence and machine learning to fight cybercrime, said Jonathan Katz, director of the Maryland Cybersecurity Center and a professor in the department of computer science at the University of Maryland. “It has certainly increased over the past five years, but there are no statistics available to quantify this.”

One such company is San Jose, California-based Trustlook. Founded in 2013, “Trustlook’s solutions protect mobile devices, network appliances, and the [internet of things],” according to the company’s website. Trustlook has raised $35.1 million, according to public funding database Crunchbase and is constantly updating its response to threats.

“The secret sauce here is that the system is constantly learning. Every time a human analyst identifies a false positive or a genuine threat, the system adjusts to accommodate that feedback and creates new models to detect threats,” says a white paper on Trustlook’s artificially intelligent product, Secure A.I. “The more feedback it gets, the more accurate it becomes. Not only does this improve threat detection, but it also frees up human analysts to investigate the complex cases that really require their attention. If they’re not bogged down in false positives, it’s possible to make better use of their expertise.”

Another company using machine intelligence to fight cybercrime is Mountain View, California-based Chronicle, which was started in 2016 in X, Google’s moonshot factory, and was unveiled as an independent business in 2018. Chronicle, which also sells software as a service, would not discuss its funding raised or valuation, but did say its connection to its parent company Alphabet gave it a strategic advantage.

“Chronicle is a new independent business within Alphabet dedicated to helping companies find and stop cyberattacks before they cause harm. Chronicle is uniquely suited to build a planet-scale security information analysis platform for enterprise customers,” a spokesperson for the company tells CNBC Make It. “We can leverage massive amounts of security intelligence that corporations are providing and crunch that data in a way that only Alphabet can bring to bear.”

But according to at least one industry insider, Darktrace helped pave the way.

“Darktrace was an early mover in the AI space for cybersecurity. They delivered a robust solution early on and they were able to get a LOT of deployments” (or customers using their software), Steve Morgan, founder and editor-in-chief at Cybersecurity Ventures, tells CNBC Make It via email. Currently, Darktrace has more than 7,000 deployments, according to its website.

“With that, they’ve built up a lot of expertise and an excellent reputation (which they deserve). … Darktrace’s ability to execute in the market — either as a standalone company or as part of a larger company — is substantially greater than the other independents in their field,” he says. “Independents” refers to privately held companies that are comparable to Darktrace.

Of note and importance, says Morgan, is that Eagan is a good salesperson.

“[She] is an excellent marketer, and that’s critical in a complicated market like cybersecurity, where CEOs and business executives struggle to understand the threats and solutions,” Morgan says. “She has a very deep background as a [chief marketing officer] for major brand name tech vendors. That definitely gives Darktrace an edge over its competition. The company has done a very good job of explaining more than just what AI is. They help the market understand how it is used.”

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