BlackStratus opens small business cybersecurity office in Stamford

By Kevin Zimmerman

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Clouds are usually viewed as looming trouble in the business world, unless one is referring to cloud-based technology. Fortunately that’s just what cybersecurity firm BlackStratus is all about. Even more fortunate is the fact that the company, headquartered in Piscataway, N.J., chose Stamford as the site for its new technology, CyberShark.

“We were looking for a good location for CyberShark and were really impressed with Connecticut,” said BlackStratus CEO Dale Cline. “Financially, we were presented with a very attractive package through the DECD (Department of Economic and Community Development).”

The DECD awarded the firm $5.5 million to build its new security operations center in Stamford at 9 W. Broad St., whose grand opening on June 28 featured Gov. Dannel Malloy and DECD Commissioner Catherine Smith.

BlackStratus was one of the pioneers of security information and event management (SIEM) technology, which provides companies with the ability to understand what’s going on over their entire network and alerts them whenever a suspicious event that could be cybersecurity- or compliance-related occurs. BlackStratus’ clients include such firms as Cisco and British Telecom.

Cline noted, however, that SIEM technology usually comes at a high cost. “There are no small and midsize companies that are going to spend the hundreds of thousands of dollars a year on cybersecurity and compliance that the large companies do,” he said. “But they face the exact same problems and basically have had to hope for the best.”

The CEO said that the time between a significant data breach and bankruptcy can be as little as 18 months for small companies, and cited an IBM study from last year that said the average cost to repair a single compromised record is $363.

“If you’re a physician’s office with 1,000 patient records, that’s a $363,000 bill to fix everything,” he said.

CyberShark is the first SIEM technology that is tailored for small businesses, Cline said, typically costing clients hundreds, rather than thousands, of dollars to implement and maintain. The normally high expense is mitigated by scaling the system to oversee hundreds of multiple clients at once, with most cyberattacks occurring at numerous websites at once rather than at one single site.

“We can view thousands of enterprises at a time and pinpoint the source of the attack through our solution,” he said.

Cline further noted that in May BlackStratus partnered with Autotask to deliver CyberShark to the latter’s customer base of thousands of IT service providers. Headquartered in East Greenbush, N.Y., Autotask provides IT organizations worldwide with a cloud-based IT business management platform.

As for the decision to locate CyberShark in Stamford, he said, the $5.5 million grant was “important, but not what swayed us.”

Instead, he said, it was the area’s ecosystem for small businesses and the DECD’s introducing Cline and other BlackStratus executives — who include Phil Rugani, the former vice president of worldwide sales at Halogen Software, as chief revenue officer and former British Telecom security guru Mike Maxwell as chief security officer — to what he called Stamford’s “very welcoming” business community.

“Our big question was, ‘What is the capacity of hiring, training and retaining employees?’” Cline said. Citing Stamford’s location along the Interstate 95 corridor and the wealth of tech-savvy talent — including at the nearby Center of Excellence for Security Innovation at the University of Connecticut, which researches how software, hardware and computer networking affect cybersecurity — Cline said he was convinced that the city was “a great choice for us.”

“There’s a very nice cloud-based center” at UConn, he said, adding, “There are plenty of qualified and well-trained people to draw from, a lot of good applicants.”

CyberShark has 23 employees and will continue to be hiring over the coming months. “We expect to have well over 100 people over the next several years,” he said.

“The state is making great strides in attracting companies in the technology area, and cybersecurity is clearly a big part of that industry,” Smith said. “It’s an area that is growing rapidly and for good reason. We’re delighted that they chose Connecticut.”

Worldwide spending on information security was about $75 million in 2015, a 4.7 percent increase over 2014, according to research firm Gartner and could be worth $170 billion by 2020, according to Forbes.

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