Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 27 November 2014

US firm creates 94 new jobs to fight cybercrime

Alastair Hamilton, CEO of Invest Northern Ireland speaking with software engineer, David Saunders and Gary Steele (left), CEO of Proofpoint Inc at the announcement of 94 new jobs at Proofpoint based at Weaver Court, Belfast
Alastair Hamilton, CEO of Invest Northern Ireland speaking with software engineer, David Saunders and Gary Steele (left), CEO of Proofpoint Inc at the announcement of 94 new jobs at Proofpoint based at Weaver Court, Belfast

Over 90 new workers are being recruited in Belfast to assist the global fight against cybercrime in a £6m investment by NASDAQ-listed Proofpoint.

The California-based company, which makes security products to detect malware and other malicious software, is creating 94 IT jobs with an average salary of £30,000.

It acquired Northern Ireland firm Mail Distiller last year and already employs around 20 people at Weavers Court in Belfast.

The expanded operation will become the research and development and operations hub for a customer base of mainly small to medium-sized companies across Europe, the Middle East and Africa.

Invest NI has offered more than £600,000 of support for the new jobs, which are expected to be in place by the end of 2016.

Proofpoint chief executive Gary Steele said that with many anti-virus programmes becoming obsolete, the fight is on to prevent criminals from stealing data including private data, bank details and intellectual property.

Across the world, major companies like US retailer Target, supermarket Tesco and networking website LinkedIn have all fallen victim to hackers, but small companies are even more at risk.

"A lot of these attacks are very sophisticated and targeted. They often happen long before the firm is aware and the reputational and financial damage to small and medium companies can be immense," said Mr Steele.

"There is still some complacency from small firms who think they will not be victims, but in the case of Target, an attack on a supplier opened the door to the main system – that smaller company will find it very hard to ever get business again.

"We've had a great experience in our acquisition of Mail Distiller and with the threat levels increasing and the talented staff which are available to us in Northern Ireland, it made sense to expand here.

"The current split in business is 80% USA and 20% international and we hope to even out that balance."

Colm McGoldrick, from Kinawley in Co Fermanagh, who founded Mail Distiller and later sold it to Proofpoint in a multi-million pound deal, said that he was honoured that a company with humble beginnings had been acquired by such a large company.

"IT is proliferating all areas of our lives – the internet is no longer the reserve of the geek," he said.

"Almost everyone has an online presence. People no longer leave their doors unlocked and without adequate internet security, but many still leave parts of their personal and financial life unlocked."

Earlier this year a major conference hosted by the Centre for Secure Information Technologies (CSIT), at Queen's University heard how the region could become a hub for the development of cybersecurity software.

With the demand for cyber security experts growing at 12 times the rate of the overall job market, Queen's has now launched a Masters degree in cyber security.

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