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Game-changing Cambridge technology helps Bromium beat hackers

By Adrian Curtis

Ian Pratt of Bromium
Ian Pratt of Bromium

Bromium pick-up seven new awards

n award-winning Cambridge cyber defence business is set for a golden future with its pioneering product.

Bromium is a leader in eliminating everyday computer threats like viruses, malware and adware. It won seven industry awards last month for its innovative work in the field.

The company – which has its HQ in California and an R&D centre in Cambridge – was co-founded in 2010 by president Ian Pratt, a former University of Cambridge Computer Laboratory senior lecturer, and chief technical officer Simon Crosby.

The Bromium team has created a game-changing new technology called micro-virtualisation to protect against advanced malware.

Mr Pratt is no stranger to success, having sold XenSource, the firm he co-founded, to Citrix in 2007 for $500million. He left Citrix, where he was vice president of advanced products and chief technical officer, to start Bromium.

Xen is at the core of services provided by Amazon and others.Bromium’s technology takes things further and has been welcomed by governments and the aerospace industry in their quest to keep their secrets just that.

Mr Pratt said: “We’re trying to bring a novel approach to solving problems as opposed to all the other companies who are out there and who are really trying to apply band aids.

“They all pretty much rely on some form of detection and try to spot things that are bad and block them. But you have to have some sort of pattern before you can block them. Hackers can make a small change to their attack so it has a different pattern and that then gets missed by all these security tools out there. That’s why we have this horrible state of security we have today.

“People are more aware of the problems now. These attacks were happening all the time over the last 10 to 15 years. Hackers would compromise your machine and then stay hidden because their motive would be to steal your intellectual property or wait until you logged into your bank account and then steal the password and your money.

“So it was all about staying hidden, but then some bright spark figured out they could make money from it more directly by simply encrypting all the files on people’s machines and then demanding a ransom.

“That’s why ransomware is a huge problem right now. It’s not stealthy at all: It’s announcing its presence to the user. It’s other types of attacks that will cost you more money in the long run... if someone is stealing your intellectual property, eg top secret plans for a plane or whatever it is.”

Mr Pratt added: “What we do is very different than what’s been tried before. There’s a lot of clever technology we’ve had to create in Cambridge. It’s the best place in the world for this type of engineering.

“It comes out of work we did at the university back in 2000. We found it could be used in certain high-security environments for government and intelligence communities.

“It’s technology that enables you to click with confidence. In the background, everything is running in its own virtual machine inside a physical machine. You can create a virtual machine every time you click on a link. Everything is isolated, which means there’s no chance of things getting out of hand. Bromium learns and adapts to new attacks, instantly sharing threat intelligence to eliminate malware’s impact.

“Our first customers tended to be governments or aerospace organisations and over the last few years it’s become far more mainstream – banks, healthcare, engineering and even retail organisations,” added Mr Pratt.

“It’s not some new detection trick – we’re pioneers in this space at the moment. And with the partnership we have with Microsoft, we’re in a pretty good position.

“What we do is hard work and there’s a lot of know-how. We have a fantastic team in Cambridge. Other companies would struggle to replicate what we’ve done – it won’t be easy for them.”


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