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Cybersecurity firm bobs and weaves

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Posted at 2:00 PM, Jan 30, 2016
and last updated 2016-01-30 15:11:52-05

NORWOOD, Ohio -- It’s easy to protect your business from cyber-attack, right? You just download the proper anti-virus, anti-malware program and install it.

Wrong, say the owners of Morphick Inc., a Norwood-based cybersecurity firm that three men with a lot of experience in that field founded last March.

They say, naturally, that you need Morphick, which continuously “morphs” your defenses against cyber-attack, because the bad guys are always morphing their methods.

We posed a few questions to Morphick execs to learn more about this relative newcomer to Cincinnati and its business model.

Question. Who are the founders?

Answer: Brian Minick, CEO, former chief information security officer for General Electric Inc.’s aviation, energy and transportation businesses. Brian Klenke, vice president, formerly a senior cyber intelligence analyst for Lockheed Martin. Michael Picton, vice president, formerly IT compliance and risk leader at General Electric’s aviation business in Sharonville and systems engineer in Sun Microsystems Inc.’s enterprise services division.

Q. What is your value proposition?

A. It’s all about getting complete visibility of threats and having the proper detection ability, Picton said. “We found that a lot of (protection software) in the commercial space was good at doing one thing, but the attackers have a big tool box with multiple things.”

“We have the ability to morph and keep ourselves a moving target for attackers,” he added.

In Morphick’s Threat Intelligence Center, Picton said, intrusion-detection analysts monitor a customer’s cyber environment 24/7 for threats, checking things like network traffic and email.

“It’s like the nerve center,” said Greg Schoeny, vice president of sales and marketing.

When hired, the firm first evaluates a customer’s security needs, then customizes a plan and software to satisfy those needs, he said. “That’s very different from people trying to come up with the next big box (of cyberprotection software). We’re not one-off guys, and that resonates with customers.”

Q. Who are your customers?

A. Management declined to disclose names, but Picton said they come from a broad range of industries and often have key intellectual property they want to protect. The company is also getting lots of interest from health care establishments and financial institutions, which have lots of customer information to keep private, but not the staff to run a large cybersecurity operation.

“(Patient records are) a huge liability for hospitals,” Picton said.

Some customers sign up for continuous protection after they’ve experienced a security breach, and Morphick has come in to remediate it, Picton said. Morphick is one of only nine companies accredited by the National Security Agency to respond to such cyber incidents. (For a complete list, see https://www.nsa.gov/ia/programs/cyber_assistance_program/cira_accredited_companies.shtml). Others become customers by paying a retainer to Morphick to deal with potential attacks.

Q. How big is Morphick?

A. Picton declined to discuss sales figures or disclose the names of investors. The firm has 45 employees, which is a lot for a young startup, but it’s necessary because of the staffing needs. “For a group to staff a 24/7 operation, just to get butts in chairs, that’s quite a bit of staff to hire,” Picton said.

The company also maintains a team of engineers who write its software, he added.

Q. Why Norwood?

A. It’s centrally located and convenient for the employees, Schoeny said.

Also, the larger Tri-State area has a lot of talented IT workers because of companies with facilities here such as General Electric, Lockheed and also Wright-Patterson Air Force base in Dayton, Schoeny said. “From a growth perspective, it’s an exciting story for our region, in terms of our ability to build and support a business like this, he added.

Q. What’s next?

A. Management wants to keep growing revenue and the firm's customer base, especially through relationships with partners in complementary businesses such as large global integrators that do audit and assessment work.

Q. What’s owning your own business like?

A. If Picton had known what to expect, he said, he might not have done it. But at the same time, he wouldn’t trade it for anything.

“There’s one roadblock after another. Every one of them seems like a huge challenge, but you find a way to plow through it. You just have to keep moving forward, and good things tend to happen,” he said.