Edinburgh Napier University spin-out tackling ransomware threat has global ambitions

Edinburgh Napier University is launching a spin-out business dedicated to tackling the multi-billion-pound ransomware threat.

Tuesday, 6th October 2020, 12:30 pm
Ransomware – malware that encrypts files, giving the attacker scope to demand a ransom to restore access – is increasingly becoming the attack of choice for cyber criminals as it has a high chance of financial return coupled with a low likelihood of detection, with the threat increasing daily.
Ransomware – malware that encrypts files, giving the attacker scope to demand a ransom to restore access – is increasingly becoming the attack of choice for cyber criminals as it has a high chance of financial return coupled with a low likelihood of detection, with the threat increasing daily.

The spin-out, Memcrypt, follows earlier cybersecurity ventures ZoneFox, Symphonic Software and Cyan Forensics in making the leap from research lab to the market.

Ransomware – malware that encrypts files, giving the attacker scope to demand a ransom to restore access – is increasingly becoming the attack of choice for cyber criminals as it has a high chance of financial return coupled with a low likelihood of detection, with the threat increasing daily.

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Experts at Napier’s school of computing are developing new methods of detecting ransomware as it runs. This will provide new ways of stopping the ransomware from infecting systems before it has a chance to spread.

The team’s work is part of Innovate UK’s CyberASAP programme accelerator, and is also supported more recently by Scottish Enterprise’s high growth spin-out programme.

Memcrypt has evolved around a technical team of Professor Bill Buchanan, Dr Peter McLaren, Dr Owen Lo and Dr Gordon Russell, and a core business team of Dia Banerji (Imagine Ventures) and Matt Burdge (the business development and relationship manager supporting the school of computing), as the university seeks to repeat earlier successes in converting research into high-impact spin-outs.

Threat analytics spin-out ZoneFox has since been acquired by US giant Fortinet, while Symphonic Software and Cyan Forensics have also scaled up to become players in the international marketplace.

Banerji said: “Ransomware attacks can have a debilitating effect on businesses, often leading to loss in revenue, falling share prices and reputational losses. We aim to better protect those at risk, and work with law enforcement agencies on improving their responses to these attacks.”

Buchanan, who played a key role in the research which paved the way for Napier’s earlier cybersecurity spin-out successes, added: “Ransomware affects virtually every market sector, and can affect every size of company. While building our company in Edinburgh, we aim to scale on an international basis.”

Fiona Mason, head of business engagement and IP commercialisation at the university, said: “Over the last ten years, our school of computing has achieved three successful cyber spin-outs; ZoneFox in 2010, Symphonic in 2013 and Cyan Forensics in 2017.”

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