The Monday Interview: Cybersecurity firm finds its roots

Pádraig Hoare

For chief executive Matt Moynahan, choosing Cork as the newest location of global cybersecurity firm Forcepoint was strictly a business decision. However, for all the strategic decision-making in creating 100 jobs in the city, there was also an acutely sentimental bonus for Mr Moynahan.

Staunchly proud of his Irish roots, Mr Moynahan grew up on tales from the old country, with his ancestors leaving Lislevane near Bandon in Cork generations ago to set up a new life in the US.

“A Doherty and a Moynahan got married in Lislevane several generations ago, then Patrick Moynahan moved to the US. My middle name is Patrick after my great-grandfather. I grew up hearing stories about it, and now we have an office not too far away from it. My parents are unabashed Irish supporters, my dad has Irish citizenship, and it goes deep into the roots of our family, so it is a real pleasure to be able to open an office here,” Mr Moynahan said.

Cork is becoming known more and more as home to many technology firms, including the burgeoning global cybersecurity industry. What differentiates Austin, Texas-based Forcepoint is that it stops spam, malware, and malicious threats before it can even be accessed by employees of organisations.

Majority owned by military and industrial giant Raytheon, Forcepoint analyses up to five billion web threats from 155 countries daily. To carry out such tasks needs outstanding talent, which is why Cork was chosen, said Mr Moynahan. A hybrid of youth and experience is what made Cork stand out from competitors.

There are two types of talent -- there is the new talent coming from universities, which is the feeder system, almost like in baseball where you’ve got the teams that are feeding the teams that are professional. Universities are a big part of it

“The other element is that Cork’s employee base has matured. It’s the perfect time to come here because you have those two things converging,” he said.

The IDA’s powers of persuasion cannot be understated, according to Mr Moynahan. “I get about a dozen calls or emails from various development authorities from around the world. It is a very competitive environment. You always have a vision of where you want to be and the representation of the country tells you whether you were right or not.

“If there is a lot of red tape or bureaucracy or overall difficulty, it is a factor. I’ve never had an office open up with so little friction, and so quickly in any company of which I have been CEO. It has been really impressive. The IDA has been hugely beneficial,” he said.

The 100 jobs created at the initial stage will likely grow as demand for Forcepoint’s services grows.

Europol, the EU-wide police network, has warned the global impact of cybercrime has risen to €2.5 trillion, making it “more profitable than the global trade in marijuana, cocaine, and heroin combined”.

A survey last year by British IT research firm Juniper found criminal data breaches will cost businesses a total of €7 trillion over the next five years, due to higher levels of internet connectivity and inadequate enterprise-wide security. It found that SMEs were particularly at risk from cyber attacks.

Mr Moynahan said cybersecurity was at an “inflection point”.

“Cybersecurity is not going away. It is the seminal issue of our day and people are just waking up to it. The old days when America Online was created are gone. The issue of being online or offline is almost comical now. Who even uses that term anymore? You are online 24 hours a day, seven days a week. That is what is driving the staggering sums of criminal theft and espionage that is going on.

“Think about the cybersecurity industry. One trillion dollars will have been spent between 2013 and 2023 on cybersecurity globally, yet 95% of all companies have been breached. I have never seen so much spent to accomplish so little.

“Cybersecurity companies are trying but hackers have outsmarted defences in many cases, typically because technology is moving so fast that the cybersecurity industry is trying to keep out. A new app comes out and they try to secure it; a new iPhone comes out and they try to secure it; cloud computing comes out and they try to secure it. They are always trying to keep up with the technology, trying to board a moving train,” he said.

He said the internet will never be secure. So what is business to do?

“The two things that have not changed in business, until robots take over, is that they are run on people and they make money off people. That is why cloud, mobility, and artificial intelligence are all around data-driven business. Uber is a data-driven business. Facebook the same. The pharmaceutical industry, the business down the street — all driven by data. No industry is spared that.

“How do you protect them? You find out when people and data are doing good things for your business, and when they are doing bad things for it. It is that simple.

“Leonardo Da Vinci said simplicity is the greatest form of sophistication and that is what we are trying to do,” he said.

More in this Section

Tech startups make music and events a smooth operation

Wide range of demands leave employers warier than ever

Options required for carbon tax to work

Agrifood lobby may derail EU-US trade talks


5 chocolate-themed breaks to satisfy sweet-toothed travellers

The Currabinny Cooks: Your guide to an easy Easter

Michelle Darmody: Baking eggs for Easter

Don’t let the grass grow under your feet: Lawnmowers that make the cut

More From The Irish Examiner