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11 May, 2020 - 09:22 By Tony Quested

Darktrace primed for huge IPO

Cambridge-based cyber security world leader Darktrace continues to work towards an IPO – possibly in the US and UK – next year after growing its market capitalisation to more than $2 billion.

Sources close to the company say Darktrace would have hit the markets by now had it not been for the coronavirus pandemic.

Ironically, while frustrating the projected float, the crisis has seen major international companies turning to Darktrace to protect their systems from potentially fatal attacks.

Management are known to be keen to execute the IPO, which will provide windfall payouts for a number of executives, sooner rather than later and are just waiting for a window of opportunity.

Darktrace has grown impressively and consistently under the dual transatlantic CEO model of Poppy Gustafsson in Cambridge and Nicole Eagan in the US.

The company has piled up the revenues while cutting outlay in a supreme last 12 months and has so far raised not far shy of $250 million; it now employs around 1,000 people globally.

The number of customers using Darktrace’s AI email solution, Antigena Email, has doubled since January 2020, while the number of requests to trial Antigena Email has quadrupled since the lockdown began in early March.

Darktrace can also reveal that in the month of April 60 per cent of all advanced spear-phishing attacks blocked by Antigena Email either related to COVID-19 or aimed to trick employees by referencing remote working. 

Attackers are exploiting concerns about the virus to convince people to open emails and click on malicious links in a trend called ‘fearware’ – using over 130,000 newly-created email domains related to coronavirus to bypass standard spam filters.

Antigena Email’s ability to distinguish malicious emails from legitimate business communications – and stop those emails from ever reaching the employee’s inbox – has never been more critical. 

Powered by cyber AI, the technology works by forming an evolving understanding of ‘normal activity’ for corporate email environments and the individual users within them. This enables it to detect incoming novel and targeted attacks that traditional tools let through, including domain spoofing, supply chain account takeovers, and impersonation attempts.

Darktrace has stopped numerous instances of ‘fearware’ across its customer base, including attackers posing as the Center for Disease Control (CDC) and World Health Organization and, more recently, attackers spoofing company email addresses to deliver false corporate updates. 

At the leading LA production studio Bunim/Murray, Antigena Email caught several phishing emails purporting to deliver corporate COVID-19 updates to employees. The emails were automatically stopped by Darktrace AI before they could make it into employees’ inboxes.

Mike Lynch, the Cambridge technology entrepreneur, has backed Darktrace since inception and the Invoke Capital fund he founded also has high hopes for stablemate Luminance which is massively commercialising its AI platform for the legal profession.

The feeling within Invoke is that lawyers will have to work overtime when the initial phase of the COVID-19 crisis is over and a lot of interest has already been expressed by global law firms as to how Luminance’s AI expertise can help with a projected surge in workload.

The Mike Lynch camp awaits a verdict from the UK High Court battle between the entrepreneur and US giant HP over alleged fraud in the sale of Autonomy. A verdict could be delivered as early as this summer although the judge is free until October to complete his deliberations. 

Until that verdict is delivered nothing is expected to happen on Lynch’s proposed extradition to the US to face fraud charges there over the same Autonomy deal – allegations he fervently denies.

In any event a possible US extradition hearing has already been shifted to January 2021 – which might be viewed as an indication that extradition is not exactly highest on the list of any party’s priorities at this juncture.

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