British cybersecurity startup Darktrace has appointed former Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) official Alan Wade to its advisory board.
Wade retired from the CIA at the end of 2005, following a 35 year career in the agency, where he climbed to the role of chief information officer. Prior to becoming CIO, Wade was director of communications and director of security at the CIA.
Wade joins Jonathan Evans, the former director general of MI5, and billionaire Mike Lynch, founder of venture capital firm Invoke Capital and software company Autonomy, on Darktrace’s advisory board.
Founded in Cambridge in 2013, Darktrace has developed software that helps organisations detect unusual behaviour on their network. The company’s technology, which can spot unusual email activity and suspicious file uploads, is underpinned by complex maths that was developed at Cambridge University.
Darktrace, which employs 230 people across 20 offices, is well known for drawing on the talent that comes out of the intelligence agencies in the US and the UK. It has hired several people that have worked at MI5, MI6, GCHQ, the CIA, and the FBI.
Darktrace’s former CEO, for example, was Andrew France, the former deputy director for cyber defence operations at GCHQ, while Darktrace’s director of technology, Dave Palmer, spent 13 years helping MI5 and GCHQ to build and maintain their global networks.
Nick Trim, Darktrace’s managing director for Europe, the Middle East and Africa, has also worked for at least one UK intelligence agency, as has John Richardson, the company’s director for operations and security. The names of the agencies that these people have worked at can’t be revealed for national security reasons.
Palmer told Business Insider last October that although Darktrace hired a number of ex-spies in its early days, it is now looking to recruit more students. The spies, he said, get a lot of hands-on experience when they work in the agencies.
“You tend to be doing it at a massive scale,” Palmer said. “They’re also very interested in staff development so you do a lot of training and coaching.”
Darktrace is valued at more than $100 million (£65 million) after raising two funding rounds in quick succession last year. The startup has been approached by investors at big name venture capital firms like Google Ventures and a number of undisclosed businesses have tried to acquire it.
Darktrace CEO Nicole Egan said in a statement that Wade’s “experience at the leading edge of mission-critical intelligence and technology innovation is exceptional.”
Wade added: “I am excited to join Darktrace at this important moment in its growth. Machine learning is becoming critical to addressing the speed and evolution of threats today, and Darktrace’s innovation in this area is fundamentally improving organisations’ ability to defend themselves effectively.”
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