Machine learning-based security vendor Darktrace looking for Canadian partners

U.K.-based security vendor Darktrace has expanded into Canada, with a Toronto office, and a desire to pick up more Canadian partners, especially in Quebec and the Maritimes.


Darktrace’s visualization of the Enterprise Immune System

Cambridge, U.K.-based security vendor Darktrace, who use what they term Enterprise Immune System technology, based on machine learning, has opened a Toronto office. It’s one of over 20 that they have established in a recent major global expansion. David Masson, with over twenty years of security and intelligence experience with both the Canadian and U.K. governments, has been named Country Manager in Canada.

Darktrace is a new company, which was formed in late 2013, but has had massive growth since then. Starting with five people, it now employs close to 300 now, seven of them in the Canada office, which is based in Toronto.

Darktrace’s founders are a combination of mathematicians from the University of Cambridge and British intelligence professionals, and their technology mirrors their perspectives. They monitor network traffic in real time, using machine learning algorithms, to detect changes in network activity.

“Today, there are many more threats, and they are much more sophisticated, and some sophisticated threats will always find their way in,” Masson said. “Our technology looks at IT systems like a human body. Our own immune systems are unique, as are computer networks. Our machine learning learns what is on the network and what is not normally on it. This allows it to spot early indicators of anomalies – in real time – so IT can deal with it.

“There are no rules, no signatures,” Masson said. “That’s yesterdays news. Those show what happened, not what is about to happen.”

Masson indicated that mathematical modelling is used as a filter on top of the system.

“This helps keep false positives way down, by calculating just how much of an anomaly each particular incident is,” he said.

Darktrace’s sweet spot is in the enterprise, but they have a presence beyond that.

“The enterprise is our biggest market, but we also sell elsewhere, especially into the ICS [Industrial Control Systems] market,” he said. “In addition, we sell across all verticals. Typically in enterprise sales, there is a small number of verticals like financials identified, and then the rest termed ‘Other.’ For us, ‘Other’ is our biggest vertical.”

Masson also stressed that Darktrace is a complementary offering to legacy security systems already in place, not a ‘rip and replace’ alternative.

“Darktrace isn’t here to replace anything,” he said. “It’s highly complementary to legacy products. Customers still need those products. But they are not enough any more, with threats growing in quantity and sophistication. No one else is doing unsupervised machine learning like we do, and we add a new dimension.”

This ability to play nice with other vendors’ systems is highly valued by channel partners, who have existing relationships with these vendors. Partners are an important element of Darktrace’s go-to-market strategy.

“We have a hybrid model, in which we sell both directly, and through partners,” Masson said. “We have 140 plus partners worldwide, but only seven in Canada, and we are actively looking to grow that. We particularly are looking for partners in Quebec and the Maritime provinces.”

Globally, Masson said Darktrace partners run the gamut from small consultant organizations, some of whom have intelligence background, to large service providers like British Telecom, which is both a customer and a partner, as the product can be sold as a service.

“In Canada at their present time, our partners are mainly security VARs and general VARs,” he said.

Masson said that they are attractive to partners because they are a unique service that can be bundled with other vendor offerings and a partner’s own value-add capabilities.

“There’s nothing else like it,” he said. “That makes it attractive to partners who sell differentiated services. We also don’t sell adjacent services like cleanup or remediation services, so they can sell their own services there.”