US-based BlackFog opens cyber security R&D hub in Belfast

Californian ransomware specialist expects to expand to more than 20 people in next year

Cyber security
California-based BlackFog is the latest cyber security firm to set up a base in Northern Ireland (Cravetiger/Getty Images)

A California-headquartered leader in ransomware protection and anti data exfiltration technology is setting up its European cyber security research and development (R&D) headquarters in Belfast.

BlackFog has already hired a core team of six people in Belfast and says it expects to expand this to more than 20 within the next year.

The expansion is the latest milestone for the company, which was established in 2015 by Melbourne-born serial entrepreneur Dr Darren Williams, who has founded three tech start-ups over the last 25 years, two of which have been sold to public companies.

BlackFog - which will open on level two of the historic Custom House building on Wednesday - has grown at 100% year-on-year and now has a customer base of more than 500 companies worldwide.

It is funding its Belfast expansion after closing a Series A round of funding from a company in Singapore, raising more than $10 million.

Over the last decade Belfast has emerged as one of the world’s most concentrated cyber security clusters, with more than 100 businesses and teams base in the city.

In 2023 a report by the Centre of Secure Information Technologies (CSIT), the UK’s Innovation and Knowledge Centre (IKC) for cyber security, pinpointed Northern Ireland as a global cyber security hotspot, boasting 2,700 roles and contributing £230m to the economy.

“We want to tap into that level of expertise, hence our arrival in Belfast,” Dr Williams told the Irish News.

“In my previous companies, all the engineering and R&D was done in my home city of Melbourne.

“But this time we found that, given the specialist nature of the cyber security skills we need, what Belfast could offer was more appropriate.”

cyber security
Dr Darren Williams, founder of BlackFog

BlackFog’s Belfast office will provide a centre from which it will continue to focus on product innovation and the development of its enterprise platform for ransomware prevention.

Its pioneering platform focuses on stopping ransomware by preventing the unauthorised removal of data from devices, ultimately protecting organisations from a data breach.

By focussing on preventing data exfiltration from endpoints (90% of ransomware attacks now leverage data exfiltration), BlackFog believes it provides a unique approach to stopping cyber attacks.

Dr Williams added: “Belfast not only provides access to highly skilled individuals, but we also chose it for the work ethic, culture and confidence we can see across the city.

“As a global citizen - I’m a transplanted Aussie from Melbourne now living in California - I get inspired by working with different cultures, which fosters creativity and efficiency.

“Belfast offers this in abundance, and I look forward to further supporting our customers and partners from this exciting new location.”

cyber security
BlackFog will open its Belfast base on Wednesday at the Custom House building

The Belfast office will be led by Jonathan Glass, the company’s vice-president of engineering.

Says Dr Williams: “Jonathan lives in Belfast, which is how the city initially came on the road map.

“I thought: ‘Let’s have a look at this’, flew in to the city, and it really was an ‘Oh my God’ moment for me. We even had our Christmas party in Belfast!”