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CMU loses cyber guy to new firm on South Side

Wednesday, February 23, 2000

By Ken Zapinski, Associate Editor/Business

Carnegie Mellon University hired Roy Thetford to run its new cybersecurity consulting and research group that opened for business last year.

Now Thetford and some colleagues from the CyberSecurity Center at the Carnegie Mellon Research Institute are leaving to start their own company. The move was first reported yesterday on PG Online.

Thetford, 38, is president and CEO of schwoo.com inc., which is developing a new type of intrusion protection software that will detect computer network invasions and respond to them. The program will be designed to learn about future threats from past intrusions, he said.

The company is securing a $5 million round of seed financing from a group led by iNetworks LLC of Pittsburgh. The computer security company intends to move into Birmingham Tower on the South Side shortly and initially will employ between 15 and 20. It hopes to grow to 40 employees within the first three months and to 100 employees, primarily programmers, software engineers and other technical types, within the first 12 to 15 months.

Joining Thetford are Dwayne Vermeulen, the CyberSecurity Center's associate director; Christine Nightingale, a program manager at CyberSecurity; and Stuart Bell, interim director of finance for the Carnegie Mellon Research Institute. They are all resigning their CMU positions as of Feb. 29. (The new company takes its name from a sigh of relief -- "Schwoo!" -- that Thetford's daughter Erika, then 4, coined a couple years ago.)

"We wish them well. We think this is an example of the kind of talent that is being developed here in Pittsburgh," said Theodore L. Willke, director and chief operating officer of the institute, CMU's applied research arm at the Pittsburgh Technology Center in Hazelwood. "It's always hard to lose key people, but they're not lost to Pittsburgh."

Thetford said schwoo.com wants to maintain a close working relationship with CMU.

"We have been very conscientious not to decimate CyberSecurity," Thetford said. "Could we have? Yes." But he said he had been turning down queries from some of the workers there, because a strong, active CyberSecurity group is to his company's advantage.

CyberSecurity conducts research that may prove helpful in the future, and it also could serve as an outlet for outsourcing work if necessary, he said. And it all adds up to a strong tech presence in the region.

"We think we can create a whole security industry here in Pittsburgh," said Anthony M. Lacenere of iNetworks.

CMU is home to the CERT Coordination Center, a federally funded computer security response organization which made news recently helping to combat the hacker attacks that targeted Web sites such as eBay and Yahoo! earlier this month.

Thetford was a visiting scientist at CERT for about 18 months when he came to Pittsburgh to help found CyberSecurity at the research institute. CyberSecurity employs about 30 people, is doing more than $10 million work per year for government and corporate clients and is looking for a new home because its current one is too small.

Thetford estimated that his company could have a beta version -- an initial version -- of its software together within a year. In the meantime, schwoo.com will conduct security audits and consulting to bring in revenue.



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