Mercia EIS Funds

Mercia backs Coventry University and Crossword Cybersecurity venture

[Pictured: Tom Ilube, CEO CyberOwl and Crossword Cybersecurity]
CyberOwl, a joint venture between Coventry University and Crossword Cybersecurity Plc, an ISDX-listed technology transfer company, has received SEIS funding from Mercia Fund Management (Mercia), a leading investment business in UK innovation and wholly-owned subsidiary of Mercia Technologies PLC.

CyberOwl is developing network security software for target-centric monitoring. Its work is based on research shortlisted for the Lloyd’s Science of Risk Prize 2015 from CyberOwl’s founding academic, Dr Siraj Ahmed Shaikh, a Reader in Cyber Security from Coventry, one of Mercia’s 14 university partners.

Identification of the sources of cyber-attacks is becoming increasingly difficult and resource intensive due to the growth rate of networks, the increasing volume of traffic and the speed of data transfer. This vulnerability paves the way for cyber criminals to hack into an organisation’s sensitive and, typically encrypted, data.

CyberOwl’s innovative software is able to provide an early warning of attacks by focusing resources on monitoring high value targets for anomalous behaviour. This process is quicker, more efficient, scalable and cost-effective when compared to current security methods, and will be vital as networks expand, particularly in the wake of Smart Cities and the Internet of Things, which is forecast to reach over 50bn devices by 2020, according to Cisco.

CyberOwl’s software has already demonstrated its ability to provide early warnings of the Heartbleed bug, a serious flaw in the OpenSSL encryption that was first exposed in April 2014.

Dr Siraj Ahmed Shaikh, Reader in Cyber Security at Coventry University and Director of CyberOwl, said:

“It is vital that leading edge British cyber security research has real world impact and the work we’re doing here is directly applicable to the Internet of Things on which we increasingly rely in our connected communities.”

Mercia’s investment, which totals £150,000 in the first instance and is the first round of external funding to be received by CyberOwl, will help the company to develop a commercial prototype and secure key members of the management team.

Dr Brijesh Roy, an Investment Manager at Mercia who focuses on university spinouts, said:

“We are pleased to provide CyberOwl with its first funding. The company has already received technical validation for its product and, with the support and expertise provided by Crossword Cybersecurity and Coventry University, we are confident that this software will be adopted on an international scale as networks continue to diversify and grow.

“This investment is also another validation of the strength of our university partners, with whom we work closely to commercialise and support their innovative technology spinouts.”

Tom Ilube, CEO of Crossword Cybersecurity Plc and now CEO of CyberOwl, said:

“We are delighted to be working with Coventry University and Mercia on CyberOwl. Target-centric network monitoring addresses emerging cyber security challenges in the projected $400bn Smart Cities sector and CyberOwl will take this breakthrough research to market.”