BT snaps up 'Da Vinci Code' sleuth for IT security

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Bruce Schneier, an American cryptographer name-checked in the wildly successful conspiracy novel The Da Vinci Code, has joined BT after the UK telecoms giant bought the internet security company he founded.

BT has snapped up California-based Counterpane Internet Security so that it can offer its multinational business customers protection against computer hackers looking to break into corporate networks.

BT has paid around $40m (£21m) to acquire Counterpane, according to sources, and will also invest in ramping up the company's staff.

Mr Schneier founded Counterpane in 1999 and is its chief technology officer. He will retain that position within BT as Counterpane will continue to operate as an independent company given there is no overlap between the two companies' operations.

Mr Schneier penned several widely regarded books on cryptography earlier in his career and is a high-profile expert in the area of internet security. He was mentioned in Dan Brown's book The Da Vinci Code as a cryptography pioneer. "It is ironic that 20 million sales of that book has got me better publicity than 20 years of security research," he said.

Mr Schneier said that companies increasingly need to protect corporate networks from "criminals and hackers" located in areas such as Eastern Europe, Africa, Latin America and Southeast Asia. Such hackers can cause havoc on a corporate network by vandalising internet sites, defrauding customers or the company or implanting computer viruses.

"Companies cannot rely on the law to protect them. It is like the wild west out there, in that you have to hire your own law," Mr Schneier said.

Counterpane already monitors 550 networks around the world for such threats. Despite the high-tech nature of the work the company has around 100 staff. The company will be embedded into BT's fast- growing Global Services division. That has acquired a series of technology companies to boost its capability in the IT services market.

BT offers its broadband customers protection against internet viruses via a tie-up with Detica's Streamshield division that weeds out spam e-mails at the network level.

BT Global Services has also won a network infrastructure outsourcing deal with CapGemini and will take on around 250 of the French IT services company's staff. Analysts believed that the deal would be worth several hundreds of millions of pounds.