GCHQ Defence chief to head cyber security start-up Darktrace

GCHQ has been at the heart of the Edward Snowden leaks and been widely criticised for spying on internet activity

The man charged with protecting the Government from cyber-attacks has become the latest member of the intelligence community to join a Cambridge cyber security start-up.

Andrew France, OBE, has left a senior position at GCHQ to become chief executive of Darktrace.

France spent thirty years at the Government spying agency, rising to the position of Deputy Director of Cyber Defence Operations. In that role, which he left at Christmas, France was charged with protecting Government data and critical national infrastructure from cyber-attacks.

France was introduced to Darktrace by the company’s then managing director Stephen Huxter, another former senior figure within the Government’s cyber defence team.

The company’s executive committee boasts several other civil service veterans with experience in cyber defence and former MI5 director-general Sir Jonathan Evans also sits on Darktrace’s board.

GCHQ has been at the heart of the Edward Snowden leaks and been widely criticised for spying on internet activity, but France denied that his new role was an example of ‘poacher-turned-gamekeeper’.

“What people don’t realise is GCHQ has got two arms,” France said. “There are the people who collect the intelligence and the people who protect it, and that’s where I come from. I’m poacher turned poacher.

Commenting on the recent revelations about GCHQ, France said: “I don’t believe people appreciate how much scrutiny GCHQ is under already. Is it enough? There’s public debate to be had about that. A balance has to be struck, but in my view I think the UK has got it about right.”

Darktrace, founded last September, plants ‘honey pots’ in networks that allow it to detect and monitor intrusions rather than simply trying to block them out. The company’s software is based on mathematical research carried out at Cambridge University and Autonomy founder Mike Lynch has invested $20 million in the company through his Invoke Capital fund.

France called Darktrace’s technology a “ground breaking, gear-shift moment”, adding: “The traditional cyber security industry have all got hammers and they’re all looking for nails to hit – that just doesn’t work in 2014.”

France said he would not exploit his Government links to win business for Darktrace, saying: “Government will be interested for obvious reasons, but we’re going where the problem is and the problem is with enterprises, who’ve got compromised networks that they’ve never been able to clean up.

“The interest from the commercial world is outpacing us – we don’t have to go chasing a government contract.”

France said companies were facing growing threats from cybercrime, nation states and hacktivists, and said at GCHQ he had seen “the damage being done to the country on an economic level from cyber attacks”.

“If you look at the UK, our national wealth isn’t in the things that we make, it’s in the data we hold, i.e. financial markets and things like that.”

Darktrace currently looks at internet traffic, but France said it would soon be moving into industrial systems, a form of cyber-attack synonymous with the Stuxnet attack that targeted Iran’s nuclear programme in 2010.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Recruitment Genius: DBA Developer - SQL Server

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Administrator

£13000 - £15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you passionate about custom...

Recruitment Genius: Dialler Administrator

£22000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Main purpose: Under the directi...

Ashdown Group: Contracts Manager - City of London

£35000 - £37000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: Contracts Manager - City...

Day In a Page

Turkey-Kurdish conflict: Obama's deal with Ankara is a betrayal of Syrian Kurds and may not even weaken Isis

US betrayal of old ally brings limited reward

Since the accord, the Turks have only waged war on Kurds while no US bomber has used Incirlik airbase, says Patrick Cockburn
VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but doubts linger over security

'A gift from Egypt to the rest of the world'

VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but is it really needed?
Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, applauds a man who clearly has more important things on his mind
The male menopause and intimations of mortality

Aches, pains and an inkling of mortality

So the male menopause is real, they say, but what would the Victorians, 'old' at 30, think of that, asks DJ Taylor
Man Booker Prize 2015: Anna Smaill - How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?

'How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?'

Man Booker Prize nominee Anna Smaill on the rise of Kiwi lit
Bettany Hughes interview: The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems

Bettany Hughes interview

The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems
Art of the state: Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China

Art of the state

Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China
Mildreds and Vanilla Black have given vegetarian food a makeover in new cookbooks

Vegetarian food gets a makeover

Long-time vegetarian Holly Williams tries to recreate some of the inventive recipes in Mildreds and Vanilla Black's new cookbooks
The haunting of Shirley Jackson: Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?

The haunting of Shirley Jackson

Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?
Bill Granger recipes: Heading off on holiday? Try out our chef's seaside-inspired dishes...

Bill Granger's seaside-inspired recipes

These dishes are so easy to make, our chef is almost embarrassed to call them recipes
Ashes 2015: Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

A woefully out-of-form Michael Clarke embodies his team's fragile Ashes campaign, says Michael Calvin
Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza

Andrew Grice: Inside Westminster

Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza
HMS Victory: The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

Exclusive: David Keys reveals the research that finally explains why HMS Victory went down with the loss of 1,100 lives
Survivors of the Nagasaki atomic bomb attack: Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism

'I saw people so injured you couldn't tell if they were dead or alive'

Nagasaki survivors on why Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism
Jon Stewart: The voice of Democrats who felt Obama had failed to deliver on his 'Yes We Can' slogan, and the voter he tried hardest to keep onside

The voter Obama tried hardest to keep onside

Outgoing The Daily Show host, Jon Stewart, became the voice of Democrats who felt the President had failed to deliver on his ‘Yes We Can’ slogan. Tim Walker charts the ups and downs of their 10-year relationship on screen