Fifteen-year-old email security company MailGuard launches out of stealth to keep cyber security on the agenda

- April 28, 2016 3 MIN READ

With Malcolm Turnbull urging Australian businesses to keep cyber security high on their priority list by talking of sophisticated attacks and being wary of leaks from within, it can be easy to forget that the old email phishing scam is still going strong.

According to the Australian Government’s ScamWatch website, over $340,000 has been lost to phishing scams in 2016, with almost 5,600 reports of attacks or attempts sent in. Email was the delivery method for 48 percent of attacks.

Ready to help businesses fight back is MailGuard, an Australian tech company that has been at the forefront of the email security game for 15 years. Founded in 2001, it is one of Australia’s most successful internet security companies.

Offering a host of security solutions for email, including email spam and malware protection, email continuity and disaster recovery, and image monitoring services, it counts companies including Porsche, Baker’s Delight, and the AFL as clients.

Craig McDonald, founder of MailGuard, said the business didn’t start out as a technology company.

“We started out to solve a business problem which was, at the time, at the starting point. Email was only just starting to make its presence known. Through the course of actually owning prior businesses that were impacted by viruses, I just thought out a way that we could improve using this thing called email back then because I thought it was going to be a huge opportunity, not only for my business, but for businesses in general,” he said.

While getting a virus on your computer today still isn’t all that fun, at that time, contracting a virus could be disastrous; computers were expensive, and would often have to be replaced when infected, doubling an already hefty investment from businesses.

McDonald said he looked around to see why these kinds of problems were occurring and discover what was available in the market, and decided that anti-virus protection at that time was “well behind cyber criminals even back in the day.”

He explained, “The way that they update their software hasn’t changed even in 15 years, it’s still the same problem today. We looked at how we could form a different approach to solving that problem, and thought we’d actually combine the good part of our competitors’ products and put them into one platform and then add our own layering.”

At that time, of course, the cloud had not yet been invented and most inboxes were linked to internet service providers (ISPs), so the service too was provided through the ISPs themselves.

While it was first focused on the small to medium business space, getting to know the problems faced by these businesses and building up a level of trust with them, McDonald said the company picked up clients including Porsche and the AFL within weeks of launch, and has kept them since.

The company has been able to do this, he said, by keeping sight of its core goal.

“We’re 100 percent customer focused around ensuring that the expectation of having clean mail is being met,” McDonald said.

In turn, MailGuard has been able to focus by investing heavily in research and development to keep ahead of the curve.

“Even today, we spend 40 percent of our revenue on R&D. That number is normally around, in some areas, less than five percent. So we’re quite serious about our R&D investment, and that’s something that we’re going to have to keep going and spending time and energy on to make sure that we’re keeping our clients safe,” McDonald explained.

The continued investment is paying off: market benchmarking puts the company between two to 48 hours ahead of competitors in preventing new attacks.

MailGuard, which has not taken on external funding, also began building up a channel partner program to help with its expansion. It now has over 500 channel partners across 20 countries, and is servicing clients in 27 different countries.

Despite this growth, McDonald said MailGuard has purposely been operating in a sort of stealth mode from a marketing perspective since it first launched but, with cyber security now on the national agenda, is now ready to take a leadership position.

The company is working with universities including Melbourne’s Deakin University on applications for artificial intelligence in the mail and web spaces and internet of things, and recently partnered with Xero to help clients of the accounting software startup better protect their email activity.

McDonald said, “Looking ahead, now is the right time for us to bring the brand up and make it more of a household name.”

Image: Craig McDonald. Source: Supplied.