'A hacker will be in your system 56 days before they act' - How this Sheffield firm is working hard to protect your data online

Meet the Cyberman.

Sunday, 25th April 2021, 12:30 pm

No, not a James Bond villain or a Dr Who baddie.

This is Matt Bruce, Chief Executive Officer of Sheffield firm Bruce and Butler, which deals in securing your cyber space from hackers.

If you want the less glamorous version, the firm specialises in data protection and is an information security specialist, based in Kelham Island.

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Matt Bruce of cyber security specialists Bruce and Butler. Picture Scott Merrylees

Whichever version suits, it works because Matt is a success story who looks set for great things.

He set up Bruce & Butler in 2014 after training as an accountant and last year was nominated as young entrepreneur of the year in the Federation of Small Business Awards. He was also inducted into the Business Insider 42 under 42 business leaders list.

Matt’s team has doubled, his offices have expanded and he has worked with Microsoft and IBM. Not bad for a Walkley lad.

Matt, now 32, went to school at Westways and King Edwards, both holding fond memories for him.

Matt Bruce of cyber security specialists Bruce and Butler. Picture Scott Merrylees

“I loved my time in Walkley, if I could do it all again I would,” he said.

He showed promise as a footballer, playing at a high level with team-mates including Kyle Walker, who has won 55 caps for England, and Kyle Norton, who went to Spurs.

The season-ticket holding Owls fan had a trial with Sheffield United, but got injured.

“I tore my back ligaments on holiday and then kept tearing my hamstring.” It didn’t help that he had been running 110 metre hurdle races, either.

Matt Bruce of cyber security specialists Bruce and Butler. Picture Scott Merrylees

But the injury may have been a blessing, as Matt admits, “I was never at the standard of the Kyles, I was never going to be a world beater.”

So he turned to school and King Ted’s had the answer. “I did economics at school and had a teacher called John Gibb, who was unbelievable. He brought economics to life, his personality influenced me, his simplicity and humour for what could be a dull subject sparked something inside me.”

Matt went to Sheffield University to do accountancy and financial management. He was offered a place on a graduate scheme by accountants Hawsons in Broomhill.

“I never left that S6/S10 bubble! Home, school, university, now job,” he says and Matt now lives in, you guessed it, S6 - Stannington to be precise.

Matt Bruce of cyber security specialists Bruce and Butler. Picture Scott Merrylees

No doubt that is because family is important to him. “It means a lot to us, we always support each other.”

His dad, a memorial mason, and mum, a nurse, kept things real. “My dad always used to say you’re only as happy as your unhappiest child.” A reminder that it was a team game.

So Matt, training to be an accountant, was set to take his last exams when he decided to leave Hawsons. It was no reflection on the firm, as Matt says: “They are friends for life and they are our accountants.

“They gave me an amazing foundation and understanding of how accountancy fits together.”

He also learnt valuable lessons on networking, personal development and how to speak to clients - not always top of a degree syllabus. But something was missing.

“I went to my dad and told him I needed to find the thing that’s me,” he recalls. “That meant working for myself, not other people.

“Three months later I found it. I had been reading around data protection and realised organisations needed to understand that their data was at risk.”

He applied accountancy principles to data protection at a time before GDPR - general data protection regulation - existed.

“I looked at how the world was changing - laptops, the internet, social media were all collecting data and I knew organisations needed to understand the new world they were working in.”

At the age of 24, he founded Bruce and Butler and just two months after it became a company, Matt landed a multi-billion pound client, which wanted to make sure staff were up to speed with data changes.

He can’t tell me the name due to commercial reasons, but smiles when remembering the bill.

“The difficult thing was to price the contract,” he says. “I must have got it right because they didn’t blink an eye and that was a momentum changer. I employed a member of staff and the trajectory was up.”

He now employs 12 staff and has gone from a 500sqft office to a 3,000 sq ft space. GDPR helped as did a link up with Microsoft to carry out a training and awareness programme at its headquarters in Paddington, London.

Last year he was nominated for the FSB awards and although he didn’t win it was recognition of his progress. He still doesn’t know who nominated him but is grateful they did.

So what next?

“We moved into a new office at the end of 2019 and had a business plan to grow our services. Then the pandemic hit so we put the plan on hold while we looked after clients who had to adapt to wholesale changes such as working from home.”

By the summer, Matt decided to go for growth in cyber security services, which all sounds a bit James Bond and sort of is because it roots out bad guys trying to take over your world.

“We’re in a digital world and people will find new and innovative ways of causing disruption, which can bring an organisation to its knees,” he says.

“We do ethical hacking and provide a report on what’s vulnerable.”

Matt offers a security operations centre to guard against hackers. He has teamed with IBM to provide a 24/7 service.

“We can monitor your infrastructure and see if you’re being hacked,” he explains. “A hacker will be in your system 56 days before they act so they know about the system. We know if they are in immediately.”

Bruce and Butler use a system called SIEM, security information and event management, in partnership with IBM. “We had to jump through a lot of hoops to get that partnership, but we got there in the end,” Matt says.

It was worth it because the IBM name builds trust which is essential in Matt’s business.

“It all boils down to trust. We can provide on-going vulnerability assessments, show what different threats are posed and give continuous vulnerability monitoring.”

Matt is convinced this will be a growth area as organisations both big and small become aware of the risk posed to their data.

His team build profiles of users and if the profile suddenly changes, they smell trouble.

“Historically it has been a bit James Bond or Matrix, but now we are seeing it for real with fraud cases, ID theft and large organisations having incidents where personal data is compromised.”

What Bruce and Butler also do is take the running of all these checks away from a client and monitor new threats as they emerge which means the client can then concentrate on business rather than worry about cybermen.

Away from all this Matt plays golf and last year managed to get married to Grace, a nurse, on the Greek island of Santorina. It was August and there was no lockdown so all his family were able to share the day.

A great memory for the cyber man who knows family comes first.