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PestPatrol: Battling Trojan Spyware on Your Computer

For all the improvements that computers have brought to the world, they have also made it easier for criminals to prey on unsuspecting victims. Among the most sinister criminal exploits is spyware, which is software installed secretively via email programs or web browser exploits.

Spyware can steal passwords, send spam email or track credit card numbers, among other nefarious purposes. PestPatrol in Carlisle, PA, was the first company to create software specifically designed to identify and extract spyware on personal computers—a huge advancement in computer safety across the globe.

“PestPatrol’s software stood out from others on the market because it was the first to extract spyware, and it was able to detect a lot of different problems,” says Pam Martin, one of the founders of PestPatrol.

The company was since sold to Computer Associates International in 2004, which has added PestPatrol’s software to its suite of software tools called eTrust PestPatrol. Of course, as any security expert will tell you, criminals often lead the way, leaving security efforts to follow.

“PestPatrol’s software takes care of an important aspect of cyber problems, but there are always new problems popping up. The trick is trying to keep ahead,” says Martin. “For example, cyber criminals are now embedding Trojan viruses and other nasty things in websites. “The websites look legitimate and safe, but they actually carry something malicious.”

Pest Patrol

PestPatrol was the first company to create software specifically designed to identify and extract spyware on personal computers.

A Risk Worth Taking

PestPatrol was founded in 2000 and got off the ground thanks in part to support from Ben Franklin Technology Partners. “We were in need of funding, and we sort of stumbled on Ben Franklin,” Martin says. BFTP gave PestPatrol two rounds of investments, for a total of $300,000.

In addition to the financial support, BFTP also paid monthly visits to the company to sit down and talk about marketing and strategy. Since the company was acquired by Computer Associates, some of PestPatrol’s employees stayed on, and some went on to start other companies.

“It was a nice spin-off opportunity; a big portion of the employees have worked in a number of other startups,” Martin says. One such startup is XPL, or Exploit Prevention Labs, a company that develops Internet security software similar to PestPatrol’s.

“In the case of PestPatrol, Ben Franklin brought down the risk, which enabled the company to get a big chunk of angel money, and then they bootstrapped their way to a point where they were attractive enough to be sold,” Martin says. Martin adds that Pest Patrol’s success is also due in part to the support they got from the Murata Business Center in Carlisle.

“The company got a lot of advice from the executive director of the incubator at the time, Ed Harrell,” Martin says. “Then Marsha Davis became the new executive director and offered a lot of additional support.”

Coming Full Circle with Ben Franklin

Martin’s experience with BFTP was so positive that she decided to apply for a job when PestPatrol was sold—which is how she became south/central regional director for the Ben Franklin Technology Partners.

She says that the support offered by BFTP and the Murata Small Business Incubator is crucial for early-stage companies because it’s so difficult for the startups to find money.

“No bank is going to invest in these small untried companies. The software industry is a particularly difficult concept for them because they want to invest in buildings and equipment,” Martin says. “It’s especially true when you have something that is really early and innovative—independent and private sectors don’t want to take that much risk, but Ben Franklin is willing.”

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This article was featured in
Keynotes April, 2008
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