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MHS Grad Sinks Steel Roots in Cyber Security

The Marblehead Reporter profiles Steel Root co-founder Scott Freedson, a Marblehead native, in an interview about starting Steel Root.

This article by Chris Stevens originally appeared in The Marblehead Reporter

Marblehead High School graduate Scott Freedson and his business partner Ryan Heidorn were both working in IT departments for large corporations when they noticed something was missing.

“A lot of companies offer IT services and security for big companies, but none focus on small businesses,” Heidorn said. “As we started to pursue the idea, a couple of things emerged.”

Namely what they discovered is that small businesses, which can easily be crippled by a cyber attack, tend to have little or nothing in the way of cybersecurity.

And a business idea was born. The pair, both married with young families, took their time letting the idea grow.

“We’re not risk takers,” Heidorn admitted, adding they financed the startup themselves.

But in 2015 when they hit critical mass in terms of clients, they pulled the trigger, quit their jobs and “Steel Root,” a full service IT company that specializes in cybersecurity and focuses on small businesses, became their full-time gig.

Freedson joked everyone thinks working for themselves must be great when in fact they actually have more bosses than ever to answer to.

“Our clients are all our bosses,” he said. “We have a lot of people to report to.”

Seated in a small office with stellar views from the fifth floor of 221 Essex St., the pair talked about how their business has grown and why it’s important.

Forty three percent of all cyber attacks target small businesses, Heidorn said quoting a statistic from Symantec Security.

“Typically because they are easy targets,” he added.

Sixty percent of small business hit by a cyber attack end up having to close their doors within six months of the breach. The Boston Business Journal predicts that 550,000 small business will be shut down this year alone due to cyber attacks.

“There are a lot of high powered tools out there in the hands of fraudsters that make it easy to attack a small business,” Freedson said.

And small businesses are attractive targets because while the take might be smaller than say robbing Sony, Home Depot or Target, which all suffered massive data breaches in the last few years, they are easier to get into and thieves can hit a lot of them in a short amount of time.

And that is where Steel Root comes in.

Heidorn said there is a misconception that security plans have to be big and expensive, which simply isn’t true.

“One of the things we’ve started to do is offer low cost assessments,” Freedson said. “We can tell you ‘here’s the lay of the land, here are the doors that are open.’”

Pinpointing weaknesses puts the power back in the business owner’s hands because they can decide what to do with that information, Freedson explained.

“If they have an IT person, they can take the information and go with someone they’re already working with or we’ll help …it’s similar to a home inspection, he said.

Plus their assessments are doable, and in English, Freedson added.

“There are other assessments out there, but you get back a 50-page thing and it’s too scary so you don’t do anything,” he said.

“Our approach is relatively easy,” Heidorn added. “Here are five things you can do at low or no cost.”

It also pays to have a backup plan Heidorn said. Cyber attackers, particularly those that include ransomware, are very hard to catch, he said.

Ransomware effectively locks a user out of their own computer then culprits demand a ransom before releasing the data back to its rightful owner.

“It’s not easy to catch them even if you have $100,000 in tools,” Heirdorn said “It’s good to have a fall back plan, which is what we do.”

Along with security, Steel Root can also help increase a small business’s efficiency by installing upgrades and streamlining repairs, managing networks and servers and offering local tech support whenever it’s needed. The company also offers data and Cloud services and employee training and workshops.

“If you keep your bases covered and have a backup in place, no matter the score you can protect yourself,” Heidorn said.