TrustedSec started in the basement of a Northeast Ohio home in 2012.
Almost eight years later, the information security consulting firm that breaks into companies’ networks and buildings to keep them safe from nefarious hackers has grown to dozens of employees around the world and is planning to move its headquarters to Fairlawn.
“We just keep growing, and our capacity keeps growing, and the demand that we have is growing,” said founder David Kennedy, a Northeast Ohio native who now lives in Medina County.
The company is planning to build a three-story, 20,000-square-foot building on a 4.48-acre site in Fairlawn Corporate Park, near the intersection of South Cleveland Massillon and Ridgewood roads and just south of Interstate 77.
The Fairlawn Planning Commission this month granted preliminary site plan approval for the $5.5 million project. The commission will still need to grant final approval before construction starts, which Kennedy hopes will be this summer, with the building opening next year.
Course for growth
After graduating from Bedford High School in 2000, Kennedy, who’s always been interested in computers and built his own video games as a kid, joined the U.S. Marine Corps, serving two tours in Iraq and focusing on cyber warfare.
After Kennedy returned to Ohio, he eventually started working for Diebold Incorporated as chief security officer, running the Fortune 1000 company’s global information security program.
He eventually decided he wanted to replicate the work he was doing for Diebold for other companies. In 2012, he created TrustedSec — the name reflects the high degree of trust required in the cybersecurity field, as clients trust the company with some of their most sensitive information.
The company has only grown since then. It now takes up an entire floor in a Strongsville office building.
The firm’s services range from technical services to figure out what happened after a company got hacked and prevent it from happening again to advisory services to help build companies’ security programs.
“You look at anything that we do around TrustedSec, it’s trying to make the world a safer place,” said Kennedy, who has testified before Congress on national security issues and served as technical consultant for the “Mr. Robot” TV show.
Kennedy said types of tests employees perform for clients include trying to hack into network systems and steal information as well as physically breaking into buildings to test their security.
“We’re really simulating a bad person, what a bad person can do,” said Kennedy, who noted he’s been arrested “a few times” while trying to legitimately break into buildings to test their security. “But we get to do it in a way that’s obviously legal, ethical and helping companies secure themselves.”
Clients range from government agencies to small and mid-sized businesses to large companies and represent a range of industries, including automotive, technology and phone manufacturing.
When Kennedy started searching for TrustedSec’s new home as it continued to grow, Fairlawn stood out because of FairlawnGig, a municipal broadband utility established by the city in 2017. Kennedy said it played a “huge” role in the company’s decision to move there.
“It literally had everything that we wanted in a city,” said Kennedy, who listed the nearby restaurants and hotels as other attractive features.
“It’s cutting edge, and they’re coming to Fairlawn,” Mayor Bill Roth said of TrustedSec during his State of the City address this month. “They came because we had a shovel-ready site, but more importantly, because we have the Gig.”
Principals Terry Hanson and Fred Zumpano with Zumpano + Hanson Development are the project developers, and Eric Beach with Hasenstab Architects is the project architect.
“They are as equally equipped as any hacker around the world,” Hanson said. “They’re just on the good side. They’re the good guys.”
Eye on next generation
TrustedSec now has 72 employees around the world, with about 35 to 40 in Northeast Ohio.
The new building, which will have a patio and nap rooms for employees, will also include a convention area with room for about 150 people, both for training sessions for the company’s clients and free seminars and training on security topics for the community.
“We want to be a resource for Fairlawn,” Kennedy said.
Kenney said TrustedSec also wants to help attract and train the next generation of cybersecurity experts, as there’s a “massive talent shortage” in the field.
The company, which partners with local schools to help them develop cybersecurity programs, has a training and mentorship program and will offer internships and new positions for junior staff.
Kennedy said he expects TrustedSec to continue to grow, so the plans for the new Fairlawn headquarters include a future expansion that would double the size of the building.
In the meantime, TrustedSec is searching for a new temporary home until its Fairlawn location is built, as the lease for its current Strongsville space ends in May. Kennedy said the temporary location will hopefully be in the Fairlawn area.
“We are growing much faster every single year than we have before, and so we want a place that’s gonna be our final home. We want Fairlawn to be our final home,” he said. “We want Fairlawn to be the center for information security for Northeast Ohio.”
Contact Beacon Journal reporter Emily Mills at 330-996-3334, email@example.com and on Twitter at @EmilyMills818.