Click the arrow above to hear Malwarebytes founder Marcin Kleczynski’s interview with St. Pete Catalyst publisher Joe Hamilton.
At 15 years old, Marcin Kleczynski was living with his parents in the suburbs of Chicago when his penchant for pirated video games got him into a bit of trouble. Despite the anti-virus software installed on the family computer, when Kleczynski downloaded video games from across the internet, he infected his family computer with malware, or software designed to be intentionally damaging.
Kleczynski was bound and determined – with some urging from his mother – to fix the problem. He found a solution in a helpful security message board, filled with so-called “superheroes.” These “superheroes” were willing to help him fix his computer and fight malware.
After three days of work following a 30 page manual, Kleczynski had resolved his family’s malware problems, but he’d also gotten fully hooked on fighting malware and cyber crime. He picked up some programming books to teach himself how to code, including Visual Basic 6 For Dummies, and worked on automating the 30-page manual into a program that could run to automatically fix a computer.
Eventually, one of the “superheroes” on the message board gave Kleczynski the domain name Malwarebytes.biz, and (however reluctantly) Malwarebytes was born.
Like many startups, Malwarebytes began in the humblest of places – Kleczynski’s parents’ basement in Bensenville, Illinois. Some of the original employees of Malwarebytes actually came directly from the message board that Kleczynski used to solve his malware problem. In fact, the woman who gave him the original 30-page manual still works for the company today as Director of Threat Research.
Kleczynski and his co-founder Bruce Harrison formally launched Malwarebytes on Jan. 21, 2008 while Kleczynski was attending the University of Illinois and studying software engineering. Harrison eventually became the VP of Research for Malwarebytes.
A lot has changed since Kleczynski started Malwarebytes, including the sophistication of the viruses. “Traditional anti-virus has been around since the ’80s,” Kleczynski explained. “And the way to catch viruses since the ’80s is to first see them, fingerprint them, identify them, ship those fingerprints to all of your customers, and react.”
But today’s malware is “polymorphic,” said Kleczynski. “Now you’re trying to fingerprint something that is constantly changing and morphing like a real human virus. So, these criminals, these malware writers, have built-in automation, AI, into the morphing of this malware. So how can you possibly ship billions of signatures, fingerprints? You can’t.”
Today, Malwarebytes now has more than 800 employees and four offices across the world including Clearwater, Florida. While Malwarebytes began as a complement that would “bolt on” to traditional antivirus software, Kleczynski said that it has now begun to replace the big traditional companies like Norton and McAfee.
In this long-form interview, Kleczynski talks the unlikely founding of Malwarebytes, how the big traditional companies are failing, and how Malwarebytes has stepped in to take on a greater share of the antivirus market.
Listen to Malwarebytes’ full origin story by clicking the play arrow above.