Dario Forte didn’t start his career as a technology innovator. In fact, his background is military and law enforcement. At the beginning of his career, he was responsible for the drug enforcement and organized crime unit in the Milano Financial Police Office. In the five years just prior to leaving the police agency, he founded a group responsible for investigating wiretapping and technology crime in Northern Italy. He started the unit from scratch and built it up to become a key component of the agency.
Forte got his MBA at University of Liverpool and his post-MBA Executive Education from Harvard Business School. He also attended a specialization course for teachers in Advanced Incident Response at Carnegie Mellon University.
Forte began a second career in the academic world. He spent 12 years teaching at Milano State University, where he led classes on Incident Management and Digital Investigations. Important research projects conducted by Forte and his students have been presented at the U.S Department of Defense, U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Worldbank, NASA and IETF (Internet Engineering Task Force).
During the same time that he was an adjunct professor, he started a consulting business that would eventually become DFLabs. “When I left the agency, I started as a freelance consultant for a series of banks. Then, in about 2004, I got an important contract from a European bank that wanted me to create the entire cybersecurity program for the bank,” says Forte. “I chose a couple of my most trusted PhD students to do the work with me. We created a small company within an incubator. We bootstrapped it and now, with the help of some external financial backing, we are a group of 45 people today. I’m pleased to say that our CTO is one of my former students.”
Forte has gone on to hire some of the people that used to be his professors as well. “My years at school provided a very good opportunity to meet people and network with them,” he says. “I chose some of the key people who taught me to join me in my consulting business, and ultimately at DFLabs.”
Through the years, Forte has been heavily involved in the scientific community. “I co-edited three ISO standards in the SC27 family, with particular reference to the 27043 and 27035 standards. These two are related to Internet response,” says Forte. “I also co-edited the 30121, which is Risk Management for Digital Investigations. And now I am also on the editorial team of the 27035-3 which is being written and built now. That is about Security Operation Centers. I also wrote around 30 scientific articles on Internet Response and Digital Investigations for editors such as Wiley and Elsevier.”
Now Forte considers himself a full-time entrepreneur as he continues to develop the solutions offered by DFLabs. “We consider ourselves to be the pioneer in security automation and orchestration technology,” he says. “The company was founded in the early 2000s, and at that time it used to be a security service company with particular reference to data breach investigations and incident response. Then in 2010, we built it into technology because we think we intercepted one of the main needs of CISOs, which is getting responses to cyber incidents under control. The only way they had at that time to keep track of the incident was a very regimental and homegrown database and things that were absolutely not compatible with the standards present at that time.”
“We created a case management tool for incident response and digital investigation. Then we evolved between 2014 and 2015 into a full security automation and orchestration platform that is now able to reduce the reaction time up to 80% in ordinary mode and even 300% depending on the type of activities that the machine requires us to do. So basically now, with this platform, which uses machine learning and additional technology features, we are able to handle in seconds a piece that before used to be handled by people in days.”
DFLabs’ headquarters and R&D are based in Milano, with operations in Boston, London, Eastern Europe, and Abu Dhabi.
Forte has a philosophy for running his company that can be interesting. “I try to create a team that I can keep for a long time. We have very low turnaround in terms of employees,” he says. “I try to keep them as much as I can, and that means that I look at a team and look at people that I want around me with a long view rather than short-term. I have people with me from ten years, I would say the majority of them. So I try to involve them in the project, not only in the short-term kind of thing. It’s a trusted and continuously winning team, so there is no reason to change, you know? I think that probably is part of the most important lifestyle in terms of entrepreneurship that I can share.”
When he’s not working so hard to build his company, Forte loves to listen to jazz, especially his favorite artist Robert Glasper. “Listening to jazz makes a long flight much more tolerable,” he says. He also spends time on his hobby of searching for, rescuing and restoring vintage sport race bicycles—the kind that are used in the Tour de France and the Giro d’Italia. “I collect these bicycles and restore them when necessary. I have a small museum near my house.” But the bikes aren’t just for show; Forte loves to ride them as well. Riding is often a family affair. Forte’s wife is his trainer from time to time, and his young daughter just bought a bike and is almost as passionate as her father for riding.