SOMERVILLE, Mass. – The cybersecurity firm Recorded Future boasts some 1,400 clients and enjoys considerable respect. But the threat-intelligence business wasn’t enough for CEO Christopher Ahlberg. Two years ago, he created an online cybersecurity news service called The Record.
The Associated Press spoke with the 53-year-old Swede about the site's genesis and plans. The interview has been edited for clarity and brevity.
Q: What made you decide to launch The Record?
A: Michael Bloomberg’s book “Bloomberg by Bloomberg.” I must have read it five times. We want to build a Bloomberg terminal for cybersecurity. We want all the data, all the analytics, all the research, all the news in one place. So a threat intel person, a government analyst, a security generalist can have the best intel at their fingertips.
(The Bloomberg news agency grew out of what was initially a financial data supplier delivered on proprietary terminals).
Q: What information gap did you feel needed to be filled?
A: Most outlets that write about cyber are very IT-focused. We’d like to bring it closer to where decision-makers are, where policy is made. The ransomware scourge and now the war in Ukraine have boosted demand. We publish straight to our website – without ads or a paywall. We also publish into our own service for paying customers, where the stories are cross-correlate-able with our research and raw security data.
Q: Your journalists have worked at outlets including The Wall Street Journal and National Public Radio. You grew with funding from In-Q-Tel, the CIA’s venture capital arm, and Google, and you work with the national security community. Can readers trust The Record to be editorially independent?
A: The Record is a separate unit. The editor, Adam Janofsky, has never asked me about a story and I have never told him what to write. He’d leave if I did. I think we’ve hired people with integrity. They write about our competitors, just as our competitors routinely write about Recorded Future research – sometimes getting exclusives. I don’t think anyone can take a story we've done and be able to say "That serves U.S. interests," or “That serves British interests."
Q: I have seen complaints on social media about verbatim interviews The Record has done with cybercriminals — who can make outrageous claims — lacking in caveats and context.
A: I think you can argue that we gain intelligence with such interviews, and when you’re new you have to try to do things a little bit differently. Journalists interview terrorists, too. I understand there can be risks. But these people are not the easiest to get to. And we know these interviews are being read by the right people.
Q: How many journalists does The Record employ and do you plan to grow? Will there be a video component?
A: There are six or seven, depending how you count. Adam and I agree we would like to have better international coverage. (Former NPR journalist) Dina Temple-Raston runs a podcast. As for video, there's no rush. You don’t want to do too many things at once.