Delaware-based company works to protect the world | Delaware News
By LOGAN B. ANDERSON, Delaware State News
MAGNOLIA, Del. (AP) — Many people and companies say they want to save or change the world, but one company working in a historic building in Magnolia actually does.
Sumuri is a provider of digital forensic solutions. The company builds and creates hardware and software to fight crime and protect vulnerable people and children. The company operates out of the former Magnolia Family Furniture building in the small county town of Kent, south of Dover Air Force Base.
The name Sumuri is an old Tagalog word meaning to investigate or analyze. Tagalog is an Austronesian language spoken as a first language by the Tagalog ethnic group, which makes up a quarter of the population of the Philippines, and as a second language by the majority.
The Delaware-based company was founded by Steve Whalen and his wife Ailyn Whalen. Mr. Whalen is a retired Delaware State Trooper who has spent most of his career fighting computer and web crime. Ms. Whalen is from the Philippines and a specialist in digital forensics.
“I was the first member of the Delaware State Police to be assigned full-time to computer crimes. We had our own unit – a high-tech crime unit – in 2001. I was assigned to that unit until I retired,” Mr Whalen said.
His knowledge of digital forensics has taken him around the world to help law enforcement and governments fight criminals and terrorists who use computers and the internet to take advantage of people.
During a trip to the Philippines, while working with the US State Department to fight terrorism, Mr. Whalen met his wife. The couple quickly became a couple, married and settled in the first state.
Mr. and Mrs. Whalen became a digital forensics team and started Sumuri about 12 years ago.
“Coming from law enforcement, what I wanted to do was actually continue to help people, like what I did with the state of Delaware, but on a larger scale. I had basically, by this point, been teaching all over the world and I became a subject matter expert on some things,” Whalen said.
When Sumuri started, his goal was to form agencies and work with others on their investigations. Then he started creating tools to help more people and groups.
The company’s first major project was to develop software called Paladin to help agencies fight crime. Knowing that they had created a useful tool that could help people and bring criminals to justice, they decided to give the program away for free.
“If you had a computer and you had our software, you had everything you needed. And so, we gave it to the world for free. It’s still used. We support that today,” Mr. Whalen said.
Paladin has been downloaded on almost every continent and is also used by universities and schools to teach forensics.
“It’s used by just about everyone in the world who does forensics for a variety of different things,” Whalen said.
Cybercrime investigators need powerful computers to do their job properly.
“(Paladin) got into other projects. We developed a lot of software to help forensic investigators investigate…That led us to the hardware side,” Whalen said.
Before launching its hardware division, Sumuri dove deep into the forensic hardware market.
“What we ended up doing was looking at the forensic material as forensic examiners, coming up with different designs and figuring out how much it would cost to do it right, without sacrificing anything. And then, seeing the cost, we found we could do it a lot cheaper and still make a profit,” Whalen said.
The company builds and sells its systems to agencies and groups around the world.
Evidence that Sumuri is pursuing his goal of making the world a better place can be seen on the wall outside his administrative offices at his Magnolia facility. On the wall hang letters of thanks and news articles about cases and people the company has helped.
The company has helped solve murders, bring human traffickers to justice and rescue children who have been sexually exploited.
Sumuri is based in Kent County but has offices across the country and in Ms Whalen’s home country of the Philippines. Although the company’s goals are global in scope, the company has a genuine love for Delaware, and it proudly shows it in its homebase and employees.
“When we research things, we first look at Delaware. And then we go to the United States, then we go to North America, then we go wherever we need to go to get what we need,” Whalen said.
“I was born and raised here. I went to the University of Delaware and became a Delaware State Trooper…I grew up in the Wilmington, Christiana and New Castle area.
Sumuri started in the Whalen’s garage. It became a bigger space in the couple’s home and quickly expanded to need more square footage to do their jobs.
The company set out to find a new location, but couldn’t find exactly what they were looking for, until the Whalens were looking for new furniture for their home.
They decided to check out Magnolia Family Furniture and found so much more than they were looking for. The Whalens befriended the former owner of the Magnolia furniture store, Frances V. Zornes. When they learned that she had decided to close her business and sell her property, they knew they wanted Sumuri to make the old building her new home.
Although several contractors advised them to demolish the old structures and resell the wood inside, they refused and decided to preserve the building’s history.
Long before the building became a furniture store, it was the business center of Magnolia and Delaware’s once-thriving fishing industry.
Farmers carried their fruit to the east side of the main campus building. The peaches would be processed and then loaded into horse-drawn carts on the west side of the building to take the fruit to market.
Today, the first floor of the main building is the assembly center for Sumuri’s hardware business. The place that once processed peaches, then was a furniture showroom, now builds computers that leave Magnolia for places around the world to help those in need.
The juxtaposition of old wooden beams and high-tech monitors and tools follows Sumuri. Their devices will see, stop and prevent some of the world’s most horrific crimes, but they started from a place of love and preservation.
Shortly after starting their business, Mr. Whalen discovered that running a business was not what he really wanted to do. He wants to build and create new tools, products, nonprofits and businesses. He realized he needed help and found that help in Jason Roslewicz.
Mr. Roslewicz is the CEO of Sumuri, Ms. Whalen is the president of the company and now Mr. Whalen is retired from Sumuri.
Mr. Roslewicz helped guide and grow Sumuri into a global leader in digital forensic services.
“I love the mission and what we do. I have a business background. I’ve run a few large retail organizations before. So in looking at what the mission is and what we could do with it, we took it from basements and attics and turned it into what you see here,” Roslewicz said.
Sumuri’s Magnolia headquarters has three main buildings with 25 employees. The company has an office on the west coast for its training services division and a dozen employees based in Asia.
The company is now focused on making more connections and building relationships to help more people.
Roslewicz said he and delegates from Delaware economic development groups will soon travel to the Middle East to meet with business leaders there and create more opportunities for the First State. Sumuri is also in talks with the United Nations to help combat human trafficking.
With Mr. Roslewicz and Ms. Whalen handling the day-to-day business needs of Sumuri, Mr. Whalen is able to work on other projects.
Recently, he developed with Sumuri a software called Catch a Predator.
The program can be installed on any computer. It runs in the background of the device and searches for child sexual abuse material.
Mr. Whalen has developed the first software of its kind to help identify abusers and hopefully prevent abuse.
“I have found through my investigations that anytime we find a child being sexually abused, it goes hand in hand with child sexual abuse material,” Mr Whalen said. “It’s unlikely that if there’s a computer in the house, you won’t find it.”
He designed the software for anyone who suspects something is wrong with them.
While investigating cases of child sexual abuse, he often overheard the abuser’s partner suspect something was wrong but had no way to prove it.
“I just gave you a way to find out,” Mr Whalen said.
The program works as a virus scanner and is only accessible to the user who installed it. Once its analysis is complete, it provides the user with a report. It is up to the user to decide what to do with the information. Whalen encourages users to alert law enforcement if the program discovers child sexual exploitation material. At the very least, Mr. Whalen hopes the information provided by Catch a Predator will steer a child away from an abusive situation.
To learn more about Catch-A-Predator, visit catchapredator.org.
The Whalens recently unveiled a new venture called My Instant Team.
When they started their main business, the couple said they didn’t have all the tools they needed and eventually had to outsource some of the work. A new business often needs a website, graphic design work, marketing assistance, and often customer service technicians.
It took the Whalens a long time to find and organize the contract or freelance workers they needed to start their business. They have realized that since starting their main business, they have developed a network of specialists who can help other businesses.
They decided to offer their network and expertise in team building to other companies. This company, called MyInstantTeam, is run by Ms. Whalen and can be contacted at myinstantteam.com.
To learn more about Sumuri, their software and services, visit sumuri.com.
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