MRI machines play a critical role in hospital operations. Yet, like other legacy devices that typically have decades-long life cycles, MRI machines are likely to have been purchased long before network or device security were top of mind.

Replacing a multi-million dollar MRI machine may not be an option, so how can hospitals eliminate the vulnerabilities that come from security-obsolete devices?

Perigee is helping companies answer that question. The startup, founded by Mollie Breen, works with companies to build a 360-degree security layer tailored to the functions and vulnerabilities of a specific legacy device. The company is one of 20 startups selected to compete in the TechCrunch Startup Battlefield.

“Every organization has a really old device that they think they can’t part with. They feel a responsibility to keep it in their network,” said Breen, who graduated from the MS/MBA: Engineering Sciences program, jointly offered by the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences and Harvard Business School, in 2020. “What are the solutions available to you to secure it, and increase its functionalities beyond that end of life and end of support?”

For Breen, the idea originated while she was working at the Department of Defense as an applied research mathematician. She found a vulnerability related to connected devices within the critical security infrastructure, and led a team that solved it.

While in the MS/MBA program, she was curious about how the problem of vulnerable legacy devices impacted companies. She honed in on the problems her startup is working to solve after speaking with corporate CIOs, legacy device manufacturers, and other stakeholders.

One of the most important pieces of information Perigee provides clients is a baseline for legacy devices, so customers can understand how a device is functioning, how it has functioned in the past, and how it should be functioning within a network. The startup also provides tools that boost device performance within a network.

And by providing real-time status on all a firm’s legacy devices, Perigee enables customers to more efficiently plan device downtime.

“One-size-fits-all is great, and it is scalable, but it doesn’t always reach the needs of the people you are working with and the things you are trying to protect,” Breen said. “Our solution is one-to-one and scalable. We build a device-specific representation of each device on the network, and our generalizable machine learning approach and software-based installation allows us to scale to all legacy and modern devices.”

For Breen, the biggest challenges of getting the startup off the ground have been working through the day-to-day trials while staying focused on the bigger picture. She’s learned that each stage of a startup’s life cycle brings unique difficulties.

She is currently building and refining a product prototype while launching a test version in one enterprise customer’s network infrastructure. Breen is also looking to expand the team and gather more feedback from potential customers.

The massive amount of media attention network security has received in recent years provides opportunities and challenges as the startup moves forward.

“There’s no doubt that I’m going to be competing against more companies for a sale, and customers are going to be more skeptical, wondering who is selling snake oil and who is providing a service that will actually make their lives easier,” she said. “Trying to shine against the noise is something that I’m really mindful of, and having strong relationships and building trust is one way I think I can rise above the fact that this is a hot space.”

Building relationships with a wide variety of people has been a highlight for Breen every step of the way. Working with mentors, speaking with potential customers, and learning from industry leaders has been an indispensable learning experience, she said.

She’s looking forward to the next chapter of Perigee.

“Someone once gave me the advice that if you can picture yourself doing anything else, then you should go do that thing and not start a company. I think about that continually,” she said. “The answer I always arrive at is the same: I can’t picture myself doing anything else.”

This article was originally published on the Harvard SEAS News & Events website.