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Tech stocks’ slide could prove tipping point for cybersecurity buying spree in 2019

Long-awaited industry consolidation might get boost from market correction

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By Wallace Witkowski, MarketWatch


MarketWatch photo illustration/iStockphoto
Large companies tend to deal with dozens of cybersecurity vendors.

There are too many cybersecurity companies offering too many solutions to too many problems, with too few qualified workers seeking to help. After years of hoping for a change, it’s possible that the fourth-quarter market correction could help 2019 be the year that change finally happens.

The cybersecurity industry faces many challenges beyond a barrage of attacks that use constantly shifting tactics, but the biggest issue that chief information security officers, also known as CISOs, bring up repeatedly is a glut of vendors. As the industry matures, culling looks to be a natural part of the process.

“I think there’ll be a lot of acquisitions,” Ann Johnson, corporate vice president of the cybersecurity solutions group at Microsoft Corp. /zigman2/quotes/207732364/composite MSFT -1.05% , told MarketWatch in a recent interview. “I think you’ll see a lot of M&A. I think you’ll see not just platform vendors buying but people trying to consolidate their position that are big security vendors. There are only three or four left big security play-pay vendors, and I think you’ll see them trying to consolidate their positions.”

Security acquisitions could be more possible after the recent decline in their valuations. The industry, as followed by the ETFMG Prime Cyber Security ETF /zigman2/quotes/207892345/composite HACK -2.09% , is still performing better than the broader market, with the ETF rising 6.5% in 2018, compared with a 6.2% drop in the S&P 500 index /zigman2/quotes/210599714/realtime SPX -1.02% . The ETF, however, was in bear-market territory until last week as stocks faced their worst December in decades, and is still more than 17% off its 52-week high in mid-September.

/zigman2/quotes/207892345/composite HACK 50.08, -1.07, -2.09%

During the past decade, cybersecurity received a huge spike in investment as startups were formed to address niche issues, according to security executive Adam Ely, who served as CISO at Heroku following Salesforce.com Inc.’s /zigman2/quotes/200515854/composite CRM -2.46% acquisition of the company. Back then, venture-capital money was free flowing, and consumers were just starting to care more about how companies were securing their data, Ely told MarketWatch.

Now, there’s a glut of companies, many of which should be “features” in a larger system, Ely said, VC money is drying up, and companies have raised the security of customer data to a board-level discussion because of public outcry and government oversight. All these factors point toward streamlining operations and M&A activity.

“All of a sudden these acquisitions have gotten cheaper for them because raising capital or going IPO is now not an option for a lot of these security companies, so the acquisitions have gotten cheaper,” Ely said. “And people are going out and saying, ‘OK, Where do we need to expand our portfolio?’ ”

Read: A year after Equifax, cybersecurity is still seeking its Holy Grail

Consolidation of resources may also help to mitigate another problem that the fractured cybersecurity industry faces: a lack of talent. Citing an estimate from research firm Cybersecurity Ventures, Johnson said the industry faces a shortage of about 3.5 million qualified workers by 2022, which also awakens the industry to another problem: a lack of diversity. And, Johnson said, the problem isn’t just one of gender equality; it’s one of smart business. Cybersecurity is a business that faces tough problems from persistent adversaries and a lack of diversification from the defenders becomes a glaring security flaw.

“You never solve hard problems with like-minded people,” Johnson said.

Research firm Forrester predicts that the number of women CISOs at Fortune 500 companies will rise to 20% in 2019, compared with 13% in 2017.

“For too long, the cybersecurity industry has relied on exclusive hiring methods that favor men over women and fail to promote diversity,” Forrester said. “This trend has held steady even though diverse companies are proven to be smarter and more capable and to routinely outperform competitors.”

Diversity applies to training as well. Firms are finding that computer-science majors may not necessarily be the best candidates for hiring. Even while many low-level security functions can be performed by machine learning or AI, the sophisticated attacks that do the most damage, like the Equifaxes /zigman2/quotes/208789454/composite EFX -1.55% and the Marriotts /zigman2/quotes/200170042/composite MAR -1.47%  , rely upon humans doing the hunting.

“In my career lifetime, we’re never going to get to the point where human hunters don’t exist,” Microsoft’s Johnson said. “I love to hire ex-law enforcement, ex-military investigators because I can teach them computer tooling, but they understand motive, they understand how to chase somebody, they know how to track movement, and that’s something that’s really hard to train.”

Consolidation in the industry is overdue, according to Bret Arsenault, CISO at Microsoft.

“From the CISO chair, we’ve expected consolidation for years,” Arsenault said. “We didn’t see as much as we had expected.”

The landscape was not barren in 2018. Cisco Systems Inc. /zigman2/quotes/209509471/composite CSCO -0.75% — one of the largest cybersecurity companies — acquired Duo for $2.35 billion, and Palo Alto Networks Inc. /zigman2/quotes/207599953/composite PANW -1.28% pushed deeper into the cloud with its acquisitions of Evident.io and RedLock. Consolidation seemed to be outdone by new issues, though, as companies like Zscaler Inc. /zigman2/quotes/203585803/composite ZS -3.86% and Carbon Black Inc.executed initial public offerings.

Those companies are going to run into CISOs who are looking for a bundle, though. Arsenault said he’s reduced the number of security vendors he deals with by about 40% over the past two years.

“If I have to have a staff to run four products versus a staff to do the same capability on one vendor product, it’s just way more operationally efficient, not just in terms of contract negotiation, but in terms of operation, in terms of running the stack,” Arsenault told MarketWatch. “So that’s a big push for us.”

According to Arsenault, the areas of security that are most ripe for consolidation are mature parts of the industry like endpoint security, vulnerability management, security information and event management. Startups, for now, will likely still dominate less mature security areas like internet-of-things applications and supply-chain management, he said.

U.S. components of the ETFMG Prime Cyber Security ETF (as of Dec. 31)

Company/Index % off 52-week high 2018 performance Market Cap (millions)
Imperva Inc.   3.4% 40.3% $1,973
Cisco Systems Inc. /zigman2/quotes/209509471/composite CSCO   12.4% 13.1% $194,810
FireEye Inc.   21.4% 14.2% $3,194
Symantec Corp.   36.4% -32.7% $12,072
Juniper Networks Inc. /zigman2/quotes/207361368/composite JNPR   12.6% -5.6% $9,288
CyberArk Software Ltd. /zigman2/quotes/206810080/composite CYBR   12.0% 79.1% $2,674
Check Point Software Technologies Ltd. /zigman2/quotes/200866016/composite CHKP   15.0% -0.9% $16,035
Akamai Technologies Inc. /zigman2/quotes/203072268/composite AKAM   26.5% -6.1% $9,948
CommVault Systems Inc. /zigman2/quotes/205571392/composite CVLT   18.7% 12.6% $2,735
Splunk Inc. /zigman2/quotes/203060494/composite SPLK   19.4% 26.6% $15,495
Science Applications International Corp. /zigman2/quotes/202740286/composite SAIC   31.7% -16.8% $2,710
Fortinet Inc. /zigman2/quotes/205733290/composite FTNT   25.7% 61.2% $11,999
Palo Alto Networks Inc. /zigman2/quotes/207599953/composite PANW   21.4% 30.0% $17,871
Proofpoint Inc.   35.7% -5.6% $4,580
Qualys Inc. /zigman2/quotes/201504669/composite QLYS   24.0% 25.9% $2,943
CACI International Inc. /zigman2/quotes/205763384/composite CACI   28.3% 8.8% $3,579
SailPoint Technologies Holdings Inc.   32.1% 62.0% $2,062
Tenable Holdings Inc. /zigman2/quotes/203199150/composite TENB   43.7% -27.3% $2,065
Carbonite Inc.   42.1% -0.6% $873
VeriSign Inc. /zigman2/quotes/205260150/composite VRSN   16.1% 29.6% $17,926
Secureworks Corp. /zigman2/quotes/202179762/composite SCWX   10.7% 90.4% $1,380
NetScout Systems Inc. /zigman2/quotes/201011529/composite NTCT   25.6% -22.4% $1,836
Verint Systems Inc. /zigman2/quotes/209184374/composite VRNT   19.3% 1.1% $2,762
Booz Allen Hamilton Holding Corp. /zigman2/quotes/203977398/composite BAH   14.8% 18.2% $6,415
Zscaler Inc. /zigman2/quotes/203585803/composite ZS   18.7% 18.8% $4,793
F5 Networks Inc. /zigman2/quotes/209237881/composite FFIV   18.9% 23.5% $9,823
Okta Inc. /zigman2/quotes/210420951/composite OKTA   15.5% 149.1% $7,046
Everbridge Inc. /zigman2/quotes/202832262/composite EVBG   9.9% 91.0% $1,683
Rapid7 Inc. /zigman2/quotes/203905856/composite RPD   20.9% 67.0% $1,475
Radware Ltd. /zigman2/quotes/201355321/composite RDWR   20.3% 17.1% $1,029
ManTech International Corp. /zigman2/quotes/207993719/composite MANT   23.2% 4.2% $2,078
Carbon Black Inc.   61.7% -43.9% $911
Leidos Holdings Inc. /zigman2/quotes/202902477/composite LDOS   27.1% -18.4% $7,895
Mimecast Ltd.   28.3% 17.3% $2,020
OneSpan Inc. /zigman2/quotes/201429622/composite OSPN   49.1% -6.8% $521
Varonis Systems Inc. /zigman2/quotes/204126818/composite VRNS   36.3% 9.0% $1,559
ForeScout Technologies Inc.   36.6% -18.5% $1,114
KEYW Holding Corp.   33.5% 14.0% $334
Zix Corp.   19.2% 30.8% $311
A10 Networks Inc. /zigman2/quotes/206808991/composite ATEN   20.2% -19.2% $460
MobileIron Inc.   19.6% 17.7% $484
/zigman2/quotes/207732364/composite
US : U.S.: Nasdaq
$ 287.11
-3.06 -1.05%
Volume: 4.34M
Aug. 19, 2022 10:06a
P/E Ratio
29.73
Dividend Yield
0.86%
Market Cap
$2172.63 billion
Rev. per Employee
$897,149
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/zigman2/quotes/207892345/composite
US : U.S.: NYSE Arca
$ 50.08
-1.07 -2.09%
Volume: 7,753
Aug. 19, 2022 10:05a
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/zigman2/quotes/210599714/realtime
US : S&P US
4,240.04
-43.70 -1.02%
Volume: 2.22B
Aug. 19, 2022 10:06a
loading...
/zigman2/quotes/200515854/composite
US : U.S.: NYSE
$ 183.31
-4.63 -2.46%
Volume: 611,866
Aug. 19, 2022 10:06a
P/E Ratio
177.82
Dividend Yield
N/A
Market Cap
$187.02 billion
Rev. per Employee
$379,924
loading...
/zigman2/quotes/208789454/composite
US : U.S.: NYSE
$ 209.48
-3.30 -1.55%
Volume: 41,002
Aug. 19, 2022 10:05a
P/E Ratio
34.51
Dividend Yield
0.74%
Market Cap
$26.04 billion
Rev. per Employee
$405,984
loading...
/zigman2/quotes/200170042/composite
US : U.S.: Nasdaq
$ 162.62
-2.43 -1.47%
Volume: 261,855
Aug. 19, 2022 10:05a
P/E Ratio
30.76
Dividend Yield
0.74%
Market Cap
$53.09 billion
Rev. per Employee
$149,408
loading...
/zigman2/quotes/209509471/composite
US : U.S.: Nasdaq
$ 49.00
-0.37 -0.75%
Volume: 3.74M
Aug. 19, 2022 10:06a
P/E Ratio
17.48
Dividend Yield
3.08%
Market Cap
$204.44 billion
Rev. per Employee
N/A
loading...
/zigman2/quotes/207599953/composite
US : U.S.: Nasdaq
$ 511.21
-6.64 -1.28%
Volume: 98,892
Aug. 19, 2022 10:06a
P/E Ratio
N/A
Dividend Yield
N/A
Market Cap
$51.26 billion
Rev. per Employee
$493,679
loading...
/zigman2/quotes/203585803/composite
US : U.S.: Nasdaq
$ 168.55
-6.76 -3.86%
Volume: 273,289
Aug. 19, 2022 10:05a
P/E Ratio
N/A
Dividend Yield
N/A
Market Cap
$24.73 billion
Rev. per Employee
$307,631
loading...
/zigman2/quotes/209509471/composite
US : U.S.: Nasdaq
$ 49.00
-0.37 -0.75%
Volume: 3.74M
Aug. 19, 2022 10:06a
P/E Ratio
17.48
Dividend Yield
3.08%
Market Cap
$204.44 billion
Rev. per Employee
N/A
loading...
/zigman2/quotes/207361368/composite
US : U.S.: NYSE
$ 29.76
-0.50 -1.65%
Volume: 288,387
Aug. 19, 2022 10:06a
P/E Ratio
25.35
Dividend Yield
2.80%
Market Cap
$9.30 billion
Rev. per Employee
$483,417
loading...
/zigman2/quotes/206810080/composite
US : U.S.: Nasdaq
$ 149.08
-3.50 -2.29%
Volume: 20,940
Aug. 19, 2022 10:03a
P/E Ratio
N/A
Dividend Yield
N/A
Market Cap
$6.21 billion
Rev. per Employee
$253,650
loading...
/zigman2/quotes/200866016/composite
US : U.S.: Nasdaq
$ 123.06
-1.58 -1.26%
Volume: 54,171
Aug. 19, 2022 10:05a
P/E Ratio
20.39
Dividend Yield
N/A
Market Cap
$15.63 billion
Rev. per Employee
$387,063
loading...
/zigman2/quotes/203072268/composite
US : U.S.: Nasdaq
$ 95.88
-0.92 -0.95%
Volume: 71,327
Aug. 19, 2022 10:06a
P/E Ratio
27.37
Dividend Yield
N/A
Market Cap
$15.52 billion
Rev. per Employee
$410,652
loading...
/zigman2/quotes/205571392/composite
US : U.S.: Nasdaq
$ 59.08
-0.16 -0.27%
Volume: 26,478
Aug. 19, 2022 10:02a
P/E Ratio
117.23
Dividend Yield
N/A
Market Cap
$2.65 billion
Rev. per Employee
$275,334
loading...
/zigman2/quotes/203060494/composite
US : U.S.: Nasdaq
$ 107.87
-4.04 -3.61%
Volume: 224,742
Aug. 19, 2022 10:06a
P/E Ratio
N/A
Dividend Yield
N/A
Market Cap
$17.63 billion
Rev. per Employee
$406,528
loading...
/zigman2/quotes/202740286/composite
US : U.S.: NYSE
$ 95.72
+0.27 +0.28%
Volume: 7,314
Aug. 19, 2022 10:05a
P/E Ratio
20.48
Dividend Yield
1.55%
Market Cap
$5.30 billion
Rev. per Employee
$288,923
loading...
/zigman2/quotes/205733290/composite
US : U.S.: Nasdaq
$ 51.45
-0.82 -1.57%
Volume: 579,481
Aug. 19, 2022 10:06a
P/E Ratio
63.02
Dividend Yield
N/A
Market Cap
$40.95 billion
Rev. per Employee
$374,272
loading...
/zigman2/quotes/207599953/composite
US : U.S.: Nasdaq
$ 511.21
-6.64 -1.28%
Volume: 98,892
Aug. 19, 2022 10:06a
P/E Ratio
N/A
Dividend Yield
N/A
Market Cap
$51.26 billion
Rev. per Employee
$493,679
loading...
/zigman2/quotes/201504669/composite
US : U.S.: Nasdaq
$ 153.60
-2.81 -1.80%
Volume: 29,504
Aug. 19, 2022 10:04a
P/E Ratio
60.52
Dividend Yield
N/A
Market Cap
$5.98 billion
Rev. per Employee
$246,187
loading...
/zigman2/quotes/205763384/composite
US : U.S.: NYSE
$ 283.82
-0.58 -0.20%
Volume: 2,771
Aug. 19, 2022 9:58a
P/E Ratio
18.33
Dividend Yield
N/A
Market Cap
$6.66 billion
Rev. per Employee
$281,951
loading...
/zigman2/quotes/203199150/composite
US : U.S.: Nasdaq
$ 41.09
-1.48 -3.48%
Volume: 111,949
Aug. 19, 2022 10:05a
P/E Ratio
N/A
Dividend Yield
N/A
Market Cap
$4.74 billion
Rev. per Employee
$378,102
loading...
/zigman2/quotes/205260150/composite
US : U.S.: Nasdaq
$ 201.92
-4.55 -2.20%
Volume: 87,291
Aug. 19, 2022 10:05a
P/E Ratio
27.55
Dividend Yield
N/A
Market Cap
$21.97 billion
Rev. per Employee
$1.52M
loading...
/zigman2/quotes/202179762/composite
US : U.S.: Nasdaq
$ 10.09
-0.17 -1.66%
Volume: 6,367
Aug. 19, 2022 9:58a
P/E Ratio
N/A
Dividend Yield
N/A
Market Cap
$854.54 million
Rev. per Employee
$219,807
loading...
/zigman2/quotes/201011529/composite
US : U.S.: Nasdaq
$ 33.34
-0.21 -0.63%
Volume: 36,034
Aug. 19, 2022 10:04a
P/E Ratio
61.31
Dividend Yield
N/A
Market Cap
$2.37 billion
Rev. per Employee
$374,996
loading...
/zigman2/quotes/209184374/composite
US : U.S.: Nasdaq
$ 49.76
-0.18 -0.36%
Volume: 26,310
Aug. 19, 2022 10:05a
P/E Ratio
N/A
Dividend Yield
N/A
Market Cap
$3.22 billion
Rev. per Employee
$202,616
loading...
/zigman2/quotes/203977398/composite
US : U.S.: NYSE
$ 98.70
-0.35 -0.35%
Volume: 48,048
Aug. 19, 2022 10:05a
P/E Ratio
26.01
Dividend Yield
1.74%
Market Cap
$13.11 billion
Rev. per Employee
$294,342
loading...
/zigman2/quotes/203585803/composite
US : U.S.: Nasdaq
$ 168.55
-6.76 -3.86%
Volume: 273,289
Aug. 19, 2022 10:05a
P/E Ratio
N/A
Dividend Yield
N/A
Market Cap
$24.73 billion
Rev. per Employee
$307,631
loading...
/zigman2/quotes/209237881/composite
US : U.S.: Nasdaq
$ 170.60
-3.10 -1.78%
Volume: 21,166
Aug. 19, 2022 10:04a
P/E Ratio
30.58
Dividend Yield
N/A
Market Cap
$10.35 billion
Rev. per Employee
$414,457
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/zigman2/quotes/210420951/composite
US : U.S.: Nasdaq
$ 95.55
-6.22 -6.11%
Volume: 311,313
Aug. 19, 2022 10:06a
P/E Ratio
N/A
Dividend Yield
N/A
Market Cap
$16.05 billion
Rev. per Employee
$291,081
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/zigman2/quotes/202832262/composite
US : U.S.: Nasdaq
$ 33.31
-1.86 -5.28%
Volume: 53,391
Aug. 19, 2022 10:04a
P/E Ratio
N/A
Dividend Yield
N/A
Market Cap
$1.39 billion
Rev. per Employee
$206,422
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/zigman2/quotes/203905856/composite
US : U.S.: Nasdaq
$ 63.08
-2.02 -3.10%
Volume: 58,985
Aug. 19, 2022 10:05a
P/E Ratio
N/A
Dividend Yield
N/A
Market Cap
$3.87 billion
Rev. per Employee
$261,951
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/zigman2/quotes/201355321/composite
US : U.S.: Nasdaq
$ 21.89
-0.52 -2.32%
Volume: 10,357
Aug. 19, 2022 10:05a
P/E Ratio
166.77
Dividend Yield
N/A
Market Cap
$1.02 billion
Rev. per Employee
$261,489
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/zigman2/quotes/207993719/composite
US : U.S.: Nasdaq
$ 95.85
-0.03 -0.03%
Volume: 13,969
Aug. 19, 2022 10:01a
P/E Ratio
32.11
Dividend Yield
1.71%
Market Cap
$3.93 billion
Rev. per Employee
$267,046
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/zigman2/quotes/202902477/composite
US : U.S.: NYSE
$ 101.71
+0.12 +0.12%
Volume: 46,485
Aug. 19, 2022 10:04a
P/E Ratio
19.77
Dividend Yield
1.42%
Market Cap
$13.81 billion
Rev. per Employee
$327,093
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/zigman2/quotes/201429622/composite
US : U.S.: Nasdaq
$ 12.06
-0.28 -2.23%
Volume: 14,237
Aug. 19, 2022 10:04a
P/E Ratio
N/A
Dividend Yield
N/A
Market Cap
$487.02 million
Rev. per Employee
$246,491
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/zigman2/quotes/204126818/composite
US : U.S.: Nasdaq
$ 29.22
-1.11 -3.66%
Volume: 60,347
Aug. 19, 2022 10:05a
P/E Ratio
N/A
Dividend Yield
N/A
Market Cap
$3.28 billion
Rev. per Employee
$210,479
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/zigman2/quotes/206808991/composite
US : U.S.: NYSE
$ 16.00
-0.44 -2.68%
Volume: 57,715
Aug. 19, 2022 10:05a
P/E Ratio
12.49
Dividend Yield
1.25%
Market Cap
$1.25 billion
Rev. per Employee
$451,993
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Wallace Witkowski is a MarketWatch news editor in San Francisco. Follow him on Twitter @wmwitkowski.

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