Cyber attacks are currently one of the top five global risks according to the World Economic Forum and are plaguing individuals, corporations, and institutions alike.
While cyber attacks have been around since long before the Internet became commercially available, they have been drastically on the increase in the last few years, especially in the form of ransomware attacks.
Ransomware refers to malevolent software that blocks access to a system or important data until a ransom has been paid. Ransomware attacks are expected to increase as malicious encryption software is improving as well as due to the increased use of the anonymous digital currency bitcoin, which facilitates ransom payments for hackers.
In the U.S. alone, ransomware attacks average 4,000 a day according to the U.S. Department of Justice. While ransom payments tend to range from $500 to $1,000, according to California-based cybersecurity firm Cyence.
However, it is not only individuals and corporations who are at risk of hacks and ransomware attacks. Even banks have become so concerned about ransomware attacks that they have started to stockpile the anonymous digital currency bitcoin, which hackers use as a preferred means of payments to release encrypted data and files in ransomware attacks, in case a hack occurs.
While small businesses and corporations are the primary targets of cyber attacks, non-commercial institutions can also become victims of hacking. It is not unheard of that power grids, pipelines and other critical infrastructure systems fall victims to cyber attacks. Hence, it is no surprise that cybersecurity is currently one of the fastest growing sectors and business is booming.
Anthony Di Maggio, Research Analyst at Stern Options, believes that “due to the widespread increase of ransomware attacks and data theft, cybersecurity stocks have started to gain popularity among investors. Cybersecurity is a sector that will witness increased investment and substantial growth in the years to come to meet growing customer demands.”
There are several ”hot” cybersecurity stocks you can invest in if you want to benefit of the cybersecurity “gold rush”, which is a direct result of the increased global need for cybersecurity.
Two of the most promising listed cybersecurity companies are Symantec (NASDAQ: SYMC) and Science Applications International Corporation (NYSE: SAIC).
Symantec Corp. is most known for its Norton antivirus software that is popular among private individuals that want to secure their home computers. However, Symantec also offers enterprise-level cybersecurity solutions with a strong focus on endpoint protection for all devices. This fiscal year, Symantec forecasts its full-year revenue to be $4.04 billion to $4.12 billion, up from a previously estimated $3.58 billion, while its adjusted per share profit are forecasted to be between $1.08 to $1.14, up from the previous estimate of $1.10. The primary driver behind this increase in forecast is the $4.65 billion acquisition of Blue Coat Systems Inc., which increases Symantec’s position in the network security market segment. Year-to-date its share price has increased from $21 to $25 and with its strong industry position, a further increase in value is to be expected.
Science Applications International Corporation is one of the leading cybersecurity companies in the United States and is the primary supplier of technical services and cybersecurity solutions to U.S. government entities, including the U.S. military, the U.S. Defense Logistics Agency, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and NASA. SAIC plays a key role in protecting vital communications networks, power grids, and infrastructure systems through the use of cutting-edge threat detection and risk assessment technologies. SAIC’s 2016 FY results show that it achieved 12% revenue growth, which resulted from the $790 million acquisition of Scitor Corp., while its adjusted EBITDA increased 19% y-o-y, from $260 million to $309 million. In 2016, its share price has increased from $43 to $69 year-to-date, and it doesn’t look like this price surge will likely stop soon.
Other noteworthy cybersecurity stocks to consider for your investment portfolio are Check Point Software (NASDAQ: CHKP), Palo Alto Networks (NYSE: PANW), FireEye (NASDAQ: FEYE), CyberArk Software (NASDAQ: CYBR), and Imperva (NYSE: IMPV).