The saying goes: “When it rains, it pours.” And it has certainly been pouring down rain for online privacy and cybersecurity in the past year.
From Russian hackers sifting through Democratic National Committee emails to phishing scams at DocuSign to patient data breaches at hospitals … it seems nothing digital is safe or sacred anymore. But ransomware, the latest cybersecurity threat to hit the Internet, has even government agencies like the U.K.’s National Health Service questioning their security measures.
By now, you’ve probably heard about the WannaCry virus. But if you haven’t, I urge you to check your Windows updates and read up on this new threat to your security and privacy now. In short, WannaCry exploits a flaw in Windows XP, a legacy operating system that Microsoft no longer officially supports, but that is still used by many people, corporations and government agencies around the world.
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By exploiting this flaw, WannaCry encrypts all the files on your computer and spreads itself to other PCs on your local network. And true to the name ransomware, the only way to decrypt your computer and use it again is to pay the creator of the virus a specified sum, or ransom.
What’s more, new variants of this virus are already starting to pop up on the Internet, threatening to complicate matters further and infect thousands more computers and networks. But one company is already at the forefront of combating this new ransomware attack, and for investors, it could be a rather lucrative opportunity.
Patching the Glitch in the Matrix
The cybersecurity market grew to nearly $25 billion in 2015, and with the multitude of events cropping up in the past year, spending is going to ramp up considerably, both at corporate and government levels. In fact, Research and Markets forecasts that the cybersecurity market will top out at more than $53 billion by 2020, with annual spending increasing at a nearly 17% rate over this period. And that’s just in North America.
Global spending on cybersecurity is projected to reach more than $205 billion!
That’s quite a bit of cash sloshing around, and for good reason. Governments and corporations alike are attempting to crack down on hacking and data breaches that threaten both national security and consumer personal data.
Amid the current ransomware crisis with WannaCry, Check Point Software Technologies Ltd. (Nasdaq: CHKP) has emerged as a market leader on the forefront of identifying and eliminating such threats. Check Point is already warning clients about potential copycat threats from the WannaCry virus as the hacking community looks for additional ways to exploit this newfound hole in Windows XP operating systems.
What’s more, Check Point’s SandBlast Agent already has built-in anti-ransomware technology and is designed to update automatically to prevent zero-day vulnerabilities from affecting your networks. According to Check Point threat researcher Nicolas McKerrall: “An individual user can’t disable this protection, and regardless of their ‘security choices,’ we will detect, stop, remediate and even recover their files when their machine is under attack.”
Investing That’s on Point
Founded in 1993, Israel-based Check Point isn’t a newcomer to the cybersecurity scene. What’s more, with increasing numbers of cyberthreats emerging from the darker corners of the Internet, Check Point has seen a significant growth spurt since 2013, with its market capitalization more than doubling during this time frame.
Looking ahead, analysts are projecting Check Point revenue to rise by 7.8% to $1.88 billion this year, and 6.8% to more than $2 billion in 2018. Given the ramp-up in the number of high-profile threats so far in 2017, and Check Point’s excellent handling of the WannaCry virus this past week, these projections may be a bit on the conservative side.
From a technical perspective, CHKP stock is trading at highs last seen during the dot-com bubble. Shares recently received a shot in the arm from a solid first-quarter earnings report and bullish media headlines surrounding the company’s leadership in handling protection and prevention with the WannaCry virus. As such, CHKP stock’s 14-week Relative Strength Index shows that it’s now trading in overbought territory, and the shares may be due for a near-term correction, possibly retreating to support at their 20- and 50-day moving averages.
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For those investors looking to take a position on CHKP stock, selling out-of-the-money puts would be one way to bank some cash in your portfolio. Alternately, you can sell closer-to-the-money puts if you’re looking to name your price for the shares and add CHKP to your portfolio. For similar strategies, check out my colleague Chad Shoop’s Pure Income service.
Finally, for those privacy- and security-minded readers — which should be all of you — Ted Bauman’s Privacy Code 2.0 has a wealth of helpful information and tips on how to prevent viruses like WannaCry from taking over your digital life and stealing your privacy. What’s more, Ted recently wrote in-depth about privacy and security in the latest edition of The Bauman Letter. It’s an excellent read.
Until next time, good trading!