I'm always on the lookout for ripple effects in the market from negative news, and Google’s (NASDAQ:GOOG) announcement of the attack on its corporate infrastructure originating in China has not only given a boost to its Chinese rival Baidu (NASDAQ:BIDU), but it has given a boost to an already growing industry: internet security. It looks as though Google offered the anti-virus industry a free advertisement when it disclosed the attack.
"We would advise people to deploy reputable anti-virus and anti-spyware programs on their computers," Google wrote in its official blog, googleblog.blogspot.com. Google revealed that its investigation showed that not just Google but at least 20 other large companies from a wide range of businesses, including the Internet, finance, technology, media and chemical, had been similarly targeted.
Unfortunately, if Google can be hacked, it can happen to anybody," according to Laura DiDio, an analyst with technology research firm ITIC.
On Tuesday, Facebook offered its 350 million users a free six-month trial of McAfee's Internet Security Suite, which protects computer users from viruses and other Internet threats.
We know that hackers of all stripes have succeeded in attacking businesses, but companies usually don’t disclose the breaches because they are afraid of damaging their reputations and encouraging criminals.
The attacks on Google are the latest in a string of high-profile cyber attacks, including last April’s “Conficker” worm attack, that Wall Street analysts said have helped security companies outperform the broader technology market. In fact, some analysts say that the online security business could grow five-fold in the next few years.
Market researcher IDC estimates that sales of security software rose 4% last year to $15.4 billion, even as overall technology spending declined. IDC projects that it will rise another 6% this year.
So which firms should we be looking at to benefit most from the growth in security demands? "Symantec (NASDAQ:SYMC) and McAfee (MFE) are the Batman and Superman in terms of protecting enterprises and consumers," said one analyst. But there are some smaller firms that are worth looking at as well.
I’ve been looking at CommTouch (CTCH), whose Recurrent Pattern Detection and GlobalView technologies identify and block messaging and Web security threats, including increasingly malicious malware and phishing outbreaks.
CommTouch recently released its Internet Threats Trend Report for Q4 2009, based on the analysis of over two billion email messages and Internet transactions seen daily in the company’s cloud-based global detection centers.
- According to the report, spammers and other cyber-lowlifes continue to be cutting-edge marketers, this time taking advantage of the reputations of global brands, such as UPS, DHL and Facebook to prompt opening of emails.
- Spam levels averaged 77% of all email traffic throughout the quarter, peaking at 98% in November and bottoming out at 68% at the end of December.
- An average of 312,000 zombies were newly activated daily for the purpose of malicious activity.
- "Business" continued to be the Web site category most infected with malware for the third quarter in a row.
- Pharmacy spam remained in the top spot with 81% of all spam messages.
- Brazil continues to produce the most zombies, responsible for 20.4% of global zombie activity.
Blended threats, including fake Swine Flu alerts and Halloween tricks, continued to circulate, while spammers introduced a few new ploys including MP3 spam and "personal enhancement" spam targeting women. So they're trying to get to us through music and vanity as well as fear, greed and curiosity.
Disclosure: Long SYMC and CTCH