Machine Learning at Heart of Security M&A Splurge

If you blinked during the past ten days you might have missed four significant security sector acquisitions that all had one thing in common -- major cybersecurity vendors splashed some cash on enhancing their machine learning capabilities.

Those acquisitions are:

  • Sophos plc is spending $100 million upfront (plus a $20 million earn-out) for Invincea, which has developed an "endpoint security portfolio [that] is designed to detect and prevent unknown malware and sophisticated attacks via its patented deep learning neural-network algorithms." Sophos notes that Invincea's tech, which "uses deep learning neural networks and behavioral monitoring" has been "consistently ranked as among the best performing machine learning, signature-less next-generation endpoint technologies in third-party testing." Invincea had raised about $47 million from its backers.
  • Radware Ltd. (Nasdaq: RDWR) bought Seculert, a "SaaS cloud-based provider of protection against enterprise network breach and data exfiltration." Radware noted that the deal gives it access to "heightened machine learning technology and big data analytics tools that allow the company to conduct advanced threat analysis." A price for Seculert, a privately held company that had raised about $16 million in VC backing, wasn't disclosed. Radware also just announced 2016 full-year revenues of $196.6 million, down by 9% from a year earlier.
  • Hewlett Packard Enterprise has bought Niara, a User and Entity Behavior Analytics (UEBA) specialist, to integrate into its Aruba ClearPass security portfolio. "Niara is a leader in this new category of products that employ machine learning and big data analytics on enterprise packet streams and log streams to discover these advanced attacks," noted Keerti Melkote, senior vice president and general manager of HPE Aruba, in a corporate blog. The price wasn't disclosed: Niara had raised almost $30 million from the likes of NEA and Index Ventures. (See HPE Acquires Security Analytics Startup Niara.)
  • Malwarebytes has bought Saferbytes, an Italian cybersecurity specialist that has developed Deepviz, "a cloud based, self-learning threat intelligence platform powered by Deepviz Malware Analysis Engine." Malwarebytes, which didn't disclose any financial details, says the deal will enhance its "enterprise remediation offering and threat feeds, in addition to further advancing the company's market approach and global strategy."

    "There's a common motivation running through all these recent acquisitions," notes Patrick Donegan, principal analyst at HardenStance and a contributing analyst to Heavy Reading. "We've seen a bunch of new machine learning-based malware protection outfits like Cyber Reason, Cylance, Darktrace and Deep Instinct attract a lot of attention during the past 12 months. The established security players that we've seen doing the buying over the past ten days are having to augment their portfolios with machine learning or behavioral analytics capabilities. They need it as a competitive response to the challenge these other companies present and because that's where the market is going."

    And it seems that what the market is looking for as malware becomes more sophisticated and the real value in security tolls becomes the ability to detect changes in behavior within a network and adapt to those changes as trends start to appear. One good reason why Cisco, for example, has added machine learning capabilities to its Tetration Analytics platform. (See Cisco Tetration Analytics Tightens Security.)

    And machine learning is not only appearing as a tech trend in security -- just about every niche of communications networking has companies claiming to have either machine learning or artificial intelligence capabilities baked in these days. (See Nokia Aims for Big IMPACT in Enterprise IoTIBM: AI Needs More Than Just TechnologyComcast Digs Deeper Into Big Data and more.)

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