Almost daily we are informed by the media that there has been a security breach somewhere. Banks, credit cards, Facebook accounts, email accounts, phone records and more. Target had more than 40 million accounts hacked right at the height of the holiday shopping season. It may take some time before consumers again trust the giant retailer. Cyber thieves are constantly finding new ways to get around even the most complex firewalls and security systems. This constant barrage of threats has turned what was initially a business designed for government security into one of the top areas in technology.
On Friday, FireEye blew Wall Street away with a huge $1 billion acquisition of cyber forensics firm Mandiant. The company did not stop there. It raised its fourth-quarter earnings numbers and the stock took off, up more than 38%. This should be a clear indication the emphasis that Wall Street and portfolio managers are putting on cyber security firms.
We scanned our Wall Street coverage for the top cyber security stocks to buy for 2014.
Barracuda Networks Inc. (NYSE: CUDA) was a top initial public offering (IPO) last year and was another tech deal that worked out well. The stock caught an upgrade to Buy in mid-December from tech boutique shop Pacific Crest Securities. We profiled the stock in early December as a top name to own in 2014. The Merrill Lynch price target for the stock is $46. The consensus price target for the stock is $28. Barracuda closed Friday at $37.85.
Cisco Systems Inc. (NASDAQ: CSCO) is a top stock to buy at Merrill Lynch this year. The company continues to lead the overall security appliance market with a 16.2% share in factory revenue for the second quarter, but this was down from 17.2% in the prior-year period. The company is intent on expanding its product offerings. Investors are paid a 2.8% dividend. The Merrill Lynch price target for the stock is $25. The consensus price target for this venerable tech leader is at $24.50.Cisco closed Friday at $21.98.
Check Point Software Technologies Ltd. (NASDAQ: CHKP) holds the number two slot in security appliance revenue with a 12.5% share, as revenue has increased 4% compared to the first quarter of 2012. Checkpoint was named as one of the Leaders Quadrant of Gartner’s recent Magic Quadrant for Mobile Data Protection (MDP). This is the seventh consecutive year that Check Point has been named a leader. Check Point offers a series of mobile data protection products that provides organizations with a full security solution that safeguards business information. Merrill Lynch has a $66 price target and the stock is on their U.S. #1 list. The consensus price target for this top name is $67. Check Point closed Friday at $64.29.
FireEye Inc. (NASDAQ: FEYE) was a top new IPO this past summer, and as we mentioned it blew away Wall Street on Friday. The company provides various real-time protection products to enterprises and governments. It provides malware protection system (MPS) products, including software-based appliances, such as Web MPS appliances that are deployed inline at enterprise Internet access points to analyze all Web traffic. The stock was one of the names we highlighted in December as a top analyst pick for 2014. The Merrill Lynch price target is posted at $60. The consensus price target for the stock is posted at $49.50 and that should go higher. FireEye closed Friday up huge at $57.02.
Fortinet Inc. (NASDAQ: FTNT) is right in the thick of the cyber security sector race. The company’s FortiGate network security platform is the first third-party next-generation firewall to be certified by NEC to protect its cloud platform. Since 2010, NEC and Fortinet have worked together to deploy the FortiGate platform as the security resource in the SDN environments NEC has built. Robert Baird has a $25 price target, the same as the consensus price target. The stock closed Friday at $19.27.
Imperva Inc. (NYSE: IMPV) is another network security stock that may be a candidate for buyout. The company offers SecureSphere Data Security Suite, a solution designed to prioritize and mitigate risks to high-value business data, protect against hackers and malicious insiders, and address and streamline regulatory compliance. The company’s SecureSphere is an integrated, modular suite offering database security products designed to secure business data in structured repositories in the data center. The stock was initiated at outperform at BMO last month with a $52 price target. The consensus price target is also pegged at $52. Imperva closed Friday at $49.69.
KEYW Holding Corp. (NASDAQ: KEYW) got a big boost on Friday when SunTrust said it was positive on the stock. It also thinks the company could be a logical takeover candidate. KEYW provides mission-critical cyber security, cyber superiority and geospatial intelligence solutions to defense, intelligence and national security agencies and commercial enterprises in the United States. The company operates in two segments, Services and Integrated Solutions. The consensus price target for the stock is $17, and it closed Friday at $14.96.
Palo Alto Networks Inc. (NYSE: PANW) remains the leader of the group when it comes to market share gains. Despite ongoing patent infringement litigation with Juniper Networks, customers are still confident in the company and its products. The company’s platform comprises Next-Generation Firewall that delivers application, user and content visibility and control. It delivers its platform in the form of a hardware or virtual appliance and includes a suite of subscription services, as well as support and maintenance services. UBS likes the stock and has a $57 price target. The consensus target is at $59.50. Palo Alto closed Friday at $57.44.
Symantec Corp. (NASDAQ: SYMC) is one of the top new domestic technology names added to the UBS list of top stocks to buy. The president and CEO of the company recently made a strong 100,000 share insider purchase valued at $2,205,780. That is a strong commitment to the stock by a top executive. Investors are paid a 2.6% dividend. The UBS target for this top cyber security stock is $27, while the consensus is lower at $26. Symantec closed Friday at $23.11.
Cyber threats are not going away anytime soon. Most experts are convinced that criminals and terrorists will only continue to exploit delicate information to gain financially, or at the very minimum provide huge disruptions in operations. The companies focusing on this threat will only continue to grow their revenues, as the adversaries grow their acumen for hacking and spying.