Cybersecurity stocks boom after ransomware attack

Companies see share prices rise sharply amid expected increase in spending on IT security after WannaCry hack

The ransomware attack that disrupted the NHS and businesses around the world has led to a boom in share prices of cybersecurity companies – including the firm used by the health service to protect it against hackers.

With governments and companies expected to increase spending on IT security after being caught out by the attack, cybersecurity firms have seen their stock market values climb sharply over the past two days.

Shares in Sophos, a cloud network security specialist which counts the NHS among its clients, have jumped by about 8%. Over the weekend, a claim on the company’s website that “the NHS is totally protected with Sophos” was changed to “Sophos understands the security needs of the NHS”. Last week, the company tweeted its “top five tips for securing NHS organisations”. But its shares have been performing well over recent months because of the increased need for cyber defences.

Meanwhile, NCC group added 5% to its share valuation and cyber consultancy group ECSC surged 42%. ISE, a fund invested in cybersecurity businesses, added nearly 4%.

The surge has been put down to the attacks refocusing businesses on the need for adequate cybersecurity. “Significant increases in public sector cyber defence spending [are] now looking inevitable,” said Nicholas Hyett, equity analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown.

“[Sophos] already provides services to the healthcare industry and will be looking to increase selling to the sector in the aftermath of the attack.”

US firms have also benefited, with FireEye’s prices rising 7%, Symantec up more than 3% and Palo Alto Networks 2.7% better. Neil Campling, head of technology research at financial services firm Northern Trust, told Reuters: “These attacks help focus the minds of chief technology officers across corporations to make sure security protocols are up to date, and you often see bookings growth at cybersecurity companies as a result.”

It was also suggested that the success of the WannaCry hack could make other attacks more likely in the future amid doubts over governments’ ability to secure “cyberweapons” from theft.

“The attacks raise significant questions about whether or not countries that are developing and stockpiling cyberweapons can do more to protect those tools from being stolen and turned against their own population,” said Thomas Fitzgerald, associate fund manager at EdenTree Investment Management. “The WannaCry attack is likely to be a catalyst for more of these types of cyber-attacks from copycat criminal organisations.”

The effects of the attack continued to be felt on Tuesday, although one of the seven NHS trusts which had still been experiencing serious problems on Monday, James Paget university hospitals trust in Norfolk, said that all of its operations and appointments were going ahead as scheduled.

Elsewhere the disruption continued. East and North Hertfordshire trust advised people to only go to A&E if absolutely essential.

Southport and Ormskirk hospital said it was continuing to experience difficulties with its clinical information systems but insisted that patient safety was being maintained. It advised all patients scheduled for surgery on Tuesday not to attend unless contacted and said all outpatients and endoscopy appointments were cancelled.

Barts health NHS trust said it was no longer diverting ambulances from its hospitals but was still experiencing delays and disruption. York teaching hospital NHS trust said bone scans at Scarborough hospital were not going ahead on Tuesday and that breast screening clinics in some areas had been cancelled. A number of affected trusts asked patients not to contact them by email because of ongoing IT problems.

NHS Digital said none of its services had been affected by the attack.


Nick Fletcher and Haroon Siddique

The GuardianTramp

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