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US probe prompts Russia-linked Pamplona to sell stake in cybersecurity firm Cofense

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Russian hackers step up information-collecting efforts
Researchers at FireEye say Kremlin-backed hacking operations are attempting to target governments, media and political parties as elections approach.

Pamplona Capital Management is seeking a buyer for its stake in cybersecurity firm Cofense following an investigation by US national security officials over national security.

Cofense said on Wednesday that Pamplona will sell its stake now that the Committee for Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS)’s probe has concluded, as reported by the Wall Street Journal. 

Once known as PhishMe, Cofense was acquired by an investment consortium in 2018 in a deal which valued the cybersecurity training firm at $400 million.

BlackRock and Pamplona inked the deal to acquire Cofense. The investment group owns a controlling stake, whereas Pamplona owns a minority stake. 

CFIUS conducted an investigation into the buyout in consideration of Pamplona’s ties to Russia, given the investment company has partial backing from Russian billionaire Mikhail Fridman. However, it is important to note that CFIUS has not displayed any concerns related to Pamplona’s business activities or investment in itself, but rather, this backing tie alone.

CNET: Facebook steps up fight against fake news in groups and messaging 

The US has increased its scrutiny of foreign-backed ownership deals in the technology space within the past few years; a change in stance highlighted by President Trump personally stepping in and banning the aggressive takeover of Qualcomm by Broadcom due to links with China. Trump cited “evidence” that the proposed acquisition would be a threat to national security and so squashed Broadcom’s plans.

The US has also banned Huawei equipment usage in government applications due to the same concerns of foreign influence.

While tensions continue to simmer between the US and China, Russia, too, has faced criticism for reportedly interfering in the US presidential elections.

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According to Cofense, CFIUS contacted Pamplona a month after the ownership deal was secured and an investigation was performed over the course of a few months, leading to the investor’s voluntary decision to sell its stake.

An agreement between Pamplona and CFIUS has been reached to complete the sale by July 2019.

A source speaking to ZDNet said there has already been “strong interest” in the sale, with the first round of bids submitted earlier this week. The sale is being managed by investment banking advisory firm Evercore.

See also: Online security 101: How to protect your privacy from hackers, spies, and the government

“Cofense continues to cooperate with CFIUS and to comply with all prescribed actions as a result of this investigation,” Cofense told the WSJ.

Pamplona declined to comment.

Update 14.24 BST: Updated to clarify that Pamplona owns a minority stake. In addition, Rohyt Belani, CEO of Cofense told ZDNet:

“Fortunately, the impact has been minor and the fundamentals of our business haven’t changed. We are still focused on delivering the best possible products to the market to meet the needs of our global customers. 

Cofense’s last two quarters were the best in company history. Our innovation pipeline is rich and we have earned our customers’ trust by working hard and providing the support and technology they need to stop phishing attacks in their tracks. We look forward to closing this chapter out and continuing to grow the company while delivering outstanding services to our clients.”

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Adventist Risk Management Data Protection Infrastructure

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Companies always want to enhance their ability to quickly address pressing business needs. Toward that end, they look for new ways to make their IT infrastructures more efficient—and more cost effective. Today, those pressing needs often center around data protection and regulatory compliance, which was certainly the case for Adventist Risk Management. What they wanted was an end-to-end, best-in-class solution to meet their needs. After trying several others, they found the perfect combination with HYCU and Nutanix, which provided:

  • Ease of deployment
  • Outstanding ROI
  • Overall TCO improvement

Nutanix Cloud Platform provides a software-defined hyperconverged infrastructure, while HYCU offers purpose-built backup and recovery for Nutanix. Compared to the previous traditional infrastructure and data protection solutions in use at Adventist Risk Management, Nutanix and HYCU simplified processes, speeding day-to-day operations up to 75%. Now, migration and update activities typically scheduled for weekends can be performed during working hours and help to increase IT staff and management quality of life. HYCU further increased savings by providing faster and more frequent points of recovery as well as better DR Recovery Point Objective (RPO) and Recovery Time Objective (RTO) by increasing the ability to do daily backups from one to four per day.

Furthermore, the recent adoption of Nutanix Objects, which provides secure and performant S3 storage capabilities, enhanced the infrastructure by:

    • Improving overall performance for backups
    • Adding security against potential ransomware attacks
    • Replacing components difficult to manage and support

In the end, Nutanix and HYCU enabled their customer to save money, improve the existing environment, and, above all, meet regulatory compliance requirements without any struggle.

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Secure Insight: GigaOm Partners with the CISO Series

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Don’t look now, but GigaOm, the analyst firm that enables smart businesses to future-proof their decisions, is forging new partnerships to extend its reach and better inform busy IT decision makers. On Thursday, the company announced it was teaming with the CISO Series to share content and better support the community of chief information security officers, security practitioners, and security vendors.

“The CISO Series is one we have admired for a while because they have a very similar aim: They help security professionals become more knowledgeable and understand how their roles are changing,” said Ben Book, GigaOm founder and CEO. “We saw a clear common interest and are delighted to be working together.”

The CISO Series brand has built a formidable reputation through its podcasts, blogs, video chats, and live events for the security community. It has added the extremely popular CyberSecurity Headlines podcast to its stable this year, which joins the CISO/Security Vendor Relationship and Defense in Depth podcasts. Every Friday at 10am Pacific Time, the CISO Series hosts its highly engaging and fun weekly live CISO Series Video Chat, which viewers can register for here.

The channel partnership connects two of the strongest, fastest-growing brands in enterprise IT content production. The agreement enables the CISO Series to share exclusive GigaOm reports with its audience ahead of publication, while GigaOm is able to share insights from the CISO Series’ various publications through its social channels and newsletters. The CISO Series joins other media firms, such as The Register and SDXCentral, as official GigaOm Channel Partners.

“We are delighted to be working with GigaOm because we’re not only both addressing the same audience, but we’re also both trying to bring education and understanding to both the security vendor and practitioner communities,” said David Spark, managing editor and executive producer at the CISO Series. “GigaOm is providing some excellent reports that we’re leaning on for our discussions and reporting across all of our shows.”

Spark continued: “We are always tweaking our programming to bring the best and most up-to-date resources and we’re really impressed with both the volume and quality GigaOm is delivering. Not only are we impressed with their editorial work, but we also appreciate their business branding. It’s something we felt comfortable about aligning with the CISO Series brand as well.”

Check out the CISO Series schedule at http://crowdcast.io/cisoseries, or visit cisoseries.com for more information about the CISO Series and its weekly Video Chats.

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Key Criteria for Evaluating Vulnerability Management Tools

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Vulnerability management tools scan your IT estate to help identify and mitigate security risks and weaknesses. These tools can facilitate the development of a more comprehensive vulnerability management program. Leveraging people, processes, and technologies, successful initiatives effectively identify, classify, prioritize, and remediate security threats.

A security vulnerability is a weakness that can compromise the confidentiality, integrity, and availability (CIA) of information. Attackers are constantly looking to exploit defects in software code or insecure configurations. Vulnerabilities can exist anywhere in the software stack, from web applications and databases to infrastructure components such as load balancers, firewalls, machine and container images, operating systems, and libraries. This includes code used in the CI/CD pipeline as well as the infrastructure-as-code (IAC) that defines the compute, network, and storage infrastructure.

Recent cybersecurity events have exposed widespread vulnerabilities involving the exploitation of zero-day malware and unknown weaknesses. Threat actors continually discover new exploitation tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTPs) to take advantage of weaknesses throughout integrated systems. Moreover, identifying breach paths is increasingly complicated due to the widespread adoption of ephemeral services.

Vulnerability management solutions should provide end-to-end visibility of the protect-surface by aggregating both platform and application risks in a single pane of glass, while leveraging prioritized remediation based on business risk and threat context for efficiency. Containerized workloads deployed via DevOps pipelines have unique security requirements that demand a fully integrated vulnerability assessment to be automated into cloud platform services running containerized workloads.

The path to a mature security posture starts with the ability to identify vulnerabilities in software code, third-party libraries, and at runtime. In addition, the cloud platform used to host your applications should be scanned for misconfigurations. This requires the use of policy configuration baselines, benchmarks, and compliance standards that apply to both the infrastructure and the code used to build it. As organizations implement security guardrails early in the software development lifecycle (SDLC), they can take advantage of cloud-native culture to ensure network and security tools are used throughout all phases of the SDLC.

This GigaOm report explores the key criteria and emerging technologies that IT decision makers should evaluate when choosing a vulnerability management solution. The key criteria report, together with the GigaOm radar report that evaluates relevant products, provides a framework to help organizations assess the solutions currently available on the market and how these tools fit with their requirements.

How to Read this Report

This GigaOm report is one of a series of documents that helps IT organizations assess competing solutions in the context of well-defined features and criteria. For a fuller understanding consider reviewing the following reports:
Key Criteria report: A detailed market sector analysis that assesses the impact that key product features and criteria have on top-line solution characteristics—such as scalability, performance, and TCO—that drive purchase decisions.

GigaOm Radar report: A forward-looking analysis that plots the relative value and progression of vendor solutions along multiple axes based on strategy and execution. The Radar report includes a breakdown of each vendor’s offering in the sector.

Vendor Profile: An in-depth vendor analysis that builds on the framework developed in the Key Criteria and Radar reports to assess a company’s engagement within a technology sector. This analysis includes forward-looking guidance around both strategy and product.

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