Palo Alto Networks buys ex-NSA founded startup Morta Security

Palo Alto Networks buys ex-NSA founded startup Morta Security

Summary: The startup was founded by ex-NSA employees after they left the controversy-hit intelligence agency, which reportedly carries out similar attacks that Morta tries to prevent.

TOPICS: Networking

Palo Alto Networks has acquired Morta Security, a Silicon Valley startup run by former U.S. Air Force and National Security Agency (NSA) staff.

Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Palo Alto's acquisition isn't large, but plays into a recurring theme in recent months: next-generation security companies are being snapped up at a rapid rate. 

The acquisition comes just days after FireEye, a Palo Alto Networks competitor, snapped up Mandiant for more than $1 billion. Cisco acquired SourceFire in mid-2013 in a deal valued at $2.7 billion.  

"The company's technology developments align well with our highly integrated, automated and scalable platform approach and their contributions will translate into additive threat detection and prevention benefits for our customers," Palo Alto president Mark McLaughlin said.

Antivirus companies and malware prevention firms are no longer the be-all and end-all of modern online threats. A desktop antivirus isn't going to prevent a large-scale denial-of-service attack, nor will it always protect against data theft.

The threat landscape has changed over the past year — not least with the years of allegations that the Chinese are spying and attacking U.S. networks, as well as private companies, such as Huawei, being accused of embedding backdoors in their technologies. But also because the NSA, who Morta's chief executive Raj Shah once worked for as a "policy advisor," also reportedly hacked into tens of thousands of machines worldwide as part of a secretive intelligence-gathering program.

Morta Security focuses particularly on advanced persistent threats, a new kind of security issue that sees governments and state-sponsored companies attack foreign computers and networks — including those of governments.

Advanced persistent threats can also include criminals attacking high-value targets. Not so long ago, retail chain Target saw more than 40 million customer details, including credit card data and encrypted PIN codes, stolen in what became the largest breaches of 2013.

The irony is that Morta tries to prevent the attacks that the NSA has reportedly used to acquire foreign information. Recently, Microsoft chief counsel Brad Smith labeled the U.S. government as an "advanced persistent threat."

Topic: Networking

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