* Anti-virus provider Sophos up 7.5 pct
* U.S.-listed cybersecurity firms rise in pre-market trade
* Finnish security firm F-Secure hits 16-yr high
* Firms to hike investment in cyber protection
(Adds U.S. premarket trading, additional comments)
By Helen Reid
LONDON, May 15 A global "ransomware" attack
disrupting factories, hospitals, shops and schools spurred
investors on Monday to buy up stocks expected to benefit from a
pick-up in cybersecurity spending by firms and government
The cyber attack began spreading across the globe on Friday
and by Monday had locked up computers in more than 150
countries, with experts warning of an even wider impact as more
employees logged on and checked e-mails.
European Union police agency Europol said on Monday the
attack had hit 200,000 machines.
"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," said Neil Campling, head of technology
research at Northern Trust.
In London, shares in cloud network security firm Sophos
jumped more than 7 percent to a record high and
security firm NCC Group rose 2.9 percent.
Campling said Sophos was particularly likely to benefit as
its customer base was dominated by small and medium-sized
companies, whose IT systems were often less well protected than
larger firms and hence more likely to fall victim to ransomware
U.S.-listed shares in cybersecurity firms Fireeye rose 4.8
percent in pre-market, and peers Symantec, Palo Alto
Networks and Cyberark Software Ltd were all up
Companies' spending on cybersecurity protection is set to
increase 10 percent in Britain and Europe by 2020, according to
Brian Lord, a managing director of cyber and technology at
cybersecurity firm PGI, as outdated IT systems get a refresh.
"In many companies there's been an increase in investment in
IT but not in the security that sits around it, so this
investment is likely to play a bit of catch-up," said Lord, who
spent 21 years at UK government intelligence service GCHQ.
The risks of security breaches, particularly when they
result in the leak of sensitive customer data, has had a direct
impact on share prices as investor confidence is shaken.
"Reducing the cost of security breaches by only 10 percent
can save global enterprises $17 billion annually," Morgan
Stanley said in a report published on Monday.
The U.S. broker upgraded its rating on networking equipment
giant Cisco to "overweight." Cisco shares were up about
2 percent in pre-market trade.
With few pure play, publicly-traded software and network
security companies in Europe, a London-listed cybersecurity
exchange-traded fund (ETF) whose holdings include Cisco
and Fireeye, was in demand, up 1.8 percent by midday.
In Helsinki, Finnish digital security firm F-Secure
jumped as much as 5.1 percent to a 16-year high.
(Additional reporting by Danilo Masoni, Editing by Vikram
Subhedar and John Stonestreet)