Another billion-ish buyout: IBM buys Israeli security firm

Waze was first, and now there’s Trusteer; global tech companies are spending big bucks to acquire sabra technology

Rapport screenshot (Courtesy)
Rapport screenshot (Courtesy)

Just months after a jumbo buyout of an Israeli start-up by a tech giant, IBM is acquiring Israel-based Trusteer, a maker of security software to protect data from phishing and other malware attacks, in a deal rumored to be worth between $800 million and a cool billion.

Now in the IBM orbit, Trusteer, with R&D in Israel and an office in Boston, will become the nucleus of a new IBM cyber-security research center that the multinational plans to establish here.

Trusteer was established in 2006 and has about 300 employees, and is one of the largest security firms working in the online banking space. Among its customers are institutions like Bank of America, Société Générale, INGDirect, HSBC, NatWest, The Royal Bank of Scotland, and more.

The company’s Rapport software prevents malefactors from taking over bank accounts and stealing information. It casts a wide net to detect malware threats and ensure that they are banned from client systems, and by enhancing identification of users interacting with a website using advanced device “fingerprinting,” which evaluates tens of thousands of small details to determine whether a device or user making a request for information is legit or phony.

These are areas that have long interested IBM, which has a very active presence in Israel with five large R&D facilities here, employing over 1,000 people.

Trusteer is the company’s 12th acquisition in Israel since 1998, and will become the base for a new R&D lab that will develop security solutions for cloud services, said Brendan Hannigan, general manager of IBM’s Security Systems Division. “Trusteer’s expertise and superior technology in enterprise endpoint defense and advanced malware prevention will help our clients across all industries address the constantly evolving threats they are facing. Together with IBM’s capabilities in advanced threat detection, analysis and remediation, we will now be able to offer our clients several additional layers of defense against sophisticated attackers.”

Members of the Trusteer team will work with IBM employees to expand IBM’s security offerings, adding to the 100+ security products for the cloud already offered by IBM, the company said. “Cybercriminals are becoming increasingly efficient in creating and deploying attacks to bypass existing security controls.

Trusteer software can identify security threats that can be missed by traditional security software. For example, to help ensure that banking customers can safely transfer money on a mobile device, Trusteer software performs detection of malware that can infect a smartphone, enabling the bank to take steps to prevent fraudulent behavior and account takeover before the transaction occurs,” IBM said.

If the numbers are correct, the Trusteer deal would be the second giant Israeli buyout in just a few months. Google was rumored to have offered northwards of $1 billion for Waze in last June’s buyout (in the end, Google revealed several weeks ago, Waze cost the company “only” $966 million) — so the Trusteer deal could eclipse the Waze sale. An IBM spokesperson contacted by The Times of Israel said the company could not comment on the price.

Trusteer is excited to be working with IBM, said company CEO Mickey Boodaei. “The way organizations protect data is quickly evolving,” Boodaei said. “As attacks become more sophisticated, traditional approaches to securing enterprise and mobile data are no longer valid. Trusteer has helped hundreds of large banks and organizations around the world defeat thousands of sophisticated attacks using innovative solutions that combine intelligence, cloud, mobile, and desktop technologies.”

IBM was represented by Adv. Barry Levenfeld and Ben Sandler of Yigal Arnon & Co., and Trusteer was represented by Goldfarb Seligman.

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