As the rest of the stock market has struggled on heightened trade rhetoric and many big technology companies have faced regulatory scrutiny over data privacy issues, one subsector of that industry has been on fire: cybersecurity.
One of the cybersecurity industry’s most popular exchange-traded funds, the ETFMG Prime Cyber Security ETF (HACK), is up 18 percent in 2018. The fund launched in November 2014 as a new way to profit from the growing number of cyberattacks and data breaches plaguing U.S. companies.
Although cybersecurity spending picked up beginning in 2016 as companies started to adopt a more platform-based approach to information security, those investments accelerated in mid-2017. Since then, an increasing number of organizations moved sensitive, proprietary data to cloud-based networks, and that trend has fueled shares across the cybersecurity landscape as companies look to protect that data.
"[Looking] at some of the top holdings of HACK, many of the positions are also our top picks across both security and storage," said Andrew Nowinski, Piper Jaffray senior research analyst.
Companies in the fund include Palo Alto Networks, Fortinet, FireEye, Juniper Networks, CyberArk Software, Symantec and Cisco. Several of those names have reported strong first-quarter earnings in the first half of 2018. And, while the group's success dates back to mid-2017, many analysts believe the group's climb took off in mid-February, a time when many of the top holdings in the index started to report earnings.
Fortinet, meanwhile, has surged 66 percent since the Equifax hack, while CyberArk — touted for its leadership in managing privileged access information - has rallied 50 percent.
"I believe this reflects the investor community's willingness to take on greater risk for the longer-term investment opportunity that many of these stocks offer," said Kenneth Talanian, Evercore ISI software research analyst.
And it’s not just HACK. Another other popular ETF in the space, the First Trust Nasdaq Cybersecurity ETF, had rallied 23 percent since last July.