With each advance in technology, the importance of cybersecurity grows. A key problem facing businesses and enterprises is that the traditional approach to a perimeter security network is quickly becoming obsolete. Networks that rely on multiple cloud networks, remote users, and any IoT devices open themselves to a host of problems that can be solved with zero trust architecture. Zero trust is not foolproof, as Okta's (NASDAQ: OKTA) recent breach will highlight, but it offers higher protection that resonates with IT departments worldwide.
What is zero trust? It's the idea that no device or connection is inherently trustworthy. In a traditional security setting, devices within the "perimeter" and those granted access have the run of the system. With zero trust, each instrument and user is checked with every demand for access, preventing unwanted piggybacking by hackers and malware. Here's a look at the top players.
Cloudflare, fifth largest by market cap
Cloudflare (NYSE: NET) is the fifth largest zero trust player by market cap. The company is valued at $26 billion and has been growing at a double-digit pace in 2023. The top-line growth slowed but was less than expected, about 32%, compounded by wider margins. Cloudflare's margin strength is due to revenue leverage and cost controls that are aiding results across the group.
Cloudflare's zero trust services center around data loss and include Cloudflare One. Cloudflare One is a SaaS product offering zero trust authentication to remote users. Analysts rate Cloudflare a Moderate Buy, increasing the market with price target revisions.
Zscaler, AI-powered Zero Trust Exchange
Zscaler (NASDAQ: ZS) aims to help businesses move into the cloud with a one-stop zero trust platform called the Zscaler Zero Trust Exchange. The Zero Trust Exchange is a cloud-based AI-powered threat prevention system using LLMs as part of its authentication process. The company is growing at an industry-leading 30% clip in Q3 2023, driven by client gains and deepening penetration of services. The latest guidance included a robust deal pipeline that suggests sustained double-digit growth and led analysts to raise their price targets. The analyst's activity was so vigorous that Zscaler topped Marketbeat.com's Most Upgraded Stocks list.
Crowdstrike is another well-respected cybersecurity stock
Crowdstrike (NASDAQ: CRWD) is another well-loved cybersecurity stock ranked on Marketbeat's Most Upgraded, Top-Rated, and Most Followed Stocks list. It also appears on the Idea Engine as the number two stock poised for growth. Its zero trust architecture proactively seeks out weaknesses while protecting networks from outside threats. The latest results show Crowdstrike is growing in alignment with the group and sparked a series of price target increases, with the stock trading at a two-year high. Takeaways from the chatter are that Crowdstrike offers a differentiated service compared to its competitors and has a robust channel for growth.
Cyber security leader Palo Alto Networks
Palo Alto Networks (NASDAQ: PANW) is the world's largest cybersecurity pure-play by market cap and revenue. Its zero trust applications are designed to work alongside traditional security methods and aid quick adoption. Its 20% top-line growth pace isn't as fast as the smaller cap names, but the $0.26 billion in annual growth posted in Q3 nearly doubled the growth of Crowdstrike and is not to be ignored. PANW is a top-rated stock on Marketbeat.com with a price target up 20% in the last 12 months and likely heading higher in 2024.
Cisco Systems: diversified blue chip tech giant
Cisco Systems (NASDAQ: CSCO) is not a pure play on security but a significant player. Its zero trust architecture aims to limit user impact by building trust over time. It's growing slower than the cybersecurity pure plays, with security growth offset by weakness in hardware and other segments. The silver lining is that Cisco is a high-quality dividend payer with a 3% yield that buy-and-hold investors will like. Analysts rate Cisco a Hold but see it advancing about 20% at the consensus target.