Google buys threat intel giant Mandiant for $5.4bn

Artist formerly known as FireEye to boost security for Alphabet's cloudy arm

Google is buying preeminent threat intel firm Mandiant for $5.4bn, the two companies announced this morning.

The purchase, which will bring the infosec giant into Google Cloud, is one of the largest ever made by Google, coming second to its $12.5bn purchase of Motorola phone division Mobility in 2011.

"Cyber security is a mission, and we believe it’s one of the most important of our generation. Google Cloud shares our mission-driven culture to bring security to every organization," said Kevin Mandia, CEO of Mandiant in a canned statement.

Mandiant is one of the most well-regarded threat intelligence companies in cybersecurity. In its pre-spinoff guise as FireEye,  it was the first to publish details of SolarWinds hacking techniques – which both the firm and intelligence concluded were state-sponsored Russians – and gave out a free tool to detect signs of intrusion.

Thomas Kurian, chief executive of Google Cloud, said in a statement: "This is an opportunity to deliver an end-to-end security operations suite and extend one of the best consulting organizations in the world. Together we can make a profound impact in securing the cloud, accelerating the adoption of cloud computing, and ultimately make the world safer."

Google's security portfolio is focused mainly on securing its internal products, as noted by Silicon Valley investment news website Venturebeat. Acquiring Mandiant's threat intelligence and incident response expertise is a major win for Google, boosting its credibility in a field where players mainly talk about layering security on top of its products rather than looking at the depth of in-house expertise.

Mandiant's share price was up 16 per cent over the course of yesterday's US trading hours, finishing at $22.49 after talk of Google's interest was reported.

Infosec folks' reactions on Twitter were mixed, though the social networking website – where most coalface cybersecurity workers tend to hang out – is not known for hosting large numbers of positive thinkers.

Google's track record with buyouts is mixed. The Motorola buyout ended after just three years with Mountain View taking a $9bn hit by selling the mobile-maker to Lenovo; Google did, however, retain Moto's patent portfolio.

Its 2014 acquisition of AI firm Deepmind, however, has kept Google in the headlines – especially whenever Google Deepmind goes anywhere near health data. Similarly, Nest, the smart home gadget firm, cost the Chocolate Factory a cool $3.2bn in that same year.

Further back in time, what was then a search engine bought a tracking cookie provider called Doubleclick, sowing the seeds for Google's ascendancy to global online ad dominance in the 2010s. Ditto YouTube, now the world's best-known video sharing site, was acquired for $1.6bn in 2006.

As long as Google doesn't do to Mandiant what it did to Google+, all should go well. ®

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