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Forcepoint LLC
Websense, Raytheon|Websense
Joint Venture
IndustryInformation security
HeadquartersAustin, Texas
Area served
Key people
Matthew Moynahan, CEO
Revenue$608 million (2017)[1]
Number of employees
2,300 (2016)[2]

Forcepoint, previously known as Websense or Raytheon|Websense, is an Austin-based company owned by U.S. defense contractor Raytheon and private equity firm Vista Equity Partners. It develops and markets cybersecurity software to prevent employees from viewing inappropriate or malicious content, or leaking confidential data. It also sells firewall, cloud access, and cross-domain IT security products.

Forcepoint was founded in 1994 as an IT reseller called NetPartners. It was renamed Websense in 1999 and went public the following year. Vista Equity Partners acquired Websense in 2013 for $906 million, taking it off the public market. Raytheon acquired an 80% interest in Websense in April 2015 for $1.9 billion. Afterwards, Websense acquired network security vendor Stonesoft from Intel and renamed the combined company "Forcepoint."

Corporate history[edit]


Websense was founded in 1994 by Phil Trubey during the dot-com boom under the name NetPartners.[3][4][5][6] The company began as a reseller for network security products,[6][7] then developed software for controlling Internet use by employees.[4] In 1998, NetPartners raised $6 million in venture capital funding and had $6 million in annual revenue.[4] Later that year, investors pushed Trubey out of the CEO position and appointed John Carrington as his replacement.[4][8] In 1999, NetPartners was renamed "Websense".[9] The following year, Websense raised $65.7 million in an initial public offering.[9]

In 2006, former McAfee CEO Gene Hodges succeeded Carrington as Websense's CEO.[8] The same year, Websense acquired a fingerprint security company called PortAuthority for $90 million.[10] This was followed by a $400 million acquisition of email security vendor SurfControl in 2007.[11] In 2009, Websense acquired Defensio, a spam and malware company focused on social media, for an undisclosed sum.[12]

By 2009, Websense had 1,400 employees,[13] with offices in England, China, Australia, and Israel.[13] Two years later, Facebook deployed Websense to check every link users shared on the site.[5][14] In 2013, Websense became a private company again when Vista Equity Partners acquired it for $906 million.[5] Websense headquarters were moved to San Diego that year[3] and to Austin, Texas in 2014.[6]


Raytheon acquired an 80% interest in Websense in April 2015 for about $1.9 billion.[15][16][17] This was followed by a $389 million purchase of two other companies, Stonesoft and Sidewinder, in October 2015, from Intel.[18][19] Stonesoft was a network security product previously known as "McAfee Next-Generation Firewall;"[19] Sidewinder was a firewall previously known as McAfee Firewall Enterprise.[19]

In January 2016 the three companies were combined and rebranded as "Forcepoint".[18] The new company also included Raytheon's "Cyber Products" business.[20] At the time, Forcepoint had 2,000 employees, with one-third of its customers being departments in the federal government of the United States.[20] Forcepoint became the smallest of five major businesses owned by Raytheon, but had the highest profit margins.[20] The following year, Forcepoint began shuffling executives in a re-organization effort that included some layoffs.[2] The company was divided into four business units: Cloud Security, Network Security, Data & Insider Threat Security, and Global Governments.[19] In February 2017, Forcepoint announced the acquisition of a cloud-based access broker (CASB) security product from Imperva called Skyfence, for an undisclosed sum.[19]

In April 2016, Matthew Moynahan was appointed CEO of Forcepoint.[21] In August 2017, Forcepoint acquired user and entity behavior analytics company RedOwl for an undisclosed amount.[19][22]


The company's products are used to block certain websites, or just portions of a website,[23] inspect network traffic, filter e-mails.[6] and control where sensitive files can be accessed.[24][25] Forcepoint products can also be used to prevent employees from accessing websites deemed inappropriate for workplace viewing by their employer.[26] For example, employers may prevent employees from viewing pornographic content at work, or material about sex education, religion, dating, or politics.[26]

Forcepoint also develops and markets firewall products based in part on technology acquired from McAfee's former Stonesoft business and Intel Security's Sidewinder product.[27] The company develops and markets cloud access security broker (CASB) products using technology acquired from what previously Imperva's Skyfence product.[28] It also sells analytics software to detect insider data leaks and several cross domain security products.[29]

When using Forcepoint's products, employees' Internet browsers are usually modified to direct all traffic through a proxy server.[30] That server hosts local copies of frequently-visited websites, in order to improve download speed.[30] The software also checks every URL the employee visits against databases of websites that are identified as malware or a prohibited subject-matter.[25][26] Employee URL history can be analyzed to identify risky behaviors.[24]

Version history[edit]

By 1997, three years after Forcepoint was founded, the company had published version 3 of its software.[31] Version 3.0 introduced the software's first graphical, web-based administrative user interface.[32] At the time, Forcepoint's software was only used to prevent employees from viewing certain types of content at work, but in 2006 features were added to detect when employees were attempting to visit websites suspected of hosting malicious code.[33]

In 2007 Websense introduced a product to control content a user can see on social media websites,[34] an endpoint security product,[35] a website reputation ranker,[36] and a small business version.[37] Additionally, a product was added to the Websense suite that identifies sensitive files in un-secure locations on the corporate network and looks for records of those files being transmitted.[38]

Websense introduced its first appliance product in 2009.[39] The following year some products were consolidated into the Triton software, which became responsible for increasingly large portions of the company's revenue.[40] In February 2012, Forcepoint released a cloud-based suite of IT security products for smartphones, tablets, laptops, USB drives, and other mobile devices.[25] Upgrades to the suite in 2012 added the ability to identify confidential information in an image file.[41] Three new products or revisions were introduced in 2016, all focused on security risks caused by employees.[24]


Forcepoint has a policy against selling to governments and ISPs that engage in Internet censorship,[42][23] however it has been criticized for a "perceived link to censorship of free speech and the dissemination of knowledge."[5] In 2009 it was discovered that the Yemeni government was using Forcepoint's products to monitor the public's internet use[42] and block tools that allow citizens to hide their internet use from the government[23] and the software Alkasir was created to circumvent it.[43][44] Forcepoint responded by cutting off the country's access to Forcepoint's database updates.[42] In 2011, Forcepoint said it would join the Global Network Initiative, which is focused on privacy and Internet freedom.[42] It left the initiative in 2014.[45]

A 2002 study in JAMA found that Forcepoint had the best-performing web-filtering products in terms of blocking pornography while allowing health information.[26] In contrast, a 2005 report by the Rhode Island branch of the American Civil Liberties Union said Forcepoint is a "blunt instrument" and that in public libraries equipped with Forcepoint people of all ages "are still denied access to a wide range of legitimate material." [46] A 2006 report by Brennan Center for Justice found that Forcepoint often blocked websites that discussed pornography, but did not actually feature pornography.[47] Forcepoint software also blocked a furniture website called " ",[26] which is not pornographic, and instead a website for a furniture refinisher. In the author's study, 0-15 percent of the sites blocked by Forcepoint should have been viewable by the user and 10 percent of objectionable websites were let through, rather than blocked.[26] According to blogger Jillian York, Forcepoint blocks pages that contain pornographic links anywhere in its content, even in the comments section. He said "a malicious attacker could get your whole site blocked at any time by the simple procedure of leaving dangerous, malicious or pornographic links in a blog's comments".[48]

For approximately 15 minutes in 2009, Forcepoint classified router company Cisco's website under 'hack sites'. Due to one of Cisco's IP addresses being named on a hacking website. The IP address was reviewed, and deemed not a threat. [49]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Raytheon 2017 Annual Report:123
  2. ^ a b Kuranda, Sarah (February 6, 2017). "Forcepoint 'Repositions' Some Employees, Head Of Sales Departs". CRN. Retrieved May 24, 2017.
  3. ^ a b Freeman, Mike (August 28, 2016). "Taking stock: Region aims to grow cyber industry". Retrieved May 23, 2017.
  4. ^ a b c d Osborne, D.M. (April 1, 2001). "Dear John". Retrieved May 24, 2017.
  5. ^ a b c d O'Dell, J. (May 20, 2013). "Websense, publicly traded since 2000, goes private in $906M buyout". VentureBeat. Retrieved May 23, 2017.
  6. ^ a b c d "Vista Said to Hire Bank to Sell Network-Security Firm Websense". March 12, 2015. Retrieved May 23, 2017.
  7. ^ Schroeder, B. (2015). Fail Fast or Win Big: The Start-Up Plan for Starting Now. AMACOM. p. 149. ISBN 978-0-8144-3479-6. Retrieved May 24, 2017.
  8. ^ a b Kirk, Jeremy (January 10, 2006). "McAfee president jumps ship to Websense". Network World. Retrieved May 23, 2017.
  9. ^ a b Lemos, Robert (May 22, 2013). "Websense to Go Private in $900 Million Buyout by Vista Equity Partners". eWEEK. Retrieved May 23, 2017.
  10. ^ Messmer, Ellen (December 20, 2006). "Websense announces deal to buy PortAuthority". Network World. Retrieved May 23, 2017.
  11. ^ Garretson, Cara (October 5, 2007). "WebSense to offer security inside and out". Network World. Retrieved May 23, 2017.
  12. ^ Messmer, Ellen (January 27, 2009). "Websense buys Defensio to keep user-generated content clean". Network World. Retrieved May 23, 2017.
  13. ^ a b McMillan, Robert (August 5, 2009). "Websense to cut 5 percent of staff". Network World. Retrieved May 23, 2017.
  14. ^ "Websense Is Facebook's Bug (And Spam) Exterminator". Fast Company. October 18, 2011. Retrieved May 24, 2017.
  15. ^ Cameron, Doug (April 19, 2015). "Raytheon to Plow $1.7 Billion Into New Cyber Venture". WSJ. Retrieved May 23, 2017.
  16. ^ Dunn, John E (April 21, 2015). "Defense giant Raytheon to pay $1.9 billion for Websense". Network World. Retrieved May 24, 2017.
  17. ^ "Intel To Sell Firewall Business to Raytheon Unit". Fortune. October 28, 2015. Retrieved May 24, 2017.
  18. ^ a b Kerner, Sean Michael (January 14, 2016). "Raytheon - Websense Rebrands as Forcepoint". eWEEK. Retrieved May 24, 2017.
  19. ^ a b c d e f Kuranda, Sarah (August 28, 2017). "Forcepoint Acquires RedOwl To Add Security Analytics, UEBA Capabilities". CRN. Retrieved September 28, 2017.
  20. ^ a b c Wakeman, Nick (January 14, 2016). "New name just the start for Raytheon". Washington Technology. Retrieved May 24, 2017.
  21. ^ "Forcepoint names Matthew Moynahan as CEO". Austin Business Journal. April 29, 2016. Retrieved August 31, 2017.
  22. ^ "Forcepoint Acquires Security Analytics Vendor RedOwl". eWEEK. September 25, 2017. Retrieved September 28, 2017.
  23. ^ a b c Sonne, Paul; Stecklow, Steve (March 28, 2011). "U.S. Products Help Block Mideast Web". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved November 10, 2017.
  24. ^ a b c Tara; Seals (January 14, 2016). "Raytheon - Websense Becomes Forcepoint". Infosecurity Magazine. Retrieved May 24, 2017.
  25. ^ a b c "Websense Plugs Data Leaks, Plays Malware Guard On Mobiles For The Office". Fast Company. February 29, 2012. Retrieved May 23, 2017.
  26. ^ a b c d e f Richardson, Caroline R.; Resnick, Paul J.; Hansen, Derek L.; Derry, Holly A.; Rideout, Victoria J. (December 11, 2002). "Does Pornography-Blocking Software Block Access to Health Information on the Internet?". JAMA. 288 (22): 2887–2894. doi:10.1001/jama.288.22.2887. ISSN 0098-7484. Retrieved May 23, 2017.
  27. ^ "'Opportunistic partners won't hold water with me' Forcepoint's new EMEA VP outlines priorities". CRN. August 25, 2017. Retrieved August 25, 2017.
  28. ^ Osborne, Charlie (February 9, 2017). "Forcepoint acquires Skyfence in cloud security push". ZDNet. Retrieved August 25, 2017.
  29. ^ "Forcepoint". Forcepoint. August 21, 2017. Retrieved August 25, 2017.
  30. ^ a b InfoWorld. InfoWorld Media Group, Inc. p. 52-IA8. Retrieved May 23, 2017.
  31. ^ PC Mag. Ziff Davis, Inc. p. 95-IA5. Retrieved May 23, 2017.
  32. ^ InfoWorld. InfoWorld Media Group, Inc. p. 68. Retrieved May 23, 2017.
  33. ^ Garretson, Cara (November 6, 2006). "Websense touts preemptive threat-protection technology". Network World. Retrieved May 23, 2017.
  34. ^ McMillan, Robert (August 4, 2007). "DEFCON - Websense lures Web 2.0 attackers with HoneyJax". Network World. Retrieved May 23, 2017.
  35. ^ Messmer, Ellen (December 20, 2007). "Websense touts data-leak prevention endpoint control". Network World. Retrieved May 23, 2017.
  36. ^ Garretson, Cara (February 7, 2007). "RSA '07:Websense enhances threat-detection software". Network World. Retrieved May 23, 2017.
  37. ^ Messmer, Ellen (July 2, 2007). "Websense introduces Express for SMB market". Network World. Retrieved May 23, 2017.
  38. ^ Messmer, Ellen (June 11, 2007). "Websense security software now blocks unauthorized data". Network World. Retrieved May 23, 2017.
  39. ^ Messmer, Ellen (April 6, 2009). "Websense unveils its first Web security appliance". Network World. Retrieved May 23, 2017.
  40. ^ Messmer, Ellen (February 9, 2010). "Websense debuts unified security architecture". Network World. Retrieved May 23, 2017.
  41. ^ Messmer, Ellen (July 10, 2012). "Websense adds 'criminal encryption' detection to security gateway". Network World. Retrieved May 23, 2017.
  42. ^ a b c d Garling, Caleb (December 8, 2011). "Websense Joins Goohoosoft's Fight For Human Rights". WIRED. Retrieved May 24, 2017.
  43. ^ Dwyer, Jim (2015). More Awesome Than Money: Four Boys, Three Years, and a Chronicle of Ideals and Ambition in Silicon Valley. Penguin Publishing Group. pp. 81–82. ISBN 9780143127895.
  44. ^ Hudson, John (March 28, 2011). "Meet the U.S. Companies Helping Censor the Arab Web". The Atlantic.
  45. ^ Taddeo, Mariarosaria; Floridi, Luciano (2017). The Responsibilities of Online Service Providers. Springer. p. 144. ISBN 9783319478524.
  46. ^ The Rhode Island affiliate; American Civil Liberties Union (April 2005). "R.I. ACLU releases report on "troubling" internet censorship in public libraries". Archived from the original on 2008-12-05.
    * full report Archived 2008-05-11 at the Wayback Machine.
  47. ^ Marjorie Heins; Christina Cho; Ariel Feldman (2006), Internet filters: a public policy report (PDF), Brennan Center for Justice, pp. 38–39 intro
  48. ^ West Censoring East: Or Why Websense Thinks My Blog is Pornography, Jilian C. York (coauthor of the 2010-2011 ONI report), March 28, 2011 "I will say that Yemen has stopped using [Forcepoint] and we're not aware of any other countries–at least in the Middle East and North Africa–that use the software."
  49. ^ Leyden, John (March 20, 2009). "Websense mistakes for hack site". The Register. Retrieved November 10, 2017.

External links[edit]