|Matthew Moynahan, CEO|
|Revenue||$608 million (2017)|
Number of employees
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."
Websense was founded in 1994 by Phil Trubey during the dot-com boom under the name NetPartners. The company began as a reseller for network security products, then developed software for controlling Internet use by employees. In 1998, NetPartners raised $6 million in venture capital funding and had $6 million in annual revenue. Later that year, investors pushed Trubey out of the CEO position and appointed John Carrington as his replacement. In 1999, NetPartners was renamed "Websense". The following year, Websense raised $65.7 million in an initial public offering.
In 2006, former McAfee CEO Gene Hodges succeeded Carrington as Websense's CEO. The same year, Websense acquired a fingerprint security company called PortAuthority for $90 million. This was followed by a $400 million acquisition of email security vendor SurfControl in 2007. In 2009, Websense acquired Defensio, a spam and malware company focused on social media, for an undisclosed sum.
By 2009, Websense had 1,400 employees, with offices in England, China, Australia, and Israel. Two years later, Facebook implemented Websense to check every link users shared on the site. In 2013, Websense became a private company again when Vista Equity Partners acquired it for $906 million. Websense headquarters were moved to San Diego that year and to Austin, Texas in 2014.
Raytheon acquired an 80% interest in Websense in April 2015 for about $1.9 billion. This was followed by a $389 million purchase of two other companies, Stonesoft and Sidewinder, in October 2015, from Intel. Stonesoft was a network security product previously known as "McAfee Next-Generation Firewall;" Sidewinder was a firewall previously known as McAfee Firewall Enterprise.
In January 2016 the three companies were combined and rebranded as "Forcepoint". The new company also included Raytheon's "Cyber Products" business. At the time, Forcepoint had 2,000 employees, with one-third of its customers being departments in the federal government of the United States. Forcepoint became the smallest of five major businesses owned by Raytheon, but had the highest profit margins. The following year, Forcepoint began shuffling executives in a re-organization effort that included some layoffs. The company was divided into four business units: Cloud Security, Network Security, Data & Insider Threat Security, and Global Governments. In February 2017, Forcepoint announced the acquisition of a cloud-based access broker (CASB) security product from Imperva called Skyfence, for an undisclosed sum.
The company's products are used to block certain websites, or just portions of a website, inspect network traffic, filter e-mails. and control where sensitive files can be accessed. Forcepoint products can also be used to prevent employees from accessing websites deemed inappropriate for workplace viewing by their employer. For example, employers may prevent employees from viewing pornographic content at work, or material about sex education, religion, dating, or politics.
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. The company develops and markets cloud access security broker (CASB) products using technology acquired from what previously Imperva's Skyfence product. It also sells analytics software to detect insider data leaks and several cross domain security products.
When using Forcepoint's products, employees' Internet browsers are usually modified to direct all traffic through a proxy server. That server hosts local copies of frequently-visited websites, in order to improve download speed. The software also checks every URL the employee visits against databases of websites that are identified as malware or a prohibited subject-matter. Employee URL history can be analyzed to identify risky behaviors.
By 1997, three years after Forcepoint was founded, the company had published version 3 of its software. Version 3.0 introduced the software's first graphical, web-based administrative user interface. 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.
In 2007 Websense introduced a product to control content a user can see on social media websites, an endpoint security product, a website reputation ranker, and a small business version. 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.
Websense introduced its first appliance product in 2009. The following year some products were consolidated into the Triton software, which became responsible for increasingly large portions of the company's revenue. In February 2012, Forcepoint released a cloud-based suite of IT security products for smartphones, tablets, laptops, USB drives, and other mobile devices. Upgrades to the suite in 2012 added the ability to identify confidential information in an image file. Three new products or revisions were introduced in 2016, all focused on security risks caused by employees.
Forcepoint has a policy against selling to governments and ISPs that engage in Internet censorship, however it has been criticized for a "perceived link to censorship of free speech and the dissemination of knowledge." In 2009 it was discovered that the Yemeni government was using Forcepoint's products to monitor the public's internet use and block tools that allow citizens to hide their internet use from the government and the software Alkasir was created to circumvent it. Forcepoint responded by cutting off the country's access to Forcepoint's database updates. In 2011, Forcepoint said it would join the Global Network Initiative, which is focused on privacy and Internet freedom. It left the initiative in 2014.
A 2002 study in JAMA found that Forcepoint had the best-performing web-filtering products in terms of blocking pornography while allowing health information. 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."  A 2006 report by Brennan Center for Justice found that Forcepoint often blocked websites that discussed pornography, but did not actually feature pornography. Forcepoint software also blocked a furniture website called "the-strippers.com ", 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. 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".
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